Editorials from around Oregon
Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:
The Eugene Register-Guard, June 12, on Oregon secretary of state defending ‘inactive’ voters’ rights:
The United States has two kinds of elections officials. One kind worries that the wrong people might vote. The other kind believes it’s their responsibility to ensure that every qualified voter can exercise the franchise. Oregon, thankfully, has a chief elections officer of the second type.
The distinction was made clear Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a voting-rights case from Ohio. That state’s rules require that if a voter hasn’t cast a ballot for two years, a postage-paid card is sent to the voter’s address. If the card is not returned, the voter’s name is purged from the rolls after four more years without “voter activity.” Ohio’s rule was challenged as being in conflict with federal law, and on grounds that it disproportionately affected low-income and minority voters. The court ruled 5-4 in Ohio’s favor.
Oregon has a law allowing a similar purging mechanism. Voters may become “inactive” and be removed from the rolls if they do not return a ballot or update their registration after “a period of not less than five years.” The law had long been read to mean that inactive voters should be purged after five years. Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, however, last year extended the period to 10 years, and will ask the 2019 Legislature to end the practice of purging inactive voters altogether.
People don’t vote for a variety of reasons, Richardson notes — they join the military, go to college or are uninspired by the choices on the ballot. But when people who are properly registered decide they want to vote, nothing should stand in their way. In this and other matters relating to voter rights, Oregon is moving in the right direction.
Salem Statesman Journal, June 12, on restoring commercial air travel out of Salem not being a priority:
That’s what an aviation consultant calls the $1.7 million to $2 million the Salem community is expected to bank in advance if it wants commercial aviation service returned to McNary Field.
The community ought to call it “outrageous” since it’s about 3.5 times more than what Salem-area businesses spent to bring Delta Air Lines to Salem’s municipal airport in 2007.
And that travel bank, which yielded $556,000, lasted just 15 months.
Shortly after the one-year anniversary of Delta bringing twice-daily commercial air travel to and from Salem and Salt Lake City, the airline ran through the travel bank along with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to offset Delta’s losses. An additional $100,000 in marketing funds contributed by local businesses and the state also was exhausted.
Within weeks of the money being spent, Delta had its wheels up and was out of Salem. Its jets averaged about 70 percent full, which should be troublesome since then, as now, airlines need planes about 85 percent full to be considered viable.
SeaPort Airlines also tried to get service to take off from McNary Field in 2011 and grounded its fleet in less than four months.
The 2008 experiment cost the Salem community more than $1.1 million, and residents and city leaders need to acknowledge there was no return on the investment (ROI).
The ROI is a question that needs to be asked of any new venture, and it’s worth noting this latest proposal fails this most basic of tests.
Back-of-the-envelope math is always easy to spin. Travelers can save money on parking and fuel compared to a trek to PDX. Then there are the stress savings. Who wouldn’t want to spend less time stuck in traffic?
Having daily air service in and out of the capital city would spur economic growth.
But residents and civic leaders need to ask themselves if they prepared for the realities.
Businesspeople who are reimbursed and some leisure travelers would undoubtedly support the convenience of having limited service to Seattle-Tacoma, Denver and San Francisco international airports, but the reality is tickets departing from Salem cost more.
Often, quite a bit more than could be saved by not driving and parking at PDX.
And then there is the quality-of-life impact to the community. Increased service means more local traffic around 25th and Mission streets NE - an area ill-equipped to handle additional congestion.
It also means more takeoff and landing noise and more air pollution from aviation fuel used in jet aircraft.
The business community in Salem is betting the third time’s the charm.
Monday, Jack Penning, managing partner at Volaire Aviation Consulting, told an interested audience that the last effort to restore commercial air travel out of Salem was thwarted by the country’s recession.
He told the more than 250 people gathered at the Salem Convention Center that Salem’s economy is now the “best it’s done in a decade,” and that support from the community would be an indicator air service would do well here.
Some commenters on a Statesman Journal post on Facebook beg to differ.
They told stories about fare differences of more than $300 and shared reminders about the city’s discussion about eliminating free parking and traffic tie-ups in front of the terminal.
As Salem grapples with drinking-water issues and finding a solution to low-income housing, expanded airport service should not be a priority.
If commercial air were economically viable in Salem, it should be able to stand on its own and not need another infusion of cash from the community.
Corvallis Gazette-Times, June 11, on Trump signaling a change in his position on marijuana:
It’s almost enough to make you start to feel sorry for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Late last week, reporters asked President Donald Trump about a new bill regarding marijuana. The bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, would leave the decisions about whether to legalize marijuana up to individual states.
Seeing how Sessions, presumably under the direction of Trump, has been working to tighten the federal stance against marijuana, the attorney general might have been surprised by the president’s answer:
“We’re looking at it,” Trump said as he prepared to depart Washington for a pair of foreign summits. “But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”
Now, granted, this is Trump, so it’s not at all out of the question that he’s already changed his mind. And seeing how the president also has, from time to time, shown a predilection for giving heed to the person who most recently has caught his ear, it’s also possible that his position on this issue is, shall we say, malleable.
However, his remarks last week are similar to the position that he seemed to be staking out during the campaign, when he said legalization of pot was a state issue. But then he appointed Sessions, a longtime foe of legalization, and it appeared that Trump had changed his mind. His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said that the president’s top priority would be “enforcing federal law.” She added: “That would be his top priority, and that is regardless of what the topic is.”
Of course, federal law still bans marijuana, despite the 30 states that have legalized medical or recreational use of pot. (Federal law continues to list marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, the designation given to the drugs that have the highest potential for abuse and no proven medical benefit.) So that sets up a conflict between federal law and the states such as Oregon that have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use.
With Trump appearing to cede the stage on marijuana to Sessions, the attorney general got to work, rolling back the guidance from the Obama administration’s Justice Department to federal prosecutors in pot-friendly states and reversing the previous president’s work to ease punishment in nonviolent drug cases.
But now comes the new twist from Trump regarding the Gardner-Warren bill.
Sen. Gardner emphasized last week that his proposal does not call for legalizing marijuana throughout the country. Instead, he said on Twitter, his proposal “allows the principle of federalism to prevail as the founding fathers intended and leaves the marijuana question up to the states” — which seems close to the position that Trump was staking out during the campaign.
Sen. Warren, in an interview on Fox News, said the idea behind the legislation is to ease the conflicts between federal law on pot and the laws in those states that have legalized the drug. (Massachusetts, by the way, is scheduled to begin marijuana sales later this year.)
It’s been a mixed bag for the states that have legalized marijuana: In Oregon, for example, legalization has opened the door to a wave of pot entrepreneurs and has enriched the state’s tax coffers by millions of dollars. On the other hand, the state also is dealing with a huge oversupply of pot, which is flooding into other states where the substance still is illegal. And law enforcement agencies still are working through the ramifications of legalization.
But Trump’s original campaign position, that legalization should be left to the states, is proper. As the tide nationally turns in favor of legalization, other states can benefit from the lessons learned in states like Oregon and Colorado.
As for Sessions, he knew when he signed onto the administration that it would be a crazy ride. On that level, Trump hasn’t disappointed.
Albany Democrat-Herald, June 11, on park adoption program:
Parks are such an essential part of communities that it sometimes can be easy to take them for granted — especially in terms of upkeep and basic maintenance.
And maybe nothing is as dispiriting as a park that’s seen better days or is consistently overrun with garbage. What’s the point of a park that nobody wants to go to because it’s in shoddy shape? A rundown and deserted park also can serve as a magnet for certain unsavory types.
The city of Albany has 36 parks that include 9 miles of trails and almost 700 acres of land. But it only has nine full-time maintenance staff workers to cover them all. It’s simply too much ground for that staff to cover. And it’s not as if city parks officials have a blank check to go out and hire as many souls as they need to keep all the city’s parks in tip-top shape.
So we were delighted to read about a fledgling volunteer program that works with the Albany Parks & Recreation Department to help take care of the city’s recreational areas. And it was particularly gratifying to learn that the inspiration for the program came from a member of the Albany Parks & Recreation Commission, Jill Van Buren.
It would have been easy for Van Buren and other commissioners to shake their heads in dismay when hearing about unmet maintenance needs in parks and then decide there was nothing they could do about it. Van Buren took matters literally into her own hands: Distressed by the appearance of her beloved Periwinkle Park, she came out with a shovel one day last summer and started attacking the overgrown areas the city hadn’t been able to reach.
Then, as Democrat-Herald reporter Jennifer Moody explained in a story last week, Van Buren started to wonder if she had the right to do that maintenance work in the park in the first place.
So she went to Ed Hodney, the head of the Parks & Recreation Department, to pitch an effort in which volunteers could sign up to adopt specific parks.
Hodney didn’t take much convincing. And he told Van Buren he had been looking for someone to volunteer to tackle the coordination of volunteers and serve as a liaison with the parks maintenance division.
At that point, Van Buren could have said something like, “Let’s get the Parks & Recreation Commission working on finding that volunteer coordinator.” It would have been the easy (and maybe the most prudent) thing to do.
Instead, she raised her hand to take on that duty herself. When she left Hodney’s office, she said, “I was a brand-new coordinator, and we had a brand-new plan.”
That plan involves having individual neighborhoods take care of their neighborhood parks, because they’re closest and quickest to see the needs in each park and because each park may require something different. Already, adoptive groups have been established for Periwinkle, Sunrise, Swanson, Grand Prairie and Wren (part of Bowman) parks. A kickoff event was held Saturday at Periwinkle Park, where volunteers worked to paint over graffiti. It’s an excellent start, but, still, about 30 parks are looking to be adopted.
Van Buren is extending an invitation for anyone to join the adopt-a-park effort: Businesses and service organizations can join. You don’t even need to live near a park to be able to participate in the effort — but with 36 parks in the city, chances are good that you live near a park. You might be able to provide just a touch of the tender loving care that will let that park reach its full potential. And the simple action of neighborhoods uniting to spruce up their parks almost certainly will lead to stronger neighborhoods, which helps make for a stronger city.
To learn more about the effort, call Van Buren at 541-981-9973 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Baker City Herald, June 10, on Trump needing to pardon Hammonds:
Perhaps the most galling legacy of the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns is that several of the people who instigated the ill-conceived and illegal takeover were acquitted of federal charges while the Harney County ranchers whose plight ostensibly inspired the action remain in federal prison, on an unrelated federal conviction, more than two years later.
President Donald Trump is considering pardoning the ranchers — Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven.
We hope the president does so.
We advocated in this space in January 2017, in the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency, for him to grant clemency to the Hammonds. Oregon’s U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, also endorsed clemency for the Hammonds. But it didn’t happen.
The Hammonds should not have been charged under a federal law designed to punish terrorists. The pair ignited a fire on their ranch in 2006 that also burned 139 acres of public land. That’s not terrorism, and it doesn’t warrant a five-year prison sentence, the mandatory minimum under the federal statute.
The Hammonds didn’t participate in, or condone, the occupation of the Refuge during January and February 2016.
Unfortunately, the worldwide publicity around the takeover — which included the fatal shooting by police of occupier Robert “LaVoy” Finicum on Highway 395 north of Burns — overshadowed the Hammonds’ situation.
Even though 11 occupiers pleaded guilty to conspiring to impede federal employees, several leaders, including brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, were acquitted by a federal jury in October 2016.
Mr. Trump can’t do anything about that.
But he can, and should, send the Hammonds home to Harney County.