Letter to the Editor: February 2, 2024

Make it affordable

In last week’s Whatchamacolumn, lamenting the unsettling decline of letters to the editor, Jeb Bladine suggested various local issues deserving of comment. They included “McMinnville housing needs for a predicted 48,000 population in 2041.”

The recent McMinnville Housing Needs Analysis for the year 2041 was based on a population estimate, not prediction, of 47,498, not 48,000. Further, this estimate was provided by Portland State University’s Population Research Center seven years ago, so is badly outdated. The current 2041 estimate from PRC, released in November, projects a population of 40,462.

So we need to add housing for about 5,000 people over the next 17 years. Even at a modest density of six homes per acre and 2.5 residents per household, that means the city only needs about 333 acres for additional housing through the year 2041.

In December 2020, the city council approved an Urban Growth Boundary expansion adding 862.4 acres, 559 dedicated to residential use. So there is already plenty of land inside the UGB to house all the residents currently projected to live here by 2041.

Despite this surplus, though, the city has embarked on another UGB expansion of about 400 acres. It is currently awaiting final council approval.

The housing shortage is real. So also is the shortage of jobs paying enough so McMinnville workers can afford the housing already being built.

The solution, however, is not adding more land to the UGB. Instead, the city needs to get the land already in the UGB ready for construction, then let contractors get to work.

It is time to stop wasting taxpayer dollars promoting imaginary population and land need projections. It is time to start building some housing that the people who work here can actually afford.

Mark Davis


Not so stellar

“A small step for Water & Light a big step for our community,” you say? Because “the city has compiled a stellar record of delivering on major projects of this ilk,” you maintain?

So why then did the city find it necessary to slap a $13 a month “fee” on our Water & Light bill to balance the budget? It doesn’t seem to me like that’s so stellar.

Maybe the previous administrators knew how to live within their means — and ours — so didn’t find it necessary to add fees. Maybe the current group is just taking the easy way out.

Their fees don’t have to get voter approval. But they will have a hard time selling a bond issue to those of us who object to an additional $146 a year to cover their cost overruns.

Suzanna Moore


Insights of 55 years

The N-R publisher is unsettled by a decline in letters to the editor (Whatchamacolumn 1/27/24). I would like to offer some insight as to why that might be.

In my opinion, the leanings of the editorial staff are strongly to the left. The news section as well as the opinion section of the paper reflect it.

By doing this over the years, the paper has lost the readership of a large group of right to center leaning customers.

As an example, on the front page of the same edition, the headline was “YCAP ousts Mary Starrett from the board.” This reflects negatively on Commissioner Starrett, and I believe it was on purpose.

After reading the article in its entirety, I find that an equally slanted headline might have been, “YCAP sleeps while homeless freeze.”

My point is this: Headlines have consequences. In this case, they came at Commissioner Starrett’s expense.

There is so much more to be learned here before any bricks are thrown.

What if the editorial board included a skilled member of that lost readership, bringing balance to the opinion page? What if the N-R made a concerted effort to report news devoid of political opinion in its headlines and the content of its news pages? What if the N-R tagline read, “Democracy thrives when honest and balanced opinions provoke public debate”?

I agree with your publisher that too many people have retreated into their own political cults and digital tribes. This is not healthy for McMinnville, nor society as a whole.

In the meantime, I will give my input when I think it’s appropriate. I will also continue to follow the lives and obituaries of the many folks in the community I have known and respected over the last 55 years I’ve lived here.

Dennis Goecks


Tax and spend

Are our city councilors tone deaf?

First they foist a $13 a month utility tax on us without so much as a vote, just because they can. Then, using the popularity of the McMinnville Fire Department as a distraction, they raise our property taxes.

Before they can even decide how to spend all that extra tax money, they are making plans to propose we contribute an additional $111 million — or more — to construct a new recreation center. Every year seems to bring a new idea on how to pry our money from us.

Unfortunately, at some point a really needy or worthwhile project will come along and be voted down simply because residents are already tapped out. What a shame that project will end up bearing the brunt of voters’ frustration.

Maybe instead we should let the councilors know what we think of their tax and spend habits come election time!

Mark Bierly


Keep it public

There’s something so uniquely American about Carnegie libraries.

That hard-nosed capitalist Carnegie donated money to build free public libraries, to be supported by tax dollars for the benefit of all. It was a display of socialism at its best.

When I read the Jan. 26 editorial about the plans for a new recreation center, I noted that several community buildings, including our 1912 Carnegie library, were described as being “in dire need of replacement.”

I love libraries, and would support construction of a new one someday. But let’s not forget the public nature of the beautiful library that has been here for years.

So many of the old Carnegie libraries are now in private hands.

They have become offices, residences, bars and restaurants. Some have even been demolished.

When the time comes, how about turning our historic library into a space everyone can access — a local history museum, or an arts and culture center with gallery and performance space? I’m sure there are many creative ideas out there for reusing our older public buildings in ways that allow them to remain open to the public — even the ones going “all the way back to 1912.”

Lucinda Huffine


Not buying it

I have been watching recordings of our city council meetings, specifically the public testimony sections where people keep talking about “the homeless problem.”

It seems that the comments are coming from people who think only a little or not at all. They must be reading some version of a form letter sketched out by someone looking to use homelessness and the vagaries of public safety as a tool to gain political power.

They seem fixed on seeing local office limited to those with rich, white, business-owning bona fides, intent on taking a Mafioso approach to addressing the public safety fervor they conjured up. But only if you buy what they’re selling, of course!

Anne Messner


Making a difference

January’s Carolyn Hax column discussed the benefits of volunteering for individuals and the community.

As it happens, The Plastic Project will be presenting The Joy of Volunteering, How to be Great at Doing Good, at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the McMinnville Public Library’s Carnegie Room. It’s part of a speaker series Zero Waste McMinnville is hosting there every first Monday through May.

Each organization in our community depends on folks who give their time and energy to help accomplish a mission. This one-hour program will discuss how we can create the ripple effect in our community with thoughtful activism through such organizations.

Choose a group that interests you and sign up. Each one of us can make a difference!

Jeri White


Trails in peril

The first time my wife and I bicycled the Banks-to-Vernonia rails-to-trails recreation trail, she was quite nervous, as she was recovering from a fall from a horse resulting in broken bones in both legs.

Adding to the tension, the trail was absolutely clobbered with children of all ages. So where did all these kids come from?

The mystery was solved as we passed a couple of the trail’s picnic areas. Two large churches and a synagogue were having family events.

We’ve cycled the trail a number of times since. Although it has been busy, nothing matched the pandemonium we first encountered.

This recreation asset is now threatened in Oregon, as are all other trails and parks. It’s all because a recent court ruling has weakened the recreational immunity laws that protect cities and counties from being sued for millions of dollars by people who injure themselves while using them.

Insurance companies are threatening cities and counties with policy cancellations. As a result, parks and trails could close.

Oregon lawmakers can prevent this by strengthening our recreational immunity laws.

Without parks, where will our Little League baseball, softball and soccer teams play? Dog parks, skate parks and picnic areas could be closed as well.

We need more local recreation opportunities, not fewer.

I urge citizens to contact their lawmakers and demand a fix, as the health and wellbeing of our communities is at stake. For us, that’s Rep. Lucetta Elmer, 503-986-1424, and Sen. Brian Boquist, 503-876-8676.

For the sake of Banks-to-Vernonia trail fans, I hope Washington County folks will do the same.

Dan Armstrong


Cherish the character

Every time I see the conceptual drawings of the planned Third Street renovation, I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my historic preservationist gut.

I understand the need to remove trees encroaching on sidewalks and underground facilities, but a visual modernization of the streetscape will change the historic nature of our beloved downtown. The old-fashioned character that appeals to locals and visitors alike doesn’t have the slick modern attributes that always accompany a makeover purporting to look historic.

Those of us who love Oregon’s favorite downtown must be extra vigilant in monitoring proposed changes, before it’s too late.

Phyllice Bradner


Gated roads and meetings

I have two issues on my mind.

First, there is the gate sought by Mary Starrett’s husband for the county road they live on. I am glad the other two commissioners turned it down, as there are no grounds for making their road private.

Show me the records of fire danger, which is the issue with High Heaven gating.

A few items tossed out along the road does not make this road anything special. And who really knows who’s dumping this stuff anyway?

Are their records of the county being called out with trucks and loaders to pick up the trash? If so, how often?

This is a road built and maintained through use of our tax money for public use and access from both counties, not in the interest of any personal idea of privacy.

Then there’s YCAP kicking Mary Starett off its governing board for inviting Newberg officials to attend a board meeting and view a reworked Newberg shelter against the wishes of other members. Maybe YCAP needs to rethink who donated that house and property in the first place.

It belonged to the city, but YCAP whined about needing it to serve Newberg citizens, so got it for free. The donation helped leverage more state and federal money for YCAP’s pot of gold.

Also, I have to ask why with a publicly funded organization is allowed to meet in private anyway. Are all of its meetings classified as executive sessions, thus qualifying for exemption under the law?

Does YCAP think it’s above the law, so can do as it wishes? My thought would be that YCAP is in violation of Oregon public meetings law, and that should be addressed by the state.

Roger Currier


Pleasant surprise

My wife and I have driven past the Hamblin Eatery in Lafayette many times, and vowed to stop in to eat there. It looks so inviting.

So after a recent trip to Portland, we went in for dinner on the way back. And what a pleasant surprise.

The owners were delightful and friendly. The restaurant was spotlessly clean and nicely furnished. And most importantly, the food was nicely prepared and well delivered.

They serve desserts as well. We were too full, but will return some time for house-made flan or tiramisu.

Yours in food.

John and Joan Schindelar


All too predictable

I have been waiting and hoping Israel’s Gaza war would end, or at least be interrupted for humanitarian reasons.

But it hasn’t. And while it has largely fallen out of the headlines, it continues to kill thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and smaller but still significant numbers in the West Bank.

Whether it constitutes genocide, as pressed by South Africa at the World Court, may be debatable. But it is inhumane, immoral and is no longer in any way proportionate to Hamas’s horrendous actions of Oct. 7.

The worst part is, we are complicit. It is our bombs that are raining down on Palestinians.

President Biden embraced Netanyahu only days after the Oct. 7 massacre, as if Israel had been totally without any fault in the matter. In fact, Israel had imposed a decades-long blockade on Gaza, so conditions there were not dissimilar to a refugee camp.

One episode of atrocities against Gaza is worth remembering.

From March 30, 2018, to Dec. 27, 2019, Palestinians in Gaza carried out a Great Return March every Friday. They would gather along the peripheral fence to demand an end of the Israeli blockade.

Israeli forces fired live rounds at these rock-throwing Palestinian protestors, their snipers targeting legs. After eight months, Gaza’s Health Ministry said more than 10,000 demonstrators had been treated, more than 5,000 of them for leg wounds. Doctors Without Borders said it had treated 3,117 demonstrators, mostly for gunshots to the legs.

On March 6, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an account based on interviews with six Israeli snipers. Aiming at Palestinian legs was a game to them. One of them bragged about getting 42 knees in one day — May 14, 2018, the day the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem was inaugurated.

What did Israel expect?

Les Howsden



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