Attack on public employees cowardly
When I moved to the Walla Walla Valley, I was stunned by how regularly the local papers opposed teachers' associations. At the time, the profession was filling with Korean War vets who had taken advantage of the GI Bill, and there were suddenly a bunch of uppity lower-middle class people who thought they should be able to support a family on a professional salary. Understandable the community's elite were offended by the audacity.
Since then, teachers' salaries have not kept pace with cost of living. When teachers of the 1960s and '70s asked for raises, they were offered pension promises and insurance instead; take it or leave it. Most of us would have preferred a raise. Who knew these costs would soar, or that we couldn't trust our governments to keep promises. But why should teachers now pay for a lack of foresight by bullying school boards of the past.
In the '60s, one could start teaching in Oregon with a two-year certificate; in Washington, it took four. Now it takes five years to meet requirements, and then endless professional improvement programs that probably do not improve teaching any more than driving a wheat truck for the summer.
So your latest insult of suggesting the state discontinue the pay raise for nationally certified teachers just argues for one more promise broken. Admittedly, the national certification program is a stupid idea. Showing a person is a better student does not necessarily mean the person is a better teacher. It is just a stumble into the merit pay argument that I don't have enough space to mock properly in this format. Yet a promise is a promise - or another broken promise.
You say teachers (apparently your favorite whipping boys (and/or girls, to be PC) need to make sacrifices. Yet you have protested having to drive to the Tri-Cities for DMV service; you have supported reinstatement of funding for local horse racing (instead of questioning the relationship between the sponsoring senator and the manager of the fairgrounds), you have never once questioned the expense of the highway construction that lets us shop out of town more easily, you have argued tax dollars should support a Chamber of Commerce office, you have lamented the loss of Aviary, etc.
I can only think of one word to describe your use of editorial space to attack public employees and lament any sacrifices asked of you: cowardly.
Increase in everything but income
I'm not sure when this country's economy will get better, but I do know my retirement check is getting stretched thinner and thinner. Our Walla Walla community is made up of retirees, many people who have minimum-wage jobs, and families where it takes both parents working to make enough money.
Speaking for some of the retirees, we haven't had a cost of living increase since about January 2008. The cost of gas is heading for $4 or $5 a gallon, our power bills are now being increased by about $12 a month, we are currently paying for a new police station, our utility bills have increased (with more increases coming due to increased recycling), talk continues about redoing our high school and now our county commissioners are considering an increase in our local sales tax.
One tenth of one percent doesn't seem like much until you add it into the 8.6 percent we already pay. Does this extra one tenth ever get repealed or is it there forever? The general state sales tax is 6.5 percent.
I worked in the budget area for over 20 years so I understand priorities. I know we needed a new police station, probably need a new updated high school and other services - but we can't do it all at once with no increase in income.
I'm not hearing enough about other alternatives in some of these areas. Our city and county need to make some tough decisions on priorities - just as the federal government has to cut back its spending, so should our city and county. The citizens of this Walla Walla Valley cannot continue to accept the increases.
If the commissioners pass this additional sales tax increase, I will be taking as much of my business as possible to Oregon and other counties that have a lower sales tax. I will carpool with others to make it an even cheaper trip to shop out of this area.
I have lived in Walla Walla all my life and would like to continue to shop locally whenever I can, but increasing taxes, increasing utility bills and no increase in income is forcing me to shop for the best deals elsewhere.
Please Walla Walla city and county, do not increase any more taxes, utility bills or school bonds at this time.
Dinner with Geraldine Ferraro remembered
The death of Ms. Geraldine Ferraro brought back the memory of an event that occurred more than 20 years ago - my dinner with Geraldine.
In the early 1970s I was a graduate student at the University of Toronto. One of my fellow students was professor John Guttag, currently at MIT, where I had been an undergraduate many years earlier. John married another graduate student at Toronto, Olga Puchmajerova, whose mother had lived with my first wife and me after Olga and John married.
In 1986-7, I was working for a Canadian consulting company and was servicing a contract at digital equipment company), an early maker of mini-computers. When I traveled to the Boston area to work at DEC, I arranged to stay with John and Olga at their home rather than stay at a hotel. On one visit I was told I was to be the "dinner date" for another old friend of theirs who turned out to be Ms. Ferraro. Ms. Ferraro's friendship arose as a result of John's sister having worked for her.
Thus, I found myself to be the fourth for dinner at the Guttag's home - John, Olga, Geraldine and me.
It was a truly delightful evening as Ms. Ferraro was a warm, gracious and delightful dinner companion. She was candid about everything we spoke of, which even included her son's difficulties. The evening was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life as I was able to witness the charm of a woman only slightly older than me whose life was a major American story.
I apologize for bragging, but I remember that evening with a great deal of pride and happiness. I am sad at her death.
Trading commodities has ups and downs
Nat Webb's comments (Our Readers Opinions, March 27) finally inspired me into writing this comment, which has been brewing in me for a long time.
The two senators referred to, Bill O'Reilly (usually right, except on this issue) and a lot of other naive opinion givers repeatedly make the claim oil futures speculators manipulate (up) the price of oil.
The truth of the matter is the speculators could make just as much money on a plunging market as a soaring market and the only reason they didn't, and don't, is the supply of oil was, and remains, below the worldwide demand for oil.
Anyone who has ever traded commodities on the futures market knows about the nasty little detail of the "delivery date," at which time, if you guessed wrong, "the chickens always come home to roost" and the cash market at that time is forced onto the speculators via the actual delivery of the commodity. Someone is liable to show up at your door and say, "Hey, I've got 1,000 barrels of oil in your name and you owe me X amount of dollars and where do you want me to put it?")
Sharia law is a threat to America
Missouri Reps. Paul Curtman and Don Wells are sponsoring legislation to keep courts in Missouri from applying laws based on the Islamic religion.
Curtman and Wells aren't alone in their concern that sharia, which is Islamic religious law, is a threat, not only to Missouri, but to the entire United States. Their actions should be applauded.
But, wouldn't you know, Curtman and Wells are being accused of bigotry toward Muslims. Even the Union-Bulletin, in its opinion piece of March 16, declared there is "zero evidence Missouri courts are judging cases based on Islamic principles." The U-B declares genuine concerns to be "delusions" that threaten those who want to "practice their religion in peace."
The Missouri reps aren't the ones who have delusions! Just because Missouri isn't presently applying sharia law doesn't mean there's no threat of it happening. The threat has never been greater! Those who bow at the altar of political correctness better wise up and realize Missouri can't let its guard down and neither can the rest of the country!
Unfortunately, many Americans don't pay attention to what extremist Muslims say about their plans for America. For instance, a hard-line Muslim cleric, Anjem Choudary, has called for Muslims to rise up and establish an Islamic state in America. Choudary states, with arrogant certainty, "The flag of Islam will one day fly over the White House." He has also said the East and West will come under sharia law.
There are Muslims who mean no harm to anyone. I hope peaceful Muslims are at least very concerned that Muslim extremists view peace another way. Anjem Choudary stated, "You can't say that Islam is a religion of peace. Islam does not mean peace, it means submission. You know, there is a place for violence in Islam. There is a place for jihad in Islam."
The Muslim extremists' plan for America is total submission, and death for those who refuse. Protecting America from this menace isn't bigotry! It's common sense! If Americans refuse to understand this, we may as well throw out a big "WELCOME" mat, as we sing, "It's a lovely day in the neighborhood … will you be my neighbor?"
Don't laugh! Some delusional people are ready to do it!
The super rich could be patriotic
The arguments for permanent tax cuts for the super rich have included statements such as, "These cuts would stimulate the economy." Let's imagine for a moment the wealthiest did not get super rich by exploitation of outsourced labor in other countries and heavily lobbied Congress people in this country, that they really do feel loyalty to the people of the United States, a country that has tolerated and supported them, after all.
Then the project I'm about to propose would seem very possible. The 3 percent of taxes the super rich, by rights, should pay could also be used to put people to work and stimulate the very economy that has been given as the reason for the tax cut. What project would the people work on?
Most of the metal of unusable cars in junk yards across the country could be melted down to make train tracks and cars for a fast train. The environment would benefit not only by the clean up of idle used metal, but by the new railways which could be designed to kill far fewer animals (and people) than the highways do now.
People could travel the length and breadth of the nation without stress and with fewer fatalities and/or less stress than they would driving cars or settling for air travel.
Between 1972 and 1978, I traveled over 77,000 miles by train, mostly in the U.S. Even Amtrak seemed classier than air travel in those days when air travel included better food, wider and more comfortable seats, better prices and less claustrophobic fuselages than travelers experience today. (I traveled 26,000 miles by jet in the 1970s, so I know what I'm contrasting.) OPEC was alive and well by 1973, so oil prices did not and do not provide the main reason for the differences between then and now.
The recent and needless rise in gas prices begs for a change to a more hopeful scenario for Americans. While some of us want to walk and bicycle even more to offset the one-armed bandits that the gas pumps have become, the super rich could prove to be patriotic, and not just flag wave as if they were, and get behind a work project that would budge a sluggish economy and boost the self-esteem of those who are able and ready to work on a multi-year, beneficial endeavor.
Wolves valued part of ecosystem
As a member of the Washington Wolf Working Group, I read the recent article by Annie Charnley Eveland with considerable interest.
The WWWG was formed over four years ago and tasked with drafting a management plan for wolves in Washington, when wolf management reverts to the state. Membership of the WWWG is composed of a broad spectrum of public interests, including hunters, cattle and sheep producers, conservationists and the general pubic.
The draft wolf-management plan developed by the WWWG is available for review on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
Wolves were native to Washington state but largely extirpated by the early 1900s. Since the mid-1990s reintroduction of wolves into the Yellowstone ecosystem and central Idaho wilderness, wolf populations have been gradually increasing and migrating into adjacent areas.
This natural migration and recolonization has now reached Eastern Washington and Northeast Oregon. Wolves are a "keystone" species and play a critical role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Wolves elicit strong emotions from many segments of the community. However, good wildlife management should be based on science and not fear or misinformation. Therefore, some of the comments by Jim and Connie DeFries reported in the article need to be put in context.
First, wolves will not "decimate" the deer and elk herds in the Blue Mountains. Despite claims to the contrary, wolves have not caused a precipitous decline of elk in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Recent reports show 80 percent of the hunting districts in Montana are at or above elk management objectives.
In Wyoming, the elk population is above state population goals. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin have deer heards exceeding 1 million, despite significant wolf populations.
Second, a wolf population in the Blue Mountains will not be a "major problem for human safety" as claimed by Mr. DeFries.
Despite recent incidents in Alaska and Canada, the risk to humans poised by wolves is virtually nil. In contrast, dogs kill 20 to 30 people annually in the United States, as do bee stings. An excellent guide concerning living with wildlife can be found on the website of the Living with Wildlife Foundation.
Managing wolves requires good science and the ability to formulate good public policy. Wolves are a valued part of the ecosystem, and we need all the wisdom and understanding we have to properly manage them for future generations.
Commissioners are holding a double-edged sword
The past two years have been extremely tough for all public and private human service agencies. State and federal funding for mental health and substance abuse has been reduced significantly.
In the 24 years I have worked in this community, there has always been a need/gap for psychiatric services. The concept of adding two nurse practitioners to work in a team format under the direction of the county Human Services psychiatrist is a creative way to expand this needed service.
However, our community has several private mental health practitioners who will be asking how this tax increase will help them to survive in these economic times?
For chemical dependency our community has lost state funding that supported chemical dependency professionals to be colocated in strategic locations to help identify and engage individuals into treatment services. The loss of these positions has created a significant reduction of individuals entering services.
With four state-approved agencies (a fifth opening soon), our county is poised to surrender approximately 12 percent of funding allocated for youth and adult treatment.
Obviously there is no shortage of treatment services; however, there is a shortage of funding for prevention and recovery services for youths. If approved it would be ideal to support/expand existing organizations such as:
Trilogy, whose focus is providing resources for families of substance abusers and youth recovery support groups.
The Rising Sun Club House provides support services for the mentally ill and co-occurring populations.
The Lincoln Health Center, whose goal is to provide a variety of on-campus services that include mental health and substance abuse prevention and intervention.
All three organizations provide prevention and recovery services, yet struggle financially.
Among the whispers in the community there is a concern the county's recent purchase of a new building that is projected to save between $60,000 to $90,000 in 2011 may be prompting the need for the tax increase. Fortunately, the law allows only for new or expanded mental health and chemical dependency services.
However, the issue of perception exists.
In spite of voters' reluctance to any tax increase, many influential professionals support approval, but we are not all on the same economic level. For many even a few cents will further deprive them from the non-essential goods so many others enjoy.
The suggested tax increase creates a double-edged sword for our commissioners.
Regardless of the decision they make, they are our elected officials and we must trust they make the decision that will best benefit our community.
Serenity Point Counseling
Legislature failed to pay into retirement fund
I write this letter as a retired teacher who taught 30-plus years with the expectation my retirement would not be in jeopardy.
I knew 25 years ago when the state wasn't putting its 6 percent share into the teachers' retirement system that there may be a problem some day. Well, that day has come.
To balance the budget, our state legislators and Gov. Gregoire now want to permanently take away our COLA, (cost-of-living allowance). If they (past legislators) had funded their portion of the pension system as was their responsibility the problem we face today wouldn't be a problem.
Is it irresponsibility on their part, or too much "in good faith" trusting by the retirees the money would be repaid into the system? I think it's both.
How could Congress run up $14 trillion debt?
Our national debt is more than $14 trillion (that's 12 zeros), which is about $43,000 for each citizen. My wife and I own (not owe) only $86,000 of this debt, so we're fortunate.
But, if you are a household of four then your portion is a healthy $172,000. Now if you're a household of eight then you're into it for $344,000. Interesting isn't it?
There are approximately 7 billion people in the world. The population here in the United State is about 330 million or about 5 percent. (Only 1 in 20 people of the world live in the U.S.) This means every person in the world would have to contribute $2,000 each just to pay off our debt.
To pass a piece of legislation or spend tax and borrowed dollars it requires at least a majority vote of Congress. There are 535 people in Congress, so for any given vote to pass it requires at least 218 votes in the House and 51 votes in the Senate.
I have a very limited vocabulary, I must have been absent the day they taught big words, you know, the $5 and $10 ones. So I'll just use two-bit words anyone can understand and know just what I think of some of the legislators we have in Washington D.C.
For our country to get $14-plus trillion in debt, we have over the years had some of the most asinine, incompetent, stupid idiots in Congress this country can turn out!
When you vote, know whom you are voting for, maybe if he/she have been in Congress for three or more terms automatically vote them out.
By the way, check out Sens. Murray's and Cantwell's voting record, they've been there for a while, probably too long!!
Tony M. Tabor Sr.
Fear of Muslims unfounded?
I found it ironic that just days after reading an article in the U-B about "rising Islamist extremism" you posted an editorial entitled "Bigotry toward Muslims must be denounced."
In the editorial on March 16 you refer to "an unfounded fear of Muslims" and "delusions that are hurtful to those (Muslims) who want to practice their religion in peace."
This on the heels of news last week of "Christian churches burned in Egypt," "Thousands of Christians flee as 50 churches burn in Ethiopia" and the article in the U-B about Shahbaz Bhatti; the "Christian politician shot dead for opposing harsh Islamic blasphemy laws."
If these acts are being perpetuated by the "peace-loving Islamists" referenced in the editorial, we have a different definition of peace. Was Shahbaz Bhatti's fear of Muslims unfounded? For another perspective, check out TheThirdJihad.com.
Presentation by astronaut inspiring
As a member of the staff of the Milton-Freewater Unified School District No. 7, I wish to acknowledge the academic communities of Whitman College, Walla Walla Public Schools, American Association of University Women and the YWCA for the presentation made March 26 by Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger at Cordiner Hall.
Having taken a group of 10 girls from Milton-Freewater, fifth- through eighth-grade, and their teacher to that presentation we found Ms. Metcalf-Lindenburger to have been a most charming and informative representative of the NASA astronaut team.
The presentation she made of her dreams as a young girl, young adult at Whitman College and flying through space on the shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station last April was a wonderful. It was an inspiring story for the assembly of young girls in the hall.
Ms. Metcalf-Lindenburger and the academic community of the Walla Walla Valley should be praised for such inspirational messaging to our area children.