Environment sets tone for town hall
by: Cliff Newell, Rep. Greg Macpherson makes a point while Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, left, and Sen. Richard Devlin, right, listen during a Tuesday evening town hall session at Tryon Creek State Park.

It's time for Oregon to start living up to its reputation as a leader on the environment.

That was the main feeling expressed at a town hall on the environment held at Tryon Creek State Park Tuesday night.

The event featured Rep. Greg Macpherson, D-Lake Oswego, Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, and Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, plus an overflow audience that came as a pleasant surprise to the three main speakers. All expressed interest in restoring Oregon's leadership on the environment, and they look upon 2006 as a crucial year to do it.

'We look back to the golden age of environment in Oregon,' Macpherson said, 'and that reputation is getting frayed around the edges.'

Noting that Oregon's main accomplishments on environmental legislation came nearly 40 years ago, Macpherson called for renewed commitment to the environment, especially in the area of renewable energy.

'We have some great technologies that show promise,' Macpherson said. 'Wind, waves, solar power. I hope Oregon can become the intellectual center for the environmental movement.'

In recent years, however, the panelists admitted that Oregon has been stuck in low gear when it comes to passing environmental legislation.

'I've found there has been a great deal of difference from what I was able to accomplish as a private citizen and what I've been able to do as a public representative,' Devlin said. 'It's a tale mostly of frustration.'

Devlin said a promising discussion of biofuels got 'hijacked' in the last legislative session and that meaningful action must be taken to expand beyond petroleum products.

'All projections are that our dependency on imported oil will only go up,' Devlin, whose district includes Lake Oswego, West Linn and portions of Southwest Portland, said. 'They're supposed to go up to the mid 60s (percent imports) by the next decade. According to who you believe, our reserves will disappear in 30 years or in 50 years.'

The panelists met a jacked-up crowd that was most ready to take on the challenge of finding new or renewable energy sources. The audience included the Electric Car Club of Lewis and Clark College, a group that has intensely studied the use of electric cars and foresees the possibility of them having an extraordinary impact in the near future.

Almost as much as the environment, however, audience members expressed interest in the electoral process, with an election coming up in November. That is where Bradbury came in. As secretary of state he is in charge of Oregon elections, and he has great pride in what Oregon has accomplished.

'I've implemented Oregon's incredibly successful vote-by-mail program,' Bradbury said. 'This is an opportunity to brag. We have a paper record of every vote. It's a big deal. Washington has adopted the mail-in and Arizona and Colorado are looking at it.'

However, Bradbury and audience members expressed misgivings about the electoral process in other states, which often use technical procedures that not only do not leave a paper recount possible but also could be subject to manipulation.

As far as pushing for environmental and election, progress, most people at the town hall seemed to feel that the event typified just what is needed.

Jan Castle commented: 'Go talk to people all over the state about what they really want. I think you'll find common ground.'

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