OUR READERS' OPINIONS - 03/13/11

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It's a two-party system! Get involved

My conclusion is, after 30-plus years living in this wonderful city, is that the people here are some of the finest in our world.

I must elaborate on the above statement. A handful of otherwise good people are harboring the thought that they, dear gentle citizen, know what's best for you.

Are you willing to let Republican politicians take your rights away from you? It's happening today, now, in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Idaho.

Are you willing to let the tea party return us to the 1800s? Are you willing to let the largest military machine in the history of the world drain this country of precious blood and treasure by foreign excursions? These people are the bane of the vast majority of American folks.

They are a minority of opinion but they are very organized and vocal. The majority needs to get involved, now, today, in our political process or face what the above mentioned folks have in mind for us.

Young people, please become involved because, very simply, it's your future we are speaking of. Every generation needs to politically fight for your rights as citizens.

Free speech, racial equality, sexual discrimination and women's right. Remember women, it wasn't but a second ago in historical terms you didn't even have the right to vote.

Walla Walla, it's a two-party system. Please become involved. With just one point of view you don't get the adversarial action democracy requires.

Steven Leroy Rusch

Walla Walla

More must be done to protect prison staff

I have worked at the penitentiary for Walla Walla Community College since 1975. During my first four years I had 12 inmate students who were murdered while serving their time. Additionally, a lieutenant was killed while examining a pipe bomb, and my friend Bill Cross, a correctional sergeant who also taught biology for the college during the evening class sessions, was stabbed and killed. Other assaults on staff and inmates are too numerous to try to list even if I could remember them all.

The death of Jayme Biendl, a correctional officer murdered at the Monroe Reformatory a few weeks ago, brought back too many memories to try to sort through. For me, her death is the most senseless of all of my experiences in our prison system. Any reasonable person should ask how this experienced professional, a former Correctional Officer of the Year, who reported a safety concern, could have been at a post by herself with an inmate volunteer with a history of unspeakable violence against women.

No matter what anyone says, the Department of Corrections is a system driven by available bed space. When there are people sleeping on the floor at the Reception Center, they are sent where beds are available. This inefficient system might thrust people together whose crimes range from non-violent property or drug crimes to people like Byron Scherf.

How an inmate with his criminal history could have been allowed to volunteer in an isolated area with a lone female officer is another question altogether.

When I saw the correctional staff in front of the prison last week with signs saying they shouldn't have to work alone, it was frustrating to me that every person in the state couldn't see them. What happened to Officer Biendl could happen to way too many of the penitentiary staff.

For the 20 years I was the director of education, I argued there should be two correctional officers on duty in the Education Department, one to watch the monitors and one to walk around observing the classes. If the officer on duty were to be grabbed by someone, too much time might elapse before anyone was aware of the danger. Yet my requests were never seriously considered.

Having people locked up who pose a threat to others provides us with some relief. But there are dozens of people at the prison whose jobs are to manage offenders every day. These people need to work in an environment that allows them to do their jobs successfully and safely. We ought to be more concerned about their safety, budget issues or no budget issues.

Tim Boutz

Walla Walla

Easy fix for intersection of Myra Road and Dalles Military Road

This is in regards to the U-B article awhile back regarding the intersection of Myra Road and Dalles Military Road. The city and county said it was too costly to change it with an overpass and lower Myra Road making it a more effective truck route.

If they truly want to make this a truck route and bypass between U.S. Highway 12 and State Route 125, a simple fix would be to remove the traffic light or at least make it a flashing yellow for Myra Road traffic and a red stop for Dalles Military Road. This would move traffic through better as both approaches to the intersection on Myra are uphill and require trucks to use low gears and very low speeds to get started if they have to stop.

I saw a tanker have to chain up just to get started again after stopping for a red light when he was headed north. I drive a semi pulling double grain trailers. I avoid this route whenever possible. It takes almost a full light sequence for me to get through the intersection if I have to stop when loaded and close to that when going north empty.

Ron Demaray

Walla Walla

Lower fee for garbage service

As I follow the information about the increase in recyclables and expense to BDI, I can't help but wonder about the reverse of this phenomenon.

If Walla Wallans have, thankfully, embraced recycling and transitioned much of their household refuse to this program then I would think they have less refuse in the container the city is responsible for. Instead of being concerned about the proposed increase in the recycling rate, I am more concerned my refuse pick up is continuing at the same rate.

My household, since the 96-gallon recycling container came, provides just two to three standard 13-gallon kitchen garbage bags each week. I don't think my city garbage can is ever more than one-quarter full and yet it is picked up every week regardless.

I would like the city of Walla Walla to re-evaluate the tonnage of household refuse it is handling and decrease this service if needed. My recycle bin is full every week and needs to be emptied.

Anne Mason

Walla Walla

Missing the point on recycling

The front-page article in Sunday's paper about Walla Walla's recycling program was extremely disappointing.

"Too much recycling may hike city's rates" reads the headline. First of all, who says there is such a thing as too much recycling?

This recycling is solid waste that is not ending up in our landfill. Kudos to the citizens of Walla Walla for taking advantage of the new, more appropriately sized recycling bins and shifting a good portion of our waste away from the landfill and to the recycling center.

The article's implication is that the extra recycling is going to cost the citizens of Walla Walla more money. Obviously, if there is more recycling, there is less waste going to the landfill, and that will be a savings (both economically and environmentally) in the final analysis.

If the city is considering an increase in the charge for recycling, it should couple that with a commensurate decrease in the charge for garbage collection (since the cans are now less full).

Walla Walla has done the right thing by instituting and expanding curbside recycling. Let's not get thrown off track by misleading headlines and incomplete information.

Erik Gryler

Walla Walla

Legislature must fund education obligation

I am increasingly dismayed at the public's lack of support for our schools. Our children's greatest hope is rooted in the education and values we instill in them.

Washington state's constitution reads, "It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders..."

Despite its importance, among the first things offered for the chopping block during hard times is the education budget. The 2009-2011 budget cut $1.5 billion from education, forcing increases in class sizes and threatening thousands of teacher jobs.

Our priorities are misplaced when we find it necessary to fund a small but important portion of the state's Education Construction Fund through the state lottery. Then, even these funds are offered as sacrifice to stem budget shortfalls.

We hear of the terrible debt burden being left to our children. This is surely true, but we compound our mistakes. Without proper education, our children will be ill equipped to take on any obligations, let alone generate healthy economic growth.

Underscoring the importance of education, today's unemployment rate for workers with at least a bachelor's degree is 4.7 percent. Comparing this with the overall rate of 8.9 percent should be lesson enough of what lies ahead.

Unskilled jobs will continue to be a smaller segment of the economy. Future generations of workers will need flexibility. They will need to retrain to keep abreast of changing markets. A sound basic education will be indispensable.

To be competitive in the marketplaces of the future, there will be no substitute for knowledge and critical thinking skills. Yet, we fail to instill appreciation for learning in our children.

Teachers are saddled with students having poor attitudes. They disdain working hard and treat teachers with disrespect. Parents renege on their responsibility to prepare their children and fail to set expectations for excellence. Then they blame teachers for mediocre outcomes.

Public debt simply reflects our having dodged funding the services we have received. In some states, legislatures contemplate defaulting on contractual obligations to teachers and other public employees. I believe in the marketplace. But markets don't work when contractual obligations are defaulted upon.

If we don't have the fortitude to insist our Legislature fund obligations, the onus is on us. We may have lived beyond our means, but it is wrong headed to sacrifice the educations of our children and their hope for a productive future.

Steven Luckstead

Walla Walla

Dogs safer if they don't roam

I read Ms. Crowley's letter, "No need to shoot dog with .22," with interest and heartbreak. I totally agree no dog should be shot; I certainly hope her dog makes a speedy recovery to full health.

Having said that, I want to comment on what appears to be the accepted behavior of her "roaming" dog. I find it ironic that Ms Crowley would opine that neighbors should pen up their chickens (on their property), to presumably protect them from her roaming dog? And get a slingshot.

We live on 20 acres, and our four dogs perform the same tasks as hers; without having to leave our property. It wasn't always that way.

Years ago, one of our dogs was hit in the road in front of our home. It wasn't the dog's fault, and it wasn't the pickup driver's fault; it was our fault for allowing the dog unfettered access to the road.

We took immediate corrective actions to include both physical and invisible fencing. We realized our dogs do not have to leave our property to perform their duties. And we truly do not expect our neighbors to arm themselves with slingshots to usher our dogs off their property.

I hope Ms. Crowley will consider similar efforts to keep her dog safe, and away from the distorted souls who find it necessary to shoot a non-threatening and defenseless dog.

Steve Crawford

Milton Freewater

Fairness in eye of beholder

Recently a local tea party member scolded the writer of a letter (he notes it came from the "liberal left" - thus ending any real discussion for many) who wanted to "soak the rich" and went on to say "they have no idea what is fair and just."

He notes that the top 5 percent are carrying 50 percent of the tax load already. True, but he did not mention the top 5 percent have 62 percent of the net worth in the U.S. and 72 percent of the nation's financial wealth. That was in 2007.

The disparity has been growing since then. Some of America's top 25 companies pay no U.S. taxes at all. Corporations are creating more jobs overseas than at home.

We are in debt crisis, so we should go back to the tax rate paid by the wealthy (about 4 percent more) over a good part of President Reagan's terms in office or the boom times under President Clinton. This is not the stuff of "killing the goose that lays the golden egg." How about giving hearty tax incentives for actually using wealth to create jobs in the U.S., but not for hedge fund and derivative manipulations.

The right talks about "class warfare." Wisconsin is class warfare. It's an attack on a large part of the middle class. Wanting to tax a small portion of the disparity between the part of the economy the wealthy own and what they pay in taxes seems like basic fairness and nothing like "class warfare."

The letter I'm responding to said, "We tea partiers do have well-developed senses of fairness, fiscal morality and justice." Really? Fairness for whom? One could argue the top 5 percent should be paying more than 35 percent since they have 72 percent of the nation's financial wealth.

The GINI index measures the degree of disparity between incomes in a variety of nations. The CIA, not a leftist organization, publishes such a list.

The U.S. is number 41 (45.0). The least disparity in the world is Sweden, number 136 (23.0). The U.S. is closer to Haiti, number 7 (59.2) than it is to Sweden. Yes, we have disparity at a higher income level than Haiti.

Louis XVI and his lovely bride didn't lay awake nights in Versailles worried about disparities in wealth. Neither did the Shah of Iran or the czar of Russia. How did that work out for them?

Norm Osterman

Walla Walla

Tim Dewald worthy of being featured

The U-B chose well when the paper chose Tim Dewald to be one of the Voices of the Valley.

His honesty about being a homeless veteran comes from a man who shows courage every which way. He doesn't act like a victim. He lives day to day as a survivor, cheerful over little victories, glad to be alive instead of dwelling on the issues that could have defeated a lesser person: dealing with a war, getting wounded, falling into addiction, winding up homeless.

I was fortunate to have him as one of my students at Walla Walla Community College. His good cheer and non-complaining attitude helped everyone in the class, including me.

On paper, the college has several high-risk students; in person, the college has people such as Tim Dewald who inspire others to overcome temporary setbacks and keep on plugging.

Michael Kiefel

Walla Walla

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