March 26, 2003 11:00 pm

Size-limitation preposterous

To the Editor:

Perhaps the ordinance proposed by Steve Clements to limit the size of any new retail business building to 80,000 square feet is irrelevant given La Grande's failed leadership to foster a pro-business environment of any size.

We are painfully reminded of this as we watch the business closures and migration out of downtown. The unwillingness to accommodate Safeway's desire to remain at their old site and not dealing with their proposed replacement, The Rock bowling center, in good faith, a prime retail anchor site to lower downtown was lost.

This has led to a dramatic reduction of our downtown traffic count and subsequent loss of business. Instead of focusing on issues that restrict free enterprise, perhaps the energy and focus would be better spent on correcting the deteriorating retail business climate in downtown La Grande.

The failure to address the parking issue alone has been of major concern for as long as Wal-Mart has been in our community and that exceeds 10 years. Wal-Mart is the store of choice to a majority of Union County residents whose median income is less than $25,000. For those concerned with economic development and job creation, we cannot support this preposterous ordinance.

James Erskine

La Grande

Parents could give up day's pay

To the Editor:

So nice to have the suggestion that the teachers should each give a certain number of days' wages, so "your little darlings" can have a great education.

Who indeed did pay the education for these very same teachers to go to school to receive this higher education so they are eligible to teach your little ones?

As a parent to two of these very same teachers, my husband and I did scrimp and save so they were able to go to college so our little darlings were able to teach your little darlings.

So why not have each of the parents of today's students give up a day of wages to the school system to help ease the situation we are hearing so much about?

Am I wrong to suggest such an outrageous plan? Who owes what to whose little


If the shoe fits, decide just who's responsibility it is to wonder whose child needs the education and who should wear the right shoe as well as the left one.

Listen to the old adage and follow your heart.

Vareta M. Hartley

La Grande

Go back to home-schooling

To the Editor:

I have been reading in the paper how we, the taxpayers, are so uncaring.

I take exception to that. I have been supporting one school program after another for the last 45-plus years.

I have seen when teachers had 30-plus students to teach at a time. Now look at them. If they have 20-25, they're overworked.

Our government is the same way. A job that used to take two men to do now takes six.

Our local, state and federal government has got to stop and take a good look around. If the citizens are not working, the money is not there.

You would think our teachers would be the first to see it. They are supposed to be teaching our kids to be observant and intelligent.

If so, our teachers are missing the boat. Maybe we should go back to home-schooling. That would cut taxes and bring one parent back into the home.

In turn that would stop a lot of crime for someone would be home to know what their child was doing.

Also we would be able to teach our kids how to respect themselves; in turn they would have respect for others. We would not have to have so many prisons.

This is just a thought from an old retired truck driver.

I am still paying and paying, but not so sure about supporting anymore.

Paul Caverly

La Grande

United Nations ineffective

To the Editor:

We already have been fighting a war ever since 3,000 innocent souls were murdered in that Satanic terrorist attack in New York City a year and a half ago.

The liberal press and flabby-lipped United Nations sycophants have repeatedly referred to it as a war on terrorism, afraid no doubt to tell it like it is.

The truth? Terrorism is merely an action, an evil perpetration by haters of American freedom and Christian morality, a condition driven by the Muslimic-Arabic lust for power, abetted by the United Nations and liberals ensconced within our own government who deliberately defer to the U.N. in an unceasing drive to empower that body in its quest for world domination.

President Bush must be commended for spurning the world criminal court, subduing our enemies in Afghanistan without U.N. interference, and for his current courageous leadership.

Why then are we now seeking unnecessary permission from the United Nations to continue our war with the perpetrators of terrorism who yet claim sanctuary in the Arabic nations that aid and abet the internal pollution of Muslim extremists that exists as a shadowy entity throughout the Arabic world?

Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan and Libya are all guilty of harboring al Qaeda and yet are sheltered and favored by the sideshow freaks in the U.N.

Seventeen toothless resolutions have been attempted by the limp-wristed U.N. to cajole Iraq into surrendering its mega-arms and now these ineffective clowns are preparing an 18th resolution. Oh wow.

Now is the time to shed the useless, blundering United Nations, cut off its funding, ignore its third-rate circus act, repudiate its treaties, send it packing out of the United States and go about the business of winning the war with the extremist Arabic Muslims, no matter where they are.

Jim Bovard


Priorities out of order

To the Editor:

I sent the following to Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski:

I am writing due to concerns regarding state budget cuts as it relates to higher education, the Oregon State Police, the Oregon Department of Corrections and the Oregon Department of Transportation. I am strenuously protesting the ODOT Island Avenue project in District 5, La Grande.

I consulted several sources before writing this letter. Two of these sources I will cite. I visited the Oregon University System and the Department of Administrative Services.

I found information stating that $51.9 million has been cut already from higher education in Oregon, with $9.1 million more to be cut by June 30.

What I also found was a total budget for the 2003-05 biennium for the Oregon Department of Transportation in excess of $2.1 billion.

This is an increase of more than $522 million. I also found that the Oregon State Police have lost more than 400 positions and that the Oregon Department of Corrections budget has been cut by more than $240 million for the 2003-05 biennium.

So what this tells me as a taxpayer in Oregon is that we can set dangerous inmates free, we have fewer peacekeepers for public safety, and we are educating fewer registered nurses during a national crisis in health care.

But we can pay for more concrete medians that hurt small businesses, reroute traffic into residential areas and provide job security for Oregon Department of Transportation employees.

My money should be spent to educate more nurses, pay for more state police and to keep dangerous inmates behind bars. Not on concrete medians that reduce business traffic, shut down businesses and overall reduces the taxable income the state receives.

Concrete does not pay taxes that help alleviate the budget crisis. Businesses pay taxes. Educated nurses pay taxes.

I thank you for the attention you will give this issue.

Julie Marostica, R.N.

La Grande

Proud to support government

To the Editor:

A letter in the March 10 Observer said: "According to the U.N., over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of U.S. sanctions against Iraq."

I challenge anyone to prove that. For one thing, as we've heard recently — loud and clear, over and over — the U.S. doesn't have that kind of power. Iraq has continued to sell oil, presumably for the well being of its citizens.

What do you think this whole issue is about right now anyway? They have been selling oil, but obviously not for the benefit of the citizenry. Surely those sales have bought more than just 50 or so palaces for their exalted leader. So gee, where do you think the rest has gone? That's the billion-dollar question at the moment.

The speculation rests in the theory that it has gone to support terrorist actions and weaponry. I personally don't think that's farfetched, especially since the money is in the power of Iraq's most noted domestic terrorist: Saddam Hussein is Iraq's worst enemy.

I'd suggest that anyone who believes that the United States isn't a great nation, anyone who isn't a patriot, anyone who thinks we should be flawless in all we do, should find a better nation to call their own.

In fact I dearly wish that all the people who consistently stand against our nation and continue to hold the United States to standards beyond perfect should move on. Surely there is some other citizenry that would appreciate your anti-American sentiments.

I don't want war anymore than anyone else, but I am a patriot, proud of my national heritage, and proud to support my government as they struggle with all the other leaders of the world to find some resolution and keep us from having to suffer another terrorist attack.

Catherine Hefferan-Hays

La Grande

Teach all sides of issues

To the Editor:

As a citizen of La Grande I am offended that our teachers, who incidentally are paid by people such as myself, are wearing politically oriented buttons to their work in teaching our children.

As a veteran, son of a veteran, grandson of a veteran, brother of a veteran, and a person who lost family in war, I am doubly offended.

Our teachers are supposed to teach on an unbiased basis. They are to teach in a way to cultivate wisdom by teaching all sides of issues. It makes me question what is being presented to our children in their classrooms.

Maybe as taxpayers we should have monitors to make sure a proper unbiased education is given to our children. I am non-partisan in my views and was raised to logically weigh all sides of issues.

If teachers want to have their views expressed, they have the full right under the First Amendment — but in public, not in their classrooms. They could better use their time raising standards, not promoting agendas.

Ron Madsen

La Grande

La Grande's gas prices higher

To the Editor:

In mid-January La Grande's service stations on average sold gas at a nickel less a gallon than their counterparts in Baker City.

This made sense because they both have their gas hauled from the same area by Williams Brothers or Oregon Trail Trucking.

Well, since the price of gas has started to go up things have changed. As of March 11 the price in Baker City for regular unleaded gas is — are you ready for this — Oregon Trail RV, $1.78 a gallon; Texaco, $1.81; Sinclair, $1.80; and Shell, $ 1.83 a gallon.

La Grande's price on average is $1.93 a gallon. So the price of gas actually goes down 13 cents a gallon the farther you transport it. Must be that new math.

Kevin Ludviksen

La Grande

Beef up state trooper numbers

To the Editor:

When threats of terrorism, murders and assaults, crashes and drug problems are at an all-time high, the Oregon State Police is now down to just over 200 troopers to protect Oregonians. These are staffing levels similar to the 1950s and '60s.

Public safety is one of the basic purposes upon which our state government was founded to provide "peace, safety and happiness" for its people.

It is essential that they receive a source of dedicated funding. These sources may include the following:

There are 800,000 more licensed drivers than tax returns filed in Oregon. This means that 800,000 drivers do not pay for the services of the state police.

State Rep. Rob Patridge, R-Medford, and Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, have created a bill called the Oregon Highway Safety Assurance Fund. This bill would involve a nominal surcharge on auto insurance premiums. The average Oregon driver would contribute $2.25 per month.

For the past several years the percentage of general fund dollars allotted to the state police has declined. Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, has proposed a bill that would legislatively mandate 1.75 percent of the general fund to the OSP.

Oregon has one of the lowest ratios of troopers to citizens in the nation. There is approximately one trooper per every 13,795 citizens.

If Oregon were to institute a per capita public safety requirement, this would require our state to maintain a certain number of troopers to protect our citizens based on population.

A minimal increase in DMV vehicle registration fees would also be enough to stabilize OSP funding at levels necessary to keep Oregonians safe.

Please contact your local legislators (Rep. Smith and Sen. David Nelson) and Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and let them know it is imperative that they put your public safety as a top priority.

Lezlie Kehr

Lincoln City (formerly of La Grande)

How about military display?

To the Editor:

The article that T.L. Petersen wrote on Sherry Eden and her son in the military was touching and brought back many memories from 12 years ago.

We had a window display of the military personnel from Union County at D.W. Hall's business machine store at 109 Depot St. I feel we all should support our military in any way possible. Maybe someone would be willing to do a display again.

Our son was in Kuwait then, and is there now. He shipped out in February with the 101st Airborne from Fort Campbell, Ky., where his wife, Charlene, and sons, T.J., 12, and Steven, 11, wait for his return.

We all are from La Grande. Sgt. Troy L. Ruth's grandparents are Ken and Gusta Hall of Lower Perry, his mother-in-law and father-in-law are Charles and Peggy Frizzell of Summerville.

Union is not the only town with family and friends overseas or in the military. Please don't forget them. Need information? Call us at 320-654-9356 or 320-252-4552; e-mail us at mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or write to us at 347 N. 21st Ave., St. Cloud, Minn. 56303.

Linda and Steven Ruth

St. Cloud, Minn.

Rowell making wise decisions

To the Editor:

To Jay Rowell, superintendent of the La Grande School District:

Thank you for the wonderful job you are doing in your role as superintendent of La Grande's schools. I support you 100 percent in the decisions you are making regarding our children enrolled in this district:

• The administration voting to give up two days' pay to save money for the district is unselfish and farsighted. I volunteer to do the same thing. Please tell me the procedure for doing this.

• The new dress code at the school is important. I believe this will allow the kids fewer distractions, allowing them to focus more on their school work and activities.

• Teachers have a right to their opinions, but a classroom full of high school students is a captive audience with little chance of disagreement with a teacher's voiced opinions. This may be intimidating to students. Teachers do a wonderful job with their subjects, but political and religious discussions don't belong in the classroom unless it's on the lesson agenda and can be countered with opposing opinions.

Mr. Rowell, please keep up the good work. Know that many parents support your leadership and good, common-sense decisions.

Sandra Bond

La Grande

Editorial more than offensive

To the Editor:

As the father of a La Grande elementary school teacher, I found The Observer's Feb. 27 editorial more than offensive.

I have watched my daughter spend between $2,000 and $5,000 on classroom materials and supplies out of her own pocket every year. I have also seen her buy boots, gloves and even coats for her students so they could enjoy some outside activities her class has participated in.

No one in her class is ever denied participation in an activity for lack of funds, because my daughter always reaches into her pocket and puts the money on the table.

I have seen her go to work hours before class and I have seen her in her classroom as late as 11 p.m. I have watched her spend thousands of dollars every summer to keep current in her chosen profession.

I think The Observer owes an apology to every teacher in La Grande. I pay about $8 per month for my subscription to your paper; maybe if everyone who has a child in school or is associated with the school district would cancel their subscription and donate the money to the schools your paper would get an idea just how offensive its editorial was.

Timothy H. Jederberg

La Grande

Asking for free work unfair

To the Editor:

Contrary to popular belief, teachers do not get paid year-round for nine months of work. Teachers do not get paid for Christmas vacation, spring vacation or summertime when schools are not in session. Teachers do not have any real paid vacations.

Teachers are contracted to a specific number of teaching days and some other days for in-service, and days to clear up records and such at the end of the school year. Any days the school district opts to give as vacation days are added to the contract without additional pay.

Teachers are professionals without the professional privileges enjoyed by doctors, lawyers and engineers who can dictate their own working wages, hours and have a choice of their clientele.

When a teacher is contracted, the teaching days and dollars are specified. A teacher receives 75 percent of the monthly wage. The remaining 25 percent is held in an interest-bearing account for paying teacher wages at the end of the school year. The teachers are therefore paying a very large portion of their own wages by allowing the district to draw the interest rather than to receive it themselves.

At the finish of the school year the teacher is given the option of collecting their back pay monthly through the summer or receiving it in lump sum. This makes it appear as though the teachers are being paid for a long summer vacation. Other non-teaching days such as Christmas vacation and spring vacation also appear as paid days because they fall within the months when the 75 percent wages are paid.

Asking teachers to work free any more days than they already give is ludicrous and unfair. The public should be aware of the facts rather than the appearances.

Gene Erwin

La Grande

Enjoyed basketball coverage

To the Editor:

What a great job of covering the various basketball tournaments and teams! Great photos, too. Everyone should have been pleased with the effort and results.

Evelyn Spikes


Stop leak first, then fix floor

To the Editor:

Iraq is like a leaky toilet — the longer you put off fixing the leak, the wetter the floor gets.

But you can still talk about fixing the leak, and talk about who should fix the leak. The longer you think about it, the wetter the floor gets. Then it starts to rot.

By the time you decide, the floor is rotten. Then you try to decide who is going to fix the floor.

But the toilet is still leaking.

And then my 3-year old grandson says: "Papa, why don't we stop the leak first and then fix the floor?"

Dan Brinton


Use violence as last resort

To the Editor:

After the detonation of the atomic bomb at Trinity, Albert Einstein said, "Everything has changed, except our way of thinking."

Decades later, we live in a world that has grown even smaller, while our ability at mass destruction has grown a thousand-fold.

We are faced with another war. We are still looking to violence to solve our problems.

With the world growing ever smaller through travel, trade and technology, and more nations than ever possessing weapons of mass destruction, we need to use violence as a last resort.

Unfortunately, our culture seems to embrace violence at every turn. Whether in the form of video games or capital punishment, or movies or war, we immerse ourselves in violence as a problem-solving device. Institutional violence may be the most damaging as the message it sends is that it's OK to use violence.

We have seen ample evidence over the years that each act of violence makes the next one more acceptable. The plight of Israel and Palestine is one good example. There are many others. Revenge is the fuel, and violence becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

We have had many teachers who have shown us how to be non-violent — Buddha, Christ, Gandhi, Dr. King and Mother Teresa, to name a few. We know how.

We need, as a civilization and as a planet, to find non-violent ways to solve our problems, before we unleash some unspeakable horror upon ourselves.

A war only opens Pandora's Box.

Harold M. Black


Freedom has its cost

To the Editor:

Freedom isn't free! Is it?

We know that answer. History tells us that the privilege of being free isn't a given. Freedom has to be earned and re-earned and re-earned.

We know the cost of freedom through our nation's history, through the war that set us free and the wars that have kept us free. Freedom is not free. Peace is not freedom nor is peace free.

Did we think if giving in to terrorism and turning the other cheek, we could return to 1999? Could we feel secure with other nations teaching their school and preschool children to hate and kill Americans?

Can we believe we will sleep better at night knowing other people of the world are eager and willing to kill our children and us, just to claim martyrdom? Did we believe if we just sit back in our easy chair, everything would turn out for the best?

Did we think the attack on the twin towers was only a passing thought and not pre-planned, and probably will never happen again? Can we Americans really be that foolish?

I remember my first four years of eduction in a tiny country schoolhouse. On the wall behind the teacher's desk hung the American flag. Next to the flag hung a large framed picture of George Washington crossing the Delaware River in a rickety looking old boat.

Yet, in that little schoolhouse I was taught to pledge allegiance to our American flag, and it was there that I learned of the terrible maiming of soldiers wounded and dying in the bloody war that gave us our independence and set us free.

Let us not forget those who have given us this gift of freedom or those now willing to give us the assurance that liberty and freedom will remain with us all.

Buck Hayden

La Grande

Fortify Oregon for future

To the Editor:

This past week was a watershed for Oregon's financial outlook as two national credit rating agencies downgraded our rating.

These agencies cited what is obvious — we have a revenue problem. This problem will not go away, even in stronger economic times.

As a state official charged with safeguarding the state's finances, I am concerned deeply about Oregon's short-term and long-term fiscal health. It is glaringly apparent to me that we urgently need to rethink at the most fundamental level how we pay for state services.

Our discussion should not be about any one tax or budget constraint. Our challenge is larger than that.

We need to go back to Government 101 and ask the critical questions: What services do we want, and what is the best way to pay for them?

There is an opportunity right now to take action to endure this financial struggle and fortify Oregon against future economic downturns.

We are more reliant on the income tax for general fund revenues than any other state in the nation. This revenue source is highly volatile and varies greatly depending on swings in the state economy. Today we are learning that the variance strikes us not just biennium to biennium, but quarter to quarter.

As Moody's said, "The 2 percent kicker makes it difficult for the state to apply any of the dividend from economic growth towards building budgetary cushions."

Ballot Measures 5 and 50 place unfunded mandates on the Legislature, and our public schools are suffering as a result. This is unsustainable.

Voter mandates such as 1994's Measure 11 call into question our priorities as a state.

Should Oregon boast the distinction of ranking number two in the United States on prison construction, and number six on prison operation spending?

State Treasurer Randall Edwards


Not helping downtown

To the Editor:

In response to the letter from Jim Erskine in the March 17 Observer concerning limitations to existing and or new businesses. Bravo!

I for one am getting very discouraged with the anti-business tactics that continue to hinder downtown La Grande. It's time for our city and county leaders to begin to be accountable. How many of these leaders, actually know what it takes to own and run a successful business.

It takes much more than knowing how to spend other people's money and how to levy more taxes to push through more of what seems to be personal pet projects.

I would wager a guess that if these people were made responsible for every wasted dollar they forced away from our local economy, their decisions would have been much different.

Forcing Safeway to relocate out of downtown, not allowing a profitable established successful business that would draw several hundred people a week to locate in the existing building, a swimming pool that is still not making a dime, or giving away approximately two full blocks of downtown parking to future residents are just a few more nails in our coffins.

Slowly but surely it seems that downtown La Grande is becoming office and residence space only. Is there any room for retail business in downtown? With the many actions of our "sabbatical mayor," councilors and city manager, it doesn't seem so.

Don McClure,

owner of Don's Jewelry

La Grande

Consider other factors

To the Editor:

The curtailment of three timber sales in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest by a federal judge because of the threat to lynx habitat should make us reassess the Rare and Endangered Species Act.

In too many cases biologists do not consider all the factors involved when making a determination that an endangered species should be able to re-occupy an area where it once existed.

Although a change in vegetative habitat is usually the main cause in the decline or complete loss of a certain species, there are many other factors that could be limiting the re-emergence of an animal such as the lynx.

For example, the lynx, a close relative of the bobcat, is a highly specialized cat that is physically designed to catch the snowshoe hare.

The lynx has evolved with the snowshoe hare to such a degree that its very existence depends on a high hare population.

Unfortunately for the lynx, this hare, much like the die-offs of the jackrabbits, has only a shadow of the population it once had; a reduced population that is not high enough to carry viable lynx numbers. Attempts to transplant lynx cats from Canada to Colorado and Montana have met mainly with failures because the cats did not have a sufficient winter food source.

Another factor that has led to the elimination of the lynx is the competition from other predators that have a much wider prey base, such as the coyote, the bobcat and the cougar. The cougar not only competes for food but also preys on the lynx.

The point is that we could have all the vegetative habitat in the world for the lynx and still not maintain a viable population because of other factors beyond our control. Due to these other factors we should not even be listing these sale areas as lynx habitat.

Harlan Scott


Teachers have rights, too

To the Editor:

This is in response to Ron Madsen's March 19 letter in The Observer.

My family also has a long military tradition, so let's not get into a contest about who's the most "American." As I recall, the right to free speech works for teachers as well as the rest of us. If we are to follow your way of thinking we should take down all of those flags that are being waved in support of bloodshed rather than diplomacy.

Where better than in our public schools should our children be exposed to freedom of speech. That includes yours too, Ron.

Lynn Strandberg

La Grande

Reason to declare war

To the Editor:

In the news recently, President Bush was reported to have leveled harsh criticism at the Senate on homeland security issues.

And later, in discussing the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Bush said: "After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad."

Is this the real reason we are going to war?

A pair of robbers tried to kill my dad in Compton, Calif., and I did not get to declare war.

Pat McDonald

La Grande