Wednesday, February 19, 2014
So much good stuff
This past weekend was yet another treasure trove of local entertainment and culture.
The Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association presented its winter Sinfonietta orchestral concert in both The Dalles and Hood River, and it was terrific. Hats off to CGOA Music Director Mark Steighner, all of the fine musicians who play in the Sinfonietta, and trumpet soloist extraordinaire Brian McFadden, also a music teacher at Wy’east Middle School in Odell. (We have such great music teachers in our region’s schools!)
Although the winter concerts are now finished, there will be opportunities this spring to hear the Sinfonietta present another new program, so mark your calendars for May 2 and 4. Also, CGOA’s VOCI Chamber Choir will return to amaze us on May 11 and 12 (a wonderful Mother’s Day celebration). I hope everyone will take advantage of our remarkable CGOA performers at both events.
And then the Columbia Center for the Arts, in addition to opening its new “Still Life” exhibit, is offering us “Art” — a unique new play for adult audiences, beautifully directed by Tom Burns. The cast and crew are to be congratulated for meeting the formidable challenges of performing this slightly surreal, comic psychodrama, which may remind some theatergoers of plays by Edward Albee and Samuel Beckett.
“Art” will play for one more weekend — be sure to catch it if you like to laugh while pondering some surprisingly deep questions. (People in book groups or other clubs might make an excursion of it together, since I guarantee you’ll have plenty to talk about afterwards.)
I’ve no doubt that there were other great things to see and do in the Gorge this past weekend. As always, I feel fortunate to have so many inspiring choices here to spend some of my free time.
Last week two significant events happened in the fight against coal exports through the Gorge.
In Washington the State Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County announced they will conduct a broad study of the proposed coal export terminal on the Columbia River in Longview. This will include coal dust impacts, rail traffic and the effects of coal burned in China on Washington state. This is very good.
In Oregon the Department of Environmental Quality told Ambre Energy that they need to file a rigorous water quality permit to transport coal by river barge, that is good too but at the same time DEQ issued three air and water permits for the same project; that is bad.
Please call Gov. Kitzhaber’s office at 503-378-4582 and leave the message “keep dirty coal out of Oregon.”
The take-away? On balance we are winning the fight against dirty coal but we need to keep working it.
Friends of the Columbia Gorge
This week I was thrilled to learn that just in time for Valentine’s Day, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will recognize same-sex marriages in all federal jurisdictions. It’s a cause for celebration, not only for gay men and women throughout the nation, but for everyone who believes in equal rights for all.
President Obama included openly gay athletes in the U.S. Olympic delegation to Russia, stating that, “We do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Our president’s words and actions were aligned with the American spirit which stands for freedom, equality, and justice. It is the very spirit of the United States Constitution, and so last June the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA, the ban against same sex couples’ right to marry, was unconstitutional.
This year, Oregonians can join with 17 other states that protect the rights of everyone to love and to marry whomever they choose.
Please join me in support of Oregon United for Marriage Equality. Talk to your family, friends, and neighbors about our history of fighting for human rights and cast your vote for progress in November.
Marriage equality: It’s not a radical idea. It’s what America stands for.
Sochi and Homs
Please don’t get me wrong: I do love the Olympics, a celebration of human effort and accomplishment, a sporting event. Or at least that is what it’s supposed to be about.
I can’t help it; I feel a twinge of a guilty conscience while enjoying these 2014 Olympics. Perhaps, it’s the juxtaposition of the coverage between the horrors in Syria, and the extravagantly staged and controlled Sochi-land in Putin’s Russia.
Recently Putin has been acknowledged as the most powerful leader in the world. Putin is not the leader of the most powerful nation, but his iron grip on Russian politics, press, military and economy is something that no other single person exerts in such a major country. And, perhaps, that is the underlying current that’s disturbing me during these games.
If China’s Olympics was a coming-out party, Russia’s Olympics feels like an assertion of control.
Putin’s Russia has supported and continues to support Assad’s regime in Syria. Assad’s forces have had Homs, the early center of the cry for an Arab Spring in Syria, under siege for two years. We’ve heard throughout Syria of torture, of 100,000’s of deaths, of millions displaced, of chemical weapons use, of starvation — and then we flip the page and read about the $50,000,000,000 Putin’s Russia has spent to host the 2014 Olympics in his LGBT free Sochi-land.
If that wasn’t reason enough to taint my enjoyment of the games, I just heard of another assault on freedom. A solo “activist” in Sochi, David Khakim, dared to hold up a sign protesting a three-year sentence handed down to environmental activist Yevgeny Vitishko. Vitishko had been critical of the preparations for the Sochi Olympics.
Khakim is now in “hot water” himself, for demonstrating in public without permission.
None of this takes anything away from the accomplishments of all the athletes, but what are we teaching them, and the youth of the world? That anything and everything can be used as a cover-up for intolerance, repression and brutality? We all need some distractions, but that shouldn’t blunt our humanity.
Just for a moment contemplate: Homs is only 500 miles south-southeast of Sochi, a day’s drive. Aleppo is a few hours closer. I’ll still go on watching the games, but let’s not watch them with our eyes closed.
There is a present and future danger in the Columbia Gorge which all of your readers should consider.
There are already coal and oil trains passing through the Columbia Gorge, almost all on the Washington side of the river. Coal travels in open cars and about a pound of coal dust per mile is lost from those trains. Besides getting into the river and causing pollution that coal dust settles in the ballast supporting the tracks, makes it slick and causing it to shift — increasing the likelihood of derailments.
Proposals now being considered would increase coal train traffic by 20 trains per day, greatly increasing the amount of coal dust getting into the ballast. Also planned is an oil terminal in Vancouver, Wash., which will bring four 100-car oil trains per day through the Columbia Gorge on the tracks made unstable by the coal trains.
Oil train derailments are devastating in that they almost always result in fire and explosions which have carried debris up to a half-mile from the wreckage site. Even without fire, a derailment in the Gorge would dump tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into Gorge waterways and contaminate acres of Gorge lands.
The proposals being considered, if approved, represent a significant threat to health and safety, to life and limb.
They are also a threat to the economic well-being of communities in the Gorge in that the National Traffic and Safety Board says that under present law local communities, not the railroad, would have the responsibility for cleaning up after any derailment. They would have to provide fire and emergency services as well.
Through mutual aid agreements, fire and emergency services on the Oregon side of the river would be involved in any major derailment. No Gorge fire department is equipped or trained to deal with an oil train fire or a coal train derailment in a Gorge community or alongside a major highway.
Gov. Kitzhaber, the Oregon State Land Board, Governor Inslee, and the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council need to hear from citizens about these threats to health, safety and economic well-being of the residents of both states.
On the announcement of his impending retirement, I would like to thank Judge Paul Crowley for this remarkable service to our community. Having practiced law for the better part of 20 years, I can, without reservation, say that I have never met a public official who has more dedicated or more conscientious than Paul Crowley.
Circuit Court judges are asked to resolve everything from minor disputes to the most troubling issues imaginable. Judges routinely face serious, complex intellectual and emotional challenges. Yet, throughout his career, Judge Crowley has never failed to go the extra mile, always looking for ways to improve our court — to make it more responsive; more efficient; more effective.
What makes Hood River County special, more than beauty or bounty, is our sense of community. Despite almost constant evolution, we have continued to value respect, fairness and cooperation. I do not think it is a coincidence that — during the most difficult and trying times — we could find these values at work in Judge Crowley’s court.
I can dream
In my opinion if the liberal media joined forces with Fox and actually reported all of the news without cover-ups and omissions, the Lecturer in Chief and his White House operatives would be as nervous as convulsive cacophonous cats on caffeine — just like Nixon’s gang when they were scrambling to cover up the Watergate debacle which caused that president to resign.
For some reason I keep imagining and wishing for an absolutely overall honest media with a realistic and thoroughly objective desire to bring all the news, minus cover ups and omissions, to every American household. Just think, all the truth and nothing but truth on every news outlet 24/7.
Like that old song goes: “I Can Dream Can’t I?”
Monopole at Barrett?
Concerning the 100-foot monopole that Verizon Wireless wants to install at 1247 Multnomah Road:
My first concerns would be to the fairness of the property owners in our neighborhood who pay RR-2.5 property tax, which is considerably higher than EFU rates. Would they somehow be compensated for the devaluing of their properties?
At this time they have views of fabulous Mount Hood (one of our greatest assets). After the cell tower is built they will have a view of the tower. Will there be glowing, blinking lights on top of this 100-foot monument to shine in their windows day and night?
Also, has the county considered leasing a spot for the tower on the county’s defunct Barrett Park property? A piece of land zoned EFU, but no longer used for farm land. The county could then receive the lease money and earmark the monies for parks and recreation.
In this way, rather than one person benefiting from the lease, perhaps the community, as a whole, could benefit. Or would doing so devalue the county’s land as well?
Please consider what precedent you are setting when once again you allow such land use on EFU land.
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I Can't Keep Quiet singers at "Citizen Town Hall"
‘I can’t keep quiet,’ sing members of an impromptu choir in front of Hood River Middle School Saturday prior to the citizen town hall for questions to Rep. Greg Walden. The song addresses female empowerment generally and sexual violence implicitly, and gained prominence during the International Women’s Day events in January. The singers braved a sudden squall to finish their song and about 220 people gathered in HRMS auditorium, which will be the scene of the April 12 town hall with Rep. Greg Walden, at 3 p.m. Enlarge