Blogs: Government

Imagine being granted the right to vote for the very first time, only to be turned away at the polls because you had no money to pay to vote! Until 1964 this was a common occurrence in many states. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 24th amendment. This amendment to the United States Constitution banned the use of "poll taxes" in federal elections, finally  clearing the way for broader voter participation.  These Virginia Union University students protest the poll tax back in 1950 in Richmond, VA.

Virginia Union University students protest the poll tax, Richmond, VA. Date: ca. 1950 Collection: L. Douglas Wilder Library, Virginia Union University.Back in 1917, the state of Louisiana charged a $1 poll tax  – that’s an equivalent of $20.09 by 2014 standards.

In addition to poll taxes, some states required literacy tests before voters were allowed to cast their votes. Such tests were often confusing and had nothing to do with the issues or candidates on the ballot. Here is a sample literacy test...

 

2014 also marks the 90th anniversary of the Indian Citizenship Act granting Native Americans all rights of citizenship, including the right to vote in federal elections.

To learn more about the Voting Rights Act, and the history of voting rights in the United States, take a look at this timeline created by the ACLU documenting major voting rights milestones from 1867 to the present.

And, for some basics about voting and elections, try this pbs kids site and make your own future voter card!

Money Smart Week, April 5 - 12,  is a national public awareness campaign designed to help consumers better manage their personal finances.  Libraries and other organizations across the country use this time to stress the importance of financial literacy, and inform consumers about where they can get help. 

To celebrate Money Smart Week (and beyond!), we will release a series of five short videos called Money Tip$ over the next several weeks.  The videos in this series are designed to provide quick tips for money-related topics such as credit, budgeting, saving, and setting SMART goals for managing your money.  With tax season in full bloom, the first installment outlines several ways to make the most of tax time.  This brief video will offer reminders about important tax credits, free tax preparation assistance, along with several ideas for using your income tax refund strategically to benefit you in the long run.  


The Money Tip$ video series was produced by Multnomah County Library in collaboration with Innovative Changes, a Portland non-profit organization that exists to help low-income individuals, families and others, manage short-term financial needs in order to achieve and maintain household stability.  Made possible by The Library Foundation with a grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation through Smart Investing @ your library ®, a partnership with the American Library Association


 

Terry Baxter, Archivist, Multnomah County Archives (photo by Giles Clement)Our guest blogger is Terry. Terry has worked as an archivist for 28 years, the last 15 with the Multnomah County Archives, and currently serves on the Society of American Archivists Council. He is also a proud card-carrying library user who empties the system of poetry and cookbooks on a regular basis.

Multnomah County is going to be 160 years old this year.  While no one is old enough (as far as we know, anyway) to remember those sixteen decades of history, there is a place where those stories are kept. The Multnomah County Archives, in the shadow of Mt. Hood and nestled between a gravel pit and a landfill, has been collecting, preserving, and providing access to the archives of Multnomah County government for 12 years.

Archives are the official records, usually unique and created to document actions and not as a purposeful historical narrative, of an organization preserved indefinitely because of their long-term research value.   In the case of the County Archives, this means records of the activities of Multnomah County’s government agencies. “How boring is THAT?” I can hear you saying right now.  

Map of the Multnomah County Poor Farm, 1938Well, maybe you’d like to see and read about the origins of McMenamins Edgefield as the County Poor Farm. Or watch a film of the 1948 flood that destroyed the second largest city in Oregon, Vanport.  Or see the plans for a professional baseball and football stadium in Delta Park. These and thousands of other records, documenting all aspects of the county and its interactions with its residents from 1854 on, are preserved by archivists for anyone to view and use. Archives have all sorts of tales to tell us about our individual and common pasts, about each other, and about ourselves.

1948 flood that destroyed Vanport, OregonArchivists love to connect people with these stories. Stereotypical views depict archivists as introverted Jocasta Nu’s, hiding in basements, hoarding piles of dusty files. If this was ever accurate, it certainly isn’t now (except the basement part!). Archivists are deeply concerned about context and connection. They locate and describe records and how they relate to the organizations that created them and then work to make those records as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. An archivist’s happiest moment comes when a person’s face lights up after finding something deeply meaningful in the archives.

Proposed stadium in Delta Park in the early 1960sArchivists are also collaborators who know they usually don’t have all the information in their archives that a person needs. There are a number of archives in Multnomah County (and across the rest of the world).  Many residents of Multnomah County are familiar with downtown Portland’s “History Row. ” Located within a short walk of each other on the south park blocks are the Oregon Historical Society, the Portland State University Archives, the Portland Archives and Records Center, and “Portland’s Crown Jewel” – Central Library and its wondrous John Wilson Special Collections.

So come visit, meet an archivist, and let the stories you find connect you to the voices, past and present, of others who have inhabited our county.

Contact:

Terry Baxter, archivist
Multnomah County Archives
1620 SE 190th Avenue
Portland, OR 97233
503.988.3741

The IRS is now accepting tax returns until April 15, and the tax software choices for e-filing are numerous.  Have you asked yourself, “Aren’t they all the same?”  If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices, here are several web sites that compare features of various tax software products to help make an informed decision of where to turn next. 

Reviews.com has gathered a list of 19 online tax software products and chose 6 leading products to review based on 67 features.  They also include a discussion on which online tax software features matter the most, and why?  TaxSoftware.net has reviewed their top 5 online tax software products, comparing the costs and benefits of each.  top10taxsoftware.com lists their selections for the Top 10 Best Tax Software products, along with informative articles like “10 Tips for Choosing Tax Software”.

There are many other web sites that provide information and reviews for online tax software, but the sites mentioned above can be a great starting place.  I found them to be very helpful guides to making a decision on which product to use, and hope you do to!

Happy Tax Season!

Do you own a small-business? One of the best ways to get tax information and help for your small business is by visiting the IRS Small Business Tax Center where you can learn everything from how to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) online to how to best navigate an audit.

You can also call the IRS Business & Specialty Toll Free number at 1-800-829-4933, open Monday – Friday, 7:00 am – 7:00 pm.

The IRS began accepting 2013 business tax returns on Monday, January 13, 2014. This start date applies to both electronically-filed and paper-filed returns. The only exception is Form 1041 for Estates and Trusts, which cannot be filed until January 31. More information can be found in the IRS’ press release titled “Starting Jan. 13, 2014, Business Tax Filers Can File 2013 Returns.”

Once again, the library is here to help small businesses, so go ahead and contact us!

While the Better Business Bureau recommends donors avoid any charity spending less than 65 percent of their money on their charitable mission, a small but persistent group of charities continue to spend most of their money on fundraising and administration. A groundbreaking new law passed in Oregon in 2013, one aimed at protecting donors from charities that spend too little on their charitable programs and services. House Bill 2060 eliminates the state income tax deduction for donors who give money to charities that fail to spend at least 30 percent of their donations on their charitable mission. For charities that spend more than 70 percent of donations on management and fundraising, Oregonians who donate to them cannot not take state income-tax deductions on those gifts.

The Nonprofit Association of Oregon has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions for nonprofit organizations regarding the new law and The Oregon Attorney General's office compiles an annual list of the 20 Worst Charities that are registered to do business in Oregon. To find out how much of your donation will go to a charity’s actual purpose, search the Oregon Department of Justice's database of registered charities.

Multnomah County Library subscribes to Guidestar, a database available at the Central Library that provides information on programs and finances of charities and nonprofits. Need help finding information on your favorite charity? Librarians are happy to help!

 

Two women at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel operating tickers and stock exchange boards, December 11, 1918.Tracking down a historic stock price can be really easy... except when it’s really hard. And it is a common question that we get during tax season.

Here is an example of an easy stock price search.

1. A stock price is needed for a company for a particular date. (Let’s say Nike on February 13, 2009.)
2. You go to a website with financial information (like Yahoo! Finance or Wall St. Journal’s MarketWatch), search for the company name or ticker symbol, and voila! You have the closing price for that day. (Keep in mind that the closing price may or may not already be adjusted.)

But this only works if the company is still in business and hasn’t changed names, hasn’t been involved in a merger or acquisition, and is still trading on the stock exchange under the same ticker symbol. If any of those situations have occurred, the historic price that you need might not be available online.

Take, for example, Macy’s, which went public in 1922 under the name R.H. Macy, and which for many years traded under the symbol MZ. You won’t easily find historic stock prices from before 1992 for this company on Yahoo! Finance or in other online databases because on that year Macy’s merged with Federated Department Stores. (Thanks to New York Public Library for this example!)

Steps for trickier stock price searches.

So how does someone get a historic stock price from before 1992 for Macy’s, or for any other company whose historic prices aren’t online? There are two steps: first, researching the company history to find out any information about different names, ticker symbols, and listings on stock exchanges; and second, looking in a newspaper or newspaper database for the date that you need. The library can help you with both of these steps.

Step 1: Research the company history.

This step can require a little detective work. It is where you figure out the name and ticker symbol of the company or security at the time of the historic price and the stock exchange which it was trading on. Here are several sources that the library offers for learning about a company’s history (you may need to look at more than one of them in order to get a full sense of a company’s history):

  • Capital Changes Reporter: Lists capital changes (such as mergers and splits) for companies, by date, and includes information about stock exchanges and ticker symbols that the company traded under. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library, or online through the CCH Intelliconnect database.
  • International Directory of Company Histories: Provides detailed corporate histories for many companies, both U.S. and international. There are currently 149 volumes. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library.
  • Mergent Intellect: Available through the library website. A database with lots of information about companies, including company histories.
  • Directory of Obsolete Securities: Lists and gives brief info for companies and banks whose original identities have been lost to events like changes in name, acquisitions, mergers, or bankruptcy. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library.
  • EDGAR: This is not a library resource, but it is freely available online through the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and we can help you if you have trouble using it! It contains many documents that public companies are required to submit to the SEC, including company reports.

Step 2: Look up the historic price in a newspaper or other source from that historic date.

Once you have done some research about the company whose historic stock price you are looking for (and hopefully learned their name, ticker symbol, and the stock exchange they were traded on at the time of the historic price), you are ready to find the stock price in a newspaper or other source from that time. Note that you’ll want to look at a newspaper or publication for the day immediately after the date for which you need the historic price, since the price would not have been published until the next day’s paper. Here are two sources for this, both of which are available electronically through the library website:

  • New York Times Historical (1851-2009): Contains scans of articles from the New York Times, including stock prices. Choose “Advanced Search,” enter the date that you are looking for in the “Publication Date” section, and choose “Stock quote” from the “Document Type” menu. Leave the other search boxes blank, and do your search. You will retrieve a list of articles containing stock prices - to find the major stock exchanges, choose the articles with the most page numbers, then look in them for the company whose stock price you need.
  • The Historical Oregonian (1861-1987): This database will be most useful for stock prices of companies from the Pacific Northwest. Enter the date you are looking for in the “Custom Date Range” box, and then do a search for a word like NYSE or NASDAQ which would appear on the page with stock prices.

In addition to these electronic databases for the New York Times and the Oregonian, the library also has a number of useful resources available in print and on microfilm at Central Library:

So there you have the basic steps for finding historic stock prices. It can indeed be a little bit of a research project sometimes. But don’t despair! Librarians are happy to talk to you about your particular stock price need, and to help you find the information you are looking for. Just get in touch with us using one of the methods on our Contact a librarian webpage. Happy stock price searching!

The new year is upon us! 

In addition to remembering to write 2014, making and following our new year’s resolutions, and welcoming the gradual return of the light, we also have a slew of new laws in the state of Oregon that will take effect January 1, 2014.

Large stack of papers.

The news outlets, such as The Oregonian and KVAL 13, have published stories about the new laws, providing a digest of some of the most interesting or unique laws soon to be in effect.

Highlights include Senate Bill 444 A that makes smoking in a motor vehicle with a minor under the age of 18 present a secondary traffic violation ($250 fine for first offense). The Oregon American Lung Association has additional information online as part of the Smokefree Cars for Kids campaign. Another motor vehicle law of interest for many may be Senate Bill 9 B that increases the fine to a maximum of $500 for using a cell phone or other mobile communication device while operating a motor vehicle, some limited exceptions do apply.

A more specific law due to take effect January 1, 2014 is  House Bill 2104 A that will prohibit medical imaging procedures done for any other reason than a medical purpose ordered by a licensed physician or nurse practitioner.  While this bill stops the creation of ultrasound images by nonmedical professional made purely as keepsakes, another bill House Bill 2612 will now permit postpartum mothers to take home their placentas from the hospital if they so wish. Even more unique is House Bill 2025 B that establishes economic liability for bison owners who allow their bison to run at large and cause damage.

Oregon State Legislature Bill and Reports IconsAs you can see there is a new law for almost every occasion. If you are interested in browsing all of the bills from the Oregon State Legislature, even the ones that did not pass, you can view them online.  The bills are broken up into the 2013 Regular Session and the 2013 1st Special Session.  From the  Oregon State Legislature website you can search the bills by Bill Number, Bill Text, or Bill Sponsor by clicking on the Bills icon in the upper right hand part of the screen.  You can also access a list of just the Senate and House Bills that were actually enacted in the Regular Session and the Special Session.  These reports and a number of other legislative reports can be found by clicking on the Reports icon. You can also learn how an idea becomes law and review a flow chart illustration of the process.  For a more animated version try Schoolhouse Rock's I’m Just a Bill.    

As always librarians are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice, including selecting or interpreting legal materials, but we can happily make suggestions about research tools to use to find the information you are seeking.

Wishing you the best in a lawful new year!

 

In the United States, our democracy relies on three branches of government. These branches -- executive, legislative and judicial help to ensure that laws are fair and balanced. The system created by these three branches is called checks and balances. Here's a video that explains the idea of how the three branches balance one another. 

 

 

Follow these links to find out more about the  President (executive), Congress (legislative), and the U.S. Supreme Court (judicial.) Or learn more by playing a game on iCivics.org. Games like Branches of Power and Supreme Decision give you a look at some of the real-life issues faced by Congress, the President and the Supreme Court. (You can register for a free account or play as a guest.)

Here are some more places to explore for more information about the Federal government:

Ben's Guide to US Government for Kids has information for grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

Kids in the House is published by the Clerk's office of the US House of Representatives. This site has sections for Young Learners, Grade School, Middle School and High School.

For detailed information about state government in Oregon, the Oregon Blue Book is the go-to guide!

The City of Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is developing the Comprehensive Plan, a long-range plan for the growth and development of Portland through 2035. The public review draft of the Comprehensive Plan is being published in two parts. Working Draft Part 1 was published in January 2013 and contained the draft goals and policies. Working Draft Part 2 is now available for public review and consists of two products:

  1. The online Map App, an interactive series of maps showing the geography and location of various policy proposals. For example, the “storm water areas of concern” mapshows areas that have both a potential for new development and significant stormwater management constraints.

  1. The Citywide Systems Plan, a 20-year, coordinated infrastructure plan for the City of Portland. It updates the City of Portland’s Public Facilities Plan, which was last done 24 years ago in 1989.

All Multnomah County Library locations, except for Gresham, Troutdale and Fairview, have been given a binder which contains a one-page overview of this Map App and a copy of the Citywide Systems Plan. This binder is available for public review and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability are accepting comments until December 31, 2013.

More information on the Comprehensive Plan, as well as how and where to give feedback, can be found on the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability website.

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