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Think Out Loud

Local Elections

Nov. 9, 2011 5:06 p.m.

Updated 8:20am Nov. 9, 2011 Voters are making key decisions in local elections all across the country. Oregonians in the First Congressional District will decide which two candidates to send to the special election in May. (We spoke with the Republican and Democratic frontrunners last month.) Washington voters will decide whether or not to privatize liquor sales in that state. This is an issue that failed to pass last year and if it passes this time, it could fuel a similar effort in Oregon — that's something we've also talked about on Think Out Loud. Washingtonians will also weigh in on how toll money should be spent and how home care workers should be trained. Outside of our region, some local elections have broader implications that could impact the Pacific Northwest. In the swing state of Ohio, an effort to repeal a state law that limits public employees' bargaining rights could serve as a bellwether for the 2012 presidential election. Voters in Boulder, Colorado voted last week to create a public utility after studying Portland's failed attempt to do so five years ago.

Think Out Loud

On The Job: Emergency Volunteers

Oct. 10, 2011 4:25 p.m.

A phone call reporting a man experiencing severe chest pain woke Frank Billington in the middle of the night, and he was first on the scene in a matter of minutes. The patient was in a great deal of pain with a very irregular heartbeat. Frank did what he could to stabilize him before the paramedics arrived and whisked him away to the nearest hospital. The patient survived and later, the EMTs told Frank it was unusual for someone to pull through after such a serious heart attack. "I like to think I had something to do with that," Frank said humbly.  Frank lives in a house owned by the local fire district, which means he basically runs a one-man fire station out of his family's home. He has a what's known as a mini pumper vehicle at his disposal. (It's basically a scaled down fire truck with medical supplies on board.) He's often the first on the scene of a fire or medical emergency, but this isn't his paid job. Frank is a shift superintendent at Clark Public Utilities. He's also a volunteer fire and medical responder in rural Washington, near Washougal.

Think Out Loud

Bike Building at Oregon Manifest

Sept. 23, 2011 4:35 p.m.

Imagine the perfect utility bike. You use it to get to work, to go grocery shopping. Now imagine turning that vision into a working piece of art. Builders competing in the 2011 Constructor's Design Challenge have been charged with creating the "ultimate modern utility bike.” On Friday the finished bikes will be revealed. They'll be judged on innovation, design and execution, and they'll have to complete a 50 mile field test. There is a list of mandatory features all bikes need, including an anti-theft system and load-carrying system. This year's competition differs from the innaugural one in that there are now three designer-craftsmen collaboration teams. The teams pair top design firms with talented bike builders. Winners will be announced on Saturday and then displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Craft.

Think Out Loud

The Top Environmental Stories of 2011

Dec. 19, 2011 5:40 p.m.

 A lot of the biggest Northwest environmental stories surrounded energy issues.  Coal plants in Centralia, WA, and Boardman, OR both faced pressure to close their doors sooner than planned. Those closures come at the same time that Longview, WA and Bellingham, WA proposed coal export terminals to ship the resource to China. Idaho joined in on the national push toward "fracking" for natural gas. And the federal decision to postpone the Keystone XL oil pipeline has raised the question of whether we'll see more oil tankers in NW waters as companies look for other routes to carry oil to China. The national Solyndra controversy raised questions about the certainty of investments in the local renewable energy industry. The wind and hydroelectric industries tried to work out the kinks of how to deal with the times when too much energy gets generated by both sources. And the Japanese tsunami that led to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis and cleanup has raised quesitons everywhere about the safety of nuclear energy.

local | News | Think Out Loud

Coal By Wire | Motor Voter | Valhalla

Feb. 4, 2016 6:17 p.m.

We talk to legislative representatives on both sides of a bill that would eliminate the use of coal energy by Oregon's two biggest utilities by 2035. The Oregon Secretary of State discusses how the implementation of the state’s automatic voter registration law is going. And we speak with the backcountry guide who led a trip down a previously undocumented slot canyon for Oregon Field Guide.

Think Out Loud

Northwest Passages: Diane Hammond

Aug. 17, 2010 4 p.m.

Author Diane Hammond had never been to the West Coast when her husband got a job with NOAA in Newport. As an East Coast transplant, she felt at first that she didn't fit in. To avoid isolation, she decided to not talk, but listen.

Everything from the words I used to the things I might find of interest didn't resonate. I didn't fit in professionally or socially, which in a small town are often the same thing. In order not to seem like a Martian, I decided that instead of being the me I had been all my life, I would change to fit in better.
Hammond got a job with the electric utility company and listened as the people she worked with shared those little bits of their lives that come up in the break room or over lunch. Slowly, their stories wove into her consciousness, and her writing. That was 25 years and four novels ago. Now she says: "Before Newport I didn't write anything worth a damn."

Think Out Loud

Toxic Water?

Jan. 4, 2011 5 p.m.

A new study of drinking water in 35 US cities released recently by the advocacy organization,  Environmental Working Group, claimed 31 cities have water with detectable levels of the carcinogen, chromium-6 (hexavalent chromium). That chemical got considerable public attention after the 2000 film, Erin Brockovich. Bend is one of the cities EWG claims as having water with detectable levels of chromium-6. Bend officials say the water the EWG sampled for its tests came from a private utility that supplies water to some Bend residents. Justin Finestone, communications manager for the city of Bend, questions EWG's approach. He says, "The EPA has a specific testing method for chromium and EWG didn't use that. People don't know these things and they panic." Soon after the report was released, the Environmental Protection Agency released this statement from Administrator Lisa Jackson. Jackson promised the agency is studying the issue. The EPA is in the middle of its own study looking at whether it needs to set a maximum level for hexavalent chromium in tap water. Currently, EPA requires all water systems to test for "total chromium" content, not just chromium-6. The EPA's website says its total chromium standard is 0.1 mg/L (100 parts per billion) and that their latest data show no U.S. utilities are in violation of the standard. Studies like this one can understandably raise public concern. But it's a fine line between communicating potential public health risks and causing panic. Regarding this EWG study, Dr. George Gray, a toxicologist at George Washington University, says he'd hope that "people stop and ask questions about studies like this: how big is the risk, how does it compare to others around me, is this one worth worrying about? Is it worth changing my behavior?"

Think Out Loud

Full Faith in Credits?

May 5, 2009 4 p.m.

Public policy wonks talk about incentives and disincentives as ways to alter people's behavior. There are the sticks, like the proposal to fine drivers who have one hand on the wheel and the other on a cell phone. (You may have heard our show about it.) And then there are the carrots: like tax rebates and credits and grants of all kinds that reward the kind of action the state wants to see more of. If there's one broad sector this state — and the rest of the union — is invested in investing in, it's green energy. But are the various state (and federal) incentives necessary? And are they working?

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