May 02, 2004 11:00 pm

Ripple effect all over town

To the Editor:

Mr. Riley of Union on April 6 stated that local "stores must find a niche'' and that opposition to a super Wal-Mart is based on a false pretenses. I would like to point out a few facts presented in last year's application to build a super Wal-Mart presented in a study titled "Economic and Fiscal Contributions of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in La Grande/Island City Oregon.''

Wal-Mart's consultants said there were $163 million in retail sales in Union County in 2002. They figure we spend about $6,617 per person each year on retail purchases. The existing Wal-Mart store sales last year were about $30 million. Super Wal-Mart is designed to increase sales to $52 million each year.

The supercenter is designed to capture one-third of all retail sales in Union County. They anticipate 90 percent — $19 million — of new sales to come from the sale of groceries. In addition, by market "share capture'' of local resident spending from local area retailers they reckon the new supercenter will reduce competing area retail sales by another $7.3 million annually.

You can be sure the loss of $27 million in annual downtown sales will create a ripple effect on businesses that already have a longstanding presence and established retail niche here. Mr. Riley apparently would have us turn our backs on them in favor of providing a one-stop, regional shopping experience for all the local mall junkies.

Our mayor and city council are apparently Wal-Mart supporters. Perhaps it's time Mr. Riley and retailers in Union County asked them to explain how local grocers and retailers and workers will benefit when super Wal-Mart muscles its way into the valley and sucks up another $27 million from our local economy each year and ships it off to Bentonville?

David Whitson

La Grande

Needs to meet definition

To the Editor:

I thought The Observer's reasoning for adding more wilderness in Oregon (April 8) was interesting. Just because Oregon has fewer acres of wilderness than other western states doesn't mean we automatically should add more. This isn't about keeping up with other states. If there aren't areas that qualify as actual wilderness we shouldn't be redefining it to allow for more.

While I agree that there is a place for wilderness designation, it should be reserved for true wilderness and not every little piece of pretty or roadless land. As it is there are some small wilderness areas here in Northeast Oregon that don't truly qualify as wilderness. For some of these areas it would make more sense to classify them as "backcountry.'' Doing this would essentially protect the quality of the area, yet allow the current uses of that land to continue.

We should support the expansion of the Mount Hood Wilderness Area, or any other wilderness area, if and only if it meets the true definition of wilderness, and not just for the sake of adding acres. There are other designations that can be used to protect the land without the severe limits of wilderness.

Mark Barber

La Grande

Make doorways accessible

To the Editor:

One ought to be shot for suggesting that there ought to be a law. Goodness knows we have so many on the books now we can neither read them or enforce them.

Since, however, I have a few bumps on the head and have been discourteously treated by others wanting to be first in line in the doctor's waiting room, the conclusion I've reached is that it is high time our building code is revised regarding entrance doors.

La Grande and vicinity have a large percentage of disabled people yet the entrance doors on a number of our medical facilities are definitely not disabled friendly.

Have you ever tried going through a double door that is heavily spring-loaded while in a walker or a wheelchair? If the door opens out you and your wheel chair or walker are not going to make it without help.

The building code needs to be revised and enforced to provide entrance and exit of handicapped patrons to medical facilities. Such doors are on the market at reasonable expense.

David S. Arnott


Change needed in Union

To the Editor:

The good citizens of Union should feel lucky to have such qualified people running their city. After all, certain city council persons have done their best to infer no one else in town could possibly be better qualified to run a city government than themselves.

This is actually quite an insult to many better qualified people living in Union. Believe it or not, an increasing number of Unionites realize conceit, arrogance, secrecy, anger and an inability to be up front and honest is not the way to get volunteers to provide their time and energy helping on committees or even attending city council meetings.

Citizens have learned, in the past, their ideas would most likely be ignored by the people who think they know what is best for our once rather peaceful community.

Wake up and pay attention, Union!

Aren't you the least bit curious as to why many residents began to see we are possibly headed straight into a severe financial future due to poor management? Perhaps everyone should pay more attention to past and present city council meeting minutes and proposed expenditures.

Please look behind all we are being led to believe our City Hall, city administrator and certain city council persons are attempting to tell us regarding their pretend picture-perfect abilities to legislate for you.

Open your eyes and use your best judgment comparing mayor/city council to city administrator/city council.

Sometimes change is better.

Carol Walker


Incident begs questions

To the Editor:

What if there was a basketball team mooning at Joseph High School with pictures taken by a coach and kids were told to take responsibility for the action?

What if the school board made a decision to rehire the coaches?

What if there were school policies and procedures to deal with this type of incident and they were not followed?

What if a team-mooning picture was taken in the gym two years ago? What if the kids signed their names on the picture with the coaches present?

What if more team mooning pictures were taken this year by a coach, showing more than just bare butts? What if the pictures were taken with two outside witnesses present, one a woman?

What if the coaches tell the boys to write a letter of apology absolving the coaches of all responsibility in the gym mooning? But what if there were boys present who saw exactly where all the coaches were standing in the gym? What if those boys have not been interviewed by the administration?

What if the coaches and the boys all go into the locker room and more mooning pictures are taken?

Can the coaches claim they had no idea what was going on?

What if the kids were to be punished by running wind sprints and doing pushups but never really did it?

What if the school policy says the individuals were to be suspended for three days and they were not?

What if the suspension of athletes was going to cost the team its berth at district? What if in other instances other students showing just their boxer shorts received a three-day in-school suspension?

What if the superintendent and the school board chose not to act on the evidence supplied to them during the appeals process? What if this is the tip of the iceberg? What if so far five other incidents of this type had come to light?

What if these aren't "what ifs"? Does the public condone this type of behavior and action?

Ron and Rene Layton


OTEC question shows bias

To the Editor:

Have you recently received a blue election envelope from Oregon Trail Electric Co-op?

OTEC customers are being asked to vote on two important energy questions: 1) whether to support "local small generation" that would make our region more self-supporting, and 2) whether to support more "green'' power, which means not only helping to promote relatively environmentally friendly energy but also diversifying the region's energy production base and economy.

OTEC has unfortunately phrased the green power question in a confusing and biased manner, giving the appearance that OTEC might want to determine the outcome of the survey — and the election for that matter — rather than help customers make an informed decision.

Green power is derived from sources such as solar, geothermal, small hydro and wind — an energy source this region happens to have in abundance, making it an enticing economic development opportunity. Contrary to the way OTEC has phrased the ballot question, customers are not being forced or mandated to buy green power at this time.

Just over two years ago, about 300 OTEC members chose to purchase green power by paying a little more on each bill. It was a voluntary decision, not a mandate. And, contrary to the OTEC ballot's implication, it is not just "a few" OTEC members that support and purchase green power. Green power is a source of responsible economic growth for this region as a whole, not a pipe dream supported by the few. OTEC should embrace this and move our region's energy economy forward.

OTEC is a cooperative. As a customer, this means I am among the shareholder- owners in this structure, as is any other OTEC customer. As a shareholder with a direct stake in the corporation, I found OTEC's behavior with respect to the ballot troubling and irresponsible.

So when I voted, I stuffed a short note in the envelope saying I thought OTEC's question on green power was confusing, misleading and negatively biased. I'm not sure if my note will matter, but maybe if more people do the same. ...

However one feels about energy issues, OTEC owes it to its members/customers/ shareholders to, at the very least, present the issues objectively so we can come to a well-informed decision.

Brett Brownscombe

La Grande

Save athletics, activities

To the Editor:

It is understood that the school district is looking into all possibilities when it comes to the budget cuts. One of their ideas, however, would cause more problems than it would solve. Cutting school sports and activities would cause even more shortfalls for the district.

Think about it. How many people attend Friday night football games or Friday night basketball games? The athletics program not only keeps all its participants busy during that season but it also keeps them out of trouble.

How many people would leave La Grande because their child could no longer play the sport they loved? If the athletics is such a money problem, charge more to get into games, raise the activity card price for the students, make students pay an extra $1 or $2 if they have their activity card. Every kid that attends the football games, or the basketball games does it because they want to be there, they want to root on their team or hang out with their friends. Whatever the reason may be for the students to go to the game, they will go, even if they have to pay a dollar or two.

I understand that the athletic programs and the school-sponsored activities cost the school money, but cutting them would cause the school to lose money.

Where would we make up for the money that we would lose from not having the community pay to watch the football games, basketball games, volleyball matches, baseball games, softball games, soccer games and all the other sports that people from the community want to come see?

What will the kids that participate in those sports or activities do instead? Would they resort to drugs? Alcohol? Violence?

Athletics and school-sponsored activities benefit the school more than they hurt it. Why would we want to cut these programs and lose more money for our schools?

Kayla Short

LHS freshman

Drivers force fancy footwork

To the Editor:

I have never considered myself a ballet dancer, but I'm about ready to buy a pair of ballet shoes.

If you drive — or walk — down to the intersection of Adams and Island avenues anywhere between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., you can watch me doing some fancy footwork dodging the cars while I'm crossing the street on the "WALK" signal and the cars are running the red lights.

Funny you never see a police car around. The police could write enough tickets to hire more officers.

Well, guess I will put on my tutu and take another dance lesson.

Bernard Abell

La Grande