November 20, 2002 11:00 pm

Local backs John Howard

To the Editor:

It's easy to stand up in support again for John Howard's re-election as our Union County commissioner.

John continues to show himself to be an honest, hard-working leader in our county. The families supported by the timber industry should be equally supportive of John Howard's re-election.

That is why Labor Local No. 2780 has chosen again to endorse John Howard. Thank you, John, for your leadership and support of the timber supply issues important to us.

Russell Smith, president

Labor Local No. 2780

Western Council of Industrial Workers


Measure 23 pencils out

To the Editor:

Instead of basing your decision on how to vote on Measure 23, the health-care financing plan, on sound-bite ads and inflammatory letters about how much you are going to be stuck for additional income taxes, do some arithmetic.

Add up the following: medical insurance premiums, long-term care insurance, automobile personal injury premiums, dental insurance, eye examinations, eye glasses, physical examinations, preventive medical costs such as mammograms, prescription drugs, hearing aids, and probably some other medical costs I've overlooked.

Figure up the amount you spend on these things in one year. Then divide it by the amount of money you earn in one year.

I did this, after reading the entire text of Measure 23, the other day.

I discovered that my wife and I are spending more than 10 percent of our gross income on the above items each year.

According to Measure 23, an individual taxpayer cannot be hit for more than 8 percent of taxable income (that's less than gross income, by the way). So, if this measure passes, we start saving money. Families will really benefit!

By the way, persons earning less than 1 times the federal poverty level (couples earning less than $17,940) would not be taxed at all for this.

An important point is that this health plan is not going to be funded just by taxes. Read section 9 of the measure, which explains where the funding is to come from. I was amazed to see such a forward-looking measure appear on the ballot. It's a giant step forward. The citizens of this state will benefit greatly from it.

Vote for it!

Howard L. Bailey

La Grande

Howard tackles smoke issue

To the Editor:

Union County voters have many reasons to support John Howard in his bid to continue leading the county. One such reason was his handling of a long-standing and often contentious issue that had the potential to pit urban against rural: smoke.

Two years ago, after a particularly bad episode of smoke impacted in the Grande Ronde Valley, John took the lead in bringing together a diverse group of public and government officials to craft a solution that would work to protect the health of the community – while ensuring that the agricultural community, particularly the economically important grass seed growers, needs were heard and understood.

John didn't have to take this tough issue on, but felt duty-bound as a county leader to help craft a workable solution. Over six long months Mr. Howard sat through numerous meetings of the Union County Smoke Management Committee, carefully and tactfully helping to guide the group toward a locally based smoke management plan. When a plan emerged he took it to the citizens of the county in an open public meeting where everyone's voice was heard and listened to on this difficult issue.

The management of smoke in the county and the health impacts if not done well affect all of the residents of the valley. John's willingness to get involved and not shy away from a tough issue demonstrates he is working for all the voters of the county. It is only one small example of why voters should keep him right where he is.

John Szymoniak

Boise (formerly of Baker City)

Higher wage has downsides

To the Editor:

Oregon residents should be aware of the downsides of voting for a statewide minimum wage increase (Measure 25 on Tuesday's ballot). Activists in Oregon have decided that nobody should be allowed to work for less than $6.90 per hour. Of course, not all jobs pay this much, and those that do often require some pre-existing skills or education prior to hiring. Living wage advocates have an answer for these inconvenient facts: they will simply force employers to pay more.

Never mind that the vast majority of minimum wage workers are neither poor nor yoked to dependents. In fact, 86.8 percent of Oregon workers who earn less than $6.90 per hours are not sole breadwinners for a family. They either live with their parents or another relative, live alone or have a working spouse. Only 13.2 percent of the minimum-wage workers provide the sole income in a family with kids.

The higher costs will no doubt cause some employees to lose their jobs — just when Oregon's unemployment rate is higher than 47 other states.

But what about the few employees who (1) are breadwinners, (2) get a raise and (3) keep their jobs? These are the hard-pressed ones, those who in spite of their best efforts cannot rise beyond entry-level jobs. A mandatory wage increase could very well do them more harm than good, as skilled workers — attracted by the higher mandated wage — will naturally and relentlessly displace low-skilled workers from their jobs.

Tom Dilworth, research director

Employment Policies Institute

Washington, D.C.

Measure 27 poorly written

To the Editor:

Concerning Measure 27, the GMO food-labeling initiative, it is obvious that whether or not there should be labeling is secondary. This is a poorly written initiative that is going to cost taxpayers and consumers in Oregon a lot of money while not improving food safety.

Here are a few highlights of what would require labeling:

• All foods derived in whole or in part from any genetically engineered product, if that material accounts for more than one-tenth of one percent of the weight of the product.

• All food products prepared or processed using genetically engineered enzymes or processing agents, whether they are present in the final product or not.

• All food derived from agricultural products cultivated using genetically engineered agricultural inputs, whether those agents are present in the final product or not.

• All dairy and meat products derived from livestock that have been fed genetically engineered hormones or drugs.

• Wheat and other crops bred under conventional breeding methods.

Supporters have publicly stated that the initiative is confusing, poorly written and includes crops, such as wheat, which were not intended. However, they say, the Legislature will be able to correct this when they write it into law.

That ought to be interesting. Do you think this bunch is going to sit back and let the Legislature water its initiative down? Passing this initiative will cost the state of Oregon potentially over $100 million to administer.

This law could cost the average Oregon family as much as $500 per year in additional costs for food and taxes. This is to label foods that have never been proven to be harmful. The list opposing this initiative includes the Food and Drug Administration, essentially every agriculture group and many scientists. Please join me in voting no on Measure 27.

Bill Merrigan


Make a difference Tuesday

To the Editor:

The most important day of the next two years is at hand Tuesday: election day. We will choose those who will work with President Bush to win the war on terrorism, to get our economy out of the Clinton recession, fill our judicial vacancies, rebuild America's intelligence that seriously declined under the previous administration and left us wide open to terrorist attack, rebuild and strengthen our military that was unequaled at the end of Desert Storm, get the Homeland Security Department set up so we can best protect the people of our nation, and get an energy plan in place to reduce or, better yet, eliminate our dependence on the Middle East.

We will choose those who will work to get these critical things done or we will add to those who are dragging their feet.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat, thinks all lower court judicial appointees should go through his judicial committee for approval. It is not this committee's responsibility to approve or disapprove nominees. This is the job of the full Senate.

The committee is to make its recommendations. This will be a bottleneck whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate. Judicial vacancies are being left open when, in the time of this special kind of war, we need them most. The best qualified men and women are being turned down. Men and women who as judges would interpret the law, not make law. Making law is what we elect Congress for.

It is not pay-back time or a time for excuses. This is a time of war. We need action. It is the same with getting the Homeland Security Department set up and running. Democrats are dragging their feet.

Christians and those who love our country, vote.

Charles McCarver


Political leaders unite

To the Editor:

As a long-term supporter of the counties' railroad acquisition, it troubled me to see this being turned into a political issue. This was one of those rare times when all of our political leaders, regardless of party, came together to save the railroad from immediate destruction.

It wouldn't have happened without all six county commissioners on board and it definitely wouldn't have happened without Mark Simmons working with the governor's office to secure the $2 million lottery grant at the last minute to make the down payment on the line.

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith and Rep. Greg Walden also lent their support. State economic development folks and ODOT Rail personnel were also key players along with many other supporters in the two counties.

If the counties had waited for a detailed business plan to be developed, it would have been a plan for a railroad that used to be there. Some people don't realize that the salvage company had started pulling rails in Joseph before they were stopped.

It's going to be a lot of work, but the counties have four years to make it work, and if it can't be made to work, the railroad can be liquidated for more than the purchase price. I am confident that it will work if we continue to have the support from all over the state that we have seen so far.

Ralph Swinehart


Kids Club promoted

To the Editor:

I am writing to express our appreciation to the United Way of Union County. Our Kids Club program, which receives funds from United Way, was present at the Celebrate

La Grande Block Party on Sept. 5.

This event gave Kids Club the opportunity to show the community the importance of the program. We displayed pictures of the children engaged in activities and had teachers present to answer questions from people in the community.

Kids Club is dedicated to providing parents an affordable, structured program to send their children after school while they work or attend school. K-6 grade children have the opportunity to participate in activities such as arts and crafts, science projects, reading and field trips.

United Way is one funding source for Kids' Club that, without their support, the program would not continue. United Way is doing great things in our community, and our teachers, children, parents and Community Connection appreciate your support.

Jeff Hensley

La Grande

Give generously to Red Cross

To the Editor:

One of the organizations that receives funds from United Way of Union County is the Eastern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The money coming from United Way, however, only represents a portion of the Red Cross budget. This year, the chapter received $7,100 from United Way, one-tenth of its Union County budget.

Each local chapter is required to be self-sustaining. Each chapter is also responsible for paying a percentage into the National Fund. Should a national disaster affect our community, the national headquarters would assist, but for the day-to-day needs, this chapter must find its own resources.

It is currently being discussed whether or not this chapter will remain intact due to a lack of funds. That would be a terrible loss to our community.

The Red Cross provides many preventative programs such as First Aid and CPR training, babysitting classes, swimming and life guard training. It plays an integral part in our community's emergency disaster program and is the liaison for military aid calls, putting families in contact with their loved ones in the military during a family crisis.

So far this year, the Eastern Oregon Chapter has responded to 15 fires in Union and Baker counties. Fifteen families have received assistance with clothing, housing and personal needs during their time of crisis. All of this costs money.

I strongly encourage you to support the Eastern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross through a direct donation to this organization or through the United Way.

I truly hope that none of us need the services of the Red Cross, but how fortunate we are that they are available should a need arise. Please give generously.

Judy Hendrickson

La Grande

Combat global warming

To the Editor:

As you reported in your Nov. 5 article, "Elk study to go on," drought is suspected as one of the contributing factors in the high mortality of young elk. In seeking to protect the herds, we must take measures to ensure that droughts do not become in the future a result of global warming.

Droughts causing water shortages have become more common in the past decade with the increase in temperatures caused by global warming: as temperatures go up, so do the frequency and intensity of droughts.

Humans cause this situation by burning fossil fuels, which emit CO2 that forms a blanket around the earth that prevents heat from leaving the atmosphere.

We can stop global warming by investing in clean energy options that do not produce carbon dioxide, such as solar and wind power.

Government investment in clean energy would make these industries' price competitive and help to halt increases in global temperature. Elk herds and humans alike will suffer the effects of drought unless we combat global warming now.

Melanie Schmidt

Washington, D.C.

Enjoyed kids at door

To the Editor:

I'd like to thank the parents of the young people who came to my door on Halloween night.

I was the lady on Walnut Street who took pictures of the children at the door. They had good manners, great costumes and reflected hope for the future.

What a joy they all were.

The camera lady,

Edith Tucker

La Grande

Fund changes over the years

To the Editor:

I hesitated to write this letter before Tuesday's election as I did not want people to think party but rather to think the candidate.

I have for some years now heard people in their 40s and 50s say, "I doubt there will be Social Security by the time I retire."

Let me acquaint you with some information:

1. Social Security tax was once placed in an independent fund. But it was taken out of an independent fund and put into the general fund so Congress could spend it.

Now who did that? Lyndon Johnson and a Democratic-controlled House and Senate.

2. Which party put a tax on a part of your Social Security?

The Democratic party.

3. Which party later increased the tax on your Social Security? The Democratic party.

4. Which party secured legislation to give Social Security to immigrants?

That's right, the Democratic party.

An immigrant can come into the United States at age 65 and draw SSI even though they have never worked in the U.S. and never paid one penny into Social Security.

Then, after doing all of this, Democratic candidates tell you that the Republicans want to take your Social Security away from you.

The worst part is, most people don't know, nor care who did what.

Roy Hills

Island City

Discussion focuses on Iraq

To the Editor:

You have to give George W. Bush, Gordon Smith and Greg Walden credit for making life dramatic and interesting for all of us.

If they hadn't told us that Iraq is the greatest threat on the face of the earth, what would we have to talk about?

We'd be asking why we had a federal surplus of $281 billion when Bush was inaugurated and just two years later we have a deficit of $157 billion.

We'd be asking why the number of unemployed has risen by 35 percent. Why have 2 million jobs been eliminated since Bush took over the White House?

We'd be asking why an additional 1.4 million people have no medical insurance for a total of 41 million Americans who now can't afford to get sick.

We'd be talking about the biggest corporate crime wave in a century, including insider trading at Harken Oil while Bush was on board and at Halliburton when Slick Cheney was CEO.

We'd be asking why the crime and poverty rates have risen more in the past two years than over the last decade. We'd be asking why Bush failed to capture Osama bin Laden or finish the work he said we would do in Afghanistan.

Instead, they've kept us talking about invading Iraq. Bush, Smith and Walden obviously are excellent quick-change artists. Distraction and deceit are the name of the game.

If we are going to be led down this road, one thing to keep in mind is that even if we don't care a lot about international law, the teachings of our religion or simple decency, we should at least respect common sense and consider this administration's proven incompetence at everything it has undertaken, before we support its dangerous plan to try to rule the world.

Mike Farmer


Lend hand to caregiver

To the Editor:

It is November and time to celebrate National Family Caregivers Month, a time designated each year to honor, thank and assist family caregivers.

It has been said that there are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.

Unfortunately, this is not an exaggeration. According to the National Family Caregivers Association more than 50 million people are family caregivers in any given year. A family caregiver is defined as someone who cares for a chronically ill, disabled or elderly loved one.

In fact, there is not going to be a family in America that isn't impacted by caregiving at one time or another. Currently, more than 25 million family caregivers support our health-care system by providing care that is the equivalent of a half-time job. These services are valued at more than $257 billion.

The theme of National Family Caregivers Month this year is "Share the Caring." Please do this by actively helping a caregiving family you know.

We want to do more than just raise public awareness about the issues surrounding family caregiving. It is important that we take action and do something to help.

Think of a family caregiver you know, whether a neighbor, relative, co-worker, or friend and offer them a helping hand. Be specific: offer a ride to church, a nourishing meal or a free afternoon. Just a little bit of help makes a big difference for family caregivers.

Ellie Spangler

Lifespan Respite of Union County

La Grande