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Reader's Letters

Shocked city manager is gone

I was shocked to read that Jon Hanken has lost his job over the continuing flap concerning the disciplinary action against the chief of police.

I don’t know Jon personally, but as one who was in a position to be exposed to various personalities at Scappoose City Hall (I used to own the restaurant across the street), I will say that he was one of the few polite, level-headed and considerate folks who worked in that building.

He was extremely valuable in the struggle to strike a balance between economic growth for our town and the concerns of long-time residents. It’s a shame that, in the end, he stepped into the hornets’ nest that is mean-spirited, small-minded, small-town politics and lost his job because of it. Scappoose is merely showing its true colors, as tiny, isolationist towns are wont to do from time to time.

Jon Hanken’s talents are better invested in a place where he can be appreciated and make a difference. I wish him success in his next position, wherever that might be. He, along with anyone else who was not born here but might have wished to make a positive contribution to the town, was never destined to achieve much in this pitiful, unwelcoming excuse for a community. In Scappoose, if you don’t bear the name of one of the “old” families, or kowtow to those who do, you might as well not exist.

Scappoose city officials serve at the pleasure of strong-armed, longtime residents. And should that pleasure sour, the city official will find himself out on the street. Next, we’ll see how Scott Burge’s defense — albeit weak — of Hanken and the disciplinary process will influence Burge’s future effectiveness as mayor. Or his future as mayor, period.

Elissa Raminiak

Scappoose

Conclusion: Industry

comes first

Wednesday the Port of St. Helens approved a request from Global Partners that will double the number of unit trains hauling crude oil through the county. Also on Wednesday the county commissioners approved a request from the port to allow industrial use of land historically zoned for only agricultural use.

Two statements made clear why they came to a decision that promotes crude oil, trains and industry in opposition to the best interest of the citizens of Columbia County.

1. Port Commissioner Colleen DeShazer ended the meeting by telling those who protest the increased rail traffic and the resulting degradation of lifestyle that we are free to move because, after all, the trains were here first.

2. County Commissioner Tony Hyde said individuals and families living in the county are a drain on resources and represent a budget deficit as opposed to business and industry who more than pay their way and represent a budget surplus.

The cards are on the table for all of us to see. People and the environment lose. Industry wins. And if you don’t like it you can move because you are a drain on resources in Columbia County anyway.

There is one other option. You can vote.

Nancy S. Ward

Scappoose

DOT-111’ crude oil cars pose hazard

While recognizing the effort and expense the Portland and Western Railroad has and is willing to put into upgrades, an explosive accident early Friday in Alabama gives me pause as it involved unrefined crude.

An early account published Nov. 9 in the Wall Street Journal mentions there’s a grade of tanker used for hauling crude called a “DOT-111” that’s vulnerable to breaching and may have contributed to the fire.

Acknowledging all that rail can contribute to local economies, and particularly the willingness of the PNWR to consider our concerns, I would ask that any remaining “DOT-111” cars be culled from the stock.

Assurances would be welcome of course.

Wayne Mayo

Scappoose

I like my school staff armed

I applaud the improvement recently made by the St. Helens School Board in the interest of student safety. Allowing teachers and staff to be armed will fill a huge void that has enabled murder-minded criminals to enter our schools with their weapons and meet no opposition as they slaughter defenseless students and staff.

I understand also that for a proper line of defense to be established, one that must be seen as a first response to danger until professional law enforcement arrives, training in procedures and protocols is necessary. I would hope that St. Helens district will develop a plan for such training. A recent conversation with Kevin Starrett, the director of Oregon Firearms Federation, informed me of the fact that such training is available. He is, in fact, set to speak on that very matter at the Columbia River PUD meeting room Nov. 18 at 7 p.m.

As a Scappoose citizen with grandchildren in the Scappoose schools, I hope our own school district will also move to provide defensive measures to protect our students if need be. Our children are too very precious to leave them undefended.

Bob Ekstrom

Scappoose

Pocket Constitution isn’t a substitute for education

In the past three weeks, the Spotlight printed two articles with comments by St. Helens School Board member Mr. Ray Biggs concerning the U.S. Constitution.

I’m sure Mr. Biggs knows the words of the Second Amendment, but his knowledge of the remainder of his pocket Constitution is lacking. He stated that his interpretation of the Constitution is that all restrictions on the carrying of firearms in the U.S. are unconstitutional; therefore he had to vote to allow carrying of firearms in schools.

I would direct Mr. Biggs to Article III, Sections 1 and 2 enumerating the duties and responsibilities of the Supreme and inferior Courts - “The judicial power shall extend to all cases . . . arising under this Constitution . . . (and) the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact.”

Mr. Biggs cannot, nor can any of us, interpret the Constitution any way we see fit.

We have to rely on the Supreme Court’s interpretation, which is the law. As Mr. Biggs has stated, “We’re supposed to follow the laws . . .” To determine the Supreme Court’s interpretation, we can read the McDonald v. Chicago decision of 2010, a case where the city of Chicago forbid the possession of handguns in homes. In that 5-to-4 decision, Justice Alito announcing the judgment of the court, said: “It is clear that the Framers . . . counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.” But, on p. 39-40 of the decision he states, “We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as ‘prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,’ ‘laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.’ We repeat those assurances here.”

Mr. Biggs can vote however he sees fit, but he can’t justifiably say his vote was required by the Second Amendment.

I believe many people don’t realize that the Bill of Rights by itself only applies to the federal government, which thereby allowed state and local governments to deny the freedoms of the first Ten Amendments. But, in the Gitmo case in 1925, the Supreme Court first mentioned that First Amendment freedoms could not be abrogated by state law when they announced that the Fourteenth Amendment prevented states from abrogating those freedoms. Indeed, McDonald v. Chicago was mainly argued as to whether the Fourteenth Amendment prevented state and local governments from abrogating Second Amendment freedoms.

We have achieved most of our Bill of Rights freedoms over the last 70 years, and that through the Fourteenth Amendment. In light of this it is difficult to understand the current push, mostly by vocal supporters of the Second Amendment, to repeal the Fourteenth Amendment.

Garrett Lines

St. Helens

A plea for livability

Another Columbia County public safety levy has failed, this time with a lowly 39 percent voter turnout. “Get a gun” is the answer that echos from the very bottom of the intellect barrel. This is nothing more than a short-sighted remedy, mostly from angry Facebook trolls who waste hours of their lives posting tough-talk rhetoric with gun graphics depicting these grand scenarios of just exactly what could happen if thieves dared enter their home.

Frankly, this is a tired, ill-witted response based on pure ignorance. I own a gun — actually a few of them — and yet this still doesn’t make me a crime fighter, or you either. If owning a gun is a substitute for a competent sheriff’s department, then owning a garden hose is a substitute for the local fire department. It’s no secret that criminals who break into homes also have guns that are just as powerful as the gun the home owner carries. Perhaps, at that point, it just might not be a bad idea to have a few of those deputies they insist on not supporting, respond to their calls while they attempt to defend themselves?

Although guns are a great first defense, they are not a logical substitute for a sheriff’s department. Your gun can’t patrol our highways and back roads arresting drunk drivers who threaten the safety of you or your family members. Your gun cannot respond to a domestic dispute when a young mother is being beaten mercilessly in full view of her young children. Your gun cannot serve papers to the shady contractor who gladly took your hard-earned money, yet never finished the job. And, most importantly here, your gun cannot properly maintain order in a jail filled with women beaters, arsonists, pedophiles, thieves and other dangerous criminals. Even our early settlers — who all carried guns — in the old West, certainly understood this. That’s why they hired professional sheriffs to serve them, because they were too busy running their ranches and providing for their families.

Have we really lost our sense of community? While we enjoy an educated, even-tempered sheriff who has served us well by providing an effective, squeaky clean sheriff’s office, free of corruption; perhaps we do not trust him when he asks for the funds that are sorely needed. Each time he’s come to us with hat in hand asking us to support a public safety levy, we have flatly turned him down. And each time over the past five years, he’s gone right back to work doing the best he can.

But now the game has come to an end.

Stretching a buck is not easy to do, I get that, we all must do it; but we all aren’t housing and feeding criminals and filling patrol cars with fuel every day. Sheriff Jeff Dickerson has been more than gracious about this, scrambling to make ends meet until the situation has now become bleak. Crime within a community reflects its livability, social environment and even property values. I doubt voters don’t trust the sheriff when he lays things out. After all, he’s been elected twice.

My fear is — judging from the recent voter turnout — people have grown apathetic, and that’s a disturbing situation.

I do accept the argument that many folks cannot afford a tax hike and this opens up another issue: jobs. Just how many jobs have our elected commissioners helped usher into this county lately? That’s an argument for another day. Besides, by now releasing criminals back into the county without serving their time, it doesn’t exactly invite decent companies here who are looking to expand. Being a property owner within a community does come with responsibilities, and we have repeatedly ditched those responsibilities. Looking around the United States, we see governments failing, towns and counties falling into bankruptcy and crime steadily seeping into places we once thought were safe and livable. Sadly, that day is not too far off in Columbia County.

It’s too late for this levy, I realize, but I am appealing to you, the intelligent, reasonable, respectable and hardworking citizen, just to think about the bed we’ve now made. Am I the only one who wants Columbia County to remain a great place to live and perhaps even grow into something better? Am I the only one that has a vision for a community where good-paying jobs compliment our natural, green surroundings?

We have an opportunity to surpass other communities and draw businesses here — good businesses with good jobs! But sadly, without a decent sheriff’s office, we invite lawlessness that will eventually destroy everything that is livable here.

Randy Sanders

Yankton