Readers address a Cub Scout tradition and Oregon's initiative petition system.

The Pinewood Derby, a Cub Scout tradition

"I want gold," said my 6-year-old daughter, Lily.

"That's OK, I want silver," replied her brother, 9-year-old Riley.

My kids were picking out the color of spray paint that would cover their now-cut-and-sanded blocks of wood as they built cars for this year's Pinewood Derby.

I'm the Cub Master for Cub Scout Pack #566 in Hillsboro. The race was held on Saturday, Jan. 20, in the gymnasium at Jackson Elementary School. The derby took the place of the pack's regular meetings which are most third Wednesdays.

Riley, a member of Den 1 Bears, was defending a first-place-in-den showing from last year. Last year's sleek green car has been replaced by the new silver one with a familiar wedge shape. Lily is in Girl Scouts but comes to the derby as a sibling and is allowed to make and race a car in the open class, usually against other sisters (many of them also in the same Girl Scout troop). Girls will be allowed to join Cub Scouts later this year, so next year, we should see cars built by girls competing head-to-head with the boys' cars.

The pack is active in the community. Last month, they made Christmas ornaments from pinecones and pipe cleaners and then brought them to a local care facility while singing carols for the residents. Last year, they won an award for their entry in the Hillsboro Fourth of July parade. The pack's leadership committee is also planning to put on a bicycle rodeo during the summer where kids can learn about bicycle safety.

While the pack's original charter date is Oct. 1, 1990, the Pinewood Derby got its start in 1953, when a Cub Master in California found an alternative to the Soap Box Derby that fathers of younger sons could enjoy together. The cars are built by the children, with help from adults, from kits including a block of wood, wheels and axels. The blocks are made from ponderosa pine logs from Idaho and the kits are assembled in Indiana.

Adult volunteers have opened up their garages and workbenches to give the kids an opportunity to use tools that some do not have available to them. The most important thing about the Pinewood Derby is building the bond between the kids and their adult partners.

While neither of my kids got their cars on the winner's podium this year, they had fun and are thinking about what they want to change to make an even faster and better-looking car for next year.

Daniel Phillips, Hillsboro

Fix Oregon's initiative process

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson is trying to make Oregon's initiative process fairer to citizens and citizen activists. One of his revisions to the rules would enable chief petitioners to circulate an initiative petition during the ballot titling process. This is a very welcome change.

Advocates for the status quo are up in arms because they would lose their ability to invalidate petitions they don't like by delaying them until the clock runs out. This has happened too many times in the past.

The process as it exists today gives the legislature and the attorney general near-total control of initiatives. This is the opposite result of what was intended in creating the right of citizen initiatives.

Appeals have become a tool to freeze the initiative process and kill the initiative before it can be put before the public. This is especially harmful to volunteer citizen groups that have limited financial resources and cannot fund large-scale paid signature gathering.

Richardson should be thanked and supported in his efforts to make changes that would return to citizens the ability to mount initiatives without the harassment of forced delays caused by well-financed opponents' appeals. These delays can render the initiative process worthless, and void the right that was established in the state's Constitution.

Elizabeth Van Staaveren, McMinnville

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