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Intel deal made mockery of democratic process

The Intel Strategic Investment Program deal unanimously passed in a joint session of the Washington County Board of Commissioners and the Hillsboro City Council Aug. 26 is a classic backroom deal and not the democratic process in action.  

The Intel SIP agreement came down via a five-month, closed-door process from March 31 to Aug. 11, driven by “non-disclosure” agreements signed by local government officials at Intel’s demand. 

After reading the agreement, I see no reason for negotiations blanketed in secrecy. There are no proprietary secrets in the agreement as it reads. And given the implementation timeline of this SIP deal sometime in 2016 at the earliest, there was plenty of time to vet this agreement with the public rather than rush to judgment in a single joint public hearing. 

Prior to a joint session, there should have been separate public hearings by both the Hillsboro City Council and by the Washington County Commissioners, not just informational sessions that allowed no public input. 

This modus operandi is contrary to Oregon’s tradition of open government under our “open meetings” law tradition. Unfortunately, the Intel negotiations have violated this norm. Instead, we have seen since the Nike special session in 2012 a “corporatized” process blanketed in secrecy concluding with a last minute expedited rollout prior to a vote by elected officials. 

As a result, the public is virtually left out until the very end of the process without time to give their informed consent. In the Hillsboro informational presentation I attended, there was no time set aside for public questions or comments.      

I spend a lot of time in Salem in legislative committee hearings where everyone and anyone is welcome to listen and to speak, and there is no time limit imposed by the proponents of a bill — unlike with the Intel SIP agreement.  

I was very involved with the complex “Grand Bargain” legislation last session. Contrary to some reports, it was democratic government at its best. Such cannot be said of the Nike deal, nor of the Intel deal!  

This truncated process violates the most fundamental concepts of our democracy — due process and the consent of the governed. 

Transparency is out, open meeting laws are out and accountability is out. The “deal” is virtually signed sealed and delivered before the ink has dried.  

It’s unreasonable for the brokers of the Intel agreement to have five months to negotiate this deal in secrecy, and then allow the public only two weeks to digest the massive information flow and possible consequences over the next 30 years of this “star chambered” agreement.  

At the joint hearing, those representing organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, unions, West Side Economic Alliance, Oregon Business Alliance et. al. were allowed five minutes. As the senior policy analyst for WCCAN, I didn’t merit five minutes for reasons not explained by Washington County Commissioner Bob Terry, who chaired the meeting. 

As a result, I’ve posted my two-minute and written testimony and the SIP agreement on my blog.  

The most striking thing is that like the ConnectOregon hearings I attended and testified at in July, the deck was clearly stacked to favor the proponents and to marginalize opponents. 

This “mobilization of bias” is becoming a new norm in Oregon politics, which allows the power elite to control the agenda — and with that, the results. 

As U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has said, “the system is rigged” — sadly, not just in D.C., but now in Oregon.  

 Russ Dondero is a professor, blogger and citizen activist. He lives in Forest Grove.




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