Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Let there be light
(lots of it) - and less
setting of the clocks
Spring begins on March 20, but in our book it will actually start this Sunday, when we "spring forward" and gain an extra hour of daylight.
With eight months of potential blue sky ahead, it seems wrong to complain - but we will. Why can't we keep Daylight Saving Time year-round?
The federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 stretched daylight time out to its present proportion - from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November - to save electricity. And the experts say it is doing that, to the tune of about two percent nationwide, as folks stay outdoors longer and give their lights and TV sets a break.
What daylight time really does, though, is give our spirits a lift. This very Sunday, darkness won't come until well after 7 p.m. As we prepare to trade winter's gloom for spring's bloom, that's a pleasant thing.
Daylight time has an interesting history. It was first championed by Benjamin Franklin, who wrote about the idea as early as 1784. Britain and Germany adopted a form of daylight time in 1916, but the United States didn't get on board for another 26 years.
In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt put the U.S. on year-round Daylight Saving Time, and what the country called "War Time" lasted through 1945.
From the end of World War II until the 1960s, states and even counties did whatever they wanted concerning standard or daylight time, and the result was a mishmash that often proved chaotic. It created frustrating and sometimes comedic situations - imagine a dad leaving work at 5, driving for 10 minutes, and still being late for his son's 6 o'clock game. Or a mom being rushed to the hospital at midnight and giving birth at 11:30.
Congress ended that in 1966 by mandating uniform time changes, although it still gave an option to states that sit on a time zone border. Indiana and Arizona decided to be holdouts from daylight time, although the Hoosier state finally came around two years ago.
(Not so for Arizona, where people say it's already hot enough at 9 o'clock on a summer night without pretending it's 10 p.m.)
As for the choice of 2 a.m. as the clock-changing time in the spring and fall - that was made because it would be least disruptive to public transportation schedules.
A couple of things to think about: No daylight is being "saved" - it's just shifted from the morning to the evening - so why don't we call it Daylight Shifting Time? And if we're on daylight time for two-thirds of the year, why is the other third called "standard" time?
The biggest question, of course, is why we have to go through this twice-a-year clock-setting exercise at all. If daylight time is a good thing for eight months, it would be an even better thing for 12.
FDR, can you pull a few strings for us?
* * *
health care system
in need of a major fix
If there was ever a doubt that Oregon's health care assistence system is flawed and in need of a fix, one only need look at the number of individuals desperate for insurance.
Friday, Feb. 29, was the deadline for low-income Oregonians to register their names for a chance at the Standard benefit insurance coverage package available through the Oregon Health Plan.
The key word here is "chance."
None of these people have gotten the medical coverage they need yet; they simply were applying for a chance at it.
You see, as Jim Edge, director of the Medicaid division for the Oregon Department of Human Services shared with Itemizer-Observer readers in a recent guest column, this was the first time since June 2004 that the Standard plan has been open to new enrollment for low-income, uninsured people who otherwise don't qualify for Medicaid coverage.
Names will be chosen at random by a computer, much like a lottery drawing. The problem is that only a fraction - the estimate is 6,000, or about 6.5 percent - of the 91,675 who registered for coverage will be lucky enough to receive coverage. The majority unfortunately will not be selected. They will continue to go without coverage, unable to see a doctor, pay for needed prescriptions, or have dental work performed without causing an enormous financial burden on themselves and their families.
Many of these individuals aren't on welfare. They are employed citizens of our state who lack necessary health benefits. The Oregon Department of Human Services estimates that nearly 600,000 Oregonians of all ages lack health insurance.
Isn't it time for the state's politicians to address health care issues like this in Oregon? It's time to create workable, affordable solutions that people can live with. There are at least 91,675 Oregonians looking for help now who would agree.