Sockeye Blog

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe vs Wade court case decision, which ensured a woman’s right to choose.

But forty years after the decision-- forty years after improved and safer health services for women -- there are still many who would like to roll back or even overturn the rights guaranteed by the ruling.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark Roe vs Wade court case decision, which ensured a woman’s right to choose.

But forty years after the decision-- forty years after improved and safer health services for women -- there are still many who would like to roll back or even overturn the rights guaranteed by the ruling.

Comments of candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock propelled the Choice issue to the forefront of November's election. But while these comments were particularly vile, they were not particularly unusual or misrepresentative of the Republican party, despite claims to the contrary. The Republican party platform has grown ever clearer over the years on its opposition to a woman's right to make their own personal medical decision.

As the Guardian shows, the platform has grown increasingly frenetic on the issue over the years. Since 1976, the Republican Party platform has dramatically increased its use of the word “abortion” (or related phrases.)

The platforms have included language to limit, supersede, and overturn the Supreme Court’s decision, to deny a woman’s right to choose. And, despite voters’ clear mandate on the issue (polls show that 70% of Americans agree with the court decision, and voters sent a strong rebuke to 2012 anti-choice candidates), some of these policies are succeeding. 

Per Ms. Foundation, states with legislation that limits a woman’s right to choose have doubled in the past decade:

Here in Oregon, we are no exception. Just six years ago, Oregonians fought to defeat an initiative that would require parental notification for minors (age 15 - 17), with no exception for rape, incest, or for teens in abusive homes. And in 2012, two anti-choice initiatives circulated for the November ballot. Though they missed qualification, at least one of these initiatives has already been re-filed for the November 2014 ballot and aims to limit a woman’s right to choose. And, according to Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, 75% of Oregon counties already have no abortion provider.

So while you take pause today to celebrate the freedoms brought with Roe v Wade, take an extra pause to prepare for what we must do to ensure our continued right to choose – because those rights are never simply won, but must be forever fought for.

For more, check out the guest column from Planned Parenthood Executive Director Laura Terrill Patten that appeared in this morning’s Oregonian.

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No matter what your partisan persuasion, today is undeniably an historic day. President Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term, on the same day the nation is celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And yet, here's how the Oregonian decided to mark the occasion with their front page:

It's awfully reminiscent of their "Obama Keeps Job" headline the day after the election, and a mysterious "Bigfoot" noise in Eastern Oregon gets more elaborate treatment than the swearing in of the President of the United States.

Effectively, conservative publisher N. Christian Anderson III and his editors are using the front page to thumb their noses at Oregonians who voted for Obama by a 12-point margin (and who make up a majority of the Oregonian's readership). They're basically saying, "Don't hold your breath, because your hero isn't going to accomplish anything anyway."

It's undeniable that Anderson's political agenda has transformed the newsroom at the O.

No matter what your partisan persuasion, today is undeniably an historic day. President Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term, on the same day the nation is celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And yet, here's how the Oregonian decided to mark the occasion with their front page:

It's awfully reminiscent of their "Obama Keeps Job" headline the day after the election, and a mysterious "Bigfoot" noise in Eastern Oregon gets more elaborate treatment than the swearing in of the President of the United States.

Effectively, conservative publisher N. Christian Anderson III and his editors are using the front page to thumb their noses at Oregonians who voted for Obama by a 12-point margin (and who make up a majority of the Oregonian's readership). They're basically saying, "Don't hold your breath, because your hero isn't going to accomplish anything anyway."

It's undeniable that Anderson's political agenda has transformed the newsroom at the O.

There's no mention of the historic nature of the day, and Dr. King is relegated to the second page, where the primary article is about disagreements over what his famous "I Have A Dream" speech means.

A quick review of front page newspapers from around the country shows that the Oregonian's front page is far outside of the mainstream coverage. Heck, even Anderson's former paper, the right-wing Orange County Register, offers a relatively straightforward "A Quiet Beginning."

But don't take my word for it. Check out this random sampling of front pages from across the nation (images accessed from Newseum.org):

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Still think the gender wage gap exists because of societal reasons rather than discrimination? Think again.

Still think the gender wage gap exists because of societal reasons rather than discrimination? Think again.

A few months ago, Sarah Mirk at The Mercury wrote about the Boston University report that showed that women's pay continued to lag behind men's, even with similar education, age, hours, and no kids. That last factor was the important one, for the naysayers who had previously suggested the wage gap could be explained by women's choice to stay home with the kids, leading to less job consistency.

Shortly thereafter, I started noticing an uptick in the organizations and individuals trying to explain away** the wage gap by now claiming that it existed because 'women are just happy to take jobs in lower-paying fields or sectors.' But a new report from GuideStar proves otherwise, without a doubt.

GuideStar, the national group that tracks philanthropic and nonprofit financial data by collecting, compiling, and analyzing IRS data, released their annual GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report earlier this month.

The data presented here is specific to the nonprofit sector because, simply, that is what GuideStar studies, but also because nonprofit organizations have some of the most rigorous transparency laws on the books. But the gender wage gap is certainly not a problem exclusive to nonprofit organizations; it is a far broader epidemic, reaching into nearly every sector and job type.

Included in GuideStar's report was an examination of factors that affect nonprofit sector CEO pay. The factors with the largest impact included gender, organizational size, program area, and geographical location.

Well, well, well... As it turns out, female CEOs are routinely paid less than their male counterparts, across the entire nonprofit sector, no matter the organizational size. In general, the smaller the organization, the smaller the compensation gap -- but do keep it mind a scale of relativity, as the smallest compensation gap in the nonprofit sector begins at 10.4%.

That means that while the typical male CEO of a nonprofit with a $500,000 budget might make $75K, a female CEO of a similarly budgeted nonprofit organization would make closer to $67K. For every male CEO making $5 million at an organization with a $50 million budget, the female CEO makes $3.75 million.

The report couldn't be any clearer: Same sector, same job title, same organizational budget, but females are compensated far less. This is not some mysterious societal occurrence. It is plain and simple discrimination.

** In fact, check out Wikipedia's leading paragraph (at least right now) on the Gender Pay Gap issue:

The gender pay gap (also known as gender wage gap) is the difference between male and female earnings expressed as a percentage of male earnings, according to the OECD. The European Commission defines it as the average difference between men’s and women’s hourly earnings. It is generally accepted that the majority of the wage gap is not due to explicit discrimination, but rather is due to differences in the choices made by each gender.

While Wikipedia's Everyone's-An-Expert style of editing leads to a Nothing's-To-Be-Trusted style of reading, the group-think behind the Wikipedia entry sure does reveal a lot. For one, that Wikipedia editors ought to check out this GuideStar report.

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After spending hours going through video footage and other public records from the Clackamas County Elections office, Our Oregon has found a number of troubling facts that continue to call into question the ability of Clerk Sherry Hall’s office to administer elections.

Among the findings: A lack of meaningful video coverage of ballot processing and other questionable management decisions.

After spending hours going through video footage and other public records from the Clackamas County Elections office, Our Oregon has found a number of troubling facts that continue to call into question the ability of Clerk Sherry Hall’s office to administer elections.

Among the findings: A lack of meaningful video coverage of ballot processing and other questionable management decisions.

In late October, Our Oregon filed a public records with the Clackamas County Elections office requesting copies of all of the surveillance video records from the areas where ballots are processed.

We filed this request because of the long record of alarming elections irregularities and partisan statements made by County Clerk Sherry Hall. Frankly, we didn’t have any confidence in the office—under Hall’s leadership—to administer the election fairly and competently.

Our concerns turned out to be well grounded. Just a few days before ballots were due in the November election, it came out that Clackamas County Elections worker Deanna Swenson had allegedly been tampering with ballots, filling in votes for Republican candidates on ballots that were only partially completed.

We’ve spent hours poring through the videotapes that we received through the public records request. Although there's no coverage of Swenson's alleged misdeeds, we've pieced together footage that we believe shows the aftermath of incident. Click the image above to see the footage.

Here are our findings:

  • No camera coverage in ballot processing area. Despite having 10 security cameras installed in and around the Clackamas County Elections office, there is not a single camera covering the main ballot processing area. This is the room where dozens of temporary employees open and process ballots, making it the most critical area for supervision.
  • This is, unsurprisingly, the room where Deanna Swenson was caught allegedly tampering with ballots. She was caught by an observant co-worker. There is no security camera footage of Swenson’s work area—or the work area of any other ballot-processing employee.

    There are two separate cameras on the “observer” area (basically a hallway outside the processing room), one on the front door and three in the parking lot, but no coverage of the one location where workers come directly into contact with opened ballots.

    This is a major failure of Hall’s office to secure the integrity of the ballots that come into the building.

  • No sign-in/sign-out policies for the ballot processing room. We asked Clackamas County for their written sign-in/sign-out policies for the ballot processing room—the one place in the building where temporary workers have the most access to ballots. They don’t have any.
  • Questionable management decisions. When ballots need to be collected from drop boxes around the county, workers are sent out in pairs to ensure the integrity of the ballots. But, in at least two instances, Clackamas Elections managers sent out couples that appear to be married, according to our review of public records. This is a bad idea for many reasons, not the least of which being that the spouses would not be compelled to testify against each other if there was a charge of ballot tampering during ballot collection.

In short, Sherry Hall’s elections office suffers from a serious lack of oversight and security. Despite amassing an embarrassing track record of election scandals over the past few years, Hall appears to have done nothing to assure the voters of Clackamas County—or the rest of the state—that her office can fairly and effectively run an election.

Given the increasing political importance that Clackamas County has in statewide races, voters in every corner of Oregon should be alarmed.

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For us in Oregon, the tragic events in Connecticut last Friday were unfathomable, especially as it came on the heels of the local tragedy in Clackamas. We join the rest of the country in mourning all of the victims, and our hearts go out to all of the families whose lives have been changed forever.
 
It’s also impossible for us to ignore some of the worst responses that have come from some politicians looking to score points in the wake of the tragedy. Unfortunately, one of the worst reactions has come from right here in Oregon. 
 
Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) created a national outcry when he sent an email to school superintendents saying that the tragedy was “another heart breaking failure of school personnel to ensure the protection of innocent children and adults.” 
 
Just hours after educators in Sandy Hook gave up their lives to save their kids, Rep. Richardson was calling their heroic actions a “failure… to ensure the protection of innocent children.” 
For us in Oregon, the tragic events in Connecticut last Friday were unfathomable, especially as it came on the heels of the local tragedy in Clackamas. We join the rest of the country in mourning all of the victims, and our hearts go out to all of the families whose lives have been changed forever.
 
It’s also impossible for us to ignore some of the worst responses that have come from some politicians looking to score points in the wake of the tragedy. Unfortunately, one of the worst reactions has come from right here in Oregon. 
 
Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) created a national outcry when he sent an email to school superintendents saying that the tragedy was “another heart breaking failure of school personnel to ensure the protection of innocent children and adults.” 
 
Just hours after educators in Sandy Hook gave up their lives to save their kids, Rep. Richardson was calling their heroic actions a “failure… to ensure the protection of innocent children.” 
 
Gawker called Richardson’s statement a contender for “Most Inappropriate Reaction” to the shooting. 
 
Even worse, Richardson boasts that if he had been at the school with his gun, “most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide.” (See the text of his full email here.)
 
So how does Richardson suggest we prevent future tragedies? By putting even more guns in schools. His big idea is to arm teachers so they can engage in shootouts with criminals in the halls of elementary schools. That's the kind of scene that only works in Hollywood, or in the minds of people like Richardson.
 
As police officers and other first responders know, these emergencies don’t play out like the self-aggrandizing action movie fantasy that exists in Richardson’s head. 
 
Medford Police Chief Tim George has already called Richardson’s proposal a bad idea: “In crisis situations there are a lot of very complex things happening all at once and you have to constantly train for deadly force incidents."
 
"We want teachers to concentrate on keeping kids and themselves safe," George added.
 
Richardson, best known in Oregon for sending political spam emails to more than a half-million email addresses he got from state agencies, wants to hear from you. So send him an email and let him know what you think of his comments and his proposal to put more guns on school campuses: Rep.DennisRichardson@state.or.us
 
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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!


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:

An inspiring story about a town in Paraguay, where people are turning trash into beautiful music.

Marriage equality is a beautiful thing. Governor Chris Gregoire this week certified the measure that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington and more than 500 licenses in King County, alone, have already been issued in less than 48 hours.

And: DOGS HAVE LEARNED HOW TO DRIVE!!!!!!

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A few months ago, we examined the shifting costs of higher education in Oregon and around the nation. While we love to geek out on data and analysis, we are limited in the way we present the information -- namely with graphs and charts that come standard on Excel.

But check out this stunning visual representation of the crisis, as presented by The Week:

A few months ago, we examined the shifting costs of higher education in Oregon and around the nation. While we love to geek out on data and analysis, we are limited in the way we present the information -- namely with graphs and charts that come standard on Excel.

But check out this stunning visual representation of the crisis, as presented by The Week:

The chart shows, simply, that tuition is skyrocketing, debt is accumulating, and government assistance can't keep up. In Sockeye's piece this fall, we dove deep into the why and found that tuition increases, in Oregon at least, was a result of disinvestment by the state.

The data is heart breaking. What's a society to do, when learning and information comes at such great a cost?

** I have to include a footnote, as there is one piece of the infographic that I find misleading. The idea that unemployeed graduates is indicative of "getting less out of a college education" is deceptive. Unemployment has hit nearly every demographic. However, studies have shown that those who have college degrees are likely to recover faster and earn higher wages, once they do find employment, as compared to those who don't have a degree. In other words,

"It is a tough job market for college graduates but far worse for those without a college education," wrote Anthony Carnevale, director of [Georgetown University' Center on Education and the Workforce.]

In fact, Oregon Economist Patrick Emerson tackled this same issue just last week, calling out the Oregonian for drawing similar conclusions. "By focusing on the individual debt burdens of college students you are telling a cautionary tale that might dissuade people from investing in college. This is a huge mistake. Investing in college is about the best investment you can make and pays off for the rest of your life," he wrote and included the following graph:

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Last week, Scott wrote an article about the Governor's proposed budget. He chiefly noted advocates' disappointment that the proposal (at least, in its first iteration) does not address the $32 billion in tax giveaways that Oregon spends each budget cycle.

In response, one reader wrote:

Last week, Scott wrote an article about the Governor's proposed budget. He chiefly noted advocates' disappointment that the proposal (at least, in its first iteration) does not address the $32 billion in tax giveaways that Oregon spends each budget cycle.

In response, one reader wrote:

I'm curious about all those "billions" that the article says Oregon gives away in tax breaks. I recall Romney exaggerating the benefits of closing some tax loop holes -- instead of raising taxes on people who could afford to pay their share -- but he wouldn't be specific and we all know how that ended. Where are the $32 billion in tax breaks that the Governor failed to close, and which ones are ripe for eliminating? 

While we appreciated the comparison to Romney's made-up numbers -- no, really! It made for a great morning laugh!--  the fact is that the $32 billion in tax giveaways is not only a well documented total figure, the Oregon Department of Revenue actually produces a report each biennium detailing the cost of each of the 378 tax expenditures specified by Oregon law.

But R-Money comparisons aside, it's a good question. Analysts and advocates have become increasingly interested in the system over the years, as many of Oregon's elected leaders have appeared to largely ignore it, resulting in tax expenditures growing unchecked and out-of-pace with state spending on other programs, like schools.


Over the last five years, tax expenditures increased by 12%, while school spending decreased -5%

Oregon's tax expenditure code is a list of 378 different tax breaks, writing exceptions into Oregon's law for certain income, property, and other items. While some of the tax expenditures are good, common sense ideas (like the earned income tax credit, which provides relief for low-income, working families), others appear completely baffling (did you know that boat owners can take a tax credit exemption for each of their boats?)

Overall, Oregon's tax expenditure code costs the state $32 billion each budget cycle, while Oregon collects about $14 billion in total taxes and other revenue. To put it plainly: Each budget cycle, the state spends more money on tax giveaways than it receives in tax collection.

And while the total amount of tax giveaways is astronomical, what's potentially more concerning is the rate of growth.

During troubling economic times, Oregon has slashed budgets to our schools, human services, public safety, and other vital programs, all the while allowing tax expenditures to grow unchecked. In 2009, during a country-wide recession, Oregon's budget was primarily balanced through budget cuts, furlough days, and layoffs, even while adding new tax breaks and allowing old tax breaks to grow. As a result, between 2009 and 2011, total tax expenditures grew by another $3.4 billion.

It should go without saying, but an additional $3.4 billion of tax expenditures meant $3.4 billion less for Oregon's most important programs. The ballooning costs of tax expenditures resulted in the equivalent of -25% loss of funding across each of Oregon's state programs and services:

 


The impact of allowing tax breaks to grow unchecked, from 2009-2011.

So what's to be done? Policy analysts have been offering suggestions for years, ranging from caps and limits to means-testing to simple accountability and review. Here's just one set of recommendations from the Oregon Center for Public Policy, which suggests all of the above.

But the truth of the matter is there are many ways in which our state could manage our unruly code of tax expenditures. Depending on the method of reform, savings would range dramatically: from $320 million (if we cap deductions) to $3.4 billion (if we limit tax expenditures to the 2009 rate) and beyond. So the problem is not how -- but when. Because previous budget years have resulted in little to no tax expenditure reform -- even while our schools, senior and family services, and other important programs suffer.

Luckily, it's a new year and a new budget cycle -- and we’re still in the earliest stages of this biennium's budget proposals. The Governor started the budget conversation early-- releasing his proposal last week-- so there's still time for additional suggestions. Hopefully tax expenditures will be the next component that gets a thorough review.



 

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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:

If you're one of the few left who hasn't heard the touching story about New York Police Officer DePrimo, whose spontaneous good deed was caught on camera. A visitor snapped a photo of the Officer, as he gifted a warm pair of boots to a barefoot man asking for change. 

There's a search engine for Calvin and Hobbes comics!! (Need some random search words to get you started? Hows about forest, laser, chores, marker...)

Oregon Zoo elephant Rose-Tu gave birth to a healthy, 300-pound calf. And she's so cute!!

And, because we know this is what the Internet is really for, enjoy cats, cats, and more cats!

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In his recommended budget, the Governor has unfortunately ignored the resounding results of election that wrapped just a few weeks ago, and has missed an opportunity to provide real money for schools and critical services by closing big tax loopholes for large corporations and the rich.

The Governor's budget continues the status quo of giving away tax dollars through runaway tax breaks. The State of Oregon currently gives away $32 billion in tax breaks every two years--an increase of $3.4 billion (12%) in just the past few years. 

Reining in these out-of-control tax breaks—particularly for large corporations and the wealthy—could provide hundreds of millions of dollars to fund Oregon’s basic priorities: Our schools, senior care, and the basic services that keep our communities safe and healthy.

In the election that ended just three weeks ago, voters in Oregon and the rest of the nation weighed in loudly about how they expect elected leaders to protect priority services.

 

In his recommended budget, the Governor has unfortunately ignored the resounding results of election that wrapped just a few weeks ago, and has missed an opportunity to provide real money for schools and critical services by closing big tax loopholes for large corporations and the rich.

The Governor's budget continues the status quo of giving away tax dollars through runaway tax breaks. The State of Oregon currently gives away $32 billion in tax breaks every two years--an increase of $3.4 billion (12%) in just the past few years. 

Reining in these out-of-control tax breaks—particularly for large corporations and the wealthy—could provide hundreds of millions of dollars to fund Oregon’s basic priorities: Our schools, senior care, and the basic services that keep our communities safe and healthy.

In the election that ended just three weeks ago, voters in Oregon and the rest of the nation weighed in loudly about how they expect elected leaders to protect priority services.

 

 

President Obama campaigned on a plan to raise the tax rates on households that make more than $250,000. He won in Oregon by a 12-point margin. Even Congressional Republicans across the country have now been forced to admit that new revenue has to be part of a balanced budget.

Closer to home, Oregon voters approved two-thirds of the local money measures this November to fund their local schools and priority services. By an overwhelming majority, they voted to reform the corporate kicker and put those funds into schools. And they rejected a ballot measure that would have cut hundreds of millions of dollars from schools and critical services just to give a tax break to the wealthy.

The lesson is clear: Voters believe that large corporations and the rich should pay their share, and that middle-class families can’t absorb any more cuts to basic services.

Today's release of the Governor’s Recommended Budget unfortunately doesn’t come close to meeting the needs and priorities of middle-class families.

For the most part, the Governor's budget provides essentially flat budgets for most critical services. The small increases recommended for a few agencies don’t keep up with inflation or the increased costs of providing basic services.

Between 2010 and 2012, Oregon schools cut approximately 7,000 teachers and school employees, giving Oregon the fourth most overcrowded classrooms in the nation. The Governor's recommended budget does almost nothing to change that; in fact, we could lose many more teachers. 

The result will be even more overcrowded classrooms, shorter school years, higher tuition, and fewer services for seniors and people with disabilities. Middle-class families have already spent too many years under the burden of ongoing cuts.

The Governor’s Recommended Budget is just the first step in a lengthy process of drafting Oregon’s budget. We're hopeful that the legislative process will be fruitful in finding ways to fund middle-class priorities.

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