Blogs: Government

I love the fall. The weather stops being ridiculously hot, the rain comes back, and the school year is still full of potential (granted, I like school better now that I’m not the one in class). There’s also the possibility of something new worth watching on TV and then of course all those fantastic campaign ads:

  Duck for President by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy LewinBad Kitty by Nick Bruel

 

Ok, even I don’t believe that last one. But hooray for democracy!

So where do you go when you want to know more about that candidate or that ballot measure? I suppose you could just trust the ads, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Instead, take a look at Ballotpedia and Govtrack.us.

Ballotpedia is one of those websites that you think you’ve found everything- and then you find more. Their goal is to provide “accurate and objective information about politics at the local, state, and federal level.”  They have information on everything from presidential elections to school board elections and from major national issues to a profile of Louisville City Councilor Madonna Flood.  

Red and blue U.S. Mail letter drop box.

If you need to know about the Federal government, Govtrack has it covered!  Want to meet the Congressman from Arkansas? They can do that. The site is excellent for seeing what elected officials have done in their time in office; i.e. what bills they voted for and which ones they wrote as well as who is on the Ethics Committee.

Both Govtrack and Ballotpedia are great at providing context. Say you want to know how well different senators work together- you can check their report cards. Or you can see what happens to a bill. I especially appreciate Ballotpedia for their detailed look at different ballot measures- I used it when I was trying to find out more about Oregon’s measure 92 and found more than I had even thought to wonder about.

Whether you are casting your vote, writing a school report or just curious (maybe all three!) I hope that these sites can help you see things in a new way. And of course, if you want to know more you can also ask a librarian!

*Bad Kitty is by Nick Bruel and Duck is by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Below is a list of resources the library has collected for veterans and their families, from health care to employment assistance.

Support and Benefits

  • Multnomah County Veterans' Services Office: "The Veterans' Services Office works to ensure that Multnomah County veterans and their families receive all state and federal benefits available to them by providing them effective and dedicated representation free of charge."
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits: Information from the VA about the complete range of benefits available to Veterans. Also access eBenefits, "your one-stop shop for online benefits-related tools and information."

Transitioning to Civilian Life

Employment

  • Veteran Employment in Oregon: The Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs provides links to information about Veteran preference points for jobs with the State of Oregon, national programs, and a list of Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVER) and Disabled Veterans´ Outreach Program Specialists (DVOP).
  • Feds Hire Vets: A site focused on jobs with the Federal Government with information for Veterans, transitioning service members, and family members. Get detailed information about Veterans' Preference, Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans, and education and training resources for Veterans.
  • Job Seekers: The library has a variety of books, classes, programs and open labs to help with job seeking. Please contact us for more information.
  • Key to Career Success: From CareerOneStop, provides career information and links to work-related services that help veterans and military service members successfully transition to civilian careers.

Women Veterans

  • Women Veterans Health Care: The Department of Veterans Affairs has a site devoted to women's health care with information and resources directed at women veterans. Locate local VA services for women. The Portland VA has a list of services and contact information for the Program Manager and medical staff serving women's health needs.
  • Center for Women Veterans: The VA's has collected some information and resources of interest to women Veterans. The "Her Story" section features profiles of many different military women. A PDF document of the "25 Most Frequently Asked Questions and Responses" for women veterans is available, scroll down the page to the Links and Documents section.

Health and Wellness

  • Veterans and Military Health: MedlinePlus: MedlinePlus.gov, an authoritative source for health information compiled by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, has created a page that addresses the specific concerns and health issues of veterans.
  • My HealtheVet: Access the VA's e-health website for Veterans, active duty soldiers, their dependents and caregivers. Login for your personal health record, medical information, information on services and benefits and more.
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care: A portal page to find out about health benefits, medical conditions, services, wellness information, and health-related news and stories of interest to Veterans.
  • Returning Veterans Project: A local resource for free counseling and other health services for returning veterans and their families. The Provider Directory lists volunteer service providers who will treat veterans for free when they mention they were referred by the Returning Veterans Project.
  • What are the Symptoms of PTSD?: Library blog post with information and resources on post-traumatic stress disorder.

Resources for Families

Not finding what you need here? Please contact us for assistance!

 In November 2014 Oregon will vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana. Other states also have many laws regarding weed, although there are a lot of pros and cons about legalizing pot. Although marijuana for medical use already exists in many states, it has its pros and cons too.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington both legalized marijuana usage. Legalization hasn’t solved the problems; it’s just raised new ones. The state of Washington has detailed rules about how marijuana will be raised, sold, and regulated. The state is looking at the business of pot and the many faces of legal marijuana as they move forward. How do you guard the ganja? How does banking hinder the legal weed industry?  Who are the new entrepreneurs?

Need some specific information we haven’t covered? Contact a librarian and we’ll be glad to help.

Are you curious about the history of presidential elections in the United States? Do you need to know how the electoral college works, what qualifications a person needs to be eligible to run for president, or how the candidates are paying for their campaigns? Turn to these sites for answers!

Campaign Finance Institute

This think tank website offers nonpartisan discussion of many issues related to campaign finance in congressional and presidential election campaigns. You'll find reports on developments in federal campaign finance lawpolitical parties and interest groups and "soft money" and how they affect the funding of political campaigns, and information about current issues in the news.

CQ Roll Call Politics

Find political news, information on current campaigns, analysis, data about campaign funding. Use the state map find information about house, senate, and gubernatorial elections around the country.

Election '14

Are you curious about what Americans think about election issues? The Pew Research Center's survey people across the U.S. about their attitudes, habits, and opinions — read their reports on elections and the media, religion in politics, the internet's role in politics, and more!

FactCheck.org

Sometimes when campaign ads make a claim, or when a politician says something important in a speech, it is difficult to find out the background on the issue. This site brings together information that can help you check the factual claims that candidates, political campaigns, and elected officials make.

Fairvote.org

Find the latest news about election reform and the move to increase voter participation, and read reports on a wide array of election issues, from the Center for Voting and Democracy.

Politifact.com

PolitiFact vets statements made by the campaigns in ads, speeches and debates, and provides articles and facts supporting or refuting the statements. Use the truth-o-meter to view the latest statements reviewed.

picture of the U.S. ConstitutionWhat Is It?

Most Americans know the Constitution is the foundation of American government and law. Many know that James Madison is often recognized as the “Father of the Constitution” and it was written near the end of the 18th century. When it comes to the details, however, Americans are often a bit fuzzy.  Polls consistently show that many—if not most—Americans do not have a firm grasp of the Constitution and the powers of government. For example, surveys from The Annenberg Public Policy Center and The Center for the Constitution both show most Americans lack a firm understanding of the Constitution. Curious about how much you really know? You can test your own Constitutional IQ at Constitution Facts.

Where do I Learn More?

In 2004, Congress set aside September 17th as national Constitution Day, a day in which we, as a nation, can celebrate and learn more about one of our founding documents. There are plenty of resources available to help explain the Constitution and how it shapes the American government, but the trick is finding one that does not have an agenda that may bias the interpretation. In today’s political arena, groups and individuals from across the political spectrum invoke the Constitution as the foundation for their particular point of view. In such a climate, it is important to find authoritative resources that can provide a balanced look at the document, the time and place from which it arose, and its role in government and law through the decades.  

So, where should you start? Of course, reading the Constitution itself is a logical starting point, but some context can be very helpful.  One good resource is the National Constitution Center, a museum chartered by Congress to provide nonpartisan education about the Constitution and the U.S. Congress itself also hosts an annotated version. The National Archives, which houses the original Constitution, has a useful online exhibit dedicated to the Charters of Freedom, which includes the Constitution. Outside of the federal government, Cornell University hosts the Legal Information Institute which provides an explanation for each section. Finally, try one—or more—of the books from the reading list below. After all of this, you will be well equipped to be a responsible citizen for, in the words of James Madison:

 A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.  –Letter to W. T. Barry (4 August 1822)

In Oregon and many other states, laws can be made directly by the popular vote of citizens. There are two kinds of ballot measures: referendums which are referred from the state legislature to the voters; and initiatives, which are put on the ballot as a result of signature petitions signed by registered voters. These websites can help you learn about the history and future of ballot measures and other methods of direct democracy.

Ballot Initiative Strategy Center

This organization advocates for ballot initiative reform from a progressive perspective, and provides information about ballot measure campaigns nationwide. Find information about current measures on the ballot across the nation, read overviews of election results, find out which states allow voter initiatives (PDF, 10KB), and learn about the rules for how to get an initiative on the ballot in each state.

Ballot Measures Database

Find information about statewide ballot measures from across the U.S., back to Oregon's first referendum authorizing the initiative process in 1902. This database, from the National Conference of State Legislatures, is part of a larger site rich with information about initiatives, referendums, and campaign finance, as well as other information about state elections in the U.S.

Direct Democracy: Initiatives and Referendums

Find answers to your questions about how ballot measures work, and their history in Oregon.

Initiative & Referendum Institute

Are you curious about ballot measures across the US? Find reports about ballot measure results and trends, quick facts about initiatives and referendums, and information about how ballot measures work in the different states.

Do you need information for the current or upcoming elections? Are you looking for your elected officials, campaign headquarters, or county elections divisions? Are you interested in historical information from past elections? The following resources help you find information at the state, city and county levels in Oregon.

League of Women Voters of Oregon

The Oregon chapter of the League of Women Voters publishes non-partisan voters' guides for each election. The League never takes stands on candidates or parties, but they do take stands on issues supported by member agreement and in-depth research. The League also reports on many electoral and political issues of interest to Oregonians.

Multnomah County Elections Division

Oregon Elections Division

Find voter resources and check to see if you're already registered to vote. Track the status of initiatives, find detailed information about candidates and committees, learn about the history of Oregon elections and locate county election offices around the state.

Oregon Follow the Money

Find out who gave money to various political candidates and ballot measure campaigns in Oregon, and see how much money each donor contributed.

Oregonian: Voter Guide

Are you wondering how the candidates in a city, county, or statewide race compare? OregonLive asked candidates from around the state to provide information about themselves and their positions on the issues, and you can compare their answers here.

Portland Elections Division

Find current and historical city election results back to 1905, a list of elected officials from 1913 to the present, and mayors from 1851 to the present. Find out how to become a city candidate, how to file an initiative or referendum petition, or test your knowledge of Portland elections on the trivia page!

Washington Elections Division

Find information about elections, voting, caucuses, candidates and political parties in the state of Washington.

Librarian delivers books to a bridge tender, 1963

The relationship between Portland librarians and their bridges has always been a strong one. The library’s 1920 annual report  highlighted a new book delivery service to the bridge tenders (Broadway, Hawthorne, and Morrison, and later the Steel and Burnside bridges):

 

 The reading philosophy of one of the bridge tenders is of interest to more than librarians. In stating his reasons for wanting books for his waiting hours, [one bridge tender] said that, though not an educated man, he was greatly interested in reading for as he grew older he observed that the only people who seemed to be contented in their declining years were those who had formed the acquaintance of great characters in books. These characters were often the only friends left after life’s friends had passed us on the journey to the Great Beyond (Library Association of Portland, Oregon Fifty-seventh Annual Report,1920, 36-37).  

 

     In 1956, the library’s annual report stated that librarians hand-delivered 672 books to isolated bridge tenders.  This special delivery service continued until 1975 when only the Burnside Bridge remained as a deposit station. Some of the bridge tenders’ favorite subjects included travel stories, history, archaeology, and horses.  You will agree with the 1944 Oregonian article that stated, “librarians often find they are supplying books to persons whose life stories would make as interesting reading as the books they receive...Such a man is P.J. Hyde a Spanish-American war veteran and one-time sailing ship adventurer” (Books Taken Bridge Men: Library Offers Delivery Service, Oregonian, October 8, 1944, 19).

 

What woud you request from the library to wile away the quiet and isolated hours as a mid-20th century bridge tender?  Here is an imaginative list to get you reading back in time; Multcolib Research Picks: Mid-20th century bridge tenders book club.

 

But what if you want to read books about the bridges?  Are you an aspiring Bridge Pedaler? Do you have a third grader going to a Portland Public School? Are the bridges part of your daily commute? Or are you simply in love with our Willamette River bridges?

 

 

Architecture! History!  Engineering! And Beauty!

 

Take a look at our picks of the best bridge books out there; Multcolib Research Picks: For the love of  Willamette River Bridges. We also have a wide range of bridge materials that are part of the Oregon Collection and can be viewed at the Central Library upon request.  In addition to books there is a wealth of resources available online.  Check out a curated list of the most useful websites, including both historical resources and beautiful photography; Multcolib Research Picks: The best online Willamette River bridges resources.

 

In the 20th century, library staff delivered books across narrow catwalks to lonely bridge tenders. Today in the 21st century, library staff have also walked on a bridge and visited with the bridge tender but this time (sadly!) we brought no books, only questions and an innate librarian curiosity. The Multnomah County Bridge Section staff recently offered a special tour of the Bridge Shop and the Morrison Bridge (virtual tour link) for library staff. The tour was led by Multnomah County engineer Chuck Maggio and included both a visit to the Morrison Bridge tender’s station and a special view from underneath the bridge as the double-leaf bascule draw span swung upwards during a routine bridge opening. I have included a few favorite images from the tour.
  

 

 

Advancements in technology have changed the way the bridge tender stations are staffed, there is not time for reading, contemplation, and handicrafts.  Librarians no longer deliver books to the bridges.  That being said, I’d like to think that our bridge tenders are still readers in their private lives and I know that Multnomah County Library staff still treasure and hold dear their local bridges.   

 

May the love of the Willamette River bridges continue!

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Image from 150 Years of Library Memories Collection. Physical rights to this item are retained by Multnomah County Library. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. 

On July 19, 1984, about 65 years after women were granted the right to vote, Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to be nominated by a major party to run for Vice President of the United States.  It was just my second opportunity to vote for president, and what I remember most about her speech was the faces of the women listening to her. This was historic, we (women) had arrived and we were not looking back! She lost, of course, in a landslide. It took another 24 years for it to happen again: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin ran for Vice President, and – while she garnered over 20-million more votes than Ferraro – she lost too.  In 2008, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won more presidential primaries than any woman before her, but ended up on the losing side as well. Many political observers and pundits believe she will run for president again in 2016. Or maybe there’s someone else. Fourth time’s the charm?

Ferraro, Palin and Clinton are not the only women who have sought the office of president or vice president. Oregon’s own suffragist, Abigail Scott Duniway, was nominated by the Equal Rights Party in 1884, but she declined to run. In an earlier version of the Equal Rights Party, suffragist, journalist, and “free love” advocate Victoria Woodhull was the first woman ever to run for president in 1872. There was also the 1940 candidacy of the comedienne Gracie Allen, who ran for the Surprise Party. She earned about 42,000 votes; of the 32 women who ran for the office in the next 72 years, her vote total comes in sixth.

Let’s remember a few other women, whose candidacies we can take a little more seriously. There’s Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, who ran in 1972; Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to serve in both the House and Senate, who ran in 1964; Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist, who was Ralph Nader’s Green Party running mate in 1996 and 2000 (in the latter election, she earned nearly 3,000,000 votes); and Cindy Sheehan, who protested the Iraq War following the death of her son, and ran as Roseanne Barr’s vice president for the Peace and Freedom Party in 2012. Then there’s the most recent woman to seek the nomination from a major party, Representative Michele Bachmann, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012.

Dig deep into the lives of women who have sought the presidency in these books.

Floods, earthquakes, snow, volcanoes, and landslides! Trying to think of and prepare for every possible catastrophe that might occur in the Pacific Northwest can be daunting!

Thankfully there are many resources available from your Multnomah County Library and other government agencies to help you plan for any situation. Karen T. and Catherine M., both parents and library staff put some of these resources to the test, using them to prepare themselves and their families for some of the most likely disasters.Urban Search and Rescue - FEMA/David Fine/2011

Karen’s family makes a plan and adjusts to the realities of getting everyone on board

Karen, using online federal resources from FEMA.gov and Ready.gov,  introduces the project of making a family disaster plan and the need of assembling an emergency supplies kit to her family. She finds that it is a challenge to get the entire family to buy into the importance of being prepared. They have other priorities.

She doesn’t let that stop her, after letting her family stew on the project for a bit she breaks it down into manageable parts and recruits family members to take ownership of some of these tasks. She uses a new ploy, Mother’s Day, to get action. Whatever it takes to get everyone involved, reason or guilt, at least the family now has a plan!

With the new plan in hand Karen gathers everyone to look at it and make minor changes (one of the emergency meeting spots was to be on top of a huge in-ground water storage tank...which seemed a bit too precarious in the event of an earthquake).

A real-life mini-emergency takes place, Portland issues a boil water notice and the grocery stores quickly run low on bottled water. This underscores the need to plan ahead and store enough clean water for the whole family (don’t forget pets!). Karen learns how to properly disinfect drinking water from the EPA emergency disinfection instructions. Do you know how much water you really need to get through a short term emergency?

For her own assignment, Karen makes a  home emergency kit and a few mini-survival-kits to keep in easily accessible spots like backpacks, gloveboxes, and winter jacket pockets.  As the final part of her work Karen spreads the word so that co-workers, extended family, friends and neighbors are equally prepared, thus maximizing the potential for positive outcomes no matter what happens. Karen lives the motto, “Be prepared, stay informed, make a kit, and get involved.”

Answering Questions about Family Preparedness, FEMA/Marvin Nauman, May 2006, New Orleans LA

Catherine’s Three Levels of Preparation at Work

Catherine’s family has emergency supplies both at home and in the car.  However she usually takes public transportation to work.  In the event of a major natural disaster and transportation disruption she could easily find herself stranded away from home.  She needs to plan for a safe hike home or to shelter in place at work if necessary.  To do this she has three levels of preparation: everyday carry, get home bag, and overnight necessities.

The Everyday Carry

The everyday carry is just what it sounds like, basic items to have on your person at all times. Catherine travels light but packs a bottle of water, a snack, a small first aid kit, a dust mask, a small flashlight, cell phone, an emergency information/contact list, and a book to pass the time.  She, like most librarians, also wears sensible shoes (ones she could easily hike home in).  Her son also has a few items in the bottom of his school bag to make up a basic everyday carry for children. What does your everyday carry look like?

The Get Home Bag and Overnight Necessities

The next level of preparedness is the get home bag, a small backpack of necessary supplies to keep at work for an unanticipated hike home.  Multnomah County has a helpful Get a Kit page that has some ideas. Since Catherine takes the bus her get home bag includes a second bottle of water, a poncho, some pocket change, an extra pair of socks, and a second set of keys.  She keeps her get home bag in a secure place at work where she can easily grab it and “get home.” She also has a predetermined meeting place if crossing the Willamette River is impossible due to seismic bridge damage or severe traffic issues.  This pre-planning will get the family back in contact with each other ASAP after an emergency.  You can also look at ideas for a get home bag or workplace plans from Ready.gov. How would you get home to your family?

There may be a situation where it is unsafe or impossible to hike home so Catherine has a few overnight necessities at work.  In addition to the everyday carry and the get home bag she also has enough bottled water for 48 hours, nonperishable snacks, a few toiletries, a small blanket, a change of clothes, and an extra phone charger stored in a work locker. She shares with her coworkers so they can also make a plan.  What would you need if you were stuck at work overnight?

Each family’s disaster readiness plan is going to be different based on what events you prepare for, the everyday situations you and your family find yourselves in and the special needs and makeup of your family.  Karen and Catherine teamed up to encourage each other to meet their family goals.

These online government resources were most helpful: Ready.gov, Multnomah County Office of Emergency Management, and the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management. You can access all of the online resources in this list: Multcolib Research Picks: Disaster Preparedness Online Resources.  Additionally, there are some great preparedness books geared especially toward parents: Multcolib Research Picks: Disaster Preparedness Books for the Whole Family.

Canine Recovery Team, FEMA/Marty Bahamonde, April 2014, Snohomish County, WA

Stay Informed

Most librarians would agree that, “knowledge is power.” This holds true in times of disaster. Be aware of what the most likely events may be, know ahead of time where your family will meet up, and sign up to be notified through the CENS Public Alerts Emergency System by voice or text in the case of a local emergency.

If you would like more information about preparedness resources do not hesitate to contact a librarian. You are also welcome to share your own disaster preparedness planning adventures in the comments below. Can you answer the question, Are you prepared?

 

 

Pages

Subscribe to