As I finish this edition of the Weekend Reader, it’s about 2 p.m. Saturday, and your Oregon Legislature still is in session, racing (although “racing” may be considered a relative term) to finish its work before its Sunday 11:59 p.m. deadline. If you’re just catching up on what work remains for legislators, Julia Shumway at the Oregon Capital Chronicle has you covered with this story. My guess now is that the session will adjourn sometime late Saturday and then we can spend some time trying to make some sense out of this year’s madness.
At least one lesson was made clear during this session: The voter-approved initiative that was meant to curtail the risks that members of the minority party could stall the Legislature by walking out and denying either the House or Senate the two-thirds majority required for a quorum simply didn’t work. (And it’s a pretty good bet that the relatively toothless measure won’t survive the court challenge GOP legislators are promising.) Randy Stapilus, writing for the Oregon Capital Chronicle, suggests a more direct approach: change the state constitution so that it defines “quorum” the way that almost everyone else does — as 50% plus one.
You probably recall the 2021 “heat dome” event in the Northwest, during which temperatures in Corvallis either tied or beat heat records that were more than a century old. The event, as you’ll recall, killed scores of the people throughout the region. Now, Multnomah County has filed a $51.5 billion lawsuit against big fossil-fuel corporations and petroleum trade associations, arguing that the carbon pollution caused by fossil fuels was a major factor in creating and exacerbating the heat dome. In Multnomah County, the heat wave killed 69 people. In the United States, three dozen cities and seven states have filed similar lawsuits; the Oregonian reported that some of those cases may be coming to trial soon in state courts.
The Poynter Institute has a new story exploring a vital issue in journalism: the growing rate of burnout among local journalists. Obviously, reporting is a tough job at any time, but the pressures on journalists only multiplied during the pandemic (and weren’t made any easier by widespread job cuts throughout the industry). And even though this is a vital issue for the industry to address, there might be a role for news consumers to play: The next time you have reason to call local reporters about a story they might have missed or a correction that needs to be made, remember that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
The New York Times is reporting about another threat to local journalism: Increasingly, the paper reports, local governments angered by aggressive newspaper coverage are yanking their contracts for those papers to print legally required public notices. The money from those contracts can be a lifeline, especially for smaller papers. Stories from the Times are available only to subscribers, but I can send Weekend Readers “gift” links to stories. It occurred to me this week that I could just include the gift links in the copy, and so here it is for this newspaper story. Why hasn’t this occurred to me earlier? As noted in previous editions of the Weekend Reader, I’m a slow learner.)
Alarmed by reports that its new owners — Warner Bros. Discovery — might be thinking about scuttling Turner Classic Movies, The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd put the company’s CEO, David Zaslav, on notice that such a move would be, to quote the movie “Network,” meddling “with the primal forces of nature.” Zaslav told Dowd that he loved Turner Classic Movies and had no plans to shut it down. Dowd said she would be watching Zaslav. Here’s the gift link to the Dowd column.
Out here in the Western United States, we know something about living with smoke from wildfires — and we’ve been learning about this for years. But now that smoke from Canadian wildfires has floated down to the East Coast, suddenly you’re seeing a lot of media attention focused on the health effects of that smoke. Let me summarize much of that reporting for you: It turns out that smoke from wildfires is bad for you. But I did spy an occasional story that seemed to break new ground, at least for me, like this story from The Atlantic about how exposure to smoke affects brain cognition. Let me summarize for you the early findings of scientists, who have only recently begun to explore this particular area: Wildfire smoke may be just as bad for your brain as it is for your lungs. (Alas, Atlantic stories are available only to subscribers to the magazine.)
Alert Weekend Reader readers will remember that my work these days occasionally takes me out to Wallowa County in the farthest northeastern corner of Oregon, and I’m a little ashamed to note that I didn’t know much about the county before I started this particular job. (To be fair, the county is a little isolated — it’s an hour’s drive off Interstate 84 on spectacular Highway 82 to get to the county seat in Enterprise.) But the county (which also boasts an unexpectedly vibrant arts scene) is starting to pick up recognition outside its borders: Travel + Leisure magazine recently named Joseph as one of the nation’s most beautiful small towns, and it’s hard to argue with that assessment. Now, The Oregonian’s Jamie Hale has added to the county’s accolades by highlighting one of its newest attractions: the Wallowa Lake East Moraine Trail, a relatively easy trek that offers spectacular views of the lake and the Wallowa Mountains. As Hale notes, the land was purchased and made public in 2020, after a community process that took a dozen years or so. Hale writes that the trail is “a perfect introduction to this beautiful corner of Oregon.”
Speaking of Eastern Oregon, you might have missed the news that the state House of Representatives passed a resolution designating the potato as Oregon’s official state vegetable. The Oregonian duly reported this news, but missed out a little bit on the backstory: Such a designation has long been a pet project of state Sen. Bill Hansell, a widely respected legislator from Athena (what’s that? you don’t think you can place Athena on the state map? I can help: It’s just west of Weston). Hansell recently announced that he’ll step down at the end of his term, and there’s little doubt that the measure passed in large part as a tribute to his work. Despite all that, though, the potato measure has attracted a bit of controversy: Many people believe that the onion is the official state vegetable. In the spirit of bipartisanship, let me suggest a compromise: Just add onions and green peppers and declare Potatoes O’Brien as Oregon’s official side dish.