Friday, September 18, 2009

An Interesting Week

On Saturday the Clatsop County Democrats held their annual picnic at Cullaby Lake, in Gearhart. Larry Taylor, the CCDCC chair, emceed the event with his usual aplomb. Lots of Democrats came to meet and greet. Special guests: Bill Bradbury, who officially announced today he'll run for governor in 2010; Peter Huhtala, challenging Brad Witt for State Rep; Rep. Brad Witt; Sen. Debbie Boone; and our indomitable Sen. Betsy Johnson. Word on the street is Betsy will soon be named co-chair of the powerful Joint Ways and Means Committee.

Attorney General John Kroger was the Keynote Speaker and was as dynamic as ever. After meeting John in 2007 I knew that he would be a great choice for A.G., and he has been. He takes no prisoners on environmental protection, civil rights, corruption investigations and consumer fraud -- the latter an area that means a lot to me because I started in the prosecution biz as a consumer fraud investigators in the mid-70s in the DA's Office in Eugene. (See the Eugene Register-Guard, August 24, 1977.)

One of the things John talked about at the picnic was the need for more treatment for people with addiction problems. I've been a long-time advocate of spending more money for intensive programs, including in-patient treatment, and also for drug treatment in our jails and prisons. During the Meth Summit (final report here, a .pdf), it was striking how many recovering addicts thanked Sheriff Tom Bergin for locking them up long enough to get sober. Jail can't be used primarily as a detox facility but for many addicts it's the only way they can get clean long enough to get motivated to get involved in treatment.

I recently attended the opening of the expansion of Astoria Pointe, the first in-patient residential substance abuse facility in Clatsop County since Serenity by the Sea went out of business a few years ago. Astoria Pointe recently bought the Rosebriar Hotel and have converted it into a treatment facility specifically for women. The owners of Astoria Pointe have very generously consistently donated one bed for local residents who could not otherwise afford the 30- to 90-day treatment program. I've worked with our judges to use that bed as an alternative to longer term incarceration, and it is standard practice for my office to agree to "day for day" credit for time spent in any certified in-patient facility. We are always looking for thoughtful, responsible ways to reduce our customer base.

Last night I had a great time at the University of Oregon's White Stag Center, on Couch Street in Portland, debating George Washington University Professor Paul Butler, who was promoting his new book Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice. The discussion was sponsored by the American Constitution Society, a progressive alternative to the more conservative Federalist Society. I made the point that we in Oregon have been ahead of the country in many ways, including, for example, by decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana; that more than 75% of felons in Oregon don't go to prison; and that, of the 25% of felons in prison, more than 70% are there for violent felonies and only 9% for drug offenses, with virtually all those for dealing, not using.

Professor Butler has some very controversial ideas, like advocating jurors should refuse to vote guilty on what he calls "non-violent" crimes even if they believe that the prosecution proved its case. I have a hard time calling Felony DUII or selling Meth a "non violent" crime, there's a reason we are, as John Adams wrote, "a nation of laws and not of men." We don't and can't allow the whims of the one -0 be that a juror, judge or DA -- to over-rule the law. I have confidence in juries and we need to make sure they get as much truthful evidence as possible.

I've added the video of the great Chris Rock bit, "How Not To Get An Ass-Whipping," to the sidebar here. It's great advice that humorously reinforces messages of personal responsibility and keeping your act together.

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