Thursday, May 17, 2007

Spanking the Oregonian

In her full page ad published in Sunday’s Oregonian, Dorothy English soundly spanked its editors for their “disdain” for small property owners who have had the value of their land gutted by public policy.

First a bit from the Oregonian’s May 8th editorial:

Property-rights Measure 37, which voters approved in 2004, said state and local governments must pay property owners if regulations reduce the value of their land. This is a terrible idea, essentially saying one group of people, who have owned their land a longer time, must be paid to obey laws everyone else must obey.

Since 2004, roughly 7,500 claims have been filed, seeking at least $15 billion worth of compensation or the right to ignore other laws in order to develop, mostly on farmland and forestland. The destructive effects of this law are now self-evident. But since Measure 37 was itself a repeat of a measure passed in 2000, then thrown out by the courts, it doesn't make much sense to repeat the question a third time.

Significantly, House Bill 3540, a rewrite of Measure 37 approved by the Oregon House last week, would pose a different question to voters. It would ask voters whether they want to make Measure 37 work. We're guessing voters will want to, because this fix, while far from perfect, would make a bad law better. It would make it:
. . .
Fairer for claimants. Again, although we disagree with the idea some property owners should be able to blackmail their fellow taxpayers, Oregon voters thought otherwise. HB3540 would put small claims at the front of the line and create a land-use ombudsman. It would also make development rights transferable, a key financing issue in many cases.

Some backers of Measure 37 are characterizing this proposed referral as a virtual repeal of Measure 37. That's not true or fair, and it's also hard to understand.

Part of Dorothy English’s response:

I’m not sure what offends me most about this newspaper’s April 28 editorial on Measure 37--the inference that I am just a “poster girl” in the fight for land use reform or that the legislature’s gutting of Measure 37 is somehow “fair” to little people.

Since no one from the Oregonian editorial board has ever bothered to ask me a single question, I will assume that it is just their arrogance and not the fact that I am a woman, or that I am elderly, or that I am not rich that causes them to dismiss me and my nearly 40-year struggle to use my land for the purposes for which my deceased husband and I purchased it. I can’t think of any other reason why this newspaper would display such disdain for people like me and others in my shoes, who have watched as our property has been taken in a completely arbitrary fashion.
. . .
I know this paper doesn’t like Measure 37, and no doubt never will. And I know that it doesn’t give a hoot that my life’s savings was stolen or that there are many others just like me. But when it claims that people like me are just pawns in some grand conspiracy by “big greedy corporations” it insults me and everyone who knows me. For the last time, knock it off.

It is too bad I had to use an ad to get the truth out.

Almost 40 years working to get a little fairness! That only happens to “little” people. When is the last time any Oregonian editor waited that long for action?

I’m not a property owner in the claimant class. But, along with the other 61% of Oregon voters who approved Measure 37, I feel it's only right to compensate those who have their property taken or property value diminished. It's wrong to force one group of people to carry the burden for the rest of us.

The Oregonian’s argues that it is terrible to say that “one group of people, who have owned their land a longer time, must be paid to obey laws everyone else must obey.”

I guess the editorial board has forgotten that public policy often makes a time distinction in applying laws and rules. How about for starters:

- The “grandfather” clause in land use recognizes that new rules can be unfair to previous land owners.

- DEQ rules exempt older vehicles from its rules--older than 1975 (Portland area) or more than 20 years old (Medford area). Not to mention that only Portland and Medford area vehicles have to obey these rules and Medford residents get a big time break over Portland area residents.

- Tier 1 and tier 2 employees in the PERS system are treated differently--based entirely on date of hire. State and local government employees hired under one set of rules are immune to the rules imposed on employees hired later.

- Older buildings don’t have to meet standards for new buildings. (I bet the Oregonian’s building doesn’t meet code requirements for new building construction in Portland.)

The Oregonian knows all this. It just chooses to use the “everyone else must obey” argument on its pet issues. Good for Dorothy English for giving its editors a much needed spanking.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Good Guy-Bad Guy Template Equals Poor Reporting

from page 2 of the Tuesday, May 8, 2007, Oregonian (based on an AP report):


Imported drugs bill is defeated

In a triumph for the pharmaceutical industry, the Senate on Monday killed a drive to allow consumers to buy prescription drugs from abroad at a significant savings over domestic prices.

On a 49-40 vote, the Senate required the administration to certify the safety and effectiveness of drugs before they can be imported, a requirement that officials have said they cannot meet.

"Well, once again the big drug companies have proved that they are the most powerful and best financed lobby in Washington," said Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

The vote neutralized a second amendment, later passed on a voice vote, that would legalize the importation of prescription drugs manufactured in Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan and New Zealand.

Overseas, drugs can cost two-thirds less than they do in the United States. In many industrialized countries, prices are lower because they are either controlled or partially controlled by government regulation.

The Oregonian includes information on the votes of Oregon and Washington senators. The Oregon Democrat and the Oregon Republican voted against the amendment. The two Washington Democrats voted for it.

Why the difference? Not a clue from the Oregonian. This is a straight good guy-bad guy read: pharmaceutical lobby vs. what's good for the people. No real analysis.

The amendment does benefit U.S. pharmaceutical companies. It also benefits all the people concerned about the safety of drugs (and food) sold to them.

Maybe that's why two Democratic senators from neighboring Washington, Cantwell and Murray, voted to require safety standards for drugs. By the way, 13 other Democratic senators, including Sens. Kerry, Kennedy and Bayh joined Cantwell and Murray in voting for certification of drug safety and effectiveness. Somehow 15 Democratic Senators voting for the "pharmaceutical companies" didn't make it into the AP/Oregonian report. Though, the AP report did include at least a hint of the argument for safety and certification that was important to Senators who supported the Cochran amendment. But, the Oregonian didn't think it important enough to include.

Is there really an argument for allowing food and drug imports to get to US consumers without passing the same health requirements that US products have to meet? Even with FDA standards we had the E. coli outbreak in 2006 not to mention recent contaminated pet food .

If we did away with the FDA, drugs would be a lot cheaper in the US too. But, is cheaper the main priority? If so, there are a lot of federal agencies that we could eliminate and save even more money.

There were substantive issues involved that the Oregonian staff didn't think worthy of inclusion. For a slightly more balanced view read the Washington Times article.

If this really is a pharmaceutical company vs. public interest issue, why did so many Democrats vote with Republicans for the amendment? All under the thumb of the pharmaceutical industry?

The Good Guy-Bad Guy template that the Oregonian is using not only does not give a clear picture of news, it actually distorts news by omitting contrary evidence.