What Are They Smoking In Oregon?

Classic stoner humor is always based on the befuddlement of the hapless stoner, having attempted a simple task and helplessly watched it elaborate itself (the task) into a surreal Rube Goldberg mechanism for accomplishing (and usually not) the task originally undertaken.

Got that?

Here is a little Stoner Humor in Real Life tale from the wilds west of the Cascades in Oregon.

Once upon a time, there wasn’t enough money for rural Sheriff’s Department patrols.

Here, in Lane County, we encompass seashore, farmland, hill country, and the high country of the Cascades, that giant line of sleeping volcanoes that marches north from Mr. Shasta in California, to Mount Hood dominating the skyline of Portland, Oregon, to Mount Rainier dominating the skyline of Seattle, to Mount Baker, visible on a clear night in Vancouver, British Columbia. (The best view in the entire range, to my mind, is the “uphill” section of Hood River, Oregon, where Mount St. Helens and the “backside” of Mount Hood bookend your reality like two looming titans — just don’t be there when either one blows.)

And a lot of well-to-do retirees are scattered throughout Lane County.

And there wasn’t enough money to keep the Deputies as busy as the crooks, or enough money to operate the jails at full capacity.

So, the County Commissioners, in their wisdom, decided to offer a small income tax on the November 2006 ballot. Didn’t pass … in large part because the (“non-partisan”) County Commissioners didn’t trust voters to make the “right choice.”

The language of the ballot measure was a trick: should the county income tax, which would be, like TOTALLY devoted to, like, COPS, dude, be capped at such-and-such percentage?

But, alas, the taxpayers weren’t that stoooopid, and, it OUGHT to have died then and there.

Now, we have a long history in Oregon of paying mere lip service to democracy until the measure we’re backing finally wins the election, and then we become ardent defenders of the principle of popular sovereignty.

Which is to say, within a couple of months, by a 3-2 vote, our County Commissioners re-imposed the tax, saying that it wasn’t THAT tax, but, rather, a NEW tax that just happened to look exactly the same. Only it was different.

Got that?

The people of Lane County, Eugene and Springfield, did not buy this obvious line of horseshit at first. Horseshit has, to the experienced nose, an unmistakable odor, and that odor hung heavily in the air. The two commissioners that voted in the negative affirmed this.

But, the stable was granted, by some, to smell of sandalwood and myrrh, and the income tax was passed anyway.

Enter a group of sincerely pissed off locals. And, enter the reptilian hand of Don McIntyre and all that good Howie Rich/Freedomworks/Club For Growth money, looking for these kinds of crusades.

The angrey locals received “assistance” from the Taxpayers Association of Oregon, (TAO and TAO PAC) and qualified the question for a vote in ONE DAY.

You see, this kind of thing happens a lot here in town. For instance, they’ve been fighting over building a new hospital for a decade and more, and the mess STILL isn’t resolved. Somebody put a cross on the butte in the middle of the night one year (one “Stub” Stewart), and they fought it through a referendum on whether to retain the cross as a “war memorial” and then all the way to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court (where it was finally decided to stop spending money on lawyers and let the cross come down), and when the cross was moved to a local bible college, and ANOTHER referendum was held whether to put a FLAG on the hill (actually, a flag or a GIGANTIC flag, the smaller flag winning) to replace the cross, twenty-five years had passed.

That, chilluns, is classic stoner humor, whether they will admit it or not. You CANNOT manage to bollux things up so crazily by drinking too much alcohol. You cannot be that determinedly loony on methadrine, nor that focused on cocaine, nor that envigorated with the seership of the true loon on any of the opiates.

It can only come from some member of the cannabis family.

The congress was about to let expire a late 19th century provision meant to make up for the property taxes that were lost by turning big chunks of rural Oregon counties into National Forest and BLM lands. The county was now facing a $21 million (projected) shortfall. (Although, it must be noted, congressional representatives had gotten it on the supplimental Iraq authorization where Bush characterized it, by implication, as ‘pork.’)

Consider the dance that proceeded to play out: The commissioners then voted 3-2 to place the issue on the ballot, inferring — albeit still in a highly authoritarian and patriarchal tone — that they’d always intended to let the people vote, although voting was going to waste precious dollars that would normally be going to having sheriff’s deputies patrolling rural Lane County to protect those well-to-do retirees whose homes were attracting the crooks in the first place.

And explained that the old tax that was voted down was for ANOTHER crisis (not THIS crisis) and, therefore, this was a new tax.

And the scent of sandalwood and myrrh wafted through the pines.

And then the commissioners spent several thousand dollars on an “informational” campaign, in which the ex-mayor of Eugene appeared on radio, a popular Republican who had just ran for, and narrowly lost the state senate campaign to unseat a popular — albeit weird* — incumbent Democrat.

[* Who admitted, famously, once attempting suicide by overdosing on LSD, although this was never mentioned in the campaign. Such is stoner politesse in Eugene.]

In other words, the 3-2 commissioners were using public funds to advertise the tax proposal on the ballot. (Er, “information” using a prominent and well-liked “fiscal conservative,” along with his implied approval of the “informational” tax.)

Luckily, when you’ve smoked enough of the ganga, apparently, the suggestion that the horseshit you are smelling is actually the sandalwood and myrrh you are enjoying — well, that suggestion seems entirely plausible.

I have no other explanation for the fact that, while complaints were raised, the use of taxpayer funds to advertise a tax for the taxpayers to pay was all right and only broke rules of ethics and fundamental propriety.

And the entire juggernaut staggered drunkenly to the finish line yesterday.

At one “forum” commissioner Faye Stewart noted that he wasn’t in the job “to win any popularity contests.”

(And which of you will dare maintain that anyone could make such a statement NOT under the influence of tetrahydrocannabinol or a physiochemical relative?)

Yes, here in Eugene/Springfield, we’re world famous for being that place where “Animal House” was filmed. The club on Dexter lake, by the way, was up for sale last month … the roadhouse where the “Otis Day and the Knights” was shot. You might note, however, that was the first and last time any significant number of Black patrons was ever seen in the establishment. Lane County is ferociously White, at the end of the day.

One of the deep reasons for the resentment was the fact that twice the voters had been asked to vote on whether to put in the infamous “West Side Parkway,” and, after two votes in the affirmative, local politicians who opposed the Bypass for various reasons, assured the public that the vast reserves of sandalwood and myrrh that would be destroyed by the evil freeway more than justified overturning the vote.

The bypass was killed at the county and state level just last year. The star player in that controversy, Kitty Piercy, is the CURRENT Eugene mayor, and a prominent Democrat. HER voice began to appear on the radio after fundraising was held … to SUPPORT THE TAX!

(I’ve been to some weird fundraisers in my day, but I have to wonder what the scent that came off that one was. It was certainly neither horseshit nor sandalwood nor myrrh. But it was pungent, nonetheless, almost exactly like the smell of burning leaves in autumn.)

I kid you not:

Committee backing county income tax leads in donations
By Matt Cooper
The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.)
Published: Friday, May 4, 2007

Backed by two of Lane County’s biggest employers, campaigners for the Lane County income tax have raised about three times the money collected by those against the tax, state records show.

The pro-tax “We Are All In This Together” political action committee collected $16,900 through Thursday while the war chest of its opponent, the “We Said No” committee, was just less than $5,500.

Major donors to the pro-tax campaign include PeaceHealth’s Oregon division, the biggest employer in Lane County with 4,300 employees; and Kay Toolson, CEO of Coburg RV maker Monaco Coach Corp., the county’s fourth-biggest employer. PeaceHealth and Toolson gave $2,500 each … Eugene companies that gave $1,000 each include Delta Sand and Gravel, the Pape Group, real estate developer Arlie and Co. and Liberty Financial Group … The “We Said No” committee received its largest donation – $1,700 – from the Taxpayers Association of Oregon political action committee, a Tigard-based taxpayer advocacy organization….

Meanwhile, Lane County government will spend about $40,000 on published material and other efforts to inform the public about the tax proposal. The county spent $8,000 for an informational insert in this newspaper.

Under state law, a government agency can’t spend money advocating for or against issues, but it can provide objective informational material.

Yeah. Right. Sure. The aroma of sandalwood fills the room.

But the Register-Guard missed the real story, and made a pretty penny on the election as well:

According to the Oregon Secretary of State’s yet-another-new online campaign finance reporting system (the first number is the transaction tracking number, left in for curious actual Oregon reporters):

40514 03/01/2007
Taxpayers Association of Oregon PAC
Register Guard
Cash Expenditure $2,000.00

Hey, nice work if you can get it. The puny little “WE SAID NO” committee is squeaking by, but the “WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER*” PAC is grinding them into the dirt, right?

[* Official statement of purpose: ” Support Ballot Measure that enacts income tax to supplement lost timber tax revenues.” Total Contributions $22,150.78]

Wrong. Here’s what the local timber barons gave Taxpayers Association of Oregon (ibid.):

52441 04/24/2007
Swanson Group Inc.
Cash Contribution $5,000.00

52438 04/24/2007
Cash Contribution $5,000.00

52440 04/24/2007
Starfire Lumber Co.
Cash Contribution $3,000.00

49719 04/23/2007
Seneca Sawmill Company
Loan Received (Non-Exempt) $10,800.00

Yeah. I know about those loans. Prior to the 2004 general election, TAO was carrying 750,000 in “loans” that they carried until they were mysteriously “forgiven” between the final 2004 reporting and the first quarter 2005 reporting, when no one was looking.

And, of course, The TAO PAC was given another big chunk of change by the TAO itself!

47604 04/19/2007
Taxpayer Association of Oregon
Cash Contribution $10,000.00

Now, let’s see how money was spent in Lane County by suburban Portland TAO (and one can only surmise that it was ALL for sandalwood and myrrh purchases that had nothing to do with the WE SAID NO campaign. These are all, by the by, Eugene/Springfield radio stations. In fact, they are just about ALL the Eugene/Springfield radio stations:

[TAO PAC source of $$$]

49726 04/23/2007
Clear Channel (RADIO – 5 local Stations)
Cash Expenditure $1,350.00

49717 04/19/2007
Cumulus Broadcasting (RADIO – 6 local stations)
Cash Expenditure $1,950.00

49716 04/19/2007
Clear Channel
Cash Expenditure $1,575.00

49718 04/19/2007
McKenzie River Broadcasting (3 stations, but #1 and #2 arbitron January 2007)
Cash Expenditure $7,410.00

Oh, and let’s not forget Good Impressions Printing. Pulitzer Prize-winning alternative newspaper WILLAMETTE WEEK reported in its May 10th, 2006 issue:


Campaign filings show at least three initiatives aimed at the November state ballot (No. 14, a tax code change sponsored by Loren Parks; No. 6, a spending limit sponsored by the Taxpayer Association of Oregon; and No. 47, an Oregonians in Action anti-eminent-domain measure) are using Good Impressions Printing Co. The Portland firm gained notoriety in 1999 when a U.S. district court jury in Portland returned a $109 million verdict (later reduced to $4.7 million) against a group of anti-abortion zealots who targeted abortion providers with a website and posters likening them to Nazi war criminals. At the time of the verdict in the so-called “Nuremberg Files” trial, one of the defendants, Andrew Burnett, served as Good Impressions’ general manager. His wife, Diane, continues as its president. And on Tuesday, Andrew Burnett* answered its phone.

[* Yes, the same Andrew Burnett who was a contributor to “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” back in 2004.]

From the SOS Expenditures reports for TAO PAC:

52451 04/27/2007
Good Impressions Printing
Cash Expenditure $2,689.00

52495 04/23/2007
Good Impressions Printing
Cash Expenditure $1,932.00

49721 04/23/2007
Good Impressions Printing
Cash Expenditure $5,000.00

49728 04/13/2007
Good Impressions Printing
Account Payable $1,932.00

Meantime, the Register-Guard, blissfully unaware, seemingly, of the parallel campaign that TAO was running to “WE SAID NO” was pocketing another few grand from WE SAID NO:

49904 04/23/2007
We Said No PAC
The Register Guard
Cash Expenditure $877.80

54142 05/03/2007
We Said No PAC
The Register Guard
Cash Expenditure $2,451.74

And TAO PAC was spreading money around to the other county newspapers:

52458 05/01/2007
Suislaw News
Cash Expenditure $97.30

52447 04/27/2007
Suislaw News
Cash Expenditure $434.00

52456 04/27/2007
Cottage Grove Sentinel
Cash Expenditure $196.00

Fortunately, we have crack investigative reporters on the case at the newspapers, and the contributions of the out-of-county TAO PAC political professionals were unnoticed and unremarked, except for that lone $1,700 contribution, which was, in essence chump change in terms of the actual cash that TAO PAC was shelling out.

Still, we must remember that we live in a country in which the Attorney General of the United States clearly flim-flammed, mendacified and bullshat both houses of congress, and nobody is willing to publicly say that he lied. Indeed, caught in lie after lie, it took the country years to admit that the Commander in Chief — a/k/a “commander guy,” “the decider,” “George the Third” etc. — lies.

So, it may not be JUST Lane County.

These are all preliminary figures, and don’t cover the last week of the election. And, given the manner in which these things are reported, by the time we know all the facts, no one will care. But there you have it.

At any rate, the resources of the Taxpayers Association of Oregon and its PAC were put in service to the “WE SAID NO” committee of the citizens who’d just had enough of it. Robocalls went out. I got one here in Eugene. My friend Captain Crusty in Springfield got one the next day. Pricey and professional for an ‘ad hoc’ committee.

But this was not, by contrast, a bong-driven campaign: you simply can’t do this kind of accounting yoga (especially the more advanced contortions) in any kind of stoned state. And that’s a relief, at least.

But, in a very real sense, the “WE SAID NO-ers” were now pawns in a bigger game. The standard Republican anti-tax machinery clanked into well-oiled operation.

The standard Democratic labor machinery whirred into well-oiled operation: phone banking began and continued over several nights. But these were volunteers, and no match for the hunter-seeker jukebox robots and the slick mailings.

Gee. I wonder who printed the post cards? Hmmm.

Nice four-color oversize postcard on semigloss using special political mailing rates. Funny thing: no matter who is battling on the ballot, the Usual Suspects are always there, their hands out, for lawn signs, bumper stickers, media buys, political consulting, mailing lists, robocalling, mailings and phone banking.

(Tower Marketing, Inc. figures prominently in BOTH sets of campaign documents: WE SAID NO and TAO PAC.)

The county commissioners and the WE SAID NO committee were now essentially superfluous in the process. The electoral machinery revved effortlessly, still well-oiled from the last election.

The election was held last night. The measure went down to defeat 71-29%. Another, weird measure — to cap this and any future county income tax at 2% — passed 54-46% but any analysis of THAT tactical maneuver requires a stoned analyst. That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

Certainly it means nothing, inasmuch as a vote to pass a 4% income tax would automatically include a provision nullifying the cap. And, since the tax didn’t pass, we have a cap without a bottle, which, while it might make for a nice surrealist painting, doesn’t strike me as any way to run a government.

I wish I could say the same for our local government. If these things were unusual, I’d just ascribe it to the usual causes: eclipses, inauspicious omens, impiety, communism or mildew.

But these political Rubik’s Cube puzzles are not unusual. In fact, they are the norm.

And, at the end, the normal people from WE SAID NO were pictured by the TEEVEE people in a normal sort of restaurant, celebrating, and looking, well, normal. But they are still running a “recall” campaign on one of the commissioners, and one imagines that their new “friends” up in Portland will be giving a hand with petitioners, advice, etc.

Heck, they may even exploit their Howie Rich connection and get Chris Kliesmet down here from Wisconsin, where he’s rapidly becoming the “guru” of recall elections, and was overseeing the “Citizen FOIA*” project for Paul Jacob and the rest of the CATO crowd. But that’s mere speculation.

[*Which seems to have recently been taken down. ]

But the commissioners now predict doom and gloom, and the “NO” people now say that cuts can be made, and both are probably less than correct. The Rural Schools timber offset money is still floating around the 110th Congress, and the election may well have proven utterly pointless if congress comes to the rescue (as well it may) considering that the tax even had an automatic nullification clause, should congress pass the supplimental. In which case, one wonders: WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THIS MADNESS? (It’s like a bad Cheech & Chong movie, if that’s not redundant.)

I don’t think that it’s the water. We have really good water here (if you filter out the insane amount of chlorine they’ve been dumping in it for the last couple of years).

So I postulate that it’s got to be what they’re smoking in Eugene. There is no other explanation that I can think of.

And it sure as hell ain’t myrrh.



© 2007 Hart Williams. Cross-posted from Zug - Hart Williams' Blog
The continuation of
Skiing Uphill and Boregasm, Zug is 'the little blog that could.'

Bookmark and Share

About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.