Letters to the Editor 4/03/2024


Last updated 4/2/2024 at 9:40am

Student safety

To the Editor:

In response to the recent allegations against SHS choir teacher Rick Johnson, who has represented Sisters Folk Festival’s Americana Project for nearly 20 years, a simple question needs to be addressed: Is the Sisters Folk Festival (SFF) creating a successful and safe atmosphere for both teachers and students involved in its Americana Project? Should the Americana Project and its leadership be supporting their leading educator instead of distancing itself from the problem?

Note that The Americana Project is listed on the SFF website as one of the top accomplishments and Mr. Johnson’s name has already been removed. Has SFF demanded leadership with integrity, modeled and demand boundaries to keep both students and teachers safe? The very nature of festival production — and the requirements for every student enrolled in the SFF Americana Project — puts kids and leaders in abnormal student/teacher situations with kids and teachers in unsupervised and unmonitored activities, with fewer codified boundaries than there would be in a school setting. We should ensure that events like these have important oversight to protect the children who simply want to perform. I am not leveling accusations at anyone specifically, but I simply have concern that inappropriate activity has been happening for what sounds like quite some time, and the perpetrator was seemingly protected, or at least he was never discovered. Let’s look at the model of all programs involving youth in our community, including the Americana Project, to make sure both students and leaders are protected and set up for success.

Matt McDonnell

Editor’s note: The Nugget reached out to SFF Presents to provide answers to the questions Mr. McDonnell raises in his letter. Their response follows:

To the Editor:

Thank you for giving SFF Presents the chance to respond to Mr. McDonnell’s letter and to clear up a few points of potential misunderstanding.

SFFP is a community nonprofit that supports creativity through music and arts programming. Consistent with our mission, SFFP has been supporting art and music in the Sisters schools for 24 years, working with staff and administration to augment the good work they do with the resources they have, and to identify and help fill gaps that tight public education resources can’t reach. Mr. Johnson is one of several Sisters School District employees who have taught the Americana Project and other classes we have supported within the Sisters School District.

In recent years, our support for the Americana Program has been in the form of arranging for professional musicians to visit our schools, offering students performance opportunities, fully funding the Outlaw Strings program at SMS, helping advanced juniors and seniors to create professional-quality audio recordings of their music, and providing scholarships to qualifying graduating seniors. We host an Americana Arts Showcase at Sisters Art Works at the end of the school year, which showcases student-made guitars from the luthier program alongside the performances of AP students and an SHS advanced-placement art show in the Campbell Gallery.

Over the years, SFFP’s outreach has grown to include support for music and arts programming in all three SSD schools, but in no case does our support to the schools extend to hiring or direct supervision of any SSD employee.

When students take part in our summer programs or volunteer at one of our festivals, SFF Presents has a youth-protection policy in place that includes mandatory background checks for all SFFP staff and any volunteers who work directly with youth 18 and under. We also follow the “rule of threes” to eliminate situations where a youth would be alone with an adult.

Like all Sisters community members, we share completely Mr. McDonnell’s concern for the safety and well-being of our students, and we trust our schools’ administrators to manage their staff. We plan to continue our support for cultural programming at all three SSD schools, including the Americana Project, for years to come.

Crista Munro, Executive Director SFF Presents

What’s been going on?

To the Editor:

These past few weeks have seen the spectacle of the dysfunctional MAGA GOP continue to unfold.

The House finally passed the 2023-24 appropriations bills to stave off a government shutdown, the last one only hours before the latest deadline. The 2023-24 bills were supposed to have been passed nearly six months ago but weren’t, due to MAGA GOP infighting which led to the ouster of Speaker McCarthy. The last appropriations bill was finally passed with the overwhelming support of Democratic members and less than half of Republican ones. As a result, Speaker Johnson now faces a motion to vacate the chair … after the House returns from its recess.

Bipartisan Senate bills to address border security and to provide desperately needed assistance to Ukraine have been derailed by Trump and his allies. Two more members of the GOP majority have resigned, one citing their own party’s dysfunction as a reason and narrowing their party’s majority to one vote.

The House Republican Study Committee has released its dystopian 2024-25 budget, proposing to continue the failed policy of trickle-down economics that has resulted in so much economic inequality. A paper by an economist and a mathematician at Rand Corporation estimates that over $50 trillion have been transferred from the bottom 90 percent to the wealthiest.

Trump is now the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, and he is completing the final steps of the MAGA takeover of the party by installing his daughter-in-law as co-chair and installing his henchmen in the party’s rank and file.

Our representative in Congressional District 5, Lori Chavez-DeRemer, has tried to distance herself from the MAGA dysfunction in part by refusing to hold any in-person, unscripted town halls where she could be asked tough questions about her record. But that strategy has now been exposed for the sham it is.

First, she voted for extremist Mike Johnson for Speaker, calling him “a consensus candidate.” Next, she endorsed Trump on March 6, after he: said that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” echoing “Mein Kampf;” said he would abolish the Affordable Care Act, which now insures more than 40 million Americans; pledged to be a dictator on day one, if elected; caused the failure of the Senate bipartisan bill for border security and foreign aid for Ukraine; promised to deport millions by carrying out the largest deportation operation in U.S. history; said he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO allies who didn’t pay more for their defense; and claimed he has “complete and total immunity” for acts, including crimes, committed as president.

In the days since Chavez-DeRemer endorsed Trump, he has: announced that he supports a national abortion ban at 15 weeks, which would destroy the legal protections that Oregonians now have to get the healthcare they need; and said there would be a “bloodbath” if he loses the election.

Chavez-DeRemer refuses to denounce any of these statements, much less Trump’s continuing lies about winning the 2020 election, the atrocious behavior that led to his being held liable for fraud, sexual assault, and defamation, or the conduct that led to his being charged with dozens of state and federal felonies.

Fortunately, we will have the opportunity to send Chavez-DeRemer back to Happy Valley in November. She is too extreme for us!

Mary Chaffin

Bad math

To the Editor:

In response to Rob Phelps’ comments on the cost of defense funds being sent to Israel: Mr. Phelps, please learn to do basic math before submitting letters to the editor. You are off by a factor of 1000. Three orders of magnitude. The values you are looking for are $1,125 per person and $1,458 per Jewish citizen, not the $1,125,541 and $1,458,625 that you claim.

Honestly, I don’t disagree with you that the funding is fiscally irresponsible; that’s a topic for another day. I just believe that if people are going to try to make a case one way or another, they do so with accurate data and defensible math.

Dan Neal

Concerns about code changes

To the Editor:

TA24-01, the “Proposed Amendments to the Sun Ranch Tourist Commercial Zone” proposes a significant overhaul of the City’s Development Code. These extensive revisions are being sold as “simplifications and conformity with other sections of the Development Code.” In truth, they allow the tourism market conditions and goals promoted by Explore Sisters, the local Destination Management Organization, which in turn is funded by the City’s lodging taxes. This will make Sisters a Destination City above all considerations of the impact on those living here. Nowhere has there been a discussion of how the requested changes are consistent with the Sisters Vision, which is supposed to reflect the long term goals of the community.

The Sisters Planning Commission workshops on March 7 and March 21 show how City Planners and the Planning Commission have distorted the planning


The property owners’ stated purpose of the revisions is to continue and further the original intent of the current zoning. Instead, it is an attempt to mislead the community from the truth. The proposed changes focus on allowing RV parks to be included with hotels, motels, and hostels in a newly defined category named “lodging establishments.” This allows RVs and other non-permanent facilities to qualify as lodging facilities throughout the development code. Most importantly, all future commercial properties developed within Sisters will be able to focus primarily on tourism.

The Commission and Council are supposed to set policy, but should rely on qualified staff for a detailed, unbiased review of all potential benefits, risks, and negative impacts. Staff reports should include a clear summary with a checklist of pros and cons related to the goals of the Sisters Vision. Lastly, the planning commission should be provided enough time to evaluate staffs’ summaries prior to setting policy.

David Bachtel


Reader Comments(1)

MathTeacher writes:

Agreeing with Dan Neal, but also the publisher of the letter is responsible. Letters are opinions, yes, but basic math errors like this is a factual matter that need not be printed. 2+2=9? Maybe according to the Sisters Nugget. Embarrassing.


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