OUR READERS' OPINIONS - 11/14/10

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Mall mess is a public concern

Recently two letters were published relating to the "demolished" Blue Mountain Mall.

Both letters were read with interest and appreciation.

As stated in those letters, it is time for members of the Walla Walla City Council and/or the county commissioners to explain the situation regarding this demolished property. It is important we are kept informed. If a contract was granted without thoroughly checking the integrity of the contractor, that is history now. We are interested in the future.

Is it time to appoint an advisory committee?

You are privileged to be serving on the various councils and boards. It must seem like a thankless job when you consider complaints like this one, however, you chose to serve — you were elected — now you should do your job. Keep us informed!

Elaine K. Hergert

Walla Walla

Support for schools appreciated

Nov. 14–20 is American Education Week and I am grateful for the opportunity to take a moment to talk about Walla Walla Public Schools.

First, our schools are not perfect. We are the consummate "people business" and with literally thousands of human interactions on a daily basis in our schools, we are bound to make mistakes. However, also encapsulated within those thousands upon thousands of human interactions are expressions of caring and hope as well as teaching and learning.

I am extremely proud of the staff of the Walla Walla Public Schools, our students and our community. Our teachers, and all the staff who support them, are better trained and prepared than at any time in our district’s long and storied history.

We are charged with teaching all of our children, not just those for which learning comes easily or those from families who are in a better position to support their child’s education. This is a charge we take extremely seriously.

Despite what is often portrayed, our students are great. Overwhelmingly, they do what we ask, they get along with each other and they are learning.

Yes, without question, we have days when kids do get in trouble ... remember when you were young? Yet that is the exception, not the rule. Being a child in 2010 can be challenging, but our kids are resilient, they learn and they are terrific. I am very optimistic about our future.

I am extremely thankful to our community for its support of our schools. First and most importantly, I want to praise our parents for caring about, supporting and loving their own children.

Secondly, the community’s financial support of our district is appreciated. The state of Washington provides basic education funding that does not meet our obligation to our students. Federal funds, and to a greater degree local dollars, make up the difference.

Our local dollars support most of the capital buildings and improvements in the district. Without local financial support, our district would look remarkably different; we need and appreciate you!

Superintendent Mick Miller

Walla Walla Public Schools

United Way donation stays local

Because of the generous advertising support from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, you’re well aware that fundraising for United Way’s 2010-2011 campaign is under way.

I’m pleased to be this year’s board president, and I would ask that you join Kathy and me in supporting United Way. When you give to United Way, your money stays local, funding 16 partner agencies that provide support to kids and families in our communities that need help.

One of the nice things about giving to United Way is you get the services of the Allocation Committee. This group of local citizens represents you, spending numerous hours each spring meeting with every partner agency, and determining how United Way fund should be used for maximum impact on the community.

Our campaign goal this year is $420,000. Every donation, large or small, takes us one step closer to that goal. If you prefer, your gift can be assigned to one or more specific community organizations.

Please take a moment today to make your gift. You can give right now by visiting our website, unitedwayww.org, or mail your contribution to United Way, P.O. Box 1134, Walla Walla, WA 99362 or contact the office.

Gary Wagers

Walla Walla

Group enjoyed learning of history

In October, the Union County Christian Home Educators had the wonderful opportunity to visit both the Whitman Mission and the Fort Walla Walla Museum.

Our group of approximately 75 parents and children ranging in age from babies through high school enjoyed talks by docents and rangers, walking the grounds of both locations and learning about the history of the Walla Walla area and the Northwest as a whole.

Surprisingly to me, I realized I had been to both places as a child myself and remembered seeing them, specifically the mule team hooked to the thresher at the Fort Walla Walla Museum. It was absolutely worth the drive over the mountain and I encourage anyone interested in fascinating displays and history to go for a visit.

I appreciate the staff at both locations for accommodating our group members and allowing us a great, educational day with our children.

Beth Koza

Cove, Ore.

The rule of law cannot be ignored

It’s absolutely amazing how much controversy the Inland Octopus mural has generated. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other on its aesthetic merits and I certainly have no ax to grind in the litigation.

But I am disturbed that people appear to be overlooking the important fact that Walla Walla has an ordinance that clearly appears to prohibit such murals.

The primary challenge to Walla Walla’s enforcement of its ordinance is apparently not based on the question of whether or not the mural is a sign within the meaning of the ordinance. Instead it appears to be based on First Amendment grounds. One of our Superior Court judges will decide whether or not the ordinance violates freedom of speech. In the meantime, the city has the obligation to enforce its ordinance.

Mayor Barbara Clark is exactly right when she states the City Council is bound by the city’s laws and regulations. This principal, fundamental to underpinnings of any free society, is often referred to as "the rule of law."

F. A. Hayek put it best. "Stripped of all technicalities, it (the rule of law) means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand — rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge."

In explaining the history of Walla Walla’s sign ordinance, Mayor Clark explains that a great deal of thought went into the provisions of the ordinance, which is designed "to preserve the character and economic vitality of the downtown." This is a laudable goal. Like it or not, the ordinance is a law the mayor and the Council are bound to enforce if the owner of the Inland Octopus store is truly in violation of its provisions.

The rule of law prevents privileges to particular people and guarantees equality to all people. When a government ignores the rule of law, even if for seemingly beneficent purposes, the end result is generally, at best, favoritism to particular people, or, at worst, despotism.

Until the ordinance is repealed, amended or declared unconstitutional, the mayor and the City Council have a duty to enforce it. To do otherwise would not only violate the rule of law but also their oaths of office.

Charles B. Phillips

Walla Walla

A water park in midst of fiscal woes?

After reading the articles "City's budget woes worsen" and Barbara Clark's Special to the Union-Bulletin column, I was left dumbfounded. At the end of Barbara's piece, she makes the statement that it is "particularly important for us all to work together to create an aquatic facility."

Really? With the fiscal woes the city is facing, our parks and library budgets cut, we need some water slides?

Haven't the people already voted "no" on this issue twice? Is Barbara demonstrating just how in touch she is with the people of Walla Walla? And the city's budget woes?

Please don't tell me the city wants this glorious aquatic center because of the income it will generate. I remember an article in the U-B a couple of years ago that stated Milton-Freewater had to supplement its park because it couldn't pay for itself. And, now I am supposed to believe an aquatic center will make money for our broke city?

If a water slide park is such a money machine, why not offer it to private concerns? Maybe the city could sweeten the deal with a tax break. But I hope our leaders won't be too disappointed if no one takes them up on this folly. It won't be profitable and affordable to families at the same time.

This City Council has overseen some of the largest tax increases in our recent history. And, can still find more ways to spend the taxpayers money. We all must keep in mind that soon we will be asked, again, to build a new high school on top of all the new projects already completed, including a new police station and roads.

Granted the school district is the body that will ask for more money for the high school, but as a taxpayer, I'll still have to come out of pocket for this facility. If the voters start looking over all the taxes we already pay to the city, they will find it costs anywhere from $200 to $500 a month just to live in the city. What are we getting for all this? When will our tax bill be too high?

I'm seriously concerned with our government at all levels, but our city government is something local voters can directly influence. And I hope when the next elections come due for City Council members, the voters remember what is going on today.

Charles Cory Spencer

Walla Walla

Elitist snobbery not necessary

Mr. Castleman is certainly entitled to his opinion - but the elitist snobbery he expressed is matched only by the vulgarity of his imagery. Some of us shop at Walmart, Macy's and Coldwater Creek, and enjoy fast food as well as El Sombrero, the Country Club and Whitehouse-Crawford.

I personally do not admire Warhol - I prefer Monet - and also enjoy some comic strips. I admire most of the downtown art, from the friendly dog to the very modern piece with the wonderful message.

There should be room for a variety of art in a town that respects all, from the traditionally artistic to the child or adult perceptive enough to admire whimsy. The world would be very dull if we all shared the same tastes.

It is variety that adds spice and color to the world. The Creator recognized that when we were created with all our magnificent variety.

It is unfortunate there are those who carry their noses in such an elevated position that they are totally unable to see any charm other than that on which they deign to focus.

Linda Schaub

Walla Walla

An emotional look through Sunday's Perspective pages

On Sundays, I turn first to the Perspective pages to enjoy the opinions of fellow readers. All letters and other news tidbits are interesting whether I agree or not and Nov. 7's were no exception. Here's a rapid-fire glance at some:

Mayor Barbara Clark explained the Council's Inland Octopus decision using words like "common good," "democratic and public process." Well, quite obviously the public majority supports the octopus. Why not find a way for a one-time exception and let it stand?

Another article cited a First Amendment defense of the octopus. Doubtful that will fly, since cities have a right to impose ordinances regarding public signs, including size and content (no profanity, for example).

Jeanne Morefield: Costs of Iraq/Afghanistan wars are too expensive. Yes, but not as expensive as allowing a jihadist victory. Nor as expensive as Obamacare, cap-and-trade, stimulus bailouts and astronomical national debt increases. We were attacked before, during and after 9/11 by militant, radical Islamists. Funding those wars are necessary to stop them and protect this nation. Cut costs elsewhere, not defense.

Bruce McCutcheon: Taxes and welfare are good but companies are bad. Sure, tax the "rich," right? That harms employers. Those who make over $200,000 - whose taxes Obama and Democrats want to increase - accounted for 3 percent of all taxpayers in 2008 but paid more (52 percent) than the bottom 97 percent of all taxpayers.

Carin Gordon: American Community Survey is invasive and unconstitutional. Yes, it certainly is and should be abolished. This is not the USSR.

Thomas Peacock (Spokane): Bush lied about Iraq, there's too much hatred, not enough common sense, and the "tea partiers" are stupid. No, Iraq's WMD program was a major threat that - thanks to Bush - no longer exists. As to hatred (and slandering tea party members): pot, kettle, black.

Debbie J. Kelley: Wind turbines are dangerous. They sure are. Not only that, they are as useless as Don Quixote's lance. Clean-burning coal and fossil fuels power our civilization and CO2 is not dangerous!

Speaking of CO2 mythology, page A2 has a story about misleading schoolchildren into believing that planting trees will stop global warming and save polar bears. Polar bears are not endangered and are prospering as are the ice caps. Brainwashing children is wrong.

Marilyn McCann snickered, giggled, laughed, got misty-eyed, cried and became pensive over Sheila Hagar's book. Hey, I think I'll get it (although I went through all that just reading today's Union-Bulletin).

Steve Singleton

Walla Walla

Some thoughts on the octopus

English comprehension is not necessary to recognize the pretty pleasant inviting picture our award-winning Main Street presents. Then I spot this incredible, big wide-eyed octopus purple and under a rainbow. Oh gee whiz. What's written on the sign under this delightful picture of friendliness is irrelevant.

The octopus makes the invitation to discover something we all understand. Toys. Enjoying a smiling good time and toys. Furthermore, had Wily Octopus been painted in 1876 and uncovered in 2010 he would be given a wow! check this instead of threatened removal. A quick inexpensive fix for a mess of crumbling unrestorable original bricks with an unattractive white facade.

Always to receive bold criticisms or accolades is the free thinker who goes first. When code written to protect economic health and public safety fails to change with the progressive advancing needs of economic opportunity, reality speaks. Judges are us, we rule by our choices in the marketplace.

Park, entertainment, marketplace? The exchange of goods and services guaranteed by the freedom to express diversity in order to successfully exercise economic opportunity. Like does not attract like. Opposites attract and eye appeal of new and different sells.

Without a buyer in the mood to spend there is no sale. Every time that octopus puts a shopper in a better happy mode there's a chance for any of the downtown merchants to exercise economic opportunity. That smile inspiring fun inducing octopus has multiple benefits.

The solution is simple. Therefore an exception to code needs to be written by City Council and Bob Catsiff in order for the proven success of his niche business to go forwards without further divisive argument that keeps us from logically resolving this.

Voiced opinion is diminished by the overall visual effect of one curious mischievous Wiley Octopus. Code written to protect restored buildings from huge detracting signage is understandable. The picture/mural of the octopus is above the store name sign separated by the awning mount hardware.

Code written to be deliberately unconstitutionally vague and overbroad is not legally, logically or morally enforceable. Open-ended left to be interpreted by the grumped-out, snooty, self-perceived, upper-echelon, high-society, prejudiced adults who would have loved the octopus' picture as children, what has happened?

Jean Dolling

Walla Walla

Let's work together for good

The Chinese have a proverb: "If you must bow, then bend very low." For the sake of comity, I willingly bow to the results of the national election.

In honest sincerity I wish my country well. Perhaps this time, if all goes to plan, the American people can look forward to a smaller, less intrusive government, lower taxes, wisely restrained public spending, vanishing budget deficits. All leading to a healthy economy for everybody in the country.

I earnestly hope that we will all, working together, make good happen.

Please make it so.

Susan J. Day

Walla Walla

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