Much testimony has been heard by the Legislature's Ways and Means Committee regarding the state budget and lack of adequate funding for education and myriad other worthy state causes. Every school district in the state is looking at severe and draconian cutbacks that threaten the very future of the state.
One crucial point that has not been discussed is the fact that the Oregon State Constitution (Article VIII, Section 8 (1) requires that the Legislature "appropriate sufficient funds" to assure that public education meets the quality goals established by law.
Since the state education budget is dependent almost solely upon the income tax, the Legislature begs off and blames the economy. The Legislature also deftly ignores the Constitution and apparently believes that the law is merely a suggestion.
It is time now to demand that the Legislature obey the Constitution. It is also time to demand that the Legislature step up with some backbone and leadership and develop a plan for continual and predictable funding of all state budget requirements, especially education. The present system is irresponsible and does not work.
It is now time to demand that the entire state revenue system be revamped, including serious consideration of a sales tax. — Donald Stone, Ashland
It is unprofessional for the city attorney to appeal the court ruling that Medford's anti-panhandling ordinance is unconstitutional. (This letter speaks only for me, not for the ACLU, which tends to a more courtly style of criticism.)
Medford City Councilman Al Densmore asks for judicial guidance. The courts have already provided guidance by ruling that a request for a handout is an exercise of free speech. In enacting the 2008 ordinance, the city disregarded the ACLU's warning that it was plainly unconstitutional and plunged ahead, wasting the courts' time and taxpayer money — now to be compounded with a frivolous appeal.
Neither the handful of mean-spirited citizen complaints about panhandling, nor the ordinance, were aimed at "aggressive panhandling" — unnecessary to ban because it is already a crime to block a pedestrian's way, threaten assault or create a traffic hazard. Rather, the protests against panhandlers are driven by bigotry; uncomfortable at the sight of bedraggled beggars, some want to ban them — contrary to moral values and the Constitution.
Shame on the city attorney and the chief of police for not abiding by their oaths to uphold the Constitution — even if it may be unpopular to do so. — Ralph Temple, Ashland