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State News Friday, January 4, 2008
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Goldschmidt’s records provide private insight

DON RYAN / Associated Press

Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury gestures Monday toward a stack of boxes containing former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt’s records. Thirty-nine boxes were released at the State Archives office, and more than 200 boxes are expected to be released soon. Standing behind Bradbury is State Archivist Roy Turnbaugh.

They don’t foretell his choice not to seek re-election

Statesman Journal
June 8, 2004

Neil Goldschmidt’s newly released records give no hint about what would happen on one of the most important days of his four years as governor.

His schedule for Feb. 7, 1990 — one of the thousands of pages of records released Monday by the State Archives in Salem — stated that Goldschmidt planned an appointment for physical therapy in Salem at 8:30 a.m., followed by “phone calls.”

Those events preceded the unscheduled announcement that the Democratic chief executive was separating from his wife of 25 years and would not seek election to a second term amid an aggressive challenge from Republican Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer.

The State Archives made available 39 boxes of records from Goldschmidt, one of only two recent governors whose papers were not under state control.

“In 1990, I wrote to then-Governor Goldschmidt urging him to deposit the records of his office with the State Archives,” State Archivist Roy Turnbaugh said Monday. “I believed the public interest would be best served by doing that. It is 14 years later, and I see no reason to change my mind.”

Some of the records were shipped from the Oregon Historical Society, which had custody of them and allowed Goldschmidt to control access to them. Secretary of State Bill Bradbury said the other 217 boxes might be available to the public later this week.

Custody of the records became a public issue on Jan. 21, when Goldschmidt was questioned by Sen. Vicki Walker, D-Eugene, during a hearing about his nomination to the state’s Board of Higher Education.

The Senate confirmed him, but he resigned May 6 after the disclosure that he had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-girl — statutory rape — while he was mayor of Portland in the 1970s.

Several news organizations then requested access to his records.

Goldschmidt had resisted releasing the records, saying that they contained material about people that should remain confidential. State public-records law allows for specified exemptions from disclosure, but those determinations are made by agencies based on advice from legal counsel.

“We are very clear that the only people who can do a confidentiality review are those people who have no specific interest in the records but have the public interest at heart,” Bradbury said.

Some files were withheld from disclosure, he said, until the state’s lawyers can review the papers.

Some were looking for papers that might shed light on the sexual relationship or offer sensational disclosures, but Goldschmidt’s records illustrate aspects of his years as governor from 1987 to 1991.

In 1987, he was pulled in different directions about whether Oregon’s speed limit should be raised from 55 to 65 mph on rural interstate highways.

The most prominent advocate was Rep. Randy Miller, R-West Linn, who wrote, “If a 65 mph speed limit would unreasonably endanger drivers, I wouldn’t support it.”

But Goldschmidt’s Republican predecessor, Vic Atiyeh, used the threat of a veto to deter legislative approval of a higher limit in the 1985 session. The Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Energy and Oregon Traffic Safety Commission opposed a change, and Goldschmidt himself was a former U.S. transportation secretary.

On a state police memo March 30, 1987, Goldschmidt scribbled: “We need a group of advisers to gather on this one ... also need to solicit information for all appropriate technical aspects.”

Stan Long, then director of the newly formed Department of Insurance and Finance, weighed in, “Offering political advice in this town is the equivalent of offering snow to Eskimos ... The real reason for my memo is to suggest how unwise it may be to stand for a regulation that has very little, if any, public support.”

Floyd McKay, Goldschmidt’s communications director for the first two years of his governorship, wrote after his advisers met and came up with a hint of the eventual solution — raising the limit on selected interstate segments, but also requiring drivers to use seat belts.

“This is one that rural areas believe is their right,” McKay wrote.

Oregon voters repealed the seat-belt requirement in 1988, but then approved it by initiative two years later.

The records also offer insight into how Goldschmidt won legislative approval of one of his top priorities in 1990.

The landmark legislation increased maximum payments for workers injured on the job and cut insurance premiums for businesses paying into workers’ compensation. But the changes also specified that a work-related injury must be the “major contributing cause,” and tightened eligibility for benefits.

“The proposals are both ambitious and constructive,” Frohnmayer wrote in an April 26 letter to Goldschmidt.

On cream-colored paper, apparently his favorite for personal memos, Goldschmidt jotted down eight things for him to do in unveiling the complex proposal. At the top, he listed the Portland home number of “Ted K” — his then insurance commissioner, Ted Kulongoski, now governor.

Only four or five of the 19 Democratic senators could be tallied as “yes” votes, according to written counts by Goldschmidt and Kulongoski Another half-dozen were considered on the fence, and the rest against it.

Kulongoski sent an urgent appeal to Tom Imeson, Goldschmidt’s chief of staff.

“Tom: Neil must call the following senators as soon as possible ... (Sen.) Mike Thorne thinks that is critical that Neil massage these people.”

The Senate passed the bill on May 7, 1990, by a 23-7 vote — including 12 Democrats, and six on Kulongoski’s list.

Although Goldschmidt’s papers turned up no hint about his sudden announcement that he would not seek re-election, perhaps he offered a clue when he spoke to the Banquet of Champions two days earlier, honoring Oregon sports heroes of 1989.

His green notecards listed famous sports quotations, including one from Casey Stengel, the legendary manager of the New York Yankees.

“The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided,” Goldschmidt quoted Stengel. Then he added in his own hand, “I can relate to that — it’s a little like life and politics.”

Peter Wong can be reached at (503) 399-6745.

About the records

What: The State Archives opened 39 boxes of the records of Neil Goldschmidt, governor from 1987 to 1991. Among the papers are his communications with state agencies, incoming and outgoing correspondence, personal notes, daily schedules and files of his assistants and press office.

Access: They are open to public inspection. People must obtain a researcher identification card from the State Archives, 800 Summer St. NE, Salem. An inventory lists the files in the boxes, and people can request one box at a time.

Copies: Can be made at 25 cents per page; notes must be taken in pencil.

Past governors

Records: About half of Oregon’s 35 past governors have the records of their administrations in the State Archives. They start with Democrat Charles Martin, governor from 1935 to 1939, to Democrat John Kitzhaber, who left office about 18 months ago.

Exceptions: The exceptions were Neil Goldschmidt, whose records were at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, and Mark Hatfield, whose papers are housed at his alma mater, Willamette University.

Law change: The Legislature changed state law in 1991 to require all future governors to deposit their administrations’ papers in the State Archives. Some of Goldschmidt’s files have been withheld pending review by state lawyers about whether specific papers are subject to legal exemptions from disclosure.

Most records: State Archivist Roy Turnbaugh said Kitzhaber’s papers probably are the most voluminous.

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