Others Say - 1/18

Pass effective legislation quickly

Toward the end of his State of the State speech on Monday, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber recited a quotation from Western writer Wallace Stegner:

“One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is still the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery.”

It was an apt quote, an appropriate challenge. Just think of what Oregon could achieve if the quality of its political process matched the magnificence of its environment.

Kitzhaber struck the right tone Monday, as did the other two Democrats who addressed the 2013 Legislature — Senate President Peter Courtney of Salem and House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland. They emphasized that legislative success will come from paying as much attention to the needs of rural Oregonians as to urban areas.

Oregon’s slumbering economy — especially outside the Portland metro area — remains the state’s No. 1 challenge, and it should be the Legislature’s No. 1 priority.

Economic recovery is meaningless, Kitzhaber said, if the Portland area returns to pre-recession employment levels while much of rural Oregon still suffers from “double-digit unemployment, outdated infrastructure and an aging workforce.”

Likewise, “economic recovery” is absent if it refers to improved job prospects for white Oregonians but not for African American and Latino Oregonians. Or if nearly one-fourth of Oregon children continue to live in poverty.

The message of Kitzhaber, Courtney and Kotek was: We’re all in this together, rural and urban, Republican and Democrat.

The task is to govern in that spirit on a daily basis — to tackle the monstrous budget challenges created by a bulging public pension system, a bulging state prison system and a bulging health care system. Those bulges block one road to an improved economy: re-investing in education and in helping young children get on the right path from the very beginning.

Most Oregonians share Kitzhaber’s passion for public education and for political collaboration. The test, for him and for the Legislature, will be to not merely pay attention to the diverse needs of rural and urban Oregonians but to act on those issues — effectively and expeditiously.

That would be an Oregon political scene as profound as the state’s scenery.

— The Statesman Journal



Concealed weapon permits should not be open to public

The horror of mass murders may inspire some reasonable initiatives to reduce gun violence in 2013. But Americans should not be stampeded into an unwise backlash against gun ownership.

One example of such backlash is the renewed demand to expose Oregonians who hold concealed handgun licenses.

Oregon law gives county sheriffs authority over concealed carry permits. In the past few years, sheriffs have beaten back demands that they disclose the names of all licensees. They won a court case, and then last year the Legislature affirmed the confidentiality of concealed carry permit lists.

But the drive for disclosure will be back this year, with some Oregon news media again joining opponents of gun ownership in arguing for the people’s alleged right to know.

Public access to government records is generally a good thing. It allows citizens to monitor their officials, making sure they do their jobs correctly. But some documents need confidentiality. Medical records. Personnel files. Business filings that contain trade secrets.

Concealed weapons licenses belong on that list. When a sheriff issues a carry permit, he basically certifies that the applicant has a plausible reason for wanting one, and that the person can be trusted with it. People who pass those two tests have a reasonable expectation that the sheriff won’t blab their business all over town.

Because concealed carry permitees are by definition law-abiding citizens, anti-gun advocates can’t invoke public safety to justify identifying them. The new mantra is the need to hold sheriffs accountable for how they administer the program.

But sheriffs are plenty accountable. No one wants to be the sheriff who issued a permit to America’s next mass murderer.

Certainly, gun violence is an important topic this year. But stripping lawful gun owners of their privacy is not a useful response.

Ghastly, high-profile violence shouldn’t lead Oregon to strip lawful gun owners of their privacy.

— The World

Coos Bay

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