Wednesday, March 9, 2011/lk
MPA was no fix
A headline on the front page of the Hood River News from Saturday, Feb 26, was entitled "Horrible." The next article about biomass began with the statement "Neither Hood River County nor the state of Oregon has much money to spare these days."
So you can understand why I was shocked and appalled by hearing a story that has received little attention - the story about 5,000 Oregon homeowners in foreclosure receiving funds to pay their mortgage for one year or up to $20,000. Really?
In February 2010, the U.S. Treasury was authorized to distribute $7.6 billion to the top 18 states hit hardest by unemployment and foreclosures. Oregon received $220 million of those funds and created -gasp! - yet another government agency to distribute the funds as they saw fit.
From Dec. 10, 2010, to Jan. 14, 2011, the Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative accepted applications for the Mortgage Payment Assistance program. The MPA originally thought that they would be overwhelmed by applicants; but alas, they were not, so they did not have to use a lottery system as originally planned and were able to award all eligible applicants with this "great opportunity."
While our schools are struggling and our property taxes are rising, the most creative plan our government could come up with was to give a few, select struggling homeowners a free ride for one year. So how's that going to fix the problem?
Why not put the money into our children's education and see where taxes could be cut or incentives given to create more jobs? Creating more jobs would put more people back to work thus allowing more people to pay their mortgages on time.
I have contacted every local, state and federal government official to express my displeasure. I received a reply from Denyc Boles, legislative assistant to Rep. Kevin Cameron, that stated "I understand your frustration."
I don't want understanding; I want well-thought-out solutions that stop punishing the taxpayers and responsible homeowners, and artificially delaying a correction in the real estate market.
As I am constrained by space, you can read more about the program at www.oregonhomeownerhelp.org in their Press Room.
Do what you can
I love reading The Hood River News. It's all that a small town newspaper should be; full of neighborhood goings-on and local issues, and rarely a word about the outside world. But like it or not, our small town is impacted by what's going on in the world outside.
But what can I, as an individual, do about those outside forces? There is little that I, alone, can do about it. I keep up by reading (mostly online) everything that I can find. So much is at stake; our national security (which now consumes about half our taxes), the very air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink.
Things that take place in Washington impact our children's education and our aging population and other vulnerable citizens. The safety of our cars, the price of gasoline, even the maintenance of our infrastructure are all affected by someone somewhere else.
Keeping up with what's taking place is just the first step. The next step is doing something about it. I vote. I try to pick the party and the persons who best reflect my views; sometimes neither and none do that, so I am forced to pick the lesser of two unsatisfactory parties or individuals.
But one person alone can do little, so I try to influence others to become informed and to act. I write letters to the editor and my representatives. And I support, sometimes with a little money, several organizations that work toward the things I believe are best for our town and our country without harming, unnecessarily, the rest of the world.
Here is a list of a few organizations I support: firstname.lastname@example.org, credoaction.com, Bold Progressives.org, League of Conservative Voters, Moms Rising, Move On, Progressive Democrats of America, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Working Families Party.
I am not able to march in the streets of Washington, but by adding my voice to other people's in these organizations, my voice is heard. What more can I do?
Longtime residents of Hood River do not go to the downtown area any more than necessary as dealing with the parking and overload of people is not something to look forward to. Last year my wife and I didn't venture into town more than three times other than for dinner after-hours.
The best parking lot in town is located across the street from the post office but has spots for people who reserve, and nothing for visitors or people of the county other than spots that are metered; and they are hard to find.
My solution is this: Procure the parking lot where the old Rialto Theater was located and trade those spots for spots in a parking garage that would have access through their lot. There could be an entrance for the bottom floor off Fourth Street which would also have that floor's exit.
Put three lanes in ramps through the Rialto lot, one for each of the top three floors. The exit for floors two and three would be on Fifth Street as well as the possible fourth floor, which would have a long down-ramp.
The parking lot now has 84 spaces, but floors two and three would give it more than 400 and the possibility of a fourth floor would put it up well over 500. The bottom floor would be reserved for employees from all over town.
The financing for this parking garage would be to have the Hood River Port Commission invest in it as they have a "gold mine" and would realize a pay-back over time. They could also provide temporary parking on the port with a "shuttle service" for the many people who use the lot on a permanent basis through reserving spaces.
This is a "win-win" solution that does not need "study" as it is viable; and the sooner the city and county get involved in it the better, as it has to happen "sooner than later."
John M. Nesbitt
Treat your funny bone
"The report of my death greatly exaggerated." This wry comment from Mark Twain is particularly apropos when applied to his hilarious play "Is He Dead?" currently being performed at Hood River Valley High School by an extremely talented group of high school actors under the direction of drama teacher Rachel Harry.
If you are fortunate enough to be in the audience at one of the performances, you will be rewarded with an opportunity to laugh long and loud at the comic antics of the cast.
The good news is there are still several performances left on March 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 7 p.m. at the high school theater, so treat your funny bone to a workout; you won't be disappointed!
Bill and Mary Jackson
File for CGCC board
I have served for more than 10 years on the board of Columbia Gorge Community College, first as an ad hoc member when Hood River was annexed into the college district, then running twice for election to the board in 2003 and 2007.
It has been a rewarding experience marked by many milestones: establishment of the nursing program, development of the renewable energy program, construction of health sciences building in The Dalles and construction of our Hood River Indian Creek Campus.
Plus, CGCC is well on its way to full accreditation so we will no longer be tied to Portland Community College. Enrollment has grown to more than 1,000 full time equivalent.
I am urging any citizen of Hood River County to become a part of the Community College Board of Education by running in the May 2011 election. I am not running for re-election, and there are two other seats, held by Dave Fenwick and Stu Watson, that are up for election as well.
The primary requirement of service on the board is having a passion for continuing education in our community. You don't need to be an expert on school finance or fully understand the scope of CGCC's offerings to get involved.
You need a willingness to learn these things to be an effective board member. But it is important to keep a diversity of experience on the board. Someone with children in the local schools or someone who has taken classes at the college can bring a great "consumer-oriented" input.
The three Hood River board members and the four Wasco County board members have worked collaboratively over the past decade. It has been a pleasure to have served with such a capable, responsive college staff who have been doing so much to enhance all educational opportunities in the Gorge.
I will be happy to discuss the time commitments and answer any questions if you are thinking of becoming involved in this vital local institution.