As the State Turns

By Johnny Beaver

stateturnssymbolOregon, the Beautiful *cough*
With summer finally in full swing, now is the perfect chance to take a dip in one of our wonderful Oregon waterways. The time has never been better for getting toxic mold in your ear or letting a few dozen mutant protozoa swim up your urethra and set up camp! Ranked as the 33rd worst in the nation, Oregon was home to 1.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals being dumped in lakes, rivers, creeks and streams in 2012 alone. The grand prize of this particular rat race goes to Portland semi-conductor manufacturer Siltronic Corp., which was responsible for 350,562 of those pounds all by itself. Wowaweewaa! Our favorite around here has to be the Cascade Pacific Pulp mill in Halsey, as they chucked 62,907 pounds of formic acid, amonia, lead and more into the Willamette River. You know, that one that’s safe to swim in now!

Thanks to the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, companies could henceforth go on dumping this waste as long as they received a permit. It’s sort of like the government granting them a license to come into your home and poop in your sink, only on a much grander scale. What’s better is that the water pollution doesn’t even come close to the air pollution. For example, the Springfield International Paper plant unleashed a 485,296 pound puff of toxic smoke into the air – almost ten times what they dumped in nearby waters.

While the evil folks behind the EPA and other groups are fighting to clean up Oregon’s waterways, we should be able to still enjoy all of this legal toxic pollution for years to come.

Running Not Just From the Cops, Anymore
Well, not really. Not yet, anyway. Added to a long list of fantastic outdoor events in the state, Oregon now has a “Prison Run” program. Held once a month between spring and fall at the prison in Salem, outsiders and inmates alike get an opportunity to stretch their legs, have a nice run and connect with each other – nonviolently.

As shocking as this may seem, activities like these go a long way to help rehabilitate prisoners. Those who compete are given extra training time in “the yard” (always wanted to use that in a sentence), and a trend has even developed where some are skipping lunch to get in a few more leaps and bounds. Aside from the obvious benefits, this is a two way street. Prison and program officials believe that by having more of an exchange with the outside world, it will change perspectives on what prison is and can be.

One observer noted that at the races there are no snacks, performance drinks or high tech running gadgetry. Prisoners purchase shoes from the canteen, as well as old stock MP3 players that can be loaded with iTunes songs. They even get to pay an extra 75 cents per song as an added bonus.

Races range from intense to casual, short to half marathons.

Standardized Testing Update – This Isn’t Remotely Interesting
25,000 Oregonian students recently finished field testing new standardized test models, tied to what’s known as the Common Core Standards, which will be replacing all current Oregon tests this coming school year. The new examples are more difficult and will require more writing and explaining.

Essentially, more of the same, with few adjustments designed to combat the widespread criticism of standardized testing in the education sector. The kids are gonna flip for it! Or, wait, is that still relevant slang?

Farmers Vs. Cyclists
Because Monroe is super exciting, they have resorted to a war of words over the future of a retired rail line that runs between there and Corvallis. Some residents are chomping at the chain to see it transformed into an 18 mile long, 60-foot wide scenic trail. However, farmers and ranchers claim that it would impede their agricultural work, as well as lead to trespassing and vandalism. I mean honestly, it’s an 18-mile trail… where are you supposed to pee, in your overpriced Camelbak bottle? I think not, farmers. I think not.

The Benton County Board of Commissioners bought the line for $486,000 last year, which had been dormant for six years. The previous owner, Union Pacific, had been struggling to find a buyer. The purchase itself covers an 11-mile stretch that runs from Monroe to a handful of miles south of Corvallis, and then another bit that runs about 7 miles from Monroe to Dawson. Utilizing a federal line that helps maintain the right of way belonging to abandoned rail lines, this form of pseudo-temporary public use will preserve the rail for future train use if the need arises.

While the county claims that the process will include an inventory of the property as well as seeking out different interim uses, farmers believe smoke is being blown firmly in the direction of their buttocks, and that the plan to throw in a bike path is all but set in stone.