Day two of my visit to Salem, Oregon:
Molly, Judah, and I made a trip to Portland today for an appointment. Judah is a wonderful traveler - he sits in his car seat watching the world slide by and occasionally chatters - no fussing, whining, or crying. We stopped at a Wendy's after the appointment - to feed me - and Judah had an order of fries - which he calls chips. That makes me suspect he was probably British in a recent past life. This afternoon the entire Files' family took me to the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Center which consists of several buildings full of hands-on experiences for children and an amazing playground. Mr. Gilbert was an olympic athlete and inventor from the early 20th century. He was a native of Salem. One of his best known inventions was the Erector Set - an early construction kit "for boys."
Here are a few Oregonisms that I have collected over the past couple of days:
Oregon is an unusually progressive state - especially compared to the last four states in which I have lived: Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, and Arizona. While there is an abundance of homeless people in Portland and Salem, they have shelters and soup kitchens to try and care for these folks.
Bike paths and bike lanes are common, and those driving cars know to show careful deference to the health-nuts and nature-lovers on bicycles. Tonight I also noticed a fellow cruising down a bike lane on a busy street - using in-line skates and wearing a miner's helmet with a headlight.
There is no sales tax in Oregon. Sales taxes are extremely regressive, putting the burden of paying for necessary services on those least able to pay. In Oregon the onus of paying for public services rests more with those who have the ability to pay - through income and property taxes.
People are not allowed to pump their own gas in Oregon. The state passed a law saying that attendants have to pump gas - the way it used to be everywhere. The intent of the law was to increase employment. More attendants at gas stations equals more paychecks flowing into the economy. And it's sort of nice on a cold day like today to be able to sit in the warm car without feeling guilty while someone else does the work.
Several years ago the state decided that no one should own the beautiful and rugged Pacific coast. The legislature passed a law stating that people could either sell their coast property to the state, or keep it until the current owners died and then it would go to the state. Now tourists can essentially access the beaches at any place along the coast, and the views are unencumbered by high rise developments catering to the wealthy.
Oregon has a law against using a cell phone while driving - statewide. The fine is two-hundred-and-fifty dollars - and it will soon double to five hundred dollars.
All of that positive legislation doesn't mean that the state is free of reactionaries. I heard that the dark forces of fundamentalist Christianity held a big rally today (after church) at Pioneer Square in Portland where they were protesting a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. Those protestors love fetuses and ignore children - especially those children who are poor and hungry. Fortunately the reactionary goobers appear to be a distinct minority in Oregon.
Overall, it looks like many of the forty-nine other states could learn a lot from Oregon - that is if they had any desire to learn. Some states choose to take care of the privileged few, while other states, like Oregon, focus on the needs of the many. That's how I would like my tax dollars to be spent.