Across the great divide
The Oregonian ran an interesting article yesterday about Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard and State Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day), who were classmates years ago at Grant High School. Both Leonard and Ferrioli have been the subjects of posts on this blog (Leonard's positive and Ferrioli's negative), and so I read with interest.
The piece seemed mostly an attempt to add hot coals to the ongoing conflicts between rural and urban Oregon, particularly between the east side of the Cascades and the west side. The current mess that our state and local governments are in has exacerbated the tensions, and this dual profile did nothing to defuse them.
What interested me most was the article's articulation of Ferrioli's point of view as an eastern Oregonian. As much as I dislike the guy's stances (and those of his constituents) on most issues, a couple of points noted in the article got my sympathy. First of all, the school week in John Day is now only four days long. "Students share photocopied textbooks or try to keep together outdated books with masking tape," the article notes. "There's no elevator to the second floor, meaning that classrooms must be rejiggered every time there's a disabled student or when a student breaks a leg."
Then there was the matter of the threat by Ferrioli and his cronies in the Legislature to appropriate the proposed Multnomah County income tax for schools statewide. "They stole our timber money," one supporter of this plan put it, and so "they" (Multnomah County) should have their tax money stolen back. The beef over the timber money runs deep over there; apparently even the high school kids talk about it. Yesterday's article gives some detail of the first alleged "theft," of which the east siders are complaining. Recalling Leonard's days as a relative liberal(!) in the Legislature, it says:
But befitting their party differences, the two [Leonard and Ferrioli] also tangled. Those disputes included one in 2001 over putting federal timber money into the pot of state school money for all Oregon schools to share.Last interesting observation about Ferrioli: though raised in Portland, he's a born-again logger. Big time.
Congress targeted that money for places where environmental restrictions reduced timber revenues. And Ferrioli and his rural constituents expected to get all of it. They didn't.
Leonard said rural lawmakers were staking out a dangerous position because the idea that some schools should get more money "cuts both ways." He hasn't changed his mind either, likening the timber money to property taxes, which the state funding formula considers part of the common pot.
But Ferrioli, whose Senate district no longer includes a piece of Multnomah County, has a bill this session to pull the $33 million in federal timber money back out for rural schools.