March 15, 2004 11:00 pm

Pulling together in Union

To the Editor:

Over the Feb. 20-21 weekend the Union girls basketball team played in the District 2A Tournament at La Grande High School.

The gymnasium was packed with fans from several of the Wapiti League schools.

As I sat in the Union section, and it began to fill with Union fans, I looked around and for that period of time I could honestly say I was proud to be from Union again.

It was like a breath of fresh air to see all kinds of people from Union, pulling together for a good cause. There was no name calling, gossip, rumors or fighting, just fun, excitement and comradery.

I am a third-generation and my children fourth-generation Unionites. What I saw at the games that weekend is one of the reasons I chose to remain in Union and raise my children.

Maybe we could all learn a lesson, or at least stop and think, before the next negative thing comes from someone's mouth or hand.

Ronetta Price


Student seeks information

To the Editor:

Our fourth-grade class is studying the United States. We would like your help.

We would like your readers to send postcards or letters telling us about your state. Thanks for your help.

Please send the information to:

Fourth-grade USA Project

Gifford Grade School 188

P.O. Box 70

Gifford, Ill 61847

Mary Delaney

Gifford, Ill

City, all of us, can do better

To the Editor:

I have lived in La Grande for seven years. And every year that I have been here, the city administrators and council persons have cited the Bohnenkamp Hole and the (nonexisting) new library as accomplishments. I would hate to hear what they call their failures.

If this is the best they can do, maybe it isn't good enough. But where lies the problem? Are citizens too complacent? Do we settle for too little?

I have noticed that people who say they love living in La Grande spend as much time as they can away from here. They go shopping in the Tri-Cities, or Boise, or Portland. They spend weekends somewhere else.

I have sent suggestions, and complaints, to city officials. The response is always defensive; look at all the wonderful things we are doing; we really care about this city; it's the best we can do.

Well, we could all do a little better. Homeowners could clean up and care for their property. Businesses could give us a little more incentive to shop at home — although I realize all the factors working against them. Farmers and ranchers could practice sustainable agriculture to help keep our air clean and preserve soil and water for future generations. Students could walk rather than drive — we could all walk rather than drive to keep our air clean and cut down on congestion. We could plant a tree or some flowers, fix our sidewalks, walk our dog.

I just know we can do so much better. I know that I can. I wish our city leaders could acknowledge the same.

Janet Nedry

La Grande

Council-manager system best

To the Editor:

As Union begins a dialogue on the strong mayor vs. the council-administrator type of governance, I would like to offer the following: the latter provides for more effective management of the public interest.

The council-manager system is the primary form of local government in the United States. It was created at the turn of the century and continues today as the fastest growing form of local government. Its creation was due to dissatisfaction with political patronage and the "Boss Tweed" type of governance associated with the era of corruption and patronage.

The council-manager system combines the policy-making responsibilities of elected officials with the technical expertise of professional managers. This allows citizens to be elected to represent the broad policy concerns of citizens while ensuring the implementation of these policies are carried out by trained professionals. It is a form of government that is established here and has served Union well.

In light of recent federal indictments and ethical issues with regard to some elected officials, I am not sure that the timing is right for any city to consider moving toward a strong mayor type of government, where in addition to the policy making responsibilities, officials are granted day-to-day responsibilities for financial, human resources and management.

It is not inconceivable that with a mayor short on ethics, there could be problems with personnel, spending money and lack of impartiality where permits and permissions are at issue. With a council-manager system there are checks and balances to minimize this type of thing. It also avoids the possibility of one individual holding too much power.

One of the most important things to consider about a strong mayor system is that while the person elected mayor may have charisma and be popular, the real question is: "Does he or she have the knowledge, expertise and experience to handle the administrative work, budget work, personnel, etc.?"

Combining strong and ethical elected leaders with professional managers who are apolitical, impartial, professional, results and performance-focused, and technically competent will best serve the public interest and is the ideal form of governance for Union.

Barbara J. Gray


Democracy at work in Union

To the Editor:

This letter is in response to your editorial of Feb. 24. Your dialogue in this editorial appears to criticize the efforts of a Union city citizens group — TOTAL. I also remember an editorial backing a no vote on our recent recall. You saw democracy at work. Two councilmen were recalled by an overwhelming majority.

You do not live in Union so you do not see or hear what happens here. You don't see the arrogance of our city administrator, his lack of leadership and his disregard for the citizens who pay his salary. You do not see the disrespect that is shown by City Hall employees. You don't see the hostility in their eyes or the scowls on their faces whenever a citizen exercises his or her freedom of speech at public meetings.

I get the impression that City Hall employees are loyal only to the city administration and are not responsive to the city's citizens. I also wonder if jobs are in jeopardy if a city employee speaks out against the party line.

It is no secret that TOTAL wants our present city administrator out. The citizens have no confidence in him. We feel he has lost his ability to run an honest and open city government. He is self-serving and his personality appears to have afflicted council and city hall workers alike. They have circled the wagons.

Gerald L. Dudley


Area needs supercenter

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to the story in the Feb. 25 Observer about a group opposing a Wal-Mart supercenter.

I think we need the Wal-Mart superstore — not that I'd shop there all that much since I've only been in the existing store four or five times. But we need the new store because it would force the price of groceries down at least 30 percent. We have without a doubt the highest priced grocery stores in Union County and quite possibly in the state.

I recently paid $2.50 for a single yellow bell pepper. That seems to me to be absolutely absurd!

We also need a Home Depot.

I don't know David Whitson, but Mark Tipperman and Richard Minogue can easily afford the $2.50 bell pepper. But I, like most people in La Grande, cannot.

Mike Goodwin

La Grande

Country is in deep trouble

To the Editor:

Your question about, "Why are they closing veteran's hospitals?" is good. Why not ask about underfunding schools, highway repair, new bridges, health care, mental health, elderly care — the list is endless.

Spend $23 and buy the book "American Dynasty" by Kevin Phillips. The answers are there. It was the hardest book I have ever read, and I have read many.

How does one family like the Bush family get to the point of wanting to destroy this country and its people?

Through greed and corruption. The way you control people is keep them down and out. This country is in deep trouble!

Letha Johns

La Grande

Double standards?

To the Editor:

The following "Things you have to believe to be a Republican today'' first appeared in a column by Cory Farley in the Reno Gazette-Journal. We thought it might be of interest to readers:

"Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it is an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

"The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

"Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness.

" ‘Standing Tall for America' means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.

"A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

"Jesus loves you and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

"The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

"Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.

"Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

"Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when George Bush Sr. made war on him, a good guy when Cheney's company did business with him and a bad guy when George W. Bush needed a ‘We can't find Osama' diversion.

"A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

"Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which includes banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

"You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local initiatives they have a right to adopt.''

Mike and Anne Farmer


Displays offend

To the Editor:

This week is National Women's Week — a time to celebrate womanhood in all of its beauty and nobility.

An art exhibit at Eastern Oregon University in Hoke Hall's main lounge contains art by women for women. The majority of this exhibit is tastefully done and a credit to the artists. However, one display is an 8- by 6-foot vagina. While not a part of the Women's Week festivities, the campus posted flyers of a penis and a vagina conversing to advertise their recent production of the "Vagina Monologues.''

While students and the community had the choice of attending the Monologues, there was not an opportunity to avoid their advertising. Likewise, people frequenting Hoke Hall are given little choice of whether or not to view the display in question.

As a woman, I am offended by these displays and advertisements. I do not think that it is respectful to my body. At the very least, the location of the exhibit is inappropriate. I am confident that the majority of women on campus and in the community share my views.

I am requesting as a woman, a community member and an alumna of EOU, that the university display art and materials of this nature in a more appropriate fashion. I would also ask that advertising for the "Vagina Monologues" and similar productions be done in a more respectful manner. I have no doubt that these exhibits and productions can receive adequate attention through a more considerate means.

S.D. Hendrickson

La Grande

Jesus died for our sins

To the Editor:

"The Passion of the Christ'' opens the pages of New Testament text: the Holy Bible, believed to be the inerrant word of God. The book of John, chapter 19, depicts the crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ, God's son, and exposes the grueling moments leading to Jesus' last breath on man's earth. But, Jesus is not of man, Jesus is of God; the son of God, the Christ.

Jesus hung on the cross to recover souls from the bondage of iniquities, i.e., sins. People's sins. Our sins. God chose an alternative to leaving us in bondage to our iniquities — His son. His son opened the portals to Heaven. God guaranteed salvation through Jesus Christ, not the virgin mother of Jesus, not any way of any disciples, not any way that seems reasonable to men. It was Jesus the son, the cross, the resurrection. No other one, no other way. No ways of man can guarantee deliverance, i.e., salvation from the eternal bondage of our iniquities.

The scriptures clearly reveal Jesus' own words: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.'' (John 14:6) "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.'' (Revelation 1:18) "As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.'' (Psalms 18:30).

I pray that this is what is gleaned from the movie.

J. Gillies

La Grande

Facts on Wal-Mart pay, bennies

To the Editor:

Many articles and letters to the editor have been written in reference to minimum wage jobs and lack of benefits offered to associates at Wal-Mart. These articles and letters have contained many inaccuracies, which need to be corrected before people make judgments regarding jobs at Wal-Mart.

I have been the hourly personnel manager for over 10 years at Wal-Mart and I work daily with associates' wage and benefit packages. Ever since the store opened in 1992, associates have started at wages above the prevailing minimum wage. Today, the starting wage is $7.30, $7.55 or $7.80, depending upon job. A new associate receives a 4 percent performance increase after 90 days, another 4 percent performance increase at the end of one year, and 4 percent increases annually thereafter. There is no cap on the wage that a Wal-Mart associate can earn. In addition to annual performance raises, associates are eligible for promotion and merit increases. Sixty-eight percent of Wal-Mart management associates started as hourly associates.

We have a 65/35 ratio of full-time to part-time associates. Full-time associates work 34-40 hours a week; part-time associates average 22-30 hours per week. Any associate working over 40 hours in a week receives overtime. Any associate working on a Sunday, receives an additional $1 an hour for time worked on that day.

All associates have a benefit package that includes pay for holidays, jury duty, bereavement, vacation, military and personal time. Also, profit sharing, 401(k), stock purchase and an associate discount card are available to all associates. Additional benefits offered to full-time associates include medical, dental disability and life insurance, and sick pay.

After two years of employment, part-time associates are eligible for medical insurance. Associates will pay one-third of the cost of medical insurance with Wal-Mart picking up the remaining two-thirds.

Wal-Mart does much more than just offer minimum-wage jobs. The people who work at Wal-Mart are a diverse cross-section of the community and add a positive economic impact when they spend their earned dollars locally.

Before jumping to conclusions regarding jobs at Wal-Mart, make sure that your information is accurate.

Gail Bennett


Wal-Mart employee responds

To the Editor:

This letter is in response to Michael Brosseau's letter of Feb. 28.

When I read Mr. Brosseau's letter, I realized he doesn't know anything about Wal-Mart or the benefits for employees.

I have been employed at Wal-Mart for the past nine years. I can tell from Mr. Brosseau's remarks that he is totally ignorant of the pay scale and the benefits we have as employees. I would like to enlighten him.

First of all, even the most inexperienced person makes more than minimum wage to start. We have an evaluation on the anniversary of our hire date each year, and we receive a raise in accordance with our work performance of the past year.

We are called associates because we own stock in the company. We have a 401(k), profit sharing, sick leave, vacation pay, paid holidays, personal time, health, dental, life insurance, and long and short term health insurance.

As far as the overtime pay, we are paid time and half for any time over 40 hours a week. I have worked for other employers and these are the reasons I choose to work for Wal-Mart.

Nancy Edvalson


Stop signs needed

To the Editor:

I read with interest the explanation for La Grande's uncontrolled intersections published in the March 1 Observer.

When I first moved to La Grande I had lived in several other states and had never encountered uncontrolled intersections. I proceeded through an uncontrolled intersection without realizing that cross traffic did not have a stop and I was almost struck by a vehicle traveling at least 30 mph — much faster and hence more dangerous than a "rolling stop" or ignored stop sign.)

After inquiring, I was informed that uncontrolled intersections were actually four-way yields, which would mean that the first person in the intersection would have the right of way. The problem with that argument is that because they are not marked, you cannot assume that the other drivers have the same understanding or awareness.

In actuality I have made it a practice to approach cautiously and always yield the right of way because I have nearly been hit more than once. Nevertheless, I still sometimes forget that I occasionally go through an unmarked intersection on my alternate way home from work and I worry that on one such occasion I could be struck.

I am surprised that there aren't more collisions. It bothers me that the city would prefer to have people roar through unmarked intersections, oblivious that they are unmarked, rather than "risk" a low speed rolling stop, when the city admits that in the past it has been forced to install stop signs to reduce the number of collisions at certain intersections. And please don't offer up the argument that everyone knows about them because they have always been that way.

Stop signs are inexpensive and they should be installed before some other unwitting new resident becomes a casualty.

Stephen Christensen

La Grande

Column on Nez Perce offends

To the Editor:

I don't know which is more upsetting — the line of thinking that was on the Feb. 26 Opinion page written by Jack Page or that The Observer would print such a diatribe.

One sentence he states, "The Nez Perce were darned lucky they were not African, Spanish, French, Dutch or even one of those sneaky Canadians." Luck had nothing to do with what happened to the Nez Perce.

He also takes from the Gettysburg Address. "That this nation under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." I doubt the Nez Perce or any other Native American thought that the freedom mentioned applied to them.

Mr. Page also said he was tired of special interest groups using the court system. What system does he think we should put in place? By the tone of his thinking that would be a system that refuses others to bring forth issues they feel are valid. Who would he give stewardship to of "our lands"?

And that brings me to the main reason of writing this. I'm tired of hearing just that — "our lands.'' Our land was not our land until we murdered, pillaged and took it from the Native American. Anyone not native to America shouldn't use the term "our land.'

Page said the Native American was not a good steward of the land. Well, you can't blame them for the mess the environment of this land is in. The Native American has not been allowed to be a steward of this land since it was taken from them.

The Nez Perce are not asking for all of their land to be returned to them, but only ask respect for a small amount of land that was once theirs.

There are many different slants, views and interpretations of history. Compassion and honesty not being a great part of that.

Roger Morin

La Grande

Vets deserve medical center

To the Editor:

Your article declaring the impending closure of the Jonathon M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Medical Center in Walla Walla will hopefully alert all those veterans, their families and friends to write to their congressmen to oppose this proposal. Countless Oregon and Washington veterans continue to need the care of this facility.

I am the wife of a veteran of World War II, a mother of a veteran of Desert Storm and the grandmother of a member of the United States Air Force who has served in Kuwait and is still serving. All three stood proudly behind their country, their flag and their president to protect our country and its freedom. They, and countless others like them, never hesitated to face the fact that their duty to God and country could result in costing them their lives or limbs.

There are still veterans from World War II who have been crippled and maimed due to their faithful duty to this country. Is this the way we repay their loyalty?

Those servicemen from Vietnam, Korea and other conflicts deal with the horrors of what those wars cost them and their families. Is this what our young men and women who are serving today have to look forward to for their patriotism and dedication?

Men and women from Wallowa County still depend on the facilities and care at the Wainwright veterans medical center, even though it is based in Washington. I know this applies to many other counties throughout Washington and Oregon.

Please write your congressmen to halt this closure. Veterans have given their hearts and souls for our country.

This nation gave full support to those brave people who lost their lives and were so horribly disabled in the disaster of 9/11, so can we turn our backs on the courageous servicemen who have and are continuing to protect our country from horrific attacks such as that? I pray not.

Shirley Newton Jennings


Need family-wage jobs

To the Editor:

I agree with Michael Brosseau's letter of Feb. 28 and his "open eyes about Wal-Mart — Wal-Mart's slogan ‘Always lower prices' also means always lower wages."

In Forbes magazine they rate the 10 richest people in the United States. Five of the 10 are Wal-Mart owners. These are not millionaires but billionaires who refuse to pay their employees a family wage.

Sure, some of the low prices are good but let's look at the hidden price tag of low-cost goods.

Wal-Mart workers are paid such low wages they often depend upon government aid to support their families.

In Georgia, according to 2002 data provided by a state examiner and the governor's office, more than 10,000 children of Wal-Mart employees were enrolled in Peach-Care, Georgia's public health insurance program for children. The number of Wal-Mart workers' children far exceeded the number of children of any other employer, and Wal-Mart's failure to cover them cost federal and state taxpayers an estimated $6.6 million annually.

In Washington, which faced a $2.4 billion budget shortfall in 2002, Wal-Mart employed the largest number of workers enrolled in the state-subsidized plan offering low-cost health care to residents making less than twice the federal poverty level.

Wal-Mart, the nation's most profitable corporation, has taken at least $150 million in direct subsidies from federal, state and local governments since the 1980s. In addition, a 2003 Palm Beach Post investigator notes "the number likely grows by tens of millions when unquantified (tax) breaks and ongoing (tax) breaks are included.''

La Grande has two great grocery stores, Albertson's and Safeway, that pay higher wages than Wal-Mart. I don't believe anybody in this county wants these stores to close and it is a possibility if Wal-Mart builds a superstore.

If the politicians want to help this county, they must demand that any jobs created by the superstore must be family-wage jobs, not jobs that pay slightly above minimum wage.

Wal-Mart owners can afford it.

Roger Bouch