Introduction
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xii Introduction Robert W. Straub is best remembered today as a warm and genuine human being, a first-rate state treasurer, and an average governor. He served a fouryear term as governor after what are generally viewed now as the eight glorious years of Tom McCall. McCall was, without a doubt, the toughest act to follow in Oregon political history, so it is easy to see why these impressions linger. But these generalizations do not do justice to Straub and what he has meant to Oregon. For one thing, Bob Straub was more than merely firstrate as state treasurer; he was a national leader and the best that Oregon has ever seen. His investment reforms were revolutionary and vigorously opposed by the state’s large banks, which had profited from the previous system. Under Straub’s persistent leadership, Oregon was an early pioneer of state investment using the “prudent man” approach, as it was called in those days. Government funds were invested as any prudent investor would his or her own money in stocks, bonds, real estate, mortgages, and private loans. Straub was a state investment innovator. To keep political favor from influencing investment decisions, Straub had the good sense to establish an appointed Oregon Investment Council, which selected private money managers from throughout the country, based on their performance, to invest Oregon’s money. The system of using outside money managers was unique to Oregon at the time and, as carefully implemented by Straub, his fellow members of the state’s investment council, and their successors, worked extraordinarily well for decades. Straub’s reforms have saved Oregon taxpayers billions of dollars over the last forty years and helped tens of thousands of state and local employees to retire comfortably. The investment program was so successful that it was imitated in states, counties, municipalities, and school districts across the country and is accepted as standard government financial policy today. Mark Hatfield, as a partisan Republican governor when Democrat Straub upset fellow Republican State Treasurer Howard Belton in 1964, was not an early fan of the brash newcomer. But he came to appreciate Straub’s financial vision and, in later years, frequently referred to him, without irony or hyperbole, as “the Alexander Hamilton of Oregon.”1 Regarding Straub’s alleged leadership failings, the Tom McCall we know today—a heroic figure who, to reverse his own hilariously self-effacing quote to the contrary, is viewed as a “giant statue framed against a red sky”2 —might not have reached his epic potential without his rival Bob Straub aggressively pursuing a strong environmental agenda and pressing McCall hard in their Introduction xiii two gubernatorial races. When looking back on those heroic days, admiring the “giant statue” of McCall etched against a flaming sky, a discerning eye can see, looming on the edge of the light, another enormous figure. It is upon these twin pillars of Tom McCall and Bob Straub that the Oregon Story of the 1960s and ’70s is built. During their first campaign in 1966 and throughout McCall’s first term as governor, Straub repeatedly took the initiative with environmental proposals. From supporting preservation of public beaches to the Willamette Greenway proposal, Straub frequently had McCall playing catch-up—which the veteran television commentator and his crack staff did brilliantly. The popularity of environmental protection as an issue grew stronger as each man tried to better the other in their battle of ideas. We can never know whether McCall would have shown the same level of environmental leadership without his rivalry with Straub. McCall’s legacy culminated in the development of Oregon’s crowning achievement of the period: the creation of a system of statewide land-use planning designed to protect farm and forest land. Governor Straub, succeeding McCall, had the thankless and very complex task of implementing this groundbreaking legislation. Bob Straub weathered the backlash of developers and other aggrieved landowners. He and his administration firmly established many of the environmental gains made during the McCall years, while preparing the state for its transformation from a timber- to a high-tech-based economy. One thing we know for certain is that the Straub-McCall rivalry, and bipartisan agreement on environmental values and wise economic growth, helped make these achievements possible. And this leads to the final element of Straub’s legacy. Bob Straub always kept the goal of a better state first and foremost in his mind. He was an intensely competitive man and not above petty thoughts, but...