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Saturday, August 23, 2003

It ain't over 'til it's over

Well, the baseball bill is still technically, barely alive in the Oregon Legislature, albeit on a respirator and with a priest standing by ready to give Extreme Unction.

Apparently some sort of House-Senate committee is working on the bill to give some of those senators who voted no yesterday a chance to have changes made so that they can say yes.

As a baseball backer, I'm hopeful but not optimistic.

The original Senate vote yesterday was 18-12 against. Then, after it was clear the measure would fail, Sen. Ryan Deckert of Beaverton changed his vote from yes to no, so that the final tally was 19-11. I understand Deckert's switch was just a parliamentary maneuver, and so there remain 4 Senate votes that need to be changed if major league baseball in Oregon is to have a chance.

And here are 4 senators who voted no and really should have voted yes:

Avel Gordly of NE Portland. Over the last 24 hours, she's offered a number of objections to the bill, but if she's sincere about really wanting baseball but just worried about the details, there ought to be amendments that can be made right away to change her vote.

Kate Brown of SE Portland, Senate Democratic Leader. Here's somebody who wants to be in Congress, but who is going against the wishes of the governor, the mayor of Portland, the construction trades, and the sports fans on a very high-profile issue right at what could be the end of her state government career. Kate, there ain't enough X-ers and soccer moms out there for you to win a crowded primary for Earl's seat. I support you, but please! Reconsider.

Rick Metsger of Welches. Though he's parlayed his career as a sportscaster for KOIN into a nice political position, he's apparently forgetting where he came from. If his complaint that the financing bill doesn't contain assurances of minority contracting on the construction project is sincere, an amendment should be a simple matter. With that in place, he needs to get real and say yes to the people who gave him his original platform.

Ginny Burdick of the West Hills of Portland and down to Tigard. There are lots of construction execs and sports fans up in her district. They're smart enough to see that the baseball bill gives the state all the upside and none of the downside of having a team here. She ought to find a way to vote yes.

Here's what today's Oregonian had to say:

The vote Friday to kill a plan to bring big-league baseball to Portland was so Oregon. The debate in the Senate wasn't really about baseball or professional sports, it was about the kind of state this has become -- timid, suspicious, small.

Senators voted 18-12 against the plan to finance construction of a baseball stadium with future income taxes on the players and team management. Unless four lawmakers change their minds today, the plan is dead and so, probably, are hopes of bringing Major League Baseball to Portland anytime soon.

If that happens, it will be a real loss to the city and state. There will be no infusion of construction jobs in a state with the nation's highest unemployment rate. There will be no new entertainment amenity that would bring tens of thousands of fans downtown 81 nights a year to enjoy themselves, spend money and propel the city's economy.

The senators couldn't bring themselves to look at this big picture. They wouldn't trust the assurances of the treasurer and legislative counsel that the baseball deal was so tightly written that it would not put taxpayers at risk.

Instead, they worried the city of Portland wouldn't protect its taxpayers. They bemoaned the heavy lobbying effort for baseball. They wrongly claimed the stadium would compete with schools and other services for general funds. They objected because it wasn't clear that local contractors and minorities would get a fair share of the jobs.

So they brought the whole thing down. Now there is no need to worry about who will get the new jobs. There won't be any.

The Senate debate showed one difference between professional athletes and many Oregon lawmakers. From the front row, the lawmakers look a lot smaller than you imagined.

One way or the other, you know you'll find additional commentary here as the story comes to an end. Given the sensitivity of the politics at the moment, I'm holding my own tongue as best I can.

But as you know, I have a lot to say.

Comments (3)

The four senators you have identified are smart and principled legislators. I hope they understand that backing the bonds is nothing less than a time tested jobs program that will, after the project is done, create it's own wealth.

I am cautiously optimistic that my former colleagues will see there way to voting yes on the bill....
Randy Leonard

OOPPS..should have said "...their way to voting yes..."

Well, you got your wish. Minutes ago, the Oregon Senate reconsidered and approved Senate Bill 5.

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