Nel's New Day

August 16, 2012

U.S. Should Follow Oregon’s Lead

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 11:44 AM
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Although I wasn’t born in Oregon, I am a proud Oregonian because of the progressive ideas in this blue state. Much of the credit for many benefits of living in Oregon come from Oswald West, governor of the state a century ago.

West was best known for making all the beaches part of the highway system—as indeed they were used during that time—which meant that a century later no one can buy beaches and limit people going on them as many other states do. Thus Oregon has 362 miles of beach with “free and uninterrupted” public access from the Columbia River to the California line.  This law, strengthened under Gov. Tom McCall in the late 1960s by designating the beach as extending up to the vegetation line for public use, contrasts sharply with other states that border an ocean: 93 percent of Maine’s 4,000-mile shoreline is privately owned; 75 percent of Massachusetts’ coastline is in private hands; and 77 percent of Florida’s coastline and 48 percent of California’s beaches are not public.

But West accomplished far more things that have held the people in the state in good stead. His legacy lives on in a scenic highway along the Columbia River Gorge, a predecessor to part of the nation’s interstate system. Through his efforts, the Coast Highway along the western perimeter of Oregon (Highway 101) and the Pacific Highway from Portland through the Willamette Valley (now paralleling Interstate 5) began their development. Much of the Oregon Park System is thanks to Gov. Oswald West.

His support for universal suffrage led to Oregon’s approval of universal suffrage; women in Oregon could vote in 1912, eight years before the 19th U.S. constitutional amendment made this law nationwide. As governor, he supported direct participation in government through the initiative and referendum. When insurance companies opposed a worker’s compensation bill and tried to kill it by referring it to the ballot, people voted by a ratio of 3-to-1 for the Oregon’s Worker’s Compensation Act.

West also helped pass the first minimum wage law in the country. During his time, the legislature put banks, loan sharks, stock brokers, and most public service corporations under tighter state regulation. One of these measures protected people from purchasing fraudulent securities. Vigorously opposing opposing capital punishment, West led Oregon voters to abolish what he called “the old barbarous system” for five years until they restored if in 1920.

During his time governor, West also influenced the creation of the Fish and Game commission, Highway Commission, and Industrial Accident Commission. During the third year of his governing, he also helped create the State Board of Control in 1913 that oversees the management of state institutions and the construction of state buildings.

In his memoirs published in The Oregonian in 1937, West wrote, “Early in life I rebelled against the established order of things, believing it to be responsible for most of the poverty and distress abroad in the land.”

Watching the conservatives try to privatize, outsource, or offshore everything that government and people have accomplished in over two centuries makes me even more grateful for what Gov. Oswald West accomplished in just four years. Rush Limbaugh thinks that women shouldn’t vote, Republican presidential candidates have promised to eliminate federal agencies including those that support education and environmental concerns, and conservatives in the House have set out to overturn the 17th constitutional amendment mandating that people have the ability to elect the senators that represent them in Congress. Conservatives don’t want minimum wage, and they reject any regulations that try to keep selfish, greedy, fraudulent financiers on a more honest basis. Texas, and the conservatives that cheer for the state’s actions, thinks that executing lots of people, including one man with a 61 IQ, is virtuous.

West v. conservatives shows the ideological difference in this year’s elections: “We’re all in this together” as opposed to “I’ve got mine.” In fact, the I’ve-Got-Miners want not only what they already have but also the little that struggling people have. The United States wasn’t developed on the basis of ”I’ve got mine.” It shouldn’t switch to that ideology now.

1 Comment »

  1. Way to go Nel. The conservatives have taken and twisted the good faith efforts of good people for so long that I am not sure most could really tell me what it means to be a god conservative much less a good Christian. I see what is happening now and am glad that I am in the Autumn of my life (to steal a line from a song) and will not be here much longer to see the destruction of this grand and wonderful country.


    Comment by cris — August 16, 2012 @ 3:46 PM | Reply

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