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DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Clean Politics

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A lot of media attention in the national presidential race has been paid to the petty insults and personal jabs. The rancor has been most pronounced in Republican debates, which have atrophied into shouting matches, with candidates insulting hand sizes and manhood—and, ultimately, violating the first rule of debating, which is that personal attacks only count for demerit points.

No, politics does not need to be polite. It can be hard-hitting, and by no means do we believe that politics should not be about vociferously advocating for one’s beliefs. Yes, competition is exciting (go March Madness!), but competition does not need to mean divisiveness; it also can be respectful. One side certainly can lobby for its ideas, but democracy works best when that advocacy is underscored by a respect that an opponent may believe as fervently about his or her own ideas.

In fact, during the past several months, politics in Oregon have had several real-life case-studies about how politics can and should operate. Most pointedly, the 2016 Oregon legislative session had many highlights (see, News, page 7 for a roundup of the latest session), including two forward-thinking new policies in the state.

As reported in our last edition, the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Bill was moving towards approval by the Oregon legislature. That bill, first introduced as House Bill 4036, eliminates coal-based energy sources by 2040, and mandates half of the state’s electricity will be generated from renewable sources like solar and wind. After presstime for our last issue, but before the legislative session concluded, the Senate also approved the bill, and took a substantive step towards reducing carbon emissions in the state. (Hooray!)  

While certainly lawmakers deserve kudos for passing the pioneering bill, the actual politics behind the bill are also important to recognize: That is, if the lawmakers had failed to pass the bill, advocates like Renew Oregon were waiting in the wings to submit a voter initiative for the November election. For sure, that type of politics—holding politician accountable, and holding a hammer over their heads—is playing hard ball, but we don’t fault our athletes for playing hard, why should we fault our politically-engaged residents for doing the same, as long as they play fairly.

Likewise, Governor Kate Brown has received a lot of attention for signing into law a plan that will increase the minimum wage in Oregon over the next several years. That policy change also was motivated by advocates playing hard ball: Had the governor failed to act on the controversial measure, organizations like Oregon 15 Now already were gathering signatures to place the matter on the November ballot, and with more aggressive terms than what Gov. Brown ultimately signed into law.

Yes, pushing such laws and policies is gamesmanship, and it is politics, but it is clean politics and it is democracy in noble action.

Outside of the state capitol, last week also saw another victory for democracy—and for the environmentalist of southern Oregon—and another victory that was brought about by stubborn, determined citizens. For months, activists and residents have been protesting against the Jordan Cover Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Export Terminal and Pacific Connector, a pipeline that would have cut across miles of rivers and streams and farmland in southern Oregon, and posed environmental dangers on the Oregon coast.

 

Over the past year, residents have walked the length of the proposed pipeline to raise awareness about the potential social and environmental harms, and have packed hearing rooms.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied the permit necessary to build the pipeline. Whether the grassroots activism affected that decision was not noted in the FEC decision, but the permit denial plainly stated: “The proposed Jordan Cove LNG Terminal can provide no benefit to the public to counterbalance any of the impacts which would be associated with its construction.”

However sliced, that is a victory—and that is a victory brought about by unflinching advocacy.

Congratulations to all of the advocates and citizen advocates.

(And, if getting engaged sounds like a good idea to you: On Tuesday March 29, the Southern Oregon Climate Action Now hosts its monthly meeting, and will screen the film “Racing Extinction,” which presents an instructive account of how human behavior is compromising life on this planet. It is advocacy, but advocacy, done respectfully and based in facts, is what democracy and our state needs. That program will be held at the Medford Public Library, 205 S. Central Avenue, starting at 6 pm. It is free and open to the public.)

 

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