For the rabbi’s first blog entry on the Edge, we’ll go to the daily paper in the area, and respond to the Open Forum letters to the editor section. I hope to make this a regular feature of this blog, as well as muse about myriad other things that crowd my mind and need to get out. Hope you can join me for the ride…
The first letter, by Karen Beck, laments the editor’s support for a plan to reduce double-crested cormorants on East Sand Island. Beck states, “We in Clatsop County live in such a unique and beautiful area with a vast array of wildlife for which we should be proud.” I agree. Seems we live in an area that can’t kill enough wild and tame life, plant and animal alike. Any excuse will do. In this case, that the cormorants eat salmon. Well, so do we. Can’t wait to see the EIS for human culling in the Lower Columbia basin.
The next letter, by Tom Falls, states an idea I had many, many years ago, when I found out that the Social Security payroll tax is capped. I did some research on it then, and evidently this has been an issue all along (see here for the Social Security Administration’s take on the history of the tax max, as it’s called). This is yet another way in which the rich are favored in our tax code. Lift the cap, I say! Off with it!
Great to read the next letter, by Bob Bridgens, who is a fixture, along with his wife Chris (who I got to meet and work with during one of the bond measures for the college to move to Warrenton), at most local political meetings when development concerns come up. I actually agree with him on this issue, which involves how the new Walmart in Warrenton is to look. Bridgens argues that Walmart has already fixed up its exterior look after the first round of planning commission hearings. The only reasonable design for these atrocities by Highway 101 is to completely block them from the sight of travelers down this scenic byway. Then it won’t matter how they look, at least to me, since I’ll never see them! And by the way, my opinion about Walmart coming here is that I oppose ALL the chain stores along Highway 101, including Costco, Fred Meyer, Staples, Big 5, etc., etc. I’ve boycotted them all for years. I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot about my opinions of development in Warrenton and elsewhere in coming posts.
I like my friend Christopher Paddon’s letter about not being able to afford to shop at Walmart, and his wife Caren Black’s letter below it, praising the opposite of Walmart — Utzinger’s. More Utzinger’s and less Walmarts would be a good thing.
“Farmer” Fred White’s letter about brutalist architecture in general, and the Astoria Library in particular, follows Black’s letter about resiliency. Several letters follow this one dealing with the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which was slated for demolition before the Historic Landmarks Commission voted to block that path, at least for the present. This development pattern of clearing out either trees or old buildings, and substituting new buildings is a big issue for me, as demonstrated by my outburst at a recent city council meeting (which got more press than I figured it would). Like most, I hate brutalist architecture, but White has a point — it is worth keeping samples of, so future generations don’t lose track of our past, even when it went wrong. On redevelopment of that block, I am in favor of renovating the hotel and library into a civic center that would be publicly accessible. The renovation of city hall should be the model — building facades should stay, and as much as possible should be made of the inside already there. I must say, if push came to shove, I would favor knocking down the new Hampton Suites hotel on the waterfront, and direct tourists to the Waldorf. Come on, you stayed at the Waldorf, or the Hampton Suites…
Carla Cole’s letter about a was informative. She claims that the plan will turn the bay into a giant fish farm and commercial fish factory, undermining the ecology and ultimately the plan itself. The argument over how we diminish our salmon stocks is ludicrous, if you ask me. Much as I love to eat salmon, I think our only hope to save salmon and ourselves is to declare a moratorium on fishing on the Columbia for several years, tear down the dams and let the river recover. More on this in future posts.
Always good to see a letter from E. Robert Nassikas! In this one, he congratulates “supporters of the affirmative action president who kept him where he can do the most damage.” If only half of Nassikas’ fantasies about Obama being socialist were true, we’d be in a lot better shape!
Finally, I must concur with the writer of the letter about the outgoing Astoria Parks & Recreation director, J.P. Moss. Oh, why would be me! OK, I give my permission to post that letter here:
In the Dec. 19 editorial “JP Moss made real gains for Astoria”, the editors make the claim that the city has “moved away from good-old-boy management,” and compared government with private companies. Like a corporate raider, Moss came in and “saved” the Aquatic Center from insolvency, and expanded the reach of the Parks & Recreation Department into other areas.
Well, all is not well with the Aquatic Center and other recreational and environmental institutions in Astoria. Moss more than doubled the fee to use the Aquatic Center, fired staff and turned the concession area into a profit center for his private business. The hot tub was out of service for months earlier this year, and the showers in the men’s locker room still leak heavily. Local groups now have trouble scheduling and using the facilities at convenient times and reasonable prices. Park and open space maintenance and upkeep have been sharply curtailed, while many large and beautiful trees have been cut down all over the city.
Government administration is not at all like the private sector. Services provided by government are supposed to be available to all citizens at reasonable cost, and are never intended to be profitable. The next Parks & Recreation director should put all his or her energies into establishing a tax district to procure equitable revenue from the local community in order to provide back excellent services and top-notch facilities. And the new director should move the department towards advocacy for the environment, sustainable development, and the enhancement of our natural resources. Certainly this new person should not take us down the road to corporate management that Moss did.
I look forward to being able to again swim and work out at the Aquatic Center for $3/day, enjoy our wonderful parks, trails and open space with assurances that they will be maintained and enhanced, and participate in the many programs that make our community strong.
It’s time to move on, and up. We need a new Parks & Recreation director that will run the department less like a company, and more like the government agency that it is. Not for profit, or to break even, but to provide services for all of us, and the environment that supports us all. Those would be real gains for Astoria.