Do What You Can Do 1/15/21

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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

NL main photo

This photo of Emigrant Lake was taken by Wendy Seldon. We want your beautiful Southern Oregon photo for this newsletter! Send it to with the subject “Photo Reminder.” We’d love to feature them.

A big and a small win

It’s a pleasure to report on two budgetary wins last week that have been in the works for a while. The first makes the slogan for wildfire recovery (“Build Back Better”) a little more realistic. The second could put a lot more young people to work in our forest on the old Americorps (or even older Civilian Conservation Corps) model.  

Throughout our months of work on the Governor’s Wildfire Economic Recovery Council, Rep. Pam Marsh and I have been advancing a proposal to acquire property in the Almeda Fire footprint. If some of the destroyed mobile home parks currently covered with a layer of charred debris can come into public ownership, we increase possibilities for innovative new affordable housing models (e.g., manufactured home or cottage-cluster parks owned cooperatively by residents). But chances for that dwindle as time goes by, because central Rogue Valley real estate is a magnet for speculative investment.

Last Friday the legislative Emergency Board approved our $25 Million land acquisition proposal, $15 Million for acquiring property and $10 Million for initial development. Projects will be overseen by the Housing Authority of Jackson County, which has an impressive track record for effective and efficient public investment. I’m betting that this really will make the build-back better for some of our neighbors who lost their homes.

The smaller win, at least in dollars, moves forward a goal that took shape in my 2018 campaign for the senate. If you’ve driven many of the back roads through western Oregon forests, you’ve seen vast landscapes choked with logging slash, undergrowth and thickets of small trees starved for sunlight and water. One of our wildfire objectives has to be restoring health and resiliency across publicly-owned forests (this opens up a controversy that I’ll cover in future newsletter), and current state budgets can’t fund much of that. What would it take to attract private-sector support for the purpose?


Image from Lomakatsi

Enter the Wildfire Youth Corps, a program to train and deploy young people for a range of restoration projects in the woods. It’s an old, well-tested idea, and a few dozen youngsters a year are already getting that kind of opportunity in our state. I’m betting that a number of private foundations and certain corporations would like to put their resources and names behind programs that mature and train young people while simultaneously enhancing forest health in Oregon. This idea has taken some twists and turns in the last two years, culminating in  a deal with the Oregon Community Foundation to administer the Oregon Wildfire Youthcorps Fund (OWYF) for the purpose. And last Friday the Emergency Board allocated $35,000 to seed this brand-new Fund and develop initial materials to promote the idea to donors. This feels like the first chapter of what could become a wonderful program, and I’m excited about it.

Would you like to be involved? I’m looking for volunteers with fundraising experience to join me on an Advisory Committee that will promote the Fund and select projects to support. Let me know if you’d like to take part.

The 2021 session begins


Photo from ODOT

Last Monday Senate President Peter Courtney gaveled to order the 81st  Oregon Legislative Assembly. This is the day we officially organize, swear in new members, formalize the make-up of all committees, and approve Senate rules for the 2021 session. Normally there’s a lot of ceremony, a celebration of new members and their families, a procession of the entire Senate across the length of the Capitol to the House Chambers for a joint session to hear the Governor’s State of the State address, followed by a festive reception to launch things off on a cheerful note. None of that happened this year. The oath taken by new members was muffled through their facemasks, and the joint session and Governor’s address were cancelled. It would be hard to call the day cheerful.

It wasn’t as harrowing as when we met in special session on December 21, which offered a preview of what we saw last week in Washington, D.C.  On that day dozens of shouting people broke into our Capitol Rotunda, smashed windows and sprayed police with chemicals before they could be ejected. They weren’t around for Monday’s opening session. That day’s conflict was quiet. In the floor debate over the proposed rules for 2021, Republican Senators rose one by one to challenge the provision to begin the session with the Capitol closed to the public. That wasn’t a response to the U.S. Capitol siege five days earlier, but rather one of several rules adopted months ago to minimize chances of COVID spread.

Senate Floor

My Republican colleagues don’t accept that. A sampler of their floor comments:

  • “You are locking the people out of the People’s Building? Really?”
  • “The Capitol is just like the two words at the bottom of a government license plate: ‘publicly owned.’”
  • “If Costco and the other big boxes have figured out how to let it crowds of people, surely we can too.”
  • “Some things are sacred, and the public’s full participation in their democracy is one of those things.”
  • “Not everyone has access to Zoom” (a reference to major system upgrades to let citizens watch all proceedings and testify to committees on video platforms).
  • “It’s. Just. Not. The same.

No doubt about that last point. We won’t know how different—how less functional—it will be until the session gets into full swing, but it’s not the same as the hum of a Capitol full of active citizens. I take this closure to be a damaging cost of the pandemic, especially when the flames of citizen distrust have been fanned to such intensity. That made voting for the rules—which passed on a 18-11 party line vote—a little harder than I expected. It was one of many votes that become a careful comparison of a scale’s two pans.


I laid that out, and a nod to Republicans’ position, in the vote explanation I filed after leaving the floor.

What next?

Normally we’d reconvene in Salem one week after Monday’s organizational day to start regular committee meetings and floor sessions 4-5 days a week through June. This year that would have been Tuesday, January 19, right after the Monday holiday. With the ongoing chatter about disruptions in State Capitols just before and on Inauguration Day, law enforcement asked us to push that back to next Friday, January 22. That’s what we’re doing. After that I’ll be heading to Salem roughly once a week for mandatory floor sessions and Zooming through committee, agency and constituent meetings all the rest of the week.  That expands my wardrobe options considerably, though I will still commit to respectable-looking dress shirts.

COVID vaccination roll-outs

COVID vaccine data

Data from the OHA

I was all set to report a breakthrough in a vaccination roll-out that’s been agonizingly slow. Based on the President’s recent announcement that the federal government would release tens of millions of doses all at once, state government believed it could vaccinate all school personnel and all willing Oregonians over 65 very soon.  As I was writing this section, I tuned in to the Governor’s news conference. She began by describing her conversation last night with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who told her that the federal vaccination supply was fully exhausted before the President promised to release it. So that big near-term expansion of vaccinations to all Oregon seniors? Not so much.

Later in the press conference officials announced that 173,000 Oregonians have been vaccinated to date (including most of those in long-term care facilities) and set out a revised list of goals:

  • All school personnel in the week of January 25
  • Everyone over 80 years old who wants vaccination in the week of February 8
  • Everyone over 75 in the week of February 15
  • Everyone over 70 in the week of February 22
  • Everyone over 65 in the week of March 1

This whole picture is too chaotic for any rock-solid guarantee of that timeline. We’ll try to keep you updated in the next few newsletters, with more information on the best way to find out when your dose is ready.

The Town Hall schedule

town hall

Thanks to everyone who took part in our session-preview Town Hall last Friday, January 8. For our first Town Hall venture on Zoom—which, we know, is another activity that’s just not the same online—we thought it went pretty well. If you were there, we’d like to know what you think.

So we’ve decided to make it a regular feature of the coming session. We’ll aim to provide Zoom links for a Town Hall from 5:00-6:15pm on the first Wednesday of every month, beginning February 3. We’ll give you a head’s up in these newsletters. You can email us any questions or suggestions for improvement in advance at

Take care of yourselves and those around you through these anxious times—


Senator Jeff Golden, Oregon Senate District 3

COVID resources

  • Jackson County Health and Human Services has created this page, which has Jackson County specific information about who currently is eligible to receive the COVID vaccine, where to get vaccinated, and answers to frequently asked questions.

  • Governor Brown's website has information about county risk levels, COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and pandemic related announcements.

  • 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.

Wildfire resources

  • If you were impacted by the devastating wildfires, there are still resources available. FEMA's press release provides details about assistance and resources that are still available.

  • Rogue Valley Rebuilds continues to post resources and applicable information for those impacted by the 2020 fires.

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