Citizens of Baker City in northeastern Oregon, population not quite ten thousand, cast their ballots, giving overwhelming approval for sale of a twenty-five-year-old backhoe the city decided it no longer needed. An archaic provision in the municipal charter requires voters’ approval for the city to sell any equipment or vehicles with a value of more than $10,000. ($5,000 for land or buildings.) The 1995 Case backhoe’s estimated value is $16,000.
The sale was approved with 92% voting “Yes.” (One wonders what reasons the other 8% had to disallow the equipment’s sale.) Baker City’s public works director admitted that a few years previously a street sweeper may have been sold in violation of the law, although no record was kept of the sale price. (An obvious coverup!)
In the same election, residents also voted, by a 65% to 35% margin, to amend the city charter putting some limit on direct democracy. The city in the future will be allowed to sell surplus equipment without obtaining voters’ consent. This will simplify the possible sale of a Case excavator and a 1988 International dump truck, each valued at more than $10,000.
A third measure on the ballot would have discontinued the stipend paid to Baker City’s commissioners. Perhaps voters feared that it would be a step toward plutocracy. The measure was defeated. The seven city-council members will continue to receive their ten dollars per meeting.
Douglas County Oregon, at the south end of the Willamette Valley, has for many decades been the fortunate recipient of revenue from tax on timber harvests. As the logging industry has declined, so has income from it. Now its citizens are faced with difficult decisions about paying for things themselves that previously were “free.” In the recent election, Douglas County voted down a tax to keep its library system operating. The margin was 55% to 45%. (Donald Trump won the county with 65% of the vote.) The county’s libraries are scheduled to close April 1.
Unhappy because your vote in California counted for less than a Nebraska resident’s vote? Think the Electoral College is unfair because a candidate who garners fewer votes still wins the Presidency – twice so far in this century? Imagine how you would feel had you voted for Andrew Jackson.
The recent election may help revive a flagging industry. Already suffering from Internet competition, the besieged porn industry had largely fled the Los Angeles area because of burdensome government regulations.
The late, lamented Molly Ivins was an aficionado of Texas politics. And national politics when a Texan made it onto the big stage. I was recently reading “Letters to The Nation,” a collection of dispatches she wrote for The Nation magazine. From “Notes from Another Country,” her report on the 1992 Republican National Convention:
“The Republicans spent much of their time peddling fear and loathing, but it was more silly than scary, like watching people dressed in bad Halloween werewolf costumes.”
“In trying to determine just how far to the right the G.O.P.’s loony wing will go, it’s worth noting how Pat Robertson … says feminism ‘encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.’”
“The … source of the nastiness is cynical political professionals pushing divisiveness for political reasons, exploiting fear and bigotry because it works. Old dog. Still hunts.”
And some nostalgia:
“Listening to George Bush, near the end of his speech, read the poetry written by Ray Price with the gestures scripted by speech coach Roger Ailes … I’ve been listening to him since 1966 and must confess to a secret fondness for his verbal dyslexia. Hearing him has the charm and suspense of those old movie serials. Will this man ever fight his way out of this sentence alive? As he flops from one syntactical Waterloo to the next, ever in the verbless mode, in search of the long-lost predicate, or even a subject, you find yourself struggling with him, rooting for him. What is this man actually trying to say?”