Monday, June 28, 2010

Kulongoski: public employees paying part of health care costs “is just fair”

From the Q & A time after Governor Kulongoski's speech at the City Club on Friday:

52:45-53:15 [time code] Question:
Thanks for your remarks governor . . . particularly raising the issue of health care costs and you talked about your proposal to shift part of those costs to employees, but I’d like to hear your thoughts as well about what the state can do to control costs so that double-digit increases in health care just aren’t part of the normal way that we do business. What do you think you can do in the next six months and what would you recommend to the legislature and your successor?
53:15-54:55 Gov. Kulongoski:
You know, let me rephrase something you said in the beginning. You always make it sound like it’s a negative to ask people to share part of the burden of picking up the cost. I just think it’s fair.

I’m not doing anything that’s onerous or anything else. It’s just saying you should have an interest in holding health care costs down. If I pay them all for you, you don’t have much of an incentive. That’s first, so I think what I’m asking is just fair.

Second, actually the PEB board probably does as well as any group in the state in holding down health care costs. What I’m asking is that if you take an interest and you’ve got a financial stake in it yourself, you are going to look at the programs that the Reset Cabinet suggested be on the table things like: non-smoking, obesity–all these things. I think you’ll pay a greater interest in it.

Let me suggest that in the end the state always wants to be a good employer–as every employer does, I truly believe that, but I also think you have to have policies in place that motivate people to have a self-interest in trying to keep the costs down themselves. And I think that’s what this is all about. As much as it is about is reducing the cost to government, it is also about taking personal responsibility.
Governor Kulongoski sounds like Governor Sarah Palin in calling for personal responsibility to fix tough budget and economic issues.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Governor Kulongoski: Changes Needed in Education and Government Benefits

UPDATE: Here are links to the audio and text versions of Governor Kulongoski's City Club speech and to the Governor's Reset Cabinet final report.

From the Willamette Week:
"'We must end our practice of evaluating the success of our education system based solely on how much money it receives,' Kulongoski said. 'Rarely does the discussion turn to the number or students who succeed, much less how prepared they are to compete in this demanding economy.'

"In a direct challenge to the powerful Oregon Education Association that helped to elect him and other Democrats, Kulongoski said, 'the first step is to align funding with student outcomes…we must embrace charter schools…and…online learning and virtual classrooms.' Each of those points conflicts directly with the approach of the OEA, which is a huge player in funding the campaigns of Democratic candidates."
. . .
"'My message to state and school employees is this: If you don’t want a decade of deficits to turn into a decade of layoffs and wage freezes—work with us to manage the cost of your benefits and keep your pay in line with your counterparts in the private sector,' the governor said.

"Kulongoski proposed several ways in which to dial back compensation: getting employees to pay the 6 percent pension contribution many public sector entities pay on their behalf; engaging in statewide collective bargaining rather than the current fragmented process; and getting employees to pay more of their healthcare costs — or in some cases, any portion of that expense."
Looks like Governor Kulongoski learned some valuable on the job lessons. Too bad it's 7-1/2 years into his term. But, bravo for Kulongoski.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Palin Legal Defense Fund

An Anchorage attorney has said the old Palin legal defense fund violated ethics laws because it contained the words "official website".
"Tim Petumenos, an Anchorage attorney hired by the state Personnel Board to investigate, said Thursday the legal defense fund violated state law because it 'constituted using public office to obtain private benefit.' He said the fund, which was set up while Palin was still governor, inappropriately said it was the 'official website' of Palin, and made reference to her work in public office. Petumenos upheld an ethics complaint that was filed 15 months ago against the trust."
So, Palin, who spent none of the money in the fund and will return contributions to it made while she was in public office, has set up a new fund.

The old fund was extremely severe on contributions with a limit of $150 per contributor. The new fund, following current legal guidelines for defense funds such as President Clinton's and John Kerry's, allows for $13,500 per contributor.

There is no problem with about $33,000 of the old defense fund since it was collected while Palin was a private citizen. Tim Petumenos, the Anchorage attorney making the call, said Palin did not "knowingly" break state ethics law.
"Petumenos said there's nothing illegal about Palin having a legal defense fund as a private citizen. The Alaska Fund Trust is allowed to keep the $33,546 collected after she resigned as governor, although her lawyer said it will go to pay expenses of the trust. As of March, the fund had spent $87,680 on legal and other expenses, he said."
. . .
"Petumenos said the evidence supports Palin's contention that she did not 'knowingly' break state ethics law with the legal defense fund. But he said that doesn't change the fund's being illegal."
I gave part of my last year's stimulus funds to Palin's first defense fund, and will transfer that over to the new defense fund and add some. Since I'm not independently wealthy, my thanks to Congress and the President for making that possible.

I've put a link on my sidebar to the new fund.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Americans Trust Facebook More than the Media

A recent Zogby poll finds that more Americans trust Facebook (13%) "completely" or "a lot" than the Media (8%). Twitter ties with the Media at 8%.

How much do you trust each of the following?
Trust (All Adults)
. . . . . . . Completely + a lot . . . A little + Not at all . . . Not sure
Apple . . . . . . . 49% . . . . . . . . . . . 36% . . . . . . . . . . 15%
Microsoft . . . . .49% . . . . . . . . . . . 46% . . . . . . . . . . . 5%
Twitter . . . . . . . 8% . . . . . . . . . . . 64% . . . . . . . . . . 28%
Facebook . . . . .13% . . . . . . . . . . . 75% . . . . . . . . . . 12%
Google . . . . . . 49%. . . . . . . . . . . .46% . . . . . . . . . . . 5%
The Media . . . . . 8% . . . . . . . . . . . 88% . . . . . . . . . . . 4%
The news is even worse for the Media from the young. Only 6% of those ages 18 to 29 give the Media a good grade. Two and half times that number (15%) give Twitter high marks and more than three times as many (20%) find Facebook more trustworthy.
Trust (Only Ages 18-29)
. . . . . . . Completely + a lot . . . A little + Not at all . . . Not sure
Apple . . . . . . . 41% . . . . . . . . . . . 51% . . . . . . . . . . . 8%
Microsoft . . . . .34% . . . . . . . . . . . 60% . . . . . . . . . . . 7%
Twitter . . . . . . 15% . . . . . . . . . . . 66% . . . . . . . . . . 19%
Facebook . . . . .20% . . . . . . . . . . .72% . . . . . . . . . . . 8%
Google . . . . . . 51%. . . . . . . . . . . 43% . . . . . . . . . . . 6%
The Media . . . . .6% . . . . . . . . . . . 89% . . . . . . . . . . . 5%
The Media keeps damaging its brand with poor and biased reporting, and it shows in confidence rate at single digits in the polls.

H/T Newsbusters

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"public rebuke that sent a shiver through the officer corps"

The firing of General Stanley McChrystal?


Time magazine asserts this was the chilling treatment accorded dissenting four star general Eric Shinseki when Bush administration officials sacked him didn't attend his retirement ceremony.
"'Beware a 12-division strategy for a 10-division Army,' Shinkseki (sic) warned at his retirement ceremony, an event attended by neither Rumsfeld [Secretary of Defense] nor Wolfowitz [Deputy Secretary of Defense]. It was a public rebuke that sent a shiver through the officer corps, and made clear that professional dissent — however carefully considered and delivered by a top officer with 38 years in uniform — could derail an exemplary career. (Contrary to public perception, however, Shinseki was not fired by Rumsfeld. He served out his term as Army chief of staff, although Rumsfeld's allies had already hacked away at Shinseki's influence by proclaiming him a lame duck during his final year, even before his controversial testimony.)"
Any bets that Time will worry over the effects of the firing of Gen. McChrystal?

It's only chilling when people you support are ousted snubbed.

P.S. Interesting that McChrystal is pro-Hillary Clinton--apparently like a majority of Americans.
"Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal's inner circle. 'Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review,' says an adviser. 'She said, 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.''"
H/T Newsbusters

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oregon Supreme Court Rules Multnomah County Owes $1.15 Million to Dorothy English Estate

"The Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the county's defenses to enforcement of the trial court judgment are either barred by preclusion principles or lack merit. The trial court judgment is a final, valid judgment that requires that the county pay English $1,150,000. We therefore affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals, reversing the judgment of the mandamus court.

"The decision of the Court of Appeals is affirmed. The judgment of the circuit court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the circuit court with instructions to issue a peremptory writ of mandamus directing the county to pay the judgment for $1,150,000."
Multnomah County argued that following the original court judgment in favor of English was at the county's discretion. In other words, if you lose a judgment, you determine if you pay or not. Nice work if you can get it.
"We view the county as arguing, at least in part, that the trial court judgment potentially created no remedy at all for English. In other words, the county appears to argue that, after the trial court entered the judgment, the county retained the following options: (1) to pay English $1,150,000, but only if it specifically allocated funds for that purpose as described in ORS 197.352(10); (2) to affirmatively waive all relevant land use regulations; or (3) to do nothing, in which case all relevant regulations would be automatically waived two years after English's cause of action accrued, by operation of ORS 197.352(10). Under the third circumstance, applying the county's reasoning, English would have no remedy under the judgment; instead, her only remedy would be the automatic waiver already contained in Measure 37.

"To the extent that the county argues that the trial court judgment creates no remedy for English -- and imposes no obligation on the county -- we disagree. As noted, the trial court granted English's motion for summary judgment "as to liability" after determining that the county had continued to enforce nonexempt land use regulations that decreased the value of English's property. Although we agree with the county that the trial court did not necessarily conclude, in granting English's motion for summary judgment, that English was entitled to payment, the trial court did conclude that English was entitled to some remedy -- either payment or waiver of the land use regulations. Thus, we cannot agree with the county that the judgment determined only the amount of compensation and granted English no remedy at all."
Multnomah County will also have to pay for English's costs in fighting the county's refusal to pay. Unfortunately, given Multnomah County's bizarre governance, this is probably one of the better uses of county funds. At least justice is being done for the English estate. Too bad Multnomah County was able to stall until after English died. But, better justice (and a smack down of outrageous county action) late than never.

H/T OregonWatchdog

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oregon Income Trending Like Idaho Rather than Washington

The glitter is dimming. Oregon is slipping economically.

Oregon has moved solidly into the lower quadrant in personal income with almost 2/3rds of the states ranking higher. The Portland Tribune points out that Oregon is becoming more like its poorer neighbor Idaho than wealthier Washington.

Oregon's per capita income is 90% of the national average--down from 97% in 2000.

Among the 50 states in per capita income (constant dollars):
  • Oregon was #25 ($28,099) in 2000 and #31 ($29,570) in 2008
  • Washington was #11 ($31,780) in 2000 and #14 ($34,833) in 2008
  • Idaho was #42 ($24,079) in 2000 and #43 ($26,426) in 2008
Unfortunately, things are not looking up.
"[John Tapogna, president of ECONorthwest] cited two worrisome statistics that signal future pressure on government services. The number of baby boomers turning 65 this decade will grow 50 percent, he said, increasing demand for health care and taking the most educated sector out of the work force. And 25 percent of preschoolers in Oregon are Hispanic – a group not particularly well served in our schools – Tapogna said."
. . .
"'We have a tendency to attract college-educated workers but maybe not the most productive ones,' [University of Oregon economics professor Tim] Duy said.

"Half joking, he said Seattle and San Francisco are attracting college grads who want to work 60 hours a week, while their peers coming to Portland want to work 30 hours a week."
Tapogna points out that unless there is a turnaround of increase in income, Oregon will need to look to Idaho's model of providing public services rather than what it's used to.
"Tapogna said public spending has consistently equaled about 16 percent of Oregonians’ personal incomes, so if incomes are stagnant or falling, so will public spending. The two biggest and most powerful public employee unions, Oregon Education Association and Service Employees International Union, 'should be as excited about personal income growth as this group is,' Tapogna said, referring to his business audience.

"Otherwise, they should look at how Idaho provides public services, he said, 'because that’s the other model.'"

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Karzai Doubts US Will Defeat Taliban

From the New York Times:
"'Karzai told me that he can’t trust the Americans to fix the situation here,' said a Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 'He believes they stole his legitimacy during the elections last year. And then they said publicly that they were going to leave.'"
. . .
"If Mr. Karzai’s resolve to work closely with the United States and use his own army to fight the Taliban is weakening, that could present a problem for Mr. Obama. The American war strategy rests largely on clearing ground held by the Taliban so that Mr. Karzai’s army and government can move in, allowing the Americans to scale back their involvement in an increasingly unpopular and costly war."
At least President Obama has been consistent. He has followed war policies in Afghanistan that he urged on President Bush for Iraq: setting a U.S. military withdrawal timeline and criticizing national leadership for not making significant societal and political progress.

But those policies aren't working out so well in Afghanistan. It's not a good sign when the president of Afghanistan doubts the success of the war effort.

Successful war time leadership requires inspiring trust and confidence even when you're overmatched--as Winston Churchill did. Unfortunately, President Obama's policies have inspired doubt.

It looks more and more certain that President Bush's politically unpopular policies of not setting a withdrawal timetable and not criticizing the national government were crucial to winning the war in Iraq. It wasn't just the surge itself. It was the whole strategy of building up a competent, cohesive government among leaders not used to working together. Bush's commitment (at a high political price) and confidence helped Iraqi leadership rise to the occasion.

Obama's lack of understanding about how to inspire confidence and commitment has wounded his Afghan war surge strategy--perhaps mortally.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The kind of governor Oregon needs

Actually, the kind of governor every state needs--a leader with courage and straight forward convictions.

Palin Eugene Fund Raiser Skewers Assumptions

David Steves of the Eugene Register-Guard reports that Sarah Palin's fund raiser in Eugene was a big hit even in a small, very liberal market like Eugene. About 850 people attended the Palin event.

Her appearance in the University of Oregon liberal bastion has helped the Lane County Republicans raise over $250,000 this year. That compares to last year's $60,000 contribution total.

It also means that Lane County Democrats with a balance of about $36,000 are a bit behind. (Maybe that should invite President Obama to do a fundraiser for them.)

One media assumption skewered is that Palin charges $100,000 per speech. The fee Lane County Republicans sent to Palin's booking agency was $35,000, which obviously included the speaker's agency cut of the fees.

Palin received about a third of what national journalists are reporting as Palin's standard speaking fee. It's also less than half of what Politico alleges is her West Coast "discount" fee of $75,000. Repeated factual inaccuracies like this are symptomatic of why the public doesn't trust journalists.

Even reporter David Steves has a hard time shedding his belief in Politico's and the LA Times' guesses though he knows that Lane County Republicans only paid Palin's speakers agency $35,000. Steves thinks Lane County Republicans must have gotten a "bargain".
"One of the biggest apparent boons to that financial position is the relative bargain the party seems to have gotten from Palin’s booking agency, the Washington Speakers Bureau. The campaign-finance reports indicate two payments of $17,500 by the party to the bureau, one in January and another in March.

"Politico has reported Palin charges $100,000, with a discount to $75,000 for West Coast appearances. In California, where Palin is to speak this month for a state university foundation’s fundraiser, she will be paid $75,000, the Los Angeles Times reported last week."
Just to double check, Steves had to be assured that $35,000 was the real, bottom line total paid to Palin.
"[Lane County Republican Chairman Bill] Young said he was barred from publicly discussing the terms of the contract to bring Palin to Eugene. However, he said no additional payments were owed to her booking agency and that no third parties were helping make payments to the Washington Speakers Bureau on the Lane County Republicans’ behalf."
Since Palin mostly speaks to groups who share her values, it’s more likely that the Lane County Republican “bargain” price is her usual fee, and $75,000 or $100,000 is the exception. But, journalistic credulity dies hard.

H/T Conservatives4Palin

Friday, June 04, 2010

Mega Portland Loses 23,300 Jobs; Little Cornelius Gains 300

In the last year Portland (pop. 550,000) lost 23,300 jobs.

Little Cornelius (pop. 11,000) just gained 300 jobs.

Cornelius has a work force of about 4,600. That's a 6% gain in work opportunity.

Portland has a work force of about 274,000. In the last year lost jobs meant an 8% decline in Portland's work opportunities.

A symptom of the problem can be seen in the fight brewing to keep the company that gave Cornelius 300 jobs from siting a new store in Portland. Though little Cornelius has a poor population base and big Portland has a great population base for a major retailer, Portland frowns at new long term employment opportunities and short term construction jobs from Walmart.

Jim Redden of the Portland Tribune presents an insightful overview from University of Oregon economist Tim Duy on Portland's "city-specific problem":
"One person who was not surprised by Portland’s attitude toward Walmart is Tim Duy, an economist at the University of Oregon. Duy has long been puzzled by what he sees as Portland’s inability to generate or sustain new jobs. Five days before the Walmart announcement, Duy delivered a speech to the Westside Economic Alliance criticizing the city’s inability to attract large employers.

"'There is a problem in the center of the region,' said Duy, who presented a wealth of statistics showing that Portlanders earn less than their suburban counterparts — and that they make less than four other cities considered to have similar values: Austin, Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle."

“'This is a city-specific problem,' Duy said. 'And it’s a city with a lot of influence over the rest of the region.'”
No wonder that Portland is tied for 18th worst among 100 major metropolitan areas in percentage of job losses and has a median income significantly lower than comparable cities and even lower than smaller adjacent cities and counties.
“It should be just the opposite — the biggest county with the biggest city should have the highest wages,” Duy says.