Your Weekend Reader for March 18-19

by | Mar 18, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

Here we are, caught in that endless interval between St. Patrick’s Day and the start of spring on Monday (at 2:24 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, not that I’ve been counting). Here are a few choice nuggets to get you through the weekend:

Sarah Trent of the High Country News has a fascinating story about the “atmospheric river” storms that have drenched California (and, to a lesser extent, the entire West Coast). Trent reports that, even though the term “atmospheric rivers” seems relatively new, these storms are responsible for as much as half of the West’s precipitation. But they are hitting with increased frequency, and experts say — this may not come as a surprise — that’s because of climate change. (High Country News lets readers access up to four free articles each month.)

The New York Times has a new story about the Greater Idaho movement, which proposes redrawing the Idaho-Oregon border so that a number of Eastern Oregon counties would become part of Idaho. The animating idea here is that Eastern Oregon counties are a better fit for Idaho — politically, culturally and economically — than they are in an Oregon dominated by Portland and other west-of-the-Cascades enclaves. It’s still a long shot — but 11 Eastern Oregon counties already have expressed their general support for the idea, and Wallowa County, in the far northeast corner of the state, could become the 12th in the May elections. The Times story doesn’t break any new ground, but it does give voice to a number of Eastern Oregon residents — and, I have to tell you, most of them don’t sound crazy. (Times stories are available to subscribers only, but I can “gift” you a free link that will let you access the story; just send me an email or leave a comment below.)

There’s been plenty of talk lately — and a good chunk of it in the Weekend Reader — about the still-pending media-rights deal for the Pac-12 Conference. So it was interesting this week to see additional pushback from the presidents of Pac-12 universities, who made a pretty similar case: The media, the presidents said, is buying into a false narrative that the conference is about to shatter and that the media-rights deal the conference will announce, perhaps in the next couple of weeks, could even be better than the deal the Big 12 recently announced. (That deal pays each Big 12 school about $31.7 million annually.) The president of the University of Arizona, Robert C. Robbins, also told The Athletic that he does not expect most of the Pac-12’s football games to be shown on a streaming service. So, really, all that remains is for Commission George Kliavkoff to announce the deal. Right? Right? (The Athletic is owned by The New York Times, so its stories are available to subscribers only. But I can send you a 30-day gift trial subscription to the site, if you’re interested.)

Everyone in Oregon agrees that the housing crunch throughout the state has grown into a full-fledged crisis. So it’s something that we should be pulling together to fix as a state, right? Well, a new poll suggests that we do think that — unless any of the new housing that the state desperately needs is built anywhere near our houses. A new poll suggests that an overwhelming majority of Oregon residents oppose speeding up construction of new homes in their neighborhoods — and half don’t like the idea of incentives for landlords. Jamie Goldberg at The Oregonian/OregonLive has details about the poll.

Time magazine has named the Willamette Valley one of the 50 greatest places in the world. This news, as reported by Jamie Hale of The Oregonian/OregonLive, prompts this question: Time magazine is still a thing?

Marilyn Starker, who worked for decades with children with special needs at organizations such as the Old Mill Center and Community Outreach Inc. — and who founded Mari’s Place, a day-care center for those children at Community Outreach — died on March 9. She also was involved on the board of directors of Starker Forests for many years. She will be greatly missed. Brad Fuqua’s Philomath News website has a comprehensive obituary.

School board races throughout Oregon seem to attracting an unusual number of candidates for the May election: A quick look suggests that Albany, Alsea, Corvallis and Philomath all will have at least one contested race. If you need a clue why this might be the case, take a look at recent events over at the Greater Albany Public Schools district, as reported by Joanna Mann in this story for the Democrat-Herald. In the words of one of the Albany board members, “Elections have consequences” — which is why I’m routinely baffled by the low turnout in these elections, which arguably have more impact on our communities than even a presidential election. You would think Benton County would be an exception, but not quite 40% of registered voters turned out in May 2021 for what turned out to be a relatively high-profile election.

Colleges in small towns and rural areas — in Oregon, think Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Western Oregon University in Monmouth or, um, Oregon State University in Corvallis — often provide the economic backbone for their communities. But what happens when declining student enrollment hits those institutions? The New York Times featured a story this week that examined that question. Here’s one answer, courtesy of an expert: ‘We’ll start to have some tough stories.”

The Atlantic has a story in its March issue about the resurgence of nuclear power, in particular these smaller modular reactors that are being developed by a handful of companies, including Corvallis’ NuScale Power. So I kept reading the story, thinking that NuScale would be mentioned, and sure enough, Jose Reyes, the co-founder of NuScale is extensively quoted near the end. This story about nuclear power also boasts this subhead in the print edition: “There’s no way to mitigate climate change without it.”

In all of the excitement of the past week, you probably didn’t notice that I was 18-for-23 on my Oscar predictions this year. Not bad, no, but not up to my performance of last year, when I was 21-for-23. You also probably didn’t know that some of the Oscar winners and nominees have Oregon connections: Kristi Turnquist of The Oregonian/OregonLive has the details.

That’s it for this weekend. I see that Donald Trump is predicting that he’ll be arrested on Tuesday. With the Pac-12’s luck, that would be the same day it announces its new media deal. We’ll talk about all of this next weekend.

Looking for something to do in the mid-valley? Check out my curated calendar of arts-and-entertainment events.

1 Comment

  1. Pat Eastman

    Hi Mike.
    Regarding Eastern Oregon assumption by Idaho, I grew up in EO, Nyssa, and I have watched and listened to their local news for over 50 years. This “movement” is not a new concept, going back as far as I can remember. I do wonder, given the economic conditions in EO, how many of the hundreds of minimum wage employees there are in that part of Oregon realize the disparity in minimum wage levels that exist between Oregon and Idaho.
    My guess is that ODOT would like to be relieved from maintaining hundreds of miles of state highways that see very few travelers.
    At the end of the day, you are probably correct in your long shot prediction. Idaho is probably not really interested in assuming the dissatisfied populace and poorly maintained asphalt east
    of Bend. On the other hand, Idaho is delighting in jabbing a stick in the eye of
    Keep up the good work!


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