‘Good lesson’

Last weekend, my kids saw their mom sworn in as city councilor. During public testimony, I was happy they realized people were talking about Morrison Park. Jessica and I have discussed this at home and don’t always agree, so the ride home was a promising time for a talk on disagreeing and still working together.

However, they also noticed “the really loud man” (my daughter’s words) who came last and said, “Our schools are overcrowded and failing” (his words). So on the way home, my son asked, “Is our school failing?”

I reject the statement that Hood River schools are failing. In February, The Gorge Literary Journal is publishing a fiction piece by a third grader that is as good as many adult submissions we get. Did Pam Turley have nothing to do with that? Does Jeff Blackman have nothing to do with youth robotics programs on par with any in the country? Was it an accident that Rachel Harry won a Tony award for excellence in theater education? Is our problem that our high school graduation rate is simply equal to the national average? What are Hood River schools doing so poorly that the entire district can be so easily denounced as failing in a public meeting?

I think the Hood River County School District is a wonderful place for my children and I thank all the hard-working people who make it so. I’m very sad someone would so easily denigrate our teachers and education administrators as failures, especially since his comment had nothing to do with the topic he was talking about. Does this man care so little for people to denounce them all merely as a straw man in his argument about parks?

This is what I talked about with my kids on the way home. It was a good lesson. I told them how wonderful their teachers and schools are and that I’m happy they go there. I also talked about how harmful it is to make false and hurtful statements about good people just to make your own words seem more important.

John Metta

Hood River

Priorities

Last week, I watched as a county-owned brush mower spent an inordinate amount of time mowing “brush” along Neal Creek Road. The mower was working this road over two days’ time. As they had “mowed” along here late last summer, I thought it unnecessary to do it again. Today, Monday, it is back again, the third day mowing along a road that at best gets 25-30 cars a day.

Neal Creek Road is not a major thoroughfare; from Highway 35, it is two and a half miles to the end of the pavement. So why waste taxpayer’s money mowing what doesn’t need to be mowed?

When it snows, we usually get one pass from the plow and little, if any, sand laid down. Last week, we had a day where the roadway was extremely icy. I watched three vehicles go in the ditch that day and was told about another; one of the vehicles was a county vehicle. I called the sheriff’s department and reported the hazardous condition after the second incident and was told they would notify the county road crew. No sanding truck ever showed, but more vehicles went in the ditch. A neighbor and I took the initiative to place cones and reflectors out to warn drivers. I even shoveled sand/gravel onto the roadway!

So why waste my tax money on three days of mowing along a road that has no priority for plowing, no blocked views from overgrown brush? This can also apply to spraying herbicide when it’s not necessary and requested to not spray!

In today’s world, our public servants need to have a better understanding of the efficient use of our tax money, not wasting the labor, fuel, etc. on work that appears to be busy work at best. I respectfully request the road department to reassess their priorities and utilize resources more efficiently.

Marty Johnson

Hood River

Housing story

I own Hearts of Gold Caregivers in Hood River. One of my caregivers wrote this to me about her struggle to remain in this job. I am sharing it with her permission:

“I know a lot of working people are hurt by not affording housing in the Gorge area. I have had this problem, still am, and want others to understand and help fix this problem.

“My extended family has lived in the Hood River/White Salmon area for coming up on 30 years. I am an in-home caregiver and work five to six days a week, 50-plus hours, and my husband now is on disability due to an illness. We have several children, two still at home in school. Although always working, we have been homeless off-and-on for the last several years because of the expense of housing. We moved to the Washington side thinking it would be more affordable. We have lived in a tent several times. We finally bought a small trailer, but found that the rent at the trailer park almost triples May through October.

“Friends let us move the trailer to their property up in the mountains, but it was not a good answer. I got giardia from the untreated water, we had to walk out through the woods about a half a mile when we got snowed in, and could not get enough fuel. We finally had to bite the bullet and ask our extended family if we could once again live with them. Living far from where you work is not possible in a low-paying job because driving uses up really a lot of your low pay. Transportation cost takes from the food budget. I enjoy the work I do and hope to be able to continue to care for the people in our communities who need help. In-home caregivers are needed a lot here because there are a lot of older people and some disabled. It is sad to think we may have to leave this area where all our family lives and where I provide good work to find affordable housing.”

Thomas Joseph Keolker

Hood River

Changes

I have not been able to figure out how the county has a shortfall in their budget. There are houses being built in every nook and cranny around here. You can drive around here and orchards, fields, rock piles are being turned into houses. Rent went from $300 in 1985 to $1,300 for a two or three bedroom home. How is a person on minimum wage to live around here? There’s a lot of mismanagement going on here. Our nice valley is being turned into an area like Gresham. Developers are buying the land here and building as fast as they can. Our family has been in the valley since the 1860s. I have since 1957 and I don’t like the changes going on in the valley. A lot of my friends have had to move away because they could not afford to live here. The windsurfing has become more important than the people who have lived here all their lives. That’s pretty darn sad. One more thing: By the time the county commissioners get done figuring out a plan for low income housing, the land will already be bought up by the rich.

John Dorsey

Hood River

Town halls

Before the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in the fall mid-term elections, 2nd Dist. Rep. Greg Walden opted not to hold a promised annual town hall meeting in the Gorge because he was afraid that voters would “weaponize” the event.

Now that the Dems run things, and have chosen to conduct business the week of Jan. 21, Walden chooses to castigate them for disrupting his planned town hall schedule for that week, which included an event Jan. 24 in Hood River.

“It is disappointing that the Democratic Leader made last minute scheduling changes in the House that interfere with my town hall schedule as it currently stands,” said Walden, in a press release delivered Jan. 15. “We will reschedule the town halls impacted by the revised House calendar next week and will announce the details for those town halls as soon as we can.”

The media release arrived the same day a separate release arrived, boasting of his opposition to a bill that would re-open our federal government, even though it didn’t support funding for an expanded border wall. Polling shows that the majority of Americans don’t want a wall, don’t see a threat, and don’t believe such a tax outlay is a justifiable priority.

Oh, those darned Democrats, just getting in the way of town halls and border walls.

Stu Watson

Hood River

Tax approvals

I am writing in support of the food and beverage tax and operating levy that the county is proposing for the May 2019 ballot. While I am supportive of the mentioned uses of the food and beverage tax for parks and trails, environmental health and recreation, I also want to make a pitch for the OSU Extension Service. These services are not mandated by the state, hence can be the first to be deleted, but all of these services, i.e. Master Gardening, 4-H, Food Safety and Preservation, Commercial Horticulture, and the Small Farms program, provide enrichment to many aspects of our community.

Regarding the Master Gardener program specifically, in 2018, 85 Master Gardeners donated 3,747 hours of service to the community doing research and answering questions in plant clinics for almost 250 clients, maintained some public areas like the library garden fronting State Street and the Learning Garden at the OSU Extension, hosted a community plant sale, made holiday wreaths and swags and donated them to the food banks in both Oregon and Washington, and educated ourselves to the tune of 1,920 hours. I believe these are unsung heroes of community service that our county residents don’t appreciate until the services are gone.

The county thankfully reached into their reserves to fund 95 percent of the Extension Service’s budget for 2019, but for the Master Gardener program to continue, our Central Gorge Master Gardener Association and Oregon Master Gardener Association dipped into our monies in the amount of over $8,150 to fill the gap for salaries. It is time that we as county residents step up to fund these services that we have grown to expect, so I encourage you to vote in favor of the county budget measures on the May ballot.

Sandi Rousseau

Master gardener

Hood River

Human Wall

Compromise — an agreement reached in which both sides make concessions.

In the first few months of President Trump’s term, Democrats came to him about DACA to improve immigration laws. POTUS responded with, “No talks about DACA until I get funding for a wall.” Shortly after, the president virtually ended DACA by imposing a six-month timeline for a final solution which had to be approved by all groups involved. Zero compromise there.

Recently, Democrats approved $1.3 billion to fund border security through increased personnel and multiple technologies including drones, night vision devices and vehicle scanners. POTUS response: “No. I just want $5.7 billion for a (1,900 mile, 30 foot-high) wall.” This was the wall he guaranteed many times on national television would be funded by Mexico. We all heard it.

I keep hearing this wall is for humanitarian and safety reasons. Does anyone realize much of the food we are now consuming is no longer inspected because the FDA is shut down? If a large-scale food contamination crisis occurs, POTUS will tell us that a Democrat-approved wall could have avoided the tragedy. Thoughts and prayers to the families who lost a loved one to food poisoning.

Given the president’s constant claims of integrity and honesty, it seems the only wall anyone is going to see is the human one created by him and his lack of leadership and ability to compromise.

Steve Kaplan

Hood River

Gift given

The gift we’ve given to Russia is amazing. Wwe’ve allowed them to take control of a warm water port in Sevastopol, Crimea. Unlike the U.S., almost all of Russia’s ports were in the north and often ice choked. Sevastopol gives them a shipping and, more important, a military presence with a warm water port on the Black Sea, which opens through the Straights of Bosphorus and the Dardanelles to the Mediterranean Sea, giving Russia direct access to it’s military port in Syria.

That port has been expanded and gives Russia naval access to Europe and Africa, not to mention a huge presence they haven’t had for a long time in the Middle East. It also gives them access to the Atlantic. Sevastopol during Soviet times was a major Russian submarine base. This is what our current administration has given to Putin and Russia, shipping and military influence they didn’t have, what a gift. That and our leaving Syria leaves the Assad terror regime in place to do damage to those countries in the area.

Rob Brostoff

Cascade Locks

ODOT lot ideal

In response to the Jan. 12 letter concerning “Lot 700,” there are two points in the letter that would benefit from clarification:

The first is the use of the term “Lot 700” itself. The appropriate name for this acreage is actually “Morrison Park.”

Those who advocate rezoning the park for housing have attempted to re-brand the park to remove its identity as a park. This is a transparent effort to change reality by changing a name. The fact remains that this is an existing city park, so named and so used for generations. A glance at any city map and the titles of the city’s own legal filings related to the park will confirm this.

The second is the attempt to use the city’s Housing Needs Analysis (a study of the city’s housing needs through 2035) to argue that Morrison Park is needed and essential to meet current housing needs.

The Housing Needs Analysis says no such thing. What the analysis does say is that Hood River has adequate land as currently zoned to accommodate its need for new housing at all income levels through 2035, especially if it encourages multi-family housing in commercial zones. This is so without using any park land for housing. The study explicitly excluded open space-zoned parks from use for housing.

This is even more true now than it was in 2015, when the study was done. Since 2015, the projected annual population increase has actually dropped by more than 50 percent in Hood River. This is not just a local shift; it has also dropped in both the county and the state. It would be ideal if the nearby ODOT lot could be used for housing instead of Morrison Park, but even if it turns out to be unavailable, the city and county (and state) own other non-park lands in the area that would be good candidates for housing. Parks should not be sacrificed, particularly when the city’s own study demonstrates it is neither necessary nor good policy.

Susan Crowley

Hood River

Benefits?

Yesterday while picking up pizza at the Papa Murphy’s on the Heights, people using their EBT/SNAP benefits were being turned away. The staff said it was because of the government shutdown. I don’t know if EBT transactions are being declined because EBT support services aren’t open or if EBT funds are simply not available. In either case, if this is a result of the government shutdown, that’s a story I’d like to know more about. We can debate social programs another time, but right now, turning away EBT customers because of politics impacts a lot of local people and businesses. Families depend on those benefits to make ends meet. Business owners depend on those transactions to sell their goods, employees depend upon those customers for their work hours and those sales make sure paychecks don’t bounce ...

Scott Scrimshaw

Hood River

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