dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

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

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Pelosi’s Secret Impeachment Strategy

July 4th, 2019 by dk
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Is U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slow-walking her caucus toward impeachment hearings? Yes, certainly, but with more strategy than she’s been willing to reveal. While most observers of Pelosi’s moves are looking at their watches, Pelosi’s eye is on the calendar.

Pelosi has the votes to impeach the president anytime she wants — that’s not the issue. If the Senate doesn’t muster 67 votes to convict, the House’s effort could help President Trump more than hurt him. Other Republican Senators may follow Sen. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) in supporting impeachment, but that’s not Pelosi’s only alternative.

Which brings us back to this view of her slow-walking strategy. When Newt Gingrich led the House of Representatives to impeach President Bill Clinton, Gingrich’s impetuous anger created political problems for his party. He should have paid more attention to the calendar.

Clinton was impeached by the House on Dec. 19, 1998. Republicans did what Pelosi has stoutly refused to do. Impeaching the president became their first order of business after the midterm elections. On Feb. 12, 1999, the Senate voted along party lines to not convict the president, leaving House GOP leadership in disarray.

All the hearings and wall-to-wall television coverage happened after the 1998 midterm election and before the 2000 presidential campaign was getting underway. Gingrich gave the president’s party a narrative of legislative overreach and ultimate exoneration. Clinton used it for the next 21 months, leaving office with sky-high approval ratings.

Gingrich’s decision to go for the presidential jugular immediately after the midterm elections proved fatal. Democrats gained seats in the House for three elections in a row. Pelosi seems determined to learn from this history.

2020 promises to be a tough cycle for Republicans to maintain control of the Senate. Democrats will be defending only 12 of their current Senate seats. Republicans have 22 seats in play. Here’s where attention to the calendar could become devilishly detailed.

Democratic presidential candidates would love to run on the coattails of impeachment hearings, but Pelosi wants to deny President Trump any narrative that includes an acquittal from the Republican-controlled Senate.

Pelosi can complicate things for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) by delaying the House vote on impeachment articles until late next summer. If the Senate’s first chance to weigh in comes that late in the campaign season, McConnell will be faced with a difficult choice.

Should he keep his Senate colleagues in session during the fall to clear the president’s name? Or should he allow his members to stay home to campaign to keep their seats? If Pelosi times the impeachment hearings to this calendar, she can force McConnell to choose between defending the president or his Senate majority.

If the timing is right, Democrats can spend the summer describing the particulars and the inevitability of impeachment. They can also ask voters to give them control of the Senate, so they can finish the job.

This campaign message will work only if Pelosi circles strategic dates on the 2020 campaign calendar and slow-walks the House’s inquiries around those circles.

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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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We Can Experiment With Socialism Right Here in Eugene

July 3rd, 2019 by dk
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Socialism is losing its stigma for some Americans, because the limits of capitalism are becoming apparent. Unfettered competition will not produce equitable outcomes, unless and until government intervenes. If some government control will be required eventually, why not just create a controlled economy?

A controlled economy will never match the efficiency of a market economy, but efficiency is not all that matters. We need new tools to keep capitalism humming but humane. To learn where government controls can be most effective, it would be best to experiment inside a controlled economic environment.

University of Oregon could help save capitalism from itself by incubating some new ideas inside its own controlled culture. If lessons learned on campus can then be applied to society at large, we might change the world. Why hope for anything less?

First, the customer is not always right. Or, the customer IS always right, but should anyone aspire to being a perpetual customer? It’s often more satisfying to be a community member, a collaborator, a citizen — even if it means occasionally being “not right.” Articulate that trade-off for 23,000 students, and the world may begin to notice.

The second follows from the first. Capitalism sets prices according to supply and demand. But demand is not always elastic. For example, medical procedures and wonder drugs do not become less popular when the price goes up. Price cannot always curb demand.

In the same way, the university has certain core offerings that students must pass to earn the degree. Those courses are not priced higher than others. Those classes may be more valuable, but a university that minds its mission will make those classes easy to schedule. Moreover, some students may require extra assistance to master that core curriculum. Meeting those needs is at the core of the university’s pledge to students and to society.

Society has not drawn such bright lines for its citizens. How does society meet basic needs, no matter the cost, without creating a culture of endless entitlements? UO President Michael Schill and the Board of Trustees could solve this societal challenge in its controlled Petri dish, where a lifetime is designed to last four years.

The third life lesson that could be formulated better on campus is the touchiest, because it created negative headlines for the university. If we want a dynamic society that grows and changes, we must reformulate our expectations around success. Success doesn’t always create innovation — it often stifles it. How can a capitalist society encourage entrepreneurship?

The university can show the way. Our society now needs a declaration of interconnectedness. The whole must always be considered greater than its parts.

The Bach Festival must now grow with less support from the university, so it can invest funds in the new Center for Art Research. UO’s Labor Education and Research Center may need to become more independent, while the university helps its new Black Cultural Center get its footing. These are difficult trade-offs, but that’s what they are — trade-offs.

We’ve already accepted the heavy hand of central control in our university governance model. We may as well use learn to articulate its benefits.

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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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Fifth Friday’s Are Frippery-Filled Fun

July 2nd, 2019 by dk
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Fifth Friday footnotes, follow-ups and far-flung fripperies:

  • Could somebody please explain to me why low-cost airline Allegiant’s planes have the widest center aisles?
  • “Thank you for your patience” has been so much more effective for customer service representatives. “Please don’t foment rebellion, because you clearly outnumber us” never worked so well — and the new phrase is shorter, too!
  • I have a secret phrase to catch people off balance. It’s only six words, but it can shift a conversation, and sometimes an entire relationship. “What can I do for you?”
  • I recently experienced chronic pain for the first time in my lucky life. As soon as the startle reflex wore off, I found myself fighting boredom (same old, same old) on top of the pain.
  • My son recently paid more for a car than I’ve spent on every car I’ve ever owned. Neither of us were happy about that.
  • I’ve never had a car alarm, so I’ve never worried when I heard one that it could be mine.
  • A friend describes her depression by saying she “haz the sad.” This captures some of the burden, and also the sensation of being stuck — time seems irrelevant.
  • The first expression of hospitality should be visible from the street. If the message isn’t available to strangers, it’s something less than hospitality.
  • Stop to think about how lucky Eugene has been with its recent sport heroes: Joey, Luke, Ashton, Marcus, Sabrina….
  • How can we popularize work parties? They do so much for so many. We organize nose-to-nose time so much more easily than shoulder-to-shoulder time.
  • Let’s all sprinkle into our conversations this important phrase: “That’s a great question!” We must recognize and reward those who ask astutely.
  • Happiness, satisfaction, integrity — each is diminished when we consider it a possession.
  • I was surprised to discover that almost all the pleasure I get from a hot cup in the morning comes from the heat and the cup. A mug of hot water, all by itself, conveys most of the comfort I crave.
  • We say we love autonomy and self-sovereignty, but it’s not true. We binge eat, we binge drink, we binge watch. We brag about losing control. We treat personal agency like a better version of virginity — reveling in the pleasure of losing it, over and over again.
  • Did self-driving cars start with anti-lock brakes? Did the machine overrule the driver earlier?
  • A friend of a friend just turned 102. “At my age,” she told me, “every birthday party is a surprise party.”
  • Humans don’t naturally favor diversity over familiarity, but the health and survival of our species may require it.
  • In the face of gender fluidity, wouldn’t “this” be better than “they”?
  • If another organism tried self-awareness but then discarded it as too much trouble, how would we know?
  • You’ve never paid too much for a toilet seat.
  • I haven’t been invited to a wedding in years. Am I doing something wrong?
  • Arriving someplace new is brave. But leaving what you know takes courage.
  • Only task lists with an end in sight begin to acknowledge what will be left undone.
  • Are cell phones changing the design of women’s clothing? Pockets are suddenly necessary, and pocketbooks no longer are.
  • Humans may be nothing more than monkeys who tried mushrooms. Down from the trees, looking for food on the ground, one opened our minds extra-wide.
  • What has been your most creative use of dental floss?
  • Sometimes what we see as selfishness is really a whole-hearted devotion to a vision or a task, and so is actually the opposite of what it seems.
  • Time-share resorts are ripe for disruption.
  • I wish Elon Musk would skip electric cars and perfect hovercrafts instead.
  • Every transportation mode is trying to solve the same problem: how to make or store energy with as little added weight as possible.
  • Consider the plight of the egg salad sandwich. First we thought the cholesterol in the egg was bad for us, then the fat in the mayonnaise, and now the gluten in the bread.

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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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Costa Rica’s Coasts Are Flipped

July 1st, 2019 by dk
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You know how they say you never really understand grammar until you learn a second language? Your first language comes naturally, so you don’t learn until later that there are rules you’re following. I’m wondering if the same idea applies to national geography.

I’ve spent most of this month in Costa Rica. And I think I may understand the United States better now. The coasts of Costa Rica are closer, but the cultures are as far apart as New England from California. The middles of both countries seem happy to be keeping the coasts apart.

San Jose sits in the center of Costa Rica. It’s where things get done. The country’s largest city serves as its center for commerce and transportation. Almost everything in Costa Rica passes through San Jose.

The country’s midsection mixes volcanic mountains with fertile fields. Higher altitudes, cooler nights, and regular rainfall produce a lush countryside. Cows are plentiful across Costa Rica, but Cartago’s cows are fatter. There are no Great Plains of Costa Rica. But there is industry and agriculture to feed the nation’s population, along with majestic vistas to make the middle worth visiting.

The coastal cultures seemed familiar, but flipped. I traveled first along the Pacific coast. It reminded me of Myrtle Beach or Daytona. The Pacific is way too warm for an Oregonian to recognize. The beaches are too uninterrupted. It’s easier to think the sun has reversed itself than to try to make sense of it all.

Driving down the Pacific coastal highway to Uvita, every restaurant beckoning drivers offers food from somewhere else. French cuisine, sushi, Chinese food, Texas BBQ, burritos, and of course the ubiquitous pizza. If you lost all of your senses but taste, I’m not sure you could know you’re in Costa Rica.

Authentic local cuisine is available on the country’s west coast, but it doesn’t call attention to itself. The hole-in-the-wall cafe is as common as holes in walls. They just don’t seem to care whether visitors discover them.

What a shock it was when I made it to the opposite coast.

On the east edge, every business in Puerto Limon and Puerto Viejo seemed to offer its variation on the same theme: Caribbean cuisine with organic yoga massage — plus a healthy dose of Rastafarian “one love.” Costa Rica’s Pacific “mixing bowl” contrasts with the “melting pot” along its Caribbean beaches.

“Laid back” barely captures it. I saw a cat and a dog playing like cousins. I rented an electric bicycle with no ID and just some pocket cash. The gate to my house was chained closed, but without a lock. People protect themselves, but they don’t try very hard. Everything is free and easy — or at least affordable, and always easy.

Their West Coast culture in on the eastern side of the country. That’s when I realized that I have never tasted East Coast cuisine in my home country. What would that even mean? How many of our local chefs tout their Pacific Northwest-inspired recipes? That’s not a thing on our eastern seaboard, and I never saw it until now.

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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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Time for Plan B on Lane County Courthouse

June 30th, 2019 by dk
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Now that Lane County’s Measure 20-299 has failed with voters, it’s safe to ask the question: Was there ever a Plan B?

Superstitions grow around ballot measures. Backup plans are believed to convey weakness or fear. Leaders try to keep things clear for voters — up or down, yes or no. That may be smart politically, but it’s not how any of us make real choices in life. We plan for contingencies. Politicians pretend they don’t.

The county presented its $154 million bond measure to voters as a bargain. The bond would go into effect only if state and federal sources added almost another $100 million to the project.

Initial polling showed the measure could pass in May, if voters were well informed about the current need and the financial benefits for the county. But that polling was done before Eugene 4J schools decided to hurry its serial levy onto the May ballot.

The county made those two arguments. First, the local money would be leveraged with other sources to get us a better courthouse. Second, the current courthouse lacks many safety features we expect in modern public buildings.

Those may have been good arguments, but who was making them? There were op-ed essays and letters to the editor, usually from local politicos and civic leaders. But who was making the case to people who don’t read newspapers?

I saw no lawn signs. No public rallies. No waving supporters at busy intersections. No media events designed to highlight the need. Direct mail flyers and Voters Pamphlet arguments alone did not suffice.

The arguments on the other side were more visceral, more personal, and usually more impassioned. Two broad themes emerged. First, there was skepticism that county planners had economized on the project in every way possible. Second, people complained — sometimes with heartfelt honesty — that they can barely make ends meet. They doubted whether county leaders felt the same pinch.

When you pit an intellectual argument against an emotional one, the side with passion almost always wins. That’s not a new rule, but we saw it enforced on Tuesday.

Now that voters turned down Measure 20-299, will Salem legislators feel less obligated to approve state funding that was all-but-promised? Will other counties try to get their building projects fast-tracked ahead of ours? Will the state renew its $94 million contribution — but only if Lane County voters approve a modified bond measure in the fall?

Will voters resent being asked twice about funding the same project? Voters don’t usually like do-overs. If the county scales back the project the second time around, will voters ask why leaders didn’t trim the project sooner? Will the reductions be deemed sufficient?

If there was always a Plan B, it never rose above a whisper. Nobody wanted to jinx the bond measure’s success by questioning it out loud. Superstition should not be the order of the day.

I understand that leaders don’t like to hear their strategies questioned. But this is worse than that. Some don’t want to be accused of having any strategy at all.

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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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Is There a Plan B for the Lane County Courthouse?

May 18th, 2019 by dk
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I’m hesitant to bring up the topic, but a fair question deserves a fair hearing, even if it cannot always receive a fair answer. If Lane County’s Measure 20-299 fails next week, what’s Plan B?

Superstitions grow around ballot measures. Backup plans are believed to convey weakness or fear. Leaders try to keep things clear for voters — up or down, yes or no. That may be smart politically, but it’s not how any of us make real choices in life. Politics seldom resembles real life, but both might be better if it did.

The county is presenting its $154 million bond measure to voters as a bargain. The bond will go into effect only if state and federal sources add almost another $100 million to the project.

Initial polling showed the measure could pass in May, if voters were well informed about the current need and the financial benefits involved for the county. That polling was done before Eugene 4J schools decided to hurry its serial levy onto the May ballot.

The county has made two arguments in favor of the project. First, the local money will be leveraged with other sources to get us a better courthouse than our dollars alone would buy. Second, the current courthouse is showing its age, lacking many safety measures we expect in modern public buildings.

Those might be good arguments, but who is making them? There have been op-ed essays and letters to the editor, usually from local politicos and civic leaders. But will those messages reach people who don’t read newspapers?

I’ve seen no lawn signs. No public rallies. No waving supporters at busy intersections. No media events designed to highlight the need. Direct mail flyers and Voters Pamphlet support may not suffice.

The arguments on the other side, as expressed in the public forums, are more visceral, more personal, and usually more impassioned. Two broad themes have emerged.

First, there’s a skepticism that county planners have economized on the project in every way possible. Second, people complain — sometimes with heartfelt honesty — that they can barely make ends meet and wish county leaders felt the same pinch.

If voters turn down Measure 20-299, will Salem legislators feel less obligated to approve state funding that has been all-but-promised? Will other counties try to get their building projects fast-tracked ahead of ours? Or will the state make its $94 million contribution contingent on Lane County voters approving a modified bond in the fall?

If so, will voters resent being asked twice about funding the same project? Voters don’t usually like do-overs. If the county scales back the project the second time around, will voters ask why leaders didn’t trim the project sooner?

If there’s a Plan B, it’s not being talked about very openly. If the bond measure fails next Tuesday, some will say I jinxed it by asking these questions out loud. Superstition should not be the order of the day. Some leaders don’t like to hear their strategies questioned. But, worse than that, some don’t want to be accused of having any strategy at all.

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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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Privacy Protections Will Lead to More Surveillance

May 18th, 2019 by dk
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I like privacy as much as the next guy — just not quite as much as the guy who comes after that. For better or for worse, that guy is often a courtroom judge who thinks about the next thing, but not the thing after that. Curbside recycling and on-street parking may have to change to comply with recent judicial rulings. The court decisions could lead to more surveillance, not less.

Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that government authorities may not sort through our trash, even after we’ve left it on the public street for haulers to carry away. Police suspected a couple in Lebanon of producing methamphetamine, so they asked trash haulers — without a search warrant — to set aside their trash for criminal investigation.

Police found incriminating evidence in the trash, and the couple was convicted. But Oregon’s top judges ruled that the deal between police and the hauler was an invasion of privacy. According to a 6-1 majority, no one should be allowed to rummage through our lid-covered trash bins without a search warrant.

Do you feel safer? Enjoy it while it lasts, because our recycling efforts will now get more difficult. Since lid-covered bins at the curb now carry a presumption of privacy, we’ll be unable to detect which households are not following current recycling rules. Entire truckloads of fouled recyclables will be redirected to the dump.

Who is still attempting to recycle grease-stained pizza boxes, or tissue paper, or unrinsed dog food cans? Who is guilty of mixing compost with metal and paper, or not noting the category number on plastics? We won’t know, and we can’t know. Their ignorance is now a matter of personal privacy.

Over time, this may doom commingled recycling in Oregon. Recyclers will host more centralized roundups, where they can scrutinize each arrival from each household before accepting it. Is this the future we see for ourselves in Oregon? The Oregon Supreme Court has set us on that path.

While Oregon judges were redefining the meaning of “thrown out,” Ohio judges were expanding privacies of a different stripe.

A federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled last month that tire-chalking by parking enforcement officials amounts to an unconstitutional search, violating the U.S. Constitution’s 4th amendment. The ruling applies only to Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee, but judicial interpretations sometimes spread to other jurisdictions.

Again, it’s easy to cheer for the little guy, who literally made a federal case out of tire-chalking. Except that what authorities will be forced to do instead will be worse. They may no longer be allowed to mark a vehicle’s tires with chalk, but other methods of surveillance will be allowed that are more intrusive and less obvious.

Photos will be taken of vehicles as they enter and exit a parking space, capturing much more than the tire’s placement on the pavement. License plates and photos of the vehicles’ inhabitants could become useful to authorities for other purposes. All this can be done without a telltale mark on the pavement that tells us we’re being watched.

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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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Duck Women Dominate 3×3 Basketball

May 10th, 2019 by dk
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When you get really good at something, you want to do it as often as you can. How else can you explain how Ruthy Hebard, Sabrina Ionescu, Oti Gildon, and Lydia Giomi spent last weekend in Las Vegas? The Oregon women won the USA Basketball 3×3 National gold medal for the second year in a row.

Last year, four Oregon Ducks proved that team chemistry matters more than individual skill by defeating all comers to represent the United States in the World 3×3 Championship. This year’s team had three of the same players, with Giomi replacing Erin Boley as the fourth.

It’s quite possible that you’ve never heard of 3×3 basketball, but the sport won’t go unnoticed much longer. Its Olympic debut in 2020, for both men and women, will introduce the sport to millions. The simplest way to describe 3×3 is street ball, minus the asphalt.

In almost every other way, the half-court game looks like the pick-up games that happened in your neighborhood and mine, wherever a basketball hoop was installed in a driveway. No coaches, no foul limits, first team to 21 wins. Each team has four players — three on the court and a sub.

The clock stops only for free throws, but the clock hardly matters at all. Both teams race to the magic number of 21 as fast as they can. Shots from behind the traditional 3-point arc are worth two points. All other shots and free throws are worth one point.

High score after 10 minutes wins, if neither side has reached 21 — because Mrs. Delaney won’t invite the neighborhood kids over for ice cream cones if her son Mark doesn’t make it home in time for dinner. (I made up that last part. It could have been added as a rule, except Mrs. Delaney died a couple decades ago.)

The sport is beginning to catch on. Some retired NBA players see it as a way to keep showing off their skills when their knees can no longer endure a traditional basketball game. Hip hop musician Ice Cube and others formed a professional league in 2017, initially limiting it to players 30 years old or older.

Here’s what I love about the game. There’s nothing to watch except the score. No coach planning match-ups or resting players. Players can’t foul out. The clock doesn’t matter, unless the game approaches the 10-minute mark.

Every fan gets a great view, because it’s played on a half court. There’s no break in the action until the game is done. It requires less endurance than a regular basketball game, so it’s a distillation of a team’s collective skill and love for the game. It’s a highlight reel, presented live.

Nobody should have been surprised that the Ruthy and Sabrina Show found another venue where their skill and love would beat all comers. Naturally, Ionescu was chosen the Most Valuable Player for the series for the second year in a row.

Coach Kelly Graves would probably invite Sabrina and her teammates over for ice cream cones, if he thought they needed any extra inspiration.

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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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Housing Affordability Plans Won’t Work; Focus Instead on Civic Pride

May 10th, 2019 by dk
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Eugene cannot remedy its affordable housing shortage for one simple reason. We won’t allow it. The only sure solutions — rent controls or endless subsidies — give government more control than we will surrender.

If affordability was all that mattered, a simple solution would be obvious. Start storing toxic waste downtown. Cheap housing would appear overnight, along with a few high-paying government jobs for people willing to wear hazmat suits. Simple isn’t always good.

Fortunately, city officials can encourage a broad spectrum of housing options by doing less than they are doing now. Loosening regulations slowly and watching how builders and buyers respond could go a long way toward promoting the sustainable infill that we say we desire.

The question then becomes, “How can we be sure market forces don’t move too quickly, upsetting what current residents value about their neighborhood’s character?” It’s a fair question, but, again, most easy answers invite heavy-handed government controls.

We’re back to the same conundrum. How do we guarantee citizens a wide array of housing choices without giving government officials Soviet-style authority to do the choosing for us?

It seems we have only two choices in this funhouse of residential economics — the roller coaster of market-driven pricing, or the merry-go-round of competing ideals. Either one will make your stomach churn if you can’t step away and clear your head for a while. Ready to try something completely different?

Here it comes: participatory budgeting projects.

These projects can create wonderfully unique points of neighborhood pride. If people want to stay where they are, market forces won’t tempt them to sell to higher bidders. Gentrification slows or stops completely. Neighborhoods become more resilient. I’ve seen it work in Rennes, France’s largest college town.

It could work like this. City leaders devote one-tenth of one percent of its general fund to participatory budgeting projects. That pot of money, $344,000, would be spread across Eugene’s 23 neighborhood association boundaries.

Each neighborhood would receive $15,000. How will residents spend that money to improve local livability and enhance neighborhood character? Proposals would come from residents, and it could be for anything at all.

A panel would vet each proposal, reviewing budget constraints, legal liabilities, and verifying technical qualifications. That’s the extent of government oversight, except to arrange a street fair where each neighborhood chooses which project they want funded.

This is done by giving every resident a bag of beans to be used in the voting. They can give a few beans to every project or they can give all their beans to the one they like best. A simple kitchen scale weighs the results at the end of the fair, and the funded project proceeds.

A neighborhood in Rennes loves its notable birdsong at dusk and dawn, so residents funded a birdhouse, outfitted with a microphone inside and a solar-powered speaker. Now everybody can hear baby birds nesting in the area, reminding residents every day why they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

We want affordability without sacrificing desirability. Each neighborhood has a unique story. Let them tell it. Participatory budgeting projects simply amplify those stories.

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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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Alley Valkyrie: Where is She Now?

May 5th, 2019 by dk
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Alley Valkyrie left Eugene five years ago this week, shortly after the homeless camp Whoville was shuttered and dismantled. Five years can pack plenty of changes into a 30-something’s life, so where is Valkyrie today? She’s living in France with her French musician husband and with her famously irascible cat, Squirrel.

Although our paths never officially crossed during her years in Eugene, I visited her recently in Rennes, France’s largest college town. She and her husband showed me around their adopted town and invited me to their favorite after-hours haunts.

Valkyrie clearly reveled in chatting with somebody whose verbs she could conjugate without effort. She’s learning French quickly, but she still thinks in English. That’s important, because Valkyrie thinks out loud better than most people I’ve ever met. Either that, or she had been saving her thoughts for the next native English speaker and I was the fortunate recipient.

Valkyrie was eking out a living in New York City as a street vendor in 2004, when she met some friendly activists affiliated with Cascadia Forest Defenders. They invited her to come to Oregon and participate in their tree-sit protest in the Willamette National Forest.

After three weeks in the forest, she came into town and stumbled on Saturday Market. She immediately knew two things, but only one of them consciously.

She knew that street vending her art could be easier, surrounded by a collective like Saturday Market. She saw that a few rules kept things organized, allowing a family of sharing and support to grow naturally. Somewhere inside, she also must have known a similar network was needed for Eugene’s homeless population.

Whoville provided that loosely organized system of support. In March, 2014, Valkyrie learned that the camp would be forcibly shut down in early April. She recruited a dozen sympathizers to enter City Manager Jon Ruiz’s office and then refused to leave. That was the bang she went out with. The protesters were arrested, though all charges later were dropped.

Valkyrie never wanted to be the leader and lightning rod she became for the homeless in Eugene. The notoriety and threats were more than her introverted spirit could sustain. “People I once considered friends wouldn’t look me in the eye anymore,” she told me. “I just had to get away.”

She settled in Portland five years ago this week. Two years ago, she moved to the Brittany region of France.

Brittany has always maintained a certain distance from Paris, partly by refusing to squelch its citizens’ separatist urges. The region’s history, culture and language have remained distinct. That suits Valkyrie just fine. Outliers will always be quicker to invite radical thoughts.

She believes the French government may prove to be more supple than America’s. France has had five constitutions and three revolutions over the past two centuries, while America is still working with its original model. She sees a future for herself in France, but there’s just one little problem.

She can’t make any trouble that might hurt her chances of gaining citizenship in a few years, but she won’t stop supporting the causes that animate her.

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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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