Tuesday, August 5, 2003
Keep parks free
On the one hand, Dave Harlan laments about the high unemployment rate, low incomes, and high housing prices in Hood River County. On the other, he announces that the Port will look at user fees for park use.
User fees are a regressive tax which affect disproportionately those very individuals about whom Mr. Harlan expresses so much concern. To the folks in the high end houses with good jobs, a few buck “pay to play” fee is inconsequential. To a struggling family getting by on minimum wage paychecks, it can mean the difference between a day in the park or day parked in front of the TV.
User fees rarely earn back more than the administrative costs of collecting them, and the proliferation of them (Washington and Oregon State Parks, Forest Service, Port Districts, etc.) results in an inefficient and costly hodgepodge of enforcement and collection regimes.
It is time to stop the rush to user fees by public entities, which exist to benefit the public as a whole, not the wealthy. Parks and recreation should be free and accessible to all, and paid for by all through increased taxes and levies.
William H. Sumerfield
It was interesting to review again the background and accomplishments of Frank Lariza in the July 23 obituary account. However, no such brief review could recount the impact of Frank Lariza on Hood River County schools.
For example, the item acknowledged that he earned his doctor’s degree from the University of Oregon in 1964. What it did not relate was that his dissertation involved a building study of a newly-consolidated county district, and recommendations on future development course. The district was Hood River County. That document is stored somewhere in the school district archives, and those recommendations track almost exactly what has been developed. So his imprint began years before he even dreamed of heading that newly-consolidated district.
More than that, when he did take over the helm here, he was coming into a district that still was “fractured” in many ways and in need of leadership to bring the factions together. That his administration lasted some 17 years testifies to his success in achieving this. This cleared the way to focus on improving education instead of on outside issues. How did he do it? Well, one way was to get personally involved. When the district didn’t have enough funds to put in irrigation pipelines, for example, you cold be sure Frank Lariza would be organizing a volunteer work party, and wielding a shovel along with the rest.
He became a real part of the community, proven by his decision to remain here as an orchardist, continuing his active interest in Hood River County life.
Through all this, he remained a true advocate of his alma mater, the University of Washington. He more than held his own — in a good-natured way — with the many Ducks and Beavers in the valley.
But most important were his achievements in guiding the district educational development during those critical years of his incumbency as superintendent. It would be altogether fitting, at some future time, to establish a memorial in his recognition. Not a statue or marker, but perhaps an educational building, park or — acknowledging his interest and participation in athletics — a field or playground.
Many in the community will always remember Frank Lariza fondly, but a memorial would reinforce this memory, and carry it forward to future generations which have not had the privilege of knowing him personally.
We have read many articles for and against a new Wal-Mart. We are both in favor of a new Wal-Mart for not only the additional jobs but a larger selection of goods.
Even if Wal-Mart was not here at all, we would not shop downtown as it is too expensive to shop down there and they don’t carry the kind of goods we are usually shopping for. It seems they cater a lot to the windsurfers and we don’t fall into that category. We do shop in some local stores but would shop in The Dalles and Portland for the majority of our needs if Wal-Mart wasn’t here. We know all the stories about products made in China being sold at Wal-Mart, but we’ve found things from China in other local stores and no one seems to mention that.
There are many people that are very loyal to the local downtown businesses and say they won’t shop at Wal-Mart, so we’re sure that the local businesses will not go away with all their loyal followers, as well as all the tourists who spend their money and time downtown.
We also don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to look at something other than the trailer park when they are passing through Hood River. It seems it would be a much more pleasing site. We also think that people coming into Wal-Mart to shop off the freeway would probably also be taking time to fuel up and eat while they are in the area, thus more business for Hood River.
When we shop in Portland we usually buy our gas and eat at a local restaurant before we make our way home. For those of you who will not shop at Wal-Mart if it expands, then we say shop downtown and let us shop at Wal-Mart. For those items you will not find downtown travel to Portland or other areas for those goods. There are a lot of people who do not have the means to travel to Portland or The Dalles to shop or to work and find Wal-Mart meets their needs. There are fine people working at Wal-Mart who we’re sure would not be there if Wal-Mart was such a terrible place to work.
How many downtown businesses offer benefits such as 401k or hire as many people as Wal-Mart does and do for the community the things Wal-Mart does? We don’t feel Wal-Mart will take Hood River off the map as so many others do. We hope Wal-Mart is able to make it past the committee that is fighting to keep them from expanding. If those who are against Wal-Mart succeed in their quest to stop Wal-Mart from expanding, be prepared to drive 20 miles or more for the things you will not be able to find in Hood River. It’s nice to be able to shop at a store that offers low prices and free parking.
Don and Gail Johnson
“Words have meaning.” This seemingly simple and obvious statement is a guideline I advocate and consider carefully when communicating my thoughts and ideas. “Language is an art” is also a favorite. When we combine these two sayings, we get to one of the biggest problems with the waterfront development debate: statements and news reports which use words and facts in phrasing that are misleading or easily misunderstood.
The phrase that pushed me over the edge is the term “open space.” Every report on the waterfront that I have read in the Hood River News this year has included some form of the following quote from the July 23 cover article, “Under the port’s current planning process, more than 50 percent of the undeveloped property will remain in open space.” I claim that this statement is purposely misleading people to believe that more than 50 percent of the property will be developed as landscaping, shade-dappled park benches, and large open green areas. This is NOT the meaning of the term “open space.”
It is my understanding that for planning and development purposes, the term “open space” is defined as all property that is not physically occupied by a building or structure. This means that the 50 percent of property that is open space includes parking lots, access streets, curbs and utility areas. What does this mean in practical terms? One example is that over 50 percent of the existing Safeway and Wal-Mart properties can be considered “open space.” Does the existing Wal-Mart parking lot fit your idea of the open space you would like to see developed on the waterfront? Do you see what I mean about easily misunderstood?
My challenge to all parties involved is this: if you claim to represent the majority interest, then you don’t need to use misleading or easily-misunderstood words in making your case. I have a further challenge to the Hood River News: as the primary news-reporting entity in our community, you have an even greater responsibility in your reporting practices. That is to listen through the statements made on controversial issues, and report the facts behind the statements. Add clarifying comments every time you quote vague or misleading statements. And double check the meaning behind your own words. Your wording in the July 23 article could easily be read as Mr. Harlan stating that the average yearly cost for park maintenance is $74,000 per acre. I don’t think that is what he said. If that is indeed accurate, I will start a business tomorrow doing park maintenance at a discount rate of $30,000 per acre per year, and we’ll all be happy.
“Words have meaning. Language is an art.” By practicing the art of language and choosing our words in order to honestly represent — and not misconstrue — the facts, we can spend much less time arguing about facts, and instead move to a clear understanding of the will and desires of the public — that’s you and me.
My name is Janet Fields, on July 18 of this year, my parents, my daughter and myself were involved in an accident on Interstate 84. The back passenger tire of the suburban blew out and my dad lost control of the truck. We ended up jack knifed with the trailer up on the cement median and the truck under it. The frame of the trailer crushed the passenger side of the truck and pushed in the window behind my mom’s head, scaring the hell out of my dog.
The reason I am writing you this letter is in hopes that you will publish it in the Hood River News as a thank you to all the people who offered assistance. A big thank you to our angel at the Pine Grove Fire Department who was on his way home and just happened to be there when we needed him. I don’t even think the truck was stopped for a minute when his gentle face appeared in the driver’s side window and asked if we were all alright. He stood for hours in full firefighting gear to help the tow truck drivers and to keep us safe. Thank you to the dark haired gentleman who stopped to offer assistance and to the nurse who showed up too. Thank you to River’s Edge Towing for their quick response and for their quickness in getting us to a cooler place to wait for family members to come pick us up. Thank you to Wal-Mart for allowing us to bring the dog into the store and giving her free water. Thank you to the gal at Geno’s Coffee who let us hog up her tables and thank you to the customers who showed concern when they heard about the accident.
The residents of Hood River are very special people and we thank you all for caring. I would also like to thank the State Police dispatcher who called AAA for us and kept us updated on what was happening on their side.
Janet and Jubilation Fields
Harold and Marylu Schweitzer
The members of CRG (Citizens for Responsible Growth) said goodbye to objectivity. Whether their noisy, unruly and insulting behavior will have any influence on the decision making in the hearing on the Wal-Mart application remains to be seen. One thing, however, is clear. The respect for their cause among the citizenry of this city and county must have vanished completely. Democratic behavior, rules and regulations are necessary if we want our cause, whatever that may be, to succeed.
Peter H. Von Oppel
To the Hood River City Council: Asking developers what they would do with the waterfront is like asking a personal injury attorney whether he would like to sue Microsoft after you slipped on an icy entrance way to their building. The waterfront should be made into a natural space with improved access for recreation — period.
People don’t come to Hood River to look at condos on the waterfront. Any economic benefits that condos would generate would be short term and directed to the builders (who should be ashamed of themselves.) The City of Hood River has an awesome responsibility and must act with the long term good of the scenic area and not the short term good of real estate developers. They don’t call the Gorge a National Scenic Area because of beautiful condos.
A Super plan
Hood River Wal-Mart has been the most affordable store in the area. I know that most everyone shops there. The working family needs low price, convenience, and good quality. Wal-Mart has that in the Hood River store. So it would be the best thing for our area to have the Super Wal-Mart. And in this day and age everyone could use the, one stop shop.
There continues to be a great deal of confusion about what the Port reports in the Hood River News and the real figures presented in the minutes of their meetings. The talk is that there has been plenty of public input into the waterfront plan. The key word that they fail to mention is “current” waterfront plan.
Yes, the old Leland Plan had a great deal of public input — hours of input. However, the Port felt that the plan was too expensive and revised it in September-October 2001. After this date, there has been no specifically delineated public meetings on the revised (and now revised again) waterfront plan. Port manager Dave Harlan continues to refer to these 47 meetings and yet there were no specific public meetings connected to the current plan. Half of these meetings were connected to the “old” Leland plan, not the current one. The other half were regular Port or work sessions that the waterfront was merely mentioned or discussed. Yes, these meetings are open to the public, but does that constitute “public meetings on the waterfront plan”?
In addition, if the Port felt that there has been plenty of public input, and the public was quite clear on wanting a Park on Lot 6, then why did the Port change this without public input? And change it to a smaller lot, that has a building which needs to be torn down (increasing the cost of a park by $80-100,000 plus environmental clean-up, even before a park is constructed?) I wonder if there had been a citizen advisory committee, if they would have decided the same?
Public input, true public input, is vital to the success of any development on the waterfront, especially ours. I am glad to see that this process is beginning, with the informational meeting on July 31. I am hopeful that the public process, as tedious as it can sometimes be, will continue for the benefit of all.