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Letters to the editor for Feb. 6, 2015

Thank you for wood raffle success

This past weekend, the Veterans of Foreign Wars had a fundraiser with a wood raffle, and it was a success. That success is due to the support of the local community and the generosity of all who took their chance and bought tickets to win the truckload of wood. Be assured that those funds will be distributed in a worthy manner. I wish that every ticket could have been a winner. In many ways, each ticket is a winner due to the aid those funds will provide. Thank you.

The funds raised will be used in the assistance programs the VFW supports for the multitude of needs that veterans require with regularity in our district. The multiple deployments our Armed Forces are required to perform too often find young parents reaching out for help while the other is away for months at a time. It might be a season of need, such as the Christmas season just passed, or an unexpected medical bill for a child. It could be a spare bed for for a homeless veteran and some funds for shelter from the storm of life.

The VFW provides guidance to navigate the paperwork to attain medical care at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital, where and how to attain a home loan, or assist in the understanding of the many benefits due to them for education to advance their earning ability. A sympathetic ear and a helping hand can be provided due to this community’s generosity.

I would like to extend thanks from the members of the VFW to Grocery Outlet for providing space for the truckload of wood and to set up our tables and chairs. Thank you.

The generous load of wood on the truck was provided by Comfort Construction. Thank you, Mark, for providing the wood, the truck and the delivery to the winner’s home.

There are 6,000 veterans in this district. The service organizations, both the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, suffer from lack of membership. If you are a veteran and could spare a few hours per month, please consider joining with us to extend a helping hand to our men and women veterans.

Commander Tom Ford

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4362


Impressed with Mater

Wow! I am so impressed with Catherine Mater. I cannot recall the last time I ever heard of a public official coming forward on an issue with such honesty and bravery. In fact, I do not believe I have ever had that pleasure.

To be accurate, I should say “immediate past public official.” Ms. Mater is the “immediate past chair” of the Oregon Transportation Commission.

She was the chair of the OTC back in August last year when the OTC made the decision to deny the Port of St. Helens its request for lottery funds through ConnectOregon. The Port obviously thought they had a shoo-in to get this funding. That did not happen because it appears the port made inaccurate and fraudulent statements to the OTC in order to secure public funds. Among other issues, they did not have matching funds in place from Ambre Energy; they did not have a commitment from any company (which is required when requesting these funds), and yet told the OTC they did have this commitment; they said they were ready to start construction when they had not even received the permits to do so. Ms. Mater and the OTC denied funding to the Port of St. Helens.

So, without any further preparation, the Port of St. Helens heard they had another shot at getting some funding from ConnectOregon about two weeks ago. A hearing was set to be held in Salem. Obviously, Gov. John Kitzhaber was not happy with the August outcome. A few days before the hearing, he fired Ms. Mater — at the urging of state Sen. Betsy Johnson and her political allies, from what I understand. Perhaps he and the senator had some sort of “you give me what I want and I’ll give you what you want” deal. It happens so much in politics. We do not yet know all the particulars, but we do know this is a shameful situation.

To quote Ms. Mater in her letter to the editor: “It’s times like this we need reminding that no one is above the law; no Governor; no Senator; no government agency; no Port.”

There appears to be a great deal of political pressure being put on the OTC to reverse the decision made last August. We, the people, all need to put public pressure on the governor, the senator, OTC and the port.

The port, in particular, has a long history of hiding information from us, lying to us, and making huge monetary commitments reportedly over $60 million of taxpayers’ money — which have turned out to be of no value to our county.

This constant flow of money into Port Westward is probably one of the top two biggest mistakes ever made by our elected officials in Columbia County. I hope many of you will commit to really getting involved in this fiasco.

Nancy Whitney

St. Helens

Who is the port working for?

I am writing to thank Catherine Mater for her honest appraisal of what is happening with ConnectOregon and the Port of St Helens. Citizens who have been following port actions for some time are mystified regarding the nebulous “plans” that never are revealed. It is obvious that the application for funding for a transloader for coal at Port Westward did not meet state criteria, and yet it was submitted twice.

Was the port relying on the strong arm of elected officials in the Legislature and governor’s office to push it through, despite the law? Is that how we do business in this state? Are the taxpayers of Columbia County expected to pick up the $3 million “match” for the illegally gained lottery funded grant? “Commodity agnostic” or not, we are wondering who the port is really working for?

Carroll Sweet


Marijuana use falls under state, not local, jurisdiction

A story in the Spotlight (“St. Helens Council doesn’t want pot in heavy industrial areas,” Jan. 9) discusses the siting of recreational and medical marijuana outlets in the city, and the tone of the input from City Planner Jacob Graichen, and to some degree Mayor Randy Peterson, suggests the changes in the status of marijuana brought by the passage of Measure 91 is something that they are uncomfortable with.

For some background, Measure 91 passed in Columbia County with 53 percent in favor.

The Oregon Constitution, Sec. 20, states, “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges ... which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.” With the passage of Measure 91, marijuana is, under Oregon law, a recreational drug. Alcohol has had this status under law for some time, and rules concerning its manufacture, possession, distribution and public and private usage of alcohol are well established.

Is alcohol restricted to being sold only in areas that are zoned heavy or light industrial? Our local liquor outlet is located in what appears to be a commercial zone, on a main thoroughfare. It seems inevitable that restrictions and privileges concerning retail distribution of these two substances will be aligned constitutionally in our state, for equal protection under the law considerations, so our elected or appointed leaders would do well to heed this electoral result, rather than some of them acting as if they seemingly hope it will go away.

Thomas Finlay

Deer Island

A Willy Vlautin fan

I was very pleased to see your article on Willy Vlautin (see “Award-winning novelist finds comfort, inspiration in rural Columbia County,” Jan. 23). It’s nice to hear about this local talent and how he enjoys living in our community.

If you have never read any of Willy’s novels, you are truly missing out. He writes with heart, passion and grit.

Congratulations to Mr. Vlautin on becoming an Oregon Book Award finalist for fiction. He certainly has my vote!

Pat Cross


Concerned about St. Helens Organics LLC

I am writing this regarding the recent proposal from St. Helens Organic Reycling LLC to cite a compost plant down at Boise Cascade. I have lived here since 1947, and when the pulp process was up and running this town reeked. Any rain, fog, cloudy day made going through town a not so happy experience. Smell was strong enough to actually make your eyes burn and water.

This issue seems to be underway with very little if any public notice. Feels like it’s going on behind closed doors. I am not one of the few who are just now aware of this proposal and in the end, if the boards approve this project, it should ultimately be the decision of the Columbia County voters.

I hear compost facility and I think of Junction City and the stench, as well as the compost industry in Hillsboro or Forest Grove. I’m not sure which it is. However, it’s a no-brainer that compost and garbage stinks.

Portland needs to take responsibility for its compost instead of using St. Helens as it’s dumping ground. Hey, here’s an idea: How about courting some clean industry to our area for a change.

Issues pertaining to this proposal should not only address possible smell, but traffic impact, health risks and property value as well as how you are going to get people to move out here when we smell like the inside of a compost can.

Nedra Lambert

St. Helens

[Editor’s note: St. Helens Organic LLC is proposing an anaerobic biogas facility, which is not the same as composting. Such facilities reputedly do not create odor emissions.]

A proposal for Columbia City School

Move only the St. Helens School District office to Columbia City School.

It solves the insurance and bond issues: the school is being used by the district. It eliminates children moving to new schools and disrupting the learning process.

It gives more time to develop a plan for creating a neighborhood K-6, or a STEM (or STEAM) school with qualified students from the general student population, bused to Columbia City with no redistricting. It gives room for a student population increase (with a better economy, hopefully). It provides room for admin and K-6 or STEM (STEAM) together in one building, the best use of the facility.

May need some modification of the building, but not much. It’s mostly ready as is.

Administration offices need a beautiful facility: it’s more professional.

There is no need for redistricting and upsetting the public at this time. There would be no increased busing costs resulting from redistricting.

The Columbia County Education Campus can move into the present admin building, giving a large lunch room and four more bathroom stalls. CCEC can bus to Columbia City to use the field and gym for physical education. It gives time to build a stick-built location for CCEC if planned, though it may not be needed. It makes more money available to do repairs on the current campus that Jared Plahn outlined.

There would be no need to create an additional administrator position at this time.

McBride Elementary School would use a portable classroom for the additional kindergarten class next fall for full-day class. Lewis & Clark Elementary School can handle the full-day kinders in their building.

Rita Biggs

Columbia City

[Editor’s note: This letter was originally sent to the Spotlight in the form of a bulleted list. It has been edited to present its points in a prose format.]

Debunked? I don’t think so

I have to evaluate the credibility of apparently conflicting reports from many sources.

Climate physicist Fred Singer wrote a dedication paragraph: “To those thousands of highly qualified research scientists who have documented physical evidence of the 1,500 year climate cycle from over the entire globe. Hundreds of their studies endorse the reality of this cycle.”

Singer added much more detail to these two sentences.

In his letter of Jan. 30 (Climate change skeptic cited debunked sources”), Mike Herron says the “1,500 year cycles affect climate in the Northern Hemisphere. The Antarctic Vostok ice cores show cycles going in the opposite direction.”

We are discussing 1,500-year cycles, not the summer to winter annual cycle. Does Mr. Herron expect me to believe that Ice Age climate in northern latitudes occur at same time as warming climate in southern latitudes? Some things strain my gullibility past the breaking point.

Eugene A. Oster