Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sunday State News Whiparound: TJ 's Turn

One of the features I'm most happy about at LO is the Sunday look at what's going on around the state. It's part of the commitment to being a truly statewide outlet for news and comment. (If you think there's something worth covering in any corner of Beaverdom, leave a comment or mail loadedorygun-at-gmail-dot-com, and we'll check into it.) Sunday is the perfect day to troll the papers, and Carla does a great job picking the interesting bits and throwing down a quick comment. I'm thrilled for her to do it, since providing just one link and fewer than 10 paragraphs of attached commentary is a foreign concept to me. But I'll wear my brevity hat in her honor, and I've got my hiking sandals(!) on, so let's go...

  • 'member summers in Oregon picking strawberries for cash and strawberries? I do, and my sister really does--to the point where she still doesn't like them, 35 years later. This is a rarely seen bird--the sentimentally sad business section story-- about the loss of prominence for strawberry growers in Oregon, as uncertain labor and cost undercutting in California have forced farmers to choose other crops. The state still produces the third most in the US, mostly for processing, but has only 12% of 1950s acreage. So when you see strawberries in the market this year, take special enjoyment in the homegrown ones.

  • Wal-Mart and the City of Central Point are nearing resolution in their long battle over zoning and planning, courtesy of the Oregon Supreme Court. Seems Wal-Mart bought some property and did fine with the Planning Commission, but got axed by the Council as inappropriate and not fitting the definition of "community shopping." Wal-Mart's argument, an appeal of an appeal of the land-use board's appellate decision, appears to be "we're not letting go of the property, so you have to let us build there." I was not present at the arguments, but I understand that Wal-Mart argued they were a shopping community, since they intend to subsume the existing one in Central Point. If that was a community, then so would Wal-Mart be...right? This strikes me as a jurisdictional issue--if Council has the final say on development for the city, ol' Sam is SOL.

  • Tigard's Fred Bruning has a pitch for Baker City, and it's "YOU NEED A MALL!" Only he's not selling it as a mall; he's dangling the name Macy's as a carrot, and talking about malls like Cedar Hills in Beaverton--a bunch of medium-box retailers like Gap and Old Navy. "Maybe not now, but in five years," he says. He's marketing what's called "destination retail," along the lines of Woodburn's outlet mall, where people come from other towns to shop in yours. It's not a bad idea, but unlike Woodburn Bruning wants to go downtown with it. Baker's downtown has 110 buildings on the National Register--tread carefully! I wonder what Chuck Butcher would say about this one.

  • Malheur County has undergone significant flooding from large snowmelts and heavy March/April precipitation. The Snake, Owyhee and Malheur rivers have all exceeded their banks and caused crop damage, and the county is seeking state AND federal emergency status for assistance. A lot of what they produce out there is grass, and the weather conditions made for crappy grass. And spurred by the agriculture department, they're seeking relief. What's curious is that this reporter for the Argus buries his story in the last sentence:
    Malheur County Emergency Services Commander Lt. Craig Smith said neither the damage to public infrastructure - such as roads - or property met the thresholds to have a disaster declaration in those cases. He said damage to roads was estimated at around $50,000, adding that with the county's population multiplied by $2.94, the threshold would be more than $90,000.

  • If you have to travel I-84 eastward out by Hood River a lot, you'll be glad to know the landslide repair job from last September is finally complete, and both lanes are open. Happy factoid: under budget!

  • The Corvallis Gazette-Times opens its archives and tells the hard truth about mid-valley exploitation and outright racism towards Chinese immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. They were aggressively recruited for major work projects, then turned out with nothing to do once they were complete. The paper reprints articles of the day, describing immigrants as Chinks and Mongols and availing themselves of all manner of stereotype. The next time you're tempted to feel superiority towards "the South" when it comes to their history of racism, best to squelch that a little.

Blue skies and sun everywhere today, it looks like. Now you're caught up; get out there and enjoy it!