April 11, 2004 11:00 pm

Team effort involved

To the Editor:

On behalf of the La Grande Police Department, we are appreciative to our news media for the recent accolades regarding the recent fire/death investigation. I would like to add, however, that the most important contribution to this entire case, and the reason it was brought to a speedy conclusion, was because of the team effort by all involved.

It was the initial fire personnel and police officers who responded, took control of, and began the organization of the situation. It was the La Grande Police reserve officers and Union County Sheriff reserve deputies who volunteered to secure the scene until a medical certainty could be established. It was the support of the Oregon State Police Crime Lab personnel who responded on a Saturday. It was four Oregon State Police detectives from three counties, who had already worked their work weeks. It was the La Grande Police 911 operators who took and accurately recorded the information/leads as they came in. It was full support from our police administration to use whatever personnel and resources needed to work it through to the end. It was the support of the district attorney's office to make the contacts needed to get the medical issues addressed.

As you see, it was the collective efforts of all the above agencies working together on a case which would have been difficult to investigate by one agency. And because of unforeseen obstacles that delayed the autopsy findings, it was 48 hours after the report of the fire, that a homicide investigation was initiated.

Each and every person who participated in this investigation was a contributor to the outcome of this situation and I am proud as a resident of this city and county to be able to have these trained individuals working in our behalf.

Phil Myer

La Grande Police

Rumors rip Union apart

To the Editor:

As voters, homeowners and taxpayers in Union we are deeply distressed over the feud going on in town.

Where are the facts? One group talks about cronyism and a pattern of abuse of power. They complain about staff not being friendly towards them. They allege that the city administrator is unfriendly and unreachable. What does this have to do with managing the city? No one is complaining about how he does business.

This town is being torn apart by rumors, hateful telephone calls, cruel letters and aggressiveness. Anger, distrust and meanness prevail. Right now all we read in the paper is he said-she said; no facts, details or documents.

This is wrong. If there has been mismanagement by officials there should be a protocol for dealing with it. The recall of two city council members was a sham. There were never any facts or documents to support that action.

The initiative for a strong mayor is also a sham. It comes down to, ‘I don't like the city administrator because he isn't very nice.' Is that how this city deals with political problems?

One organized group has about 200 people. What are the rest of Unionites thinking? Do you want this group directing your voting decision?

If there is a problem with the current government, then work on getting it corrected. If your child is misbehaving, you can't just go out an get another child. Seek outside help if necessary. Find the source of the problem and then correct it.

It is time to start asking for the hard facts. The truth is more important than unsubstantiated rumors.

Let's not build walls that cannot be torn down. Let us get at the real matter. Vote with your head, not your heart.

Nick Allamand and Lee Adams


Loss to EOU, community

To the Editor:

My family has been heartsick ever since learning that Art Furman will no longer coach the EOU men's basketball team. What a loss this will be to Eastern and the La Grande community.

Coach Furman has for 11 years done much more than coach the men's basketball team. So many children have grown up with this man they all call Coach. His fun and well-run basketball camps, held in the schools and at EOU, have been going on for years.

Some of our children have attended these camps with Coach Furman year after year, and have always looked forward to learning great basketball skills at the camps, meeting the EOU team and having a lot of fun. Some of these boys have grown up to become members of the EOU men's basketball team.

Because of this strong connection that our children — some now teenagers and young men and women — have to Coach Furman and his EOU basketball team, they have attended EOU games as if the team and the coach were their own.

So many of us in the community know what we are losing. Another parent, when learning that Coach Furman would no longer be coaching the EOU basketball team, expressed great sadness in losing the man so important to her young son. Attending Coach Furman's basketball camps, her son fell in love with basketball and found a needed sense of belonging. He thinks of Coach Furman as his hero.

I also work at EOU, and have had the privilege of working with Art Furman for 11 years. I can say that we are losing not only a great coach and colleague, but also a wonderful man who has been devoted not only to basketball, but also to family, friends and community.

Susan Whitelock

La Grande

Positive influence

To the Editor:

I am taking this opportunity to express my appreciation to Art Furman for his positive influence on our community.

As head basketball coach for EOU he offered many hours of personal time and devotion to area children while conducting basketball camps and activities for our regions youth. His efforts seemed tireless and we will all miss the positive influence our community enjoyed through his EOU coaching responsibilities.

John Attila

EOU booster

La Grande

Don't cut commissions

To the Editor:

Since the cost of minimum wage has increased in the past few years, my employer has relied upon the Oregon Lottery money to help offset the rising labor cost. Instead of layoffs, which have occurred at other businesses in our area, all of us have been able to maintain our jobs with fewer hours cut than usual during the slow times.

As a result of the extra earnings the lottery brings in, our employer has been able to improve working conditions and upgrade many facets of our business. This has led to a visible increase in tip income.

The lottery has also allowed our employer to give more benefits to employees such as paid vacations for part-time employees. Benefits like these would not be available at all had they never installed the video lottery.

The lottery should not be allowed to lower the retailer's commission. The result will be a devastating loss of hours, wages, benefits and jobs for the workers of Oregon.

Tracy Weatherspoon, Brandie Sharp, Brandy Barnard, Nora Johnston, Sherryl Barrett, Beverly Jenkins, Gwen Rogers, Terri Winterton, Dawn Leonard, Gerardo Ramirez, Dottie Cabe, Christina Lang, Dawn Buckley, Theresa Tishmack

Flying J Restaurant

La Grande

Legalize, tax drugs

To the Editor:

Years ago when bootleggers had their stills hidden in various places, the end of Prohibition put them out of business. I believe the same method would work to eliminate the dope peddlers.

Why not legalize all dope, sell it through the stores, and tax it like cigarettes and alcohol.

The tax money could be used to hire more police officers. We need to make room in our prisons and jails by releasing minor offenders rather than killers and child molesters. We would have more policemen to arrest and jail dope peddlers, users and other law-breakers, and have more room to hold them.

Please take these ideas into consideration. I would like to see this on the ballot for us to vote on.

Essie Wagoner


Wal-Mart hurts community

To the Editor:

On the individual level, Wal-Mart is a good employer, say some local employees who receive above minimum wage, health benefits and overtime pay. On the community level, Wal-Mart forces closure of many other businesses.

A vibrant local business district is at the heart of every healthy community. Local businesses provide requisite advertising to fund local newspapers and radio stations. Profits from locally owned businesses are likely reinvested at home. Money from local businesses supports activities for children, local art, music and other cultural events.

In contrast, nearly all of the money spent in Wal-Mart leaves Oregon daily. So, while Wal-Mart provides a few jobs, it ultimately removes far more jobs across a wide spectrum of employment and ultimately undermines a community's sense of local ownership and heritage.

On a national level, Wal-Mart supports outsourcing huge numbers of jobs. In order to sell for less, Wal-Mart products are manufactured overseas. Materials are purchased at the lowest possible price. Generally that too will be overseas. Goods can be produced for less where there are no labor unions, minimal safety standards, little regard for human rights and an impoverished populace. Purchasing at Wal-Mart undermines the very integrity of American employment.

On the global level, human rights, environmental concerns and even national independence are of little concern in Wal-Mart's relentless rush to cut costs. The global consequences of Wal-Mart's "We sell for less'' is kept from our view because mainstream media don't want to rock the boat.

Wal-Mart exemplifies cutthroat disregard for anything other than the accumulation of family fortune. And the Waltons have insatiable greed. Already five of the 10 wealthiest persons in America are Waltons.

Ultimately, our every-day decisions and actions are far more significant in determining the future of our community, country and world than our votes.

This is an opportune time to think globally and act locally. Will we as a community chose to finance Wal-Mart policy around the world?

Mary McCracken

La Grande

Dog rules need more teeth

To the Editor:

On Feb. 29 in Cove, a dog attacked and left a 4-year-old girl with severe facial


The dog had been left untied in the back of a pickup while its owners were inside a business. The dog had already bitten someone and was dangerous. If anyone had been concerned before this incident, they could have called Union County Animal Control.

However, nothing would have been done until written complaints were filed.

I am writing to plead for common sense. It would not cost any more to accept verbal reports and request that the reporter leave a taped statement.

The problem of aggressive dogs will increase with good weather when children will be outdoors. Dog owners have a blind spot to the nature of their animal.

If a dog has ever been aggressive, it must be kept in a fenced area or kennel that does not allow for escape, or the owner should replace it with a safer pet.

Several years ago, an aggressive dog terrorized walkers and bikers on Lantz Lane. Children getting off at the bus stop had to pass in front of the home where the dog's owners stubbornly refused to control it. If we told them the dog was a menace, they would scoff and tell us we were the only one who had a problem with that dog.

I filed a complaint and changed my walking route. I was concerned about the children and told the owner so myself. I think most of us were bullied into changing our whole routine because existing regulations were inadequate to help us.

In cases of extreme negligence and dangerous dogs, I hope animal control will be more responsive in the future. Hopefully, they can prevent another tragic attack. Mary Cooke


Wal-Mart assertions don't fit

To the Editor:

I want to address the previous letters of unfounded naysaying over the Wal-Mart supercenter and the alleged unfair low wages.

It was stated that the employees cannot stand up for higher wages for fear of threats and losing their jobs. That was clearly a soap-box statement and completely absurd.

A request for a wage increase, no matter where or for whom a person is employed, is usually met with an elementary answer, such as yes or no.

The unfair low wage argument really is no longer a valid point for someone in an opposing position. It has been clearly stated as to what Wal-Mart's positional wage rates are and wage increase per time frame of employment.

As an employee of Wal-Mart I find it very insulting that such statements have been made, that Wal-Mart employees are lower educated and have no choice but to accept low-paying jobs. I am educated and can say that my wages and various benefits are quite fair.

There have also been statements leaving the public to believe that Wal-Mart employees are reliant upon state-funded assistance, again a soap-box statement that is broadly incorrect for myself and so many others.

My questions regarding Mr. Brosseau and Mr. Tipperman and their associates are, why such a strong opposition, and what are their intentions? More so, what is it they will gain by such a strong opposition to the Wal-Mart expansion?

It is understandable that some will have mixed feelings over an expansion, but when the opposing side uses the tactics of mudslinging, it takes the process in the wrong direction.

Maggie Minica

La Grande

Gay-marriage ruling outrageous

To the Editor:

In response to the front page story in The Observer March 9, "Judge allows gay marriage for now":

Multnomah County Presiding Judge Dale Koch was quoted, "If you read the statute, it's pretty clear they meant husband and wife." His quote was regarding the Legislature that first drafted the marriage law not long after Oregon became a state.

Shouldn't we, as Oregon citizens, be very, very alarmed that Judge Koch did not uphold the statute or law? At least until voted on by Oregon citizens?

"Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary'' defines statute as "a law passed by a legislative body and set forth in a formal document."

Instead, Judge Koch gave his own opinion not based on law, ruling "no clear and convincing evidence of any damage" or irreparable harm in including same-sex unions.

Judge Koch agreed the law originally drafted in the 19th century intended marriage to be the union of a man and woman, but his question for the 21st century was whether there was any harm in including same-sex unions.

Aren't judges sworn to uphold the law? Would it do irreparable harm to rob a wealthy individual? Possibly not. However, laws protect the wealthy individual.

We are outraged. Judge Koch's action is a very serious breach of his duty to uphold the law. He should be removed from office.

Judge Dale Koch's Multnomah County office phone number is 503-988-5008.

Larry and Juanita Monaghan

North Powder

Don't boycott; be respectful

To the Editor:

In the past eight months Union has been in a turmoil that has split the residents.

No matter how you feel about the recall, the city council, the city administrator or the strong mayor initiative, we all have one thing in common — we have to live here together.

In the past several weeks some businesses in town have been subjected to threats of boycott because the owners either signed a petition or verbally expressed their opposition to the current events.

I find this to be ignorant thinking by small-minded people. Union businesses, owned by your friends and neighbors, are bombarded with requests for donations, for senior grad night, the PTA, new uniforms for the Union track team, Union Little League, reserve police officers, the fire department, the 4-H radio auction and more.

I am sure all businesses are happy to give and are grateful that they can do so. They could not do this without all of the customers no matter what their opinions are.

So the next time the word "boycott" goes through your mind, just because you don't like the owners' opinions, stop and think. You would be hurting not just the business owner but the organizations that your children and grandchildren are in.

One of these days the dust will settle and things will be back to normal. So please treat each other with respect.

It would be a shame if you could not look your neighbor in the eye.

Debbie Able


Council's actions questioned

To the Editor:

TOTAL takes a lot of cheap shots about our actions, our motives and the rift that we allegedly created in Union. What the city council did on Thursday night is just another example of how they have used us as an excuse to keep new blood out of our city government and keep themselves surrounded by only those who think the same way they do.

There were 15 people who applied for the three open council seats. Four of those people are members of the CISU group that is trying to stop our strong-mayor initiative. Three are TOTAL members. The other eight candidates are neutral. And yet, instead of choosing middle-of-the-road candidates, Arlie Gordon and Gary Graham ganged up on Roger Clark to appoint Barbara Gray, who organized CISU, and Brett Baxter, a former council member who voted to let Bill Searles keep that raise he took without prior approval. Does that seem fair to anyone else? To me it seems like a message that only those citizens who agree with their way of thinking have a voice in Union.

If Mr. Graham and Mr. Gordon were truly interested in healing our town, they had plenty of good candidates who didn't support either side in the ongoing struggle get rid of our city administrator. TOTAL didn't expect any of our members to be appointed, but for some unknown reason, we hoped the council would be fair.

We had some good people come forward and volunteer to be on the council, and the behavior of Gordon and Graham basically told the group that only those who agree with them and our city administrator are welcome to participate. All others need not apply. It's always been that way in Union.

Is it any wonder that those of us who disagree with the city decided that we had to form a group in order to be heard?

If we don't change our current form of city government, I don't think we ever will be equal to those who agree with city administration.

Ermal Goucher


Attacks divert from real issue

To the Editor:

My letter to The Observer of Feb. 28 has been under attack. I would like to respond.

My letter was in response to Bill Rautenstrauch's column about doing minimum wage jobs for extra money; about them coming in handy for people supplementing their income, like seniors, or college students, working their way through school.

I thought that was clear, but apparently not.

I was also speaking about the Wal-Mart associates across this nation who have alleged that they are hired at minimum wage and kept there by being overlooked on their evaluations; that they have no medical insurance offered until a minimum of 24 months of employment; that they work overtime for which they are not paid; that men are paid more than women for the same job; that maternity leave is not paid; that unions are not allowed.

These types of claims are on the Web for all to see, and are not my opinion. That doesn't even count the claims that labor groups and consumer advocates allege. Are they all lying?

These allegations are not new. They've been around for years. I think the attacks on my letter, and the phone calls made to me, were an attempt to divert attention from the real issue facing this community — a superstore trying to come here.

Michael Brosseau


Look at real issues, not WMD

To the Editor:

As of January, President Bush has raised $131 million. Bean-counters are estimating a quarter of a billion dollars will pile in before he is nominated for a second term at which time taxpayers will open Fort Knox to provide him and his competitor $75 million each to help them campaign.

Why does this not irritate the voters to rebellion?

The president and our military are taking heat for not discovering enemy WMD when we have not defined WMD except to indicate that they kill in mass.

Saddam chose the AK-47 and the rocket-fired grenades or RFGs, evidenced by the mass graves. The AK-47 is found in stockpiles in schools, hospitals, ammo dumps and homes. Huge numbers of RFGs were used to bring down airplanes.

Our troops have gathered those things by the hundreds of tons but because we call them by their rightful names they are not included under the political designation of WMDs. We do not even include our 2,000- pound bunker buster as a WMD though it is if we hit a full bunker.

Now what has this got to do with campaign financing? Saddam and his inner circle were able to gain control with the oil money he was able to steal from his country. In the United States, campaign financing seems to be the oil money that buys the presidency and the support of the large corporations.

As our democratic freedoms ebb away we have the nerve to call our president a liar when we do not have a firm definition of WMD as we should have. Should we not be more adept at minding our own business? This seems to be extracting ourselves honorably from Iraq and Haiti and getting our defenses home and our economy up and running, not calling our president a liar.

David Arnott


Furman will be missed

To the Editor:

Art Furman has helped create a whole generation of children who love basketball. By putting on basketball camps for children of all ages and inviting these kids to the EOU games he has passed on his love of the game. Plus he has inspired many families to come and enjoy the games.

By teaching basketball skills to our children he has also helped to develop his players by giving them a chance to give back to the community. The effect of this will stick with his players long after the game has stopped.

Art Furman has single-handedly done more for the relationship between Eastern Oregon University and our community, more than any other person in the 11 years that he has been here. We wish him the best with his future plans.

Linda and Gregg Densmore

La Grande

Super human needed

To the Editor:

Is Superman available?

In a strong mayor form of government the mayor is required to perform all the mayoral and city administrator duties, including, among others, finance, budget formation, financial reports, contracts, purchasing, liaison with council/citizens, and problem-solving.

The proposed ordinance does not set out requirements for the candidates to have any experience or expertise in finance, accounting or any other government functions. No provisions are made to add any expert help in any of these areas. To require the duties of two jobs of a candidate without the proper support places a nearly superhuman burden on the position. It would certainly require a hefty salary/benefit package to entice anyone to take on the task.

The strong-mayor proponents have stated that no experience is necessary; that there is plenty of free training and consultation out there. The League of Oregon Cities does have training available. It covers only selected segments of the administrator's job and is not geared to train someone to be a city administrator — and it is not free.

Consulting with the city attorney, accountants and other professionals is a very costly process, one that the City of Union can ill afford.

With the potential of a new mayor every two years, continuity may be the most important issue here and the the most costly for the city. If plans and projects are not followed through in the way they were set up and envisioned, if contracts would have to be revised or rewritten because the new mayor had different ideas or was unaware of the components involved, the extra costs and delays could derail necessary facility upgrades or other plans by increasing costs to a totally unaffordable level.

Dona Stanbro


Time to heal Union's division

To the Editor:

I applaud your editorial in the March 16 Observer. You expressed many of my own feelings and opinions very eloquently.

However, there is one thing that needs correction: I cannot speak for Mr. Baxter, except to say I know he is a member of CISU, not TOTAL. I am also a member of CISU and I am adamantly and steadfastly opposed to the strong mayor initiative and the motives that led to it. I am also completely opposed to TOTAL — both their methods and their actions and, most importantly, their dissemination of false and misleading information.

I joined CISU because of their two main goals: to defeat the strong mayor ordinance and to get factual and verifiable information out to the citizens. We are just starting, playing catch-up because like many Unionites, we thought things would never go this far. We are not name-calling, hurling accusations or starting rumors; we are, simply, refuting the false information and getting the truth out!

I would appreciate it if The Observer made my position crystal clear. I want this terrible division healed, and I believe the truth and calm and reasoned discussion is the way to start.

I hope the editorial will be a wake-up call for a lot of Unionites.

Barbara Gray


Here's what Dems believe

To the Editor:

Here is the flip side of the "Double standards?'' letter you recently published:

To be a good Democrat, you have to believe that:

• the AIDS virus is spread by a lack of federal funding

• the same teacher who can't teach fourth-graders how to read is somehow qualified to teach those same kids about sex

• guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans are more of a threat than U.S. nuclear weapons technology in the hands of Chinese and North Korean communists

• there was no art before federal funding

• global temperatures are less affected by cyclical documented changes in the earth's climate and more affected by soccer moms driving SUVs

• gender roles are artificial but being homosexual is natural

• you are against capital punishment, but support abortion on demand

• businesses create oppression and governments create prosperity

• hunters don't care about nature, but loony activists who have never been outside of San Francisco do

• self-esteem is more important than actually doing something to earn it

• the NRA is bad because it supports certain parts of the Constitution, while the ACLU is good because it supports certain parts of the Constitution

• taxes are too low, but ATM fees are too high

• Margaret Sanger and Gloria Steinem are more important to American history than Thomas Jefferson, Gen. Robert E. Lee and Thomas Edison

• standardized tests are racist, but racial quotas and set-asides are not

• Hillary Clinton is normal and is a very nice person

• the only reason socialism hasn't worked anywhere it's been tried is because the right people haven't been in charge

• conservatives telling the truth belong in jail, but a liar and a sex offender belonged in the White House

• homosexual parades should be constitutionally protected, and manger scenes at Christmas should be illegal

• illegal Democratic Party funding by the Chinese government is somehow in the best interest to the United States

• this message is a part of a vast right wing conspiracy

Gary Poole