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Shaky Ground”, an article on how Oregon legislators choose to protect their own office building over reinforcing old, outdated schools.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.”
Special Thanks to Logan Gilles — Chief Policy Advisor for Senator Michael Dembrow for the following two links: