A Mixture of News and Notes
Hello Neighbors and Friends,
One of the measures I plan to introduce in 2023 will better prepare our students – and by extension, their families – for natural disasters.
While our schools do a good job with fire drills or duck-and-cover earthquake drills, all of these are designed to focus on something happening right now. What we’re not doing is giving students a lot of information on how to prepare for a future natural disaster. Depending on where you live in Oregon, that could include earthquakes, fires, drought, flood, or even excess snowfall.
Drills to survive an immediate event are critically important for our kids. But so is preparing Oregonians so they know what to do, where to go, how to connect, and what materials they will need to store or need to take with them. I’ve said before that my own family had a disaster plan. We prepared it for an earthquake, never expecting to need it for a fire. But when the fire came, having that plan saved us precious time. We knew what we needed to do and were able to go out and do it.
NPR recently covered my legislative proposal. You can read more here.
I have expressed concern in past reports about bias incidents and hate crimes in our district and across Oregon.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on Friday received the third annual report from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission on data from 2021 and said they paint a “discouraging” picture of increasing hate crimes and bias incidents. A summary of the report can be found here.
In 2019, following the recommendations of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Hate Crimes, the Oregon legislature updated Oregon’s hate and bias crimes laws for the first time in over 20 years and established a new requirement for a victim service hotline housed within the Oregon DOJ. Reports to the Hotline increased by 53% between 2020 and 2021, from 1,101 to 1,683.
Black/African American and Asian individuals were the most common victims of reported bias incidents (25% and 12%, respectively) and hate crimes (34% and 12%, respectively). This year’s report showed that incidents targeting gender identity increased by 190%, religion (primarily anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim conduct) increased by 175%, disability increased by 220%, and sexual orientation increased by 148%. Bias incidents in schools also increased by 336%.
I remain committed to civility and inclusivity in our schools, businesses, neighborhoods, and parks. The problem is getting worse and writing legislation will not change that. Good people standing up and speaking out will.
Anyone can report a bias incident or a hate crime at www.StandAgainstHate.Oregon.Gov or by calling Oregon DOJ’s Bias Response Hotline at 1-844-924-BIAS (2427) Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, with an afterhours voicemail system.
Oregon was the first state to allow citizens to collect signatures and place questions on the election ballot that, if approved, became state law.
This year, Oregon residents filed nearly five dozen proposed initiatives. But most lacked the huge funding or volunteer base necessary to gather enough signatures or ran into problems that bogged down the process before supporters could begin to collect signatures.
It appears two initiative petition proposals will qualify for the November election. The deadline for submitting petitions was Friday, July 8. The state Elections Division will have up to 30 days to verify signatures.
Hundreds of volunteers have taken to the streets with clipboards in hand to qualify Initiative Petition 17, titled the Reduction of Gun Violence Act. IP 17 would limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds each and require individuals to secure government-issued permits to purchase or acquire guns in the future. A measure needs 112,020 signatures to qualify for a vote. Petitioners submitted roughly 140,000 signatures.
The other initiative approved for the ballot is a proposed constitutional amendment to bar legislators from seeking reelection if they have 10 or more absences that have not been excused by the Senate president or House speaker. This proposal was crafted after a group of legislators walked out of the capitol in 2019 and 2020 to prevent votes on measures they opposed. Under Oregon’s Constitution, two-thirds of lawmakers must be present for the House or Senate to vote on bills. (House rules now set a maximum daily fine of $500 for an unexcused absence.) Advocates have submitted 183,942 signatures to support Initiative Petition 14. The requirement for a constitutional amendment is 149,360 signatures. The campaign spent $1.4 million for petition circulators.
You will also see two constitutional changes on the ballots that were referred by the legislature and must be approved by voters. One would remove the section of the state Constitution that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as punishments for crimes (Yes! This language is still in our Constitution!). The other would add an aspirational right to affordable healthcare in the state constitution. Although the proposed healthcare amendment calls for the state government to “ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right,” it includes the caveat that the right would not be enforceable.
Tuesday morning I visited the Newport Big Creek Dams with US Senator Ron Wyden and Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle.
This was not my first dam visit. These 70 year old earthen dams have been recognized as among the most vulnerable in Oregon to seismic failure. Even a moderate earthquake could cause flooding, the loss of lives and homes, and economic losses exceeding $2 billion in Newport alone. It would also disrupt the source of drinking water to the community for a decade.
I often talk about the cost of big projects in small towns. Replacing these dams would exceed $90 million – about $10,000 for every taxpayer in Newport. That’s why we need state and federal help.
I got the process started with $14 million from the state to augment the $5 million committed from the city. Now a proposal in Congress would add $60 million and get us close to the finish line. Thank you Senators Wyden and Merkley for your strong support of coastal safety and infrastructure.
For more information about the Newport dam, please visit: http://saveoursupplynewport.com
Another legislative effort I have worked on regards safety and financial rules when international telecommunications cables come ashore in Oregon. I authored and passed HB 2603 to require telecommunications companies to file specific plans with the state for the removal of drilling equipment and the cables themselves when they are no longer in use and put a financial guarantee in place to ensure the proper cleanup and removal work gets done.
We saw the benefits of this measure last week at a series of public meetings organized by Amazon to discuss plans for their own cable landing in southern Tillamook County.
Amazon appears to be treading lightly, after highly publicized errors by a Facebook subsidiary in 2020. In that instance, a drilling accident at Tierra Del Mar, also in Tillamook County, initially left 1,100 feet of drill pipe, 6,500 gallons of drilling lubricant, and equipment marooned 50 feet under the seafloor.
Cable landings require permits from State Lands for work under the three-mile Oregon territorial sea, permits from State Parks for work under the beach, and permits from Tillamook County for work on land.
This time, Amazon seems to be starting out on better footing, communicating in advance, and working with neighbors. One tangible benefit will be to increase internet and cell service along the cable’s route to Hillsboro, Highway 6, which is currently a dead zone. Read more about the proposal, meetings, and local reaction here.
Tomorrow, July 12, would have been the 100th birthday of Senator Mark O. Hatfield. In a remarkable forty-six-year career in elected office, Senator Hatfield earned a reputation as the most respected and influential politician in recent Oregon’s history.
You can listen to twenty-four oral history interviews with Hatfield’s congressional aides, staff, and advisors that are currently available on the Oregon Historical Society digital collections, with Senator Hatfield’s own interview going live tomorrow.
In these often-polarizing times, let us all remember these words of Senator Hatfield: “All of us need each other, all of us must lift and pull others as we rise, all of us must rise together — powerful, free, one self-determined people.”
Senator Hatfield, OSU President Robert W. MacVicar, and John Byrne at Hatfield Marine Science Center dedication, Newport, 1983.
Plans for next week include several meetings about offshore wind, and the bi-monthly meeting of the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services.
On my suggestion, the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission will be meeting Tuesday at the Newport Hatfield Center to see the most advanced earthquake and tsunami resilient building in the nation. Following that, I’ll be speaking at the Overdose Symposium in the Samaritan Health Center.
Wednesday, Susan and I will enjoy the Dmitri Matheny Concert at the Lincoln City Cultural Center. And Friday is the annual Yaquina Bay Economic Foundation Meeting. Over the weekend I’ll attend the Highland Homeowners Association annual meeting in Otis.
I’m sure more will be added to the calendar soon. Please let my office know if you would like to see or hear from me at your event.
Representative David Gomberg
House District 10