Do What You Can Do 7/26

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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


A closeup of Senate District 3 on the wildfire risk map

Did you get a letter from the state?

I had a lot to say in the last newsletter about the wildfire risk classification letters that were heading towards owners of extreme-risk and high-risk properties. They arrived last week in the mailboxes of some 80,000 Oregonians who are in those categories and also in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). 

I’ve already heard from some people who are surprised and less than happy that their property’s been classified as high or extreme risk. This bears out a consistent message from OSU and ODF staff over the last year: there’s just no way that a map this comprehensive, far beyond what Oregon and pretty much any other state has ever tried before, is going to be completely accurate. We would need a period of ground-truthing when the map was made public, which is to say, now. ODF and OSU have begun collecting feedback to identify any systemic disconnect of the map from reality on the ground. 

This map will be revised, though we don’t know exactly how. What’s certain is this: we have to get this right. We need an accurate risk map for the whole SB 762 program to work, and we need this program to protect our communities through the hot, dry summers ahead. With so many Jackson County landowners affected, I’ll use this newsletter to keep you as current as possible on our path towards getting it right.

To those who’ve received a high- or extreme-risk notification letter, I’m guessing that this part got your attention:

“You may be required to take actions to create defensible space around your home and adhere to changes in building code requirements. Both of the regulatory processes are still in development”

A few things about that. “Still in development” means that we don’t yet know just what these requirements will be.  They’re being crafted with the help of a lot of citizen input from property owners who will be affected. The first of several chances to be part of that is tomorrow night, Wednesday night, July 27, at 7pm, when ODF hosts a live webinar at this Zoom Link ( This was changed from an in-person hearing because of the heat. 

A second point is that most of the loudest messages about these fire-wise measures (“The state’s coming with bulldozers to scrape your property bare!”) are wrong. Most of the effective measures to protect your property—and to keep it from becoming part of the wick that spreads fire across the landscape—are easy and inexpensive. They include the removal of especially flammable invasive plants, pruning of trees and bushes to reduce their contact with buildings, removal of flammable material like bark chips around the home’s perimeter, cleaning and screening of gutters, and making sure vents are covered with mesh small enough to keep embers out. Once more, a very useful guide from OSU extension is here. OSU also put out a really informative video, here. 

def space

Which leads to another point: if you’re not in the high or extreme risk zones (and very little of the Rogue Valley floor is) please consider reducing wildfire risk on your property just the same. The risk map, based mostly on fuel-heavy forest and grassland terrains, doesn’t really reflect our Almeda Fire experience, when ferocious winds blew embers and flames from structure to structure in urban and suburban settings. One of its lessons is that almost all of us can help reduce the threat to our homes and surrounding neighborhoods by taking some sensible, fairly easy tasks.

That’s exactly how we’ll meet this challenge.  Fire District 3 Captain Ian Kassab gets it exactly right towards the end this video, shot as I visited Oregon Conservation Corps projects in the Rogue Valley earlier this month. 

Chief Pic

 “We’re not gonna solve this problem, he says, “just as the fire department in suppression […or even in the legislature]…It’s gonna take everyone coming to the table to protect Oregon.”

Just right. And one more short video is worth your time. This one features a couple that lost their home in the big fire, and they have something to say to those who aren’t sure that these new preventative measures are important. Hope you’ll check it out.

Barriers to Higher Ed

A task force of legislators has been visiting campuses across the state to understand what hampers people from underserved communities who want a college or university degree. This article previewed their final stop, here at RCC and SOU. Some of what they heard on their final evening in town is here.

This is a very big deal. We in the U.S. now have the biggest wealth and opportunity gaps of all the industrialized countries, and they generate our toughest and costliest problems: houselessness, mental illness, addiction, violence against children and women. Those gaps won’t diminish if large numbers of Americans have no path to diplomas—they’ll almost certainly grow. If we’re remotely serious about living in a country where motivated people have a fair shot at secure, self-sufficient lives, this effort to clearly identify and understand the main barriers is a worthy first step. 

The task force will release a report on its travels in coming months, likely the basis for funding decisions in the 2023 session.


DMV Blues

“Dear Senator,

      Would you be able to do something about the very, very long wait times at the DMV?  People here in Medford actually bring lawn chairs to help endure the long outdoor lines and wait times… This is a real burden for elderly people, especially in this heat. Anything you can do would be greatly appreciated.”

This wasn’t the first DMV email I’ve received this month (though it was the most polite). The Department of Motor Vehicles, the historic butt of jokes around the country, has had a rough time since the onset of Covid. One reason is the federal government’s decision that starting next year we’ll need a new deluxe grade of driver’s license, “real ID,” before we can board planes without a passport.  But the main factor is what you’re hearing from public and private enterprises just about everywhere: they can’t find enough qualified workers.

That triggered a decision to close smaller offices like Ashland and consolidate their business in cities like Medford. That’s not enough service. The lines are getting longer. As temperatures rise, so do customer tempers.  In a phone call today, DMV staff told me Medford has some of the state’s worst congestion and delay and promised to quickly come up with short-term relief. They’re considering a “virtual lobby” that lets them call customers a few minutes before they can be served at the counter, as well as a cooling shelter for anyone who has to wait outside. They know those aren’t great solutions; they also know we need something better right away and can’t wait for the chronic staffing shortage to end. I’m interested to see how quickly they’ll take action. We’ll find out.

Gun Safety

Gun Safety News

Sunday marked two months since the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Since then Congress passed the first federal gun safety law in decades, but it’s so mild that most people wonder if the passage of time is dissolving the national will—again—to make real progress towards a safer state and nation.

It’s clear that gun safety will be on the legislative table in the 2023 session. In the meantime, the two main developments in Oregon are the declaration of a gun violence emergency in Portland, here, and IP 17, a citizen initiative headed for the November ballot, here.

That’s it for now. Stay alert to the effects this heat is having on you and yours and take good care.

Jeff (Signature)

Senator Jeff Golden, Oregon Senate District 3


-Information on cooling centers can be found here and here.

-Oregon State Fire Marshall Fire Safety Resources available here.

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