Selected editorials from Oregon newspapers:


Medford Mail Tribune, Nov. 21, on true Oregon wine:

Oregon vineyards and wineries have labored for years in the shadow of the much larger and better-known California wine industry. Now federal regulators have ruled that a Napa Valley vintner can no longer use an Oregon label on his California-made wines. That's a victory for Oregon's growing and increasingly respected wine industry.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a part of the federal Treasury Department, ruled last week that Joe Wagner, owner of Elouan Winery and Copper Cane Wines and Provisions, must surrender nine wine labels, including Elouan and The Willametter Journal.

The unsuspecting wine consumer could be forgiven for being taken in by the label on The Willametter Journal, which says in part, "This Pinot Noir was cultivated and crafted to honor the unique area where it was grown. The Willamette region of Oregon's coastal range is a place credited over decades for its vibrant and fresh style."

But despite the flowery prose, The Willametter Journal is not an Oregon wine.

The grapes come from Oregon, but Wagner explained in an interview published Nov. 1 that the grapes were layered with dry ice and trucked to Rutherford, California, where the wine was made.

Wagner said his company changed the labels on his wine after regulators told him he couldn't claim an Oregon appellation such as Willamette Valley, a federally recognized American Viticultural Area. But other wines, such as Elouan pinot noir, continued to be sold with Oregon on the label. The popular wine app for smartphones, Vivino, lists Elouan No. 23 among the top 25 "Oregon Pinot Noir wines" as ranked by Vivino users. So apparently the wine is good, but it's not made in Oregon.

Unfortunately for Wagner, Oregon law says all wine labeled as Oregon wine must be made in the state, not just grown here. State Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, brought the matter to the attention of the Legislature in September, showing colleagues a case of Elouan wine labeled as "Oregon Coast" Pinot Noir — not a recognized AVA and where no pinot noir grapes are grown — and listing the Willamette, Rogue and Umpqua valleys, which are real AVAs, underneath that heading.

Let the buyer beware — and let Wagner's company learn some geography.


The Eugene Register-Guard, Nov. 19, on thinking outside of the homelessness box:

Data released by the state last Thursday show that the number of homeless students is down from the previous year in two out of three local school districts. This is encouraging, and may be a sign of more affordable housing or more functional homes. But numbers continue to rise in the 4J School District, meaning there remains much work to be done. We are lucky to have an innovative local network focused on just this.

If you spend time in Eugene and Springfield, chances are you've heard of 15th Night. That's because it exists to communicate. Its goal is to connect runaways or newly homeless, "unaccompanied" students with the people and places they can turn to for help. Its name is on the lips of key community members — everyone from school janitors to police officers to members of the Junior League of Eugene.

But you may not have come across the vast network that is 15th Night, because if you ask coordinator Megan Shultz, she'll tell you that "15th Night isn't really a thing. Not a service, not a program. All we do is coordinate. Break down barriers, help providers do their work, help students connect with them."

What 15th Night really is ... is an agreement. A promise among willing, compassionate people that no student should ever have to choose to spend a fifteenth night on the street. After that, youth have an 80 percent higher chance of remaining homeless long-term.

15th Night's story involves a city official, a local business owner and a social service provider coming together to, in Megan's words, "create a value" in our community around keeping students off the street. They found this was an opportunity to stem the flow of people into chronic homelessness.

The group put together a youth action council to better understand what homeless students face, and sent them out to survey their peers. They asked: Why do youth leave home? What do they need most after they do? What could have kept them from leaving?

The youth council shared this data with a "catalyst team" of community leaders. The data revealed a list of more than 50 resources that homeless students need access to, from the very easy (shoes) to the very hard (family remediation). Together, the council and catalyst team went to look for providers in the community, and the list became a "menu" of services accessible through 15th Night.

The next step was connecting youth with services, and that's when 15th Night approached the tech community. At Hack for a Cause in 2016, developers competed to build a solution for this challenge, and the Rapid Access Network was born. You might have to be a developer to fully understand how it works, but it does exactly what 15th Night needs. It leverages existing relationships and programs to get students the help they need quickly and safely.

Barriers are broken down, and connections that didn't exist before are made.

Talking with Shultz, there's no end to the people who said yes to 15th Night. A broad and diverse coalition, from coders to junior leaguers to a taxi company, have found a way to work together over a common goal: supporting students and keeping them off the streets. And there's never been an exchange of money. Just that shared value.

But somewhere beyond school years and adulthood, the community starts to lose this desire to do good by people who, by hard luck or disadvantage or mistakes, have wound up on the street. We aren't as understanding of these same individuals further downstream, who might be easier to blame and push aside. Whose story we might forget, even though they, too, were once kids who we would have tried to help any way we could.

Shultz says for her, not understanding the issue was the biggest challenge of this work. "Even coming from 15 years of working with the foster care system, I had so many misperceptions about homelessness," she says.

Shultz believes the issue is often that people fall through gaps between systems, but that it doesn't have to be that way. She says people in the community want to be part of a solution, but don't know how.

Our suggestion to start: Withhold judgment.

This editorial is part of a series highlighting people working with vulnerable youth during National Runaway Prevention Month.


The Bend Bulletin, Nov. 16, on Oregon's Psychiatric Security Review Board failing the people of Oregon:

Oregon's Psychiatric Security Review Board has failed Oregonians. Its main mission, according to its own website, is to protect the public from those criminals who are found guilty except for insanity. It does not do that, and it has failed to study the issue in any serious way.

If it had, it might have discovered that 35 percent of people it releases from supervision commit another crime within three years, according to the Malheur Enterprise newspaper and the nonprofit news organization Pro Publica.

Instead, it calculates its recidivism rate only on those currently under supervision, and in that group the recidivism rate is a mere 0.46 of 1 percent.

The board manages prisoners who have been sent to the Oregon State Hospital rather than to prison after committing what can be horrific crimes.

As one example, the hospital is home to Joshua Webb, a Colton man who pleaded guilty except for insanity in the 2017 murder of his mother, whose severed head he then took to a grocery store where he stabbed someone else.

Unfortunately, the board doesn't track what its former patients do. Had they done so, its members might not have been surprised in January 2017 when Anthony Montwheeler stabbed an ex-wife to death and killed another man in a head-on collision while fleeing police near Ontario. The board had released Montwheeler from custody the previous month after he claimed to have been faking mental illness for 20 years in its custody.

Thanks to the Enterprise, Pro Publica and Oregon's public records law, the board's problems are now very public, indeed. While it has discussed studying its former charges' recidivism rates and even made a stab at doing so, the work has never been completed, a fact it has worked hard to hide in recent months, suing the Enterprise to keep its records secret.

It can hide no longer. After Gov. Kate Brown ordered the board to release the records, it did so.

Now it's up to the Oregon Legislature to take matters into its own hands. At the least, the board should be required to do a good recidivism study and make its findings public. And, depending upon what it finds, the board should acknowledge its problems and change its practices accordingly.

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