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About East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current | View Entire Issue (Aug. 13, 2019)
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
KATHRYN B. BROWN
WYATT HAUPT JR.
Founded October 16, 1875
State should prepare for economic downturn now
ep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner,
should get kudos for a realis-
tic review of the state’s eco-
Smith met with the East Oregonian
editorial board last week and said
during the wide-ranging interview
that the state must prepare for an eco-
And an economic downturn is
going to happen. Maybe not today,
maybe not tomorrow or next year,
but periods of stagnation are a real-
ity in a capitalist system. The nation’s
economy has been on an economic
upswing for quite a while now and so
has the state.
Nothing lasts forever, though, and
while Smith wasn’t raising alarms, he
was pointing out the obvious and that
should be good news for area voters.
Smith sits at a key legislative apex,
as a senior member of the revenue
committee, and understands more
than most where taxpayer money is
spent and for what. That means when
he talks about caution — not alarm
— voters should pay attention.
Smith’s message was a simple one:
If the state does not prepare prop-
erly, when a downturn does occur it
Statesman Journal Photo/Anna Reed
Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, met with the East Oregonian editorial board last week and
during a wide-ranging interview said the state must prepare for an economic downturn.
will translate into cuts to other critical
The Oregon Health Authority is a
good example, said Smith. If a sudden
downturn occurs the state-wide health
care subsidy may be forced to pull
money from other services — such as
public safety — to remain solvent.
Smith said one way to solve the
problem would be to change Oregon’s
kicker law but admitted voters prob-
ably are not going to support such a
Smith said he was certain that the
state should “set aside excess reve-
nue” but conceded voters — espe-
cially now — do not trust lawmakers.
A perception does exist among the
body politic that any excess revenue
set aside would be “robbed” and used
for spur-of-the-moment crises instead
of what it was originally designed for.
Yet lawmakers must shoulder a fair
share of the responsibility for that dis-
trust. Frankly, it isn’t a good sign for
our democracy and gets in the way
of important policy decisions — such
as setting aside more revenue for an
emergency — that is needed.
That means lawmakers are going
to have to do a better job in the future
of reassuring voters. And creating
policies — such as the failed climate
change law that died during the last
session — only to shove them down
the throat of voters isn’t a good first
step in that direction.
Smith was right on to point out a
future devoid of rainbows and good
feelings. The reality is there will be
another economic downturn and right
now, in terms of savings, it doesn’t
look like the state will be prepared.
Mental health support doesn’t advance
the guns-and-racism narrative
Voters should have final say on death penalty
ov. Kate Brown last week signed a
bill that narrows Oregon’s use of the
death penalty by limiting the crimes
that qualify for capital punishment.
The bill likely won’t make that much dif-
ference in Oregon, a state that has not exe-
cuted a prisoner since 1997 and doesn’t seem
poised to do so anytime soon. Brown has
maintained a moratorium on capital pun-
ishment that was first put into place by Gov.
The bill was crafted in such a way that
the issue didn’t have to be referred to voters.
In that regard, it represents a missed oppor-
tunity. Voters should have gotten the chance
to weigh in, not just on this issue, but on the
larger question: Should Oregon continue to
keep capital punishment on the books?
The bill Brown signed carefully skates
around that question; in fact, it was crafted
to do that. Previously, the death sentence in
Oregon could be applied to cases of aggra-
vated murder, which includes crimes such
as killing on-duty police officers or slayings
committed during a rape or robbery. Now,
those crimes will receive sentences of life
without the possibility of parole.
The death penalty in Oregon now can
only be applied in four types of crimes: kill-
ings motivated by terrorism, murders of
children 14 years or younger, killings by an
incarcerated person who’s serving a previous
aggravated murder sentence, and premedi-
tated killings of police or corrections officers.
Unsigned editorials are the opinion of
the East Oregonian editorial board. Other
columns, letters and cartoons on this page
express the opinions of the authors and not
necessarily that of the East Oregonian.
The law is not retroactive and will not
apply to the 30 people on Oregon’s death row.
It seems obvious that lawmakers were
looking for a way to avoid asking the broader
question about whether the state should fol-
low the example of other states and do away
with capital punishment. But we don’t under-
stand their reluctance, unless lawmakers
thought that Oregonians were likely to reject
any attempt to ban the death penalty.
We’re not so sure that’s the case, consider-
ing Oregonians’ long and twisty history with
the death penalty. Capital punishment was
outlawed by Oregon voters in 1914, and then
reenacted in 1978. Three years later, the state
Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty
was unconstitutional, a ruling that paved the
way for a 1984 initiative in which voters reaf-
firmed capital punishment.
Since then, the topic rarely has been revis-
ited in Oregon, and the gubernatorial mor-
atoriums have had the effect of sweeping
the debate about capital punishment under
the rug. It would have been an easy matter
to refer the measure, Senate Bill 1013, to the
state’s voters. Or death penalty opponents
could have moved to place the broader ques-
tion on a statewide ballot.
That last option still is available to legis-
lators — or, for that matter, to any group of
citizens with the interest, time and money
required to place an initiative on the state-
wide ballot. But surely there is a lawmaker
willing to take a stab at referring the big
question to voters; certainly, the discussion
that would result is long overdue.
t’s been a week since 31 people were
Unfortunately, talking about expand-
ing mental health support doesn’t advance
murdered in two mass shootings
the guns-and-racism narrative deployed to
within 24 hours. Despite numerous
make this a partisan issue. Some people
differences between the two horrific inci-
dents in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio,
want to get all the political mileage they
there was a crucial common denominator
can out of racism/xenophobia/anti-GOP
— hysterical public reaction.
theories on the causes of gun violence,
A few public officials offered tepid plat-
and do so at the expense of the full truth.
itudes of thoughts and prayers, but then a
When you speak the truth, people come
tipping point on gun violence debates was
reached. Dry kindling was collected over
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Cha-
put knows all about that. In his recent col-
the last few weeks, as the president crit-
umn on CatholicPhilly.com, he observed:
icized the congressional “Squad,” then
Baltimore, and then Elijah Cum-
“I buried some of the young
mings. But the weekend massa-
Columbine victims 20 years ago.
cres lit the raging bonfire, and
I sat with their families, watched
them weep, listened to their anger,
politicians and pundits came
and saw the human wreckage that
running with their own cans of
gun violence leaves behind. The
experience taught me that assault
I watched Beto O’Rourke rage
rifles are not a birthright, and
against Trump the White Suprem-
acist, waving his arms like a
the Second Amendment is not a
makeshift windmill from a dinner
Golden Calf. I support thorough
theater production of “Man of La
background checks and more
Mancha.” I listened to cable news
restrictive access to guns for any-
one seeking to purchase them.
“journalists” like Nicolle Wallace
“But it also taught me that only a fool
on MSNBC, who claimed that the presi-
dent wanted to “exterminate” Latinos (she
can believe that ‘gun control’ will solve
later apologized). I read as Reza Aslan, a
the problem of mass violence. The peo-
ple using the guns in these loathsome
former contributor to CNN, tweeted to the
incidents are moral agents with twisted
president’s adviser Kellyanne Conway that
she was the “depraved evil” that should be
“And the twisting is done by the cul-
“eradicated.” These are just a few exam-
ples of the cultural meltdown.
ture of sexual anarchy, personal excess,
Whenever someone tried to raise the
political hatreds, intellectual dishon-
esty, and perverted freedoms that we’ve
valid issue of mental health, they were
systematically created over the past
silenced with this mantra: The problem
is guns and racism, racism and guns.
Chaput’s comments didn’t sit well with
Or, as an educated attorney emailed me,
some critics, who took the words “only
mentally ill people hurt themselves, not
a fool can believe that gun control will
solve the problem of mass violence” out
Fair. But if the attorney were from this
of context to paint Chaput as tone-deaf
area, she might also remember Sylvia See-
grist and the Springfield Mall shooting,
and heartless. But the point of his com-
ments was that the real problem in soci-
one that — stuck in traffic — I missed by
ety is a complete abandonment of clear
a mere half hour. In 1985, Seegrist, who
moral standards, and our increasing dis-
was diagnosed with paranoid schizophre-
nia, stormed the suburban mall and killed
respect for human life. Guns are a part of
three shoppers with a semiautomatic rifle.
that conversation. So is racism. So is men-
tal illness. So, for that matter, are abor-
It is important to note that people with
tion, euthanasia, the over-sexualization of
serious mental illness only commit an esti-
mated 3% of violent crimes, and the vast
children, family breakdown, and all of the
things Chaput mentions.
majority aren’t violent. Still, mental health
But it’s so much easier and effective
interventions could have made a differ-
ence for people like Seegrist and Adam
to just keep chanting the mantra — guns
and racism, racism and guns — that
Lanza, the shooter who killed 26 people
caters to those who find their moral pole-
at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Yale
stars on Twitter.
medical experts had recommended that
Lanza receive extensive psychiatric treat-
ment for anxiety and other issues, which
Christine Flowers is a syndicated free-
The East Oregonian welcomes original letters of 400 words or less on public issues and public policies
for publication in the newspaper and on our website. The newspaper reserves the right to withhold
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Pendleton, OR 97801