January 21, 2003 11:00 pm

Time for an overhaul

To the Editor:

In studying the Voters' Pamphlet on Measure 28, I have come to these conclusions:

Many citizens who hear the words "tax increase" automatically think: I will vote no.

The League of Women Voters is a reputable organization that has studied this issue carefully. They have this to say: "$310 million in cuts to education, human services and public safety will take effect Feb. 1 if Measure 28 goes down. The fifth special session of the 2002 Legislature mandated these cuts. They will be immediate and automatic."

I believe if Measure 28 passes, it will give the Legislature, during the next three years, time to overhaul the state budget. Taxpayers should put the pressure on and say, "You may not cut education, police, prisons and senior programs. You must cut from the top, meaning bureaucracy, the so-called fat."

If Measure 28 passes, the Legislature may sit back with a sigh of relief and say: "Well, now, the citizens have come through and our troubles are over." I say to the Legislature, no way. Your work is just beginning. Look at PERS and some of the other programs that have gotten out of hand.

If Measure 28 passes, retired seniors on reduced incomes will not be affected by a state income tax increase. Those with high incomes will have a modest increase. Also, federal income taxes will be decreased to offset increased state taxes.

The Voters' Pamphlet has 45 arguments in favor of Measure 28 and eight arguments against. Both sides need to be studied carefully.

Elaine Livingston

La Grande

Other capable players

To the Editor:

Friday's Observer featured an article about my daughter, Mandy Hillecke, who made the Olympic Developmental Team this year. The article stated that she was the first person from La Grande to be selected to ODP. This is not the case. In fact there have been a few students from La Grande to make this soccer team over the years.

This is thanks to the dedication of the parents and coaches in Union County who have given students like Mandy the opportunity to compete at the state level. It is unfortunate that more students from Union County are unable to try out and play for the state teams.

After watching the tryouts in December, I believe there are soccer players in this county who would have a shot at playing at the state level if only the tryouts and practices weren't on the west side of this state. This creates a financial hardship for parents with students who are every bit as good as those students in the Portland-Salem area.

Thanks to the support of this community, Mandy is able to have this opportunity to be a player at the state level. It is my wish that more students from Union County would be afforded the same opportunity and experience.

Carolyne Hillecke

La Grande

Pursue peaceful options

To the Editor:

I am deeply troubled by the threats Washington is making against Iraq and the intense pressure to use unprovoked violence to exert our power and influence.

The weapons inspectors have indicated that they haven't found any evidence to support the Bush administration's assertion that Iraq possesses dangerous nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

It's been awhile since we had our loved ones coming home in body bags. But some of us remember a few things about war. We know the use of force always has unintended, and often unpredictable, consequences. We know that wars are fought primarily by the poor while the wealthy reap financial benefit.

We know that we are facing desperate social needs in our own country — and that our resources are ever more devoted to war proliferation rather than improving living conditions here and elsewhere.

And we know that war primarily harms civilians.

The questions each of us needs to be asking are:

• "Is this a war my heart and soul can commit to?"

• "Who will benefit from this war?"

• "Am I willing to send my husband or my son to their potential death in this situation?"

• "Am I willing to take responsibility for killing innocent civilians for this cause?"

• "Are there better ways of solving the problems in Iraq?"

For those of you who are concerned about the possibility of the U.S. attacking Iraq, I encourage you to join with others in upcoming events to demonstrate your commitment to peaceful options to world crises.

Julie Farnam


Check out the view

To the Editor:

The State of Oregon needs more money to operate, and claims it won't need more money ever.

So just give now — and support Measure 28 — and we will never ask you for more.

If you believe this, give me a call. I have some ocean-view property for sale in Elgin.

George Bruce

La Grande

Falling back on 28

To the Editor:

Recently my wife received a letter informing her that our fixed income is being reduced $420 a month — something about poor economic conditions.

After enduring much ranting and raving I told her I'm not Oregon state and do not have Measure No. 28 to fall back on.

Come to think of it, if my vote counts, neither does Oregon state.

L.D. Clemens

La Grande

State wasting money

To the Editor:

We are again being asked to bail the state out with a tax increase, albeit a small increase, but I have a problem or two with that.

First, the Legislature has for years totally abdicated its responsibility to present the taxpayers with a sound way to fund our public school system.

It always seems to be, "Ask the voters for more money," to which the voters continually say "no."

Next, the Legislature says, "Let's put a Band Aid on it," which is all that Measure 28 will be — a Band Aid, not a solution.

Secondly, this Band Aid is supposed to be temporary, just for three years, but Band Aids have a history of needing to be replaced with another Band Aid.

Third, the state has just constructed a multi-million dollar building out on Gekeler Lane after the building on Adams Avenue that houses state offices was doubled in size just a few years ago. It seems like the state and banks are the only ones with enough money to build new buildings, but the state does not have the money for schools or state police or the elderly or the Oregon Health Plan.

I may be wrong, but I believe that the State of Oregon wastes enough money each year to fund all of these needs without more taxes.

Roy Hills

Island City

‘No, not at this time'

To the Editor:

When someone in the "real world" can't live within their budget, they may try to go to their employer and ask for a pay raise; more often than not the answer is, "No, not at this time."

We in the real world must then learn to live within our budget, painful though it must be. I have been reading my Voters' Pamphlet. Read the arguments in opposition, pages 28 through 32. A quote from one of these statements reads, "When someone wastes a lot of your money and then has the nerve to ask for more, what should you say? NO!" Another quote reads, "When a recession hits, and your family's income falls, do you increase your spending and go further into debt? No. Responsible families reduce spending first."

Saying no on 28, to the Legislature, scares me. It's a little like dealing with an angry child. "If you don't give me what I want, I'll make you soooo sorry!"

I have heard more than once that in state, local, and federal budgets, anything left over at the end of the year is quickly spent up, so that their budget won't be cut the following year. Why not address this issue?

Well, I am still scared. I never have liked giving in to a bully or an angry child; it just encourages more bad behavior. So, I'm going to be tough and vote NO! I hope that you will, too.

Angie Eytchison

La Grande

Sorting fact from fiction

To the Editor:

With ballots in voters' homes already, there are still a lot of misconceptions out there regarding Measure 28. Before casting your vote, please consider the facts.

1. Misconception: The tax increase will be permanent. Fact: The increase is limited to three years. Period.

2. Misconception: Only the west side will be negatively affected by cutbacks in state government. Fact: Rural Oregon will be hit much harder since so much of our economy depends on government family-wage jobs.

3. Misconception: Prioritizing spending and cutting waste can solve the deficit problem. Fact: If it were that easy, legislators would have done just that during one of last year's special sessions.

4. Misconception: The tax increase will devastate seniors and others on fixed incomes. Fact: Because it's based on income, those with limited resources will pay little, if any, extra tax.

5. Misconception: State spending is out of control and keeps out-pacing inflation. Fact: Ballot Measure 5 (shifting school funding from property tax to income tax) and Ballot Measure 11 (mandatory minimum sentencing) are responsible for much of the growth of the general fund. A rapidly growing population has also played a significant role.

6. Misconception: Criminals are looking forward to an Oregon with fewer troopers, a hamstrung court system, and no empty prison beds.

Fact: This one is true.

After I'd compared a no vote on Measure 28 to playing a high stakes game of chicken, a friend commented that it was more like playing Russian roulette with five chambers loaded.

So, basically, you have to ask yourself: Are you feeling lucky? Well are you?

Elizabeth Scheeler


PERS needs restructuring

To the Editor:

Most of the PERS multi-billion-dollar debt accrued because of stock market speculation investments.

PERS (the Public Employees Retirement System) is for state employees' retirement and insurance benefits.

When Enron, World Com and other companies lost such large amounts of cash, the companies went bankrupt and the employees received nothing.

When our state loses that much through frivolous investments, the benefits continue while schools, road work, police, prisons systems, etc., are slashed. In many cases they are unable to perform their duties and in some instances they no longer exist.

Though the State of Oregon will not be dissolved like Enron, we still have the responsibility to be fiscally solvent. Hopefully we will not do this by raising taxes.

I expect the PERS comptrollers to be responsible through stricter legislative mandates.

Also, if PERS benefactors received up to a 20 percent increase of investments in the 1990s, they should now take the decrease on the same investments.

John Petersen

La Grande

Head Start would lose funding

To the Editor:

I am the parent of three children in La Grande. If Measure 28 is not passed, their beginning education will be damaged.

We at Head Start will be facing at least a $41,000 cut to our funding for the rest of this school year. Starting next school year it will increase to $195,000.

We are not the only organization that is going to face cuts if the measure doesn't pass. Disabled people will be losing benefits, elderly people will be losing provided care. We will be losing state police officers and juvenile corrections facility.

There have also been rumors of Baker County correctional facilities being closed. What I am trying to get across is, we as low- income people need to have our voice heard. We need to vote on Jan. 28 for this measure.

I am as outraged as anyone about where the money is going. I would love to change the way some things are done. Like everyone, I have different priorities than those of our congressmen and state representatives.

If you read the facts about this measure, this is not a hoax. We are in serious danger of losing all of the comforts we are used to having. Some of those comforts are also buffers for those of us with unsecured financial futures. There is a large percentage of the people in the La Grande area that depend on the things that we are going to lose.

I do not know the future and I cannot tell anyone how to vote. All I can say is we are going to be a lot worse off if Measure 28 is rejected.

Jessie Wilson

La Grande

(Head Start parent center committee president, policy council chair and policy council state representative)

Help keep Oregon afloat

To the Editor:

Measure 28 is a temporary three-year tax increase, the kind that kept our state afloat during the recession of the early '80s.

Measure 28 will cost the average Oregon taxpayer less than $10 a month. Please vote yes on Measure 28 and turn in your ballots by Jan. 28

Jan Schott


Regulation hard on business

To the Editor:

My friend Anthony Marks' Jan 9 response to my article suggested erroneously that my wife's employment may have influenced my point of view.

Actually it represents the view of the one group that is often ignored: the average consumer.

I understand the problems of local retail business, but we cannot solve them by demonizing Wal-Mart.

My main concern is the need and wish of the majority of the people in this area: availability, price and convenience. This is where competition plays an important part.

For many years we have tried to regulate in order to protect certain vested interests, ignoring the consumer in the process.

Local business has complained for many years that they could not afford to pay high wages and benefits. Guess what, Tony? Wal-Mart, as you pointed out, will not significantly upset the balance.

In a recent article sent me from the Netherlands it was pointed out that retail stores had to curtail hours and even close certain days of the week because no one was willing to work the required hours at the going rate. Regulating working hours and wages through the pressure of labor unions seems to have an adverse effect on local retail business.

When we traveled in Germany a number of years ago, we arrived about 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon at the main railroad station in Cologne. There was a place where we could pick up our rented car near the station, but, by law, they closed at 5 p.m., and would not return until Monday morning. Our only option was the airport, but we had to make it before 9 p.m. or the union-sponsored law would take effect.

I mention these examples in other countries to show the basic contradiction in my friend's argument: well-intended actions do not always produce the desired result.

Johannes M. Spronk

La Grande

Others may feel differently

To the Editor:

As a former resident of La Grande, I would like to comment on The Observer's Jan. 14 editorial on the woman seeking a home-occupation permit. It was very well written and to the point.

I do have some questions, however. Are these two neighbors speaking for the whole neighborhood? Have they spoken with the other neighbors to see how they feel? Has the city? Are they, the city, just taking the word of two neighbors? Come on people give this lady a break.

Have these neighbors stopped to think that they like others who live in the neighborhood more than likely are gone to work when the shop is open? And that if they were home they could probably see that the majority of the traffic is in the morning and mid-afternoon when parents are taking their children to and from Central School?

One car every hour or so from the hair salon does not add much traffic to a neighborhood. I am sure that there are much busier neighborhoods in La Grande that have home businesses.

As you stated from the city's staff report that there is more likely heavier use of on-street parking in the evenings and on weekends. How true.

Hopefully the city council can see through all this and allow the business to remain open.

Thank you for a well-written editorial. Keep up the good work.

Verla Struminski