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A matter of security.

Byline: The Register-Guard

If Oregon lawmakers had any lingering doubts about approving a request for $300,000 for increased security at the 2008 track and field Olympic Trials in Eugene, they should have vaporized in the wake of Monday's mass killings at Virginia Tech.

A House committee last week gave a well-deserved blessing to House Bill 3223, which would help the city of Eugene with what promises to be a hefty security bill for the Trials. City officials expect to put the entire police force on call and to increase staffing during the 10-day event, which is expected to bring 1,200 athletes, 1,100 media personnel and 15,000 spectators to the Eugene-Springfield area.

No one wants to dwell on the possibility that the unthinkable - a mass shooting or a terrorist attack - could occur during the Trials, and there is little reason to fear that such a tragedy could happen. But the Virginia shooting serves as a solemn reminder that full security preparedness is essential for any community hosting an event of this magnitude - and that doesn't come cheap.

Local officials aren't asking the state to pick up the entire tab for security. Far from it. The city projects cost increases of between $1.2 million and $1.5 million as a result of the Trials. City and county spending, and money from private donors and sponsors, will help cover that cost and the millions more it will take to stage this mega-event.

While it's a lesser priority, lawmakers should also approve a re- quest for $240,000 from the Oregon Department of Parks of Recreation to spruce up Eugene-Springfield's river corridor for the Trials. House Bill 3224 would provide funding for a range of improvements, including new lighting, permanent information signs along bike paths and informational kiosks, as well as replacement of invasive plants with native species and work on the Autzen Footbridge.

Some lawmakers may ask why taxpayers in the Dalles or Seaside should help subsidize a Lane County event, and it's a fair question. The answer is that the Trials will generate millions of tourism dollars not just for the Eugene-Springfield area, but for the entire state. As a Eugene Chamber of Commerce official recently reminded lawmakers, "Eu- gene may be the host city, but in reality Oregon will be the destina- tion."

Many of the thousands of Trials visitors will plan extended stays in Oregon, where they can choose from attractions ranging from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland to sailboarding in Hood River to beachcombing in Newport. Many more viewers across the United States - and the world - will put Oregon on their "must-visit" lists after watching the Olympic Trials on television and being tantalized by images of Oregon scenery.

HB 3223 and HB 3224 represent a modest investment in an event that will represent - and profoundly benefit - the entire state. The Legislature should approve both without the slightest hesitation.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editorials; The Legislature should approve Trials funding
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 19, 2007
Words:485
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