I’ve greatly appreciated seeing and speaking with so many residents of our district during these summer months, and it has been a pleasure to work with those of you who have called or written on specific issues.
As my two interim committees—the House Task Force on the Oregon Health Plan and the Business Labor & Consumer Affairs Committee—meet on an irregular basis, I am only called to Salem a handful of days each month. I look forward to continuing the work in district the rest of this summer and through the fall, and to preparing for the next Legislative session in January.
It has been an extremely busy stretch of time since the last District Five Digest was sent out—below please find information on the various district and state issues I’ve been focusing on, and please let me know of your questions, comments or concerns on these issues or others facing Jackson County and our state.
Thanks & Onward,
The budget crisis announced by RVTD this spring puts public transit in the Rogue Valley in a very tough spot. The district did not make the community at large (or elected officials) aware of the magnitude of the budget gap it was facing until it was far too late to find the revenue that might forestall or eliminate cuts in services and the now increased fares.
Given the fact that any cut in services has a very negative impact on those who need the services the most—our seniors, disabled and working poor residents of Jackson County—and given the fact that cutting public transit in a time where gas costs and congestion are becoming huge challenges for all of us, I have to admit that I was more than a little bit angry at the situation.
We’ve been able to delay the most significant cut— the elimination of services on Route 4 to and from the Rogue Valley Medical Center area— for two months in order to develop a fall back plan for those who will be the most severely impacted by the closing down of the route, and to make sure we explore all possible options for restoring that service as soon as possible. I appreciate the work and cooperation of the RVTD board, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the advocacy group DUDE (Disabled United in Direct Empowerment) in this effort.
The fall back plan will be in place by the end of this month. It will help a number of Jackson County residents who absolutely need transportation to and from the Rogue Valley Medical Center area, but it will still leave an even greater number of residents struggling to deal with basic transportation needs when Route 4 is shut down on September 1.
I wish I had better news on this, but that is how it stands. On September 1, Route 4 in Medford will join Route 5 in Ashland as a suspended route, and the challenge of working out sustainable funding for RVTD will have to be met before those services can possibly be resumed.
As part of the fall back plan, volunteer drivers are desperately needed to join RSVP’s “Call A Ride” program for seniors and disabled. If you have some time to offer to help meet the pressing needs that the elimination of services is creating, PLEASE consider this program. You will find information at:
I am committed to continue working with RVTD, our local chambers of commerce, our health care community and our various government entities and civic/social organizations to turn this situation around. There is tremendous support and a tremendous need for public transportation in our valley. We need to develop the clear vision of what public transit can be here, and work together to build it.
On that note, I‘ve offered to help recruit a retired business professional with expertise in the development of long-term business plans to assist RVTD this fall in developing an innovative and effective plan for the future. If you are personally interested, or if you know of a first rate business professional who is now retired and would be willing to help public transit take this vital next step, please call my district office at 488-9180 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the plan is place, the revenue to make it happen needs to be secured. The RVTD board has decided to put in the time to develop a proposal for 2008 that might possibly reduce property taxes for all residents and businesses in the district while adding a very small payroll tax to be paid by local businesses. Their goal is to create a reliable funding source, one that will potentially bring in enough revenue to restore the recently suspended services, to expand services and hours of operation, and build public transit in Jackson County for the future.
Please keep your eyes open as the details of this proposal begin to come forth, and please get involved in the dialogue over the pros and cons of the possible 2008 ballot measure.
Along the same lines, I have to express my appreciation and support for the citizens of Phoenix as well as for the Oregon Department of Transportation for the remarkable work that is being done to try to come up with a design for a new Fern Valley Interchange on I-5 that meets both the needs of the city and the need to address traffic flow and congestion.
This is a major transportation project for our district, and getting it right is tremendously important for Phoenix and the valley as a whole. The process of developing options and making sure everyone is informed on the potential impacts has been very hard, and very time consuming for all involved. Progress is being made, though, and if this process can indeed result in an interchange design that maintains and enhances the character of Phoenix while still providing for the significant increase in vehicle capacity projected in the next few decades, the people involved in this process will have set a standard for our entire state.
The design options are being narrowed down, and as always, I encourage you to stay informed of the next crucial steps of the process and of the future that is being defined right now. My sincere thanks to all who are working so hard to make this process work.
I’ve received numerous emails and phone calls concerning the re-zoning proposal to allow the Opp Mine near Jacksonville to resume operations. The decision on the re-zoning lies with the county commissioners, and I have made known my opposition to this proposal.
The City of Jacksonville is pursuing a traffic study to help determine safety and congestion impacts the mining operation would have on Jacksonville’s narrow and well used streets, and a number of citizens are seeking legal ways to challenge the proposal.
I’m always eager to work for economic development that makes sense for our district and our state. I partnered with Senator Bates to help bring the Home Depot to Phoenix, and as a member of the House Trade & Economic Development Committee last session, I helped to expand the number of enterprise zones in Oregon to spur employment in Jackson County and throughout the state.
But my bottom line is the common good—the reopening of the Opp Mine would, in my view, cause more harm to the people and the businesses of Jacksonville than any benefit it could provide.
It appears that there will not be legislation passed on the federal level this year to deal with the serious problem of illegal immigration. This is a loss for us all. There is clear common ground that we can start with—the desire for a secure border and a desire for basic human respect for everyone involved.
I don’t believe this issue was raised this year to actually try to find a workable solution. The more I have followed the debate, the more I believe it was raised in order to be a political wedge issue in the November elections, and again, I see this as a loss for all of us.
As a rule of thumb, my view is that anyone involved in demonizing Oregon citizens who are concerned with the use of their tax dollars, members of the immigrant communities who work hard and contribute, or even agricultural businesses who employ immigrant labor is not sincerely interested in the work needed to develop an immigration system that actually works.
The system is clearly broken at present. As with the other tough issues we face--such as how we tax ourselves to pay for services that are vital, how we take on the painful lack of workforce housing in our region, etc.--we are only going to make progress by doing two things. First, we have to come to the conclusion that the federal government is not going to help us on this anytime soon. Second, we have to be willing to have an honest and direct dialogue on all aspects of the reality of immigrants in Oregon life, a dialogue where simplistic solutions and demonization of anyone is ignored.
It will be interesting to see if we are ready to do so once the election season is over.
As mentioned in previous Digests, health care is shaping up to be THE major issue of the 2007 legislative session in Salem. The push for universal coverage is starting to build at an impressive rate, with a variety of states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, creating new approaches, and even the city of San Francisco developing a plan to cover all residents within their city limits.
This is another huge issue where very little or no help will come to us from the federal level, so it is up to us to find the ways to make progress. Specific proposals to expand coverage to make sure all Oregon kids are cared for are currently in development for consideration by the legislature next year, and even more far reaching proposals are expected by the Senate Committee on Health Care Access & Affordability, chaired by our own Doctor Senator Bates, and the Oregon Health Policy Commission.
A clear path for citizen participation in taking on what is clearly the challenge of our time is with the Archimedes Movement, a statewide effort to identify needs and solutions. This is the project being led by former Governor John Kitzhaber, and has the potential to significantly change and improve health care in Oregon. You can find additional information at:
If you are interested, a Southern Oregon meeting of the Archimedes Movement will talk locally next month:
Archimedes Movement Southern Oregon Chapter Meeting
September 13 at 5 p.m.
Ashland Community Hospital
280 Maple St
All are welcome and encouraged to attend.
I want to bring to your attention the recent report by the United States Education Department comparing progress of students in public and private schools. I think you will find the information worth your time. As a strong supporter of public education, I was very pleased to read this news. The article on the report is long, so I have pasted an excerpt below.
My hope is that this will motivate us to renew all efforts to support and build our public education system in Oregon and across the U.S.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS PERFORM NEAR PRIVATE ONES IN STUDY By Diana Jean Schemo
New York Times-July 15, 2006
WASHINGTON, July 14 — The Education Department reported on Friday that children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.
The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores in 2003 from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools, found that fourth graders attending public school did significantly better in math than comparable fourth graders in private schools. Additionally, it found that students in conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind their counterparts in public schools on eighth-grade math.
study, carrying the imprimatur of the National Center for Education
Statistics, part of the Education Department, was contracted to the
phone: (541) 488-9180