OK, get ready for some old guy ranting and raving.

I'm perplexed and kind of perturbed about how long it takes to do some things — especially by official organizations and agencies.

Of course, we all know that Congress can meet in that big, round-topped building in Washington day after day, week after week, month after month, and still not come up with a budget or a plan or, quite frankly, any sort of agreement on anything.


So let's leave them out of it entirely. Complaining about Congress is kind of like squawking about bad weather — it's too easy, it's predictable and it doesn't do any good anyway.

What I'd like to know is why does it take eight, 10 or 12 hours to reopen a freeway after there's been a fatal accident?

The last one I remember was on Interstate 5. It was a few years ago, but that road was closed for pretty much a whole day while officials investigated. What are they doing for that eight or 10 hours? And what are they learning by having the road closed that they couldn't learn after just closing it for an hour or two?

I've been told that in California they don't take that long. Maybe Californians can only wait so long before they start taking pot-shots at investigators, so they know they have to wrap it up fast. Or, maybe the person who told me this was like most of the people I know — full of baloney.

Another one of these cases surfaced last week when we heard reports about the rescue of a worker from a 14-foot-deep trench in Cedar Hills.

Oh, the rescue folks — a team from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue — did an amazing job of digging Danny Russu out from under the mud and dirt that buried him up to his head. They had him out in a couple of hours and off to the hospital. Way to go, guys. If I ever get covered up with mud, I want somebody that good on the job.

But then I heard (admittedly, on the local TV news) that there would be this big investigation into the accident by the Oregon Occupational Health and Safety Division. OSHA investigators, we were told, would inspect the job site, interview employees and do a thorough probe of the company's safety training and procedures.

And then the TV folks said (and this is the part that had me spewing bits of my dinner all over the place) that we could expect the results of that investigation in about six months.

That's right, six months.

This is as much of a mystery to me as a 10-hour highway accident investigation.

What do you DO to take that long?

This all reminds me of the time an old friend with experience in the newspaper business — let's call him Tony — went to work for one of our institutions of higher learning. The job was in what we lovingly refer to as public information, and one of his duties was to write and produce the college's monthly magazine.

Trouble was, Tony was used to filling a newspaper with information on very short notice, so it only took him about a week to write and produce everything it would take to fill up the magazine.

Of course, he was called into the boss's office and warned to stop producing at such a high level. It was making the rest of them look bad — and it made it appear that they didn't need the resources and manpower to fill the magazine that they'd always insisted they needed.

I guess what I'm getting at is this: If your local newspaper were produced by the same people who investigate our fatal highway accidents and life-threatening trench mishaps, I don't believe you'd get more than two or three newspapers a year delivered to your house.

Maybe you think that's a good thing (you know, no news is good news?), but I doubt it.

It is, of course, a major frustration in my business, that a deadline arrives every stinking day of my life, and because of that, the gathering and the writing of news, the selling and production of ads, the designing of pages and the running of presses happens every day or every week or every month exactly on schedule — or else we go out of business.

As a matter of fact, a lot of us go out of business anyway, but that's an entirely different story.

(Former managing editor of several community newspapers, including the Woodburn Independent, Lake Oswego Review and the Times papers, Kelly is chief of the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.)

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