Letters for Dec. 1
Calling out the PUD on calendar
I just received the new Columbia River People's Utility District 2018 calendar. A quick glance through and something about it struck me as odd.
Second sentence, inside flap: "Our Board of Directors, elected by the voters within our service area, sets our rates and policies."
Four words stand out: "Elected by the voters."
Could the PUD's board of directors, especially Debbie Reed, please explain this to the voters of Scappoose? Especially to Nancy Ward?
Oh wait. Excuse me. I believe the employee photo says it all.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For those who haven't received a PUD calendar, pictured in the group employee photo referenced by Mr. Powell is board member Debbie Reed, who is standing at PUD General Manager John Nguyen's right hand. Reed is the only board member pictured in the employee photo.
Rezone decision marks time for change
It is a sad day in river city.
Two of three county commissioners voted to rezone a large parcel of agricultural land bordering the Columbia River to "light industry," defined
in vague terms by the Port of St. Helens.
Despite citizen protests, and without addressing the issues, commissioners told us how much they loved farms but apparently they love oil money and trains even more.
Those of us who follow the Port know that plans for the land, located in a subduction zone, will not benefit the environment or the citizens of the county.
Time for a change!
Envision Columbia County
Vote shows Tardif is voice of county's future
Columbia County Commissioner Alex Tardif is the voice of our future.
I attended the county commissioners meeting on Nov. 29 to hear the vote on the rezoning of 837 acres of prime farmland into an industrial area at Port Westward near Clatskanie. Well — it passed. The vote from the three commissioners was two to one.
Commissioner Henry Heimuller and Commissioner Margaret Magruder voted to allow the rezoning of hundreds of acres of farmland into industrial use.
Commissioner Alex Tardif voted no.
Let me explain something: Only 3.6 percent of land in Columbia County continues to be considered as prime agricultural land.
The 837 acres of the aforementioned Port Westward land constitutes 1 percent of that 3.6 percent.
Commissioner Magruder expounded on the fact that her family has farmed this same land since 1904. Part of her rhetoric in attempting to get elected to her current position was proclaiming frequently and loudly that she was a farmer — how her family had farmed this Port Westward land for over 100 years — that she would protect these farmlands. Well, you can kiss that campaign promise goodbye. Today she threw that farmland under the fossil fuel bus. I wonder who told her how to vote.
At least Heimuller is sticking to his same old rhetoric: jobs, jobs, jobs. It's been the same for years. Heimuller was on the commissioners' board when we were promised 600 jobs at the Port Westward facility. Less than 25 people have permanent jobs. Heimuller has continued to push for development of fossil fuel facilities at this location.
On a constant basis, I continue to see fuels being shipped through our county with the "1987 Hazardous" label, which designates denatured alcohol, a "flammable liquid poison" according to Cameo Chemicals (noaa.gov). Even more tank cars glide by on railroad tracks with the
"1170 Hazardous" label designating ethanol which, among other things, is a carcinogen (cancer-causing) combustible.
Commissioner Alex Tardif voted "no" on this rezone, I believe, because he truly is "looking to the future." He does not believe we have to destroy the Columbia River, the land adjacent, fish and wildlife and even the possibility of the loss of human life to the detriment of job development. He stated that he believes we need to look to the future and not the past as a way of developing Port Westward.
Granted, there will be further hearings on today's disastrous vote to allow the rezoning of Port Westward. However, even more important — there will be future elections.
We can continue to replace the people who have been in office way too long and those who are elected to just go along with the "good old boy/girl" system. Like Commissioner Tardif said in his election bid, "if you can't accomplish something in 20 years, you need to move on."
Port Westward: 'Rich as the Delta of the Nile'
I hope after you read this letter regarding the Nov. 29 rezone of 837 acres of prime farmland at Port Westward to industrial zoning by two of the county commissioners — Margret Magruder and Henry Heimuller — you will be as appalled as I.
Heimuller's reasoning was the standard political buzzwords of "we need jobs," using the recent announcement of Armstrong World Industries in 2018 closure as an excuse to destroy 1 percent of the county's remaining farmland, and to support any dirty industry which this rezone would allow. But it would also hinder and cause degradation to the existing Seely Mint Farm and huge blueberry farms, which all are extremely successful, employ many people in
the area, and do business internationally.
Then you have Magruder, who ran for the office of county commissioner by touting her connection to the land as a farmer. Her Oregon Shepard Wool Insulation Company was used in the re-modeling of the old grange building on Millard Road in Warren. The building was purchased by the Columbia Soil and Water District, with which Magruder has been involved for years. Conflict of interest? You decide.
Magruder, when Magruder Farms was featured in an Aug. 14 online article by Oregon Agriculture, stated: "I am Agriculture." Ironically she just voted to kill 837 acres of prime farmland that other farmers could use in their expansions. On other occasions, Magruder has related her family's history of farming in Clatskanie. She reported that in 1904 her grandfather found the productive soils along the Columbia River near Clatskanie "Rich as the Delta of the Nile." She stated over the years that her farm has produced many different crops, including oats, peppermint, cattle and sheep. She says she raises sheep for meat and wool, and is the owner of Oregon Shepard Wool Insulation Company. She says agriculture has been the Magruders' livelihood for generations.
So why would she vote to destroy other agriculture businesses?
Could it be she values her own livelihood from agriculture but not her neighbors, who also depend on farming for their livelihood as well?
Magruder has stated the importance of the need to expand her own business. In minutes from an Aug. 12, 2010, Rainier City Council meeting, she conveys to the council that her business requires sheep for wool, which requires pastureland.
Why do you suppose she voted "yes" to rezone valuable farmland when it could negatively impact her own business?
I would like to give a thank you to county Commissioner Alex Tardif for being the only commissioner to vote against the rezone, and most importantly to vote "no" because it was simply the right thing to do. Tardif's reasoning was logical. He said we need to move forward in our thinking, because the past has not worked well for the county. It's time for the county to move forward and not be stuck in the past with fossil fuels, as they are going away.
I happen to agree with Commissioner Tardif.
Columbia County needs to stop dumping scores of millions of tax dollars into Port Westward with the result of a few jobs, but many failed dirty industries where the taxpayers are stuck with the bill and with no end to the gluttonous tax breaks and numerous freebees associated with past failures, all at the cost to us, the taxpayer.
Antifa progressing toward more violence
Letters to the editor are restricted to 300 words. There is a 15-word grace window, though not everyone is strictly held to this restriction at all times, I've noticed.
Since I have not been the beneficiary of this lenience previously, my responses are, necessarily, abbreviated. My previous letter addressed Bill Eagle's quote in the fourth paragraph of his letter, titled "Anti-Climatic Antifa Attack." The paragraph noted: "Antifa — the worldwide imaginary anti-fascist movement."
Eagle throws out red herrings with abandon, so chasing them down is not only inadvisable but numerically impossible. Suffice it to say his efforts at deflection are, again, alive and well in his focus on "middle-age ladies wearing pink (expletive deleted) hats (wouldn't) condone any sort of violence.
Then Eagle opines that neither would Oregon's governor nor Portland's police.
Here's my take on this relaxed attitude toward government accountability regarding Anti-First Amendment violence: Portland TV news outlets showed Anti-First Amendment members drag a man from his car and beat the stuffing out of him. It showed them smashing a windshield trying to get at a young woman at the wheel of her car and shattering windows and doors to downtown Portland businesses.
As neither the governor nor the Portland police intervened, all of this begs the question: Why would one not think they would condone violence against people in their own homes? That would be the logical progression. And progression of Anti-First Amendment into greater numbers and protracted violence are their stated goals.
Eagle says he is thankful that this is not Russia, Italy or Germany. But when Anti-First Amendment thugs rampage in our streets, unchallenged, America closely resembles those totalitarian states he references.
One wonders to whom Mr. Eagle prays that "America will always remain a country with freedom and justice for all," as Mr. Eagle's attitude fairly guarantees that it will not.
Editor's note: None of Kathleen Fisher's letters to the editor published in the Spotlight regarding her position on Antifa were cut due to length. As with all letters, however, they are edited for grammar, style and — as much as time and resources allow — to ensure factual accuracy.
Port Westward zone change is a mistake
I had a friend of mine ask me if I thought the zone change at Port Westward was a good thing or not. This is my answer to him.
To put things into prospective, the Port of St. Helens would like to establish a terminal to handle fossil fuels at Port Westward. A few years ago, one of the Columbia County commissioners promised taxpayers that expanding Port Westward would create 600 jobs. Today there are less than 25 jobs. Most operations are automated and a number of the people who work there live in other communities.
Columbia County has a shortage of good agricultural land. The land at Port Westward is considered unique. We have two blueberry growers that employ 60 people and a mint farm that employees 22 people. All of these people live locally and spend their money locally and attend local schools. Columbia County had dreams of expanding to becoming the blueberry capitol of Oregon. Seely Mint has gone national, and Mike Seely is hoping to expand his mint candy operation in order to meet the demand, and hopes to hire another 20-40 people.
To my knowledge, the Port has no new tenants and, last year, the county's planning commission refused to approve a zone change. The county commissioners overturned their own planning commission's recommendation.
Local people appealed to the Oregon Land use Board of Appeals (LUBA). LUBA denied the zone Change. LUBA stated that the Port had plenty of land and did not need to expand at the expense of local agriculture.
This year the Port of St. Helens in a 3-2 vote decided to go for a zone change again. The county commissioners were also excited to support them. Sadly, this will mean that blueberry operations will not be able to expand. Mint-grower Mike Seely has land in Boardman and says that diesel smoke is not compatible with chocolate candy. He told me that he may be forced to eventually move his operation there.
Port Westward is in an urban renewal district and an enterprise zone. Under an enterprise zone, businesses pay on a graduated schedule, qualifying businesses do not pay their full tax for seven years. All taxes in an urban renewal districts must go into the district and be used for improvements in the district, at least until the urban renewal district plan is satisfied. None of this money may be used for schools, county or local governments, or any other things outside of the urban renewal district.
This decision by the commissioners will again be appealed to LUBA, an expensive process which will be costly to the county and to the people making the appeal.
Someone is getting a lot of money for this, but it is not the taxpayers or any of the local people.
Is this good or bad?
You decide. It is obvious that I have already made my mind up.