The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, March 22, 2022, Page 4, Image 4

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THE ASTORIAN • TuESdAy, MARcH 22, 2022
Founded in 1873
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Seeking compromisers who care about ‘The Oregon Way’
ompromise, compromise,
compromise. Collaborate,
collaborate, collaborate.”
These are the qualities that Brian
Clem seeks in legislative candidates
this spring – “compromisers who care
about ‘The Oregon Way.’”
Clem speaks from experience. He
served in the state House for nearly 15
years until last fall, was a legislative
aide, ran campaigns and worked for
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden.
“The country defi-
nitely has gotten more
divided and Oregon has
gotten more divided,”
Clem said, yet “there
are people who believe
you should try really,
really hard to get a
He and five former
Democratic colleagues in the Legisla-
ture want to support such candidates.
Last week they launched a new polit-
ical action committee — Oregonians
Are Ready, or OAR PAC. They are
Democrats, after all, so the initial goal
is to back Democratic legislative can-
didates in the May primary who will be
more centrist, more willing to compro-
mise than their opponents.
I find this development relevant not
for any ideological position but for
what it says about our state, includ-
ing the need for hearing rural voices
in Salem. Three of the founders have
links to Coos Bay, including Clem,
who grew up there. They have watched
as decisions made in Salem and Wash-
ington, D.C., helped turn a thriving
community into an impoverished one
– and have stymied local attempts to
Clem, a Salem businessman, seeded
the PAC with $500,000. The other
founders are former state senator Arnie
Roblan, of Coos Bay, and former rep-
Anna Reed/Statesman Journal
Brian Clem, a former state lawmaker who represented Salem, is among several moderate
Democrats behind a new political action committee.
resenatives Jeff Barker, of Aloha; Deb-
orah Boone, of Cannon Beach; Betty
Komp, of Gates; and Caddy McKeown,
of Coos Bay.
They don’t necessarily align on
every issue. But, Clem said, “I think
we’re all united on that Oregon has lost
its way.”
All six were considered moderate
Democrats. In 2016, they began to hold
Tuesday night dinners with colleagues
in search of middle-ground solutions
on complex topics such as raising the
minimum wage.
However, as the Democrats
expanded their House and Senate
majorities in recent years, there was
less need for consensus with moder-
ates, or with Republicans at all.
Meanwhile, primary elections draw
the most partisan of voters. That is
why Democrats often go to the left
and Republicans to the right instead of
campaigning as moderates. Too often,
legislators also lean away from the
center to avoid drawing primary chal-
lengers from their Democratic left or
Republic right.
The new PAC aims to support com-
promise-willing Democrats who face
such opponents.
“I don’t believe compromise is
a bad word,” McKeown said. “The
fringes push ideas. But when you listen
to everybody and you work with every-
body, I think you come up with good
That was a lesson McKeown honed
growing up in a small town and later
representing a purple district in the
Legislature: Learn to work together
with everyone. You must give a little
to get a little. You can’t afford to burn
Clem put it another way: Stay at
the table until everyone gets what they
need. Help them save face instead of
rolling over them.
Clem said that in his dozen or so
years chairing a legislative commit-
tee, there never was a party-line vote
on a bill. He led such issues as pro-
tecting the Metolius River headwaters,
resolving a Washington County land
use battle, limiting class sizes in public
schools, and helping residents recover
from the 2020 Labor Day wildfires.
As another example of collabora-
tion, he cited Rep. Janelle Bynum,
D-Happy Valley, who chairs the House
Judiciary Committee. She could have
rolled over Republican Rep. Ron
Noble, a former police chief in McMin-
nville. Instead, they worked together
on law enforcement reforms.
The 2011 Legislature, with the
House evenly split between Republi-
cans and Democrats, underscored for
Clem the immense power of compro-
mise and collaboration. That legisla-
tive session — in which Roblan and
Rep. Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, served
as co-House speakers — is regarded
among Oregon’s must successful.
Though discussions often were dif-
ficult, lawmakers reached bipartisan
agreements on such contentious issues
as redistricting, education reform and
the state budget.
In this year’s legislative session,
Clem said, farmworker overtime
seemed to offer an opportunity for a
similar bipartisan victory, though with
significant give-and-take. That didn’t
happen. House Bill 4002 passed on a
party-line vote, with exception of retir-
ing Democratic Sen. Lee Beyer, of
Springfield, who voted “no.”
dick Hughes has been covering the
Oregon political scene since 1976.
Heritage fountain
hink of the cities and towns you have
visited; don’t most of them have a
central plaza? I grew up in Europe, where
throughout history they have been import-
ant spaces for community life, and taken
for granted. How much such a place
would benefit Astoria has been contem-
plated often during my almost 30 years
And now we have a chance to make it
happen on Heritage Square, the ideal and
only possible location in our unique his-
toric city. Yet the need for more work-
force, low-income housing is undeniable,
too. Our City Council’s decision to sign a
development agreement means that hous-
ing rather than a public plaza could be
sited there.
Both needs are indisputable; the loca-
tion is debatable. Alternatives for hous-
ing locations do exist, and have been
suggested. Maybe we can find room for
compromise if we open our minds?
Picture an inviting space large enough
for public events and celebrations with
room along the periphery for coffee shops,
eating places, little shops and the Garden
of Surging Waves. The downtown busi-
ness community would surely be in favor.
And how about an eye-catching foun-
tain in its midst? I think it would be wel-
comed with enthusiasm, and inspire real
community life, inclusive and not elitist
social interaction in person.
Maybe there is someone with enough
pocket change to make a Heritage fountain
a reality? We would happily toss in some
coins in honor, appreciation and love for
our forever Astoria!
It’s just a thought. But maybe not just
wishful thinking?
Best use
’ve been reading all the news about
Heritage Square with interest. We will
still have the Garden of Surging Waves,
but that will be all that remains of the orig-
inal designs.
I support workforce and affordable
housing. I support a project downtown
that allows people to walk and bike to
work or easily catch public transportation.
Employers need housing for their employ-
ees, and people need a place to live.
I also believe the Clatsop Behavioral
Healthcare proposal has merit. However,
these micro units are not a good fit. They
will limit the number of units available to
others, whether confined to one floor or
intermingled with the apartments.
I also do not trust CBH to have staff
available 24/7 for their clients. They had
said there would be lock-down units for
people in crisis when they opened their
respite center in Warrenton years ago. We
have yet to see that happen.
They said there would be counselors
available to assist police officers with peo-
ple attempting suicide, or in other types
of crisis 24/7, and we have yet to see this
consistently. I believe a commercial build-
ing or large home on a bus route would be
more appropriate for supportive housing.
New housing projects are in the pro-
cess, and I’m glad to see them, especially
the construction near Safeway. The dream
of a public square is gone. Astoria has
very limited buildable land, and we must
accept this need for change. But we need
to make the best use of this property.
Think about it
earhart is not as divisive as you might
think. Most of us who live in Gear-
hart agree that our volunteer firefighters
are an amazing asset to our community.
We also agree that our current fire station
is old, inadequate and literally crumbling
down, and that we need a new station.
We all agree that if the fire station bond
passes, our taxes will go up. Well, yes they
will. So there, most of us agree on some-
thing. So, this is good.
The issue that causes a division among
us is the construction of a new fire sta-
tion and the cost of such a structure. Our
mayor, Paulina Cockrum, recently asked
the question, “If not now, when?”
If we wait another year, five years or
more, the price of a new station will only
go up, and our taxes will only increase.
Meanwhile, our firefighters will still be in
an inadequate, cramped facility that is lit-
erally disintegrating around them. So, this
is not good.
As an aside, I know that a new station
is being called a “resiliency station,” as it
would also house our police department,
but, hey, I live in Gearhart and, to me, it
will always be a fire station. Maybe I will
change my mind. Maybe not.
Our community needs a new station,
whatever it’s called. I encourage the pass-
ing of our bond, for the good of Gearhart.
If not now, when?
Think about it. This is good.
It’s just the pits
he squabble over proper usage of the
hole in downtown Astoria is a sim-
ple matter. Names matter. Heritage is what
you’ve received that’s come down to you
from the past, and not confusing that with
what the departed leave behind them for
So if you’re talking about heritage, and
thinking about legacy, you’re thinking
about who it used to belong to, and heri-
tage focuses, instead, on the people who
are inheriting it now. It’s clear to me that
this is the quarrel at its root. Comprende?
Initially dedicated to celebrate our col-
lective legacy, the dialogue has gone to
pot. Astoria’s newest extractive industry,
tourism, wants the hole transformed into
another visitor amenity. Or better, subsi-
dized housing for tourism workers.
A more scrupulous segment of soci-
ety thinks it an ideal location for services
to the needy. You know, those leftist radi-
cals who want to comfort the afflicted, and
afflict the comfortable.
Regardless, the number of abandoned
shopping carts are growing exponen-
tially, and the comfortable fear that creat-
ing a hub for social services in the heart of
Astoria will attract undesirable elements
from Coos Bay to Aberdeen, Washington,
and all points between.
Our local economy is based upon fish,
“forests” and fantasy. Tourism is built
upon a dreamscape. Mental illness and
homelessness are our collective reality. We
own that, too.
And the hole? I’m putting my money
on tourism. For as our national history will
confirm, the owners will always decide
who among the needy are truly deserving.