So, having shown that we have no clue as how to pay for what we want, let's take a look at what we want, or at least what this year's ballot measures SAY we want.
Oh, sorry. Ballot measures?
Okay. For those of you from out-of-town, let me explain about ballot measures.
These animals have been part of Oregon democracy since Nineteen-freaking-Oh-Two, when someones called the "Direct Legislation League" (a very "Progressive" Era name if ever I've heard one) bullyragged the Oregon legislature into enacting this process into law. I think it's instructive that one of the first ballot measures enacted was for recalling elected officials; most of the people involved in this business were the ancestors of today's "small government" conservatives. They profoundly distrusted elected officials and had an almost religious faith in "The People".
In Oregon's case the People reciprocated this trust with the sort of touching savagery that has always rewarded those individuals who live convinced of the naive goodness of children and animals: they passed Prohibition five years before the rest of the country voted for perhaps the most boneheaded social legislation in U.S. history.
Mind you, Oregonians haven't always been so stupid. We outlawed the death penalty by referendum back in 1914, got the vote for women in 1912, made the Senate a popular franchise in 1908. In 1930 we enacted Public Utility Districts, a good idea that predated Enron by sixty years. We voted in things like eight-hour days, and tried to get people the right to get a job by taxing the estates of rich people - always a good idea, taxing rich people! - and other social welfare ideas. The history of these things, like most histories, is a mixture of the ridiculous and the sublime.
Until the 1990s.
The Gingrich Counterrevolution exploded here in Oregon in the Nineties in the form of ballot measures. The poster children for this revolt of the elites were these two characters; Bill Sizemore, a theologianwith a checkered history of failed businesses from Aberdeen, WA, and Don McIntyre, a Californian whose property tax limitation Measure 5 is widely credited with breaking the public education bank here in Oregon. They and their organization, "Oregon Taxpayers United", have helped immensely in advancing the now-widespread acceptance of the notion that paying taxes - any taxes - is bad and harmful and the political equivalent of molesting farm animals.
Their moneyman, an Alzheimer's-ridden old bastard named Loren Parks, has fled the state but continues to funnel jack into their campaigns to return Oregon to the Gilded Age.
This year's crop of initiatives is as good as any way to look at the sad state of Oregon public discourse as it has been reduced after eighteen years of Sizemore, McIntyre, Parks and their ilk. Let's look at them, shall we?
There's twelve measures put to the voters this November.
Three of them are what I call "housekeeping" measures; things that someone (usually the Legislature) wants to tidy up some ravelling in the Constitution. This year's housekeeping measures include Measures 54, 55 and 56. The only one that will really impact the state is 56.
Measure 54 brings Oregon's school election laws in line with Federal statutes, Measure 55 rectifies a technical issue associated with redistricting.
Measure 56 repeals the damage done by the moronic Measure 47 of 1996, a Sizemore product which required, amongst the usual "starve the beast" tax cuts, a "double majority" for any taxation-related measures - that is, 50% of all reqistered voters had to turn out and of that 50.001% had to approve the measure. Since getting the American voter to get off his fourth point of contact to vote for anything not involving free sex or alcohol requires a hell of a long lever or high explosive this measure pretty much guarenteed that no revenue could be enacted in Oregon short of divine intervention. M-56 is designed to return our state to that halcyon period when those people who deigned to turn up to vote got to, you know, decide what won or lost.
You see the fine hand of Sizemore at work?
Wait. It gets better.
Measures 57 and 61 are two of these things that look similar but are actually fighting each other fiercely.
Measure 61 sends heroin, ecstacy and meth cooks and dealers, burglars and ID thieves to jail for 3 years. Every one. No exceptions. No deals. Three years hard. Period.
This little treasure is a Sizemore product - a turd for the pocket of every Oregonian. To keep the junkies out of our glove boxes and the burglars out of our garages, we're going to have to spend something like eleven zillion dollars to lock these larcenous bastards up for three years in the Oregon State Home For Wayward Boys.
After which they will emerge, presumably still larcenous (since, after all, if they could have gone to work as a union plumber they would have, right? They're not gonna learn a trade in stir and there's no money in this dog for job training, anyway), presumably still broke (since they still have no job and now, as an ex-con, are even LESS likely to get one), presumably still junkies (since there's no money for treatment, either) and since they need some quick cash for their rent and their crank they're going to get it where..?
Measure 57 is the Oregon legislature answer to M-61. It still costs an assload, just less of an assload than M-61. It still means money going to prisons rather than bridges, schools and jobs. But, believe it or not, this is the BEST we can hope for, since the predictions are that us idiot Oregonians are going to pass M-61, and only if we ALSO pass M-57, and by more votes, will the latter become law.
Oh, and did I mention that neither one of these dogs has a funding provision attached?
Oh, yeah, Sweet.
Measure 58: or "Fuck Them Beaners", requires a maximum of two years of ESL. No exceptions. You got two years to habla de Ingles, Paco; to sprakh Angleski, Ivan; to whatever the hell "speak English" is in Farsi, Cambodian, Ugihur and Inuit. Then you're on your own. Teachers and everybody else who has to deal with the immigrant communities here hates this one-size-fits-all monstrosity, but we love these punish-the-furriners measures here, and this is just another Sizemore treat that tickles our white boy tummies.
Does anyone know if this works? Does anyone have a hard basis for two years rather then three, four or six? Who cares! It sounds good to the goobers in Vernonia who get pissed off every time they drive by the little panaderia or see the sign reading "Se Habla Espanol" in the payday loan place in the corner.
Will it pass? Probably not. But watch - I predict it'll get at least 45% of the vote.
Measure 59 is a real sweetheart. Pass this one and you get to deduct you whole Federal tax bill - every sweet penny - from your state tax return. It'll net me about a couple of hundred bucks. It'll give Phil Knight a couple of million. And it'll bust the state budget like a Southeast Portland sheetmetalbasher going through 40-ouncers on a Friday afternoon. It’s a good idea assuming that Phil needs workman’s comp, unemployment, public health, education or law enforcement before I do.
Bill Sizemore.Measure 60 substitutes “classroom performance” for seniority as one of the bases for public schoolteacher pay. In the past, this has meant that teacher pay is tied to student performance on standardized tests. Oregon conservatives have been trying versions of this for some time, in hopes that one will stick and cause public school teachers grief.
Back in the 1980’s one of my troops asked me what would happen if we did poorly on the IG inspection we were preparing for. I patiently explained that such a failure would be the result of poor leadership on my part, that it would be reflected on my professional evaluation and I could be denied promotion because of it. And that, as the inevitable result of such a disappointment, I would ensure that everyone else involved in said failure died a hideously painful and horribly prolonged death involving sharp, probably barbed, metal objects as well as open flame.
So let’s say that putting this measure into law will be likely to alter the student-teacher relationship somewhat.
Bill Sizemore.We’ve talked about M-61. Measure 62 is the brainchild (to use the term loosely) of a fellow named Kevin Mannix, a Republican four-time loser for public office. It snares 15 percent of the state lottery money for law enforcement. While as a measure this dog is not much worse than most and better then some, as an example of what’s wrong with Oregon’s revenue system it couldn’t be better. Imagine a society where the public weal rests on the willingness of the dumbest 10% to squander their wealth on a rigged game of chance;
“Say, Falling Water, what say you give that deer haunch to the tribe is this tree falls in the forest and makes a sound? IF it doesn’t , I’ll give you TWO deer haunches. Whaddya say?”
“Gee, Porcupine Quill, that sounds like a GREAT idea!”
No wonder the Calapooyas went the way of the passenger pigeon. We're hooked on the Lottery like a broken-down dogtrack bettor is on getting two bucks down on that brindle dog with the shortcoupled legs. And the problem is that the Oregon voters don't seem to have a problem with that...
Measure 63 is so bad, so wrong, so completely and utterly "how much crack do you have to smoke to think this way" fucked up that it needs a complete post to itself. I'll do that.
Bill Sizemore.Finally, Measure 64 is one of these "God I Hate Public Unions!" measures that the Oregon GOP comes up with every so often. It doesn't do much other than make life a little tougher for these unions by preventing them from using public facilities. So the AFSCME folks couldn't meet at the town hall, the firefighters at the firehouse, the teachers at the school if they collect money or lobby for anything.
Update 10/23: My friend Meghan points out (in the comments) that one of the unintended side effects of this measure, though, would be to make it extremely difficult to organize charity fund drives in these same places, thus driving a nail in her EarthShare (and other charitable organizations) donations. I should note that this is a typical feature of these Sizemore initiatives: piss-poor construction. And I mean piss-poor on the order of intending to dynamite the little treestump in your backyard and instead setting off a massive explosion that completely destroys the church and preschool eight blocks away.
Did I mention that I think Sizemore is a total fucktard?
Anyway. Is it a horrible measure? No. Is it the sort of petty, spiteful "I Hate Unions" thing that you expect from some sort of nasty little WalMart manager or officious boss's stooge?
I almost forgot Measure 65, which opens our primaries so that nasty people like me can cross party lines and vote in clotheads to run against the people we WANT to elect. This measure's daddy is Phil Kiesling, one of the boggest policy wonks in the state, so, really, who gives a fuck?
So do you get the picture? Oregonians: we're stupid. We want our stuff but we don't want to pay for it, and because this Sizemore idiot says we can, we've let him grab our "direct democracy" by the man-root and lead it around wherever he wants it to go. Of the twelve measures on the ballot this year, three are more or less housekeeping. One is open primaries (repeat after me: Phil, who gives a fuck!?)
Of the remaining eight, six are from the Sizemore mill and one is from his intellectual siderunner, Kev Mannix.
What. The. Fuck?
As Lear in the play - we have mad'st this fool of a Sizemore our mother; "for when thou gav'st them the rod, and put'st down thine own breeches,
then they for sudden joy did weep,
And I for sorrow sung,
That such a king should play bo-peep
And go the fools among."
Because this is Oregon. Hey! We're Stupid Here!