Sockeye Blog Archives

This weekend in fun progressive times -- it's the Portland PRIDE Festival!
One of our favorite events of the year, the PRIDE Festival is always a fabulous time.

Our friends over at Basic Rights Oregon will be marching in the parade on Sunday, hosting a Gaylabration dance party on Friday night and hanging out at waterfront park all weekend long!

This weekend in fun progressive times -- it's the Portland PRIDE Festival!
One of our favorite events of the year, the PRIDE Festival is always a fabulous time.

Our friends over at Basic Rights Oregon will be marching in the parade on Sunday, hosting a Gaylabration dance party on Friday night and hanging out at waterfront park all weekend long!

The Portland Pride Festival will be going on all weekend, this Friday through Sunday on Waterfront Park in downtown. The Pride Parade will step off at 11:30am on Sunday, June 17.

We hope to see you there! We're at a critical and exciting time for LGBT rights. A few recent successes - the President's recent endorsement of marriage equality, local Oregon groups being recognized for their great work in the New York Times, the first openly transgender person to testify before the US Senate did so this week, repeal of DOMA in California and so many more. People across the country are working for justice and equality -- join them and show your pride in support!

If you go, make sure to say hi to Basic Rights Oregon volunteers... and to us! Our campaign to reform the corporate kicker and send money to Oregon's K-12 schools will be out and about, so make sure to sign the petition when you see someone!

The folks over at Media Matters are blogging today about a new report that shows a troubling trend in the press:

When newspapers print the term “job killer” to describe a policy (for instance, on taxes, labor, and environmental regulations), 91.6 percent of the time they allow the claim to be made without any evidence or an authoritative source with any evidence.

Two university professors printed their findings in a report, based on nearly three decades of research on four major sources: The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Associated Press.

The folks over at Media Matters are blogging today about a new report that shows a troubling trend in the press:

When newspapers print the term “job killer” to describe a policy (for instance, on taxes, labor, and environmental regulations), 91.6 percent of the time they allow the claim to be made without any evidence or an authoritative source with any evidence.

Two university professors printed their findings in a report, based on nearly three decades of research on four major sources: The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Associated Press.

From the report:

In 91.6% (349 of 381) news reports analyzed, news organizations provided no evidence to support the "job killer" claim. (See Figure 7.) Even in the 8.4% (32 of 381) of the stories in which some evidence was supplied, it's not clear whether or not journalists investigated the veracity of the evidence cited.

Similarly, in only 6.8% (26) of the 381 stories did reporters provide an alternative claim.  In most issues, there are at least two sides to a story. In the case of "job killer" allegations news organizations typically report only one side. Even in the stories that carried alternative claims -- in other words, that reported that some organization or expert challenged the "job killer" allegation -- reporters provided evidence to back up challenges to the "job killer" claim in only 8 stories.  Thus, in 18 of the 26 alternative claim cases, there was just a competing claim with no supporting evidence.

The impact isn’t lost on the report’s authors, who quote Republican pollster and strategist Frank Lutz as saying: “…there’s a simple rule: You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again…and about the time that you’re absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time.”

In short, the authors wrote, “The news media, by failing to seek to verify allegations made about government policies and proposals, typically act more like a transmission belt for business, Republican, and conservative sources than an objective seeker of truth when it comes to the term ‘job killer.’”

Here’s what caught our interest: Just two years ago, there was an anti-tax campaign here in Oregon called “Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes.” It was the campaign run by corporate lobbyist Mark Nelson to defeat Measures 66 and 67.

One of their main tenets was that the tax measures would cost the state 70,000 jobs, which they backed up with a study by the corporate think tank Cascade Policy Institute. This claim was thoroughly debunked by actual economists, but it was mentioned often in the press throughout the campaign. In fact, every time the No campaign was mentioned, the “job-killing” claim was repeated through its name.

Because the measures passed, we actually have the opportunity to judge whether the “job killing” claim was accurate.

The answer, in short, is: Not even close. Between 2009 (when the tax increases went into effect) and 2011, we not only didn’t lose 70,000 jobs, we gained more than 18,000. In fact, that number would be closer to 24,000, except that we’ve lost thousands of public sector jobs in education and local government due to budget cuts. (Source: qualityinfo.org)

In fact, Oregon now has the second-fastest growing Gross State Product in the nation. So much for “job-killing.”

The only recent Oregon policy that can accurately be described as “job killing” are the budget cuts that have led to mass layoffs of teachers and other public employees. These job losses are slowing our economic recovery, particularly in rural parts of the state where public employment plays a much larger role in the local economy.

Now we’re wondering: Will these basic facts cause the local media to stop repeating “job-killing” claims without evidence?

The first ballot measure to qualify for November’s ballot comes in the form of a proposed ban on real estate transfer fees, backed by the Oregon Realtors Association.

Jeff Mapes at the Oregonian reports: “The Oregon Legislature has already prohibited localities from levying new real estate transfer fees.  But Realtors said they wanted to ensure that the Legislature would not turn to this form of taxation.” 

In other words, the initiative would ban something that’s already not allowed by Oregon law. Despite that, the Realtors campaign spent nearly $1 million to gather signatures and qualify their initiative.

How does that compare to other initiative petition campaigns?

The first ballot measure to qualify for November’s ballot comes in the form of a proposed ban on real estate transfer fees, backed by the Oregon Realtors Association.

Jeff Mapes at the Oregonian reports: “The Oregon Legislature has already prohibited localities from levying new real estate transfer fees.  But Realtors said they wanted to ensure that the Legislature would not turn to this form of taxation.” 

In other words, the initiative would ban something that’s already not allowed by Oregon law. Despite that, the Realtors campaign spent nearly $1 million to gather signatures and qualify their initiative.

How does that compare to other initiative petition campaigns?

In 2010, two casino measures spent what many expected to be “the most expensive” initiative campaign, with a combined $1.2 million towards signature gatherers. Sounds like a lot, until you realize that they gathered signatures for two measures for nearly the same amount as the Realtors initiative campaign for one.

The big question on the Realtors initiative, then, is who is getting paid? The petition committee has never identified who was running their paid signature operation, but instead merely noted various in-kind donations. This not only made it difficult to determine what percentage of their $1 million initiative petition campaign was spent on signature gathering, it also raises concerns about transparency. Who ran the Realtor’s signature gathering campaign?

Luckily, we have a couple of great big hints that point directly to Mark Nelson, the corporate lobbyist who represents tobacco companies and led the campaign against Measures 66 and 67.

Back in August 2011, The Oregonian reported: “Nelson and other fellow business interests have started a non-profit firm called The Signature Gathering Company of Oregon.  It's first big client is a proposed initiative from the Oregon Association of Realtors that would ban new real-estate transfer fees.”

Assuming that most of the $1 million in campaign spending has gone to signature gathering, that’s a pretty big payday for a company’s first major gig.

The Signature Gathering Company of Oregon, in addition to carrying the Realtor’s petition, carried Initiative Petition 3, the now-defunct anti-union, anti-charity petition. The company was also hired to lead the unsuccessful canvassing efforts for former Representative Mike Schaufler.

Considering the company they’re now keeping, the men and women who work as realtors in Oregon may now find themselves wondering just what they’ve gotten themselves into – all to ban a policy that does not exist...

The last few years have taken a toll on most Americans and on America itself. The Great Recession has put millions of people out of work, increased foreclosures by big banks, and offered drastic cutbacks to basic social services such as schools and assistance for struggling families.

There are positive signs about overall economic growth (along with evidence that Oregon is outpacing the rest of the country), but much of the recovery has yet to reach middle-class families or really anyone who doesn't have a private jet.

To illustrate:

The last few years have taken a toll on most Americans and on America itself. The Great Recession has put millions of people out of work, increased foreclosures by big banks, and offered drastic cutbacks to basic social services such as schools and assistance for struggling families.

There are positive signs about overall economic growth (along with evidence that Oregon is outpacing the rest of the country), but much of the recovery has yet to reach middle-class families or really anyone who doesn't have a private jet.

To illustrate:

In a bleak article, the New York Times details American family net worth over time. In 2007, the median was $126,400. In 2010, it was $77,300 -- just 60% of the median three years prior. Median household income fell more than 10% in the same time period. "The Fed found that middle-class families had sustained the largest percentage losses in both wealth and income during the crisis, limiting their ability and willingness to spend."

One basic reason for this disproportion is that the wealth of the middle class is mostly in housing, and the median amount of home equity dropped to $75,000 in 2010 from $110,000 in 2007. And while other forms of wealth have recovered much of the value lost in the crisis, housing prices have hardly budged.

At the same time, the plummet in household incomes has added weight to the debt held by these families--if there's a silver lining, it's that the economic crash saw interest rates fall, but that's cold comfort for a generation that's finding itself worse off than their parents.

What will this mean for our country's economic future? Famed economist Joseph Stiglitz recently penned a blistering essay for Slate about how income inequality is destroying the American dream. Some high--errrr, rather, low--lights:

In the “recovery” of 2009-2010, the top 1 percent of US income earners captured 93 percent of the income growth. Other inequality indicators—like wealth, health, and life expectancy—are as bad or even worse. The clear trend is one of concentration of income and wealth at the top, the hollowing out of the middle, and increasing poverty at the bottom.

Stiglitz points to the ways in which those at the top have rigged the system to benefit themselves--at the expense of the rest of us. "Some have obtained their wealth by exercising monopoly power," he writes, "others are CEOs who have taken advantage of deficiencies in corporate governance to extract for themselves an excessive share of corporate earnings; and still others have used political connections to benefit from government munificence: either excessively high prices for what the government buys (drugs), or excessively low prices for what the government sells (mineral rights)."

What it adds up to is an unbalanced recovery--and that won't change without significant changes to current policies.

America is paying a high price for [increasing inequality]. Inequality leads to lower growth and less efficiency. Lack of opportunity means that its most valuable asset—its people — is not being fully used. Many at the bottom, or even in the middle, are not living up to their potential, because the rich, needing few public services and worried that a strong government might redistribute income, use their political influence to cut taxes and curtail government spending. This leads to underinvestment in infrastructure, education, and technology, impeding the engines of growth.

In Oregon, we're seeing the impacts in cuts to our K-12 schools, higher education, and basic services for seniors and people with disabilities. But we're also seeing it in the strain that's being placed on charities and food pantries that help those in need. With the number of people in need still at record levels (and growing), these local nonprofit services are stretched beyond capacity. If the New York Times and Slate pieces didn't depress you enough, head on over to the Oregonian to read about troubled times for food pantries.

Here's a picture of a really cute puppy because this story is so depressing.


 

Last month, the Oregonian announced that they had hired the Bend Bulletin’s Erik Lukens to be the paper’s new Editorial Page Editor. At the time, we wrote that it signaled a further shift to the right for the state’s “paper of record.”

Last month, the Oregonian announced that they had hired the Bend Bulletin’s Erik Lukens to be the paper’s new Editorial Page Editor. At the time, we wrote that it signaled a further shift to the right for the state’s “paper of record.”

In the weeks since, we’ve conducted research into the editorials that came out under Lukens’ direction and have found that it’s even more extreme than we originally thought. On every issue that matters to most Oregonians, Lukens and the Bulletin editorial board took a far-right position that is completely at odds with the Oregonian’s readership.

Our five-part series examined Lukens' far-right direction of the editorial page on issues important to Oregonians.

Part 1: "Drill, Baby, Drill" off the Oregon coast and in Alaska.
Part 2: Kicking Working Families While They're Down - for instance, by lowering the minimum wage.
Part 3: "Down with taxes! (Unless you are Poor)" because the working poor—not the rich—should be making more sacrifices.
Part 4: Attacks social security, because why ask more from the richest when you can shift the burden onto our senior citizens instead?
Part 5: No Friend of Public Schools but a fan of overcrowded classrooms and failed charter schools.

Let’s face it, the news today can be downright depressing. It’s important to remember that things aren’t all bad — in fact, there are some really great things happening around us all the time. Introducing, The Bright Side of Life!

Happy Friday, folks! Here are a few stories that brightened things up around the OO office this week:

Let’s face it, the news today can be downright depressing. It’s important to remember that things aren’t all bad — in fact, there are some really great things happening around us all the time. Introducing, The Bright Side of Life!

Happy Friday, folks! Here are a few stories that brightened things up around the OO office this week:

It's not often you get to say this these days, so here goes: big news in the Shakespeare world! Archaeologists in London have discovered remnants of the theater where some of Shakespeare's plays were first performed. The venue is even "immortalized as "this wooden O" in the prologue to Henry V."

What's that? A mathematic problem deemed 'unsolvable' by none other than Sir Isaac Newton? 'I got this,' says 16-year old Shouryya Ray.

Too cute: A six-year old boy heard that his favorite football player, Brandon Jacobs, was transferring teams. After finding out why, he comes up with a simple solution.

A new playground designed specifically for children with disabilities is being built in Portland, "the first in the city's park system to provide disabled access on every play feature."

There's no way around it: The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting hungrier.

Feeding America has released their latest "Map the Meal" report. The results for Oregon? 

There's no way around it: The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting hungrier.

Feeding America has released their latest "Map the Meal" report. The results for Oregon? 

In Oregon, 17.5% of all residents and 29.2% of children faced food insecurity in 2010. Those are some pretty damning numbers -- nearly 1 in 3 children in Oregon live without food security.

More concerning, though, is that Oregonians are actually worse off in 2010 than we were in 2009.

It's not hard to understand what impact this will have on Oregon's future. But it is hard to understand how we have grown okay with the lopsided rate of our economic recovery.

This is Part Five of a five-part series looking at the new Editorial Page Editor of the Oregonian.

Upset about budget cuts that are devastating Oregon’s local schools? Don’t expect much help from the new head of the Oregonian Editorial Board, Erik Lukens.

While Lukens was at the helm of the Bend Bulletin’s Editorial Board, the paper published opinions about school funding and its advocates that ranged from indifferent to outright hostile.

Is that what we can now expect from the Oregonian?

The dramatic increase in budget cuts to K-12 schools over the past two years (piled on top of two decades of ongoing cuts) has sparked an emergence of frustrated parents, students, teachers and community members who are organizing to make a difference.

Portland-area groups like UPSET, Invest in Oregon Kids, Oregon SOS, and others have joined new and existing groups around the state calling on legislators to do something about our state’s school funding crisis. Ask anyone involved in our schools, and you’ll hear the same story: There’s a sense of anger, frustration, and motivation among people who care about our schools that hasn’t been felt in some time.

If past is prologue, these advocates won’t find an ally in Erik Lukens.

This is Part Five of a five-part series looking at the new Editorial Page Editor of the Oregonian.

Upset about budget cuts that are devastating Oregon’s local schools? Don’t expect much help from the new head of the Oregonian Editorial Board, Erik Lukens.

While Lukens was at the helm of the Bend Bulletin’s Editorial Board, the paper published opinions about school funding and its advocates that ranged from indifferent to outright hostile.

Is that what we can now expect from the Oregonian?

The dramatic increase in budget cuts to K-12 schools over the past two years (piled on top of two decades of ongoing cuts) has sparked an emergence of frustrated parents, students, teachers and community members who are organizing to make a difference.

Portland-area groups like UPSET, Invest in Oregon Kids, Oregon SOS, and others have joined new and existing groups around the state calling on legislators to do something about our state’s school funding crisis. Ask anyone involved in our schools, and you’ll hear the same story: There’s a sense of anger, frustration, and motivation among people who care about our schools that hasn’t been felt in some time.

If past is prologue, these advocates won’t find an ally in Erik Lukens.

To wit:

In response to an October 2009 report showing that Oregon has the second highest student-per-teacher ratio in the country, the Bulletin ran an editorial blaring the headline “Don’t Feel Guilty About Class Size.”

The Editorial board wanted to make sure that none of their readers were influenced by the dismal class size report when they were deciding how to vote on Measures 66 and 67.

Because high student-teacher ratios translate into large classes, and because large class size has become a politically potent issue, you can be sure tax-hike supporters are licking their chops...

...

As the January tax-hike vote approaches, Oregonians will be encouraged to consider the state’s large classes a consequence of misplaced priorities on a grand scale. Funding problems will be blamed on the state’s tax structure. They’ll be blamed on the initiative system. They’ll be blamed on taxpayers themselves, who, presumably, are just too cheap to support schools adequately. If tax-hike supporters thought it might help their cause, they’d probably blame Oregon’s student-teacher ratio on global warming, too.

Whatever the underlying problems might be, voters will be urged to make up for them by raising taxes on other people — namely businesses and the wealthy. And to oppose the tax hikes, of course, will be to embrace the disgrace that is Oregon’s class-size ranking. For which, naturally, cheapskate voters should be deeply, deeply ashamed.

The very next day, Lukens’ paper argued that smaller class sizes don’t make a difference in the quality of a student’s education unless they’re accompanied by a teacher merit pay system based on test results.

This ignores completely the large body of research showing that smaller class sizes—especially in early grades—have a significant impact on student achievement, not to mention plenty of anecdotal evidence from local classrooms about the impact of individual instruction between teachers and students.

Why would Lukens let facts about class sizes get in the way of a political, anti-teacher rant?

With Lukens and the Bend Bulletin, a policy disagreement isn’t just a policy disagreement--it’s an opportunity to hurl insults at those they disagree with. When a group of school districts and supporters filed a lawsuit to require the state legislature to adequately fund K-12 schools, the editorial board called thema litigious mob composed largely of public school districts” and “the more-money crowd.”

After belittling their legal and political argument, the Bulletin said of these school supporters, “They should be embarrassed.”

One area of education where the Lukens and the Bulletin offer their full-throated support, however, is online charter schools, in particular Oregon Connections Academy, part of a national chain of schools under the for-profit Connections Academy corporation.

Nothing scares the bureaucratic, special-interest clogged, education establishment like school choice. Oregon’s state Board of Education didn’t exactly run away screaming when it got two applications for online charter schools. But it did reject them on Thursday.

...

Board members are also concerned about the quality of the online public schools. That could be another reason to keep new ones small.

It would be, except Connections Academy has not floundered academically.

Actual Fact: Oregon Connections Academy has a graduation rate of about 30%, one of the worst records in the whole state. The reason public school officials and advocates are wary of corporate enterprises like Connections Academy is because they have such dismal track records. It would be reckless and irresponsible for officials to open the gates to these untested, unaccountable online schools without putting in place rigid safeguards.

Despite its dismal record, Oregon Connections Academy enjoys a great deal political protection in Oregon due to its close ties to Republican leaders--in particular, Rep. Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville), who is a paid employee of Oregon Connections Academy and the Republican Co-Chair of the House Education Committee.

Bottom Line: In his time at the Bend Bulletin, Erik Lukens was dismissive and hostile to the real concerns of parents and teachers, instead pushing a failing experiment in school privatization putting out-of-state corporate profits ahead of students.

Here's a pretty incredible chart from visual.ly visualizing statistics on education versus incarceration.

It's especially interesting in light of the Think Out Loud piece that came out today on OPB about Salem's Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility. If we must incarcerate people, how can we work with them to rehabilitate and reintegrate with society when they are released? How can our investments in education or incarceration work to benefit the other?

In the US, it costs between $8,895 and $11,110 to educate the average student. It costs $31,900 to incarcerate the average prisoner.

The United States is #20 in education globally, but #1 in incarceration.

1/100 college graduates is incarcerated. 1/35 high school graduates are incarcerated. 1/10 high school dropouts are incarcerated.

Here's a pretty incredible chart from visual.ly visualizing statistics on education versus incarceration.

It's especially interesting in light of the Think Out Loud piece that came out today on OPB about Salem's Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility. If we must incarcerate people, how can we work with them to rehabilitate and reintegrate with society when they are released? How can our investments in education or incarceration work to benefit the other?

In the US, it costs between $8,895 and $11,110 to educate the average student. It costs $31,900 to incarcerate the average prisoner.

The United States is #20 in education globally, but #1 in incarceration.

1/100 college graduates is incarcerated. 1/35 high school graduates are incarcerated. 1/10 high school dropouts are incarcerated.

Here's that Think Out Loud clip:

RADIO: Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility
OPB News
"There are about 150 inmates at Hillcrest — all of whom are male and between the ages of 12 and 25, and all of whom committed their crimes before age 18. About half of the boys at Hillcrest transition to other Oregon Youth Authority facilities around the state, but the guys in Jacob's unit are there for the long-term, usually more than five years. During their time at Hillcrest, youth are required to enroll in classroom or vocational programs. Once they graduate from high school some can go on to college courses. One such course is called Inside Out. You may have heard about this from a program we did late last year. (Or you may have read this recent editorial in The Oregonian.) College students from Oregon State University spend one night a week, for about three months, studying with students at Hillcrest."

According to the most recent reports from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Oregon's economy grew at a rate of 4.7% in 2011. Tough to conceptualize what that means? How's this map for some context:

According to the most recent reports from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Oregon's economy grew at a rate of 4.7% in 2011. Tough to conceptualize what that means? How's this map for some context:

Wowza. Oregon was in the highest quintile for economic growth. Further, data shows that Oregon's economy actually grew at the second-fastest rate of any state in the nation. (See the Oregon Center for Public Policy's analysis for more.)

I guess it goes to show that while there are some who would try to tell you that Oregon's business and economic environment is in bad shape, those who are looking at real, hard data report a different story: one where Oregon's economic future shines pretty bright.

Keep that in mind next time you hear corporate lobbyists pushing for more tax breaks for the big corporations they represent. These figures show that lobbyists' motives are less inspired by "improving Oregon's economy" and more about helping their rich clients get richer.

In fact, though Oregon's economy is growing overall, there are working-class familes who aren't feeling it; particularly in light of budget cuts to schools, police forces, and human services, these individuals and families need exactly the opposite of what these lobbyists argue for.

Businesses thrive when Oregon has a strong economy that works for everybody. Tax breaks for corporations and the rich would create even deeper cuts to our schools and other services, which would only serve to slow down Oregon's recovery.