Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Courtney: Minnis Forcing Us to Have Fat Kids

Well, that's not quite a literal quote, and he places some of the blame on funding shortages--but I don't think there's any question Senate President Peter Courtney faults House Speaker Karen Minnis for failing to pass funded PE in Oregon schools last year. And now he has a platform of consequences to stand on: Oregon's kids are becoming more and more dangerously obese:
The report lays the blame for overweight children on a variety of causes: Two-earner families pressed for time and relying on fast and convenience food, and on restaurant meals. More "screen time" for television and games. Larger portion sizes, in restaurants and homes. Poverty, and prices rising faster for fresh foods than packaged goods. Soda and candy machines in schools. Fewer physical education classes. Car-friendly suburbs where people walk little.The Kids Count report bases its conclusions on a 2005 survey of Oregon schools conducted by the state Department of Human Services.

The Kids Count report bases its conclusions on a 2005 survey of Oregon schools conducted by the state Department of Human Services.

According to that survey, 24 percent of eighth- and 11th-graders in Oregon are overweight or obese by the standards set for adults by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A litany of excesses, only some of which the Legislature has any real control over. They certainly can't keep kids from playing video games, and they can't keep their parents from taking them to Homestyle Buffet for All You Can Eat Ribs night. They can't do much about prices, and are hectored enough as it is for opposing the car-dominant lifestyle.

But what they can do is control the school environment. Courtney doesn't mention the 2005 defeat of efforts to stem 'junk food' sales in Oregon schools* (and for a whizbang report on why they need to be stemmed, check out this review from the Northwest Earth Institute), but he zeroes in on another area of concern to schools: PE. If you're as old as I am-and I remember things like Nixon resigning--your school week included a fair bit of exercise and social embarrassment not as recreation, but something you actually got graded on. If I recall right, I had it three times a week, with one day swapped out for health class one quarter.

No more, obviously. Exercise is officially nonessential, and my elementary age kids stare at me blankly when I tell them I "dressed out" for organized recess. Like music and art, PE has become a luxury frill item in US education. Luckily, at least going without music and art doesn't set you on your way to Type II diabetes as a 12 year old. Especially in a winter climate that tends to discourage outside play, PE for Oregonian children should be one non-3Rs subject no longer considered a mere luxury.

Courtney is right to rue the death of a passed Senate bill in the House, that would have returned at least two PE hours a week to elementary kids. Recent research seems to put more emphasis on sedentarism than pure obesity as a reason for heart problems, so it's fortunate for us that getting kids active is a fully realizable goal. With possession of the House in 2007, Democrats would get a better crack at such a bill and get it passed through both camera. As with nearly any behavior, the sooner we model it to our children, the more likely we will see the results we hope for.

*Vicki Walker raises her tone-deaf head once again?


Eugene Democrats Rebuffed on Special Session

It may stretch comparison somewhat to say that Sen. Vicki Walker and Rep. Bob Ackerman faced the same sort of humiliation Monday that Ted Kennedy and John Kerry did in their ill-fated filibuster of Justice Alito. But it's not a bad fit: two fairly left of center Democrats from the same locale, arguing on principle for a highly unusual variance from standard political practice, against the wishes of caucus leadership, without much of a PR push to sway skeptical colleagues, and against a wall which nearly everyone agreed from the start was almost assuredly too high to climb.

Of course the stakes in Salem were not as high, but to Walker and Ackerman the threat of a $172 million hole in the health services budget was a threat that mandated immediate action. Unfortunately for their aims, their solution--a push for a special session--resulted in but a single additional vote, and the proposal went over like a leaden dirigible. The response from Karen Minnis and the Republicans of the House was expected; funding social services is just about the last possible thing they're interested in discussing as a priority. But what may have been a little surprising was the dismissiveness with which other Democrats treated the proposal:

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, voted against the special session. He said it appeared that the proponents didn't fully consider how the law worked. The law requires the session to be held within five days after an affirmative vote.

"I don't know that the requesters understood this fully," he said.

Senate President Peter Courtney said he still supports a special session - just not in February.

"We just need to get more information and get prepared and go in and get the job done," he said.

Yeowch. It's only speculation as to what John Kerry has up his sleeve in 2008, but we know that Walker's plans include a run for governor this year. Supporters can only hope this was not a political ploy, because you only get excused for them if they work--and if this one were an American Idol contestant, it would have been William Hung only less charming. I'd love to know what Walker's response to fellow Eugenite Prozanski would have been: DID she know that she was calling for a session in the 2nd week of February? Because that was clearly the issue with other Democrats--Courtney is behind the idea of a session, and even preferred one taking place before summer, but agreed that now was simply not workable. Did that flyer not make it into Walker's Salem cubby? She may be wishing that Kitzhaber had given her a face-saving out. You're on your own now, sister!


Oregon House one step closer to going Democratic

With House Republican Derrick Kitts leaving his seat in the 30 District to be the Republican sacrifical lamb to David Wu, the Democrats are primed to pick up this seat.

Community activist David Edwards from Hillsboro has filed for the seat as a Democrat.

David Edwards

Edwards is an entrepreneurial business owner and long time Hillsboro resident. His work in the community is impressive:

*Chair of the Hillsboro 20/20 Vision Task Force which put together the city's action plan for creating jobs, strengthening schools and protecting the enviornment through the year 2020. Parts of the plan include the spanky new Hillsboro Civic Center Plaza,the Mainstreet Madness 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament and expanded hours at the Essential Health Clinic.

*Served on the Hillsboro Unified School District’s Citizens Curriculum Advisory. He was the chief architect of the district’s Character Education Program, which teaches students basic values like honesty, compassion and responsibility.

*Co-chaired the citizens group that successfully promoted the bond measure for Century High School.

Edwards has a masters degree in Public Affairs from U of O. And even managed to get a little legislation experience during that time by working for the Oregon Economic Development Department, where he helped legislators assess the economic impact of proposed laws.

“I’m running for State Representative to help Washington County create more good-paying jobs,” said Edwards, the 39-year-old founder and CEO of a successful market research-based consulting firm. “We can create jobs by strengthening Oregon’s economy, making common-sense investments in our public schools, and reducing the cost of health care. And I intend to address these issues with a bottom-line commitment to what works.”

Finally, something in the Oregon House to look forward to.

Happy Birthday to us!!

Welcome to the first day of what I hope will be many kick ass days on this blog.

I hope Torrid doesn't mind if I speak for him a little here...but if he does..he'll get over it. Heh.

We are really excited about this project. We're looking forward to telling Oregonians what's what in this state. We're out to give you the straight dope in an informed and intelligent way. We're looking under all the rocks and digging out all the skeletons..and then we're going to find out why the media isn't reporting it.

If you've got tips, ideas, things to bitch about, complaints, rants, etc..drop them in comments. Or send us an email at LoadedOrgyun@gmail.com.