It's common knowledge that it's dangerous to use a cellphone while driving, but plenty of people still do it. Would a bigger fine help?

The Oregon Legislature is studying that question, considering Senate Bill 9, which would increase the maximum penalty from $250 to $1,000. House Bill 2790 would go even further, taking the maximum to $2,000.

Research is definitive on the risk of driving while using a phone, even comparing it to driving while intoxicated. Studies show drivers using cellphones are four times more likely to crash than other drivers, a likelihood equal to that of a drunk driver, according to The New York Times.

Yet many drivers are undeterred. A history of such use before it became illegal may have given them a mistaken notion of their capacity. Indeed, reports indicate that drivers overestimate their ability to multitask.

Central Oregon has its own horrific example in which 16-year-old Forrest Cepeda died in July 2011 when Erik Conn, distracted by texting, slammed into him while he was riding his bike on Reed Market Road.

Bend Police Lt. Chris Carney said his department doesn't track cellphone cases separately, but they see far more violations when they go out in unmarked cars than patrol cars. Speed is still the biggest factor causing accidents, he said, with fines much lower than those proposed in these bills for cellphone use.

The bills would increase the fine but leave other provisions of the law unchanged. Those provisions establish a variety of exceptions, including use of a hands-free device, emergency uses and some work-related circumstances.

We support increasing the fine to get drivers' attention, although we think $1,000 is a sufficient level.

-- The Bulletin, Bend

Some Indian mascots are OK

There are those little issues that we never seem to be able to put to political bed. No matter how many times we think we have solved them, they pop back up when we least expect it, like villains in a horror film.

Native American-inspired school mascots are one of those issues that the Oregon Legislature cannot stop debating.

The state banned the use of such names years ago, but Republicans in the Oregon Senate have already introduced two bills in an attempt to repeal the ban, and two others are expected out of the House, according to The Oregonian.

For many of us, it's a lot of bluster about something not worth all that much talk. Mascots are just people in goofy costumes trying to get the crowd excited at some high school sporting event.

But, for others, it's a no-brainer, an admittedly small but simple step to breaking stereotypes and evening the scales after generations of imbalance.

We think this newspaper, and our readers, have a better grasp on this debate than many others.

There are few places where Native Americans are as important a part of the modern culture than here in Eastern Oregon. Many of us are members of the Confederate Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, or Grande Ronde, Warm Springs, Yakama or other tribes. Or we call tribal members our friends and neighbors and, occasionally, our rivals on the basketball court or the football field.

We don't see the value of banning tribal mascot names on a state level. Yet, that is not to say that all school and team nicknames are in good taste and should be allowed. In Oregon, we just think that decision should be made by the school district itself, its students, parents and athletes, with the counsel of nearby and affected tribes.

If, such as in the case of the Florida State University Seminoles, the tribe allows the use of such a moniker it should continue. And in the case of the University of North Dakota, where voters overwhelmingly rejected use of the Fighting Sioux nickname, then the school should move on without it.

There are some mascots that seem totally uncalled for in this era. The most glaring example of racial insensitivity is the Washington Redskins of the National Football League. It is a demeaning, cruel and repulsive mascot that should be changed. Once again, a movement is afoot to do so. Still, that decision should be made by the city, the NFL and the team's owner, not by some government mandate.

We shouldn't need a new law enacted every time we need to do something right. For as many nicknames that deserve to be lost to history, there are others, such as the Roseburg Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks, that should remain as reverent reminders to our sense of place.

Because, after all, it's just a guy in a funny outfit.

-- East Oregonian, Pendleton

Good ideas for saving tax money

Everyone favors eliminating government waste, especially when budgets for schools and essential services are inadequate to meet needs.

A coalition of groups, including five unions, issued a report this month suggesting ways the state could save $278 million through government efficiency measures. The 'Making Every Dollar Count" report includes some good ideas (collecting unpaid taxes and decreasing staffing duplication among agencies), as well as some unlikely to yield as much savings as the report suggests (deeper cuts in contracting).

Meanwhile, the Department of Administrative Services has a number of ongoing efforts -- ranging from renegotiating leases and improving property management to making better use of technology -- that attempt to lower the cost of government.

Unions and administrators should continue the push to identify ways to save money. A more efficient government is a more trusted government. But no one should assume that efficiency alone can make a significant contribution toward solving school-funding problems or financing needed infrastructure projects.

Likewise, the Legislature is right to discuss public safety reform and to scour tax breaks for savings, as the 'Making Every Dollar Count" report acknowledges. But none of that will matter much without significant reform to the Public Employees Retirement System, something the unions associated with last week's report find much less appetizing.

The report is an extension of a similar 2011 analysis titled 'Moving Oregon Forward," said Scott Moore, a spokesman for Our Oregon, one of the 10 sponsoring organizations. The 2011 report helped prod the Legislature to pass House Bill 2020, which required state agencies to begin moving toward a 1 to 11 manager-to-staff ratio.

Unions and state agencies quibble over exactly how much money can be saved through the changes mandated by HB 2020. Many supervisory employees also 'carry a workload and that work still has to be done," said state chief operating officer Michael Jordan. As a result, reducing supervisory positions doesn't necessarily reduce the number of employees by a similar amount.

But the biggest value of the 2011 and 2013 reports is to force a discussion about the most efficient ways to run state government. 'It's really about making sure that all good ideas are on the table," Moore said.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis provided some news Friday that makes the task a little easier. State economists increased the amount of revenue expected in the next biennium by $87 million. The projection serves as a reminder that the best possible way to close budget gaps is to grow the economy.

--The Oregonian, Portland

(2) comments


So Salem wants to make it illegal to smoke in your vehicle with a child present. It's also illegal to operate a vehicle with a baby on the running boards, hood or fender. It's illegal to pump your own gas, leave your car door open for "too long", to wear rollerskates in a Portland bathroom, and for a woman to wrestle in Salem. It's also illegal to abuse a child, but in 2010 Oregon had 71,886 reported cases. Let's deal with the serious stuff before wasting time on the ridiculous and mundane.

Geno activist for all

No! Why? The fine for 'dumping' on Interstate 5 is huge, yet people still dump!! Big Fines, if can be paid by the Prep! is a Prep who can hire a Big Attorney! Or just 'joins' the 'swinging doors' of Coos County's jail! The DA's office is 'underfunded' and minor violations will not be charged, because a 'jury' trial is very expensive! This is my opinion, prove me wrong! Or "To Fine or Not to Fine' is the question! "To Tax, or not to Tax" is the question! Put them together and you get $$

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