Church: Every vote counts

To the Citizens of Union County:

I was asked to provide registration numbers as I did several years ago. I researched those numbers because of all of the people who told me: “My vote doesn’t count! The west side of the state controls all of the votes!”

The numbers below reflect registrations as of Oct. 15.

Registered Voters, State of Oregon: 2,755,981

Registered Voters, Multnomah, Lane, Washington & Clackamas counties: 1,439,453

All other counties: 1,316,528

Difference: 122,925

Every ballot that is returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day is counted, as long as you have signed the ballot return envelope and your signature matches. (If you return your ballot in only the secrecy envelope, we cannot record it.)

Your votes do count. Everyone’s vote counts. Just remember: If you choose not to vote, don’t complain.

Robin A. Church

Union County Clerk

Hopkins: ‘Mary Poppins’ a success

To the Editor:

While ushering at the Elgin Opera House, I had the opportunity to visit with a group from three communities in Washington. Two related to me that this was their third visit to Elgin to see the production of “Mary Poppins.” I don’t know how they were able to get seats during a play that was extended a week due to sell-out audiences, but they were not the only ones I talked with who had come to see the play three times.

Terry Hale and cast did it again with an outstanding production that would match any Broadway performance. And speaking of Broadway, the Bloodgood kids could probably star in any performance given in that setting. This time Liam Bloodgood showed his numerous talents dancing, singing and acting with the best of professionals. The entire cast was phenomenal in “Mary Poppins.” One visitor stated, “The music alone is worth coming for,” as Kiel Fauske, Wendy Stein, April Van Tassell and Jeannette Smith lit up the stage with their voices. The two Banks children, Olivia Sturm from Union and Grant Deem from Cove, starred in all of the acts with performances envied by many thespians. In short, everyone on stage did their part to bring credit to the Elgin Opera House, which is earning a reputation throughout the area. But I want to add, it’s not just the cast, but lighting, set designs, costumes, choreography and more that together create the quality.

So, for those who were unable to attend, I would suggest you watch for the April 2019 version of “Mamma Mia.” And you had better buy your tickets early, or you might not get a seat.

Gerald Hopkins


Cooper: Walden considers the rest of us irrelevant

To the Editor:

According to Rep. Greg Walden and his supporters (“Where’s Walden? He’s Here,” The Observer, Oct. 19), it doesn’t matter that he no longer holds town hall meetings. Walden meets instead with handpicked audiences at “roundtables,” where he can talk to the people he says are the “relevant parties” who can speak to “the issues that are the most important.” Apparently, the rest of us are irrelevant.

I guess we should accept that Walden does not meet with most of his constituents; after all, he is busy meeting (behind closed doors) with ranchers and agribusinesses. Yet the most common job groups in Union County are management, business, science and arts, sales and office, and service; farming, fishing and forestry combined represent only 3 percent of the jobs in this county (DataUSA). Why does Walden not bother to meet with the folks who work in other sectors as well?

Walden actually implies, with zero evidence, that Eastern Oregonians consulted an online “playbook” on how to disrupt town hall meetings. Walden’s D.C. representative says town halls weren’t “productive”; perhaps this is because attendees were upset about Walden’s vote to gut the Affordable Care Act. If Walden had prevailed, 20 percent of us would have lost access to affordable health care.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to Greg Walden and the status quo. His opponent, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, has driven 40,000 miles meeting with people of all walks of life. McLeod-Skinner is the best candidate to represent all of the people in Congressional District 2, not just the few who Walden considers “relevant.”

Matt Cooper

La Grande

Andrew: Governing bodies must do all they can to stop B2H

To the Editor:

This letter is addressed to the city and county representatives.

They said the B2H transmission line was simply the cheapest option. For 10 years it has always penciled out as the cheapest option. This was the reply when a
La Grande resident asked why Idaho Power didn’t build a solar farm in sunny Idaho to meet the 0.9 percent projected increase in demand instead of constructing the B2H transmission line.

The reason B2H is the cheapest option is because they are taking advantage of people. I am one of them. They are not compensating me for changing my view from a beautiful, intact hillside to a line of 200-foot-high buzzing towers. Other’s losses are greater, and the losses to our natural resources and cultural heritage are irretrievable. If they gave compensation for the true impact of B2H, that solar farm in Idaho would look like the bargain of the century. As in so many ill-conceived projects, the true costs are not weighed in the calculations.

They have promised mitigation money and tax revenues. You cannot mitigate the impact of these towers no matter how much money you spend. Tax revenues? When I look around our community I see a town vital and engaged. I recently overheard a couple traveling through comment on how good it was to see a vibrant small town, bereft of boarded up storefronts. Our souls long for the balm of unspoiled nature. I cannot help but think the scenic beauty of our valley is an important factor in our current vitality and well-being. We can build tax revenues other ways.

Idaho Power would like us to think this is a done deal. It is not; there is a long journey ahead of them. We can make a difference. City and county governing bodies have standing with the agencies Idaho Power must get approval from. I would not want to be at the helm not having done the most I could to ensure the bright future La Grande and the Grande Ronde Valley deserves. I would not want to wake up 10 years from now wondering what I could have done to stop the line.

Kathryn Andrew

La Grande

Duffey: McLeod-Skinner is best candidate in 50 years

To the Editor:

I have waited for a candidate like Jamie McLeod-Skinner for 50 years. She is smart and compassionate. She cares about the issues I care about — including health care for all, social justice, education, global warming and water quality.

Jamie will listen to all sides of arguments and then make balanced and ethical decisions. She believes our democracy can endure only if we engage in respectful dialogue with all members of our diverse society. We cannot do better than elect Jamie McLeod-Skinner to Congress on Nov. 6.

Pat Duffey

La Grande

Whitaker: Who is Greg Walden working for?

To the Editor:

The Oct. 22 Lund Report headline caught my attention: “Walden a Top Recipient in Millions Funneled by Pharma to Lawmakers.” Greg Walden, the report stated, citing Kaiser Health News, has received contributions from drug-making corporate PACs totaling $269,800 since January 2017 and $851,042 since 2007. Who is Greg working for?

Every year, pharmaceutical company political action committees (PACs) contribute millions of dollars to U.S. senators and representatives in a multipronged effort to influence health care lawmaking and spending priorities. Pharma money flows to congressional committees with jurisdiction over pharmaceutical issues like drug pricing and FDA approval. Walden has watched his coffers swell with drug-maker PAC money since he became chairman of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce in early 2017.

With six months to go in the 2018 cycle, Walden had already raised an additional $71,000 over the 2016 cycle — or 11 times more than drug makers gave him a decade ago.

While PAC contributions to candidates are limited to $5,000 per primary or general election, a larger donation frequently accompanies individual contributions from the company’s executives and other employees. It also sends a clear message to the recipient, campaign finance experts say, one they may remember when lobbyists come calling: “There’s more where that came from.” Pharmaceutical companies also wield their political power in ways veiled from the public, giving to “dark money” groups and super PACs — independent groups barred from directly donating to or coordinating with campaigns — bent on swaying lawmaking.

Given the drug makers’ money flowing into Walden’s coffers, it is unsurprising that he has consistently voted against efforts to control prescription costs.

It’s time to free Congress from corporate control. Unfortunately, Greg Walden works for his corporate sponsors — not for his Eastern Oregon constituents. This is why I’m voting for Jamie McLeod-Skinner for Congress.

Bill Whitaker

La Grande

Hopkins: Vote for Mona Williams to keep a conservative judge on the bench

To the Editor:

I am supporting Mona K. Williams to keep a conservative judge on the bench. Although Judge Williams was appointed by Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, to the circuit covering Union and Wallowa counties, she is a registered Republican and fifth-generation resident of Wallowa County. She was elected by the people of Wallowa County to be their district attorney.

Wes Williams was a lifelong Democrat and recently changed his registration to Independent. A large amount of money has come into Union and Wallowa counties from outside sources to support his campaign and unprecedented signage for a judicial campaign. it will be interesting to know who is financing him.

Doran Hopkins


Gilbert: Vote yes on Measure 105

To the Editor:

We are all aware of the tragic consequences of denying law enforcement the power to remove criminal aliens from this country by turning them over to INS. In addition, Oregon not only protects persons illegally in this country from deportation, but also provides them with benefits, some of which U.S. citizens do not receive. Oregon citizens are being forced to pay for public benefits to undocumented aliens. These include HUD housing, food stamps, medical, education, etc.

For example: during the last legislative session, the Legislature saw fit to provide in-state tuition and publicly supported financial aid to undocumented aliens attending college without requiring them to meet the residency requirements. If you are a U.S. citizen you must live in Oregon for 12 months for non-academic reasons before you qualify for these state benefits.

Undocumented aliens may obtain free abortions with no co-pay. Public assistance allows anyone, including undocumented aliens, to obtain an abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy. There is no requirement to show that they are legally in this country. They only must meet the “residency” requirement. In order to do this, they must state that they are here and they plan to stay in Oregon. They can have no address, or leave the state as soon as they are released from the hospital. For the cost to get here and back, an undocumented alien from some other state can have a vacation and an abortion in a package deal.

Allowing law enforcement to do their job and remove criminal undocumented aliens from this state will help remove the risk of illegal acts perpetrated against citizens.

It is time to send a message that Oregon citizens cannot afford to continue providing benefits that encourage migration to Oregon by this population and still provide services to legal citizens of this state. Oregon is at risk of losing federal money if we do not stand up and say no to protecting criminal aliens by voting YES on measure 105.

Irene Gilbert

La Grande

Tully: Enthusiasm, hard work will make Wes Williams a good judge

To the Editor:

I’m writing to endorse attorney Wes Williams for Union and Wallowa Counties Circuit Court Judge.

I’ve known Wes for the past 41 years. We met in high school, both sons of working-class families. Wes, one of three boys, played an important part in the small construction company his family owned. I worked alongside Wes and his family for years. His mom ran the office, his dad was the project manager and the boys provided the hands-on labor, often times after school and most always on the weekends. When we weren’t working for his family, we were bucking hay or working on his uncle’s chicken farm. Sure we snuck out to the river when we could, but we never shied away from work that took grit.

I continued to witness Wes’ enthusiasm and work ethic in college and then as a high school history teacher. Every Sunday was dedicated to preparing lesson plans, without exception. His dedication to his students and his profession wouldn’t be satisfied unless he knew the subject thoroughly. His students responded with respect and found high school history, dare I say, interesting. He earned the prestigious award Mentor Teacher for three years.

Wes has brought the same work ethic and enthusiasm to being an attorney. He continues to be driven by a dedication to fairness and respect. He and his wife, Jen, have lived in the same house since moving to La Grande, where they raised their two children, both products of the La Grande public school system.

Wes is your neighbor. I wish he was mine. I have no doubt he will be a fair and respectful judge that will make you proud.

Jim Tully


Garcia: Wes Williams is reasoned, intelligent, nonjudgmental

To the Editor:

My husband and I moved to La Grande several years ago from the East Coast. We had been looking to get away from city life and to find a place to live that was gentler and less political and stressful than the hectic pace of our lives on the East Coast.

We met Wes Williams and his wife several years before we moved to La Grande, and they were a major reason why we chose to move here. I now consider Wes to be one of our closest friends. Although we may be relative newcomers to this community, my husband and I share a lifetime of work and personal experience in dealing with and assessing the character of other people. Based on that experience, I find Wes to be fair, reasoned, intelligent, nonjudgmental and straightforward. He also has a sense of humor, which I think is an essential quality for a judge.

I can’t imagine anyone who would make a better judge for our community than Wes Williams. I will be voting for Wes, and I will be encouraging everyone I know to vote for him as well.

Linda Garcia

La Grande

Miller: Wes Williams gives his absolute legal best to his clients

To the Editor:

Our family first met Wes Williams in 2009, and we have had the pleasure of working with him in matters pertaining to our fifth-generation cattle ranch in Union. His wisdom, guidance and kindness have been invaluable to us. It’s no doubt his appreciation of agriculture and of Eastern Oregon values comes from his own upbringing on his family’s small farm.

In the past nine years, I have learned many things about Wes Williams. Among those characteristics that make him an outstanding choice for judge are his clarity of vision, concern for individual rights and the high value he places on meaningfully contributing to his community.

Wes has strong roots in our area. He represents local values and has a respect for those who make their home here. He gives his absolute legal best to his clients. He believes every individual is innocent until proven guilty, and I am confident he will honorably instill that constitutional right in the courtroom.

Wes has experience working with individuals on both sides of a legal issue and is skilled in evaluating all angles of the issue at hand. He has respect for the difficult experiences of those facing legal charges and, conversely, is empathetic to those who have been wronged. Wes would bring an incredible work ethic to the bench, and I believe our community deserves this from its elected officials.

Wes has proven to me that he is the best candidate to serve as our community’s judge. I am very proud to support Wes Williams for Circuit Court Judge of the 10th Judicial District.

Cassie Miller


Eric Valentine: Mona Williams has earned right to continue as our judge

To the Editor:

Judges in Union and Wallowa counties are under constant scrutiny. Word about their decisions, their lifestyles, their activities and their habits travels quickly.

The governor’s office has examined both candidates and chosen Mona K. Williams as our judge. This decision confirms the long history of legal excellence, personal reputation and community involvement that Mona has demonstrated while growing up in Wallowa County, graduating from Eastern Oregon University and practicing law here for nearly 30 years.

She has earned the right to continue as our judge.

Eric Valentine

La Grande

Karl: McLeod-Skinner supports Second Amendment

To the Editor:

Responding to the Oct. 1 letter to the editor entitled “McLoud-Skinner aims to confiscate all firearms and ammunition,” I would like to share some quotes from and public safety.

“Jamie supports the second amendment of the constitution and recognizes that a large percentage of Congressional District 2 citizens own guns for hunting, recreational shooting and their own safety. She supports gun ownership for these uses and purposes. Jamie is appalled at the increase shooting deaths in the US, particularly in schools…. We can succeed at protecting our communities from gun violence if we find common ground and develop workable solutions.”

Check out her values at

Mark Karl

La Grande

Birnbaum: Union County Initiative 31-96 is the silliest measure ever seen on a ballot

To the Editor:

Union County Initiative 31-96, also known as the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance, is the silliest measure ever seen on a ballot. That doesn’t mean it won’t get lots of votes, perhaps even win. It would be truly laughable if it also might not be very costly to the county.

They want the county sheriff to decide what’s constitutional in the county? You’ve got to be kidding. With all due respect, he’s no constitutional scholar. So if the United States Supreme Court says a law is constitutional, our county sheriff’s decision can overrule the Supremes? Or overrule the Oregon Supreme Court? Who are they kidding? And if there’s a lawsuit over such a dumb decision, which side do you think is going to prevail? Oh, and who’s going to foot the bill?

Martin J. Birnbaum

Retired Union County
District Attorney

La Grande

Michael Valentine: Wes Williams’ answer at forum was misleading

To the Editor:

After two years as a civil attorney and 11 years as a prosecutor in New Hampshire, I recently moved back to La Grande. On Oct. 15, I attended the candidates forum to hear from Judge Mona K. Williams and Wes Williams, candidates for circuit court judge. The candidates were asked if it was necessary to have experience prosecuting cases. Mr. Williams’ answer to this simple question was surprisingly misleading. Every attorney, and likely every voter, understood the question to ask whether experience prosecuting criminal cases was necessary to be judge. It is inconceivable that Mr. Williams misunderstood the question, yet he quickly claimed to have “prosecuted” hundreds of cases — civil cases. Mr. Williams has never prosecuted criminal cases.

The question was important because being a prosecutor requires different responsibilities professionally and ethically than a private attorney, whose only duty is to his or her client.

A prosecutor’s job is to seek justice, not, as many people believe, to simply win a guilty verdict.

For example, a prosecutor is required to investigate and disclose all evidence, even when it is unfavorable to the State’s case. Prosecutors must advocate evenly for the State, which sometimes means not being able to request a sentence or a bail condition that a victim may want.

Prosecutors must evaluate all of the evidence in deciding whether it is even fair to seek an indictment in a criminal case in the first place, as prosecutors should not bring cases they do not believe they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Though a prosecutor advocates for the State against a defendant in a criminal case, the prosecutor has special ethical obligations to ensure fairness to all parties.

Mr. Williams’ response was important not because such experience is necessary (in fact, Mona K. Williams explained why it was helpful but not necessary) but because he was willing to intentionally mislead voters regarding his experience. One may appreciate this kind of “spin” from their zealous defense attorney, but it is a very poor quality for a judge.

Michael Valentine

La Grande