McKenna on KIRO: Oregon engineer fined for saying he’s an engineer

KIRO 97.3 host Dave Ross asked Rob about the case of Mats Järlström of Beaverton, Oregon, who appealed a red light camera ticket, noting problems with the yellow light timing. He brought the issue to the attention of the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying.

The board was not only uninterested, they told him that, as an unlicensed engineer in Oregon, even just referring to himself as an engineer is illegal. The board fined him $500 for the offense, even though Järlström earned a degree in electrical engineering in Sweden and wasn’t attempting to work commercially as an engineer.

Dave Ross: “And so now he’s decided to go to court and sue them on the basis of the 1st Amendment, saying that his free speech rights include the right to be able to do a math calculation and present that to the government.”

Rob McKenna: “Yeah, the 1st Amendment protects your right to do math and talk about it, I think is his basic point. And I think his case is bolstered by the fact that the same engineering licensing board in Oregon has gone after other individuals who have cited engineering training in non-commercial settings…

“So this is an example of kind of a runaway licensing system, where everything you want to do these days needs to be licensed. I mean, hair braiders have to have licenses in a lot of places. And it really cuts against the ability of people to make a living.

“But here, we’re talking about individuals who weren’t even trying to make a living, they were just trying to exercise their rights as citizens.”

Listen here

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  • Jaymes Brandon

    So if I’m reading and hearing this correctly, Mr. Jarstrom was obviously becoming an embarrassment to the OSBOE/ELS lobby, and instead of investigating his claim, blindsided him with a punitive fine, for his ability to actually THINK independently of the ‘business as usual’ attitudes of OSBOE/ELS? Hmmmm….talk about ‘thought’ policing. My 5GGrandfather and his sons fought a Revolutionary War over similar types of imposed tyranny. This will be an interesting case to follow. Thank you for bringing out the attention it deserves.

  • Allen Rogers

    We have given up our rights to un-elected bureaucrats, and year by year give them more power. Over 35 years ago, when I left the US Military after 10 years in electronics maintenance, and had just graduated with a B.S. degree, I was hired by Reynolds Metals in Longview as their Plant Electrical Engineer. They called me that, I didn’t. I did not have a Professional Engineering degree. They didn’t care, because they needed the skills and experience I had.

    I did design work for them, had a patent applied for, saved them hundreds
    of thousands of dollars, modified and improved various production lines
    (we made electrical wire and cable), and did a lot of work my boss had
    no clue of how to do properly. He DID have a P.E. license, but couldn’t
    design his was out of a wet paper bag.

    I eventually started calling myself an engineer too. In the view of ‘big government’ and ‘bigger bureaucrats”, I guess Reynolds and I should have been fined for doing the work assigned to me. After Reynolds management went brain dead and lost the entire company, I ended up working as a Plant
    Electrical Engineer for one of the largest companies in Portland.

    Again, they knew my background details, and even though I still didn’t
    have a P.E. License, they called me their Plant Electrical Engineer. I
    designed everything from mega watt power systems to micro-watt
    electronic control circuits. In the 20 years I worked for them, I ended
    up increasing the production throughput and or downtime for the
    manufacturing lines to the tune of over $800,000 per YEAR on a
    continuing basis.

    Not long after I started working there, a City of Portland “Electrical Inspector” visited our plant. Up to that time, the City did not do electrical inspections of
    manufacturing facilities, only homes, offices, etc. When the plant
    electrical maintenance supervisor introduced me, the inspector, Max
    walked up to me and demanded to know if I had a PE License or an Oregon
    Electrical License. When I said, “No.”, he replied, “You can’t do squat
    here then.” He then said that the new motor control panel we had just
    installed did not meet the National Electrical Code, because there were
    480 VAC power wires and 10 VDC control wires from the speed pot and
    demanded it be fixed.

    His ignorance and arrogance were both front and center. The NEC did allow for it and the motor speed could NOT be controlled without both wiring types in the
    same drive cabinet. I had to argue and fight with this ignorance and
    attitude for many years there.

    I’m sure glad I’m now retired and don’t have to put up with that nonsense any more. However, the rest of the country is drowning in the swamp of nonsense
    and bureaucratic pettiness. It hurts our economy, our job market, our
    competitiveness in the world, but especially our society as this mentality becomes the new ‘normal’.