February 08, 2004 11:00 pm

Parent appreciates ESD

To the Editor:

Over the years I have successfully home schooled two of my children thanks to the ESD Home Program services.

The program provides a solid foundation for its students. It is set up to help parents, even with no prior experience, teach their children. ESD Home Program stands firmly behind every home school family with a staff that is caring and dedicated.

It provides books, classes, teachers, tutors, advisers, councilors, curriculum, etc. Not to take away from the mainstream program, it provides a critical alternate path that can often make the impossible possible for those families who decide not to use the public school system.

ESD also gives representation for my tax dollars. When families choose to home-school, the district gets no tuition. However, when enrolled through the ESD Home Program, the district gets part of the allotted tuition for this service.

I am thankful for the ESD Home Program and for the outstanding individuals who make it work.

Linda Jones

La Grande

Preach and practice equality

To the Editor:

We are members and constituents of the La Grande United Methodist Church who commend Ted Kramer's "Everyone Matters" commentary in The Observer Nov. 7, 2003, regarding the disciplinary process used against Rev. Karen Dammann.

We support the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Committee on Investigation's dismissal on July 24, 2002 of the complaint filed by Bishop Elias Galvan regarding Rev. Dammann's Feb. 12, 2001, statement that she is in a "partnered covenanted homosexual relationship."

At a hearing on Jan. 12, 2004, the United Methodist judicial council ruled that Rev. Dammann will face a clergy trial for her disclosure. A panel of 13 United Methodist pastors will serve as the jury and a United Methodist bishop will preside.

We believe that the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline needs to be revised regarding the exclusion of "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from being ordained or serving as ministers. Rev. Dammann's congregation in Ellensburg, Wash., continues to affirm her call and we believe the greater church should be able to also.

While recognizing that there is a wide range of opinion in the Christian community and within the United Methodist Church regarding the ordination of homosexual persons, we believe that there is no better place for equality to begin than in the church.

Our prayers will continue to uphold Rev. Dammann and her ministry as she prepares for the clergy trial.

Eleanor D. Antles, E. Gerda Brownton, J. Douglas Campbell, Christine Courtright, Mr. and Mrs. T.S. Elliott, Janet Farrell, Jerry Lou Gerber, Betty Jones, Mark A. Karl, Mary Karl, Earlene Lamb, Mike Lamb, Jenny A. McCoy, Gail E. Moser, Lanetta Paul, Becky Preston, John Preston, Sandra D. Ryman, James Seydel, Judith M. Seydel, Lynn Strandberg, Bob Sunderman, Phyllis Taylor, Richard Taylor, Sharon Trimble, Geneva Tuttle and Jessie Wilson

Oppose Union recall

To the Editor:

We would like to address the issue of the recall election in Union.

The city of Union has an elected, representative city council government. These six representatives and the mayor were duly elected and sworn into office.

A recall is warranted only in the most drastic of circumstances — graft, bribery, gross neglect or something of that nature.

The proper way to remove anyone of these people from office is to vote for someone else when there is an election for one of their seats. There are precious few citizens of any community willing to sacrifice the hundreds of hours of their time for the good of their fellow citizens; and then, of course, they can never please everyone. That is the nature of our government.

Every person voting to recall a council member should be willing to step in and spend the time, and be willing to accept the criticism of the people who don't necessarily share their view on a particular issue.

We have personally spent four years on the Union City Council with both Jack Zimmerman and Dick Alexander and we have certainly had our differences of opinion. However, we can say for a fact that both of these gentlemen have nothing but the best interests of Union in mind.

Please join us in voting no on the recall of these two public servants.

Ken Michrina

Barbara James


Sales tax would be more fair

To the Editor:

Articles with bold-faced headings are being printed about cutbacks that would be made if Measure 30 fails.

Some respond by unfairly judging those who receive safety-net benefits. I believe that some people who rely on safety-net benefits may be in that situation partially because of a poor tax system that overburdens the working person.

I see very little printed about collecting needed revenues by a different means — a sales tax that could be implemented gradually. A sales tax rather than a state income tax would give the taxpayer more choices. Instead of taking such a big chunk off the top, giving the taxpayer no choice at all with that income, an income tax break could be given to everyone.

Taxpayers would have more take-home pay. Of course the cost of consumer goods would eventually rise. With increased take-home pay there would be more incentive to save and find more creative ways to spend and conserve.

Sharon Schiller

La Grande

Angry at road department

To the Editor:

I wish to express my total dismay and anger at the Union County Road Department in regards to their snowplowing policies.

It is recognized that they did a good job two weeks ago with the heavy snowfall and subsequent blizzard like conditions. But on Jan. 19 and 20 they brought out their heavy duty snow plows for one inch of snow and two inches of snow respectively.

On Tuesday morning, we had two school buses come by our house safely at least 30 minutes before the snowplow equipment came through. This is in the Imbler/Summerville district. There was absolutely no need for the plows to be called out either Monday or Tuesday.

Don't they check the weather forecast? Each day the temperature was projected to rise into the upper 30s or low 40s, which would have removed the snow. The Union County Road Department should have a snow policy that states that snowplows will not be used when the depth of snow on the county roads is four inches or less.

It is a complete waste of taxpayers' funds to bring out snowplows when there is not sufficient depth of snow to warrant them. These governmental agencies must feel like they can draw from the unlimited resources of taxpayers' pockets.

Well they cannot. We are here to say, stop this extravagant and useless policy.

E.W. Mickey


Dedicated to treatment

To the Editor:

Failure to pass Measure 30 may have a great impact on mental health as well as alcohol and other drug services, however, we at Heart Steps Counseling Services provide quality treatment and do not receive state or county funding.

We do take the Oregon Health Plan, most other insurance and self-pay. We have a sliding scale for those who do not meet the criteria for the Oregon Health Plan and who are not covered by private insurance. We are the preferred provider for some insurance companies, and we also take referrals from other counties and states.

We have three counselors including one who speaks Spanish. It has been difficult at times for this program to make ends meet, as many addicted people have spent their money, lost their jobs and have no credit or insurance, but we have struggled on for five years without any outside funding. This is not a field in which people get rich, but the feeling of success in treating an addict can be rewarding enough to carry us over to the next time a client has successfully given up drugs or alcohol and we feel we have been a part of that process.

Everyone deserves to have a choice in where they go for treatment. Heart Steps works cooperatively with other programs and we participate in the Union County Drug Court. We refer out when necessary, which may include medical treatment and several mental health treatment providers.

Our philosophy is to treat all clients with dignity and respect. We believe families are important and that all people are unique and have value. Each person at Heart Steps is dedicated to the treatment of addiction; helping people go on to live healthier lives and make our community a safer, better place.

Judy Perkins


Need to tighten belt more

To the Editor:

In regard to the upcoming Measure 30 vote, we believe The Observer is very biased. Coverage needs to reflect both sides of the issue.

The past week we've seen headlines predicting dire consequences if the measure fails. As responsible citizens we are required to live within a budget. We don't feel it's unreasonable to require the same of our government.

It would be prudent for the governor to scrutinize thoroughly the spending habits of the entire system in earnest.

Measure 30 is a temporary, quick-fix Band Aid. What next? Measure 31? Investigate and solve the issues.

We're all affected by the increases in the cost of daily living. The average citizen adjusts the budget and spends hard-earned money accordingly. We all tighten the belt a little more.

Until our government learns to do this please keep your hand out of our pockets. It's already too crowded in there.

Martha J. Bailey

Peggy Connall

La Grande

School could lose sports

To the Editor:

I am a freshman student at La Grande High School. Not only am I a student, I am also an athlete.

I get good grades, all As and Bs, and I also excel in sports. I play five different sports, basketball, baseball, football, golf and I run track.

I train year round for each and every sport, and if it wasn't for sports I probably wouldn't do well in school. It pushes me to be good because I love sports.

Recently I found out about Measure 30. If it does not pass, the school is going to take away sports and some elective classes. Everyone who is able to vote has had the chance to play sports, so please do not take away mine.

What will I have left if they take away sports? I will still try in school but I look at sports as a reward, so if it is gone how will I be able to go to college on a sports scholarship the way I have always dreamed?

Once again I ask please vote yes on Measure 30.

Koa Stark

La Grande

Ranch's cows plenty content

To the Editor:

In response to Mr. Cater's letter titled "Deserve Kindly Care," first, are you complaining that we use the entire cow?

Secondly, until you want to pay 10 times more for dairy products, the farmers cannot afford to run a retirement center.

Not many dairy cows go through Intermountain Livestock in La Grande but there are two auction barns in Washington state that sell plenty of dairy cattle you can buy.

I am certain any dairy farmer would be happy to sell you their "old ladies." No one would be opposed to you providing them lush, green pastures to live out the rest of their days, but don't forget you will have to give them their shots, worm them and pay the veterinarian bill.

Each cow eats several tons of alfalfa each year, and they will need a continuous supply of fresh clean water — but don't let them go near a stream with fish or you will have other people on your tail. And don't forget to provide them with a warm, cozy barn with soft straw to protect them from the sun, wind and predators, and provide good fences and daily visits to ensure their well being.

I speak as one who not only cares for them and their calves — and receives their gentle friendship — but also owns them and pays for their care. We don't have dairy cattle. We are those other nasty ranchers — you know, the beef industry.

Our beef, by the way, has no hormones, no fertilizers or steroids in their systems and they eat only a vegetarian diet. I would invite you to visit our ranch and interview each of our cows; I think you would be surprised to find that they are very content ladies.

Joann Waite

Union County

Vote no on Measure 30

To the Editor:

Being an old fogey, I was educated through college in Oregon. That was back in the 1928 Depression days for which President Hoover got the blame. Those days CEO stock brokers ended life by jumping out of windows. Perhaps that was a better solution than providing them free board and room at taxpayers' expense.

I cannot recall headlines in papers "Not Enough Money For School." Nor did I read that Congress voted itself a $1,500 raise. I did not read of a sports player signing a contract for $85 million. I also did not read of big tax increases aimed at any of our government services.

There were no governors being recalled for fiscal irresponsibility. The president spent available tax dollars putting people to work so that they could pay their debts and taxes. It was called alphabet soup — the CCC, WPA, PWA and the like. The cost of World War II was largely borne by war bonds. This helpful hand by the government spawned the "why don't they" complex of today.

Government employees demanding raises while their productiveness in many cases is summed up by the often heard phrase "good enough for government work." Oh yes, there are some dedicated workers. It seems, though, that every publication one picks up has a tear-jerking write-up in it wherein some tax-supported inanity is crying their eyes out because they are underfunded.

It is an established fact that the more tax money provided the more is spent, and the taxpayer is shamed into thinking that it is his fault that essential services may be discontinued. For these reasons a no vote on Measure 30 is suggested.

Not deriving my money from the government, I do not have $500 to recommend a yes vote in the Voters' Guide.

David Arnott


Abortion wrong; there is hope

To the Editor:

Jan. 22 marked the 31st anniversary of the legalization of abortion by the U. S. Supreme Court.

How many innocent lives have been destroyed since that date? How many tears have stained the pillows, often in loneliness, of mothers trying to ease the pain of their loss and regret? Why do we value personal comfort more than the lives of these little ones? Why do so many of us ignore the plight of women in distress, who need our compassion?

There is help. There are organizations like Birthright, staffed by volunteers who care deeply about women in crisis, and are truthful and compassionate. Abortion is wrong. But there is also hope. Hope in the good news of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing offered through the person of Jesus Christ.

Steve Boe

La Grande

Letter's claims challenged

To the Editor:

The letter written by Barbara James in The Observer Jan. 13 needs to be addressed as does the Jan. 17 letter from the Union city employees.

James said to "look behind the scenes and suspect the motives." Many tried to do that when the golf course was coming into being. Maybe she had reports, but the people never saw them. There were many things that were covered up by a few people who wanted some glory.

If the other side of the coin had been discussed as openly, it would have saved the city a lot of woe. Written into the contract was the $250,000 that would have to be paid to Ricker if the city did not incorporate his land into the urban growth boundary within the next five years.

Who in their right mind would put the city in that much jeopardy? The same glory-seekers who did other covering up. If those same few had been honest, they might have voted against it and saved the city a lot of money and worry. These people lied to the citizens more than once. So maybe, Barbara, you have a problem working with an honest mayor, not like our previous one.

As for Searles saving the city $300,000, $250,000 of that was the Ricker contract. The council voted to incorporate Ricker's land into the urban growth boundary, even though it states that all available land for housing must be used up first.

I must say I have never asked a question of Mayor Thomas that I haven't gotten an honest answer. And, Barbara, how can you say that any charges are unfounded against the councilors when you were on the golf course committee? I thought the behavior of a couple of the council members at January's meeting was malicious.

L. Boettcher


Micromanaging Union police

To the Editor:

I have a concern with the level of law enforcement in the city of Union. We no longer have a chief of police and we are left with a rudderless ship — and no-one at the helm.

The city administrator usurped the former chief's authority allowing our two officers to ignore the chain of command and go directly to the city administrator or Councilman Zimmerman, the police commissioner.

These two men took the discipline out of the chief's hands, disrupting good order and discipline. A police department, no matter how small, is a quasi-military organization and must have proper order and discipline. The two people mentioned above are micro-managing the police department without having the slightest idea that this disrupts and degrades the order and discipline of a professional police department.

What we are left with is a second-rate police department with second-rate supervision.

I have come to the conclusion that nobody runs our police department. The two officers who presently work for the City of Union cannot or will not discipline themselves.

The city of Union should not be satisfied with second-rate law enforcement. Union deserves a first-rate department.

Gerald L. Dudley


Discuss issues in open forum

To the Editor:

In a Jan. 22 article in The Observer, Mr. Ed Schumacher, Union Baker Education Service District Superintendent, spoke to several issues raised by the Education/Workforce Development Committee. Previous statements by the Superintendent pledged to respond to committee concerns in a public meeting. We encourage and support such a forum and request a special board meeting, or meetings, for that purpose. The misinformation that occurs without such a process fails to solve any issues.

The reference to administrative costs by Mr. Schumacher represents what we believe to be misleading. We have no idea what his data base is and whether or not those figures represent total administrative costs; however, we will use his figures in this rebuttal.

Mr. Schumacher indicates that in 1997-98 the UBESD total budget was $9.5 million and that administrative costs came to $463,000, or 4.8 percent of the budget total. He further states that the 2003-04 total budget was $22.1 million, with administrative costs at $721,000, or 3.3 percent of the total budget.

On the surface these figures appear positive; however, as most statisticians know, a percentage comparison is totally inappropriate when comparing budget figures of such difference in magnitude. A more revealing analysis could be made by showing a total administrative cost increase of $258,000, ($721,000 minus $463,000), or a 36 percent increase in administrative cost.

The Committee's goal is, and always has been, to ensure accountability in the operation of UBESD programs. It is not now, nor has it ever been, to close centers such as Haines. It is not now, nor has it ever been, our intent to impact any employment of any individual working within the programs. These programs are in effect, are needed, and will continue irrespective of what superordinate agency directs the programs.

Neither the UBESD nor the committee should debate their respective positions in the press. The issues and concerns should be discussed and resolution reached in an open forum. Let the press then report. We invite the UBESD board to schedule a special board meeting(s) for that purpose.

Ray Stinnett and the Education/Workforce

Development Committee

TOTAL deserves voice

To the Editor:

The editorial in The Observer Jan. 23 makes me wonder why the newspaper gave Jack Zimmerman and Dick Alexander a lot of space, while those of us who support the recall haven't even been contacted for a comment.

The article focused on the charge that Zimmerman and Alexander threatened a city employee. They say they do not know who the employee in question was. They do know, and they had our city administrator try to make that employee write a letter saying he had never been threatened.

Two employees blew the whistle when our city administrator took his raise in July 2002. Cathy Marshall was demoted and her wages were cut a few months after she reported him.

Dean Muchow was harassed for months before he resigned. When you stand up to the people who run our city, you run the risk of retaliation.

We have real questions — not a bunch of nonsense — about who knows what and who got who in trouble. Alexander, Zimmerman and now Gary Graham would rather try to make us feel stupid about non-issues than give us answers.

Why did the council let City Administrator Bill Searles spend $6,000 on job descriptions after they specifically told him not to do it at the February 2002 meeting? Why did the city pay an employee to cut the grass at the old mill site for a private owner? What has happened to the money in the ranger station account? Why did it take Searles two years to resolve the issue of the golf course equipment lease?

TOTAL is made up of business owners, budget committee members, past and present planning commission members, volunteers and people who give to their church, the city and community.

TOTAL is here to stay. We deserve to have a voice in Union.

Carol Walker


Thanks due home-schoolers

To the Editor:

I suspected that signing my three children up for the Union Baker Education Service District Home Program involved some transfer of money, but I had no idea that local homeschoolers were responsible for giving $1,000,000 a year to the local public schools, as reported on the front page of The Observer Jan. 22.

The state of Oregon spends about $5,000 per student, so that means our family reallocated about $15,000 to local Union County schools, minus the $30 for the three math books I received.

It's too bad the home program has been shunned by some who were unwilling to give us space to meet together. Thanks to one facility, we have a place to hold some small classes taught by a few part-time teachers and parent volunteers. We also have a tiny office for our savior of home and public education, Carole Smutz, a computer lab and a recently built tiny classroom with no heat or carpet, currently used as a storage room.

The next time you come across a homeschooler who uses the UBESD Home Program — I've heard there are over 200 of them — please consider shaking their hand and thanking them for their financial support of the local public schools. I know we are proud to have moved $14,970 La Grande's way.

C.L. Johnson

La Grande

Need more property tax relief

To the Editor:

Well, bring on the shame to me for "Bill Sizemore's new property tax initiative," as printed on page 4A in The Observer Jan. 21.

The homeowner is way overdue a huge tax break. Sizemore proposes a cap of $200 a month or $2,000 per year property tax on home property.

I say he is over generous. I would like to see property taxes rolled back 75 percent of present assessed value, and a dead cap freeze put on it, where the state or county cannot raise. If you can only add, you can well see that the 6 percent per year formula under present law can eat you alive in three years.

Fellow Americans, it is way overdue for us homeowners to rise up and demand legislation that will stop the state and county from legally robbing us out of our homes. I sold one nice five-acre farm with a new house in Imbler a few years ago because the taxes were running $100 a month. Now that is common for any ole cracker box.

I owned a half-acre bare lot in Elgin for 10 years. The taxes were between $200 and $300. In January 2003 I put in a modular home. Water and sewer had previously been hooked up to the property. Got my first tax bill for this address — $955.35. Elgin and county got a freebie to the tune of $655.35 from what they were previously getting. Boy, would I like to have a business that turns that kind of profit.

Oh, yes, I hear the crying now. The sob stories and dramatics of low state and county revenue. My answer to that is simply size down the state and county's want lists.

So, when the petition papers arrive in our area, let's pack the place to sign them.

Jim Lucas Sr.


Plowing much appreciated

To the Editor:

In response to the letter that angry Mickey sent in about the road department and their snow plows: I live on the northern end of Summerville Road, and I have livestock on Slack Road. I also drive to work every morning, as does my wife and many others.

Maybe you have not noticed, but the wind blows and snow drifts.

Just because it's OK in front of your picture window does not necessarily mean things are good down the road.

I think they have been doing a great job and I appreciate the fact that my wife and I have not been stuck in a snowdrift.

With all the world's problems, maybe you could find something a little more important to complain about.

Bob Walker


Flat roof doesn't make sense

To the Editor:

I could not help but notice the architect's drawing of the ODS/La Grande Center project on the front page of Monday's paper. I also noticed that the roof of that building appears to be flat. Then the headline just under that photo and article says, "Snow keeps coming."

I cannot help but wonder why any new constructions in our area would have a flat roof considering the possible snow loads that can and sometimes do occur in this area. Two Fred Meyers stores in Portland had snow load failures, and they only got 5 or 6 inches of snow, then ice. There were countless other roof failures in the Portland area as well from flat roofs.

If the city is going to go to all of this expense, are we absolutely sure a flat roof is appropriate? If we were to have a major snowfall, and then rain or ice, are we sure this architect has figured the absolute worst- case scenario? Just a thought.

Rebecca Smith


Nice people do exist

To the Editor:

On Jan. 24, while we were away from home, some wonderful anonymous person shoveled the snow from our drive and parking. He even shoveled a path to my mailbox and paper box.

This was so appreciated because with my bad back and heart, I cannot shovel, and since both my wife and I are in our 80s, she has no business doing more than clearing a narrow path to the car.

I cannot adequately express my appreciation to this wonderful person for helping us so very much and we don't even know who he was. Whoever you are, you were a God-send to us.

Roy Hills

Island City

Comment offends

To the Editor:

This letter is in response to the comment EOU sophomore Josh Peterson made in The Observer Jan. 24.

I take offense at the fact that you condensed us non-college people to "working in a factory" if we do not have a college education or degree.

Isn't that being very narrow minded and a bit prejudiced to people who do not have a college degree for one reason or another?

I work for New Day Enterprises as a mental health specialist and consider it my chosen career. And no, I do not have a degree.

I am sure I am not making what a graduate would make yearly but I do not have student loans to pay off either.

I also enjoy my job immensely and it gives me great personal satisfaction in my life. I hope you can say the same in your future endeavors.

Jann Weitman


City crews praised

To the Editor:

Hats off and thank you to the La Grande city street crews. With thousands of tons of slush to clear from our streets, they're doing a great job!

As I watched from my upstairs window this morning, I was amazed at not only the speed at which they work, but with the obvious care they take to try to keep driveways and walkways clear.

Often, when I first hear the equipment coming, I'll dash out and move my vehicles temporarily so they can plow to the curb. But just as often I'm too late.

Perhaps if the drivers made one pass down the street with their safety beepers on, residents who are home could have time to move some vehicles and make the crews' work easier. But whether this is feasible or not, thank you, folks! You're super!

Graham Hicks

La Grande

Sales tax? No way

To the Editor:

I would like to respond to Sharon Schiller's letter that a sales tax would solve all our problems. Wrong! Don't you know all the money in the world isn't enough?

Remember the lottery was supposed to take care of everything. Ask people in Idaho and Washington what they think of the sales tax they voted on. How come they shop in Oregon to get away from paying the sales tax they voted in?

The present Idaho sales tax, I believe, is 6 cents on the dollar. Now I'm reading that this isn't enough and they want to raise it even more. I think the state can increase the sales tax even more without it even being voted on.

I agree with Martha Bailey and Peggy Connall's letter that the state can tighten its belt and make ends meet like everyone else.

Bernard M. Abell

La Grande