2002: A rear-view mirror

Here is our annual retrospective on the year’s news in Hood River County and the Mid-Columbia, from the pages of the Hood River News during 2002. This is Part 1 — January through June. Part 2 — July through December, will run in our Jan. 4 edition:

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Ethan Lloyd Wiley Haight was the first baby of the New Year at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital. Ethan made his grand entrance at 9:33 p.m. on Jan. 2, as reported on Jan. 5.

Also on Jan. 5:

Hood River’s flying fighter ace was applauded by more than one million people on New Year’s Day, an experience he found to be “almost scary.”

On New Year’s Day, Ken Jernstedt and his guide dog, Driscoll, were special guests on a prize-winning float in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. That event was viewed by a television audience of more than 350 million people in 80 different countries.

Jan. 9

Hood River County emergency responders were called Jan. 5 to the scene of the second fatal traffic accident within a week. The third death from a crash on slick roadways has led Hood River Sheriff Joe Wampler to issue a safety alert.

Yvette Barhishindi Mubalama, 28, of Portland was pronounced dead at the scene and the driver of the Toyota, Luvumbu Ndongala Hassan, 33, of Portland was Life Flighted to Emanuel Hospital in Portland for treatment of head injuries.

The operator of the Ford pickup, Darryl Brian Barton, 31, of Hood River, and his three passengers were uninjured from the impact. On New Year’s Eve, an icy roadway led to two deaths along Interstate 84 near Cascade Locks. After helping the victim in a roll-over accident shortly before 10 p.m. on Dec. 31, Kevin Fitzsimmons, 28, of Kent, Wash., was struck and killed by another vehicle which slid off the freeway. The man he had been helping, Hector Manuel Virgen Orozco, 32, of Hood River, was also killed by the same truck after emerging unscathed from his earlier wreck.

Jan. 12

Western Power Products is being dismantled by its new owner, leaving 22 workers without jobs. On Jan. 8, CDR Systems Corporation announced that it had purchased the Hood River plant from Cooper Power Systems, Inc., and would be moving its operations to other holdings. The closure of the waterfront firm will end 43 years of local manufacturing that molded fiberglass enclosures for electric utilities and other customers. The most recent layoffs follow on the heels of SDS Lumber Company’s decision last week to cut 75 employees during a downsizing of its Bingen, Wash., plywood mill. That grim news also arrives just three months before Northwest Aluminum in The Dalles may be forced to close down because of rising energy costs, sending hundreds of its remaining personnel to the unemployment lines.

To further fracture the local job situation, tree fruit growers in the Hood River Valley are facing yet another bad market year which may seal the fate for some family farms and place others in severe financial jeopardy.

Jan. 16

Water and sewer rates within the city of Hood River will rise by 45 percent starting Feb. 1.

On Jan. 14, the City Council approved the rate increase which drew fire from two citizens during the public meeting.

“If you guys raise the water rates this isn’t going to be a quaint and beautiful little town, it’s going to be brown and ugly,” said Bob Palmer.

For the typical home, the monthly sewer rate will go up from $26 to $36, while the water rate increases from $14.35 to $22.17. The new water fee will include the first 10,000 gallons used per billing period between June and September and the first 5,000 gallons from October to May.

Jan. 19

Change doesn’t happen overnight. And if the local school district has anything to say about it, the recent change imposed on Hood River Valley High School may not happen at all. School Superintendent Jerry Sessions and HRV Athletic Director Glenn Elliott met with approximately 70 parents, teachers and administrators Thursday at HRVHS to discuss the Oregon School Activities Association’s proposal to move HRV into the Intermountain Conference in fall 2002.

“Most of us here tonight are seeking relief from what many feel is an unfair decision,” said Sessions, who has drafted two letters of appeal — one to the OSAA and one to the state Board of Education.

“But we have to understand that making these appeals is a process. We will first appeal to the OSAA and if that fails, we will appeal to the state board. But seeking a legal injunction is not the first step,” he said.

No-Casino activists have joined an outcry for enforcement action over an “illegal” road across tribal land just east of Hood River. Friends of the Columbia Gorge and the Columbia River Gorge Commission have already registered protests over the new access road built by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs last November. They contend the unpermitted grading of the 714-foot section violates the resource protection of the National Scenic Area Act.

Jan. 30

If you were to bore a hole from Hood River through the Earth to the other side, staying at about the 45th parallel, you’d end up roughly in Rustaq, Afghanistan. Dr. Mike Pendleton’s journey there was nearly as arduous and, arguably, more nerve-wracking. In November, Pendleton flew halfway around the globe — the last leg of which was a white-knuckle ride on a Tajik Air flight filled with reporters from the BBC and CNN — to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, as leader of a three-member medical response team from Portland-based Northwest Medical Teams. Theirs was the first American physician group to enter the war-torn country after the U.S.-led bombing campaign began in October. From Dushanbe, it was 280 km in a “Russian jeep” as Pendleton and the others called it (among more colorful names) to the Afghanistan border, through multiple checkpoints where armed men “arbitrarily administered arbitrary rules arbitrarily” and another five hours over a mountain range to Rustaq.

“Picture the worst logging road you’ve ever seen,” Pendleton said of the overland travel. “Make it worse than that, then make it worse than that, then add six inches of dust.”

Pendleton’s month-long stint in Afghanistan was his fourth with Northwest Medical Teams to a global trouble spot. In the last few years he’s volunteered for similar duty in Vietnam, Albania and Turkey.

Feb. 6

Hood River County raised its dog licensing fees and appointed a special committee to review the animal enforcement laws. Passed Feb. 4 by the Board of Commissioners, the new fees will take effect in 30 days. The rate schedule was separated from the animal control code to simplify the process for periodic adjustments. The price increases for dog tags and “bail” are the first since the early ’90s, according to Becky Hoffman, animal control officer. At that time, she said, pet owners were also allowed to buy tags by the calendar year and no longer required to purchase them each January.

Local pet owners will now pay $9 to license their spayed /neutered canines and $25 for unaltered dogs. The senior citizen discount for tags will be $5 for spayed/neutered animals and $17 for those not fixed.

Feb. 9

In the past week, five car prowls took place in the Odell area and a vehicle was stolen from Cascade Locks and has not yet been recovered. Those crimes follow a rash of vehicle break-ins and thefts throughout Hood River County since the beginning of the year. Victims have already reportedly lost a combined total of more than $4,000 in stereo equipment, CDs and damages. Both the Hood River City Police Department and Hood River County Sheriff’s Office have noted that almost all of the subject cars were left unlocked and/or running while unoccupied.

Feb. 16

The approval of a new Mt. Hood Meadows cross country ski trail has brought a flurry of protests from the Hood River Valley Residents Committee. However, that opposition has so far failed to stop Mt. Hood Meadows North, LLC, from gaining a conditional use permit for the project. Both the Hood River County Planning Department and Planning Commission have approved the trail on private lands Meadows purchased last July. At issue is whether a commercial Nordic ski trail over a two and one-half mile stretch of old logging roads on the Cooper Spur Inn holdings is an allowable and appropriate use of a forest zone.

Feb. 20

A capacity crowd of 250 citizens jammed Hood River’s Riverside Community Church on Feb. 16 to hear a former local resident, a former president of the Oregon ACLU and Oregon’s U.S. Attorney present different perspectives on issues raised by the recently passed USA Patriot Act and President George W. Bush’s plan to conduct military trials for suspected terrorists. Dr. Homer Yasui, raised in Hood River, shared his personal experiences with loss of basic civil liberties as a Japanese American internee during World War II. While speaking candidly about the anti-Japanese sentiments that seemed to dominate the mood in the Hood River Valley both before and after WWII, he took pains to acknowledge those who reached out to help their Japanese American neighbors, especially upon their return from the internment camps.

Feb. 27

Mountain guide Scott Woolums has a few things to do between now and March 25, when he leaves for Nepal to guide a group of three clients on a climb of Mt. Everest — and make his own second attempt at summiting the world’s highest mountain. He has some trip logistics to deal with to ensure that things run smoothly during his group’s two-and-a-half months in South Asia. He has to organize “a ton of gear.” He has to get his new satellite phone hooked up to his laptop computer. And he’s scrambling to finish a make-over of the website for his company, Adventures International, Inc.

Oh, and he has to guide a two-week trip to Patagonia.

“I think there’ll be a couple of all-nighters in there,” Woolums said. For the inveterate mountain climber and adventure traveler, it’s all part of the job.

Woolums’ Adventures International is an adventure travel company that specializes in treks and mountain climbs around the world.

Mar. 6

The rumors and innuendos swirling around a Hood River murder case will be televised on Unsolved Mysteries later this spring. That upcoming coverage has led Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler to agree to undergo a polygraph test — and to issue a challenge for a “person of interest” to do the same. Hood River District Attorney John Sewell said he is pleased that Unsolved Mysteries will bring high-profile exposure to last summer’s baffling murder of Eric Tamiyasu. He said Crime Victim Advocate Jackie Henson helped the Tamiyasu family draft one of the two request letters (one was sent by a family friend) asking the nationally syndicated show for help. “We’re hoping that when this episode airs someone will come forward with that one clue we need to break this case,” he said. Law enforcement officials have been frustrated by the lack of progress in the homicide of the 41-year-old Binns Hill Road orchardist. His badly decomposed body was discovered by an acquaintance, Don Dixon, on June 30, 2001, and an autopsy later revealed he had died from three gunshot wounds to the head between four and five days earlier.

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The face of poverty in the Gorge is changing due to Oregon’s high unemployment rate and deep recession.

But the high demand for food and help paying energy bills has drained monetary reserves and emptied the shelves of many area food providers. The near-crisis situation has led the Mid-Columbia Community Action Council, Inc., to ask local residents for help.

“I don’t look for this situation to get better anytime soon since our three main industries, agriculture, timber and aluminum, are all in trouble,” said Jim Slusher, director of the action council that serves Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties.

He said this winter many area families were forced for the first time to seek out emergency food and help paying their utility bills.

Mar. 13

Hood River Middle School teacher Lisa Rust made an unusual, last-minute request to the school board for a two-month leave of absence last week. That’s when she found out she’d been selected as one of six members of the first-ever American Women’s Mt. Everest Climbing Team.

“It’s a dream come true,” Rust said. The team is sponsored by the Ford Motor Corporation and is the first all-woman team to attempt to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain.

Rust is an experienced mountain climber who spends summers as a mountain guide on Mt. McKinley in Alaska and on Washington’s Mt. Rainier.

She learned last year of the all-women’s Everest team. “I threw my name out there,” she said, but she was originally not picked to be part of the team.

Then last week she got a surprise phone call from trip organizers telling her they’d “found a spot.”

The team consists of several experienced climbers and three coaches, of which Rust is one. Ford picks up the tab for the expedition and all Rust’s expenses — which range between $60-70,000.

“I could never afford or even dream of climbing Everest without such corporate sponsorship,” she said.

Mar. 16

After July 1, Glenn Elliott will no longer be athletic director at Hood River Valley High School, a position he has held since 1983. Superintendent Jerry Sessions said budget cuts in 2002-03 require cutting Elliott’s administrative position, that of assistant principal for athletics and activities. The job is one of three assistant positions at HRVHS.

Mar. 20

The Columbia River Gorge Commission was both praised and vilified on Mar. 15 in the first of three Oregon legislative hearings centered on its role and operations.

During the seven-hour forum at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, Martha Bennett, executive director of the Gorge Commission, and Daniel Harkenrider, new manager of the U.S. Forest Service National Scenic Area office, both said they thought the Scenic Act was working largely as intended by Congress.

“The Oregon implementation doesn’t face any different problems than land-use planning anywhere in the state,” said Bennett, who took on her new duties last July.

However, numerous landowners recounted bureaucratic “horror stories” to the Subcommittee on Columbia River Gorge Commission Review. The eight-member panel was chaired by Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, and co-chaired by Hood River’s Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett. Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, was also invited to participate since he inherited Hood River County in his new District 26 through last fall’s legislative redistricting.

Mar. 23

A hearings officer would not bend, so Hood River Valley High School athletes had better prepare for Bend.

And Crook County, and Pendleton, and other distant schools in the Intermountain Conference.

Following this week’s ruling by a state-appointed Hearings Officer, HRVHS will remain in the IMC, barring a last-minute appeal by Hood River County School District in the long-standing dispute with Oregon School Activities Association. And any further contest on the issue appears unlikely, said district superintendent Jerry Sessions.

“We’ll try to make the best of it,” Sessions said, “and move on.” To Redmond, Hermiston, and the other eastern Oregon schools HRV seems destined to join in athletic competition. Under the move to IMC, Hood River Valley would leave behind Gresham, Central Catholic, Reynolds and other Mount Hood Conference rivals.

Mar. 30

A land-use watchdog group has filed a lawsuit challenging Hood River County’s timber exchange with Mt. Hood Meadows, Ltd., of Oregon. The Cascade Resource Advocacy Group, a public interest law firm from Portland, is seeking to have the court overturn that deal on behalf of the Hood River Valley Residents Committee (HRVRC) and Mike McCarthy, a HRVRC member and valley orchardist. That action was taken after the county refused to hold a third public hearing before the land trade was finalized on Mar. 11.

“Unfortunately the county never formally responded to the Hood River Valley Residents Committee request, so they were left with no alternative but to seek legal redress in court,” said Ralph Bloemers, staff attorney for Cascade Advocacy. Meadows is also named in the suit because it currently holds title to the contested forestlands and received more than $1 million from the county to make up a 140-acre difference in holdings. However, Dave Riley, Meadows general manager, is not worried about the pending court case that centers on the 640 acres his company acquired next to the Cooper Spur Inn property it purchased last summer.

“Both Mt. Hood Meadows and Hood River County were very careful to follow the law and regulations governing land exchanges and I do not believe that either party has broken the law,” said Riley.

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U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., gave the Port of Hood River the first installment of federal funding for an Integrated Technology Center on Mar. 28. Smith presented $150,000 to the port that he and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., secured toward the conversion of the Expo Center into an educational facility. “I’m very supportive of what you’re trying to accomplish and proud to be your partner and we’ll work hard to get the resources to move ahead,” said Smith.

Smith promised the county, city and port officials in attendance at the meeting that he and Walden would work toward obtaining the remaining $4 million in funds needed to remodel the Expo Center, purchase technology equipment and install telecommunications infrastructure.

Apr.17

A physician grandmother with a ribald sense of humor gave a chilling vision of terror — and a plan for the end of nuclear proliferation — in a talk Apr. 15 in Hood River.

Dr. Helen Caldicott revealed “my plan for ending nuclear weapons in five years,” to a crowd of about 200 people at Hood River Middle School.

“You are the physicians to our dying planet,” said Caldicott, an Australian pediatrician. She said her plan requires “absolute total dedication — that’s all.”

Yet during her talk her concerns were also focused on current events. She issued warnings of the danger of nuclear war resulting from the current violence in the Middle East.

“That’s the underlying foundation of the incredibly dangerous situation that it is,” she said. “We would have a nuclear war tonight and that would be the end of it. But Dan Rather and Peter Jennings aren’t talking about it.”

Apr. 24

The city of Hood River will soon install another 170 parking meters throughout the downtown historic district which are expected to add $66,000 of yearly income into the general fund. On Monday the city council decided to add parking meters along the entire length of State Street from its western intersection with Sixth Street to the Front Street junction. The meters in front of the library will offer only short-term 30-minute parking but those on the southern side of the street will allow vehicles to park for a three-hour time period. The new meters will also be placed south on Sixth Street and around the corner on the southern side of Oak Street for one block to Fifth Street. The coin collectors will also be set up along Third, Fourth and Fifth streets from Cascade Avenue onto Columbia Street.

May 8

A librarian, an auto shop teacher, a counselor.

The hard reality of impending school budget cuts shone in the faces of three staff mambers during Hood River County School District budget deliberations. A total of 8.7 staff positions, including 6.8 teachers and other licensed staff, will be lost in the coming school year, due to the budget reductions brought on by shortfalls in state funding for education.

May 11

Hood River City Police Chief Tony Dirks is pleased that, after less than one year, his vision for a community policing program has hit the road. Last week three local car dealerships stepped forward with the keys to two vehicles that were being donated to the cause. The gifts followed Safeway’s commitment to direct its fundraising efforts during 2002 to the Sunshine Division, the charitable arm of the department, a move that has netted $1,500 to date. “This is really what community policing is all about,” said Dirks. “I think that we have just been laying the foundation for the program to grow because it is the trend of law enforcement in the future.”

May 18

A Hood River company that prides itself on being environmentally friendly has been fined $66,354 for violations of Oregon’s hazardous waste and water quality rules. In addition, Luhr Jensen & Sons, Inc., was issued a $1,000 fine from the City of Hood River this week for releasing a high pH effluent into the wastewater treatment plant. That penalty follows a $10,000 levy against the company in the past two months for dumping heavy metals into the system. Phil Jensen, owner of the fishing lure manufacturing plant, is denying the allegations of wrongdoing made by both the city and state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

May 22

The biggest pantry around.

That’s what Hood River Expo Center was May 17-19 during the 2002 Hood River Pear and Wine Festival, attended by about 5,000 people. Visitors sampled and bought pears and other fruit, wines from 20 wineries, and baked goods. They bought art, kitchen and home goods, and learned about cooking with pears from local growers and chefs from around the region.

“This is like a taste of Oregon, and I love Oregon,” said Julie Martin of Austin, Texas, who came to visit Portland friends just so they could take in the festival. The festival was not held in 2001, but organizer Kaye White declared the 2002 version a success.

May 25

With a strong voice the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs gave a resounding “yes” this week for siting a casino somewhere in the Columbia River Gorge. On May 21, the referendum passed by a 76 percent margin, a 3-1 show of support for the economic opportunities afforded by building a gambling center near the Portland-metro area.

“The collective wisdom and concern of the people for the benefit and welfare of the current and future generations was reflected in the vote.” said Rudy Clements, chairman of the Kah-Nee-Tah High Desert Resort and Casino board of directors. “The membership made this decision for our well-being and survival, that’s the bottom line,” he said.

However, the tribe faces stiff opposition from Friends of the Columbia Gorge and No-Casino if it tries to construct the facility on 40 acres of trust land just east of Hood River.

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The Hood River County Commission will have a new chairman at the head of the table next January, with Rodger Schock ousting incumbent John Arens by a 12 percent margin in Tuesday’s primary.

Schock, who was also elected as the Democratic Committeeman for Precinct 8, garnered 51.1 percent of the 4,930 votes cast for that race, with Arens netting 39.3 percent.

Conversely, incumbent Commissioner Carol York retained her District 1 seat by a 36 percent lead against challenger Ladd Henderson. York captured 63.6 percent of the 1,628 votes, up significantly from Henderson’s 27.6 percent.

June 5

Even as public debate over a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter was underway May 30 at the Hood River Rotary Club, the updated schematics were being handed over to county planners.

Wal-Mart foe Al Norman and Amy Hill, Wal-Mart community affairs director for the western region, were presenting pro and con arguments when the thick package of documents arrived 15 days ahead of the anticipated delivery date.

In January, the county asked the national chain store to provide more in-depth information on 57 issues that centered primarily on traffic, infrastructure and wetland protection. In December, Wal-Mart submitted a proposal to construct a 185,000 square foot store on a little more than 16 acres at the junction of Frankton and Country Club roads.

June 15

It’s official: the Hood River County Library will close to the public on June 17 and open again on July 1, in temporary quarters.

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