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Missing the plate

Local editorials

Portland's pitch for a stadium comes at worst possible time

Allows legislators to avoid important issues? Check.

Comes with the potential to fail economically? Check.

Could cost Oregon a pile of money? Check.

What could it be but another pitch for Major League Baseball in Portland?

The latest proposal for the state to help Portland build a stadium is scheduled for a hearing in Salem today, more than two years after lawmakers first heard of the plan.

— Unfortunately, too much of what was wrong then remains.

The biggest problem with talk of building a stadium? Legislators shouldn't need to ask: Oregon still has no long-term solution for staggering problems in its budget. And the short-term solution appears to be to ignore shortfalls and spend even less on services such as education.

The latest stadium proposal, House Bill 3606, would involve the state as issuer of &

36;150 million in revenue bonds to pay for almost half the &

36;350 million project. The bonds, the plan goes, would be paid back through players' income taxes or, in a worst-case scenario, by a guarantor. In return, backers promise, the stadium would funnel money into Oregon's budget.

Part of what disturbs us about this discussion is the portrayal of the new bill as both an economic stimulus package and a jobs bill, both attempts to twist this into something other than what it really is. The truth is that Portland wants to gamble on a baseball stadium, and it wants the state's help.

We have no quarrel with Portland building a stadium. But its play to involve the rest of the state isn't necessarily as billed ' not necessarily profitable, not necessarily sound and not necessarily the right thing for the state right now.

Legislators must find dependable approaches to resolving Oregon's budget crisis, and they must do it soon.

That should be their focus this session, even if means ignoring Portland's pitch.

Keep the helmets on

The Oregon House Monday narrowly okayed a bill that would allow motorcycle riders 21 and older to ride their machines without being required to wear helmets.

This is a bad idea. There is little doubt that helmets reduce injuries, and that the argument that people should have the freedom to take risks is a specious one.

Freedom of choice is a self-serving argument because the rest of us will have to pick up the pieces, one of the bill's detractors said.

Democrat Alan Bates of Ashland, a doctor, said the bill will allow more people to die, and that motorcycle riders can suffer brain injuries that can make them unable to function. That means they all too likely will end up living on public benefits.

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it still faces a rough road because Gov. Ted Kulongoski has said he opposes the measure. That, of course, raises the question why the Legislature, in this year of financial chaos, is even wasting its time with a measure that is going nowhere.

Oregon voters passed the helmet law 2-to-1 in 1988. This is the fifth time lawmakers opposed to the measure have sought its repeal.

Doctors know the consequences faced by riders without helmets. Perhaps legislators, like physicians, should consider the adage, First do no harm.