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Editorials from around Oregon

September 4, 2019

Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:

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The Albany Democrat-Herald, Sept. 4, on natural disaster preparedness:

September is National Preparedness Month, and it’s not as if you need to look too far to find a poster child for the occasion. This week, look no further than the Bahamas, devastated by the slow-moving Hurricane Dorian. As we write these words, the hurricane may yet cause additional misery along the east coast of the United States.

But if it hadn’t been the hurricane, you could have looked closer to home to find other reminders that it’s never a bad time to get ready for a natural disaster: Consider last week’s earthquake off the Oregon coast, a reminder (again) that the Cascadia subduction zone lurks just offshore, a fault zone that scientists believe is overdue to unleash a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

And we still have another six weeks or perhaps longer before we can breathe easier that we’re out of the heart of wildfire season. (But it’s worth remembering that the most devastating recent wildfires, such as last year’s Camp Fire in California, occurred in November.)

The point is, we never can exactly predict what the disaster might be. It could be something out of the blue, such as the Columbus Day windstorm of 1962 or the snowstorm of a few years back that essentially paralyzed the mid-valley.

Although the disasters may differ, the basic ideas behind preparedness are essentially the same: You want to be ready to fend for yourself for two weeks — the amount of time that might be required in some cases for help to arrive at your residence. (If you live in an area that might be impacted by wildfire or flooding, you want to be ready to be able to leave your home as quickly as possible, so you want a plan about what you’d take with you in such an event — and how you can round up those items in a hurry. The time to start planning is not when you get the evacuation order.)

We know people who have despaired at the sheer enormity of crafting (and updating) workable preparedness plans. But the point of events such as National Preparedness Month isn’t to make you feel inadequate. Rather, it’s to encourage you to keep plugging away on the plan that you probably already have in progress.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and frightened by the scope of some of the disasters that frequently make the news.

But chances are pretty good that a disaster won’t strike your home this week or this month or even this year. That means you don’t have to complete your disaster planning today or tomorrow.

It does mean that there might be one or two things on your planning list that you can check off this week. Next week, tackle one or two more. If you need a little inspiration, consider checking out useful online sites on this topic operated by the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, the federal government (ready.gov) and the American Red Cross. The online version of this editorial includes links to those sites.

Even Kathryn Schulz, the writer whose New Yorker piece on the Cascadia subduction zone scared the daylights out of most of us (and won a Pulitzer Prize) understood how difficult it can be sometimes to take even simple steps in the face of fear or a misplaced sense of fatalism.

Schulz spends her summers in Oregon. After the initial article appeared, people kept asking her why she still came back to the West Coast, even though she knew so much about the fault. Her answer, as she outlined in a follow-up article, was that she had taken the relatively simple steps required to mitigate the risk. (We quoted her last year, and her words still strike as wise.)

“I’m still scared for the region, but I am not scared in it,” she wrote. “Take some basic steps to protect yourself, work to draw attention to those issues that demand collective action — do that, and you need not be overly scared either.”

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The Medford Mail Tribune, Sept. 4, on recall petitions against Democratic Gov. Kate Brown:

When reporters from the Oregon Capital Bureau interviewed about 30 voters signing recall petitions against Democratic Gov. Kate Brown at the Oregon State Fair last week, the majority of them had trouble saying exactly why they wanted to recall the governor. That’s the first clue that this recall is going nowhere.

The Oregon Constitution doesn’t specify reasons for recalling elected officials either; it merely lays out the required number of signatures to put a recall on the ballot — 15% of the number of votes cast for governor in the most recent election — and specifies what happens after enough signatures are turned in. In Brown’s case, that means recall supporters need 280,000 valid signatures by Oct. 14.

The official being targeted has the option of resigning. If the official does not resign within five days of the petition being filed, a recall election must be held within 35 days.

Recall has generally been, and ought to be, reserved for corruption or malfeasance, not for policy differences. But even those fair-goers interviewed last week who could clearly state their reasons for signing the petition mentioned legislation, such as a cap-and-trade bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that failed to pass, not any perceived wrongdoing. Others mentioned business taxes, environmental policies and legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses.

In general, signers said Brown was responsible for turning Oregon into a pro-tax, anti-gun and anti-business state, in contrast to what they said was the will of the voters. Beyond that, they just don’t like her.

Love her or hate her, Brown has won two elections since taking office upon the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber, who left under the cloud of an ethics investigation. She won the first contest by nearly 140,000 votes, and the second, for a full term, by almost 120,000 votes in 2018. She cannot run for reelection in 2022 under the state’s term-limits law.

Complicating the recall proponents’ case is the fact that there are two separate petitions, one sponsored by Michael Cross, a Marion County man with a record of criminal convictions and civil lawsuits against him and his former businesses, and the other by the state Republican Party. The two campaigns are not cooperating, and in fact are sniping at each other. Both appear to be operating in the red, and Cross is accused by former supporters of mismanaging money.

Even if one of the campaigns manages to collect enough signatures to force a recall election, winning it would be an even longer shot. Proponents would be better off concentrating on finding and supporting a strong candidate to run in 2022 for what will be an open seat.

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The Eugene Register-Guard, Sept. 2, on free environmentally friendly alternative to driving:

Getting around downtown Eugene is now easier — and better for the environment.

Five-passenger electric vehicles are zipping shoppers and commuters through traffic for free. Yes, free.

RideZero operates the new EmGo service, which is a yearlong pilot project of Lane Transit District, Lane Council of Governments, Lane County and the city of Eugene.

“Pilot” is the key word. People must use the service — and retailers, restaurateurs and other businesses must promote it — if it is to succeed, grow and evolve. LTD and its partners are living up to the transit agency’s commitment to greener forms of transportation, but consumer use will determine the outcomes.

Oregonians love their cars. That means environmentally friendlier alternatives must be perceived as preferable because they cost less, save time or reduce stress. EmGo fills all those niches.

The on-demand service operates during the main workday hours — 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, connecting with the more than 70 EmGo stops in and near downtown. People can reserve a ride through the smartphone app, selecting both their pickup point and their destination. They also may hail an EmGo vehicle like a taxi.

With three doors on each side, the small-wheeled vehicles are distinctive, resembling elongated golf carts or tiny buses but with seatbelts and decent headroom. (Register-Guard reporters shot a nifty video on how the system works.)

The vehicles do not have air conditioning, which would draw too much power. They do have large windows that open, and heating for cold days, not to mention being a more pleasant way to traverse downtown than tilting umbrellas against winter rains. And with parking and traffic congestion often being a pain, they certainly provide a more pleasant alternative.

Americans seem unlikely to give up cars, but they are changing how they use cars. There has been a transition toward ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, traditional taxis or car share programs such as Zipcar.

The benefits include convenience, affordability and accessibility, making timely transportation by car available to people who cannot afford a vehicle, choose not to own one or do not drive. The Columbia Gorge tourist town of Hood River is working toward a car share program with plug-in electric vehicles, a project that targets visitors and low-income residents.

In Eugene, LTD is not giving up its traditional transit service but rather is broadening its offerings in response to customer and community needs.

Like the Hood River project, EmGo may introduce riders to the practicality of electric vehicles. As we noted in an editorial on Friday, Oregon lags woefully in reaching the statewide goal of having 50,000 EVs on the road by 2020. Oregon also trails California and Washington in the percentage of new cars sold that are EVs, with Washington and several other states making tremendous leaps over the past year.

We can be proud that LTD and its EmGo partners are showing statewide and national leadership. But what matters most is that downtown workers and shoppers can enjoy EmGo on a daily basis, benefiting the environment and the economy. So leave your car at home or at a parking garage and ride EmGo.

Yes, it’s free.

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