Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:
The Oregonian/OregonLive, May 23, on rebuilding faith in police oversight board:
Derek Ashton, an attorney representing former Portland Police Chief Larry O’Dea, didn’t mince words in criticizing a committee’s recommendation that O’Dea lose his police certification for 10 years due to dishonesty. Ashton complained that there was no new evidence to justify the recommendation - a reversal from a month ago when the panel, made up mostly of law enforcement officers, looked more kindly on the chief’s misconduct.
“Going forward,” he told The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Maxine Bernstein, “persons should be hesitant to place much faith in this system.”
He’s wrong in so many ways. Because the recommendation by the police policy committee to the state’s police oversight board actually helps restore faith - the public’s faith, that is - in a system that seems to protect its own rather than hold police officers accountable.
Initially, it seemed the committee was inclined to simply let O’Dea off the hook when it evaluated O’Dea’s handling of the 2016 accidental shooting of a friend during a camping trip. Although two city inquiries found that the police chief had been dishonest and misled investigators about the shooting and a separate human-resources matter, the policy committee recommended to the police oversight board that the chief be allowed to keep his certification. As Bernstein reported earlier this year, members of the committee felt O’Dea, who retired amid the investigations, had suffered enough. It was as if O’Dea was a victim as opposed to a city police chief expected to adhere to basic standards of honesty and trustworthiness.
Fortunately, the policy committee’s recommendation didn’t wash with several members of the police oversight board at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. Led by Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers, the board directed the policy committee to take another look at the case and seek some of the underlying documents that had been redacted. The board will take up the policy committee’s new recommendation in July.
This is one case. As The Oregonian/OregonLive showed last year in its “Fired, but fit for duty” series, there are many more cases in which the state allows police officers to keep their certifications despite being fired due to excessive force, incompetence and other problems.
But this recommendation tells the public that the DPSST recognizes its responsibility to protect Oregonians, not police officers, and that certification is a privilege, not a right.
Albany Democrat-Herald, May 22, on special session giving Gov. Brown a win:
By many measures, Monday’s special session of the Legislature was a success.
The session, summoned by Gov. Kate Brown to consider her proposal for a small-business tax cut, got its work done in one day. The session did not veer off the tracks, as some had feared it might.
And, at the end of the day, legislators passed Brown’s proposal. It shapes up as a win for the governor, who went to the trouble to telephone legislators beforehand to be sure she had the necessary votes.
Brown now can hit the campaign trail, billing herself as a friend to Oregon’s small business. (Her Republican opponent, Rep. Knute Buehler, voted for Brown’s bill on Monday, but he likely will take pains to point out the rest of the story, in which Brown signed a bill to eliminate a larger tax break that would have been available to certain other businesses. That sort of nuance gets lost in the heat and dust of a hard-fought election campaign.)
You might think that the governor’s proposal would have been a slam dunk in the special session: After all, which legislator wants to go on the campaign trail after voting against a tax cut?
But there was substantial doubt going into the session that Brown’s plan had enough votes to pass; Democratic legislative leaders told their charges to prepare for a weeklong session.
Those worries didn’t materialize: The Senate passed the proposal by an 18-12 margin. The House passed Brown’s plan by an even more lopsided margin, 51-8.
Nevertheless, 20 legislators voted against the proposal, including three from the mid-valley - Sen. Fred Girod, a Republican from Stayton; Sen. Sara Gelser, a Democrat from Corvallis; and Rep. Dan Rayfield, another Corvallis Democrat.
Gelser originally voted yes on the measure but changed her vote after it became clear it had enough support in the Senate to pass. “I think it was important to get through the day,” she told The Oregonian, and then said she continues to be interested in repealing the existing tax break that will be expanded under Brown’s proposal.
Rayfield said he had issues with the fact that a significant portion of Brown’s tax break would go to “some of the most wealthy people in Oregon. … It was not going to help small businesses.”
Rayfield also said he was troubled by the amount of tax money that would be lost by the state; the cost of the cut in the current biennium has been estimated at $11 million, but he said that figure likely would balloon to the $20 million to $30 million range for the two-year biennium that begins in July 2019.
Legislators sometime call such relatively small figures “budget dust” when measured against the full size of the state budget, but Rayfield said the phrase offends him. Think, he said, of what could be done with $30 million to bolster child welfare or education programs in Oregon.
Nevertheless, he said, Monday’s vote was “probably one of the most challenging votes that I’ve had to take.”
Girod’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the reasons for his no vote.
All in all, we’re sympathetic to these naysayers.
The governor said she wanted to push this tax cut through as a matter of fairness for a group of business owners who had been left out of the original existing tax cut, which legislators passed in 2013. She also denied charges that her proposal was motivated by the looming general election.
Well, voters can be the judge of that. It’s still not clear why this matter was so urgent that it required a special session.
What is clear is that this tweak is not the full-fledged tax reform Oregon needs. Brown said that kind of reform was too much for a one-day session, and she’s right about that. But let’s hope the governor’s sense of urgency on tax reform carries over to a full set of proposals for the 2019 session.
The Bend Bulletin, May 21, on not basing pot policy on anecdotes:
Regulation of marijuana is one of the policy differences between Republican Patti Adair and Democrat James Cook, who will face each other on the November ballot for Deschutes County Commission, Position 3.
There is a world of difference between them. It’s troubling that Adair has made some wild assertions and relies so heavily on anecdotal evidence to reach policy positions.
Some of what Adair says may be reasonable. She said the county needs “effective” regulation. She has called for the county to impose restrictions on density of grows and for tougher standards on regulating odor. She has argued the county should have limited grows to industrial zones. And she’s also expressed concern repeatedly about what pot grows are doing to water.
Dig any deeper, though, and it’s hard to see that she has enough evidence to suggest tougher rules are needed. The county’s analysis has been that its rules have not been in effect long enough to reach a conclusion about their effectiveness.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. One issue is, indeed, water. But when we asked Adair for her evidence that pot grows were hurting water availability, she mentioned an anecdote about wells going dry in rural Deschutes County. There could be any number of reasons why wells went dry. In contrast, the approach by the sitting commissioners has been sensible. They asked the state to investigate to actually find out the answer.
Adair has also worried about some of the people in the pot industry without clear evidence that they are bad people. “You have all kinds of people coming in and out,” she told The Source Weekly about the grows already open in the county. “I worry about who it brings in. Really, do we want to attract those people? Mexico is having serious drug wars. It’s frightening.” In another example, she pointed out in an email to The Bulletin that some of the people behind one grow “have Costa Rica affiliations.” Are people from Costa Rica inherently bad?
Cook knows people have concerns about marijuana grows. But he is not leaping to strengthen nor loosen county regulations. The county has strong regulations, he says. If they are not working, he wants to fix them. He wants to see evidence first, though. He wants the county to crack down on any illegal activity and he would work to ensure the county has the resources it needs to do so.
Regulating a new industry with a crop as complicated as marijuana is going to be an important challenge for a new county commissioner. On this issue, Adair needs to prove she will provide more thoughtful policy direction to earn voter support. Cook is already doing that.
The Eugene Register-Guard, May 20, on Oregon paving the way for ruling on betting:
The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t exactly legalize sports betting in its decision last week. The court nullified a law passed by Congress that prohibited states from allowing sports betting. Oregon was Congress’ target when the law was initially proposed - and by the time it passed, it was meant to keep Oregon’s sports-betting contagion from spreading.
Oregon got into the sports-betting racket in 1989, when David Dix, a creative state representative from Eugene, went looking for a way to pay for athletic programs at the state’s public universities. Dix settled upon the newly created Oregon Lottery, and persuaded the Legislature to create Sports Action. The lottery game allowed players to bet on professional football games and, briefly, pro basketball games as well.
Sports Action raised about $4 million at first, mostly for non-revenue sports, with half the money dedicated to women’s athletics. The professional sports leagues and the NCAA fiercely resisted Sports Action, arguing that Oregon’s piddly little game somehow threatened their integrity - never mind that a much larger sports-betting enterprise was well-rooted in neighboring Nevada.
The leagues began with the empty threat that no pro football franchise would ever locate in Oregon. They then turned their attention to Congress, with greater success. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans states from running sports-betting operations, was approved in 1992, but not before Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood inserted a provision protecting existing state sports-betting games such as Sports Action into a separate piece of legislation.
The Legislature killed Sports Action in 2005, hoping to lure NCAA basketball tournament games to Portland. By then, New Jersey and other states had begun to hunger for the revenue to be obtained from sports betting. By the time New Jersey’s lawsuit against the 1992 legislation prevailed, even the pro sports leagues had come halfway around: They’re no longer unalterably opposed to sports betting, as long as they get a piece of the action.
The argument that state-run betting undermines the integrity of sports has never been convincing. A more likely source of corruption is the $150 billion illegal gambling enterprise. At least some of that money will now come above ground, where gambling can be regulated and profits can flow to public purposes rather than mobsters. Sports Action might even be reactivated in Oregon - there would be no shortage of ideas for where to spend the revenue.
Corvallis Gazette-Times, May 17, on spring bringing an uptick of hazards:
As temperatures in the mid-valley slowly increase as the mid-valley’s spring marches onward, this seems like a good time to remind you of some of the horrible things that can happen when the weather turns warmer.
On the top of the list is a new warning from our friends at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health officials reported recently that the number of people getting diseases transmitted by mosquito, tick and flea bites has more than tripled in recent years. Furthermore, since 2004, at least nine such diseases have been discovered or newly introduced in the United States, according to a report in The New York Times.
Although much of the uptick (pun intended, more or less) is concentrated in states that tend to have warmer weather, it’s not limited merely to the South: New tick-borne diseases such as the Heartland virus (which we never have heard of before and, based solely on the name, have decided we don’t want to know about) are growing, along with cases of Lyme disease and other infections.
And growing in a hurry: Between 2004 and 2016, the Times reported, about 643,000 cases of 16 insect-borne illnesses were reported to the CDC. In 2004, the CDC received 27,000 reports. In 2016, that number had risen to about 96,000. (The agency used 2004 as the baseline because that was the year it started to require more detailed reporting about these illnesses.)
Of course, as the CDC noted, the actual number of infections almost certainly is much larger: For example, the CDC estimates that about 300,000 Americans get Lyme disease each year, but only about a tenth of those cases (35,000 in this case) are reported.
It’s worth noting that the health officials at the CDC did not urge Americans to hole up inside their houses this summer and to don biohazard suits for those occasions when they absolutely have to go outside - although the CDC is, of course, a notorious killjoy.
Instead, CDC officials issued a fairly common-sense suggestion: When you go outside, don’t forget the bug repellent.
The CDC also urged consistent funding for local and state health departments, which remain the first line of defense against these illnesses but which remain underfunded. In the words of Dr. Robert Redfield, the new head of the CDC: “We must enhance our investment in their ability to fight these diseases.”
Redfield was too good a sport to note that the CDC itself is facing the prospect of steep budget cuts, part of the consistent underfunding of the nation’s scientific enterprises. This unfortunate trend predates the Trump administration, but you can be sure that we’ll be paying the price for it sooner or later. (And probably sooner.)
In the meantime, make a note to grab the bug repellent at the same time that you’re tracking down the sunscreen. It can be an ugly mixture, these first few sunny days and tender Oregon skin.
And speaking of spring cautions: As the temperature rises into the 70s and 80s, so does the temptation to cool off in some of the mid-valley’s streams, rivers and other bodies of water. You always want to exercise caution when spending time around the water, but this is the time of year when a little extra care is called for: The water may seem inviting, but it’s still running cold - and, in some cases, fast.
Fast-running rivers can conceal debris and other potential dangers to swimmers. And hypothermia is a real danger this early in the season.
So follow these common-sense tips: Always swim with a friend and stay in designated swimming areas. Be certain to provide constant supervision to children in or near the water. Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
And don’t forget this after you climb out of the water and towel off: Now it’s time to put on another coating of bug repellent.
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