Letters to the Editor for April 17

Dustless Gorge

On April 2, The Sierra Club and allies announced their plan to sue the coal industry and the railroads for allowing coal dust to blow off their cars and leak out the bottom. They identified several places in the Gorge, including Horse Thief Lake and Dallesport, where the coal dust was several inches deep next to the river.

Columbia Riverkeeper also floated some clean containers in the water and determined that coal dust was presently being released into the river. This seems to be a violation of the Clean Water Act.

I don’t know about Oregon, but in Clark County, if the County Commissioners allowed builders to track dust near a storm drain, the commissioners would each be fined $25,000 per day per outfall.

Why is the coal industry allowed to dump dust in the river, and other people aren’t? Dust of any kind settles on, and rots, salmon eggs and the eggs of the bugs that juvenile salmon eat.

The coal industry is planning to export miles of coal trains per day through the Gorge. Trains will cross dozens of salmon-bearing streams before reaching the proposed terminals in Longview, Clatskanie, Boardman and Bellingham.

In 2005, the White House said that for every $1 we spend reducing diesel emissions, we’d save $4 in health care costs. Since then we’ve spent millions cleaning the diesel engines of school buses, long haul trucks and public transit.

We did this to protect our health and blue skies, not to provide room for 1,300 diesel locomotives and 100 tugs to traverse our air-shed every week. Locomotives won’t begin to meet the new emission standards until 2016.

This summer there will be a public hearing regarding the proposed Longview Terminal. If you want to be notified, write to crVanWash@gmail.com Cheers to the Sierra Club for protecting salmon and air quality.

Don Steinke

Vancouver, Wash.

One simple solution

ODOT’s claim that it would cost the City of Hood River $520,000 to re-engineer a right turn from I-84 exit 62 onto Country Club Road is ridiculously asinine. Laughingly little, at very low expense, needs to be done to allow these turns.

The actual cost is a tiny fraction of the total figure of $1.1 million. Right turns on to Country Club Road are not the problem. They happen many times a day without delay or congestion.

The traffic tie-up problems are being addressed with the design and construction of the new realignment.

The right-turn lane solution is simple, workable and inexpensive. One NO LEFT TURN sign on the west bound lane of Cascade Street with a center line ridge preventing such turns, one permanent lane closure blockade in the eastbound lane of Country Club Road just east of the Timber Crest apartments driveway.

That’s it. No $1.1 million to over-engineer plans and no complex additional construction. I came up with this complicated expensive solution awake at 4 a.m. one morning.

I’m very surprised and disappointed neither city staff nor city council did not challenge the costs estimated by ODOT. The excuse for no right turns onto County Club Road is the cost. The reason is more likely some ODOT “desk jockey” in Salem trying to justify his or her job. Either that or an attempt to gouge a million dollars out of the City of Hood River.

The city should refuse to accept the realignment as it stands until the state can come up with a simple, inexpensive right-turn solution. I did, so can the city and state.

Gary Fields

Hood River

Support forPERS reform

I’d like to applaud the Hood River County School District Board’s unanimous decision to support PERS Reform, despite enormous union pressures. And, the support for the same by Mark Johnson and Chuck Thomsen.

After being saddled with the 2011-12 PERS cost increase of $1.6 million, it can no longer be ignored. PERS rates statewide are slated to jump by $900 million this year. PERS represents a conundrum for parents, who feel they should support our teachers, but are concerned about paying the bills.

The state previously agreed to poorly negotiated, unsustainable terms that must be adjusted. They can’t keep raising taxes, pass local levies and cutting school services. Where can you retire with 75-90 percent of your salary and benefits, for less than 30 years of work?

Some staggering statistics, locally: PERS rates went from 15-17 percent of total payroll for the last 10 years, then jumped to 15.9 percent in 2010-11; to 25.4 percent in 2011-12 (a 60 percent increase) and for July 2013: 32.7 percent of payroll, more than double that of three years ago.

While the senate just passed PERS Reform Bill SB 822, the Speaker of the House intends to block the bill. The April 14 Oregonian has an editorial explaining PERS: “compared to Washington, we have half the economy and taxpayers, with same retirement system liability. In 2010, Oregon owed $59 billion in future retirement benefits to employees; Washington, $62 billion. They’re betting young families with children won’t notice the diversion of resources to their classrooms to finance legacy pension costs.

“Proceed with SB 822 as the fix and the odds that Oregon will stumble through an era of sub-par public services relative to our neighbor north (Washington).”

The Statesman Journal adds on April 11: “They claim that the state is breaking its promises if it reduces future PERS benefits. That’s nonsense; employees and retirees had expectations and unions had contracts that covered specified time periods, but those do not equate to infinite promises.”

No one is suggesting that we take away past obligations to retirees; only that we need to change our commitments going forward. Please join me in supporting the board; and to PLEASE err on the side of the children; we can’t afford any more taxes or cuts to programs. Email: hrcsd.board@hoodriver.k12.or.us.

Kristine Wilhelm

Hood River

What works?

In his letter (“Obama’s Law,” April 13), Mr. Holman says he is upset by President Obama’s declaration that this month we should improve our understanding of financial principles and practices — that the president does not know how to budget. We have heard all of this for the past three years, but the numbers do not cooperate: Interest rates have stayed low, the deficits are declining, trade deficits are down and 10-year budget projections show a stable fiscal outlook.

So, what can the “deficit scolds” do? As, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman writes, “... repeated warnings of a U.S. debt crisis that keeps not happening has outlived its usefulness ... Suddenly the argument has changed: It’s about not cheating our children. The deficit, we’re told, is really a moral issue.”

Perhaps that explains why Mr. Holman tries to convince us that President Obama is not competent or responsible. In other words, if your economic theories do not work, you attack the person’s character.

So, what economic theories work? How do deficits affect the economy? Google “Krugman Cheating Our Children” for economic ideas that make sense. Instead of slashing Social Security and Medicare, we need to invest in our future: children’s health and education, rebuilding our roads and bridges and efforts to fight global climate change.

Lawrence Jones

Hood River

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