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Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Rebuild Stronger with Sidewalks and Sewers

September 11th, 2020 by dk
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It’s an accepted public service trope to promise a devastated community that it will be built back stronger. Slogans are easy. Rebuilding is hard.

How can we build back the McKenzie River communities so that they are stronger? After this week’s incineration, what can government do to bring things back better? It was a once-in-a-lifetime conflagration. It deserves a response of similar scale.

County officials refer to Highway 126 from Thurston to McKenzie Bridge as Lane County’s longest Main Street. Except for one back road through Marcola to Walterville, there’s only one way in and one way out. My sons and I have driven that stretch hundreds of times over the past five years. I’ve had some time to think about it.

There are a few substantial communities along that 40-mile ribbon of road. And there’s occasional commerce. But they are seldom in the same places. The county and the state should seize this opportunity to enhance that stretch in a generational way. Bring commerce to communities and create communities around commerce.

Time is of the essence. Those who lost everything will soon begin shaping their plans. They want to return to the land they consider home, even if their structures and belongings have been reduced to the soot the rest of us are wiping off our cars.

Building back better means things will be different. The shock from the tragedy will begin to wear off. Leaders must help residents envision a future that isn’t stubbornly identical to the past. Otherwise, nostalgia impedes progress.

Give nearby residents a new way to reach the shops — and one another — without having to walk on the shoulder of the highway. Short stretches of sidewalks would make a small difference, but not commensurate with the total devastation that occurred.

A better solution in some areas would be carving out a right-of-way behind residences for utilities, plus a walking path or a graveled alley. Once there’s even the slightest transportation network, communities begin to flourish. Back-fence conversations are always more intimate than what people say from their front porches.

Give neighbors a safe, “locals only” path to the stores along the highway. This also benefits those who are just passing though. Removing power lines from the highway’s edge will make that drive even more beautiful. Who dreamed that could even be possible?

Where home sites dot along a criss-crossing network of local roads, precious few businesses are walkably nearby. Blue River in particular has a well-developed community, but almost no businesses they can support. 

Restaurants and bars once bustled. They’re gone now. The grocery store in Blue River’s center became a storage unit for Christmas Treasures. What can bring these areas back better? Sewers.

If disaster funds are used to enhance public infrastructure in densely populated areas, property owners will be able to build back better. Again, everyone will benefit. The river — our drinking water — will benefit from reduced septic seepage.

Building back better will take a long time. The first step: rebuild hope.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com. Kahle built a vacation home in Blue River that was almost certainly incinerated early Tuesday morning.

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Asheville Can Teach Eugene About Reparations

August 31st, 2020 by dk
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Eugene City Council is taking its traditional and well deserved August recess. Our childhood experience of recess taught us that it’s healthy to get outside and run around for a while. You make new friends, learn new tricks. And then, after you’re back in your seat, you discover you have some new thoughts.

Suddenly you see clearly what didn’t make sense before. Multiplication is really just addition for lazy people. All you have to do is add the first number to itself over and over again, until the number of repetitions equals the second number. I learned that concept while racing my friend Scott around the playground swings.

When Mrs. Savage grades penmanship, she wants the bottoms of letters to be straight across, unless they have a tail that dangles below. The letter “h” is a consonant that wishes it was a vowel, so it sometimes tries to act like one. History isn’t what happened — history is how people who came later understand what happened.

Recess gives us time to reflect. The harder we study something, the more important it is to get out and chase somebody around the swingset. You don’t stop thinking about the questions you have. You stop thinking about how you’re thinking about it. Insight emerges from the absence of effort.

Into this intermission for incubation, I’d like to drop an idea. Reparations. Oregon’s past policies toward Blacks were reprehensible. And we’re not talking about the ancient past. Many native Oregonians remember firehouses sounding their alarm every night at 6. This practice began with Oregon’s so-called “sunset laws,” which required Blacks to leave town before nightfall.

The original Ferry Street Bridge displaced Eugene’s most vibrant Black neighborhood, because they lacked the political power to prevent it. Other injustices against Blacks — large and small — continued. Some still do.

Oregon was never a slave state, but that’s hardly the point. It was certainly a White supremacy state. Oregon had more members of the Ku Klux Klan than any state outside the Deep South. And so, reparations are in order.

Another progressive town in a once-retrograde state has shown the way. Last month, Asheville, NC’s city council voted unanimously to alter “budgetary and programmatic priorities” to begin leveling the local playing field. Their leaders resolved to favor those who have been victimized by systemic racism for generations.

Please note that no one in North Carolina has proposed sending checks to descendants of slaves. As Oregon’s history shows, disenfranchisement continued — continues! — long after slavery ended. Making amends now is the order of the day.

Asheville will focus on increasing generational wealth — something African Americans were deprived of through economic and regulatory discrimination. Disparity of wealth between races hobbles Asheville’s growth, safety and character.

They intend to close that gap by “increasing minority home ownership and access to other affordable housing, increasing minority business ownership and career opportunities. [They will build] strategies to grow equity and generational wealth, closing the gaps in health care, education, employment and pay, neighborhood safety and fairness within criminal justice,” according to their resolution.

After recess is over, Eugene should learn from Asheville’s lead.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Rethinking Recreation

August 30th, 2020 by dk
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As September sneaks up on us, people are rushing out for Oregon’s uniquely moist forest air. We know September will bring new family challenges. August is when we all take a deep breath. And some breaths are deeper than others.

Every viewpoint along the coast was overflowing last weekend. Every reserved campsite was taken. My parents called it enjoying the Great Outdoors. My children think of it as just getting out. It’s still great, but everyday activities don’t require capital letters.

Everyone recharges in their own way, so it’s important you learn what works best for you. When my boys were little, we developed two different vacation strategies. We mastered the quick getaway and the deep diversion.

Getaways were often unplanned but they followed a familiar script. It might afford us only 44 hours, but we learned to make the most of it. We’d see at noon that tomorrow’s calendar was clear. We’d throw essentials into a few shopping bags. We’d leave work and school early that day, locked and loaded. We’d drive a couple hours — just far enough to be sure we were really gone.

Over dinner, we’d plan the next day’s activities. I would often pick up the local newspaper to see what’s going on. We’d spend two nights away, then race home just after dawn to resume our routines by breakfast. Others thought we were gone for a day, but we knew it had been two.

We could do a quick getaway every month or so. We were always watching for calendar openings, scouting far-enough destinations, keeping our plans nimble. The deep diversion trips were different. I learned that I needed three weeks to do what today we’d call a “hard reset” — completely powering down, allowing all systems to restart fresh.

If accommodations included an indoor pool and a TV, I knew the boys would be well entertained. I would need the first week to sort through whatever work I was leaving behind and the last week to gear up for what was ahead. Only during that middle week could I really relax with my family and explore with them what the area had to offer.

These strategies have served me well over the years. Do you know what works best for you? We all know that our work requires special training and certain skills. Should we be surprised to learn that cessation of work does too?

Recreation should allow you to literally re-create yourself. You may have to reimagine your circumstances and reevaluate your options. You may need to reframe, recategorize, and reorganize. You can’t rotate your tires while the vehicle is in motion.

Vacation should produce a special sort of emptiness — vacating your regular routine, letting go of every assumption, clearing away barriers and obstacles. Deep rejuvenation will give you new energy and insight for whatever challenges lie ahead.

If all you’ve done is rest and relax, rewarding yourself for the work you’ve done, beware. You may not be rebuilding anything except a deepening resentment that work and life is hard.  It is, but you can revive yourself — if you learn how.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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It’s an Asymmetrical Psychodrama

August 29th, 2020 by dk
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Republicans seem weirdly willing to say out loud what many Americans consider outrageous. It’s as if they think they can’t be heard by the other side. As commentator David Brooks remarked on the PBS Newshour recently, “It’s often difficult with this administration to separate incompetence from malfeasance.” Let’s assume the latter.

Take something as straightforward as removing Postal Service drop boxes from neighborhoods across America. Mailing a letter just got less convenient for everyone who lives nearby. Maybe they are targeting areas with more Democratic voters, so the pain won’t be evenly felt, but what about their actions to foul the air we breathe?

Loosening methane restrictions will add to pollution and hasten global warming. There will be no partisan divide to the resulting discomforts. This — like the disappearing corner mailboxes — will make people angry. But here’s where the psychodrama becomes asymmetrical. Anger does not have a uniform effect on behavior.

Conservatives and old people vote when they get angry. They call their Congressperson. They write letters to the editor. They stand on their porches and yell about their lawns. 

Angry liberals and young people march together and chant. They sometimes start fires or turn over heavy objects, but one thing they often don’t do is vote.

Anger energizes those on the right. It leaves those on the left dispirited and depressed. If anger intensifies to rage, it fuels enthusiasm for the right and dampens it for the left — electorally speaking. Fighting fire with fire always favors conservatives.

Why might this be? When you strip away all the complexities, it comes down to this. Conservatives want less government and liberals want more. Governing is the hard work that lies ahead, after the election, but for only one side. Tearing down a house is easy and really sort of fun. Building a house takes planning and patience and perseverance.

Show me an angry house builder and I’ll show you a poorly built house. If you live in a lousy house long enough, you’ll eventually feel like calling the demolition experts.

Homophonically speaking, razing is easy and raising is hard.

Collaborative statesmanship has always propelled government’s effectiveness. We’ve built durable solutions by crafting regulations that suit the majority while also addressing concerns of the minority.

That pattern is waning. The tear-it-all-down conservatives often refuse to collaborate. And the “elections have consequences” liberals often refuse to listen to the “losers.” This is a distinction without a difference. Government becomes less effective either way.

What can be done? Former President Obama seems to have given this some thought. He’s calling on young people to volunteer at polling places, getting them involved in the process. And to vote while they’re there.

This might work — especially if it becomes a trending hashtag. Technology could help young people “buddy up” to work at election sites. Then they’ll feel accountable to somebody they know. It will also feel less daunting when they encounter the 70-somethings who will show them the ropes.

If helping America vote becomes a trending topic, watch a tsunami of young energy build that never reached the electoral shore before.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Scaling Back Expectations

August 28th, 2020 by dk
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Starved for an audience, a Eugene Symphony string quartet performed for diners last Saturday evening on the Broadway Streatery. The musicians were paid by Downtown Eugene Merchants. Audience members (if you can call them that) were asked only to patronize any of the seven participating restaurants on the block.

The city of Eugene has temporarily closed this section of Broadway from car traffic, allowing restaurants to spread tables (six feet apart) into the street. It’s a marvelous, albeit temporary, adaptation to COVID-19’s health restrictions. At the same time, it’s an acknowledgement that our late summer evenings are incomparably comfortable. That will still be true after the pandemic has passed.

Add the streatery and intimate outdoor entertainment to our continuing series of lessons from the plague that can better our lives.

Stretching this lesson as wide as we can, the coronavirus is reminding us to value diminution and intimacy. Speaking broadly, some things have simply gotten too big to serve their purposes effectively.

You’ve heard this reasoning before, but always from the opposite end. There are just too many people in this world for our systems to operate effectively! Climate change, law enforcement, commuting patterns, voter apathy — all our big problems can be traced to population growth.

Every element of that argument is relevant and correct, but it still doesn’t sound right. That’s when you know you’ve been shaking the wrong end of the rattle.

Let’s focus on the performing arts, even though the insights are relevant across human systems and institutions. A quartet playing for downtown diners is very different than the full symphony playing to a full house at the Hult Center. Musicians are paid less, if they are paid at all. With less rehearsal time, the level of artistry may be diminished or less consistent.

Could we possibly accept less excellence in return for more intimacy? I’m not arguing that we should scale back our expectations. I’m merely pointing out that we haven’t considered the option. If we didn’t reflexively expect the best, could we have more of all the things we want and need — musicians, teachers, government services?

Around 1900, more American homes had a piano than a toilet. Music came mostly from informal gatherings in living rooms and on front porches. Sheet music sold for a penny on street corners. Families began trading pianos for phonographs in the 1920s, and then came radio and television. Evening entertainment became passive only a century ago.

Could we go back? Would we, if we could? Or could we have both? If you know where to look for it, we already do. I’ve attended house concerts all around the area. They’re often midweek, hosting musicians between larger weekend gigs in San Francisco and Seattle. Some add a pot-luck dinner to a minimal (voluntary) cover charge. Chatting with performers over a meal is allowed and expected.

Is a house concert better than an evening out at The Shedd? No. Do most of us now enjoy live entertainment only on weekends and special occasions? Yes. Could we craft a different arrangement for ourselves and our neighbors? Maybe.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Who Will Be His VP?

August 15th, 2020 by dk
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Everyone this weekend will be writing about Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s Democratic running mate. I don’t enjoy crowded spaces. So let’s speculate about who might be the VP pick in 2020 — for the Republicans.

Wait, what? Yes, I know Mike Pence has been a suitable assistant for President Trump. “Straight out of central casting,” in the President’s own words. Pence has done everything asked of him without complaining. He never asks for any share of the limelight. He’s done nothing to earn Trump’s disapproval.

Consider the stage set for Trump to unexpectedly tell Pence, “You’re fired!” — precisely because it’s unexpected. Have you never watched an episode of “The Apprentice?” (Me neither.) Millions wouldn’t have tuned in every week to watch the probable happen. Surprise heightens engagement.

Political campaigns merged with entertainment tropes a long time ago. It wasn’t surprising when Republicans nominated a TV star as its presidential candidate the first time, or the second. Reagan had also been California’s governor, so he knew how to play another role. Trump’s background is less varied. Since Denmark rebuffed his offer to buy Greenland, he’s had only one role that fits him — mercurial mogul.

Trump put Pence in charge of battling the spread of the coronavirus, so the effort’s inevitable failure could be pinned on him. Trump has since stepped on that storyline, because he couldn’t bear watching anyone on television who wasn’t him talking about anything that isn’t him.

Any screenwriter will tell you that the plot of the story barely matters, so long as the characters are well defined. Believability follows fidelity to what the audience knows the characters might do in any particular circumstance, regardless of its unlikelihood. What will a rogue leader do with/to a sycophant accessory? You already know. The next season will be teased before August ends.

But who? The early money was on Nikki Haley, because central casting is always at the forefront of executive producer Trump’s ratings-driven mind. She looks like “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but without the difficult, hyphenated name. Trump may have moved on from his former ambassador to the United Nations. She has an immigrant family story too similar to Harris’s. “Me too” is not in Trump’s playbook.

Instead, Trump’s attention has turned to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. She has been a successful legislator and governor and Trump imagines she might repay any debt she feels for the honor by adding a fifth face to Mt. Rushmore. She has shown a certain simpatico by scandalously hiring her daughter and son-in-law for South Dakota’s statehouse.

Or Trump could boost the ratings for the next season of this reality TV show by really thinking outside the 16×9 box. Somebody may convince Trump that polling is too dismal for his show to be renewed, no matter what running mate he chooses. He still has one more trick up his sleeve.

He may decide to quit the job before he’s fired, giving Pence the unlikely aura of an incumbent. But only if Pence agrees to campaign this fall with Ivanka Trump as his running mate.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Work and Money Are Separate Issues

August 14th, 2020 by dk
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I hope these months of societal under-stimulation have given you the opportunity to reflect on life around you more deeply. I hope some of those reflections find useful applications when we’re all able to adapt to, accept, or end this enforced slow-down.

I took a socially distanced walk this week with a friend. We covered lots of ground together, which is what always happens when we’re together. After our time ended, a pattern emerged. We were really talking about work, play and the space between them.

It’s clear to me that work cannot continue as it was before the pandemic. Economists I follow are predicting not a V-shaped recovery or an L-shaped downturn that is slow to rebound. What may lie ahead is a K-shaped recovery — where stocks and asset values rise, while wages and payrolls decline.

How will the nation sustain itself when fewer jobs are available? More importantly, how will families and individuals thrive amidst declining employment? Start by considering that your “work” encompasses much more than whatever you call your “job.” Flossing your teeth is work. We do it in return for a certain “payoff” — healthier teeth.

By the same token, your job is more than the work — at least it should be. Ideally, you do work provides other benefits — security, camaraderie, and a sense of purpose. Money is important, sure, but it’s not the only valuable outcome from our work. My deepest hope is that the remedies applied during this downturn will break a spell that has fused employment, work and money together in people’s minds.

Companies who received PPP loans kept their employees on payroll even if there was no work to be done. Pandemic unemployment benefits paid many a sustainable wage, even if the jobs they had before did not. Many Americans received $1200 with no effort expended. Work, jobs and money have been cleaved these past few months.

A book floated around years ago with a better title than text, as I recall. “Do What You Love — The Money Will Follow” impacted my early career.

Money is a poor substitute for job satisfaction. As long as work and workers are considered interchangeable, there will never be enough money to go around. That’s like saying there’s not enough butter in a movie theater to make popcorn taste great. The butter is there to make the salt stick to the kernels. It’s really basic science, people.

Money expresses value, but it doesn’t embody value. Money has value because we give it value. If you make money and work synonymous, satisfaction with either will be elusive. Sadly, this is by design. Today’s unhappy people are tomorrow’s compliant consumers. Every impulse buy poses as an elixir that will fill an emptiness, soothe a sore.

The day we stop falling for this trick will be when our needs and desires begin to sort themselves naturally. Choices are easier when consequences look less dire. Those who survive the current calamity may retain clarity long after the danger passes. They may even pass their wisdom onto their children, as happened a century ago.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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What’s the Opposite of Introspection?

August 8th, 2020 by dk
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Our steady diet of Trump’s narcissistic ideations has demonstrated we need for a new verb. This became clear to me after watching President Obama give the eulogy at John Lewis’s funeral. Trump casts himself in every way the opposite of his professorial predecessor. Obama took Lewis’s funeral as an opportunity to introspect, but what is its opposite? Our current president extrospects.

Obama thinks about the world and his place in it. He doesn’t often reveal what he sees, but it’s clear to everyone that he’s doing it. Trump thinks about himself and then manifests a world where he is in the center. He clearly doesn’t realize how transparent he’s being.

When Obama was running for reelection, he was asked at a town hall meeting what had surprised him most after becoming president in 2008. Obama’s answer was pensive and profound. He was slow to recognize how powerful his voice had become. He had to learn to be cautious with every word. Trump takes the opposite tack, reveling in the commotion his words cause.

One bit of Obama’s eulogy has not drawn much attention, but it hints at how he’s been reflecting on his tenure. Americans must vote this fall to further the work of John Lewis. But then he went deeper. If Democrats to take control of the Senate, he called for them to end the filibuster.

He called the filibuster “another Jim Crow relic,” which may not be precisely true. The filibuster was not created by racists, but it certainly was effectively used by them. Thanks to the filibuster, the United States Senate has never voted against lynching crimes. Sen. Rand Paul foiled the latest attempt earlier this year.

We can’t be certain why Obama suggested that break with tradition, but we can guess. Is this the advice he wishes he’d gotten in 2008? If Harry Reid had eliminated the filibuster, legislation could have passed quickly in Obama’s first two years.

Democrats in 2008 were able to save the economy from a full-blown depression and formulate a health care bill. Then Ted Kennedy died and Republican Scott Brown replaced him. The Affordable Care Act was reworked as a budgetary bill, making it filibuster-proof, but also leaving it vulnerable to its current court challenges.

Reid eventually curtailed the filibuster modestly to prevent Republicans from obstructing everything. When Mitch McConnell then became the Senate Majority Leader, Pandora’s box was already open. He eliminated the filibuster for all court confirmations, enabling him to fill every available federal bench vacancy.

Meanwhile, Trump. He warns that the election could be stolen as he makes plans to steal it. He insists that he’s innocent of everything but has absolute immunity if he’s not. He calls the Postal Service a joke and then puts a joker in charge.

He describes the world as he wishes it to be and then marvels that he has the power to make it so. He has no inner world. Or, if he does, we’ve been living in it.

Karl Rove once claimed the George W. Bush administration was “creating new realities.” That extrospection must have piqued Trump’s interest.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Defund the Police Unions

August 7th, 2020 by dk
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Public opinion polls have been steady for the past two months about police violence and racial injustice. After Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on the street in Minneapolis, support for the Black Lives Matter movement surged dramatically and continues to be broadly embraced.

Those same polls show significantly less support for “Defund the Police.” Only the most devoted activists support that phrase and only pure anarchists claim that society can function without police officers to enforce laws and detain lawbreakers.

Most don’t want to see police departments disbanded completely. They believe social service workers and mental health professionals should be called first. Their training is better suited in many situations. A cop with a gun often makes those situations worse. Many people haven’t heard this explanation, because they stopped listening after those three words: “Defund the Police.”

I wonder if the movement could widen its appeal by adding a fourth word. “Defund the Police Union.” This would put the focus back on Chauvin and other police officers with anger management issues and the consequences they face. Time and again, police unions step in to protect its members from proper and appropriate discipline.

It’s not uncommon for police unions to require personnel files to be hidden or destroyed after an officer leaves the force. A bad cop can get hired in a new town because his disciplinary record often doesn’t follow him. Officers are often protected from internal discipline because their unions negotiate favorable arbitration terms.

Don’t be surprised if the officers who watched Chauvin kill Floyd are eventually reinstated to the Minneapolis police force. They may even receive back pay. This is not uncommon.

Unions negotiate salary, benefit and retirement packages for their members. This is as it should be. But police unions also negotiate working conditions, liability limits, disciplinary procedures, and termination protocols. These details remain hidden from the public until after agreement is reached and commitments are made.

This is what must change. If unions insist on negotiating such details for its members, remove the cloak of secrecy usually afforded personnel matters. Politicians and the public deserve 60 days to review those details and provide comments to the city, county or state negotiators. Only after a public comment period should any agreement be finalized.

If Oregon lawmakers address police violence during next week’s special session in Salem, they should take a closer look at SB1604. 

Here’s the official summary of the bill: “Restricts arbitration award from ordering disciplinary action that differs from disciplinary action imposed by law enforcement agency if arbitrator makes finding that misconduct occurred consistent with agency’s finding of misconduct, and disciplinary action imposed by agency is consistent with provisions of discipline guide or discipline matrix adopted by agency as result of collective bargaining and incorporated into agency’s disciplinary policies.”

A shorter summary might be this: “When the fix is in, the fix must stay in.” Outside authorities in many cases would be prevented from meting any discipline that differs from the terms negotiated (in secret) by police unions. This should outrage politicians, the public and good cops everywhere. Defund the Police Union.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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All About Grandfathers

August 7th, 2020 by dk
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Last week was all about grandfathers for me. Both of my grandfathers came to mind as I labored over some overdue summer chores, and my sons lost the only grandfather they’ve ever known after a prolonged decline.

The week started with me painting a few bathroom doors. I have always succeeded in avoiding this particular task because there’s always something else that also needs doing. Painting is always dead last on my list when dividing chores comes up.

I had an abusive grandfather who deployed his grandchildren as free labor to repaint a rental house he owned in our neighborhood. I was probably 10, maybe 12. He got me started in a bedroom closet. Hours later, he returned to find me still in the closet, trying desperately to match the wet wall with the dry wall.

I succeeded avoiding painting for a half a century after that, until Monday. Brushing on the paint, back and forth, I tried to not overthink the drink. I also tried to not look back — on the drying sections of the half-painted door, or on those moments that still color my childhood memories.

Fortunately, I married into a family of hard workers. My boys’ grandparents were always on the move. Their idea of a vacation was a service trip to construct buildings for the needy. They taught my sons how to work with their hands. They’ve grown up around tools and the trades, thanks to my ex-wife’s parents.

They came to visit us in Eugene a year after we got settled. I didn’t know the way to Home Depot and I had never been inside Jerry’s until my father-in-law decided he would do some home improvements while they visited. He didn’t ask me or my children to help, but he also didn’t refuse when help was offered.

After he passed away early last week, everybody had a story about something he built or did. His contributions outlived him. He left behind much love, stored in the projects he undertook. 

I thought I was finished with generational look-backs for the week, but I had one more coming. My elder son flew to Connecticut for his grandfather’s funeral, so I had to learn how to work his riding lawn mower.

I told him I’d never been on a riding mower before and I believed that to be true. But as I began looping the yard, I felt a rumbling. It wasn’t under me; it was inside. I had done this before, when I was very young, on my gentler grandfather’s farm.

I felt myself transported back, bouncing on his lap. It was a hot summer day in southern Missouri. The sun was blinding. The dust of mulching dry grass covered my toddler face. I marveled at a man connected to his tool and his trade.

That was new to me then. It was also uncomfortable. As I bumped along down Memory Lawn, I imagined my earliest self doing the same and thinking in the most childlike way, “I’d better get a college education.” In unexpected ways, those moments shaped my future.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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