May 24, 2004 11:00 pm

Works for children

To the Editor:

I don't write endorsement letters often or lightly, but I need to speak out about the race for Union County district attorney.

As a veteran educator and longtime advocate for children, I have worked with both Janie Burcart and Martin Birnbaum. In my opinion, Janie Burcart's dedication to making life better for children is an exceptional quality and needed by a person representing all of us as DA.

When Janie was an assistant DA, I saw how hard she worked to convict people who committed crimes against children. I saw how much time she spent preparing for each case, how she worked with the local law enforcement people, and how she treated the victims and their families.

I felt that Ms. Burcart was the best candidate when Russ West became a judge. I believe it was very shortsighted for Mr. Birnbaum to immediately terminate her employment after he was selected to fill that seat. The children of Union County would have benefited from having her continued involvement in crimes against children.

I believe that now is the time for Union County voters to demand that the best person represent them in court. Now is the time for all of us to support Janie Burcart for district attorney.

Sandi Donnelly

Island City

Best qualified

To the Editor:

Attorney Bev Penz seems to feel that if a person retires they should somehow be disqualified to be Union County's district attorney. As a retired attorney and as a taxpayer in Union County, I have firsthand knowledge of what it takes to be an effective and cost-conscious district attorney for Union County.

I submit to you that Martin Birnbaum is the best qualified candidate in the race for Union County district attorney. I am voting for Martin Birnbaum, and I urge you to do the same.

Sam H. Ledridge

Island City

Can-do commissioner

To the Editor:

I was pleased to see the front page article in the April 23 Observer confirming the creation of the Governor's Office of Rural Policy. Because we have a county commissioner up for re-election at present, and her opponent continually pounds her for assumed inaction regarding our county-wide fiscal interests, it would be only fair if The Observer had given credit where credit was due.

MacLeod took the lead locally to help make this office a reality. This kind of forward thinking on the part of MacLeod has made her a consistent can-do commissioner.

She participates in a myriad of local committees, which her opponent admits he has no time for. When MacLeod participates in local projects, she brings to the table experience, competence, passion and networking connections on local, state and national levels.

When she calls Sens. Gordon Smith or Ron Wyden, or Rep. Greg Walden, they all know her personally and she has their respect. They know her through working with her on numerous occasions in the past.

She works with the Union County Contact Committee, helping new business locate here. She participates in organizations all over Union County.

She participates in groups such as Elgin Edge, Northeast Oregon Economic Development, the new Hot Lake Project, Leadership Union County, the Union County Chamber of Commerce and many more, all of which promote family wage jobs. She was crucial to the formation of the Elgin Industrial Park, and that too is preparation for family wage jobs.

I have yet to hear one real concept for change from her opponent. He has only offered criticism and political rhetoric. He does not choose to participate in any civic groups, but he wants to be paid to lead our county.

Union County voters are intelligent enough to see that complaints are no substitute for real problem-solving skills, tangible solutions and a willingness to roll up sleeves and go to work.

We need action, not rhetoric. Vote MacLeod, she works!

Rich Zinzer


Distrust for council

To the Editor:

As a newer resident to Union, I recently began my research as to which form of government would best serve Union to be voted on in the May 18


I started by looking up the minutes to the recent Union City Council meeting of April 12. I must say I was very disappointed in the council, with the exception of Russ Snodgrass and Roger Clark.

I feel the council's passing of a resolution, written by Bill Searles, current city administrator, to support a city administrator-type of government shows favoritism, lack of wisdom, is unethical and causes me to question their loyalties.

I support their choosing to make individual statements as to which form they personally would support. I would even welcome their resolution had they discussed and made the statement together, without having had the city administrator write/be a part of it — the adage of "thick as thieves" comes to mind.

I have yet to make my choice as to what I believe is the right way for Union, but the city council's recent action causes me to question whether I can trust their judgment.

I urge all residents of Union to do their own research and form their own opinion. Do not be swayed by fear statements or emotions. And be sure to vote. Remember no one knows how you vote unless you choose to tell someone.

True friends will always respect your decision if you made it with honest intentions of doing what is right.

Letty Miller


Support vector budget

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter to encourage a yes vote for the mosquito vector control budget. Our vector control people did an excellent job last year with the small budget they have while operating with a big handicap, as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will not allow any type of control — spraying or larvae control — on the many acres of stagnant water ponds on their property which is supplied by La Grande's sewer, Ladd Creek running through Ladd march, and at times Catherine Creek.


They claim they have no larvae. That is strange, with only a fence between our property and theirs.

Vector district tries to treat any standing water in the county.

Hazel Hawkins

La Grande

Transferred blame to staff

To the Editor:

I am writing this in response to the candidates forum that was held April 27. In particular I would like to address the two candidates for the district attorney's office. I am a former employee of the Union County district attorney's office where I worked under both Janie Burcart and Martin Birnbaum as the felony trial assistant.

I was hired by Russ West in January 1999 and voluntarily terminated my employment in October 2003 to return to college. Prior to working there I worked as a legal secretary for the Canyon County prosecuting attorney's office in Caldwell, Idaho, for three years.

I wish to address the issue of the bar complaint filed against Ms. Burcart and the part of that complaint that is personally known to me. At the forum Ms. Burcart was asked about the admonishment by the Oregon State Bar regarding an ethics complaint filed against her. Her reply was to transfer the burden of this admonishment to her staff. That is simply not the case. It is not what was told to the investigator for the state bar and not what is supported by the facts.

There is no doubt that both Ms. Burcart and Mr. Birnbaum are very experienced attorneys. They both have an extensive history in criminal justice and they both apply their knowledge and experience well, not only in court but in their daily routine work. The real question here is which candidate is best for Union County.

Experience aside, the issue is ethics. The office of the district attorney comes with a lot of power, the power to help people as well as the power to destroy them. Don't you think an honest candidate is the best choice?

The best choice is Martin Birnbaum for district attorney.

Lisa Hulse


Advocate for law enforcement

To the Editor:

I am writing to support the re-election efforts of Commissioner Colleen MacLeod. I have had the pleasure of working with and supporting the efforts of Commissioner MacLeod for the past eight years.

From her very first day in office she has strongly supported the public safety officers and programs in this county.

She is a strong advocate for safe communities, and defends our budget locally and our funding efforts in Salem.

I have heard that her opponent is out in the community claiming the support of law enforcement. That is a claim that is without merit.

I urge your continued support of Commissioner MacLeod.

Sheriff Steve Oliver

La Grande

Prediction come true

To the Editor:

In an April 13, 1991, interview a critic of the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein said, "Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there…. How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there?… I think to have American military forces engaged in a civil war inside Iraq would fit the definition of quagmire, and we have absolutely no desire to get bogged down in that fashion." The speaker was Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.

In 2003, one of the main proponents for the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein was non other than Vice President Dick Cheney. Has his 1991 prediction come to pass?

Mike and Anne Farmer


Too much nit-picking

To the Editor:

I just read the letters from Arthur Bingham and Wes Hare about placing signs between the sidewalk and the road. This small strip of property technically, in La Grande, belongs to the city. However, the city does absolutely nothing to take care of it.

As a homeowner I have spent hundreds of dollars to keep the trees trimmed and sprayed, hours of time to maintain it and pay the city a good amount for water to keep their parkway looking nice. So who does it really belong too? Left to the city's care the parkway would look like you know what.

It seems to me that I have earned the right to place a temporary sign on it, if I so choose. Certainly any clear thinking person knows that the city had nothing to do with these signs whether it be a political sign or a Realtor's sign. Give me a break. Who cares except a few nit-picking bureaucrats and Arthur Bingham?

I think it is time we stopped being so concerned about such a trivial issue. But if it is so important to a few people, then the city fathers and mother should pass an ordinance to allow temporary signs in the parkway around election times. Maybe this would appease the handful of people who seem to give a care. I agree we probably need a temporary sign ordinance to make sure the signs are temporary. We already have enough old cars and junk cluttering our landscape and streets now.

Better yet, why doesn't the city just deed the parkway to the homeowner who takes care of it, and let the homeowner grant necessary easements for utilities, etc? That may be too practical. At least it would do away with another nit to pick.

Lewis Currie

La Grande

Remember to vote

To the Editor:

I have been asked numerous times this past month why people haven't seen any campaign literature or advertising from me. The answer is found in the legislative process created by those we elected to represent us in Salem.

Several years ago, the legislative bodies enacted the law that requires those individuals running for sheriff to have a primary election if three or more file for the position. In cases where only two file for the position, the election is not held until the general election in November.

Since only two have filed to run for sheriff the election will be Nov. 2. For this reason, I have decided to focus on the general election and allow those running for county commissioner and district attorney to be the focus of our attention during this primary election.

I would like to ask each of you who are 18 or older to take the time to vote prior to May 18. We all experience the joy that comes from living in a country that gives us the opportunity to openly express our opinions.

We are empowered by having the opportunity of selecting the individuals we want to represent us in the law-making and law-enforcement process, but we must take the time to vote to enjoy the process.

Please watch for your ballot. I encourage you to get involved by casting your vote as soon as you feel comfortable with the candidates and issues you're voting on. Your vote is very important and represents the foundation of the freedom we enjoy.

Make your vote count. Remember to mail your ballot before May 18.

Dana Wright

La Grande

Experience counts

To the Editor:

What does it take to be a Union County commissioner?

A portion includes knowledge of the budget process and funding streams, partnership relations, how the Legislature can and cannot assist us, and the communities beyond Union County. A commissioner needs to have the skills to build a positive relationship with all constituents, even in the face of adversity. A commissioner must be able to look beyond today, and help guide us to a prosperous future. All of this requires leadership. All of these are qualities that one candidate has.

I have never publicly supported one candidate over another so this is a first for me. Colleen MacLeod has my vote in this election. Colleen has extensive community involvement. She has participated in budget committees and held leadership positions for a variety of organizations. She has developed a positive relationship with legislators and directors of state and federal agencies. She has worked with the communities of Union County to bring about a quality of life that we are proud of.

Bob Nelson


Not above the law

To the Editor:

For the past 2 1/2 years I have rented one of the Forest Service buildings that the City of Union owns. I hold quilting classes there and at times have many of my students' machines.

I read in the newspaper that Mayor Thomas and a councilman and others on a committee want to remodel the building and turn it into a residential rental. I have no problem with this.

The problem I have is that apparently on two occasions the mayor and five of his committee members entered my business without my knowledge. I have a rental agreement with the city that states I am to be given 24-hour notice prior to anyone entering the building.

I would have had no problem with them going in if I had been given prior notice, as is called for in my rental agreement. I am responsible for items my students leave there. I should be able to rely on the fact that nobody will enter the premises without prior notice.

When I asked Mayor Thomas why he did not inform me, I was rudely told that the building belongs to the city and he can enter it anytime he chooses. He said he was aware of the rental agreement but that it was over and done with and there was nothing I could do about it now.

Well, there is something I can do. I can let everyone know what happens when there is a city official who apparently thinks he is above the law.

I am asking the city council to investigate and take appropriate action.

We need to make sure the people we have placed in office keep our best interests in mind. We must make sure they don't abuse the office by taking more power than the position allows them.

Melody Bloom


Prosecutor and administrator

To the Editor:

Ms. Burcart tells us she is a prosecutor and that's all she wants to do. If she were the DA, who would do all the administrative work that office requires?

With Mr Birnbaum, who has years of experience as a trial lawyer, you get two for the price of one — a prosecutor and an administrator.

Howard L. Bailey

La Grande

Keep dance team

To the Editor:

This is in response to the bombshell this past week of no longer having a high school dance team. I would like to address this to the individuals who decided this activity was one to be cut.

I am a parent of a dance team member. She has been on the team for two years and was hoping for another two. I have spent my off working hours fundraising for costumes and travel expenses, carpooling to practices, going to performances and to the three competitions they went to this year, one for state. They also raised money to be able to perform at a pregame at a Blazer game not related to school.

These girls go to practice two hours before school 3-4 days a week, perform at the home basketball games and at football games. I do believe some people out in the community enjoy watching them.

They have been working hard over the past two years I have been involved with them. They were hoping to go to state again this next year and maybe even to nationals.

The dance team works well together and shows good sportsmanship during their competitions. There is also an opportunity to get scholarships, which could benefit some of the girls on the team.

Not everyone can be or even wants to be a jock. These girls enjoy dance and picked it as their sport. It gives them self-respect and self-worth. Dance helps them to excel in school and in every day living. Isn't that worth something in its self?

Keep the big bucks for the mainstream sports, as you will, but please allow the dance team to raise the money needed to help keep it alive at LHS.

Julie Stickney

La Grande

No representation

To the Editor:

I am so tired of The Observer's bias in the Union government debate. I am not a member of TOTAL or CISU, but I am a taxpayer and I live in Union.

Have you tried to get anything done in our city? Have you served on a board that worked hard for the city only to be told that only the administrator could take action and he refused? Have you contacted the mayor and councilmen with your complaints about the waste of tax money and the inefficiency of the city government? I have.

I am concerned this city is dissolving into a mess at the hands of an inefficient micromanager who does not have the expertise you feel this small town needs to be run with.

The truth is that you have not looked into the research done by anyone. You print CISU information while refusing to print the information presented by TOTAL. You have no idea of the budget shortfalls and mismanagement that is a normal part of the administration. I could go line by line refuting your editorial, but I only get 300 words to warn people that your suggestion is not in the best interest of this city!

I do not feel that I have any representation for my tax money. If we change to strong mayor/strong council at least we have a say. The current city council is not responsive to the citizens who elected them. This is not a scrape that needs a Band-aid, it is a cancer and the future will be shortlived if we stay with this administration. We are not looking for perfection, we are looking for a voice.

Julie Colton


Note to readers:

Due to the controversies surrounding the races and issues in the May 18 primary, The Observer is expanding the letter limit for each candidate and issue from five to 15.

Not using all evidence

To the Editor:

Often the best evidence in prosecuting sexual abusers of children are the videotapes of victim interviews done at the Mt. Emily Safe Center.

The center is a neutral entity to which a child may be referred for a thorough assessment to determine whether he or she has been abused or neglected. Much of the center's funding comes from private donations, grants and fundraising activities.

The videotaped interviews are usually the first and best opportunity for trained interviewers and medical professionals to talk to a child and find out what if anything occurred.

In a court hearing just a few weeks ago, Mr. Birnbaum told the judge, "I think that the private, non-profit independent status of the Mt. Emily Safe Center is a facade, and I am not going to be using the videotapes in my (sex abuse) case because it's jut too much of a problem to get that discovery."

Mr. Birnbaum was referring to his dissatisfaction with the simple legal procedure all parties are required to go through in order to obtain copies of the videotapes.

Under the current leadership, the DA's office has won only one of the last six sex abuse cases it has tried. In at least one of those cases the district attorney publicly blamed a poor police investigation for the loss. I wonder if the DA has considered the impact on those cases of his own choice not to use all effective and available evidence.

Brian C. Dretke

Pro bono counsel for the

Mt. Emily Safe Center

Has needed qualifications

To the Editor:

If I were choosing the ideal district attorney I would, without question, choose one with experience in prosecution.

I would not, however, settle for a career prosecutor. I would want a person who could see both sides of an issue. I would also want one who knew how to manage money efficiently and who was concerned about how my tax dollars were spent.

The ideal DA should have private-sector business experience and know how to work within a budget. The DA should know how to manage a support staff of assistant prosecutors and office staff. I would want one who had no political ambitions and didn't need the job but one who felt duty-bound to serve the community.

Most importantly, I would want one who was sincerely interested in administering justice; one who has the sound judgement to come down hard on sex offenders, child abusers, repeat offenders and hardened criminals yet is wise enough to have compassion for first-time offenders and victims of unfortunate circumstances.

We are lucky enough to have one candidate who has all of these qualifications and is not merely a career prosecutor. Please cast your vote for Martin Birnbaum.

Lee Bogle

La Grande

Don't blame law enforcement

To the Editor:

In response to The Observer's endorsement of Birnbaum for district attorney, the La Grande Police Association chose to endorse Janie Burcart because we are confident that she is the better choice for Union County's district attorney.

Our agency has worked with Janie Burcart during her tenure as chief deputy DA, and consider her to be an excellent prosecutor. She prosecutes the guilty with superior preparation, and maintains a very good relationship with our agency with solid communication skills and the devotion to assist us in all capacities.

Birnbaum has not shown that same devotion and communication with our agencies. During his political campaigning, Birnbaum has blamed others for his poor conviction rate and administration problems, including local law enforcement and the former DA.

During his meetings with our agency, Birnbaum has never mentioned any problems with the inadequancies of local law enforcement until he had to answer tough questions during his political campaign.

Birnbaum is the administrator of the district attorney's office, and therefore is responsible for any and all cases prosecuted. He should not blame law enforcement for his administrative and prosecution inadequacies. Birnbaum's negative comments to law enforcement in the past and now during his campaign, has only deteriorated a once-good relationship.

He has avoided this conflict instead of collaborating with our agency to resolve any problems. Janie Burcart has reiterated that she has and will continue to collaborate with law enforcement to resolve conflicts.

We hope the community realizes the importance of the DA and law enforcement having a good working relationship. The LGPA asks that you vote for Janie Burcart for Union County DA to bring back the quality of service the community deserves.

Scott Whittington

President of the La Grande Police Association

Web attack out of line

To the Editor:

The following letter to the CISU Web ste, dated April 21, definitely deserves my response:

"Isthere a town called Coherent in Oregon?I justread a letter in The Observer by a Carol Walker who says she lives in Union. I would be inclined to think she lives IN-COHERENT! The letter sounded like the drug-induced ravings of a lunatic! If Ms. Walker represents the TOTAL group, I want no part of them! A concerned reader from Union.''

Here is my response to that concerned reader:

Unlike some people who are too embarrassed to admit they wrote a letter, I, Carol Walker, have formed my opinions from Union Republic News archives dating back to May 2003, through the present time. Anyone can go to Union City Hall and request minutes of city council meetings to compare Union Republic News records with that of the city recorder.

I have also taken the time speak with many longtime Unionites and hear their personal opinions, pro and con, regarding City Hall, the city council and the city administrator. By doing in-depth research on my own, I've learned from documented facts rather than rumors and seriously doubt the anonymous writer has even bothered to look into why so many voted for the recall and then signed the petition to put the strong mayor initiative on the May 18 ballot.

The letter to the editor I wrote does not represent the TOTAL group but is my own personal opinion. I would suggest that the anonymous writer go to City Hall and read documented facts before belittling his/her self to name calling.

Carol Walker