- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:


The Eugene Register-Guard, Oct. 18, on Lane Community College, University of Oregon being natural partners

Margaret Hamilton, who arrived in July as Lane Community College’s seventh president, shows every sign of being happy she made the move from New Jersey, where she was a vice president at Camden County College. It’s a big change, but Hamilton says there’s much that is familiar: Two-year colleges everywhere deal with the same issues of fluctuating enrollments, affordability and student readiness. Hamilton says her background has prepared her to lead LCC, and one direction she mentioned in a meeting with The Register-Guard editorial board seems potentially fruitful: a closer partnership with the University of Oregon.

The UO is seeing a decline in resident undergraduate enrollment. UO President Michael Schill, in a column published on the opposite page today, describes the university’s efforts to reverse that trend. One source of qualified resident undergraduates is a few miles away at LCC.

Part of LCC’s mission is to serve students who plan to transfer to a four-year college. (The other parts of its mission are to provide two-year degrees and credentials, and to meet local demand for lifelong learning opportunities.) But Hamilton says that some transfer students face barriers when they attempt to make the transition - in particular, they find that a university won’t accept some of their community college credits as meeting graduation requirements.

Some students attend community colleges for financial reasons - they can save thousands of dollars by entering a university as juniors. This strategy is defeated if too many of their community college credits don’t count after they transfer. Other students enroll in community colleges because they’re not ready for university-level studies. But those who finish a two-year program with good grades have often closed that academic gap.

Hamilton says that at Camden County College she reached an agreement with Rutgers University that permitted smooth transfers - and transfer students did as well or better than students who started Rutgers as freshmen. Hamilton says she was contacted by Oregon State University shortly after she arrived at LCC to talk about improved coordination. But so far, she says she has had no similar discussions with the UO.

A university has both the need and the right to set standards for transfer students. It can and should protect the value of its own credits and degrees by ensuring that community college coursework adequately prepares students for upper-division university study. But a university should also recognize that students who succeed at a community college have proved their capacity to study and learn. Such students can also bring valuable assets to a university campus - often including life stories that are more difficult and complicated than the backgrounds of freshmen who enroll straight out of high school.

The UO probably believes it’s doing what needs to be done for transfer students. The fresh eyes of LCC’s new president see the potential to do more. A portion of the resident undergraduate population the UO hopes to attract may be close at hand.


The Roseburg News-Review, Oct. 17, on Department of Transportation needing to better include public on speed limit decision

The Oregon Department of Transportation has approved a plan to lower the speed limit on Interstate 5 between Roseburg mileposts 123 to 127. The agency offered valid reasons for the change, including recent data from the state’s Speed Zone Review Panel that found an unusually high serious and fatal crash rate in the area. The available data supports ODOT’s plan to lower the speed limit, and we agree that it is the right move to decrease the crash rate and increase the safety of area residents.

However, we are bothered by ODOT’s lack of initiative in including area residents in the decision making process. While ODOT did offer an email address for comments regarding the speed limit changes and a link to live stream the Speed Zone Review Panel’s meetings, these methods offer no real chance for open dialogue between decision makers and affected citizens.

As the authority on the subject of transportation, we believe it is ODOT’s responsibility to ensure every effort is made to inform and include affected residents about upcoming changes. While ODOT engineers and policy makers are no doubt well-informed on the subject of highway safety, their failure to at least schedule a local public meeting to listen to the concerns and ideas of residents points to a closed-mindedness that is unwelcome in a regulatory agency.

ODOT may have all the data and experts it needs to make a proper decision regarding speed limits and highway safety, but it is the height of arrogance if they think there is no possibility of useful ideas or relevant concerns coming to light in a public discussion, even if none of the attendees are transportation experts. It is all too easy for scientists and engineers to reduce people to numbers instead of seeing the commuters, parents shuttling kids to and from schools, delivery drivers and other real people who will be affected by their recommendations.

Opening a dialogue with all the stakeholders involved in a decision would offer ODOT the opportunity to explain to concerned residents, in plain language, the data and decision making processes that are used to determine the speed limits in our area. It also gives residents the opportunity to voice their concerns and know that the people behind the decisions are listening. Who knows; the experts might just learn something useful about drivers that they can’t get from a radar gun.

We agree with ODOT’s decision to lower speed limits in the Roseburg area, but an informal survey by The News-Review showed that a large majority of readers do not. Perhaps if ODOT took the time to schedule a local public meeting before a decision is made, they would find it worthwhile in getting everyone (or at least a majority) on the same page as far as traffic safety.


East Oregonian, Oct. 17, on closing the book on open secrets

It’s hard to think of a more embarrassing oxymoron than the “open secrets” being exposed with seemingly increased regularity in our country, from Hollywood to the Fox News studios to Silicon Valley to Washington, D.C.

It’s shameful that it often takes victims, by definition in a powerless position, to step forward and say what many of these powerful men’s associates and colleagues already know. It’s also shameful how quickly and easily some dismiss the claims of sexual harassment and abuse, especially when credible witnesses know for certain what has happened and continues to happen.

Sexual harassment is a relatively new concept for us - the term wasn’t coined until 1975 and protections for its victims have faced an uphill climb ever since. But that gives no excuse for us to remain unaware of its pervasiveness, or look the other way as it goes on.

In the wake of the most recent complaints against film producer Harvey Weinstein, celebrity women began sharing their stories. The movement took off, and this week women of all backgrounds joined in, sharing “Me too” on social media to shine a light on the breadth of the problem. It’s a courageous act to admit being a victim, and understanding that it’s not just a Hollywood problem, or a D.C. problem, or a “somewhere else” problem is key.

Also key is making sure we’re not perpetuating the problem by accepting sexual harassment at any level. It certainly begins at home, but it must be addressed in schools, too, where we form the model for how we behave as adults. Imagine the repercussions of dismissing the allegations of a victim who first comes to a trusted adult with a problem. Would she have the courage to do so again? And the same goes for a harasser who is allowed to get away with the conduct. What are the chances he knocks off that behavior after being given a free pass the first time?

If you’re still unsure what to do or if there’s even a problem, we suggest you ask a simple question to a woman in your life who you care about. “Have you ever been sexually harassed or assaulted?” This question is especially important for men to ask and consider. It’s easy to dismiss a problem you’ve never dealt with, but you may be surprised how close to home it actually hits.

The problem will always be with us, but keeping it covered in winks and nods and knowing glances is not acceptable. We must look it straight on, call it what it is and make it clear it’s not welcome in our society.


Corvallis Gazette-Times, Oct. 16, on tech school idea being worth exploring

We’re still not convinced Oregon voters made the right decision last November when they passed Ballot Measure 98, which forces the state to spend money on career and technical education programs, along with two other areas meant to improve the state’s dismal graduation rate.

But we have to give the ballot measure at least some of the credit for driving a resurgence of interest across the state in career and technical education, areas that have had a hard time staying properly funded over the past decades.

(Our reservations about Measure 98 have nothing to do with the areas it funds, but rather that it did not come with a dedicated source of funding. This is a long-running issue in Oregon, where voters routinely approve costly initiatives without giving much thought to the question of how they will be bankrolled.)

In any event, it’s nice to see career and technical education programs reclaim a share of the educational spotlight, as educators reacquaint themselves with the idea that some of their students may not be headed to a four-year institution of higher learning after graduation or, for that matter, may not be particularly motivated by the traditional path to college. As educators increasingly talk about the need to create many different paths to graduation, it becomes clear that one of those paths involves career and technical education - the sort of education that can lead to well-paying, high-demand jobs.

The latest example of the resurgence in the sorts of educational offerings that earlier generations used to call “wood shop” or “metal shop” came last week in Lebanon, where Superintendent Rob Hess pitched the idea of creating a countywide vocational charter school. Hess said he plans to bring what amounts to a “napkin sketch” of the idea to the school board’s November meeting.

Of course, we reserve a final judgment on the idea until after Hess has a chance to flesh out the numerous details. And he told the board that the earliest such a school could be in place would be the fall of 2019.

But the idea is undeniably timely - and the money that Measure 98 will be funneling into school districts around the state could give Lebanon at least some of the financial means to pull it off.

“Everyone in the region is interested in providing pathways for kids different than the traditional four-year college pathway,” Hess said. “In this community, there are many living-wage jobs and kids aren’t being prepared for them.”

That’s true not just in Linn County, but in Benton County as well - and, in fact, throughout the rest of the state.

But Linn County has a head start over its neighbors on the west side of the Willamette River and, for that matter, over much of the rest of the state. Linn County, for example, was the birthplace of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce’s Pipeline program, which aims to build connections between students and future jobs in local manufacturing industries. (The Corvallis School District has since joined the lineup of schools participating in Pipeline.

And it was Linn County employers who helped get Pipeline off the ground when they started searching for new ways to find new workers for their manufacturing jobs - good jobs that were opening up as older workers began retiring.

So it makes sense for a Linn County school district to explore the notion of a charter school devoted to vocational education. And it makes sense as well to think about it as a countywide effort. It may not be an idea that would work everywhere; and, of course, we don’t know yet if it will work in Linn County. But just as there are many paths to graduation, there are many paths to educational success. It makes sense to explore as many of them as possible.


The Oregonian/OregonLive, Oct. 13, on helping Portland’s chronically homeless being a choice to save lives

As we inch toward another winter, let’s recall the grim lesson learned during the relentless cold temperatures and snow storms last December and January: Homelessness in Portland is deadly.

Four people suffering homelessness died in the first, freezing days of 2017. They were among the men and women trying to survive on our streets and struggling with drug addiction, mental illness and other disabilities.

Most of these people aren’t from out of town, as that tired rumor goes: Here in Portland because they heard how well we treat our homeless. No, these are the more than 1,200 men and women considered “chronically homeless” because they’ve been without permanent housing for at least a year. A good number of this unfortunate group hold Oregon birth certificates and they need more than a shelter bed or extra cash to cover rent to stay on their feet.

These Portlanders need sustained help over a long period of time to find success. Finally, local leaders are moving forward with an aggressive plan to help that happen. It’s about time.

As The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Jessica Floum reported Friday, Portland City Council will vote next week on a goal to add 2,000 housing options for this specific population over the next 10 years. Called “permanent supportive housing,” the units may be apartments or shared housing that also provide tenants with health care, addiction treatment, job coaching and other social services.

The idea isn’t new. The city and county already offer about 3,300 of these full-service housing options, which are covered by local and federal dollars as well as support from nonprofits and health-care providers. Local leaders say these programs helped them earn their biggest success yet: Vastly reducing the number of veterans who were suffering chronic homelessness in our city.

Ask many Portlanders and they’ll say they haven’t witnessed any wins. If anything, they think it’s gotten worse and they’re tired of tent cities and garbage on their streets. But there have been wins in this long, slow battle. The joint city-county program focused on the crisis helped about 6,000 people avoid losing their home in 2016 and another 5,000 got help finding a place to stay, according to Multnomah County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury.

Yet those wins didn’t help whittle down the number of chronically homeless, a population that grew by 24 percent over the past two years.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish has pushed hard for supportive housing in recent years and now, with support from Kafoury and Mayor Ted Wheeler, the leaders hope setting a goal will generate the money to cover it. They plan to use federal, state and local money, along with some funds from Portland’s affordable housing bond. But they also hope more Oregon businesses, private hospitals and health-care groups, along with neighboring counties and even tourism-related associations will also step up. As they should.

One of the more compelling pieces of city data? The estimated cost for supportive housing ranges from $24 to $54 a night. Compare that to the expense of county jail bed at around $200 a night or an overnight in a hospital or emergency room, which usually starts around $2,000. Those latter options are too expensive and they’re not working.

As our city and county leaders push for more financial support, they should also keep the pressure on their own agencies to prioritize data collection. We’ve known for years that this population often weaves in and out of various government agencies, nonprofit programs, hospital rooms and jails. But we’ve lacked the technology to keep up with them, and hopefully, provide the health care and support before they’re in crisis.

This information is needed to better serve the chronically homeless and to track how our city and county programs in these critical areas are working. That will be time and money well spent.

As we all know, this is a problem only gets worse for everyone if we turn away and let them camp. For Portlanders David Guyot, Karen Lee Batts, Mark Elliot Johnson and Zachary A. Young, it was deadly.

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