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Real need for jail levy

Columbia County’s current jail problem is controversial and profound. Apparently — even though the additional levy amounts to nothing greater than an average tank of gas for the family truck — I am aware some folks aren’t able to afford even that. These are still tough times, I get it. But unless you are weak on crime and/or harbor a soft spot for criminals, you too will agree we absolutely need a functioning jail like any other legitimate community. After all, if America didn’t feel the need to incarcerate criminals, we would see prisoners being released from jails and prisons being shut down all across the country every day to save money.

I view issues pragmatically, without emotion. First, we must block out the name-callers and screamers who spend their days parading around from meeting to meeting aroused by the sound of their own voice. You know who I mean. They make no articulate points, they bring no solutions to the table, they offer no help. They are making politics dysfunctional and their foul-mouthed rhetoric is the reason most folks are sick of the whole process.

Secondly, let’s include everyone — for or against the levy — willing to come forward and help solve the problem in a civil manner. Conservative, moderate or liberal folks are welcome at the table, as long as they understand this debate will remain respectful. In order to have your ideas considered, you must consider others’.

Thirdly, linking this issue to the past is both irrelevant and does not solve this problem.

Friends and neighbors, if we miss this one, it will drive up our homeowners insurance, car insurance, endanger our children, allow drunk drivers to own the streets, discourage future business, hurt current business, brand Columbia County as lowly, abhorrent losers, and more. If you cast this warning off as a “scare tactic,” then you aren’t paying attention. I am open-minded and willing to entertain all concepts that arrive at the solution — as long as we get there. I challenge you to join me.

Randy Sanders


Without jail, crime will rise

I was in support of the jail funding last time around, when it was ultimately defeated and, of course, this time around I’m strongly in favor of it and will do what I can to inform my neighbors, colleagues and friends of the importance of having a funded jail.

Last week, Pacific Stainless was hit by a forger who printed up fake checks using Pacific’s account number. This person then passed them around town in Scapppoose and St. Helens. St. Helens was hit the hardest, to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars.

Pacific had to change checking accounts and the time and the expense to do so was very costly.

Obviously since they were forged checks, our local bank, St. Helens Community Federal Credit Union, reimbursed our account for the fraudulent dollars that were stolen. I was then mortified to find out that our local merchants, most of them small, are the ones that will take the hit and lose the money. And, as a community, we will all pay for these losses when we shop locally.

We were able to spot this rather quickly because the checks looked like they were from numerous, different local companies and just tied to our account.

The criminal that did this is local and should have been locked up already from previous similar criminal activities, but with no room in our jail, he was back on the street to continue to commit crimes.

We cannot expect our law enforcement officers and our judges and court systems to work properly without proper funding, and I am urging you to vote “yes” on the upcoming jail-funding ballot.

Jeff Kemp


Pacific Stainless Products Inc.

Not buying P&W’s PR

Portland and Western Railroad placed a full-page ad in the Spotlight (see A13, Feb. 21). The ad is riddled with lies and deceptions.

They ad’s author said the rail lines are inspected biannually. That is a deception.

According to P&W, the railroad has been inspected twice a year by a “leading customer-satisfaction research firm.” P&W hires a “leading customer-satisfaction firm” and they are the customer who is satisfied.

I, for one, am not satisfied. A comprehensive railroad bridge inspection has not been done since 2009. There is only one federal railroad inspector to cover eight states. Out of 4,500 inspectors employed by the Oregon Department of Transportation, one inspects railroads. Neither of these agencies have inspected or made a comprehensive report of the rails or the bridges in question. Oregon is the only state on the West Coast which allows the railroads to do their own inspections.

P&W said crude oil trains are safe. That is a lie.

These trains are blowing up in two different nations — in Canada and the United States. In Canada, the Lac-Megantic explosion resulted in the death of 47 people. If they actually believe these crude oil trains are so safe, why do they put an empty buffer car between both engines on these trains? Could it be to protect their employees when the oil tanks explode so they can continue with their low employee injury rate?

According to the Oregonian newspaper, former rail safety employees say oil trains have absolutely increased risks in Oregon. According to these people, it’s not a matter of if an accident will occur, but when. Please read the Sunday Oregonian, Feb. 23, for a comprehensive study and article by Rob Davis. It will really open your eyes.

I hope most of you have read about and comprehend the enormous damage these trains will cause upon derailment or explosion. If you have a child in a school in Scappoose, all three of your schools are within the perimeters which would be destroyed when an accident occurs. In St. Helens, two of your schools are within these perimeters.

With no input from the people who elected them, your Columbia County commissioners and the Port of St. Helens commissioners approved the shipment of crude oil through our county to Port Westward near Clatskanie. They plan on increasing the frequency of these shipments.

When questioned, both the port and county commissioners said the railroads have a lease and cannot be told what can or cannot be shipped. Perhaps that is true. P&W does not, however, own Port Westward. That is owned by the people of Columbia County, and we do have a say in what can be shipped from that port.

The Port of St. Helens and the Columbia County commissioners are just caretakers for Port Westward. We need to tell our caretakers we are not pleased with the job they are doing and that we do not want crude oil or any other hazardous material shipped through our county.

It is crucial that you make your voice heard by writing letters, appearing at meetings, but, most important, by voting.

Nancy Whitney

St. Helens

Contract Publishing

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