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La Grande Observer Daily Paper 07/31/15

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Home arrow Opinion arrow MY VOICE

Not about old-growth

It isn’t about environmentalists. It is about ecology but only as it serves economics. Both terms have the same root, the Greek word oikos, which means home. Before we can manage our home (economics) we need to understand it (ecology).

Forest stands cascade off of Mount Emily, fingering down through shaded draws and eventually merging to form the forests that cover the benches above the Grande Ronde Valley. Those benches were originally covered with old-growth Ponderosa pine. The Union County Museum hosts photos that show log decks in Imbler from the turn of the last century. Those decks are filled with giant Ponderosa logs that were most likely taken from the immediate vicinity of Mount Emily.

Strategy derails beauty

Dear Neighbors of Union County,

I encourage the taxpaying citizens of Union County to continue to question your Union County commissioners about the benefits of the proposed wind farm(s).  Maybe they’ll be wonderful, with all the benefits promised. And maybe they won’t.

Take it from us in your sister county of Wallowa: two of your commissioners have been very effective in decisions ruining our rural beauty. The hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of parked rail cars we look at 24/7 from Joseph to Minam are a manifestation of a failed business plan. While the original mutual county effort to save the rails was noble and with hope, the continuation of this plan beyond anything but paying down the debt we took on in 1999 is akin to keeping clipper ships alive in the face of steam.

For the sake of green or greed

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Treasury awarded $546 million to Iberdrola from the stimulus program. Per the CEO of Iberdrola, the offshore parent company of Horizon and the developer of Antelope Ridge, they expect to receive another $470 million in 2010.

Horizon’s Elkhorn Wind Farm in 2007 and 2008 received $11 million each year in tax credits from the state of Oregon. In addition, Union County gave Horizon a property tax deduction of $331,680 each year for 2008 and 2009 which will continue for the next 10 years. The federal government also allowed in 2008 and 2009, a Production Tax Credit of $5,518,500 each year wherein it will continue for 10 years which will amount to $55,188,000. If you add up these numbers, it amounts to in excess of $81 million over 10 years, which are political giveaways at taxpayers’ expense. Just imagine what kind of jobs that could be created with this kind of money being addressed to private sector and infrastructure.

Take a close look at wind farm

Citizens of Union County have a proposal for a wind energy generation facility to be constructed on the southern end of the valley, in close proximity to Hot Lake and the city of Union. Preliminary documents portray a project we feel is fiscally wasteful, aesthetically grotesque and environmentally damaging, and as a result we feel a need to highlight some issues.

Local budgets are lean yet our county commissioners are willing to forgive millions of dollars in revenue by allowing development under a Strategic Investment Program. Federal stimulus money, a large percentage that will be going out of country, is mainly responsible for the project development. Once constructed state tax dollars will be subsidizing the project at an approximate rate of $23.34/MWH.

La Grande’s debt to Imbler

I read with great interest The Observer’s front page article on Feb. 11,

“La Grande District Option Levy...,” to see if there would be a line item for payment to Imbler Charter School District (ICSD) of $136,749.25, the payment for the education of 12 La Grande students with individual education plans, or IEPs, for the 2008-2009 school year.

Dissolve renewal district

As longtime residents of La Grande and the Grande Ronde Valley, we are disheartened to see the City of La Grande considering cuts to essential services and facilities that enhance the quality of life when an option with less overall impact still remains.

It is easy to target fire, safety and emergency services as well as the library and pool because they are the services most visible and utilized by community members and those which evoke an emotional response from people. The dissolution of the city’s Urban Renewal District is one option that has not been “put on the table” by the La Grande City Council.

Fire, police and ambulance services should not be cut except under the most dire circumstances, as these essential services are a core part of the community infrastructure.

Museum ‘kicked to the curb’

A travesty of justice was handed the Elgin Museum and Historical Society at the Elgin City Council meeting Jan. 12.

After 10 years of operating in the former police department in the Elgin Opera House building, the city council voted to vacate the museum from these premises for expansion of the current opera house lessee’s theater business. In October, the city council voted to remove the museum from the upstairs former library of the opera house, which it had occupied for the past seven years.

Museum board members approached the city council on Aug. 13, 2002, asking permission to expand the museum to the second floor of the opera house (the former library). Following is a quote from the city council minutes: “The consensus of the council was in favor of this request.”

Letters and Comments for January 22, 2010

Letters and Comments for January 22, 2010

The importance of Ladd Marsh

Editor’s note: Leslie Graham’s fourth-grade class at Central School visits Ladd Marsh several times a year to learn about wetlands. Students were shocked when they read about recent vandalism at Ladd Marsh, Graham said. They decided to write letters to the editor to let everyone know their view about the vandalism. Four of the letters appear below.

Home sweet home: Habitat seeks applicants for next house, donations

Grande Ronde Valley Habitat for Humanity Inc. is seeking applications from families that wish to build a home in Elgin.

If your present living arrangements are inadequate and your family income is below the mean for Union County, you may be selected to partner with Habitat to build a home that would carry an interest-free loan. Your family would be expected to commit 500 hours of time toward the build. Your time plus the efforts of many volunteers and donated materials make this an outstanding value for you and the community. Applications may be obtained by calling 541-963-3879. The deadline for applications is Jan. 15.

Thanks for the little things (and the not-so-little)

Each Thanksgiving, I reflect on the age-old question of what I am thankful for. It’s difficult to go beyond the traditional, surface items such as family and good health. With effort, I realize it is the more specific and smaller kindnesses that I appreciate most, like an employer and acquaintance that arrived at a moment’s notice to relocate me when I was in a dangerous, domestic violence situation.

They didn’t ask questions, they just came. Someone showed up with a mattress when he discovered that I was sleeping on the floor with only a blanket. A landlord lowered the rent, eliminated the deposit and worked to find me a place on the same day I fled, and another who didn’t evict me when the rent was late. The pixie who left occasional $20 bills in my mailbox and a dentist who made a house call after he removed my wisdom teeth; who showed up with a bag of groceries from time to time just because he “saw this stuff and thought you might be able to use it.’’

Visible from the valley

Bravo to Joe Davis, Dennis Wilkinson and other residents of Union County for voicing their concerns about the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm.

Wake up, Union County! Horizon Wind is proposing to erect up to 182 windmills atop Craig Mountain. That’s three times the number of turbines that now dot the once pristine landscape near Telocaset.

The new windmills, according to Project Manager Valerie Franklin, would tower at least 365 feet into the air, some over 500 feet. That is higher than a football field is long — twice the height of those in Telocaset. That means no matter how hard Horizon Wind tries otherwise, the windmills will be both visible and offensive from just about anywhere in the Grande Ronde Valley.

Oregon Wolf Plan is sound

With the recent wolf activity in Northeast Oregon, we have heard repeated calls from the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, and some ranchers, for the authority to shoot wolves. Ironically, it’s the cattlemen’s association itself that has blocked such a measure taking effect.

When the Oregon Wolf Plan was drafted in 2005, conservation groups, including Hells Canyon Preservation Council and Defenders of Wildlife, agreed to give ranchers the authority to shoot wolves caught in the act of attacking their livestock. Since giving this authority to ranchers would weaken Endangered Species Act standards, it required legislative approval. Yet every time it has come up for approval in the Oregon Legislature, the Cattlemen have assured the death of the legislation by pushing for even broader authority to shoot wolves.

High marks LHS students score well on college readiness test

Scottish author Samuel Smiles once said, “We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he that never made a mistake never made a discovery.” So true!

Michael Jordan, recently inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, was cut from his high school basketball team. Albert Einstein discovered the theory of relativity yet flunked his university entrance exam. We often become stronger through adversity.


‘Do not judge’

My friends and I have stayed in Union on several occasions and have undeniably had quite enjoyable experiences. The historic Union Hotel is one of my personal favorites with its theme rooms, whispers of the possibilities of ghostly encounters, fabulous cuisine and the delightful gentleman owners. The other business owners and residents of the community have always been pleasant and cordial.

So recently, when attending the motorcycle rally in Joseph, the choice of accommodations was clear. To stay in Union. That apparently was a mistake, as two of my dear friends had an unfortunate and quite honestly archaic reception at one of the Union eateries.

Grants to provide boost

The dedicated staff at the city of La Grande has been very busy over the past several months with initiatives that will provide almost $2 million in benefit to our citizens with almost $1.4 million coming from successful grant applications.

I wanted to take a few minutes to acknowledge those involved and to let everyone know what they can expect to see in the way of improvements. What follows is a list of major grant projects or purchases that are planned for construction or have been completed.

The city received a grant from the Oregon Economic & Community Development Department (now known as Business Oregon) in early July in the amount of $7,143 for downtown historic building renovations. La Grande received the funds due to our active participation as a selected Oregon Main Street community.

Setting the record straight - District was clear about funding maintenance position

John Deal has printed two editorials containing false information, thus we felt it was important that the general public be properly informed. The district has been diligent about making the 2009/10 budget cuts and resulting adopted budget transparent to all, thus we are providing the following information.

While building the budget for 2009/10 the district made it very clear that it intended to fund a position to support plant and operations, the position now held by Jim MacKay. This intent was discussed in an Observer article dated April 10, 2009, and titled “School district faces mammoth budget cuts.” Within this article, it was stated that the “La Grande High School athletic director position will be cut to half time. LHS’s athletic director will remain a full-time employee, though, for he will assume about half of the present plant operations director’s responsibilities”.

Stand up for local foods

Oregon producers, businesses and consumers are at the forefront of Oregon’s fresh, wholesome, vibrant local food system. As a small, direct market farmer, I am concerned that a “one size fits all” approach to federal oversight of even the smallest of direct market farms and processors will have a chilling effect on local food producers and processors.

HR 2749, which recently passed the House of Representatives and now moves to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, is a well-meaning attempt to address food safety concerns, but it treats the long supply chains of the industrialized food system the same as the small producer selling directly to consumers.


Issues are budget, transparency

In the Aug. 14 Community Comment “Difficult Decision to Quit Coaching,’’ Jim MacKay states that I have misled the public and smeared his name. It seems to me that I did not mention his name in my Aug. 12 letter, “For the Greater Good,” nor did I smear anything other than to shed light on a school district raise that was not made privy to the taxpayers.

My letter had nothing to do with MacKay’s untarnished fatherhood and basketball coaching history. It was about school board budget transparency and money being allocated to what was perceived by Jim to be a “cushy” job, though he denies having a conversation with me.

Father Time catching up 58 years and counting for LHS Class of ’51

While looking forward to attending my 58th class reunion Saturday in La Grande it occurred to me that it might be fun to think about writing a treatise on “When Did I Get Old?”

I’m sure that in our memories we still see the young, vital and energetic students we were when we marched forward to receive our high school diplomas. We’ll be thinking about when we marched in the band, played in the orchestra, sang in the chorus or were members of the Honor Society, Quill & Scroll or perhaps the pep club. None of us will ever forget the drama club under the direction of Mrs. Ragsdale or the orchestra with Mr. Weigel.

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