30 Mar

This year, the Starlight Parade is called on the carpet

This year, there will no interviews with the grand marshal of the Starlight Parade.

It only communicates with carpet sweepers.

In yet another move designed to persuade the rest of the world that “Portlandia” is a documentary, the Rose Festival has announced that the grand marshal of the 2015 PGE/SOLVE Starlight Parade will be the departing carpet at Portland International Airport.

It apparently narrowly edged out a baggage carousel.

“We get it,” said Starlight Parade chairman Jeff Deering. “It’s a carpet.”

And not even a red one.

Although for its formal public appearances in its new municipal position, it does have two plastic googly eyes and a PDX baseball cap, potentially equipping it to run for City Council.

The occasion for the honor – although possibly only Portland would consider it an occasion – is the replacement of the carpet after decades of hard service, and possibly also after being pulled out of line by the TSA. When the carpet was first installed, in 1987, visitors could walk right up to the airport’s arrival gates, people could bring more than three ounces of liquid onto planes, and Portland International Airport’s only international access was the Tuesday afternoon flight to Vancouver, B.C.

With a stop in Centralia.

Thursday, to prepare for the Starlight Parade, the carpet was available for selfies. (That is possibly a sentence that has never been typed before.) Around noon, a steady supply of Portlanders was streaming into the Rose Festival headquarters on Southwest Naito Parkway, and KGW-TV went on the air live interviewing one of the arrivals, who explained, “I’m just here to support the rug.”

(That may also be the first time that sentence has been typed.)

“Only in Portland would we do this,” declared Dawn Mendenhall, after shooting a portfolio of selfies with the carpet and friends, “and I’ve lived all over the country.”

Her friend Janna Sondenaa explained that the opportunity fit a pattern; every time she’s flown back into Portland, she’s posted a selfie of her feet back on the carpet. Accordingly, after the usual smiling pics – she was smiling; the carpet’s expression was flat – she took another shot with her shoe up against the grand marshal.

But her smile wasn’t as big as the one on Ray Jarvis, Rose Festival public relations manager.

“Social media has been blowing up on this thing. The Starlight hasn’t gotten this kind of attention in years,” exulted Jarvis, noting coverage of – if not interviews with – the grand marshal in The Washington Post, CNN and Fox News. “Nothing’s compared to this.”

In terms of publicity, it’s been what you might call a carpet-bombing.

The Starlight, Jarvis pointed out, is by definition off-beat; it’s preceded by the Starlight Run, which includes a costume contest, and this time might well include competitors dressed in – or as – carpet. In the past, said Jarvis, Starlight grand marshals have included Donald Duck and Pack the elephant, although this does seem to be the first time the position went to, um, “an inanimate object.”

But it wasn’t like the Starlight was giving the carpet its big break. As Jarvis conceded, “This had a life of its own before we got involved.”

After all, this is Portland.

The parade will not, it seems, be the carpet’s farewell appearance. Swaths of the 13,000 square feet will be sold as souvenirs, the way you can buy a seat from an old baseball stadium, and its pattern has been reproduced on T-shirts, socks, tote bags and on the front of note cards, useful for corresponding with your own favorite floor covering.

(“Dear linoleum, I know it’s been a while…”)

Still, it does seem unusual to make an icon out of an airport carpet. Many cultures have legends about people on flying carpets, but only Portland would make a legend out of a carpet for flying people.

“In any other city in this country, it would likely be considered weird to name a carpet as grand marshal of a major parade,” admitted Deering, “but this is Portland, Oregon, and we do weird very well here.”

Often as public policy.

These days, after all, Portland has embraced an identity of not only weirdness but willful weirdness. And if it sometimes seems less a we-don’t-care-what-you-think weirdness than a hey-look-at-us weirdness, it is matched with a deep affection for all that is ours – even if that attitude produces a rug admiration otherwise unseen outside Persia.

On the other hand, there is now the real possibility that the grand marshal of the 2016 Starlight Parade will be a Voodoo Doughnut.

NOTE: This column appeared in The Sunday Oregonian, 3/29/15

30 Mar

After a big money election, a much bigger money election

In 2012, Sheldon Adelson alone put more than $100 million into the Republican presidential primary campaign, single-handedly keeping Newt Gingrich afloat – and didn’t even apologize. The Koch brothers spent many times that amount, their own contributions and what they’d collected.

Next year, we may think of that as the good old days. Already, the Koch brothers have announced plans to spend nearly a billion dollars. Various other billionaires – and even some struggling multimillionaires – will be spending heavily on the race, including some on the Democratic side.

Watching thousands of 30-second attack ads, and watching candidates constantly seeking money, it’s not hard to conclude this isn’t how democracy is supposed to work. We’ve gone from one man, one vote, to countless votes, one checkbook.

Even some congressmen object. But there’s not much they can do about it.

In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court not only decided the legal case, but went out of its way to throw out a century of limits on campaign contributions.

Short of a constitutional amendment, it’s hard to see what limits Congress could pass – even if it wanted to.

A five-man majority of the Supreme Court insists that money, any amount of money, is speech.

In 2016, get used to being yelled at.

NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 3/28/15.

27 Mar

From high school, trying to find a future, and get there

Jessica Lam, a junior at Franklin High School who’s grown up in less than easy circumstance, knows all about the financial cliffs looming before kids seeking a college education. Yet she has a hope, and a plan, for a career in veterinary medicine that will require at least a four-year degree.

So is the idea of college, with ever-soaring tuition levels and student debt weighing on survivors like the concrete shoes of old gangster movies, exciting or intimidating to her?

Lam refuses the bait.

“I just know,” she says quietly, “I’ve got to do it.”

Lam was speaking at the 2015 NW Youth Career Expo, mounted last week at the Oregon Convention Center by the Portland Workforce Alliance. In a body blow to everything you think you know about millennials, 7,000 high school students got up early to visit with 130 employers and educational programs, and more than 1,000 had signed up for mock job interviews, to be asked where they saw themselves in 10 years and to wonder how you got to be the person asking the questions.

They surged around the ballroom level of the convention center, clustering at the Nike and Adidas booths and at a complex of booths representing opportunities in the construction industry. If there was more blue and pink hair than you might remember, and if they seemed unable to function without their iPhones immediately to hand, the event was a recognizable version of the endless quest of young people to find a place in the world – with the stakes raised by a suspicion that in the 21st century, the hurdles may be higher, and the margin for error narrower than a tablet computer screen.

“It was remarkable how driven they were, how many opportunities they’d taken advantage of,” commented Kate Kinder, Career Pathway manager at Portland Community College, praising the Portland Workforce Alliance effort. “I’ve been struck continuously by the drive of the students in our programs.”

Kinder was among the early-rising adults sitting at scores of table for the event’s kick-off breakfast, where students listened to Gov. Kate Brown, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith work to sound encouraging while admitting that the students really could be getting some more support from, well, adults. Brown promised them that the budget she was supporting included $40 million for career and technical education, and admitted the need to expand the state’s Oregon Opportunity Grant college scholarship program.

At one table, Jessica Lam sat with Benson seniors Jesse Hague and Anna Kalamafoni, both looking to become nurses and already out working in patient treatment as part of the Benson health care program. They know the distance from where they are to where they want to be, and that they’re not exactly working off a head start; as Kalamafoni said, the goal is to “try to do better than my mom did.”

Looking to college, none of them expect to get their bachelor’s degree in Oregon, which should already set off a state alarm – there’s a good chance students going elsewhere for college won’t come back, and these are kids that any state should want to build walls to keep in.

But with different career hopes and different states in their long-term expectations, all three plan to begin at PCC.

At the Youth Career Expo, there were multiple community college booths speckled among the employers, reflecting the colleges’ role as take-off spots not only for careers but for four-year degrees; increasing proportions of Oregon university graduates began with two-year transcripts. “It isn’t four-year plans or community college,” said Kinder about the students she encountered. “It’s both.”

As community college enrollments have swollen, including both students seeking to get early college requirements out of the way more cheaply to those seeking careers as welders or dental hygienists, state funding hasn’t exactly kept up. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, points out that PCC in particular, under an enrollment cap that it’s long since shot past, has been especially shortchanged.

You could say that, like the rest of the system, it’s suffering for its success.

In Salem, community colleges are seeking $550 million for the next two years, which would get them, like the universities, not quite to where they were in 2007.

Currently, the Ways and Means co-chairs’ budget has them at $535 million, with a pledge to add $15 million if the money becomes available.

In this situation, the Legislature might consider the insight of Jessica Lam:

It’s simpler when you know you’ve got to do it.

NOTE: This column appeared in The Oregonian, 3/25/15.

23 Mar

Kicker and kindergarten craft the legislative session

SLATIVESALEM – The major funding issues of this legislative session come down to two inheritances from previous sessions, each sweeping down on the general fund from opposite directions:

Kicker and kinder – as in kindergarten.

For anybody seeking Oregon’s long-awaited reinvestment opportunity, that could make this session a clunker.

Four years ago, legislators expansively declared that Oregon would finally move to full-day kindergarten – widely considered not only a good idea but an overdue idea – and that this session would figure out how to pay for it.

That’s going to come to $220 million, not counting glue sticks and juice boxes.
In a reviving economy, that could still leave some revenue for some other investment – except for a powerful punt from Oregon’s unique tax kicker.

The kicker, a legacy from a much earlier legislature trying unsuccessfully to avert a tax limitation measure, declares that if state revenue over a two-year period exceeds projections by 2 percent or more, the state has to return all the additional money. The chances of this happening this year were increased by another legacy from a previous legislature, the 2013 special session that found some more money for schools but also created a $100 million head start toward reaching the kicker – something it took numerous people in the building rather a while to realize.

So now, the budget faces $220 million for full-day kindergarten plus as much as a $300 million to $400 million cost for the kicker.

Which makes a considerable blow to expectations of reinvestment.

With that situation, said House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, last week, “You can’t do game-changing investments. You can’t do anything substantial.”

For example, “The kicker projection will not allow us to do more for higher ed.”
The higher education forces, the universities and the community colleges, have been among the most energetic seekers of reinvestment, pointing out that other parts of the budget have returned to pre-recession levels faster than they have. Supporters of K-12 education also argue that their budget, aside from full-day kindergarten, looks too much like the current budget to be an advance, or even holding ground.

Thursday, members of United for Kids, an emerging alliance of 65 children’s advocacy groups, met to discuss organization and lobbying for some Oregonians who may never have heard that the recession ended. According to one of their documents, child poverty in Oregon is up 10 percent since 2009, and 25 percent since 2007.

Oregon has had discouraging numbers for children for a while, and over time, said Tonia Hunt, executive director of Children First for Oregon, “The numbers really haven’t changed, and in fact, many have gotten worse. I believe this is where kids could flourish. I’m sorry to say it has not happened yet.”

Along with a Progress Report – if “progress” is the word we want here – the group offered a Children’s Agenda and an extensive rollcall of bills it was supporting in the legislature. Some of them, such as an increased minimum wage and mandatory statewide sick leave, wouldn’t cost the state much. But a number of others, such as expanding the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and bolstering day care programs, especially Employment Related Day Care, would indeed require some of what you might call reinvestment.

Strengthening day care has also been a priority of the speaker, something she was targeting well before the session began. The proposal, somewhat larger back then, now comes to a $16 million bill achieving several day care goals, notably insuring that several thousand families receiving state subsidies for day care would be assured of a year of support. The proposal would also encourage the seeking of quality day care, a major objective of the education reform system set up by the previous governor.

All the budget planning, of course, hangs on the May revenue forecast, which in the great suspense tradition of Oregon fiscal planning could make things better, worse or not change anything. It could also raise the question of what the legislature wants to do with the kicker money, which, by a two-thirds vote in both houses, it could decide to retain.

The legislature could ask Oregonians, Kotek suggests, what they want: “Is it a $100 tax credit, or $200 million for your schools?

“I would like us to have that conversation.”

The legislature has kept the individual kicker, back in the 1980s, in more desperate times. It’s a question whether legislators, including some Republicans, would be willing to do it for reinvestment.

Or, it seems, whether we’ll ever get to reinvestment.

NOTE; This column appearedin The Sunday Oregonian, 3/22/15.

20 Mar

Dave Frohnmayer deserved thanks, for leaving politics

The only thank-you note I ever sent a politician was written to Dave Frohnmayer.

It wasn’t for anything he did as a politician; there are other ways to express approval for that. In fact, I sent Dave Frohnmayer a thank-you note for leaving politics – although my attitude really wasn’t the way that sounds.

Frohnmayer, who died last week and whose memorial service is scheduled for the University of Oregon this Saturday, spent the 1980s as the heir apparent to the Hatfield-McCall-Packwood moderate Republican regime that had dominated Oregon politics for a quarter-century. Three times elected statewide, he was the attorney general who argued (and typically won) the state’s cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Rhodes Scholar and law professor in politics. The governor’s office, the Senate, seemed to stretch inevitably before him.

After Gov. Neil Goldschmidt suddenly announced in early 1990 that he wouldn’t run for re-election – for reasons that wouldn’t be clear until years later – Frohnmayer’s path to the job seemed wide open. But it was now a different world, and a different Oregon Republican Party. Not only did an anti-abortion third party candidate draw away 13 percent of the vote, but Frohnmayer himself couldn’t find the right rhythm or message. By November, enough of his support had slipped away to elect Democrat Barbara Roberts.

It wasn’t a bad election to lose. Voters also passed the tax-cutting Measure 5, affecting Oregon much more than whoever was governor, and Roberts had a miserable four years.

Part of that ordeal was a lively argument which parts of the state’s higher education system might be thrown overboard. Programs and majors were dropped across the system, there was a serious effort to shut down the Oregon State veterinary school, and once again Oregon was considering whether Western Oregon might not be better as a prison.

And some people were asking whether the University of Oregon actually needed a law school. After all, Oregon had two private law schools, Willamette and Lewis & Clark, and closing down the public one might save the system and the state a few bucks.

Besides, given Oregon’s general absence of support for higher education efforts, the law school’s American Bar Association accreditation was at some risk.

We can’t know whether the conversation might ever have gotten serious. We do know that when Dave Frohnmayer agreed in 1991 to leave the attorney general’s office to become dean of the Oregon law school, the conversation ended.

It seemed reason enough for a thank-you note.

At a time when the state’s higher ed system was having its always fragile supports kicked away, Frohnmayer put one of the major names in Oregon politics behind it. And in 1994, when he became president of the University of Oregon, he became the state’s most prominent advocate for higher education, someone who knew how both the state Capitol and a university were supposed to work.

Although these days the tenure of a research university president, especially a public research university president, typically lasts about as long as the four-year stretch of a student, Frohnmayer was UO president for 15 years – a considerably more unusual achievement than being a senator for 30. The landmark was especially striking since it was neither a great place nor a great time to be a university president.

Throughout his tenure, the state’s support for its universities continued to shrivel, until by his departure Oregon was providing only about 5 percent of the operating costs of the university carrying its name. “There comes a point,” said Frohnmayer on his retirement, “when you can’t make unlimited cuts without cutting away the essence of what it means to be a public university.”

Dealing with this challenge, making some controversial moves partly because the university was largely in survival mode, Frohnmayer became the biggest fund-raiser in the history of the system, bringing in more than $1 billion. In Oregon, even that created problems; having raised $30 million for one project, he still faced the challenge of finding the state’s matching half.

“I don’t want to be,” he worried, “in the embarrassing position of going back to the most generous philanthropist in the history of University of Oregon academics and have to give the money back. It’s a shocking position to be in.”

The project got built. And the standing and prospects of the University of Oregon are very different from what they were in 1994 – and the law school from 1991.

His achievement justifies my only thank-you note.

Except it seems I’ve just written another.

NOTE: This column appeared in The Oregonian, 3/18/15.

17 Mar

Portland’s all-star dream could leave Blazer fans unseated

Portland feels good about itself for all kinds of reasons. The surroundings are pretty, the food is terrific, and how about those Trail Blazers?

In fact, Portland is the only city with a national cable TV show all about how good it feels about itself.

Take that, Seattle.

But there is one jagged thorn penetrating our rosy self-image, an absence that, especially in midwinter, even a place with our soaring self-esteem seems to take personally:

We have never hosted an NBA All-Star game.

Or even a dunking contest.

In 2016, Toronto will host its first All-Star game, meaning only two cities in the league, Portland and Memphis, have never hosted – and Portland has been in the league way longer than Memphis. Even cities that are no longer in the league – hey there, Seattle – have hosted All-Star games.

Does the NBA even watch “Portlandia”?

Portland has applied for both the 2017 and 2018 All-Star games, and of course the issue came up at the recent festivities in New York. In a press conference reported by The Oregonian’s Mike Tokito, NBA commissioner Adam Silver insisted, “I would love to have an All-Star game in Portland,” although that does sound a little like someone explaining how sorry he was that he couldn’t have lunch with his in-laws.

The problem, Silver explained, was lack of enough hotel rooms in Portland, an explanation the NBA has always offered, and indeed for many past years such a game might have had film crews staying in Kelso. But several more hotels have opened in Portland recently, and now local government is moving forward with a new, 600-room Hyatt Regency convention center hotel. The plan is backed by $60 million in bonds to be paid off by hotel taxes, with suites large enough for both NBA bodies and egos, not all of whom wear uniforms.

In the 30 years that Portland has been arguing over a convention center hotel, the idea that it would position us for an NBA All-Star game has come up often. It’s hard to think that a major convention center hotel wouldn’t at least put us on the list ahead of Memphis.

And, of course, holding an NBA All-Star game would be just a rightful recognition of our passion for the sport. Decades ago, the writer David Halberstam quoted an NBA ref as saying the league’s most manic fans were in Portland, because they had nothing else to do in the winter.

Perhaps a mixed compliment, but we accepted it.

Besides, since then Portland has at least added lots more Thai restaurants.

Still, for a long time, it’s been a mark of how excited we’d be about having an All-Star game here. As one writer put it, “Fans have always been a major part of the Blazers’ success, and they would come out in big numbers for the All-Star Game.”

If they could.

As The New York Times pointed out after last month’s All-Star game in New York, once the NBA had divided up game tickets among 30 teams and various corporate sponsors, it offered exactly none for public sale – for the fifth consecutive year.

The same situation applied for the skills exhibition, including the dunking contest and the three-point shooting competition. The host Knicks and Nets got hardly any tickets for their season ticket holders, although the Knicks have the most expensive tickets in the NBA.

According to the Times, there were some tickets available on the secondary market – what used to be called scalpers – for about $2,000.

(In New York, of course, that’s dinner for two. In Portland, it’s a mortgage payment.)

The same situation might not apply in Portland, of course; our tourism draw isn’t quite like New York’s, even if our won-lost record is a lot better. But the squeeze has extended to other cities; the Times quoted the former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers declaring, after hosting the game in 2003, that he never wanted it again.

“People think it’s our game,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “but it’s the league’s game.”

No matter how few Portlanders actually get into the Moda Center for the game, of course, there would be benefits to having an All-Star game here. Sweeping vistas of Portland would appear on network TV, and we’d run into sports reporters in steakhouses, which is always exciting.

But we might be realistic about the benefits from a Portland NBA All-Star game – and from the hotel we hope will help attract it.

At least we’ll always have “Portlandia.”

Which is more than Memphis can say.

This column appeared in The Sunday Oregonian, 3/8/15.

17 Mar

On capital punishment, Oregon’s pointless pretense proceeds

Despite rumors on the subject, former Gov. John Kitzhaber did not commute Oregon’s 34 pending death sentences before resigning last month – although it wasn’t like it would have gotten him into any more trouble.

Kitzhaber, who’d been governor during Oregon’s only two executions of the last half-century, had made it clear he wasn’t going to sit through any more, but didn’t feel the need to extend the ban beyond his own tenure.

That left incoming Gov. Kate Brown as the new landlady of Oregon’s Death Row, and the subject came up almost immediately. Last week, Brown told The Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes that she personally opposed the death penalty and expected to continue Kitzhaber’s moratorium. But she wouldn’t say an execution was impossible, explaining that her thinking on the issue had become “more nuanced.”

It’s possible to overstate the uncertainty here; offhand, you might expect Kate Brown to sign an execution order when Earl Blumenauer trades his bicycle for a rickshaw. And as she says, “I think there are a whole lot of issues that need to be resolved. And one of them is, can we even carry this out at this point in time in this country?”

Technique is everything. And lately, all over the country, there are issues about not only why but how we execute people.

(Or in Oregon’s case, of course, how we don’t.)

Supplies of the drugs that have been part of the three-drug combination used in most U.S. executions have been running out, as European manufacturers, opposed to capital punishment, have been refusing to supply them. (After Kitzhaber declared his moratorium, Oregon said it would sell its supply back.) Replacement drugs have produced extended, messy executions in Arizona and Oklahoma, and some states, such as Ohio, have declared their own moratoriums until the situation is sorted out.

For various reasons, the feds – who don’t execute a lot of people anyway – have declared their own freeze, and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has urged states to do the same. There’s anticipation of a Supreme Court ruling on which drugs are and aren’t acceptable.

Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, another new Democratic governor – and there aren’t many new Democratic governors – declared an execution moratorium, as he said he would during his campaign. There are more than 180 convicts on Pennsylvania’s Death Row; since the state restored its death penalty in 1976, it has executed exactly three people. During that time, it’s estimated, going through the motions of capital punishment has cost the state $350 million.

It’s said that more people on Pennsylvania’s Death Row die of natural causes than of execution. Since six residents have been freed on appeal, you could also say more have been released than executed.

“This unending cycle of death warrants and appeals diverts resources from the judicial system and forces the families and loved ones of victims to relive their tragedies each time a new round of warrants and appeals commences,” Wolf wrote in the moratorium order. “The only certainty in the current system is that the process will be drawn out, expensive, and painful for all involved.”

Pennsylvania’s situation, in fact, has been greatly like Oregon’s – maintaining at considerable effort and expense a penalty virtually never used. Pennsylvania managed to execute one more convict over 40 years than Oregon did, but it had many more sentenced – and unlike Oregon’s, its executions may not have been voluntary.

Both states, like all the others, are dealing with the drug shortage. Last month, Utah’s House of Representatives passed a bill restoring execution by firing squad; it now moves to the state Senate, and Wyoming is also taking aim. It’s not as easy to imagine Oregon going in that direction, although we could probably find volunteers.

There is talk about putting a repeal of capital punishment on the 2016 ballot, where the odds might be against it; many voters like the idea of capital punishment, even if it hardly ever happens in practice.

People on Oregon’s Death Row have been convicted of doing hideous things, making it even more curious for Oregon to spend large amounts on a decades-long appeals process that ends up giving them the choice of departure. Now that process is muddied even more by the challenges of actually carrying it out, with legal and procedural complications joined by pharmacological ones.

And despite the great deal of attention that that the idea has gotten recently, we’re probably not going to take up beheading.

Although on this issue, we’ve been in no hurry to use ours.

NOTE: This column appeared in The Oregonian, 3/4/15.

17 Mar

John Kitzhaber was his own Brutus

Way back before March Madness, this month had another meaning. It proclaimed the fall of major figures, and the warning that even the highest might suddenly find themselves looking up from the bottom instead of down from the top.

Exactly 2,069 years ago, on another March 15, Julius Caesar discovered this, long before investigations and subpoenas. Just two months ago, with Oregon still in the glow of post-inaugural celebration, it seemed unimaginable that John Kitzhaber would mark today’s date out of power, facing intimidating legal problems and legal bills, with even his visits to the landfill closely examined.

Leaders fall constantly, in March and every other month, in Capitol buildings from Rome to Salem. As Julius Caesar discovered, sharply, there are always those plotting downfalls, conspiracies sometimes discovered and sometimes imagined.

But the striking aspect of John Kitzhaber’s fall, even a month afterward, is that there were never any political plotters eager to bring it about. The wounds that produced Oregon’s greatest recent political fatality were entirely self-inflicted.

It’s as though Caesar, at the dramatic high point, had whipped out a knife and begun dispatching himself.

John Kitzhaber’s fall seems to become more complete, and absolute, on a daily basis. Last week, new Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill abolishing Cover Oregon, officially marking the end of the image of Oregon as the national model in health care reform, with a governor ranked the second-most influential figure in the country on the issue. Earlier this month, Michael Jordan, Kitzhaber’s choice as the state’s first chief operating officer, resigned suddenly with no explanation.

The evidences of Kitzhaber’s presence are vanishing like the snowpack.

Downfalls from Richard Nixon to Bob Packwood to David Wu have been preceded by long stretches of angry demands by other political figures for the leader’s departure. The battles produced countercharges that that the entire scandal was politically driven, an effort to cause a change that couldn’t be achieved in an election. By the time the leader actually gave up, he seemed the last one to conclude he had to go.

The Kitzhaber story looked entirely different. Up until almost the last day, other Oregon political leaders appeared painfully reluctant to get out front in seeking the fall of Kitzhaber, who after three decades at the top of state politics seemed less an incumbent than a monument. In a controversy that extended for months, the other figures on Oregon’s political heights voiced their decision that the governor should go just barely before he voiced his own.

The process could never be called a partisan power grab. Republicans, uncomfortable with Kate Brown or just about any other Democrat, were dubious about calls for Kitzhaber’s leaving right up until the end. “He was really the only one, in my opinion, who could decide when it was time that he could not fulfill his constitutional duties,” House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, told reporters the afternoon of the resignation. “There’s a process in Oregon. Even the governor gets that process.” Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, said he would “grieve” for the outcome, and expressed unhappiness about the new governor.

For the fall of Caesar, the attitudes of opposition senators were much more explicit.

Even at the finish, Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, said he’d hoped the process could have continued legally, but “tragically, it seemed like Gov. Kitzhaber seems to have been almost his own worst enemy in this regard, and just kept compounding his own problems on a daily basis.”

The knives into John Kitzhaber kept appearing not in the hands of his foes, but in his own revelations, and actions that repeatedly became public through press and federal investigations. Cut by cut, the word spilled out about overlaps between public and private operations, about Kitzhaber seemingly oblivious to obvious problems with nobody around to caution him as he got deeper, about tax issues that translated his problems from bad judgment to something potentially far more serious.

His troubles deepened, from October to February, while Oregon’s other politicians – except for his opponent in his re-election campaign – had relatively little to say. Even without rising political pressure, even with the rest of the state’s leadership seemingly hoping everything would go away, the revelations by themselves had a knifelike lethalness.

A part of this is that now, unlike 44 B.C. or even 1974, nothing ever goes away. Computer communications, endlessly echoing through cyberspace, turn misdeeds into permanently sharpened blades, each revelation slicing up Kitzhaber’s chances of survival regardless of the attitudes of other politicians.

Et tu, email.

This column appeared in The Sunday Oregonian, 3/15/15.