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The News-Times publishes thoughts on the education system, the election and more in its weekly mailbag.

Editor's note: Have a letter to share? Email your thoughts to Editor-in-Chief Mark Miller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Letters should be no more than 400 words. All submissions must include the name and hometown of the author. Commercial solicitations will not be accepted as letters to the editor. Submissions should not include profane or defamatory language. We may lightly edit submissions for style and clarity.

Save lives and property — pull over, please

I am shocked to see the number of Forest Grove drivers who do not pull over when there is an emergency vehicle approaching in either direction, whether police, fire or ambulance.

My father was a fireman, and he emphasized that even a few seconds can make a difference to a life, a pet or property when a fire truck is when racing to a fire or a police vehicle is racing to a crime scene. The failure of drivers to give an unimpeded route to an emergency vehicle is disturbing.

My father also emphasized that it is important to give access in both directions, as an emergency vehicle may need to veer into the oncoming lane to avoid a traffic jam ahead or the like.

So, all I am saying, is please pull over whenever there is an emergency vehicle coming in either direction; you may help save a life, a pet or property.

Teri A. Bjorn, Forest Grove

WashCo shouldn't embrace radical reforms

Reform. It is something we all strive for. Done the wrong way, it can lead to unintended consequences.

What does reform the wrong way look like? Just look to Portland and Multnomah County. They voted in a radical district attorney that, in turn, defunded the police, stopped prosecuting criminals, let lawlessness be the status quo, and, sadly, left countless crime victims in his wake. [Ed.: The Portland City Council, not the Multnomah County DA, voted to cut the police budget in 2020. Police funding has since increased.]

Has it worked? No. Crime is up, business are leaving and residents feel unsafe. I am a business owner in Portland and have seen the transformation firsthand of a once bustling and vibrant city converted to empty storefronts boarded up with graffiti, violent nightly protests, increased police response times, and people fleeing to feel safer elsewhere.

Instead, there needs to be a more balanced approach to reform that addresses the root causes of crime while balancing the safety of our community. District Attorney Kevin Barton has done just that. He has made Washington County the statewide leader of treatment courts that are innovative and groundbreaking. He is also working on Homeless Specialty Court and Mental Health Diversion Program to get defendants the help they need and avoid the criminal system altogether.

These are the responsible reforms and smart policies we can count on from District Attorney Kevin Barton. I urge you to vote for Kevin Barton this May and keep the Portland mess out of Washington County.

Thomas Frank, West Linn

We can't let Big Tobacco win

I'm a Baby Boomer whose parents smoked, and they developed cancer because of their smoking.

As a grandmother of four, I'm concerned about the future for my little ones and all youth in our community. Reducing tobacco use is important to me. I'm grateful that Washington County became the first in the state to protect kids by ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products. I'm not surprised that the tobacco industry opposes these efforts.

Make no mistake: Tobacco companies aggressively target youth with flavored products like strawberry, cotton candy and minty sweet menthol, designed to lure them into a lifetime addiction.

Big Tobacco knows that flavors hook kids and will create new generations of tobacco users. It's why tobacco companies like RJ Reynolds and Altria, the parent company of e-cigarette giant JUUL, are pouring money into efforts to try and repeal Washington County's flavored tobacco ordinance on our May ballot.

Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products is critical to protect future generations. Unless smoking rates decline, 68,000 Oregon kids under age 18 will die prematurely from tobacco use.

Big Tobacco has targeted our communities for too long. That's why I'm joining parents, doctors, nurses and organizations like the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network to vote "no" on Measure 34-314. I urge you to vote "no" too.

Pat Salas, Aloha

Retired USAF colonel unimpressed with McPeak

Lake Oswego's Gen. Merrill McPeak's comment "Nothing is better than combat when you want to have a good time…" is offensive ("This story needed to be told," feature published April 21, 2022).

Read the April 14, 2022, feature on retired Gen. Merrill McPeak.

I served under both McPeak and his successor as chief of staff of the Air Force, Gen. Ron Fogelman (ironically back row, third from left in the article's group photo). The article gives a hint to the excessive, even for a fighter pilot, ego of Gen. McPeak. His leadership of the Air Force was, to be charitable, controversial. His successor spent much effort undoing some of McPeak's worst ideas.

I also served in Vietnam, flying C-130s with body bags of Americans and stretchers carrying the wounded.

I hope the general will refrain from offensive remarks in the future.

Michael R. Gallagher, Hillsboro

Easy call to re-elect Treece as commissioner

As a former educator and longtime resident of Washington County District 2, I ask my fellow residents to join me in voting to re-elect Pam Treece as our Washington County commissioner.

With her decades of experience working to make our communities stronger, Pam is the clear choice in this race. She brings her background as a school teacher, small business owner, leader in economic development, and active community volunteer to the work of the commission every day.

There are many serious issues facing our county — homelessness and a housing crisis, pandemic recovery, community safety, and more — and I trust Pam to continue to work hard to tackle these issues.

Regardless of the issue, I know Pam listens to those most impacted and works to find real solutions. Her broad support from dozens of organizations, elected officials, and community leaders demonstrates her collaborative approach and the partnerships she will bring to the work of the county.

While there may be some hard choices on our ballot, this one should be easy. You can count on Pam Treece to listen, collaborate, and keep working for the betterment of Washington County. Vote Pam Treece for Washington County Commission District 2 by May 17.

Lynda Falkenstein, Cedar Mill

Congress must take action on puppy mills

A dog known only as Golden Retriever #142 was raised in a USDA-licensed puppy mill in Iowa, one of hundreds of dogs living in horrific conditions. She died there after months of suffering extreme neglect. USDA inspectors witnessed her deterioration at this federally licensed puppy mill and were responsible for protecting her but took no action to save her.

In response, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced Goldie's Act (H.R. 6100) to ensure that no more animals meet Goldie's fate in USDA-licensed commercial breeding facilities. Goldie's Act would require inspectors to take welfare violations seriously and to intervene in cases of suffering dogs. It would also require meaningful penalties for violations, and direct inspectors to share evidence of violations with local law enforcement.

This act will bring much-needed reform in the USDA's enforcement policies. Congress must pass Goldie's Act to ensure that the USDA honors its responsibility to these vulnerable animals.? Please join me in contacting Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and urging her to cosponsor and pass Goldie's Act to protect vulnerable dogs and puppies.

Paige Lemhouse, Beaverton

Retirees shouldn't be forced to subsidize schools

The Beaverton School District (BSD) continues its quest to extract funds from local taxpayers at an unsustainable rate. The previous two bond measures that passed totaled nearly a billion dollars. Now we are being told the proposed new measure will cost owners of the median assessed-value home approximately $76 "the first year." What would it cost us in subsequent years?

And, the notion of a $300,000 median-priced home is not reflective of the current reality for many property owners. (Just try to find a decent house for sale at that price within the BSD.)

As always, proponents are touting improvements to "safety" and "security" as benefits of this money grab. That is pretty vague. We also should cast a skeptical eye at the costs associated with recent expenditures by the district. The cost per square foot of construction on recent school buildings far exceeds typical projects in the private sector, and many of the amenities are excessive for a school system with declining enrollment.

We are in a period of high inflation. This is no time to add to the economic burden of local residents. If anything, we need to have a ballot measure providing tax relief for citizens. I suggest we start by exempting those who have reached their full retirement age from paying for an education system that they have supported for decades while the outcomes (graduation rates, student proficiency, etc.) have steadily declined.

Let's try this: For each year after reaching full retirement age, a reduction of 10% should be made on a senior's tax burden. If a person is fortunate to live another 10 years, they could then pass their remaining days free from further obligation. This could be an "opt-in" system so those who wish to continue supporting public services of any type can participate at their choosing.

Dave Murray, Cedar Hills

Hutzler brings volunteer spirit to Auditor's Office

May I offer my support of John Hutzler for Washington County auditor. Please vote for John in the upcoming election on May 17.

Over several years, I have learned of John's driving commitment as a volunteer. He has joined and supported many fine community organizations, which he offers his kindness and devotion. He also brings a strong sense of fairness. John wants everyone to be included in our success.

With his deep desire to give, John also comes to us with years of professional public service and experience. His previous years of service show John's skill at learning, analyzing, and organizing to help our county's wide variety of causes.

I am confident that as auditor, John Hutzler will continue to successfully examine Washington County's programs and operations to determine their effectiveness, efficiency and accountability.

Matt Schiewe, Garden Home

In-person school can be a real pain in the butt

Have you ever had the experience of going to school one day? Then, when you sit down on a chair, your bottom starts to hurt? I have. Quite often, I've also had the very pleasant experience of, when class starts, everyone rushing to get the comfiest chairs. The slow ones (me included) always end up with the rock-hard chairs, with the very worst shape for rock-hard chairs. There are about 10 actually comfortable chairs in the entire school, yet each of those 10 chairs are always reserved for teachers.

To be fair, teachers, out of everyone, should be the ones who get the comfier chairs, as many of them have been teaching for longer than the time a student takes to get from preschool to college. But, the issue still stands. It is uncommon for any one student to be comfortable with the chair they're sitting on for a significant part of the day.

The best solution is to remake the entire education system. I know that it will fix thousands of minor and major issues. Though, I am roughly 99.41% sure that that will not happen within the next t20 years. So, I propose two new solutions.

First, give schools money. The amount they have is terrible and barely sustains them, and many chairs in school are older than most teachers.

Second is make schools online, like it has been for COVID. This will require much, much less upkeep money, and it will allow students to do their schoolwork from the comfort of their own bed.

In conclusion, there are many issues with schools. One of the more inconvenient ones is a lack of comfort. This can easily be fixed with pushing schools to go back online. Only the most extroverted and mothers disliked the online system, and it fixes oh-so-many problems with the education system.

Elijah Jones, Banks

Veterans shouldn't be homeless

Driving and seeing homeless veterans on the streets breaks my heart.

Imagine you're in the Army, and one day you get shot. You survive, but the hospital bills are so expensive that you have to sell everything you have in order to pay them, causing you to become homeless. There's no special low-income housing, or anything cheap enough you can afford. You just get to be homeless after everything you've sacrificed.

Maybe this story sounds familiar. So many veterans become homeless after their time is up. It's not fair, and something needs to change.

Veterans often become homeless because they have a hard time returning to a regular civilian life. Many veterans don't receive training or support transitioning into this new lifestyle. Selecting a new career path and enrolling in health insurance is all new for them, and can be very difficult to transition into. For example, USC did a study in 2018 and there were an estimated 40,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. This can be because of low income and health-related issues. There should be some sort of support veterans can get when returning to a regular civilian lifestyle.

Additionally, veterans also deal with severe mental health issues from traumatic experiences during their time serving. A lot of veterans deal with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which can cause them to get depressed and turn to drugs. They need to be able to have a support system not just for housing but also for their mental health.

We need to find a way to help and take care of the people who put their life on the line for us and give us our freedom. Veterans shouldn't be homeless.

Kimara Witham, Banks

Teachers union is all in for Decker as DA

As educators, my colleagues and I understand how healthcare, education, human services, and the criminal justice system all are interconnected. We see the impacts every day in our classrooms.

To give youth safe and productive futures, we need public leaders in every field who support preventive services and will collaborate across sectors. One of those leaders is Brian Decker, and he has my support in the race for Washington County district attorney.

The factors that can derail a student's success in school are the same challenges that often are root causes of crime: food insecurity, housing insecurity, lack of mental health services and substance abuse. Our community needs a county prosecutor who will prepare charges, sentences and plea agreements that truly fit the crimes and that hold potential for rehabilitating the offender.

The current DA in Washington County favors severe punishments, even for nonviolent offenses. Prosecution of minors as juvenile delinquents has climbed more than 50% during his time in office. This harshness doesn't bring safety when the original offenses — as they often do — stem from mental illness, addiction, and financial strain.

As Washington County DA, Brian Decker will demand accountability from offenders and offer rehabilitation services in appropriate cases. That is the most effective method for ending the "school to prison pipeline," the decades-long tendency to direct students (particularly students of color and students with disabilities) into the criminal justice system without addressing underlying causes.

Educators know well the power of prevention: We have seen students and whole families thrive once they get access to healthcare or stable housing. We will see benefits for our entire community when the criminal justice system incorporates more treatment and prevention as well.

That's possible when we elect Brian Decker as Washington County DA on May 17.

Sara Schmitt

President, Beaverton Education Association

Harrington boasts strong record on environment

Voters who care about our drinking water supply and forest health should choose Kathryn Harrington for county chair.

Much of our county's water flows out of our state-owned Tillamook Forest. Washington County has 45,000+ acres of state forest.

Harrington has consistently supported management of these public lands in our counties to provide a wide range of values, including protection of our drinking water supply. Despite strong pressure from the timber industry to convert all our public lands to tree farms, Harrington has stood firm for a balanced plan that considers all of Washington County's interests.

Harrington is the right choice for conservation-minded voters who value balanced forest management.

Bob Van Dyk, Forest Grove

Re-elect Harrington for Washington County chair

Kathryn Harrington deserves another term as Washington County chair.

As a volunteer community leader, I have worked with Kathryn many times on various issues for many years. Kathryn is smart, thoughtful, engaged and hard working. Even when Kathryn and I have disagreed, she is still courteous and professional using logic backed by her research.

I respected Kathryn's hard work in Metro, and that respect has grown in her leadership as Washington County chair. Washington County is better off with Kathryn leading it, deserving of four more years.

Kevin O'Donnell, Bethany

Decker will endanger our children

As the month of April ends, we wrap up Child Abuse Awareness Month. Now more than ever, we must think about the safety and protection of the county's most vulnerable population: our children.

The election for the office of Washington County district attorney is vital to the safety and protection of our community.

Our Child Abuse Team is made up of five experienced prosecutors who carry full caseloads of crimes exclusively related to the physical and sexual abuse of children. We see some of the most egregious and heart-wrenching cases and, as a team, we aggressively prosecute those offenders.

The pandemic and shutdown of schools and community has left our office with a historically high caseload and thousands of referrals from DHS, CPS, and police investigations. Not only have the numbers of child abuse referrals gone up, but unfortunately, the severity of the abuse and neglect appears to have increased as well. The five of us have worked tirelessly to bring justice to the children and families, but we are feeling the crush of an overloaded and underfunded system.

To elect Brian Decker, a man who has publicly advocated for less police resources, less funding, less incarceration, and who would support abolishing mandatory minimum sentences under Measure 11, would put our children in danger.

We have seen what happens when someone with no managerial or little prosecutorial experience takes over a DA's office in our neighboring Multnomah County and doesn't invest the resources into these cases. The only way out is more resources, not fewer. The only way to get there is under proven and effective leadership, not from Brian Decker, who has extremely limited trial and prosecutorial experience and no experience working with child victims.

Brian Decker wants to protect the people who abuse children. Instead, help us to protect our children and victims and vote to re-elect Kevin Barton as Washington County district attorney.

Andy Pulver, Washington County Senior Deputy District Attorney

Chris Lewman, Washington County Deputy District Attorney

Sara Loebner, Washington County Deputy District Attorney

Rayney Meisel, Washington County Deputy District Attorney

Jason Weiner, Washington County Deputy District Attorney

Marchandt will advocate for vulnerable in House

Like most Oregonians, I believe our bodies belong to us. Freedom cannot be achieved until every person has the power to make decisions about when and whether to become a parent.

Sadly, right-wing politicians are dismantling access to abortion, and the Supreme Court appears ready to overturn Roe v. Wade by this summer — which would officially erase nearly 50 years of precedent.

While abortion rights are protected in Oregon statute, we cannot be complacent. I'm voting for Zeloszelos Marchandt to represent me in the Oregon Legislature because he is committed to protecting our healthcare rather than decimating it.

Raised by a single mom who couldn't afford rent, Zelos deeply understands the struggle to make ends meet. As a parent and a small-business owner, he will fight for people who are being left behind by economic inequality. If elected, he would become the state's first openly transgender lawmaker.

Make no mistake: This election is about who has power over you, who has the authority to make decisions for you and who can control how your future is going to be. Please join me in voting for Zeloszelos Marchandt for state representative.

Janet Sullivan, Aloha

Former employee urges vote for Hutzler

John Hutzler has been a vigilant elected auditor for Washington County and her citizens and should be re-elected.

As a former employee of John's, I have witnessed the impact of his uncompromising commitment to quality and adherence to government auditing standards. Through John's leadership, he and his team continue to increase the accountability of county government, improve the effectiveness of county operations, and protect the public's hard-earned funds.

John's commitment to quality, audit standards, and innovation have earned his office national awards. I experienced him to be a compassionate boss who, by his example, challenged us to develop and perform beyond our norm. Working for him has been a highlight of my 24 years of auditing.

John's established relationships with county leaders, and his knowledge of the strengths and challenges of county operations, make him uniquely effective compared to less experienced alternatives.

These are challenging times for Washington County. You have an important choice in this election. Vote for John Hutzler for elected auditor.

Latham Stack, Albany

Hutzler for re-election as Washington County auditor

I am writing to highlight the qualifications of John Hutzler as Washington County auditor in the upcoming May 17 election.

John's proven, wide-ranging analytical abilities have been key to his success in carrying out the responsibilities of auditor since 2011. With a law degree as well as undergraduate degrees in both psychology and mathematics, John is uniquely qualified to analyze the efficacy of programs that range from healthcare to housing, from finance to courts, and from cybersecurity to construction.

Having served Washington County as criminal justice coordinator and county auditor for over 17 years, John understands Washington County and its many departments far better than his opponent, who spent most of her career in Portland city government. In her three years with Washington County, she has completed only one audit of one department.

We need John's experience to hold county leaders accountable for what they do with our tax dollars.

Please vote by May 17 to re-elect John Hutzler as Washington County auditor.

Dale Feik, Forest Grove

Treece has been doing good work for county

The Editorial Board made the right choice in endorsing a vote for Pam Treece for Washington County commissioner in May.

As a longtime District 2 resident, I can truly say Pam has done a great job representing our district over her first term. Pam is accessible, responsive, and brings a depth of experience collaborating across public and private sectors to well represent us.

I would particularly like to highlight how valuable Pam's leadership was throughout the pandemic. Pam led Washington County's business recovery efforts and the creation of localized Business Recovery Centers.

She also supported a community-based distribution model for vaccines and testing access, which led to record high vaccination rates and provided necessary culturally specific approaches for our wonderfully diverse county.

Lastly, seeing the undue impact the pandemic was having on families, Pam successfully advocated for federal relief funding for working families and access to childcare.

I know we can trust Pam to tackle the other big issues we are facing because in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, Pam acted with urgency and inclusivity. I'm eager to see what Pam will do in her second term and urge you to vote for Pam Treece by May 17.

Catherine Mack, Cedar Mill


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