Letters published Oct. 11, 2019
Support safe sidewalks, streets for Scappoose
Scappoose has been my home for several years. My husband and I moved here for a small-town experience and a safer place to live.
While we have loved living in the area, I am increasingly concerned with the increased traffic I have seen in the past few years. I know that others want to have the same quality of life as we do, but those services, like quality sidewalks and streets, cost money.
As a former 30-year trail runner and current avid hiker and cyclist, I am concerned with the eroding sidewalks in Scappoose. As our community grows, it is essential that pedestrians and families with children have safe areas to walk. Whether it is kids walking to school, seniors exercising for health or just getting outside, quality sidewalks are important for all of us.
Which is why I am supporting Measure 5-275, a fuel tax for the city of Scappoose that will pay for much-needed sidewalk and street infrastructure.
The real benefit is that 80% of the revenue raised will be with pass-through traffic, so that everyone can pay their fair share for the maintenance and improvement of our roads and sidewalks. With minimal financial impact on Scappoose residents, this measure is a win for all. With the tax being retired after 10 years, this is smart choice for our quality of life and safety of our citizens.
Please vote yes for Measure 5-275 and support Safe Sidewalks and Streets for Scappoose!
Safe sidewalks, streets needed for Scappoose quality of life
As a resident of Scappoose, I have been concerned about much needed sidewalk and street infrastructure repairs and development. I also know as we grow — and we are — we will need safer areas to walk, ride and run for our children and provide healthy alternatives for our older citizens as well as all residents of Scappoose, especially those with disabilities.
Creating safer roads and sidewalks needs an action plan to address it effectively and affordably. For this reason, after exploring various ways of creating the necessary revenue stream to make it happen, I am supporting Measure 5-275, a 3-cent fuel tax for the city of Scappoose.
Passing it will move forward a plan of action to make happen sidewalk and street infrastructure improvements we all wish for, but unlike some tax plans, it is supported largely by revenue raised by pass-through traffic on Highway 30.
It is a win-win proposal.
Fiscal impact is minimal because the cost is shared, but the ultimate reward is we have a 10-year plan in place to increase the quality of our roads and the quality and safety of our citizens, after which time the tax is then retired.
I urge you to vote YES for Measure 5-275 and support Safe Sidewalks and Streets for Scappoose.
Time will tell
What a difference a little time will make. Just a few years ago, without a shred of scientific evidence, marijuana proponents proclaimed the safety of marijuana and THC. THC is the psychoactive chemical derived from marijuana, also known as cannabis.
As of Oct. 1, 1,080 mostly young people, most between 18 and 34 years old, have been diagnosed with severe lung disease. So far, 18 people have died, two in Oregon. One doctor said the lungs of his 20-year-old patient looked like those of an 80-year-old.
The illnesses were initially attributed to vaping standard electronic cigarettes. At the end of September the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the majority of illnesses were linked to vaping THC products. The CDC's Oct. 3 update said that 78% of sick patients had been vaping THC.
Over the last couple of years, St Helens Mayor Rick Scholl and Councilman Keith Locke convinced the City Council to lease and then sell city land to a marijuana developer. They espoused, and continue to champion, cannabis and CBD (another active cannabinoid in marijuana). They ignore the fact that the developer is only licensed for recreational marijuana — i.e. predominately THC producing plants.
Scholl and the City Council ignored St. Helens citizens' testimony: the serious ill effects, the economic uncertainty, and potential unforeseen medical consequences. They chose to tie St. Helens' future to marijuana and THC, which is now killing young people across our country.
On a related topic I would like to thank Columbia Community Mental Health (CCMH) and all of its employees. CCMH provides suicide prevention, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health and a host of other services to Columbia County citizens. CCMH does great work and has grown to be the largest employer in St. Helens.
The growth of CCMH makes it obvious that Columbia County and St. Helens has a large and growing mental health and drug and alcohol problem, yet Mayor Scholl and Councilman Locke and other councilors committed St. Helens to marijuana as a major industry. Dear Mayor Scholl, Councilman Locke and fellow councilors: please stop smelling the flowers. Please address real problems, promote positive change, and bring family-wage jobs that will improve St Helens' economy and wellbeing.
Let it go
As I watch the process of the impeachment of President Donald Trump, I really appreciate whistleblowers. But there are times when a whistleblower becomes a broken record or causes more harm than good.
Spirit of Halloweentown is an event that is paid for entirely by the motel tax — it is not your taxes; it is the taxes paid by tourists who come to St. Helens and stay in a motel. By statue, this tax must be spent on tourism.
We have had this tax for years and always spent it. I was the chair of the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce when it had the tourism contract. Guess what we got for those dollars: nothing. By the time we paid the tourism director's salary, rent, phone, etc., there was zero dollars left. When I was chair, this was not the first year the chamber "managed" the contract and had nothing to show after years of spending this money.
My idea was to make the position halftime and use half of the salary to have dollars to actually spend on tourism. The city instead did a request for proposal and eventually contracted with E2C Corp. and Tina Curry. Her solution was to get sponsors, sell advertising and collect another $200,000 — and under that plan Spirit of Halloweentown exploded. The E2C contract also includes 13 Nights on the River, the Christmas Tree Lighting, Fourth of July, and other events. Remember when we did not have enough money for fireworks? When 13 Nights lost money? These events are now paid for with the tourism contact and funds E2C raises. Thank you, Tina Curry.
I understand a few people don't like Spirit of Halloweentown — it would be surprising if everyone did. This event is not designed for 80-year-old ladies or 55-year-old men. It is designed to attract young people from outside the county with children — and if you were in St. Helens last Saturday, boy did that happen. The estimate is 10,000 people were in the city for the parade. During the month of October last year about 40,000 people came to our city from all over the world. I expect it will be more this year.
Thanks to Tina Curry, Spirit of Halloweentown was rated by Martha Stewart as the third top destination in the country to visit for Halloween. We beat out 10 other cities, including freaking Disneyland, even though Disney made the movie, "Halloweentown." Columbia County is number 27 out of 36 counties in the state for tourism, almost last. The one event that is changing those numbers is Spirit of Halloweentown. It is estimated that the average tourist to the county spends $93. At 40,000 people, that is a potential $3.7 million that Spirit of Halloweentown brings into our city every year. Thank you, Tina Curry.
Much has been made of the empty storefronts in St. Helens. Thanks to Halloweentown, every storefront in downtown St. Helens is filled for the first time since I can remember. I walked through St. Helens last Saturday night and those vendors that choose to take advantage of the 10,000 people in the city had their registers full, staff exhausted and were all very happy. Most had lines out their doors for most of the day. That is what I care about; I don't care how much the metal tree costs, I care about what the tree gets us. Yes, many of these events cost money, but there are lots of free events too. And people are happy to spend money on Halloweentown event tickets.
Don't get me wrong: There is a lot to worry about. I have a list of concerns. For starters, I would like to know what we got for the $250,000-plus that the county has spent on tourism. I would like to know what we get for the more than $500,000 that we spend on the Columbia County Economic Team (CCET) annually. I would like to know why CCET Executive Director Daughtry gave an award for Small Business Job Creator to a Wedding Chapel in Vancouver, Washington — where his two sons work. And then he joked that he was going to give the award to his girlfriend next year. I don't find that funny. I find it to be the posterchild of why people hate government waste and nepotism.
I would like to know why no one is upset with the Petersens in St. Helens who claimed to be "whistleblowers" and insisted that Boise Inc. property being sold to the pot farm get an appraisal. They felt the city was not charging enough for the land because Councilor Keith Locke was doing something shady and they were getting too good of a deal. The pot people had agreed to buy the land for $3 million.
Guess what: The appraisal came back at $1.5 million. Those "whistleblowers" cost the city $1.5 million in revenue. Gee, thanks for that. There was a lot we could do with $1.5 million. Funny how there was no apology, no sorry — just silence. That is, until this last week when Al Petersen showed up at City Council to complain about the delay in the sale of the property, which I would point out was caused by his mother's lawsuit. Not to mention the thousands of dollars in legal fees this cost the city.
I would like to know why no one is unhappy with St. Helens City Councilor Steve Topaz for filing an ethics complaint against the city and all the city councilors for attending a meeting that he also attended — but yet somehow he is exempt? (see editor's note). I also want to know where the outrage is that at least two grievances have been filed against this councilor by city staff. And, like the Petersens' lawsuit, Topaz's actions have also cost the city thousands of dollars in legal fees, not to mention an attorney now has to be at every City Council meeting — creating more expense.
I am just getting started. There is a lot to be concerned about. Halloweentown is not one of them.
(Editor's note: The ethics commission's investigation into the St. Helens City Council's executive session in Portland last May includes Councilor Steve Topaz's participation in that meeting.)
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