Digest: Friday, February 11, 2022

Campaign finance reform proposals disqualified from ballot

Shemia Fagan, the Secretary of State of Oregon, may have ended this year’s push to put campaign finance reform on the ballot. She disqualified all three proposals (Initiatives 43, 44, and 45) sponsored by Honest Elections Oregon due to a technicality — they don’t include the full text of the Oregon laws that the proposals would change if voters approve. That text is required by a 2004 ruling from the Oregon Court of Appeals, though Fagan has previously approved numerous ballot initiatives without such text and only appears to have disqualified one proposal on these grounds during the last election cycle. Past secretaries of state also did not enforce the requirement.

Because initiatives must follow a complex multi-step process to qualify for the ballot, these initiatives have effectively been removed for consideration for the 2022 election cycle unless sponsoring groups pursue legal action. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has gone ahead with filing certified ballot language for the three measures which does give Honest Election Oregons grounds to ask the Oregon Supreme Court to overturn Fagan’s ruling.

One campaign finance reform initiative does meet this technical requirement. Put forth by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, Initiative 48 is still active. UFCW put forth its own initiative because the three proposals good governance groups offered would have limited the campaign spending of labor unions like UFCW. UFCW also bears some responsibility for eliminating the competing initiatives: Michael Selvaggio, a lobbyist for UFCW Local 555, brought the technical non-compliance to Fagan’s attention in January. Ben Morris, a spokesman for the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, told Willamette Week that Selvaggio’s letter was unrelated to Fagan’s decision. However, it’s difficult to take the situation at face value due to the history between Fagan and the UFCW. The union donated $50,000 to Fagan’s campaign for secretary of state, divided between two transactions.

Passing Initiative 48 would improve Oregon’s campaign finance situation by imposing some limits, but it still falls short of what we need to see real reform and it’s not on the ballot yet. In the meanwhile, Oregon Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner put together an amendment for Senate Bill 1526 that incorporates some of the elements from the disqualified initiatives. If approved by both chambers of the Oregon legislature, the bill would refer a measure to voters on the November ballot. UFCW has already suggested that it will oppose Wagner’s efforts.

City employees call off strike

Members of the six unions affiliated with the District Council of Trade Unions voted to accept an updated offer from the City of Portland this week. As a result, city employees will be continuing to work. The new contract was approved narrowly, with just 58% of members voting yes. DCTU’s president, Rob Martineau, pointed to an across-the-board wage increase of 2% as one of the deciding factors. That increase won’t kick in until the fourth year of the contract, however, and even with the increase, wages will only just keep pace with inflation to date. The contract puts DCTU in a position where it will need to negotiate future cost-of-living-adjustments on the fly, and still doesn’t address issues like staff retention. The new contract is retroactive and ends December 31, 2024. Portland’s city council still needs to approve the contract and will likely do so in the next few weeks. The Oregon Employment Relations Board is still reviewing two unfair labor practice complaints filed by unions belonging to DCTU against the City of Portland during the negotiation process.

Oregon’s new record high temperature is official

NOAA’s State Climate Extremes Committee has certified a new all-time highest temperature for Oregon. The official record is 119º Fahrenheit, which was tied June 29, 2021 at both the Moody Farms AgriMet Weather Station and the Pelton Dam on the Deschutes River, both near the Warm Springs Reservation. The Warm Springs Reservation has not had working water infrastructure for three years, including during last year’s record-setting heatwave, so consider marking this occasion with a donation to the Chúush Fund to provide water for residents and support infrastructure repairs.

The heatwave that caused these record temperatures caused at least 96 deaths. Oregon is likely to face an increasing number of heatwaves in the future, as climate change drives an increase in both the number of heat waves per year and the length of those waves. Oregon needed 124 years to tie the current record, but we’ll likely see new record highs long before another century passes. The record high was first established when Prineville recorded a temperature of 119º Fahrenheit on July 29, 1898. The SCEC’s certification report does suggest there may be reasons to dispute that record, but Pendleton also recorded hitting 119º Fahrenheit a few weeks later on August 10, 1898.

By Thursday Bram

Thursday Bram founded PDX.Vote after making numerous zines, newsletters, and other media about politics in Portland, Oregon. Thursday has also written for publications ranging from Autostraddle.com to Entrepreneur Magazine. You can find more of Thursday's work at ThursdayBram.com.