The Clackamas ballot affair

Voting by mail had nothing to do with the Clackamas County elections scandal. But state and county officials could have done a far better job of handling this affair.

The main thing is, they should have pressed their investigation in order to get to the bottom of it well before the last day to cast ballots. Instead, they said they could not talk about an ongoing investigation. This is the usual cop-out from authorities. Voters and citizens generally deserve better. It would not hurt for officials to say something like: "We're still looking into it, but so far here is what we know."

The story was that on October 31, six days before the last day to vote, somebody in the Clackamas County elections office supposedly was seen filling in the ballot positions for local Republican candidates in races where voters had left those places blank. If this is really what happened, the person will be prosecuted. The big question was how widespread that kind of fraud had been. Ballots will have to be examined to see if the ballot spots are filled in with different inks, or with different pens or pencils.

Here's a case where ballot secrecy could be a problem. Suppose they find a ballot that looks suspicious. But the voter might not have used the same writing instrument. He or she might have started filling it out, then done something else and filled out the rest later, with a pencil instead of a pen, or vice versa. But of course the ballot itself can't be traced, so the voter cannot be asked.

As for me, I would not mind if my ballot had my name on it in order to help in a situation like that. But that's one reform that likely will not take place. As for blaming voting by mail, forget it. If dishonest officials get involved, ballot tampering can happen whether people vote at a polling place or through the mail. (hh)

Next flood: Gates on Bryant Way

A county crew was working on Bryant Way Monday.

Next time high water sloshes across Bryant Way outside of Albany, it should be easier to keep drivers from getting into trouble there. Linn County Road Department crews on Monday were installing gates that can be closed to keep traffic out.

The trouble comes in winter and early spring when exceptionally heavy rain or a sudden snow melt in the Cascades floods both the Calapooia and Willamette rivers. Then the Calapooia spills over and one arm of it takes a shortcut across Bryant Way less than a quarter-mile from the Albany city limit.

In January 2012, an 88-year-old man had to be pulled from his submerged vehicle there. And then on April 1, the papers reported that two teenagers had become stranded in high water after apparently walking out into it. They too had to be helped to safety. At least one similar mishap occurred at the same spot in the winter of 1996.

The new barriers won't keep people out, but they will make it impossible for drivers to ignore the customary warning signs saying the road is closed. There are no residences between the places where the county was placing the gates, so residents won't be kept from their homes when the water is high.

Roadmaster Darrin Lane says the project is estimated to cost about $2,500 and is a joint venture between the Albany Fire Department and the Linn County Road Department.  He says that gates were also installed on Lochner Road. (hh)

City poised to lower restriping fee

Did you know that if you have a parking lot in the city of Albany and want to repaint the stripes, you have to have a city permit? Some businesses and striping contractors apparently didn't know this either, and they don't like it, the city council learned Monday.

The fees for a parking lot restriping permit range from $125 if the lot has one or two spaces for the disabled to $355 if handicapped spaces number six or more. City Manager Wes Hare said that on small jobs, the city fee may be a major portion of the cost and this had led to complaints. He wondered if the council wanted to lower the fee.

He didn't mention that the mayor and all council members last month got a letter from the president of the company that owns Izzy's restraurant complaining about the restriping permit fee and other issues. "I can complete the entire project of striping my own lot for much less than the $350 the city is requiring for the permit fee alone," wrote D. Fred Jansen of Jansen Enterprises Inc.

The council  seemed willing to reduce the fees, though no vote was taken at the work session. Councilor Floyd Collins suggested a flat fee of $75 per lot, and the council likely will get a resolution to that effect at a meeting in December.

Albany may be the only town in the vicinity to require a restriping permit. Salem and Lebanon don't have the requirement, and Corvallis may not either, though nobody was sure Monday night. Hare and Building Official Gary Stutzman said the council approved the permit fees several years ago to recover staff costs, they said, though Councilor Bessie Johnson could not remember doing so.

The rationale of requiring the permits, the staff members said, was to make sure Albany parking lots comply with state law and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on the number, size and accessibility of spaces set aside for the disabled. This, they believe, can save parking lot owners trouble because failure to comply with the rules for handicapped parking can lead to costly disputes. (hh)

From the Benton sheriff’s log

Driving across the Coast Range on the Alsea Highway? Or hunting at E.E. Wilson, the wildlife area northwest of Albany? The following two items might be of interest. I found them in the Benton County sheriff's log.

On Oct. 26, Benton deputies helped a man who was walking along the road trying to flag down help. He had lost control of his pickup in a curve near Missouri Bend. But he could get no service on his cell phone. So deputies used their law enforcement channel, apparently, and called for a tow. This has always struck me as a really dumb thing about cell phones. Places where you really need one, like on curvy roads through the hills, like around Missouri Bend on Highway 34, the towers don't reach. Seems to me this is something the phone companies should fix.

The other item: On the morning of Oct. 31, some one had left his rental car parked at E.E. Wilson while he went hunting. When he got back, the passenger window was smashed and somebody had opened his gun cases. So here's a word of warning. Just because the state wants you to pay seven bucks to park there, you do so at your own risk. There's no security.

Nothing can be done about thieves. So the thing is: Don't leave anything in your rig in plain sight where crooks see in. (hh)

Remember Dave Clark

A sign designates the riverfront path.

It was a little more than 10 years ago that death overtook Dave Clark, the city of Albany's parks and recreation director for 27 years. We in the Albany area still benefit from his vision and his drive to get things done. Largely because of his ideas and plans and tireless work, we now can enjoy a string of parks along the Albany riverfront, on both sides of the river. Monteith Riverpark and Bowman Park came about because of Clark and under his leadership. So did the bike and walking path along the riverbank that nearly connects the two and now bears his name.

It was Clark who negotiated the deals that made Takenah Landing and Simpson Park possible. In the 1980s he started the River Rhythms concert series. He also developed the Oregon Amphitheater at Timber-Linn Park and helped launch the annual Northwest Art and Air Festival.

In 1999, when the public pool at Swanson Park had to be shut down because of equipment failures that were too expensive to fix, he started the drive to replace it with a water park, a drive energetically pursued and completed after his death by his successor, Ed Hodney. And Clark was also the driving force behind establishing the Albany Skate Park.

Clark was recognized with nationwide honors when he was living. He died on Oct. 29, 2002, at the age of 52. The 10th anniversary of his death has come and gone. I don't know if the city paid it any notice. If it still wanted to do something big in his name, it might revive his project to link Bryant and Monteith parks with a simple floating bridge across the Calapooia River. As for me, I think of Dave every day I ride my bike along the Dave Clark path. (hh)

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