Editorials from around Oregon

Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:

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Mail Tribune, Nov. 6, on the need for firefighting helicopters in wildfire season:

With firefighting resources spread thin around the West in a big fire year, luck and timing can make all the difference. If high-capacity helicopters happen to be here and available when a major lightning storm hammers Southern Oregon, that's good. If those helicopters already have been committed to big fires burning elsewhere, that's not so good.

So it only makes sense that local officials should explore ways to procure our own dedicated aircraft, so they're ready and waiting to be called on to attack fires before they have a chance to grow into conflagrations.

Jackson County commissioners are considering spending $2 million to station two Type 1 helicopters here during fire season. Type 1 helicopters are capable of hauling and dropping up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant at a time. By comparison, Type 2 choppers carry hundreds of gallons.

As luck and timing would have it, two Type 1 helicopters were standing by at the Ashland airport July 15 after working the Klamathon fire earlier in the month. So when a lightning storm ignited 145 new fires, those aircraft were able to attack many of them right away.

Dave Larson, southwest district forester for the Oregon Department of Forestry, says there is no doubt that the presence of those aircraft meant fewer of those fires became big fires, but he wants a detailed study of the past 15 fire seasons before local officials lobby for state funding. It's possible that one Type 1 helicopter and three Type 2 choppers might be a more effective mix for initial attack.

That's a prudent step, but not if it means a delay in seeking funding. The 2019 Legislature convenes Jan. 22, and lawmakers will be adopting the next two-year state budget.

As a practical matter, $2 million is not a great deal of money, considering ODF spent $60 million fighting fires in this region this year. And it's a bargain if dedicated aircraft reduce overall firefighting costs by keeping fires small.

This area's legislative delegation, which voters are choosing today, should make it a priority to secure state funding. If necessary, the county should put up the money for the first year just to get the aircraft here in time for next summer's fire season.

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The Bend Bulletin, Nov. 5, on not keeping reforms secret:

Fortunately for Oregonians, it can be difficult to keep secrets in Salem. Thus, news that state lawmakers might be asked to reduce prisons sentences next year was leaked to The Oregonian, despite Gov. Kate Brown's attempts to keep the matter secret.

In fact, Brown asked state agencies to keep their proposals for the 2019 session of the Legislature secret until after the election.

Usually, legislative concepts, as they're called, are made public by the end of October.

You may draw your own conclusions about why Brown chose secrecy, but the fact remains: Secrecy and good government do not go hand in hand.

Oregon went through a serious round of prison reform in 2013. Lawmakers reduced the sentences for some property crimes, let some low-risk offenders leave prison early and put money into community corrections programs that would deal with some offenders at the county level.

Statewide discussion of the cost of the prison system and ways to contain its growth began at least two years before the 2013 Legislature acted.

There were newspaper stories about the money required to keep up with prison population growth and how many more prisons would be needed as a result. Others centered on whether the state's incarceration policies, heavy on keeping offenders out of jail, worked.

We've had almost none of that in 2018, or in 2017. Nor do we know exactly what's being proposed, or why. We do know some things.

Oregon and its counties spend a higher percentage of revenues on corrections than most states, and that's, in part, because we lock up more juvenile offenders than most states do.

It may be that Oregon's corrections system is, again, ripe for reform. If so, Oregonians need to know what's wrong and why what is being considered will improve the situation. More importantly, we need to be part of any discussion about proposed changes and that discussion needs to begin now, not after the Legislature convenes.

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Capital Press, Nov. 1, on marketing, big potato truck recipe for success:

Last June 9, as participants in the Rose Festival Parade lined up in downtown Portland, a truck drew most of the attention. It wasn't just any truck; it was the Big Idaho Potato Truck, a 72-foot-long semi with a 4-ton fiberglass potato on its flatbed.

Welcome to world of marketing. The truck and its big, whopping potato stem from a famous postcard of a giant potato on a truck with the caption, "We grow 'em big here in Idaho."

As it turns out, there's no better way to attract attention than to show up with the Big Idaho Potato Truck staffed by the Tater Team — Jessica, Kaylee and Ron the driver.

In the case of the Rose Parade, upwards of 1.2 million people saw the truck, which certainly sparked conversations about, of all things, Idaho potatoes.

And that's the point.

Raising public awareness of a crop isn't easy. Once you get beyond the basics — "Potatoes are good for you," ''Potatoes taste good," ''Potatoes are versatile" — you have to do something to keep up the conversation.

That's where marketing comes in. The Big Idaho Potato Truck is just one part of the toolkit the Idaho Potato Commission has developed to get the Idaho Potato brand in front of the public. The commission sponsors a college football bowl game, buys national advertising, does promotions and uses dozens of other tools to promote the state's potatoes. Processors are even adopting the Idaho brand as part of their advertising and labeling.

While some may call it into question as an added expense, marketing, done right, makes money. The biggest brands in the nation use it. Banks, consumer goods manufacturers, car makers, retailers all use marketing as their game plan to raise the public's awareness of their products and services and to set themselves apart from the crowd.

And it's hard to argue with success. During the last 15 years the farm-gate revenue from Idaho potatoes is up more than 80 percent. Not bad. Considering the alternative — selling a straight commodity — marketing has done a good job for Idaho potato growers.

"There is more brand recognition for Idaho potatoes than for almost anything in the country," Potato Growers of Idaho Executive Director Keith Esplin told Capital Press reporter Brad Carlson. "If they would quit that, in a few years potatoes would be a generic product."

The Idaho Potato Commission and its president and CEO, Frank Muir, brought the marketing campaign to life. Starting 15 years ago, they recognized the need to make Idaho potatoes stand out from other crops and cause consumers to seek out Idaho potatoes.

"Were these potatoes grown in Idaho? That is what we want people to ask," Muir said.

Other crops and agricultural products also market themselves — think Tillamook cheese, Washington apples, Walla Walla onions, Hermiston watermelons, California milk, among many others. Those farmers understand that there's more to it than growing a high-quality crop or producing a high-quality product. Marketing and advertising attract, inform and motivate customers.

That's where the Idaho Potato Commission — and many others in agriculture — excel.