- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:

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Albany Democrat-Herald, May 9, on OSU, LBCC partnership:

The presidents of Oregon State University and Linn-Benton Community College last week marked the 20-year anniversary of a program that has made higher education more affordable and more attainable to nearly 19,000 or so students over the last two decades.

Even better: OSU President Ed Ray and LBCC President Greg Hamann agreed to keep the program going.



In May 1998, when OSU President Paul Risser and LBCC President Jon Carnahan signed the agreement starting what was then called the dual admission and enrollment program, the two presidents must have had high hopes for the initiative, the first of its kind in the state.

The partnership allowed students, starting in the fall of 1998, to apply to both institutions with one application, pay one fee and take classes on either campus. It originally was for undergraduates in agricultural science, business and engineering, but quickly expanded to include all majors.

It’s not an overstatement to call the program, now known simply as the degree partnership program, a smashing success that has changed the landscape of Oregon higher education, for the better, over the past two decades.

In Oregon, we’re still too prone to divide our educational system into silos: We have prekindergarten programs, K-12 programs, community colleges and four-year universities. But many of these divisions are artificial and not always particularly useful. The partnership between OSU and LBCC basically knocked down some of the walls. Under the program, students can start taking classes at LBCC, taking advantage of the less-expensive tuition and smaller class sizes, and then transition to OSU for the final few years of coursework. Students can access resources such as guidance counselors to help ensure successful completion. Dual-program students can live in OSU dorms, even if all their classes are at LBCC.

At LBCC, the program helped pave the way for the school’s current emphasis on completion - the idea that most LBCC students should finish a course of study, and emerge with certification or a two-year associate degree or a bachelor’s degree from a university.

“We’re not only about access, we’re about completion,” Hamann said at last week’s signing ceremony. “That changes the way we play together.”

At OSU, the partnership with LBCC has been so successful that the university has since signed partnerships with all 17 community colleges in Oregon.

“This is pretty fundamental to what we all need to be about,” Ray said last week. He added that the idea behind the program “was a very powerful notion to me, and something that represented exactly what we needed to do going forward. It’s not about ‘our student versus your student.’ It’s not about ‘our money versus your money.’”

That’s right: The program is about what’s best for students. Sometimes, that’s something that’s too easily lost.

As of winter term 2017, the last term for which statistics were readily available, OSU had nearly 6,000 students enrolled in the degree partnership program. The vast majority of those students, more than 4,500, came from LBCC. (Portland Community College and Chemeketa in Salem contributed about more than 500 students each.)

The program also has played a role in transforming the shape of OSU’s student body: In terms of enrollment, OSU’s largest classes are at the junior and senior level, meaning that the students who come to the university these days are somewhat more likely to be older students who have finished two years of education elsewhere.

The two presidents signed their ceremonial document pledging to continue the program at last week’s 2018 Degree Partnership Program Summit, a gathering that attracted folks from community colleges and universities around the state. It was a fitting location for Hamann and Ray to renew their support for the agreement that got it all started - a program that has aided thousands of students and promises to do the same for generations of students yet to come.

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The Oregonian/OregonLive, May 9, on tiny houses and big decisions:

After years of temporary waivers, Portland City Council voted recently to permanently nix fees that homeowners had faced if they built a “tiny home” or “accessory dwelling unit” in their backyard.

The fees, which can total as much as $15,000, are intended to cover the additional pressure on local parks, roads and utilities that additional housing can bring. And as city leaders had hoped, waiving the fees has fueled an ADU construction boom in recent years. As Commissioner Chloe Eudaly shared last week, 50 tiny homes were built in 2012 when the waiver began compared to 500 built annually in recent years.

But apparently, that incentive isn’t enough. City commissioners are frustrated that since they opened the floodgates, they can’t control where the water’s going. So last week they voted 4-1 to mandate exactly who can stay in those reduced-cost homes. And it won’t be anyone booking though Airbnb or other short-term rental companies.

Instead of simply lowering the hefty fee for everyone interested in building ADUs, city leaders are requiring Portlanders to make a choice.

If they want the full range of rental options for their tiny home, they must pay the full fee. If they want the five-figure break, they’ll have to rent the home to a long-term tenant. And don’t get any ideas. If homeowners get caught offering up short-term rentals over the next decade, they could face the full fee plus an additional 50 percent as punishment.

It’s tough to imagine another scenario in which the city would mandate which customers a local business owner can serve. And yet that’s exactly what they’ve done. Someone who builds an ADU and seeks to rent it - either for short-term visitors or long-term tenants - becomes a landlord. They’re running a business and it’s reasonable that a business owner should seek to recoup their costs for construction, insurance and maintenance.

ADU builders say the new rule likely will slow business a bit, as short-term rentals have allowed some owners to pay down the cost of construction, which can range from $50,000 to $100,000. Kol Peterson, an ADU consultant, told the Portland Tribune last week that may be the case, ultimately the permanent waiver brings more certainty that will help.

But in a city with a housing crisis, can we afford this practice of taking three steps forward and two steps back? Public officials here like to say some version of “we can’t build ourselves out of this mess.” To some extent, that’s true. Across the state, leaders must seek solutions on a variety of fronts, from providing rental assistance that keeps people in their homes to creating full-service permanent housing for our chronically homeless.

But there is no way Portland can make a dent in this crisis without construction. We need private developers building. We need the city spending the housing bond dollars to build deeply affordable housing. And yes, we do need citizens willing to help out, perhaps by building an ADU in their backyard.

In fact, Multnomah County tried in recent years to encourage that with a pilot program that could provide housing for homeless families. About 800 Portlanders signed up to help. But as county officials looked for potential sites, they found that restrictions with some of Portland’s zoning and construction policies, such as a fee associated with cutting down backyard trees, made those sites too complicated for the pilot.

Perhaps, as city leaders look for ways to encourage Portlanders to help solve our housing crisis, they can focus on lifting some restrictions - even temporarily - instead of creating more.

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Corvallis Gazette-Times, May 9, on tax plan possibly leading to mischief:

We’re just a couple of weeks away from May 21, the date when Gov. Kate Brown has summoned legislators for a one-day special session to consider her proposal for lower tax rates for some small businesses.

For fans of political posturing, this special session could well turn into a special occasion, as legislators and other elected officials pivot toward November’s general election.

For fans of tax reform that could benefit a range of Oregon small businesses, the session might not turn out to be all that special.

Here’s the background, if you’re just getting up to speed on this issue: Last month, Brown signed a tax measure, Senate Bill 1528, which was the subject of considerable partisan debate during this year’s legislative session.

Here’s what you need to know about the measure: Oregon’s tax code is connected to its federal counterpart, so any tax reform enacted at the federal level, such as the measure passed last year by Congress, generally is duplicated in the state tax system. Last year’s federal tax reform included a provision allowing owners of so-called “pass-through” businesses (generally sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability corporations and S corporations) to deduct as much as 20 percent of their business income on federal tax returns.

Since the federal tax system is connected to Oregon’s tax code, owners of those businesses were in line to take the same deduction on their state returns. But the Legislature, without a single vote from a Republican, approved Senate Bill 1528, which breaks the connection between the federal tax reform and the state tax code on this particular provision.

The state winds up pocketing an additional $244 million in tax revenue, money that Brown said the state desperately needs. But as Brown announced her intention to sign the bill, she also said she planned to call the Legislature back into session to consider her proposal to give a tax break to sole proprietorships, which had been left out of a previous tax break, passed in 2013.

Give the governor credit for what amounts to a clever attempt to thread the tax needle: The state, which faces yet another budget shortfall next year (despite what will almost certainly be record revenue), pockets millions to start filling the gap. Brown’s tax proposal, which is estimated to cost the state about $11 million, doesn’t make that budget hole much deeper.

And, maybe most important from the governor’s point of view, she gets to cast herself as a friend to Oregon’s small businesses as she hits the re-election trail, perhaps taking some of the wind out of the sails of her GOP opponent.

Brown’s proposal has a couple of problems, though: First, as we’ve noted, an analysis of the proposal suggested that her tax break wouldn’t give relief to that many businesses: About 12,000 tax filers would qualify. To be fair, that number has increased from earlier analyses, but it still works out to just 4.3 percent of Oregon’s sole proprietors.

And now this: An analysis from the Legislative Revenue Office released last week found that Brown’s tax break would mostly benefit those sole proprietors earning at least $200,000 a year. Less than 10 percent of the estimated $11 million tax cut would go to sole proprietors earning less than $100,000 a year.

A tax break that benefits mostly the wealthy? That does start to sound like the tax reform measure Congress passed last year - not something that comes from the desk of a governor who’s positioned herself on the front lines of the opposition to President Donald Trump.

It all adds to the potential of a mischief-filled special session in two weeks’ time - not the quick one-day event that Brown would prefer. And it all begs this question: Isn’t it time our election officials and candidates got serious about floating plans for real tax reform? Just asking.

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The Eugene Register-Guard, May 8, on the “good guy with a gun” not being reality:

Anyone who still thinks that the answer to school shootings is to arm school employees needs to go back and read, or reread, some recent newspaper stories that detail “what could possibly go wrong” and puncture the myth of the all-powerful good guy with a gun.

In Sunday’s Register-Guard, The Associated Press reported on three incidents involving “good guys” with guns in schools in a 48-hour period: A school police officer in Virginia accidentally fired his gun, sending a bullet into a middle-school classroom. A teacher who moonlights in law enforcement in California put a round in a ceiling at a school while demonstrating gun safety. And a sheriff left a loaded service weapon in a locker room at a Michigan middle school, where a sixth grader found it.

There also have been instances - including the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College - where one or more armed good guys, including military veterans, were on the scene but chose not to draw their weapons because of concerns about the safety or because it would interfere with police.

Real life isn’t like the movies; it’s messier and more confusing, and people aren’t infallible - as the recent examples of gun mistakes, by trained professionals, shows.

In schools filled with vulnerable children more guns are not the answer - as multiple school employees, survivors of school shootings, and relatives of those who didn’t survive have said repeatedly. It is no accident that the friends and families of victims of school shootings are in the forefront of the movement to keep guns out of schools. A far better alternative would be to provide funding, and legal clearance, to the Centers for Disease Control to research school shootings and put together a plan based on research and fact to make schools safer.

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The Bend Bulletin, May 8, on voting before it’s too late:

Oregonians have it easy where voting is concerned. Our ballots come to our doors; we fill them out and mail them back to the local county clerk. That ease should help keep Oregonians engaged enough to vote in their elections, but it does not. This year, unless voters get busy, it’s possible we could set a record for low turnout. All we have do is “beat” the all-time low turnout of 35.9 percent set in 2015.

It’s a record we should be loath to beat.

Here in Central Oregon, turnout is “pitiful,” in the words of one elections official. In Crook County, only 16 percent of ballots had been returned as of Tuesday morning. In Deschutes that number was 13.1 percent, and in Jefferson County it was 14 percent.

Admittedly, this is not a presidential election year, and turnout in primaries tends to be lower than turnout in the November general election. Still, there are important choices to be made next week. In Jefferson County there are three contested races (two county commission seats and the county clerk). In Deschutes, there are money measures, contested countywide and legislative races and, in Bend, proposed changes to the city’s governing charter. Crook County voters must decide a hotly contested race for county assessor.

If you haven’t voted, you have just under a week to get the job done. Ballots must be back at your county clerk’s office by 8 p.m. Tuesday. And while this is a vote-by-mail election, as all elections in Oregon are, it’s probably time to consider turning in your ballot another way.

Every county has drop-off sites where ballots may be hand delivered. In Central Oregon, they’re to be found in each county’s larger communities.

Nor must you be in your home county to hand-deliver a ballot. Any Oregon ballot may be returned to any official drop-off site in the state before 8 p.m. on election day and it will be counted in its home county.

That makes it so easy there should be no excuse for failing to vote. So if you’re still mulling the issues, get busy. You have less than a week to make your vote count.

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