• Bend Business Roundup 3-27-20

    By on March 27, 2020

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: The graph reflecting the increase in unemployment claims from very small to 3.3 million nationwide in one week probably tells the story as well as anything. About 1 person in every 100 in America (100 people, not 100 workers) lost their jobs in the past week, and we’re just getting started. I used to write in this section that these are the good times economically that we will some day look back on fondly. I didn’t expect to be so right so suddenly.

    This morning, the House passed  a $2 trillion stimulus package that includes increased unemployment benefits, direct payments to some people, depending on income, and bridge loans for small businesses. The Senate passed the bill earlier this week, and the president will presumably sign it right away. Some of the bridge loans won’t need to be paid back so long as they are used on payroll or other qualifying expenses within two months.  And the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. is getting $25 million so at least well-heeled folks in the capital can once again demonstrate how cultured they are once this is all over.

    For most, the business environment is really bad, and the bill may help at the margins. However, the longer the quasi-shutdown remains in place, the more uncertain businesses and consumers will be about what the world is going to look like when the worst of the emergency passes. For example, if you own a restaurant you might be wondering if people will start eating out again once they can.

    In most economic downturns, the government tries to help or at least tries to appear to help, but what it does often has little to do with the outcome and as often as not makes things worse. In this case, the economic shock is being caused primarily by the government’s response to the coronavirus, so government action related, especially, to the degree of quarantine, will be key to improving the situation. More than anytime in any of our lives (unless you were born prior to the end of World War II), we need our elected leaders to, well, lead. More on that in a bit.

    Law: A number of cities in Oregon, including Portland and Bend, outlawed single-use plastic bags and eventually the state followed suit. This has mainly caused me to pay Safeway or Fred Meyer more money for paper bags because I could never remember to bring the reusable ones, but more responsible people like my wife remember to bring the reusable ones from home.

    The coronavirus has a knack for turning everything on its head, and it’s done so with plastic bag bans. Those reusable bags that keep single-use bags out of the landfill also bring with them germs from home to the new epicenter of American life: the grocery store. As a result, Massachusetts is now banning reusable shopping bags, and prohibiting stores from charging for single-use plastic or paper bags, overriding a number of local ordinances. Washington, one of the states hardest hit thus far by coronavirus, is plowing ahead with its single-use plastic bag ban, the governor having just signed the bill.

    Some stores in Central Oregon are forbidding customers from bringing reusable bags inside due to the risk of infection. Oregon’s ban requires the stores to then charge the shoppers for single-use bags. Shoppers are mad at the stores, but they don’t have a choice. When the legislature convenes, it should repeal the ban and allow stores statewide to give shoppers sanitary, single use bags.

    Politics: A couple weeks ago I wrote that the coronavirus was that rarest of creatures these days, a non-partisan thing. Hahaha. That’ll teach me to underestimate partisanship. We’ve seen partisanship rise up in the form of disputes about when to ease off on the quarantine, and whether it’s ok to hold up the stimulus bill in order to require more efficient jet engines in airliners.

    Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum (I just had to Google whether “politics” is singular or plural  . . . I was a politics major). When a vacuum appears in politics, it’s often filled with partisanship because the party we belong to is often a proxy for our worldview. We trust people in our own parties because we think they more or less usually think like us so we don’t have to understand an issue – we just go with what our guy or gal says. I’m not saying that’s good, but the vast majority of people are just not going to invest the time to actually understand the details of most issues to reach an independent conclusion.

    Politicians realize this and act accordingly. Recent elections in the U.S. have tended to be “turnout” elections, in which the leaders of both parties try to maximize turnout among their respective bases by emphasizing issues that are popular with their party but often unlikely to win enough support to become law. Think Medicare for All for Democrats or wall-building at Mexico’s expense for Republicans. There’s really no attempt made to convince the non-believers that it’s the best path forward because the policies are meant primarily to maximize partisan enthusiasm.

    Coronavirus is different. It’s an actual, immediate problem that requires our leaders to develop a strategy and marshal evidence to sway voters of all parties that the strategy is the best one to pursue for now. The problem is that our leaders have been chosen in large measure by the old “fire up the base” approach and it’s no surprise that most of them are proving inept at persuasion of those outside their base.

    Back to the vacuum. In 2020 more than ever, persuasion requires data. We are a cynical people now, because we’ve been burned by politicians many times before and the Internet makes sure we know it. So, no one is going to “just trust” you. Leaders need to bring voters into their decisionmaking process so they can see the logical connection between data and decision. To do that, voters need to have the same data as the decisionmaker. Unlike in war, there is no secrecy imperative to the information surrounding coronavirus. Our leaders should tell us the metrics upon which they are making decisions and share that data with us. Then, we can make educated decisions about whether we’re on the right track or not.

    To Oregon’s credit, it is making more data, including more hospitalization data, available. But additional measures are necessary, including amending HIPAA, the federal law that causes medical offices to send us endless unread notices about their privacy policies but also prevents sharing more specific information about patients suffering from COVID-19. Information like age, underlying conditions, where they live, etc. that can help the public understand the nature of the challenge and the adequacy of our leaders’ response. In times when the rights of so many Americans are being severely curtailed to combat the coronavirus, it’s reasonable to relax patient privacy to ensure that people really understand what’s going on.

    If our leaders would demonstrate to us that they are doing everything possible to empower us as citizens to understand the problem and their solution, they would fill at least part of the vacuum that partisanship relies on. People are paying attention, because their lives depend on it, and they can and will process and use the information they have. If that information is lacking, they’ll return to their partisan trenches, which will harm our ability to get out of this mess.

    Et cetera:  Anna and I don’t get to watch many movies outside the Pixar genre because kids. This week, though, we used the quarantine as an excuse to watch “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which is the Tom Hanks movie about Mr. Rogers. It’s really, really good. If, like me, you watched Mr. Rogers as a kid, the movie is absolutely captivating. It’s a happy story for a difficult time.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

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  • Bend Business Roundup 3-23-20

    By on March 23, 2020

    Happy (?) Monday,

    Governor Kate Brown has issued, yesterday and today, sweeping business and social distancing regulations in reaction to the coronavirus. Since a lot of you BBRers are businessfolk, I thought you might appreciate a quick rundown.

    Residential Landlords: The Governor yesterday issued an executive order preventing law enforcement officers from serving any notice or otherwise facilitating the eviction of a residential tenant due to non-payment of rent. Basically, this means that if you want to evict a residential tenant and he or she resists, you’re stuck with ’em because a sheriff’s deputy won’t go out and remove them. The order is in effect for 90 days unless earlier terminated or extended.

    The executive order does not impact the tenant’s obligation to pay rent, so theoretically landlords could pursue eviction for non-payment and/or sue for unpaid rent once the order is lifted. Also, the order does not prevent law enforcement officers from serving and otherwise facilitating evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, so landlords may continue to evict for other violations of the rental agreement or Oregon law by tenants.

    “Non-Essential Businesses” Forced to Close: In a separate executive order issued today, Brown ordered the closure, effective midnight tonight, the closure of certain specific consumer-facing retail and service businesses:
    Amusement parks
    Art galleries, which are open without appointment
    Bowling alleys
    Childcare facilities that cannot limit children to 10 who are the same every day. Order is in place from March 25 through April 28.
    Cosmetic shops
    Fraternal organizations facilities
    Furniture stores
    Gyms and fitness studios
    Hair salons and barber shops
    Hookah bars
    Indoor party places, including jumping gyms and laser tag
    Jewelry shops and boutiques, unless they use pick-up or delivery services
    Malls, both indoor and outdoor
    Medical and facial spas, day spas and massage therapy services
    Nail and tanning salons
    Non-tribal card rooms
    Outdoor sports courts
    Private and public campgrounds
    Senior activity centers
    Social and private clubs
    Skate parks
    Skating rinks
    Ski resorts
    State executive branch offices and buildings “shall close to the maximum extent possible”
    Tattoo and piercing parlors
    Tennis clubs
    Yoga studios
    Youth clubs

    Retail Businesses not listed above: They must designate a Social Distancing Czar (my term, not hers) to ensure that everyone stays six feet apart and otherwise follow the Oregon Health Authority’s social distancing rules (which I would link to except the State of Oregon’s website is not so conveniently down). If they can’t comply with the rules, they need to close down. Grocery stores, health care, medical and pharmacy services are not subject to this rule, but are encouraged to follow social distancing rules.

    Restaurants and Bars: They are unaffected by the new order – they continue to be closed to in-house dining but may provide carryout and delivery.

    Everything else: All the businesses and nonprofits (and basically all business offices) not listed above may remain open. Office businesses must have employees work remotely to the extent possible. If remote working is not possible for all employees, then the business must designate a Social Distancing Czar.

    Travel Restrictions: In an oddly worded section, the order provides, “Individuals are directed to minimize travel, other than essential travel from a home, residence or workplace; for obtaining or providing food, shelter, essential consumer needs, education, health care, or emergency services” etc. I’m not sure the language of the order is as strict as the Governor is making it out to be, but the intent is clearly to restrict travel by Oregonians.

    Impact: The biggest impact will be on the long list of businesses that are forced to close completely. Some of those may have already closed voluntarily, but others, for example salons, likely had not. The closure will lead to another round of layoffs as we’ve seen with restaurants and bars. Many businesses (like mine) will be allowed to continue because I can, in theory, work from home as I am right now. All retail, even those not closed, will probably suffer even more as the travel restrictions at least strongly discourage Oregonians from non-essential trips.

    Is it worth it?: The fact is we don’t know. In the Governor’s press release, she says the intent of the new measures is to “flatten the curve,” and prevent the caseload from swamping hospital capacity and ultimately to save lives. That’s a goal that we can all get behind, but as the economic toll of these increasingly restrictive measures increases, the Governor must be more specific about key issues like the following:

    – Using some publicly available metric such as positive CoVid-19 test results, what is the goal of these new measures? For example, is the goal to see a reduction in new daily cases by a date certain? Oregonians, and I would think policymakers, need to have some way to determine whether the measures are having their intended effect, because we know that the side-effects are horrendous.

    – What was the goal of the earlier measures like the social distancing guidelines and bar/restaurant restrictions? Those measures presumably have been deemed inadequate but on what basis? What would success have looked like?

    – How, in reference to a publicly available metric, will we know when the measures have either succeeded in their goal or failed, so that we can move on to fewer or different measures that are more effective?

    Given the unprecedented interruption in personal and economic life being enacted by the Governor, it’s critical that we be able to judge the efficacy of those measures. The Governor is in a terribly difficult situation, making very hard decisions – it would help the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians whose lives have been turned upside down understand why that is if there are clear goals and measurements for success or failure.

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  • Bend Business Roundup 3-20-20

    By on March 20, 2020

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: Government’s response to the coronavirus includes what I think may be the most intensive intervention in the economy in American history. The New Deal dictated agricultural production limits and various other rules designed to prop up prices; World War II brought rationing. To the best of my knowledge, the government has never forced the closure of previously lawful businesses on the scale that Oregon and other states and localities are doing with restaurants and bars. California has ordered residents not to go to work unless they work in “critical sectors.”

    I do not envy the governors and others making excruciating decisions that upend numerous of their constituents’ lives, and I am sure they are doing the best they can with the information available to them. Moreover, they should be given significant grace as they probably are hedging against the worst outcomes among many outcomes that may arise out of this crisis.

    However, at some point, and I suspect that point will come soon, there will be increased pressure on government to explain to its citizens why harsh measures and the economic calamity they cause continue to be the best approach. What are the reasonably likely trade offs between increasingly severe measures and less onerous measures, in terms of human lives and the economy? If, in fact, the need for harsh measures may exist for 12-18 months , people are going to start wondering about alternatives.

    The biggest hurdle in defining the risk and the trade offs and possibly in better targeting measures at those populations most affected, and thus relieving those populations less affected, is the woeful inadequacy of testing capacity in the U.S. The lack of testing prevents more accurate projections of transmission and death rates, which leads to such a wide variance in possible outcomes. Which forces officials to make policy mostly in the dark, and hedge against a worst case scenario the likelihood of which we don’t really know with good certainty. Testing is key for knowing where we are, where we’re likely going and, critically, when policy makers can relax their grip. A lot of the economic problem now is the uncertainty of the duration of all of this.

    Fortunately, localities are stepping in with new approaches to testing, and so are philanthropists.We Americans have a history of reacting to crises slowly but eventually with overwhelming force and effectiveness. Let’s all hope that pattern is repeated here.

    Law: It’s not often that I get to use my French minor. My wife and I spent part of our honeymoon in France years ago, during which on numerous occasions I tried speaking in French to French people and each time they just started talking to me in English because my French was, uh, bad. Anyway, there’s this concept in contract law called “Force Majeure” which I think is one of the coolest terms in the law but one that almost never is a real issue. Basically, a Force Majeure clause typically excuses one or both parties to a contract from the obligation to do what they promise to do in the contract if some big surprise outside the control of the parties makes performing impossible.

    Something like a pandemic and government closure of businesses and events, for example. Something tells me we are or will soon break a record for exercising force majeure clauses.

    Politics: So the politics has become predictably stupid. Basically, people appear to be broken into about four categories based upon their political response to the pandemic:

    1. People who insist upon calling the virus the “China virus” or something similar to that because it makes other people mad. I personally don’t care what one calls the virus, but these people should stop doing this because it gives those other people a reason not to look seriously at the role the Chinese government had in destroying evidence of the coronavirus early on and otherwise concealing from the world the truth of the threat posed by it. Now China is on a PR binge trying to blame the origin of the virus on the U.S. military, and otherwise avoiding blame. One of the many things that need to be re-assessed in the wake of this crisis is our relationship with China, and fighting about what to call the virus makes that more difficult.

    2. People who are insulted or pretend to be insulted by calling the virus the “Chinese virus” or similar. They should stop because the virus did originate in China and it is not racist to say that and they’re just serving to rile up category 1. The Chinese government is using and magnifying this impulse to cover up its own role in the crisis. One can at once place blame on the Chinese government AND place blame on U.S. officials for a poor response, especially when it comes to testing.

    3. People who happen to serve in Congress and happen to have received a classified briefing about the severity of the pandemic and happen to have sold millions of dollars of stock soon after that briefing and well before they or others signaled to the public just how bad this would be and before the market tanked. Unless these folks have a really good explanation, they should resign now.

    4. The vast majority of people who don’t think about politics in times like this and are worried about making the rent or mortgage payment and keeping their families safe and healthy. These people should probably keep doing that.

    Et cetera: My God, that was depressing. Nothing that some Oregon vodka made from cow’s milk can’t solve!

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

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  • Bend Business Roundup 3-13-20

    By on March 13, 2020

    Happy the Most Friday the 13th Friday the 13th of All Time,

    Here’s some stuff you might like reading in your bunker.

    Business: I was born in 1975. I’ve been through two events that rapidly and fundamentally changed Americans’ lives for the worse: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the Great Recession, kicked off by the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008. Now I have a third: coronavirus. There’s the same feeling of a downward spiral to the news cycle, leaving us to wonder, how bad is this going to get?

    One of the at once fortunate and unfortunate traits of our era is that we are all cynics. We know that everyone has a bias and an angle and they’re probably using us to try to make money or win votes. The cynicism’s a good thing in that it’s almost always true; it’s bad in that when we really need information there’s no one we trust. If you’re like me, you’ve been wondering just how big a deal the coronavirus is, or, more to the point, whether the closures, cancellations and warnings are overkill.

    The best source I’ve found for information on the appropriate public health response to the virus is, as on so many topics, facebook, where I read that drinking bleach can cure the disease. Nah, it’s Scott Gottlieb, who’s an MD and formerly head of the Food and Drug Administration. He lays out why, even for healthy younger folks, it’s important to practice social distancing. A lot of it comes down to the availability of hospital beds and especially ICU beds. If they get filled up, then mortality rates go way up like they did in China, Italy and Iran. If we can slow the spread of the disease by having less direct contact with other people, then we keep the demand for hospital beds within the supply and a lot fewer people die. This is the “flatten the curve” thing people are talking about.

    Fewer people dying is a manifestly good thing, but it will also help prevent further panic and disruption. An outbreak in which a bunch of people get sick and the sickest are able to get good care in hospitals is a re-inforcement of the stability of the health care system and society generally; an outbreak in which the health care system clearly cannot meet demand results in a lot more deaths and social disruption. The economic consequences are already severe – by following appropriate measures we can limit the duration and scope of those consequences, and preserve more of the liberties that define us as Americans. If we fail, the disruptions to our lives will be longer-lasting and perhaps permanent.

    Coronavirus is one of those rare creatures in modern America: it ought to and largely has transcended partisan politics. If we all do our part, this thing will be over soon and we can go back to fighting about stuff that matters a lot less.

    Law: NBA, March Madness, Major League Baseball, schools and all kinds of other businesses and government entities have cancelled events.  Have they done so in part due to fear of lawsuits from people who get sick and maybe die because they were at an event? You bet. It’s a big factor, and so is wanting to appear to be conscious of customers’ and workers’ fears.

    While the motives are largely out of self-interest, the effect is likely to benefit us all by reducing in-person human interaction. Come to think of it, it’s a really good example of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” theory. Our litigation system has a lot of downsides, but one upside in light of our current crisis is that it forces potential defendants to value human lives very highly, in dollars. The result is that businesses and local/state government should, if not immediately but soon, if anything overreact to keep people from contracting the disease. The litigiousness of Americans, a trait about which I am often skeptical, will probably help us pull out of this sooner than we otherwise would.

    Politics: Coronavirus is like a series of hand grenades going off in races up and down the ballot. Even those of us who hope for little more than a bland rather than overtly offensive form of incompetence expect our governments – local, state and federal – to have their act together on stuff like this. With the stock market cratering and the economy likely faltering, prior assumptions about the desirable characteristics of elected officials and the likelihood of voters approving incumbents have to go out the window. In 2008, the onset of the Great Recession rocked races from the Presidency on down. There’s more time before the election this time but the impact could be as big nonetheless. Buckle up!

    Social Distancing 1:  If you’re looking for something off the beaten and virus-sodden path to do this weekend, you could do worse than Fort Rock. Anna was out of town last weekend, so myself, Aiden (5) and Elijah (3) (jointly, the “EagerBoyz”) drove the 1.25 hours to Fort Rock to indulge in some real eastern Oregon fun. The rock itself is amazing. You can walk around inside of it and make echos and look for petroglyphs and there’s hardly anyone there.

    For lunch, we stopped at The Waterin’ Hole Tavern, where one exceedingly efficient and friendly woman was taking orders, pouring drinks and cooking up some good burgers for ten or so patrons, all on her own. They have electronic darts and a stuffed mountain goat wearing a baseball cap; needless to say, a big thumbs up from the EagerBoyz.

    Social Distancing 2: Friend, do you trust me? If you do, at all, click on this and watch it with the volume on. If you’re social distancing properly, it shouldn’t bother anyone. You won’t be disappointed.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend and stay well!

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  • Bend Business Roundup 3-6-20

    By on March 6, 2020

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: For the third year in a row, the Milken Institute has named the Bend-Redmond Metropolitan Statistical Area/megalopolis (it’s not really a megalopolis but I like that word) the best-performing small city in the U.S. Factors influencing the ranking include wage growth and job growth.

    Law: I’m not a doctor because the dissection of a fetal pig in Mr. Campagna’s 10th grade biology class was plenty for me and math is hard, but some folks have asked me what small businesses need to be aware of legally in relation to the Coronavirus. This piece, by Lane Powell’s Long Term Care & Senior Living lawyers, goes into detail for the highly regulated and virus-susceptible long term care industry. For other types of businesses, here are a few thoughts:

    1. The business could be liable if you know or should know that someone (customer, employee, etc.) at your business has Coronavirus, and you don’t do anything to protect others from getting sick and they get sick or worse. If you have reason to believe that someone in your business has Coronavirus take reasonable steps to protect others from getting sick, such as by asking the infected person to stay home or leave and consulting with a doctor about how to render the workplace safe again, e.g. by cleaning, etc. Err on the side of caution.

    2. Because infections are still newsworthy, if someone associated with your business gets the virus, you will likely be contacted by health workers and the media. Keep in mind that if the infected person is an employee, you are still subject to employee health confidentiality rules and it’s best not to comment about an employee’s health. If you think an employee has the Coronavirus but the employee has not told you he or she has it, talk to your lawyer before you inquire with the employee.

    3. If you’re sending employees to areas with known infections, consider cancelling or postponing the trip. If you tell them to go to a place you know or should creates an unreasonable risk of infection, and they get sick, you could be liable.

    Politics: If you’re a political nerd (and if you’re reading this you just might be, you know), this has been a big week. The Oregon legislature ended its session early following a Republican walkout and the Democrats’ insistence that the price of re-admission to the capitol was a vote on cap and trade. I’ve beaten this one to death, so I’ll make this short: I think the failure of a bill that would significantly increase costs for Oregon families while having no impact on the climate is a good thing.

    Another piece of good news: Democratic presidential primary voters appear to be in the process of rejecting socialist Bernie Sanders, an outcome that a week ago looked unlikely. While I don’t think Sanders would win the presidency if nominated (and presumably a lot of Dems voting against him think the same thing), the prospect of something approaching half the country rallying around socialism, even in a losing effort, would be really bad. In our negatively polarized national politics (i.e., an enemy of my enemy is my friend regardless of how unpleasant that friend is), lots of people who dislike Donald Trump would probably get dragged closer to or outright accept the premise that we should ditch capitalism in favor of a lot more government ownership of our stuff and control over our lives.

    Anyway, thanks Democrats. Keep it up.

    Et cetera:  Have you seen the sitcom “Modern Family?” An actor named Ty Burrell played the central role of the dad in the show, and was born in Grants Pass, Oregon (home of the not particularly modern-sounding “Caveman” or “Cavemen” high school mascot) and grew up in Southern Oregon. Burrell was recently on Steve Colbert’s show and said about Oregonians, “The most remarkable thing about Oregonians is how unremarkable the accent is . . . . We’re basically a state of newscasters.”

    I’ve heard of this before, including when I lived in DC, where one hears lots of accents from around the country. If it’s true that we PNWers have no accent, which is to say a manner of speaking with the least identifiable regional “sound,” I wonder why? We are about as far-removed from the culture- (and one presumes accent) defining media cities as you can be. You’d think we’d have our own very weird dialect and accent up here. Maybe we just all learned to speak English by watching the news, or we adopted the least-distinct manner of speaking so as not to draw undue attention to ourselves in that shy-ish Northwest style.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

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  • Bend Business Roundup 2-28-20

    By on February 28, 2020

    Happy Friday,

    Here’s some stuff you might like.

    Business: The coronavirus has already hammered U.S. stocks as badly as they’ve been hammered since 2008 which you may recall was an, uh, off year for business. Part of the problem is the uncertainty caused by the fact that China cannot be trusted to accurately report even routine economic data, let alone the severity of the disease within its borders. I’ve been on kind of a Chernobyl spree lately – watched the HBO series and read a really good book about it, and it’s hard to avoid the parallels: authoritarian regime lies to its citizens and the world about an event originating within its borders that impacts the health of lots of people outside its borders. Chernobyl blew up in 1986 and the Soviet Union collapsed five years later. Lots of smart people think that’s not a coincidence.

    Law: The feds are suing New China, Inc., which owns a Medford restaurant, for sexual harassment. This follows the criminal prosecution of the manager for sexual assault, among other things. A business is in a bad spot when the federal government is suing it, and this serves as your reminder that business owners who catch even a whiff of harassment need to (for moral as well as legal) reasons act swiftly and decisively to address it, even if the business owner is not the person inflicting the harassment.

    Politics: A couple weeks ago, we observed that there are now more registered Democrats than registered Republicans in Deschutes County. Well, that news item spawned a national AP story about the decline of the GOP generally on the West Coast (and caused a picture of downtown Bend to appear on the Drudge Report for what must be the first time ever).

    The story recounts the erosion of Republican voter numbers and fortunes from Orange County to Bend to the Seattle suburbs, and blames it mostly on the changing demographics of the West Coast; it quotes a former Washington GOP Chairman as saying of the Republican west coast withering, “There is no way out.”

    That there is a way out is demonstrated by the premise of the story – that the partisan lean of the West Coast has been changing. The one certainty is that they will continue to change and not necessarily on their current trajectory. In recent decades, we’ve seen significant partisan shifts in other regions too. In the South, from Democrat to Republican; in the Northeast from Republican to Democrat; in Portland from Democrat to the Oh Wow, Really? Party.

    Demographics isn’t the only variable affecting geographic partisan preferences. The parties themselves – and the candidates they run – change significantly too. In 1988, the last time a Republican presidential candidate won California, George H.W. Bush was that candidate. In 1992, when California joined Oregon and Washington as a reliably blue state, Bill Clinton was the Democratic nominee. Donald Trump may be an actual antonym to Bush 41 in temperament, and Bernie Sanders would sooner part with one of his three houses than say, like Clinton did, “The era of big government is over.”

    Which is to say that the process that leads to partisan outcomes is very dynamic, even to the point that what it means to be a Republican and a Democrat can change significantly. Assuming that trends will always stay the same in an environment like that is a bad idea.

    Et cetera:  We’re in Newport, Oregon for the weekend. As I type this I’m looking up the coast to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. A few people are trudging up or down the beach below because it’s the Oregon coast in February and while it’s not (yet) raining, stationary beach activities are best avoided.

    Newport’s one of our favorites because it has a blend of beach tourist amenities (especially around Nye Beach) and an actual, functioning economy outside tourism, with its fishing industry and NOAA fleet. Like Bend, it didn’t start as a tourist spot and is still not solely or even primarily a tourist spot. While the higher-end cultural and educational offerings took a big hit with the recent closure of the Undersea Gardens, there’s still lots to do.

    Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.

    Have a great weekend!

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