Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Day: August 1, 2014

Our disinterested and AWOL governor

It is funny how a memory from childhood can connect so directly with something at the present time.  Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes was brought to mind by the trials and tribulations of Governor John Kitzhaber and our disappointments therein.  Read that story again; you’ll be reminded of the emperor, naked but refusing to acknowledge it, as he marched in a parade.

Kitzhaber’s seen as nakedly incompetent, good only at tooting his own brash horn and blaming others for what’s gone haywire. His pals and position-holders want to keep their jobs so they won’t openly admit that he cannot dress himself to tend to gubernatorial responsibilities.  Meanwhile, pundits say the voters, too often inclined not to look long and hard to see what’s up with name-familiar candidates, will turn a blind eye to Kitzhaber’s unclad managerial inabilities…and re-elect him.

But just look at Kitzhaber’s litany of inattentive limping along.  Education reform got his expensive hand-picked first state chief education officer, Rudy Crew, a better job in New York City while a “retired” Oregon school superintendent took Rudy’s place at one-half a million dollars in pay per biennium with nothing to show for it.  Cover Oregon’s a bust that keeps bursting with one of the latest scandals a huge bonus to every Cover Oregon employee who’ll promise to stay aboard the sinking ship.  Then there’s that Columbia River Crossing (CRC) boondoggle that’s spent millions never to drive a pile in the river or hang a bridge girder, just a lot of crony payouts.

Where does Kitzhaber spend his time?  Not in Salem much, we’re told.  He may be found in Portland’s World Trade Center and his home in Cedar Hills. He’s been seen at the Capitol but only sticks around for partial days when he’s there at all or 74 days in a year’s time.

He’s involved as a fellow with a health policy think tank in D.C., traveling there as elsewhere away from the state when he’s not taking  vacation time. Many Oregonians would prefer that Kitzhaber behave responsibly or more like his on-the-job counterparts in Sacramento and Olympia.  Where’s Waldo?  Who cares? In Oregon adults seeking responsible government just want to know the whereabouts of John K.

What are Kitzhaber’s accomplishments?  He managed to gouge the state’s PERS’ retirees to pay for his failures, a matter now in the hands of the Oregon Supreme Court.  He’s made some noise about oil trains that ply the Columbia Gorge and elsewhere in the state by the hundreds while the question is, will he stay with it to get something done?  He found happiness, we’re told, in Bhutan. The most standoffish office holder I’ve ever met now invites the illegal immigrants from Central America to Oregon.  Do you suppose he just loves children or seeks the Latino vote?  If they arrive here as he wishes, will he adopt them or further tax PERS’ retirees to house, feed, and clothe them?

What are the prospects for four more years with our own “emperor” again in charge.  I’d have to turn myself in as a hopeless masochist, defined as in a taste for suffering, to vote for JK again.  Hurt me once, shame on you; hurt me three times, promising another painful punch to my solar plexus, shame on me!  It’s merciless in the extreme that the only other choice is a guy from Central Point who, in debating Kitzhaber so far, disclosed only his ability to criticize him, which has been proven here that any fool can do.

The GOP’s nominee for Oregon governor, Dennis Richardson, is a conservative’s conservative. It’s believed that a Richardson hero is Sam Brownback, a former U.S. Senator who got himself elected governor of Kansas.  Under Brownback’s beliefs and policies in practice there, that state is in near total financial collapse while millions of Kansans are lividly disillusioned over his “accomplishments.”  If the Oregon voter wants the same here, he’ll cast his ballot for this guy.

Opinion reads that there should be a viable choice for governor of Oregon.  It’s argued we do not have one this year; to the contrary, it is a year where, while the incumbent is more defeatable than he was against Chris Dudley, the Republicans choose to place on the November, 2014 ballot, a person way out of step with a majority of voting Oregonians.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer. His column appears regularly in the Keizertimes.)

Marijuana prohibition doesn’t work


The New York Times has seen the light. On Sunday, the paper editorialized in favor of an end to the federal ban on marijuana. According to Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance, The Gray Lady has become the first major national newspaper to support legalizing marijuana.

The Times did not celebrate marijuana use; it simply addressed the downside of prohibition—658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, with a disproportionate representation of young black men. The editorial also laid out a rational view of marijuana. While research suggests that marijuana can have adverse affects on adolescent brains—hence the paper’s support for a ban on sales to those under 21—it’s not as hazardous to health as alcohol and tobacco. The paper also made this commonsense but rare assertion: “Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults.”

My guess is the editorial board wanted to appear relevant instead of late to the party. In 2012, Colorado and Washington voters approved ballot measures to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Last year, a Gallup poll found that 58 percent of respondents support legalization. I think The New York Times wanted to speak out before voters in Oregon, and perhaps Alaska, pass similar legalization laws in November.

Editorial board member David Firestone urged President Obama to order Attorney General Eric Holder to begin a study to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled drugs. Likewise, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), has introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. While few observers expect the bill to pass, the Times’ editorial just might prompt a few lawmakers to rethink what has been knee-jerk opposition to change.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.)signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill last year—and he’s a former prosecutor. “I believe that citizens in states across the county should be empowered to make their own decisions as to how to treat marijuana,” Swalwell said in a statement.

Apparently, it took marijuana to get Democrats to find a policy area that states should decide. Asked on CNN about legalizing marijuana, Hillary Rodham Clinton lauded states as “laboratories of democracy.” When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, he said he experimented with marijuana but didn’t inhale. Now states are doing the experimenting.

Except California. In 2010, 54 percent of state voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana. The Drug Policy Alliance is working on a measure for the 2016 ballot that addresses the concerns of Prop. 19 critics and builds on lessons learned in Colorado and Washington.

Gov. Jerry Brown opposed Prop. 19, and he’s not likely to support any new measure. In March he told NBC’s Meet the Press, “How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?”

It’s an odd stance for a governor who reduced the state prison population from around 150,000 in 2010 to 117,500 inmates. Do Californians really want police enforcing marijuana laws when other offenders pose a bigger threat to public safety?

Alas, Brown’s GOP challenger, Neel Kashkari, also opposes legalization.

I asked Swalwell if he thought legalization would increase use. He answered, “Honestly, no.”

It’s not as though it’s hard to get marijuana in California, where medical marijuana is legal. Then again, it wasn’t hard to find marijuana in my high school before medical marijuana. Prohibition doesn’t work.

(Creators Syndicate)