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Letters to the editor published Jan. 22, 2016

A chance to win firewood and support your VFW

Happy New Year! Has one of your resolutions this new year been to get several cords of seasoned wood split and put in the shed?

If so, your local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4362 is here with the answer to your problem.

On Friday, Jan. 22, and Saturday, Jan. 23, the VFW will be raffling off a truckload of split, seasoned firewood in front of a space donated by Grocery Outlet, a supporter of the VFW. The wood is donated to the VFW by Comfort Construction, a local business that has been extremely generous for years with many such gifts, allowing the VFW to raise money which, in turn, goes for good causes.

For $1 a ticket, or six tickets for $5, someone local will be a winner and the wood will be delivered by Comfort Construction. It may not be a Powerball jackpot, but a member of this community will be a winner.

This year for Christmas, the VFW assisted a needy military family with seasonal expenses for food and children’s presents. The VFW also distributed gift packages to veterans in the local retirement homes, and contributed a nice check to the Scappoose Fire Department for its food drive. There is always a need, and the VFW is there to assist.

Come on down and take a chance, and thank all of you who have served our nation in war and peace.

Tom Ford 

Commander, VFW Post 4362


How long will gun-toting thugs control wildlife refuge?

We would like to add our voices to the many that have now written to various newspapers regarding the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by right wing thugs with guns.How long is this outrage to continue? They do what they want, destroy and vandalize the site, demand the impossible and nothing happens to them. Is this what would occur if a band of Native Americans had taken this site, or if these malcontents happened to be black citizens instead?

The governor of this state issues a weak statement and does nothing. I cannot imagine the governors of Washington or California allowing this to happen. How pathetic.

And where are the federal authorities who are supposed to oversee the protection of this land for all the citizens of the United States, beginning with Oregonians?

This is happening because the elder Cliven Bundy has so far gotten away with doing whatever he wants to our land in Nevada without cost. Allowing this group to continue this illegal occupation will encourage others to do similar actions and it will lead to violence.

End this now.

Rachel and David Bernstein

St. Helens

Calling for an end to CC Rider

Although Columbia County has low population density, it has a high rate — approximately 65 percent — of commuters who travel to the Portland metropolitan area daily for work, medical care and shopping. Yet, Columbia County Rider, after nearly 13 years of service, has only established an average ridership of 1 percent of its residents.

While the majority of businesses in Columbia County are considered small with less than 50 employees, Columbia County Rider has a less than 5 percent participation rate of its small businesses in the transit sponsorship program. As for major industry or corporate participation, it has none to speak of, and local residents have successfully protested or lobbied against large industries from relocating into Columbia County. Since the decline of the timber industry and the closure of Boise Inc., Columbia County has become the poorest county in the northwest region of Oregon, and it is located next to the richest county, Multnomah County, which has an abundance of major industries and corporations. While Multnomah County grows and has trouble with affordable housing, Columbia County is strapped for cash — operating its offices only four days a week — and struggles to fund daily operations for its county jail facility. Even so, the county continues to pursue its transit system it cannot afford and whose citizens do not support.

I recommend halting all CC Rider services on or before the end of the fiscal year. How can people on Social Security or disability assistance, who have been denied cost of living increases four of the last seven years, afford even more property taxes?

But what is $50 more a year for commissioners who earn more than six figures in salary and benefits? This is not Multnomah County.

Joseph Turner

Columbia City

Response: So-called ‘Agenda 30’ goals promote a better Earth

Chris Brumbles’ letter (see Letters, “To the tyrants of the United Nations,” Jan. 15) exemplifies the we/me schism in this country. He rails against United Nations “Agenda 30” that he insists he has read. The document title is: “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Readers may peruse the document for themselves at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld/publication.

They may also read a self-serving nutcase interpretation of the agenda at http://www.naturalnews.com/051058_2030_Agenda_United_Nations_global_enslavement.html#.

Decide for yourselves. My interpretation is that the goals include promoting a fairer, safer, kinder world that provides clean water and ends hunger for all of the citizens of Earth. I believe Jesus would support the intent of this document.

Bill Allen

St. Helens

Who is really running the Columbia River PUD recall?

Despite what petitioner Dave Ehrenkranz says, the push to recall Columbia River People’s Utility District Director Craig Melton has very little to do with “improper” boardroom behavior. The signature sheets say it all: PUD board members Dave Baker and Richard Simpson, along with Baker’s brother and son, collected more than 70 percent of the signatures that were submitted. Chief petitioner Ehrenkranz collected only 10 percent.

Baker and Simpson obviously want to go back to the way things used to be: A rubber-stamp board that supported year-after-year budgets which drew down cash reserves, an unnecessary $1 million building remodel, and an excessive $200,000-plus compensation package for former General Manager Kevin Owens.

They also voted to give Owens a settlement just days before state Bureau of Labor and Industries released the first of two reports finding substantial evidence that he and Val Koss engaged in illegal employment practices.Together with Jake Carter and Harry Price, Craig Melton is solving these problems. Under their leadership, the PUD has its first balanced budget in four years, stopped wasteful spending, and eliminated the general manager bonus and car allowance. Rates will hold steady in 2016.

We need board members like Melton, Carter and Price who are working for the ratepayers and protecting our PUD. Please vote no on the recall against Craig Melton to send a strong message to Dave Baker and Dick Simpson that it’s time to move the PUD forward. Don’t rely on the inaccurate information from the recall petitioners. I urge you to visit www.friendsofcrpud.com to get the facts for yourself.

Mary Fawcett


Say ‘no’ to a foolish Columbia River PUD recall

I have been a Columbia River People’s Utility District employee for almost 10 years and I support our current board members and management team. Past management’s intimidating and negative tactics are what caused high employee turnover. Past management emphasized “at-will” employment many times over the years when employees addressed issues. They did not value many of our employees’ knowledge or ideas. Past board members, including Dave Baker, chose to ignore the employees who addressed management retaliation and high employee turnover issues.

We employees and our retirees and community members found candidates to run for board positions. We talked to our neighbors and worked hard to get new board members voted in. We campaigned the proper way. We spoke up at employee meetings, attended and spoke up at board meetings and employees continually worked toward a better PUD.

The recall committee wants to blame the current board for large legal expenses. The recall committee chooses not to investigate the outrageous legal expenses, state Bureau of Labor and Industries claims, excessive salaries and bonuses paid to Kevin Owens, and expensive remodel costs before the new board members were voted in. Most of the recall committee never attended board meetings or care about past unbalanced budgets.

All current board members knew the general manager and attorney positions needed to be filled. Past management swiftly found an attorney that suited them and the new board found a local attorney. New board members did not act improperly; Baker just did not get the attorney of his choice.

Steve Hursh was asked to step in as interim general manager. Later, he told employees that he didn’t ask for the position as it was a lot of extra work. He turned in a resignation to Baker, who refused it.

It was no secret that Hursh was overwhelmed with the general manager position and a better fit was needed.

Our current management team has more Columbia River PUD experience than the past management team had. Employees and retirees have praised the current staffing changes, attended board meetings and joined together as a team in community events. This is a positive change for our utility.

John Nguyen has embraced the interim general manager position and has made very positive changes. Board Directors Baker and Richard Simpson were fully aware of positions to be filled and changes and better fits that needed to be made. They never questioned changes Owens made or the employees who left in disgust, but they didn’t like it when Nguyen made needed management changes to create a more positive working environment.

It is bitter past and current board members and friends of bitter past management supporting the recall. It is greedy past management who signed secret agreements that benefitted their bank accounts at our ratepayers’ expense, and now they want to sue the PUD for more money.

Past board members and past management didn’t like Darrel Purkerson losing to Jake Carter and didn’t embrace Carter as a board team member. Past board members and past management didn’t like Loren Tarbell and Carol Everman losing to Craig Melton and Harry Price. Instead of giving the new board a chance to show they have balanced our budget and have good ideas, these past members display poor loser attitudes.

Baker has not treated the new board members like team members from day one. Our PUD employees work as a team— it is what we are — and I am ashamed at the negative attitude Baker has displayed at many board meetings that I have attended. Many of our employees attempted to discuss past management and employee turnover issues with past board members, including Baker, only to be ignored. We asked him to support our team and he chose not to make an effort. Now Baker is making a huge effort to recall a board member who doesn’t agree with him and he can’t seem to work as a team.

The current staff is working well, we are not perfect and there are always new things to learn, but it is a much more positive working atmosphere at our PUD than it has been for quite a while.

We employees serve our ratepayers very well. Nguyen, our interim general manager, has 27 years of experience at our PUD and we have new board members that care about all of CRPUD’s assets, which include the employees. We hope you will give these hard-working members a chance. Please support us and say “no” to a foolish recall.

Debbie Esterline

Columbia City