Letters to the Editor for September 1

Common ground

This past weekend, I attended an event with Jamie McLeod-Skinner at the Hood River Marina and was deeply inspired by the speech she gave. Greg Walden was also invited to attend this event, but he did not. It has been over 500 days since Greg Walden has held a public town hall in any of the 20 counties in his district, and I have lost all trust that Congressman Walden represents me.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner is ready to represent ALL the people in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District. She speaks about moving beyond the deep divisiveness that we are currently experiencing in our present politics, and I am confident that she will be able to listen to her constituents’ concerns, build bridges and step across the aisle to improve the lives of rural Oregonians.

Here is an excerpt from the speech Jamie McLeod-Skinner gave here in Hood River last weekend:

“The greatness of our country is that we are founded not on a common bloodline, but on common beliefs. In democracy, in freedom, in justice, that is what makes us Americans.”

Let’s come together and find common ground on our shared beliefs! Let’s vote for a change! Let’s vote for Jamie McLeod-Skinner to represent us!

Sarah Kellems

Hood River

Planning doubts

Wow! Seeking refuge from the smoke, I went to a Hood River Planning Commission meeting — heard they were busy at work “planning” zoning changes — reducing lot sizes to 4,000 square feet, reducing parking requirements AND applying them throughout Hood River.

During staff presentation, I was surprised that these hard working committee members and staff are not sitting down with a large, dedicated and diverse community group to discuss these changes. HRCORD has worked hard to research the proposed changes, meeting with many individuals on all sides to gain additional background and information. They are the other brains — many more than the seven and seven!

During the presentation, certain odd facts surfaced. For me, these created questions. For one, is Hood River Planning Department really being directed by the 1983 Comprehensive Plan — as stated by the director? A 35-year-old plan? And which parts of that are being followed?

Then there’s the data that Hood River is using to direct these changes — citing the need to rezone and create housing. These were based on PSU estimates of 2 percent — but they recently revised them downward to 1.4 percent through 2035, stating, “Hood River likely has more than a 20-year supply of land for housing in the city limits.” Yet the push for development does not reflect this change.

The plans have not been scrapped and redone — barely modified.

I believe we need more housing options, but with infrastructure, that is consistent with the climate (fire danger) and transportation flow.

Let’s plan with real facts. What is the truth and which plans are being developed for which truths? Who will it benefit?

I have more questions — I am sure you do too. I strongly encourage you to learn about the changes being proposed by going to hrcocd.org. And let your councilors know what you think! Hood River could be rezoned — and quickly.

Change is part of life. In this rapidly changing area we call home, major changes to the flow, land, schools and overall community should be well-thought out and involve everyone.

Thank you for reading this.

Susan Froehlich

Hood River

Health care is a right

Here’s a sad story I heard while having my hair cut by a master hairstylist who has worked hard since graduating from high school. We were discussing life and we got into a discussion of politics, elections, how these things really matter and how so many people show little interest in them.

I asked her if she was able to get health insurance through work. She said that she tried to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, but her salary was just over the threshold to qualify. Her work place offered very expensive insurance requiring a third of her pay each month. “I have bills to pay, I can’t afford to give away a third of my income,” she told me.

We discussed the idea of pre-existing conditions and I told her if not for the ACA, I wouldn’t be able to buy my own insurance (I’m fortunate enough to have it paid for through my previous workplace) due to arthritis and hyperthyroidism. Almost everyone has a pre-existing condition. She offered that she suffers from anxiety and has to buy her own expensive medication in order to be able to work at all. I joked with her that she probably would suffer less from anxiety if she had health insurance. But of course that wasn’t a joke. It is the truth. She is terrified about the possibility of having a serious health issue and no insurance and this vastly increases her anxiety. What a Catch 22. She says if she cut her hours to part time, she would qualify for public health insurance. I find this wholly unacceptable — a hard-working person is penalized for trying to be a responsible adult. Where is the logic? There isn’t any.

Our present congressman sponsored a bill that would have put even more Oregonians in that same boat. Fortunately, it didn’t pass. This is why I support Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who believes health care is a right, not a privilege, and will fight for reasonable and accessible health care for all.

Susan Bellinson

Hood River

Hollow solutions

Finally! My representative Greg Walden has sent me two updates on his whereabouts recently. He offered a few solutions to two important problems: The opioid crisis across our nation and the pervasive wildfire smoke across Oregon this summer.

Unfortunately, upon close inspection, Greg Walden’s solutions ring hollow.

One: The opioid crisis was contributed to by several large pharmaceutical companies, who are Walden’s donors. (I hope he will speak to them.) Also, in 2017, Greg Walden voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would mean 23 million Americans would lose health insurance.

It is pretty difficult to receive treatment for opioid addiction without healthcare insurance. We need a more coordinated effort to create a good healthcare system for us all.

Two: It will be difficult to solve the problem of wildfire smoke across Oregon without addressing its root cause: Climate change. Walden purports he will solve our problem through “active forest management” and “to continue to fight for policies to thin our forests.” Our hotter and drier land is directly a result of the burning of fossil fuels and the subsequent CO2 in the atmosphere. Cutting down our public land forests only means we will have less trees to absorb that CO2. We need more complex and coordinated solutions.

I believe Jamie McLeod Skinner understands these important issues in a more nuanced fashion. Please join with me in voting for a representative who listens, understands the complex issues and comes up with creative solutions.

Shannon Nelson-Deighan

Hood River

Act like adults

My wife is a Democratic vegetarian who spent years helping Oregon ranchers. I’m a business owner, registered Republican, and hunting lover who married her. It’s harder to find people like us these days. People who believe different things but still love one another.

That’s what we teach our children. We don’t reward them when they tattletale and call each other names. Don’t waste my time whining about what your sister did wrong, you tell me what you’re going to do right.

The whining and name calling has started in the state representative race. Absent Anna? Are we children? You want a reward because you tattletale on her for missing a couple church board meetings or something? I don’t have time for this nonsense.

I know and respect both Jeff Helfrich and Anna Williams. My kids go to preschool with his and play at church with hers. It’s hard to teach my kids not to call other kids names if their parents do it. I’d be much happier if people running for office acted like adults. Don’t waste my time whining to me about what she did wrong, you tell me what you’re going to do right.

John William Metta

Hood River

Walden’s work earns vote

Rep. Greg Walden will be getting my vote for re-election because of his useful efforts to benefit millions of veterans, for working on the opioid crisis, for helping to solve the wildfire problem, for helping to bring the STAR Act to the president’s desk, and for helping to bring broadband to eastern Oregon.

Veterans: The Medical Scribe Pilot Act was signed into law on June 6. He co-authored this bill that would unburden VA doctors by bringing medical scribes into the VA system. This could allow doctors to see more patients and spend more time with each patient. He also introduced the VA Mission Act, which is supported by millions of veterans in the United States. It would streamline VA’s Community Care Programs in 13 ways, improve VA health delivery in six ways, and expand caregivers in two ways.

Opioid crisis: This crisis claims 115 Americans every day. For more than a year, the bipartisan committee has been investigating potential breakdowns in the controlled substance supply chain, which may have contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Fifty-eight bills were passed by the House to address the opioid epidemic, culminating almost 10 years of work.

I think that the real problems contributing to this epidemic include the weak borders, drug smuggling and foreign crime organizations operating in the United States.

Wildfires: He is working to fix the broken policies to help restore forests. Now they are overstocked. The Nature Conservancy, Forest Service and others found that fuel management projects can reduce the size and intensity of fire up to 70 percent. The Farm Bill builds on progress toward fixing federal forest policy, too.

STAR Act: He helped to send the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research Act (STAR) to the President’s desk.

He was instrumental in the Ray Baum Act, which would authorize the FCC tools to support broadband with bipartisan support. Among the benefits, it would help in medical care.

The items above will benefit millions of Oregonians and other Americans

Donald Rose, MD

Hood River

Protect our elections

This is an open letter to Congressman Greg Walden to urge him to demand that congress respond immediately and comprehensively at the federal level to the threat of Russian interference in the mid-term elections.

Trump’s top national security officials are sounding the alarm in D.C. and warning of likely interference. The possibilities they list are numerous and credible — suppressing turnout, making voting more difficult by polling place misinformation or voting slowdown or equipment failures, tampering with election machines or the tabulation of votes, etc.

James Miller, secretary of defense under Obama, warns that any evidence of interference in an election, even in a small number of races, “would undermine confidence in electoral tallies across the board and cause a political crisis.”

Trump is refusing to respond to the experts’ warnings and continues to voice doubts about Russia’s involvement even in the 2016 elections. And Walden and his colleagues are doing essentially nothing.

Congress did set aside $380 million last March to help states bolster election security measures. States’ uses of the funds vary, and at least five states still don’t even have voting machines with paper trails that can be audited. This is the extent of the interest the federal government has mustered, between Trump’s refusal and the Republican congress’ lack of cojones for oversight.

Other than stating on his website that he voted for sanctions against Russia we have heard nothing from Walden condemning Trump’s inaction.

Walden’s oath of office is to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people, but he is doing little. He talks a lot about leadership but has shown none when it counts. What could possibly be more basic than defending our elections and our democracy?

Linda Densmore

Hood River

Walk ‘civil’ talk

A guest column appeared in the July 2, 2017, edition of The Dalles Chronicle written by Kris Wilhelm. She wrote “How can we come together as Americans — with civility and respect? We can disagree, but real courage is exemplified by standing with someone you don’t always agree with to benefit our country … though we have our differences, what unites us is so much stronger, the love of our country.”

Imagine my surprise when I read Kristine Wilhelm’s comments in a letter to the Aug. 8 Hood River News which definitely could not be defined as “civil or respectful” to Democratic candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Wilhelm called McLeod-Skinner a “California Democrat” whose agenda was to transform Oregon’s second district into a “clone of Portland”.

First of all, Jamie McLeod-Skinner graduated from high school in Ashland in 1985. Yes, she left the state to attend Cornell and obtain work experience. In fact, she managed reconstruction projects in war-torn Bosnia and designed water systems in rural Kosovo, where she worked with our troops to secure the peace. She returned to attend law school at the University of Oregon several years ago and now spends time with family in Ashland as well as Terrebonne, Bend and Jordan Valley.

Character matters. Integrity matters. Humility matters. And yes, civility matters. Government requires compromise, patience, thoughtfulness and adaptability: Qualities that have been thrown out the door. Gone are the “family values” once stated by Republicans as describing their political party. It is time for all Americans, including Kris Wilhelm, to take a good look in the mirror and see what their children see.

Dorothy Herman

White Salmon

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