Capital Chatter: Brown covers multiple topics
Gov. Kate Brown had a lot to say — or not — during a half-hour conference call with Oregon journalists.
• Economy moving along: Since February 2015, when Brown took office, Oregon has added 115,000 jobs in urban Oregon and 12,000 jobs in rural Oregon. (I suppose you could credit Brown or presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama.)
"Things are holding steady. Growth is slowing a little bit," she said.
• Going slowly on budget and tax ideas: Revenue "reform" failed in the 2017 Legislature. Afterward, Brown, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek said the 2019 Legislature would be the appropriate time to take up the issue.
And at the Oregon Leadership Summit last December, legislators and business leaders said that work already should have been underway.
But Brown told journalists she is still developing her budget and revenue proposals. "It's a pretty intense period," she said.
Brown said the major gap in funding is for the Oregon Health Plan.
By law, the governor must deliver a balanced budget proposal for 2019-2021. She said it must be finished by mid-November in time to send it to the printers. Any program that requires additional revenue will be rolled out in the budget or early next year.
Side note: When John Kitzhaber and others developed the Oregon Health Plan, the Legislature did not create a feasible, long-term plan for stable funding.
• Sexual harassment complaint: Brown declined to discuss the sexual harassment complaint filed against the Legislature, its leaders and key staff by Brad Avakian, commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
Working with state Chief Operating Officer Katy Coba, Brown said, she is doing all she can to ensure sexual harassment is not happening state government. I've noticed that a number of state agencies, boards and commissions have scheduled sexual harassment-awareness training.
This week, the Legislature's rarely used Legislative Counsel Committee — on a bipartisan, unanimous vote — agreed to hire the Portland law firm of Barran Liebman LLP to represent the Legislature and respond to the complaint brought by Avakian.
The Oregon Department of Justice normally represents the Legislature and BOLI, but in this case will represent neither because they're opposing each other. So the Legislature is hiring Barran Liebman, whose practice areas include sexual harassment "compliance, training, advice and defense."
That led Rep. Rich Vial, R-Scholls, to ask whether the law firm would be investigating the allegations or defending the Legislature against the allegations.
"I absolutely support what I sense is the leadership's desire to be as transparent and thorough in rooting out any possible sense of inappropriate behavior that might exist here in the Legislature," said committee member Vial, a lawyer,
Other committee members, along with Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson, said the firm would do whatever was needed.
"We need outside counsel to be responsive to the complaint," Kotek said.
• On the campaign airwaves: Priority Oregon, a business-oriented organization has released various ads criticizing Brown. Regarding mental health care and support for veterans, Brown described one ad as "a clear mischaracterization" of her work.
Meanwhile, "Oregon Foster Families First is wrapping up a quarter-million dollar ad campaign but will continue digital and social marketing, targeting embattled Oregon Gov. Kate Brown for failing to address the state's ailing foster care system." That is according to Jonathan Lockwood, who has worked as a spokesman for various Republican organizations and candidates, including gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler for a while.
Lockwood contends that Democrats are turning on Brown. Regardless of whether that's true, Brown declined to discuss whether polling indicating a neck-and-neck race with Buehler reflected what her own internal campaign polling was showing.
"I am confident that we will win the campaign," she told journalists, adding that the only poll that matters is the Nov. 6 general election.
As for foster care, Brown said her major focus has been on tackling why so many children are in foster care. She said the state is striving to get more foster parents, including recruiting at the Portland Pride Festival, and providing more support for them.
"I think what we've learned is foster parents feel very alone," Brown said.
• Three debates: Buehler challenged Brown to 10 debates spread across the state. Brown said they will have three. She called it the right number because it's more than Buehler did during the Republican gubernatorial primary campaign.
• It's hot: Brown is among the Oregonians enduring life at home without air conditioning. Mahonia Hall in Salem, the governor's official residence in Salem, does not have central air conditioning, but she managed to snag a window air conditioner for one bedroom. She and first gentleman Dan Little also don't have air conditioning at their home in Portland.
Although Brown did not mention the governor's personal office in the Oregon Capitol, I've been in it and — like much of the Capitol — it can get hot and stuffy in spite of the air conditioning.
Despite some renovations over the years, the governor's working office is so antiquated that its bathroom lacks any electrical outlets such as for using an electric toothbrush, hair dryer or any other common bathroom device.
Side note: The walls in a staff bathroom are so thin that governor's staff members often use restrooms elsewhere in the Capitol.
• Heat will keep coming: Brown said this summer's heat is a reflection of changing weather patterns, and she is doing everything she can to reduce Oregon's reliance on fossil fuels.
• Brown on affordable housing: A day after her conference call with journalists, Brown held a short media available with reporters in Eugene.
Homes for Good, Lane County's housing agency, hosted Brown and Margaret Salazar, director of Oregon Housing and Community Services, at Bascom Village II for an event promoting the state's role in affordable housing.
Bascom Village II was completed in October 2016 and has 48 units. Salazar and Steve Ochs, real estate development director for Homes for Good, praised Brown's leadership. She in turn thanked Salazar, legislators and local officials.
• Students back Kavanaugh: Students for Life of America held a rally at the Oregon Capitol on Saturday to support Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. About 20 people attended. Speakers included Nichole Bentz, of Corvallis, Pacific Northwest regional coordinator for Students for Life of America; Marcos Sanchez, of Mount Angel, a student at Chemeketa Community College; and Jessica Stanton of Oregon Right to Life.
A lack of parking might have dissuaded potential participants. Several streets were blocked off beforehand for the High Street Hustle, a popular run held Saturday morning on the Capitol Mall.
• Remembering Oregon's sacrifices in World War II: More people turned out Sunday for "Oregon Spirit Of '45 Day — Battlefield to Homefront." The ceremony was held at the Oregon World War II Memorial in Willson Park on the Capitol grounds.
This was the third of five Spirit of '45 Days — approved by Congress and the Oregon Legislature — to observe 75th anniversaries of World War II.
It was moving. Rita Hathaway, 96, gave an inspiring, challenging talk. A retired Oregon teacher, she was a "Rosie the Riveter" at a Boeing B-29 aircraft factory during the summer of 1945.
A number of World War II military veterans and "Rosies" attended.
Get ready for the numbers: The state will release its next quarterly forecasts of the economy and state revenue on Aug. 29.
Some people already know what it is likely to say because various economic advisers have been consulting, and the state's Council of Revenue Forecast Advisors meets Friday, Aug. 17.
Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Facebook.com/Hughesisms, YouTube.com/DickHughes or Twitter.com/DickHughes.