As the State Turns

stateturnssymbolWill It Ever End?
I promise to make this short. Last week the Cover Oregon board gleefully accepted yet another resignation, this time of acting director Dr. Bruce Goldberg. How many people have jumped ship from that position now? Let’s not count. In the meantime, they’ve hired a firm, Hamstreet & Associates, that apparently specializes in ‘turnarounds,’ to take over the top spot. What’s next, will they try a circus bear and a team of belly dancers? It’d be nice to say that hey, at least they conducted their search using a system that had “semifinalists” before they made a final choice, but… nobody really cares anymore.

And this fun stuff comes on the heels of them announcing that “soon” Cover Oregon will be deciding whether or not to ditch their problem website. A report by Deloitte Development names a bunch of ideas for the site, several of which sound better than sticking with Oracle, which will take another two years and cost over $45 million. For example, taking a functioning site from another state would only cost about $20 million and take less than a year….

[Holds head in hands].

Ah, Sweet Irony
The deputy director of Oregon’s prison institution is being slapped with an investigation into nepotism by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. Last May allegations emerged that Mitch Morrow had used his position to get his son a promotion, as well as other benefits, in relation to his job at an agency that employs state inmates. While Morrow announced in August that he was going to sue the Department of Corrections, as well as other state agencies, nothing has been filed as of right now.

While the reports that emerged did not come to any conclusions, they illuminated the circumstances surrounding the initial allegations. One bit of information that came to light was that Morrow’s son did indeed come to his position without going through any sort of hiring process. Morrow used the power of The Force a few more times, influencing here and intervening there in relation to that same son.

Whereas the state ethics board may be tiptoeing towards a decision, it seems fairly obvious what that’ll end up being.

Vaginas, Penises, Condoms… Oh My!
The Oregon Adolescent Sexuality Conference, having occurred on April 7 and 8, went off without a hitch. That is, unless, of course, you count almost 100 protesters showing up with signs and messages such as “Christ can save you” a hitch.

The conference, featuring keynote speakers Cory Silverberg, Allison Vesterfelt, and Mariotta Gary-Smith, was designed to create a place where teenagers and young adults could come to learn as well as be open and free about sexuality in order to create a responsible dialog and choose information over shame. Topics covered included everything from safe sex to pregnancy, and featured young speakers as well as several handfuls of workshops on rape, abstinence, gender identity, ‘condomology’ and more. This conference is essentially the straight talk event on sexuality that public schools will never be able to pull off.

Yet. Because knowledge and freedom are so inherently terrible, though, it’s a breath of fresh air to find out that so many people stood up to protest it. Someone give those folks a round of applause. That was sarcasm.

The Josephine County Blues
What might sound like a really awful idea could turn out to be necessary. The perpetually-understaffed Josephine County Sheriff’s Office has hatched a plan to start training volunteer citizens to perform background investigations, process crime scenes, look for evidence, take photographs and even dust for fingerprints. Sort of like asking auto mechanics to work on the space shuttle, I know.

Yes, while eyes of intense scrutiny may descend when amateur CSI evidence is presented in court that may just be the least of their worries. In June of 2012, about 60% of the office’s deputies and support staff were laid off, and this is despite having a much larger investigation rate per capita than surrounding areas.

One volunteer working on the problem says that they’re simply trying to reduce the number of times they have to tell those who report crimes that they can’t be helped. Until a fundamental change in their funding can be pushed through, one can hardly blame them for finding alternative solutions. 2013 saw voters rebuff a proposed property tax levy aimed at public safety.

Phil Knight is Made Of Money
In a stroke of what could only be called a tax loophole, charity or blistering insanity, Nike’s Phil Knight has pledged that if the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute can raise $500 million in just two years, that he would match the amount. This would make Knight’s promise the largest grant of its kind in the history of the United States. OHSU has already gobbled up over $85 million in funds towards the goal, prompting some to wonder if this OHSU black hole of doom would hit other fund-raising efforts in the area where it hurts. It could go either way, though, lending itself to popularize the model, helping others in the long run.

The media attention certainly won’t hurt, but when the Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter for Oregon and Southwest Washington surveyed local nonprofits, about half of them thought it was unlikely that this would help them out in the future. At least one unnamed nonprofit said that major donors had already informed them that they’d be tapped out this go-around due to contributing to the Knight fund.

Fundraising by nonprofits have increased from 2012 to 2013, with one-fifth claiming a “great” increase. Let’s hope that if the Knight challenge does dip into all these other cookies jars, that there will be some left over.

By Johnny Beaver