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Letters - September 17

Mural dilemma

I am writing to thank Nancy Sliwa (Aug. 30) for her suggestion that the “derriere” of the Union Building should be covered with a mural. My wife and I own the eastern 132 feet of this building; Pasquale Barone owns the rest. And the answer to your question is, “Yes,” but as you might expect, money is the limiting factor.

We do take pride in the appearance of our property. We have spent in recent years over $10,000 on upgrading windows, and repointing and sealing the masonry work on the south and east sides of our building. Renovation of the north side — the side most visible to the public — will be a much larger project, due to its size and the need to remove the old paint. We agree that a facelift on the river side of this building would enhance the curb appeal of our town.

As far as a mural goes, the possibilities are endless. One idea would be a collage of fruit box labels to showcase our orchard economy. Another would be a generic schedule of community events and festivals. Yet a third would be a collage of area attractions and recreational activities. (Remember, however, that there is a sign code, and that this building is in the Historic Preservation District.) But I encourage Ms. Sliwa, any civic group, advertiser or business interested in a project along these lines to call me.

Teunis Wyers

Hood River

Wal-Mart’s ‘voters’

I appreciate J.P. Harrison’s traffic concerns surrounding the proposed new Wal-Mart and intend to review that aspect more carefully since hearing his testimony. But he’s way off base when he claims that retail jobs are lost wherever a new Wal-Mart is located.

Wal-Mart opened here in August 1992 with about 200 employees. In 1993, Hood River County had 230 more retail jobs than it had in 1991, not a loss and probably a small gain over and above Wal-Mart. Equally important, by 1995, the average retail salary was closer to that paid in Wasco County and we had also closed the gap — by 130 — to the larger number of retail jobs in Wasco County for its much larger population base. That 130 probably represents the jobs serving the large number of Hood River residents who used to shop in The Dalles and have now returned to Hood River. Whereas, all their retail dollars stayed in The Dalles, Portland and beyond, at least now a large portion now stay in Hood River.

J.P. — and many others in Hood River — needs to remember that the purpose of zoning is not to control or keep out competition with stores that not all choose or can afford. A look at Wal-Mart’s parking lot, especially on weekends, will show how the majority are voting with their wallets.

Employment and wage data is from the Oregon Employment Department’s Web site www.olmis.org, Wages & Income/Covered Employment.

Dave Dockham

Hood River

See ‘loose boards’

The front page headline of the Sept. 10 Hood River News reads as follows: “County Commission tours forestry stewardship.” A wary reader knows or should know that “stewardship” (like “sustainability”) is a buzzword of the politics of forestry to draw attention away from a “multitude of sins.”

A wide-awake reader suggested to me a cartoon in which forest manager Ken Galloway plays the part of Tom Sawyer while Commissioners and “the Media” are busy whitewashing the shaky and questionable board fence which is county forestry (greenwash, if you prefer). In previous letters to the editor, I have been explicit about the holes and loose boards in the fence.

This is our backyard, our joy, our responsibility.

Clear-cutting is still Hood River Forestry’s principle method of harvest. Clear-cutting is not only heavy-handed and unsightly, it is destructive of structural and species diversity — the heart and soul of forest health.

The article goes on to say that the Commissioners intend to address the harm being done by mountain bikers. Did the Commissioners get a tour by the Forestry Department of the damage done to the forest floor by heavy equipment? And did they tour the fresh clear-cuts in Crystal Springs watershed?

“Healthy forests” is another tricky phrase. Even-age plantations on short (60-70-year) cutting rotations are industrial tree farms and not, by any stretch of credulity, forests.

The simple fact is that Cascade Locks got hit hard and the county, with its thousands of acres of overstocked and untended second growth forests, was spared the flames, for now — by luck, not by management.

And so, Hood River Forestry is making a big deal of controlling mountain bikers so the public will not notice the massive destruction and fragmentation of the entire landscape by management practices and policies, which were put in place without broad public participation and discussion.

Don Shawe

Hood River

Bollard bothered

This morning I found a surprise hanging on my door handle. Something we didn’t expect and wasn’t particularly wanted. It shook me up so to speak.

It was a simple light blue ready-printed tag requesting me to read our own natural gas meter because it was blocked with a truck. I went out to see what the complaint was all about and sure enough, my pickup was too close for the meter man to be able to read the meter. The tag doesn’t say what to do with it, so I’ll just keep it in case they over-charge us next month.

Now for the reason that I’m passing this episode on to you — we paid extra to have the Son Rise Development, Inc., concrete the south side for a place to park my pickup. My neighbor to the south has his north space concreted so the two meet. He was gone with their large trailer. When I had parked my pickup I squeezed close to the side of our garage to yield extra space for him.

I overdid it by parking too close to my gas meter’s bollard safety pipe that is required to protect the gas meter. When we paid extra for the parking concrete we expected it to be done according to city, county and state code. After a lot of time I complained to the builder that we must have code-approved bollard pipe for safety and especially in that it is what is known as the blind side when backing in.

A properly installed bollard is a 2-inch steel pipe (filled with concrete) and buried over one foot deep into the floor and reaching 3 feet high. Being filled with concrete makes it over 50 percent stronger. The makeshift one they installed I had backed into (not much more than able to feel it) and torn loose. I reported it to the city and they gave orders to fix it. But they stalled until their time had elapsed Aug. 4, at midnight.

Now for the payoff. Our neighbor does not have a bollard pipe of any kind in front of their gas meter. If either gas meter were to be broken, it would only take a small spark to burn (possibly) both houses.

I took the liberty of driving around the close-by houses to note if their gas meters were protected by a bollard pipe. Starting on 4th and Pacific, there is only one that looks according to code. The rest by numbers are not, meaning the meter is beside a driveway — no protection.

The code that governs this is M1307.2.

Archie Lester

Hood River

The wrong site

Over and over we have heard that the decision of the Super Wal-Mart application will be decided on the criteria. One such criteria is Hood River County ordinance; Section 17.10.040(3) Grading: Any grading, contouring, on-site surface drainage, and/or construction of on-site surface water storage facilities shall take place so that there is no adverse effect on neighboring properties, public rights-of-way, or the public storm drainage system. “No Adverse Effect,” seems simple to understand. Fact is the proposed site is a floodplain and when you build in a floodplain you will cause impacts and effects. Let’s go back — not too far, to February 1996. Do you remember the rain, the water? What the area of the proposed Super Wal-Mart site looked like? Eyewitness accounts say anywhere from 6-24 inches of flowing water over approximately 10 acres. What does it mean when you add 60,000 cubic yards of fill and put down 16 acres of impervious surface and add just our typical spring rain?

The fill reduces available storage of floodwater. The impervious surface prevents ground saturation, so all of the rainwater flows directly from the site into the creek. Higher flows in a straightened channel will result in higher velocities and increased erosion and flooding, leading to adverse effects and impacts to not only the Historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, but also county roads and rights-of-way and possible risk of human harm.

There is no mitigation offered for this increased flow of water heading downstream. Only the fact that there will be adverse effects on neighboring properties. When the decision is made in relation to this site plan criteria, the county is responsible to ensure that no adverse effects on neighboring properties will occur — especially having the knowledge of the flooding history of this specific site.

As a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program, Hood River County accepts responsibility for floodplain management. Plain and simple, it’s the wrong site for this development project.

Joanie Thomson

White Salmon

Back port vote

In response to Bob Montgomery’s letter of Sept. 13:

You say our “elected officials are factoring in all the needs of our community.” But are they actually factoring in those of us in the community who enjoy open space, water sports and don’t go home in September?

We the local residents, as well as the tourists, want to enjoy the waterfront area, hence the vocal public outcry for a substantial waterfront park. While Hood River does have the lovely Marina Park and the Event Site to serve its 20,000-plus area residents as well as visitors, we need to plan for the future.

Chuck Daughtry, Port of Cascade Locks general manager, was just quoted in the Oregonian as saying he hoped “Cascade Locks can be to sailors what Hood River is to windsurfers.” Apparently he appreciates the value of the tourist dollar. Their Marina Park will aid Cascade Locks in attracting sailors and the economic benefits that they provide. I applaud him for it. Tourism provides Oregon with over 6 billion dollars annually. That creates jobs! Waterfront housing alone does not create long-term jobs.

At a time when all the economic employment experts are advocating using quality of life and recreational environments to attract new companies and employers to town (re: The Oregonian, June 16, Richard Florida, and Dick Schouten’s No Urban/Suburban Divide, Sept. 9). Why aren’t waterfront parks and walking paths recognized as great benefits in Hood River as well?

There are lots of places to create jobs. They do not need to be on the shore of the Columbia River. Waterfront access to the river is very limited and precious and should be preserved for all to enjoy. Promoting water access and visual contact can and will entice new companies to town, creating the long-term benefits so desired.

I do support development and mixed-use of the waterfront area, so let’s integrate a waterfront park as the focus of the area. Housing, hotels and retail along the south side of Port Way will still create incomes, attract tourism and preserve the access and beauty of the waterfront we are all here to enjoy.

This is a one-time only opportunity and we want to make sure it benefits the entire community and not just the Port’s pocketbook or a developer from out of town.

I support the initiative. It will not cost the taxpayers anything and will preserve approximately 11 acres of waterfront park (Lots 6 and 7) for all of the Hood River community to enjoy in the future.

Tim Doty

Hood River

Traffic gluts

On Tuesday, Sept. 2, I was one of the many caught on Highway 14 in a traffic jam caused by the forest fire near Cascade Locks. Instead of a one hour trip from the airport, it took 4½ hours. Inconvenient, but fortunately a very rare occurrance.

I wish to thank all the drivers who waited patiently and with no sign of road rage that I could see. I wish to thank the state and local authorities for doing their best to expedite traffic. Lastly, I wish to thank the Port of Hood River for waiving the bridge toll so traffic could move more quickly.

While I was waiting in line, a few thoughts regarding traffic in Hood River occurred to me.

First, on normal days, rush hour traffic at the entrance to the bridge is incredible. Fortunately, the drivers are considerate of one another and alternate. This is not a rare occurrence like last Tuesday’s. It happens every day during the work week.

Secondly, if you like the bridge traffic jam, just think what west Cascade, Exit 62 and Rand Rd. will be like if the County of Hood River allows Wal-Mart to expand to more than double its current size. Not only will jams happen during the work week but they will be even worse on the weekends, all year long and especially during the summer months.

Forever.

Hood River has three freeway exits. The bridge exit jams up at rush hour. Should Wal-Mart’s expansion be approved, another exit will be jammed, leaving one reasonably functional exit. In the interest of safety and mobility, it is a poor tradeoff to allow the Wal-Mart expansion so we might gain two or three traffic lights and other infrastructure “upgrades.”

These lights and “upgrades” will not reduce the traffic nor the continual delays which waste time and gasoline. They will only allow traffic to flow in an orderly but glacially slow manner similar to last Tuesday’s.

Without a forest fire.

All for the sake of increased profit for Wal-Mart.

David G. Hmiel

Hood River

‘Wandered astray’

I am sorry that Mitch West did not enjoy my letter (Sept. 6, 2003), but in his reply of Sept. 10 he inadvertently misstated my position in two ways.

First, I don’t claim to “not use government services.” That would be a very painful existence, for we all — tax supporters and tax rebels alike — exist in an environment of thousands of these services. That, in fact, is my point — we need to pay for them, even in bad economic times. And those politicians who pander for votes by evoking a “something for nothing” series of popular tax cuts while ignoring the cost in declining civilation are too irresponsible to maintain their jobs. We appointed them to make things work better, not make them fall apart.

Services such as a good education offered to every child (not just the wealthy); a social atmosphere of protection, fairness, and justice provided by a well-funded and professionally trained police and judiciary; a network of safe, well-maintained roads and bridges; a process for participatory, common decision-making on public issues such as building safety, zoning, noise and usage restrictions — these and many other government services benefit everyone. But they need to be funded or they shrivel up and die.

There is a certain frontier mentality that says, “I’m going to live alone and die alone; I’ll help nobody ’cause nobody ever helped me, and to hell with all your government rules and taxes.” These folks moved on to the next frontier when cities and civilization arrived. But now there is no new frontier, so they stage tax revolts and spit on the ground when someone says the “G” (government) word.

The second misstatement is calling me a “liberal.” I don’t believe my background would allow me to qualify for that title, though — given what Conservatism has become of late — it would be an honor. However, to confess my sins, I have been a lifelong Republican, classic Conservative, and Libertarian activist. In many ways I consider myself to remain a classic “Goldwater Republican” (except for his abysmal, pragmatic approach to civil rights). Goldwater — much like another Arizona Senator, John McCain — worked to make government more responsive, fairer, less intrusive; not to starve its vital services and undermine society’s foundations by pandering to greed and envy. But Conservatism seems to have wandered astray when it first appealed to the anti-government hatreds remaining in the Deep South. Political victory for Conservatism has come at a cost — its soul. Now Bush comes along and layers atop these hatreds a political process that favors his rich, corporate class and a foreign policy straight from the Flintstones.

The result is a mess of record deficits, endless war, and ignored vital services that neither classic Conservative nor classic Liberals could support. Let us hope we can replace those responsible and get back to a world that works.

Dave Fowler

Parkdale

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