May 4, 2020 Newsletter
This special edition of the newsletter is written by Jacqueline Abel, Doug Hagen and Lynn Youngbar, rather than our usual editor, Sara McKinney. It includes an urgent call to make to your members of Congress this week before the next federal legislation in response to the Covid-19: info on voting in the May 19 Oregon primary; and spotlights two key judicial races.
Action needed this week to take back tax breaks to the wealthy in Trump’s first $2 trillion CARES bill
URGENT CALL TO YOUR SENATORS Wyden and Merkley and congresspersons DeFazio, Blumenauer, Bonamici, Schrader and Walden. Tell them you support taking back the tax breaks passed in Trump’s $2 Trillion CARES ACT and would love to see them co-sponsor it, too! President Trump’s first CARES ACT gave big tax cuts to Corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of the people who really need the money. The bill included a $135 billion tax break over 10 years--82% of the tax break is going to people making at least $1 million a year--43,000 people will get a tax cut averaging $1.6 million in 2020 alone. By comparison, 125 to 150 million Americans will get one-time rebate checks of $1,200 per person. This is unconscionable. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) have sponsored a bill to take back these tax breaks (sorry no number yet). A national coalition headed by Americans for Tax Fairness and including Tax Fairness Oregon and OSTPDX, is advocating in favor of this bill. Our Senate and House members need to hear that we support this effort NOW. We would like them to become co-sponsors and fight to repeal these tax breaks in the next CARES bill coming up soon. For full understanding of how this tax break was applied click here: https://itep.org/partying-like-its-2017-how-congress-went-overboard-on-helping-businesses-with-losses/ https://americansfortaxfairness.org/issue/174-groups-oppose-major-business-tax-breaks-cares-act/
Time to Vote from Home in the Oregon Primary
Primary ballots and voter pamphlets have arrived, and it is now time for everyone to make their final choices of who and what to support in the May 19 primary election. According to the Secretary of State, the last safe date to mail your ballot is May 14, and for the first time, the postage is already paid on your ballot. After that, you will need to drop off your ballot before 8 pm on May 19 at locations that can be found here (including our local libraries, even though they are closed) https://multco.us/dropsites One Small Thing does not make endorsements in primaries, but does provide information & opportunities to learn, as we have done in the last few newsletters to members and our Zoom presentation about Metro ballot measure 26-210 on April 30. You can view our past newsletters about some of these races at our website https://www.onesmallthingpdx.org/blog Don’t forget that each of us can be a thought leader for our own networks of friends, family and colleagues by contacting them to encourage them to vote, including sharing your picks if they want them. Hold a virtual ballot party this week! Here are some other resources to help you. pdxcityclub.org has several candidate forums you can watch. Endorsements below have been made by area news sources and advocacy groups like Oregon League of Conservation voters. https://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/2020/04/editorial-endorsements-our-recommendations-for-the-2020-may-election.html https://pamplinmedia.com/pt/10-opinion/463151-375841-tribune-endorsements-for-portland-city-council-wheeler-rubio-ryan-wilson-pwoff?wallit_nosession=1 https://www.olcv.org/2020-primary-endorsements/
Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court candidates
There are contested races for the Court of Appeals (COA) and the Supreme Court (SC). Many voters find it difficult to feel informed in judicial races, so we have picked the two contested races with the broadest impact to give you some background. Kyle Krohn is challenging Joel deVore, the incumbent, for the COA seat, and Van Pounds is challenging Tom Balmer for the SC seat. The COA and SC are both appellate courts. As the name implies, the SC is the highest court in the state and has the last word on issues involving state and local law. When a case is appealed from an Oregon trial court, the appeal is almost always first heard by the COA. Review by the SC is usually discretionary and typically exercised when there is confusion on what the law in Oregon is or should be. There are 13 judges on the COA, of which currently 5 are women and 8 are men. There are 7 judges, better known as justices, on the SC, of which 5 are women and 2 are men at this time. The COA handles between 3000 and 4000 cases per year and issues opinions in approximately 1 out of every 5. The SC deals with far fewer cases per year and issues opinions in approximately 10% of them. In Oregon, COA judges and SC justices are elected for 6 year terms. It is, however, usually the case that both judges and justices are initially appointed by the Governor to fill vacancies which occur when judges retire or die. So, if a sitting judge or justice resigns before the end of his or her 6 year term, the Governor will appoint someone - he or she has to be a lawyer admitted to practice in Oregon - to fill out the rest of the term. At the end of the term, that judge or justice will have to stand for election if they wish to remain in that office, just like any other elected official. Court of Appeals: Krohn and DeVore Joel DeVore is the incumbent in the COA race. Joel is 68 and was appointed to the COA in 2013 by Gov. Kitzhaber. Before then he practiced law in Pendleton and Eugene. He was born in Iowa, raised in Alaska, graduated from Antioch College with a BA in Political Science and received his JD from the University of Oregon. He's regarded as a hard-working and productive member of what is usually considered a left leaning court and is generally thought of as a moderate. Kyle Krohn, the challenger, is 36, grew up in Portland, graduated from Whitman College in 2006 with a degree in politics, got his law degree from Georgetown in 2010, and has worked as a lawyer representing indigent criminal defendants since. He was with the Multnomah Defenders in Portland for about 1 year before joining the Office of Public Defense Services in Salem where he has been doing appellate defense work since. He ran unsuccessfully for another position on the COA in 2018. He is considered a smart and hard-working lawyer. Kyle says that he is running because the COA does not issue enough opinions where it explains the reasons for its decisions. He is right that the vast majority of cases decided by the COA are simply affirmed without explanation. He says that he would not be running were it not for the fact that so many cases are decided that way, which he believes he could help to remedy. Kyle is pointing to a problem that is generally thought of as systemic, which has more to do with a lack of resources rather than the make-up of the court. If that is the case, the legislature would be a better place to turn. In conclusion, DeVore is an experienced and productive judge with a good reputation who is part of an overworked court. Krohn is young, bright and conscientious, with 10 years of legal experience in the field of criminal law, who has identified a systematic problem. Supreme Court: Pounds and Balmer Tom Balmer was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court by Gov. Kitzhaber in 2001 and has served on the Court since then. Before that he practiced law in both the private and public sectors. He was reelected to the Court in 2008 and 2014. From 2012 to 2018 he served as Chief Justice. He grew up in Portland and lives in Irvington. Van Pounds is a lawyer but has never been a judge. He practiced law in Missouri for many years before going to work for the State of Oregon in 2011. His first job was Chief of Enforcement and Securities for the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) before transferring to the Policy Unit with the Insurance Division and eventually accepting a position as Senior Policy Analyst with DCBS, which remains his current job. In 2018 he ran against Meagan Flynn for another position on the Oregon Supreme Court and lost decisively. He subsequently sued the State of Oregon over disclosure of information to Willamette Week about his employment and transfer, which he alleged prejudiced his chances of winning the 2018 election. His complaint was dismissed by the Oregon Federal District Court in January 2020. Van's main argument is that judges should be elected, not appointed. He is right that most judges are initially appointed by the Governor as vacancies arise, and then have to stand for election at the end of their term. While this system could be changed by the legislature or the people of Oregon, that is how it currently works. If Van wants to change it, he could go to the legislature or start an initiative campaign. (For an overview of how other states select their judges, please take a look at the following article Ballotpedia: https://ballotpedia.org/Judicial_selection_in_the_states) In conclusion, Balmer is known as a hardworking and productive judge. He has a good reputation and is generally considered a centrist on a court that leans to the left. Van has no record as a judge so it is hard to characterize his judicial philosophy.