Friday, February 10, 2017

The Road Show At The Oregon State Capitol---What Are We Accomplishing?

Photo by Zoe Diacou

Today I attended most of the "road show" at the State Capitol. Tax Fairness Oregon has defined the event well by saying:

The 24-member Joint House and Senate Ways and Means Committee writes Oregon’s budget.

This Friday, Feb. 10, the Committee begins its traditional “road show” with seven town halls around the state listening to citizens’ ideas about how to build a budget for 2017-18 when we have a $1.8 billion shortfall...Here is our chance to “speak truth to power.”

I have been to these road shows before. As with past road shows, this one was driven by a sense of crisis and marked by a tendency of separate groups to make group-serving presentations. Someone, or a group of people, presents an argument about why their agency, project or effort should not be cut and that person or group is then followed by others doing the same for their projects.

A few speakers held to the correct line that nothing should be cut, and most speakers argued that the solution to cuts in programs lies in taxing corporations. The Republicans predictably held to the point that PERS and state worker union contracts and Democratic Party rule handcuff legislators and ensure crises. The Republican solution is handcuffs for us and tickets for others to the best seats on the deck of the Titanic as the ship sinks.

The demand to raise the corporate minimum tax is a good and healthy demand, and it needs to be done, but if we're trying to negotiate against one another in the road shows and elsewhere by making separate and competing arguments for social programs and not holding to a no-cuts-for-any-social-program line and not backing resistance to cuts with credible threats of protest and non-violent direct action then we're walking into a trap and we're likely to get played. The corporations will not voluntarily pay more taxes, and no one at the decision-making level can be counted to stand up to them without being pushed hard to do so.

Hats off to Sandra Hernandez-Lomeli, the teachers' union folks, Catherine Stearns and the Public Defender and DOJ folks who supported their programs and other programs as well! They understand solidarity.

I always have the feeling at these road shows that they are held more for show than for substance and that trends in thinking or decisions are already set in motion.

People understandably grow tired of hearing "Never has citizen participation in political decision-making been more important than right now." There is an opportunity to develop new solutions, raise the level of fightback and make progress if we build on the peoples' movements and put oppressed people and working-class people at the front of the line with resources and solidarity. For instance, we can get back on the path of winning a real state bank, stopping privatization and doing contracting-in, extending PERS or developing something real (as opposed to the Savings Plan) that takes care of retirement, winning rent control and institutionalizing real community control solutions along the lines laid out in The Movement For Black Lives Platform.

You can email the Ways & Means members at

Here is the Road Show schedule:

Saturday, February 11 -- Portland
Noon to 2 p.m.
Main Mall, Amo DeBernardis CC Building
PCC, Sylvania campus
12000 SW 49th Ave, Portland

Friday, February 17 -- Hermiston
5 to 7 p.m.
Main Commons
Hermiston High School
600 S 1st St, Hermiston

Saturday, February 18 -- Madras
1 to 3 p.m.
Performing Arts Center
Madras High School
390 SE 10th St, Madras

Friday, February 24 -- Ashland
5 to 7 p.m.
Rogue River Room
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland

Saturday, February 25 -- Eugene
1 to 3 p.m.
Rooms 308-309 Building 17 (The Forum)
Lane Community College
4000 E 30th Ave, Eugene

Friday, March 3 -- Tillamook
6 to 8 p.m.
Officer’s Mess
Port of Tillamook Bay
6825 Officers Row, Tillamook

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