Slant 3-24-2016

Bus tickets to ship off homeless people? We hear the city of Portland is looking at allocating $30,000 to buy one-way bus fares for indigent residents who are stuck in Portland and want to go home, or at least to a place where they have the support of family or friends. San Francisco has a similar program called Homeward Bound. At first glance, this seems like a cynical way to get rid of “problem” people and pass them along to other cities. But it’s become increasingly apparent that homelessness is a complex issue that calls for multiple and creative solutions: private and public shelters, legal tent sites with garbage service and toilets, vehicle camping, tiny houses, veteran housing, wet beds, affordable housing of all kinds, day-labor jobs, mental health and substance abuse intervention and services. Maybe helping an individual get sober and return to his or her family could be one of the solutions.

• Former governor John Kitzhaber is speaking in public again, only weeks after his fiancée Cylvia Hayes gave her first post-scandal talk at the UO’s Public Interest Environmental Law Conference. Kitz says he’s looking for work. Any suggestions? Our favorite so far is that he “trim weed like the rest of us.” 

• Will Trump come stump in Oregon before the May 17 primary? Democrats might have resolved their nominee question by then, but The Vulgarian could be short on delegates as well as fingers. Oregon Republicans met in Seaside last week for the Dorchester Conference, and a straw poll gave top votes to Kasich, followed by Cruz, Trump and Rubio. It’s encouraging to see the Dorchester gang favoring the only moderate candidate on the GOP ticket, but the state’s more conservative and diverse electorate will probably line up, reluctantly or enthusiastically, behind Trump.  

• Why did Gov. Kate Brown sign a controversial package of sprawl bills passed by the Legislature last month? Land-use planning advocates urged her to veto at least some of the bills, but it looks like she bought into the cynical argument offered by the Oregon Homebuilders Association and others that sprawl is necessary to deal with undefined “affordable housing.” In a letter to a constituent March 15 defending her support of HB 1573, Brown wrote, “We need to increase our supply of safe, affordable and decent homes for Oregonians,” and, “in the past we have seen a number of situations where a city and county have approved the urbanization of an area, only to see a subsequent action that prevents the area from being added to the city.” In other words, if city planners want to control expansion into urban growth boundaries, too bad. Now it’s up to property owners, and taxpayers can pick up the costs.

This dragged-out election season has some people irritated and frustrated, while others are fascinated by the political process and inspired to get involved somehow in this messy experiment we call democracy. One good way to plug into the local political scene and gain valuable experience in government is to get appointed to a city board, committee or commission. April 8 is the newly extended deadline to apply for appointments to the city Budget Committee, Police Commission, Civilian Review Board, Human Rights Commission, Planning Commission, Toxics Board, Sustainability Commission and several others. Apply online through the city’s website.