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Archive for the 'Civil Liberties' Category

Prop 8 Problems

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

I would caution the cheering crowds that view the Supreme Court’s refusal to rule on Prop 8 to step back for a moment.  This ruling raises some red flags, and I hope that those opposing Prop 8 can understand that.

Prop 8 made same-sex marriage illegal in California.  It was voted on by the people and passed.  The Governor then refused to enforce it.  Whether or not you agree with same-sex marriage is irrelevant.  The process of direct democracy that so many on the left supposedly believe in was dealt a blow today.

If the governor does not agree with the people’s decision then he does not need to listen.  In the future, when the same people that are championing this decision are in the majority and the governor is on the opposing side, the governor will not have to listen to their votes.  That should raise major concerns for them because in getting a victory, they are also getting a defeat.

The court did not rule that same-sex marriage should be legal, only that the plaintiff did not have the standing to bring the case before the court.  If it had been brought up as a voters’ right issue it is possible it may have resulted in a different decision.

 

Neil Killion

ASUO Flippity Floppity

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Remember these things?

photo

They’re coming back. On Wednesday April 3, 2013 the Associated Students of the University of Oregon did something utterly hilarious. They decided to spend $1,960 on another feel-good measure, but this time, it’s all flippity floppity. Almost $2,000 was authorized to be spent on– *DRUMROLL*– cigarette butt receptacles!

Wait, it gets better! They are being installed off campus! 

These receptacles were ripped out of the ground 7 months ago on the student’s dollar and now they are needed again, because our University still looks all trashy. Who is surprised? Not this Commentator.

Yes, totally unforeseen by the ASUO and supporters of the Healthy Campus Initiative was the fact that a toothless ban on smoking wasn’t going to stop smokers. All it did was alienate and inconvenience people. Their response was to take their smoking to the UO borderlands where half-smoked cigs fall to the ground or flow into the sewers.

So the ASUO Executive branch put forth a special request to the Senate on Wednesday, asking for $1,960 to be spent on designated cigarette butt receptacles to be installed at two major campus entrances. These receptacles are to be multi-purpose trash bins (or something) with signs. The requesters explained that the sign would depict not just cigarette butt disposal, but other trash as well (in order to discourage littering while not endorsing smoking).

The motion to fund this back-patting flippity flop passed like a hot potato. I can’t say I disagree that the University needs these smoking stations, as they will come to be with people congregating all about them, basking in the last few puffs of their cigarettes. But now when people enter the UO, they’ll see smokers and their butts littered around an all-to-obvious trash can and have to walk through all their smoke.

I guess that’s better than having a designated smoking area ON campus but AWAY from the main flow of traffic right? 

I would say I told you so. But I’d probably be told to Shut The Fuck Up.

GUNZ

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

From left to right: Photo of Joseph Kelley in Utah J.C. Penny taken by Cindy Yorgason;President Obama presenting his proposals in a photo posted on NewsWhip.com; “Pioneer” statue on UO campus carrying his rifle.

 

The following post contains views and opinions that are my own (Nicholas Ekblad) and do not necessarily represent those of the Oregon Commentator as a whole.

 

Now, I spent about half of my childhood in The-middle-of-nowhere, Arizona and the greater half in rural eastern Oregon. I was taught by my father how to use a gun and how to use it safely. My father did not make light– ever– of the power and responsibility of a holding a firearm in hand. I firmly believe in the Second Amendment, though it might surprise a lot of people to learn that I support “gun control” in its general sense (READ: the control of guns is as necessary and already as prevalent as the control of, say, the license to drive a motor vehicle)(fully automatic weapons have been outlawed since 1936). That being said, here is my take on Obama’s proposals to congress.

 

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“Perceived” Rights and Smoker Ethics

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

After getting off of work in the dungeon that is the Knight Library basement, I stepped into the afternoon rain. I pulled a pre-rolled cigarette from my pocket (Bugler brand – mangy, disgusting Bugler) and lit it. Standing off to the side so as not to spread smoke, an elderly woman shot me the evil eye before stopping in front of me: “There’s no smoking on campus. Go smoke across the street.”

I stared at her until she left.

This kind of situation has become all-too-common since the Healthy Campus Initiative, in partnership with the UO Health Center and the administration (with a special guest funding appearance from the ASUO), implemented a campus-wide smoking ban at the beginning of the Fall. The idea of a smoking ban isn’t anything new; the Smoke Free Campus Task Force (SFTF) issued a report in 2008 that sought to

tak[e] up the matter of campus smoking policy with the understanding that the issue is fueled by strong personal convictions for perceived personal rights, both the right to be free from the effects of secondhand smoke and the right to choose to smoke cigarettes (STFT Report, emphasis mine)

The rest of the report either references student support from polls drawn from other universities, or flat-out neglects student responses in order to reference various studies, policies, and polls from other universities. Under “Synthesis of Survey Findings of UO Faculty, Staff, and Students,” the report states that

Many survey respondents are ready to support the move to a smoke free campus… [and] also were confident that this could be accomplished with designated smoking areas… (Ibid.)

Oh, hey, there’s a reasonable point. But no! The STFT simply cannot concede, because “enforcement becomes very difficult and compliance suffers as a result.” You don’t say.

No matter what the administration does, what programs it implements, what funding it pulls or pushes, students will push against it. Lord knows the Commentator will. The Healthy Campus Initiative tried to remedy this student disconnect with the “STFU” posters, a internet-conscious campaign that seemed to confuse people more than encourage quitting (check out this post about the issue from our very own Editor Emeritus Sophia Lawhead).

Another argument is that it unfairly targets lower-income UO workers. Even those filthy hipsters at the OV agree with us on this point. Making workers go off campus for a 15 minute smoke break is not only inconsiderate, but damaging to already-strained labor relationships.

“All I wanted was a non-fat, cream-jizzed latte with peasant tears in it!”

So why bring up this almost-5-year-old report, you may ask? Because Frances Dyke and company never really cared about what students thought. The UO has become a brand, and it needs to sell itself in order to keep flagging state funding and private donor contributions steady. The publicity surrounding the ban has relentlessly focused on the “progressive” aspects of the program without attending to the opinions of students or faculty – and if so, only through narrow data samples used to prop up their point.

But the effects of secondhand smoke are serious. I completely understand the goal behind the smoking ban. Cigarette butt litter continues to be a problem, and has only been exacerbated by the ban — take a look at the 13th and Kincaid entrance to campus if you don’t believe me. Families with young children and people with respiratory problems are also rightfully concerned.

The only way to fight this ban, then, is to implement a personal smoker code of ethics to demonstrate smoker commitment to a healthy campus and personal freedoms. Here’s mine:

  1. Always smoke away from buildings and large groups of people, and/or areas of great traffic.
  2. Stop inhaling and pull the cigarette as far away from passing families with children.
  3. If someone asks you to smoke off campus, politely decline or simply don’t say anything at all. You’ll be finished if and when they call DPS.
  4. Put butts out and make sure they’re extinguished before throwing them away.
  5. Throw butts in the trash.
  6. If an officer asks you to put your cigarette out, assess the situation. Fines suck, but so do the deprivation of “perceived personal rights.”
  7. Overall, recognize that your activity is looked down upon. Take pride in this.

It’s not perfect, but it works for me. The Commentator will continue to fight this arbitrary ban with articles, letters, appeals, and upcoming events like Tobacco Appreciation Day. But the ball is in smokers’ courts. We at the Commentator will do our best to point out the massive cavalcades of bullshit directed at students who make the choice to smoke. This smoking ban is just another attempt at nannying the student populace; the administration never does anything without direct benefit to them, and they’ve fucked smokers to bolster their public image under the pretense of “knowing what’s best.”

The whole campaign feels like yet another pat on the head, another assumption about our intelligence, actions, and responsibilities. But we’re not kids anymore. We’re adults, students, workers, and yes, smokers. So smoke ’em if ya got ’em. It’s going to be a long, long battle.

Athletics Rushes New Drug Testing Policy

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Well, in the wake of this revealing (though not surprising) ESPN report, detailing the presence of a “pot culture” in Oregon Football, the UO athletic department is adopting new rules regarding the drug testing of student-athletes. Now, testing is to be random according to a number generator. University spokesman Phil Weiler is quoted in this Register Guard article, citing the “safety of student-athletes” as the cause for concern of the testing policy. (more…)

A Big Commentator Congratulations to Bill Harbaugh !

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

UO economics professor William T. Harbaugh, the immortal being behind the beloved, anonymous, whistleblower blog UO MATTERS, was awarded the First Freedom Award  by the Society of Professional Journalists of Oregon and Southwest Washington this past Saturday.

The Ol’ Dirty covered this on Monday, but its Commentator policy to be a day late, a dollar short, okay?

The SPJ’s First Freedom award is given annually to an individual who has upheld the principles of the First Amendment. Harbaugh has long been a beacon of the First Amendment, most notably when he illegally published the Oregon Public Records Manual on his official uoregon website. The upheaval this precipitated compelled the attorney general’s office to make the manual available on the internet for the first time ever.

Harbaugh’s recognition is long overdue and largely understated. Y’all should know that the UO Matters blog is updated several times a day, and his posts are usually these quick, fuck-you-exposés about UO athletics and administration that require a kind of efficiency  and genuine concern that we will never (maybe a few years ago we came close) have. Knowing he’s out teaching economics and doing this in his spare time both worries and impresses us. UO Matters is invaluable to the entire, “engaged” university community, but is especially invaluable to drunk, disoriented student journalists like ourselves. We’re the ones constantly referring to UO Matters for direction and content, so finding the Commentator website listed under UO Matters’ “Resources” is an honor and probably some sort of mistake.

Bill, you are the resource. As renowned sultans of hate speech, there aren’t too many people we love to love. And let’s just say that you might be one of those people.

So here’s to you, Harbaugh. And for the record, UO Matters will forever be bookmarked on my Firefox browser.

 

Ol’ Dirty’s Attempt to Save Trees Deemed Outragiously Racist

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

On March 6, during an intramural basketball game, a fight broke out between opponents from each team. Becky Metrick covered the story the next day in Daily Emerald, which can be found here. Today, the Emerald‘s front page features an article by Josephine Woolington covering the meeting organized by Kendaris Hill (former president of the Black Student Union). According to the concerned students of the Black Student Union, the Ol’ Dirty‘s placement of the photo (probably the first or third one in the series here) of Amin Tufa being taken into custody by DPS officers was inappropriate. The picture was placed on the front page next to an unrelated headline regarding crime in the West University neighborhood.

Let me just say a few things:

1. Black people have been on the front page of newspapers before! It’s not a new thing.

2. Crime happens. And if it happens next to or on campus, perhaps it should be covered in the campus newspaper, no?

3. I sure as hell did not immediately pin all of the crime conducted West of campus on Tufa when reading the headline. That would be racial profiling.

4. Finally, Black Student Union… You do know that the editor-in-chief of the Emerald is black himself, right?

Editor-in-chief Tyree Harris as quoted by Woolington in today’s Ol’ Dirty: “The story was clearly questioning everything involved in the situation. [...] Nobody in the newsroom was trying to portray this story in a stereotypical way.” I agree with Harris’s assertion that the stories were indeed questioning the situation.

Apparently, the Ol’ Dirty better think twice before putting a picture of a black man next to the word “crime” in a cramped newspaper– lest they hurt somebody’s feelings. Ol’ Dirty, why must you be so environmentally conscious so as to save space by putting your stories so close together! Haha, I kid, but basically, these complaints translate to: “It confuses people when the word ‘crime’ and a picture of a black man appear together but do not relate nor coincide!”

So, perhaps the next step is to start giving each story a 1.5 inch border between it and any other story, making the newspaper a more safe and pleasant thing to read. However, complications may arise with the Climate Justice League. Seems like Ol’ Dirty is in some hot water! The links to the ODE stories are above– Your thoughts?

Some Gun Lovin’ Legislature

Friday, February 17th, 2012

State politics, everybody. Who’s ready for some?

Well a week ago in Salem, the Oregon House of Representatives tabled Senate Bill 1550– a bill that would have prohibited carrying firearms on school and college campuses

Yes, prohibited even if you had a concealed handgun permit. And no, this wouldn’t have any affect on whether or not DPS will be able to carry guns.

The body cited that “all gun-related legislation is over for the current, abbreviated session.”

Democratic Senator Ginny Burdick, who proposed the bill, said that she wudn’t even surprised her bill didn’t move forward. She explained that “the short legislative session should be devoted primarily to budget adjustments and major policy issues that have more urgency to them.”

Guns on campus?

Urgent?

Please!

Take your time.

"Everybody be cool, this is just a robbery!"

 

The best part is that on Wednesday, the Oregon state House demonstrated what they do find urgent enough to pass: a bill prohibiting the release of information listed on concealed handgun license applications.

This is the third time since 2009 that the Oregon state house has passed a bill that protects this information– ensuring that the applications “remain confidential and [the information] is not released to the public.”

“The bill would protect very personal information about people who are trying to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” said Republican Rep. Kim Thatcher, who proposed the bill.

 

Dammit, Oregon State Legislature. I really wanted access to the personal information of these gentlemen.

 

Black Friday

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

This is a public service announcement:  With all this riffraff about the 1%, don’t forget the true meaning of Thanksgiving: standing in line outside a chain-store at 1 a.m. the morning after, eating left-overs and looking like Rudolph because it’s freezing.

Just please don’t have as many Red Bull and Eggnog’s as these guys:

OUS misses deadline to appeal gun ruling, announces decision to not appeal a week later

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Nearly a week after the passing of the Nov. 2 deadline for an appeal on the September ruling by the Oregon Court of Appeals that invalidated an administrative ban of firearms by the Oregon University System, OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner has announced that they will not seek to appeal the ruling.

After the initial ban in September, University of Oregon president Richard Lariviere sent an email expressing veiled disapproval, but remained unclear about any attempt to appeal the case. ASUO President Ben Eckstein voiced his desire at the time to appeal the “flawed” and “dangerous decision.” Yet no plans to appeal ever surfaced, as Pernsteiner claimed that, “We do not want to go through a long and costly process that may produce the same outcome.”

In wake of the announcement, OUS Director of Communications Di Saunders noted that, “Instead we are putting our efforts into looking at polices already in place to limit gun use on campus.” The current focus for the OUS is ensuring that guns are kept out of certain buildings, already including dorms and sports arenas, but could be extended to classrooms and other buildings.

The announcement comes as no surprise to anyone who realizes that missing a deadline means you’re shit out of luck either way. My guess is that George knew an appeal was hopeless and hoped he could get by with his balls intact when no one noticed him pussy out on everybody. Either that, or he was a little wary of aggressively trying to take away the rights of citizens who choose to defend their liberties with lethal force. It will be a sad day when game day at Autzen will no longer allow the longstanding tradition of Puddles shooting off a round into the opposing team’s marching band section for every Oregon point scored.

Famous

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Look look, this random website says we’re the #20 most awesome (Twitter) person in Eugene.

See at the bottom?

Victory alas,

To Rennies to celebrate this momentous moment!

 

 

Peter Quint Suing University of Oregon

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Fox News is reporting that Peter Quint, the ASL professor who was fired over a comment he made to one of his students, is suing the University of Oregon. Since being suspended, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has stepped in, writing a letter to President Richard Lariviere demanding that Quint be reinstated for the 2011-12 academic year. (Read their investigation and letter here.)

There are two things going on in this case: the violation of Quint’s right to due process in being hastily suspended and the violation of Quint’s right to academic freedom in being fired for a comment that could have been interpreted widely. In regards to due process, the UO and the Oregon University system seem to believe they’ve got everything under control.

FoxNews.com contacted university officials, who would not comment on the pending litigation. However, the university did release a statement.

“The University of Oregon conducted a thorough investigation into the incident that occurred in Mr. Quint’s classroom prior to taking action,” the statement reads. The Oregon University system also said it has procedures for formal proceedings when dealing with matters such as Quint’s.

“The charges or a notice accompanying the charges shall inform the academic staff member of the right to a formal hearing on the charges and of the academic staff member’s duty to notify the president within 10 days after the charges have been delivered or sent whether such hearing is desired,” read the procedures.

Quint’s lawyer disagrees, and is coming at the free speech debate from another angle: the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Quint declined FoxNews.com requests for comment after consulting with his lawyer, Kevin Tillson. Tillson did tell FoxNews.com that the university terminated Quint mid-term without due process and violated Quint’s free speech and his rights under the Americans With Disability Act for failure to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

As an adjunct professor, Quint is not rewarded the same rights as associate or full tenured professors, which will greatly influence the outcome of the court case. Regardless, it is fantastic that Quint is standing up to UO administrators and fighting for his job. In every instance of a professor, adjunct or otherwise, not being granted the rights he or she deserves, a precedent is set for the next time the UO deals with a professor. And as I mentioned in my previous post, the UO administration already has a tenuous relationship with the first amendment. The time to act is now.

In the words of UO Matters, “Soon professors will need a concealed carry permit just to make a presentation with bullet points.”

FIRE Intermediates In Termination of UO ASL Professor

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has launched an investigation into the termination of University of Oregon American Sign Language professor Peter Quint after he made what was perceived to be an off-color comment to a student in his ASL 203 class. A letter was sent from FIRE to University President Richard Lariviere on June 27 insisting that Quint be reinstated for the 2011-12 academic year.

In his 200-level ASL classes, as is the case with most 200-level language classes, Quint expected his students to not speak aloud — similar to a Spanish professor expecting students to not speak in English. He was having trouble with students not following this policy, so in order to attempt compliance, he relayed a personal story about being taken hostage in Pakistan, and how his ability to communicate via sign language saved his life. That was May 4th of this year. Then this happened:

Being deaf himself, Quint had made it clear to his students, both during lectures and in his syllabus, that respectful communication in class required that all communication be visible. Yet, later during that very class, some students again violated this policy. In frustration he expressed, “Do you want me to take a gun out and shoot you in the head so you understand what I am talking about? I had to practice being respectful in Pakistan otherwise I would have been shot. Can you practice the same respect here?”

Those ASL 203 students did not see Peter Quint again. Nor did anyone else at the university, as on the same day, Michael Bullis, the dean of the College of Education, sent Quint an email suspending him from teaching for the next day. The next day, Bullis sent Quint another email, suspending him indefinitely and promising to meet with him to discuss his future employment.

According to FIRE’s investigation, that meeting never happened, and on May 11 Quint received his final email from Bullis, dictating his termination.

The problems here are twofold — not only was Quint denied the due process that should have been afforded to him as an employee of the University of Oregon, his free speech was infringed upon, as FIRE mentioned in its June 27 letter to President Lariviere:

The principles of academic freedom and free expression in the university setting mandate far more tolerance than UO has afforded Quint. As the Supreme Court stated in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989), “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” The Court handed down such a robust defense of potentially offensive speech precisely because deeming certain speech to be offensive is an entirely subjective exercise. In a milieu as diverse as the modern academy, speech is bound to be misinterpreted, and offense is virtually unavoidable. Free speech needs breathing room in order to thrive.

Finally, UO’s punishment of Quint raises grave due process concerns. Bullis completely failed to provide any protections or follow any part of the process spelled out in the Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) for the punishment of non-tenured faculty members. The utter lack of notice, charges, a hearing, or an opportunity to appeal constitutes a severe violation of Quint’s due process rights under the rules and a betrayal of fundamental fairness. Moreover, Bullis’ requirement that Quint not “contact faculty, staff, or students” before the end of his appointment was a further violation of Quint’s free speech rights which also made it effectively impossible for Quint to defend himself and his reputation.

FIRE is demanding that President Lariviere apologize for Bullis’ actions, reinstate Quint for the 2011-12 academic year and remove all records of this from Quint’s employment files. They are also expecting a response from the university by July 18.

The most alarming part of this situation is the complete lack of due process that Quint was granted throughout this situation. The University of Oregon has a tenuous relationship with the first amendment on campus, which was seen clearly through the Pacifica Forum debacle, but also through an interview with Dean of Students Paul Shang in the January 26 issue of the Oregon Commentator. Dr. Shang was asked, “The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has listed the UO as a Red Light school for its speech code policy. How do you juggle the responsibility of providing free expression and student safety?” His response [emphasis added]:

That’s kind of a conversation that evolves. Depending on what the issue is and how something is stated, you can get different kinds of perspectives on what sorts of infringements are occurring. FIRE looks at things from just the free speech perspective. There are, in my opinion, a lot of issues having to do with free speech that people need to be thoughtful about. The fact that we are the only democratic society in the world that has these notions of unbridled speech is something that we need to think about. Canada has limitations of speech. England, Israel, all kinds of democratic countries have different perspectives on unbridled speech. That is something that may become more of an issue as our country evolves.

What we do here at the university is we want to promote freedom of speech. The free expression of ideas is fundamental to higher education. The other piece that is fundamental to higher education is that ideas will be expressed in such a way that they don’t undermine the civility that’s necessary for people to participate in a higher educational experience. You can’t be intimidated, you can’t feel threatened, you can’t feel in any way that you’ll be humiliated and it’s in that context that you can have a true free expression of ideas. On the one hand we want to have freedom of speech, on the other hand we want everyone to participate and have equal access to the higher educational opportunity.

So we’re trying to balance some things, things that you’d agree are fundamental rights. FIRE is looking at things from one perspective: the freedom of speech perspective. And certainly we, as you know, will do everything we can to promote and defend freedom of speech, to abide by the law and the notion and right of freedom of speech. On the other hand we want to make sure that everybody on campus has an equal opportunity to the whole educational experience.

Let go for a minute of the fact that Dr. Shang didn’t really answer the question that was asked. What he did there was create a dichotomy: freedom of speech vs. access to education and student safety. Not only does this show a lack of understanding of the First Amendment and its scope, it has potential parallels to this situation with Peter Quint: did the UO terminate Quint’s employment because they were worried about the safety of his students? We can take the skepticism a step further: was the UO protecting itself from the potential backlash and bad press of having students “feel threatened” by a comment made by a professor?

Legally, neither of these concerns holds any weight. FIRE is no stranger to communication with the University of Oregon, and has been at least somewhat successful in its endeavors. Heck, the Oregon Commentator is still around. Let’s hope that this case is no different, and Professor Quint receives the process he is due.

(Note: FIRE has a “take action” link at the end of its blog post about this issue where readers can click a button to send President Lariviere a letter urging him to reinstate Quint. The key sentence in the form letter: “The rights of UO faculty are very fragile indeed if the university believes it can dismiss its instructors for their classroom comments without even presenting any formal charges against them, much less allowing them the opportunity to address and rebut such charges.”)

Frank/Paul Joint Effort Against Marijuana Prohibition to Be Introduced Tomorrow

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Tomorrow, Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) will introduce bipartisan legislation to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. Under the new legislation-to-be, each state would be able to legalize, regulate and tax it (or not) as they see fit, without interference from the federal government.

News broke earlier today, when the Marijuana Policy Project made a press release announcing the legislation, which was later confirmed by a spokesperson for Rep. Frank.

Here’s some more info from the press release:

Other co-sponsors include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal. The legislation is the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

Rep. Frank’s legislation would end state/federal conflicts over marijuana policy, reprioritize federal resources, and provide more room for states to do what is best for their own citizens.

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Oregon: Relatively Free

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Oregon is the 8th freest state in the union, according to a recent study from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The study, which ranks New Hampshire and South Dakota tied for #1 and New York #50, ranks states based on their social and personal freedoms, analyzing a number of public policies specific to each of the states and taking care to ensure that fiscal policies are analyzed based on cost to the taxpayer.

Oregon, specifically, is ranked #24 in economic freedom and #1 in personal freedom (believe it or not).

Despite the low taxes, government spending in Oregon remains much too high, resulting in relatively high state debt. Public safety, administration, and environment and housing look particularly ripe for cutting. Gun control laws are a bit better than average. Marijuana possession is decriminalized below a certain level, and there is medical marijuana (cultivation and sale are felonies, though). [...]

The state’s cigarette taxes are higher than most, and its smoking bans were recently tightened. Oregon’s spirits tax is the highest in the country and quite extreme (though interestingly, its neighbor, Washington, is the only other state three standard deviations above the national average).

The study also outlines some policy recommendations for Oregon in order to reach an optimum freedom ranking:

  1. At the state level, spending on the inspection and regulation bureaucracy, natural resources, and government employees’ retirement is well above national norms. We recommend cutting spending in these areas and reducing public debt.
  2. Eliminate occupational licensing for massage therapists, funeral attendants, pest-control workers, elevator installers and repairmen, boilermakers, fishers and related fishing workers, agricultural product graders and sorters, farm-labor contractors, and other
  3. Maintain, if not reduce, the minimum wage, even in the face of future inflation.

Oregon’s storied history of high property/income taxes and nonexistent sales taxes probably also contribute to our relative ranking, but from where I’m sitting, we’re doing fairly well. The full study can be downloaded here.

(Hat tip to the Oregonian for pointing us to this study.)