alternative press serving the lower columbia pacific region


Special Districts Election Ballots Due May 17

BALLOTS have been mailed out to residents of Oregon for the 2011 special districts election and are due by May 17.

In Clatsop County, the only county-wide race with a challenger is for Port of Astoria Commissioner, Position 3. Tim Liddiard, a progressive and newcomer to politics, is running against the incumbent, Bill Hunsinger. Hunsinger won his seat on an anti-LNG, pro-union platform, and has been instrumental in guiding the Port towards being a more industrial, shipping-based agency. After a bitter battle with Oregon LNG, the Port has given up on the goal of ending the sub-lease on the Skipanon Peninsula with that company. Liddiard has promised to be more open and responsive to county residents, and focus on providing services to the whole county. He is critical of the decision to start a log export operation at the Port, and wants to start work right away to bring rail service to the whole county. (For more on Liddiard, see the April 2011 issue of HIPFiSH.)

In Tillimook County, one of the races that has generated a lot of interest has been the North County Recreation District (NCRD) board in Nehalem, which has 3 open seats that all have challengers. Only one incumbent, board chair Marie Ziemecki, is running. She is being challenged by Darrell Winegar, a former business owner who went to work for the Mohler Co-op in 1996. Lining up on the progressive side with Ziemecki are Julie Chick, former owner of Nehalem Bay Kayak Company, and Kevin Greenwood, Manager at the Port of Garibaldi since 2009, and former Manager of the City of Garibaldi. Greenwood also served on the NCRD board from 2005-2008. In addition to Winegar, two other conservatives are running – Jon Welsh (against Greenwood), part-owner of Manzanita Fresh Foods, and Angela Hanke (against Chick). The conservatives are against taxpayer funding of the district facilities, while the progressives would like to see continued public funding.

A similar situation exists with the Nehalem Bay Fire & Rescue District, with 3 conservatives trying to unseat current members of the board. The conservatives claim that the fire district is too big for the region it serves, and want to reduce taxpayer outlays.

Residents of Clatsop County should note that applications to serve on the county planning commission are due by May 13. The county board of commissioners recently voted to vacate all seven seats on the panel and invite the current members and new applicants to apply for the vacated positions. The planning commission advises the board of commissioners on land-use planning, conducts land-use hearings and implements the county’s zoning and comprehensive plan. The panel normally meets once a month.

For more information on the elections and appointments in Clatsop County, including drop-off sites, call the county clerk at 503-325-8511. In Tillamook County, call 503-842-3402.

Editor’s sudden exit raises questions

WHEN I DIE, it would be great if Michael Burkett were still around these parts and would say something at my funeral. If that happens, I hope he talks about our common passion for words.

Mike Burkett

Michael Burkett

Personally, I would be honored if Michael would come to the gathering dressed in the same duds he wore at the first human Be-in at Golden Gate Park — the opening event for the Summer of Love. Hopefully my funeral would recycle some of that living color that’s been drained from today’s whitewashed world.

It may seem strange that I’m musing about my death in the wake of Michael’s untimely passing from the North Coast Citizen. Yet the event prods my sense that America’s press is becoming a lifeless shell of what it once was. The march of today’s media makes it easy to imagine that columnists like me won’t be around much longer.

In his own words, Michael was “forced to resign” from his position as editor of the North Coast Citizen. That statement is firmly disputed by the newspaper’s owner, Steve Forrester, whose family also owns the Daily Astorian and other news outlets. Both men could be correct, in my opinion, depending on how the word “forced” is used.

It bears noting that Michael’s resignation occurred amidst a heated local election. Days before Michael’s departure, a Manzanita-area Tea Party organizer singled out Michael as the reason why the North Coast Citizen fails to meet the political standards for a small-town newspaper. This opinion was posted by Jim Welsh, a candidate for local office, on a popular email list serve called the “BBQ.”

Welsh explained that the Citizen’s editorial content prompted his son Jon – also a candidate for local office — to stop stocking the local newspaper of record for customers at his business (Manzanita’s largest grocery store). For the past several months, shoppers have had to go elsewhere to buy the Citizen in order to read local news articles, commentary, and public notices.

The heat of this drama is turned up by the broader political context. Both Jim and Jon Welsh and their allied local candidates have upped the ante with anti-incumbent rhetoric. This mirrors the Tea Party insurgency against public officials that has been broadcast by the media at the state and federal levels.

In other words, the timing of Michael’s departure couldn’t have been worse. It makes it look as if the long arm of the Tea Party was successful in getting rid of him. Or, more specifically, that one of this newspaper’s [the Citizen] former advertisers – a business closely associated with the Tea Party — complained to the paper’s owners, who then somehow forced Michael to leave.

A different impression emerges from my conversation with Dave Fisher, who is serving as the Citizen’s interim editor. It appears the newspaper’s owners may have taken Michael to task for his colorful and sometimes biting efforts to tell the truth. Was that done to help restore calm to a community that’s become too inflamed for the common good? Or, was it done to mend relations with a former advertiser?

The answer to those questions could be “some of both.” It could be a blend of these things plus other factors I’m not privy to.

Regardless, this little drama prompts me to ponder bigger questions about our society. What happens when the loudest voices in the room are able to stifle communication? What happens when those voices treat the idea of “common good” as if it were communist hogwash, professing that most if not all public services should be either eliminated or controlled by private interests?

From what I’ve observed, that’s the gist of the Tea Party’s influence on public discourse in America, since it took the stage to disrupt town hall meetings on health care two years ago. At every turn, the idea of discussing and resolving problems by public or collective means has been torpedoed by this well-promoted group.

Does that kind of anti-public influence have any bearing – direct or indirect — on what happened to Michael Burkett? I want to believe it did not, but I don’t know.

In any event, the timing of this drama helps fuel the appearance that we are living in a corporate state. On the broader front, a collusion of business and government has depleted our limited resources. Rather than band together to counter this dynamic, citizens fight amongst ourselves while remaining resources are diverted from public needs into the hands of a private few.

What troubles me most is that I can picture a future where Americans are unable to freely discuss this concern in small-town newspapers. “Use your words,” we’ve told our children since they were toddlers. This column records my effort to model that advice as a grown-up.

I hope to see such efforts make a difference before I die. Maybe readers will be moved to think, debate, and try to integrate various viewpoints into greater truths. Perhaps all media outlets and businesses will become more supportive of open public discourse in our community.

At a minimum, it would be nice to know my family can pick up copies of my obituary at the local store that sells our favorite orange juice. Such things should foster common ground for the civil exchange of ideas, opinions and news.