Our rivers: Cleanup pays off

These people don't have to worry about the water quality. It's good.

These people don't have to worry about the water quality. It's good.

These last few days of warm weather have brought home once again how clean our rivers are, especially compared to half a century ago. If they weren't, people would not go near them. And as we've seen lately, lots of people do seek out the Willamette and Santiam rivers, among others, to have a little fun in the water when the weather gets hot.

The state Department of Environmental Quality publishes an annual water quality index, which summarizes several pollution parameters. The state monitors them, and then it assigns a score for each monitoring site. The latest report available online, for 2012, rates the Willamette River's water quality as good in Albany and excellent in Corvallis and Salem. Water quality in the Santiam at Highway 226 rates as excellent too. Only the Calapooia River, monitored at Queen Avenue, was called "fair."

The DEQ directly addressed the question of how safe the water is for swimming only in the Portland Harbor, a designated Superfund cleanup site, and there it said the water was generally safe. The state is still concerned with traces of various consumer substances in the Willamette River. But as for wading and swimming on a hot day, our rivers now appear to be plenty safe enough. (hh)

Private liquor sales? Not yet

The must have been meant for some other state.

The ad must have been meant for some other state.

Hard liquor on sale at Walmart? That's what the ad insert in the paper on Sunday said. But it isn't so, I'm pretty sure, at Walmart stores in Oregon.

For decades, Oregon has guarded its monopoly on selling spirits through state-licensed agents and stores. Some time ago, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission started a pilot program allowing four liquor stores to sell beer and wine and four groceries to sell hard liquor. The beer and wine stores are operating, Christie Scott of the OLCC told me, but no grocery store or chain has yet applied to sell hard liquor. And no whiskey or vodka or rum -- as the ad claimed -- is for sale at any Oregon supermarket.

One segment of the grocery business had been working for repeal of the Oregon liquor monopoly, especially after voters in Washington state passed an initiative to abolish the state monopoly there. But they said they wanted to test the waters in the 2013 legislature before making plans for an initiative in 2014.

Well, the legislature is almost over and nothing has been done on the liquor front. Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas introduced a bill calling for a plan to close the OLCC, but it went nowhere. Maybe that's just as well. After Washington closed its state liquor stores, the price of booze shot way up. So for now, the prospects for privatizing Oregon liquor sales look poor, no matter what it says in Walmart ads. (hh)

DMV still hassles citizens

Unless you can prove legal presence, renewing your license is still a big hassle.

Unless you can prove legal presence, renewing your license is still a big hassle.

The state of Oregon continues to cause trouble for some people trying to renew their driver licenses. There's no rational reason for this, but legislators have not seen fit to order a change. The problem is that Oregon requires people renewing their licenses to prove their legal presence in the United States. This is quite a nuisance to drivers who have been citizens all their lives but can't easily get the paperwork acceptable as proof.

If you once obtained a U.S. passport, for example, you had to have proof of citizenship. But the state DMV says this doesn't count if the passport has been expired for more than five years. Passports are good for 10 years. Renewing them is expensive, so unless you need to, you likely don't renew it. But so what? If you were a citizen 15 years ago, why isn't that good enough to show that you still are?

Also, state officials keep insisting that no illegal aliens vote. So if you have registered as an Oregon voter and especially if you have actually voted, that should be prima facie evidence that you have a legal right to be present in the United States. But the DMV does not see it that way.

Our lawmakers have voted to let illegal aliens get permits to drive. But as for citizens, no dice -- unless they have proof, which sometimes is hard and expensive to get. (hh)

From Joe Alvernaz, via Facebook; I'm in the middle of this hassle right now, and I asked all the same issues you mentions. Quite a pain.
However, in defense of the guy behind the counter, he was very understanding and helpful. I at least got a temporary permit allowing me to drive while I wait for paperwork. In and out in 5 minutes.

From Brian Berkley, via Facebook: Since when does the state do anything for the native-born citizens? They go out of their way to make it easier for people here illegally to obtain state services and identification so as to keep the powers that be in power. It has ceased being a "Government of the People, By the People, and For the People."

Just what is this?

As I've ridden around parts of Oregon on my bike, I've often wondered what exactly I was seeing. And maybe you, too, wish that there was a little more information available to the casual passerby, not just to satisfy our curiosity but also to enhance general knowledge of the world around us. Well, the other day I came across this good example. It's worth emulating.

Warm welcome for new chief

City Manager Wes Hare watches as City Clerk Mary Dibble administers the oath.

City Manager Wes Hare watches as City Clerk Mary Dibble administers the oath.

Chief Mario Lattanzio will start work on July 1.

Chief Mario Lattanzio will start work on July 1.

Albany's new chief of police got quite a welcome on Friday. The council chamber at City Hall was filled nearly to capacity as Mario Lattanzio, 47, took the oath of office administered by City Clerk Mary Dibble. The job will pay him roughly $137,000 a year.

The Lattanzios have bought a house off Crocker Lane in North Albany. Members of his family including his wife, Kimm, were on hand for Friday's ceremony.

Among the speakers praising Lattanzio for numerous qualities were Frank Milstead, the police chief of Mesa, Ariz., where Lattanzio spent his entire police career and most recently served as assistant chief. Also traveling a distance for the occasion was Vicki Myers, a friend and former police colleague of Lattanzio's who now heads the police departments in Seaside and Pacific Grove, two cities in Monterey County, Calif.

One of the factors that drew Lattanzio to Oregon is that he has family in the region. One of them is his aunt Ellen Devlin, a 1976 graduate of West Albany High School who competed for the University of Oregon as a distance runner before working for Nike for 30 years and now lives in Portland. She, too, took to the podium to say nice things about her nephew.

Law enforcement and others in local government were well represented at Friday's occasion, but members of the public also used the occasion to shake the chief's hand. On Monday Lattanzio will start work, taking over from Jeff Hinrichs, who has been acting chief for about a month since the retirement of Chief Ed Boyd.

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