26 Feb

Higher ed still hasn’t caught up — to 2007

It’s a sign of the problems higher education has getting the legislature’s attention that earlier this month, a pro-college demonstration by hundreds of students on the steps of the Capitol came at a time when lawmakers were somewhat distracted.

The same day, the governor was quitting.

Timing is everything – and in Salem, it rarely seems to be the time for higher education.

The subject is more likely to come up when the Legislature is looking for places to cut spending. Last year, the Center on Budget and Public Policy in Washington, D.C., calculated higher ed cuts by each state over the course of the recession, 2008-2914, and found that Oregon slashed its spending at the fourth fastest pace in the country, by 37.9 percent. Considering the state’s low position to start with, the move dropped the state from 46th in higher ed support to 47th.

We’re running out of states beneath us.

Meanwhile, back at the recovering state budget, just about all state programs have regained pre-recession levels, except for higher education. With inflation and increased enrollment, the seven university presidents calculated a $755 million appropriation to make the system whole – always a relative term around here – and neither the former governor’s budget nor the new Ways and Means co-chairs’ budget gets even close to $700 million.

This gave the students a lot to discuss with the legislators, except that day everybody was watching not higher ed but lower ethics.

Plus we’re a year closer to 2025, the year when Oregon is supposed to have 40 percent of its adults with at least a four-year degree and another 40 percent with at least a two-year degree or a skill certificate.

“Part of what we have to do,” said Oregon State president Ed Ray recently, “is make sure we match the rhetoric with resources.”
In higher education, matching rhetoric with resources has never been Oregon’s major.

To Portland State president Wim Wiewel, even $755 million wouldn’t get the system and his university back to the pre-recession per-student support level – and it’s a long way from a real 40-40-20 strategy, which would require increasing student population by 25 percent.

Moreover, the additional students, not previously on a straight college path, would be more expensive for universities to attract and support to graduation – which is not a theoretical issue.
“If we don’t get them out of the door to a degree,” says Oregon Tech president Chris Maples, “they’re worse off than if they hadn’t gone to college.”

Because even without a degree, they have acquired debt.
These days, the state has set off on another higher ed strategy, deconstructing the state university system and giving each institution its own board of trustees. The effort was driven by the University of Oregon with the expectation, which seems to be working out, that it could raise a lot more in private contributions on its own.

Nobody expects this to be true of the four smaller universities, Western Oregon, Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon and Maples’ Oregon Tech, with limited fund-raising capacity and a loss of significant support services previously provided by the statewide system. Millions in increased costs put a sizable additional burden on institutions already seriously squeezed, especially Eastern and Southern.

The four TRUs (technical and regional universities) together enroll about 20,000 students, close to the equivalent of one of the state’s three major universities. They draw a larger percentage of first-generation and place-bound students; another financial strategy unavailable to them is attracting large numbers of non-Oregonians ready to pay lucrative out-of-state tuition.

In addition, points out Maples, “It costs more to do things in rural settings,” which can lack services such as public transit.
Asked about the additional challenges to the TRUs, Ray says, “I think they should be worried. I think I’m the only guy who said we should not take the system apart.”

Wiewel agrees that the previous system involved considerable hidden subsidies to the smaller universities, in areas such as insurance and payroll services. He doesn’t object to the support, but declares. “It’s not reasonable to say that students at PSU should pay for that.”

Protecting the regionals would be a vital part of any 40-40-20 strategy, as well as recognizing the system resources that would be required. But before even thinking about that, Oregon would need to get its higher education support level back up to what it was in 2007 – back when we at least knew it was inadequate.

And maybe the next time students rally at the Capitol, they can address the same governor all day.

NOTE; This column appeared in The Oregonian, 2/25/15.

23 Feb

A swearing-in that just wants to return to normal

SALEM – This time, no procession.

The installation of an Oregon governor is a ceremonial occasion, with the Senate formally welcomed to the House chamber and the state’s high-level judges, statewide elected officials, former governors and ultimately the incoming executive himself (or, sometimes, herself) escorted down the House aisle by a legislative honor guard. For the last inaugural – exactly, and unbelievably, just five weeks ago – John Kitzhaber’s ceremony had everything but apes and peacocks.

Wednesday, Kate Brown’s inauguration had none of that. What it had was a pervasive sense of relief, swirling around the Capitol like a sunrise.

Last month, Kitzhaber delivered a lengthy, eloquent inaugural address, deep with vision and policy objectives. Kate Brown offered a much briefer message, less about a distant horizon to be imagined, more about land mines to be avoided – many of them exploding over the past weeks, others going off that very morning.

“I pledge to you today that for as long as I am your governor, I will not seek or accept any outside compensation, from any source,” Brown declared, speaking to the circumstances that had just made her governor. “And I pledge further that while I am governor, the members of my household and the members of my staff will not seek or accept any outside compensation, from any source, for any work related to the business of the state of Oregon.”

Brown’s pledge was underlined by the appearance of Willamette Week story that morning, revealing emails from Kitzhaber showing him trying to limit an ethics investigation and from his companion Cylvia Hayes laying plans to maximize her public and private income from Kitzhaber’s fourth term.

“Oregon has been in the national news for all the wrong reasons,” said Brown in her brief remarks, and the press gallery was jammed in a way none of the more elaborate ceremonies were able to draw, jammed with high-tech cameras and out-of-state notebooks.

To the national media, the story was about a governor’s sudden collapse, or the first U.S. governor with a bisexual background – a point that House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, also made in her congratulatory statement. In Oregon, it was about what seemed a Capitol-wide effort to reclaim credibility for state government, including what may be the first governor’s inaugural address to stress a faster response to Freedom of Information requests.

“You heard her talk a lot about what I’ve been saying about transparency,” said Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, after the ceremony. Moreover, “She came to my district to talk about it, to a little coffee shop in West Linn. She didn’t have to do that.”

It was a moment when everyone was reaching for a bipartisan moment – after saying he would skip the ceremony, Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, agreed to attend, although he insisted he wasn’t endorsing anything Democratic. Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, recalled working with Brown to organize the 15-15 Senate in 2003, and expressed confidence in being able to work with Brown again.

The installation of the second woman governor of Oregon seemed to set off a bipartisan stir among legislative women. “Look at all the women in state leadership,” said Rep. Jennifer Wlliamson, D-Portland, a list that now includes the governor, the attorney general, the House speaker and the majority leaders of both houses. Nobody knows if this arrangement will produce any greater cooperation, but people were eager to look for some anywhere.

A range of crosscurrents cut through the Capitol Wednesday. Unlike the typical pattern, the new governor was arriving in the midst of a legislative session, with bills and the budget already advancing, and the new Gov. Brown trying to jump onto a streetcar already speeding along. The building had all the ingredients of a hyperpoliticized feel; Brown would have to file for election just one year and one month after taking office, and run again two years after that. With the next open governor’s election suddenly receding from 2018 to 2022, other hopefuls might run out of patience.

But the hope at the Capitol Wednesday was that Oregon politics could now somehow return to something that could qualify as ordinary, even if ordinary included Democrats and Republicans calling each other names and Democrats elbowing each other on the way to a primary. That included the hope that a governor who knows state government but has an ordinary domestic relationship, with someone completely unconnected with state government, might get us there.

At Wednesday’s installation, even the benediction was shorter.

And hopefully, not as badly needed.

NOTE: Thisa column appeared in the Sunday Ore4gonian, 2/22/15.

23 Feb

Brown, urban Dem, needs to hear some country

Like any new governor, Kate Brown’s first assignment is to reach out.

In this case, out from Salem, out from Portland.

For decades, there’s been a widening gap between metropolitan Portland and the rest of the state, a gap intensified by economic recovery in Portland and persistent recession elsewhere. Rural resentment has been strengthened by so much of the state’s elected leadership coming from Portland.

John Kitzhaber, with his Roseburg roots and his cowboy boots, could cover some of that distance. Kate Brown, from inner southeast Portland and a former Democratic party leader in the state Senate, will have to try a little harder.

Especially after the legislature finishes, that will require her being a physical presence around the state, in Grants Pass and Prineville and Pendleton. In this session, it means reaching out to and working with the legislators from those areas, almost all Republicans.

That means looking out for economic development opportunities for rural areas. If there’s a transportation package, it has to include the concerns of Eastern and Southern Oregon. In higher education, it means concern for the regional universities in Klamath Falls, Ashland, Monmouth and La Grande.

Kate Brown can do all this. And now that she’s governor of the entire state, she’ll have to.

NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 2/21/15.

23 Feb

Linking urban, rural Oregon a Pearl of an idea

Among all the unfathomable aspects of the past week in Oregon, leading to Wednesday’s installation of a new governor, one seemed particularly striking.

With a Democratic governor badly wounded, Republicans did not lead the call for his finish. In fact, they seemed reluctant to see it happen.
Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, originally suggested he could not attend Kate Brown’s swearing-in. House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Prineville, mourned the “good working relationship” Republicans had with the departing John Kitzhaber, and McLane said the governor had deserved to make his own decision on leaving.

He expressed concern about Brown and “Portland’s left, or liberal, interests,” and warned, “Oregon needs to be served by folks who have all of our interests at heart, not simply who attends the best restaurants in the Pearl District.”

Disgruntlement from rural Oregon is understandable; at the moment, both U.S. senators, the governor, secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general are all Portland Democrats, giving the state leadership about the same diversity as the Portland City Council.

Since 1987, every Oregon governor has had a Portland voting address.
But Kitzhaber, although currently a Portlander who chose to commute from Portland to Salem rather than live in the governor’s mansion, did represent Roseburg in the legislature for 16 years. He retained and cultivated timber connections, and an interest in fishing and belt buckles not universal in Northwest Portland. Republicans don’t see that connection with Brown, who lives in the inner eastside Portland area known to political consultants as the Kremlin.

But whatever the politics of Happy Hour in the Pearl, it’s a mistake to divide Oregonians into the people who grow food and the people who eat it.

Food, in fact, is becoming an increasingly important connective tendon across an Oregon urban-rural gap that’s been widening for 30 years. Portland’s food world, far from a dismissal of the rest of the state, actually looks outward toward it.

If Oregon’s elected leadership were as widely regionally sourced as Portland menus, rural Oregon might feel less alienated from developments in the state Capitol.

(Nor is this just a question of Portland, let alone the Pearl. In Bend, right next to McLane’s Prineville district, restaurant people would bridle at the idea that all of Oregon’s elevated Northwest cuisine is served within a fork’s throw of light rail.)

The Pearl may not be anybody’s idea of a direct pipeline to rural Oregon. But the Carman Ranch beef at Park Kitchen, the Draper Valley chicken at Irving Street Kitchen, the Oregon cheeses on the list at Bluehour and the Columbia Valley fruits marking each dessert chef’s nightly special all represent the kinds of interconnections useful in state government. The rising tide of Oregon wines, which hardly ever come from vineyards next door to gelato shops, reflect a whole additional set of ties to other parts of the state.

The links go back a long ways, symbolized by chef Greg Higgins, back when he was at the Heathman Hotel in the 1980s, establishing his own connections to farmers and listing the farms on his menu. (At his own restaurant, Higgins has become a national spokesman for farm-to-fork.) Now, diners in the Pearl and lots of other places expect their menus to include the arugula’s home address.

And restaurants, in Northwest Portland or elsewhere, are just a part of the connection. The explosion of farmer’s markets, not just dozens in the Portland area but all around the state, has provided a new visibility and even some income to people who don’t live inside Urban Growth Boundaries.

The prospect for this link are becoming only more promising. The projected James Beard Public Market on Portland’s riverfront, according to executive director Ron Paul, would create 200 jobs in Portland and 100 in rural Oregon. It’s not exactly a replacement for the timber industry, but it represents a powerful commonality of interest that should – but doesn’t always – connect the Pearl and Prineville.

Nobody thinks it’s the entire economic destiny of rural Oregon to pump produce to Portland. But there is an increasing connection across the state, built of Carlton pork belly and Bendistillery gin, that can be harder to find in the building where voters send legislators to try to work together.

It might even make more sense, as a statewide unifying event, if a legislative opening or governor’s swearing-in were marked less by speeches than by a dinner.

Maybe even a dinner in the Pearl.

As Rodney King didn’t quite say, can’t we all just order from the same menu?

NOTE: This column appeared in The Oregonian, 2/18/15.

16 Feb

Kitzhaber: The loner ended up alone

For most of his political career, John Kitzhaber was known as a loner, a cowboy-booted contradiction to the image of the chummy politician, someone who made the lone, don’t-look-back decisions of the emergency room doctor. After each legislative session, over three decades, Kitzhaber gave the impression of riding off into the sunset.

But he had never been as alone as he seemed Thursday afternoon, as his fellow state Democratic leaders, one by one, slipped away from his barricades, some with statements previously unimaginable in the genteel world of Oregon politics. By the end, it seemed the only one left by Kitzhaber’s side was the first lady – whom he had previously banished from any public role.

It was hard to imagine that it was only six weeks since Kitzhaber marched down the center aisle of the Oregon House of Representatives to his unprecedented fourth swearing-in as governor. At that point, he was unquestionably the center of the Oregon political universe, surrounded by the entire legislature and statewide officials, delivering what was considered one of his best speeches.

Now, not two weeks into the legislature with the widest Democratic majorities of his times as governor, it seems Kitzhaber’s last landmark event will be his disastrous press conference at the end of January, when he asked for questions and then couldn’t answer them.

In his first two terms, Kitzhaber’s loner persona served his purpose, as he stood against Republican legislatures and set Oregon records for gubernatorial vetoes. Even occasional outbursts of prickliness just seemed to confirm his Clint Eastwood, M.D. image. Kitzhaber’s popularity ran so strong that he publicly toyed with challenging his chosen successor, Ted Kulongoski, when Kulongoski sought re-election in 2006.

In his third term, Kitzhaber propelled health, education and PERS overhauls through the legislature. Facing re-election, he seemed so strong that only Rep. Dennis Richardson wanted to run against him – a situation helpful to Kitzhaber when the Cylvia Hayes issue erupted in October. Kitzhaber’s poll standings dropped, but he had a big enough lead to survive.

Entering his fourth term last month, Kitzhaber was marking three decades of Oregon Democratic leadership, since he became Senate president in 1985. He even seemed happier, after 10 years with Cylvia Hayes.

Which, of course, turned out to be the problem – especially since there seemed to be a steadily dwindling number of people in the governor’s office who could warn him things were getting out of hand.
And last week, the fall – and the sudden isolation – was thunderous, as each of Kitzhaber’s fellow state leaders peeled away.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum replied to Kitzhaber’s request to begin an investigation with a crisp note saying that she already had begun a criminal probe – and a wholly appropriate rejection of his request to meet with her privately on the investigation.

Tuesday, Kitzhaber told Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek that he proposed to resign – they didn’t try to talk him out of it – and called Secretary of State Kate Brown, next in line for his job, to come back early from a Washington, D.C., conference.

Then on Wednesday, he changed his mind, after consulting only with Hayes and his lawyer – demonstrating a Nixon’s final days level of isolation.

Thursday morning, Brown issued perhaps the most unimaginable statement in the history of Oregon politics. She related that in her meeting with Kitzhaber, after she had hurriedly flown back at his request, “He asked me why I came back early from Washington, DC, which I found strange.” Kitzhaber then told her he wasn’t resigning, but began to discuss transition.

In all, concluded Brown, “This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.”

Now the state was faced with the idea of Kitzhaber not only having serious legal problems, but operating somewhere well off the coast of reality.

Thursday afternoon, state Treasurer Ted Wheeler called for Kitzhaber to resign, saying the situation was “untenable” and that the governor needed to “do the right thing for the citizens of the state.”

The same day, Courtney and Kotek again met the governor, and this time they were the ones saying that he had to go. Kitzhaber’s chief of staff and legislative liaison reportedly departed, possibly concluding there was no point being advisors to someone apparently isolated beyond advice.

In his resignation statement Friday, Kitzhaber took angry exception “on a very personal level” to the reality “that so many of my former allies in common cause have been willing to simply accept this judgment at its face value.”

The loner had finally become monumentally alone.

That keeps happening in politics:

Eventually, the image becomes reality.

NOTE: This column appeared in The Sunday Oregonian, 2/15/15.

13 Feb

Prescriptions for rebuilding roads all face potholes

For years, Peter DeFazio has called for a major federal effort on transportation infrastructure. The Oregon congressman has complained about shrinking federal investment compared with crumbling roads and bridges, and about administrations of both parties failing to produce the kind of multiyear transportation programs that once threw interstate highways across a continent.

Now, DeFazio is ranking minority member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and President Obama’s budget calls for $478 billion in infrastructure spending.

Yet DeFazio isn’t happy.

“The administration has consistently paid lip service to the need to invest in transportation,” he says. “They still have not proposed a realistic way to pay for it.”

For decades, federal gas tax revenues have paid for the government’s transportation projects. But the tax hasn’t been raised for 21 years, and with higher-mileage cars, hybrids and electrics, revenues have been steadily dropping, while the system’s potholes have been steadily growing. The Obama budget proposes to make up the difference with a one-time 14 percent tax on hundreds of billions of dollars in overseas profits that U.S. companies have not brought home to avoid paying the corporate tax rate.

To DeFazio, “There is a minus chance that the Republicans will ever look at that.”
And with Republicans in firm control of both houses, we’re back where we started – except the roads have gotten worse.

The American Society of Civil Engineers – admittedly, a group with a certain bias for building things – grades the country’s current infrastructure at D+, with $3.2 trillion needed by 2020 to fix it. (That number, of course, is beyond any imagined revenues from taxes, tolls or tire redemption fees.) The United States spends vastly less on infrastructure than Europe or China, places that are becoming considerably more effective in moving trains, planes and even automobiles.

Oregon is facing the issue on multiple levels, with congressmen seeking a federal effort, a drive in Salem to raise the state gas tax, and Portland trying to figure out a street fee. Since, according to the civil engineers, more than 1,400 Oregon bridges – 17.6 percent of the state’s total – are structurally obsolete, somebody needs to be digging at some level.

On Capitol Hill, where nobody is laying out a construction schedule based on Obama’s funding proposal, there are other ideas. DeFazio has a plan based on a per-barrel oil tax, which has not yet stirred a stampede of support.

And despite all odds, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, insists that his bill for raising the gas tax – up a nickel a gallon each of the next three years, then indexed for inflation – actually has a chance, although both House Republican leadership and the White House are against it.

“There is a dance that is going on with the Republicans, similar to the dance by the White House,” says the Portland Democrat. Besides, “In this Congress, would you like the president to come out swinging for something you’re supporting? It doesn’t help.”

To Blumenauer, the chances of a gas tax increase are supported not by enthusiasm, but by a process of elimination: “Nobody has an alternative to give us a six-year package, which we haven’t had since 1997.”

Since then, our transportation spending has been less about bridges than Band-Aids.

The situation is getting sufficiently desperate that people with a need to get from here to there are getting more willing to pay for it. DeFazio and Blumenauer both point out that deep red states are moving toward raising their gas taxes, and DeFazio notes that inland waterway users are actively offering to be taxed, because their locks are becoming reluctant to open.
And that the federal highway trust fund is scheduled to run out of money in May, giving many states a very quiet summer construction season.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Automobile Association and the American Trucking Association have all supported an increase in gas taxes and transportation spending. Blumenauer also argues that the sharp drop in gas prices opens an opportunity for a gas tax increase, and that the damage inflicted by cars by deteriorating roads costs drivers more than his gas tax increase would.

But House Speaker John Boehner said last month there weren’t votes for an increase – although he would look at other funding ideas – and DeFazio and Blumenauer both say that Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., tells them it’s not going to happen.

Still, Blumenauer insists again, “There is no alternative.”

Except, of course, nothing happening at all.

NOTE: This column appeared in The Oregonian, 2/11/15.

09 Feb

For Portland, a royal road to Riyadh

We have a king.

Well, almost and sort of.

In the new royal arrangement in Saudi Arabia, second in the line of succession – deputy crown prince, or Joe Biden once removed – is Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, the interior minister. Of thousands of years of leaders on the Arabian peninsula, going back to the queen of Sheba, he will be the first to have attended Lewis & Clark.

Naturally, we’re very excited.

It’s been a while since Southwest Portland has produced an absolute monarch.

Even Phil Knight grew up on the east side.

Now, we have a royal line that runs right up Terwilliger.

There might be a question about the strength of our ties to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After all, the most evident American royal connection is to the British monarchy, which provides a steady stream of People magazine covers. Prince George, at two years old, has already been on more magazine covers than the entire U.S. Senate. The British monarchy, after all, used to rule this country – with a particular claim on Oregon – and they come over for frequent state visits, when we get very sentimental and they seem very relieved.

But last month, our real royal allegiance became clear.

The funeral for Saudi King Abdullah – whose death opened up the royal palace to Lewis & Clark – brought to Saudi Arabia President and Michelle Obama (who cut short a visit to India, although they really wanted to see the Taj Mahal), the secretary of state, the national security advisor, the CIA director, Sen. John McCain, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and enough American dignitaries to open the World Series, or maybe the Iowa State Fair. It was way beyond the U.S. delegation for any British royal occasion – including the London Olympics and Prince William’s bachelor party – making it clear where America’s strongest royal ties now run.

And that Lewis & Clark has hit the jackpot. Admittedly, the depth of Prince Mohammed’s experience at the college isn’t entirely clear. Greg Caldwell, who was associate dean of students at the time, told The Oregonian he remembered the prince as getting along well with other students and giving them rides in his car.

Which is nice, but it’s how people remember Jerry from the fraternity house, not the future master of one-fifth of the planet’s known petroleum reserves.

And nobody’s said whether the prince contributes to the alumni fund, although he’s clearly in a position to help Lewis & Clark win both a Nobel Prize and the Rose Bowl. Saudi Arabia, after all, currently has foreign currency reserves of $750 billion, or 25 Harvards.

There may be a small complication. The New York Times and The Washington Post both reported that the prince graduated from Lewis & Clark, but over last weekend the college checked its records and revealed that he didn’t. Misinformation about academic records have gotten people bounced as U.S. senator and Notre Dame football coach, but it’s not clear if it would interfere with the Saudi royal succession.

But the real question is, how does the future king remember Portland? Does he have a 3,000-foot TV antenna so he can watch “Portlandia”? Has he laid out bike paths through the desert of the Empty Quarter? Does he complain that there are no good places in Saudi Arabia for brunch?

He was here in the late ’70s. Does he bore the other 7,000 Saudi royals by constantly talking about how if Bill Walton hadn’t hurt his foot, the Trail Blazers would have been a dynasty?

Information control in Saudi Arabia is too tight for us to know whether the future king plans to cover the Middle East with food carts, or is considering whether the ideal fabric for the Arabian autumn might be Gore-tex. But we have reason to think that somebody in the country – or as it’s more often called, The Kingdom – has been speaking well of Portland; Scott Graham, interim dean of the Portland State business school, recently told the Portland Tribune that PSU has more Saudi students than any other American university.

Seattle may have trips to the Super Bowl, but Portland has what you might call a pipeline to Saudi Arabia.

The future of the relationship has broad possibilities. But at least one point is clear:
When Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, Lewis & Clark ex-’81, becomes king of Saudi Arabia, there will be an obvious choice for grand marshal of the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade.

Until then, we can at least start working on a Sister City in Riyadh.

NOTE: Thos column appeared in The Sunday Oregonian, 12/8/15.

09 Feb

Sick leave can prevent servings of sickness

Here’s the first thing you want to think about when considering paid sick leave:
How sick do you want the cook making your cheese omelet to be?

Oregon rightly prides itself on its restaurant and food scene. But eighty-three percent of food and restaurant workers have no paid sick time off, which can cause them to add some extra ingredients.

Paid sick leave, which half of Oregon workers don’t have, isn’t just an employee benefit. It’s a public health issue, because workers who have to come to work when they’re sick don’t keep it to themselves. They spread it around, through offices and restaurants and schools.

That’s part of the reason why three other states, including California, have paid sick leave laws. The idea has spread to cities, including Portland, where it’s been the law since the beginning of last year. We don’t hear about abuse, and the burden doesn’t seem intolerable.

A few days a year of paid sick leave, often not used, recognizes the dignity of low-income workers, and their effort to keep themselves and their families afloat. It also works to avoid contagion spreading out to many other people, with effects both economic, and epidemiological.

Because nobody really wants a side of infection with their eggs.

NOTE: This commentary appeared von KGW-TV,2/7/15.