Others Say - 11/23/12
Selected recent editorials from other Oregon newspapers
Restructure OSAA to cut travel time, costs
The Oregon School Activities Association is again tinkering with the way it organizes athletics in the state, trying to find a magic solution that will provide competitive parity, short travel times and decrease costs for shrinking school budgets.
If you’ve paid attention to OSAA’s restructuring over the past decade, you know they haven’t found that sweet spot yet. If you haven’t, know this: there are six classes, 1A through 6A. Each class is divided by number of students, although the rules are flexible to accommodate geography and history.
The part of the system that is broken is the districting process that tries to fit 292 member schools into intelligent groupings within the six classes.
They have tried to do this by creating six “hybrid” leagues in the state, which combine classes for geography’s sake. It’s all part of an attempt to level the playing field, so each school has an equal shot at the playoffs. To that end, the playoffs themselves have been turned into a massive algorithm, with play-in games and the Ratings Percentage Index opening the field to far more teams than ever.
While we think it’s great to let kids in small towns and mega-high schools both have chances to win state titles, the system has gotten out of hand, and changes are needed.
First and foremost, the OSAA should consider the amount of money schools spend on travel for their athletic teams.
Schools plan their own non-conference games, but leagues should be divided into logical areas, so the travel burden is lessened across the state.
Second, not every athletic program deserves a postseason. OSAA has reined in its playoff system since its inception, but it could be contracted further — with the elimination of play-in games, for instance.
If leagues are set up to include five to eight similarly sized schools, each league should send one or two teams to the playoffs. A team that finished near the bottom should not get a playoff invite just because they are technically in a smaller class.
As OSAA goes forward and the member schools make their cases, it shouldn’t get so tangled up in appeasing all factions that it develops an even more convoluted system. Instead, simplify. Consider contracting from six classes to four, as it was in the past.
Schools had the opportunity to play up or down to fit into their geography. But it was simple, and teams had lots of nearby competition. Crowning state champions was easier, logical and more meaningful, too.
It’s good for OSAA to be rethinking the way its leagues are divided, but it should avoid overthinking. Make things simpler. Arrange schools roughly by size, and give the best of those schools the chance to prove who is better; honor them with a trophy.
Along the way, save money wherever possible: play numerous teams on road trips if possible, allow nearby teams to travel together and do whatever it takes to make Oregon athletics affordable, fun and worthwhile for students and fans.
Walden’s selection reflects political savvy
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, will begin his 15th year in Congress come January with a new title. Oregon’s 2nd District congressman will serve as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House of Representatives. At the same time, Walden becomes the fifth-ranking member of his party in the House.
The chairmanship, which is filled by election among House Republicans, is a testament to Walden’s political savvy and his ability to play nicely with others.
No one ran against him in the election, which was held Wednesday behind closed doors. Nor was the position awarded based on Walden’s seniority. Just starting his eighth term, he has been in Washington far less time than some other Republicans.
But Walden grew up in a household where political talk was part of life — his father served in the Oregon Legislature from 1971 to 1977 — and he followed in Paul Walden’s footsteps, serving first in the state House and then the Senate for a total of 12 years.
He’s learned his political lessons well. He is willing to cross the aisle when need be, as he has done with Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland; Peter DeFazio, D-Eugene; and Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, on a variety of issues that are important to Oregonians across the state. He’s known as a thoughtful, hard worker.
All that helps explain Walden’s rise in Republican ranks. In 2010 he was named chairman of the House GOP Leadership, and he oversaw the transition from Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s speakership there to John Boehner’s.
Walden’s new position may not mean new bridges and highways for his district, which covers all of eastern and some of southern Oregon, but it’s important to the region, nonetheless. It is, after all, a recognition of his reputation among his fellow House Republicans, who had 240 or so other Republicans to choose from for the job. That, combined with his ability to work with congressional Democrats, should serve Oregonians well.
The Bulletin<br> Bend
New Chairman Wyden will oversee timber
Only God, we understand, can make a tree. But only seniority can make a chairman of the Senate committee overseeing timber, and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden rising to that position should be an encouraging development for Oregon’s battered timber industry.
Two major Oregon timber initiatives, on a waiting list for literally years, might now get some Senate focus. Oregon’s forests, and the people who live near them, could use the attention.
Wyden will be in position to promote the Oregon east side timber proposal that he has long cultivated, a combination of protection and forest thinning developed in long negotiations with multiple stakeholders.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get that out of committee and passed next year,” said Wyden last week. “This is the first time we’ve seen a regional agreement between timber companies and the environmental community,” an approach that he sees as a “national model.”
To Wyden, the steadily diminishing situation of timber east of the Cascades pushes the issue up his legislative list: “The reason it’s going to be a priority is that if you lose the remaining mills on the east side, you lose the infrastructure.”
The way forward is less clear on Oregon’s west side, where Democratic House members Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader and Republican Greg Walden have developed a plan to divide the extensive Oregon & California railroad lands, scattered through multiple counties, into protected and timber-producing areas. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has asked for reconsideration on environmental grounds; at the same time other congressional voices have objected to special consideration for Oregon — although the O&C land arrangement is peculiar to the state.
At a time when counties in southwest Oregon are slipping rapidly toward financial collapse and inability to provide basic services, the priority for progress in Western Oregon can be no less pressing than on the east side. ... . Although solutions are far from clear, Wyden’s chairmanship could provide an opportunity and a possibility for rural Oregon, much of which has been in recession for decades, long before the rest of the country joined it. Timber will never be what it once was, but there should be ways to bolster what remains as part of a package that also must include economic diversification and — as Wyden has also suggested — some local county tax increases.
The core of rural Oregon’s economics has long been natural resources, even as extraction’s presence has fluctuated and often diminished. As the area seeks a new, stabler footing, we’ll see how much a chairman’s gavel can also be a resource.
The Oregonian <br>Portland