Thursday, November 26, 2015

There was a troubling undertone to the Clatsop County Commission meeting Wednesday when it appeared that the commission had voted the will of the people in tabling the proposal to slap a new layer of regulation on property owners.

I was at that meeting specifically to watch what was going on because when you just listen to a recording you miss the body language that is critical to human communication.

Words for “the record” do not communicate nearly as much.

You miss the sideways glance and that “deer caught in the headlights” look one could clearly see in some of the commissioner’s eyes when faced with a large concerned crowd.

You can also see what’s missing.

Over a hundred citizens packed the meeting space at the Boyington building to attend a public hearing on the proposed Tsunami Overlay Zone. We’ll never know how many of those citizens were there to speak in favor or against the proposal because the hearing was cut short by Commission Chair Scott Lee after the staff report when commission took the unusual step of accepting a motion to table the proposal while the hearing was still open. Astonishing!

Granted, this was a continuance of the hearing that began at the previous commission meeting but I would take that to mean the commission intended to open the floor. It would be a false assumption that all those people just wanted to hear the vote.

Chair Lee works off a script to run his meeting. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as the actual meeting doesn’t vary from the script. He gets lost quickly when things go awry. It appears that may have happened when instead of the Community Development Director recommending the commissioners take further testimony, close the hearing, and vote to approve the overlay zone, Jennifer Bunch suggested the commission table the proceeding. Perhaps he wasn’t in the loop on that change.

Leanne Thompson was well prepared when she said she may have had an exparte contact, and she said so did Dirk Rohne, with the same person. She said she didn’t realize that taking with the President of the Planning Commission informally about the proposal represented an outside contact that might affect her ability to vote fairly on the issue. She said that Bruce Francis told her that after hearing so many negative comments from the public that people would just have to “get used to the idea”.

Isn’t it odd that Rohne was the one who made the motion to table?

Thompson then launched into a speech saying that she appreciated the involvement of the

people in the room and talked about how important it is that we make the county a place we all want to live…words to that effect. Then she suggested bringing in experts to answer specific questions about codes and insurance and finance echoing what Bunch had said.

She later stopped Chair Lee from moving on with the agenda until her suggestions were part of staff direction.

The motion to table was seconded, somewhat reluctantly, by Commissioner Nebeker because she said she wanted the board discussion.

At some point before the vote on the motion the public hearing was closed and I don’t recall the chair asking the public for comment either way.

They voted. Done. People applauded and left the building.

Commissioner Lee made it a point to say that the issue was likely to come up in Salem in the short session and encouraged the public to stay informed and that the county voice would be heard. Just what that voice might be saying is still in question.

It was just all strange.

Why did the county pursue this at all?

Why didn’t the board just dump the idea entirely?

Why didn’t the mailers about the public meetings stress new land use regulations instead of Tsunami education?

Why does the Community Development Department leave out the part about the new regulations you would be forced to follow to rebuild in a Tsunami Overlay Zone?

Did the county talk to the cities about this at all? How about the Port? The county’s pre-emptive approval of the FEMA flood maps certainly indicates silo thinking that impacts all those jurisdictions and the inability of the County Commission to understand those impacts.

I would agree with one thing that was said. It’s time to take a step back.

Way back.

Angus Deaton of Princeton University won the Nobel prize in economics Monday for improving understanding of poverty and how people in poor countries respond to changes in economic policy.

Deaton, 69, won the 8 million Swedish kronor (about $975,000) prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for work that the award committee said has had "immense importance for human welfare, not least in poor countries."

The secretary of the award committee, Torsten Persson, said Deaton's research has "shown other researchers and international organizations like the World Bank how to go about understanding poverty at the very basic level."

Read more: Thinking Hard About Numbers

The sign on the door at Astoria's Danish Maid Bakery reads "Closed Til Further notice".  It was a bit of a shock when I walked over to order a cake and found the doors locked and that sign hanging.  I'm sure I'm not the only one to experience some astonishment. For decades as I would make that early morning drive to the radio station I would see some lights on in the back of the bakery and know that John Lindstrom had been working for hours already.  John is the owner and the sole baker.  The Danish Maid has been one of those little community gathering spots forever.  Day after day I'd drive by hoping to see the door open and the sign gone but day after day the doors remain locked.

So what's going on?  I found out this afternoon with an email from Rosemary Johnson who writes that Lindstrom has been hospitalized. John had his leg amputated. As a result, the entire family is out of work with no income, medical bills are rising, and there will need to be upgrades to the home and business to make them wheelchair accessible.

Rosemary writes that there are some community fundraising efforts coming up to help the family.  I'll tell you about those in a moment.

A quick story about John first.   Over the years the Astoria Lion's Club would raise some money for our charity fund by catering barbecues.  We would serve some large groups, often in the hundreds. John wasn't a Lion but each time we needed help he never once said no to us.  He would use his big ovens to bake hundreds of potatoes  at a time and never charged a dime to do it because he was well aware of how the money we rasied was being used in the community.  There are probably other things he did without fanfare because he's just that kind of guy.

Now he needs some help and so does his family.

A community-wide fund raiser will be held on Saturday, October 24, 2015 with a Walk-a-Thon on the Astoria River Trail from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. The walk will begin at the Maritime Memorial at Bay and West Marine Drive and will end at the Columbia River Maritime Museum Barbey Center (the old train station) at 20th and Marine Drive. There will be a Silent Auction at the Barbey Center from 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm. Dozens of items for the auction have been donated by many local businesses and individuals.

Walkers are asked to make a donation or get friends to sponsor them for the walk but even if you can’t make a donation, come and show your support for the Lindstrom family.

On Friday, October 9, Rusty Cup at 1213 Commercial Street will donate $1 for each drink sold. On Saturday, October 17, Astoria Coffee House at 243 11th Street will donate 25% of the day’s proceeds. So eat, drink, and help Raise the Dough for Danish Maid.

Donations may also be made to the Wells Fargo account “Raising the Dough for Danish Maid Bakery”.

To help with the event or for questions, call Muriel Jensen at 503-325-5683.


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