Featured Stories


Letters to the editor published March 18, 2016

FILE PHOTO - Letters to the editor for March 18, 2016

Scappoose Kiwanis no longer hosting newspaper recycling trailer

This letter is to inform the community that the Scappoose Kiwanis will no longer have the newspaper recycling trailer on Old Portland Road. We appreciate everyone who supported us by dropping their newspapers at our drop over the years. The senior center in Scappoose still has a drop-off, for those who wish to contribute.

Thank you very much.

Carol Girt, Club President

Karen Stoel, Club Vice President

For the good of the animals

The Columbia Humane Society is being sued because a Hawaiian shelter is miffed about how the society handled some of its dogs flown here. The humane society is miffed because they don’t like how Hanna Pet Society handled a few dogs they acquired from the shelter, and a generous donor is miffed because a low-cost spay and neuter clinic so far has not been in operation as promised.

All these well-meaning people are tearing each other apart. In the meantime, fewer dogs are finding homes, in-house spaying and neutering isn’t occurring, and — who knows? — maybe the shelter will be forced to close if they must deal with multiple lawsuits. That would more than likely result in a big increase in euthanized dogs and cats at the county pound. How is that helpful? Is the dispute over potentially dangerous and unadoptable dogs being euthanized worth jeopardizing finding homes for friendly adoptable animals?

I hope this can be kept this out of court so funds aren’t wasted. Our family adopted a young adult cat from the humane society many years ago, and were very happy with her. The society is needed in our community. Find a way to solve this so the animals aren’t the big losers.

Lona Pierce


Connected with Conn

I am gratified to see the large pool of candidates for Columbia County commissioner. It is nice to see so many people willing to work to better our community.

In the race for Position 1, I support Susan Conn. She has worked to benefit our community for over two decades. As an elected official on the St. Helens School Board and on the St. Helens City Council for two terms, she demonstrated a willingness to collaborate with citizens to reach mutually beneficial decisions. As a volunteer on numerous committees throughout the county, Susan has covered many issues important to us: economic development, housing, police training, mental health and much more. A small business owner and parent, Susan knows what matters to citizens in this community.

Her only special interest is the wellbeing of Columbia County. I urge you to consider voting for our citizen partner, Susan Conn.

Carroll Sweet


Public transportation enhances business development

The March 11 Spotlight had a wonderful article (see “Manufacturing research center could transform Columbia County,” A1) discussing the possibility of a new Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMRC) with an eye towards development near the Scappoose airport. The AMRC would create hundreds and perhaps thousands of Columbia County jobs. The presence of the AMRC would also provide the incentive for the spinoff of additional county industrial developments.

Among the developmental issues of concern are increased traffic congestion on Highway 30, limited housing, and the need to explore additional transit options. To me, transit options are defined primarily as public transportation.

The May ballot will have Measure 5-251, formation of the Columbia County Rider Transportation District, up for a vote. The measure will provide an independent Columbia County transportation system and stable funding for ongoing operations and future expansion.

Yes, the measure will involve a small increase in property taxes, about $4 a month for the average homeowner. Public transportation encourages and enhances business development, creates and sustains employment, connects workers to jobs in suburban and rural areas, and reduces traffic congestion. One or more of the identified AMRC concerns dovetail nicely with the special transportation district goals. Over the years, county agencies have spent millions of dollars on speculative job creation ventures. Public transportation statistics support the position that a robust public transportation system lifts all boats.

We have the opportunity to bring real jobs, jobs, jobs to Columbia County with a very modest public investment. Please show your support by voting “yes” on Measure 5-251.

Bill Allen

St. Helens

Vote Preheim for a fresh take on county governance

Two or three weeks ago, just out of curiosity, I drove through the main thoroughfare in St. Helens — namely, Columbia Boulevard. I began counting empty storefronts just on the river side of the railroad tracks.

I am aware many businesses have closed, but I was pretty astounded when I found there were 17 empty businesses in that short run between the railroad tracks and the river — about 1.5 miles. Of those remaining open, 13 are housing secondhand and antique stores.

It made me begin thinking about the leadership in our town and in our county. How has this happened in just the last 20 years? Could it be because we have the same entrenched names being elected to one office and, after a few years, moving on to another office — getting elected because of name recognition — year, after year, after year.

Let me begin with the run for Columbia County commissioner. Five candidates are vying for Position 1:

¦ Joel Yarbor has already had his chance as a county commissioner.

¦ Wayne Mayo also had his chance as a county commissioner and he wants the Pope to apologize to Donald Trump.

¦ Susan Conn needs to get the city of St. Helens back on track before she even begins to think she can take on the county’s problems.

¦ Margaret Magruder appears to be doing a fine job in Clatskanie. However, at a meeting I attended in order to meet with her, I was not impressed with her knowledge of any important matters taking place in south Columbia County.

¦ Brady Preheim has been a business owner in Scappoose for nearly 20 years. For any private business to stay open that long, you have to know what you are doing.

Preheim is a bright, articulate leader with new ideas who has been involved in the betterment of Columbia County for years, including the South Columbia Chamber of Commerce; Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), economic and development in both St. Helens and Scappoose; the Ford Family Foundation, etc. Since the last levy for the jail was passed, he has faithfully advocated for transparency from the sheriff, which has not been forthcoming. He continues to do so.

The editor of the Spotlight once stated that some county and port commissioners would use their position to raise political awareness for preferred members of their “clubs.” I believe this is probably true of most elected officials who want to continue their entrenchment in our political system — year, after year, after year.

To the voters and all people of Columbia County: Please learn about the new candidates. We must have new leadership in order to make our towns and county thrive once again. I don’t want to live in a big city — but I want to live in a hometown and a county which is not disappearing.

We need new commissioners. We need open, honest and transparent government. We need commissioners whose loyalty lies with their constituents and not with their personal agendas.

We need Brady Preheim.

Nancy Whitney

St. Helens

A tale of two projects

Last week’s Spotlight had articles about two distinctly different projects proposed for Columbia County. One, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, is an innovative approach for training a skilled workforce in aerospace and other modern industries. Hats off to Sen. Betsy Johnson, Portland Community College and the Oregon Legislature for making this happen.

On the other hand, there was an article about the Port of St. Helens voting to continue their pursuit of the fossil fuel industry. In 2010 they bought more than 700 acres of agricultural land next to Port Westward. In 2014, the Land Use Board of Appeals denied the port’s request to rezone this land to accommodate industrial use. This cost taxpayers approximately $100,000 in court costs. 

Now, the port wants to attempt another run at approval in order to accommodate a new fossil fuel venture proposed by the Chinese company, NW Innovation Works. The vision is to build a plant at Port Westward for the purpose of making methanol that will then be shipped it to China. The product is manufactured by using lots of natural gas and lots of water — 10,000 gallons a minute that will be drawn from the Columbia River.

A tale of two projects. One clean and modern that positions Columbia County to step into the future. The other project — well, not so much.

Nancy Ward

Clean Columbia County

Not easy being No. 1

We’re number one: the most expensive jail to operate in the country.

According to a recent editorial by Sheriff Jeff Dickerson, it costs $181 a day, or $66,065 a year, to house a local prisoner.

Compare that to the United States average of $31,286, or the cheapest state —Kentucky — at $14,603, or the next highest — New York — at $60,076.

We are even more expensive than the Supermax federal prison in Colorado, which spends about $60,000 per year to keep inmates in permanent isolation. The most expensive prison located outside the United States in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, costs more at approximately $900,000 per year, per inmate— so we have something to be happy about.

The numbers the sheriff used are from the Jail Operations Citizens Advisory Committee, or JOCAC, which was formed to create transparency in jail operations. The vice chair of the committee has twice refused to give me a copy of the report — so much for transparency. In fact, for almost two years the committee met in secret and broke the public meeting laws and refused to publish their public meetings in the paper, like every other public committee does. Only after several months of me complaining about the top law enforcement official in the county breaking both the letter and spirit of Oregon’s public meeting laws did they finally start publishing their meeting dates in the paper this past February.

It may be hard for this committee to operate, as they have several member who rarely come to their meetings, including the chair and Columbia County Commissioner Henry Heimuller. That is when they do meet — as they stopped meeting for several months — and are just now starting to meet again so they can ask you for another levy in November, right after the sheriff gets reelected this May.

Make no mistake: There will be another levy, despite a quote from Commissioner Tony Hyde (see “Will Columbia County embrace another jail levy,” Feb. 19). Why? Because there are been exactly zero conversations about anything else. Discussions about cost-cutting measures: zero. Discussions about getting more dollars from the federal government: zero. Discussions about having each city pay for the cost of housing their inmates like they do in every other county: zero. Conversations about using some of the “surplus” $750,000 to hire a jail operations expert: zero. Conversations about getting the county commissioners to give JOCAC one penny so they can do more than just stare at each other, a couple of times— to which commissioner Heimuller said at a rare JOCAC appearance, “It is not happening.” It really makes you wonder just how valuable the commissioners think this committee is when they are not worth one penny.

To be fair, after nearly two years of me asking them, the JOCAC committee has also determined the cost to house a federal prisoner at just $11 a day. Again, I don’t know exactly how they come up with this number, because JOCAC won’t give me the report. But if you believe a local prisoner cost $181 a day and federal prisoner cost $11, I have some ocean view property in Arizona for sale.

Their argument is that the entire cost of the jail — that was built too big for our needs, and specifically designed to make income from federal prisoners — is soley ours because we were stupid enough to believe that in the first place. So, the $11 is just what it costs to feed and clothe the federal prisoners, and all of the other costs are ours.

The committee is so desperate to make the federal prisoners look like a good deal, it’s to the point of absurdity. They also don’t want to talk about what a bad idea it was to build the jail in the first place, because, “Oh well, that is in the past.” And perhaps because the architect of this plan, Tony Hyde, is up for reelection again.

My interest in getting the committee to have the conversation about the error in judgment to build the huge jail (almost three times what we need) is that those who don’t understand history are destined to repeat it. This is supported by the fact that in late 2013, while campaigning for the jail levy that failed in November, commissioner Hyde was asked about his plan to double the size of our already too big jail.

Knowing the issues in operating the jail, knowing the decrease in federal prisoners that created the need for an operating levy — despite his promise that we would not need one — he said, “It is too bad that didn’t happen.” He had to mean that it is too bad we don’t have double the cost of operating an ever bigger jail we can’t afford.

That is why we need real transparency from JOCAC, or before you know it they will be asking to enlarge the jail again because we don’t seem to be able to acknowledge our mistakes, let alone learn from them.

Brady Preheim

St. Helens

Having his drink stirred

Johnny Depp aside — along with the many other voices in the public square that are telling us that we do not have permission to support the presidential campaign of Mr. Donald J. Trump, who may not be, (thankfully) an approved Republican — the essential wonderful truth of American political crux remains that, “When I pull the voting booth curtain closed behind me, I can vote for whatever and whomever I wish!”

This is what appears to be happening in the United States of America 2016 GOP primaries. The folks who have been able to successfully pull the puppet strings on voters for quite some time are aghast. More accurately, they are left flatfooted and bewildered. Defeated?

If you thought that the direction of public policy was unalterably set, think again. “We the

people” might still be the straw that stirs the drink.

Anybody out there want to say that our drink isn’t being stirred?

Always pleased with the “not me” people.

Bob Ekstrom