Tag Archives: Portland

Christian Club Targeted by the Public

The Good News Club is a national Christian organization which meets in public schools and teaches the values and faith of the Bible. Though successful in many states – sometimes embraced and sometimes discouraged – they only recently have begun to have a presence in Portland. The club has been targeted and vilified by some members of the Portland public. Since the Good News Club and other clubs like them have the legal backing  of the Supreme Court, they cannot be turned away but are facing a firestorm of hatred and general outrage among this predominately religion-fearing population.  The Good News Club has found bad news in Portland.

This is hardly a unique phenomenon for Portland or Christians, nor is it the biggest news story of the day, but it presents a good opportunity to study the absence of liberty in public education. I define the culprit broadly as Public Society.

A Facebook page is dedicated to fighting the use of public schools by “religious extremists.” Protect Portland Children stands on the premise that children don’t need to be saved because they are not sinners. That is obviously not what the Good News Club or any other Christian organization is teaching. But these social media users have the right to think this and the right to be concerned about ideological recruitment in a place where their children attend daily mandatory classes, thanks to the non-voluntary guidance of the State. Remember the State.

This is a reminder that we have both the right to exercise religion, and the right to abstain from religion (the First Amendment ). We do not have a mandatory religion, nor do we have mandatory non-religion. Constitutionally, Christians cannot make others join their religion and others cannot prohibit Christians from exercising their faith. Personal faith isn’t authentic under conditions of coercion anyway. Having established this,  it should be recognized that Christians want others to join them in their belief, and at the same time noted that plenty of people have no intention of doing so. We have a conflict. You shouldn’t be surprised.

Some people follow a philosophy of relativism. They don’t believe in anything and think no one else should either. They enter Public Society with a negative agenda. You can’t do that and you can’t make me do that! They think that someone who actually believes in something is a “religious extremist.” But I ask, must we all adhere to your relative truth for you to be able to believe it?

Other people believe in something they think is actually true and they think that everyone else should believe it too. That’s what it means to believe in actual truth. It has universal implications. Relativists shouldn’t care what other people believe. Those who follow the teachings of Jesus do care and generally have a message in Public Society that is positive.  I can believe this and you can too! Jesus’s message is deep and mysterious, and many Christian groups have differing interpretations on the finer points, but it is most importantly summarized as “God loves you,” rather than “You are a sinner.” If you can’t make it past that difficult hurdle, understandably you won’t find the grace that flows on the other side.

Of course not everyone fits into these two categories. Some people believe in something else or nothing at all. While the State does require you to go to school, no one is making you or your children attend a Christian club against your will. You don’t have to go. You could even go to a different Christian club if you don’t like the Good News Club’s version of Christianity. Many groups have the right to meet and express their ideas in Public Society, and they do so. The Boy Scouts, Chess Club, Democrats, and Republicans. If you don’t like tying knots, check mate, or donkeys and elephants  you shouldn’t attend their clubs, but they can meet nearby. It’s ok. Stop hating. Learn about something new. Christians happens to believe in something with eternal consequences and are just as outraged at other things which are found in the Public School. Evolution? Creation? Should Public  Society decide or should you?

Conversely to all of this, Christian churches often open their doors to a wide range of secular groups and activities, many of them obviously non-Christian. A few that come to mind in my own neighborhood are preschools, clothing swaps, park and rides, and community gardens. None of these are religious activities, but they are to be found on property owned by religious institutions. Yes, I see you shaking your finger to point out that sometimes the church chooses to shut the door on ideas it disagrees with, and you certainly are right. It does. But it has the right to do so because it is a voluntary association. Public Society is not. Remember the State? Not voluntary.

Public Society exists, for better or for worse, as a place where all have (or should have) equal rights. In order to be equal, we have to strip down to nothing at all, removing everything that is unique about each of us. Public Society cannot discriminate the way an individual can in a voluntary association. There is a difference between believing something yourself and allowing others to believe something different, and it doesn’t fit in well here. The devaluing of individual rights, choices, and values in public education results in a subservience to a thinly spread layer of mediocrity funded by struggling graduates of the same system. It looks like religion without the necessary voluntary aspect. There’s no tolerance for liberty.

The public realm is owned by everyone, and so it’s  owned by no one. I certainly have no individual privileges of liberty in the land of forced equality. Do you? With no rights of my own, I have little benefit for myself. These people want to have their Christian club and some other people don’t want to let them because they wan to control everything in Public Society. I saw a popular quote on Facebook from author John Green stating that “Public education does not exist for the benefit of the student or for their parents. It exists for the benefit of the social order.”  Well, that is sadly true. Public education doesn’t really care about you or your truth.

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Portland Public Schools Strike

The teachers of the Portland Public Schools prepare to strike on February 20th in a labor dispute that will affect about 48,000 students.  All schools will be closed during this localized government shutdown, reminding us that not only are labor unions no friend of liberty, they are no friend to our children’s education.

2/20 Update: A compromise was reached, and the strike didn’t happen.

I don’t have children in the PPS school district, but this does affect me directly because this is my community of neighbors and friends. Because there are few school choice options, many families are affected. While the district and the teachers try to figure out a collective compromise on their disputes over pay, workloads, and health insurance, an entire community of parents is trying to figure out what to do with their children. The implications will trickle down to each parents inability to go to their own job, and this leads to an overall weakened economy as we scramble to right a sinking ship rather than do our own jobs and help make the world turn.

At the recent strike vote, at least one teacher stood amidst a swirling storm of yes votes to admit that the strike is wrong and the school is failing the children by walking out. But there are too few who risk voicing such an opinion, so nothing changes and the union rolls on, crushing those who don’t grasp its mandate.

Unions are fueled by fear and peer pressure. A majority is formed that endangers the rights of the minority. Threats are common, and of course there is a lot of yelling and large painted signs waving along a picket line. Everyone is warned not to cross the picket line. I think there is a lot of hate in that place, and this isn’t something our children need.

Some teachers have said they would not cross the picket line for fear of their jobs. Others say they’re here for the children, not for disagreement. Now we all feel like we have to choose sides, since we’re all affected. But apparently other teachers can and will be hired on a temporary basis, so sending your child to school (and crossing a picket line) is an actual option. A problem with unions is that there is always someone who is willing to do the work but that individual is not allowed to voluntarily associate in a different way than the mandate of the majority.

Higher wages at the expense of fewer jobs. An us vs. them mentality that marginalizes non-members and stifles overall creativity and growth. This is what you can expect while a small group benefits from the influence of the labor union, and a much larger group (the entire remainder of the community) is worse off because of it. So using their own math against them, it is actually the majority of society that is worse off at the expense of the minority.

Meanwhile, a shining light. Voluntary associations are stepping in. Local community members and church groups are offering resources to help parents and children. Some buildings are providing space for childcare and people are organizing activities for children so that parents go to their jobs. These individuals are coming together as a community to do what they need to do to get on with their lives and step around the cumbersome constricts of organized labor.

Spare Room Hotel

The virtual hotel Airbnb is a website that lists rooms for rent all over the world. You can rent out your room to a stranger for a couple nights to make some cash. If you like meeting new people and you don’t have personal space issues, you can find a similar setup during your own travels.

However, the state of New York Attorney General is trying to shut down short-term room rentals because some are upset at the lost hotel tax revenue which cannot be collected from these low-cost and low-ammenity “hotel rooms.” But the city of Portland, Oregon is taking a different approach. Rather than strike down the movement to save the status quo, they would set up a framework to support the new “shared economy,” essentially creating a path to legality for the creative businesses that already exist.

The Oregonian reports that the city is looking to establish appropriate taxes and permitting requirements to allow homeowner occupied residences to operate as part-time hotels on the real market rather than a black market.

Most of the angst in New York and elsewhere seems to be with the short-term rental of apartments rather than single family homes, or with those who rent rooms in houses where they do not themselves live. Rules against subletting are fairly common for any kind of rental and homeowners associations and property management companies frequently decide for themselves that they don’t want to participate in this sort of thing.

But any homeowner should have the right to invite whomever he wishes into his own home, even to stay awhile – and why not charge those who are willing to pay? Yes, I know we have the neighbors to consider, so I’m not about to suppose a regulatory desert. But New York is going about it all wrong. Their opposition to sharing is driving up costs and challenging innovation.

Portland, with it’s increasing love for really tiny living spaces, has shown that it also has an affinity for really tiny hotels, (and really tiny food carts). If your spare room is just collecting dust, start collecting dollars instead.

Fearless Flyby

Not long ago, the Portland Development Commission threw a big bag of money in the air and hit Trader Joe’s in the back of the head. Now the once-sought-after national grocer has laid that bag of ill-invested coins on a vacant lot in Northeast Portland and has decided to walk away from the fuss and the negative vibe. Hopefully without a bump on the head.

It’s not as if the bag of money wasn’t big enough. As mentioned in an earlier post, the PDC wanted to roll a few million dollars in front of Trader Joe’s to tempt them with the empty corner of NE Martin Luther King Blvd. and Alberta Street – hoping the lot could be paved with specialty grocer gold. At the time, the potential tenant remained a “mystery.”  A cloak and dagger scheme at best.

The neighborhood spoke out and said they didn’t want the City to throw their money away.

And Trader Joe’s chose to live in the light, and this week said in a statement that, “if a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand, and we won’t open the store in question.” They are wisely looking at the long-term effects of their investments.

You can’t give away something that no one wants. But we all love Trader Joe’s, which goes to show that you can’t even give away something everyone does want, if you’re going to throw big bags of someone else’s money around. It might bruise us all.

Now we can buy our chocolate covered pretzels.

Remember the Fallen, Delicately

Last Thursday I was in Oregon City on business and had just turned the car onto the main road heading back to the office in Portland. I sat in the car waiting at an intersection, watching the windshield catch a light drizzle. Something was happening on the road ahead, as we weren’t moving. I soon noticed a couple of police motorcycles parked in the middle of my lane, their blue and red lights flashing quietly. Nothing was happening at all – until a few police motorcycles roared by at top speed – cutting through the silence and disappearing to my left leaving a wake of sirens blaring. A few more motorcycles followed – just as quickly – preceding a momentary silence. Then I watched unfold before me the floodgates which spilled forth what had to be one hundred police motorcycles passing piled up motorists gawking on both sides. 

Next, a helicopter descended from the heavens above pausing momentarily near my position at the precise moment that a shiny black vehicle appeared and then quickly disappeared, followed by police cars and black Suburbans trailing. The circling helicopter followed in the air as an ambulance, some more police cars, and even more motorcycles followed on the ground. I thought it could be none other than Barack Obama visiting this little suburb south of Portland! I hadn’t heard of a presidential visit and was momentarily stunned. To my left, I noticed for the first time a very large American flag hanging between two outstretched fire truck ladders that soared over the street as the procession flowed on the pavement below. More police cars. More ambulances. Then about twenty fire trucks drove by in tight formation.

Clearly this traffic jam was more than I could have guessed when those first motorcycles blocked my way so long ago. My car hadn’t moved an inch in the last ten minutes when I found a local news report on the radio, catching only the last half of a sentence describing a “funeral procession.”  Oh, now that you mention it, the shiny black vehicle did look like a hearse, so that makes sense. But I couldn’t imagine who would command such solemn opulence other than John F. Kennedy himself.

More time passed and the flood of police cars continued interspersed occasionally with a fire truck, some ambulances and other sorts of emergency vehicles. They seemed to have arrived from every city.  I sat in the car for 45 minutes. There was no end, they just kept coming until the last trickle of the flood of flashing lights passed and the road was finally reopened and traffic.

About this time I finally found a radio newscast reporting that this was the motorcade procession for fallen Oregon City Police Officer Rob Libke who had been killed in the line of duty earlier this month. I hadn’t heard of the tragedy, nor did I realize the entire region would be mobilizing this day to remember a fallen comrade.

I respect the work of police officers and intend no disrespect to the police in general or Officer Libke and his family, but this is unacceptable. The mobilization of hundreds of law enforcement personnel through the public way for a non-emergency, while probably costing the taxpayers a fortune, also has the misfortune of untold consequences in the immobilization of thousands of disregarded bystanders.  A memorial is good. Remembering is good. Even a procession is good –  but not at such a great cost to everyone else. I was only inconvenienced, but others may have been suffocated. Considering the public’s right to choose not to participate, the procession through the city could have been more delicate. 

While I was patiently waiting, I saw in my mirror an old man get out of the car behind me. He started wandering around. He seemed really confused and just left his car and walked away. I could imagine that some emergency might be taking place on the sidelines of this procession, and there’s nowhere to go. Is there a woman in labor unable to get to a hospital? Are there children peeing their pants? Am I going to pee my pants? Is this old man going to have a heart attack? He probably went to find a restroom.

Finally getting back on the road, I drove for a mile or so before hitting another log jam. Stopped like a normal day in Los Angeles. The procession advanced northward following I-205 then I-84 west into downtown Portland where the memorial service was to take place. This was the exact route I planned to take, so I had to reroute to avoid trailing. Traffic was so backed up in all directions that cars just sat like they had been parked for days. If it hadn’t been raining, more people would have been out of their cars socializing.

Sitting with the car in Park and the radio on, I listened to the host take calls from people at the scene. Drivers stuck in traffic called to say they were stuck in traffic and that they support the sacrifice this officer. The motorcade was such a wonderful thing. Others called in from the overpasses where they watched from above. Some had brought their children along, probably waving flags and signs, and used the moment as a teaching lesson to the honor those serving the country.

They all sounded the same, until one woman called to say this is a bunch of baloney and a waste of money. The enraged host didn’t even let her finish and pretty much bit her head off as he hung up on her. The subsequent callers for the next hour spent just as much time describing her as the devil himself as they did in paying respects to the fallen officer. They said it doesn’t matter how much something like this costs. How can you think about that right now?

The caller was the lone voice of dissent but didn’t show any sensitivity. However, she has the right to voice her opinion, and the host and the others have the right to hate her for it, I suppose.  But let’s separate hate from sound economics. What happened this day had nothing to do with a fallen hero and everything to do with public exploitation. Sadly this is an analogy for how our country does most things. Spending other people’s money and time while caught up with emotions, reverence, and patriotism, the true costs of any action are disregarded. Choices are made because it’s worth it damn it, or that’s what he would have wanted. Those who say otherwise are burned alive. The moment, this very short-sighted moment defeats the weight of all the rest of time.

The old man behind me was Sumner’s Forgotten Man. Many hypothetical people were forgotten simply because they are hypothetical to people looking at their own nose. The pregnant woman sobbing in labor pains was forgotten. The boy with a gushing leg wound who couldn’t get to the hospital in his mom’s minivan was forgotten. The man trying to arrive at a job interview on time, was late. He didn’t get the job. He was forgotten. The thousands of people on the freeways and side streets who have no real interest in these proceedings, though not malicious or disrespectful, are just trying to go about their day – and they are forgotten. 

I salute Oregon City Officer Rob Libke for his sacrifice in serving his community, taking action to respond to a threat and to possibly save lives. But I don’t think he would be any less respected or memorialized if he had been remembered more delicately.

Mystery Portland Grocery Store

The city of Portland might sell a long-vacant parcel of land on the corner of NE Martin Luther King Blvd. and Alberta Street way below cost in order to attract a grocery store. What amounts to a $2 million subsidy is so shady and ill-advised that the proposed store has asked not to be identified until the deal has closed. It’s hard to run a successful business, but who wouldn’t reach out for some free cash? They should be embarrassed. And it’s easier to criticize the deal before we know the store involved, since no doubt that store is dear to our food-loving Portland hearts. 

The land is said to be worth $2 or $3 million dollars, and has apparently been for sale for some time but no one wants it at that price. The neighborhood is considered a risky investment with a history of racial tensions, but is often targeted for bigger and better things. The land might sell for only half a million.

The Portland Development Commission really, really wants a grocery store to go in here, so they’re willing to take a loss to make it happen. But as pointed out by the Oregonian there are plenty of other groceries stores nearby, so there is low demand for another. The development only pencils out with a large subsidy. This means the land and the potential opportunity aren’t worth very much, so semi-interested tenants are looking the other way until a big enough bag of money hits them in the back of the head.

In his book Economics In One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt outlines situations very similar to this, and warns against this kind of government intervention as never ending with a net positive outcome. This northeast Portland property is a great example to illustrate his point. The land had already been purchased with taxpayer money, so the city as a whole has entrusted their money to the City in the hope that some good will come out of it. But seeing as the money doesn’t belong to them, it doesn’t surprise me that the PDC is reckless with the investment of other people’s money. They have their minds on high ideals such as helping the public, saving a blighted neighborhood, and even bringing in a much desired tenant such as Trader Joe’s (or whomever this mystery grocery store turns out to be). They might think, “It’s what the people want – right? We’ll making it happen. It’s worth the cost.”

But really, Portland would be giving away a store. They would take taxpayer money and give it to a private company to spend on a business in a location that no one has been willing to build. Then the profits go to that business – not the taxpayers. That is $2 million dollars that could have been spent on something else. Anything else. Portlanders are exactly that much poorer as a result. If the money has to be spent on something, it could be spent on something that is actually worth $2 million dollars. If taxpayers still had the money in our pockets, having not been taxed, we would have exactly that much more money in our pocket when we shop at this mystery store. We could spend it on a bag of chocolate covered pretzels. Now we can’t and there will be fewer bags of chocolate covered pretzels sold.

This location is certainly not the neighborhood most deserving of a new grocery store, if one must be given away. So east Portland and the often discussed food desert lose out. Nearby existing grocery stores will lose some business. The people who live down the street will love it, but the entire city will take a loss on a bad investment, but especially those who live nowhere near the proposed sale. Another grocery store might have been interested at a lower sale price, but as explained by someone from Whole Foods as to why they were not interested in the food desert, “Selected sites must model profitably for us since we cannot fulfill our company’s overall mission without the profits our stores provide.”

Sure it’s just a couple dollars from me, and a couple dollars from you, and a couple dollars from everyone. But add this to the other couple dollars they’ll take for the next project. And the others. Is this really what you want to spend your money on? I doubt a new Whole Foods is about to appear here, but I’d love for a Trader Joe’s to be built at this location. It’s exactly one mile closer to my home than the one I usually visit and is bound to have better parking.

But even if the deal is good for some people as Henry Hazlitt says, we must look “not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”

Who Will Build the Bike Lanes?

I recently complained about the government ruining a good thing by taxing it. Pay by the mile auto insurance could turn into pay by the mile auto taxation, if some have their way. The government will always turn a good idea for saving money into a bad idea for losing money.

As an aside in my recent complaint, I pondered the threat of bicycle lane taxes as the next logical step. Too soon I remembered I had heard something like this before! Oregon had been murmuring about a statewide tax on bicycle purchases to make up for the loss of revenue from all those bicycle commuters who ditched their cars for the fresh breezes and healthy conscience of pedal power. This line of reasoning was brought on by the perceived over-bicyclization of Portland, but in this scheme the whole state of Oregon would pay for Portland’s sin of reduced carbon emissions. That’s a dandy.

Oregon is of course one of the few states with no sales tax and Portland is one of the few cities with a bazillion happy bicycle commuters. We even have a huge bike counter on the Hawthorne Bridge to celebrate! Bikes and no sales tax are good things, why mess with it now? The City of Portland spends a lot of money on bicycle-friendly infrastructure improvements which are often perceived at the expense of automobile infrastructure improvements. (There are a number of randomly unpaved gravel roads in my Portland neighborhood, but these are bad for cars and bikes alike – but good for three year olds in rain boots!)

The Oregonian reported that, “There is little organized opposition to bicycle use in Portland … However, there is latent, but pervasive, uneasiness among some residents that expanding bicycling opportunities will come at the expense of other modes of transportation.” Well, only if the state wastes their money on it.

If Portlanders in cars don’t want to pay for bicycle lanes to contain the Portlanders who are not in cars, then surely the people driving around Salem, Bend, and Eugene don’t want to pay for Portland’s bicycle lanes either. Instead of finding a different non-interested party to pay for something they’re not interested in, Portland should hire a private company to build their bike lanes. Paint a line on the side of the road and nail up a few signs. Some people in Seattle will even do it for free, and some folks out in Memphis are paying for their bike lanes with crowdfunding. Big companies are getting involved too, such as Amazon’s two block bike lane project back up in Seattle. It will be cheaper and more efficient if the work is privately contracted and we would cut out wasteful spending on spectacles like the proposed singing bike lane, and just paint some nice straight stripes as needed.

I wonder if the singing bike lane would be funded by the ill-conceived Portland Arts Tax?

Brush Your Own Teeth

The people of Portland will vote with their toothbrushes this May.

Last August the City Council voted to add fluoride to the city’s drinking water, as Portland is one of the largest cities in the country that has not yet done so. Anti-fluoride activists were up in arms, bristling at the thought. Signatures were gathered and a referendum will now be set before the people. Voting was originally scheduled for 2014, but the vote has been moved to the upcoming odd-year election when participation is low due to the absence of any national concerns on the ballot. Your individual vote couldn’t be more important.

I divide the disapproving into two groups, both frowning. Some are opposed to fluoride, the actual physical element, and others are opposed to digressing individual rights and might not care much about scientific debate as much as misplaced executive order (or city council order anyway). I identify more with the government oppression crowd, but see value in brushing my own teeth. I happen to be going to the dentist tomorrow morning.

Proponents of mass fluoridation, such as Everyone Deserves Healthy Teeth, and many dentists believe that things worth doing can only be done by the government. If we can’t be trusted to brush our own teeth, this typical progressive mindset will soon lead to a ban on personal ownership of toothbrushes themselves.

Once fluoridation is introduced, the matter of regulating the precise amount becomes a central concern. Most who think about it would agree that too much fluoride is bad beans, so the question which cannot be answered is, “How much is too much?”  The pro-fluoridation camp insists that the amounts in question and in use are miniscule, so as to be insignificant. This is probably true, but I’d rather trust my own judgement on what is best for my own body, teeth included.

Rather than force all water drinkers in the city to ingest a potentially suspect chemical, why not reach out directly to the people who really want the benefits of fluoride or need a little help? If the city is going to spend money on something (inevitably spent on everyone equally or on certain people specifically), why not help lower income folks and others for whom the benefit is intended, by providing additional preventative dental services and actual dental care? There’s some of that already going on, so why not do enough to matter? It will surely save us all money and just the teeth that need it.

I’ll leave it to others to argue about the possible negative effects of fluoride, both on the natural environment and to our individual bodies. The unknowns are small uncertainties and thus open to debate, but the matter is hardly proven science one way or another. Even if many dentists recommend mass fluoridation of the city water supply, some experts say it’s not a good idea.

While the science is perplexing to me, removing personal responsibility only increases our tax burden as we all begin to brush each other’s teeth. The tooth brushes will grow bigger and bigger. We might even start using one big brush. The Portland Toothbrush. We’ll fight over what color it is and which medicine cabinet to keep it in. There will be a bristle for each of us, and we’ll all spit into the same sink.

It’s not miracle water. You still have to brush your own teeth.

Unconstitutional Arts Tax

Worse tax ever.

A flat $35 tax is due this April from every adult living in the city of Portland. It doesn’t matter what your income is. You just have to have one. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like art (or sending children to government school). The ballot measure, which was approved by voters last November, is the worse kind of tax as there is no relative relation to your income. The rich and the poor pay the same.

After the $0.99 convenience fee to pay online (a tax on a tax?), I’m down $35.99 and have nothing to show for it except a nifty postcard reminding me to pay. If I need to split it into two payments, they charge an extra dollar for their trouble!

From what I can tell, the only exemptions are for those with income below the poverty line. But you have to prove your poverty.

Even if your income is $34 dollars, you own $35.

Opposition to this tax has nothing to do with art or music and everything to do with non-consensual government plunder sanctioned by a majority (62%!). While this opens a whole other conversation on the funding of public education by those who do not use it, why not tax the parents who currently send their students to public school? Call it tuition. If so many people have no problem paying, why not just have them pay? What if it was $350?

Most laughable, some supporters say that “supporting culture (is) an inherent element of social responsibility. That’s something we can all get behind.”

There is no responsibility in forced taxation. Responsibility requires choice and decision. Call it what it is. There is nothing to “get behind.” We’re just getting pulled under the school bus. And they call that “art.”

Leaving Office Early

Republican South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint recently announced that he will be leaving Congress in January. He has served only two years of his second (six year) term, and will be taking a position as President of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Having just been reelected in 2010, should he walk away from the responsibility bestowed by the voters?

You will remember another early-leaver (quitter?). Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican Vice-Presidential candidate. She had barely cleared the snow from her desk in Juneau before she left office after only 2.5 years. She took a lot of heat for her inexperience while campaigning with John McCain. That feeling only increased when she abruptly left the highest office of the northern state to cash in on her fame by writing a book and joining the television political commentary circuit.

A bit closer to home, and a few years prior, we had a similar situation with current Portland Mayor-Elect, Charlie Hales (set to take office in January 2013). It was 2002 when he left his position as Portland City Commissioner with over a year and a half to go in his third term. He took a job with an engineering firm to promote street car transportation. While in office he was a champion of the streetcar, successfully bringing that form of rail transportation to downtown Portland. During the recent mayoral campaign, he also felt some heat for not sticking it out during his last stint in local politics. Unlike Palin, Hales was forgiven and voted back in.

Is leaving office early acceptable or not?

I suppose there are worse things one could do. Like stick around too long. The States and various jurisdictions have laws for replacing outgoing politicians, so the people are not really at much of a loss on representation. The bigger problem is the opposite problem: those politicians that just don’t seem to ever go away. Term limits are another subject entirely.

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City (2002-current), helped get the rules changed to increase the two-term limit to three-terms in time to let him run again. It’s worked out well for him so far, though many residents seem to wish they hadn’t allowed it. Current governors Jerry Brown (1975-1983!, 2011-current) of California and John Kitzhaber (1995-2003, 2011-current) of Oregon are serving their third terms, though non-consecutive. No rules were changed, and this is a fair move. But it seems like a sneaky maneuver.

Our problems with entrenched politicians pale in comparison to those in other countries, where the powerful maintain their position for many years. Vladimir Putin has manipulated Russian politics for sometime, having served as either Prime Minister or President or Prime Minister or President continuously since 1999. Fidel Castro was of course the leader of Cuba for over 52 years (and some dinosaurs).

We should respect the faithful completion of a full term, but I can appreciate the politician’s decision to leave office early. It’s his life, and he shouldn’t feel entrapped in a position he no longer feels is a good situation. Those who leave seem to have a pretty good gig waiting for them, and they know that they’ll most likely not be welcomed back. We probably won’t see Jim DeMint or Sarah Palin in an elected position anytime soon, though we’ll continue to hear from them. Charlie Hales is playing small ball in local politics, so he can get away with more.

It’s the other guys we have to worry about, and it’s our own fault for voting them back in. Again and again.