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Oregon Gov. Brown Calls Oregon DOJ Surveillance Racial Profiling

Oregon Governor's Office
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown file image from March 31, 2015.

"Racial profiling is real and we must eliminate it in Oregon."

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says that’s the take-away in the wake of revelations that an Oregon Department of Justice employee targeted people who posted about the Black Lives Matter movement on social media."Government surveillance based on speech silences voices," she said, "and I think it undercuts the principles on which this country was founded."

Brown called me with these comments to clarify her statements in a rare state capitol media availability Wednesday. There she told reporters Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has taken the "appropriate action" in hiring an outside investigator. She later said she expected the DOJ investigation to be quick: weeks, not months.

Transparency “Was Not A Priority” For Kitzhaber, Brown Says

Her comments on the DOJ capped a busy day for the governor in Salem. In the afternoon Brown testified before the Joint Committee on Legislative Audits. The governor briefly discussed an audit released Tuesday of how the state handles public records requests.

Brown opened her testimony with a verbal shot at her predecessor, John Kitzhaber.

"It was clear that transparency was not a priority in the prior administration," Brown said. She went on to further distance herself from her fellow Democrat, who resigned amid an ethics investigation.

"Since I was sworn in, my team and I have worked to increase the level of transparency in state government,” she said.

"In the 38 weeks since I took office, more than 100 open public records requests have been closed. We have released more than 350,000 pages of public documents. This represents nearly 3,000 hours of staff work."

Then during her press appearance she also addressed:

  • Syria: Television reporters asked the governor about her position on accepting Syrian refugees. The governor restated her earlier position that once federal authorities have vetted them, the state should welcome refugees with open arms, regardless of where they come from. Brown said her initial hesitation to publicly take a position on the issue was because she was waiting for a White House briefing to confirm that Oregon and other states don't have the authority to refuse refugees approved for entry by the federal government.
  • The minimum wage: She supports an increase but hasn't settled on a number.
  • The job security of Matt Garrett, the head of the Oregon Department of Transportation: She says she'll "look at the concerns" that have been raised by Senate Republicans that Garrett knew there were problems with carbon reduction estimates contained in a transportation package long before he testified to that effect before a joint legislative committee.
  • Housing: Brown says she's asking for a general fund allocation for "rent relief" to be voted on during the 2016 session, and would be open to other recommendations on how to provide more affordable housing in Oregon.