Oregon Community Foundation Annual Meeting
Governor Kitzhaber’s Keynote Address
May 9, 2012
Thank you for that kind introduction and for the opportunity to be here today. And thank you to Mr. Fields for your tremendous contribution to our state. Oregon has been dealt as tough a hand as any state in the nation, but my optimism for Oregon’s future is rooted in people like Fred Fields and institutions like the Oregon Community Foundation. You continue to recognize that we are all in this together and that within our borders we have the natural, human and financial capital; the spirit of innovation; and the instinct for partnership and collaboration to build an enduring prosperity for all Oregonians.
Building an enduring prosperity is about more than improving monthly employment data or quarterly revenue forecasts. It’s about raising our per capita income back up above the national average, and ensuring ALL Oregonians have a fair shot at prosperity, whether you’re from one of our rural communities facing double-digit unemployment, or from a community of color disproportionally impacted by the downturn, or you’re a middle class homeowner trying to get your kids through college.
This vision still stands in no small part due to the contributions of all of you in this room. And your commitment to this place is at the heart of what Ken Kesey meant when he said, “Oregon is a citadel of the spirit.”
For nearly 40 years the Oregon Community Foundation has been a state treasure, connecting donors with Oregon communities and redefining the role of philanthropy in improving the lives of Oregonians. It’s a unique and critical mission -- and though I admit to being just a tad irked you snatched him from state government, you could not have found a more talented, committed or creative leader than Max Williams.
OCF and other foundations are being asked to do an awful lot these days, not the least of which is to step in where the traditional social safety net is fraying. You’re being asked to “fill in the gaps,” but those gaps are too often gaping holes that not only threaten program effectiveness but divert resources from longer term, strategic initiatives. With his experience in the public, private and philanthropic sectors, Max’s unique skill set will serve OCF well in this challenging environment that I believe requires expanding and redefining partnership opportunities and taking solutions to scale to best serve the needs of Oregonians.
I want to talk, today, about partnerships, about what we, in government, are learning from you, and about the important role foundations like OCF already can and must play in identifying, promoting and leveraging innovative solutions to our most persistent problems. But first, I want to tell you where I think we should be heading.
One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein, who once said, “You should not use an old map to explore a new world.” And he was right, because each generation faces a new world with new challenges -- challenges that cannot be met by clinging to the past, but only by imagining and building a different world.
I ran for office because I saw embedded in the Great Recession an opportunity to draw a new map, an opportunity for transformational change. I was convinced that only at a time like this -- when we are at or near the high point in terms of human need but at or near the low point in terms of public resources -- would we have the courage and the discipline to take on the status quo, to revisit basic assumptions about the delivery of public services, to consider new business models to move away from the devastating impacts of a boom/bust economic cycle, and to finally begin to erase the troubling income disparities which have existed for far too long in our communities of color.
That conviction is the source of urgency that underlies all we have taken on this first 16 months in office. Our focus has been on shifting state spending from back-end problems – like corrections, health care and the human consequences of neglect and abuse – to investments in children, education and workforce development: our best hope for long-term prosperity.
We’re leaning into health care reform because we can no longer simply stand by while businesses, families, and your state government are forced to spend more and more every year on an inefficient, hyper-inflationary system that is not making us healthier as a population – dollars that otherwise businesses could be using to create new jobs; families could be using to get out of debt and pay down their mortgages; and the state could be using to invest in children and education.
And we’re focused on education because helping Oregon students prepare for the future, and giving every child an equal opportunity to excel, will help ensure that Oregon is competitive well into the 21st century. But it will take more than money to reverse unacceptably low high school graduation rates – just 65 percent this year – and we need to design a new system to ensure this generation of Oregon children is not the first to be less educated than their parents and their peers around the United States.
Government cannot make these changes alone, and, indeed, our work to date on education and health care reform and on developing locally-driven job creation strategies is a testament to the fact that the government/philanthropy partnership in Oregon is well underway:
- Our advisors come from your staff and boards;
- Our policies derive from your research;
- Our emphasis on leverage, outcomes and staying close to communities impacted by our decisions comes from your playbook;
- Our examples of home-grown solutions – of teachers delivering better results for their students and health clinics integrating care and innovative early childhood programs – come from your grantees; and
- Our success to date passing key education reforms and creating a new framework for coordinated health care throughout the state would not have been possible without the community outreach and education that you have been funding for several years…
We are bucking the national gridlock around key issues and making progress on tough problems in no small part due to the early success of collaboration and partnership that you all have been a part of …
Here are just a few examples of the roles OCF is playing:
- OCF staff member Mary Louise McClintock has been engaged since Day 1 of the administration on our early learning initiative. As an active member of my Early Childhood and Family Investment Transition Team and our Early Learning Design Team, Mary Louise is helping implement an integrated 0 through 20 education system that recognizes that investment in early success is foundational to all the state’s educational and economic objectives. If we can reach children earlier – before kindergarten – and better integrate health, nutrition and pre-school services, we can ensure more kids are ready for kindergarten and reading at grade-level by third grade. And all the research indicates that third grade reading is a key indicator of future educational success, high school graduation and ultimately success in the workforce…so, as many have said, investing in early learning is our most effective job training program. Mary and OCF’s contribution to this transformational change has been invaluable.
- OCF board member Kay Toran sits on the Oregon Education Investment Board which is moving full speed ahead integrating early learning, K-12 and post-secondary education and training to ensure the state meets its ambitious goal that by 2025, all Oregonians graduate from high school, 40 percent get two years of post-secondary education or training and another 40 percent earn at least a bachelor’s degree. She has served on the hiring committee for the state’s new Chief Education, which will be a tremendous step forward in aligning funding, governance and leadership to deliver better outcomes for students, more resources for teachers and a better return for taxpayer dollars.
- OCF board member Duncan Wyse is leading our Performance-based Budget Design Team, a fundamental change that recognizes real change takes time and measurement. Duncan wears many hats, but this is a vital role. Instead of making decisions on a two-year budget timeline, we’re looking out a decade and defining the outcomes we want and expect for state investment. It is our best hope not only for ensuring more efficient and effective public services, but also for engaging Oregonians in setting priorities and protecting Oregon’s quality of life for the next generation.
- And your director, Max Williams, is serving on the Oregon Solutions Steering Committee with other government, private sector, and philanthropic leaders around the state. This committee is helping us build an Oregon Solutions Network, which OCF has been a long-time supporter of, to solve regional and community problems and change the state’s approach to economic development. OCF made its first investment in Oregon Solutions in 2002, and now the state has fully embraced our role as a convener to accelerate local development solutions and help break through administrative barriers. Through our Regional Solutions Centers across our Oregon, we’re working with local advisory committees that tap many current and former OCF trustees and staff, including Sue Miller, Bill Thorndyke, Hal Snow and Mike Hollern. From helping solve a workforce housing crunch in Pendleton to streamlining the permit process to allow for the expansion of Central Oregon Trucking in Redmond, these locally-driven initiatives are creating new relationships between the public, private and philanthropic communities and creating effective models for other communities.
These examples show that we’re more connected and more deliberate about how we collaborate than ever before, and that this collaboration is yielding meaningful, on-the-ground results. So, what’s next?
Thanks to your work and others, we have a lot of promising opportunities for social and economic innovation and innovative governance across our region. But we have far, far to go to scale up this work and a still-urgent need to do this work faster.
We’re not yet close to tapping the $147 billion in clean economic development potential that is possible in the Pacific Northwest.
We know we need to strengthen partnerships with leaders across the region and across traditional borders, be they political, geographic, or cultural.
We know it’s time to move away from out-dated economic strategies that deplete our natural capital and leave us highly vulnerable to fluctuations to global recessions…
And we know we need to create and retain economic activity and family wage jobs while keeping capital circulating in our region through local sourcing, and supply chains…
But the exact “how” of getting that done is still VERY unknown. What are the right mechanisms to scale up investment? How do we take our most promising pilot projects to scale?
Consider our Cool Schools initiative, which provides school districts with access to financing for energy efficiency upgrades and other improvements that reduce operating costs while creating family-wage jobs in hard-hit communities. With billions of square feet of public building space across the Northwest; building and trade industries in need of reliable jobs; and a broad need for energy conservation and improved efficiencies, how do we turn this program into a comprehensive regional effort that can provide a real competitive advantage to Oregon?
How do we fund the significant infrastructure needs of the region at a time of limited public resources? Not just roads and bridges to move people and goods, but transmission lines for renewable energy and the investments needed to bring the smart grid to our homes and businesses to maximize energy efficiency opportunities.
We think the answers to these questions lie in creating a new generation of community investment mechanisms – local community investment tables – where public-private and community leaders can come together, build trust, set priorities, and then get it done.
My challenge to you, then, is to keep leading and helping us fill in the blanks on these and the other strategies we will need – to envision and build a new acceleration agenda for Oregon prosperity.
We all face a changing environment in the next few years where we will likely need to do more, with less. In some cases, to be blunt, we will need to do LESS, with less.
It is therefore critical that all of us take a hard look – together -- to make sure that the business and organizing models we are using are still up to the task in the 21st century. And the task my friends, is to deliver the core outcomes of opportunity and equity – not to blindly maintain status quo systems that may feel comfortable to us or comfortable to our colleagues.
Laid low by economic uncertainty, Oregon has shown bright this past year, in the resilience of its communities, in the civility of its political discourse, and in the optimism of its citizens. At the center of this resurgence has been OCF -- catalyzing the innovative and compassionate partnerships we need, Creating that sense of shared responsibility. Ensuring that Oregon continues to be a citadel of the spirit.