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    Abortion politics and breast cancer: Local Komen group will need heroic effort to recover

    By Susan Nielsen, The Oregonian The Oregonian- Sunday 2/5/12


    The local affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure may not recover from last week’s political firestorm over Planned Parenthood, not without months of crisis control and outreach.

    But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Sharon Hunt of McMinnville, Jennifer Williamson of Portland — and Jennifer’s mom, a retired oncology nurse from Beaverton who fervently opposes abortion yet supports Planned Parenthood for its commitment to women in need.

    “It’s very upsetting,” said Margaret Williamson, 65. “The early detection of cancer is so important. … This whole thing is totally unfair, especially to low-income women.”

    Last week, the nation’s leading breast-cancer charity said it decided to reject Planned Parenthood as a grant recipient for breast cancer screening. Komen pinned the change to a newly adopted board policy forbidding grants to organizations under investigation. Komen leaders insisted, unpersuasively, that this had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood’s role as an abortion provider or with the ongoing campaign by abortion opponents to starve the family-planning organization of public and private money.

    The backlash was immediate and stunning. By Friday, Komen was compelled to apologize and reverse course. Unfortunately, it’s hard to measure the extent of the reversal: Planned Parenthood is technically eligible for Komen grants again, but it may not win any.

    It’s also hard for breast-health advocates in Oregon to know how to respond. The local Komen affiliate serves Oregon and southwest Washington (and the local leaders opposed the move to defund Planned Parenthood), but the chapter does send a good portion of its locally raised money to national headquarters for research and advocacy.

    That doesn’t sit well with Hunt, 67.

    “I think (the national leaders) are so involved with continuing the institution of Komen,” Hunt said, “that they didn’t think about the woman who doesn’t have health insurance.”

    About five years ago, Hunt needed a mammogram but couldn’t afford one. She had recently lost her job as a receptionist and didn’t yet qualify for Medicare. She called the Komen foundation, the nearby Planned Parenthood clinic and another clinic. No one could help her. As she describes it, the two clinics were out of mammogram vouchers and the Komen folks said they hadn’t gotten their locally raised money back from headquarters yet.

    She finally got a mammogram once she qualified for Medicare. She’s fine, but she hates the scarcity of affordable cancer screening and she feels awful for the women whose early-stage cancers go undetected.

    “No one,” she said, “deserves to be snubbed.”

    I do think the local Komen chapter, which declined to comment Friday, can recover from this political crisis. However, it will take months of hard work to restore public confidence. If Komen can show exactly where the local donations go, and if it can be unusually specific about every Komen-supported breast-health service in every corner of Oregon, it may win back the local supporters who want to fight breast cancer without also fighting the culture wars.

    If the local chapter can’t rise to the occasion, another breast-cancer charity will grow to meet the demand.

    Until last week, Jennifer Williamson, 38, a Democratic state House candidate, served on local boards for both Planned Parenthood and the Komen charity. She resigned from the Komen board on Thursday, frustrated by the local affiliate’s initially timid response to the national move. She’s glad to see Komen backtrack, but she remains wary of the national agenda and reluctant to rejoin. She uses the word “trust” a lot.

    So does her mom, the former oncology nurse — a Catholic who calls herself “very anti-abortion.” The elder Williamson described Planned Parenthood as a first stop for lower-income women needing health care, and an ideal partner for Komen’s breast-health screening and mammogram referrals.

    She sees the politics as a terrible distraction.

    She has watched too many women die to feel otherwise.

    –Associate editor Susan Nielsen, The Oregonian

    Click here to view the article

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    Why I resigned from the Komen Board

    I’ve spent decades working for better health care for women in Oregon. Sometimes, that’s involved bringing diverse groups of people together to do the right thing. I was very proud of what we achieved to improve women’s health with the passage last year of the Low Income Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act to ensure all eligible women in our state have access to lifesaving screening and treatment.

    In my view, the access to quality healthcare for all women must come first–not narrow partisan agendas or religious crusades. Unfortunately, the national leadership of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation decided to ignore that principle in its recent decision to defund Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening program for low-income women. They injected politics, partisanship and divisiveness into basic health care services that save millions of lives.

    I simply can’t sit back quietly and let that happen.

    That’s why I resigned my position today from the Board of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Oregon & Southwest Washington.  As a proud supporter of Planned Parenthood and former chair of the board of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, I cannot in good conscience remain on the board of any organization that chooses to put politics ahead of preventive healthcare for low-income women.

    I had hoped our local Komen Chapter would loudly and strongly denounce this decision, work to overturn it immediately, or end affiliation with the national organization if the policy remains in place. I also believe the board should demand the dismissal of Karen Handel, Senior VP for Public Policy who drove this move by the national board. Because this has not happened, it is with deep sadness I am stepping down from the board of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Oregon and SW Washington until this policy is overturned and Karen Handel is no longer with the organization.

    Rest assured, I will continue to fight for better health care for women across Oregon and to ensure a women’s right to choose is never under threat in our state.

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    Now is the time for real sentencing reform

    By Jennifer Williamson of Portland, Oregon. Jennifer is an attorney and public safety reform leader running in the Democratic primary for HD 36 in West Portland. For more information, visit JenniferForOregon.com.

    Over the last several weeks, Governor Kitzhaber’s Commission on Public Safety has received a lot of attention over the release of its report calling for a hard look at Oregon’s public safety system. I, along with many others, am pleased this issue is receiving this long over-due attention. For the last 3 years, a group of non-profit organizations, unions, and concerned Legislators and citizens have worked together as part of the Oregon Coalition for Safety & Savings (OCSS) to formulate policy alternatives to our one-size-fits-all incarceration system and the enormous impact it has had on every other segment of our state’s budget.

    The OCSS is committed to supporting the most effective public safety policies so that our limited dollars are invested wisely. We are committed to keeping Oregonians safe and know that Oregon can do better when it comes to our spending on corrections.

    The membership of the OCSS includes a wide range of individuals and organizations who understand the need to decrease our spending on prisons and reinvest those savings into education, human services, community corrections, victim services, mental health, and addiction treatment. Members of the Oregon Coalition for Safety and Savings include:

    • Advocacy Coalition of Seniors and People with Disabilities
    • American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon
    • Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Programs
    • The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde
    • Human Services Coalition of Oregon
    • League of Women Voters of Oregon
    • National Association of Social Workers (Oregon Chapter)
    • Oregon Alliance of Children’s Programs
    • Oregon Business Association
    • Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence
    • Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
    • Oregon Education Association
    • Oregon Prevention Education & Recovery Association
    • Partnership for Safety and Justice
    • SEIU, Local 503
    • Self Enhancement, Inc.
    • Stand for Children
    • Urban League
    • Youth, Rights & Justice

    As one of the leaders of this powerful coalition, I have focused on sounding the alarm on the growing cost of corrections. I have worked with the group on drafting policy recommendations supported by evidence-based practices that will actually make Oregonians safer. OCSS is continually working to prevent so-called “solutions” that have proven ineffective and costly in other states. These failed approaches include balancing the budgets on the backs of Department of Corrections’ employees, allowing for dangerous overcrowding of facilities, and the privatization of correctional institutions.

    Studies show that investing our limited dollars in education, drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services, programs that stabilize families, and transition programs are better investments than continuing to over-incarcerate to the tune of $30,000 per inmate per year–almost as much as a year’s tuition at a private college.

    As the Legislature reconvenes in February and searches for additional savings in the budget, I hope that Legislators will continue to work with the OCSS to find sound policy solutions, and save money. If they don’t, Oregon will continue on an unsustainable path to spending an additional $600 million on corrections. This staggering figure includes building 2 new prisons over the next 10 years and comes at a time when our crime rate is at a 40-year low and the Legislature is making damaging cuts to education, health care, and other vital services.

    The agenda of the Oregon Coalition for Safety and Savings compliments the work that the Commission on Public Safety has been preparing for the 2013 legislative session. Between now and then, you’ll be hearing more from the Coalition and the Commission on what Oregon needs to do to make our public safety system even better. Oregon has a lot to be proud of when it comes to our public safety policies, but also a lot that needs to change. Max Williams, the recently retired director of Corrections knew it, and the Coalition and Commission do too.

    Now is the time to make the public safety changes Oregon needs and we have the right leadership and coalition to make it happen.


    1/24/2012- Blue Oregon

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    Oregon AFL-CIO makes early endorsement for Jennife


    Press Release: December 16th, 2011

    Oregon AFL-CIO Makes Early Endorsements in Select Races

    The Oregon AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education (COPE), representing over 225,000 workers across all sectors of Oregon’s economy and from every corner of the state, gathered today to discuss endorsements in various races.

    Citing the importance of supporting candidates who will not just vote for, but who will advocate for issues that affect working people and help rebuild the middle class in Oregon, the COPE voted to endorse Jennifer Williamson for House District 36. Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain said, “Middle class Oregonian’s in HD 36 need a strong advocate in Salem – someone who isn’t afraid to stand up for their beliefs or stand up to corporate interests. Jennifer has a solid labor background and has proven herself an advocate for working people. We are proud to support her.”

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    Mercy Corps: Our Work begins at Home

    Crime Rates Fall to 30-Year Low While Correction Spending Soars

    By Jennifer Williamson

    Oregonians are safer than they have been in 30 years, according to a recent report released by the FBI, yet state spending on corrections is at an all-time high.

    Preliminary crime data for Oregon shows a dramatic decrease in 2009 crime rates. According to Craig Prins, Executive Director of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, violent crime for 2009 fell in Oregon’s four largest cities. Violent crime de- creases were largest in Portland (-10%) and Gresham (-23%), while property crime declines were largest in Eugene (-12%) and Salem (-14%).

    “Crime spiked in the early- to mid-1990s, but has been going down in Oregon and across the country ever since. We haven’t seen crime levels this low in more than 30 years,” Prins told legislators at a joint hearing of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in late May.

    Leading indicators for a reduction in crime rates, according to Prins, are the health of the economy, incarceration rates and demographics, especially the percentage of young adults in the state population. Bucking this trend, however, Oregon’s unemployment rates increased during 2002-2004 and again in 2008 and 2009, while crime rates continued to decrease.

    In 2009 we saw the largest increases in the unemployment rate since data were available in 1976. And yet, preliminary data shows that crime continued to fall. The most reliable indicator, said Prins, appears to be the number of young people ages 15-39. With fewer people that age in Oregon, the crime rate tends to de- crease. A decrease in young people in the population is projected to continue for the next 10 years.

    Correction Spending Up, Service Funding Down – And Nonprofits Fill the Gap

    Even as crime rates have dropped, spending on criminal justice budgets has skyrocketed, reducing available funding for other important public safety programs.

    According to the PEW Center on the States report “One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008” one in 100 Americans are currently behind bars. The PEW report found that corrections spending is devastating state budgets and that Oregon spends a greater percentage of its general fund dollars on corrections than any other state in the country. This has cost billions of dollars for both the construction and operation of corrections facilities. In the 1993-1995 biennium, the Oregon Department of Corrections budget was $377 million; for 2009-2011, the Department of Corrections budget is estimated at $1.4 billion. This spending trend is expected to continue even as the state faces an estimated $577 million shortfall for the 2011-13 biennium.

    The upward trend in corrections spending is especially alarming be- cause it has been, and will continue to be, at the expense of programs proven to reduce future crime at a fraction of the cost of building more prisons. Cuts to programs for drug and alcohol treatment, prison-based education, juvenile intervention and other community-based services have actually reduced the state’s ability to maintain public safety.

    Federal, state, and local lawmakers are responding to stark budget realities by making difficult funding choices as well as distressing cuts in public safety and corrections budgets, often leaving necessary service needs unmet. Nonprofit organizations are stepping up, with the help of private funding, to ensure these important programs continue and to fill the gap in essential ser- vices in our communities.

     Prisoner Reentry Services Reduce Recidivism, Increase Safety

    One service area that will be potentially devastated by state budget cuts is programming focused on transitioning the formerly incarcerated back into society. Over 95% of all state prisoners will eventually return to the community. Advocates for transition services argue it is in everyone’s best interest to create a system that actually prepares people to succeed when they return home. Formerly incarcerated people are often stigmatized and stereotyped, and face a range of laws, policies and practices that under- mine their ability to become active and productive members of society.

    Many local organizations, including Mercy Corps Northwest, are stepping up to meet the critical need in the community for services to prisoners transitioning back into the community. In 2009, Mercy Corps Northwest along with six other lo- cal non-profit organizations, created the Reentry Transition Center (RTC) located at 1818 NE MLK Blvd., with initial funding from the United Way.

    Support for the RTC has recently been supplemented by a two-year grant from Multnomah County, using federal funds administered by the Criminal Justice Commission.

    The RTC coordinates reentry services for formerly incarcerated people leaving county, state, and federal jails and prisons. The two navigators at the center, who have successfully made the transition from prison to the community themselves, coordinate a range of essential reentry resources in one location, fostering the financial independence and well-being of a highly challenged and potentially isolated population. The coordination of services is intended to help individuals address barriers to reintegrating back into the community, which in the bigger picture, reduces recidivism and increases community safety.

    “It is in everyone’s best interest that these individual succeed in re- entering our community” said Doug Cooper, Mercy Corps Northwest assistant director and project director of the RTC. “When people succeed, they become productive, tax-paying members of the community. They support their families and strengthen the social fabric. If they don’t succeed, there are increased costs of crime, law enforcement, judicial and prison costs – not to mention the added cost in misery and suffering.”

    As government funding for these vital public safety services and programs is reduced, the work of Mercy Corps Northwest and other agencies becomes increasingly vital for the quality of life of everyone in our communities.

    Jennifer Williamson is a Portland attorney.

    Published in Oregonian Thursday, June 17, 2010

    link to the full article

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    Women’s Investment Network PAC endorses Jennifer

    I am so honored to have earned the WIN PAC endorsement. WIN PAC members know that “when women make policy, the needs of women and families are not ignored.” I am proud to have their seal of approval.

    More about WIN PAC…

    WIN-PAC has made a real difference over the years .  During the 2009 legislative session, 10 of the 18 Senate Democrats were women, making it the only caucus in the country with a majority of women.  The powerful revenue and budget committees were chaired by women.  Women also co-chaired two important budget subcommittees, and another WIN-PAC supported candidate chaired the health care committee which moved significant health care reform legislation.

    In the House, five WIN-PAC endorsed women chaired committees and three others co-chaired budget subcommittees.  Two WIN-PAC endorsed candidates became the first Democrats elected from east of the Cascades in over 10 years (Rep. Judy Stiegler of Bend and Rep. Suzanne VanOrman of Hood River).

    Source-(WIN PAC website, 2011)


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    Jennifer in the News

    News Releases Jennifer Williamson Selected for “40 under 40” Award in PortlandSALEM – State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo announced that Jennifer Williamson, Public Affairs Manager at the Oregon Department of Education, was among 40 individuals selected for The Portland Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” Award. Award winners are recognized as the 40 most accomplished, influential and civic-minded young executives in Portland.At the Department of Education, Williamson leads legislative affairs, internal and external communications, and the Oregon Virtual School District. Her primary role is leading strategic communications and outreach for the Oregon Diploma initiative. She also oversees stakeholder engagement efforts for Superintendent Castillo, including the Professional Educators Advisory Team., Business Advisory Team, and Youth Advisory Team.

    “I’m so happy to see Jennifer receive this well-deserved recognition,” Castillo said. “She delivers high-quality work for our state, building new partnerships and supporting our efforts to create success for all Oregon students.”

    Prior to her current position, Williamson was the Government Relations associate for Portland State University. She was an attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (Portland), a public affairs specialist with Intel Corporation, and a legislative research assistant at the office of U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield in Washington, D.C.

    Williamson serves on the board of directors for the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls and the advisory board of the National Education for Women’s Leadership of Oregon at Portland State University. She received her J.D., cum laude from the Willamette University College of Law and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from University of Oregon. She has also completed a summer program in Chinese law at the East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai, China.

    Susan Castillo, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
    Gene Evans, Communications Director, Telephone (503) 947-5737
    Oregon Department of Education News Releases contain information that was originally released to the press as an official release.  Refer to each News Release for the details.
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    Planned Parenthood PAC endorses Jennifer

    Planned Parenthood PAC endorses Jennifer as their pro-choice champion candidate. Here is what Planned Parenthood PAC’s Executive Director Roey Thorpe said:

    “Planned Parenthood PAC is honored to endorse Jennifer Williamson for House District 36. We support Jennifer not just because she has a proven track record as a pro-choice advocate, but also because she is a leader in women’s health care and prevention. She was instrumental in passing the women’s breast and cervical cancer treatment legislation last session, which will save lives of hundreds of women in Oregon.  Jennifer has the experience and passion we need to defend a woman’s right to choose and protect women’s access to healthcare at a time when it is under direct attack. She has been on the front lines protecting women’s reproductive rights for over 20 years.”