- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:

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Albany Democrat-Herald, Aug. 16, on next week’s solar eclipse

Wednesday could be the last chance we get to talk before the deluge: thousands upon thousands of solar tourists, people who are traveling to the mid-valley to witness next Monday’s eclipse.

How many people will be coming to the mid-valley? No one knows for sure, but chances are pretty good you’ll notice at least a little extra traffic on area roads through the middle of next week.

Will the gridlock be as bad as predicted, holding mid-valley residents hostage for days on end? It’s possible, and so you should consider doing at least a little bit of preparation now to make sure that at least you have enough cat food on hand to keep the felines happy. Nobody likes it when the cats get hungry. And to think they used to be hunters.

If you wanted to treat the eclipse event as a rehearsal of sorts for a natural disaster, that’s up to you. But our friends at the American Red Cross are correct when they note that doing some preparation for the eclipse would be a good rehearsal for an actual disaster.

Certainly, public officials are preparing for the worst-case eclipse scenarios on a variety of fronts, and let’s be honest: That’s what we want them to do. It’s way better to have detailed plans ready to go for a variety of situations than to be caught unawares by something unexpected. If that means they have to endure some criticism in the days after the eclipse for being too prepared, well, that’s a price they’ll be more than happy to pay.

It does seem as if those public officials might have at least some cause for worry: If the day of the eclipse dawns cloudy on the Oregon coast, or if smoke from wildfires threatens to obscure the celestial view in places like Madras in central Oregon, officials now worry that Highway 20 could see exceptionally heavy traffic from Newport to Bend as eclipse fans race to find a patch of clear sky.

Interstate 5 might not be any better, especially if people in Portland decide on Monday morning that, what the heck, why not drive down into the path of totality to catch the full eclipse experience? Where’d we put those eclipse glasses?

So the rest of us who actually live in the path of totality may find that our style is cramped for the next few days. Here’s the best advice we have to get through this: Just relax. These days will pass. By this time next week, the worst will be over. Take a deep breath. We can get through this. It will take a little bit of patience, a bit of preparation, but we can get through this.

We have a bit of an ulterior motive for this, and it becomes apparent if you spend any time talking to the tourism officials who have been giddy for nearly a year now about the power of the eclipse to draw tourists to Oregon. We all want to show off the mid-valley in the best light, so to speak, for our new thousands upon thousands of friends. We want them to enjoy their time here, so that they might elect to come back another time, although preferably not all at once.

So here’s our chance to be ambassadors for the mid-valley, even if it means being patient with the guy on the road right in front of us who clearly has no idea where he’s going and keeps looking up at the sky instead of the road.

Besides, we get this added bonus: On Monday morning, a rare celestial event will unfold, literally in our backyards. Keep your eclipse glasses handy and enjoy the ride.

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The Daily Astorian, Aug. 15, on no place for Confederate flag at Astoria Regatta

In what has become the highlight event of the region’s oldest festival, this year’s Grand Land Parade in the 123rd Astoria Regatta may be remembered more for what shouldn’t have been in it rather than what was. It’s unfortunate, because the festival otherwise showcased the spirit and volunteerism of the coast at its best and the organizers and volunteers deserve credit for their dedicated efforts.

While the high-profile parade featured its normal dignitaries, bands, clowns and floats, and the accompanying smiles from the vast majority of the attendees, a float built by the Sons of Beaches, an off-road enthusiast group that participates in community charity events and parades, contained upsetting bumper-sticker sized decals with Confederate logos and was followed by a truck with a Confederate flag. It sparked outrage by some who saw it and further disapproval online.

The all-volunteer, nonprofit Astoria Regatta Association issued an apology Monday, saying it was an unfortunate incident and that the association regrets “the impression caused that Regatta in any way supports or condones the display of the Confederate flag. . Please do not let our oversight reflect negatively on Astoria, or the many, many volunteers who give thousands of hours to create a positive community event each year.”

The float’s main visual was a large replica of U.S. Marines heroically hoisting the American flag on Iwo Jima in World War II and the bumper stickers were affixed to the trailer carrying it and were easy to miss.

The Sons of Beaches group’s leader, Jay Pitman, said the float included several other battle flags from throughout U.S. history meant to honor war veterans, and that the trailer with Confederate decals had been used in prior parades. “We don’t fly our flags with disrespect,” he said. “We fly it with respect to all our veterans. We do not allow any personal political issues or personal agendas. We are non-biased, non-racist. We are about Americanism and supporting local law enforcement and first responders.” He said the group is considering removing the flag from future parade events.

It should do just that.

The flag, first flown by the Confederate army during war against the United States, mocks what our country stands for. It is a sad part of our nation’s history, as are Ku Klux Klan hoods, the Dawes Act and signs declaring “Whites Only.” None of which should be celebrated, and a family-friendly festival is certainly not the place for displaying a divisive symbol from the Civil War.

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Grants Pass Daily Courier, Aug. 15, on state must deflect federal incursion on local marijuana

Grants Pass has hung its hat on a variety of crops through the years - Flaming Tokay grapes around 1910, apples and pears during the 1910s and ‘20s, gladiolus in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

Old-timers will remember our town’s Gladiolus Festival and its grand parade of flower-decorated floats. It was around this time cities across the Pacific Northwest were claiming different blooms as their symbols of civic pride - Tacoma chose the daffodil, Spokane the lilac and Portland had its rose.

Now, whether citizens are comfortable with it or not, marijuana farming is becoming our agricultural bread and butter, and it is fueling a local economic resurgence.

Josephine County will soon see its 100th state-licensed recreational grower, while hundreds upon hundreds of residents grow marijuana for medical use. Recreational growers are highly regulated by the state’s Oregon Liquor Control Commission, while medical growers operate under the supervision of the Oregon Health Authority.

Both recreational and medical growers are keeping a long list of local businesses busy - and flush with revenue. Services one might not immediately associate with the marijuana industry are riding the wave of money, too. Do you think those state-mandated security systems at farms growing recreational marijuana just set themselves up on their own?

The recent saber-rattling by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a cause for concern. At present, the state simply is not up to the task of ensuring every grower, especially those on the medical side, is on the up-and-up, and it’s already a well-known fact that the state is producing more marijuana than its residents can use.

That surplus pot is being illegally “diverted” out of state and onto the black market in quantities that are impossible to accurately measure.

Sessions’ July 24 letter to Gov. Kate Brown puts the ball squarely in her court. He notes that any previous stance by the government does not dilute “in any way the (Justice) Department’s authority to enforce federal law, including federal laws relating to marijuana, including state law.”

Sessions asks Brown how Oregon plans “to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws” and how she’ll “combat diversion of marijuana” - in other words, how she’ll keep marijuana from winding up outside state boundaries and sold illegally.

The legal marijuana industry is still in its infancy, but the state’s lack of enforcement capability is already threatening it.

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Corvallis Gazette Times, Aug. 13, on recognizing the opioid emergency

President Donald Trump last week finally got around to declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency, although he did so in typical Trump fashion - seemingly off-the-cuff and reversing a statement that one of his administration officials had made just a couple of days before.

Despite all that, the final declaration (endorsing the top recommendation from a presidential commission) was welcome.

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency,” Trump told reporters. “It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”

Trump declined to offer specifics, and the fact is that the federal declaration is mostly bureaucratic. It will, however, free up disaster funds for communities that have been ravaged by opioids and will allow agencies to waive certain rules so that they can respond in a more timely manner.

That could be valuable. But the biggest value from the presidential declaration comes in the heightened profile it gives the opioid issue, and that’s part of the reason why the presidential commission (headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie) put that at the top of its list of recommendations.

“Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the executive branch even further to deal with this loss of life,” the commission said in its report. “It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: If this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will.”

That’s well-put. Experts say the opioid crisis now kills more than 100 Americans every day. Oregon and the mid-valley have not been spared.

Last week’s events prompt some additional thoughts:

. One of the administration’s announced strategies to deal with the opioid crisis is a tougher law-and-order approach. In May, for example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed an Obama administration sentencing memo and urged federal prosecutors to seek the maximum possible sentences in drug-related crimes. The problem is, while the appeal to law and order looks good on paper, it hasn’t worked all that well in practice in our war against drugs. And it doesn’t do one thing to increase the treatment options available for addicts who desperately need the help.

. On a related point, it’s worth noting that the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act likely would have hindered the fight against opioids. Some of the states hardest-hit by the crisis have been able to broaden the coverage offered in substance-abuse programs, thanks to the Medicaid expansion that went hand-in-hand with the Affordable Care Act. Both the Senate and House health care bills would have cut Medicaid.

. The confusion last week as to whether Trump would declare a national emergency was understandable, considering that on Tuesday, the president called the opioid crisis a “tremendous problem,” but declined to label it an emergency.

In fact, Tom Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday that public-health emergencies tended to focus on a “specific area, a time-limited problem,” and cited the examples of the Zika outbreak and Hurricane Sandy. Price went on to say that administration officials believe that “the resources that we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis, at this point, can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency.”

Two days later, presumably at another point, Trump declared the emergency.

But Price had left himself an out. On Tuesday, he had ended his remarks with this verbal asterisk: “Although all things are on the table for the president.”

If you’re working for this president, those are words that you’ll want to keep handy.

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