Governer should stay out of name game

Gov. John Kitzhaber’s veto last week of state Rep. Sherrie Sprenger’s bill that would have reversed part of the state Board of Education’s ban on Native American mascots, leaves us wondering.

Is he really the presumptuous, sanctimonious, controlling meddler that this makes him appear to be?

Is he so short of things to do that this could be the most important thing he could focus on as leader of our state?

Is he feeling expansive, because Oregon’s unemployment rate has finally dipped to 8 percent? Yes, only eight of the workers out of the 100 who live nearest to each of us, are unemployed now, according to the statistics — unless we live in Linn County, where it’s 10. That’s better than the 11 percent who lacked jobs here a year ago, but it’s still not good.

Is the governor now satisfied that uninformed visitors can navigate through our capital, which has some of the worst street signage imaginable – with those road signs on the freeway and in town that give you a different destination point at seemingly every turn?

Maybe he’s decided that ODOT finally has its act together on that Highway 20 realignment project between Corvallis and Newport? But is this is the same agency that closed down lanes on Highway 228 to repave on Monday morning, as Willamette Country Music Festival guests’ RVs backed up behind ODOT’s “event ahead” signs that had been placed a few days earlier? It might be wise to keep a sharper eye on an agency that operates on a tricky balance of engineering and politics, and apparently sometimes needs some public relations help.

Perhaps Kitzhaber is listening too closely to his aides, who told Sprenger after she had a series of polite and encouraging conversations with the governor about the bill that was lying on his desk, that he wasn’t going to be speaking with her any more about it? Then he vetoed it.

Or maybe he really believes that Rep. Sprenger’s plan, to allow schools to keep mascots that depict Native Americans if they could secure approval from the nearest tribe, was truly wrong.

In a state with too much poverty — outside of Salem, anyway, in which the average Oregonian’s income is 9 percent below the national average (where it would have been 15 years ago), it seems like overkill for the governor to slap down this reasonable solution to a problem that is far overshadowed by others.

We do not, for a second, want to minimize the injustices that Native Americans have suffered in our state and nation. And there are, apparently, sensitive souls among the tribes who, for some reason, take issue with the fact that non-Indians are using terms such as “Warriors” and “Braves” or “Chieftans” to personify their efforts on the athletic field.

Those of us who, by genetic makeup, may be Irish, Scots, Vikings, or Saxons or Conquistadors, or Stallions might be disturbed too — except most of us are not. And neither are most of the Indians, apparently.

Sprenger’s solution is by far the most even-handed, fair and engaging solution to this problem, which has resulted in, reportedly, more than 600 high school and college teams ditching their nicknames for fear of insulting our Native American brethren — 20 of those schools in Oregon.

“Engagement” is the key word here. It keeps the solution local.

The state Board of Education has no business meddling in local affairs such as this — any more than the governor does. State educational officials might try solving some of their financial dilemmas and figuring out how to improve the educational processes going on in our classrooms.

The governor would burnish his image and credibility by tackling the PERS mess, by bringing some real industry and jobs to Oregon — not smoke and mirrors — like his contemporary Rick Perry is doing in Texas.

We truly appreciate things the governor has done specifically for Linn County. If the Oregon Solutions Team (page 11) is successful in building the coalition necessary to create a tourism industry in east Linn County that will provide jobs and income for local residents, we’ll be even more grateful.

Gov. Kitzhaber has been in politics a long time. He should know by now when to pick his fights. And he should know when to ignore the influence of his staff, which is apparently not what happened here.

Vetoing a measure that made sense to everyone but, apparently, someone in his office whose view of the world and their role in it can be only described by the terms we’ve used above, was not smart. In fact, it appears to us to be nothing more than overly intrusive, Big Brother politics.

We encourage Rep. Sprenger to take that bill back to the people who voted for it and give the governor a chance to do the right thing — and hope, this time, he’s occupied with solving bigger problems.