"Our Oregon" jumps into Clackistan "urban renewal" fray
The "public benefit" organization known as Our Oregon comes across as pretty much the alter-ego of state's public school teachers' union. Its president is Gail Rasmussen, who is also the president of the Oregon Education Association; it secretary is Arthur Towers, the chief lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union, another public employees' union. "Public benefit" corporations like Our Oregon enjoy tax-exempt status and can get involved in politics without having to disclose where their money comes from. (That's quite a loophole.)
Now Our Oregon has decided to get involved in the ongoing ballot measure war in Clackamas County over whether new or expanded "urban renewal" districts should be put up for a countywide vote. Our Oregon has asked Secretary of State Kate Brown to take a break from busting the Portland school district's chops and instead investigate whether there was anything irregular in the process by which Clackamas County checked the petition signatures that were turned in in support of the upcoming ballot measure on "urban renewal." The union group's suggestion is that were it not for flaws in the signature verification process, the proposed measure would have failed to qualify for the ballot.
Why would the teachers' union be hot to contest this ballot measure? Well, on one level, it's a union solidarity thing. The subtext of the "urban renewal" vote is the massive construction project known as the Portland-to-Milwaukie light rail, which the ballot measure is trying to stop. There are a lot of union jobs at stake in building that thing (albeit temporary ones), and you can see that organized labor doesn't want any threats to the pork pot.
On another level, it seems like a simple knee-jerk reaction, in that the unions can smell that the money behind the Clackamas County initiative is coming, at least in part, from their usual tighty-righty nemeses. The public employee unions hate ballot measures that are bankrolled by the Loren Parks types, and to them the Clackamas proposition probably seems like just another in a long line that extends back to Bill Sizemore, Don McIntyre, and even Lon Mabon.
But you really have to wonder why public school teachers' unions, or other public employees' unions, would go to the mat for "urban renewal." "Urban renewal" is a reverse Robin Hood. It robs from basic public services, including public schools but also many other services including public safety and mental health care for the poor, by skimming off property taxes and handing them to condo developers. Light rail, like all "urban renewal," mostly goes to build crummy apartment buildings.
If we were a public school teacher, we'd be calling our union guys and asking why in the heck they're spending our money fighting for that. Today we read in the paper that the school employee ranks are being decimated -- well, "urban renewal" is a significant part of the reason why.