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Posts published in “Day: May 30, 2013”

A friend at the factory

rainey BARRETT


Bear with me a minute. This takes some background.

From our little burg-in-the-Oregon woods going South on I-5 to the California border, it’s about 125 miles. Within the last half dozen years, four multi-lane bridges along the way have been replaced/rebuilt and smaller ones in the communities on both sides of I-5 improved.

Now, North on I-5 to Corvallis, it’s about 100 miles. From here to there in that same time period, there have been four new multi-lane I-5 bridges built and another half dozen overhauled or strengthened. Bridges and two-lanes in smaller communities on both sides of I-5 have had similar attention.

Between the Pacific and Eugene, there’s a rail line used by commercial shippers. Several years ago, a major tunnel was declared unsafe and traffic stopped. Those shippers – mainly regional timber guys – hollered. Loudly. Sending things the long way around by truck was prohibitively expensive. In short order, the feds, state and some shippers came up with the big bucks and things were put in first class order.

Hold onto all that as we introduce you to our representative in Congress from the Fifth District – Pete DeFazio. He’s one of the older heads – a Democrat in a heavily Republican District. He relies on the more liberal Lane County voters to hold off Republicans in all the other counties that vote against him every two years. All of ‘em.

Would it surprise you to know Pete’s the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit? Or that he’s been on the Subcommittee on Railroads for many years?

Now, tie all that together. Highways, bridges and railroads. If you didn’t live in the Fifth Congressional District, you’d call all that “pork.” Strictly speaking, you’d be right. Good old federal bacon brought home by a ranking member of Congress. Taxpayer largess. Yep, pork.

But, also strictly speaking, all that federal help in our little corner of the Oregon forest is exactly what the federal government of this nation has been charged to do since 1776. Help us do the big jobs that need doing that we can’t do for ourselves. National defense. National monetary system. National transportation systems. Yes, highways, bridges and tunnels, too.

When the folks on the right loudly complain about “pork,” what they’re really saying is government dollars spent in their backyards are wise expenditures on badly needed projects. But, when it’s someone else’s backyard getting the attention – well, now – that’s “PORK.” (more…)

First take: Quiet watchdog


QUIET WATCHDOG Washington's Public Disclosure Commission has had a fairly good reputation, at least in some quarters, for watchdogging reporting and ethics issues in state government. But is that reputation inflated? The Associated Press has a powerful piece out about the agency's deficiencies. Oddities in reports by lobbyists and campaigns, oddities that go unchallenged, are becoming increasingly commonplace, the article suggests. And "The Associated Press found cases in which lobbyists failed to properly complete basic forms, failed to disclose details of their expenses or regularly filed reports past their deadlines. Some lobbyists indicated they didn't know the rules until reporters started asking questions." Not to say, though it should be, that the population of reporters doing the asking is shrinking, rapidly.

In the briefings

bridge conference
Press confernce at the Skagit bridge. (photo/Washington Department of Transportation)

Collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River near Mount Vernon was the hot topic last week and into this one – even occurring as it did near the end of the week. I-5 is the major throughway for most people in Washington and not only that, the major west coast throughway. A break in its run anywhere is a critical matter.

And it matters not only for that but also for the proposed Columbia Crossing project to the south, over the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver. Its fate hangs in the balance as the special session of the legislature hits its heart and decision time approaches.