Opinion, Analysis, Discussion

Letter: Senior animals in Douglas County need homes, too

August 22, 2014 — 

Lucky family and lucky dog

It’s difficult to view the sad faces of helpless animals turned in daily to Saving Grace, but it seems the partnership of Saving Grace and The News-Review gives them hope.

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Letter: First Lady’s efforts to establish portion control program may have unexpected consequences

August 22, 2014 — 

Fixing obesity, or feeding it?

Our first lady has asked our food industry to help stop the horrible plague of obesity and it promised to help, using portion control.

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Guest column: Help your child avoid illegal drugs, alcohol

August 22, 2014 — 

Soon, school bells will be ringing. As parents, we can help our children learn successfully by setting aside time for homework and providing time for the family to get together.

We should also consider ways to support our children when they are exposed to peer pressure and temptations. Some of those stresses increase when they return to school.

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Editorial: Roses & thorns

August 22, 2014 — 

ROSE

Let’s have a cheer

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Letter: Wilderness exhibits in Roseburg mark golden anniversary of passing of the Wilderness Act

August 21, 2014 — 

Celebration of our wilderness

2014 marks the 50th year since Congress enacted the Wilderness Act. Some of the grandest landscapes of America were given protection so future generations of Americans could experience them. Cities and countryside alike, Americans across the nation are celebrating this golden anniversary. Here in our precious Umpqua, there have been events in honor of the Wilderness Act. Coming up are two exhibits of artwork that focus on wilderness.

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Letter: Give veterans an insurance card redeemable at any health care facility

August 20, 2014 — 

Money won’t fix our VA system

I worked as a registered nurse at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center for 28 years. I worked long term care, acute care, the Intensive Care Unit, ambulatory care and home telehealth.

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Letter: Douglas County Commissioners’ closure of county health departments handled poorly

August 19, 2014 — 

Proxy message lacked respect

I’ve been employed by the Douglas County Health Department for 11 years.

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Letter: Perspective on Obama’s platform

August 18, 2014 — 

Hope, Change: they’re a Croc

Obama unloosed a pair of evil crocodiles with the contrived names of Hope and Change. The final outcome of this deception will be his demise —eat him they will!

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Letter: Douglas County Commissioners shouldn’t rush to transfer our public health services

August 18, 2014 — 

Reconsider the health services

While I was happy to finally see an article in The News-Review regarding the transfer of public health services to the state, I was distressed to read that neither the county nor the state has a plan in place. In fact, I question the necessity of this transfer until further facts are known.

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Letter: Despite Obama, America is the place to be

August 18, 2014 — 

Current policies creating chaos

The president, in my opinion, has committed a traitorous act. By his actions, he is allowing access on our southern border by all comers, including terrorists, drug dealers, gang members, and countless unsponsored men, women and children.

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Publisher’s Notebook: So, there was this time I was at the Denver airport ...

August 17, 2014 — 

As agents for the Transportation Security Administration were profiling me last week at the Denver Airport — which appears to be staffed, incidentally, by the Taliban — I thought a bit about how far we’ve come since 9/11.

“Are we safer today than we were that September day in 2001, when 19 lunatics changed airport travel forever?”

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Editor’s Notebook: City Editor Don Jenkins leaves his mark as he moves along

August 17, 2014 — 

Douglas County lost a fine newsman Saturday. That was the day City Editor Don Jenkins turned in his key to The News-Review with plans to head up Interstate 5.

Don isn’t leaving journalism. He’s headed back to his home state of Washington, back to the job that drew so many of us to this occupation. He’s going to be a reporter again, this time at the Capital Press.

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Guest column: At 50, UCAN reflects on service to Douglas County

August 15, 2014 — 

On Aug. 20, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act. The act created a variety of programs that are still active and effective today and that had a significant impact in Douglas County.

These programs include Job Corps, Head Start, Community Health Centers, Foster Grandparents, RSVP, Senior Companions, Senior Centers, Legal Services, College Work Study, Adult Basic Education, Small Business Loans, VISTA, Community Action Agencies like United Community Action Network, and more.

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Editorial: Roses & thorns

August 15, 2014 — 

Teens earn awards

Hard work and dedication to meeting goals paid off for Douglas County teenagers Emily Hopfer, Sianna Casey and Marissa Morrow.

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Letter: Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center care providers are professional, friendly, efficient and patient-oriented

August 15, 2014 — 

Workers earn appreciation

While visiting my grandchildren in Roseburg, I injured my eye and had to seek medical help. Since I was eligible for medical care at a VA facility, I called the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center and was informed that I should go to their Emergency Room.

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Letter: State-of-the-art training facilities needed for health sciences at Umpqua Community College

August 15, 2014 — 

Support UCC’s HNS project

I’m a disabled veteran who received an opportunity to return to school for retraining. I started at Umpqua Community College in 1995, at age 39, with some college experience in California. I was required to take science classes in my program of study. Some of the classrooms were adequate for lectures, but chemistry, biology and physics labs were severely outdated and limited in space for students attempting to complete related assignments. This is still a problem 19 years later.

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Letter: Resource Conservation in effect in unused portions of Roseburg National Cemetery Annex

August 15, 2014 — 

Where green grass grows

I am responding to the individual with the ongoing complaint of dead grass at the Roseburg National Cemetery Annex. May I suggest that she attend the beautiful Quarterly Service that will be held at 1 p.m. on August 21. Possibly her personal grass issues will be laid to rest as we join in honoring our veterans.

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Letter: Time to repeal an inefficient, needlessly expensive law

August 15, 2014 — 

Brady HVPA is wrongly applied

Jim and his wife, Sarah, worked tirelessly to pass the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. As far as I can ascertain, many claims of accomplishment are made about this law, but groups and organizations who support it never mention all of the expense and aggravation caused by it.

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Guest column: Why do we work at the Roseburg VA?

August 13, 2014 — 

Not only has the entire Department of Veterans Affairs system been described as having a “corrosive culture” in a recent White House review, but staff from Roseburg VA have accurately described poor employee morale, pressure from leadership to falsify data, lack of transparency, restrictions on providers’ ability to care for veterans, failure of safety issues to be addressed, liberal use of inappropriate disciplinary action by administration against doctors and nurses, and retaliation for whistleblowing.

Why would anyone work at Roseburg VA? Many of our staff are themselves veterans and believe that we are responsible in combat and in peace for not leaving anyone behind.

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Editorial: Court, not Congress, best bet for increasing timber harvests

August 13, 2014 — 

Hopes rose this year that federal lawmakers would pass a bill to increase logging on Oregon & California Railroad trust lands.

But at some point, reality must sink in. Waiting for Congress has been futile.

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Letter: Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s moral, patient care is reflected through its leadership

August 12, 2014 — 

Quality care

is essential

In response to the August 8 Public Forum comments, it is good to hear that the letter writer has been getting timely, quality care at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center. That is what all veterans hope for.  But, it appears the letter writer is either uninformed, misguided, or perhaps not listening.

Our local newspaper, The News-Review, has a responsibility to report the issues that affect the community and to present an opinion in their editorials. They have received credible information regarding low morale. The information came from fact-based documents and courageous testimony from those who care for veterans and those who receive care at the Roseburg VA. I am very grateful The News-Review has taken their position.

When individuals have a moral compass, they will continue to provide the best care they are able to do. It is good to hear that front line staff have kept their composure when working with our veterans, and not allowed their frustrations and toxic environment to reflect in their interaction with their patients. The News-Review staff didn’t create that environment, they reported it.

In any organization, morale is reflected through leadership and the culture they set. Personally, I think if patient care providers are contemplating coming to the Roseburg VA, they will be encouraged by efforts for cultural changes, by replacing the current leadership with those with a moral compass.

I encourage the August 8 letter writer to join veterans and staff in understanding and changing the underlying culture that has resulted in the low morale, toxic environment, reduction in services and staff, and lack of stakeholder involvement in the decisions made at the Roseburg VA.

Dona Brewer

Roseburg

Letter: Treat women and Mother Earth with more respect

August 11, 2014 — 

Release their true potential

We call it Mother Earth, and like women in our societies, we have abused our planet, too.

If our mothers run the households, balance the budgets and address the needs of our families, why do they have a glass ceiling limiting their growth in our society?

I’ve heard some Harvard studies show that where there is equality of the sexes, there is also more sex. Are insecure, controlling men aware of that reality?

And since women give life to our planet, why do the wives, sisters and daughters of America have strangers meddling in their female reproductive health issues? If some people are against abortion, then they should be for contraception that prevents pregnancy. Otherwise, they are unknowingly enablers for abortions.

Hello, Earth, welcome in!

Kevin Van Hoose

Roseburg

Letter: If we must have executions, at least make them swift and painless

August 11, 2014 — 

Ban cruel and unusual death

Like most of the civilized world, I’m against the death penalty. Even though 35 states in the USA have banned capital punishment, we still rank in the top five in the world for execution. China, Iraq and Iran are the top three.

The Eighth Amendment to our Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual” punishment. Recently the stories about prisoners gasping for breath for two hours after being injected with untried cocktails of chemicals have crossed over into the “cruel and unusual” punishment zone.

If we’re still going to put people to death, let’s at least make it as swift and painless as possible. Such a method exists. It’s called inert gas asphyxiation. We currently use it to humanly put chickens and pigs to death. It’s a simple method of filling a room or bag with helium or nitrogen. Within 30 seconds, a painless and peaceful death occurs.

It’s time we act like a civilized nation and ban “cruel and unusual” executions.

Michael T. Hinojosa

Drain

Letter: Roseburg letter writer found July 29 opinion page message disturbing

August 11, 2014 — 

The truth about Israel-Hamas

I found The News-Review’s July 29 “cartoon” extremely disturbing in its distortion of the facts concerning the situation with Israel and Hamas. The first drawing depicts one rocket with “AN EYE” painted on it coming towards Israel; the second depicts Israel responding with 13 rockets coming towards Gaza, all saying “FOR AN EYE,” implying that Israel is going overboard in its response to Hamas.

The creator of this message has obviously not done his homework. Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Israel before Israel defended itself. Israel showed great restraint and offered repeated warnings to Hamas, but they refused to stop firing rockets. Israel warned 100,000 Gaza residents living near the Israeli border to leave their homes so they would not be injured or killed when Israel launched an attack.

Hamas has made heavy investments in building dozens of very long cement-reinforced tunnels used to attack Israelis, yet they show little regard for the safety of Palestinian citizens. They take advantage of them by launching missiles near schools and hospitals without warning and failing to provide bomb shelters for their citizens.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas claimed responsibility for launching three long-range M-75 rockets on July 9 at Dimona, attempting to hit Israel’s nuclear reactor. This is an act of nuclear terrorism as defined by the United Nations Article 2 (1) of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Israelis have previously offered to work out equitable solutions to their conflict with Hamas, but Hamas has refused to accept such compromises. The only way there is going to be a Palestinian state of peace and security is if Israel neutralizes Hamas. Israel will be destroyed if they stop defending themselves.

Kathleen LaRose

Roseburg

Letter: Oakland resident reports kind and caring staff, Emergency Room waits only slightly longer than at Mercy

August 11, 2014 — 

VA experiences were positive

My World War II veteran father and my Vietnam veteran husband both receive all of their medical care at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Dad has gone there for more than 20 years and my husband for 10 years. Dad has received care in both the Roseburg facility and the Portland hospital; my husband has received his care at five different VA facilities in four states.

We’ve had a very positive experience with all of our interactions with the VA. The longest wait we’ve encountered is a few weeks. The Emergency Room is busy and there are sometime waits for testing, but compared to the ER at Mercy, the wait times are only slightly longer.

The Roseburg VA has seen Dad through a heart attack and my husband through cancer treatment. We have unfailingly been treated well. The day after a treatment, the VA calls to see how things are going and ask if we have any questions. The doctors, nurses and staff have always been kind and caring.

Yes, because of Roseburg’s rural setting, it has a lot of medical staff turn-over. My mom had three different doctors in the same office in Roseburg in four years.

Due to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the VA patient load nation-wide has gone up 50 percent, but they’ve only been able to hire 9 percent more staff. The VA treats nine million veterans annually and sadly, there are going to be some problems in a system this large. It’s been my experience in life that every office, government or civil, has its share of difficult people, and there are always those in authority that you wonder how in the world they were ever promoted. But there are also those who do a good job.

Diane Brown

Oakland

Publishers Notebook: What we don’t get from the VA for $153 billion

August 10, 2014 — 

All you need to know about the problems with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is in the middle of a recent congressional bill that will dump another $17 BILLION into its failed health care system over the next three years.

“The legislation will give the VA secretary authority to fire immediately poor-performing senior executives. They would have seven days to appeal, with final resolution 21 days later.”

In other words, the VA secretary currently does not have the authority to do that, which essentially means we have had a government agency with a $153 BILLION annual budget employing more than 300,000 people whose senior management has had little or no accountability.

Any questions so far?

The fact that we actually had to include that sentence in a bill that will add another $10 BILLION to the federal deficit makes me sick enough to want to go the VA hospital, if I could get an appointment within the next six months.

In typical government fashion, the thought process believes that the VA’s problems can be traced to money and that all we need to do is dump another $17 BILLION into it and … boom … problem solved.

Our public school system operates with the same mind-set. “Spend more money and the kids will be smarter.”

Unfortunately, we are spending more than $15,000 per student per year on our public schools and America seems to be getting dumber by the day.

There hasn’t been any accountability there, either.

Math isn’t my strong suit, but my math tells me we are spending plenty to care for our veterans. This year, the VA was projected to spend $153 BILLION to care for 6 million veterans. That’s … hold your breath … $25,500 per veteran.

And the VA employee-to-veteran ratio leads you to believe that staffing is not the problem, either. More than 300,000 employees ought to be able to handle 6 million veterans (20 veterans per employee), especially when you consider that the 300,000 employees work every day and most of those 6 million veterans served last year did not require daily attention.

Most private hospitals would kill for an employee-to-patient ratio like that, which is why some started to wonder why it took 78 days to complete a disability review for a disabled veteran.

You can get a lot done in 78 days if you put your mind to it. In fact, you can get a lot done in 78 days even if you don’t put your mind to it, and if you can’t determine the eligibility of a disabled veteran in less than 78 days with 300,000 employees, you should be fired, not given more money.

So it’s good to hear this $17 BILLION emergency VA funding bill at least allows that to happen in 21 days ­— maybe.

If the Department of Veterans Affairs were a private business, it would have fired its CEO long ago and hired a new one, who would probably have come in and cleaned house.

When your customers and employees are saying you are doing a rotten job, it’s time to go.

Let’s take a look at the recent “Performance Report” for the VA hospital system, courtesy of CNN:

2006 — Two teens steal a laptop computer and external hard drive containing personal information for 26 million veterans.

2009 — VA sends letters to more than 3,000 who may have had colonoscopies at the VA center in Miami informing them that they may have been exposed to HIV. (Dear Mr. Ackerman, Hope this finds you well and that your colon is in good shape. We regret to inform you that …).

2011 — Nine Ohio veterans test positive for hepatitis after routine dental work at an Ohio VA clinic.

2013 — CNN investigation shows that veterans are dying because of the long waits and delayed care at VA hospitals.

2014 — A retired VA physician tells CNN that the Phoenix Veterans health care system maintained a secret list of patient appointments, designed to hide the fact that patients were waiting months to be seen.

The Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s performance record is flagged with red, highlighted by a survey in which 30 percent of its employees indicated they were instructed to falsify patient appointment records.

In an editorial last week, we said it was time for Roseburg VA Director Carol Bogedain to resign, something she indicated she has no intention of doing.

That’s up to her.

We can only hope the latest congressional bailout will provide the leverage her bosses seem to require in order for the decision to be made, with or without her consent.

Our soldiers have always operated with accountability. Every military officer knows the consequences that come with duty and responsibility. History is littered with good men and women who have been relieved of duty for failure to meet the expectations of their superiors and themselves.

It’s about time we held the civilian executive officers charged with caring for our veterans to that same standard.

• News-Review Publisher Jeff Ackerman can be reached at 541-957-4263 or jackerman@nrtoday.com.

Editorial: Roseburg VA review must reveal parties responsible for falsifying information

August 10, 2014 — 

The concerns of our local veterans will once again be heard in a town hall meeting.

After being ordered by new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to hold a public meeting before the end of September, the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center promptly scheduled a forum for Sept. 4. The agency even scheduled it in the evening, when more people should be able to attend and provide their viewpoints.

It’s important to hear from the veterans because it’s their care, their lives, that we’re talking about.

We’ll expect to hear one common refrain: Reopen the intensive-care unit.

Others might be: Restore our full-service hospital, hire more doctors, strengthen the staff in the emergency room, add more beds for the post-traumatic stress disorder program.

We may hear some complaints on patient wait times. The Roseburg VA admits it’s had difficulty recruiting doctors for specialty care, so long waiting lists have developed. Most prominent is the backlog of screening colonoscopies.

Veterans here are so dedicated to being treated at the Roseburg VA, however, that many of them choose to wait for an appointment. Director Carol Bogedain said her staff called 5,200 veterans recently and the vast majority opted to wait for a VA appointment rather than get their care in the private sector.

But let’s remember that while long wait times must be remedied so they don’t jeopardize veterans’ care, the more serious overall issue is the lack of integrity by VA leaders who ordered their subordinates to falsify patient appointment records.

The people who gave such instructions, or those who knew about it and condoned it, must resign or be fired.

Our local veterans don’t know who handed down these orders on the VA campus, but Roseburg VA employees do.

Still, they can’t stand up at the town hall meeting and point fingers or name names. Those within the organization who have tried that approach tell us they’ve been ignored, labeled as troublemakers, or portrayed as not getting along with their supervisors.

Certainly every organization has its share of disgruntled employees, but it’s likely these employees were telling the truth before this nationwide exposure erupted. Now their concerns should be revisited.

The VA announced Friday that it would initiate an independent, nationwide review of all scheduling practices at VA medical facilities.

This review should not be limited to current practices — even the slow-moving wheels of government have had time to react to this national news and change its ways.

The Joint Commission that’s been asked to investigate must review past practices and find who was responsible for instigating them at each facility. Otherwise, it will be a waste of time.

At the Roseburg VA, it shouldn’t be a difficult or a time-consuming probe. We’ve had numerous people tell us who they believe was the instigator. An investigation would reveal the commonly held perception.

We’ve called for Bogedain’s resignation because as director, she carries the ultimate responsibility. But the entire leadership team may need to go ­— the chief of staff has already resigned — for transparency and honesty to return to the Roseburg VA.

Letter: Another side to the Roseburg VA experiences

August 8, 2014 — 

Reasons for VA morale issues

Do you think that possibly the low morale at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center is the result of the toxic front page article about the VA, or the toxic guest opinion of the VA, or the negative letters on the VA? I can’t imagine any doctor contemplating a move to the Roseburg VA would follow through after reading any of the recent articles in The News-Review.

I have been in the VA system for a couple of years and have had nothing but positive experiences in my dealings with them. Staff have been professional, pleasant and helpful. The wait times for doctor’s appointments and in the emergency room have been shorter that I experienced in private practice. A recent visit to the VA emergency room took me a half an hour to receive care.

Is the VA perfect? No, but no one ever said that a government could run a health care system more efficiently than the private sector. Welcome to ObamaCare!

Larry Bryant

Roseburg

Editorial: Roses and thorns

August 8, 2014 — 

ROSE

Steered straight

Harold Phillips may be the best secret-keeper in the county. Heck, maybe the nation.

Way back in January, the Douglas County Fair director attended a conference and picked up an award recognizing the efforts of Glide teen Jace Hopkins.

Hopkins, now 17 and about to be a senior at Glide High School, earned the Youth Fair Supporter Award from the Oregon Fairs Association. The honor was due in part to the time he volunteered to raise a steer raffled at last year’s fair. The animal, Beef Bucks, was raffled to raise money for a 4-H scholarship and youth camp. Beef Bucks lived up to his name to the tune of $2,000. It was the second consecutive year Hopkins raised a steer to benefit the community.

But back to that secret. Phillips collected the award in January and held onto it until Wednesday, when he could call Hopkins to the stage and present it for all and sundry to witness.

It’s good to see recognition for a young man who carved out an hour or two each day during the school year to do something that will pay off for other county kids.

THORN

Another scam alert

Scams are almost based on some implausibility.

Your sweet, innocent and unjustly jailed grandchild landed in a foreign prison and needs bail money.

You won $1 million and just need to wire $5,000 to claim it.

A rich Nigerian will pay a princely sum for your help.

The first scam, so prevalent it has a name, the Grandparent Scam, preys on human kindness.

The second and third scams tap into a greedy streak that clouds judgment.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has issued a warning about another scam going around that exploits fear and gullibility.

Scammers are calling Douglas County residents with the phony message that warrants have been issued for their arrests. The would-be victim can clear up the matter with the appropriate payment.

What are you going to do when they call for you?

Hang up!

The same principles apply whether it’s the law, royalty, a lottery or a purported grandchild. Don’t give out financial information or send money to strangers.

ROSE

Breaking barriers

Most educators work with children who come to them to learn. Barbara Garcia Orton has to seek and find students to get them to teachers.

Garcia Orton is the school and family liaison for Douglas County in the federal Migrant Education Program. She combs agricultural fields, forests and fishing industry sites, looking for children of migratory families. She then gets them plugged into classes and various benefits — lunch programs, accident insurance, academic help and referrals to social service agencies.

It’s not an easy job because many of the families who need the assistance are suspicious of government workers. Still, she’s eager to find more children to add to the 100 or so now participating in the program.

Though Garcia Orton speaks Spanish and has also assisted students from Chinese and Vietnamese families, she points out that eligibility is not based on ethnicity. Instead, the program helps out those who have moved across school district boundaries for work in the past three years, in the fields of agriculture, forestry or fisheries.

The county is fortunate to have a program liaison ready to go the extra mile in out-of-the-way places to provide some stability to kids on the move.

Letter: If ATV riders must be licensed, why not cyclists?

August 7, 2014 — 

Make training more available

Since 2012, owners of all-terrain vehicles must have their machines licensed in order use them on public land. Anyone who operates these machines has to go online and get certified before they can ride them. Children younger than 16 must have hands-on experience before they are given a license.

I tried to find a place that gave hands-on training. There are none in Roseburg, so I will have to take my 9-year-old granddaughter out of town in order for her to get this training.

If laws have been passed to ensure that riders of ATVs are trained in road safety, then there should be laws passed to make sure people who ride bicycles have training, as well. Some bicyclists must think traffic laws do not apply to them. They will run red lights. They change lanes without bothering to check to see if a car is next to them. They will go 5 miles an hour right down the middle of Harvard, Stephens, or Garden Valley, with no concern for the cars behind them. Small children have no concept of the danger of riding out in front of a vehicle. I have heard of at least three children who were severely injured because they rode out in front of an oncoming vehicle.

I fail to see why it is so imperative that ATV owners, who have little interaction with other vehicles, must have safety training and their ATVs licensed, but bicycle owners, including children, are allowed to ride on public streets without cost or training.

Lois Deatherage

Roseburg

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