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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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It's Creepy Season: Metro's Haunted Lands

Coffee with Cascade

It's Creepy Season: Metro's Haunted Lands

Coffee with Cascade

Shopping in a shutdown
Clearly, in the middle of a turbulent year, Oregon businesses’ innovation and creativity shine through, despite the heavy weight of lockdowns and restrictions. Even so, the next few months will be critical for many local businesses. Oregonians should rally behind their local businesses this holiday season. That might be the Christmas miracle we all need. Be sure to leave us a review on iTunes and share with friends! Learn more at or by emailing 
December 4, 2020
Government should pay the price for the lockdowns
Oregon’s government is finally feeling the pain of lockdowns. Last April, an executive order banned the eviction of tenants based on non-payment until June 30, 2020. This action has been extended twice and currently ends January 1st. Now that the year is coming to a close, the Legislature is deciding whether to extend the moratorium for another six months or let it sunset. But this time, constituents have guided the current proposals to send $100 million from the state's general fund to renters and property owners to relieve back rent. Kate Brown initiated the moratorium because many people have lost jobs and are likely to miss rent. But it is largely due to lockdown mandates that have directly limited the ability of people to earn a living. But it’s not only property owners that deserve compensation for the damages associated with government mandates. Lockdowns have restricted restaurants, cinemas, and offices all over Oregon from earning a living. To align the interests of the public and private sector, everyone damaged by government mandated lockdowns strategies should receive reimbursement for their losses. The politicians who say, “We’re all in this together” should put their money where their mouths are and face the financial consequences of their decisions.
December 1, 2020
Oregon is suppressing hospital capacity
Be sure to leave us a review on iTunes and share with friends! COVID-19 cases are spiking in Oregon and hospitals across the state are struggling to keep up. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reports that over 80% of Oregon’s adult Intensive Care Unit beds are full. But the OHA has continued to suppress health care facilities and services, by using Certificate of Need (CON) laws. For more than 50 years, Oregon has required health care facilities to demonstrate a “need” for any new or expanded facilities. Throughout the lengthy certificate of need process, competing providers are permitted to provide evidence showing that current and future demand for services can be satisfied by existing facilities. In this way, existing providers can block the entry of newcomers. In the best of times, stifling the supply of health care facilities can be life threatening. During a pandemic, it can be catastrophic. Learn more at or by emailing
November 30, 2020
The first Thanksgiving's free market lesson
The quintessential American holiday, Thanksgiving evolved from the Pilgrims’ celebrations to thank God for the harvests that saved Plymouth Colony. What most people didn’t learn in school is that nearly half the Mayflower Pilgrims died of starvation because many refused to work in the fields. Plymouth Colonyoriginally had a socialist economy. Land and crops were held in common. In the words of Governor William Bradford, “the young men who were most able objected to being forced to spend their time and strength working for other men’s wives and children without any recompense.” Collectivism incentivized colonists needlessly to rely on the efforts of others. Realizing this, Governor Bradford assigned each household its own plot of land. Families could keep what they produced or trade for things they needed. The result was a bountiful harvest in 1623. Instituting private property and respecting the autonomy of the family unit caused Plymouth to survive. Collectivism and central planning produce scarcity. Private property, free markets, and personal responsibility lead to prosperity and plenty. A healthy economy, with strong and independent families, enables a community to help those who genuinely need assistance. All are important lessons for America today from William Bradford’s first Thanksgiving.
November 27, 2020
Renewable Energy Source or Bird Chopper?
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates up to 500,000 birds are killed annually in the United States due to wind turbine collisions. The number of deaths will continue to increase as more turbines populate our nation’s landscape. Raptors are especially vulnerable to colliding with wind turbines due to their flight patterns. They typically soar during high winds, bringing them in line with spinning turbines that appear to them as nothing more than a blur. The first wind farm to formally ask the Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to harm golden eagles is located right here in Central Oregon. The Obama Administration later passed a rule allowing energy companies to apply for 30-year permits for any “non-intentional eagle deaths at wind farms.” However, Norwegian researchers may have a simple solution to save their lives. Dr. Roel May from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research presented a decade-long study to the Oregon House Committee on Natural Resources earlier this year about how black paint could minimize fatalities. Researchers painted one turbine blade black, reducing the “motion smear” that makes it difficult for birds to see the spinning blades. The result was an astonishing 71% decrease in collisions. Wind farms should not get a free pass to kill a protected species. However, if the government continues to turn a blind eye, wind farms should at least consider the results of this study and paint turbine blades black to save our birds.
November 23, 2020
Should restaurants and bars be forced to lockdown?
Governor Kate Brown recently decided to take her Coronavirus “two-week pause” one step further by issuing an aggressive statewide “two-week freeze” running from November 18th through December 2nd (with an additional two weeks for Multnomah County). Like our podcast? Be sure to leave us a review on iTunes and share with friends! Among its many restrictions, the freeze forces restaurants and bars to offer take-out only, and gyms, museums, and many indoor entertainment activities will be required to close once again. The freeze comes at a time when more Oregon restaurants and bars are permanently shutting their doors due to lost revenue from the pandemic. Unfortunately, they will feel some of the hardest effects of the freeze even though health officials found that restaurants are not to blame for the recent rise in covid cases. Oregon health officials stated that social gatherings, including at least five Halloween events and parties, are the main culprits for the case increase over the past few weeks. According to the president of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, “Few cases of the virus have been linked to the state's food and drink establishments, which provide a needed refuge.” Placing stricter rules on restaurants and bars may very well backfire on officials as Oregonians shift their outings elsewhere, increasing the number of private gatherings where social distancing is less likely than in a formal restaurant setting. Restaurants represent many Oregonians’ livelihoods and should not be used as a scapegoat for the state. Governor Brown should rescind her restriction on restaurants.
November 18, 2020
What is going on? School restrictions relax as cases go up
Like our content? Be sure to give us a review on iTunes!  “What is going on?” That’s what many Oregon parents are asking as their kids struggle with online learning, all while public officials flip-flop on education policies during a wave of COVID-19 cases. On October 30th, Governor Kate Brown added to the mayhem. On the same day the state announced a record breaking number of cases, the governor rolled out relaxed safety standards for reopening Oregon elementary schools. Since then, the case count has climbed higher by the day. The Oregon Department of Education explained that the change in direction was because the benefit of in-person education outweighed the risk of spreading the disease. But why was this announced when cases are at an all time high...after two months of distance learning? The governor’s relaxed standards at a time when cases are trending dramatically in the wrong direction is a cognitive dissonance for exhausted parents who have been told that keeping their kids behind a laptop was for the greater good. Students and families can’t afford to ride the ODE’s wave of ever-changing priorities and promises. A money-back guarantee would be a lifeline for students struggling in the public school system and needing a solution urgently. Oregon needs to make school choice a priority during the 2021 legislative session. Children’s futures depend on it. Learn more at or by emailing 
November 10, 2020
Prevailing wages have a dark history and poor results
While many people in the Portland region value efficient governments, prevailing wage laws are rarely questioned. Prevailing wage laws drain tax-payer funded resources by increasing the labor costs of public construction projects such as affordable housing. These laws were originally enacted to shut out minorities from construction jobs in the 1930s. Portland and Metro are currently using more than $900 million in tax dollars to build affordable housing projects. Both jurisdictions are subject to prevailing wage laws that significantly decrease their efficiency. Portland and Metro’s housing bonds are already spending roughly $300 thousand per new unit, which is nearly double market-rate projects. The Bond Stakeholder Advisory Group of the Portland Housing Bureau found that “[p]revailing wage typically increases the labor costs in a project by approximately 12% to 18%.” This means fewer housing units can be built. One of Portland’s recent projects avoided paying prevailing wages by limiting the number of project-based vouchers that their building contained. This clearly shows that prevailing wages inhibit the creation of affordable housing. To increase efficiency in affordable housing construction, Oregon must end prevailing wage laws. Visit or email to learn more. 
November 4, 2020
It's Creepy Season: Metro's Haunted Lands
Did you know that more than three-fourths of Metro’s park lands purchased with bonds since 1995 are hidden from the public? You might as well call Metro’s lands haunted. Metro has no problems with this fact, no matter how shocking this number is to its residents. In fact, with its newest land acquisition -- an 86-acre property in the Sandy River Basin -- Metro makes it painstakingly clear that this land (along with its 1,400 acres already in the area) is not for human use. What will the land accomplish for taxpayers? Unfortunately, the answer is a bundle of vague promises, none of which help the average Oregonian. For example, Metro promises that the land will “improve landscape connectivity and climate resilience” as well as “provide potential opportunities for native plant harvest by Indigenous communities.” These promises have very little to do with Metro’s residents and everything to do with Metro’s mission creep. You might as well call it “nature creep” because the restoration and conservation work supposedly occurring on 88% of Metro’s properties has no end date. Even Metro’s promised Chehalem Ridge park, which has been undergoing supposed restoration for over a decade, will periodically close to visitors for restoration once finally opened. It’s time for Metro to stop investing in haunted lands and end its nature creep. Taxpayers should encourage Metro to use its 2019 bond money to build more parks that are useful to the public. Learn more at or by emailing 
October 27, 2020
Measure 26-218's Ridiculous Flaws
Metro is proposing $5.2 billion in additional payroll taxes to fund a train that creates congestion, a pedestrian bridge that is minutes away from another, and a roundabout that cost over 18 times its original price. Rachel and Vlad go over some ridiculous flaws in Metro’s Measure 26-218 and urge a “no” vote. Learn more at or by emailing As always, be sure to leave us a review on iTunes and share with friends!
October 21, 2020
Oregon's Boardman Coal Plant closed. Now what?
On Thursday, October 15, Portland General Electric pulled the plug on the Boardman Coal Plant, PGE’s largest power plant. Boardman had a nameplate capacity of 550 firm megawatts of power and was decommissioned 20 years prematurely. While environmentalists celebrate the plant’s closure, utility executives are still trying to figure out how they will keep the lights on in our region. That’s because the more coal plants our region removes from the grid, the more likely we are to experience future blackouts. Multiple studies from groups like the Northwest Power Pool, E3, and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council all reached the same conclusion: Our region will have a shortage of power by the mid-2020s that could lead to blackouts and extreme price volatility. Curious about what this would look like? Look no further than California. In August, the state experienced rolling blackouts because it leaned too heavily on imports and didn’t have enough of its own firm power. Our utilities aren’t far behind. Large Northwest utilities plan on investing in wind, solar, batteries, and—like California—market purchases. To avoid California’s same fate, our utilities and officials need to acknowledge that an intermittent resource powered grid is not a reliable or an affordable grid. Instead of celebrating Boardman’s closure, they should invest in firm power sources like natural gas and clean nuclear power. Learn more at or by emailing 
October 20, 2020
Parents support school choice. Here is why.
A RealClear Opinion poll released at the end of September revealed that parents with children in school increasingly—and overwhelmingly—favor the concept of school choice. More than 2,000 registered voters were asked this question: “Recent federal legislation gave governors new funding they can use for K-12 education. Some governors have let families control the funds for the purchase of education technology and materials, private school tuition, and home education. Would you support or oppose your governor sending the funding directly to families and allowing them to choose how to use those funds to support their child’s education?” Seventy-eight percent of public school parents and 79% of non-public school parents supported that statement. As families today struggle with school situations that aren’t meeting their children’s learning needs, options have suddenly become necessary for many parents, especially low-income and single parents. If their zoned public schools aren’t working for their children or families, Oregon parents should get a kind of “money-back guarantee” that will enable them to make other arrangements. One simple way to do this would be an Education Savings Account program, like those already operating in other states. ESA programs give parents control of a portion of their state’s allocated education funding, which they can use to pay for out-of-pocket education expenses. An ESA program would be a lifeline for Oregon families whose kids are not being served well by their zoned public schools. The purpose of education funding should be educating students, and all parents should be empowered to obtain a quality education for their kids. Learn more at or by emailing 
October 14, 2020
Governments can't solve homelessness alone
On October 2, Helping Hands unveiled its latest transitional housing facility. After Wapato Jail collected dust for 14 years, Jordan Schnitzer bought the facility to create a homeless shelter. Allen Evans, someone who spent years battling homelessness, was eventually tapped to lead the effort. During months-long negotiations and media coverage, many public officials denounced the plan to house homeless people in what they still thought of as a jail. If a deal had not been made, the whole building would have been demolished. All of their concerns were addressed by Helping Hands, the data-driven nonprofit organization that is now set to offer transitional housing to the homeless population. Under the leadership of Allen Evans, Helping Hands worked with many organizations to supply the Bybee Lakes Hope Center with education, internet access, and transportation. At the grand opening, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler admitted, “Government couldn’t do it alone.” Even when a solution was presented, the government didn’t back the shelter for months. The philanthropic community and private businesses banded together to solve a problem in an innovative way without the need for public money. To solve homelessness, Portland should embrace public-private partnerships that are led by people who know how to get things done. Learn more at or by emailing Be sure to leave us a review on iTunes and share with your friends!
October 6, 2020
I was homeschooled. Here is why I support school choice.
Listen to Helen Doran, program assistant for External Affairs at Cascade Policy Institute, talk about her homeschooling background and how this drives her support for school choice! Do you have any questions or feedback? Email Helen at, and as always, be sure to leave us a review on iTunes and share with your friends!
October 1, 2020
Your local government: Deep in debt and getting deeper
Hardly a week goes by that Metro isn’t reaching into your pocketbook or getting deeper in debt. This week, Metro will move forward on issuing $28 million in bonds. Why does Metro need to borrow $28 million? There are two reasons. First, Metro needs the money because that’s how much it’s going to cost to set up its new system to collect TWO new income taxes that go into effect in the New Year. We warned you it would be expensive to implement two new taxes on short order. But, even we had no idea it would cost a whopping $28 million. It takes a lot of money to take a lot of money. Believe it or not, the second reason is even worse. Metro is out of money. Since Lynn Peterson began leading Metro, the regional government has more than quadrupled its debt load and now has more than $1 billion in debt. And that’s where the problems really are. Metro has never brought in enough money to cover its expenses. Out of control spending combined with reduced revenues because of the pandemic have worsened its shortfall. As a result, Metro is under enormous pressure to raise more money from taxes, fees, and charges. They’ve dug us into a hole, and the only way they can fill it is with our tax dollars. Learn more at or by emailing 
September 29, 2020
Education reform that gives parents responsibility
Listen now to Dr. Eric Fruits and a roundtable discussion about providing a money-back guarantee for Oregon public education. This recording comes from Cascade Policy Institute's September 24th virtual policy picnic. To learn about future events, be sure to visit and sign up for our newsletter for more information. Oregon parents are concerned about the increasing inequity in education because of distance learning and the lack of support from the ODE. In Cascade Policy Institute’s online "Policy Picnic," Dr. Eric Fruits explains why the quickest and most effective way to achieve equity during the COVID-19 pandemic would be to support students directly by providing each student with as much as $10,500 from the State School Fund. This gives students more options for a quality education as well as responsibility back to the parents.  Learn more at or by emailing 
September 25, 2020
Oregon has a chance to adopt the newest in clean, renewable energy
Oregon’s very own NuScale Power, a nuclear company developing small-modular reactors (SMRs), has officially received a final safety evaluation report from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NuScale is the first company to be issued a report for an SMR by the Commission, and receiving one serves as a technical review and design approval for the new technology. This is a major milestone for NuScale which originally submitted its certification application in 2016, and puts it one step closer to installing its first 720-megawatt plant in Idaho Falls. This is also good news for the Northwest, which is in need of reliable baseload energy in the future based on predictions that we’ll experience insufficient energy resources by the mid-2020s. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council estimates the earliest commercial online date for an SMR plant in our region is 2030. The Council forecasts its potential maximum build-out to be 3,420-megawatts, produced by five reference plants. However, no new SMR plant can currently be built in Oregon due to a moratorium passed by voters in 1980. Legislation was considered in 2017 to carve-out an exception for SMRs, however, it never made it out of House Committee after passing through the Senate. Recent blackouts in California and upcoming coal-plant retirements in the Northwest have established unique circumstances that call for additional reliable resources. Oregon officials should reintroduce legislation that would allow us to take advantage of NuScale’s new nuclear technology.
September 22, 2020
Here's an idea: why not a money-back guarantee for Oregon public schools?
Public school parents are now part of the educational workforce, except they’re not getting compensated. There is an equitable solution to this. Do you like our content? Be sure to give us a review on iTunes and to subscribe! Email to learn more!
September 16, 2020
Adversity introduces us to ourselves - honoring 9/11
Freedom is America's precious treasure - and never too far from being lost. Despite the unprecedented events of 2020, let's remember to pause and reflect on this day of remembrance for all who died and were affected by the events of September 11th, 2001. Freedom is a gift. Let's never forget it. Do you like our content? Be sure to give us a review on iTunes and to subscribe! Email for more information.
September 11, 2020
Metro’s transportation measure will cripple Portland's COVID-19 recovery
"Metro spent years finding ways to spend money on transportation projects, while spending about two months figuring out how to pay for it. They only settled on a payroll tax because polling was good." Listen to Vlad Yurlov talk about Metro's newest tax measure, a $5.2 billion dollar payroll tax that will primarily go to building a light rail to Bridgeport. Enjoy Coffee with Cascade? Be sure to give us a review on iTunes and subscribe for more episodes on the latest in Oregon.
September 9, 2020
Pinocchio Politics on the November Ballot
President Trump is frequently accused of lying. But, he doesn’t have a monopoly on falsehood. Look around the Portland region and you’ll see our local politicians lying to us time after time. And their lies have real consequences. Listen to Dr. Eric Fruits, Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute, talk about Metro's "Get Moving 2020" measure and how Metro is deceiving voters. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @CascadePolicy for more information. Enjoy our podcasts? Give us a review on iTunes. 
September 2, 2020
California's blackouts could come to Oregon
California’s recent blackouts should serve as a warning to officials in the Northwest as we continue to increasingly crowd out fossil-fuel plants in favor of renewable alternatives. The rolling blackouts were a “perfect storm” of events, resulting from sudden drops in solar and wind power, a heatwave driving up demand, the sudden loss of a natural gas powered plant, and the inability to import electricity from neighboring states dealing with their own extreme heat. Over the past decade, California has replaced natural gas plants with solar and wind power as part of its efforts to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045. In fact, California reduced natural-gas consumption by 21% between 2014 and 2018, while increasing renewable energy capacity by 54%. To make up for the loss of reliable baseload power during times when solar and wind aren’t producing power, California has increased its reliance on importing power from neighboring states. This risky tactic left California vulnerable when its own resources failed to produce sufficient power. Oregon isn’t immune to threats of blackouts: Officials warn we may face a capacity deficit of thousands of megawatts due to planned coal plant closures, which may result in both extreme price volatility and blackouts by the mid-2020s. To avoid California’s fate, our region needs to continue utilizing reliable baseload resources such as natural gas, nuclear, and hydropower. Otherwise, officials may risk keeping Oregonians in the dark.
August 26, 2020
Special Edition: Metro predicts the future?
Metro tried to predict the future of the tri-county region in 1995. Now, 20 years into the 40-year plan, Cooper Conway explains how this prediction has affected Oregonians today.  Contact Cooper for questions at or email 
August 19, 2020
Oregon students deserve stability
Oregon guidelines for the 2020 fall semester have been remarkably inconsistent, causing confusion and mayhem for faculty, parents, and students alike. The Oregon Department of Education recently released new guidelines that allow students with special needs to have limited in-person instruction but with reduced hours and class size. This includes students with disabilities, English language learners, and those enrolled in career technical education (CTE) programs. But even these guidelines are dependent on the absence of Covid-19 cases among staff and students for two weeks.This doesn’t guarantee a stable learning environment for students that need stability the most. The guidelines also fail to explicitly address those affected by the decision to continue virtual learning in the fall. What happens to the student experiencing homelessness who has no access to a hotspot? What about the single mother who has to choose between keeping a job and staying at home with her child? It’s time to face the reality that Oregon’s public school system cannot guarantee a “one-size fits all” solution for students this fall. A money-back guarantee for K-12 education would go a long way in empowering parents to find the stability they need in uncertain times. Every parent and every child find themselves uniquely affected by the pandemic. They deserve unique solutions too. Let’s put the money in the hands of the parents, not the system. I’m Helen Doran, program assistant for external affairs at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free-market think tank.
August 18, 2020
Texas is stealing Oregon jobs and for good reason
Joe Rogan, the outspoken commenter, comedian, and host, announced on a recent episode of his popular podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” that he would be moving to Texas in search of less homelessness, less taxes, and a little bit more freedom. Rogan will be bringing his business that recently signed a 100-million-dollar deal with Spotify, too. The move to the Lone Star state will save Rogan and his company over $13 million in taxes and provide more economic growth for the state that is the perennial winner of the Governor’s Cup for economic growth and job creation. Unlike California, Texas has no income tax and frequently poaches businesses from the West Coast, such as Tesla, Charles Schwab, and McKesson. Oregon, whose top income tax rate is slightly under California’s at 10 percent, should note the multiple businesses fleeing California for Texas and follow Texas’s tax policy lead instead of California’s. Amid a pandemic, now more than ever is the time for economic development and job creation to flood Oregon, allowing Oregonians to succeed. The implementation of free-market solutions such as lower-income taxes will alleviate local business owners from the damage that COVID has done while allowing more Oregonians to rejoin the workforce.
August 11, 2020
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 or by emailing
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 or by emailing
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 or 
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 or by emailing
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 or at
July 14, 2020
Friedrich 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 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 or visiting our website at
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 or at
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
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 or
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 or at
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 or
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 or at
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 or at
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 or visit to learn more. 
June 12, 2020