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Letters from readers for the issue of Oct. 24, 2014


Half-truths in mining official’s commentary

Mr. Bob Short brought up some interesting half-truths about the depletion fee increase proposed by Mr. Wayne Mayo (see “Depletion tax would hurt the local economy,” A4).

To start with, at $1 per yard, the rock quarries will pass the $10 per 10-yard dump truck and $9 per 9-yard concrete truck tax on to all contractors, making it a level playing field in a competitive-bid environment. At that rate I would have to pay an extra $10 to rock my driveway and about $20 more to pour a new foundation for my house. I’m OK with that.

Yes, Intel Corp. did expand fabrication plant D1X in 2013, and it is my understanding they plan to expand again in 2016. The concrete Intel uses has special-size river rock. It’s the same river rock that CalPortland, Mr. Short’s former employer, mines at its plant in Scappoose. It’s the same rock the workers are standing in front of on the billboard on Highway 30, north of Scappoose; the same billboard that says “No Mayo.”

This rock is not available everywhere, that’s why other companies have to barge it in from Klickitat County, Wash., at a much higher cost.

Mr. Short said that Columbia County producers provide only 20 percent of the aggregate consumed in the Portland metropolitan area. I have to ask, what percentage of that 20 percent was river rock for concrete?

Mr. Short is right, though: It is Economics 101. With diesel fuel in Oregon at an average $3.75 a gallon, and concrete trucks getting 5 mpg, I don’t see anyone going to Marion or Clackamas counties to save $9 on a load of concrete. Who’s naïve now?

Here’s another Economics 101 term: supply and demand. Columbia County is fortunate to have this river rock at Scappoose and Deer Island, owned by CalPortland — again, Mr. Short’s former employer — and Knife River, which are the two most vocal protesters of the fee.

These trucks take a heavy toll on our roads, and once this river rock is gone, so will CalPortland and Knife River be gone, leaving us with chuck holes and ruts and no way to fix them. At least with the depletion fee we will be able to maintain our roads without raising property taxes.

To address the comment that the representative from Knife River made on Oct. 14: He’s right the county doesn’t own or have rights to the mineral supply. But they didn’t have any rights to the trees I harvest on my land, either, but I still have to pay timber taxes on them. At least the trees are renewable.

No matter who you vote for in November, it is time to let our commissioners know that this is a fair fee and to start looking at newer, more fair ways of funding county services instead of expecting the average homeowner to foot the bill.

Albert Stroup

Scappoose

Gravel industry is understating its profits

“A CalPortland mining professional recently estimated as much as $1 billion worth of rock remained just under the surface on a smaller property in the same vicinity [Scappoose dikeland], and it is widely considered one of the largest un-mined deposits of aggregate in the state.”

The sentence above was lifted from a 2011 Spotlight article about Cemex’s (a Mexican mining company) interest in the Scappooose Ellis farm.

This is why the depletion fee on abundant Columbia County gravel should be considered as a solution for jail operations rather than property tax.

Sixty-five cents per ton will increase a truckload of gravel from $260 to $268.45. This will not shut down a single construction project.

Ninety percent of rock headed for Portland goes there on barges. Three barges leave Scappoose daily, holding 6,800 tons. If those barges landed at Troutdale or Portland seven days a week, the rock would be worth at least $68,000. Daily. This doesn’t count barges leaving from Deer Island. Or trucks.

The statement, “Most contracts are won by just a matter of a few cents,” should be met with open skepticism. Contract prices are arrived at by what the market will bear. No salesman enjoys learning that he won a contract by a huge amount. That’s called “leaving money on the table.” You learn what the others bid in the past, factor in freight costs, and put your bid where it needs to be to win.

Gravel mining is all about shipping costs, quality of product, ease of mining and, in the event of a large contract, speed of large quantities to job site. Only Columbia County has these huge advantages. If we didn’t, gravel companies would be floating rock down from up the Columbia or the Willamette rivers, as it would be considerably cheaper to freight.

We are like Alaska and the way its royalties on oil benefit taxpayers. We license pits that overwhelmingly supply Portland. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to vote on this subject?

Wayne Mayo

Scappoose

For Heimuller, suspicious of Spotlight

This Nov. 4, we have the privilege of choosing a candidate for Columbia County Commissioner Position 2. The individuals we have to choose from couldn’t be more opposite in their opinions, goals or dedication to public service.

One of them has served publicly or in the public eye for a number of years representing the citizens of Columbia County with honor and integrity.

The other candidate is a want-to-be individual who beats whichever drum suits his mood and gets the press. He has been very quick to offer up quick-fix tax burden solutions targeting one industry with the promise that not one of us will be affected, with no consideration for the economic and social consequences.

Wayne Mayo actually thinks the people of Columbia County are ignorant enough to believe that increasing the depletion fee on gravel, collected from those permitted operations, and are not going to be reflected in the prices they charge for their products. That attitude that he harbors about the public is the same attitude the newspaper supporting him, the Spotlight, has towards the voters.

It is public knowledge that the newspaper is owned by Dr. Robert Pamplin Jr., who also owns Ross Island Sand and Gravel, a major competitor to Knife River and CalPortland. What competitor wouldn’t support a tax on its competition if he didn’t have to pay it? His rock source is located outside of the county.

It’s best the voters really understand what is behind Wayne Mayo and his anti-business, anti-employment agenda. I’m voting Heimuller.

Bob Miller

St. Helens

[Editor’s note: Please see the editorial in this week's Spotlight titled "Gravel industry whisper campaign distracts from real election issues."]

Fire training center was built for the good of the community

I take exception to the letter written by Tammy Maygra of Deer Island published in your Oct. 17 edition (See, “Won’t be fooled again,” A6) concerning the origins of the Columbia River Fire and Rescue Lee Broadbent Training Center.

My late father, Lee Broadbent, was a distinguished chief and later a board member for CRF&R. Early in his career, he recognized the inadequacies of training in the street and the dangers that type of training presented to the public and to his fellow firefighters. He worked tirelessly for many years to have a real training center built.

The training center became a reality shortly before his passing, and it was named in his honor and in recognition of his foresight and hard work: the Lee Broadbent Training Center. It was ceertainly not built for Boise Cascade, as claimed by Mrs. Maygra. Some of the drills and training stations, such as used in close-quarter training, were installed for the benefit of our firefighters who were often called to Boise in emergency situations.

This training center allows our brave people the opportunity to rappel and to navigate in smoke-filled rooms that never could have been accomplished in the uncontrolled environment that was available prior to the opening of it. As a result, our firefighters are now much better trained for the emergencies presented to them in our community, and much more quickly trained than they were in the past. The primary goal of the training center, as envisioned by my father, is for the safety of our firefighters, and it was never meant to be a political football. My father was a beloved leader in this community and he always put the safety of his fellow firefighters first. He respected the jobs Boise brought to the community, but did not cater to them in any manner.

Michelle Broadbent Millar

Scappoose

Gaming the voter’s pamphlet

I was on the fence on the Oregon General Election Measure 90. My concern with a top-two primary was that the political opportunists would find even more creative ways to game future elections. Thankfully, Mr. Maurice Henderson, the campaign manager for the Vote Yes on 90 Campaign Committee, made up my mind for me.

Mr. Henderson submitted 12 of the 30 “argument in favor’ entries for Measure 90. Mr. Henderson then submitted an additional four “argument in favor” entries in the “argument in opposition” section.

When I checked with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, I was informed that this was not an error. Arguments may be placed wherever the submitter requests. Argument submitters may also use misleading statements and outright lies without consequence.

Perhaps Mr. Henderson thought this was clever, but it perverted the clarity and intent of the pamphlet — in essence, gaming the system. If the Vote Yes on 90 Campaign will play games with the voter’s pamphlet, I can only guess what games they may play in a real election. I will be voting NO on Measure 90. Thank you for your assistance Mr. Henderson.

William Allen

St. Helens

Johnson, Witt and Heimuller

Although I am a registered Republican, I am endorsing the following people for re-election: Betsy Johnson, Brad Witt, and Henry Heimuller. I have personally had the pleasure of working closely with both Henry and Betsy as members of the Columbia County Traffic Safety Commission for many years. At all times they have kept the interests of their constituents ahead of their own personal interests. They give of their time and are willing to work with you to find a workable solution to numerous problems.

Brad and Betsy always make time for the Veterans in our communities and attend the Veteran’s ceremonies in nearly every community. I have visited with both Brad and Betsy in Salem with exchange students I have taken there to see our government in action. Both always make a special effort to make the students feel welcome in Oregon.

Although I may not agree with Henry on certain issues, we have remained friends since he became part of the St. Helens community. Henry is a devoted husband and father whose family comes first when tough decisions need to be made.

Lynn Chiotti

St. Helens

Mobilized for Mayo

I’m adding my voice to those many longtime voters in this county who have come to trust and appreciate Wayne Mayo and will unhesitatingly vote for him in this upcoming election.

Wayne Mayo, acting on his own has discovered an un-addressed hazard presented by the trains carrying oil through our county. Why are we not even hearing about this from our current commissioners?

Wayne Mayo has a plan to permanently fund the county jail. What have our sitting commissioners done about funding the jail?

Wayne Mayo has shown more leadership acting in the capacity of a private citizen than many already in government.

Wayne Mayo has worked in the private sector all of his life, and I would rather trust him with my tax dollars than anyone else running.

Values, integrity and commitment to this county should be paramount. Wayne Mayo has those things.

We should vote for a citizen—commissioner to represent us. That person is Wayne Mayo.

Richard Mason

St. Helens

Feeling lucky

I would like to publicly thank Alta Lynch and friends who hosted the candidates’ forum on Oct. 14 at the St. Helens Elks Lodge. Being a disabled veteran, I find is refreshing to see democracy in action, real people asking questions and candidates answering without reading from prepared statements.

It became apparent during the evening that some candidates did not have a clear understanding of the positions they were applying for, some incumbents were satisfied with just kicking the same can down the road, and some incumbents have been in their office so long that they are mentally impaired with political power and self-centered arrogance.

Luckily for me, my property tax bill came on the same day as my ballot to help decide some close races. Should I support people who are more competent, or support people who have new ideas and less experience?

As Dirty Harry might say “Do you feel lucky, punk?” Yes!

Joseph Turner

Columbia City

Shame on you, Spotlight. Really?

I am writing about your article regarding the candidates forum held at the Elks club in St. Helens on Tuesday, Oct. 14. First, I want to say your political bias screams loudly in that article. Your job is to report the news without prejudice. Shame on you.

More importantly, your article has a huge inaccuracy in it.

This was not hosted or put on by the Elks Lodge. The building was simply the venue. Period. That building is available for rent by any group or private citizen to use, as long as the event meets the Elks’ guidelines.

To state that it was held by the Elks, several times in the article, is not just bad reporting, it is a blatant lie.

I attended that forum. In the opening statement, it was made clear that this was a forum being put on by a few private citizens. It was also noted as such later in the event on several different occasions.

I suggest that next time you send a reporter out to an event, you make sure they not only leave their own political bias out of the article, but that they report it accurately.

Your paper is not worth much more than the other bird cage liner papers I see at the checkout stands in the grocery stores if this is all the better you can do.

Claudia Frace

St. Helens

[Editor’s note: We asked Ms. Frace to provide us with specific examples of bias she claims to have detected in the article. We received no response. As for the Elks’ role in the candidate forum, we have had several conversations with an organizer regarding that issue. Indeed, the Elks did host the event, as a definition of host is “one that provides facilities for a function.” Additionally, the event was sponsored by a handful of Elks members — the “few private citizens” referenced in Frace’s letter — though not the official Elks organization. Please see our clarification in this issue.]

Not in Johnson’s corner

Recently, I have been disappointed by the political sway of the editoral staff of the Oregonian. However, I was pleased when I read that the Oregonian was not endorsing Sen. Betsy Johnson for another term in the Senate.

Ms. Johnson’s attitude has been to govern according to her own beliefs, despite the views of many of her constituents. Basically, it is “shut up, I know what’s best, I’m running the show”. She is running as both a Democrat and a Republican. This has resulted in a somewhat murky platform.

Ms. Johnson has lost touch with the people she has sworn to represent. She freely admits that she has never regretted any of her decisions. It most definitely is time for a change. She should not be re-elected.

Cathy Pitkin

Warren

Martwick the governor’s choice

Cover Oregon has become the laughing stock of the comedians; the bridge to Vancouver wasted 10 years and untold millions; and, most recently, the news has been filled with revelations that Ms. Cylvia Hayes, Kitzhaber’s fiance, admitted to immigration fraud, tax evasion, and acknowledged that she was going to start a marijuana grow operation just a few years before meeting the governor.

Now, Oregon’s governor has ordered the Oregon Attorney’s Office to investigate the first lady.

Really? I am not proud of Oregon.

The governor’s bad decisions aside, Martwick’s utter lack of interest in our country, state and community is evident by her dismal voting record; she has been given 39 chances to vote and bothered to vote only 9 times. She has not voted since 2008, except, of course, this year.

Martwick was appointed by a guy who has made some bad decisions, and she has proven herself to be one of them.

Let the people of Columbia County make the choice for judge, not a guy who has clearly demonstrated that he cannot make choices for himself, the state or Columbia County.

Vote for Cathleen Callahan for Columbia County Circuit Court Judge.

Brian Liming

St. Helens

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