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Letters to the editor published July 17, 2015

A ‘Golden Opportunity’ — GO — for St. Helens

If you surveyed the great Columbia River basin from The Dallas to Astoria on the Oregon side of the river, you could not find a greater piece of development property than the Boise Cascade veneer mill site located in the heart of downtown St. Helens.

I fear this nugget is going to be wasted on the small-thinking process that is represented in St. Helens. In the collective, there are few farsighted concept leaders.

What these 20-plus acres represent is the revitalization of a community in the economic abyss.

The only methodology that makes rational sense is for the city of St. Helens to do an unsubordinated land lease to a major development company with participation in all aspects of the project.

Before you, St. Helens leaders, contract designers and architects for your vision, consider the following possibilities: A 10- to 12-story building. I realize it might disturb someone’s view of the river, but maybe the community benefits outweigh those river views.

The building would include:

— 250 luxury river view condos at $550,000 each, adding $100 million in real estate assessed value to the community tax rolls, plus a sales value to be shared with the city and the developer.

— 200 hotel suites accommodating 400 conference attendees. The value per suite of $150,000 equals another $20 million of assessed real estate value. The hotel employs 25 full-time employees, which is 75 working shifts per day. Occupancy cost is $150 per night and $240 for double suites. An 8 percent hotel tax would support city parks, street improvements, etc.

— The top two levels of the building would be developed for conference and training centers, plus multiple restaurants. The marketing of the conference spaces to businesses, governments, political and religious assemblies, highlighted by St. Helens proximity to Portland and Vancouver, Wash., would need to be established prior to the project development. The typical conference space is rented per attendee, including meals, at $65, depending on the number of conferences booked. With some real imagination, hovercraft — i.e. water taxi — could deliver the attendees from both cities and Portland International Airport. Again, the city of St. Helens is a participant in another revenue source.

— The ground and second floors would also accommodate restaurants, retail businesses, the hotel and property management, and professional spaces. At 80,000 square feet of net rentable space, at $25 per square foot annually, that equals $2 million in annual rent.

— A multi-level parking structure would accommodate the condominium and conference center, plus general commercial uses of the property. Three-hundred revenue parking spaces at $15 daily would equal $4,500 daily when occupied. Also, there would be a multi-level boat parking structure, or indoor marina, with elevator pick and launch facilities.

This is not an attempt to overwhelm those members of the St. Helens community who are responsible for the decisions and direction of action.

This dialog is only to point out that "gold" starts with “GO.”

Len Waggoner

Real estate development consultant


Scappoose schools sex ed curriculum is disgusting

Anger and disappointment. Those were the emotions that my wife and I — and a multitude of other Columbia County parents experienced two years ago when the board of directors approved the sex-ed curriculum, “Making A Difference! An Evidence-based Abstinence Approach to Teen Pregnancy, STD and HIV Prevention,” in a 5 to 1 vote. Many of us felt like our voices were simply ignored, except for a few disparaging remarks about “educators knowing best.”

No, despite the obvious dissention, there was no care for parental concern. Despite the fact that Oregon law clearly allows individual school boards to choose their own curriculum, there was no consideration of any alternative. It was very apparent at that meeting that the invitation for the public to “weigh-in” was merely a formality. Except for one member, the board had already made up its mind.

Disgust and resentment. Those are my reactions to last week’s Spotlight article (see “Scappoose sex ed curriculum renewed by near-unanimous vote,” July 10) informing us that, despite the very negative publicity surrounding this same curriculum at the Seaside conference last fall, the Scappoose School Board has again approved this controversial material, this time without even inviting the public to comment. With no regard for parents, no regard for public opinion, and with no regard for the scandalous nature of this curriculum and the people who promote it, the board has proceeded on, apparently hellbent to get this into our local schools.

As one of the few parents who has actually read some of the material that is in this curriculum, I believe that we have good reason to be upset, regardless of what the board majority thinks.

Take page 64, for example, where facilitators are told to “be sure that participants (who can be as young as 11 years old] understand the definitions of vaginal intercourse, oral sex — meaning a person’s mouth on another person’s genitals, anal sex — meaning a man’s penis in another person’s anus, rectum, or behind, and masturbation — meaning rubbing, stroking, or playing with one’s own genitals or the genitals of another person.”

It disgusts me that Scappoose School Board member Michelle Graham can say that “the examples in the materials that I reviewed were very good, and it’s nice to know that our students will be getting that kind of curriculum here in Scappoose.” I can only hope that she somehow missed page 64.

And in direct opposition to board member Jim Hoag’s glowing assessment, I resent the way this curriculum changes word definitions in order to teach children that promiscuous activities, such as “having sex with yourself, grinding, caressing, and oral sex” are all forms of abstinence, right along with “holding hands and kissing” (see page 63 of the curriculum). This is not how normal, sane people define abstinence. By approving this curriculum and its definitions, the school board needs to go ahead and get rid of dictionaries while they’re at it.

When the school board decides to treat the parents of their students with contempt and disregard, it is time for parents to say we are done with the school board and its flawed system.

My wife and I are taking action. We are channelling our anger, disappointment, disgust and resentment into positive action for our children. This coming school year we are exercising our parental right to “opt out” by completely removing our three children from the Columbia County public school system altogether and placing them into private tutoring and home-schooling. It will be difficult, it will be expensive, and it will be challenging — we have no doubt. However, it will be much better than subjecting our greatest assets — our children, to the kind of “educational” choices that this out-of-touch school board has deemed appropriate.

John P. Robinson


Weyerhaeuser action limiting hunter access is welcome

I would like to publicly thank Weyerhaeuser 1,000 times for being willing to stand up and confront the truth about crime in the forests of Columbia County, and to offer the company access to the data that decades of crime, harassment, threats, and expense has required me to gather — all because I ended the illegal access and criminality that was foisted on us by the corruption by Longview Fibre and the criminals that they not only allowed, but encouraged.

Fibre was a gang center in my area. If Weyerhaeuser needs my testimony in court cases concerning the terrible effects that criminality in the forests cause, I would be glad to do so.

For the first time in a quarter century it is reasonably safe to go onto 20 acres of our own land.

The Spotlight’s editorial piece concerning the actions of Weyerhaeuser is an affront to many county residents that observe and experience the problems that have confronted rural residents and forestland owners for decades. The Spotlight has been asked on many occasions to wake up to the truth about crime in the forests of the county; you have had access to the needed data and have been begged to use it. Hikers, birdwatchers, and other non-harmful groups are collateral damage — they would be wise to assist in combating the groups that do the harm in the forest.

The reason for these restrictions is crime. Weyerhaeuser has responsibilities to stockholders and law-abiding rural citizens to stop crime and the losses that result, crime that is committed by groups that believe that the forests and wildlife belong to them and that any activity that they enjoy should be tolerated.

In the ex-Fibre forest in my area, by actual count, 98 percent of the weapons usage was illegal. The majority of the tax breaks that are given to forestland owners are actually tax deferrals until harvest of the timber. The total of the fees that are claimed as “fluff” to bolster corporate coffers amount to only a few minutes of the company’s yearly revenues, 0.005 percent, and the total amount is less than this forestland owner has experienced as losses due to criminality of local hunters, gun fools, and off-roaders, and orders of magnitude less than the damage that is done in the overall county.

Anyone that goes down nearly any logging road can observe the results of access by criminals. If the Spotlight wishes to call out Weyerhaeuser as a profiteer that preys on the people of the county, then you must explain why a far larger percentage of the income of the Spotlight is derived from the advertising revenue paid to the Spotlight by a corrupt violence industry that caters to and propagandizes a violence culture, with the result that there are many criminal gangs in the rural county that hide behind the term “hunter.” Criminals help pay your salary.

Columbia County is in a flux of necessary change. With the land values finally rebounding, many people in non-timber industries would greatly enjoy having a little bit of rural property, and they want it to be safe and secure, an impossibility in many county rural areas due to the beliefs of the groups that now whine about the results of their own actions. Law enforcement in these areas is non-existent if the word “hunter” is mentioned, despite the fact that local hunters are strongly involved in many non-hunting crimes.

Why should any forestland owner, large or small, allow a group that is involved in theft, burglary, drug-dealing, dog-fighting, and just about any other crime you can think of, enter their lands?

Publisher Darryl Swan: Last I saw, you do not live in the woods, and I have seen little evidence of real knowledge about the forest. When asked to investigate the relationships between these groups and crime, that request has been ignored. Many local residents are reluctant to confront these issues because they know that law enforcement does not genuinely exists and that they are likely to be harassed by the criminal groups; they have also been tricked into believing that hunting is done for food; more than 90 percent of local hunting has nothing to do with food. Pencil out the many expenses and you will find that the activity actually consists largely of getting high on booze and drugs, playing with guns, and killing for cowardly fun and a pretense of manhood. The wildlife belong to all the people, and killing for a love of killing rather than for food or genuine wildlife management is a sin.

Charles Bickford

Deer Island

A message to the publisher

Publisher Darryl Swan: In your editorial (see “Weyerhaeuser Co. is not a good neighbor,” July 3), maybe you missed the fact that Weyerhaeuser lands have been roundly vandalized by the very environmentalists who have virtually closed off the national forests to logging and to the public for casual hiking. (They have lobbied the Forest Service to attempt to require everyone to make reservations well in advance and buy a permit to enter taxpayer-owned land. That results in denied entry to anyone who does not know the rules and process beforehand, i.e. the average American, or who belongs to an organization that handles the paperwork for its members, like, oh, the environmentalists.)

Maybe if there were less hostility toward those who are trying to make those lands productive and give jobs to your Columbia County residents, there would be fewer restrictions on those who enter the lands.

Instead of just vindictively calling Weyerhaeuser a greedy corporation, you could have looked into the facts. You know that $100 per entrant is not a significant revenue source for Weyerhaeuser and you knew it when you wrote the editorial. It barely covers the cost of the administration and background check to see if the applicant is one of those aforementioned vandals.

Be a bigger man and write an editorial that acknowledges the real issues that led up to this situation. Admit you were wrong. Humility always instills trust in your readers. That editorial made you sound like a limousine liberal.

Tom Maginnis

Lake Oswego