Monday, October 18, 2010

On a hand up for young Oregonians via the GED

These days, about 6000 young Oregonians drop out of school sometime between the 9th and 12 grades. As the years go by, these numbers pile up with big consequences for everyone. Not having a high school degree is a huge barrier for getting employment and a road block to further education whether for a trade school or higher education. Each drop-out has a different story to tell. Perhaps the bullying at school became intolerable, perhaps a family with children found themselves out on the street. Some school leavers flee homes of violence. Whatever the reason, such youngsters are at risk of getting into trouble with the law or they may remain unemployed the rest of t heir lives and subsist on government safety net services.

There is a window of opportunity for them to take the GED exam, sometimes known as the high school equivalency test. Arkansas provides the GED at no charge to residents of that State. It doesn’t have to be entirely provided by the tax payers though. The GED could be offered on a sliding scale instead of the flat $130 exam fee and the $250 study material package. Recovered fees could be cycled back to defray the State’s costs. In my community, a service club does fund raising for GED scholarships. The money is funneled to a local non-profit that screens potential recipients to find those most likely to benefit from the GED award. With both public and private efforts, Oregon would come out ahead when we lift young people up to the path of employment and education through the GED.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Higher Education

Equality of opportunity is a core value in our society. The goal of giving all Americans an equal chance to succeed according to their abilities and aspirations is fundamental to the American Dream. As it now stands, the sons and daughters of Oregonians all too often find that the cost of a higher education closes the door to them. Oregon’s funding for higher education has slipped to 44th in the nation; when State funding declines, the difference in the actual cost of education is made up by raising tuition. Tuition has gone up 244% in the last two decades. Correcting disadvantages of this kind seem well within the reach of public policy. Political leaders could make college more affordable for lower-income families by lowering the economic barriers that have arisen as Oregon has had to cut back on support for higher education to cope with rising costs in other important sectors. The argument can be made that increasing equality of opportunity through education could ultimately do more to provide satisfying and adequately paid jobs and increase the stability and well-being of Oregonians than other single strategy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A view on Wolves in Wallowa Valley

Oregonians list feeling safe in their homes and communities as a top priority. Until recently, this focus was on criminal behavior. Now it is wolves. Wolves are not just a problem for ranchers; they are a community problem and the ranchers, who are an important and traditional part of our rural life, should not have to bear the burden of loss from wolf depredation alone.

Our family benefits from the chickens, eggs, lamb, pork and beef that we buy from local ranches. We get a healthful source of food and they benefit from our economic support. Now local livestock producers are working toward creating a wolf compensation trust fund to help with economic losses from wolves. They can put the Falbo family down on their list of potential donors. We are not ranchers, but we will be there for the common good.

The Draft Updated Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan September 2010 is a work in progress which the public can easily access on line. The plan is forward looking and anticipates the eventual de-listing of the Wolf from the Federal Endangered Species act. It addresses compensation for depredation on private lands and livestock grazing legally on Federal and State lands. It also provides for many facets of wolf management, among them: Radio-collaring, monitoring, the need for sufficient funds to implement the plan and, when necessary, permitting the killing of depredating wolves.

It won’t be easy to hammer out a workable legal guide for dealing with wolves. Clearly, property owners have the right to defend their property to the full extent of the law. Therefore, the law must be crystal clear to all parties.

Government and public officials have a role to play in bringing all the concerned parties to the table; in writing the essential legislation to implement the plan; and, in authorizing sufficient money for it. Both the State and Federal governments are struggling financially with meeting existing program obligations, let alone taking on new ones. Thus, in these times, it is important to specify how new programs will be paid for within the constraints of revenues. There is no free lunch here; what is taken from one part of government comes at a cost elsewhere in government.

Our headlines alert us to the issues of wolves and keep us informed. This is good. But the choice and tone of our words matter. When our anger and our fears spill over into the local media they are quickly picked up by that echo chamber of the Internet, blogs and Face book. An unintended consequence of this publicity could be a chilling effect on tourism. Consider that in Wallowa County the Leisure and Hospitality sector employs about 280 people and in Union Count, accounts for about 860 jobs. If visitors are fearful of coming here, it will be difficult to count our loss. A room at a B & B left vacant here, a fisherman looking to hook a steelhead gone elsewhere or another job lost.

We can avoid that by use of measured words and thoughtful, calm analysis. If we get it right, in the end I believe that this County can get ahead of the wolf issue by proposing both legal and community-based grass roots efforts that work. If so, we will be justly proud to have created a plan that can serve as a model for the rest of our State.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Big Three—Public Safety, Health and Human Services, and Education use 93% of budget

How do the State’s finances affect us at the County level?

State-County Services



Other Revenue

Public Safety




Community Corrections




District Attorney




Juvenile services





Mental Health




Public Health




The Big Three—Public Safety, Health and Human Services, and Education use 93% of budget

  • Oregonians list feeling safe in our homes and communities as a top priority. We have 14,000 inmates and 36 county jails and supervise 30,000 persons on probation, parole or post-prison supervision. Each tax-paying resident spends $612/yr to meet public safety responsibilities; $84/incarcerated State Prisoner/day. This squeezes funding for other programs, even within the public safety area.

  • Nearly one in every seven Oregonians now has health coverage through the state’s Medicaid programs, SCHIP and the Oregon Health Plan. The Federal Government provides 3 dollars for each state dollar spent. The State provides coverage for 78,415 disabled persons, including more than 10,000 children. Mental health services support 106,000 adults and children. Each tax-paying resident will pay $231/ year. In addition, we also provide “Safety Net Services” for seniors and people with disabilities (320,000 people), child protective services (8,466 children/day), and one in 5 Oregonians receive “food Stamps” from the SNAP program. We spend $224 per tax-paying resident.

  • As the State faces severe budget shortfalls it is unclear how care services for the elderly or disabled, which keep people out of nursing homes, can be sustained. In District 57, the percent of people sixty-five and older ranges from approximately twelve percent in Morrow, Umatilla and Union Counties to almost twenty-four percent In Wallowa County. Keeping people in their homes is cost effective and contributes to the well-being of the affected persons.
  • The State Constitution requires that we provide education for our children. K-12 serves 561,698 students. The State’s contribution amounts to $731 for each tax-paying resident. Compared nationally, Oregon’s total funding per K-12 student has fallen from 15th to 30th and slipped to 44thper student in higher education.

The other 7% of the budget

  • The Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs provides services for Veterans, such as building and operating Veterans Homes, providing low cost home loans and money for specially equipped cars among many. The Oregon Air and Army National Guard are 3% funded by the State. Our County Military Service Officers help veterans access benefits. We have 80, 000 Veterans in Oregon who are receiving benefits and those currently serving in the military will need benefits in the future.

  • To be responsive to local issues, agencies dealing with natural resources and energy must be adequately funded.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What is at stake in the 2010 General Election?

  • Redistricting
  • Ballot Measures
    • M 70 — Expands availability of home ownership loans for Oregon veterans through Oregon War Veteran’s Fund
    • M71 — Requires legislature to meet annually
    • M72 — Authorizes exception to $50,000 state borrowing limit for real and personal property projects. If this measure had been in place during 2009, the State would have realized interest savings of about $38 million over the life of bonds issues that year
    • M73 — Requires increased minimum sentences for certain repeated sex crimes; incarceration for repeated driving under influence; does not provide a funding source
    • M74 — Establishes medical marijuana supply system, assistance, and research programs; allows limited selling of marijuana
    • M75 — Authorizes commercial Multnomah County casino
    • M76 — Continues lottery funding for parks, beaches, wildlife habitat, watershed protection beyond 2014
  • Oregon has too many obligations and too few resources to meet them. Your vote is your voice in shaping the budget rebalance that will come in the 2011-2012 legislative session. There are legal requirements that we must meet; there are things we have told ourselves we must do; and there are our goals—the things we say we would like to do.

The race for House District 57—what does Jean Falbo bring to the process?

The race for House District 57—what does Jean Falbo bring to the process?

  • I grew up in a working class family in the Panhandle of Idaho. When I graduated from Orofino High School, my dad worked a night shift in the lumber mill and my mother pinched pennies so I could go to college. I know what it is like to work hard and to struggle to get ahead.
  • I have a PhD in biology and a certificate in hazardous materials management. I served on the Sonoma County Hazardous Materials Management Commission. I co-founded an energy study facility, the Environmental Technology Center at Sonoma State University. I taught applied field courses in habitat restoration and revegetation and hazardous materials management. I taught High School Science to African children as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zimbabwe.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I am motivated to serve the people of Eastern Oregon by running on the Democratic ticket for State Representative in District 57, My primary focus will be on health care, education and Public safety. These three areas account for 93% of the State budget and affect the most people.

I believe the issue of Jobs is the foremost concern of Oregonians.

I bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the task of making our government work for the people. I would like to tell you more about my ideas for making progress in these areas. But for now, go to my web page at for a sample of some of them.

In the meantime, won't you share your own ideas with me and the readers of this blog.