Editorials from Oregon newspapers
(Medford) Mail Tribune, Jan. 15: Protect neighbors from pot stink
The legal right to grow marijuana for medical purposes should not confer the right to inflict overpowering odors on one's neighbors. And a city that attempts to protect everyone's interests is doing what a local government should do.
At the moment, we're speaking of Phoenix, although the issue is sure to pop up in other towns as well. We're not speaking of medical marijuana dispensaries, which come with their own list of issues. That's a question for another day.
Phoenix officials are collecting information from other communities in the state and plan a study session later this month on a potential ordinance to regulate backyard marijuana gardens inside the city limits. They are well within their rights in doing this, and do not deserve to be accused of violating anyone's rights.
Mayor Jeff Bellah stressed the city has no interest in debating the medical marijuana law, only in balancing the needs of patients and growers with the right of city residents to be free from noxious odors in their neighborhoods.
Mature marijuana plants exude a pungent smell that some compare to skunk spray. Some residents whose neighbors grow medical marijuana say they have to limit their enjoyment of their own backyards in late summer because of the odor.
Oregon voters approved of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. It's now state law. But growers of medical cannabis should not get some kind of special dispensation to annoy their neighbors simply because they are producing medicine that patients need.
No one questions zoning rules that prohibit property owners from running a feedlot or a pig farm in a city backyard. Cows and pigs are not medicine, but they are food. And it is generally accepted that livestock should be raised on agricultural land, outside incorporated towns, because of manure odors.
If marijuana can be grown inside greenhouses or indoors so that the odor is contained, it should be permitted in residential areas. If not, cities are within their rights to restrict it through zoning.
The (Bend) Bulletin, Jan. 21: Let voters decide about liquor control
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission can read tea leaves. It knows there's a good chance voters would choose to get the state out of the booze business if given the opportunity.
It doesn't think that's a good idea, and it's fighting back.
To that end it has given lawmakers draft legislation that would do some but not all of what a proposed initiative petition would do with regard to liquor sales in the state. The OLCC measure would make spirits far more accessible than they are now by allowing for their sale in groceries larger than 10,000 square feet.
What it wouldn't do — and what the initiative would — is get the state out of the liquor business except as tax collector. Currently Oregon owns all the spirits sold in state-franchise stores. It purchases it, warehouses it and controls everything from pricing on down.
Were the initiative sponsored by the Northwest Grocery Association approved, nearly all that would go away. Grocers would buy direct, store for themselves and set prices according to their own needs. The state would continue to collect the same taxes on sales as it does today.
Members of the Oregon House and Senate business committees began work on the OLCC proposal Jan. 15, and it was clear they have some concerns about it.
One, Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, worried that the 10,000-square-foot minimum necessary for sales would leave rural residents, in particular, with no ready access to liquor. Others worried that prices would rise under the proposal. The former is a legitimate problem, no doubt; the latter is unknowable.
Meanwhile, there also has been talk of approving the OLCC bill, then referring it to voters in the November election. There it would compete head-on with the privatization proposal, assuming enough valid signatures are gathered to put the latter on the ballot. Most likely, should both be approved, the court would rule that the one with the most votes would be declared the winner.
Short of a legislative move to end OLCC's absolute control of liquor, head-to-head ballot measures are the way to go. Both sides could make the case for what they believe is right, then let voters decide. That seems reasonable to us.
The Daily Astorian, Jan. 16: West Coast in the right place on minimum wagesWhen it comes to the minimum wage, Oregon is in the right place. With our West Coast neighbors, we have the highest minimum wages in the nation. A large majority of economists agree that raising minimum wages is smart.
Oregon voters made this decision in 2002 by ballot initiative. The striking thing about Oregon's statute is that it indexes the state's minimum wage to the consumer price index. We were ahead of the nation in doing so.
Oregon's minimum wage is $9.10, Washington's is $9.32 and California's will jump to $9 by midyear. Meanwhile, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. President Obama's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage is strongly resisted by Republicans.
It is striking that not all rich people are in lockstep on holding down the minimum wage. The Christian Science Monitor reports this week the comments of two prominent executives who argue the need to raise wages. Josh Strauss is a portfolio manager for the Appleseed Fund. Bill Gross is known as "the most powerful bond manager of his generation."
"We're not just experiencing a new Gilded Age," said Gross, "but a Bitcoin Age. Artificial money, corporate K Street and Wall Street interests are producing one world for the rich and an entirely different world for the working class."
It proves nothing for America to race to the bottom — to compete with Third World countries for low wages. We are building an unhealthy social-economic structure. It must change.
Corvallis Gazette-Times, Jan. 21: Obama misses chance for real surveillance reforms
Given a golden opportunity to claim a legacy moment in his second term, President Barack Obama took a tentative step forward Friday, but he should have gone much further in rolling back some of the federal government's broadest surveillance practices.
In one of the most anticipated speeches of his presidency, Obama said he would end the bulk collection of phone data as it exists today and said he would restrict the ability of the National Security Agency to collect unlimited phone numbers beyond individual targets.
Some of the administration's sharpest critics on these national security issues, such as U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, said they were pleased by some of what they heard from Obama. But, the senator added, Obama needed to go deeper. "We must all remember that the very act of bulk collection of private data undermines Americans' constitutional rights," Wyden said.
We share Wyden's assessment of the vital issues at play here — as well as the sense that Obama missed a real opportunity in his speech last week.
To list just one example, Wyden said, the president needed to outline meaningful reforms to what the senator called an "outdated" Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court process. Obama's suggestion on that front — to create a panel of advocates on privacy and technology issues who would appear, on occasion, before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — strikes us as essentially meaningless window dressing, especially with no details about who would pick those advocates and when they would appear before the court.
Obama's speech was a response in part to a report — prepared by a task force the president himself assembled — that offered nearly 50 suggestions for how to rein in the National Security Agency and the massive security apparatus that has sprung up, essentially unchecked, since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
When he was first running for the presidency, Obama said he would reverse what he saw as excesses in the war against terror. After his election, however, he expanded many of the policies established under President George W. Bush. And, as president, Obama didn't seem particularly concerned about these issues until National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's leaks outlined the scope of the U.S. intelligence apparatus.
So we can't say we're surprised by the tentative nature of many of the other steps Obama outlined in his Friday speech. But we are disappointed that he has made so little from this opportunity.
"Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for our leaders to say: Trust us, we won't abuse the data that we collect," Obama said in his Friday speech.
Yet that is exactly how his administration has too often proceeded in these matters. So you'll excuse us if we examine the recommendations Obama made last week with a skeptical eye_- and if we conclude that much work still remains in the admittedly difficult task of redrawing the boundaries between security and liberty.