Barb’s Book

The cover of Governor Roberts' memoir.

Barbara Roberts was our governor in Oregon from 1991 until early 1995. Before that she was a state representative  and the secretary of state. She has also held other offices, and now she's on the board of metro, the regional government in Portland. People may know all that. Not long ago, an audience in Lebanon was reminded that Governor Roberts also is an author, and when you read her new book, her second, you gain a new appreciation of this lady's talent not merely as a leader but as a writer too.

The book is called Up the Capitol Steps. In it the former governor, now 75, recounts her life, from growing up in the small town of Sheridan as a school girl in the 1950s through her careers as a mother, wife, political pioneer and finally as a university teacher in political science at Harvard and Portland State.

Her story in public life is one thing, and it's obviously interesting, especially for Oregon residents who followed politics during those years. To mention just one episode, there's the story she tells of her getting lost in Victoria's Secret causing a brief panic among the state troopers assigned to protect her.

But her life outside of politics is even more appealing to the reader. She and the people around her have lived through a great deal, and she tells the story swiftly and in prose that is strong and clear. This, you conclude, is one tough lady who has overcome just about anything life or fate can throw at a person.

She's still going strong, as her Lebanon audience learned. If you want to learn more, get her book. It's "Up the Capitol Steps," by Barbara Roberts, published by the Oregon State University Press. (hh)

A bike ride before it got cold

It doesn’t feel warmer

A cold bath for birds

A cold weather front was whipping through the mid-valley on Tuesday afternoon, just as the public television program Frontline was preparing to broadcast a program on global warming titled "Climate of Doubt."

The reason there is a climate of doubt on this issue is not propaganda. It's not the activities of various skeptics, who for a while now have been derided by their critics as "deniers." The reason for doubt is that the public does not see any noticeable warming taking place.

Tuesday afternoon in the mid-valley, for instance, was just an ordinary day in October near the 45th parallel. We live in a very temperate zone of the planet. In western Europe, we share the same latitude as the south of France and the north end of the Adriaric Sea. And on Tuesday afternoon, we had a temperature of 48 degrees and a cold rain being whipped sideways by blustery wind.

In the media we are often told that our weather has warmed up, that the last decade was the warmest on record. But to news consumers, that's you and me, it doesn't feel any warmer. And on days like Tuesday, it seems like things have actually gotten colder earlier in the fall than before.

Human impressions should not count in this debate. What matters is not what people feel but what is shown to be true by precise measurements over the years. After all, people can't imagine or see the reality of nuclear physics either, and yet we have seen that hydrogen bombs actually go off.

The trouble with climate science is that it is essentially about weather. And weather is what we all experience every time we are outdoors. So no matter how many scientists claim that mankind is making the world a little warmer, we don't believe it when we shiver in October and have to crank the thermostat up. (hh)

Cables to prevent I-5 crashes

A contractor for ODOT has been putting up a cable barrier in the median of Interstate 5 through parts of Lane and Linn counties. The idea is to prevent crossover crashes, of which there have been a few over the last several years. For now, the cable carrier will extend for 35 miles from mile post 174 in Lane County north to the Harrisburg exit in Linn County. ODOT says Wildish Standard Paving Co. won the contract for the work a year ago, in September 2011, with a low bid of slightly more than $2.64 million. The job is to be finished at the end of this month. Money from state and federal sources is paying for the work. ODOT's shorthand description of the point: "Cable barrier will be placed in the median to restrict vehicles from crossing over the median and meeting head on with oncoming traffic." No word yet on whether ODOT has any plans to extent the barrier north toward Albany, or when. It is on that long straightaway that some crossover crashes are also possible.

Remembering a cyclists’ friend

All of us bike riders in Oregon owe a debt of gratitude to former state legislator from Jackson County, the late Donald L. Stathos. I'm reminded of this every time I ride my bike from Jacksonville the four miles or so to Medford. That's because long ago the road authorities put up a commemorative sign, naming the road the Donald L. Stathos Bikeway.

Now we have bike lanes just about everywhere on major roads, state as well as city and county, in the mid-valley as well as statewide. In 1971, Mr. Stathos got the legislature to approve the Oregon Bike Bill. For the first time in the country, as far as anybody knew, the bill required state, county and city road authorities to spend a reasonable amount of money on bike and pedestrian paths whenever a road was built or reconstructed. They are to spend a reasonable amount but not less than 1 percent of the project cost if the project is supported by the state highway fund. Road aurthorities can also save up the bikeway money they get from the highway fund in order to do a bigger project later on.

The result has been good. Most roads that have been built or fixed up in the last 40 years have at least a little space on the side where bike riders can have some confidence they won't get run down by passing cars. This has made life safer not just for bike riders but for drivers as well.

And we can thank Mr. Stathos, a World War II veteran and graduate in business of Oregon State. A Republican and a resident of Jacksoville, he owned an insurance agency in Medford and served two terms in the House, in 1969 and '71. He died in 2005 at the age of 81.

The bikeway outside of Medford was named for him in 1979. There and elsewhere, Oregon cyclists have reason to be grateful to him still. (hh)

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