Letters to the Editor 4/19/2022
Last updated 4/19/2022 at Noon
Local politics can be great
To the Editor:
So here I sit. In the audience at a political event. Pretty much the last place I ever thought I’d be. And yet, there is a something undeniable happening at our local events for the Sisters Republicans. Could it be that there is a level of civic engagement that could be both uplifting and participative? You bet there is. No prior experience necessary. In fact, that’s the best part.
We’ve had two events already. The first drew around 70 people and six or so candidates if my memory serves. The second one was another full house that drew a candidate for governor, three District 5 candidates for U.S. Senate, as well as three other candidates for local elections. We have a format with questions, and they get a chance to practice their public speaking skills in front of a camera and audience. Most of our candidates are first-timers too. They come from all walks of life who are brave enough to throw their hat in the ring.
But beyond the format, the unexpected is the most interesting. You get a chance to really get to know them. Many are looking for insights from the community. Some are more comfortable in front of groups than others. Sometimes you can see their hands shake when they come to the microphone. Some candidates have more of a command of the issues than others. And somehow there is a “rightness” in that. We aren’t meant to be perfect. We are meant to work together.
If there is a message in this, here it is. Local politics can be great. You can also be a part of it. Even though you’re only one person you have a wider reach than you can imagine. And we need you.
We have one last event on Thursday, April 28, at Aspen Lakes Restaurant from 5 to 8 p.m. We’d love to see you there. Maybe you will catch the vibe too.
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Don’t expand e-bike access
To the Editor:
Regarding the column titled “Bike Wars” printed in the April 6 edition of The Nugget, I disagree that access for e-bikes should be expanded and that they should be allowed to use currently restricted biking- and hiking-only trails.
If advancing technology allows us to do something, that’s not a valid reason in and of itself to do the thing.
If Sherpas, oxygen tanks, and all the latest mountaineering gear could get me to the top of Everest with minimal training, should I do it? Absolutely not.
Things go wrong in the wilderness, all the time.
Exploring the outdoors safely requires some level of fitness (depending on the activity).
People can and already do get into hairy situations under their own power.
We don’t need less-able people traveling even farther and faster on motors.
It sounds harsh, but putting somebody physically limited onto an e-bike and sending them out into the Deschutes NF is dangerous and irresponsible.
Because of the pedal assist, e-bikes can go double the miles in the same amount of time as a traditional bike.
If someone wants to get out into the wilderness, they should be physical fit enough to do it under their own power.
In addition, Mr. Bartlett argued that average speed of e-bikes was not a major concern, mostly because they’re motor-limited to 28 mph. But actually, anybody who’s been passed by an e-bike on the trail knows it almost always happens on climbs, when an e-bike can travel two to three times the speed of a traditional bike or a hiker.
Lastly, e-bikes do make noise — as do all electric drive trains. You can hear it when they zip by you on the trail — a constant, low electronic hum. In sum, the current bike restrictions in our area are fine. And in fact, e-bike restrictions should be more strictly enforced. We don’t need motors on quiet, rustic wilderness trails.
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Running out of water
To the Editor:
Recent articles in The Nugget have addressed the rapid decrease in the availability of that most precious commodity here on the high desert—water. The reality is, it’s not if but when water around here will all but disappear. My attention to this subject was initially triggered by a recent letter to the patrons of my local water company. According to the owner, average domestic consumption is about 4,000 to 5,000 gallons a month. Some users, however, consume as much as 50,000 gallons a month and a couple use over 250,000 gallons a month!
I wrote to the Oregon Water Resources Department to ask about limitations on water utilization and enforcement mechanisms available to limit water usage.
Although there is a state-authorized use of water limited to in-home use and enough water to irrigate up to half acre per household for watering non-commercial lawns and gardens, there is no limitation on the gallons per day to individuals.
A call to the local watermaster revealed that the largest consumers of water are agricultural users.
They mainly use surface water (streams, rivers, canals, etc.).
There are limitations on the amount of water made available to them but a number of exceptions they can invoke allows them to have an almost unlimited amount of water.
They can also drill large-capacity wells, which allows them to consume high volumes of groundwater.
As for domestic usage, the watermaster asserts there is a “right” to access groundwater (water pumped from the aquifer beneath the ground).
Since the capacity of domestic wells is considered to be small, there is no need for restrictions on this consumption.
Conservation of water resources can lengthen the time we have until the water is gone. Watering lawns and operating water features, for example, increases water evaporation and seepage into the ground. Even those folks east of town with those dark-sky polluting light displays along their driveways waste the hydropowered and fossil fuel generated electricity it takes to needlessly illuminate the night skies.
So, it’s just a matter of time until the rapidly emptying, non-replenishing aquifer beneath us runs dry. We’re assured of that because the drought we are experiencing hasn’t been this bad for the last 1,200 years. All those million-dollar homes around here will become empty edifices littering a windswept desert landscape that has returned to its original purpose of growing sage and rabbitbrush.
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Support for Thielman
To the Editor:
Over the past two years, our state has suffered from excessive government overreach at a huge cost to businesses, school children, and the tourism on which many scenic areas depend. Marc Thielman has a proven track record of fighting against infringements on our freedoms. He was the only school superintendent to keep grades K-12 open throughout the pandemic. Enrollment in his district grew by 500 percent, a clear sign his policies reflected what Oregon families wanted.
We need a leader like Marc Thielman to clean house in Salem, support Oregon’s farmers and ranchers and return schools to teaching the basics children need to succeed. A significant number of Oregonians are unaffiliated with any political party and cannot vote in the primaries. I urge your readers to check their voter registration, register Republican, and support a candidate that will bring meaningful change to Oregon.
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To the Editor:
I wanted to give an update on the work on the new elementary school.
On May 18, 2021, voters in the Sisters School District (SSD) passed a $33,800,000 general obligation bond to pay for the construction costs of a new elementary school within the district, as well as related support and maintenance costs associated with the district’s 2016 master plan.
The new “shared campus” location for the elementary school is a critical component of the 2016 master plan. It will allow for increased safety, transportation, operational, and educational benefits for all of the students in the district. Fifth grade will return to the elementary school location, which is better aligned with educational best practices and also provides additional capacity in the middle school.
Despite rising costs of materials and other construction-related expenses, our current cost estimates for the design, construction, and facilitation of the new elementary school still anticipate meeting community needs and fulfilling the elementary school building program using the proceeds of the 2021 general obligation bond.
When we have a total cost of this project, and additional bond funds are still available after fully funding the new elementary school facilities, the district, school board, and bond oversight committee will consider applying those funds to address other high-priority needs included in the district’s long-range facilities plan, as described in the voter-approved bond language.
The school district and our design and construction partners continue to target an opening of the new school in time for the start of the 2023/24 school year, though this remains a very ambitious goal.
The old elementary school building and its surrounding grounds at the SE edge of downtown Sisters is a valuable asset for the Sisters community.
The District embraces the responsibility of using this asset for the best outcome for the community while also considering the future growth of the district.
Working with Citizens4Community (C4C), District staff and our school board have hosted a series of community engagements with voters and stakeholders to understand the greatest needs and best possible uses of the building and site, either on an interim or possibly long-term basis.
After this due diligence is completed, the school board will consider possibilities and communicate the District’s intentions for the old Sisters Elementary School building and grounds.
To view the most current plans for the new school, please visit: http://ssd6.org/schoolboard/2021bond/.
Thank you again to our community for supporting our schools.
Curt Scholl, Superintendent
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Sisters fire safety
To the Editor:
During the April 11 open house in Sisters, the Forest Service highlighted risks for the upcoming fire season, including persistent drought, low snowpack, and a precipitation deficit of 25 to 50 percent. Yet, during the presentation, one risk was largely ignored: human-caused fires.
According to the federal government, approximately 85 percent of U.S. wildland fires are started by people. This is especially concerning with recent fires burning at long-term campsites next to Highway 20 near the Best Western. These camps have been around for months in violation of the 14-day rule. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has implied that it is incapable of dealing with this preventable fire risk.
But the reality is that the Forest Service does have enforcement powers over this issue. Forest Service regulations make it illegal to reside in a national forest without permission. This includes living in trailers, RVs, and tents - anything “which is being used, capable of being used, or designed to be used, in whole or in part, full- or part-time, as living or sleeping quarters by any person.” These regulations also prohibit careless campfire activities and leaving refuse and litter. Violations are punishable by up to six months imprisonment and/or a $500 fine (see https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-36/chapter-II/part-261#261.9).
Not only is the Forest Service empowered to protect the forest from problems caused by illegal camping, it has done so in Oregon, including in the Umpqua and Klamath National Forests. Furthermore, the Forest Service’s enforcement of these regulations in Oregon has been affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (see United States v. Backlund; see also United States v. Lowry).
The Forest Service’s current position seems inconsistent with its own regulations, previous enforcement decisions, and federal court opinions. Officials have claimed that a magistrate judge would need to be involved to stop illegal camping that poses a danger to the forest. What they see as a hurdle is really an asset - the Forest Service should use the full resources of the federal government to protect the forest and everyone living here.
The Forest Service is the only agency with the power to reduce the risk of these human-caused fires. We are incredibly fortunate to have such a dedicated and professional team of Forest Service personnel working in the Sisters Ranger District. But unless this issue is addressed, the Forest Service’s commitment to fire prevention remains unfulfilled.
To express your concerns and/or share your experiences about fire risks in the Sisters Ranger District, please join the Sisters Fire Safety Facebook community: www.facebook.com/groups/645004856591510/.
Editor’s note: See related story.
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To the Editor:
There are so many positive attributes of Jamie McLeod-Skinner which make her the best choice to represent us in congress.
Jamie is a solution-finder who can get people to come together despite their political leanings so problems can be solved. She is brilliant at finding common ground, and so much of Oregon’s well-being is dependent on that common ground.
We all want the major issues resolved. We all want a healthy planet with clean water and air and the ability to enjoy the great outdoors of Oregon. We all want a healthy economy with doors open for everyone. Jamie has ramrodded fire recovery (Talent, Oregon), has been officially part of projects at Warm Springs and other regions, including in water shortage solutions, and has volunteered in humanitarian service in war-torn regions.
Carina Miller of Warm Springs described Jamie’s focus this way: “Jamie McLeod-Skinner doesn’t believe in spending the public’s money, but in investing the public’s money.” She is not a tax-and-spend kind of public servant. Her degrees in engineering and the law help her see from different perspectives for what will work best.
There is probably not an Oregon candidate who has spent more time with regular Oregonians in the last five years than Jamie, as she has traveled the wide expanses of this side of the mountains to hear from everyone. She is now doing the same in District 5 on the west side. We need someone in touch with our issues, not someone who is focused elsewhere.
Misleading advertising does not clear the voting record of her opponent, who has voted against clean water protections, against Medicare negotiation on drug prices, and against other measures that would upset Big Pharma and Big Oil, his major backers. McLeod-Skinner is not beholden to corporate donations. She takes none.
The majority of Democratic county memberships in District 5 have endorsed McLeod-Skinner for U.S. Congress from District 5. That is because they are local so they also understand our local issues that would benefit from her skills.
We need this person in the federal government, someone who might take her talent for finding common ground where it is needed most. Please vote Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the May primary for District 5.