Friday, January 13, 2012
A closer look
What an impressive article written by Mayor Babitz (Dec. 31 "Civic Comments") answering the criticism of our city council by individuals trying to demonize their legal decision. A true, class act, Mr. Mayor.
Knowing the decision would be appealed, the city council went above and beyond to ensure fairness based on law. Hood River has nothing to worry about if their city council continues to make decisions with such care as they did on this one.
In the Dec. 14 edition, I wrote that market competition reduces prices. Inexplicably, the message was rebuffed by Nancy Moller (Dec. 21) misstating my position about putting more food on people's tables. It was never said that we are in a "growth area"; nor did I say that Walmart's competition will "increase consumer spending." What was provided was that low- or fixed-income families can purchase more food with their dollars if prices are lower.
To ensure accuracy, I spent time comparing basic staple items at our local food stores. Here is what I found: Honey Nut Cheerios was $3.98 at Walmart, $5.99 at Rosauers and $5.59 at Safeway. That's 33 percent and 28 percent higher prices than at Walmart for the exact same product.
Many more were compared. Walmart was 21-48 percent less costly compared to the local competition. Therefore, the same $100 spent buying food on like items at Walmart will result in more groceries in the pantry.
A statement by Becky Brun of Hood River Citizens for a Local Economy in the Dec. 17 lead news article ("Walmart opposition plans appeal") leads you to believe the average grocery store earns a profit of $466,000 per week. Profit per week? As reported on YCharts, Safeway has a 1.29 percent profit margin. Thus calculated, Safeway has to sell $36,000,000 per week in products to show a $466,000 per week profit. That was false and reported as facts.
Glad to see all the letters in support of this expansion. It took courage to write those letters as did the council's decision in face of a few vocal opponents that don't even shop at Walmart. Let people shop where they so choose.
As I watched the Kennedy Center Honors on a recent Tuesday night, I was thrilled by the brilliance of the highlight performances of honorees cellist Yo-Yo Ma, actress Meryl Streep, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond, saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins and singer Barbara Cook.
But, what really grabbed me were their life stories demonstrating the courage with which they faced their own demons as well as the many barriers blocking their progress. How fitting that they received their honors in the building that exists to honor the courage of a man who faced down great danger to protect our country and pushed us to believe in our own abilities to excel.
Ironically, a few blocks away there is a building in which those we elect to represent our interests demonstrate neither courage nor honor. While they squabble over peanuts, the serious issues clouding our future go unresolved. While they rail about protecting free markets, we stagnate as the oligarchs who have controlled the markets since the robber barons of the Gilded Age continue to receive their entitlements.
As our legislators pander to corporate boardrooms and executive officers by blocking meaningful measures to safeguard our economy for the middle class, we slip further behind in our quest for a level playing field for our small businesses and employees.
To its credit, the House actually did attempt to level the field back in 2010 by passing a China currency sanctions bill, supported by President Obama. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some 140 multinational corporations poured tens of millions of dollars (press estimates of over $130 million) into defeating the legislation.
Ross Eisenbry, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, said, "Forcing China to revalue its currency is not just important for this recovery, I think it's really critical for the future of the economy." The National Association of Manufacturers members with most of their production in the U.S. strongly supported the measure. But, the large corporations with production in China strongly opposed it. The measure died in the Senate.
If you small-business owners are seriously looking for a friend in Washington, try another building in the neighborhood - the one with the west wing.
The rest of
I realize the media thrives on sensationalism. In reading your recap of 2011, you wrote of the murder of Oscar Solario, his killer Dane Donaghy and Dane being incarcerated at NORCOR. Nowhere is it mentioned that Dane was released in May, that there have been no legal problems since the incident, and that Dane has done several things for various community projects.
My grandson is not a criminal. In the midst of terror, he made a fatal mistake. His trial will be held in a few weeks.
I want to thank everyone who has stood by us during this trying time - and donated to the various Dane Donaghy funds.
Oh, the irony
Will the people of Hood River "move on" and stop the destructive style of politics? Oh the irony - a 100,000-square-foot Walmart and an ordinance prohibiting future structures over 50,000 square feet. It is funny when you think about that decision and why it came about.
As for demonizing the city council's decision, it seems to me that it's just a matter of being on the receiving end from the same folks that typically line up behind the "Friends." Do they all seem so reasonable now?
Who is responsible?
I've worked more than 30 years in the fruit-packing industry and have been a shop steward most of that time. As shop steward I have been actively involved in union company contract negotiations.
We (union and company) have spent more time trying to reach parity of wages and benefits industry wide than any other single topic. (We have spent days comparing contracts.) We have been very successful.
If company names and dates (the companies negotiate at different times) are removed it's hard to tell whose contract is being read. There have even been "me too" clauses in past contracts; i.e. if a company "A" does this, company "B" will follow suit.
What it takes to make regular status, seniority, wages and benefits for like jobs are very, very similar. The contractual differences are minor and virtually immaterial. If there is a difference in return to grower, it cannot be attributed to contractual differences.
We have some of the same people working at both companies. I don't believe return to grower differences can be attributed to the workers. The only things left to consider are differences in management.
Looking back at the Iowa caucuses, we can see the consequences of the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United. By allowing corporations and individuals to donate unlimited funds to super PACs, the court has undermined an already flawed election process.
In Iowa, Romney's super PAC spent more than $4 million on negative ads - over twice what the official campaign spent. The former staffers running Romney's super PAC launched a barrage of successful attack ads aimed at Newt Gingrich. By routing their contributions through intermediate nonprofits, the donors funding these attack ads remain hidden from public scrutiny.
Citizens United and the rise of super PACs are changing the dynamics of elections. Hundreds of millions are flowing into super PACs. Without limits on spending, we will see our TVs, phones and mailboxes flooded with attack ads. Without disclosure and accountability, we will be forced to wade through a cesspool of polarizing and misleading ads - Swift Boat ads on steroids.
After the 2012 elections, super PAC staff will flow back into government and corporate positions. Lobbyists will line up to shape legislation, regulatory oversight and tax policy in ways that favor special interests. Politicians already dependent on lobbyists and special interest money will become even more so - indebted to the super PACs that get them elected.
Super PACs undermine legitimate political discourse and corrupt our election process. They raise important political questions: Are corporations "persons" entitled to the same free speech rights as citizens? Why has Congress failed to require timely and transparent disclosure of the funds flowing into super PACs?
Should we adopt a new "Fairness Doctrine" to counter the growth in attack ads? How can we free candidates from the time consuming and corrupting demand to raise campaign funds? How do we ensure that the voices of the poor and middle-class Americans aren't drown out by the megaphones of the super PACs?
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Oil train car being transported by truck
A damaged rail car from the June 3, 2016 oil train derailment and fire is transported from the crash site via truck on I84. Enlarge