Do What You Can Do 11/20/2020

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Senator Jeff Golden

 *  “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” 
—Helen Keller


This photo of Lithia Park was provided by Barbara Tricarico. We want your beautiful Southern Oregon photo for this newsletter! Send it to with the subject “Photo Reminder.” We’d love to feature them.

Covid news: the freeze and the holiday

You might be getting really tired of graphs that look like this:


But it’s Oregon’s reality right now (and Jackson County’s. And the nation’s). Do you remember the pandemic’s early months, when the state was reporting around 200 new cases each day? The count yesterday (Thursday) was 1225. For months the daily death count in Oregon hovered between one and five. Yesterday it was twenty. So this week Governor Brown has changed her two-week “pause” to a “freeze.”

What does that mean, and how did we get here? Oregon Public Broadcasting does a good job answering that here. And here’s a local perspective on how this is landing on our own Main Streets. A new $55 million grants program will ease some of the pain for small businesses; it won’t solve the problem, but it’s definitely more than a drop in the bucket.  

The freeze includes a strict guideline on Thanksgiving gatherings: you’re urged to have only immediate household members at your table, with one exception: people from one other pod (and here’s a good piece on forming “COVID pods”) can join you, if you keep the total number of people to six—not what most of us think about when we remember favorite Thanksgivings past.


Norman Rockwell’s "Freedom from Want"

Here’s a thorough analysis of what a safe holiday gathering looks like this year.

This ratcheting up of social distancing days before Thanksgiving is painful timing. Many of us celebrate this holiday as a reminder of our great good fortune to have the people we love in our lives. Zoom doesn’t quite cut it. As much as we hunger for lost human connection, the overall pattern of evidence is pretty clear that a variety of gatherings over the fall and summer that neglected public health guidance have brought us to today’s frightening moment. And the colder weather ahead won’t help.

Please. Limit your interaction with people outside your pod. When you do interact, wear effective masks and keep as much distance as you can, especially indoors. Wash your hands frequently and well. Use your best judgment around all these practices. Give me the opportunity to use graphs at the top of this newsletter that look very different...soon.


Photo from ODOT

A Special Session?

The big question for weeks now is whether the Legislature would convene for a third special session before year’s end. And the answer is...Maybe! 

The Governor’s plan was to call us into session sometime after the election to pass a downsized version of the comprehensive wildfire preparation/response legislation that we brought close to passage in the regular 2020 session; as the Oregonian reported, we haven’t fully arrived on the same page as to what that would look like.


Photo from Sarah Settimo

That was before the COVID spike, which has a significant number of legislators (a group that skews older than the general population) and state officials uneasy about gathering. As you might remember, we had two short special sessions over the summer with very strict rules on masking, distancing, and disinfection. Only legislators, news media, and a very small number of staff were allowed in the Capitol. And while new online functions were offered to let citizens watch or participate in our proceedings online, the exclusion of the general public from the Capitol building has some people very wary about lawmaking in the Age of COVID. All of this lowered the chances of another special session (we’re currently scheduled to convene in Salem on January 11 to organize for the regular 2021 legislative session, but even that’s not certain at the moment).

But this week House Speaker Tina Kotek called on the Governor to declare a catastrophic emergency, which allows an exception to the normal requirement to convene in person to pass laws, so that we can meet remotely for emergency legislation. The Speaker’s urgent issue is to extend the moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent for some number of months past January 1. That reflects broad agreement that a big spike in homelessness during the pandemic would cause more suffering and contagion than we can allow to happen. The big catch here, though, is the economic damage to landlords—especially smaller landlords with ongoing expenses and little cash flow—who in many cases haven’t received rent checks since last spring. In theory current measures require tenants to catch up on months of unpaid rent at some point, but many simply won’t be able to do that. The result is that we’ve left landlords holding too big a bag.

Yesterday I met with a workgroup grappling with the problem. It’s nearly certain that extension of the eviction moratorium will include a large fund to compensate landlords in a serious and effective way. No bill will get my vote without that. I can see an acceptable resolution for this crisis, especially if the new Congress comes through with a new COVID aid package that supports state and local governments struggling with these massive problems.

But prospects for a special session remain tricky. The big drawback of the catastrophic declaration to allow a virtual session is that we can only consider legislation directly tied to the catastrophe. The Speaker says that should be COVID, because that’s the basis for rent relief.  If we go that route, then wildfire legislation—the Governor’s main interest—couldn’t be considered, because it’s not responsive to the COVID crisis. Those of us on the Governor’s Wildfire Economic Recovery Council have some funding requests (details on that in coming weeks) that need prompt consideration, but they too would be off limits if a virtual session were called for COVID-based issues. The option for an in-person session that could take up multiple issues is still on the table, but that doesn’t seem likely unless COVID infection rates come down, or at least flatten out.

Reforming Elections


MORE than 3-to-1...almost 4-to-1: 78.31 to 21.69%. That’s Oregonians’ final verdict on Measure 107, the constitutional amendment that paves the way to regulate campaign financing. I’m taking that as a mandate to introduce a reform bill this session that makes foundational changes, not cosmetic tweaks, in the way Oregon election campaigns are financed.  It’s too late in the game for baby steps. As the 2021 session approaches I’ll lay out the details of my proposal and ask those who agree to actively support it.

There’s another election reform measure I want to introduce, this one in partnership with the League of Women Voters. It would establish ranked-choice voting, popular in several countries around the world and a growing number of states. I see it as a potent way to increase citizen energy and participation in elections, broaden access to political office for people who’ve traditionally been left behind, elevate the importance of policy differences—of what candidates actually plan to do if they take office—in campaigns, and bring an end to the dilemma of choosing between the candidate we like best and a more “realistic” candidate we can tolerate. Those opposing RCV say it’s too complex for people to understand. I think that’s flat wrong. Check out how it works here and let me know what you think. 

Be safe and be well--


Senator Jeff Golden, Oregon Senate District 3


Do you have a question I might be able to answer? 
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As questions come in, we’ll post a video answer on our Facebook page.

COVID resources

  • The Governor's website is a resource for specific and general COVID information.

  • OHA's website is dedicated to information on COVID-19 with links to the latest announcements, guidance etc. 

  • Have questions about COVID-19 in Jackson County? Visit the Jackson County Public Health website or you can call Jackson County Health and Human services with questions at 541-774-8200.
Businesses and Activities Open and Closed During the 2 Week Freeze

Wildfire resources

  • The Governor's wildfire website has county specific and statewide information.

  • Click here for information about debris removal.

  • Free counseling is available through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline. Call 800-985-5990 (Spanish Press 2) or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 (for Spanish text “Hablamos” to 66746) to connect with a trained crisis counselor. For more information, click here.

FEMA information:

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1703
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, S-421, Salem, OR, 97301 
Podcast: Capitolizing