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Gifts This President Could Give Us

January 3rd, 2019 by dk

We’re a diverse nation. We don’t agree on much. We celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or solstice. Seinfeld fans are somewhere celebrating “Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.” Our December traditions do share one organizing feature — gift-giving.

Voters recently gave themselves the gift of divided government, but they didn’t agree exactly what that gift should look like. Some would like to see impeachment papers in their stocking. Others will be happy with more coal. The largest majority did make one thing clear. They don’t want nothing. Governmental gridlock pleases no one.

We have a president who fancies himself a builder and an all-around rich guy. There are gifts his government could us that affirms what he believes about himself, while also pleasing his citizenry. I’ll list three. You’ll think of others.

Starting with the basics, everybody needs a bathroom once in a while. Our builder-in-chief should insist that public buildings include them.

Every police and fire station should have a bathroom that’s accessible to the public 24 hours a day — post offices, libraries and larger government buildings, when they are open. Encourage and reward businesses to provide facilities, especially those that stay open all night.

Monitoring the bathrooms to prevent bad hygiene and illicit behavior creates complexity, but the federal government is best suited to meet complex needs. We need government to solve problems that seem both intractable and ubiquitous. Sewers never could have been built by compassionate citizens without government resources.

Second, let’s bury every utility wire. Telephone poles are so 1955! They create hazards and outages during every major storm. These “shovel-ready” public works projects would bring jobs to every acre of America.

The jobs will be temporary, but the beauty will be permanent. Earlier in my life, I was a professional photographer (as was my father.) I married an artist because her landscape paintings could do what my photographs couldn’t — eliminate the wires that we’ve trained ourselves to overlook. (Our marriage ended around the time Photoshop was introduced, but I’m sure that was a coincidence.)

Beauty benefits all of us, almost always in ways we do not understand. That’s why my last request of Washington politicians is also the simplest. It would help arts organizations immensely. Use the Oregon Cultural Trust as the template for a federal tax credit program.

If you don’t know about the Oregon Cultural Trust, you should. Here’s how it works. If you donate up to $500 to any (or many) of the hundreds of cultural non-profits registered with in Oregon, you can then donate the same amount to the Oregon Cultural Trust, which then gives grants to arts organizations across the state.

Your OCT donation earns you an equivalent state income tax credit, so your second donation costs you nothing. The state is essentially doubling your donation’s impact on behalf of the arts in Oregon. It’s a program that is unique to Oregon, but we’d be more than happy to share the concept with the rest of the nation.

This is, after all, the season of giving.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at Learn more about the Oregon Cultural Trust at

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