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Editorials from around Oregon

April 10, 2019

Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:

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Corvallis Gazette-Times, April 10, on Oregon Senate saying it’s time for a change:

The Oregon Senate last week took a step toward ending our generally pointless (and potentially harmful) twice-annual ritual of changing our clocks, joining a resistance that seems to be gaining momentum across the nation.

By a 23-4 margin, senators approved Senate Bill 320, which would move Oregon to year-round daylight saving time. The bill isn’t perfect (we have some quibbles with it), but it still is worth noting as an important first step forward.

Evidence continues to mount that these time switches (spring ahead an hour every spring; fall back an hour every fall) come with risks to our health and wreak havoc with sleep-deprived Americans (which include quite a large number of us).

And the reasons we’ve been given to justify the time switches simply don’t pan out. For starters, daylight saving time never was intended as a boon to farmers: In the words of a memorable report on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:” ″Cows don’t care what time it is.” And crops get exactly the same amount of light every day, regardless of whether it’s daylight saving or standard time.

Daylight saving time wasn’t implemented on a large scale until 1916, when Germany and its World War I ally Austria-Hungary set clocks ahead an hour to save on energy costs. Other nations, including the United States, followed suit. After World War I, other nations abandoned the idea, but not the United States. The idea of daylight saving time really picked up steam during the energy crisis of the 1970s.

But here’s the deal: Evidence suggests that daylight saving time hasn’t saved on energy costs. It may reduce lighting use, but that’s offset by increased costs for air conditioning and heating, and increased consumption of gasoline.

So the time was right, so to speak, for Senate Bill 320, which now moves to the House. If the bill becomes law, all but one of Oregon’s 36 counties would move to year-round daylight saving time — in other words, we’d spring forward and never fall back. (Malheur County is the exception; that county actually is on Mountain time so that it syncs with nearby Boise, Idaho. That county would continue to switch between daylight time and standard time, to stay in sync with Idaho.)

The bill that passed the Senate isn’t exactly a stirring denunciation of the changing of the clocks: It would only become effective if Congress approves the time change and if Washington and California also adopt daylight time on a permanent basis (the good news there is that proposals to do exactly that are making progress in both those states).

And a provision originally in the bill, calling for a public vote on the issue, was eliminated. While we appreciate the Senate’s willingness to take this matter into its own hands, we have to admit that we thought a vote on this would have been fun.

In such a vote, we could have gauged popular sentiment on the main dispute that faced senators in last week’s deliberations: whether the state should shift permanently to daylight or standard time.

While most senators favored daylight time (which is our preference as well), the arguments raised by others supporting standard time (including the mid-valley’s Sara Gelser) have some merit. For one thing, staying on daylight time year-round could have an effect on some religious observances. In Judaism, for example, the daily morning prayer is held shortly after sunrise. In January, the sun wouldn’t rise until nearly 9 a.m. in western Oregon, making it difficult for some worshipers to make it to work on time.

But, really, on some level, the question of daylight vs. standard time doesn’t matter that much: The point here is to do away with the time switch. Senate Bill 320 helps loosen the bonds of this time tyranny.

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The Bend Bulletin, April 9, on not allowing a rolling stop for bicyclists:

Stop signs mean stop. Yet a bill to make stopping optional for bicyclists moved ahead in the Oregon Legislature on Tuesday. It’s a bad idea.

Oregon should be doing things to make roads safer for cyclists, not to create more unpredictability for everyone on the road.

Senate Bill 998 was originally a placeholder bill directing the state court administrator to study safety. The bill was gutted and stuffed with an amendment to allow bicyclists at a stop sign or a flashing red signal to “slow to a safe speed” and proceed on through. It makes a stop sign work like a yield sign for bicyclists.

Of course, that’s what many bicyclists already do. Even members of the Senate Judiciary Committee admitted that’s what they do. But is that any reason to legalize it? No.

There were many other reasons suggested in committee. It might encourage people to ride bikes and get out of their cars. It’s easier to get a bike going again if the rider doesn’t have to stop. Both those things are true, but it really doesn’t overcome the reason that a stop sign means stop — safety.

This change in the law is sometimes called an “Idaho” stop because it has been permitted in Idaho since 1982. It should be noted than in Idaho bicyclists can also treat a red light at signal as a stop sign. Have these changes made Idaho safer or less safe? We were not able to find any impressive evidence. Idaho bicycle groups like it. Idaho also has a good general bicycle safety record. Is that the stop sign law? Is it something else? It’s not clear.

Sensible rules that make biking safer are a good thing. Rule changes that create unpredictability and erode safety should be avoided.

Kill SB 998.

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The Oregonian/OregonLive, April 7, on breaking the silence on suicide:

That 825 Oregonians died in a single year by suicide is a sobering assessment of our collective ability to help those who feel trapped in their own despair.

That it’s such a hidden statistic, however, is an embarrassing reflection of our collective ignorance. Hundreds more people died by suicide in Oregon in 2017 than by traffic crashes, firearms or drug overdose. The suicide rate in Oregon is well above the national average, as it has been for the past three decades. Yet this undeniable public health issue has lacked the public attention and sustained outcry that it desperately needs.

Some of that stems from the stigma that persists around mental illness and suicide, shutting off conversation or even acknowledgment that a suicide has occurred. Some may stem from the fear of encouraging “copycat” behavior. Regardless of the motivation, however, our families, schools, communities and media organizations have too often chosen the easy way out by simply keeping silent. Meanwhile, the suicide rate in Oregon and the United States has continued to climb.

Clearly, silence hasn’t worked. This week, news organizations around the state are collaborating to bring attention to the problem of suicide, report on populations at highest risk and share resources on how to prevent it. While the “Breaking the Silence” project won’t necessarily provide answers, it aims to start a statewide effort to confront it. Using responsible reporting practices that examine, not sensationalize, suicide, these stories can provide the common understanding, motivation, tools and questions that can help the community mobilize against this public health threat.

The data show just how widespread a problem this is. Oregon’s suicide rate is 14th highest in the country and suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10 to 34, according to the Oregon Health Authority. One fifth of those who kill themselves are veterans. More than half the deaths are caused by firearms.

While those statistics may seem daunting, they can also provide possible avenues where leaders can make a difference. Such data, in the aggregate, can help build support for increased funding for veterans’ health services or provide tangible prevention options, such as the 2017 law that allows family members and police officers to petition a court to take away firearms from someone at risk for suicide or causing harm to others.

We also need to recognize that Oregon’s youth are struggling. Nearly 9 percent of eighth-graders self-reported having tried to kill themselves one or more times in the previous year and nearly double that percentage considered it, according to Oregon Health Authority data. That children just entering their teen years would even think of suicide as an option should be its own open-and-shut case for more counseling, support and training in schools. And health officials can lead by providing guidance for families, schools, health departments, physicians and nonprofits on how to talk about suicide both as a general public health issue and on an individual basis.

This is not an insurmountable problem. Resources already exist and show that crisis counseling lines and other outreach efforts make a difference. Even friends and family members can take steps to help a loved one who is struggling by asking a series of questions about whether they have wished they were dead, thought about killing themselves or made any plans toward killing themselves. But it requires the willingness to have those uncomfortable conversations in the first place.

The effects of suicide reach far beyond the individual. The injury is borne by families, friends, communities and the public at large. It’s long past time to start treating it that way.