Yamhill County, Oregon

August 02, 2007

I’m Ripping You Off - New York Times

Re: I’m Ripping You Off - New York Times:

One measure of the inanity of our national farm policy is that you, as a taxpayer, are paying me not to grow crops here in Oregon.
I grew up on a sheep and cherry farm here in Yamhill, Ore., and still have some timberland outside of town. Every year I get paid $588 not to farm it, under the Conservation Reserve Program.

Actually, I don't entirely agree with this part.  The Conservation Reserve Program isn't just “paying to not farm”, but paying to subsidize the cost of providing better water quality and wildlife habitat -- public goods on private land -- instead of farming.

When I planted new Douglas fir seedlings on my land, care for the young trees was also subsidized. So America provides health care for tree seedlings but not for millions of children.

Maybe uninsured American children who can’t get adequate health care could masquerade as cotton plants or cornstalks. Then the farm bill would shower them with money and care.
In contrast, one way to assist family farms would be to underwrite rural broadband, just as rural electrification transformed farms in the last century. Then rural businesses might stand a chance.

This is the critical part!  In Oregon, we invest millions when we bring acreage into an urban growth boundary by building roads, running water, sewer, telecom so business and home development investments can flourish.  But no where do we continue to invest in the rural areas like that.  Broadband to rural areas, high quality cell phone coverage.  The kind of things rural America and family farms need to compete.  The consequence is that small farmers have to make outside investments, or do without, in order to have the same thing most people have direct to the their houses.  Satelitte internet costs about $800 installed and costs 3-5X per month what the equivalent service would cost in cities.

July 30, 2007

M37's sprawl potential

Here's a dramatic pair of maps from Sightline, showing growth for the decade of 1990-2000, with limited sprawl in Oregon, but much in neighboring Washington, and what Measure 37, left as it is, opens up -- undoing 30 years of preserving farm and forestland:

846D3B7D718340Ed05F1195Ab294D61F  6Aa579822A5781B007E883930C72E8Bf

To keep this from happening, support Measure 49 to protect farms, forestland and groundwater, fix Measure 37 flaws that prevent transferring Measure 37 waivers, etc. and restore balance between respect for property owners and for strong land-use protections.

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May 08, 2007

Fix Measure 37

[Letter to the News-Register, submitted 5/7/2007]

I was disappointed that HD24 Representative Donna Nelson voted against fixing Measure 37, and wants to leave the legal mess in place and the threats of industrialization and  subdivisions everywhere in our county and state.

Recent polling (http://friends.org/issues/M37/documents/040307_OregonStatewideVoterSurvey.pdf) shows that only 19% of Oregonians support Nelson’s position to leave Measure 37 as is.  The  testimony at county commission hearings, and at the state legislature (including the Yamhill County Farm Bureau), and letters to the editors, all show that many of HD 24 voters and residents belong to the 69% who believe that Measure 37 should be fixed or removed but in any case not retained as is.

Furthermore, what she claims she wants to see in a revision of Measure 37 (http://www.leg.state.or.us/nelsond/pr_050407.pdf), transferability and quick approval on small claims, are actually part of the bill she voted against!

She may be representing someone or something, but it doesn’t appear to be the broad constitutency of today’s HD 24, which wants to see Measure 37 fixed to keep Measure 37's stronger property rights while also supporting farmers and neighbors and constraining sprawl and industrialization.

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March 07, 2007

Advance renewable energy in Oregon

The following is an email exchange with my State Senator regarding SB373 to create a Renewable Energy Portfolio standard for Oregon electric utilities.

Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 10:52 AM

Dear Senator George,

I am writing to urge you to vote for SB 373, creating a Renewable Energy Standard for Oregon. Dependence on fossil fuels threatens our economy, while climate change threatens our environment. Oregon possesses abundant renewable resources to tackle these serious energy problems.  It's time to start doing just that. SB 373 is a practical, solution-oriented achievable law with multiple economic and environmental benefits.

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June 01, 2006

Oil, Water & Oregon Symposium

[Full version posted on Onward Oregon blog as Oil, Water & Oregon Symposium 6/1/2006]

Although currently on the “back burner”, the water issue I think is particularly important now for Oregon as we look to add 1.5 million Oregonians in the next 20-25 years, about two-thirds in the Willamette Valley.

read the rest at Oil, Water & Oregon Symposium.

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May 10, 2006

My Vote for Cassie Sollars

[Published in the News-Register as Fierce on issues on 5/13/2006]

To Reader's Forum:

I had the chance to sit down with Cassie Sollars over pizza at Zippy’s in Yamhill recently, and what a refreshing breath of fresh air she would make as a Yamhill County Commissioner!

She’s open, eager to do what’s best for the whole county and ready to tackle the issues we face in managing growth, getting a handle on meth and other issues all while managing our taxes appropriately.

She strikes me as someone who will be a true representative of all the county once elected, not just her base.  She is not idealogically rigid, but instead ready to craft compromises that can form a broad county consensus beyond those who vote for her.  She understands that even well-intentioned laws can be badly written and I would expect her to seek input from everyone affected so that she can represent Yamhill County not only in County Commission meetings, but to state officials to help craft improvements that work better for Yamhill County as a whole and not just for her supporters.

Open, generous, and dedicated to our community, yet fierce to tackle the festering problems in the county the current commission has left us, Cassie Sollars has my vote!

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March 09, 2006

Innovative Land-use ideas

Today I attended a Yamhill County public hearing on what is probably among the most interesting of Measure 37 claims.  This is a claim by a responsible land steward that has invested years of time and money to improve and restore his land, including working cooperatively with many government agencies and private organizations.  Their work to restore wetlands has even been chronicled in Heroic Tales of Wetland Restoration by the The Wetlands Conservancy.

Because of the proximity to other claims and their long-term reputation as land stewards, this hearing was very well-attended, with eloquent testimony from concerned neighbors that both respect the Gahr’s and worry about the effects of Measure 37.  It demonstrated, once again, the depths of community concern about the havoc being reeked by Measure 37 on the community and neighbors.

Two factors seem to have driven him to make his claim: first, current land-use laws are so restrictive that he feels he is extremely limited in his ability to both persue land stewardship and farming and also have an economic future and second, the proximity of several other Measure 37 claims means that he must face the invevitable encroachment and find a way to fight back.

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January 27, 2006

Re: 10 will ask Oregon: What do you want? [Oregonian]

[Submitted to The Oregonian 1/27/2006 Re: 10 will ask Oregon: What do you want?]

Surveys show that by two-thirds majorities, Oregonians want both strong land use and respect for property rights.  The “Big Look” forward at Oregon’s land-use policies for the next few decades must recognize people want both and not a false choice between them.

When Senate Bill 100 was implemented, it came with assumptions that remained true over much of the last 30 years.  For example, that if we preserved farmland, and gave farms a very low tax rate, that farming would continue to be an economically positive activity.

But the forces of globalization, vast distribution efficiencies and innovative economies of scale have produced pressures on small- to mid-sized farms.  Just look at the vast reduction in Oregon strawberries -- easily the best looking and tastiest, but crowded out even in our local markets by alternatives shipped from over a 1000 miles away.  The consequence, at least here in Yamhill County, is that many small farms are not economically viable -- often people continue some limited farming but have their livelihoods in town.

We should look at the broader view of our public investments and land-use.  For example, when land is brought into Urban Growth Boundaries, we invest millions in infrastructure to enhance its planned-for new uses, but make almost no investment to sustain the existing planned-for use of rural areas to ensure their continued viability.  As just two little examples, many farmers still don’t have access to broadband internet, making it hard for them to participate in markets; and, as less land is farmed, it cuts the market size for suppliers of materials and equipment to farms.

Oregon needs to look not only at the preservation of productive farm and forestland, but also at what sustains the economics of those lands -- saving farmland without viable farming businesses will ensure continued friction.  The Big Look should include how Oregon’s land-use fits in this broader Oregon economic vista.

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September 07, 2005

No alternative theories to evolution [News-Register]

[Submitted 9/7/2005 to the New-Register published 9/17/2005 as Scientists have explored and rebutted Creationism]

To the Editor -

Lately, some readers have written to extoll the idea of teaching creationism or intelligent design alongside evolution because, they assert, these are alternative theories that address perceived weaknesses in evolution.

Over the years, literally hundreds of claims against evolution have made by creationists and “intelligent designerists”.  Yet, every single claim has, in fact, been subjected to scientific inquiry ... and found to be wrong or not applicable (not relating to scientific inquiry).  One can find a compilation of some 600 claims and read for each claim a summary of the investigation rebutting them here.

There is no alternative scientific explanation, not a bad one, nor a weak one, nor even one that scientists are too close-minded to consider: on the contrary,  scientists have looked at every claim in order to see if there was anything there!

This is a serious issue because evolution rests on the underlying science of physics, chemistry, etc.  Once, as a society, we choose to be relativists about evolution and leave it up to each school kid’s opinion, then that is a slippery slope: to reject evolution requires rejecting the other underlying science and this becomes rejection of science in general over time.

Instead of using science to tell us if a species is threatened with extinction, we’ll ask the politically appointed Interior Secretary to choose.  We’ll ignore global warming.  We’ll decide more arsenic in water is cleaner water.  Whatever!  After all, it is all just opinion!

So then those with political power will decide what the "facts" are in order to justify pre-ordained policies instead of politics being used to determine what policies should address the facts.

July 18, 2005

Intelligent Designerists [Oregonian]

[Submitted to The Oregonian 07/07/2005, published 07/16/2005 with edits as An evolving state of mind over matter]

Additional humor:
  Open Letter to Kansas School Board
  Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory
  Okay, We Give Up
  No Free Hunch

  To paraphrase Douglas Adams' in A Hitchhiker's Guide: “

I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

“But,” says Man, “Intelligent Design is a dead giveaway, isn’t it?  Life could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”

“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly disappears in a puff of logic.

  What Do You Know?
  15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense
  Other Resources for Defending Evolution
  Intelligent Design? a special report reprinted from Natural History magazine
  National Center for Science Education
  'Intelligent design' camouflages religion
  New York Times series: Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive and In Explaining Life's Complexity, Darwinists and Doubters Clash and Show Me the Science and full coverage
  The Hitchhiker's Guide to Intelligent Design
  The Republican War on Science
  Kansas State Department of Education State Science Standards
  TalkOrigins' Index of Creationist Claims (rebutts each of 100s of claims) including “Intelligent Design
  Talk Reason - Arguments against creationism, ID, and religious apologetics

[As submitted to The Oregonian:]

July 10th is the anniversary of the start of the Scopes trial about the teaching of evolution.  I have to admit that I continue to harbor a certain skepticism about people that claim that they have a better scientific explanation for the diversity and structure of life than evolution provides ... just as long as you first accept that fossils aren't really old, that isotopes don't really decay over time (and thus nuclear bombs and nuclear power don't exist, stars don't die out).  You know, that physics isn't true, and stuff like that.

I may be old fashioned, but to accept the latest notion, called “intelligent design”, as a science it needs not only to poke fanciful holes in obvious, tested reality by using semantic obscurantism, but also it needs that bedrock of the scientific method: a testable hypothesis about its own claim that there was an intelligent designer of life, tests that can be independently repeated and verified.

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But for some reason “intelligent design” supporters often skirt their own big question which is, obviously, “Who was the designer?”

Fortunately, I recently realized that we have an excellent way to directly search for our intelligent designer and put the question to the test ... and perhaps to rest for all time!  Each spring, the small town of McMinnville, Oregon is host to an annual UFO festival and parade.  The second largest in the country, I hear.  So here, right under our very noses, has been the laboratory intelligent designerists have needed!

No more searching for evidence of our designer by listening with our electronic ears to the heavens (oops, “skies” -- remember we are talking science here!) listening for the alien equivalent of endless Gilligan's Island reruns beaming toward us from our designer now that he's done with us.  No, we can simply wait at the end of the parade, and ask each Klingon and Wookiee and every other creature, “Are you my designer?  And if not, do you know who is?”  After all, surely the proud designer will turn up some year.  I mean, any good designer would want to come back now and then and just sort of admire how well his things are living, don't you think?

Oh, but wait!  This may be more difficult than I thought: based on the poor quality of the design of my eyes, leading to the need for very strong prescription glasses, and the vast array of debilitating and tragic diseases affecting that ultimate creation, Homo sapiens, it would appear that life was designed by some fractious committee who couldn't quite agree on how any of it really ought to work, or some evil designer inventing diabolical miseries for us to endure, or perhaps just someone who never quite got the hang of this designing life stuff.  And since no one ever takes credit for failures, let alone failures on such a colossal scale, the search will likely be a long one as each alien tediously denies having anything to do with us.

Sigh.  Well, back to the drawing board.

Oh, but wait!  I've got another idea: what if we were to just redefine science to mean not science?  Yes, the pieces are all starting to fit together ... now it is all starting to make sense!  (Well, not sense.)

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