Sunday, December 30, 2007

Adieu 2007, A Toast to 2008

This year started with a commentary on the forums so what better way to end then with another commentary on the forums? We lost the Astoria Citizen's Journal forum and KAST Coastwatch forum finally got away from the annoying VOY layout. We were amused and flattered to see that they used our "matters" headings in their board topics, too. We copied some things from the Rust forum, adding our own touches and KAST copied us. If it ain't broke why fix it?

We can still claim title to the longest continuous running open membership forum in the county. Whether or not that is a title that holds any merit it does mean we are persistent and useful. That is most obvious in the recent elections when the ballot measure for 4-123 failed. The forums played a major role in getting information out when the media, namely the one and only daily newspaper, was dismally lacking in accurate reporting or blatantly lying. is undergoing a metamorphism right before it's readers eyes. One moment it is a typical blog chronicling the life of the writer, the next it is a commentary on local news, the next it is reporting news long before the other outlets are aware of the topic.

Bloggers in the area have kept one another, and the public at large, informed of many facts that would otherwise have been kept from them by those who deem us too naive to understand, to small to matter, or too inept to appreciate the finer points of politics. To this day the Daily A has not explained how it is that the Committee to Retain the Independence of the Office of District Attorney mailed out $2600 worth of newsletters without having any printing costs associated. At 21 cents per flyer that's close to 12,500 of those two paged, double sided flyers that were sent out. The bloggers know only one source that has the capacity to print out 25,000 double-sided pages and write it off. Hey, Daily Astorian you want to explain how come you didn't report that expenditure? Uh, Larry? Uh, Sky? Uh, Steve? Uh, Josh?

The forums aren't always right, we've had a loopy woman posting as a commissioner. We've had a disgruntled former resident move back east and post lunatic threads polluted with sexual innuendos. We've had the dodgers, the thought police, threats of libel, threats of exposure, threats of laptop confiscation, grammar and spelling monitors, flame wars, rhyming wars, punsters, warped thinkers, finger pointers, SHOUTERS, and a day or two or three with no posters at all (horror of horrors)!

Though people are piecing their lives back together after the storm, I suspect that times are good at the moment. It is when we are agitated that the forums are in their peak use. There are things that are coming to a boil under the surface for a great many topics. Expect to see action on the forums in the coming year.

A few people feel betrayed by the County Commissioners, stating that they have overlooked the citizens' concerns for public safety by voting for LNG, seemingly for economic growth. The cry of "recall, recall, recall" is always in the air. The Daily Astorian continues with its arrogant editorializing and omissions of reporting real news. A few feel betrayed by the Port Commissioners, each of the city councils, as well as the college board and other school boards. There will be an election in May, politics usually lights up the boards.

Our forums have developed, evolved, become better or dropped off the charts. The people have become better communicators or stopped communicating. Some people have hopped from board to board chasing people away, some people have hopped from board to board chasing ideas down. Some people have online avatars distinct from themselves, a few post only as themselves. Some say they abhor those posting "anonymously". ROTFLMAO! As far as we can tell, everyone has posted using an avatar at least once. If it is good enough for Benjamin Franklin, in order to get a point across that otherwise wouldn't be listened to merely because it came from him, then it is good enough for us.

A toast to the year behind and all those with the courage to share their thoughts and comment on others'. A toast to those forums that continue to grow, providing an outlet to the community. A toast to the leaders who take the time to read, sort through the emotions, listen to their community, and find their way to the answers. A toast to the new year ahead. May we find our way together. Building a community, our voices uniting.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Do you hear what I hear?

Will our local media dare to commend the wisdom of 6,666 wise voters as this storm has devastated our county’s revenue? The choppers hum overhead carrying personnel to assess the damage to our county owned timber with many saying as much as half of our forest disappeared and with it the revenue that may take decades to replenish.

As explained by many opposed to 4-123 measure counties need the option to remove the stipend in case of a natural catastrophe. Wahlah! A natural catastrophe! Half of our forest is wiped out. Where would that money come from for the next five years to pay for 4-123 now? Bank loans? Options taken away for the greed of one man and his accomplice the local media.

Our county commissioners have multiple tasks now, of bringing the county back together after a devastating campaign to malign their characters and a horrific storm that has taken away the county’s main source of revenue. In the horizon is the ability to make up for that revenue by allowing the LNG industry a toe hold which could bring the immediate reprisal of a recall campaign against at least one of the commissioners. As in the 4-123 campaign it will be led by the local daily paper’s editor using his paper with biased reporting, slanted editorials and yellow journalism while he armchair quarterbacks the running of the county.

The destroyed revenue must be compensated for. County manager Derickson has been warning of a decline in timber revenue in the near future, which is why the two staff positions in the District Attorney’s office were added on a contingency bases, the devastation of the forests has now accelerated the problem. The public could use, and the commissioners deserve, good and accurate reporting at this time. Too bad that the Daily Astorian has proven itself incapable of providing either.

If local outlets begin putting the Daily Astorian next to the National Enquirer in the checkout lines will Forrester get the idea that he and his paper are no longer trusted to impart news and have become a curiosity along the lines of locals suspected of having alien’s babies and sitings of Elvis Presley? Will he then get the message that we want, need and deserve better then he has been providing us? Or will someone finally step up to the plate and provide us with an alternative to his daily joke? Hell, at this rate the high schools could rotate providing us more accurate local news.

Humble pie, cow pie or eating crow, however one slices it you can bet Forrester will refuse to eat it. He can dish it but he can not take it or even smell it, even when he is stepping in it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Fine Tuning Elections

As each election passes we find things that seem to need some fine tuning. It is said that democracy begins when people show up. How is it that turnout can be so poor when most items on any ballot involves money? Are people that convinced that their vote doesn’t count? Here in Oregon it is so easy to vote, being all of our ballots are mail-in ballots. There are no special trips to a polling precinct, though there are drop off sites for those who do not wish to invest in a postage stamp to practice their right to vote.

One problem with voting by mail is that the public has way too much time to sit on their ballots. In the recent election ballots were being received by the voters on October 19 giving them nineteen days to vote. This is far too much time that spans three full weekends. Many people will mark their ballots when they receive them while there is still three weeks for situations and opinions to change. Another reason it is too much time is that people may misplace their ballots. Also fierce and expensive campaigning gets bumped up during this period making issues a financial popularity contest. Two weekends should be sufficient, and eight days would be even more preferred.

Next, it would be nice to see some limits on campaign spending. The tobacco industry spent an obscene amount of money countering measure 50. The Governor has even stated that big tobacco bought the voters in Oregon. How about a plan where each side of a campaign can spend no more than their opponent? This will put under funded campaigns on a level playing field with special interest groups with deep pockets.

This may be easier said than done in most cases because there are often Political Action Committees that raise fund in support or opposition of several measures on the ballot. Asking for cohesion between like minded camps is a recipe for disaster as well.

Another problem is, let’s say that no one put up any money to promote a measure. This would mean that the opposition could not put up any funds either. It will be difficult to find a solution to campaign financing, and financing is the major obstacle to getting the word out in many instances.

Sometimes even well funded messages don’t have legs to stand on. Take for example Clatsop County Measure 4-123. The Yes side raised $7,268, which was $477 more than the No side with $6,791. The Yes side spent $8,139.93, which was $1,014.76 more than the No side, which spent $7,125.17. Both campaigns are now in debt, Yes by $871.93 and No by $334.17. The side that raised and spent the most in this instance lost this election.

Next, why is it that the primaries in two or three states dictates what two main stream candidates will be in the run for President? There should be one primary day for all fifty states. It is also time to do away with the electoral college.

Finally, it would be good if campaigns and polls were prevented from calling people who have telephone numbers listed on the National Do Not Call List. Campaigning by phone is a telemarketing call no matter how one looks at it. Polls are often campaign calls in disguise. Campaigns have invaded our front doors, our televisions, our radios, our mail boxes, our print media, and pop-up boxes on the Internet. We should have at least one safe harbor where they can’t get to us.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The dramas of our lives

Tuesday evening, Nov. 20th, at 6 pm Mr. Marquis will be tempted by yet another opportunity to present to the Clatsop County Board of County Commissioners the performance measures which were due last winter, on March 8th. In a gesture of goodwill, and to show those who are beginning to doubt his intelligence, he should show that he does, indeed, value the efforts that these commissioners are making in bringing this county into the 21st century in providing their community with a fiscally transparent government. However, is this Tuesday evening the best time to do so?

Of course, it would be juvenile to expect the immediate self gratification of monetary compensation for performing the task that the rest of the departments complied with eight months ago. Even the newly hired department head for the Health department doesn’t expect a raise with his first compliance of expected duties. However, how much can one expect from the man who has put this county through the hell that he has for the last half of a year?

Sadly, it can be expected that if Mr. Marquis does, indeed, present his performance measures to the CCBOCC Tuesday evening it will be with full drama. While he could simply send this addendum to his budget through the County Manager, one can bet when he does finally get around to it he will be sure to have media present, his colluding commissioner will be ready to immediately make a motion to reinstate the stipend, Mr. Marquis might even have two or three people signed up to speak on the matter and will ask that the CCBOCC immediately make a decision. Joe Gamm will stand ready to interpret every raised eyebrow as a sign of drunkenness or vindictive anger.

Mr. Marquis, give the citizens of our community a break. Be a true Rotarian, man. Get your performance based measures done (and if you're going to use a bunch of statistics at least explain how they relate to staff time spent on a case and in front of the third judge) and present them, quietly, with no drama, to the County Manager, so they can be reviewed by the budget committee to see if they do indeed meet the requirements as set forth in the budget guidelines and so they can make their recommendations to the CCBOCC. Don’t grandstand. Don’t be a victim. Don’t encourage your cohort commissioner, Sam Patrick, to further participate in the
unethical behavior of colluding with you.

Sam, if he has colluded with you about when he plans to make a presentation, please recuse yourself.

Do you think either one of them can resist the drama? One can hope, can’t one?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Divided We Stand, United We Fall

That, should realistically be the way the saying goes. Whether you view yourself as part of a corporation, a family unit, a community or a nation – you are truly considered a "part" of those units and those groups are only as strong as their weakest link.

For instance, these past several months has seen this community ripped apart by the ego of one man. Damage has been caused to the citizens of Clatsop County by this individual and his maniacal following of "minions" to the point that it undoubtedly will take an Herculean effort to overcome if he does not do the right thing and plan his exit strategy soon.

As much as we like to think of ourselves as individuals, very few people will be remembered that way. What we leave behind, for most of us unless we are outstanding in a freakish way, like Vincent van Gogh or Adolph Hitler, will be what we did do or did not do as a society,nation or culture as a whole.

This person responsible for this division locally will undoubtedly be but a blip on the radar screen of the common Clatsopian's conscience in the coming decades, but being as he has been here doing his best to pit himself and "his flock" against the rest of the world for the last 14 years, it may take another 14 years for us all to get the bad taste out of our collective mouths.

For The DA and his trusty sidekick The Editor, however, it is still not over. Up next on their agenda appear to be continuing deviciveness in the form of recalls of Commissioners and more "humor" editorials which have to be irking at least the majority of voters who have now said "no" officially.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Many Losers of The Campaign

Frankly I am glad, yet surprised that Measure 4-123 failed. The “Yes” people had all the advantages in this campaign. They got their signs out first. Their signs were placed at the most visible real estate locations in Astoria. Josh got hours of free time on the Lars Larson Show. He got good air time on KAST. The Daily Astorian, I mean The Daily Marquis, gave him press that others couldn’t buy. His name and photo appeared above the fold on way too many occasions. They gave him positive editorials and vilified the County Commission. They rarely printed letters of opposition. In one case Patrick Webb called an opposition writer and tried to convince him his opinion was wrong and denied knowledge of any wrong doing by the DAs wife. They refused to run an ad from the opposition even when the opposition had documentation to substantiate their claims.

The “yes” side ran more ads in print and on the radio. They campaigned long and hard and were better organized than the opposition.

With all the lies and misstatements and free press and promotion stacked in their favor they still lost, so far by 46 votes. The only possible turn around could only come if 49 of the fifty uncounted ballots are for the Yes side, but that is statistically unlikely to happen.

Many comments seemed to make this a contest between a dislike for Josh or Commissioner Lee, however we can only hope that the voters saw through this fog and voted on the unwise nature of changing the County Charter.

Though the election was close there will still be fall-out that will continue to be seen in upcoming elections. Betsy Johnson, who always had bi-partisan support, lost a lot of respect in our County. She got personally involved in the will of the people to protect their county charter. She could have done so much good for the situation on the State level, but chose to side with Josh on a local level. It will cost her.

The Clatsop County Democratic Party had been hurt by Larry Taylor’s commitment of the Party’s backing of Josh. It would have been acceptable if this were a partisan issue where the philosophy of one Party was up against an opposing Party, but Larry committed the support of the entire Party, which alienated many members and caused some defections. New Party leadership is in order there and efforts should be made to mend fences with those they offended and gave “Cold Shoulders” to.

The Commissioners have had their reputations soiled by a lot of innuendo. They will need to step back up to the plate and get on with the business of the County and rebuild the trust that was undercut and eroded by the campaign. They simply need to hold Josh’s feet to the fire and get the performance measures they wanted and consider reinstating the stipend only if they get what they have asked for. Another problem this may bring to the surface is that if he reports true statistics it will reflect that his office is over-staffed and there will need to be a correction to bring it in line with reality. This provocative remedy will once again bring out the showman in Josh and he will accuse the Commission of punishing him, further dividing the community.

Josh is finished. He speaks of the County Government setting their underwear on fire while he is walking around with soiled underwear himself. He ran a very dirty campaign. He is an officer of the court and he lied openly on several occasions. He lost his election as President of the National District Attorneys Association. His wife lost her election for County Commission and he lost 4-123. His bitterness is more than obvious and he’s left the County divided and it will not be able to heal until he is gone. If he has one ounce of compassion for healing this community he should look for employment elsewhere. Unfortunately, I don’t think his ego will allow him to back down. There are just enough supporters to make him think everything will be fine if he just sticks with his message. His message is flawed and can no longer be trusted as a truthful elected official or Officer of the Court. He needs to work as an ADA somewhere (not here) and learn how to behave and be humble. He needs to learn how to do his job without the media.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Freedom From The oPRESSion

Patrick Webb, managing editor of the Daily Astorian, recently refused the advertising of the opponents of Ballot Measure 4-123. Why? First he stated that what the advertisement claimed wasn’t supported. When the supporting documentation was offered he then stated that the Daily Astorian didn’t allow opinion advertising.

WHAT? All these past weeks' political ads have been opinions. Ads claiming that flyers opposing Ballot Measure 4-123 were “lies” were someone's opinion. Ads claiming that county commissioners “lied” about Mr. Marquis were opinions. Ads claiming that the department head lacked the ability to do a performance based budget were an opinion. Advertising is opinion based. Obviously, Patrick Webb is a liar, in our opinion. Does this make the newspaper he manages fraught with lies? Definitely, in our opinion.

Freedom of the press is a constitutional right and one which, supposedly, is a cornerstone of the basic principles of our country. Irresponsible freedom is a corruption of those principles. There is little difference between a dictator forcing a paper to print what he wants and a newspaper editor slanting news and accepting advertising in a fashion that the readers only hear one side of all issues. Especially when a community has no competing daily, hard copy, news source, the damage done is that of a tyrant with the absolute control of censorship.

The very freedom that the press has for so long, the world over, labored to obtain for itself, it now jealously keeps all for itself. The Daily Astorian’s tyrannical hold over information, complete censorship over all that it deems in opposition to the opinion of its editors, and complete disregard for the rights of the citizens to hear all sides of all issues is the act of a group of people who have no love for a free community.

Every once in awhile everyone has the opportunity to step forward and say, “Enough!” Today, in Clatsop County, everyone has two opportunities. First, put down the Daily Astorian. Call 503-325-3211 and cancel your subscription, or tell them you will not buy their paper again or subscribe again until their policies have changed. Tell them that for one week you will not buy their paper to show the power does not lay with them but with YOU the reader. When you pick up the paper again it had better have changed. If it hasn’t, put it down again for another week. Second, do not vote in the way it has encouraged you. If a ballot measure is good it will be back in the spring. As of Oct 31st a little over 6,700 ballots have come in to the local election office. With 20,865 registered voters in Clatsop County 14,000 people are left to cast their ballots.

Think about your future, think about our future. And while you are at it, think about freedom. Freedom of the press and especially, locally, freedom from the press.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Voters Obligation

I recently found myself in the company of a local politician who was speaking with a constituent about a local issue. It was obvious that this politician was against what ever they were talking about and so was the constituent. However, the constituent was against it because of the person who was bringing this matter to the voters.

I was very impressed to hear the politician tell him, “You are against this for the wrong reason.” Rather accepting this person’s support on the issue, the politician schooled this fellow why his thinking was unacceptable. It was the issue in question, not the person who brought the issue forward.

This got me thinking about how often the voters are side tracked away from issues, and sidetracked away from what is right or wrong by being presented with issues that have little or nothing to do with the issue being voted on.

Think back to the OJ Simpson trial. The country was sucked up by smugness and theatrics, but what the whole trial came down to was, did the prosecution prove without a reasonable doubt that he was guilty? It was obvious they did not. Spectators felt cheated because the jury followed the instructions of the court and answered that question, the only question they were asked to answer. In the minds of the spectators it became a racial issue and being able to afford justice. It became vengeful and divisive in the eyes of the spectators, but in fact, they jury got it right. The best comment about the situation was that the prosecutors framed a guilty man.

This is the basis for the sad state of politics as well. People are groomed to pick winners, not near winners. Third party candidates are often shunned no matter how good their ideas are. They are called spoilers because they shave some votes from the party their ideology comes closest to representing. They take away votes that would put the more popular candidate over the top often handing the win over to the other party.

Too many people vote for one candidate not so much because they are the better candidate, but because they will prevent others from getting the votes. You will hear them called the lesser of two evils. How often have you heard someone say, “I’d vote for them, but they don’t have a chance.”

Ralph Nader spent days talking about this on his last campaign. People would say that voting for Nader took a vote away form another candidate. Nader was correct. It is still one vote, and had it gone for Nader it would have counted for Nader.

In a few weeks we will be asked to vote on Measure 49 which will rewrite the previously passed Measure 37. The framers of this measure seem to think that government needs to regain some control over land use issues. One side is now stating that if passed you will lose all your land rights. The other side is saying that all land will be gobbled up by greedy developers. In reality neither is true.

There is also Measure 50 which is billed as the tobacco tax. One side says that this tax will provide health care for 100,000 children in Oregon. The other side says that only 60% of this money will be used for that purpose and that it will change the constitution. If the intent is to make smoking unaffordable this tax will collapse upon itself. The issue is in reality if we should tax tobacco users to pay for children’s healthcare and the administration there of. Is this fair?

Finally here in Clatsop County there is measure 4-123. This measure if passed will require Clatsop County to pay a direct salary to the District Attorney based not upon performance measures, but rather upon the pay of circuit judges. This will supersede the present pay scale for District Attorneys making our District Attorney the only one in the state being paid this way and also giving him a higher salary than the Attorney General or the Governor. This is the issue. Do you want this to happen or not? Don’t consider if you like how he is doing his job or even if you don’t like how he does his job. Don’t consider if he gets great press from the Daily Astorian or his involvement in the community. Don’t consider if you like or dislike the County Commissioners. Don’t consider if this measure was brought about by spite.

As a voter you are only being asked, like a juror, if the County should add to the salary of this State employee without this employee having obligations to the County other than what is provided by law.

If you can un-cloud your judgment and vote for the exact interpretation of the issue at hand and if the issues are right or wrong, then you have done your duty as a citizen by casting an honest vote that will work for the betterment of the community.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Red Herring: The Fallacious Argument

As we look at the raging discussions and flame war over ballot measure 4-123 we see that a quick review of what we learned in high school about debating is desperately needed. Being on the rather lazy side tonight I think a quick visit over to wiki is in order. A cut and paste job should do for a refresher course.

A fallacy is a component of an argument that is demonstrably flawed in its logic or form, thus rendering the argument invalid in whole. In logical arguments, fallacies are either formal or informal. Because the validity of a deductive argument depends on its form, a formal fallacy is a deductive argument that has an invalid form, whereas an informal fallacy is any other invalid mode of reasoning whose flaw is not in the form of the argument.

Beginning with Aristotle, informal fallacies have generally been placed in one of several categories, depending on the source of the fallacy. There are fallacies of relevance, fallacies involving causal reasoning, and fallacies resulting from ambiguities.

In philosophy, a formal fallacy or a logical fallacy is a pattern of reasoning which is always wrong. This is due to a flaw in the structure of the argument which renders the argument invalid. A formal fallacy is contrasted with an informal fallacy, which may have a valid logical form, but be false due to the characteristics of its premises.

Recognizing fallacies in actual arguments may be difficult since arguments are often structured using rhetorical patterns that obscure the logical connections between assertions. Fallacies may also exploit the emotional or intellectual weaknesses of the interlocutor. Having the capability of recognizing logical fallacies in arguments reduces the likelihood of such an occurrence.

Ignoratio elenchi (also known as irrelevant conclusion or irrelevant thesis) is the formal fallacy of presenting an argument that may in itself be valid, but doesn't address the issue in question. "Ignoratio elenchi" can be roughly translated by ignorance of refutation, that is, ignorance of what a refutation is; "elenchi" is from the Greek έλεγχος, meaning an argument of disproof or refutation.

This, dear reader, is where we are at with our friend District Attorney Marquis, and his justification for wanting Ballot Measure 4-123 to succeed. District Attorney Marquis rightly claims that a district attorney needs to be independent from petty politics. District Attorney Marquis correctly asserts that a district attorney is not answerable to county commissioners. District Attorney Marquis justifiably evokes that he will never give special treatment to anyone in a position of power. District Attorney Marquis solemnly promises to never allow his state office to be dictated to by anyone and to treat rich or poor, high or low, equitably.

The problem with his argument is that it doesn’t address any current issue. The Board of County Commissioners against whom he is ranting has never attacked his office. District Attorney Marquis has not been asked nor cajoled to give them special favors nor threatened regarding the prosecution of relatives or friends. He hasn’t been verbally assaulted nor publicly chastised for prosecuting a case by any one of the commissioners nor has he been asked nor told to leave any group alone or to stop prosecuting any types of crimes.

District Attorney Marquis has built a fallacious argument so that the public will be diverted from the truth. In order to do this he does have to have the help of powerful friends in the media and in the government, ala Joseph McCarthy. Does he? Who were the first to rush to his defense? His best friend, the media, where he knows how to milk a sensational non-story for all its worth. His next group of friends in legislature. Too bad they weren’t so good that they could have passed his bill through on the state level but since he had scratched their backs quite vigorously they were reminded of their mutual obligation, scratched back and passed the buck.

District Attorney Marquis never proved his first and main argument. His office was never attacked, he was never asked by the Board of County Commissioners to treat them specially, nor was it intimated to let a friend off. Plainly and simply he was asked to do performance based budgeting and he bristled that a bunch of country hicks implied that he owed them something in return for the stipend they paid him.

While the Board of County Commissioners certainly could (and probably did) do that, they didn’t have to waste time looking for information in the other county departments and they shouldn’t have to. The commissioners are paid $800 a month to be administrators not babysitters. When they ask for a specific job to be done either it should be done or they should have the right to hire the person who will do it. The BOCC cannot fire a district attorney, but they do not have to pay for services our county is not receiving. The voters of Clatsop County should not be duped by a red herring argument and should demand proof of any alleged nefarious behavior of the sitting commissioners. Subsequently, they should throw out that argument completely, and look at the measure as it is stated.

The measure calls for a state employee to be compensated by the county’s dollars whenever that state employee’s salary is not the same as another state employee’s. Local duties, services or responsibilities are not tied to the new salary. This pay is solely to make up the difference between what the state says a district attorney is worth and what an individual says a district attorney is worth. That is it. Legally, the measure means nothing more and just as few can remember how Marquis got two members of his staff four years ago, three years from now this Ballot Measure will be a vague memory and few will remember why it is we are stuck paying a state employee a set salary that is higher than his own boss, the Attorney General’s.

Honesty from District Attorney Marquis, in admitting to throwing a red herring to the very voters who will be deciding on this issue, is as rare as, well, as rare as human rabies.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

At What Price Progress?

Having strolled through the once-small-beach-town of Seaside recently, it was observed how overwhelmingly developed the area has become.
The TrendWest WorldMark resort or "over-sized vault-like coffin structure" literally blocks out the sun where once an amusement park used to be enjoyed by the youth of Clatsop County. It appears that every nook and cranny in the town has squeezed out yet another coffee shop, boutique or "faux" antique mall or another condo development. No space is wasted (by developers standards) and nary a green space is to be seen anywhere. Barring those who have made a profit in land sales, longtime Seaside residents must be oblivious to what has gone on around their town over the last 10 years. More believably, perhaps they have all cashed in and left the area. Over a very short period of time it appears that several condo developments have sprung up from nowhere and it may come as no surprise that as a result of the quest for the almighty dollar (or in this case the room tax dollars that go to the city) there exists literally no affordable housing in the Seaside area.
Whats a bit puzzling is that although there seems to be rampant unchecked growth featuring what looks to be thousands of rooms available for a fee, it appears that many new businesses already have their “business for sale” signs out or the precursor, the 50% clearance sale signs. The rooms in most of the edifices to the almighty tourist buck looked mostly vacant and except for the people who were attending a convention of some kind, the town was pretty dead.What was once a ‘small’ funky little beach town of our youth, has now blossomed (or you could say withered) into a summer “tourist-resort-village” with literally no character left intact. The very same atmosphere that evoked ‘vacationing pleasure’ for visitors years ago no longer exists.
This is not an isolated transformation by no means, however. It happens around the country when places become too quaint and desirable for their own good. Just wished it hadn’t happened so ‘close to home’ and hadn't in effect priced people out of their own hometown.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Black Sheep in Office

Rabble-rousers, Contrarians, Black Sheep, Turds in the Punch Bowl, or how ever you may see them, it seems this describes one member on each of the three most powerful Boards in the County right now. The three Boards are the County Commission, the Port Commission and the Clatsop Community College Board of Directors and the members of all three are elected.

Sometimes Boards consist of like minded people who make big errors because of their like mindedness. It is always exciting when there is one person on a board who seems to have the purpose of stirring up the dynamics of the board itself. Though, at times it does seem counter productive if not destructive, but it can be viewed as a check and balance of any organization.

Karen Mellin holds this seat on the Clatsop Community College Board. Though it isn’t true at all, she is held responsible for the failure of the recent College Bond Measure because she raised issues her constituents raised with her. Her relationship with the college board and the President are still strained.

Bill Hunsinger holds this position on the Port Commission. His scrappy demeanor set the commission on its ear because of his unwillingness to see the Port run as it had under the previous Commission and with the previous manager. He is also willing to take discussions out side.

Pam Patrick holds this position on the Board of County Commissioners. Sam was viewed as somewhat a team player until the Board cut the stipend of the District Attorney. It was at that point his passions for his vision of public safety over ran his programming of good sense. Since then he has become more disagreeable and petulant. He refuses to voice a vote and now must be called on. He pioneered a campaign to not only pay the District Attorney from the County budget, but to pay him more than the stipend paid him in the first place.

If speculation is allowed and if there were a hypothetical election tomorrow what would happen to these candidates?

In Karen Mellin’s case, sadly I don’t see her running for another term. It takes a lot of positive energy to withstand the pressure she has been getting from the other board members after the bond failure. She has support from her constituents; however continuing to work with a board doesn’t respect her may be a bit much to take for another four years. Her term ends in 2009.

Bill Hunsinger would not only run again, but would easily win again. He’s just getting started.

Depending on who runs against him, Sam Patrick may have a hard time holding onto his seat. He will have the support of his constituents who feel the County should pay the District Attorney, but it seems that support may not be enough to put him over the top. Also Sam seems to be along for the ride, not championing any special projects or opinions. He is a Commissioner without vision and does little to represent his district. He doesn’t even vote unless prompted to do so. Adding to his political mistakes; his incoherent ramblings on youtube should make voters question his logic and judgment as a leader.

Whether you view these three Board members as black sheep or turds in the punch bowl, they can be viewed as the ones who screw everything up or the ones who prevent rubber stamping of things without question.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another Vinyl Village

Being aware of their mortality, it seems that it is a matter of importance that humans plant some sort of flag or monument on this planet to seal their identity with the future.

Listening to and reading the local news about some rather monumental projects are being approved and slated for construction, one begins to realize that this has always been and will always be.

Only in recent history have we have become secure enough with our present situation that we can afford the luxury of being against the development of an industrial fuel (LNG) facility, and we can be against river-front condominiums. In years past any development seemed to be welcomed because it would provide jobs and places to live. It was as though the land you owned was yours, but after people got the notion of zoning your land became part of the community and everyone wants a say-so in your plans of development and stewardship.

In Oregon, Measure 37 virtually repealed or at least made land use claims able to be appealed. We saw land owners realize that they had dodged a bullet, so they went out looking for profit while the getting was good. Community members saw the development of the farms and forests in their community and realized that Land Rights Measure 37 was a bad idea so they drafted Measure 49, which will be on the ballot in November.

On one hand one may think that land ownership is an entitlement to do what you like, yet on the other hand established community values and lifestyle. It is one thing to buy a house next to a landfill, and it is something else entirely to own a home on land that has been recently purchased with the intention of turning it into a land fill. The question is if land owner right are a higher priority than the rights of the community that predates the proposed use.

Getting back to the idea of a monument that was mentioned earlier, it becomes apparent that each year we are finding the foot prints of buildings are becoming larger. Every year there are more buildings and more parking areas utilizing precious space. We have a limited amount of space and one day we will run out and we will have to come up with creative means to continue.

Let us for example look at one piece of history. The old Astoria High School up on 16th and Jerome became obsolete at one time, so they moved the campus to an area that had room to grow. But someday with the growth of population here, that campus may become inadequate. At that point they may no longer be able to find the land to accommodate their needs, so the next Astoria High School may no longer reside in Astoria.

Urban sprawl is happening here, and one day it will become an urban squeeze where there is so much infrastructure that it will not only become unmanageable, but it will all become problematic when structures become obsolete. Take for example the Empire State Building. As historic as that building may be, it is obsolete. How are they going to replace it? When our river front is full of shops and condominiums how will they be removed without impacting other shops and condominiums and most of all the river?

The sad thing that happens with urban squeeze is that the opponents become more vocal and the land owners become greedier. The divide in ideology becomes greater and it destroys a community that once had consensus. We create yet another Vinyl Village.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Name of This Game

Cooperate. What is one of the first things we want our children to learn? When we are trying to get something done and as quick as we build something or clean something they are tearing it down or dirtying it up, “Why won’t you cooperate with me?” we ask. We make play dates for them so they will learn to cooperate with their peers and then in their first year of school learning to cooperate with the other children, the teacher and the administration is a priority subject.

We have sports programs at all levels promising to teach our children cooperation where they learn how to work with one another toward a specific goal, overcoming obstacles together, helping one another identify problems and overcome them with the objective being that the whole team comes out ahead, the winners, along with the boosters, the rooters and the school or district they represent.

Cooperate. An integral cornerstone of life. While “superstars” can make watching an event more lively for audiences, most often when that “superstar” doesn’t know how to be a team player, when he doesn’t appreciate the whole team and play for the benefit of everyone involved, his pompous attitude and scornful actions quickly deteriorate the morale of all who come into contact with him.

These superstars, even if they are the sole point scorers, usually end up being traded or walking out on the team. What eventually becomes apparent is that they don’t care about anyone or anything but their own aspirations and how they look to the rest of world. The day to day grind of making a team work best for everyone is lost on them. They have little or no comprehension of what obligation means when it pertains to what they owe or whom they owe it to. Their debit column is only filled with what is owed to them, what they feel they deserve, what they see others have and what they want.

Cooperate. A foreign word to most of these types of superstars, unless they can spin it to mean, “give me what I want.” It is a word that causes them to wince and glare or roll their eyes. These types of superstars don’t cooperate. In their mind The Star does not negotiate or acquiesce. He knows his worth and does not back down for anyone, anything or any reason. Those not appreciating the star affectionately, adoringly and with appropriate alacrity will be remembered and dealt with accordingly.

Who thinks of themselves as the superstar in our night’s sky? Who insists on twinkling alone, without acknowledging the whole team effort it takes to keep a county running in peak performance? Who refuses to acknowledge the presence and importance of each squad having its own specialty, its own importance, and its own reason for being a part of the team? Who thinks there is only one answer, only one way to resolve the conflict, their way or no way? Reflect and then look for a cooperative answer to this perplexing problem -for the good of our whole community.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Performance Management

According to the Oregon Progress Board Key Performance Measures many states are initiating statewide performance management initiatives to ferret out under performing activities and find ways to stretch their resources. While robust statistics remain elusive, there is a growing body of evidence that performance management makes a difference. In 2001, at the start of the states’ most recent fiscal crisis, a bipartisan group from the Kennedy School of Government exhorted public-sector executives to embrace performance management, calling it among the most powerful of a limited number of tools available to advance an organization’s priorities. Using a report by Accenture (a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company) Oregon was able to grasp a better understanding about the process of performance management.

Oregon recognizes roadblocks to performance management. When asking asked about performance budgeting in the public sector it was found that one key roadblock is that Executives have not found a clear, comprehensive way to measure value. Because most states do not have an articulated strategic plan, executives are unable to define their priorities. The diversity of state government stakeholders and the different (and sometimes far-flung) services provided within agencies may put the needs of different populations served by an agency at odds and drive the agency in completely different directions. Without a handle on the state’s priorities decision-makers are ill-equipped to determine what better performance even means. Further, different agencies often have conflicting missions—one striving to expand Internet services, for example, and another trying to cut technology spending. Maximizing value means striking the right balance, which involves judgment. Once the very definition of success involves a subjective judgment of this sort, it becomes more difficult to measure and open to political manipulation.

Another roadblock is a fundamental lack of understanding of the concept of performance management and inadequate management skills impeding progress. The root of the problem often can be traced to the way agency leaders are chosen. In most states, the people who lead the organizations are political appointees who have been selected based on what they did, or what they will do, for the governor—not because they had specific expertise in leading and managing organizations. To assume these people will willingly embrace a performance management system, develop strategic plans and then monitor performance when their career track continues to be completely built on politics is, at best, optimistic. “Sometimes the people driving the politics aren't the same people who know best how to manage government day-to-day, and it's an interesting dynamic,” explains Jim Chrisinger of the Iowa Department of Management. “It's hard to keep everything aligned when some of the key people toward the top don’t accept it as a priority. I think there are some lessons to be learned from what's happened at the local government level, where there's been more of a split between the political side and the management side. I could argue there ought to be a professional COO of state government. I think it’s an interesting model; we just haven't taken it to that level.”

Other roadblocks include that when they do develop performance information, political realities prevent executives from using it. One of the most fundamental challenges to successful performance management at the statewide level is the fact that decision-making in government is based on power, not a rational analysis of the facts. The nuances of political relationships and the vital importance politicians and appointees place on managing perceptions make it difficult to implement objective report cards. What to measure, how to measure, and what to do with the information are highly charged decisions. And these choices can inspire particularly intense debate when the results might not be good—precisely when performance management promises the largest benefit. Performance reports have the potential to point out programs that are not succeeding, which can threaten the legislators who have nurtured them as pet projects. “You’re goring their ox,” as one executive in Oregon explains it. “These are the programs they supported for years, and we're telling them that they're not effective, and there are other programs where we should be putting our money.” Unfortunately, politics often overrides cold, hard facts.

While these problems may seem insurmountable the report continues on an upward note. Despite the challenges, a number of organizations have made real headway on the road to effective performance management. Certain practices came to the fore among these successes, including: Concentrate on performance management at the agency or team level rather than statewide level. Focus on setting goals and performance expectations to guide measurement. Support, but do not drive performance management initiatives with new technology. Use legislative and regulatory mandates to create a consistent, cross-administration push. Understand that performance management is an iterative process.

Focus on setting goals and performance expectations to guide measurement. Performance management initiatives can get bogged down under the weight of extensive and detailed measurement —documenting exactly what happens at every single stage of the process and why. Agencies tend to fall into this trap when they view performance management as an externally imposed exercise rather than an effective way to make things better. When the focus is only on the process, any obstacles can become showstoppers. In contrast, when agencies focus on the end goal—performance improvement— they begin to see that processes can be changed and obstacles overcome. That is why some leading states are making concerted efforts to develop concise, overarching statewide performance goals as a starting point.

Support, but do not drive performance management initiatives with new technology. Getting the agency’s IT environment under control is clearly essential for performance management; it provides, in a timely manner, the kind of information people need to get the performance management job done. In fact, IT reform will often ignite performance management initiatives.

Understand that performance management is an iterative process. Once the foundation pieces are in place—the goals, the expectations, the technology and the legislative and executive support—then states can begin to work on the process itself. California CIO Clark Kelso likens the start-up process to pulling off a bandage: “You've got to do it in one quick pull. You can't stretch this out over three to five years. You have to decide: ‘We’re going to do performance- based budgeting. We're going to start next fiscal year. We know that that first year's performance-based budget is going to be very rough. We're not going to have all the information we need. We're not going to have all the metrics. We're not even probably going to have a very good baseline completed. But we just have to decide we're going to do that.’ And then, the second year, you know that it will get better.” The idea is to start small to effect change. Identify a few strategic priorities and find the indicators you can influence at a broad level. Recognize that wholesale agency transformation is unlikely to occur quickly, but over time small effects will add up.

As states consider their own paths toward high performance, they will undoubtedly question how best to use performance management as a tool of greater efficiency and effectiveness.
We [the Accenture Institute for High Performance Business] identified a number of emerging practices among the leaders that we think will be critical:
  • Be explicit about value.
  • Set high-performance aspirations.
  • Use performance management practices to focus and energize the entire organization.
  • Remember that leadership at all levels is crucial.
Performance management is a difficult journey. The good news for performance management champions is that it gets attention in times of budgetary shortfall such as the states are experiencing now.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Courtroom Protocol: The Does & Don'ts

An adolescent teen spirit was allowed to observe the courtroom procedure Monday morning as a decision was made on a petition, a petition cast in the hopes that two sides of an important issue would finally make it into media. The teen was allowed, by her supposed guardian (the elderly looking male with her), to make vile hand gestures at elected County officials and mouth obscenities. A casual observer must wonder about the guardian and come to the conclusion that he must be unschooled in courtroom procedure and protocol.

Would that were true, but alas, the guardian with his adolescent were none less than the District Attorney, Joshua Marquis with his wife Cindy Price, who spent the time flipping off the Chair of the Board of County Commissioners and mouthing, "F*ck-you" at him. In nodding appreciation, Steve Forrester, the owner and editor of the only local daily newspaper, looked on. It was apparent that even this petition would not garner an even handed reporting of the events unfolding in the drama that is community life across the United States, land of the free, home of justice and often run via little town media.

Outside, a deluded woman paced the sidewalk with a sign proclaiming "Let us vote" beseeching people for the opportunity to vote for an independent District Attorney. Her pathetic lament showed her blinded to reason, intent on finding others to share her lunacy. She supports a petition which she says will make the district attorney "truly free." One free from being bound to the capricious willy, nilly politics of the local atmosphere. In her passion she forgets the District Attorney is an elected official paid by the state of Oregon, already as free as one can get, and still live here, from local affairs.

Inside the spacious second-floor courtroom people sat listening, most trying to ignore the outbursts of ill manners by the adolescent, hoping that the local paper would go against custom and for once print an accurate accounting of the proceeding. Our County Commissioners who attended graciously acknowledged the presence of each person that caught their eye with a nod or a wave, ignoring the cold eyes and defiant looks of those who took umbrage at the audacity of doing their duties as commissioners.

The Commissioners patiently waited and after a startled look at the District Attorney's wife's frantic antics, with a shrug of "what do you expect from an ex-employee of a porn magazine," went back to watching the proceeding. The action being a forgone conclusion, their presence added credence to the reason for the proceedings having to take place. A call to media for fair representation to both sides of the issue. All knowing it probably is in vain but willing to give the local media another opportunity to be just and fair.

Too soon it was over. The good, reliable, retired attorney's efforts perhaps in vain, but most perhaps not. While the local media mutt weaved his way back to his den to convince himself that he was a good and honest journalist the eyes of Clatsop County have begun to open wider. The extra weekend this garnered allowed many to discuss openly and frankly what this "Petition for an Independent DA" has, and will, cost the tax payers.

Frivolous measures on a ballot are not appreciated by tax payers, they cost money. Those putting them on the ballot are remembered, especially when the tax payer is reminded who they are. Being forced to compensate a state paid elected official, who was instrumental in crafting the petition to amend the County Charter, won't sit well with the tax payer either.

While those who opposed the petition, in the hopes of saving the tax payer money, had no choice but to take this to court, one wonders if they aren't more than satisfied that this is going to the ballot.

The next few months are going to be interesting, very interesting indeed.

Monday, August 6, 2007


Those who hold themselves accountable for their own actions are people we should all try to emulate in our own way.

While this is not intended to target any individual or situation, this whole debacle with the Clatsop County's elected DA and his attitude towards the county officials exemplifies 'what NOT to do'.

If you make a mistake, fix it and don't make excuses. Really, people will think more of you for having done so. You are being damaged yourself, by not fixing mistakes, even if you cannot readily see it at the time.

In your life if you are asked questions that you do not have the answers to, or are unsure, please admit that you don't know and that you will get back to the person with the information later. People will not mind, honestly. Shooting from the hip and being wrong can destroy a person's credibility pretty darn fast.

If you hurt someone, apologize and try not to do it again. Even if it was unintentional, you should always apologize and make a point to analyze just what happened, so the hurtful behavior is not repeated.

If you happen to get caught in a lie, no matter how small, please admit it, briefly apologize if warranted and move on. Never believe that you have gotten away with something by not getting caught in a lie. It will catch up with you in one form or another and you are the person who will be damaged the most.

If in your life you break something, albeit someone's heart or someone's tangible possession, please fix it or replace it. This will have it's rewards later in life, as you will come to find out.

Don't lay blame on others for something you have done. Some people have made a lifelong habit of casting blame on everyone but the person in the mirror.

This message is not meant to admonish any one, but rather to remind us all to be more aware of our actions, and (hopefully) to stop and think about whether we are being good role models that others that may look up to.

Are you a good role model for yourself and if you were to die tomorrow, would you be proud of your recent actions that people will remember you by?

Those are the questions we must ask ourselves on a daily basis to keep things in check and keep our lives 'purposeful' as well as being an example for our children for those of us that have them or are around them enough to form an impression.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Which Side Are You On?

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This simple law of physics translates well into everyday life. There is nothing that happens in our lives that this law doesn’t apply to. Every event starts a chain reaction which creates a Mobius Strip where the equal and opposite thing comes about.

Let’s say for example a criminal activity takes place. Wanting to prevent another criminal activity in the same location a gate or a door will be fitted with a lock and a camera will be installed. Next time the crime is committed elsewhere more locks and cameras will be installed.

To get ahead of the curve and in the name of proactive measures we suddenly see everything caged and locked with cameras pointed everywhere trying to prevent crimes. In order to get access one often needs to be “Buzzed in” and sometimes even “Buzzed out” in order to leave.

The card keys that open your hotel room are linked up to a database where your activities can be tracked. It inn keeper can find easily find out what times you entered your room or any other room that card key has access to such as the entrance after hours, the exercise room, the pool or sauna. You were on camera from the moment you drove into the parking lot and are on camera until you enter your room; that is if you close your blinds.

If you go grocery shopping, you are on camera the whole time as well. If you use your rewards or customer card they know who you are and what you purchased. The cameras were placed there for security but are actually being used to detect consumer patterns or stated in another way, to spy on the customers.

It was the threat of crime justified the installation of cameras but what they’ve in effect done is turn our world into a minimum security prison where we are the inmates. We are locked in or locked out and we are nearly always on camera when we leave our homes. Our activities are often limited so as not to perpetuate criminal activity.

Some people say they feel safer living in a society where everything happens within the view of a lens. Some people feel safer in prison than they feel when they are free. Some criminals will commit a criminal offense just so they can go back to prison. It is home to them.

As for yourself, what your limits are? Banks have been using cameras for years. Many businesses such as Fred Meyer have large monitors mounted above their entrances just to let you know you are on camera every where you go in their store. Police cars are outfitted with cameras and there are traffic cameras and weather cameras also lacing popular places people pass through and visit.

Would you like being on camera in your coffee shop? How about in the changing room? How about on the street at Sunday Market? How about in the theater? How about being on camera on the River Walk? How far does it need to go before you feel like you are a prisoner in your own society?

It is doubtful that we will ever be able to get the Genie back in the bottle. We are living in a time where we are all presumed guilty at birth as though we really were born with what Catholics call “Original Sin.” Remember, America is the Land of the Free, unless we surrender all of our freedoms. Is it possible that one day “Trust Zones” will appear, where shops and neighborhoods take the necessary measures to rid their areas of spy equipment and people will be able to live free again?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Myth of the Good Old Days

It is easy for anyone with a sense of history and memories of a gentler time to think fondly of a return to the good old days. Our fantasy can be derailed if we realize what would really await us if we returned to the time of yore.

Our sunny ideas may illuminate the good things, but there were bad things as well. Let’s look at things 50 years ago. Though you may have the romantic idea that the world was full of Ward and June Cleavers and gasoline went for cents per gallon, the reality is that racism and lynching were rampant. Automobiles were unsafe with hard metal dash boards and no seat belts. Politics were corrupt and the news media rarely brought things to the surface. Much of the American moral compass was pointed toward the puritanical. Music was available only on radio, reel to reel tape or vinyl. Calculators were called slide rules or abacus. Electronic equipment used vacuum tubes that needed to be replaced from time to time.

Now let’s take it back 100 years. Unless you lived in the working part of town it was rare to hear an engine. Your shoe leather was your transportation unless you were fortunate enough to have a horse or other beast of burden. If you didn’t fall prey to polio, tuberculosis, small pox or consumption, some simple infection could snuff out your life in two weeks. Medicine was very primitive. There were no antibiotics. Heating your home was labor intensive with wood or coal and it was dangerous. Homes were not insulated and there were no building codes. Safety was not a feature in any home or product that went into the home. Most homes still did not have indoor plumbing.

This begs one to pose the question, “Are these the good old days?” While some complain about paving paradise, demand for products and services by all are fueling the steam rollers. We like the convenience of microwaving our cooling beverages. We love the newest communication technology and getting the fastest most reliable internet machines is a must. We love the latest gadgets because they do seem to make our lives easier. All this demand opens our arms to embrace the doors of the discount big box industry which is reshaping consumer habits and targeting the consumers in us all. Our land marks are changing and becoming recognizable to all who move here or just pass through because it looks similar to elsewhere else.

One can only imagine what conveniences and inconveniences await us in the decades to come. It will surely be that these times of transition will one day be the Good Old Days to some who are living here now. Others will view it as the beginning of our down fall to homogeny.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Stewardship is an action. It is when someone has the responsibility for taking care of another person's property or financial affairs. Looking into the past we see that stewardship first was the responsibility given to household servants to bring food and drinks to a castle dining hall. Later, the term came to indicate a household employee's responsibility for managing household or domestic affairs. Now we have environmental stewards, financial stewards and product stewards.

Stewardship is an ethic that embodies cooperative planning and management of many resources with diverse organizations, communities and others to actively engage in the interest of long-term sustainability, and often expansion or protection, as the ultimate goal(s).

When we vote for our commissioners, our council members, and mayors we are voting for stewards. People we trust to make decisions, with our resources, on our behalf. In this day and age our stewards are still our servants, our public servants. They are not our private servants. While we do have the duty to watch their stewardship, it is after all our resources, we also have a duty to not micromanage our stewards. We should realize that these resources are everyone’s and while we may know that we know what is best, these stewards often have a more holistic viewpoint. They are hearing a cacophony of voices that they must listen for a rhythm to, choosing which voices are blending well with one another and at which times to add in the next voice to bring out the best harmony, given what they have to work with. Sometimes it appears to be a no win situation, yet they are still required to find a way through, to hear the best offered, and if they don’t they know they will hear about it.

Throughout the most recent episode with the District Attorney we were reminded when this community was first trolled by the LNG companies. The Daily Astorian wouldn’t give those opposing LNG the time of day until, finally, one of the reporters who had done her research forced the issue and began doggedly following the controversy. For the longest time it appeared that the pro-LNG voices shouted over the top of the anti-LNG voices, with the Daily Astorian cheering the former side on. It was only on the forum message boards and individual blogs that one came to the understanding that there was major opposition to the LNG faction.

With this debacle with District Attorney Josh Marquis’ treatment and disdain of the budget committee and the commissioners the forum message boards is the only place where one understands the magnitude of anger and distrust that the average person has for the district attorney. Through these forums what comes through is the frustration of the clearly biased "news" reporting by local media. The ridicule that the district attorney has held the commissioners up to, commissioners elected by the constituents in the county to steward their resources, is the true “spit" and "slap" in the face of every single person in Clatsop County.

They are our stewards, entrusted with our resources. When does the trust start? What does that trust look like? When and where does it end?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What Support?

Ever since our troops entered Afghanistan and the subsequent invasion of Iraq, one of the signs of required patriotism was to show some sort of support for the troops. Rather than be deemed unpatriotic, many choose to qualify what they were feeling by stating that they do support the troops, but not the cause for which they were fighting.

This statement is becoming the wide spread sentiment now that the wars and the leaders are becoming more and more unpopular. The heart of the problem may be that not enough Americans have sacrificed anything more than higher gasoline prices and longer lines at air ports in these conflicts. It is easy for people to reconsider their opinions when they are merely inconvenienced.

During World War II every American felt the effects of the war. The war machine required much form its people. There was fuel and food rationing. Items were collected for recycling for the war effort. War Bonds were a patriotic investment. Though there was a draft, most Americans joined the military freely. Women and persons with deferments filled the industrial positions vacated by those who were serving in the military. On the dark side, ethnicity decided who was assigned to internment camps. There was no escape from that war.

This time around troop support means that you buy a magnetic ribbon that was made in China, and you slap it on the ass end of your SUV so you can see it every time you pile groceries in the back or fill the over sized gas tank with Middle East fossil fuels. The President prescription for supporting out country during the time of war is his instruction for the people to go out and go shopping.

There are sadly over 3500 families that have lost their loved ones and many thousands more who have life long disabilities due to injuries. These are the people and their families making the real sacrifices in this war. It is an insult to their integrity and sacrifice to throw on a magnetic ribbon and think that you support them.

If you want to support the troops, sign up to do some volunteer work that will directly benefit them. If you don’t want to commit some time to them you should at least remove your magnetic ribbon. It is an insult.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Every week there are several people who get arrested for driving while under the influence of intoxicants in this county. Multiply this with the number of people who get arrested around the country every week and you will see an epidemic that just isn’t going away.

Though more recent statistics are hard to find, in the year 2005 there were 488 automobile fatalities in Oregon of which 177 were alcohol related. 36% of the fatalities were alcohol related. Of these 177 alcohol related fatalities 139 were by people who had a blood alcohol level above .08%.

The interesting thing about this statistic is that 38 of the fatalities were caused by people with an alcohol level lower than .08.

The question that needs to be posed here is: Why is any level of alcohol is acceptable while behind the wheel? Is it the bar and restaurant lobby that prevents a zero tolerance policy? As a driver I would like to drive on roads where I could be somewhat assured that the traffic heading in my direction doesn’t harbor someone with a mind and reaction altering substance.

There is presently equipment available that prevents an individual from starting the engine if it detects any alcohol on their breath. This isn’t fool-proof since a non imbibed person can lean over and blow into the meter. This logistical problem could easily be remedied. If law makers and the auto industry are so proactive on safety issues, why isn’t this now standard equipment on all vehicles?

Granted, one problem with the device is that it only tests for alcohol and there are lists of intoxicants that can impair driving. There are legal and illegal drugs, but for now alcohol is a big problem that can be dealt with. People need to learn that it isn’t acceptable to have a glass of wine with dinner and then expect to drive a vehicle that is larger than some houses in third world countries. It doesn’t sound like much and most people can legally drive after one glass of wine though it is morally wrong. It is a problem where minds need to be changed to understand that even one glass before driving isn’t acceptable by our society. It is sad to sacrifice even one life to this legal mistake.

Alcohol alters the mind and it gives some people more courage. Having a .08 limit encourages people to test their limits. Having a zero tolerance sends a much stronger message where many people wouldn’t think of driving after using alcohol based mouthwash.

This is not to re-initiate a temperance movement. People should be free to enjoy, medicate or poison themselves as they see fit. However, it becomes unacceptable when elements are mixed to create disaster for those who are innocent.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Haves and the Have-Nots of our Community

Imagine you are one of the 'fortunate' residents dwelling in our community who was born here, whose grandparents and greats, possibly even your great-greats etc were reared here as well.

Suppose that you eventually inherited a beautiful home on the hill, on the beach or lake, were lucky enough to have all the right GOB or GOG connections to get you into a top employment situation right out of high school or out of college without necessarily being qualified for such a position. Or, perhaps, your family may have passed along a successful business to you, which only added to the mystique of your 'family name'.

Life goes on for you here and after you do your 4 or 5 year stint in Eugene or Corvallis you eventually marry well, spew out a brood of above average looking children, who will continue to want for nothing throughout their whole lives. They will be the next "golden children" of the community. You, yourself, were one of those “fortunate ones” who were never “second string” in sports, got invited to and had the best birthday parties, hooked up with the best dates for prom and were possibly in the homecoming court.

You were given more chances to succeed in school than any of the “outsiders” (defined in this town as someone who was not born here), you were spared discipline at school or enjoyed a “lesser version” than others and you also possibly had a throng of 'hanger-on' friends who only hung out with you because their parents told them it would ‘serve them well’ to cement ties to your family for the future and any opportunities it may bring through this relationship.

However, living in towns and hamlets in our county, in places that are invisible to you, there is another type of resident of our community. These residents may have family ties here or may be new to the area. One thing doesn’t change, though. These same people who are living amongst you, though they may reside out of your view: in apartments, in 'not so desirable' neighborhoods (by your standards), or perhaps living in cars, transitional housing or campers, are equally viable citizens of our community.

Though the "haves" of our community are always receiving the public accolades, the newspaper and magazine feature articles, and the media attention for their so called 'good deeds', those "invisible" residents of our community are really who make up the backbone of our county.

For instance, look at the flourishing businesses in Astoria and in the rest of the county that did not exist just 15 years ago. We do not mean to imply that some of the old family "names" of the towns do not donate their share to worthwhile causes. There are several that have and continue to do so. We are just illustrating that proportionally it may be the 'have not's' who make this community run the way that it does.

Though these "non-chosen" of our county are the least equipped to do so, they give to their community in many ways including donated time and services, some even working in minimum wage jobs (which may as well be looked upon as donating their time). Further, these same people and families who have come from the "outside" or who were not lucky enough to have been born here have brought and shared with us a wealth of talent, love for the area and diversity that we could not now envision our county without.

Our hats are off to you, the little recognized and unsung people and families that make up the backbone of our community. Thank you for caring.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Moment to breathe

Sometimes quietly, and other times embarrassingly loud, they live among us. The people we don't really want to be, and sometimes wish we didn't know, but most often are secretly grateful for. This poem made me think of them and how they are changing our community this year. For better or worse, they move us ahead.

The Rest of Us
Mark Smith-Soto

speaking truth to power is all right for heroes.

it's easy for them to sit at the front of the bus

and look out the window while the bus driver yells

and the rest of us squirm and sweat in our seats,

how sweet those bitter yelled words to heroes, how

they feel the lash like the smile of God upon them!

they lie down in front of the tanks, they stand up

to the firing squad, they hold their hearts in their hands

and laugh in a place deep inside with all of us watching,

we who quiver to strike out, scared to catch duck flu,

to take off our shoes outside the temple and walk in

singing - all of us unready, unwilling, unraveling at

stray dogs, salmonella, panhandlers, fundamentalists, rabid

squirrels, ugly shoes, bad breath, shingles, and love -

how are we supposed to say stop it, stop it! stop it!

when we are afraid to stop in dark places, afraid not

to stop and be polite to the corner santa claus,

to the president, the dogcatcher, the dentist.

is it any wonder when we hate them, the heroes, is it

any wonder we hang them from hemlocks, tear off

their halos, let loose on them the wild dogs

of our hateful admiration? they make life so hard

with their secret smiles beyond any comfort or pleasure,

their prideful steps beyond any arrogance, their

awful aloneness that doesn't need us - don't they see

how difficult they make it for us, how we would like

to give them a loan, a medal, a charitable foundation,

anything, if they would only stop being themselves

for a minute, and just give us a chance to breathe!