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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728    900 Court St. NE, S-302, Salem Oregon 97301
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us     Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett

Budget and Taxes

       Yesterday we were provided an estimate by the Legislative Fiscal Office that our state revenue collections will be dramatically less than anticipated by the state economists. Revenue for the remainder of this budget cycle ending June 30th will be at least one billion dollars less than anticipated. Revenue for the next two year budget cycle will be more than two billion dollars less than anticipated. These reductions in revenue are caused by a rapidly contracting private sector economy with resultant declining taxable profits, cutbacks in employment resulting in higher unemployment and lower payroll taxes, and a sharp drop in consumer spending.
       In response to this economic reality, the House Democrats have introduced nearly 20 bills that will increase taxes and fees on Oregon’s economically beleaguered citizens by nearly two billion dollars in just the first five days of this legislative session. Some of these draconian tax and fee changes include increased:

• Gas tax and vehicle fees…………...... $1 billion
• Hospital and medical insurance taxes $696 million
• Tobacco taxes…………………………$112 million
• Corporate minimum tax……………….$83.6 million
• Liquor sales revenue redistribution…..$30 million
• “Enhanced” tax collection …………… $20.7 million
• Transfer of 911 tax revenue………….  $8.1 million
• Adjustments in energy tax credits…… $4.3 million

       In addition, both House and Senate Democrat leaders actively promote borrowing up to Oregon’s credit limit. Their purpose is to spend the money on just about anything that they believe may create jobs.
       I believe that their motives are well intentioned. Having said that, the wisdom of a strategy to borrow, tax, and spend our way out of debt totally escapes me. Someone once wisely opined that when you find yourself in a hole you should first stop digging. I believe that now is the time to sharply reduce the size and the cost of government, to decide what services are essential and what services are not required for survival. The time to max out our credit card is definitely not when our sources of income are diminishing and our ability to repay those debts is uncertain at best. The time to increase taxes and fees is definitely not during a recession when many of our citizens and taxpayers are in economic survival mode.
       Oregon has increased its debt by three fold since 2002. Exclusive of that cost, Oregon has increased its government spending by more than 25 percent since 2005. Many of us have pointed out that this rate of borrowing and spending was unsustainable. Economic events over the past 18 months have made it clear that we must reduce the growth and the cost of state government. Our office will do all that we can to make that happen.

School Choice

       Released this month was the Freidman Foundation for Educational Choice Survey on school choice in the state describing Oregonians’ attitudes toward public education. The results measured the voters’ views on school choice in the form of school vouchers, tax credit scholarships, charter schools, and on-line or distance education. Even though more than 90 percent of Oregon K-12 students attend regular public schools, their parents’ preference for how they would like their children to be educated is strikingly different.
       Forty-four percent of parents would like to send their children to a private school, but only seven percent are able to do so; an additional 24 percent indicated the desire to send their children to a charter school, and other parents expressed a preference for home schooling and on-line or distance education. Only 13 percent of parents surveyed said that they would send their children to a public school if other choices were available.
       Moreover, 70 percent of the parents surveyed believe that current state funding for public schools is adequate or too high. This percentage may be significantly understated because two thirds of the parents thought that state funding per pupil was about $5,000 when in fact it is well more than $10,000 per student. In short, nearly three out of four parents surveyed believe that throwing more money at a dysfunctional K-12 education system will not improve the outcomes. They believe that fundamental changes are necessary and the most basic change needed is parental choice of the school that their child will attend.
       Twelve hundred Oregon families with school age children were interviewed. The families were distributed across party lines similar to Republican, Democrat, and Independent percentages in the state. No statistical difference related to party affiliation existed in the responses.
       What this study demonstrates is that the public is being led to believe contradictory sentiments about parent opinion of our school system. It demonstrates that what government says parents want from our education establishment is essentially the opposite of what parents actually say they want when they are asked.
       You can take a look at the study here.

Citizen Participation In Government

       Oregonians have prided themselves on citizen participation in their state government for nearly 150 years. Our open public meeting laws have required political decisions to be made in public, with ample opportunity for civic participation in the political process. Citizen boards, commissions, and advisory committees have been established to counsel virtually every state agency. Our initiative process was established to allow direct citizen participation in forming statutes and constitutional amendments.
       How That Has Changed! In recent years, our political and radical environmental elite have determined that “all that public opinion” has become a significant liability in their plans for our future. That determination has resulted in significant efforts to directly, or indirectly, alter the opportunities for public participation. The most recent assault is directed toward rendering our open meeting laws useless.
       The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, the Agreement in Principle to remove the four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, as well as the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s imposition of draconian air quality standards on the greater Klamath Falls area, are direct examples of decisions that were completed by the political and environmental elite, before the public had an opportunity to be heard. It certainly appears that the designation of Marine Reserves and Marine Protected Areas on the Oregon Coast is following the same pathway.
       Impeding citizen contributions to public meetings is being honed into a new art form. Two commonly used methods include public meetings being manipulated by paid facilitators to reach a predetermined consensus, and the application of the Delphi Technique perfected by followers of Stuart Udall.
       In the first scheme, the political and environmental elite hire a facilitator to help us citizens reach a consensus on what we believe. In reality a facilitator is defined as someone who helps a group of people understand their common objectives and assists them in achieving their plans without taking a particular position in the discussion. A facilitator should be neutral, helps move the discussion forward by keeping it focused on the objectives at hand, but does not direct the outcome of the conversation. However, in the “new political order” many facilitators are hired today to help the group reach a consensus that is predetermined by others before the meetings begin. Ironically, the facilitators are usually paid with taxpayer dollars.
       Subjects selected for discussion will always include the topics near and dear to the elites. Specific problems that require solutions are usually not identified. Nevertheless, solutions are suggested that are characterized as being beneficial to the whole of society. The audience is infiltrated with articulate proponents of those predetermined solutions to insure that they are discussed thoroughly and repeatedly. In order to reach consensus, participants are asked if they strongly agree, agree, somewhat agree, or disagree with statements in support of the outcomes preselected by the elite. It is important to note that in the structure offered, the odds are three to one that some agreement will be articulated. The facilitator then works the crowd to pressure compromise from those who have not yet agreed in order to reach consensus for the common good. In such a format provided by the facilitator, any compromise by the dissenter results in some level of agreement, some level of consensus.
       In the second scheme, the Delphi Technique begins with an open meeting where anyone who wishes to express an opinion is afforded the opportunity to speak. Each opinion is captured in writing on a chart on the wall. Meeting organizers will be certain to have articulate, well versed individuals in the audience to introduce each objective that the organizers wish to advance. When all opinions have been expressed, the charts are collected, and a group that has been pre-selected by the meeting organizers, will distill the comments into a few topics of common interest to be further discussed.
       Two things are certain. First, the audience will never see the charts again. Second, the topics that are selected to be discussed will always include those objectives that the meeting organizers planned to advance. The audience is then self-divided into break-out groups in order to more thoroughly discuss the selected topics. The meeting organizers select a leader, or provide a facilitator, for each group. Of course, the articulate members of the organizer team will select themselves for the appropriate discussion group. All comments will once again be written down on a chart on the wall. With the help of the facilitator, the articulate members of the organizer team will be certain to keep their assigned objectives front and center in the discussion.
       When the discussions are completed, the organizers collect the charts in order to help them evaluate whether consensus has been achieved. The participants never see those charts again either.  Finally, the meeting organizers finish the meeting with summaries of what the break-out groups decided. They professionally include all topics discussed in their summaries, but emphasize the outcomes that they have predetermined. They will then ask if they have omitted anything. Usually no one objects because the meeting organizers have in fact at least mentioned each topic discussed. It is therefore not surprising when the participants have generally favored the pre-determined outcomes established by the meeting organizers. It is also not surprising that the result is subsequently characterized as community consensus on their objectives. Most recently Gail and I attended meetings in which the Delphi Technique was employed in:  Medford with the ODF&W regarding increases in hunting license fees; Newport where the Marine Reserves discussion was manipulated in this manner; in Klamath Falls, where the Big Look Task Force meeting for the LCDC was held and again in Medford, where the OSU-State of Oregon water issues meeting was so guided.

Indoctrination of Boards and Commissions

       Originally, the boards, commissions, and advisory committees were made up of private citizens possessing broad contemporary knowledge of subjects such as agriculture, forestry, business, manufacturing, transportation and wildlife management. Over the past twenty years, a substantial change has occurred in the selection of those members. In general, they are now selected more for their political and environmental dogma, than for their knowledge of the most efficient management of resources or services.
       Salient examples include the Board of Forestry that was originally made up entirely of foresters, but now has few members with actual forestry experience. The Oregon Water Resources Commission is now dominated by non-irrigators. No geologist currently serves on the Oregon Board of Geology.
       The direct result has been that the professional foresters, farmers, fishermen and highway builders selected to participate on these panels are always outnumbered by those selected primarily for their political or environmental views. The unfortunate outcome is management by political and environmental dogma rather than by scientific and economic principles.

Defusing the Power of the Initiative

       The actions and rhetoric of many members of our state legislature, including most of the current leadership, demonstrate their distain for the peoples direct lawmaking authority. Each new legislative session brings innovative bills to further impede the initiative rights of our citizens. Oppressive rules have been established regarding the form of petitions, who may collect petition signatures, who may finance petition gathering, and which signatures will be selected as valid by a partisan Secretary of State. State elections division employees and many county clerks are either unable or unwilling to help interested citizens traverse this maze of rules and regulations.
       Participation in the initiative process is further discouraged by establishing significant penalties for violation of the rules and regulations, and by public condemnation of those that run afoul of the purposely opaque set of laws.

Needed Action

       In my opinion it is past time for Oregonians to take their government back. Whether it is caused by apathy, or by abject disgust, citizen non-participation is obviously not working. Oregon’s elected officials and public employees all work for you. They only determine your future when you allow them to rule your lives.
       We should all remember the positive outcome when nearly 20,000 of us stood in the streets of Klamath Falls in 2001 and just said no. Become involved, become vocal, and refuse to be ignored. The 2009 legislative session has begun. Be a part of it.


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              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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