Letters to the editor: March 29, 2019

No laughing matter

I am a student at McMinnville High School. I wanted to bring to your attention the worry some students and parents have on school threats.

High school kids do joke around about “shooting up the school,” or something along the lines of that, of course. But it gets to a point where we don’t know if they’re kidding or not.

School shooting is a horrible thing to do. And with the recent spring activity, it’s starting to become more of a trend.

Over the years, there have been death, bombing or shooting threats at our school about twice a year. And it’s not just the high school.

I attended Patton Middle School, and we got threats there, too. From what I’ve been told, there was also a threat at Grandhaven Elementary School a couple of years ago, and it had to be evacuated.

The threats weren’t actually real, or haven’t actually happened, but it’s becoming too much of a hassle to worry if our lives are at stake or not. And even greater worry rests with students’ parents.

This letter isn’t asking anyone to solve anything, but I do want to bring people’s attention to threats that are starting to become the norm of today.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you have a great night.

Jake Sizer



Make it proportional

On Feb. 26, State Sen. Brian Boquist joined with 39 fellow lawmakers in sponsoring and introducing Senate Bill 870, backing an interstate agreement to change how states award their presidential electors.

Once enacted, member states agree to cease awarding Electoral College votes on a winner-take-all basis and instead begin awarding them on a proportional popular vote basis. Here’s some background.

As individual voters in the various states, Americans do not vote directly for president. They choose a panel of electors to perform that task on their behalf.

The Constitution has left it up to the individual states to settle on a method of choosing their electors. Gradually, all but two of our 50 states have adopted a winner-take-all system.

Unfortunately, that gives rise to the disproportionate campaign with a focus on a dozen “battleground states.” In 2016, almost 95 percent of all campaign events took place in those states, cutting out the other 38.

Winning a state by a landslide counts for no more than winning it by a few hundred votes, so most votes don’t really count. It’s as if they were never cast.

SB 870 would make Oregon part of an agreement to do away with the winner-take-all approach. It does not seek to eliminate the Electoral College, as that can be done only by constitutional amendment.

Please join me in reaching out to state lawmakers today and urging them to support SB 870. And join me in thanking Sen. Boquist for his untiring work over many years in bringing this important legislation forward.

Mark Cooley



Vote of thanks

We should give a big vote of thanks to our local paper, the News-Register.

Tuesday’s edition was not unusual. It had no Pulitzer Prize-winning articles, but it did have articles about:

n Faculty employment and enrollment at Linfield College

n The expenditure of bond funds

n Public beautification projects

n The preservation of an iconic local farm under pressure from urban growth

n The dwindling supply of buildable land

n Local students excelling and benefiting from our good public schools

n Legal notices and public notices

n The legislative priorities of our state representative

n The long-term management of local water resources

n School board races and legal judgments

n Obituaries

n Local sports

n Employment opportunities

And on Fridays, there’s a robust editorial page with balanced letters from the public.

This Tuesday’s edition also featured an ad opposing tariffs being placed on newsprint, which may speed the demise of newspapers, especially small-town papers like ours.

The N-R keeps us informed and engaged. I urge you call 202-225-3121 or visit www.stopnewsprinttariffs.org to express your opposition to laws undermining our ability to be an informed citizenry. Meanwhile, to the editors at the N-R, keep up the good work!

Margaret Cross



Liability for vaccine harm

There has been no vaccine product liability, and no federal Health & Human Services studies of vaccine safety, for 33 years. During that period, the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund has paid out $4 billion.

The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act guarantees: “... no vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death: (1) resulting from unavoidable side effects; or (2) solely due to the manufacturer’s failure to provide direct warnings.”

When the act was signed, HHS was given oversight of vaccine safety. Under 42 U.S. Code § 300aa–27, it was supposed to prepare periodic reports to prove we were working toward safer vaccines and reduction of adverse reactions.

In October 2017, the Informed Consent Action Network filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any HHS safety studies undertaken over the intervening decades. HHS didn’t respond, which led to a lawsuit. Under court order, HHS responded, “The department’s search for records did not locate any records responsive to your request.” Documentation can be viewed online.

If you look at data from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, you will find that more than $4 billion was expended to cover compensation, legal fees and other costs. Already, $111 million has been expended in 2019, according to the federal Health Resources & Services Administration website.

Washington state legislators recently introduced Senate Joint Memorial 8012, urging Congress to lift the liability ban on individuals suffering adverse reactions.

The bill is predicated on a belief that our individual human rights outweigh the profits of pharmaceutical companies, and individuals should thus have the ability to hold vaccine manufacturers liable for design defects resulting in adverse side effects. This is something the European Union has been able to do without destabilizing the European health care system.

Making vaccine manufacturers liable for their products again would provide an incentive for them to make their vaccines safer, reducing the number of adverse events.

Melissa Cochran



Thanks for crosswalk

I just wanted to take a moment to publicly thank the city of McMinnville for painting a crosswalk and automobile stop line at the intersection of Third and Adams streets.

Now I and other patrons of our wonderful public library can safely cross the street.

Rose-Marie Brannigan



Save morning light instead

I would like everyone to recall what happened March 10, when we lost an hour of sleep due to the switch to daylight saving time. Most people hate the “spring forward and fall back” ritual.

Though many enjoy more light in the evening, have you noticed what happened to morning? The sun appears an hour later!

There is currently a bill in the Oregon House, HB 2297, concerning DST. It abolishes the annual one-hour change from standard time to daylight saving time by keeping Oregon on the latter.

I do not believe this would be a good policy decision. We need to rid ourselves of the semi-annual time switch by remaining on standard time instead, for the following reasons:

First, it is a global solution, as many countries have never adopted DST. It would keep us in alignment with the rest of the world.

Second, the federal bill establishing the routine of switching to DST allows states to opt out. Establishing DST is not an option, so an act of Congress would be required.

Do Oregonians want to take that path? I hope not.

Third, December’s 8 a.m. darkness would move to 9 a.m.,  so most people would be commuting in darkness in the morning, just as children are heading to school.

Last, there are currently two states that wisely opted out years ago — Hawaii and Arizona. It seems wiser to adjust to how things were prior to the establishment of the semi- annual change than create an entirely new path.

The bill also has a provision for referring the issue to the voters for approval or rejection. Please pay attention in November if HB 2297 gets that far.

Linda O’Hara



Don Dix

Mark Cooley -- The 2016 election proves the value of the Electoral College. One candidate, the loser, received more popular votes, but that advantage was gained only by winning large in the 2 most populous states (Cal. & NY.). Without those 2 states, the popular vote went the other way.

The Electoral College was put in place so the large population of certain cities and states couldn't overwhelm the overall outcome (as exampled above). Wouldn't changing the Electoral College to awarding it's votes on percentages effectively base presidential elections on the popular vote? And that's exactly what the founders were wisely guarding against.


Don Dix,
Thanks for taking the time.
Since the NR significantly edited my letter I can see why you've misunderstood me.
The United States constitution is completely silent regarding how the various states award their electors. For example, for much of our history in many states electors were chosen by a vote of the state legislature. SB 870 does absolutely nothing to alter the Electoral College. As I said in my letter, it can not. SB 870 changes Oregon state law only. Current Oregon state law demands a "winner-take-all" awarding of our state's electors, regardless of the vote split.
With only 7 electors Oregon is a "small" state by any measure. The current "winner-take-all" state law disadvantages our small state by encouraging campaigns and candidates to focus exclusively on large, closely divided states. It is unclear to me what you mean when you use the expression "overwhelm the overall outcome". The "overall" outcome is determined by the awarding of 270 or more electoral votes. The question is how the states choose to award their share. When a small state agrees by its laws to adopt the "winnner-take-all" method it agrees that its voters will be ignored in the process. And so they are.

Don Dix

Treehouse -- you wrote -- 'It is unclear to me what you mean when you use the expression "overwhelm the overall outcome"'.

Try this. There is no law that requires the Electors in the Electoral College to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. These decisions are made by each state where restrictions fall into two categories — Electors that are bound by state law and those that are bound by pledges to political parties.

'Bound by pledges to political parties'? What is to keep those electors from awarding votes to their particular party without state law, no matter the results? There is plenty of partisan bickering without adding more drama to the equation.

One more note -- After each election, it seems the party which looses the presidency begins to clamor for changing the Electoral College in some way that might benefit them. Under those circumstances, I would surmise the present system is working quite well.


Don Dix,
Thanks for replying.
Are you suggesting that partisan binding is the law in Oregon? I don't believe that's true. But regardless, it would be moot if SB 870 passes, and enough states join to enact the agreement.

The agreement that SB 870 would enact was first proposed leading into the 2008 election. It was first proposed to the Oregon legislature at about the same time. It was first sponsored and introduced by Sen. Boquist in 2009. At every point in its history it has enjoyed bi-partisan support. And there is literally no correlation between the proposal's legislative history and the success or failure of either party in either the most recent or the most immediate Presidential election.

I sincerely believe that Senator Boquist sees this proposal as entirely non-partisan, as do I. There is no valid or rational reason to suggest that either political party would be favored by it. Because the way parties conduct campaigns would be entirely different. How citizens and voters relate to Presidential campaigns would be different was well. The tens of millions of registered voters and tens of millions more eligible but not registered in the 38 states that are ignored every four years would approach Presidential elections quite differently I believe. It is very likely that there would be more citizen engagement while simultaneously much less partisanship. Both parties would have to campaign more diverse nationwide population of voters. Partisan extremism that has come to dominate the current battleground state elections would be greatly reduced as the campaigns were compelled to appeal to moderate and independent voters.

Don Dix

Treehouse -- Did you know that the EC was formed as a compromise? Of the 13 original states, smaller ones, such as New Jersey were against joining the union because larger states like NY would dominate interests and elections. The compromise was instituted to encourage the smaller states to join. The EC was a guard against 'the tyranny of the majority', as it is today.

If the EC vote were awarded by percentage, in my opinion, campaigns would focus more on large states and metropolitan areas where more voters reside. Why campaign in Oregon (7 votes) when just south there are 55 (Cal.) votes to chase? I realize that argument works both ways, I just think more candidates would concentrate on where the big number reside.

Determining the EC votes by percentage of votes cast either way effectively morphs the US into a true democracy, which it is not (constitutional federal republic is the definition)). The framers of the Constitution were very aware that a true democracy could be dangerous. For that reason, the entire system of checks and balances, including the EC, were set up to guard against such occurring.

As I stated previously, when the election is close, the loser of presidential elections always complains about the EC and it's time to change, the system is working better than expected. Just wait -- when the complaining party wins at a later date, the tune will be changed to fit the narrative, as it always has.


Don Dix, thanks for the response.
I don't at all agree that altering the state's "winner take all" system for awarding electors would fundamentally change our representative system of government. The Electoral College remains. The House and Senate Remain of course, So does the Presidency. All that would change is the way our votes are counted for that one branch of our "constitutional federal republic". A change that you acknowledge would indeed be more democratic and thus more representative.

I'm pleased to say that as of today, during a public hearing in the Rules Committee, testimony for SB 870 was ten to one in favor of passage. And more than half of the testimony entered into the record in opposition was from an out of state lobbying group. This is pretty consistent with previous polling among Oregon voters, who have historically supported this change to our state laws.

Don Dix

Treehouse -- your wrote -- 'A change (EC to percentage of votes)that you acknowledge would indeed be more democratic and thus more representative'.

No, my stance is changing the EC electors to percentage of vote would move the 'republic' closer to a 'true democracy'. And a true democracy was never the intent of the founders, who felt that 'the tyranny of the majority' was an outcome that needed to be avoided. The creation of the EC was designed to convince smaller states they had a say in presidential elections.


Thanks for your response, Don Dix.

Not sure you are being completely honest in your response though.
You clearly are suggesting that somehow SB 870 would do away with the Electoral College or some other clearly expressed intent on the part of the framers. I don't see it. Obviously SB 870 can not, and does not do away with the Electoral College. And nowhere in the original articles of the Constitution nor in the Bill of Rights is the methodology for the state's selection of electors mentioned or addressed.

I believe the "compromise" you are referencing is captured in the formula for calculating the number of electors awarded to each state. It ties directly back into the bicameral compromise wherein all states are treated equally in the "more senior" of the two legislative bodies.

As for the Electoral College itself, The Framers assumed that electors would be elected on a district, rather than statewide basis (today only Maine and Nebraska use a district system). And they also assumed that the majority of average voters were not capable of taking a direct part in expressing a preference for President, believing instead that this choice was best left to the discretion of "elites". Regardless, I think it is very fair to say that not only has general public opinion about the methodology of Presidential elections evolved, but our state laws have evolved to reflect that. Again, I emphasize state laws, because the constitution expressly intended for the states to decide how their electors would be chosen.

Don Dix

Treehouse -- In my first reply, I explained how a candidate could win the popular vote by winning big in just Cal. & NY. Without those two large margins, the popular vote went the other way. The EC was specifically designed to thwart the ability of highly populated areas from controlling the outcome of presidential elections, and it has worked. Why that doesn't make sense is a mystery.

Two examples -- Hilary did not receive a majority of votes, only a plurality -- she lost the EC. Bill Clinton also only garnered a plurality, twice, but won the EC both times. That's the beauty, it works both ways.

A great example of 'the tyranny of the majority' exists right here in Oregon, if one cares to look. The valley controls the elections and, by definition, the direction of the state. The entire state is subject to the whims of the metro crowd. The Ds have surely have their own little corner of oligarchy right here. How far in debt is this state?

And you lost me the with the 'completely honest' remark. What about my words would lead anyone to suspect any hidden agenda. Time might be better spent questioning the politicians as to why they wish to change the EC format. There's more to see there, if they were 'completely honest', wouldn't you say?


Don, thanks for the reply.
What you're saying is both factually untrue but also fairly impossible.

Winning all the vote in just the two largest states would not even come close. And of course, it somehow presumes that a candidate could obtain the vote of every single registered voter in those states. Something that has never happened, is astronomically unlikely to ever happen, and that in fact would be far, far less likely to happen with "winner take all" state laws removed. We know from public and private voter file data that turnout among minority party voters is suppressed in all the states with "winner take all" laws.

Did you know that 85% of Americans live in places with a population smaller than Arlington Texas? Many folks seem to both overestimate the size of our nations's population living in "big cities" and "big states". And some of that misconception may be born from how much our country has grown and changed in that last two centuries. The very smallest states are the ones most disadvantaged by "winner take all" laws. Because they are simply too small a prize, and because most of them are not divided closely enough to merit the effort and expense of narrowing the gap. Without a state "winner take all" law every vote in those states would be worth just as much to a campaign as a vote in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Ohio.

In almost every single one of your responses you have frequently equated the "winner take all" state laws with the existence of the Electoral College itself. That is not a true thing at all. The Framers conceptualized the Electoral College as a means of overcoming political fears surrounding a powerful Executive Branch also conceptualized in The Compromise. They did not anticipate the emergence of political parties nor "winner take all" state laws.

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