This fake holiday…

Will Lincoln and Washington one day disappear from our currency the way they have been wiped off the calendar?

Will Lincoln and Washington one day disappear from our currency the way they have been wiped off the calendar?

There's no school Monday, and the day is a holiday for some in other parts of the public sector too. What's the occasion? Presidents Day. What is that anyway?

When it was launched about a generation ago, it was supposed to replace Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays. But if we had been serious about that, we would have called it Lincoln-Washington Day. Then young people would have had a clue. As it is, what are they supposed to think? "We don't have school today because we have a president"?

Some people spell it President's Day, as though it belongs to Obama. In the advertising end of commerce, we are regaled with Presidents Day Sales. They could call them mid-February sales just as well. Business depends on sales, so trying to drum up sales is always a good idea, no matter what it's called. But we've lost something when we erased Lincoln and Washington from the vocabulary of February days.

And now, the Great Emancipator faces yet another indignity as there's a push to get rid of the penny. Minting a penny apparently costs far more than the little coin is worth, and various economists are urging Congress to abolish it. What about Washington, then? Efforts to replace Washington's portrait with one-dollar coins have failed, obviously. But the value of the dollar keeps shrinking too. So maybe Washington's face will one day disappear from daily life the way Lincoln's may, and the way both their birthdays have been replaced on the calendar this month with a fake holiday that has no connection to our country's history at all. (hh)

Site being prepared in North Albany

Work has started to prepare a site for a proposed apartment development in North Albany between the western end of Hickory Street and the Albany-Corvallis Highway (Highway 20). The city planning department says it has issued a fill permit for the site. Developers have had a pre-application meeting with the department about what officials expect will be an apartment complex, but the developers have not yet filed a site plan. No word on the timing of the process or eventual construction.(hh)

Voting delays? An easy fix!

In Oregon, if you're too cheap or too poor to buy a stamp and mail your ballot, you can drop it at a box like this. Long lines at polling places would be a thing of the past if other states copied the Oregon election system.

In Oregon, if you're too cheap or too poor to buy a stamp and mail your ballot, you can drop it at a box like this. Long lines at polling places would be a thing of the past if other states copied the Oregon election system.

President Obama says he's concerned that some citizens had to wait a long time to vote in the last election. If that's a problem anywhere, it's a local problem that can easily be solved without the federal government getting involved, isn't it?

During the State of the Union address, Obama cited the case of an old lady from Florida, who apparently had to wait hours to cast her ballot because of long lines at her polling place. While the president spoke, she appeared on our TV screens, sitting in the audience. She's 102 years old, and from the looks of her, it 's not that easy for her to get around. So why did she have to wait at a polling station at all? Why didn't she vote by absentee ballot? Increasingly, that's the way a lot of Americans vote in states where polling places still exist. In metro areas with lots of voters, that's the easiest way to avoid delays.

Or states could do what Oregon has done. For years now we've been voting almost exclusively through the mail. There is no such thing as having to wait. And nobody is denied the right to vote because of delays. For the president and Democrats in Congress, though, that apparently would be too simple and inexpensive a solution. Instead, they're pushing for several law changes to increase the number of voters, such as automatically registering people at government agencies, which means signing up more people getting government help.

They also want to allow voter registration up through election day. And they'd like to ban ads that might be construed to discourage voting. It's hard to think how an ad could do that, but banning ads of any kind goes right along with other current attempts to infringe on the rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

The fact is that in America, nobody who wants to vote is denied the opportunity to do so. What more does anyone want? (hh)

Council TV: ‘For the viewers at home…’

 

In a suit, Public Works Director Mark Shepard makes a point related to a 2 per cent water rate hike, which the council approved.

In a suit, Public Works Director Mark Shepard makes a point related to a 2 per cent water rate hike, which the council approved.

Something was different about the Albany City Council's meeting on Wednesday night, Feb. 13. Everybody seemed to be more dressed up than normal, and several of the men among council members and the city staff wore coats and ties. What prompted all that sartorial splendor? Maybe it was that for the first time, the meeting was broadcast live on cable, as it happened.

For a few years now, the Albany City Council has video-recorded its regular meetings, shown them online in real time and replayed them later online and on cable. Wednesday's live broadcast on cable channel 28, though, was a first. This has seemingly enhanced an effect that outsiders had noticed before: Some of the talk is aimed at the cameras. "For the viewers at home," a council member is likely to say before launching into an explanation that all the other councilors and most others in the room already know. They know because the issue was discussed before, most likely at one of the Monday afternoon work sessions that usually precede the regular meetings on Wednesday nights.

Ideally, the work done at work sessions ought to allow the council to handle action items at regular meetings without an exhaustive rehash of all the relevant arguments and facts. But of course the work sessions are not online; they are not even recorded, though minutes are kept. And even if they were replayed online or on TV, nobody could expect members of the public to stay glued to their screens for hours at a time.

The result is that councilors now and then feel obliged to explain things to the handful of people -- surely it can't be more than that -- who tune in the Albany council on Wednesday nights on their TVs rather than watch American Idol. So besides upgrading the dress code, putting meetings on TV has had the apparent effect of making council meetings a little longer than they'd have to be. (hh)

Cell phones: The urge to punish

No ticket warranted here. Note that this is a mere illustration, as a look at the speedometer bears out.

No ticket warranted here. Note that this is a mere illustration, as a look at the speedometer bears out.

What is it that some members of the legislature seem to have against the people of Oregon that they want to punish us every chance they get?

The Senate Judiciary Committee has just voted for a bill that would increase the maximym fine for using a hand-held cell phone while driving from $250 to $1,000. One thousand dollars for answering the phone? Come on, where is the reason in that?

The bill is being pushed by Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem and the longtime president of the Senate. So it stands a good chance of passing, despite the sensible objections of senators such as Betsy Close of Albany. During Tuesday's committee hearing, she voted against the bill and worried that the proposed fines are too severe, especially considering that many potential violators are young people.

That's one reasonable objection. Another is that cell phone use while driving continues despite the 2009 law against it because it is very hard to enforce. It's not because the fines are too low. It's because we don't have enough cops to watch every driver, and those we do have usually have more pressing calls that need a response.

There's another reason why thousand-dollar fines for those offenses are out of line. It is that the law applies only to hand-held phones but exempts the ones that can be operated hands free. But what's distracting while driving is not holding something to your ear. It's having a conversation on the phone. So the risk of causing an accident is the same, but only one kind of phoning is against the law and subject to stiff fines. Where is the sense in that?

The point has been made that other activities while driving -- such as applying makeup, having lunch, reading a map or a book -- are just as distracting as a phone call. If we take this seriously and pass more laws, just where is it going to end? Instead, it would be better for legislators to show some restraint and give citizens credit or acting reponsibly most of the time. (hh)

From Ray Kopczynski: "During Tuesday's committee hearing, she [Betsy Close] voted against the bill and worried that the proposed fines are too severe, especially considering that many potential violators are young people." On the other hand, would that send a viable message to those folks who get caught and are fined - regardless of the age?  I honestly believe that the majority of "fines" are woefully inadequate to get a point across for any infraction/violation of the law.
Yes, it appears some folks are trying to "protect us from ourselves."  But IF one person could be saved from injury (or worse) by someone not using a cell phone while driving, I have no qualms about supporting the bill. That there are myriad other ways to be distracted while driving is not relevant to this particular issue IMO.
From Ted Salmons: If, and it's a big if.  Talking on cell phones is so distracting and dangerous to all of humanity and small creatures too then flat out outlaw their use in moving vehicles. No exceptions. Absolutely no exceptions unless your accelerator is stuck and you're hurtling down the freeway at 80 miles per hour. If it dangerous then it's dangerous for anybody to do it. Oh yeah, those fancy computers the police love so much.  Install an interlock switch so the display goes dark unless the vehicle is in park. If it's a safety issue then it's a safety issue. If it's BS then it's BS.
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