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

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

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Teamwork Taught By Women’s Basketball

March 1st, 2019 by dk
Respond

I’ve attended a dozen basketball games at Matthew Knight Arena in the past year. After watching the men’s team, I leave wishing I were a better athlete. After watching the women play, I want to be a better person.

The men seem to be playing for any pro scout in attendance or some videographer collecting material for a highlight reel. I feel like one of those people staged behind any politician making any grand announcement — part of the scenery. I could be replaced tomorrow if they teach potted plants to smile, or cheer.

It’s a different story with the women. The players make eye contact with familiar faces. Hugging somebody seated in the front row is not unheard of. When laud a player’s move, there’s a hint of an acknowledging smile. When the screen tells fans to “Make Noise,” it’s easy to believe it will make a difference. We feel heard.

Head Coach Kelly Graves and his players talk often and easily about themselves as family. Deep connections are being forged with one another and the crowd. Graves wants to “pack the Matt” tonight against the surging Utah Utes because his team needs the competitive edge of an excited crowd. We’ll be more than ready to “Make Noise.”

After any game is over, listen to whatever player rose to the top that night. No matter how hard the interviewer may try, they won’t accept praise for their own performance. Credit will always be passed to teammates, the coaches, or the fans. In other words, the players keep dishing out assists after the final buzzer sounds.

It’s no wonder this team logs more assists and fewer turnovers than almost any team in the nation. Ruthy Hebard and Sabrina Ionescu execute the pick-and-roll like a Las Vegas magician act. When Maite Cazorla passes the ball to Erin Boley’s hot hand, it looks like a life-sized video game.

Nobody cares to take credit, because Graves’ system is built to make everybody look good. Week after week, night after night, they’re showing the world what teamwork looks like.

It looks like fun. Opponents are respected. Referees, too. I haven’t seen a single Duck foul out this season. It’s a joy to watch them play a game they so clearly love.

Even the blow-outs have been fun to watch. Satou Sabally may unreel a spin move she’s never shown us before. Taylor Chavez might steal a ball with quick reflexes and mind control. Ionescu could log another record-breaking triple-double, putting more distance between her and every other college player, ever.

I have only one complaint, and it’s not with the players. The sports marketing department should retire the T-shirt cannon from women’s games. It’s overly militaristic for a game that features so much sharing. It malfunctions most of the time. The cheer team is perfectly capable of throwing far enough to reach most fans. They make eye contact before they throw, creating more connections.

Join us. Tickets are inexpensive and there’s free popcorn. If we make them a better team, maybe they help us become better people. Win, win.

==

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

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America Loves Strongman Leaders … Every 72 Years

February 1st, 2019 by dk
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Before the next presidential campaign cycle begins consuming all our attention, we should recognize an almost spooky pattern that has shaped our presidential elections. America has a secret soft spot for strongmen. We elect them every 72 years. Only four U.S. presidents have ever suspended habeas corpus protections — imprisoning Americans without a trial.. If you have 36 cents in your pocket, I can show you the faces of the first three.

George Washington has always been the father of the country, singular in prestige and power. He was first a general, imprisoning anyone not sympathetic to his campaigns. Few believed he would abide by our new government’s separation of powers.

England’s King George III saw Washington as a new king who would never walk away from power, telling a confidante that if he did, “He would be the greatest man who ever lived.” When Washington refused to accept a third term, he surprised everyone.

Seventy-two years after Washington became president, Abraham Lincoln entered the Oval Office. He had won only 40 percent of the popular vote. He was not a trusted name among the power elite. He couldn’t claim any sort of mandate, but he governed as if he’d been given one.

The young nation went to war with itself, and mercilessly so. President Lincoln imprisoned citizens without trial for the war for independence. The Civil War might have ended sooner and with less bloodshed, but Lincoln and his generals required nothing less than unconditional surrender.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed all southern slaves at once — no transition period, no reparations, no accommodations of any sort. Freedom for 3.1 million slaves in the rebel states was not negotiated — it was proclaimed. (Slaves from the four states and assorted territories that did not participate in the rebellion were not freed by Lincoln. They had to wait for the 13th amendment to pass, after Lincoln’s death.)

Imprisoning citizens without trial and Constitutional limits on executive power — America didn’t see these conditions again until after a new strongman won the presidency in 1933.

Seventy-two years after Lincoln’s first inauguration, the nation was again in turmoil, but this time the battle was economic. The Great Depression was ravaging the worker class. Franklin Delano Roosevelt immediately set the nation on a new course with a dizzying array of programs to protect workers.

A dozen years later, when popular fears about Japan’s aggressions rose, Roosevelt ordered over 100,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps — imprisoned without trial — “for their own protection” until the conclusion of World War II in 1946.

Just as Lincoln never saw all American slaves freed, Roosevelt died before the internment camps were closed.

Seventy-two years after FDR took office would take us to 2005, when President George W. Bush was imprisoning Americans without trial overseas and at home by recategorizing them as enemy combatants. George W. Bush is not yet featured on an American coin, but I wouldn’t bet a nickel against it happening someday.

If you prefer to count our 72-year strongman itch from the time Japanese Americans were given back their freedom, you’d be expecting to see a strongman in the White House right now.

==

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

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Franklin Corridor Makeover Has (Recent) History

February 1st, 2019 by dk
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The City of Eugene and the University of Oregon are charting a new course for Franklin Boulevard. They are seeking input from citizens at design discovery workshops next week, but are missing a bit of local history about Eugene’s signature gateway.

Residents can view early designs and provide feedback during open studio hours on Tuesday, Jan. 29, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Romania Building, 2020 Franklin Blvd. Related events are scheduled for Monday and Thursday evenings. Details are available at https://www.eugene-or.gov/Franklin.

The project’s website lists many supporting documents that will inform their work. It doesn’t include the most recent and focused study done, in part because the work did not culminate in a formal report. Instead, the group produced an eight-page pamphlet that summarized its findings. I pulled out my copy to review this week.

In 2007, the American Institute of Architects wanted to make a splash to celebrate its 150th anniversary. AIA solicited project proposals from its local chapters across the country as a massive effort to “give back” to its members, who would in turn give back to their local communities.

Under the leadership of local chapter president Artemio Paz, AIA Southwestern Oregon received one of the largest grants given. Lane Transit District, University of Oregon, and the cities of Eugene and Springfield matched the association’s funding for the Franklin Corridor Riverfront Study of 2007.

I was hired to help a dozen local design leaders guide the project. We reached beyond the usual suspects by leafleting residents and business owners in the area. We used lawn signs to attract commuters. We hosted multiple events that were open to all comers.

A full year of community conversations was distilled to this brief vision statement: “The Franklin Riverfront Corridor will be a dynamic place worth visiting — not just a place to pass through. Historically a natural river course, later paralleled by key transportation links, it should now be a place for people.

“It is a sustainable place, announced by gateways, with a public waterfront, with ‘green fingers’ extending into the community. Mixed-use buildings line the multi-way boulevard that safely accommodates pedestrians, bikes, cars, and public transit. It is a coherent place united by our collaboration.”

We didn’t produce a comprehensive report, but we did share our findings with the world. The Franklin Corridor Riverfront Study was highlighted as featured content by Google Earth in 2008.

Much has happened across this stretch of land since 2007. EWEB’s riverfront property is being redeveloped. One housing tower has been built and another is on the way. Phil and Penny Knight have underwritten a billion-dollar campus addition, including a skybridge over Franklin. Matthew Knight Arena, Ford Alumni Center, and Jaqua Center gleam along the route.

A new I-5 bridge carries traffic across the Willamette River. Hotels are rising in Glenwood, along a reconfigured boulevard with roundabouts and local access lanes. None of this is incompatible with the vision that was forged a dozen years ago for Eugene’s, Springfield’s, the University of Oregon’s, and the people’s Franklin Corridor.

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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 was executive director for AIA-SWO from 2007 until 2014.

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Duck Women’s Hoops: A Basket of Delightfuls

February 1st, 2019 by dk
Respond

I’ve attended a dozen basketball games at Matthew Knight Arena in the past year. After watching the men’s team, I leave wishing I were a better athlete. After watching the women play, I want to be a better person.

The men seem to be playing for any pro scout in attendance or some videographer collecting material for a highlight reel. I feel like one of those people staged behind any politician making any grand announcement — part of the scenery. I could be replaced tomorrow if they teach potted plants to smile, or cheer.

It’s a different story with the women. The players make eye contact with familiar faces. Hugging somebody seated in the front row is not unheard of. When fans laud a player’s move, there’s a hint of an acknowledging smile. When the screen tells fans to “Make Noise,” it’s easy to believe it will make a difference. We feel heard.

Head Coach Kelly Graves and his players talk often and easily about themselves as family. Deep connections are being forged with one another and the crowd. Graves wants to “pack the Matt” tonight against the surging Utah Utes because his team needs the competitive edge of an excited crowd. We’ll be more than ready to “Make Noise.”

After any game is over, listen to whatever player rose to the top that night. No matter how hard the interviewer may try, they won’t accept praise for their own performance. Credit will always be passed to teammates, the coaches, or the fans. In other words, the players keep dishing out assists after the final buzzer sounds.

It’s no wonder this team logs more assists and fewer turnovers than almost any team in the nation. Ruthy Hebard and Sabrina Ionescu execute the pick-and-roll like a Las Vegas magician act. When Maite Cazorla passes the ball to Erin Boley’s hot hand, it looks like a life-sized video game.

Nobody cares to take credit, because Graves’ system is built to make everybody look good. Week after week, night after night, they’re showing the world what teamwork looks like.

It looks like fun. Opponents are respected. Referees, too. I haven’t seen a single Duck foul out this season. It’s a joy to watch them play a game they so clearly love.

Even the blow-outs have been fun to watch. Satou Sabally may unreel a spin move she’s never shown us before. Taylor Chavez might steal a ball with quick reflexes and mind control. Ionescu could log another record-breaking triple-double, putting more distance between her and every other college player, ever.

I have only one complaint, and it’s not with the players. The sports marketing department should retire the T-shirt cannon from women’s games. It’s overly militaristic for a game that features so much sharing. It malfunctions most of the time. The cheer team is perfectly capable of throwing far enough to reach most fans. They make eye contact before they throw, creating more connections.

Join us. Tickets are inexpensive and there’s free popcorn. If we make them a better team, maybe they help us become better people. Win, win.

==

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

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How to Soften Eugene’s Parking Price Hike

February 1st, 2019 by dk
Respond

Eugene’s parking rates are going up. There may not have been an official announcement yet, but the conclusion is foregone. Deferred maintenance bills are coming due. Car-pooling and public transit should be encouraged. Parking hikes do that.

Downtown has filled up as an employment center. The city no longer feels a need to incentivize downtown employers with discounted parking permits. It’s not unusual for one of the parking garages to be full for parts of the day. That never used to happen.

If ever a price increase was good news, this is it. But price increases are never good news. Those handing over extra nickels and dimes will not be in the mood to celebrate downtown’s resurgence. We’re just not wired that way.

Savvy businesses soften that emotional blow by mixing the message: “Your new phone will cost more, but we’re giving you more color choices.” “Our hamburger prices have gone up, but our buns are now organic and we’re making our own pickles.” “We raised the ticket prices, allowing us to invite schoolchildren to attend, free of charge.”

Parking doesn’t lend itself to value-add messaging. You park, you pay. There’s not much more to it. Improved lighting, enhanced signage, and updated elevators are about all the city can offer. Most parking is free in the evenings, so there are no real opportunities there.

Or are there?

The University of Oregon is dotted with small parking lots, and most require a permit during the day. Most of these lots are free for the public to use in the evenings. The city of Eugene has done the same with its garages. Most downtown surface lots are privately owned, reserved for employees to use during the day, and empty every night.

If Eugene wants to add more bustle to its downtown, there’s plenty of room to grow during the evening hours. Adding more surface parking options would make downtown a more attractive destination for more people. Some don’t feel safe navigating a parking garage at night and don’t want to hunt for on-street parking.

Restaurants and theaters at the city center would love to be able to see more patrons after dark. More parking options would certainly help. Banks and other businesses with empty parking lots is not a good look. We can fix that.

The city would rent the privately held lots for the evening hours. The city would carry liability insurance, hire a security and maintenance crew, and guarantee that each lot would be empty and clean before employees arrived for work the next morning.

It wouldn’t be an easy transition for many business owners, but the city has leverage. Leaders could make it easier for nighttime businesses to approach nearby daytime businesses to share resources. Restaurant A gets free parking after dark. Call Center B gets employee lunch discounts.

City Council could get more aggressive. Using a variant of its anti-blight powers, downtown businesses could be forced to open their empty spaces for the public benefit. Downtown can become more inviting to more people for more hours every week. Changes in parking policies and rates can help.

==

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

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Trump’s Negotiating Tricks Are Limited

January 20th, 2019 by dk
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Donald Trump may or may not have unique negotiating skills. He has sold himself as a consummate deal maker since his first best-selling book, “The Art of the Deal.” The past month has shown that his experience isn’t serving him well in Washington, DC.

Trump’s negotiating strategies shined where he had something unique that somebody else wanted. It might be a condo with a view of the ocean, a hotel room with top-end room service, a worldwide brand name, or an apprentice position that included some television fame.

In every case, Trump held not only the high cards, he also owned the table below the cards and the lighting above them. If the cards themselves didn’t guarantee success, he could always dim the lights or pound the table.

Trump learned early in his career that information is power. He could dim the lights with unverifiable claims, asserting that he recently sold a similar unit for a lot more money.

Or he could shift attention from the cards to the table: “Don’t you wish you had a table like this one? Wouldn’t it be nice if you were as rich and powerful and famous as me?” Once he received the slightest nod, he’d shift into a whisper tone, confiding that this little purchase will be a great first step toward that imagined success.

Potential buyers would perceive “special access” as value-added, sweetening the pot — even though it was based on unfounded assertions (from Trump) and unarticulated emotions (from the buyer.) Trump allowed vanity to silently support his logic.

That logic always led to the same spot and the same line: “Take it or leave it.” The ultimatum increases the asymmetrical burden. If the deal collapsed, Trump walked away, having lost only the time and attention he invested. He would blithely move on to the next big deal awaiting his artful touch.

Trump’s shutdown and its related antics are his attempt to create a “take it or leave it” asymmetry. It’s failing.

The strategy won’t work with members of Congress, diplomats, and other proxy agents. They have secure jobs with reliable incomes. Whether the deal succeeds or fails will have no measurable effect on them. Compliance is not their only option.

No member of Congress worries about shouldering more than 1/535th of the blame for any political outcome. There’s almost no room in Washington for the zero-sum logic that animates Trump and his worldview. In Washington, there aren’t many corners to be painted into.

His own cabinet members and special advisors may owe him fealty in ways that mirror “The Apprentice,” but he’s never before had the burden of replacing those he has fired, much less requiring the approval of the Senate.

So he’s picking on the most vulnerable people he can control — his own federal employees. Civil service has traditionally offered some of the most well-protected jobs in the nation, but President Trump is using their misfortune to motivate others to give him the deal he desires.

Will it work? Probably not, but it’s the only trick Trump knows.

==

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

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Our Bipolar Presidential Election History

January 19th, 2019 by dk
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Those who care most about a horse race are not the ones who win or lose money on the results. The most invested are those who feed and train the horses when others aren’t looking. The horses are usually not racing. With that in mind, before the 2020 presidential race shapes up, let’s consider how the racers have shaped us.

Since Eisenhower’s victory in 1952, the White House shifts between parties every eight years. The only two interruptions of this rhythm can be attributed to Ronald Reagan. He swept Carter from office after one term. His vice president, George H.W. Bush, followed him, but for only one term.

Apart from Reagan’s magnetism, our presidential elections have swung from left to right with metronomic regularity for 64 years. Rather than picking winners for the next horse race, let’s look more closely at the track, and how the curves affect our daily lives.

What happens to daily life when the ideals of one party are left to be regulated and enforced by the other party? The disconnects are sharpest when power shifts from Democratic to Republican.

Democrats love to make rules that will better people’s lives. Republicans love to cut taxes and trim the budgets of those charged with enforcing rules. The ideal that informed the original rule fades as societal norms shift in response without attendant regulations.

Our recent political history paints a nation that is less polarized than bi-polarized.

Carter had a plan to de-institutionalize the mentally ill. He cut construction funds for large mental hospitals. He was voted out of office before he could fully fund community-based solutions that were deemed more humane than warehousing patients. Reagan came into office with other priorities, so the money set aside for housing the mentally ill was used elsewhere. But by then, nobody wanted to return to mental hospitals. So nothing was done, and homelessness slowly grew into the epidemic it has become.

Clinton believed that Wall Street had demonstrated its unique power to create wealth in America, so he loosened the regulations on banks and investment firms. His administration kept watchdogs in place, but those watchdogs found their leashes tightened or their teeth removed when George W. Bush came to office.

It’s too soon to know what big changes Obama will be forced to watch undone by his Republican successor. Attempts to weaken the Affordable Care Act continue, but its fate is not yet in any clear jeopardy. A smaller initiative may offer more immediate clarity.

Obama loosened regulations for service dogs to in certain cases include pets that provide other sorts of help, including emotional support. It didn’t take long for people to misunderstand the ideal of equal access and assert for themselves a government-sanctioned right to non-human companionship everywhere they go.

Who will interpret and enforce the federal government’s new regulations about service animals? Not this president. Trump is the first White House resident without a dog since William McKinley died in office in 1901. President McKinley kept several kittens, roosters and a parrot.

==

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

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Nation Should Hear Oregon’s Primary Concerns

January 18th, 2019 by dk
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The Oregon Legislature convenes its 2019 legislative session on Tuesday. Legislators’ early attention naturally turns to small or simple ideas. We already have a state bird and a state nut and a state this and a state that. Some in the capital call this Salem’s “silly season.” I think of it like a body clearing its throat, hearing itself for the first time in months, finding its collective voice.

I believe our state’s collective voice will sound best in the current political climate as it joins the other Pacific coastline states’ voices. As our Senators and Representatives go looking for that low-hanging legislative fruit that ripens every odd-numbered winter, they should look at what our neighbors are pursuing.

I suggested that Oregon should follow California’s lead on clock-setting — either eliminating Daylight Saving Time or keeping it year-round. Joining California as a co-petitioner will strengthen the case for federal approval. Even better if Washington joins us. We move strongest when we move together. That’s just the beginning.

Oregon and Washington have earned reputations for innovative governance. California has followed us on a variety of cutting-edge issues — assisted suicide, recreational marijuana, voter registration reform, minimum wage increases.

Let’s ride California’s expansive coattails on other matters. Here’s one example: California is moving its presidential primary in 2020 from June to March. Oregon should follow, but at a safe distance.

The 2020 presidential election season is shaping up as an anti-Donald donnybrook. There may be two dozen Democrats vying for the nomination. President Trump may draw a challenger or two. Each candidate will be accompanied by reporters and film crews, eager to convey to the country what each successive state cares about. Why wouldn’t Oregon want some of that attention?

California will vote on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, though in truth, most California ballots will be cast in February. Absentee ballots are readily available and used by 60 to 70 percent of primary voters in California. That number in Oregon is a nice, round 100.

I checked the Oregon Constitution and it does not set a date for primary elections. It also doesn’t set a day of the week, which mattered to voters back when standing in line was required. Any Tuesday in early March will be crowded, leaving a small state like ours overlooked by candidates and the media covering them.

But if we moved our presidential primary election day to Thursday, March 5, 2020 — two days after Super Tuesday — we’d lead the national election coverage for the second half of that week. Wednesday: where next? Thursday: what now? Friday: who won? (Coverage will then quickly move on to Louisiana, where voters will line up to vote on Saturday, March 7.)

Two or three days of uninterrupted attention is about as much as Oregon could bear — or, frankly, deserves. I’d like to watch how film crews convey Oregon’s vote-by-mail system to the rest of the country on their national broadcasts. More importantly, we’d hear from candidates and they’d hear from us during what could be the most consequential campaign of our lifetimes.

==

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

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Gavel is Now in DeFazio’s Hand

January 18th, 2019 by dk
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U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio could have just about any Congressional office he prefers, but he’s happy with his corner of the Rayburn Office Building. It’s on the second floor, which affords a bit of privacy, and the balcony is large enough to offer group photos with the Capitol dome as a backdrop.

Congressional perks are often doled out by seniority. Corner offices are not least among them. DeFazio has regaled constituents with that corner balcony view for more than a decade. DeFazio is the longest serving Representative ever from Oregon.

He arrived in 1987, replacing Jim Weaver — for whom he had previously been an aide. He’s beginning his 17th term this month, sharing the eighth spot on the House seniority list with civil rights icon John Lewis and Michigan Republican Fred Upton.

Only three Democrats and four Republicans have served longer. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi came to Washington several months after DeFazio. When the 116th United States Congress convened last week, DeFazio will be given something he’s never had in Washington: a gavel.

DeFazio now chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, controlling budget and procedural debates for the government’s massive investments in transit connectivity. DeFazio has had his party’s seniority on four of its subcommittees, but now he will oversee the entire committee’s work.

During a time when infrastructure investment is getting dangerously overdue, his committee’s work will be vitally important in the years ahead. If President Trump’s olive branch to the Democratic House includes a revival of his promised $1 trillion infrastructure initiative, those twelve zeroes will be crossing DeFazio’s desk.

It’s about time.

“Public service” is sometimes overused to explain why politicians run for office, but this much is true. Every elected official comes to Washington hoping to somehow make a difference.

The truth is a Congressional seat offers five different paths to wielding substantial influence in Washington. The first three have very little to do with lawmaking, and the fourth has too much. DeFazio has pursued the fifth.

First, you can crisscross the country, raising funds and recruiting candidates for your party — as U.S. Rep. Greg Walden has done. Second, you can join your party’s legislative leadership team, whipping votes and setting legislative calendars. Third, you can make yourself available to the media to speak on your party’s behalf at a moment’s notice. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has chosen this route.

Fourth, you can leave Congress and become a lobbyist — offering to write or reshape legislation that will benefit your clients. Former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith plays this role for the National Association of Broadcasters.

Or, fifth, you can show up for work and keep showing up. You must earn your colleagues’ respect, because seniority alone won’t get you a chairmanship. The majority on the committee must vote for you and your party must hold the majority.

Being the ranking member of the minority party, as DeFazio has been for several terms, doesn’t count for much these days. Bipartisanship has fallen far out of favor.

Only the gavel matters. And that’s what’s now in DeFazio’s hand.

==

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

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DeFazio Has a New Tool in This Congress

January 12th, 2019 by dk
Respond

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio could have his pick of Congressional offices, but he likes his corner of the Rayburn Office Building. It’s on the second floor, which affords a bit of privacy. The balcony is large enough to offer group photos with the Capitol dome as a backdrop.

Congressional perks often are doled out by seniority. Corner offices are not least among them. DeFazio has regaled constituents with that corner balcony view for more than a decade. DeFazio is the longest serving Representative ever from Oregon.

He arrived in 1987, replacing Jim Weaver — for whom he had previously been an aide. He’s beginning his 17th term this month. He shares the eighth spot on the House seniority list with civil rights icon John Lewis and Michigan Republican Fred Upton.

Only three Democrats and four Republicans have served longer. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi came to Washington several months after DeFazio. When the 116th United States Congress convened last week, DeFazio was given something he’s never had in Washington: a gavel.

DeFazio now chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He controls the budget and procedural debates for the government’s massive investments in transit connectivity. DeFazio has had his party’s seniority on four of its subcommittees. Now he will oversee the entire committee’s work.

Infrastructure investment is getting dangerously overdue. DeFazio’s committee work will be vitally important in the years ahead. President Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure initiative during his campaign. If it happens, those twelve zeroes will be crossing DeFazio’s desk.

It’s about time.

“Public service” is sometimes overused to explain why politicians run for office, but this much is true. Every elected official comes to Washington hoping to somehow make a difference.

A Congressional seat offers five different paths to wielding substantial influence in Washington. The first three have very little to do with lawmaking, and the fourth has too much. DeFazio has pursued the fifth.

First, you can crisscross the country, raising funds and recruiting candidates for your party. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden has done this. Second, you can join your party’s legislative leadership team, whipping votes and setting legislative calendars. Third, you can make yourself available to the media at a moment’s notice. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has chosen this route.

Fourth, you can leave Congress and become a lobbyist, writing or shaping legislation to benefit your clients. Former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith plays this role for the National Association of Broadcasters.

Or, fifth, you can show up for work and keep showing up. You must earn your colleagues’ respect. Seniority alone won’t get you a chairmanship. The majority on the committee must vote for you and your party must hold the majority.

Being the ranking member of the minority party doesn’t count for much these days. Bipartisanship has fallen far out of favor since DeFazio first came to town.

Only the gavel matters now. And that’s what’s now in DeFazio’s hand.

==

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

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