Letters to the editor
Columbia County citizens: Your parks are in peril
I want to make the citizens of Columbia County aware of a proposal that can affect everyone in our county who enjoys the wonderful opportunities our county parks provide. This proposal would allow full rental (all campsites, including the only horse camp in the county) of Camp Wilkerson for events and effectively close this facility to the public for one or two days. (for reference, see April 26 Spotlight, "Equestrians object to increased campsite rentals").
Mr. Casey Garrett, the county's director for facilities and parks, at a Parks Advisory Council meeting attended by our Columbia County commissioners and members of the Columbia County Oregon Equestrian Trails (OET), explained he felt the premium price paid for rentals would be more important than not-allowing the public to use this facility in order to minimally increase revenue.
Stating that the county parks typically runs at a deficit of approximately $100,000 per year, that recent inquiries to rent out the full facility should be considered. Data shared at the meeting collected over one year showed usage of both the equestrian and non-equestrian campsites which, upon inspection, reflect the equestrian facility gets more overall use than non-equestrian sites. This fact was summarily discounted by Mr. Garrett as not important.
Not everyone may be aware that the horse camping facilities — six dedicated campsites with corrals and adequate parking for horse trailers — is located at Camp Wilkerson and that this is the only dedicated horse camping area within our county. This facility was made possible by funding, labor and time of the Columbia County OET and Sherriff's Posse members working in conjunction with the Columbia County Parks Department.
OET has considered this area the "jewel" of our county and continually works to expand the current trail system, as well as to maintain the camp and current trails.
When voicing concerns of possible damage, lack of accessibility for day-use, and communication to the public of closure, Mr. Garrett and the majority of commissioners present took on an attitude that these could all be mitigated and weren't important concerns. In fact, during the meeting I felt the commissioners' attendance was like checking off a box for them, the majority had already made up their minds. There was no, "Thank you for coming and voicing your concerns and we will take them into consideration."
This meeting did end abruptly as well, as Commissioner Henry Heimuller stated that they "had an important meeting at 1 p.m. and needed to leave." They just left for their important meeting. I later learned that this meeting was a county commissioners meeting. Interesting excuse.
I'd like the citizens of our county to consider that if the county is willing to exclude use by the public for a private event for the sake of a few dollars, when will it decide to close another park? Will Big Eddy, Scaponia, or Prescott Beach be next? Many of us enjoy using these parks to take our families to on short or little notice for biking, hiking or just camping with our families. In the future you may just show up and find that the facility is closed for a private event and have to turn around and go home, disappointed.
Just remember that Columbia County parks belong to all of us and have been bringing in visitors and their money to help our economy. Let's not be shortsighted as a county and destroy what we have worked so hard to bring to life and grow.
Beverly Peacock, Chair
Oregon Equestrian Trails
Columbia County Chapter
Libraries are learning hubs
This past Saturday I attended the Columbia County Reads 2019 presentation at the Scappoose Public Library. The same presentation was given at other libraries in Columbia County.
Two authors, Phillip Morgan and Gregory Noakes, talked about books they authored about slavery in Oregon. This was of particular interest in that some of the founders of Scappoose had slaves in Missouri before coming to Oregon.
We are so fortunate to have a library where we can meet to learn from such presentations. Before the city of Scappoose was founded, people were meeting to discuss topics of interest. The need for such open discussions was greater at that time as they did not have TV or the internet to learn from.
For the group that gathered, it was a very pleasant way to spend an hour on a Saturday afternoon. There is no cost to attend and they even provide snacks. The library also provides many youth activities, which are a benefit to our community.
I believe that libraries are a wonderful asset and encourage all to plan regular visits and/or volunteer with the Friends of the Scappoose Public Library. The used book sales hold many treasures. The next one will be on May 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Support for all capable Oregonians to drive
Immigrants living in Oregon are part of our families, communities, workplaces and places of worship. They are our neighbors, friends and local business owners.
I am one of those immigrant business owners. I own three restaurants in Columbia County and am proud to be able to provide the people of this county with jobs so they are able to contribute to their families, our community and our state. We need all people to contribute more to our economy and our community — that is why I am urging our state legislators to vote "yes" on House Bill 2015.
HB 2015 would allow all Oregonians who meet DMV requirements the opportunity to access a driver's license. Driving is an absolute necessity for Oregon families, as they need to work, take their kids to school or go to a doctor's appointment.
In Columbia County, it is not possible to get around without driving. I know this because my restaurants are located in Scappoose, Clatskanie and Warren. It's not practical or safe for people in rural Oregon to travel these distances walking on country roads.
House Bill 2015 makes great economic sense and would enrich our communities in Columbia County. I am urging Senator Betsy Johnson and Representative Brad Witt to vote "yes" on it.
Walkout to support school funding
On Wednesday, May 8, teachers around the state are going to stage a class walkout to express to the Legislature that our schools are severely underfunded and that now is the time to change that.
As a part of that expression, St. Helens teachers will also be walking out.
The walkout they are doing will begin at 2 p.m. from the tennis courts at the high school. The teachers and all who want to join us will march in red shirts to show the state that our community cares about the lack of resources in our schools.
Last week at the St. Helens School Board meeting it was very apparent that we have schools in crisis, and we do not have the resources to solve this crisis. Our schools need help and need it now, not years down the road.
Our first-graders only get to be first-graders once. We are asking that anyone who is interested in being a part of the solution to this issue to march with us and show your support for our cause.
Editor's note: Keith Meeuwsen is a history and social studies teacher at St. Helens High School.
School board members should work for all kids
I am writing to support Michelle Graham, Will Kessi and Jim Hoag in this month's Scappoose School Board election.
This is a critical time for our community and our school district. Our district faces a broad array of challenges. From budgets to welcoming a new superintendent and two new principals, this moment in our district's history could not benefit more from the experience, knowledge, critical thinking and understanding that these three candidates offer. When they step into the boardroom, they put aside all personal agendas and use facts to draft policy that benefits all kids.
As mid-twenty newlyweds who plan to have kids attend Scappoose schools in the future, my husband and I could not place more confidence in these three candidates. Their time on the board has proven they embrace everything our Scappoose schools represent: integrity, honesty, fairness, inclusion and immense sense of community. They are exceptional examples of this wonderful community we grew up in and are proud to remain members of.
I urge you to vote for these three candidates. Tomorrow's leaders need them!
Our community deserves board members with dedication to all kids.
Out with the old, in with the new
I would like to thank the incumbents for their 61 years of combined time on the Scappoose School Board.
However, anyone with knowledge of our district record knows we have gone through numerous changes in leadership. Multiple principals and superintendents. This is a direct result of the lack of leadership and transparency of the three incumbents on the school board. It is time for new board members we can trust to make decisions in the best interest of our schools and not their personal interests.
These incumbents voted to re-hire Paul Peterson, the interim superintendent, after he had previously cost the school district $500,000 to settle a harassment lawsuit. That's just plain stupid, but the incumbents call it "experience."
That's why I'm voting for people who will hold in high regard to the district and the people they serve. Steve Kreins, Nikki Tetz and Kevin Freimuth are community leaders with a proven track record we can trust! Restore integrity back to SSD and vote for Steve, Nikki and Kevin.
Do we want that kind of leadership? Over the years we hear about being committed and being transparent. But are we? We vote on policy changes or resolutions and do not do a good job of letting the community know. But the current board members also do a great job and misleading the public to believe their hidden agenda is something else.
Where is the integrity?
This is why I will be voting for Steve Kreins, Nikki Tetz and Kevin Friemuth.
What is Scappoose School Board challengers' agenda?
Low turnout in May elections creates opportunities for organized minority interests to elect public officials with views not shared by the majority.
Now more than ever, Scappoose's school board needs the proven, reasoned leadership of incumbents Michelle Graham, Jim Hoag and Will Kessi. During their time on the board, they have shown dedication to the needs and safety of all children, graduation rates have risen to eighth in the state, and our bond dollars purchased maximum benefit.
They have the skills to manage PERS demands on the district's $30-million-plus budget and guide the three new incoming administrators.
Their opponents have no experience on the school board or even the budget committee. Parents' Rights in Education — whose social media hosts viewpoints that unvaccinated kids in school is OK but not sex education — promoted their campaigns. PRE criticizes the board's recent decision not to adopt board member Lisa Maloney's proposed resolution to prevent all Scappoose students from participation in a statewide reading competition unless a book about a transgender child was removed from the competition. The incumbents' "no" vote preserved parents' rights to choose whether their child reads the book and participates in the statewide competition.
What exactly is the opponents' agenda?
Scappoose school board members committed to children
Scappoose schools have a 95% graduation rate, ranking eighth in the state. Ronald Reagan said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
We have a competent, hardworking school board dedicated to serving the whole community. Now there is a concerted effort to oust three members of that board.
New members coming in with an agenda aided by outsiders (Reference Spotlight April 19) can create dissension and instability with major changes in curriculum. Teachers need stability and continuity to do their jobs effectively.
Follow Reagan's advice. Vote for incumbents Michelle Graham, Jim Hoag and Will Kessi. They have demonstrated commitment to our children.
Editor's note: Mary Kucera is a former Scappoose School Board member.
What were they thinking?
What were the Port of Columbia County commissioners thinking when they decided years ago that the transportation of fossil fuels to Port Westward was a good thing for Columbia County? Among other concerns (potential of exploding oil trains) did they consider — or care — about traffic issues?
For years Columbia County citizens have complained about trains disrupting traffic, including basic traffic issues such as being held up by long oil trains while trying to get to work, to school, just to get home or across the tracks. The port has remained silent.
But now the Port of Columbia County is looking to receive resources to fund a traffic study.
What has taken them so long? The timing is interesting. Three incumbent port commissioners are running for re-election. Coincidence?
May we have confirmation that the study will include a significant representation of local citizens?
If Chip Bubl were a commissioner, he would.
Ward is the best fit for Port of Columbia County
I am writing in regards to the upcoming election for Port of Columbia County commissioner, Position 1. Recently I have noticed the election mega-sign for this position on Highway30, and it got me wondering: Where is all the money coming from to pay for such massive signage? It's my understanding that port positions are largely voluntary.
Especially noteworthy is Candidate Patrick Trapp's massive sign on Highway 30. If my memory serves me right, Mr. Trapp recently retired as executive director of the Port of Columbia County and was instrumental in allowing the potentially dangerous oil trains that now skirt past our schools and business areas. Now, Mr. Trapp is running for a commissioner position on the port and would seem to have a lot of big financial banking.
I'm leaning much more towards voting for candidate Nancy Ward. I heard her speak last week. I believe she will do a better job at drawing in community-based industry while protecting our Columbia River and the beautiful county we call home.
I believe she will support the taxpayers and families of our county, not the special interests who I believe could be backing Candidate Trapp.
Editor's note: Jim Trapp is no relation to candidate Patrick Trapp.
Lucky to have Ward, Bubl as candidates
I urge you to vote for Nancy Ward and Chip Bubl in the upcoming elections for the Port of Columbia County commissioners. We need citizens on the board who want the best not just for us, but for our children and their children.
All too often the port is in favor of leasing land to any new company that wants to come here, regardless of the costs. We need companies that will hire many people from our county without causing major risks to our health and safety or to the environment. And, if there are risks, we need commissioners who will require the companies to pay their fair share of the costs for necessary improvements (for example, to our roads and railroad crossings due to long oil-car trains that bisect our towns). Otherwise it will be left up to our cities, county and state to find the money, which means that either you and I will be taxed more or it just won't get done.
We need commissioners that will take a hard look at all of the issues. For example, a Chinese government backed company (Northwest Innovation Works, or NWIW) has already leased land from the port. The company is telling us one thing (the methanol will be shipped back to China to make plastic parts), but another to potential financial investors (the methanol will be burned in China like natural gas). They claim the plant will be better for the environment.
We will be left with the air and water pollution from the plant, and China can ship us more plastic parts.
Is that a good deal?
We are lucky to have good candidates who are willing to run and have years of dedicated community service. We need commissioners like Nancy Ward and Chip Bubl.
Support for Bubl on port
I am urging citizens to vote for Chip Bubl for Port of Columbia County commissioner. If you do not know about him, he runs the Oregon State University Extension Center in St. Helens. He is very knowledgeable in agriculture and always willing to help solve problems people are having with their plants, crops and pests. He is honest, hard-working and personable.
As most of you know, the Port of Columbia County has supported Global Partners LP in flipping the old, unused ethanol plant to both an ethanol and oil terminal without public input. The port also allowed Global to ship any weight of fuel they desired, without regard to the increased danger to the environment of many of these products.
Chip will be a voice of reason for the port. This is becoming more and more important as Zenith Corp. is planning to move tar sands oil from Alberta by train down the Columbia River. This will greatly increase the train traffic and danger of spills in our communities, not to mention the increase in traffic congestion and blocked roadways.
Please consider Chip Bubl for our new port commissioners.
Follow the money
There is one candidate running for the Port of Columbia County that will put you, the voter, first — Nancy Ward.
The incumbent that Ms. Ward is running against, Patrick Trapp, was appointed to the Port of Columbia County by the board after serving as the executive director for the port. Every recommendation by nonprofit and corporate consultants say that appointing a former executive director to a board is very bad practice. This has nothing to do with this particular candidate, it is just a bad practice in general.
But I also have other issues with Ms. Ward's opponent. While serving as executive director he hid actions the port was taking on multiple topics, requiring various lawsuits and public records requests to obtain what should be public information. He also lied to the Oregon Transportation Commission. Catherine Mater, the chair of the commission said, "... coal export project was 'fraudulent,' an attempt to deceive the state into awarding the money."
While being interviewed on KOHI Odd Friday, this same candidate admitted that he had read 300 some emails before the public hearing on the Global Partners API request that would allow Canadian Tar Sands oil to be shipped by train throughout our community — and that he had already made his decision based on staff information before the meeting even started. I asked, why even have a public meeting? He replied: Because it is required.
At a recent candidates forum I asked about the insurance coverage for the oil trains. The incumbent said there is no way to force that information from Global Partners. I asked, would it have been a good idea to make the API increase dependent on providing insurance information? He admitted that was a good idea, and that the port made an error by not requesting it.
This candidate has raised almost $8,000 (over 10 times what the other candidates are spending) from mainly corporate donations. That works out to $166 a month for a position that pays $150 a month. Why? Notice where his signs are.
I want my elected officials to actually listen to the people that come before them — and not just do it because it is a requirement. I want an elected official that will take the time needed to properly evaluate a decision that affects the livability of our community. I want an official that will ask about insurance coverage. I want a candidate that will be transparent and put the local citizens before corporate interests.
Nancy Ward is that person.