Oregon Lawmakers choose to safeguard themselves over schools

earthquake

It is only by chance that I write this article today. I try my best to keep up on stories that happen within Oregon, but I am only one man, and there’s so much that happens. Sometimes luck plays a role in the stories I come across. Like today… I was sitting at Wingstop waiting for my food, when I saw a Willamette Week newspaper, and decided to pick it up.

I scanned the front-page headlines:

  • The Making of a YouTube Star

  • Pot’s Biggest Backers

  • Swimming At the Dock

  • Touring New Booze Carts

Nothing on the front grabbed my attention, so I flipped through. On page 7, I paused and started reading, “On Shaky Ground”, an article on how Oregon legislators choose to protect their own office building over reinforcing old, outdated schools. Now this is an article that interests me.

Click here for the link to the article.

To my complete disgust, I learned that, “Seven years ago, the state identified 275 public school buildings that, without safety upgrades, were sure to collapse when the next big earthquake shakes Oregon…and another 754 with a better than 10 percent chance of pancaking.” This is out of 2000 school buildings evaluated.

But in the past 7 years, the state Legislature managed to assign $30 million dollars to help with renovations for the list of schools, but as of last year, only 2% of building have been touched.

Moreover, back in the July 2013 legislation session, the legislators voted, “to fund the first phase of a seismic renovation for their own offices in the state Capitol.”

This is where my blood begins to boil. Let me be clear, my friends, I have no children, just some cute cats. But I (unlike, I’m sure, most of the Legislative people who voted for this) read the report titled, “Oregon’s Resilience Plan”, which was given to our State congress in February 2013. In fact, I had a series of blog posts that analyzed the plan. 

Basically, the report talks about how much trouble we will be in WHEN the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake happens. It was handed to the law makers to advise them of the dangers we face. So, seven years ago, a report came out that listed how poorly our educational infrastructure is. Last year, another report comes out that explains how very real and dangerous the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake will be for our State. Yet the only legislation that passes is for reinforcing the State Capitol building.

I’m happy to hear our lawmakers will be safe and I’m glad I don’t have any children.

What’s even more excruciatingly irritating is to read that part of the legislation that passed allows for a $34.5 million plan to retrofit the Capitol. That’s is $34.5 million to PLAN for the retrofit. Not perform any of the work. They are spending 34.5 million dollars of our money just for a plan! The Willamette Week article state that for the price of just the plan for the capitol upgrade, we could have helped “42 schoolhouses and essential buildings.”

Granted, I haven’t fact-checked all of the information I am receiving from this article, but it’s not the first time we hear stories like this. I got so revved up, I contacted my local state Senator to find out how he voted. To my amazement, his staff responded to me within an hour. He voted yes, but the staff gave important information that allowed me to do further research.

Specifically, they gave two good links to find out more about this bill.

As I read up on the bill, I found out that the Capitol renovation was thrown in alongside numerous other items that had little to nothing to do with the renovation project.

A portion of the email that I received from my Senator’s office really drives this home:

     “SB 5507 was an omnibus bill that also included funding for a    number of other projects, including money for the Oregon Youth Authority, the Department of Corrections, renovations for the State Supreme Court building, land acquisition by the State Forestry Department, new construction for the Oregon State Hospital campus in Junction City, and bonding for projects at community colleges across the state. This type of legislation is common practice as the session winds down and the budget is finalized.”

This gets me frustrated on a whole other level. Bills that get written at our state and national level are so muddied. They never stand by themselves, which cripples our democracy. Theoretically, if you don’t like once piece of the bill, and vote no, all the other important projects potentially suffer, but have no connection to why you voted not to fund them.

OK, that was a sidetrack, but it is an important issue. Now, back to our schools. Ask yourself, what if my child goes to a school that is on the list of buildings that will pancake when a major earthquake hits the area? We need to allocate money to fix these buildings. Obviously, there’s money available at the state level and it doesn’t have to be funded by local bond measures. We already pay enough taxes to the state for our public infrastructure.

If this topic hits a nerve with you as it it has with me, then take fifteen minutes, look up your representatives, and tell them how upset you are. Push for funding to reinforce the outdated schools. But you have to show them you’re paying attention to their actions. It’s not too late. They passed legislation just to design the improvements to the Capitol. They don’t vote to fund the improvements until 2015. What if in 2015, they instead choose to fund improvements to the decrepit schools? We can make this happen. I have some great resources below to help you out.

From the official Q + A website

Budget & Funding:

I understand the Oregon State Capitol Renovation is seeking funding approval by

Oregon lawmakers. Have they approved funding for the project?

“Thus far, funding has only been approved by the Legislature for the Design Phase of the project, which is tentatively planned to last through June 2015.”

Who is my Representative?

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Resources:

Special Thanks to Logan Gilles — Chief Policy Advisor for Senator Michael Dembrow for the following two links:

SB5507- Breakdown of money allocated 

2013 Regular Session information

List of schools that have and have not been upgraded

Willamette Week’s article “On Shaky Ground”

Statewide Seismic Needs Assessment Using Rapid Visual Screening (RVS)

SB 1566 (2012) Seismic Rehabilitation Status Reports

Facilities Seismic Study

Official website for the project

Project Q + A

The official report about the dangers of Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake

 

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3 Leave a Reply to Hamdan

  1. JBradbury
    August 08, 2014 17:21 Reply

    Below is the complete email I received

    Hi Jeremiah,

    Thanks for writing. The legislature approved funding for the design phase of the Capitol renovation project during the 2013 session. The amount of $34.5 million was allocated in SB 5507 (it’s on page two of the enrolled bill, linked below). SB 5507 was an omnibus bill that also included funding for a number of other projects, including money for the Oregon Youth Authority, the Department of Corrections, renovations for the State Supreme Court building, land acquisition by the State Forestry Department, new construction for the Oregon State Hospital campus in Junction City, and bonding for projects at community colleges across the state. This type of legislation is common practice as the session winds down and the budget is finalized.

    https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Measures/Text/SB5507/Enrolled

    Michael was a member of the House during the 2013 session, and voted in favor of SB 5507. The vote in the House was 46 to 12, with two members excused. You can view the vote count and measure history here (click on the measure history tab):

    https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Measures/Overview/SB5507

    Any further allocations of money toward making the Capitol building safe for legislators, staff, and members of the public during an earthquake would need to be approved during the 2015 session, at which time the design phase of the project will have been completed and the Legislature will likely be asked to consider funding for the complete plan.

    I hope this information is helpful.

    Cheers,

    Logan Gilles
    Chief Policy Advisor

    Senator Michael Dembrow
    District 23, NE & SE Portland
    Chair, Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources
    503.986.1723
    senatordembrow.com
    @michaeldembrow on twitter

    • January 27, 2015 21:38 Reply

      There was a tsunami wiarnng from Alaska to Vancouver and Hawaii. The wiarnngs issued to Oregon and California were canceled. Parts of Hawaii got evacuated and a wave of approximately 5 feet reached their shores with no major devastation. In Canada the heights waves where from half a foot to 2 feet. The earthquake occurred on the Queen Charlotte Fault which is similar to the San Andres Fault. These faults are not subduction zones and dont normally produce tsunamis.The shocks that have been felt after Saturday have been aftershocks and will continue producing aftershocks with less intensity for a week or two.I would keep my eye in that area just in case that earthquake disrupts the Juan De Fuca plate. Have an AP on my phone called Quakewatch , that shows recent earthquake activity and also has a tsunami wiarnng. There are other AP that cost more but will even call you if there is a tsunami in your area.Thanks for posting!!!

      • J Bradbury
        January 29, 2015 11:28 Reply

        Thank you for the information and support.

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