Curb that enthusiasm
Democrats are in control, but they're not the Green Party
Environmental activists are understandably elated at the prospect of a Democratically controlled Legislature, but they &
8212; and majority Democrats &
8212; should take care not to overreach.
Certainly there are environmental concerns neglected during the years of Republican majorities that should be pursued.
For starters, the state bottle deposit law, once a national model, is now woefully out of date. Past Legislatures have failed to adjust the law to reflect changes in the marketplace such as the explosion of bottled water, juice and other drinks that are not covered by the statute.
The state Department of Environmental Quality could use some help, too. Under-funding the state's environmental watchdog agency means air and water don't get monitored adequately. The Willamette River, once badly polluted, then cleaned up and now polluted again, should get more attention from lawmakers.
Another worthwhile effort would create a program to safely recycle old computers and other electronic equipment, which pose a toxic hazard when discarded in landfills. But beyond these basic steps, which are reasonably likely to win bipartisan support, lies more aggressive legislation that is far less likely to succeed and far more apt to create a backlash among lawmakers and with the public.
Remember that, while Democrats now control both houses of the Legislature and occupy the governor's mansion, their margin in the House is just one vote &
8212; and not all members of the majority caucus are lockstep liberals. In fact, House Democrats include a few who are proud to call themselves conservative, including Rep. Betty Komp, D-Woodburn, who was assigned a desk on the Republican side of the House floor last session and this session asked to stay there.
Also, just because voters booted the GOP from control in November doesn't mean they will buy everything the Democrats might want to sell them.
Oregon has a proud tradition of environmental protection and conservation. But much of the state's economy historically was built on extracting natural resources.
Oregonians will support reasonable protections for the state's very special environment. But they want balance, too.
Trans-fat ban no panaceaThose who make a trip to their favorite doughnut shop to sink their teeth into a warm, glazed doughnut probably have expected the caloric consequences. They may, however, have been unaware of the possible fallout from the "trans fats" used to deep-fry their treat.
The food industry invests heavily in research to produce foods that are tasty to the palate. The winners sell well and turn a profit. But increasingly, the ingredients used in foods are being examined to determine whether they pose a health risk. The trans fats used to make foods tasty have proven to be a poor choice for the consumer. Evidence suggests that trans fats boost "bad" cholesterol and lower "good" cholesterol. Consuming too many foods laced with trans fats could be putting the public at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Following the lead of Seattle's' Top Pot Doughnuts, one of Starbucks' largest doughnut suppliers, other companies such as Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts are testing oils in an attempt to produce a less artery-clogging product. Since New York became the first city to ban all restaurants from using trans fats, those currently working to come up with a tasty, more healthy doughnut are on the cutting edge of what is expected to be a national trend.
Health regulators cannot be the watchdog for individual overeaters. Changing fats may help with clogged arteries but it is just one tool for healthier eating. Other serious health concerns such as diabetes and hypertension are directly related to obesity. Consumers still need to read labels, choose wisely and use willpower.