March 25, 2001 11:00 pm

Mayor fields concerns

about meatout day

The phone rang at The Observer last week, but the calls did not come pouring in as frequently as they did at Portland Mayor Vera Katzs office.

A Northeast Oregon rancher tipped us off to the fact that Katz had proclaimed Tuesday as Great American Meatout Day.

How dare the leader of Oregons largest city discourage Portlanders and perhaps other Oregonians from eating beef? As an editorial in The Oregonian stated, Oregon ranchers and omnivores greeted her announcement as if it were an outbreak of mad cow disease.

Katz had followed the wishes of the Portland branch of Meatout 2001. In doing so, she was encouraging city dwellers to consider passing up hamburgers in favor of chowing down on whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruits at least for one day.

Katzs staff spent about four hours on the phone dealing with people who were bucking the mayors proclamation. Many people were concerned that Portland was listed by Meatout 2001 among the cities encouraging citizens to kick the meat habit.

That isnt the case, said Katz, who chomps into a T-bone or some other meaty delicacy from time to time, herself. What do do? Like a tractor doing a 180-degree turn to begin down the next row, the mayor also proclaimed Tuesday as Agriculture Day. Whew! The crisis is over.

The lesson here: Mayors, whether they preside over Portland, Pilot Rock or Prineville, should be careful about such ceremonial proclamations. They might bite off more than they can chew if they proclaim a day for some cause that causes the citizens to stampede.

Lets get better grades

Say Oregon is your child and she brings home C-plus grade. Youre probably not going to throw a parental tantrum. But you will be concerned, and you will want to see a lot of improvement in the


The grade Oregon got from the Oregon Progress Board, which has been doing this sort of thing since 1989, came despite progress. Some areas showing improvement included environmental protection and student literacy. Public safety was our highest grade at B+.

A real eye opener, HOWEVER, was Oregons D in civic engagement. What this shows is that many of us are not getting involved much in our communities. We need improvement in our voting, volunteerism, support of cultural activities and willingness to pay taxes to support projects that benefit the community as a whole. This apathy slowly degrades our quality of life.

The Oregon Progress Board needs to continue watching the state with an objective eye. And we as citizens need to do our part to improve our civic engagement grade. One small step at a time.