Keizer Public Square

Public Square welcomes all points of view. Published submissions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Keizertimes 

Remake Diversity Committee 

BY LYNDON ZAITZ Of the Keizertimes

Keizer joined the list of enlightened cities when it established its Community Diversity Engagement Committee in 2021. 

With lofty goals, the city council appointed six members plus a high school student to the body. 

At its first meeting in January 2022 a member said, “We can’t do this in these four walls. I’ll be the first one to step to the microphone and be very honest with you. We’re gonna have to go out there. It’s gonna have to be out in the community and we can go two-by-two, three-by-three, but it will have to happen.” 

What has happened since those first days? The original committee members was a diverse group of people, exactly what a committee addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion should have. 

Committee work turned to subjects such as recognizing usually underrepresented communities with proclamations of months for any number of groups: Hispanic, South Islanders, Black and Jewish. That seems pretty pedestrian work for a committee with goals of raising all communities. 

The Community Diversity Engagement Committee is an advisory body to the city council. What it has accomplished is planning the city’s 40th birthday celebration last year (as it turns out, most of the hard work was completed by people not on the committee.) 

The city council, the community and committee members should have higher expectations. The city council and city staff, which wrote and approved the committee’s charter, need to return to the drawing board and give it better direction. 

Each part of the mission needs to be defined and addressed. 

Diversity: Keizer has a diverse population. According to 2020 census data, the city is 71% white, 23% Hispanic and 12% multi-racial, not to mention those identifying as Black, Islander and other. Nearly a quarter of residents have a Hispanic surname, yet, how many have sat on the city council? How many have been members of city committees or commissions? 

If the Diversity Engagement Committee wants to do work with a lasting legacy, it can educate itself on groups in the city, such as the The Kennedy School Family Council, which is an independently established voice of all the families in the school community. 

Surely there must be members of that body that could add diverse views on city groups such as the Planning Commission or the Parks Advisory Board. 

Equity: This refers to fairness and justice and is distinguished from equality: Whereas equality means providing the same to all, equity means recognizing that we do not all start from the same place and must acknowledge and make adjustments to imbalances. 

Are there people living in Keizer who feel left out of life in the city—be it governmental, social, financial or employment-wise? The Community Diversity Engagement Committee (CDEC) should find out. Who feels left out and why? 

Inclusion: Who is not included? The city does an admirable job of using media releases and social media to inform the community of public hearings and events. As they say, you lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. 

Targeted underrepresented communities need to meet the city halfway. Yet, the CDEC and the city need to understand the mistrust of government held by some of these communities. 

Talk is all well and good, but action is the key. Develop trust with underrepresented communities. That starts with asking and listening, not telling. Lecturing people on what’s good for them from an establishment perspective will not go far. 

Enlightenment is a good thing, some people need to find it on their own with a helping hand. 

Who is deciding to okay electricity rate increases? 

BY Gene H. McIntyre

Generally recognized and often reported is information about how close to insolvency the financial resources of a great many Oregonians are. These same Oregonians, as much as those others with financial means, depend on electric power for daily to year-round living. Nowadays, survival itself can be dependent on life-sustaining electrical devices in hospitals, homes and elsewhere. 

Meanwhile, we Oregonians recently awoke once again to Portland General Electric (PGE) and Pacific Power notifying the tens of thousands of statewide customers their rates will increase, twice over, and substantially. Our recently elected Governor Tina Kotek promised she’d protect and serve our interests even while campaigning for the office. Instead, now, she, after taking an oath to be a leader who helps her citizens she simply accepts and approves the rate increases by the Oregon Public Utility Commission whose commissioners advise for or against them. 

Among related issues are the PUC commissioners themselves, that is, seemingly relevant questions include: Are they chummy by financial connections to electric-related business and industry interests? Can apparent elitists by their formal educations and personal class status relate to the average Oregonian, possessing any measure of sympathy for the financil plights of the rate payers? PUC commissioners can approve raised rates for payers whose bills can be so steep as to end their ability to pay, resulting in cancelled service any time, including during the cold of winter or the heat of summer. It is this condition of who is appointed by Governor Kotek that bothers this writer as these commissioners can make decisions that deliver reasonably positive or dire consequences. 

Additionally, Oregon rate payers are blind to the specific and related costs argued needed by PGE and Pacific Power, justifying the new and higher rates. What are their “must-haves”? Are they new tools, machines and equipment, additional hardware demands, expanded manpower number requirements, wage increases and benefits, salary/ perk/bonus enhancements for the two utility company CEOs and other executives? This is a public utility in a democracy where the citizens are most important, not those only who can make more money at citizen expense. Further, as for customer service or lack of same, we’re never put on notice why PGE and Pacific Power service is interrupted any more than we know when service will return, This way of operating a utility is not only wrong but unethical and contrary to the principles of what state government in Oregon says it stands for. 

When public utilities such as our electric companies do as they please with what’s surmised no more than a wink and nod of concern from the Oregon PUC commissioners, it is high time protests get underway in earnest. Conversely, if Governor Kotek is not able to positively influence her appointed PUC commissioners and makes no effort to demand accountability by them or the utility companies, then the next election provides Oregon’s voters with their marching orders. 

(Gene H. McIntyre shares his opinion regularly in the Keizertimes.) 

Skewering Luxury beliefs with foster care chaos 

BY George Will

Having lived as a baby in his drug-addicted mother’s car, and having been shuttled between nine families before his eighth birthday, Rob Henderson, now 34, was a troubled boy who could have become a troubled adult. Instead, he became a Yale graduate earning a PhD from the University of Cambridge. 

His autobiography, Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class, is drawing fresh attention to a familiar phenomenon that he calls “luxury beliefs.” The book also reveals that the deprivations of his childhood somehow gave him an acute, unenthralled understanding of what economists call “positional goods.” 

Henderson is an outlier. Social science is conclusive about the importance of family structure— optimally, with two parents—in predicting a young life’s trajectory. After a youth of substance abuse, violence and neglect of education (reading his report card: “Cs and Ds. I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t failing anything”), his remarkable resilience is a tribute to the U.S. military. 

“Boys raised by single mothers or caregivers other than their parents,” Henderson writes, “are five times more likely to be incarcerated than boys raised by both of their parents. The majority of jail inmates report being raised by single parents or non-parental guardians. … For every male foster kid like me who obtains a college degree, twenty are locked up.” 

Civilizing adolescent males is civilization’s constant challenge. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the most accomplished social scientist ever to serve in Congress, liked to say that the social sciences do not tell us what to do, they tell us the results of what we are doing. The armed services are getting good results. 

The challenge of Henderson’s childhood was not poverty but chaos, the opposite of military discipline. (He notes: “A poor kid in the U.S. is nearly four times more likely to graduate from college than a foster kid.”) He believes he was saved from prison by his almost impulsive enlistment in the Air Force. 

He took the enlistment test “hungover, exhausted, and hungry.” Enlisting enabled this ruinously present-minded 17-year-old to envision, for the first time, a future. The military unlocked his potential by providing “a structured environment, a sharp contrast to the drama and disorder of my youth.” The military, like a firm father Henderson never had, is uniquely “aware of the latent impulsivity and stupidity in young people, especially yoaung men.” It “presses the ‘fast forward’ button on the worst, most aggressive, and impulsive years of a young man’s life.” 

He went from the Air Force to Yale. And into a campus milieu of prolonged adolescence that bemused, when it did not disgust, his matured self. 

What he calls “luxury beliefs” are upper-class ideas—e.g., the nuclear family is an anachronism, monogamy is outdated, polyamory is cool, drugs should be legalized —that confer cachet on that class, which espouses the beliefs without acting on them. Sociologist Charles Murray wishes the stable classes would preach what they practice. Henderson says, “We now live in a culture where affluent, educated, and well-connected people validate and affirm the behaviors, decisions, and attitudes of marginalized and deprived kids that they would never accept for themselves or their own children.” 

Nowadays, the upper crust is rhetorically committed to equality. But the affluent, whose material appetites have been sated, are preoccupied with status-conferring credentials (e.g., superfluous master’s degrees). In the social ecosystem of snobbery, “positional goods”—e.g., a “choice” home, an “exclusive” vacation spot, a degree from an “elite” college, a “superior” job—are definitionally scarce: The pleasure of possessing them partly comes from flaunting the exclusion of others. 

Many students at prestigious colleges are sullen, bored and, to relieve their boredom, politically rabid because for them college is less an exciting opportunity than a grim necessity. It is a means of escaping the social congestion of the masses who are excluded from the upper reaches of the positional economy. Using a vocabulary unintelligible to the uninitiated —“heteronormative,” “cisgender,” “cultural appropriation”—becomes a way of waving one’s diploma. Talking about one’s wealth is tacky, but advertising one’s luxury beliefs (e.g., regretting one’s White privilege) is not. 

Henderson wryly notes that, in 2015, a person acquired status by seeing Hamilton. By 2020, however, when the masses had made the musical contemptibly popular, former enthusiasts turned against it, saying it insufficiently reflected America’s failings. Its creator, Lin- Manuel Miranda, performed the expected grovel: “All the criticisms are valid.” 

Henderson had a youth with too little laughter. He is making up for lost time. 

(Washington Post)