Four contenders for state offices spoke out this week against the proposed closure of the Cascade Locks High School.
Resident Lynne Kononen asked for their opinions at a candidate’s forum hosted at the city’s administration building by the Columbia Gorge Lions Club on Wednesday evening.
“Kids should come first,” said Larry Cramblett, a Cascade Locks Democrat who is challenging incumbent Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, for the District 56 seat.
“I do know if you don’t have the school in your community you lose your sense of community,” said Democratic Sen. Rick Metsger who is running against Bob Montgomery, a Republican from Cascade Locks, for re-election to the District 26 position.
“They (district officials) say there is a money shortage, so where did they get the $49,000 to get that guy out of town?” asked Montgomery in reference to the recent controversy over the payment made by Supt. Jerry Sessions to departing athletic director Glenn Elliott.
Although Smith was not present due to a scheduling conflict with an Oregon Department of Transportation meeting about the Kelso interchange, she later also vetoed the idea of shutting down the high school. “We can’t allow the center of the community to close,” Smith said.
(The proposal has been suggested by the district administration, because of budget constraints and a decline in grade 9-12 enrollment, but the school board has yet to officially discuss the idea.)
During the forum, Montgomery was the only candidate to speak out against having a casino built anywhere in the Gorge. He expressed concerns over the state’s increasing reliance upon gambling to cover economic needs. He said Oregon needed to solve its financial woes by curbing runaway government spending and lowering taxes to attract new industries.
“We do not need to vote for a tax increase, we can’t afford to tax the citizens right now — that’s like paying your bills with a credit card and I don’t want my grandchildren paying our bills,” Montgomery said.
Metsger told the 25-member audience that the economic plight of Cascade Locks was playing out in rural counties across the state — although not to the same extreme. He said the state needed to play a stronger role in helping these townships stay viable.
“The state’s responsibility is to help communities like Cascade Locks meet their own destinies so they can succeed,” said Metsger, who wants to focus his attention on stabilizing school funding, rebuilding the state’s transportation infrastructure and lowering the regulatory burden on businesses and farmers.
Cramblett, who recently retired from a 28-year teaching career, also wants to focus his energies on providing better educational opportunities for K-12 students. He said provisions for children should be viewed as the building of a strong foundation under the state’s “house.” He said the “roof” of that house was falling in on Oregon’s senior citizens and he planned to fight for their needs, including lowered costs for prescription drugs.
“If we’re in Salem and going to get the job done, then let’s get the job done,” said Cramblett.
Also presenting issues at the candidate’s forum were the five uncontested candidates for the Cascade Locks City Council, incumbent Mayor Roger Freeborn, Lee Kitchens, Kerry Osbourne, Tiffany Pruit and incumbent Councilor Cindy Farris.