Do What You Can Do 12/4/2020

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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 a madrone tree was provided by Jack Leishman. 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 more of the same and a little worse. One single day’s national numbers this week took my breath away: a quarter million new cases and nearly 3000 deaths. The shape of Oregon’s curve continues


and another graph points to one squeeze point where we’re soon likely to feel systemic pain:


Some hospitals are reporting that even when those beds are still available, they’re running out of qualified people to staff them; a growing number of nurses have contracted the disease, and even more have to quarantine for up to 14 days if they’ve been exposed to anyone who’s been infected. That takes a major portion of our essential healthcare capacity out of action, and it’s a major reason that healthcare workers are at the front of the line for the estimated 35,000 vaccine doses we expect to receive December 15 in Oregon, with 72,000 more expected December 22.

You’ve probably heard the Governor’s trial “freeze” on activities ended this week. It gave way to a new framework of guidelines tied to risk level for each county: low, medium, high, and extreme. Jackson County’s been designated one of the twenty-one “extreme risk” counties.

This interactive map is an easy way to scan circumstances in each county, and this page lists the rules for all four levels of risk.

If you have a small business damaged by COVID restrictions, here’s some positive news: starting this week, you can apply for a business grant (not loan) from the state, right here. DON’T WAIT. We expect a total of about $2.4 million dollars will be available for Jackson County businesses, and based on the track record for COVID relief programs, that won’t last long.

Forest issues


Photo from ODOT

2021 looks like it could be a banner year for grappling with forest policy and taxation in Oregon. That’s partly because wildfire costs have overwhelmed the Department of Forestry’s capacity to do its work, and partly because of the spotlight that the Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting have focused on forest practices and dramatic changes in timber industry ownership in recent years. I’ll send links to those articles in a future newsletter; it’s some of the finest investigative reporting I’ve seen in a long time. For now I invite you to listen to an episode from the related OPB podcast Timber Wars, here. I think you’ll find it remarkable.

One element of the upcoming debate is the state’s timber harvest tax, currently in the neighborhood of ½ of 1% of the value of the logs harvested.  My Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will be deliberating on the harvest tax this Monday afternoon, December 7, and you can watch us if you click on the little camera icon here. The whole meeting will run from 1:00-4:00pm; we’ll likely take up this agenda item around 2:30.

The Special Session Enigma


Will we or won’t we? The question of convening for a third 2020 special legislative session still isn’t settled. It certainly would have happened by now but for the pandemic; the current infection rate has legislative leaders much less than excited about bringing legislators, essential staff and the media together in the Capitol, no matter what the masking/distancing protocols. And nobody likes locking the public out of the building while we transact business, even if it’s all streamed on the internet.

There’s another option. If the Governor declares a catastrophic emergency, we can do all of our legislative session online, including committee hearings with public testimony and passing bills on the floor.  We would only be able to consider measures directly related to the declared catastrophe; in this historically rough year, we happen to have two to choose from. As urgent as our wildfire response needs are, they’ll almost certainly have to wait for the regular 2021 session, because the Governor would choose COVID as the catastrophe to address in special session. That’s mostly because the moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent expires on January 1. The situation’s the same as it was when I wrote about it two weeks ago:

[Speaker Kotek]’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.

The prime architect of this two-part package, Rep. Julie Fahey (D-Eugene), described it in a good 13-minute interview this week. 

If the Governor doesn’t call us into special session, she could extend the moratorium past January 1 by Executive Order. But that probably wouldn’t include relief for landlords, some of whom are going on their ninth month without seeing a rent check. That’s not fair, and I seriously doubt that Oregon’s influential rental property owners’ organizations would quietly sit by and watch it happen.

The GRB* is here!

   (*Salem talk for Governor’s Recommended Budget)

The 2021-2023 budget season had its official kick-off this year with the release of the Governor’s Recommended Budget. The GRB is just a starting point for a long, meandering legislative process, and may or may not resemble the budget we’ll eventually adopt some seven months from now. Plenty of twists and turns are guaranteed along the way. Here’s one good article with some of the GRB’s top-line features.

Two central features of the Governor’ presentation was her focus on equity (“I believe the first step to creating opportunity is in recognizing that racism is endemic to our systems, impacting every part of our culture and our economy”) and her assumption—at least optimism—that Congress will send plenty of funds to struggling states in a pending COVID relief bill. Dick Hughes did a good job laying that out and sampling high-profile reactions to the GRB in his Capital Insider column this week. Much more to report in newsletters to come.


Rest in Power, Aidan

Last, very definitely not least, this week is a tragedy with no direct tie to Salem: the murder of 19-year-old Aidan Ellison in the very early morning of November 23. It’s garnered national attention, including an NPR feature this morning, because it’s another piece of a grim national mosaic that 2020 has illuminated.

You’ve likely been following the case in the news or on social media, where the family released a formal statement this week. Alongside the heartbreak of our community, it’s triggered arguments about racism and the unmet responsibility of white Oregonians to address it.  What I hope is beyond question is that the destruction of this vibrant young man in the middle of our community is a tragedy that we can’t ignore.

Wednesday afternoon I stood with about 250 people at the Jackson County Justice Building to honor Aidan.


What stirred me most were half a dozen black teenagers and 20-somethings who spoke with powerful simplicity about their day-to-day experience living in the Rogue Valley. I went away knowing that it’s time for us in the dominant culture who are confused or unsettled or defensive to quiet our internal chatter and just listen. Just listen, with our best hearing, to what life feels like for the 1-2% of our neighbors who are black. We don’t have to know exactly what to do to know it’s on us to create a more inclusive, respectful and safe community.

Here too we can, and must, do what we can do.


Senator Jeff Golden, Oregon Senate District 3


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COVID resources

  • The Governor's COVID website has been updated to reflect the new framework for counties. 

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

  • If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, click here to locate a testing site near you.

  • 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.

  • If you are in need to food assistance, The Oregon Food Bank has created this page where you can search for a food pantry or pick-up site near you.

Wildfire resources

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

  • Click here for Southern Oregon specific wildfire information.

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