Saturday, June 4, 2011
WW not big enough for two high schools
The community is being asked to give input on a proposal I have studied and support to remodel/expand Walla Walla High School. People have recently written asking about having two comprehensive high schools or suggesting we refuse to educate College Place students.
I have lived here since the 1960s, attended Prospect Point (before and after the "new" building), Paine, Garrison, graduated from Wa-Hi, worked part-time in nearly every school, and our kids are in the Wa-Hi classes of 2009, 2011 and 2019. I care deeply about Walla Walla Public Schools.
In 2006 a large construction bond that included replacing Wa-Hi was soundly defeated. The district responded by pulling together a diverse group of 25 people who became the High School Facilities Task Force and studied the ninth- through 12th-grade issues.
I was one of the skeptical public and I wanted first-hand answers, so I asked and was allowed to join. We met monthly during the 2007-08 school year and reviewed student population projections, the condition of Wa-Hi and Lincoln, how school conditions impact learning, safety/security, career technical education, one vs. two high schools (impacts on programs, operating costs and athletics), new construction vs. renovation and the College Place student issue. Our report is available on the district website.
What I found out was enlightening and opinion-changing. I learned that Walla Walla isn't and won't be big enough for two high schools in the foreseeable future because of costs and loss of academic opportunities. A surprising but true fact: Athletics did not impact these recommendations.
I also learned we will educate the College Place high school students, and to suggest otherwise defies historical, current, future and legal reality.
My response to the target/magnet school issue comes from personal experience. This year my senior took the following courses at Wa-Hi: Fourth-year Spanish, concert choir, AP literature, art, American government, careers in education, calculus and floriculture.
No matter how I try, I cannot see how any magnet school program, or even how a school smaller than Wa-Hi, could have given her these choices.
When my fourth-grader graduates with the class of 2019, I hope he will also have all these opportunities and at least some of his high school years can be spent in a Wa-Hi that is not looking back on 50 well-worn years, but in one that is renovated, expanded and ready to take on the next 50.
Is Wa-Hi really a health danger for students?
The letter (written by a former educator who now lives in College Place) to the editor in the May 29 U-B titled, "Replacing mid-century schools is prudent" needs some response.
The writer, while referring to Walla Walla High School, uses generalities suggesting that mid-century school construction tends to be unsafe, and "perform poorly against earthquakes, tornadoes, explosions and blunt-force accidents." We don't know what blunt-force accidents are. One possibility is a meteorite from the sky could come down and relocate Wa-Hi 20 feet below ground level. New construction is likewise subject to similar unforeseen damages.
The writer says schools of Wa-Hi's vintage are filled with asbestos, electrical systems are inadequate and plumbing, heating and ventilation systems pose possible health hazards. Driving to school probably poses a much bigger health hazard for students than attending Wa-Hi.
He doesn't offer any factual evidence that the possibilities or generalities he speaks about might be present at Wa-Hi. He also didn't mention that parts of Wa-Hi were upgraded many years after the original building was built.
Most adults are familiar with similar rhetoric from school officials as part of a sales pitch for new schools. Suggesting to students that Wa-Hi is unsafe, to make a sales pitch, is obnoxious.
My wife and I are both (prehistoric) mid-century Park Street Wa-Hi graduates. The present new Wa-Hi wasn't built for many years after we graduated and probably was not used to educate students until one and a half decades after mid-century.
By the time students graduate from Wa-Hi they have spent approximately 36 hours somewhere else for every hour they have spent at Wa-Hi. Most of those non-Wa-Hi hours have been spent in places less safe than their high school. Thousands of their homes are mid-century and much older.
In mid-century, the building code for public schools far exceeded the building code for homes; even homes built today.
I find it interesting that a College Place resident is suggesting Wa-Hi isn't safe for students and he thinks Walla Walla should build and provide a safer, better high school, while at the same time College Place is unwilling to build its own high school.
If this College Place resident thinks Wa-Hi is unsafe for students, he should spend time getting a new high school built in College Place so College Place students don't attend a potentially unsafe Wa-Hi.
Walla Walla is friendly town
My husband and I moved here from Federal Way almost two years ago. We fell in love with this town the moment we arrived.
Let me tell you what is so wonderful about Walla Walla.
1) The people are all so friendly and nice. Try moving to the "coast" where you can live next door to a neighbor for 25 years and never be invited into their home. We have met many genuine friends since we moved here and have shared many evenings together at each other's homes.
We have also had our lawns mowed for us by gracious neighbors while we were on vacation without even having to ask.
2) The pace of life is wonderful. You can actually stop and smell the roses here!
3) If you are looking for restaurants - go to the coast - there are plenty of restaurants but there are also a lot of negatives that goes along with visiting those restaurants, i.e. prices are about twice as high.
4) Mall ... who needs a mall?
Yes, it is an eyesore, but the economy will not be bad forever and one day we will have a new mall to replace the one that is there. In the meantime, consider the deer visiting our mall as nature's way of providing us with natural beauty and be thankful that we at least have Sears and Shopko to visit.
5) What is so special about a swimming pool? We have numerous lakes, rivers and parks close by that can be enjoyed by everyone for "free".
You asked, "What does Walla Walla offer" - tons of wineries - so if you're raising alcoholics this is your town." I am so thankful for all of the wonderful wineries in the area that bring revenue to this community.
You can certainly have a delicious glass of wine without being an alcoholic - I'm proof of that.
Last but not least, if you don't like it here - go somewhere else. You will soon find out that the grass is not greener on the other side!
Family-oriented recreation is needed
In response to Cheryl Summerfield's letter in the Sunday paper, I could not agree more with her words!
I was born in Walla Walla, and most of my life have lived here in the Valley. I am now retired and have grandchildren.
When I have the kids in the summer I have to take them to Milton-Freewater or to Waitsburg to swim. Now, I have to wonder at this, a town the size of Walla Walla and we cannot offer our children any activities such as a water park or an indoor skating rink for winter.
I take the kids to Pendleton to skate in the winter. What is wrong with our city advisers when it comes to promoting businesses in this town?
I agree with Cheryl on the senseless destruction of our mall. I also agree with her on the Walla Walla's tunnel vision in promoting only the winery business. I do quite a bit of traveling in our wonderful U.S. and towns that think they can survive on the artsy-craftsy and tourism alone are generally towns that are only seasonally surviving, and then only by a mere thread.
With poor economies, where people want to put their hard-earned money is generally into something needed, solid and lasting. There needs to be a thought put forth to promote family-oriented recreation.
Radioactive waste is huge concern
I appreciate editors of the U-B for reminding us of the potential for radioactive disaster if the federal government does not live up to its commitment to fully fund environmental cleanup at Hanford.
Nuclear waste is seeping into the groundwater and ever nearer to the Columbia River. Good for Sen. Murray for holding the Department of Energy accountable to meet its legal obligation to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Unfortunately, if the Department of Energy has its way, the nuclear waste problem at Hanford is about to become much worse.
How many realize the DOE is proposing to use Hanford as a national waste dump for extremely radioactive waste? Over 12,000 truckloads would be sent to Hanford for disposal over several decades. The DOE's proposal would add nearly as much radioactivity to Hanford's soil as is in all of Hanford's leaky high-level nuclear waste tanks.
What if there is an accident or a terrorist attack on a truck going through Portland or Seattle? At the very least, the number of cancer deaths would skyrocket. At worst towns could be wiped out and hundreds of square miles contaminated for centuries
We have watched in grief and horror at the so far irrepairable nuclear disaster in Japan. Yet Energy NW is proposing Hanford be the first American reactor to use the same dangerous plutonium as fuel that was used in the Fukoshima reactors. (All Information from Heart of America NW.)
How ironic that the Department of Homeland Security requires invasive X-rays of all airline passengers in case people are carrying a weapon in their underwear, yet apparently has no concern about highly radioactive waste being transported on public highways!
The DOE is accepting public comment until June 27. If you find the above proposals alarming, please research further and submit comments to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Again kudos to the U-B for covering a critical story that is largely being ignored by the mainstream press.
Power House Theatre is special venue
A few days ago, I witnessed an extraordinary moment in the life of our town - the opening of the Power House Theatre.
It was an exciting evening, and in a way it was typical of an opening night of any play anywhere - great energy in the house and a full, enthusiastic crowd. However, it was much more than that. We now have in Walla Walla a unique venue for performing arts - intimate, warm and beautiful - a blending of the old and historic with the new through state of the art technology.
Although there will be improvements and enhancements to come, it is clearly a theater that will attract a rich variety of productions, and as such, it is an extraordinary gift to this community.
The property owners, the administration and staff of Shakespeare Walla Walla and the community members who have helped design, fund and build this project deserve our ongoing gratitude. I know there are countless people who have embraced this unique vision, transforming an old, historic building into an exciting theater for our common future.
Indeed, I believe this theater has the potential to change our community in ways we cannot yet begin to imagine. Praise to Harry Hosey, Mark Anderson, Dennis Ledford and the rest of the SWW folks!
Israel is not full-fledged democracy
This is in response to Mona Charen's article in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin on May 29
Charen's view of Middle East issues is so extreme that one finds it difficult deciding which place to start a rebuttal. Sunday's piece was entitled "President Obama has been anything but a friend to Israel." Let's begin there.
To say the least, everything is warped about her characterization of events involving President Obama's speeches and Prime Minister Netanyahu's encounters with the president and the secretary of State.
Charen says Obama "betrayed his promise to stand by the lonely democracy in the Middle East." Two things about this, beginning with a question: Is there anything Netanyahu and his supporters might do or advocate which would justify, in Charen's view, any criticism or rejection by the U.S. government or its people?
Second, a fact that too few fair-minded and otherwise well-informed Americans understand: Israel is not a full-fledged democracy, given the ethnic basis for some important civic rights within the state. Books and articles, by Israeli as well as other scholars, have made this case. Some also present the argument for change that would create a single secular democracy in the region of Israel-Palestine.
The latter scenario is scary, even impossible to consider, for some. If you think so, give me also your projection of what will happen to Palestinians if Charen has everything her way.
U-B needs to look into health-care issue
The Union-Bulletin has recently given attention to Walla Walla County's role and responsibilities for mental health care in our community. This topic presents the newspaper with an opportunity to do important reporting of this significant community issue.
We urge you to explain the facts behind this issue by reporting on the meaning of the term "mental health" as it relates to the county service proposed. We ask you to identify the size of the population that would benefit from this service.
Also, we need a clear understanding of the cost of failing to provide this service. What is the relationship to criminal activity, physical abuse and emergency room use or abuse? What avoidable costs are currently being borne by the community in the form of law enforcement and incarceration?
What other needs are going unmet in the community because law enforcement capacity must be allocated to dealing with incidents related to mental health? Do we have mental health related problems such as substance abuse that lead to property crimes to fund the abuse, or contribute to personal injury because of the intoxicated state of one of the parties?
Conversely, what are the benefits to the community, both social and financial, in providing this service? If you determine there are no benefits, tell us why.
Another consideration deserving attention is whether a community responsibility exists (legal or moral) to care for those in need of this treatment. Are there alternatives other than waiting for a criminal conviction and incarceration to get the mentally ill the care they need?
You applauded the county commissioners' survey. They told us up front it was not scientific, but I think everyone agrees it has encouraged debate.
We think that reasoned public debate of important issues is useful, but to be meaningful this debate must be based on facts and a solid understanding of the impact on the county.
The Walla Walla County Democratic Central Committee asks you, as our community newspaper, to prominently present the relevant facts during this discussion period so that, as a community, we can fully understand the problem we are discussing and help our county commissioners' decision to be in the best interest of all of us.
Jim Baker, chairman
Walla Walla County Democrats
What can be done for bicycle safety?
The area around Walla Walla has become known as a good place - a beautiful place - to bicycle.
We organize bike events, the city of Walla Walla has maps showing cyclists good routes for bicycle rides of varying distances. Whitman College has a successful bicycle team and it does practice runs on area roads. Bicycle riding is a healthy, green way to enjoy our region.
However, just recently a cyclist was hit from behind by a car and killed, reminding us of a similar death of a cyclist a few years ago. This is a terrible tragedy.
What can we do to make sure cars obey the speed limit, don't pass in no-passing zones, and respect the right of bicyclists as well as cars to use our roads?
R.I.P. - common sense has passed!
I would like to expound on a letter published on May 24 written by Mr. Strozinsky regarding reasons to believe common sense has passed.
Observation from a person on the consolidation of agencies - "might make it easier to farm out state-provided services to private businesses!" Really?(When the non-union private firm would cost less and be required to pay taxes?)
A comment from a politician when the budget was close to being resolved. "We have saved the health care for immigrants in the budget!" Really?(Could this be part of the problem?)
The most unbelievable statement of the decade by the DNC chairwoman. "The Republicans actually believe that illegal immigration is a crime!" Really? (Isn't that what everybody believes if you have any common sense at all?)
There is no wonder this country is in such a dismal state with people like this running our country - entitlements - welfare, illegal immgrant subsidies, politicians' salaries andhealth care, public sector unions and management, food stamps and I could go on but the editor would cut me off!
Now when you pay into an account for years on end (try over 50), you are paying into an investment - it is not an entitlement. I paid money in good faith and the reason I paid was because I was required to by the government as long as I worked on a private-sector job and I paid diligently into that account for every hour I was employed.
As soon as the government puts the money back in the lock box that it has squandered on these other idiotic entitlements that are attached to Social Security-Medicare and Medicaid, all three of these accounts will be solvent for years to come!
We won't have to worry quite as much about our children and grandchildren being in the poverty state for so long
Needless to say, R.I.P. - common sense has passed!
Great job keeping local cemeteries up
Having decorated graves in four cemeteries on Memorial Day weekend, I feel compelled to share my observations. The groundskeepers and other workers did an outstanding job in preparation for this busy holiday.
Our cemeteries are not new and the upkeep must be continual. Headstones sink and holes appear and all this must be traced to its source and taken care of in a timely fashion.
Mountain View in Walla Walla is a very old cemetery. We have lots of wind here and an eye must be kept on the majestic trees that make it so beautiful, but can do so much damage.
The Milton-Freewater Cemetery is so nice and clean and well kept up.
Blue Mountain Memorial in College Place was very impressive and fresh and green as always.
The Touchet Cemetery doesn't have perpetual care. Some people, as a community service, volunteer to keep the weeds down as much as is possible. Our family has graves of five generations there.
We appreciate the effort required to keep the cemeteries in such condition on an ongoing basis. They have to be ready for burial services as well as on special days when we honor our military and other loved ones who have gone on before us.
Walla WallaLetters welcome
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