Today on the Dive podcast, we’re talking with Pulitzer-winning journalist Nigel Jaquiss about Oregon House speaker-turned-gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek. Even after 10 years in her position as speaker, she doesn’t seem to have the type of party support we’ve grown accustomed to in a state that’s been governed by Democrats for almost four decades.
Tina Kotek is kind of a hard case. She’s pushed through the kind of progressive legislation that gives Oregon its hyperliberal sheen (including the minimum wage increase, criminal justice reform‚ and super-aggressive housing legislation to name a few). But she’s also part of what Nigel calls our “triumvirate of state leaders”: Kotek, outgoing Gov. Kate Brown and Senate President Peter Courtney. So even though she’s not an incumbent in the governor’s office, when it comes to the disconnect between legislation and the logistics of implementation, she’s kinda being treated like one.
I’ve seen the disconnect between policy and reality in my own home. When my son was diagnosed with autism a year or so before the pandemic, we were assured that the state’s support system was robust enough to meet many of the needs of an Oregon family navigating a disability diagnosis. What we actually received was a different, unfamiliar social worker every time we reached out for support. The most those social workers could provide was the occasional email with a bulleted list of seasonal resources we’d already found online.
I watched my elderly neighbors lose the home they’d lived in for 30 years and become houseless as a result.
The teachers at my son’s school are spread so thin that average parents often receive requests to apply as paraeducators—for a high-needs special education classroom where therapists and educators all have advanced degrees.
Nigel suggests his piece on Kotek is a straightforward political profile, but there is a greater discussion rooted in the simple sentiment voiced in the story by Jules Bailey: “Shit’s not working.”