Democrat Herald Editorial: Distracted-driving law is well-timed

administrator, 10/04/2017 11:12 pm

From the Albany Democrat Herald:

Nationally, the number of fatal car wrecks is on the rise, and that trend also is true in Oregon. No one knows for sure the reasons for the increase, but everyone has a pretty good guess: It’s because we’re distracted as never before when we buckle ourselves into the driver’s seat. 

So the timing seems just right for Oregon’s new distracted-driving law, which went into effect on Sunday. 

Under the new law, it’s illegal to hold phones or other electronic devices while driving. That means no texting and no phone calls unless your vehicle has a hands-free system in place.

The new law, House Bill 2597, also closes loopholes in the current law by addressing all types of electronic devices, not just cellular phones. 

Rep. Andy Olson of Albany was the chief sponsor of the legislation. Olson, a former Oregon State Police officer, knows firsthand about the damage caused by distracted drivers — damage that simply doesn’t have to happen if drivers stay focused on their first responsibility.

“Nationally, one in four vehicle accidents involve distracted driving,” Olson said last week in a news story about the new law. “It’s a major concern.”

“The law doesn’t say you can’t use them, you just can’t have them in your hand,” Olson said. “You can still swipe something on or off. We just don’t want you holding the device. That’s the key.”

So, for example, you can still use your smartphone as a navigation device, but be sure to type in the address before you start your vehicle. While you’re on the road, it’s strictly hands-off.

Click here to read the entire article.

Democrat Herald – Olson: State needs foster homes

administrator, 09/20/2017 10:41 pm

From the Albany Democrat Herald:

Oregon has approximately 21,000 children who need placement in foster homes, but only 1,800 foster homes, said state Rep. Andy Olson, during a community meeting in downtown Albany on Thursday night.

“You can see the problem there,” he added.

The meeting, held at the Flinn Block Hall, was focused on problems in the foster care system, and about 40 people attended.

Olson urged residents to recruit potential foster parents who could provide loving homes for children.

Wendy Brownell, former president of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Linn County, wondered why people were no longer interested in being foster parents.

Chaundra Carter of Albany, a former foster parent, said that families are being scared away because of false allegations and the Oregon Department of Human Services’ harsh response to those claims.

“People are petrified, because anyone can say anything about you as a foster parent and you’re guilty, end of discussion,” said Rich Ransom of Albany, who was a foster parent for 16 years.

Ransom added that he’s considering becoming a foster parent again, but there needed to be changes to the system first.

Olson said that work was being done to identify standards for how a DHS investigation would be concluded.

Duane Stark, a state representative from southern Oregon and a foster parent, told residents to speak up if they see something that’s broken with the system — and especially if they have potential solutions.

Click here to read the entire article.

Democrat Herald Editorial: Compromise gives boost to roads bill

administrator, 07/07/2017 4:33 pm

From the Albany Democrat Herald:

Mark the day: On Wednesday, July 5, 2017, a chamber of the Oregon Legislature voted to approve a bill that pays for critical upgrades to the state’s transportation infrastructure.

The House of Representatives approved, on a 39-20 vote, House Bill 2017, which raises taxes and fees to fund the work. The vote was sufficient to hurdle the three-fifths “supermajority” required for tax increases. The bill quickly won approval, as expected, Thursday in the Senate and now moves to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.

The vote in the House, in particular, is worth noting and celebrating for a number of reasons: First, during the 2015 session, talks over a similar transportation package fell apart even before either chamber was able to vote on the measure. Despite pleas from Brown, who told legislators that she wouldn’t let them leave Salem without approving a transportation package, legislators did exactly that.  

Also worth noting: In Wednesday’s vote, Republicans and Democrats alike voted for the bill. Now, legislators like to talk about how much of their work passes with big bipartisan majorities, and that’s often true. But this session, on the biggest issues, bipartisanship has been hard to find. But 11 House Republicans voted for the transportation measure, and all but six Democrats voted for it. (Mid-valley legislators split their votes: Andy Olson of Albany and Dan Rayfield of Corvallis voted yes. Sherrie Sprenger of Scio and Mike Nearman of Independence voted no. In Thursday’s vote in the Senate, Sara Gelser voted yes and Fred Girod voted no.)

There’s something else worth celebrating about the Wednesday vote in the House: The measure representatives voted on this week, the result of two years of work by a panel of lawmakers (including Olson), won the votes it needed for passage through old-fashioned compromise.

Click here to read the entire article.

Democrat Herald: Maps mix-up stopped Millersburg home building

administrator, 04/27/2017 7:25 pm

From the Albany Democrat Herald:

“Stop work” orders on two Millersburg subdivisions under construction have highlighted confusion over federal wetland maps, which many Oregon cities and counties rely on to issue building permits.

The Oregon Department of State Lands contends the federal wetland maps are incomplete as they didn’t assess agricultural areas.

Subdivisions in Millersburg are being built on former farm land.

“One gets a false negative when you look at the map. The map didn’t show anything, but the map didn’t try to do anything on those types of lands,” said Kirk Jarvie, southern region manager for DSL’s aquatic resources management program.

Jarvie added that developers appeared to have filled wetlands without permits in the Eagle Nest and Woods Estate subdivisions, which could bring nearly 100 homes to Millersburg.

State cease-and-desist orders were issued on April 7 and April 11, after streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure had been installed.

“We do completely understand that they went to the city of Millersburg and the county to get their approvals,” Jarvie said.

The scenario is uncommon, but occasionally happens, he said.

Oregon communities were supposed to develop local wetlands inventories, but that was more of a suggestion than a firm rule. Many never went through the process, likely because the studies are expensive and there’s limited grant funding available, he added.

Linn County and Millersburg don’t have local wetland inventories. The city of Albany has local wetland maps.

Millersburg City Manager Steve Hasson said that the maps mix-up is probably a statewide issue.

Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist and state Rep. Andy Olson met with DSL on Wednesday morning to discuss solutions.

Click here to read the entire article.

Deomcrat Herald Editorial: A first step for a deal on transportation

administrator, 04/14/2017 2:42 pm

Nice  editorial from the the Albany Democrat-Herald:

Albany Rep. Andy Olson is among the lawmakers who’s been working for months to craft a transportation package for this year’s Legislature to consider. The idea, of course, is to pay for badly needed infrastructure work on the state’s roads and bridges. 

Olson knows this is important work, and in fact the transportation package is one of the key tasks facing this session. But he believes another bit of business may need to come first: Along with four other legislators, he’s pushing for accompanying legislation to improve accountability for the state’s considerable investment in transportation projects.

This accountability effort comes on the heels of a $1 million audit of the Oregon Department of Transportation that was done by McKinsey & Co. for the state Department of Administrative Services. The audit was released after The Oregonian made a records request.

In general, the audit concluded that ODOT was doing a reasonably good job, but identified some areas for improvement…

Click here to read the entire editorial

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