Monday, January 08, 2007

Governor Kulongoski: What a Difference 4 Years Makes

Here's a draft of a column I wrote for the Tribune 4 years ago. It is not - I repeat - not representative of the final edited work that appeared in the paper. However it does shed some historical light on Oregon's situation back then as opposed to now.

As I've posted about to no end, I recently sorted through all my possessions, so in a perfect world I should be able to put my hands right on the cassette from the Governor's Ball in 2003, and transcribe more of my interviews for you. That would be interesting, especially in the case of our former Governor Neil Goldschmidt.

Unfortunately, "sorted"(or should I say "sordid"?) just means the tape is now in one of two giant crates full of hundreds of other tapes. I do remember enough to know it was fluffy - no Pulitzer's were involved. However there was some nice foreshadowing with his farewell-sounding phrase, "See you later."

Isn't it interesting to chart the changing fortunes that we go through? 1. Oregon is no longer an economic basket case. 2. Goldschmidt is now in disgrace, and 3. I have been ejected from the mainstream media, and landed in the blogosphere.

As the Portland Freelancer turns 1 tomorrow, let us harken back to the days of old in a faraway kingdom called 4 years ago:

For this week’s column I interviewed two former governors, a governor-elect, a congressman, and a sitting president. Okay, the “president” was David Bragdon, head of Metro, and he was actually standing at the time, but that’s his real job title. I guess “Metro Commander-In-Chief” would be a little too grandiose.
The occasion was last Saturday night’s “Governor’s Ball 2003” held at the downtown Hilton. Ted Kulongoski was less than 48 hours from taking office, and I wondered if the grim outlook for Oregon’s budget had gotten to him yet.
TRIB: Any second thoughts about taking the job?
Kulongoski: No, no, I love it.
TRIB: I don’t know whether to congratulate you or give you my condolences.
Kulongoski(chuckling): Oh, I’m actually looking forward to this.
Former governor Barbara Roberts raved about our new leader but had a grim assessment: “I don’t think a governor has entered the office with a tougher situation than Governor Kolongoski has maybe in the history of this state.”
Former governor Neil Goldschmidt struck a qualified note of optimism: “We’re starting out the right way with the right guy, but it isn’t something we can just dump on the governor and say ‘See you later.’”
I asked Representative David Wu if he thought the states would eventually get some relief from the federal government: “I think at the end of the day there will be a component of aid to the states.” He also added his own take on the new man: “Ted is someone who’s been training and preparing for this governor’s job for 25 years.”
David Bragdon was equally effusive in his praise and as a columnist, I was beginning to sense trouble. This was turning into too much of a love-fest so I tried to dig up some dirt on David’s brother Peter, the governor’s new chief of staff.
TRIB: Is there any sibling rivalry going on here?
Bragdon: “No, actually I call my brother for advice quite a bit.”
TRIB: I could use a little bit of controversy. I mean, I’ve got a column to write.
Bragdon: “We used to have fist fights but that was, you know, 40 years ago.”
I could see the headline already: “Governor’s Chief of Staff and Metro President in Repeated Fist Fights.” Maybe we should keep this match-up in mind. Things could get so grim for Oregon state revenue that we may have to turn to celebrity boxing.
So how bad off are we? For some historical perspective, I asked prominent Oregonian Gerry Frank whose bakery provided the cakes for the feast. He replied, “We’ve been through a lot. I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime. My uncle Julius Meier was governor during some very tough times(1931-1935). I worked with Mark Hatfield during the 1959-1966 period and we also had some serious problems, so I’m not sure that this is the worse. We’re more conscious of it because we’re living through it. There’s no question it’s very serious.”
In fact, it’s a shame that the Portland Tribune is the only newspaper in town. This guy should have his own column.

Ahh, back to the future. Things do seem a lot less grim now for Oregon financially anyway. I also sense my initial instincts as a columnist were to try to be funny, which led to a rather extensive rewrite process. It's almost like they hired a comedy writer by mistake, isn't it?


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