By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Leaders silenced by a political pandemic

People should be fuming over the pandemic in Salem. A mysterious political virus has silenced the voices of state leaders, and for unknown reasons, Oregonians have been sheep-like in response.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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The disease strikes both Democrats and Republicans, but in different forms.

Republicans already were silenced by their super-minority status. State Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, launches daily missiles criticizing state agencies, but those grenades fall harmlessly on deaf ears. Last week he called for a special session of the Legislature; it’s not clear whether Democratic Gov. Kate Brown bothered to respond.

Democratic leaders are frozen in lock-step silence while Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, D-Portland, is the sole image in daily newsletters relaying primary messages from state government. With Brown termed out in 2022, the impression is Kotek is running an early gubernatorial campaign financed with taxpayer dollars.

This week, a new voice arose when House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, called for “bold action … from the leadership at the Employment Department.” Warner concluded, “Oregonians are struggling — they need action and they need it now.”

Kotek acknowledged Warner’s press release. She responded with praise for hard-working OED employees and ignored the dumbfounding leadership failures of Gov. Brown and OED Director Kay Erickson involving hundreds of thousands of Oregonians on unemployment.

Let’s be indulgent toward an overwhelmed service-delivery system, except perhaps for OED’s long-time failure to upgrade its computers with in-hand federal funds. Let’s grant them tolerance for delays due to a crush of claims and new rules.

But Oregonians should feel universally outraged at the total failure to communicate. Here’s how The Oregonian characterized that failure this week in a long look at OED activities:

“The department’s director, Kay Erickson, has refused interview requests over the past four weeks as the crisis deepened. Gov. Kate Brown has been mostly silent, except for a brief Twitter apology last month.”

The situation actually is worse than silence; the governor and OED representatives have issued vague and contradictory information about unemployment benefits. When combined with refusing to answer employer/employee questions openly and honestly, the result has been a needless financial mugging of far too many people.

Thanks to Rep. Warner for at least testing the political tightrope that makes leaders afraid to speak for Oregonians instead of for government. And, of course, there is one guaranteed vaccine available to stop the spread of this dangerous political virus.

It’s called elections.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


Don Dix

Jeb -- Oregon is a blue state -- and the 'blues' never question or blame anyone with the 'D' after their name -- besides, sheep don't talk, they just follow.

Darrell Driver

Mr. Blandine, thank you for calling this out. I have been so [negatively] impressed by the mysterious silence of our Oregon legislatures while a Governor continues to extend the State of Emergency and issue Executive Orders with broad and deep consequence. While many of these restrictions may have been necessary, having my elected representatives involved in the process is my expectation.

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