DON'T LET ALLEGATIONS HALT WORTHWHILE TRIPS

February 21, 2002 11:00 pm

The Philadelphia trips, planned in the spring for eighth-graders in La Grande, Cove and Union, and in Imbler and Elgin, have been well received for more than a decade.

The first trip was organized in the 1980s by the late Ray Berry, a long-time, creative social studies teacher at the La Grande Middle School. A trip for

La Grande eighth-graders has been offered over the past 13 years. Berrys idea of taking students to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other East Coast historical sites caught on in other Grande Ronde Valley communities. Parents and teachers from Cove and Union organized a trip for their middle-schoolers, and the same thing happened in Elgin and Imbler.

The report this week that the Union County District Attorneys Office is looking into allegations of embezzlement and forgery involving thousands of dollars from the accounts of the Elgin-Imbler Philadelphia Trip could put a cloud over such trips.

Such misconduct, if true, must be addressed. We hope that none of the students from Elgin and Imbler, who have worked hard to raise funds and save for their trip, will be hurt and denied the opportunity to see the roots of our nation.

Allegations of financial misconduct should be a wakeup call for all non-profit groups to take a close look at their banking and accounting procedures.

The Philadelphia trips are worthwhile. Theyve opened the eyes to hundreds of Union County students to the history and processes of our government. After corrections are made, everyone needs to pull together to keep our children heading east.

REVERSE HIGHER FEE

The action of the 2001 Legislature in raising the registration fee on gasoline-electric automobiles has left us scratching our heads. Our lawmakers raised the two-year fee for cars such as the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius to $60, instead of $30 the fee paid for a regular passenger vehicle.

Such hybrid cars post excellent gasoline mileage. The three-cylinder Insight, for example, records 68 miles to the gallon. It would seem that state policymakers would want to encourage the use of these highly efficient, fuel-saving cars. A higher registration fee does the opposite.

State motor vehicle officials explain it this way. Hybrid cars still create wear and tear on the highways, and the higher registration fee is intended to make up for the loss of revenue to Oregon that is generated by fuel taxes.

The last time we checked, the Insight and Prius weighed something less than a sports utility vehicle. There are thousands of SUVs around Oregon, gobbling plenty of gasoline and kicking in lots of money into the fuel-tax coffers.

Oregonians are not showing up in large numbers to trade in their SUVs for the smaller and less road-damaging gasoline-electric cars. Unless that occurs, the 2003 Legislature should reverse its decision and allow hybrid owners to pay the same registration fee as everyone else.