Wednesday, December 27, 2017
In response to James E. Thompson’s letter from Dec. 13, why are Christians such delicate snowflakes that they get so offended by people who prefer the all-encompassing greeting “Happy Holidays”?
Are there not multiple holidays celebrated between November and January?
Here in the Gorge, we’re struggling to repair or replace at least two bridges. The Hood River and Cascade Locks bridges are both overdue. Down in Portland, the call for a new I-5 bridge has started again. The costs of the two Gorge bridges are relatively moderate compared to a new I-5 bridge, which was to come in at around $4 billion the last time it was proposed.
Meanwhile, down south in the bay area, an article in the Merc talks of a $100 billion infrastructure project for the bay area that’s supposed to fix their congestion for the foreseeable future. It’s to include one or two new bridges, mass transit — think BART — a new BART tunnel, and improvements to Caltrain amongst other things besides roadways. It’s being proposed by business interests, Silicon Valley and a transportation think tank called “SPUR.” They are proposing an increase in bay area bridge tolls of $3, that’s on top of a $6 toll during non-rush hour traffic — it goes up during commute time. There are also increases proposed for gas taxes, auto registrations, road tolls, and property tax increases, all predicated on a 25-year time frame.
When you compare our bridge tolls to theirs, I’d say we have a huge bargain. Imagine paying six bucks or more to go from Stevenson to Cascade Locks or crossing from Hood River. The increase on tolls and other increases to raise money won’t begin to pay for the items proposed. How they plan on filling the funding gap is undecided; like us, they would probably need federal help.
For us, we also need to start thinking about improvements to I-84 and I-5. Those highways were built in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, and they’ve had hardly any improvements over the years. Here in the Gorge, we sometimes see backups nearly from Gresham to Hood River, frustrating citizens and those moving freight through the Gorge.
No trust in rail industry
Response to Edward R. Hamberger, president, American Association of Railroads (Our Readers Write, Dec. 16).
When movies show closeups of trains belching steam and smoke, I again experience the love of my childhood, railroads.
But I live in a unique place, the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. I love this place and I will fight to preserve it. I cannot tolerate its destruction by crude oil spills, fire and explosions.
The safety statistics in your letter are inhuman abstractions and magic tricks. Here’s our reality: a breath of air is all that kept our neighbor, Mosier, from burning to the ground. A normal Gorge wind would have pushed the oil train fire into their sewage treatment plant and elementary school. Moving east, it could easily have destroyed downtown. We are not stupid and uninformed: we follow developments from Lac-Mégantec to Lynchburg.
Visiting Lynchburg, Va., just one year before the derailing and fire of that oil train, I stood at the future accident site to get a photo of that city. The videos of the disaster chilled my heart.
In your letter you say, “Railroads ... provide preparedness training to emergency responders ...” Not true here in Oregon. Our public officials have tried to determine our preparedness and found that, recognizing the great work of our first responders, we are not prepared for a derailed oil train fire/explosion. Even Portland, with its international airport and rail yards, is unprepared. Worse, our public officials have tried to improve the information flow about oil train scheduling. At every turn, your industry’s lobbyists have stalled.
Trained as an economist and as one who has worked in the fields of transportation and economic development, I fully understand the importance to our economy of moving goods and people. But we cannot pay any price. Had a city like Lynchburg or a town like Mosier (and the railroad runs through my downtown) burned to the ground, fueled by a 300-foot-high fireball, the price would be too high. No matter how many abstract studies you present, we don’t trust your industry.
Please ‘back off’
Re: “Watch Speeds” (Our Readers Write, Dec.16), I thought it would refer to the issue of the many tailgaters in this valley, not a complaint about slow drivers.
Which can be a problem and hazard when on the “freeway.” But we are talking highways— I wish the police would stop the tailgaters.
The experienced driver knows a deer can and will jump out at any time, and where not to pass because of intersections and certain driveways.
When I learned to drive, we were taught the two-second rule as a guide to spacing between you and the vehicle ahead of you. To estimate the time, a driver waits until the rear end of the vehicle in front passes any fixed point on the roadway — a sign, mailbox, line/crack/patch in the road. After the car ahead passes the fixed point, the front of one’s car should pass the same point no less than two seconds later. Add a second for EACH condition: dark, rain, snow, ice. If you hit someone from behind, it is your fault.
May I remind impatient drivers that one never knows what is happening in the slow car in front of you. Be it an elderly person, new driver, impaired driver, driver with a medical condition, driver with a new baby or children on board, mentally unstable person — you just don’t know.
Tailgating them will not make the situation better. Take a deep breath and back off — imagine your own parent, grandparent, sibling or child in that vehicle.
When driving at night, consider how bright your lights are. Don’t be so close that your headlights shine on the rear of the vehicle and blind the driver. Let there be a dark space of pavement between you and them.
Life is too short to waste energy cussing at cars that don’t drive the way you like — I was honked at and “saluted” by a passing car just the other day. I had my turn signal on and was slowing to make a right turn. I blew a kiss as a response.
Fires are an outcry
In light of the tragic wildfires that have ravaged Southern California, it’s important to take note of a 2015 issue of the U.S. Forest Service’s journal, Fire Management Today, entitled “Climate Change: The Future Is Here.”
This publication states that “increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation and snowmelt patterns are increasing the severity and size of wildfires in the West.” It also expresses concern about the “occurrence of fire that is outside the range of our existing experience” and the danger this poses to firefighters and communities.
Thirteen of the 20 largest wildfires in California’s history have occurred since the year 2000. Biologist F. Stuart Chapin III has said that the planet is calling out, but no one is listening.
It’s crucial for Congress to hear the plea from our forests and wildlands and take a leadership role regarding climate action.
Oak Creek, Wisc.
Vote for Tim White
Things need to change in the Second Congressional District. The district faces a myriad of complex issues and it will take courage, imagination, skill, financial expertise and integrity to come up with and execute action plans to address our needs in the district. I have found an individual, Tim White, who has not only the requisite qualities, but also a solid plan to deal with our challenges.
Most importantly, we need more economic opportunity. Per capita income in the rural areas is lagging the national averages. Tim has talked about investment in solar and related technologies, apprenticeship training programs and upgrading highway systems to encourage business to relocate here. Economic planning is crucial to bringing sustainable prosperity to the district by adapting to the forces of globalization and automation without damaging our precious environment.
Second, working families are struggling. Tim intends to defend and support middle class families by advocating for a progressive tax system, measures to fund substance abuse addiction recovery care, enhancements to secondary education and expanding access to affordable higher education.
Third, quality and affordable healthcare is crucial for the well-being of families. Not only does Tim believe this, but he also plans to work assiduously to lower costs, improve positive health outcomes, fight to protect or augment ACA and strengthen the social safety net by protecting Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid so that our seniors can live with dignity.
Fourth, the treatment of veterans in the district is extremely deficient. Not only do we have wait times for treatment that are still unacceptable, but also the number of homeless vets is a moral disgrace. Volunteerism is wonderful, but it is the obligation of the government, which asked them to fight in the first place, to restore them to spiritual health. Tim won’t stop fighting to properly fund the VA until we make it right.
We need a fresh look at our issues. Tim has the wisdom, integrity, values, expertise, knowledge and experience to represent the interests of the people of the district. He has, moreover, a plan grounded in the realities of today and focused on the needs of our fellow citizens.
Walden failing our kids
CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, is falling by the wayside while Walden celebrates a tax cut of more than $1 trillion for the rich.
Walden, Trump and their Republicans cronies were in a mighty big rush to pass a tax bill by Christmas, but seem rather … unconcerned … about the more urgent work of making sure children, our moral responsibility and indeed our future, can get the health care they need.
Millions of children stand to lose access to health care if CHIP is not funded pronto. States are not able to bear the cost themselves of implementing CHIP, and many families have no other option for their kids.
But now, after the rush to feather their own nests and those of their wealthy friends and donors, Walden et al are in a rush to leave work and zip home for the holidays, kids’ needs be damned.
Mr. Walden has given consistent lip service to CHIP funding, but his effectiveness in D.C. has been confined to decimating healthcare and producing a sweet Christmas for his wealthy buddies.
Before we got powerful people, we had powerful places. We would worship powerfully spiritual beings which inhabited powerfully spiritual places. We would learn sacred stories from our grandparents that would inform us where and when to go to find food and we would tell these stories to our grandchildren.
These stories would show us how we were inexorably connected to everything else in our world. We went along like this for a very, very, very, very long time. Then one day in Mesopotamia, a woman named Eve noticed there were more food plants than usual along the paths they went out to gather food on. Then we started planting food. Then, for the first time, we had surplus food. Then, for the first time, some of our foolish people decided it would be easier to take other people’s food than grow their own. These people have been running the world ever since. Powerful people create themselves by copyrighting God. They tell us everything we need to know about God. One of these things is that God made them powerful. For the longest time they got away with conducting their rituals in an unintelligible language. Sacred places are not profitable. These people realized if you banished God to heaven, and then built special houses for Him, He could come down and visit on special occasions. That way we could clear-cut and strip-mine our once sacred places, and He wouldn’t care. These powerful people just did us the favor of giving themselves more mountains of money. All we have to do is be patient and wait for the economy to kick in and some of it may trickle down to us. We’ve been waiting for many thousands of years, but they assure us it’s gonna be any time now.
Punishment fitting for ‘wise fools’
Regarding Hugh Amick’s letter published on Dec. 20, taking issue with District Attorney John Sewell’s communication and decision-making regarding the teens who inadvertently started the devastating Eagle Creek fire in September.
I agree with Mr. Amick on one point: eyewitnesses report that “a group” of teens were throwing fireworks into the canyon, yet just one teen is being charged as far as the public knows. Someone was driving the van.
Why weren’t the others charged?
Mr. Amick questions the decision not to charge the 15-year-old as an adult. The answer is simple: a child is not an adult. The youngster who threw — and took responsibility for — the firework is 15 years old. Given that there was no loss of life, charging him as an adult might satisfy Mr. Amick’s desire for revenge, but is inappropriate.
Having worked with 15-year-olds for over three decades, I must agree with the ancient Greeks: sophomore means wise fool. Teens fit the description. The teens did not intend to start a fire, and they attempted to flee once fire was apparent. That is human nature.
Mr. Amick, have you ever exceeded the posted speed limit? Talked on your cell while operating a motor vehicle? Removed the content label from your mattress? A wise fool might arrive at a trailhead and see the first three signs ignored by virtually every hiker: keep your dog on a lead; pick up after your dog; stay on the trail … (Indeed, if that last sign had been obeyed, there would not have been over 100 inadequately dressed swimmers at Punch Bowl Falls in need of rescue.) Why not consider the fourth sign, “No fireworks,” with the same level of regard as the first three? Welcome to teen logic!
May I suggest that all the teens involved be charged with 100 hours of community service maintaining trail and replacing riparian habitat until their 21st birthdays? It may not satisfy the thirst for revenge, but it does fit the unintended consequences of a sophomoric deed.
‘You can choose to be safe, and enjoy life’
‘Tis The Season to Be Drug Free
Hood River Middle School Health Media Club members contributed these timely letters:
The local Hood River Middle School HEALTH Media Club re-created a well-known Christmas Carol to teach people from all ages, not to do drugs or drink and drive. (This message is playing on local radio stations.) Please take this message to heart to create a safe environment this December. Remember not to drink and drive and have a Merry Christmas!
During the holiday season, lots of people drive while they are drunk. In 2015, 184 people in Oregon died due to drunk driving. If you get drunk, there are many consequences like: crashes, fights and depression. So remember to be safe this holiday season!
As the holiday season progresses, more people are driving while they are drunk. Last year 10,497 people died from drunk driving according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This is a 1.7 percent increase from 2015.
Also there is a social host law. Adults and minors who give alcohol to a minor also face a stiff penalty. The punishment is a Class A Misdemeanor, which carries a large fine, that increases with each offense.
Drunk driving is very unsafe. Not only that, but it can ruin someone’s life. It’s quite simple actually, you can chose to be safe and enjoy life, the beautiful way it is, or you can put yourself or, even more likely, someone else in danger of not only a life changing injury, but also death. In 2016, 10,497 people died from drunk driving according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This is a 1.7 percent increase.
It’s not worth risking your one life, for one too many (or any at all) drinks. Please be aware of these risks this holiday season, and every other one that is yet to come.
Thank you for being a responsible person. Happy Holidays!