No mail on Saturday? Fine!

On Saturdays our mailboxes may be nice and empty.

On Saturdays our mailboxes may be nice and empty.

It's hard to argue with the Postal Service decision, announced Wednesday, to stop Saturday mail delivery starting in August. Most of the mail people get consists of bills, ads and requests for donations. There's no rush on those, and if they don't get delivered till Monday, fine, no problem.

In Oregon we have the issue of ballots coming in the mail. They often arrive on Friday or Saturday two and a half weeks before election day. So if they don't arrive till the following Monday, is that a problem? No, it's not. Nobody needs two weeks to fill out a ballot and send it back. Voters used to be able to handle ballots within a few minutes, so we know it can be done.

The post office says that not delivering mail on Saturdays will save $2 billion a year. That estimate has to be taken with a grain of salt. And whatever savings are actually realized will come out of somebody's earnings. If that's contract carriers who deliver the Saturday mail, that's sad for them. Still, the service has been losing lots and lots of money, and it clearly can't continue doing the same things it has always done. Unless we want to start paying a dollar or two for a first-class stamp -- or unless we ban bill-paying online or demand that every household write two personal letters a day instead of using email -- changes have to be made.

For most postal customers, though, the change may prove helpful. If you don't get mail on Saturdays, it won't sit in your rural box for most of two days -- ready loot for thieves -- when you happen to spend a weekend away. (hh)

From Ted Salmons: What I don't understand is that if they're doing this to save money (and heaven knows they've got to do something) then why still deliver packages, keep those post offices with Saturday hours (do these really exist?) still open on Saturday and deliver mail to post office boxes?  Does that mean we that are getting our service cut are going get a discount on our postage since we're the ones that actually are going to get less service? Yeah, like that's gonna happen. If they're doing this to save money then save money.  No service on Saturdays.  Period.

 

Albany debt: Elections might have helped

Campaign signs in favor of the proposal to require voter approval of new city debt: Ten years too late?

Campaign signs in favor of the proposal to require voter approval of new city debt: Ten years too late?

(See the response at the bottom.)One of of the initiatives up for an Albany city election on March 12 would require voter approval of new city debt. Disregarding for the moment any problems with the wording of the proposal, it is tempting to think that if such a measure had been in effect years ago, we might hear less grumbling about Albany water and sewer rates, which are relatively high and rising just about every year.

In part the rates are driven by the need to make payments on about $100 million the city borrowed in the last 10 years -- $40 million to build a new water plant on the Santiam River and about $60 million to finance expansion of the wastewater treatment plant on the Willamette. The borrowing in those cases was authorized by the city council. No election was required because property taxes were not being pledged to pay off the loans. Instead, the plan was to make the loan payments largely from utility rates. And that has called for almost annual increases in the price of sewer service or water, or both.

Each time this comes up, the council agonizes and sometimes trims a scheduled increase, or even puts it off for a year. But every summer there are complaints that people have to let their lawns go brown because their combined monthly water and sewer bill in Albany is so high. If those big loans had been taken out with the consent and approval of the voters, do you think there would be fewer complaints? I don't know, but if an election had been held, you can bet that the implication of these loans for the future prices of sewer and water would have been more thoroughly explored. Instead, without the public involvement that elections entail, the only thing most people got were vague statements in the paper that the loans would have to be repaid from rates.

Elections also might have led to sharper public questioning of exactly why the projects were necessary, and who knows what insights or greater public understanding that would have brought. In retrospect, it might have been helpful all around to have this now-proposed debt election requirement in effect 10 years ago. (hh)

From Ray Kopczynski:

"...but if an election had been held, you can bet that the implication of these loans for the future prices of sewer and water would have been more thoroughly explored."

I'll bite.  Since Albany has an incredibly high rating nationally for transparency, exactly how more open could the process be & have been??  You have seen how much the public wants to participate.  The public has access to the exact same documents the councilors get -- at virtually the exact same time -- and they are highly encouraged to get involved by contacting their individual councilor and/or the professional city staff to get additional information they may desire.

 "...the only thing most people got were vague statements in the paper that the loans would have to be repaid from rates."

"...vague statements..."  Seriously?  How would could it be explained more easily & concisely?  As I recall, the whole issue was, has been, and is constantly reported in the paper -- over and above all of the public access to the information we use.

 "Elections also might have led to sharper public questioning of exactly why the projects were necessary, and who knows what insights or greater public understanding that would have brought."

While that may (or may not) be true, it is a sad commentary to think/envision that it may take an "election" to get folks off their butt to get involved...and even then, most of the time, the turnout is quite dismal to say the least.

Crossings: Right vs. right thing to do

 

The dispute over private railroad crossings may end up here, in the Linn County Courthouse.

The dispute over private railroad crossings may end up here, in the Linn County Courthouse.

In Linn County, the Albany & Eastern Railroad has filed trespassing complaints against a handful of property owners who must cross the tracks to get to their homes. The owners have refused to pay the railroad's demands for a one-time payment plus annual fees for permission to come and go to and from their residences, which are on  the wrong side -- literally -- of the tracks between Lebanon and Sweet Home.

The previous owner of that rail line apparently had neglected the crossing issue for a long time, with the result that homeowners were unaware of the precarious nature if their private crossings and the railroad's rights. But sometimes rights under the law are one thing and the right thing to do is something else. Seems to me that is the case here.

If you have lived some place and crossed the tracks to get there for years, and then the railroad demands $600 plus a continuing fee of $10 a month, you too would protest. You might not resist all that much if the line was busy with several trains a day and the crossing needed maintenance all the time. Then you might understand why permission to cross would come with a cost. But the Lebanon line is all but dormant. If there's any shipping on the line at all, it is rare indeed.

Railroads have all kinds of privileges under federal law to protect them from local interference all along their tracks. They could not do business otherwise. But this does not justify bullying or making life unpleasant for their neighbors. The trespass complaints by the Albany & Eastern evidently are headed for court. If the cases get to the point of a trial, jurors may get the chance to tell the company what they think. (hh)

From Bob Thomas, via Facebook:  I disagree, no matter what, it is private land, even if they crossed for a 100 years, they don't own the land. Sorry they have to pay, but they knew they didn't own it when they bought the property.

 

 

Obama fails to persuade

A reader's strong reaction is below.

White House photo of President Obama at Camp David.

White House photo of President Obama at Camp David.

Obama would be more believable in his quest for more gun control if he made some sort of sense. In Minneapolis on Monday, he once again said he wanted to prevent another Newtown and the way to do this was to require "universal background checks" and to ban "assault rifles" and high-capacity magazines. But if those changes had been law in December, they would have had no effect on what happened in Newtown.

Universal background checks don't affect anyone who has not previously and officially been logged as a criminal or recorded as being mentally ill. Banning certain rifles and magazines has no effect unless the government takes the next step, which is to track down and confiscate all the millions of rifles and magazines that it has banned. And even if it did so and succeeded, it would not prevent massacres of innocent people in defenseless institutions such as schools. Would-be mass killers would instead grab a shotgun loaded with three or four shells -- perhaps one similar to the one that skeet shooter Obama likes to use at Camp David -- which could easily have the same devastating result in a crowded classroom or shopping arcade as an AR-15 or even a .22 caliber pistol. (Such a pistol was used in a mass school shooting in Finland a few years ago.)

So when Obama reiterated his talking points in Minneapolis -- before a backdrop of dozens of uniformed police officers apparently willing to be lined up as props to lend his words gravity -- he failed to persuade anyone who thought about exactly what he was saying, no matter how earnest he tried to appear. What he's pushing for would not achieve what he says he wants. (hh)

From Traci O'Hearn: If you honestly think that the Newtown murders would have a similar outcome if the shooter had a .22 caliber pistol or a loaded shotgun with three or four shells then you are an idiot.  One child was shot 11 times.  How long do you think it would take to shoot a child 11 times and then move on to shoot the next 19 people.
I do not know how I feel about banning certain guns, but I do know that there is something better we can do as Americans.  Mentally ill people should not be able to carry a gun.  It won't solve the country's problems 100 percent, but it may save some lives.
Yes, I have a concealed wepons permit.  Yes, I feel comfortable sitting next to my dad when he has a gun tucked into his belt.  But I know someone who I don't think should have access to a gun. She has a mental illness, diagnosed by a doctor. Can she get a permit to carry? Yes she can. ou are dead wrong if you think her having a gun is safe for anyone.  All she has to do is fill out her paperwork and check the box that says she doesn't have a mental illness and her permit will be mailed to her. She doesn't always think she does have a mental illness.  There is the loop hole that needs to be fixed.  I don't know how or if it can be fixed, but for our sake and the sake of our children I wish YOU would stop mocking OUR President for trying to change something.  Mocking him because he values hunters and their rights or cutting him down because he knows the need to have some sort of restriction is just wrong.  I've even seen on Facebook this week (more than once) people threatening to kill the president if he tries to ban assault weapons or impose restrictions.  Are YOU telling me those same people have a right to carry a weapon? Just think about that for one moment.
I'm sure you won't print this, probably won't read it, but I wish you would step outside of your narrow mind for one moment and realize that not everyone agrees with you mocking OUR president. Not today!

Did this make a sound?

Good thing nobody was under this tree in Albany's Bryant Park when a big branch came off and crashed to the ground in one of the parking lots. The park has been closed to vehicles since earlier this winter. Elsewhere at Bryant, a big tree fell across a park road and has been cut up to let walkers through. It's the sort of thing you notice on a Sunday afternoon bike ride.

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