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Letters - July 3

Free Speech?

I do not believe Mr. John Layson (Our Readers Write, June 19) when he says he does not have any problem with Hispanics. It would be better for him to be honest and say what he really thinks about Hispanics.

I am one of those Hispanics that, like most Americans, came to this country from another one, looking for a better and different way of life. In my case it has been wonderful. American people are great people, with some exceptions of course, like everywhere. American culture is great and English is spoken around the world; it is spoken in every international event and is done to honor those who are not able to understand the native language.

Yet I cannot believe what you wrote about a speech given in Spanish in one of the schools. That was an “outrageous action;” how do you dare to exercise your right of “free speech?” You do not have the right to promote it, when it can be only exercised by a few. It was you, sir, that said that the fact of having a speech in Spanish was an “outrageous action” from the school? I believe it was you. So what you are basically saying is that you can say pretty much anything only if you are not Hispanic or speak Spanish only?

Let me tell you one thing, señor, you are wrong. People that are coming to this country from South America or Mexico sometimes can’t afford the luxury of learning English. We are here to work, very hard, send our kids to American schools where they will learn and hopefully will go to college seeking a better future, we are here to pay taxes (believe me sir, we do pay taxes as well), we are here to buy houses, pay mortgages, shop, spend our money in American business and yet, you do not approve of us to have some little rewards sometimes, like going to our sons’, daughters’ or grandsons’ graduations and being able to understand what has been said. We can’t do that! And I am here today asking you why. Don’t you understand, sir, that what makes this country so great are acts like those you so publicly criticized? History is being written in Odell. The world is bigger than Hood River County. Please be tolerant with people who have not had the opportunity to study this language; they deserve all our respect and comprehension.

Gracias!

Carlos Garrido

Hood River

Wal-Mart an asset

I am a life-long resident of Hood River County — 80 years on July 4th. I spent a career as a fruit grower and representative of the industry. As a board member, then officer of the Oregon Farm Bureau and the National Association of Agricultural Employers, I spent countless days lobbying at the Oregon Legislature and Capitol as well as Congress and federal agencies.

In good times and bad, I continued to grow fruit and raise my family in the valley because of the opportunities and attractions it affords. As I have seen our town evolve into a tourist and recreation mecca, I have learned the need to shop for much of what I need in places such as Lloyd Center in Portland or the discount mall at Troutdale, or Costco in Rose City.

The opening of Wal-Mart in Hood River has alleviated the trip down the Gorge to a great extent, although I still shop downtown or on the Heights. As I study the proposal for an enlarged Wal-Mart at Country Club and Frankton Roads, it appears they have provided for all contingencies.

I do not see the dire destruction of all present businesses in Hood River as predicted by emotional correspondents.

By cooperatively working with Wal-Mart planners, I can foresee a real opportunity to forward the opportunity to feature: “Buy Local, Buy American,” which is the plan for survival which the Hood River Valley fruit industry is launching. We produce attractive, healthful and safe products, which we need to get all our retailers, large and small, to recognize — and feature!

The new Wal-Mart, properly planned and built, can be an asset to our beautiful valley.

Robert Hukari

Hood River

Wal-Mart and more

In regard to Nancy Moller’s letter ‘Corporate Shame,’ dated July 29: I have a great deal of respect for Nancy’s views and opinions. But, if we are going to talk about cheating, let’s look at our own front yard, meaning our own city and county government. Look what our government has done with our watershed. They traded it to the Forest Service so Meadows can do with it what they want.

And I really like the way the people (who want) to protect the Gorge (talk). I believe they were self-appointed, as I do not remember voting them in to anything. Yet they say it is not about Wal-Mart quote end-quote. Yet every article they write about the “Big Box” and against it have the name of Wal-Mart in it.

I went to the meeting for the public a few months back and I never saw so many well-educated and professional people acting like children. The young Boy Scout made more sense than those people and showed more education and professionalism.

I will say again we need a larger Wal-Mart store. The aisles are too narrow and crowded. And I say Thank God for Wal-Mart and good luck to them.

Florence Ames

Hood River

Corporate shame

I’m amazed that Peter von Oppel with a straight face can write (“Not Impressed,” June 26) that you do not make Fortune 500 “by cheating the public.” Unfortunately his “American Way” seems to be infested with unrepentant corporate executives cheating Wall Street and the public by nefarious accounting practices.

Yes, sadly Fortune 500 corporations are some of the leaders in these grotesque scams. Of course, number one on this growing list is Enron, the 15th largest corporation, which with the complicity of Arthur Andersen opened the door to the growing scandal. Then there is Global Crossing and WorldCom, the latest to be exposed with an inflated factor of a mere $3.8 billion. Adelphia. And the list of cheaters keeps growing. Need I go on?

Nancy Moller

Hood River

Off the clock work?

I have no doubts as to the integrity and work ethics of the Wal-Mart employees quoted in the recent Hood River News article on working at the giant retailer (June 15). This type of positive attitude is probably one reason the chain wishes to expand here. And it is why many of us enjoy living here.

However, these employees might be interested in reading the article in The New York Times of June 24 headed “Suits Say Wal-Mart Forces Workers to Toil Off the Clock.”

As reported in the article, the company is alleged to order or pressure hourly employees to work unrecorded and unpaid hours. This is forbidden by federal and state laws. There are currently legal actions amounting to millions of dollars in back pay due in progress in 28 states between Wal-Mart and current and former employees. These good people charge that working off the clock has helped Wal-Mart undersell competition, push up profits, and grow to become the the world’s largest retailer.

If this isn’t the case in Hood River, good for the managers and the employees!

Dick Swart

Hood River

‘Boondoggled’

The real story behind the land exchange between Hood River County and Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort is not very well understood by many folks and is in desperate need of clarification. The whole issue of Meadows’ proposed destination resort on the north side of Mount Hood in the Cooper Spur area is mired in obfuscation, a general lack of candor and word games. Those in the know should tell us the truth!

In the land swap, Hood River County and Meadows restricted the value of the property to its existing use, and valued the underlying land at $325 per acre. The deal completely excluded the input of county residents and the consideration of any potential development value of the county property. Dave Riley, the representative of Mt. Hood Meadows, stated that a destination resort proposal was too speculative and the county commissioners said there was no proposal before them.

I believe that he showed proposed plans for the destination resort to a now ex-employee of Mt. Hood Meadows before the land trade was even on the table and just a few short days after the initial hearing on land exchange before the commissioners, Dave Riley, General Manager of Mt. Hood Meadows, made a presentation to the Mountain Shadow and Snowbird residents outlining in great detail his proposal for a 450 unit destination resort with a golf course, amphitheater and upscale shopping mall.

I find it hard to believe that Riley did not have that proposal in mind when he urged the county commissioners at the initial public meeting to complete the trade at that paltry valuation. Truthfully, a reasonable seller of that property would not have sold it to anyone for $325 per acre.

I’d love to buy property at $325 and acre in the mountains. You do not have to be an expert to know that any reasonable seller would ask for fair market value for his property. Instead Meadows and the county came up with a convenient alternative, the highest and best EXISTING use. That would be like me offering to buy your empty lot in downtown Portland for its value as an empty lot, and barring you from considering that I might construct anything of value on it such as a new federal courthouse or a large parking structure. Certainly a reasonable seller would want the appraiser to consider the existence of specific plans for development of the property (including any steps taken to effectuate that development) and the use to which the property may be put in the future (for example, if the property were re-zoned or development was otherwise permitted).

Why was Riley not forthcoming at the county commission meeting? Why does he continue to publicly evade the issue? Well, because a consideration of the fair market value of the property would have greatly increased the value of the land Meadows got in the deal. In other words, it may have eliminated the $1 million his company received from the public in the exchange. With that $1 million he can hire all the architects and advisers he needs to plan the destination resort. Not only did the citizens of this county get boondoggled, we’re paying for the plans to develop in our watershed. It is to Dave Riley’s advantage to obfuscate the issue. However, this is a matter of public importance. Tell us the complete truth, Dave Riley. What are you planning on doing? You owe it to the taxpayers of Hood River County to tell them your plans.

Kathy Semmes

Mt. Hood

‘A thousand thanks’

Bravo! Bravissimo! The Columbia Gorge Dance Academy’s Spring Concert was most certainly a huge success. What an exciting mix of music, dancing and gorgeous costumes! The exuberance spilled over, I could feel the years peeling away. By the end of the program I felt like joining the performers! A thousand thanks to everyone who contributed!

Maria Kollas

Hood River

Rise to challenge

I thank you, Mr. Layson, for supporting your granddaughter, our school, and our community at the recent eighth-grade promotion at Wy’east Middle School.

Celebrating the Wy’east promotion with the parents, students, and staff was a great opportunity for me. Jaime Manzo, a dedicated family man, respected member of the community and his church, and educator, gave the speech you speak of. The decision to ask him to deliver a speech in Spanish was made by me. I congratulate Jaime on a job well done. The speech was given in Spanish in order to make Spanish-speaking parents and grandparents feel welcome, and to help them enjoy the celebration as much as you did. This is simply common courtesy and showing respect for all members of our community.

The primary message delivered to the students that evening was simple: show respect for one another, take responsibility for your education, and rise to the challenge. Fifty years of education have brought about many changes in our community, and all through that time our students, parents, and community have risen to the challenge.

Mr. Layson, as a taxpayer, you have the right to see if the subjects and values that are important to you are being taught. To that end, I ask you to rise to the challenge by accepting my personal invitation to visit Hood River Valley High School. Sit in on our varied and excellent classes and I know you will be impressed by the quality of our curriculum, staff, and students.

Steve Fisk

Assistant Principal

Hood River Valley High School

Embrace diversity

It was with great dismay that I read Mr. Layson’s letter to this paper (June 19) regarding a speech given in Spanish at the recent Wy’east Middle School promotion.

Three elementary schools feed into Wy’east Middle School. Recently, I needed some statistics regarding Hispanic students at these schools, and contacted James Sims, the school district’s administrator in charge of migrant education. He informed me that Pine Grove Elementary is approximately 75 percent Hispanic, Parkdale Elementary 65 percent Hispanic, and Mid Valley Elementary 55 percent Hispanic. Students who only speak English are a minority at all three schools.

I haven’t had the pleasure of working at Wy’east, but my experiences as an art teacher at these other three schools have been wonderful. The students are interested and engaged, and except for a very few incidents, capable of understanding and speaking English well. When I attempt to communicate in my halting Spanish, the children smile and help me along.

These delightful children’s parents and grandparents, however, may not have had the opportunity to become bilingual. The demands of family and work may not allow them to focus on learning a second language, a difficult task for any adult to master.

Hispanic parents and grandparents are just as proud of their offspring as Mr. Layson is of his. They deserve to understand and enjoy a promotion ceremony, and I say “Good job” to the administration and staff at Wy’east for recognizing this.

Within our lifetime, sociologists predict that white, English-speaking Caucasians will be a minority race in the United States. In the meantime, those of us in the majority should embrace our country’s minorities, and celebrate the linguistic and cultural diversity they bring to our lives.

Peggy Dills Kelter

Hood River

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