Lack of leadership

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it crystal clear that we need to elect a new District 1 Skamania County Commissioner to oversee our public health department. The current Skamania County Commissioner, Richard Mahar, has actually put our residents in greater danger through his lack of concern and outright disrespect for this virus’s impact and reach ... treating it as a “hoax,” while refusing to wear a mask and even “abstained” from an important vote to support funding for tracking and tracing. During this past six weeks, Skamania County cases rose from three to over 55 cases (on Aug. 4), with at least one known death. Without strong leadership, this will only get worse.

Jeremy Bechtel, from the beginning, has urged the county commission to take this health threat seriously and to implement precautions to protect our residents. Caring deeply for the safety of all residents and having a history of working with businesses throughout the county, he knows what it takes to operate safely to minimize the risk. Jeremy Bechtel is honest, straightforward and will work hard to lead by example through these challenging times. He listens to people and will bring them together to help create a vibrant future for Skamania county and its residents.

While COVID-19 has made it more difficult to meet in person, you can get a sense of him through his Facebook page at Bechtel for Skamania County Commissioner, District 1.

Keith Brown



To: Secretary Roger Millar, WADOT; Gov. Jay Inslee; Attorney General Bob Ferguson; Senator Curtis King; Rep. Chris Corry;Rep. Gina Mosbrucker:

In this letter I refer to road signs known as variable-message signs or VMS. Drivers pay special attention to these signs, because they have come to expect VMS to warn of safety hazards on the road ahead, such as lane closures, construction, weather affecting road conditions, accidents, changes in traffic patterns, etc.

“MASK UP. STAY SAFE!” messages have nothing to do with road conditions and are inappropriate. Moreover, it is the state using road signage as a tool to condition minds and normalize a behavior that is not normal in order to further a particular agenda.

It is not within the purview of the ODOT to engage in, or spend money on this type of messaging. I respectfully urge you to put a stop to it.

Lynn Bergeron


Beating COVID is possible

The U.S. could be four to six weeks away from beating COVID-19. Public health experts agree that was true at the beginning of the outbreak and it’s still true now. “It could have stopped quickly and easily,” Trump acknowledged just days ago.

So why didn’t we stop it, as so many other countries have done? We all know why: Irrational “leadership” peddling false and misleading information and not following expert guidance; turning basic public health measures into a political fight over masks and “liberating” states; and the decades-long GOP campaign to undermine our faith in science, especially climate change science.

COVID-19 is not a hoax or a deep state conspiracy; we can choose to stop it in a matter of weeks by wearing masks, washing hands and keeping social distance.

We don’t need to wait for a vaccine. We just need to follow the science.

Karen Murray

The Dalles

Great service

After reading today’s paper (Aug. 12), I knew had to write this letter. I have appreciated the new combined paper for some time — the new not only from the major towns here in the Gorge, but also your correspondents from outlying communities — like Lyle and Glenwood. It strengthens my feeling of being part of a wonderfully humane and forward looking community.

I like the constructive, positive tone — how the news is presented, like the story of what people in Lyle are doing to protect and feed people in this extraordinary time.

I always find the Letters to the Editor interesting, including the diversity of views.

The news is presented, it seems to me, in an accurate, comprehensive way. I have confidence that if a mistake is made it will be corrected in the next issue. And, the news covers a broad range of topics.

Thank you for your efforts. You are performing a great service to our community!

Lawrence Jones

Hood River

Stalling HEROES

As the Republican-controlled Senate stalls adoption of the COVID-19 HEROES financial relief act, its leaders once again invoke the specter of federal budget deficits. This cynical ploy shows their contempt for the financial plight of millions of Americans who have lost jobs and may soon lose their homes.

There’s been a lot of smoke out of the Trump Administration since it took office in 2017, mostly to obscure the simple facts. According to the government’s Data Lab, federal deficits last year were $4 trillion higher than in the last year of the Obama administration, when Republicans also controlled Congress. This was well before COVID relief became a pressing need.

One factor in that imbalance was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of late 2017 which cut corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent. Corporate tax revenues dropped by $67 billion from 2017 to 2019.

This was the Trump regime’s only significant legislative victory. But what has it actually done to benefit average Americans? Not much.

It gave tax cuts to 89 percent of people earning over $100,000 a year in 2018, but to just 32 percent of those earning under $30,000. To be fair, one might argue that the rich pay more in taxes and should get more benefit from the tax cuts. But, seriously, a lifetime benefit of $278,540 to the top 1 percent of earners, vs. $4,975 to those at the bottom?

Bill Gale of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center warned that the tax cuts could make legislators reluctant to embrace “discretionary stimulus programs to boost an ailing economy.”

Programs like the HEROES act? It’s happening. Remember that, especially when Trump starts yammering about how he’s going to help the common man in his next four years. He hasn’t started yet, and like most of his promises, isn’t likely to.

Anne Gehrig

Hood River

CARES needed

Our country is suffering through an unprecedented health and economic crisis. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we have suffered almost 25 percent of all world deaths from the coronavirus pandemic. Tens of millions of American workers are currently unemployed.

In March, leaders of both parties in Congress worked together to pass sweeping legislation to respond to this crisis. The bipartisan CARES Act authorized more than $2 trillion to battle COVID-19 and its economic effects, including immediate cash relief for individual citizens, loan programs for small business, support for hospitals and other medical providers, and economic relief for impacted businesses.

After the CARES Act, however, bipartisan work on relief for Americans essentially ended in Congress and in the White House.

The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act on May 15, 2020. This legislation continues the $600 per week unemployment benefits, offers economic stimulus payments to families, provides rent assistance while protecting against evictions and foreclosures, and sends financial support to state and local governments whose revenues have plummeted.

The Republican Senate, however, did not even begin debate for more than two months, although Mitch McConnell knew full well that many of the essential relief programs that Americans have relied on during this crisis would expire at the end of July. Meanwhile, President Trump continued to tell the nation that the virus was not serious and “would disappear — like a miracle.” As late as June, he said the virus was “fading away.”

The $600 weekly extra unemployment benefit has now ended. The Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses has expired. There is no second stimulus check in sight.

Millions of Americans face a truly frightening economic future, but Senate Republicans are too divided among themselves and with the White House to use their majority to pass any relief bill at all.

The Senate absolutely should not have recessed without passing a relief package! It should immediately return to Washington to pass a bipartisan compromise that deals with the full slate of urgent issues facing our country, including a national strategy for COVID testing and contact tracing, an extension of federal eviction moratoriums, the provision of much-needed funding for state and local governments, and ensuring that schools have the resources they need to reopen safely.

William White


Uh, germ theory

The Aug. 12 letter “Trojan Horse” was entertaining, but seems to ignore germ theory from the last 100 years. I would like to respond to a few of his rhetorical questions.

People become ill and die from germs like the coronavirus. Five million known infected people interact with many millions more. I do not know any of the people who have died from the coronavirus, but many sources say there have been 165,000 deaths in the U.S. and 750,000 worldwide.

The reason that large church gatherings and funerals are discouraged is because germs move easily from person to person in tight quarters. That is how dozens of people become ill after attending a church service in which only one infected person enters the church. It is also why multiple family members have died from coronavirus after attending a funeral. Fortunately God is everywhere, so you can worship or share joy and sorrow without killing someone in the process.

I have yet to hear a single doctor claim that viruses are hoaxes. There is not a single piece of relevant information which supports the notion that mayors and governors are responsible for the unemployment rate or business closures. As for that “willing(ness) to stop living to avoid dying” — there is a reason we drive slower on ice and sterilize equipment used for colonoscopies. Some call it common sense.

If (the writer) wants to point fingers and question why there is so much conflicting information out there, look no further than our incompetent president and historian. Just this week he said the epidemic in 1917 probably ended World War II (which actually ended in 1945) because so many soldiers were sick. Germs do not care about our personal or political views.

Steve Kaplan

Hood River

Drive less, pay less

We’re driving our vehicles less during the COVID-19 pandemic, so our auto insurance premiums should be lower. Vehicle traffic is estimated to be up to 50 percent lower in most areas. We consumers need a break! The household budgets of the 99 percent have tightened considerably in 2020. Many of us have experienced loss of income, been laid off or furloughed, or work reduced hours — so saving money on our auto insurance premiums helps.

Three car insurance companies — Allstate, Geico, and USAA — have been proactively sending out notices with credits to their policyholders over the past few months. My car insurance policy has been credited $84 so far this year due to driving less during COVID-19. That’s for one car.

Some readers may have received a credit already, but if you haven’t, I suggest contacting your insurance agent or company and ask what they are doing to reduce your auto insurance costs during the pandemic.

Think about it: Because fewer accidents are happening, the insurance industry as a whole could end up saving $100 billion from claims that won’t need to be paid. This estimate comes from ValChoice, a service that rates insurance companies. We consumers need to see some of this savings that insurance companies are reaping come into our pockets.

Many other auto insurance companies are reducing premiums, deferring premium payments, or delaying cancellations. I learned about this from Consumer Reports website, and wanted to pass this tip onto Columbia Gorge News readers who may not be getting relief from their auto insurance providers. Be proactive and ask your insurance agent or company what they are doing about reducing your auto insurance premium.

To learn more and see a list of insurance companies and what they are doing, enter “Consumer Reports COVID-19 car insurance rebates” in the search engine on your computer. Thanks to Consumer Reports for advocating for us with auto insurance companies.

Michael Stevens



In response to the Aug. 12 letter entitled “Misdirection”:

First, I’d like to define defunding the police as provided by CNN: “Reallocat(ing) some, but not all, funds away from police departments to social services and reduc(ing) their contact with the public to reduce the likelihood of police violence.” This strategy seeks to alleviate some of the social inequities causing crime, all while doing so peacefully and without police intervention. So yes, non-violent crime prevention is what we want when the "Dems" are running the country.

Your claim concerning the monthly homicide toll is valid, but very misleading. According to the Oregonian, total person-to-person and property crimes in Portland are actually down compared to prior years. Although cherry-picking statistics may make it appear as if criminal activity is increasing, that is clearly not the case. And although the Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) was cut as part of funds divestment, the police unit has “targeted a disproportionate number of black people in traffic stops.”

Also, the GVRT is actually the same organization as the Gang Enforcement Team, which underwent a re-branding in the fall of 2018 (OPB). The gang unit was found to be targeting black communities and “keeping informal lists of alleged gang members.” And even with the GVRT’s efforts, shootings have not declined since 2015, a sure sign of the organization’s ineffectiveness. So not only is your claim that the GVRT “helped reduce violence in mostly Black communities” not true, the team actually did the complete opposite of that.

Jacob Kaplan

Hood River

No ‘Trojan horse’

In letter to the editor in the Aug. 12 edition (“Trojan horse,” the writer) poses many hypothetical questions. Not all of them deserve answers, but several do.

“I’m very curious on how this virus has been turned into a Trojan Horse.”

It hasn’t.

“How did a very deadly virus (what the media and politicians are constantly drilling into people’s heads but the data shows very differently) turn into climate change, reform/defund police, racial division, anarchy, vote by mail, deleting history, economic destruction, gun legislation, massive censorship and abortion?”

It hasn’t. Those have been issues for more than my lifetime, and the fact that you think that otherwise suggests to me that you have not been paying attention, and also that you cannot conceive of how these issues might exacerbate one another.

“Why do the media and politicians constantly condemn church gatherings, weddings, funerals, family gatherings even if people are following recommendations but praise massive protests?”

Notice how the writer has framed the argument as being between folks who go to church, weddings, and funerals, but who follow guidelines for safety, on one side, and people who take part in massive protests on the other.

In response, I would ask, are we talking only about protests against police brutality? Or also protests against mask mandates? One of these groups has overwhelmingly used PPE, and the other hasn’t. Furthermore, the data simply hasn’t panned out the way Republicans would like. BLM protests have not led to a drastic rise in cases, whereas church gatherings and the like have led directly to outbreaks.

Lastly, the author references a pithy little thought-terminating-cliche referenced by YouTube creator “Computing Forever,” who is a far-right white nationalist and conspiracy theorist, in conversation with John Waters, Irish conservative columnist who support the 2003 invasion of Iraq and protested a marriage equality bill in Ireland. Not a great look, if you ask me.

We can, and must, do better than this.

Benjamin Sheppard

Hood River

Benjamin Sheppard is employed as a social worker.

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