How not to do public participation

Engagement. Activism. Citizenship. Great words; hard to put into practice, as we know. In most elections, a majority of voters don’t bother. And when it comes to the on-going work of government, ever fewer Americans get involved.

Here’s one good reason why. This was submitted to, my “Mill Park” version (you sign up for your particular neighborhood). An invitation to participate in an important decision the City of Portland will be making. Here’s the web post (see image for screenshot):

Public hearings on draft 2035 Comprehensive Plan begin this week!
4h ago
Community Service Aid Chaise Jonsen from City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

City Council will hold first hearing on Thursday, November 19. 

2 – 3 p.m.: Testimony will be taken on the Economic Opportunity Analysis, Growth Scenarios Report and other supporting documents. 
3 – 6 p.m.: Testimony will be taken on the Recommended Draft Comprehensive Plan. 

You must sign up to testify. Testimony sign-up sheets will be available one hour before the start of each hearing. 

Additional public hearings are scheduled for Thursday, December 3 and 10. Please check the City Council agenda to confirm dates, times and locations for all hearings.

Shared with all areas in City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in General

So many problems here; so many barriers to public understanding, much less participation. Let’s start at the top.

“draft 2035 Comprehensive Plan”.

Thank you and good night. Who the hell is going to come within 20 feet of this other than a policy wonk or an insomniac looking for any relief? What a great way to drive away 99.9% of Portlanders: name this event in a way that scares holy hell out of them.

But even if you...

Blood money update

A few days ago, I posted an article on stating that I thought Democrats in the Oregon Legislature should not only take no money from gun groups but should donate what they had received to funds set up for victims of shootings. Two outcomes.

One, someone organized gunnists to comment-bomb the post. Which they did. About thirty people commented, few if any of them BlueOregon regulars, not to mention a number from out-of-state. The comments were predictable, a hodge-podge of talking points and nastiness. No actual threats since BlueOregon requires a legitimate login via Facebook. Comical more than anything else.

Second, and disappointing, almost no response from Dems on the proposal itself. One person, and he said he was fine with NRA money being diverted from other campaigns and purposes. As if the NRA has any shortage of funds. I've shared the post a couple of times on Facebook, to a deafening silence. What should I take from that?

Should I accept that Democrats in the community aren't bothered by their electeds in the Leg taking money from gun groups? Or that I'm the only one who thinks this is a problem? It's not like Dems have a shortage of money or that gun money is a large part of their coffers. But I'm a fervent believer in the power of symbolism. And to me, Democratic lawmakers taking any money from organizations that oppose common sense gun safety laws is absolutely wrong.

I intend to keep pushing this until I get more of a response than I have so far (which is limited to one member of the House privately chastising me for attacking colleagues, which I did not do). (Well, yes, Jeff Barker, but he's someone I couldn't support for a number of reasons, not merely the money...

No more blood money for Dems

Politicians not only take money from the NRA, they kowtow to that organization’s demands in fear. I don’t expect any amount of bloodshed will change this behavior with Republicans, but Democrats have to do better. They not only need to refuse money from extremist organizations like the NRA, Oregon Firearms Federation (OFF) and Oregon Gun Owners (OGO); they need to return what they’ve already received.

Or even better, donate that money to funds for the victims of the violence made possible by the gun manufacturers and their lobbyists. It will still be blood money but perhaps it can be purified somewhat by helping those harmed so terribly, and needlessly, by gun violence.

Lucero Alcaraz, 19Lucas Eibel, 18Rebecka Carnes, 18

In the big picture of Oregon’s piss-poor campaign finance laws, the money donated by the extremist gun organizations isn’t that large: $25,550 donated to 16 Democratic legislators since 2008 by the NRA, OFF and OGO. Former House Majority Leader Val Hoyle received $1,500 from these groups between 2010 and 2014; in contrast, she raised over $133,000 in 2014 alone. The $250 she accepted from the NRA had no impact on her decision to support the background checks bill (SB 941) with everything she had.

Which begs the question: why take it? It’s blood money, pure and simple, and Democrats need to wash their hands of this money, accepting no more and donating what they have received to those harmed by gun violence.

No Democrat takes more gun money the Rep Jeff Barker. His reputation of being “tough on crime” and his position as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee,...

Martin O'Malley - my current "ABH"

martin o'malley is challenging hillary clinton from the progressive left for the democratic presidential nominationI want to vote for someone – some Democrat – other than Hillary Clinton. Like many, I'd love to see Elizabeth Warren run; I also want her to have a long, influential career in the U.S. Senate. I believe she's going to pick the latter option, so the question is: who can challenge Hillary? (The question for some, of course, is: who can seriously challenge Hillary?)

I think Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore is a serious challenger. I see him like Howard Dean twelve years ago, but with more familiarity with "big time" politics. O'Malley is taking advantage of Warren's refusal to run by adopting her stance on the issues. I think he agrees with her on the issues and is riding in her wake, so to speak. She created the space for a Democrat to challenge Hillary's presumed assumption, and O'Malley's the one who has stepped up.

And now he's starting to get the kind of media coverage that can convert a long, long shot into a, well, not necessarily a contender (yet) but someone to take seriously. This article from is a good introduction to O'Malley. If you also want to at least consider other Democratic candidates and not just accept the inevitability of HRC, here's a good place to start to learn about the former Governor. He's more liberal than Hillary, and he is probably just as electable when it comes to running against the GOP clown show....

Background checks & the democratic process

Oregon State Senator Floyd Prozanski, chair of Senate Judiciary Committee, advocates for expansion of background checks to cover private gun sales.GOP legislators are complaining that Senate Dems are rushing SB 9721, the background checks expansion, through without sufficient public hearings. The complaints began on April 1st, about one hour after the Senate Judiary Committee held – a public hearing.

Few bills get multiple public hearings. Even the most controversial get a public hearing in the chamber where the bill started, a work session to vote the bill out of committee, and then a debate on the floor of that chamber. Should the bill clear all those hurdles, the process begins on the side of the building. And that doesn’t take into account lobbying, citizen activism, and other means of commenting and attempting to influence the bill.

So “only” one hearing before moving to a work session is not unusual. Sen Floyd Prozanski, chair of the Judiciary Committee and a co-sponsor of the bill, even delayed the work session to allow for a fair hearing of amendments to the bill. If his goal was to rush the bill through, he would not have done so.

On top of which, Tuesday’s public hearing for SB 9721 was actually the third public hearing for expansion of Oregon’s background check law. On May 13, 2013, the first iteration of this bill, SB 700, was given a long hearing by Sen Prozanski; on February 6, 2014, SB 1551 had a lengthy hearing – the second attempt to close the loophole that lets a gun dealer sell a firearm without a background check just by doing it “privately”....

Indiana welcomes you to the culture wars

Indiana's religious freedom law sanctions discrimination that differs from ISIL only to a matter of degreeA Facebook friend listed a long list of issues that have outraged him – education, the banksters, cops gunning down black kids – and wondered why so many liberals were getting het up over the discrimination of gay couples trying to buy wedding cakes and the like. Aside from the fact that many liberals are angry about those issues and not just the bakeries, the new law passed in Indiana deserves our outrage and immediate, and unconditional, national attention.

The root of the Indiana “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (a big tip o’ the hat to Prof Orwell for that name) is the desire of christianists in the United States to replace civil law with their version of biblical fundamentalism. As we know from observing any nation that allows hardcore religionists to implement their absolute views as law, disaster will follow for those who do not bow their knees and heads to the god the zealots declare to be the almighty. In Indiana, the RFRA is the next, and most extreme, step in that project in our country.

The RFRA doesn’t simply allow discrimination for no reason other than “my beliefs”; it sanctions the demolition of civic law in the name of a god worshipped by a powerful minority. The RFRA underminds the United States Constitution in exactly the way James Madison and other Founders feared: a minority “faction” imposing its ideology over the majority. This goes way beyond bakeries and other businesses refusing to serve certain folks they don’t much care for.

This is about our country surviving as a society based on laws, politics, and a...

Unlearning racism

I am not a racist. That does not mean I do not have racism embedded inside me. I know for a fact that I do. I have all kinds of isms lurking inside my head. That’s part of being human. The reason I’m not a racist, or a sexist, or other ist, is that I choose to recognize the isms, and I reject what they represent.

Unfortunately, that laudable attitude does not extract the isms. The ugly concepts still reside. Also, ignorance. Lots of ignorance. Some of the ignorance I’m aware of: I don’t know what words or phrases to use to talk about people in my community that describe them, their circumstances, etc, without demeaning them, victimizing them, other-izing them, etc. I also know there are things I don’t even know I’m ignorant of.

As Donald Rumsfeld noted, I have unknown unknowns to go along with my known unknowns.

I have much to unlearn. In unlearning my isms, I have other things to learn in their place. I will need to ask people directly for help. More importantly, I need to participate in the work people are doing in various communities. I need to become a partner so that I don’t merely unlearn/learn words and phrases; I need to learn the true nature of people’s lives and experiences.

Becoming politically correct is of limited utility (a good thing to do, regardless). What matters most is to have knowledge and understanding of people’s lives. The latter is the best way to learn the former.


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