Campaigns can stop now

My ballot

It's ready to go

My election is over. As far as I'm concerned, the candidates and the campaign committees can stop now. They can quit running TV ads. They can quit calling. My ballot has been filled out. It's been stuck in its "secrecy" envelope and sealed, and it's ready to be dropped in the nearest drop county box. (That's at Ray's Food Store in the North Albany Village shopping center, in case you were wondering.)

Actually, the campaigners could have quit a long time ago as far as I'm concerned. I don't need campaigns to know what I want in public policy. Or whom I want to hold public office. For all I care, the candidates could announce their intentions before the filing date and then sit back, or go about their regular business. They would not have to spend a dime to impress me or to win me over. I'm guessing there are many citizens like me in this regard. They know what they are for and what they are against. They don't need to be persuaded. They don't need to be bought.

Trouble is that we don't usually decide elections. No, in our closely divided country, elections are decided by the undecided. These are the people who can be persuaded. The ones who form an impression because of ads they see on TV. The ones impressed by signs on people's lawns.

So if you don't like millions of dollars being spent on campaigns, if you think our politics is polluted by cash, don't blame me. Don't blame citizens who pay attention and know what they want. No, the blame for expensive campaigns falls on that small number among us who can easily be swayed. (hh)

A whopping campaign contribution

His latest campaign finance report shows a whopping contribution of $75,000 in cash to state Rep. Andy Olson of Albany, the current Republican leader in the Oregon House who is seeking his fifth term.

The contribution came from Loren Parks, owner of an Oregon company that makes medical equipment. Parks, who moved from Oregon in 2002 and lives in Henderson, Nev., has long been the most generous contributor to conservative candidates and causes in Oregon.

Olson, a retired officer in the State Police, said: "This is certainly not the biggest individual campaign contribution ever.  But keep in mind that I have a new role as House Republican Leader. I'm receiving additional support, not only for my own campaign, but for my work to elect legislators that can move Oregon forward."

The Parks check, received on Oct. 9 and filed on the public report on campaign finance activity on Tuesday (Oct. 16), raised Olson's total campaign cash receipts to $254,975. As of Tuesday he had spent more than $202,000, much of it on contributions to other Republican candidates, leaving him with a cash balance of about $124,000. (The figures don't add up because of his beginning balance from the previous year.)

Olson's opponent, Democrat Ron Green of Albany, reported cash contributions of $16,000 and a campaign finance deficit of about $3,340 as of Oct. 16. Green entered the race late, being nominated by the Democratic Party after the candidate named in the primary withdrew.

Debates questioned

Tuesday's debate between Obama and Romney showed once again why events of this kind are a poor way of picking a president.
The commentators were delighted that the candidates went "toe to toe." That there was sharp disagreement. That they accused each other of lying. That there were sparks in their air. And so on.

But do we want a sharp-tongued talker to be the president of the United States? Do we want an aggressive verbal pugilist? How about, instead, someone who can govern? Someone who has ideas that favor American freedom and can carry them out.

In the debate Tuesday, both candidates said things that were not so. This is inevitable in such a high-pressure format. When you have just a few seconds, it's easy to misspeak.
Voters would be better advised to choose the candidate who best reflects their own ideas based on their records in actual deeds. For that, they don't need debates. (hh)

Albany sign change, why?

The existing sign at West Albany High: No message


In Albany, the city council is considering an amendment to the development code to allow changeable electronic message signs for schools and other institutions that happen to be in residential zones. I'm wondering why this is thought to be useful.

For one thing, existing lighted signs at schools can stay lit through the night. Under the proposal, if any are replaced by changeable signs, those would have to be turned off between 9 at night and 6 the next morning. So they would be dark and no one could see them at all.

For another, think about this. Message signs at schools and churches are intended to be read mainly by people driving by. But even at 20 miles an hour in a school zone, how much can you read? Maybe three or four words, and that's it. If there's a phone number, forget it. And now this proposal is to allow messages that can be changed at the push of a button -- or with a keyboard, I assume. How useful is that going to be in terms of getting people to see, read and understand a message as they are going by in a moving car?

I imagine that changeable message signs aren't exactly cheap, especially of the size being talked about. It's one thing for them to be allowed, but considering their limited benefit, it's hard to see why anyone would spend the cash -- or raise it in the first place -- especially when the message has to be turned off for nine hours out of every 24.

A new hope for O&C timber lands?

Governor Kitzhaber has named a group of 14 people to make recommendations on how to help the O&C counties get some money out of the federal timberlands now that the federal county payments have stopped. If they come up with something helpful that actually works, it will be a big surprise.
The committee is supposed to make a report that can be submitted to Congress in early 2013. So at least there's a definite goal as far as time is concerned. As for substance, uncertainty is the word.
The governor evidently has decided not to support the proposal by Congressman Peter DeFazio and others, which called for turning the O&C lands over to a trust that would run half of them to produce timber and the other half to serve conservation goals. If he was in favor of that plan, why name a special committee? In any case, his announcement of the committee did not mention the DeFazio plan.
The panel has four county commissioners, from Douglas, Josephine, Columbia and Clackamas counties. It has four representatives of lumber and sawmill companies. And it also has six environmentalists.
It's supposed to devise a plan to increase county income from timber and help generate local jobs.
But the plan also is supposed to save the environment. Under current laws, that's an impossible job. But the Oregon and California railroad lands were supposed to boost local economies and jobs. So even it it seems impossible, let's hope this panel can find a way.
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