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Tag Archives: oregon

Evel Knievel At the Pearly Gates

We lost some interesting people last year. It was the death of Evel Knievel, the bunged up daredevil in the confederate-flag suit that hit closest to home. I was home from college after Evel’s famous jump over the Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho, not far away. I thought he was cheating by claiming to jump the “Snake River Canyon.” He knew darned well that we’d all imagine Hell’s Canyon, a huge chasm deeper than the Grand Canyon but then, Evel was always one for exaggeration. “I hear Evel’s got a brother, Awful Knawful, who’s even better than he is,” Bud said confidentially. “There is no such person, Bud.” “I’d still like to see him.” There never was much point in arguing with Bud. Read More »

Measure 37 Means Condos and … Compromise?

We haven’t heard much about Measure 37 recently, but that’s not because much isn’t going on — it is, and the biggest pieces of this fractured story are the least obvious. First, to the obvious: Measure 37 is about the money. The money that landowners claim they’ve lost or will lose by the state or counties barring them from developing. The money that lures forestry companies to turn from logging to condos. And the money that farmers, house-holders and others with what they see as presently useless or excess land are costing the rest of us with their claims. Claims may be totally legit (though numerous ones in Hood River County, at least, have asked to make developments that were never allowed under their original zoning), but they take public time to assess. That’s cost Wasco County, for one, several thousand dollars; and the real impact will come with the May rush, of some 30 claims to assess, according to The Dalles Chronicle. Wasco County doesn’t charge landowner claimants for its planners’ time. Hood River County, with many more claims, does; but nowhere near enough to pay for their efforts. Measure 37 presently accounts for an estimated 70 percent of the planning staff’s time — and the fees the county charges cover less than 10 percent of the planning budget... Read More »

China’s Newest Export To The NW Is Dirty Air

Can we agree that smoggy air is really counter to the whole idea of living in the Northwest? That haze doesn’t belong in the Columbia Gorge? Turns out, a growing cause of the haze that’s increasingly obvious here, is the slew of poison spewed into the air by China. Let me for the record say — that’s a bad thing. Clean air, good; polluted air, bad. I don’t how you vote or what whack-job political commentators you listen to — I don’t care — but my 3-year-old daughter shouldn’t have to breathe China’s dirty air in her Columbia Gorge backyard. Or any dirty air, for that matter... Read More »

Take A Second Look At Eco-Arson Case, Says Ore. Court

What does it take to become a political prisoner? A harsh sentence handed down for a politically motivated property crime? If so, then Jeff “Free” Luers fits the definition. A radical Eugene activist, Luers received a nearly 23-year prison sentence for torching three pickups and trying to ignite a gas tanker in 2000. No one was hurt and Luers’ co-defendant (Craig “Critter” Marshall) pleaded out to a 5 1/2-year sentence, leaving environmental activists to decry the surprisingly harsh sentence for Luers. But if a sentence’s harshness makes one a martyr, Luers will have the chance to become just a plain ol’ criminal. Last week, the Oregon Court of Appeals gave Luers a partial victory on his appeals. The courtordered a lower court judge to resentence Luers, and he may receive as little as a third his original 266-month imprisonment. What’s not apparent in the few news stories about the case is that Luers was just one of several Eugene-area environmental activists who turned to sabotage and arson. A band of activists turned radical in the 1990s, toppling and torching in opposition to consumerism, corporate power and forest development. Only last year were the radicals apprehended... Read More »

No Measure 37 Claims In Gorge Scenic Area, Says Court

The history was complex, but a recent ruling made it plain: Oregon’s Measure 37 does not apply in the Columbia Gorge’s National Scenic Area. That was the word from the Oregon Court of Appeals last week. The ruling (read it here) came a relatively swift two months after the court heard arguments in the case. The court action was a test case specifically designed to answer the question: which has precedence, the scenic area or Oregon’s land-use development law? Defendants Paul D. Mansur and Stephen Struck — both Hood River property owners wishing to develop modest parcels in the Gorge — were represented by Oregonians In Action, the point organization for Measure 37. OIA argued in court that since Oregon had to participate in the creation of the Columbia Gorge Commission, the Commission is a state agency. Actually, the court ruled, it’s a hybrid creature, a regional bi-state commission established under a Congressional act. Wrote the judges, “we agree with plaintiff that the interstate compact between Oregon and Washington that created the Commission has the force of federal law,” making the Scenic Area exempt from Measure 37 While lawyers were hashing out the Gorge-vs-Measure 37 case, legislators were beginning to tackle the law head-on. Democrats, now solidly in control of the Oregon Legislature and the governor’s seat, say they’re considering a revision of Measure 37. They say they may address the greatest issue at hand: that Measure 37, considered a matter of fairness by a large (if dwindling) number of Oregonians, opens loopholes for potentially massive developments... Read More »

Washington Legislature: With Neighbors Like This…

I was beginning to wonder if Oregon wasn’t the new California: The western state most noted for silly public goings-on.* But then there’s Washington. Right now, a Seattle Democrat state legislator is hoping to pass a law that would allow dogs in bars. Yep — can’t smoke in them, but you could bring your Labradoodle for some slobbery good times. State Sen. Ken Jacobsen is proposing a state law (SB 5484) allowing pooches in bars and establishments with liquor licenses, as long as the dogs are leashed and well-behaved. The definition of well-behaved remains undefined — so apparently the same meat-heads who carry dogs in their purses like fashion accessories and drive with them on their laps will get to decide if it’s okay that their dog is humping someone’s leg. (No word on whether bartenders would have to card dogs before serving them drinks. The legal dog age would be 3.) A supporter of the proposed law “said she ... would like the law to pass so she could bring her 112-pound Rottweiler, Ida, with her when meeting friends at bars.”... Read More »

Riparian Refuge Seeks Volunteers

Are you dying to save the environment but not sure where to start? Here is an idea: Stewardship Saturdays! Jim Clapp of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service in Washington is looking for a little help (or a lot of help) to replant three small National Wildlife Refuges on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge - Steigerwald Lake near Washougal, Franz Lake near Skamania, and Pierce between Beacon Rock and North Bonneville. I spoke to Jim Clapp this morning and he assured me these work parties are completely kid friendly. So why not make a family day of it? When I brought my boys to a Pick up the Giff work party last fall, it was fun and environmentally rewarding. Plus, because I’m desert born and raised, it was a chance to apply a parental homily: “When I was a kid we didn’t have Beautiful Forests to play in.” But more apt perhaps is this sentiment: “Someday, when you have kids, I want them to have Beautiful Forests to play in.” Here is the official Press Release... Read More »

Bozeman Leader Responds To His Town’s Impugned Honor

Steve Kirchhoff

It definitely touched a raw nerve. When Stephen Matlow, editor of the Livingston Enterprise newspaper, wrote an editorial recently calling high and mighty Bozeman, Montana "butt ugly", a town rapidly losing its community soul, many citizens residing in Matlow's intended target reacted with the outrage of defensiveness. Current Bozeman City Commissioner Steve Kirchhoff, a former mayor and home-grown community leader who was once a school teacher in urban Chicago but in the 1990s with his physician wife decided to return to his native town to raise their family, took Matlow's semi-satirical observations to heart. And Kirchhoff's own assessment may surprise you. Like former Missoula Mayor Dan Kemmis [now director of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West], Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and others, Kirchhoff believes that what defines the modern West is not just the innovative approaches being employed to make money or selling real estate -- an improvement over the boom and bust days of frontier gold rushes -- but its capacity to see community as something more than economic, social and religious homogeneity. For Kirchhoff, it's the stuff that doesn't appear on ledger books that matters just as much as what's visible in statistics to bean counters. —Todd Wilkinson Read More »

Why Are We So Warm In January?

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about the Gorge is the seasons. We have them; unlike some of the other places I’ve lived, where either summer or winter or some particular sort of weather predominates. In the Gorge, we have summer, fall, winter, spring. Four beautiful stages of the year, as I’ve told friends in other places more than once. Thanks for making a liar of me, weather. It’s hit 50 degrees or warmer for the past several days here in The Dalles. It’s been pleasant, but disconcerting. You shouldn’t be able to stroll around without a coat in January. This comes on the heels of the notice that scientists are saying 2007 could be the warmest year ever recorded. Yes, that’s anecdotal evidence, but still a close-to-home example of global warming. It’s also part of larger pattern, what with recent repeat floods in our backyard, and endangered polar bears up north. And then there’s this: that every year since 1992 has made the list of the 20 warmest years on record... Read More »

Oregon Legislature Adds Measure 37 “Fairness” Committee

Senator Floyd Prozanski may have one of the hottest seats in the Oregon Senate -- if not the state -- when the 2007 legislature convenes in Salem on Monday. Committee assignments handed out December 15 tapped Prozanski, a Eugene Democrat representing District 4 in southern Lane and northern Douglas counties, to chair the Special Senate Committee on Land Use Fairness. The committee was created due to widespread concern over Measure 37, the property rights law that requires compensation for value lost to regulation, or waiver of the regulation. Many believe that thousands of Measure 37 claims statewide, nearly half of them filed in the weeks before an initial deadline Dec. 4, could create far more rural residential development than Oregon voters expected, or intended, when they approved the initiative 61 to 39 percent in 2004. On the other hand, the measure itself was about fairness, a response to restrictive land-use laws against which proponents bridled. Among those concerned over the law’s outcomes — enough to have formed a semi-secretive group to work on the issue nine months ago -- is Governor Ted Kulongoski. The Governor announced "his" group back in March, and unveiled his evolving intentions in an October 13 letter to the Oregon Land Use Task Force (the "Big Look"), saying he had “directed his staff to draft … a legislative concept with the expectation that it be introduced” in the 2007 session... Read More »