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Wednesday, March 29th

What Kind of Community?



Warning: Reading the column below may cause elevated blood pressure in some people (you know who you are). Do not pop a vessel. Strap on and pump-up that blood pressure device and quit reading when it goes off the scale. If you do read it, remember these are opinions and should not be confused with real journalism. While some people will appreciate the pretentious humor herein others will likely think these are just the words of some loudmouth blowhard that doesn't know what he's talking about. Keep reading at your own risk. Here we go.

Never underestimate the damage that can be done to a community by self-righteous individuals joined together into one large sanctimonious group. The following story is true.

June 1981, in the tiny ranching town of Antelope, Oregon, followers of the Guru Bhagwan Shree Rashneesh purchased the Big Muddy Ranch. They called themselves "Rashneeshees" which translates into; you guessed it, "Friends of the Bhagwans".

As their population increased, the Rashneeshees' gained control of the Antelope City Council. Then they began a program of bussing people in from other cities promising them free housing and registering them to vote. Their goal was to take over the local politics of Wasco County.

The locals cringed as they watched the friends of the Bhagwans' fly in on private jets and drive around in their vintage collection of Rolls Royce's. The locals realized that the mission of these friends was to turn this place into their own private exclusive community. What would become of the independent long time residents of this once friendly small town?

Certainly there would be zero tolerance for those who would dissent from the orthodoxy of the "so-called" Friends and who refused to be absorbed by the giant green "blob" of environmental extremism; I'm sorry, I got ahead of myself. I meant assimilated into the cult of the Bhagwan (or Borgwan).

Then in a bizarre twist to this story, the Rashneeshees attempted to poison people in The Dalles, Oregon, on Election Day, by putting salmonella into the salad bars at restaurants where the locals hung out.

It turned out that the local ranchers preferred Big Bob's beefy burgers to salad and went to vote. The plot to disrupt the election was foiled. The Sheriff rounded up those responsible for the poison attack. The leaders fled. Some were arrested and put in jail. The group eventually disbanded before they completely ruined the community. Who would want to live in a place like that where zealots controlled everything?

So, what kind of community would I prefer to live in? I would like to live in a place where a special interest group does not control local politics like the Friends of the Bhagwan's controlled this Oregon community; A place that respects diversity of opinions.

If this story sounds familiar it is because a similar group exists today in our community. Instead of poisoning the salad with salmonella, their devotees taint our regulations to stop growth under the guise of saving Salmon because they have their estates with docks and guesthouses and they do not wish others to have the same, thank you very much.

Now in the community where I used to live new people were welcomed instead of being blamed for all the problems of growth. New people would not be forced to pay outrageous impact fees and be taxed to pay for some special interests groups' social engineering project to give away houses.

I used to live in a place where my neighbors had the same opportunities as everyone else to build their dream homes. Not a place where more than 30 family's dreams are put in jeopardy for years while this special interest group messes around in court trying to manipulate regulations in order to deny them their legitimate rights. Just a few years ago people would not even think of giving their money to support a group that did this kind of thing. They were friends of islanders as well as the islands.

Real friends would not support an army of attorneys who set neighbor against neighbor in land use disputes over single-family residential development or someone's cottage enterprise. They would however identify real threats to the environment and fight those.

Real friends would work to build a community instead of dividing it. They would do this by being tolerant and respectful of the rights of neighbors instead of suing them. They would live by the golden rule and would not be slavish to the orthodoxy of some sanctimonious greener-than-thou group. That's my opinion, I could be wrong. Now how's that blood pressure?

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Wednesday, March 22nd

Pit Bulls or Poodles?



At a recent meeting the County Council was embroiled in discussion about dogs. Councilman Ranker was in a gruff mood after growling and snapping at the Prosecuting Attorney. Kevin was like a Pit Bull wearing a spiked collar as he barked, "You don't have the authority to cancel hearings!" "Woof! Woof! Woof!" went the tirade.

I give Randy credit for remaining cool and calm during the long angry outburst. But the entire scene gave me insight into the struggle for power that lies just under the surface at the Courthouse.

A majority of people voted in favor of the Charter. I do not pretend to know why voters did this and do not want to get into speculation about the reasons to try and make a point. It is the law now. The fact that the Charter limits the power of the Council is hard for some of the present members to swallow. Trying to bite the hand of the Prosecutor as he reaches out to help is a symptom of frustration with the changes that are afoot. Feel free to disagree with my analysis. I could be wrong. Let's get back to the dogs.

The recent popularity of lamb-flavored kibbles is not to blame for dog attacks on sheep. You can find evidence of dogs chasing sheep as far back in history as you want to go. Dogs just do this. Livestock owners in San Juan County need real cooperation from dog owners. The regulations need teeth.

Should some breeds of dogs be banned from the Islands? "No", Kevin yapped. "Poodles are responsible for more attacks on people than Pit Bulls. Pit Bulls are in sixth or seventh place on the list".

Now this caused my jaw to drop. First off, I thought we were talking about livestock attacks. Secondly, the poodle of choice amongst islanders is the toy version. I just can't picture a pack of toy poodles prancing around chasing sheep or Alpacas. (I thought Alpacas were related to poodles just bigger).

I was relieved when Councilman Lichter jumped in to defend the Poodles. "Now just hold on there." he said, "Poodles don't have the same weapons that Pit Bulls have. When they decide to go after something they don't have the same capacity to do damage".

And that is exactly my point. The Charter is like a muzzle to keep the big dogs from biting. The Council Members have been neutered. They are no longer Pit Bulls to be feared because of the damage they can cause. The people want the milder gentler Poodle-like qualities in their leaders. And the people are patient. They understand that it might take time for them to get the idea. But they will get it eventually.

And one final thought. The last meeting was conducted on the floor level. It was the first time I can recall when the Council was not sitting high and mighty on the podium above the Administrator and the people. So I urge the Chairman to fulfill his campaign promise and "Tear Down That Wall!"

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Sunday, March 12th

To The Dump for a Laugh



Going to the dump these days has become an entertaining adventure for me. I am a frequent self-haul customer on San Juan Island. The comical things I see at the dump make me wonder why they do things the way they do. Can it be for our amusement or is there some other reason for the high jinks?

I passed through the gates and up the hill. Halfway up there is a guy in a fluorescent suit sitting in an old executive office chair reading a recycled magazine. This is a relatively new practice and I'm not sure why he gets paid to sit in an easy chair. But it is very amusing.

Surprised by my sudden presence he looks up from his reading. His face says, what can this clown possibly want? Then he asks me "Garbage?"
I replied, "No thanks I've already got a truck full. Know where a guy can get rid of the stuff?"
He looks at me like I am the fly who just landed in his ice cream sundae. I think he must have no sense of humor whatsoever. "Yeah, garbage", I say.
"Wait here", he says.
So I turn up the music in my truck, Johnny Cash. I can't see anyone else up ahead of me but I can tell by his vibes that this guy does not want me looking over his shoulder as he reads his magazine. He wants me out of his face. I have spoiled his private moment. But despite my friendly persona and the extra bonus he is getting as "Sea of Heartbreak" comes blasting out of my truck window, he points and says, "Go on up".

Since I am an experienced ferry rider I know how to put my truck in line behind other vehicles. But we're at the dump now and we must pretend (for some strange reason) that we can't figure out how to line-up without the help of mister easy chair.

I take my turn on the scale. The guy in the little booth is dressed up like Poncho Villa with crisscrossed ammo belts across his chest and a big "Chicklet" tooth smile. Isn't it amazing what people will throw away? And aren't we lucky that our team at the dump keeps a sharp eye out for hazards like belts of 50 caliber bullets? We wouldn't want kids to get a hold of those now would we?
He says, "On the Pile!" Like I might just dump it out right here.

Now this is the funny part. You don't really get to toss your trash on the actual pile. If you go over to the recycling area you get to pitch your stuff straight into the dumpster and on the obvious pile.

Not so with garbage. No. You must toss everything out on the ground just short of "the pile". You get to make kind of a mini-pile. If they would let you back up to the dumpster you could toss it right "on the pile". But no. The guy with the backhoe gets the honor of pushing it "on the pile". But first he gets to split open the bags, pick through the boxes, kick the stuff around, and pick up and pocket any treasure he finds for himself and his buddies (Hey will you look at these ammo belts someone tossed out!).

When backhoe is satisfied that there is only junk left and the line to the dump is sufficiently long, the radio chirps and everything stops. Then in an orchestrated movement, easy chair drops his magazine and with a wave of his hand halts all traffic. Poncho holds out his lefty in the universal stop signal, and everyone in line waits and watches while the backhoe fires-up and pushes the crap "on the pile". Like we aren't smart enough to toss it "on the pile" ourselves.

They tell me things are done in this funny way for our safety. Then the guy next to me pulls a big glass window out of his truck that shatters on the concrete causing shards to fly up and land all over the place. I wonder why he couldn't just back up a few more feet and put it on the actual pile? Wouldn't that be safer? Now there is glass everywhere and the backhoe can't scrape it up. How safe is that?

I don't blame the dedicated workers at the facility for clowning around. They are just following procedure. But the funny way this dump is managed is not all about safety.

I really think there is another reason for the high jinks at the dump. I think there is a concerted effort by Public Works management to run the dump inefficiently so that they can justify the cost of building a new one. Their reason will be that the old one is unsafe and inefficient. So is this bunch of clowns trying to put one over on us? Like we can't see it for ourselves.



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