C4 Friday, July 8, 2011 • THE BULLETIN
AN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER
BETSY MCCOOL GORDON BLACK JOHN COSTA RICHARD COE
Chairwoman Publisher Editor-in-chief Editor of Editorials
Union talk snares practical changes
efore this past legislative session began, there was a lot of talk about changing the state retirement system called PERS. Former Gov. Ted Kulongoski set the agenda with
his report recommending that workers start paying part of their required 6 percent pension contribution. The cost of the 6 percent pickup is about $750 million per biennium. Some or all of that money could instead go to schools or any number of other things. Gov. John Kitzhaber wanted that PERS change, too. He called for it in his campaign. He called for it when he was elected. The bill to do it died. Why? Kitzhaber recently offered an explanation to The Oregonian. It was about unions. There was a dispute in another bill that Kitzhaber wanted to reduce state Medicare and Medicaid costs, House Bill 3650. Part of what the bill does is try to encourage chronically ill patients to better manage their health. The way the bill was written, at one point, it would have created a new class of employee to make home visits to help
those patients. Union officials tried to spell out in the bill that the employees must be unionized. Committee members dropped that provision. “It’s pretty straightforward,” Kitzhaber told The Oregonian. “The Democrats would essentially not run out the PERS bill, which was a tough vote for a lot of them, unless the Republicans put collective bargaining in the (health care) transformation bill. That’s where it got high-centered.” Kitzhaber said it would have been a worthy trade-off. He said unions can help workers get good wages and benefits. He may be right about unions, but not about the trade. The bill was about finding new ways to save money and improve health care quality. What does compelling a new class of workers to join a union have to do with that? Nothing.
Herbicides can be part of the solution Y
ou don’t have to be an environmentalist to worry about the overuse of herbicides. They can pollute water, poison wildlife and kill valued plants when applied indiscriminately. Worse, plants can develop tolerance, requiring more, stronger herbicides in the future. Now the Bureau of Land Management, after a nearly 30-year hiatus, is preparing to use herbicides again in Western Oregon, and the Eugene district is seeking public comment on a proposal to make limited use of four of the 17 herbicides available to it in the agency’s management plan. At least one environmental group will comment negatively on the proposal, others will not. Under the proposal, the agency would use herbicides on only about a third of the 1,500 acres it currently mows or weeds by hand to control the worst of the worst on the district, including Scotch broom, knapweed and false brome. That’s a tiny fraction of the estimated 18,000 acres in the district infested with noxious weeds and an even tinier bit of the 300,000 acres the agency controls in its Eugene district. BLM’s proposal is a reasonable answer to a serious problem, the spread of invasive plant species in Oregon. Such things as knapweed, which invade road rights of way, pasture land and fir and pine forests, can be treated by hand, but the effort to do so can be
staggering. In one case, on the Nature Conservancy’s Tom McCall Preserve on the Columbia River, it took more than 300 volunteers pulling knapweed three times annually for about six years to reduce the infestation to a manageable size. The preserve is only 271 acres. Unchecked, the weeds take a toll on both native plants and animals. Knapweed chokes out native plants both by competing for water and nutrients and by exuding a compound that limits the growth of more desirable plants. That destroys habitat for native animals, as well. On cultivated land, it can destroy pastures and be poisonous to domestic animals and humans who attempt to pull it barehanded. Mowing, the seemingly simplest answer to the problem, only creates shorter plants. Scotch brook and false brome pose some of the same problems, and they, too, are nearly impossible to control without the use of herbicides. The BLM’s effort in the Eugene district will be a limited one, not aimed at recently logged lands or at improving livestock forage. Nor will the herbicides be applied by plane or helicopter or spread indiscriminately over a given area. Rather, if the effort is successful, it may help slow the spread of the plants that hitchhike on cars driving through the area. It’s not a perfect solution to a serious problem, but it is far better than what is available now.
My Nickel’s Worth Support Walden’s bill We support the legislation on the Crooked River recently introduced by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden. Brooks Resources or its predecessors have operated in Central Oregon for almost 100 years. We have a vested interest in maintaining the economic viability of all of Central Oregon. No legislation affecting water will ever have 100 percent support from all parties, but the Walden bill will help secure stable water supplies for Prineville, will benefit fish and wildlife and will make Crook County a model for protecting municipal water supplies. This bill, when passed, will protect our farmers, secure future water needs for Prineville and provide additional water for the environment. There is no cost to taxpayers. Mike Hollern is president of Brooks Resources Corp.
Protect families In response to Glenn Eggleston’s June 23 letter to the editor which appeared in The Bulletin under the heading “Protect Marriage”: Protect marriage? Protect families! Marriage is for the purpose of recognizing a family; it binds two people in a way no other word can. I’m at a loss to see how same-sex marriage takes away its decency. Is it not commitment and love that make marriage decent and honorable? Should marriage be reserved only for those who are able to or wish to procreate? Mr. Eggleston, who made this ar-
gument opposing marriage equality, married for a second time at approximately the age of 69. I can only surmise he did so not to “have a family” but rather, to have the committed, family recognition marriage offers. Same-sex couples simply want the same for their families. Our laws protect families bound by marriage. Sadly, thousands of families go unrecognized and unprotected, are seen as “less than” or “indecent” because the focus has been placed on tradition rather on what it means to be a family. Certainly, as compassionate individuals, we must ensure our laws protect all families. Our history is filled with bold legislative changes made when we better understand our responsibility to a democratic society, as in women’s right to vote and emancipation, both of which transcended tradition despite vociferous opposition. I understand a commitment to tradition, but as Americans we have a far deeper commitment to equal treatment and protection for all. Rowena “Beki” Meyer-Allen is a board member of the Human Dignity Coalition of Bend.
Don’t cut money to WIC Rep. Greg Walden must think that Oregonians aren’t paying attention. His vote in favor of HR 2112 will result in cuts of $650 million from WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and will deprive indigent women and children of healthy foods, nutrition counseling and referrals to health care providers they so desperately need.
As usual, he continues to follow the Republican majority at the expense of his constituents. Now he’s decided we can no longer afford to ensure healthy nutrition for every hungry mother and child. Instead he would rather give more and bigger tax cuts to billionaires and petroleum companies. Terry K. Cunningham La Pine
Bend shows interest in art I bet you thought the only reason to go to the Bend City Hall was to conduct city business. Well, now through July you can make City Hall a destination to see “City Walls for City Hall.” Local artists have each selected a photograph from the Des Chutes Historical Museum collection and have rendered their interpretation of the photograph. On the walls of City Hall you will find both the chosen photographs and the artists’ interpretations. You will find paintings, fabric and paper works designed to appeal to many interests. The committee that put this show together has created a truly magical atmosphere in City Hall. I personally appreciate the City Council and the city staff for allowing such a project in their hall. It shows that council members have an interest in the history and art of our area. Please do keep up the idea of art in City Hall. Locals and visitors alike will add a real treat to their summer by visiting “City Walls for City Hall” at Bend City Hall. Elouise Mattox Bend
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In an earthbound era for America, heaven has to wait By Frank Bruni New York Times News Service
his morning, barring thunder or blunder, the space shuttle Atlantis will cough smoke, spit fire and, in a spectacle no less dazzling for its familiarity, bust free of its earthly trappings, some 2,250 tons somehow rising above the clouds. And that will be that. Roll the credits. Its scheduled takeoff — and slated return 12 days later — are the last in the U.S. shuttle program, which now draws to an unsettling close. Ending it, I suppose, makes good sense. Its benefits grew increasingly debatable, at least in relation to its cost: around $200 billion over four decades (including the planning years). Money is tight. What budget NASA still has might be better used in other ways. But as the centerpiece of our country’s gaudily ambitious space adventures, the shuttle program was a pre-eminent symbol of our belief that there were literally no limits to where we could go and no boundaries to what we could accomplish, so long as we hitched our ingenuity to our imagination and marshaled the requisite
will. And there’s no real sense of what big dreams, if any, lie beyond Atlantis. The program’s end carries the force of cruel metaphor, coming at a time when limits are all we talk about. The current political debate and the nascent 2012 election season are utterly earthbound, with a tone so gloomy it’s often shocking. Instead of the defiant trumpet blast that it’s “Morning in America” — Ronald Reagan’s retort to the so-called malaise of the Jimmy Carter years — we have anxious promises to hold back the night. “Let’s stop this American downward spiral,” Rick Perry, the Texas governor, told a conservative convention last month, as he rehearsed lugubrious lines he might use in a presidential bid. Jon Huntsman, declaring his candidacy for the presidency a few days later, observed, “For the first time in history, we are passing down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got.” Hard decisions had to be made, he added, in order “to avert disaster.” To some degree, such dire language
reflects predictable political gamesmanship. By lamenting the status quo, candidates disparage its designated steward — in this case, President Barack Obama. And the country has certainly survived more devastating and sustained periods of economic distress than the present one, finding renewed prosperity on the far side. But Americans right now are profoundly doubtful. Shaken. For many, the fear isn’t just that there’s no imminent end to high unemployment and tepid economic growth, but that we’ve turned a fundamental corner and our best days really are behind us. A Gallup/USA Today poll conducted in late April found that 55 percent of Americans considered it unlikely that children today would have better lives than their parents, while only 44 percent considered it likely. Those responses were the most negative, by far, over the last quarter-century, and they undercut a central tenet of American optimism. Just last week the Democratic pollster Mark Penn, writing in Time magazine, concluded that “the country is going through one of its longest sustained peri-
There’s no grand mission that represents the kind of storehouse for our confidence and emblem of our can-do spirit that space exploration once did. ods of unhappiness and pessimism ever.” He cited a recent survey suggesting that “more than two-thirds of the country sees the past decade as a period of decline.” And 39 percent of the respondents in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll characterized that decline as permanent, at least in economic terms. That was a marked increase from 28 percent who said so last fall. It’s in this context that many Democrats and Republicans alike nurse a new isolationism, convinced that we can no longer afford broad engagement in the world. It’s in this context that immigrants, wanting pieces of a pie deemed more finite, are vilified.
And it’s in this context that hard-line conservatives cling to the notion of American exceptionalism. They can’t shut out what’s in their peripheral vision — economies in China, India and Brazil that are expanding much faster than ours — and doth protest too much. In Washington and in state capitals, the squabbling is epic, and it’s focused not on what we might dare to build but on what we might manage to preserve, not on degrees of progress but on gradations of regress: how many parks, schools, libraries need be closed. Despite the president’s exhortation that we chart the frontiers of innovation, there’s no grand mission that represents the kind of storehouse for our confidence and emblem of our can-do spirit that space exploration once did. What has happened to our sense of discovery? I’m not sure, but I know what will happen to the spaceship Discovery, one of four remaining shuttles in the fleet. It’s bound for the Smithsonian, where we stockpile the glories of yesteryear. Frank Bruni is a columnist for The New York Times.
The Bulletin Daily print edition for Friday July 8, 2011