OUR READERS' OPINIONS - 12/12/10

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Do we have our priorities straight?

Derek Jeter will get $17 million a year to play a kids game and work nine months a year. That $17 million would provide 340 jobs at $50,000 a year or 1,700 $10,000 health-insurance premiums for those with no health benefits.

No wonder children want to be sports stars. It looks like Easy Street. And we wonder why our children don't want to study and go to school except to play football, basketball, etc.

Of course, we also reward Mr. Jeter by not increasing his income tax so he can support all those workers small businesses hire - like sports agents, sports publicists, sports lawyers and sports doctors, all vital to the economic health of the U.S.

We certainly have our priorities straight, don't we?

Dick Swenson

Walla Walla

Mean-spirited letters not OK

I'm writing in response to the letter by Arlene Hiatt on Nov. 28 regarding the appearance of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in the Veterans Day parade. Arlene says people should speak up for what they know is right, so I am. I'm here to let you know that Arlene is wrong.

Richard Bardsley had a letter the same day, and he didn't like the PFLAG entry, but he was respectful. I disagree with his position, but I have no problem with him expressing it.

Arlene's letter, on the other hand, was very mean spirited. That's not OK, and someone needs to say it.

Lesbians and gays are people. If they have an "agenda," all it consists of is asking that people respect them as human beings. Is that so much to ask?

Mark Beck

Walla Walla

Clarification offered on AIDS Day article

I write to you regarding the story published in your Dec. 1 issue titled, "Local, state officials mark World AIDS Day." We were grateful for your coverage of the local World AIDS Day events that were particularly well attended this year due in part to your article.

However, I want to clarify two points raised in the article that readers might find confusing or misleading.

First, although under the new funding system being established by the Washington state Department of Health discussed in your article, Blue Mountain Heart to Heart will receive less funding for our HIV medical case management, we want to make it clear we found the process that led to this new system completely transparent.

It was handled in a deliberate manner that sought and incorporated statewide input and concerns.

Second, the Board of Directors of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart does not foresee cuts in salaries or benefits, or the use of staff furlough days as tools for managing changes in budget.

We will continue to be creative in finding additional funding sources to make up the difference so our full range of services will continue to be offered to our clients and in our prevention, education, risk reduction, and community outreach programs.

We value the Union-Bulletin's efforts to provide coverage on our fight against HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C and its help in getting our important message to the general public.

Jill Dickey, program director

Blue Mountain Heart to Heart

Walla Walla

Community helps ‘Fill the Bus' with food

Recently the Walla Walla School District sponsored the "Fill the Bus" event to help the Blue Mountain Action Council restock its food pantry.

As part of this event, the Pioneer Middle School eighth-grade classes had a friendly competition to see which could collect the most food. The Pioneer Middle School Explorer students took food donations at Grocery Outlet. This one class of students collected nearly 1,000 food items.

We heard some amazing stories from people who donated. We spoke with a gentleman who was on food stamps and still donated a can to us. Another man told us that BMAC was there for him when he was in need and he appreciated what the kids were doing.

And then there was a woman who grew up during the Depression. She told us she understood what it was like to be hungry. What started as a friendly competition between eighth-grade classes turned into a life lesson for our students. That is the power of education.

Grocery Outlet was fantastic. It let us set up inside the store and was a partner in our endeavor. It also donated nearly 150 cans to the cause.

During these difficult economic times it is great to see a community come together to help those in need. I certainly am proud to call Walla Walla my home.

Dan Calzaretta

Walla Walla

Will public officials freeze their pay?

Isn't it interesting that the president has frozen pay for federal civilian employees - but not Congress - the ones who helped put us in this great deficit?

In 2009, federal annuitants and Social Security recipients received no cost-of-living increases - but Congress received $4,700 to add to its $174,000 yearly salary, per U-B article. But, Social Security recipients received $250 and federal annuitants received a tax break. Big deal. You can bet these freezes will continue because we are not going to be out of debt soon - probably never at their spending rates.

When you are alone and old, you need extra money to pay the workmen for doing jobs you used to be able to do. The bottom line is - we all have to tighten up and until the federal government gets it, the deficit will continue.

Besides the federal government spending uncontrollably, Washington state, Walla Walla County and Walla Walla city governments better start reviewing each spending item more than once and if not a necessity, shelved until we are flush again.

Locally, if they keep raising property taxes, utilities, etc., we'll all be filing bankruptcies and losing homes. Years ago, if you had $50,000 to $100,000 in savings you were in fat city. Spend one year in a nursing home and see how long that lasts. At $6,000 plus per month, not too long.

For a small town, we have several federal agencies that employ several hundred employees and many retirees live here, too. That's a big income that supports this town. So while we "buckle up," let's hope the officials will also. You all were elected by us - and you can be "unelected" too.

Phyllis Garvas

Walla Walla

President's pay freeze is cruel deception

A recent U-B editorial endorses the president's call for a federal wage freeze as "on the mark," claiming it sends a "clear message" that our federal government is getting serious about getting costs under control. But careful analysis of the facts (available from various sources, including a recent USA Today article quoted below) compels one to come to an entirely different conclusion.

On Dec. 23, 2009, President Obama quietly issued an executive order implementing an overall 2 percent 2010 federal pay raise for civilian employees.

"The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office."

Tens of thousands of new federal employees are expected to be required just to staff the hundreds of new departments created by the recent so-called "health-care" legislation. The cost of this growth will be staggering. It is simply mind boggling.

Now the president has made a televised speech calling for Congress to look into freezing certain pay increases. Note that the president did not propose any hiring freezes, pay reductions or layoffs. His pay freeze proposal - even if implemented fully - would not reduce spending by as much as one penny!

The president's proposal included nothing that would put a halt to the anticipated hiring of thousand and thousands of additional federal employees!

The president states that his proposal would save about $2 billion for the entire FY2011. But we are overspending by roughly $4 billion daily (nearly $1.5 trillion each year). And our government has tens of trillions dollars in unfunded liabilities.

Freezing the pay of federal employees would not reverse the torrent of deficit spending in our government one iota.

The fiscal effectiveness of such an action can best be visualized by imagining the crew of the Titanic using tea cups to bale out the seawater that was gushing in while their ship was plunging into the depths of the Atlantic!

Our president is very adept at delivering wonderful sounding speeches. And proposing to freeze the pay of civilian federal employees certainly creates the illusion he is sincere in addressing the dire fiscal problems of our federal government.

While his flowery speech was great political posturing, it was also a cruel deception.

It is not worthy of applause.

Donald Coleman

Walla Walla

Two terrific exhibits at Fort WW Museum

The other day I was reminded of a treasure in our midst.

After a week of cold, gray, icy weather my mood matched the weather report. "Bah humbug," I thought to myself.

Getting away from too many footballs games on television I headed to Fort Walla Walla Museum with a friend. Two very special exhibits greeted us: The recent art of Leslie Williams Cain and a splendid display of antique Christmas cards. Both should be at the top of your "bucket list."

Leslie's representations of our area are strong, accurate, inviting portraits of your favorite view around the corner and down the road.

She knows each location well, tenders it with respect, and makes you want to head in that direction.

The Christmas cards are charming. The simple, but unique, display makes you smile to yourself as you share those treasured cards from the turn of the 20th century. There is much more to see at the museum, but this was enough to send me home feeling ready to get ready for the holidays.

It had been a while since my last visit. My friend and I agreed the museum is an important part of the community, and shopping at the museum store had something for everyone.

Sonia Angell Schmitt

Walla Walla

Care for those in need

William B. Gale says the United States is not on the verge of a fiscal crisis. (U-B, Dec. 5) I hope he is right, but I doubt it.

A number of economists are predicting a major financial meltdown within four years. There are two factors behind this forecast: The devaluation of the dollar and the unsustainability of the national debt.

Bluntly, China will quit lending us money. One of the casualties may be the welfare system. One of the major needs is food. According to Gail McGhee, manager of the local BMAC food bank, 801 families requested food in October. There is an immediate need.

I believe followers of Jesus need to step in and fill the gap. Jesus said one of the assignments of his followers is to care for those in need. The early church appointed deacons to manage the distribution of aid to the needy. Jesus never said it was the job of the government. I believe one of the reasons for the huge welfare system we have is that Christians fell down on the job. That is not to say all Christians have neglected the needy, but many have. Many not associated with any religion have given much. My hat is off to them. But I am talking to my fellow followers of Christ.

I believe the churches should launch a year-round food drive. Sure, we have special food drives during the holidays and that makes us feel good. But people need to eat year round. There needs to be a steady stream of food going to the food banks.

We also need to build up the supply for a hedge against the coming depression. Why not place food shelves in the entrances to every church. Ask each family to bring one item of non-perishable food per week. That would be a step in the right direction.

Victor R. Phillips

Walla Walla

Library card can be family Christmas gift

Are you trying to find the one perfect Christmas gift for your family? Mary and I live in College Place, and we have a suggestion for other College Place residents.

Last year for Christmas we purchased a Walla Walla Public Library card. It was one of the best gifts we have ever given each other. The card is expensive, at $135 for one year, but the city of College Place currently gives a $25 refund. Just take your library card receipt from the Walla Walla Public Library to College Place City Hall to apply for the $25 refund.

The Walla Walla Public Library has a very large, wonderful collection of books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, CDs, large-print books and more for every age and interest. There are also computers available to use in the library. Just ask for all the details at the front desk.

But even if you can't afford a library card, you can still sit and read books in the library, attend the free special programs for children and adults, and enjoy guest speakers and special events. You need the card only to check out items to use at home or to reserve time on library computers.

This Christmas we are again giving each other a Walla Walla Public Library card. We encourage others in College Place to make a serious commitment to education and opportunity by doing the same. A family library card will open a whole new world to those you love the most.

Jon Jensen

College Place

Judge won't be using science in fish ruling

The U.S. Corps of Engineers held its four-day research review at the World Trade Center in Portland recently. Over 200 attended. Sixty-one studies that cost over $100 million funded by the Corps and the Bonneville Power Administration were reviewed.

The 2010 fish passage studies confirmed again that the efforts to improve salmon survival through the federal dam system have been highly successful. Studies showed survival through the projects met or exceeded the 96 percent level for yearling chinook and steelhead, and they were over 93 percent for subyearling chinook.

Inriver survival was higher because of the court-ordered spill program, not because survival is higher over the new overflow spill bays than through powerhouse bypass systems, but because the fish move faster through the system and are subject to less predation.

With spill, inriver survival was 60 percent to 65 percent compared to 98 percent for transported fish, but transport was down from over 90 percent of the Snake River fish a few years ago to 39 percent in 2010. A little quick math shows more fish would have reached the ocean with less spill and more transport.

Sea lions took more salmon and white sturgeon than they have in recent years. However, with the huge salmon runs this year, the percentage taken was down. But steller sea lions took more sturgeon, which is of concern to fishery managers.

Studies of fish-eating birds showed that double-crested cormorants now take more juvenile salmon than Caspian terns, 19 million compared to about 9 million near the mouth of the Columbia. Many more million are being taken by these and other birds up river, with cormorants, terns, gulls and white pelicans being the main culprits.

Last summer, I saw a huge concentration of brown pelicans below Astoria. They said there were over 20,000. In a study the Corps funded in the early 1970s, no brown pelicans seen.

Over 900,000 chinook, 415,000 steelhead, 386,000 sockeye and 127,000 coho were counted over Bonneville Dam in 2010. Indian, commercial and sport seasons were open and fish were caught as far up river as Idaho and in the Okanagan River in Canada.

Despite all this good news, the state of Oregon and the Spokane and the Nez Perce tribes are suing again. Neither Judge Redden nor his technical adviser was at the research review, so once again the judge's decision will be made without the benefit of the best available science.

John McKern

Walla Walla

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