Eleven Republican senators have continued their walkout protest that is in its eight-consecutive day. Meanwhile, hundreds of loggers, farmers and ranchers assembled on the Capital steps on June 27. They were protesting a greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade bill and showing their support for the missing Republican senators.
It was one of the biggest rallies of the 2019 legislative session. There were flags, signs and songs, along with a continuous flow of semi-trucks, pickups and farm equipment that surrounded the Capital for several hours.
Traffic blocked many streets as several large rigs from throughout the state showed up during the morning commute.
Inside the capital, 18 Democrats met once again for a floor session, not expecting their Republican colleagues to arrive.
The Democrats have the supermajority, with 18 members, but they must have two Republican senators in order to reach a quorum of 20. A two-thirds quorum is necessary to do any business.
Even if the Senate acquires enough members before adornment on June 30, they will still have to come up with a solution about House Bill 2020, the greenhouse gas emissions bill. This is true regardless of what Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said on Tuesday. He said that the bill lacked the votes to pass the Senate, and “that will not change,” as reported by the Statesman Journal.
Nevertheless, because of where HB 2020 is in the legislative process, it is essential that the Senate has an up-or-down vote on the bill. It’s either that or have a vote to send it back to committee.
Republicans want it to be guaranteed that the bill really doesn’t have the votes to pass. Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, trusts Courtney, according to legislative staff, but there is prevalent suspicion in his caucus of Democrats, now that the end of the contentious session is nearing.
Not all Democrats in the caucus are agreed on how they want to continue. Some have declared that they are not letting go of HB 2020, causing anxiety among Republicans.
Citizens from across Oregon rallied in support of the Republican senators. Some of them trekked nearly three hours Thursday morning. They stood in the rain, some wearing hard hats or holding American flags. Almost all of them had signs with phrases on them such as “rural lives matter,” “make Oregon ours again” and “they walked for me,” referencing the Senate Republicans.
Hunter Nash said that he came to Salem because, as a 6th-generation logger, he believes HB 2020 would wipe out his livelihood. Every one of his vehicles run on diesel.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the Oregon Eleven,” Nash told the Statesman Journal, referring to the absent Republican senators. “They are definitely representing me and all of the people here.”
Speakers spoke to the crowd, saying that HB 2020 would not help alleviate climate change at all, and that it would take away their jobs. Those that promote the bill admit that by itself it would have an insignificant impact on global carbon emissions.
“Those of us who make a living from the land are the best environmental stewards there are,” Marie Bowers, a 5th-generation farmer, said. She got a loud response from the crowd. “Those who work outside are more in touch with the climate that those who legislate the climate.”
Many House Republicans said that after trying and failing to amend the bill to support rural Oregonians, they were pleased that Republican senators took action to stop it.
After six hours of debate on the floor on June 17, the HB 2020 bill passed the House of Representatives. The bill has acquired more than 120 suggested amendments.
“Both chambers fought this in different ways,” House Republican Leader Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, said during the rally. “There are people who have a greatly different vision of how Oregon should look. Their vision would take away your jobs. It already has and it will.”
If the Republican senators fail to return, about 125 budget and policy bills will die after June 30.
Negotiations to convince the Republicans to return to the capital are still in progress between Baertschiger, Courtney and Gov. Kate Brown.
Read the full story here.
Hunter Nash sits in front of the Oregon State Capital.
A motivated quintet of local community advocates and business owners plans to offer Willamette Valley residents a new dining experience. The group intends to open a for-profit restaurant, dubbed “Food for Thought Cafe and Infoshop,” in downtown Salem. There, diners will be able to sample locally-sourced, multi-cultural cuisine–but at a fraction of the price other restaurants might charge.
What will guarantee the restaurant’s affordable offerings? A pay-what-you-want business model which allows customers to pay according to their financial means.
Michele Darr, a board member of Food for Thought Cafe, isn’t worried about maintaining a steady revenue stream. “We believe we have a bullet-proof business and sustainment plan,” she told Helen Caswell of Salem Weekly. Darr’s fellow board member, Amanda Hinman, points to Panera Bread Company’s successful pay-what-you-want experiment in Dearborn, Michigan: the project “helped Panera build a long-term strategy devoted to maintaining a loyal return customer base and is serving as a roadmap for others,” Hinman explained.
Jessica Parks directs a pay-what-you-want cafe in Kirskville, Missouri. Parks admits that obtaining financial support from donors constitutes a major challenge for the business: “People were very skeptical at first.” But, she continued, “once they come, taste our food and see it in action they keep coming back.” About 9 in 10 customers at Parks’ restaurant pay the suggested amount for their meals.
For Darr, the pay-what-you-want model is about giving the needy access to an experience which they otherwise would not be able to afford. “Giving low-income people the chance to eat a nutritious sit-down meal somewhere other than a soup kitchen helps [all people] remember that we aren’t strangers, or forgotten citizens . . . we are neighbors,” she said. Darr and her colleagues hope to offer classes and study spaces at their restaurant in addition to tasty cuisine. Ultimately, they aim to create a vibrant community atmosphere which will uplift the needy and transform the way society currently views food assistance.
Darr and her fellow board members welcome donations for Food for Thought Cafe at their GoFundMe page.
Salem Harvest, a local non-profit, has a plan to reduce food waste and help the hungry. The organization “connects farmers and backyard growers with volunteer pickers” who gather produce which would otherwise go unused, writes Tom Hoisington of Salem Weekly. Salem Harvest then distributes the food free of charge to low-income families, the unemployed, the elderly, and other needy individuals.
According to Hoisington, the organization has collected over one million pounds of fruits and vegetables for the Marion-Polk Food Share and other local food banks since 2010, and boasts 2,600 volunteers. Thus, Salem Harvest is well-equipped to meet Oregon’s exceptional needs: more children, as a percentage of the population, experience hunger here than in any other state.
Salem Harvest benefits not only those who receive produce, but also those who give their time to harvest it. “Harvests offer an opportunity for families to work together in the outdoors, meet local farmers, and gain a better understanding of where food comes from,” explains Hoisington. To learn about opportunities to volunteer for Salem Harvest, visit the organization’s website at www.salemharvest.org.
On May 10, the Salem Public Library and the Ukulele Fans of Oregon kicked off a ukulele lending program with the support of ABC Music. The program will allow patrons to check out a ukulele and learn how to play free of charge.
The Ukulele Fans donated six ukulele kits to the library; the kits include a Kala tenor ukulele, carrying bag, tuner, and instruction book.
Group director Doneille Chomiak explained that the ukulele program will allow the library to better serve the community.
“To me, the library is a great equalizer in any community. Anything you need to learn, anything you want to learn, the answer is at the library,” Chomiak said, “Since they are able to be that equalizer in the community, we thought, let’s have a ukulele lending program.”
In addition, the Ukulele Fans will hold monthly meetings at the library on the third Sunday. The meetings are open to all people regardless of skill or experience level and include an introductory lesson.
With this program, the Salem Public Library joins the growing trend of libraries lending items to the community. Libraries across the country have begun loaning out everything from cake pans to American Girl dolls.
On March 10, the Oregon Senate unanimously approved SB 533, permitting motorcyclists and bicyclists to run red lights.
Sponsored by Sen. Chris Edwards, the proposal is designed to bring relief to bikers who find themselves at stop lights that won’t change. The cyclist or motorcyclist may proceed under his/her discretion if the red light “fails” to turn green after “one full cycle.”
The bill will also hold motorcyclists and bicyclists liable if there is a collision with other road users.
Bicycle advocacy groups have tried to legalize rolling through stop signs but this will remain illegal.
Motorcyclists approached Edwards with the idea last Spring.
“They told me how they would get stuck at lights that kept cycling through without turning green for them,” Edwards said. Under current laws, “they’re faced with breaking the law by proceeding in common sense fashion or holding up traffic. Neither is a good choice for them.”
Although Edwards’ initial draft of the bill included only motorcycles, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance lobbied for it to include bicycles.
The proposed law is helpful for the time being, but it’s not the end goal.
“Our preferred best solution is for lights to get fixed,” said Rob Sadowsky, BTA Executive Director.
Portland has experimented with tiny blue LED light detectors on several traffic signals to detect bicyclists. These lights communicate to bicyclists and motorcyclists when they’re in the right spot to be detected under the cement.
The new law should serve those in cities outside of Portland who do not have the detector lights.
“It’s a significant problem in a lot of places in Washington County,” Sadowsky said. “There are even some streets on the way to Intel where’s it’s hard to get a green light.”
Laws allowing motorcyclists to proceed at stop lights are not new. Known as “safe on red” laws, they’ve been welcomed by 14 other states, including Washington.
“It just makes a lot of sense to keep traffic moving,” Sen. Bill Hansell said. “We’re not breaking new ground here.”
Law enforcement agencies in other states have opposed these laws. The legislation has been criticized for being vague, difficult to enforce, and up to the discretion of the vehicle operator.
The city of Portland has yet to voice an opinion on SB 522, but Peter Koonce, chief signal engineer, is concerned that people do not know what counts as an entire cycle at a traffic signal.
Signals are set to last “the absolute maximum” of three minutes.
“We strive to keep them to less than two minutes,” Koonce said. It would probably be better if [SB 533] required waiting two or three minutes at a red light before proceeding.”
Yesterday the bill was referred to Transportation and Economic Development.