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Letters to the Editor

One administrator's raise could buy a year's worth of groceries [or] bikes for at-risk youth.

Not all pay raises are created equal

Presumably in defense of recent administrator pay raises, Forest Grove School District Assistant Superintendent Dave Willard said our tradition for the past 10 years has been to give administrators 'basically the same treatment' as teachers.

Does a flat percentage rate pay increase really give 'basically the same treatment' to teachers and administrators?

A 1.75 percent pay raise means $700 more for a teacher who made $40,000 last year; $700 can buy groceries for three or four months.

A 1.75 percent pay raise means $2,275 more for an administrator who made $130,000 last year.

One administrator's raise could buy a whole year's worth of groceries, buy bikes for 15 or 20 at-risk youth or even save the strings program.

The administrator's raise is more than three times larger than the teacher's raise, and the administrator already gets paid more than three times more than the teacher.

What kind of message is this decision sending to our teachers and our community, especially in light of the recent severe program cuts?

This is a working-class community with high poverty and unemployment rates. Many people in Forest Grove would be delighted to make even $30,000 per year. I am simply not clear on why the public school district needs to pay anyone more than $100,000 per year.

Charlotte Lumae

Forest Grove

School raises: A just reward or arrogance?

I'd like to congratulate the school board, the superintendent and those in the district office who voted in raises for themselves. An employee deserves recognition for a job sometimes well done.

From another perspective: If they knew we're in financial straits, giving a raise is more likely viewed as misguided.

When you throw in over 70 staff being fired and programs being decimated, then a raise could be viewed as uninformed, aggressive and arrogant. Our children need those who will help them to be curious about learning and the future.

This is a job of the school board, parents and our community. The district seems to be ruled by loss and fear. Certainly, this isn't conducive to learning. So which was it: sound reward or arrogance and greed? Let us all decide, because our children need our best.

Tim Zoebelein

Forest Grove

Time for 'islanders' to pay their fair share

At this time there are 24 'islands' inside the Urban Growth Boundary of the City of Forest Grove made up of 108 parcels of land. An island is a parcel of land surrounded by the city but still in Washington County.

The City sent a letter to the property owners requesting their opinions for annexation, held a meeting for those affected by the proposed action and then sent a card to each person asking their opinion. At the meeting on May 16 only four persons spoke in opposition to the proposed annexation.

Dear property owners. You consume electric power from the Forest Grove Light and Power, you use the Forest Grove Library, you swim in the Forest Grove Aquatic Center, you drink water from the Forest Grove water system, you attend Forest Grove schools, you travel to and from your homes on roads built by Forest Grove citizens, you use the Forest Grove Community and Senior Center, you are served by the Forest Grove City and Rural Fire District, and the Forest Grove Police are the first dispatched to you in an emergency under a mutual aid contract.

Forest Grove taxpayers have provided, and continue to provide, all of these services.

Your reluctance to join us boils down to money … higher taxes. On average it will cost you $2 per day to join the city you live in.

You'll scream that you pay a higher fee for water or to swim in the pool, but quite honestly I don't understand your concerns when you use so much and contribute so little. The city council seems reluctant to annex you. Why, I don't know. The only fair thing for the city council to do is to annex all of the islands and therefore tax all of us fairly.

Aldie Howard

Forest Grove

Cornelius majority violated public trust

The June 8 News-Times editorial, 'Recall Needed in Cornelius,' was on the mark.

As one of many who've worked to make the city of Cornelius a better place, I was appalled and disappointed at the recent decision to terminate David Waffle. This action by the trio of councilors Knight, Minshall and Gottwald was, to say the least, an overreaction to real or imagined missteps by Waffle and longstanding friction between Knight and the city manager.

It was also a clear abuse of authority, one that will cost the city tens of thousands of dollars, incur potential legal liability, delay important business, slow the momentum of the progress the city has made in recent years, hurt business and tarnish its image.

Having participated in the difficult process of recruiting and hiring a city manager, I can say it will likely make that process more challenging in the future.

Serving as an elected official - even in a small municipality like Cornelius - is an honor. With that service come serious responsibilities. Holding the public trust of fellow citizens confers a fiduciary obligation to serve honorably and make well-considered decisions in the city's best interests.

The 'Gang of Three' have violated that trust and failed to meet their obligation. They should be removed as provided for in the established recall process. As the editorial noted, this is not a tool to be used lightly but becomes necessary when elected officials refuse to act responsibly and professionally and make decisions damaging to the city.

I urge Cornelius residents to actively support a recall campaign as the first step in electing competent, trustworthy representatives and getting the city back on track.

Once a new council is elected, they may wish to consider a motion to bill the 'Gang of Three' jointly or individually for all of the tax dollars the city is forced to expend due to their costly, ill-conceived actions.

Sig Unander, Jr., former Cornelius city councilor

Why are fees and taxes rising in Cornelius?

I have been thinking about what has been going on with former Cornelius City Manager Dave Waffle and I have a few things I would like to share.

I have personally worked with him several times through our stupid homeowners association and I like the guy, but my concerns are listed below.

In the nearly five years since he took over, he and the council have implemented at least three new taxes (plus the additional revenue that always comes in as the assessed tax values of homes' annual increase):

1. A street-light fee (there was not enough money to pay for street lights and basic city functions).

2. A gas tax (there was not enough money to keep the roads in good repair). Higher water rates (there was not enough money to keep the water system in good repair).

3. Additional taxes/fines: if you happen to be a victim of graffiti and don't get it cleaned up soon enough. Plus they are talking about building a new library since the current one is supposedly inadequate, which will require more taxes.

After all is calculated, that amounts to at least a 25 percent city tax hike for just our family over the last five to six years.

There have also been other additional revenues since they have built quite a few more homes in the city during that time and every household has had to pay the additional street light fee.

Yet my understanding is that the big businesses that have been brought in do not have much of a city tax burden at all. My concern is: where is that additional revenue going?

During that same amount of time, the city has bought a new park, rerouted an entire section of road to accommodate big-Pharma Walgreen's and added new street lights and sidewalks.

There is still not enough money to pay for basic services. The fire department just asked for a bond to buy a new fire truck and the retiring fire chief was not replaced, but was contracted out to another city.

The streets are all still falling apart even with the gas tax. Our homeowners association was told when we were discussing whether we could give the city our parks and common areas, that there was no money with which the city could maintain them, and yet they have bought another one since then.

As for the water system maintenance, the drainage in our association's swales is still not working and the erosion continues even after the city manager had said that the city would take care of it, so obviously there is not enough money to fix that. Something needs to be changed here.

Sydette Squire

Cornelius

Answering some questions about Jeremy's jail time

Washington County Sheriff Rob Gordon and District Attorney Bob Hermann recently responded to my guest column about Jeremy, the man who spent three weeks in the Washington County jail, at a cost of $2,000, for not paying a $3 MAX fare. ('Mental health factors into jail releases, June 15, 2011.')

They want you to know that Jeremy said he had not and did not need to buy a fare, that Jeremy had previous arrests, that he became 'volatile,' and that he was homeless.

I want you to know that Jeremy believed he had a valid fare and therefore did not need to buy another ticket, that he was upset at being hauled off to jail but was not charged with assault or resisting arrest or anything other than a fare violation, that so far as has been reported, Jeremy still has no known criminal convictions.

They want you to know the county has 27 'jail release officers' and two 'court release officers.' In other words, more than enough to decide who should be released from jail while waiting for trial.

I want you to know that only the two 'court release officers' are actually authorized to release people like Jeremy. And neither met with Jeremy until he had been in custody for over two weeks, though Oregon law requires them to formally consider statutory release criteria and make a release decision within 48 hours of a person's arraignment.

They want you to know there were concerns about Jeremy's mental health.

I want you to know that Jeremy wasn't held in jail because of supposed mental health issues. He was held because he couldn't pay the $250 bail fee and wouldn't plead guilty.

What's more, had he pled guilty, Jeremy would have likely become one of the many low-income people returned to jail for being unable to pay court fees and other costs associated with probation. More jail beds for them, more jail costs for taxpayers.

I want you to know that after Jeremy was released, he visited our office, remained in contact by cell phone and email, and before leaving the state wrote the judge for permission to do so, and that he planned to go to college in Colorado. Beneath many of our clients' scruffy exteriors are surprisingly normal hopes and goals: a job, a home, an education.

Can we not think of a better use for taxpayer money than locking up such low-level offenders?

Dean Smith

Metro Public Defenders