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!

Monday, July 2, 2007

What We Did Ask For From our Commissioners: Rebutting the Daily Astorian's defense of District Attorney Josh Marquis

A rebuttal to the editor of the Daily Astorian in his article defending his friend, District Attorney Joshua Marquis, Something we didn't ask for: Cutting DA’s salary sends a very strange and negative message

Staying within their norm of biased reporting, reflected in its editorial 28 June 2007, the Daily Astorian has, once again, dismally failed its community.

First, the District Attorney sends a message through his friend in one of the editor's opening paragraphs: When Marquis eventually retires from the job, what will the county commission do? If the commission continues to deny the county stipend, the job will attract a lower caliber of lawyer. If the commission decides: Well, he's gone, so let's continue the stipend, it will prove there was something personal in all of this.

A statement which shows, in and of itself, that Marquis is delivering edicts through his friend. He certainly hasn't given any interviews out saying he plans on staying here until "retirement" however that statement was merely made to stave off the accusations that he is merely biding his time until something better comes along. Next, he presupposes no one is going to beat him at the next elections. Seriously, a big mistake. Finally, it ignores the paper's own reporter. While it most often is what the rest of us do, it doesn't bode well when the paper's editor does so as well. Reinstating the stipend will prove they give the next District Attorney the opportunity to prove her/himself fully capable of cooperating with the board of commissioners, conducting themselves as mature, fully functioning department heads.

According to the Daily Astorian's own staff reporter: Commissioner Roberts ... In a memo to the board Wednesday, Roberts said she had "carefully weighed" the public's input before casting her vote, but was looking out for "proper fiscal management." She said she expects Marquis to "clearly differentiate" between his state District Attorney duties and his responsibilities as county department head, "work to improve communications with the budget committee," and comply with all county financial policies. "Speaking for myself, I cannot support reinstating the supplement until the District Attorney shows willingness and demonstrates progress on these issues," she wrote.

Here, clearly stated, is a way for the DA to get his stipend back, yet the Daily Astorian editor ignores this option. Perhaps reflecting the DA's own opinion of his obligation to the requests of our commissioners?

The editor goes on to rant, This decision devalues county law enforcement. Specifically, commissioners should bury any notion of asking voters for a new jail. Why would this editor completely devalue the hard work that the rest of the law enforcement community has accomplished with the commissioners? Why ignore everything that the commissioners have approved in the budget? And why build a jail if it is proven that the District Attorney has been manipulating the system so that people who shouldn't BE in jail are being FORCED to take plea bargains as they accept the deals their public defenders, being paid $34/hour w/o benefits, quickly urge them to take so they can fill the hour in more equitably? Our jails are full of people who MAY have had better options or may not even be guilty of the crime they are being forced to serve a term of imprisonment for if a wiser, more discriminating district attorney had been in place. The results have led to a waste of our resources in jail space, money, court time and staff management.

The editor rambles on, to the beat of the Marquis' drum, Commissioner Jeff Hazen's surpise attack in the County Budget Committee introduces an element of unpredictability, which is poison to the political process. The first rule of politics is: Don't surprise. Many inside and outside county government will wonder whether they can rely on what commissioners, and particularly Hazen say. Really? A total surprise, eh? Then WHY did part time, unpaid, freelance reporter Tryan Hartill know there was a definite possibility that this was coming up? Could it be because it's on the chopping block every year? Maybe both Forrester and Marquis could use Mr. Hartill as an adviser to help them understand the finer points of politics, of budgets, of cooperation, of responsibility to ones community? Of simply being willing to ask questions, admit to being wrong and do what's right?

We would like to very stringently state here that Mr. Hartill has NEVER aligned himself with any side of this controversy and our using him as an example here is purely because he did, indeed, publish the point that the stipend may very will be discussed at an upcoming budget committee meeting. For first Marquis to bewail he was blind sided, and now the editor to join the caterwauling shows an extreme amount of stupidity of two people who should know better than to put it on public display. If someone looking from the outside in can figure out the stipend will be a topic surely someone on the inside, who deals annually with their own budget, knows the stipend is always "on the block".

The editor's argument spins away from him. He argues: Commissioners have also violated the second and third rules among politicians: Don't pick a fight you don't need or a fight that leads nowhere. And don't let it get personal. The public did not ask commissioners to take this action. The Daily Astorian exhaustively interviewed commission candidates Jeff Hazen, Ann Samuelson and Richard Lee in the last election, and this topic never came up. Now it has become the biggest thing Hazen and Samuelson have done. It will mark their terms in office. Where is he getting his rule book? HIS reporters exhaustively interviewed someone? Yes, we've seen fine examples of that process. The public didn't ask them to take that action? Yes, we did. We asked them to be stewards of our money, or our trust, of our future, of that which we ourselves are unaware of taking place within the borders of our community, to the best of their ability. You think family after family weren't dancing the night of June 27, 2007? And if you think they were the "criminal element" it is you who are sadly mistaken. It is the families who have lived here generation after generation who have been caught up in nets that the DA casts and but for their money their own would have had the fate that so many indigent, having to rely on the $34/hour attorney, have had to suffer.

Marquis is several cuts above his recent predecessors. He is a smart prosecutor. Ever read what was said about Nifong, especially by his close friends? Do it. And then read Marquis' profile. Marquis wants people to fall into the fallacy of association regarding Leonhardt and previous DAs, does he like the comparison to Nifong? The editor is slamming many of the former District Attorneys and their staff. Clatsop County has benefited from his skills. Commissioners perhaps underestimate the variety and seriousness of the crime that Marquis and his office prosecute. More serious cases in our courts range from murder to sex abuse to elder abuse to the "collector" phenomenon of animal abusers. There is a steady flow of drunken driving cases. Looking at crime through the Marquis' glasses? We have to pay the price of his insolence when the sensational, and extremely rare, crimes mentioned have more than one lawyer capable of prosecuting them and the rest were/are daily occurrances that Gerttula, Faber and past DA's handled routinely and certainly any one of the present prosecuting deputies, or those attorneys who have escaped that office, could easily handle. The Kittles case was, as are all collectors cases, a colossal waste of money. It got Marquis a lot of publicity, costing the county hundreds of thousands of dollars. How long did she serve without any psychiatric help for what is now known to be a serious mental condition (which incarceration exacerbates and certainly does not make the person ready to re-enter society)? This is the example chosen of why we should be content with Marquis? It serves as one of the many examples of his ineptitude as a District Attorney and why he should remain a second chair with someone else at the reigns, holding him tightly under control.

The editor's final sorry attack: Lacking the foresight of good chess players, commissioners Hazen, Samuelson and Patricia Roberts have taken this dispute to a place that none of us need. The local criminal defense bar is getting a big laugh out of this circus. The DUII defense industry must be ecstatic. But the bottom line is this: Clatsop County voters have been given something they didn't ask for. The chess game is far from over, sir. You count the pieces on the board with your eyes wide shut. Richard Lee, Jeff Hazen, Ann Samuelson, and Patricia Roberts have taken us exactly where we asked them to, towards a responsible accounting (fair and irrespective of that person's prominence, influence or standing) of where our money is going and what it has been used on. It is not an open check book for a media gadfly who collects his articles as if they were notches on a bed post.

Josh Marquis WASTES money. We have asked our commissioners to steward our money. While the $13,500 may not have a huge impact our budget it did say to many of us that our commissioners are doing what they can to call to the public's attention this man's often irrational, noticeably belligerent, and borderline hostile behavior. His lack of ability to provide a performance based budget, to wield the power of his office to the benefit our community, to bring justice to both sides of the law with wisdom, compassion and discretion is something which had to be checked. And it was.

Italicized phrases are excerpts from The Daily Astorian, an editorial and an article.