Of tempests and teapots

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

s_Robin

So much for my hopes of a quiet, languid summer, puttering around the garden, dipping my toes into cool waters, writing a small this or that with nary a concern.

Better I should wish for a Blazers championship.

Hot issue No. 1: I’m still feeling the heat from my June column, which made a few readers hot under the hood. My failure to effectively use ironic overstatement aside (I really do not want to pay $6 a gallon for gas!), the buzz generated by the energy issues made one thing clear: It’s a topic that sizzles.

So we’re launching in this issue Energy on the Edge by associate editor Oakley Brooks. The feature (see p. 14), aims to find innovations and spotlight the growing energy entrepreneurial landscape. There are solutions to higher costs, environmental concerns and global worries out there somewhere, and we want to find them first.

Hot issue No. 2: The Input survey this issue asks our readers several tax-related questions. Tom Eiland, our research partner at Conkling Fiskum & McCormick, and I hid out in Peet’s on a recent Friday afternoon, escaping the heat, sharing war stories and mulling over the responses.

Is it surprising that 52% said they would support killing the corporate kicker? Not so much. Some of the state’s leading business groups support abolishing or reducing the corporate kicker to fund education and other needs. Our Input respondents are a subset: 50% are business owners or CEOs (with 57% working at companies of 50 people or fewer). But even at that, Eiland predicted that if it ever came to a vote, a repeal of the corporate kicker would be voted down: The undecideds (17%) would join the againsts (31%) and some of the supporters would jump ship.

Looking deeper into the muddy tax waters, Eiland pointed out that respondents on the sales tax question supported and opposed it for some of the same reasons: Both groups want to see income and property taxes lowered.

One Input respondent neatly summed up feelings for both sides about a sales tax: “It is stupid. Eliminate property taxes totally, then I might listen.”

Eiland, a veteran in the vagaries of opinion research, seemed almost jolly while discussing the various Technicolor inconsistencies. They made my black-and-white brain hurt. But tax issues are heating up the gubernatorial race, with the various candidates covering the idealogical spectrum, so I might as well pop a few aspirin and strap in for the ride.

Hot issue No. 3: Rushing back to the office to soothe my aching head, I found controversy blooming in an unlikely, innocent pot. A recent Business Tool on the perils of couple-owned business had only a mention of the breakup of Portland restaurateurs Naomi and Michael Hebberoy, but just that little snippet drew out juicy gossip from those reporting to be in the know and dying to tell me What Really Happened. No, I will not pass along the gossip. This is not the National Enquirer, and I’m not taking sides. Let’s get back to the serious issues and let Michael enjoy Mexico!

Funding shortfalls, energy costs, tax reform, education woes, stretched families, beleaguered businesses; red worries, blue blues. To tortuously paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt: A state is like a tea bag — you never know how strong it is until it gets in hot water. Well, I think the water is at full boil.

Do I expect a little cooling off at the end of this hot summer season? Forget it. The even-hotter political season is just around the corner, and we need to get ready. So write and tell me what you think are our most critical issues, and we’ll tell the politicians.

The tea is on.

— Robin Doussard
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