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About The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current | View Entire Issue (June 18, 2019)
THE ASTORIAN • TuESdAy, JuNE 18, 2019
JIM VAN NOSTRAND
Founded in 1873
JOHN D. BRUIJN
Our legislators stand up for convictions
oliticians deserve plau-
dits when they do the right
thing. In Oregon, they’re
likely to get punished.
Such is the case with two Dem-
ocrats who represent the North
Coast — veteran Sen. Betsy John-
son of Scappoose and first-term
Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell of Astoria —
who got in trouble for standing up
for their convictions.
Johnson is one of the most inde-
pendent-minded legislators in the
state Capitol, known for follow-
ing her conscience instead of the
party line. She is a straight talker,
a trait that endears her even to peo-
ple who disagree. This year she
gained even more influence, being
appointed to help lead the Legisla-
ture’s Joint Committee on Ways &
Means, which makes the state bud-
In an unusual move, Sen-
ate President Peter Courtney
had split the Senate Ways &
Means co-chair’s position in half,
appointing Elizabeth Steiner Hay-
ward, D-Beaverton, and Johnson
as “co-co-chairs” to share the job.
Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, is
the co-chair from the House.
Courtney would have none of
Johnson’s independence when it
came time last week for Ways &
Means to vote on House Bill 2020,
a carbon cap-and-trade scheme
known by its supporters as Clean
Fuel Jobs. Courtney temporar-
ily replaced her on the commit-
tee with himself, ensuring the bill
would be approved — on par-
Clear-eyed Johnson had recog-
nized the bill’s flaws and, to the
angst of its supporters, had pro-
posed significant changes.
Supporters have consistently
pointed out that the bill has been
years in the making and thus has
been well-vetted. But length of
construction does not necessarily
guarantee the quality of the out-
come. In sending the bill to the
House floor for a vote, the Ways &
Means Committee also adopted the
116th amendment proposed this
year for the bill. (Johnson’s pro-
posal was amendment 102.)
Courtney holds the authority to
appoint Senate committee mem-
bers and to replace them. But
might does not make right.
His egregious power play cut
out one of Oregon’s most capable
legislators. It also illustrated the
liberal Senate Democrats’ desper-
ation to pass legislation that essen-
tially will accomplish nothing to
affect global climate change.
Expect Johnson to have a lot
to say when HB 2020 reaches the
As for Mitchell, she is under fire
from the public employee unions
that helped elect her. Mitchell
joined most other House Dem-
ocrats to pass Senate Bill 1049,
which makes changes in the under-
funded Oregon Public Employ-
ees Retirement System. (Johnson
voted for it in the Senate.)
The major change is extend-
ing the timeline for bolstering
reserves that PERS needs to meet
its expected pension obligations.
What angers public employees is
that a small portion of their sup-
plemental retirement accounts now
will be diverted to that cause, help-
ing reduce the PERS unfunded
actuarial liability. That change
could trim their final pensions by 1
percent to 2 percent.
Politically, Mitchell was in a
no-win situation. She faced intense
pressure on one side from public
employees, who now feel betrayed
by her, and on the other side from
the Democratic legislative leaders
demanding passage of SB 1049.
As a candidate, Mitchell had
vowed to stand up for public
employees. As a legislator, she had
assumed she would vote against
SB 1049, after House Speaker
Tina Kotek and Courtney revealed
their legislation. Then she had an
epiphany: The PERS situation was
far worse and would cause greater
damage to public budgets — and
jobs — than she previously had
“The insight I gained as a legis-
lator into the actuarial issues sur-
rounding PERS forced me to ques-
tion my assumptions,” she wrote
in a thoughtful explanation of her
Indeed, the issues facing legis-
lators often are more complicated
and carry greater ramifications
than people outside the Capitol
may perceive. Mitchell deserves
credit for achieving that realiza-
tion, regardless of how anyone
feels about her vote.
The Daily Astorian’s editorial
board reluctantly endorsed Mitch-
ell during her election campaign.
We were skeptical whether she
would have the gumption to rep-
resent all of her constituents, not
just her progressive base. We were
We elect legislators to make
the best possible decisions for the
whole of Oregon. In their own
ways, Mitchell and Johnson have
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
or many years, Democrats and Repub-
licans have been escalating tit-for-tat
partisan changes to America’s way of gov-
erning itself. A recent example ended in
regrettable changes to the confirmation
process for federal judgeships — a process
that worked well for 200 years. And in my
book, neither political party will end up a
hero in the long run for doing that.
When Barack Obama was president,
the Democratic majority in the U.S. Sen-
ate changed rules to effectively elimi-
nate Republican opposition to Obama’s
appointments of all judges, except jus-
tices of the Supreme Court. After Sen-
ate Republicans became the majority,
they adopted Democrat precedent, and
extended the new rule to squelch Dem-
ocrat opposition to all judicial appoint-
ments, including the Supreme Court.
With tit-for-tat history like this, it’s
mind-boggling that Democratic presiden-
tial wannabees and Congressmen act as if
they’ve never heard the expression, “be
careful what you wish for.”
Today, some Democrats want to
impeach President Donald Trump for
inexplicable reasons, an effort reeking of
extremism. That effort’s even bad enough
to raise a red flag for Democratic Party
Other Democrat precedent-setters are
Congressional investigations into Presi-
dent Trump’s private life before he was
elected. This is odd strategy for 2020 pres-
idential elections. One wonders what
might happen to a Democratic president
the next time Republicans have the power
to do, tit-for-tat, what Democrats are doing
If Democrats hold their present course,
America can look forward to many more
years of tit-for-tat political chaos. Along
with Trump’s re-election in 2020.
aving just concluded two years work-
ing for the Astoria School District
as the family school liaison, and as some-
one who had never before worked in edu-
cation, I would like to invite readers to
learn from my experience on the inside,
and perhaps think about how we engage
our local schools and other community
First off, without reservation, every per-
son involved in the education process of
our children has displayed nothing less
than complete dedication and passion for
them; it’s not just a job.
Whether it was administrative assistants
who regularly and consistently go out of
their way to make a difference in a strug-
gling student’s day; teachers and other pro-
fessional staff who work far beyond their
paid time supporting activities, counseling,
or grading; or caring administrators who
daily balance and respect the multitudi-
nous needs of the students, those they lead,
or other stakeholders.
These people care. More than many of
us could sustain on the regular basis that
If we, as a community, see flaws in our
school system, or staff, I encourage you
to be part of the system, rather than deni-
grate it on Facebook for the consumption
of your acquaintances, or leaving angry
calls to the building administrators (who
are, to a person, some of the finest people
I’ve ever met).
Instead, volunteer, join a parents’ club
or attend a school board meeting regularly.
Be part of making our public school sys-
tem better, rather than being upset or dis-
couraged from the sidelines.
Climate action needed
applaud The Astorian for its coverage of
climate change. Left unchecked, it will
upend our economy, as documented in the
fourth National Climate Assessment.
Impacts can be seen outside of a sci-
entific report. In 2015, abnormally high
ocean and air temperatures in the Pacific
Northwest offered a preview of a future
climate. Farmers, fishermen and forest-
ers were confronted with a low snowpack,
drought, toxic algae blooms and two mil-
lion acres of forest fires.
I want to clarify a detail in the June 8
editorial “Our View: Cap and trade bill
would be disastrous.” The editorial says
Oregon would be the second state with
a cap and trade program. Oregon would
actually be the eleventh.
In 2009, nine eastern states formed
the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
(RGGI), an interstate cap and trade pro-
gram. New Jersey is in the process of
Greenhouse gas emissions from the
industries covered by the RGGI program
have fallen by 40 percent while that region
experienced higher economic growth than
the rest of the nation.
These states are acting because the fed-
eral government has failed to address cli-
A bipartisan bill in Congress — HR 763
— offers a national solution. Funds raised
from the largest greenhouse gas emitters
would be redistributed in a monthly div-
idend check to American families. Based
on the June 8 editorial, The Astorian might
support this bill.
But without nationwide action, Oregon
needs to join in the fight. We can’t afford
to let 2015 become the new normal.
Voice for unborn?
n response to the letter “Abortion
rights” (The Astorian, June 13), the
writer states that “everyone should have
their voices heard” and “every woman
deserves the right to their own body, and
what to do with it.”
My question is this: Who is the voice
for the unborn? What happened to their
right to be born? They have no voice or
rights, and are at the mercy of the hands of
people who choose to end their lives.
The writer states that she is “glad to live
in a state that is for abortions.” I, on the
other hand, am deeply saddened to live in
a country that takes away life and breath
from a living soul.
Whenever I hear the song “God Bless
America,” I can’t help but think of how
God can ever bless America as long as
we continue to destroy countless innocent
Students deserve better
n the June 8 edition of The Astorian, a
Knappa High School senior wrote about
electives being taken out of the schools,
such as art education (“Need art educa-
tion”). Great letter.
More emphasis has been put on core
subjects, to absolutely no avail for our stu-
dents and the education system. The U.S.
is near the bottom. It assumes students
will go to college. It takes away so many
opportunities for young people to develop
skills in trades, or to get some mental and
physical balance in school.
Also, have you seen the obesity in kids?
Where is physical education in school?
Too many young people are inactive
because of the Internet and phones, etc.
Schools can’t take the place of par-
enting, but with so many hours spent in
classes, more can be done. So much more.
Our young people deserve better.