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Archives - January 2008
Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Capitol.jpg SALEM It’s the special legislative session that some are calling the “Seinfeld session,” a reference to the television show that was, as its creators famously described, about nothing.

That’s not entirely fair. While much of what’s on the Legislature’s plate from Feb. 4-29 is small or highly specific to individual issues, there’s a little heft as well — some of it with long-term effects on Oregon businesses.

By mid-December, many potential bills were still in the draft stage in specific committees. But the biggest issues were already apparent, and funding the Big Look Commission — as the land-use reform task force is known — is at the top of lawmakers’ and business groups’ agendas.

As Duncan Wyse, president of the Oregon Business Council, puts it, getting the task force moving is a “big deal” when it comes to revamping land-use laws — a sentiment echoed on both sides of the aisle.

“Oregon’s existing land-use laws just don’t recognize that the world has changed. We’re going to put our shoulder to the wheel to make [funding] happen,” says Bill Smith, an Oregon Business Association board member and president of William Smith Properties in Bend.

Another top priority for the OBA is a tax credit for companies that exceed environmental emissions standards. This will be OBA president Ryan Deckert’s first session outside of the Legislature; he stepped down as a senator last year to take the top job at OBA. He describes the credit as a bigger incentive for companies competing on a global scale to excel environmentally.

While they might have different solutions to the problems, both Democrats and Republicans are focused on other business-related bills. One is legislation aimed at combating the rising number of predatory foreclosure scams that have followed on the heels of the national mortgage crisis.

Another joint interest is water. Senate majority leader Richard Devlin calls it a “hidden topic,” but one that’s increasingly being seen as crucial to both urban and rural Oregon. Water storage and aquifer restoration in Eastern Oregon — a huge issue for farmers, fishermen and tribes — is the subject of a bill that both the governor’s office and Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton, are working on.

All in all, more than enough for the Legislature to make something out of so-called nothing.              

ABRAHAM HYATT



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Editor's Letter: Power Play

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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