May 24, 2004 11:00 pm

Educational family

To the Editor:

My name is Carisa Roberts. I am a student at the La Grande alternative school. I'm writing to be heard when I say that our school should not get shut down.

The school has 28 students, two teachers, and one secretary — basically a third teacher. This is more of a one-on-one learning process to make up credits, or simply to get better grades.

Our school helps us with life skills that are needed to live in the real world. People at the alt taught me to stay away from teenage drama of every kind. They also helped me to overcome my fears. Stage fright was one of them.

This is my first year at this school and I don't want it to be the last. I say that because I know this is a place where everybody fits in, and nobody's left out. I like to call it an educational family that sticks together.

Last I'd like to say if you take away our school, you're tearing apart our family. I hope to make at least one person think twice about shutting down our school. Thank you.

Carisa Roberts

La Grande

Keep alternative school

To the Editor:

My name is Monica Smith. I am currently a student at the La Grande Alternative School.

When I moved here from Pendleton I was afraid of starting a new school year here, and had done so poorly over in Pendleton. I heard about the alternative school from some kids that were around. At first I started at the high school but I couldn't handle such a different surrounding so I decided on the alternative school. From the first day I got there I loved it.

The teachers are great, and I get the one-on-one attention I needed with school work. My grades are so much better than they were last year. It is very sad to think that the alternative school may not be around next year for the freshmen to excel to be sophomores, even though I will be a junior next year.

This school is a perfect place for kids who are struggling. The number one reason I like the alternative school is the teachers. Pete Ridder, Lin Casciato and the secretary, Jo Everidge, are awesome and if you have a question any one of them will run and help you.

I wish the community could see how great a place this is and help keep it around.

Monica Smith

La Grande

Support vector district

To the Editor:

We urge your non-partisan support of the small increase in the operating levy for the Vector (mosquito) Control District.

Ladd Marsh has more than tripled in size in the past two years. It has many acres of standing, stagnant water with no mosquito control in place. Neither mosquito larvae in the ponds nor the adult insects on the wing are controlled because of Fish and Wildlife regulations.

This leaves no concern for human quality of life with the hordes of mosquitoes that appear in the summer.

We also have the probability of West Nile Virus appearing in our area this year. This virus is carried by mosquitoes. We need to increase the man hours, water larvae controls and sprays for the adult insects outside of Ladd Marsh to make up for the lack of control there.

There are also many other pools of standing water in the county that are breeding spots. This is Union County's opportunity to come closer to controlling mosquitoes like they do in Umatilla and Baker counties.

To stop the bite, please vote for this small increase in Vector Control taxes.

Bill and Camille Hawkins


Resentment grows over Iraq

To the Editor:

I am from Summerville but I now live in the Czech Republic with my husband. We just built a house and planted our first garden. We have a lot of friends here from all over the world. One of them is from Iraq. His name is Ahmad and he was forced into exile by Saddam Hussein's regime 26 years ago. He is a successful immigrant here with a good job in business, and he has been the vice president of the Czech Gardeners Association. He is teaching me how to garden and gives me new seedlings every couple of days.

Ahmad didn't want a war but he did want to get rid of Hussein. He stood by me and other Americans living in the Czech Republic when Europeans vented their anger at us. Last July, U.S. soldiers accidentally shot and killed Ahmad's little brother in Baghdad. After he cried awhile, Ahmad said, "It was an accident. I don't hate Americans for that. I am only sad."

Then, in January Ahmad was able to return home to Iraq for the first time in 26 years. After his trip, he told me he had talked to American soldiers there and he was concerned for them because they are frightened and confused.

"They went into the military hoping to get an education and now they are being shot at around every corner," he said. "They are reacting by lashing out at civilians."

He said he saw an American soldier shoot a man who simply approached a soldier on the street. Yet, he told me that the American soldiers were doing the best they could and he was still glad they got rid of Saddam Hussein.

But then he saw the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib prison. The people being tortured are not known criminals or even people who fought against the U.S. forces, in many cases. There are men, women and children in those prisons, many rounded up in random sweeps and held for questioning, in case they might have some information. They are being held in the same cells where Hussein's regime used to torture its political prisoners. Now, even Ahmad is becoming angry at Americans.

This is what this occupation is doing — turning our friends against us and destroying the international reputation of Americans. Abu Ghraib and other prisons need to be investigated. But most importantly, this policy of war and occupation must change before it is too late.

Arie Farnam

(Formerly of Summerville)

Czech Republic

Helped turn life around

To the Editor:

I am writing to say vote for Janie Burcart. She is experienced, tough and fair.

My daughter was picked up several times for writing bad checks and shoplifting. Janie prosecuted her. I want you to know I would go to Janie before I would go to my daughter's attorney. She wanted to eliminate things like this from the community, however, she also wanted my daughter to receive help.

After three or four times of being arrested and being a nuisance to our community, she was finally able to get the help she needed. My daughter has been clean from drugs for nearly two years, hasn't stolen anything and runs from a checkbook as fast as she can. She works hard, pays her bills and checks in with her probation officer when supposed to.

My vote and my daughter's vote is for Janie Burcart. Please vote for Janie. You can't go wrong.

I have had the unhappy experience of hearing the lies and slander against her. They are not true. I say to the person doing this, if this is the only way you can win, you are in trouble. Janie has never said an unkind word about you. Shame on you.

Darlene Hollingshead

La Grande

Lots of good qualities

To the Editor:

I am writing in to give my full support to Ken Johnson for county commissioner.

I have known Ken Johnson for about five years now. I could tell you all the reasons I consider him to be a good man, and a great friend. But instead I thought I should tell you about the qualities he has that would make him a great county commissioner.

Ken is one of the most patriotic people I have ever met. He takes great pride in his community and wants to help those who live in it. He has a very strong work ethic and always does his best. He is a great problem solver and communicator. He takes time to listen to others and understand their concerns.

In short, Ken Johnson will give everything of himself to do the very best job that he can for the county.

Please support Ken Johnson for your county commissioner.

Casey S. Wheeler

(formerly of La Grande)

Vancouver, Wash.

Enthusiasm and commitment

To the Editor:

While I often agree with Ron Brand, his letter regarding district attorney candidate Janie Burcart was off-the-mark.

Ron seems to think that Burcart has considerable experience defending herself against criticism. I'm sure she has! As a highly intelligent, outspoken, fiercely competitive and somewhat outrageous woman, I'd wager she's come under the gun most of her adult life. Janie Burcart is a character. Criticism comes with the


Ron must be oblivious to the many nuances of the case he refers to; certainly he must know that when a teenager recants allegations of sexual abuse it usually doesn't mean the offense did not occur. Knowing the myriad reasons young women recant, I feel sure Burcart owes no apology, and in fact should be applauded for her tenacity.

There is a huge difference between the mind-set of a good defense attorney and a good prosecutor. In order that our system work, we need both. Moreover, we need absolute clarity of roles, since vigorous, healthy due process of law relies on a lively, adversarial exchange. Put plainly, we do not need a defense attorney in the district attorney's office. We need someone like Burcart who is relentless in her pursuit of convictions and who always puts the victim's rights first.

I know from personal experience that Burcart is very good at keeping all parties to a case informed. While I found the facts of the case with which I was peripherally involved to be ludicrous, I admired the fervor with which Burcart prosecuted it, and the openness she demonstrated when I offered input.

Can she be brash and abrasive? Yes. Is she prone to hyperbole? Sure. Do her great enthusiasm and commitment outweigh these factors? You bet!

Vote Burcart to be sure the best candidate is the next Union County district attorney.

Lyndall Shick


Caring about others

To the Editor:

On Saturday the letter carriers held a food drive all over Oregon. They do this every year and most of the carriers are happy to participate. They not only deliver the mail they also bring in tons of food.

Most of the carriers in Union County volunteered to take part in the food drive. The food was then shared with the food pantries in La Grande, Union/Cove, Elgin and North Powder.

The efforts of the postal workers, their families who helped, and the people who donated are very much appreciated. Thanks for all the hard work and for caring about others.

Lowell and Donna Fuhrman

Neighbor to Neighbor Ministries

La Grande

Hire good administrator

To the Editor:

In view of the considerable controversy that has pervaded our little town regarding what form of government would best serve the needs of the community, I'd like to relate my own experience with the previous city manager, Leonard Almquist, with regard to the construction of the Union Family Health Center building.

It was a major undertaking, considering the limited experience of those of us who were involved and Leonard's expertise and willingness to help was invaluable, to say the least.

There is a maze of rules and regulations when one is involved with a number of government agencies, and with money coming from all sorts of sources. It was very comforting to be able to consult with someone who was obviously knowledgeable, who could help lead us through that maze.

We could move on with confidence and expedite the work.

The odds of acquiring an individual through the electoral process who would have the attributes described above, I would think, would be very small.

In any case, why make it necessary to confront the problem at all? Hire a good administrator, elect a good mayor and a responsive council, and move on with a system that has overwhelmingly been accepted by a vast majority of cities as the best way to go.

Kendall Baxter


Restore U.S. honor

To the Editor:

None other than Thomas Friedman, a supporter of our pre-emptive war in Iraq, has recently come out saying that Donald Rumsfeld should go. He pointed out that, "We are in danger of losing something much more important than just the war in Iraq. We are in danger of losing America as an instrument of moral authority.''

It is clear that never before has the United States been more hated, by people from all over the world. What happened in Abu Ghraib prison, at its worst, a deliberate policy of "softening them up" can only lead to more anger and disgust against our country, our president and most importantly our soldiers. Rumsfeld, as the secretary of defense, must be held accountable for these actions.

Bush and his team must immediately take responsibility for the failure in Iraq. He must explain to the whole country why this policy is failing and what he plans to do to change the course.

Time is running out and there remains only a glimmer of hope that Bush will admit his failings, tell us the truth and bring the countries of the world together to help us resolve the Iraq crisis. If he doesn't do this soon, we will have squandered this opportunity.

As Anthony Lewis has so passionately said, "Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher, for good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example."

Rumsfeld should go and go now or else our honor throughout the world will remain in question.

Chris Geyer


Exactly who we need

To the Editor:

Concerning the article in Friday's Observer about the race for the DA's position. If I understand it correctly, some of the accusations described in the article, directed toward Janie Burcart, were made by a lawyer that was soon after disbarred for lying, and never proven. She also didn't get along with everyone she worked with, but who does? And she's been accused of ticking off a lot of other lawyers. Tough.

It sounds to me that she is exactly who we need to go after people who decide to break the law. She was described as tenacious. Great. Willing to talk to victims immediately. Wonderful. She is also not willing to lower herself to immoral and illegal means just to win this election.

It seems that Martin Birnbaum attempted to blackmail Ms. Burcart — a serious crime. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that a vote for Birnbaum would just be an agreement that he can break the law whenever he wishes as long as it is in his best interest. Is that who we want to be representing the law in Union County?

I feel that Birnbaum has proven just how untrustworthy and unethical he really is. Maybe this is the reason that the La Grande Police Department does not support the incumbent DA. I personally have changed my vote. I will vote for Janie Burcart.

Katheryn Joseph


Ashamed of Goldschmidt

To the Editor:

The truth always comes out even though it may take 30 years. With all the hubbub about the Republican administration, Rumsfeld and the Army-sponsored criminals who abused their prisoners, who, you might ask, should care about a 30-year-old "affair" of one of Oregon's fine Democratic ex-governors. Well, I am one who cares. How can you call what an adult male did to a 14-year-old child for over three years an "affair"?

Of course our ex-governor will never face charges or be registered as a sex offender. The statute of limitations on the third-degree rape of a child only lasts three years, and rank has its privileges.

How many other children did this icon of public service desecrate on the alter of his secret perversions? Jesus Christ said that, "It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than to cause one of these little ones to sin".

I know there are those out there reading these words who will inevitably write a response to this letter saying "Judge not, lest ye be judged,'' or "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'' I know those scriptures as well. Use your own discernment and apply the whole counsel of the Word to this situation and then calmly and rationally reply if you must.

This letter is written on the National Day of Prayer, a day when we as a people should be asking God to heal and protect our land, our local, state and national leaders. We obviously need to pray for our former leaders as well.

I pray for Neil Goldschmidt's healing and salvation as much as I do for the unnamed victim(s) of his crimes. God help us all if this is the best we can do in choosing our elected leaders.

Dan Fiorito


Building community

To the Editor:

WOW, what an exhilarating and wonderful community spirit burst forth with the Playground Project building day.

The group of young parents who dreamed the dream has provided our area with a wonderfully inventive and colorful place for all our children and grandchildren to enjoy for years to come.

Not only did this group dream the dream, but they provided an intergenerational happening unparalleled in our area's history. What a thrill to see so many children playing on equipment built by hundreds of hands, large and small.

Our hats are off to you for your vision and perseverance. May your can-do attitude and leadership continue to help to make our community an even better place to live.

Lead on.

Carol J. Campbell

La Grande

Grateful for efforts

To the Editor:

I am thrilled to see the realization of dreams, blood, sweat and tears in the completion of the Riverside Park Playground Project.

I grew up just a stone's throw from Riverside Park and spent countless days playing in the park, the pond and swimming in the river. I can't even begin to tell you how happy it makes me to know that several more generations of children will have a safe and quality place to play.

The members of this community should be commended for coming together and working a solution to the challenge of safe play for the children of La Grande. I applaud Beth Wasley for her tireless efforts in seeing this through. I know that my own children will be grateful for these efforts each time we return to La Grande.

Edythe Isaacson-Wagstaff

Logan, Utah

Will work for families

To the Editor:

I am writing my first letter of endorsement for a political candidate. I am throwing my support 100 percent to Ken Johnson for county commissioner.

I have known Mr. Johnson for the last eight years, and he has consistently amazed me with his knowledge of current events in the world, the state and Union County. His concern for the county's future is genuine and vested. His ability to take on the job as county commissioner is without question in my mind.

He is a research-a-holic who values the knowledge of the facts as they stand, and has done our county a great service in presenting those facts and figures, all from public records, to the citizens of the county.

Now we can all see the actual condition of our finances and how things are not near as fine as we have been led to believe, and can make an informed decision at election time. To vote with facts in hand instead of statements designed to give us all a warm fuzzy feeling creates stronger, more informed voters.

Through his ads and discussions I have finally begun to wake up to the truth. His plan to make our county available to good clean businesses is impressive and makes the future look bright and exciting. His discipline, confidence and experience in the business community along with his dedication to the citizens of Eastern Oregon, much of it volunteer, make him the prime candidate.

This is a man who will work for our families, not for himself. I have voted, and the choice was clear to me. I endorse Ken Johnson for Union County commissioner.

Rex Weems

North Powder

Truth is what's negative

To the Editor:

In a campaign ad, Janie Burcart questions the integrity of Martin Birnbaum. I find this curious, considering the lack of integrity displayed by Burcart so far in the campaign.

I feel Burcart committed a serious breach of ethics by not disclosing her full employment record to voters from the beginning. Her work record leaves her very little to boast about. She has a history of contentious relationships with her employers and her fellow employees that is relevant to the election.

It's also a part of her record she chose to omit from her resume in the voters pamphlet. She pooh-poohs one serious breach of rules for which she was reprimanded by the bar, pointing out that the person who fired her was later disbarred for lying to the court.

We are then supposed to assume that the DA who fired her lied about her as well. The recorded facts show otherwise. Burcart has been shown to be difficult to work with and prone to overlook important procedural rules and regulations.

Burcart says Birnbaum called and threatened her with releasing her records to the media if she didn't withdraw from the campaign. I feel Birnbaum did the honorable thing, offering her an opportunity to avoid the embarrassment of the truth being revealed.

Now that the truth is out she calls this going negative and alleges Birnbaum's actions to be illegal. In this case, the truth is what is negative.

In the ad, Burcart refuses to stoop to the level of her opponent's dirty politics. To prove this, she claims her record to be an open book. That's a fact, her record is now public knowledge and our DA should be commended for revealing the facts. Voters should weigh those facts. A vote for Birnbaum is a vote for integrity.

Mike Hansell

La Grande

Mind own business

To the Editor:

I agree with the letter to The Observer of May 6; I do not think anyone should live in La Grande and write about anything in Union, especially to take sides.

I also think anyone writing editorials in the paper should sign their name to it.

Dean Johnston


Disrespectful of animals

To the Editor:

Jayson Jacoby's story in the Outdoors section of the May 7 edition is an embarrassment to The Observer. This story promotes wanton disrespect for God's creatures and gives acceptability to uncivilized human behaviors.

Killing animals to acquire food is part of human history based in our need to feed ourselves. We have also adopted the killing of animals to protect agricultural products and our homes. Killing animals in these instances serves a purpose and can be done respectfully.

Killing animals just for kicks or because it's "a little more interesting than shooting at paper targets" is grossly disrespectful of the animals with whom we share this planet. It is bad enough that we have to read about barbaric human behavior overseas, we shouldn't have to see articles in our newspapers promoting the mindless killing of wildlife as a "family sport."

Newspaper editors should be sensitive to the influence they have in teaching patterns of behavior. Promoting the use of derogatory labels in place of respectful proper names encourages one of the patterns of behavior that helps to maintain racism in our society. Just as we should not use derogatory names to categorically degrade the stature of fellow humans, we should not promote the use of the belittling and inappropriate name "sage rat" to refer to the Belding ground squirrel; it's a simple matter of respect.

Thankfully, this article did mention that there is some justification for controlling populations of the Belding ground squirrel in agricultural areas. Opening the article with this information would have been better than as an afterthought on the second page.

And would it be too much to ask that the article mention that these animals are a valuable part of the ecology when living in wild lands, where they should never be killed just for kicks.

Courtney Loomis


Vector board seeks support

To the Editor:

Help us fight the bite.

As members of Union County's Vector Control Board our objectives are to protect you from discomfort and the adverse effects of mosquito bites, and to minimize the risk of human exposure to mosquito-borne disease.

We work to achieve mosquito control through direct and indirect intervention by eliminating or reducing the size of mosquito populations in areas identified throughout our county. Mosquito control is a public health necessity. Not only can mosquitoes be a nuisance, they can transmit potentially fatal diseases.

Our board has implemented an integrated pest management plan to control mosquitoes here in Union County. This plan includes physical control or surveillance, biological control, chemical control and a public information program.

If we are to continue and enhance this program, we will need to raise our current operating level from .0239 to .1439 per $1,000 of assessed value. We arrived at this proposal by reviewing other county programs and what needs to be done to service Union County.

We ask you to vote yes on the Union County Vector Control District four-year operating levy.

Shirley Roberts,

Charlie Gillis,

Mary Koza,

Shaneen Bergette

Positive impact on students

To the Editor:

There have been many statements made for and against the two announced candidates for the office of Union County district attorney.

I encourage everyone to make an informed decision based on facts.

During the school year 2002-2003 Martin Birnbaum talked with every student at

La Grande Middle School in an attempt to educate them regarding various laws and the potential consequences if convicted of certain offenses. I believe the sessions had a positive impact on our students. They were presented in a proactive manner that promoted discussion by students and the presenters.

I know Mr. Birnbaum has been criticized for being less than a full-time prosecutor. It has also been stated that his background makes him less capable to hold the office. I believe the opposite to be true.

I think that the variety of his experiences including the legal training to be qualified for the position make him a valued candidate for the position. I know he has worked to balance the budget of the district attorney's office during a time many state services were and are being cut or eliminated.

Mr. Birnbaum's efforts to wear many hats — administrator, educator and manager — to name a few, are greatly appreciated by me.

I am certain our students at La Grande Middle School will make wiser choices based on the education efforts of Mr. Birnbaum. I feel confident our governor made a good choice when he appointed him to complete Mr. West's term of office.

I encourage you to become an informed voter and then select the best choice for Union County district attorney — Martin Birnbaum.

Doug Hislop

La Grande

Devoted to quest for justice

To the Editor:

It was reported in The Observer that Janie Burcart had hurt some people's feelings in Clackamas County, and had been counseled by her superiors.

It must have worked well because she was excellent with my children, earning our trust and respect from the very beginning of a very painful case. By the end of the trial she had won our affection. Still the real issue is not whether she tiptoes around everyone's feelings but whether or not she treats the real victims with sensitivity and understanding and does what she needs to do to convict the criminals that deserve it.

Janie was devoted to my children and the quest for justice, and was intelligent and energetic in trying our case.

I personally want someone in the district attorney's office who I know can do it all, not a mere administrator.

I think Janie Burcart would be a tremendous, positive boost for the DA's office.

Joyce Atchley


Project restores faith in people

To the Editor:

After a week of the most debasing, horrifying news coming out of Iraq, and the ugly news of some of our own state and local political people, I was thinking that our humanity had dropped as low as I ever wanted to hear again. I was feeling ashamed to be an American, ashamed of our government. But it took one drive through Riverside Park last week to restore my thinking to a correct perspective.

I know the entire military cannot be blamed for the atrocities that occurred in Iraq. I know there are good, brave and decent people in the military, following orders of their commanders. Hopefully now, we can begin to treat not only the detainees in Iraq, as well as those at Guantanamo Bay, as human beings, deserving of the legal rights we claim to be.

Thanks to all those who worked all year on the playground project and to those who spent hours working together for this beautiful playground for our children. You have created a beautiful place for our children, and a minor side effect — you have restored a great deal my faith in people!

Jo Carmichael

La Grande

Solid records, character

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter in support of my fellow Wallowa County Commissioners Mike Hayward and Ben Boswell. I am honored to work with both of these men. In the last sixteen months in office I have found them to be open, thoughtful, experienced, enthusiastic, hard working and completely committed to the people and spirit of Wallowa County. They have shown themselves to be men of integrity.

As the present campaign has unfurled I have become increasingly concerned with the tone and content of the material being put forth by those challenging Mike and Ben.

These campaign materials contain multiple significant misstatements of fact. They show a lack of understanding of government processes that are found in local, state and federal laws and regulations. They prey on fear, paranoia and distrust.

Their long negative lists do not present any positive ideas or solutions. These materials also give little value or credence to the relationships and collaborative efforts that have garnered Wallowa County respect and a strong voice in many arenas in the state, the region, and the nation.

Wallowa County has changed, it is changing and it will continue to change. The challenge is to manage that change in ways that protect and preserve the values, the resources, the ways of life and the people that make Wallowa County the special place it is.

Mike Hayward and Ben Boswell have demonstrated their commitment to Wallowa County and I believe they will always strive to make Wallowa County the best it can be.

Check out their record and their character.

Remember to vote and remember to turn your ballots in by Tuesday.

Dan R DeBoie

Wallowa County Commissioner

Making community better place

To the Editor:

I am very thankful for wonderful people like Janie Burcart who make our community a better place. Janie helped my family through a very hard time in our lives, as the Deputy District Attorney of Union County, and also as our friend.

Janie prosecuted my ex-stepfather who was found guilty and thrown in jail on 10 counts of sexual abuse. Justice was served, and we've felt safe as a family these past three years.

Our family's relationship has continued with Janie these past years. She is a wonderful caring person, she is our friend, and without a doubt she's who I'm voting for.

I am very disappointed in Mr. Birnbaum for disrespecting her in the way that he has. It's sad that his dirty politics have oozed their way into our community. He's just gone too far.

Adam Vorderstrasse