Coffee with Cascade

Coffee with Cascade

By Cascade Policy Institute
Are you wondering why homelessness is up in Oregon? Or why traffic is just never-ending?

Grab an Oregon-roasted cup o' joe, sit back, and listen to Cascade Policy Institute explain the latest research on Oregon issues.
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Charter schools could save the fall semester

Coffee with Cascade

Charter schools could save the fall semester

Coffee with Cascade

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Oregon is pushing itself into a deeper housing crisis
Once again, Oregon’s legislature has succumbed to shortsighted politics. Effective June 30, House Bill 4213 prohibits landlords from evicting tenants due to nonpayment until next April, regardless of their circumstances. Of course, there could be many reasons tenants might not pay their rent. One of the most pressing is Oregon’s lockdown policy, which effectively prohibited many businesses and entire industries from operating, and their employees from supporting themselves. While these conditions may warrant legislative action, people who have continued to earn an income may simply choose to delay their rent payments. By being so broadly applied, this legislation will harm landlords, particularly small private owners who still must pay utilities and property taxes on their units. But property owners won’t be alone in suffering. This moratorium will make it even harder for people to find apartments for rent, because only the most secure tenants would be considered during a time when anyone can simply put off their payments. In addition, the end of the moratorium likely will bring more debt, eviction, and ultimately homelessness to an already stretched system. Legislators should understand that seemingly simplistic quick fixes can cause long-run damage. This legislation will push Oregon from having a health crisis to an even deeper housing crisis. Laws should be made with specificity, not reactionary haste. Learn more at cascadepolicy.org or by emailing info@cascadepolicy.org.
01:35
August 4, 2020
School Choice means equitable funding
Last week, the United States officially surpassed 4 million documented coronavirus cases. With only a few weeks before students return to school, parents in Oregon are scrambling to find—or create—a safe and effective learning environment for their children. Of the options available, some parents believe they have found the best solution for their family with micro-schools. Micro-schools are small groups of children that learn at home. The parents of children in micro-schools pool their resources to hire a teacher, or instead become teachers themselves by obtaining teaching materials through homeschooling programs. However, some families cannot afford a private teacher’s salary, even if they pool their funds with other parents. Parents who can’t or won’t send their children to public schools deserve to get their kids’ share of state instruction funds. It’s a matter of equity. If public schools can’t safely and effectively provide education, the funds should flow to families so they can find a solution that works for them and their children. Putting schooling funds directly into the family’s hands allows for maximum flexibility when the local government school is unable to provide an option that parents feel comfortable with. Parents know what options are best for their children, and Oregon lawmakers should allow all families, not just wealthy ones, to have the same access to those options. Learn more at cascadepolicy.org or by emailing info@cascadepolicy.org.
01:19
July 29, 2020
TriMet needs to look at the numbers
TriMet’s weekly system boardings were down 68% in May compared to last year due to the Coronavirus, and ridership will likely stay down since the CDC is recommending that people avoid transit altogether. But it’s not just the pandemic; ridership has been dropping for years. TriMet’s revenues have increased by 171 percent since 2000, while the agency’s ridership (number of originating rides) has increased by only 18 percent. However, ridership peaked in 2012 and has since dropped by 7 percent between 2012 and 2019. The negative trend for ridership is primarily due to a drop in light rail utilization. Since the peak in 2012, bus ridership has decreased by 2% while light rail has decreased by 12% (a difference of just under one million for bus and 4.2 million for light rail). Since 2000, TriMet has constructed four new light rail lines: the Red Line (2001), Yellow Line (2004), Green Line (2009), and Orange Line (2015). However, the costly increase in light rail capacity has not corresponded with a similar increase in ridership. TriMet seems to have learned the wrong lesson from this underperformance. The agency is proposing a $2.6-2.8 billion light rail line from Downtown Portland to the Bridgeport Village mall, nearly $1 billion of which TriMet expects will be paid for by Metro’s Get Moving 2020 transportation measure. The Southwest Corridor project is the wrong investment for our region. Portland Metro area voters should vote “no” on Metro’s transportation measure this fall. Learn more at nomorefailedrail.com or cascadepolicy.org. 
01:42
July 27, 2020
Cascade testimony on Metro's Get Moving 2020 Measure
Listen to Cascade's Policy Analyst, Vlad Yurlov, advise in a July 16th testimony against Metro's Get Moving 2020 measure, which will now be referred to the voters on the November ballot.  Learn more about this policy issue at cascadepolicy.org or by emailing info@cascadepolicy.org.
02:55
July 27, 2020
Charter schools could save the fall semester
On March 16, Governor Kate Brown directed Oregon schools to stop in-person classes to slow the spread of COVID-19. Facing an uncertain future for “brick and mortar” schooling, 300 Oregon students completed the process to transfer to one of Oregon’s 14 online charter schools. Eleven days after the shutdown of in-person schools, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) prevented additional student transfers to online charter schools. Jeff Kropf, the founder of Oregon Connections Academy, estimated that around 1,600 students were unable to move to his school because of ODE’s decision to freeze further transfers. ODE’s decision curtailed thousands of students from reaching their full learning potential this past semester. However, policymakers have a rare chance to right these wrongs going forward. Nine states have reported spikes in COVID-19 this past month, and a similar situation may occur this coming fall. Given the uncertainties about the safety and feasibility of reopening all Oregon schools, lawmakers should allow parents to choose what kind of school in which to enroll their children. The resulting increase in competition among charter, private, and public schools will encourage all education providers to adapt to the current circumstances to provide the best education possible for students. In addition to increasing the educational opportunities that will be available for students, rolling back unnecessary regulation of charter schools will put more power over education choices into the hands of parents, where it belongs. Learn more at info@cascadepolicy.org or at cascadepolicy.org.
01:25
July 14, 2020
Freidrich Hayek and Oregon's COVID-19 response
Listen to Dr. Bill Conerly's May 14th Policy Picnic presentation, "Oregon’s Policy Response to the COVID Pandemic (or What Would Friedrich Hayek Say about Kate Brown’s Shelter-in-Place Order?)" Dr. Bill Conerly is an Oregon economist with a global reputation. He is a Senior Contributor to Forbes with a Duke University Ph.D. As a consultant, he connects the dots between the economy and business. He is chairman of the board of directors of Cascade Policy Institute. Dr. Conerly’s articles are at Forbes.com. He is also the author of The Flexible Stance: Thriving in a Boom/Bust Economy (2017) as well as Businomics (2007). He has been interviewed on PBS, CNN and CNBC, and quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, and Willamette Week. To learn more about Cascade's policy picnics, subscribe to our email list by emailing info@cascadepolicy.org or visiting our website at cascadepolicy.org.
57:26
July 13, 2020
Metro's $700,000 Sentiment
On June 25th, Metro approved $700,000 in taxpayer money for what is best entitled a nice sentiment: Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods program. The program hopes to improve water quality and wildlife habitats through grants to local organizations that promote racial and cultural equality. But the program has a serious flaw: Success is not easily measured, despite the large amount of taxpayer dollars flowing into the grants. Metro’s approved recipients for 2020 demonstrate the subjectivity of the program. Objectives include bringing “healing to the community and landscape through Traditional Indigenous healing practices” as well as building “youth of color’s relationship around the water and waterways.” Perhaps an important question is whether our local government should be exploring these objectives with taxpayer dollars, especially during this time of economic instability. Ironically, Metro councilor Craig Dirkensen came close to this question when he asked whether Metro’s grant program was unique. The simple answer was “no.” Similar programs do exist, just not at taxpayers’ expense. Metro should get out of the grant business and into the park-building business. The Nature in Neighborhoods program is yet another example of how Metro consumes taxpayer dollars without measurable benchmarks for success. Learn more at info@cascadepolicy.org or at cascadepolicy.org.
01:29
July 7, 2020
Northwest grid reliability spells trouble for Oregon citizens
Listen to Rachel's June 30th presentation, "Grid Reliability and Resource Adequacy in the Northwest:" Multiple coal plants will be decommissioned over the next decade, with Oregon's only coal plant closing at the end of 2020. This means that thousands of megawatts of reliable power will be taken off the grid and "brownouts" could occur as soon as this year. Instead of replacing the lost megawatts with equally reliable power, local utilities are planning on purchasing contracts and increasing investments in renewable resources. This could spell trouble for grid reliability, and affordability, in the Northwest. Learn more about future policy picnics by signing up for our email list on cascadepolicy.org.
44:25
July 6, 2020
Minimum wage increase hurts Oregonians
On July 1st, the Portland area’s minimum wage will increase from $12.50 per hour to $13.25. This wage increase is part of a multi-year phase-in of Oregon’s three-tiered minimum wage law, passed by the State Legislature in 2016. Andy Ricker, Michelin star chef and owner of Portland’s Pok Pok restaurant, foresaw the adverse effects of raising the minimum wage in 2016 when he told the Portland Business Journal that three of his restaurants would close partly due to the hikes in the minimum wage. Four years later, his prophecy came true—and then some—with an Instagram post on June 15th announcing the closure of four of his restaurants based in Oregon. Sadly, Ricker’s former employees will join more than 41 million workers who have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic started. Now is not the time to increase the costs of running businesses in Portland. Oregon lawmakers should extend a helping hand to those who are hurting and embrace free-market policies, not price job creators out of the market. Oregon should stop the economic bleeding and roll back regulations that were ill-conceived in the first place. Continuing to add to them when so many businesses are struggling to reopen their doors will only worsen the economic downturn and hurt Oregonians for years to come. Learn more at info@cascadepolicy.org or cascadepolicy.org.
01:22
July 2, 2020
Espinoza case is a win for School Choice
By Kathryn Hickock The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that states’ school choice laws may not discriminate against religiously affiliated schools. Montana’s tax credit scholarship program, passed in 2015, enabled families to send their children to the private schools of their choice. The program was ruled unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court because some participating students wanted to apply their scholarships to religious schools, which the Department of Revenue argued violated the state’s Blaine Amendment. The Institute for Justice (IJ) appealed this decision on behalf of parents, arguing that the Court’s decision violated the Free Exercise, Equal Protection, and Establishment Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the Montana parents, stating that “[a] State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” Reacting to the Court’s ruling, IJ’s president and general counsel Scott Bullock commented: The Montana high court claimed, as [educational] choice opponents have for decades, that allowing parents like Kendra [Espinoza] to [use a tax credit scholarship at a religious school] violated the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment—which forbids state funding of so-called sectarian institutions. The U.S. Supreme Court made clear in its ruling today that it was wrong. As Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, “Drawing on ‘enduring American tradition,’” the Court has long recognized the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. Back in 1926, another private school controversy made it all the way to the Supreme Court. With the goal of preventing students from choosing a Catholic education, the state of Oregon had outlawed all private schools. In the landmark ruling Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the Supreme Court wrote that “[t]he fundamental theory of liberty…excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.” Parents have a right to direct the education of their children—they did in 1926 and they still do today. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Espinoza v. Montana upholds parental choice in education by ensuring that state-run school choice programs don’t discriminate on the basis of religion. Learn more at info@cascadepolicy.org or at cascadepolicy.org.
02:43
July 1, 2020
Alcohol-Lovers may have reason to toast!
Alcohol-lovers may have a reason for a toast. Oregon’s Liquor Control Commission is taking steps to decrease regulations on sellers, thereby expanding economic opportunity in the food and beverage industry, which was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Alcohol sales are tightly controlled by the OLCC, which imposes stringent rules on individuals and businesses before, during, and after alcohol purchases. When restaurants and bars had to close their doors to on-site service due to Oregon’s coronavirus response, the OLCC temporarily relaxed some rules regarding alcohol delivery. Because these rules are temporary, though, Oregonians’ easier access to wine and microbrews could once again be limited before this fall. Recently, the OLCC has begun a process to make the temporary relaxation permanent. These changes would allow increased flexibility in how alcohol can be delivered to customers and increase the hours during which alcohol may be purchased. The changes raise the question of why such burdensome restrictions were imposed in the first place. When Oregon has to close a door, we can open a window. Let’s keep economic freedom for Oregon businesses and customers at the forefront of Oregon’s rule-making process. Learn more at info@cascadepolicy.org or cascadepolicy.org.
01:18
June 25, 2020
School Choice is Social Justice
George Floyd’s tragic death has led to growing calls for changes to antiquated policing systems. The recent protests asking for police reform over these past few weeks have caused many families to question the systemic discrimination that is hardwired into the assignment of students to public schools. Census data reports U.S. spending per student has nearly tripled since 1960—and that’s after accounting for inflation. Oregon now spends almost $15,000 per student per year. In Portland Public Schools, it’s $27,500 per student. Even so, Oregon ranks near the bottom of the states in graduation rates. Despite this monumental increase in funding the government’s school system with no positive results to show, most Oregon students are assigned a school based on their street address. This isn’t an accident—it’s written into district policies. Kids from low-income neighborhoods are placed in low-income schools, while wealthy families have the option to move to neighborhoods with better schools. School choice is social justice. There is nothing fair or equitable about forcing low-income students into failing public schools with few options to choose the school that meets their needs. Even better, let’s fund students, instead of schools. Put the funds in the student’s hands and let them choose the school that fits best. Learn more at info@cascadepolicy.org or at cascadepolicy.org.
01:24
June 17, 2020
K-12 Students Could Get a "Money-Back Guarantee"
School choice has been increasing in popularity with parents for years. Education policies that give parents more options for their kids have been trending positively across most demographics. Now, a late-April poll conducted by Heart + Mind Strategies reports that a majority of parents are considering changing their children’s future school enrollment. Parents were asked: “Has the impact of coronavirus on your child’s education caused you to consider changing your child’s future schooling?” Among public school parents, 14% said they are considering homeschooling, 20% said they are considering a private school, and 26% said they are considering a different public school. Education Savings Account programs are an education funding solution that addresses the needs of parents today. ESAs give parents a kind of “money-back guarantee” if they want to opt out of their zoned public schools and choose other options. ESA programs currently operating in five states deposit a portion of the state funding that would be spent for a student in a public school into an account associated with the child’s family. Families can use those funds to pay for tuition or other education expenses. ESA legislation can be designed to be fiscally neutral, or even net-positive, for school districts while giving parents several thousand dollars per child to spend on the school options of their choice. COVID-19 will change the way students attend school. Out of this situation can come a chance to improve kids’ options through flexible, personalized delivery of education. Learn more at info@cascadepolicy.org or at cascadepolicy.org.
01:31
June 16, 2020
The real COVID-19 transportation hero
When it comes to commuting during COVID-19, private vehicles are coming out well ahead of mass transit. The Center for Disease Control has stated that cars are a better option than transit during the crisis and has even suggested that businesses offer their employees incentives to “use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others,” such as driving alone or biking. TriMet is seeing the effects of this recommendation firsthand. Transit use is estimated to have dropped 68% between February and May of this year as Portlanders chose to either stay at home or opt for other means of transportation. TriMet is planning for significant revenue losses in coming years due to lost funds from payroll taxes and passenger fares. It may be years before the transit agency sees pre-COVID passenger numbers, which had already been falling since 2012 despite the addition of the Orange line in 2015. Falling ridership and revenues should come as a signal to officials to halt any further investments to the costly light rail system. Instead, Metro and TriMet continue to push for the $3 billion Southwest Corridor light rail project from Downtown Portland to the Bridgeport Village. Businesses and workers are already struggling with lost revenues and wages due to the virus. Our region doesn’t need another boondoggle, it needs relief. Metro residents should vote “no” on Metro’s proposed transportation measure this fall. What are your thoughts? Email info@cascadepolicy.org or visit cascadepolicy.org to learn more. 
01:34
June 12, 2020