Critical labor issues

The Wasco County Business Alliance has identified critical issues facing our local service industry workers, defined as anyone who works in all aspects of retail from restaurants to grocery, gyms, gas stations, etc., and face issues compounded by non-traditional business hours.

In November, we interviewed teams across business sectors in Oregon. We found Wasco County and specifically The Dalles is facing a crisis surrounding these key needs:

1. Access to rentals and financial services to purchase residential property due to rising prices and reduced supply in the housing market.

2 Livable wages and paid time off.

3. Childcare services, specifically on nights and weekends.

4 Insurance needs, specifically dental and vision.

5 Reliable forms of safe, clean, transportation services, specifically nights and weekends.

As housing prices increase, access to housing options decrease. When faced with the decision to move, one considers access to childcare, transportation, and wages. Moving to places like Mosier, Pine Grove, Tygh Valley, Wamic, Rowena or cities across the river compound these issues, but looking at areas like Troutdale, Camas, Milwaukie, or even metro areas in other states that better meet their needs, or can provide more opportunity, means Wasco County is becoming unattractive to workers.

These workers have called The Dalles home for most of their lives. They love the Gorge, the access to entertainment and outdoor recreation, but as property values increase, and services and pay fall short, they can’t help but feel left behind by their community.

We can’t ignore economic decline due to insufficient labor resources. We know as business owners that we’re losing service industry workers to these issues. The economic decline is evident, particularly on social media, in reduced restaurant hours at places like Dennys, Taco Bell, and other local favorites.

Our economy is dependent not only on workers we have, but on attracting new reliable workers and innovative leaders who can help increase economic vitality.

We need to focus on addressing these needs. This engages workers and makes them integral to the community. These efforts reap immediate rewards by sustaining and growing current businesses and long-term rewards as community engagement increases and word of mouth spreads that #TheDalles is happening!

Todd Carpenter

The Dalles

Songer’s decision community’s burden

We have structured our health system around a model of shared risk. Whether we receive coverage through our employer, purchase it through the private marketplace, enroll in public programs like Medicaid/Medicare, or even pay directly out-of-pocket, we all directly affect the cost and availability of healthcare in our community.

When someone falls ill and is needing higher levels of care, the funds come from the pool of individuals who are also covered by your insurer and those in your community connected to your healthcare provider. That is how health insurance works: The collective covering the cost of care for those who need it currently.

When individuals decide to not seek preventive care, and subsequently increase their risk of becoming ill, the health and financial impacts of that personal decision are felt by everyone in the community.

I mention this in light of recent comments from Sheriff Bob Songer who, when asked about being hospitalized for complications related to contracting COVID-19, said, “Bottom line is: I beat it. And I did it without taking vaccinations, without getting my shot, without none of that nonsense … And that’s my decision. I make that decision. Not the government.”

Speaking directly to Sheriff Songer: It is true that it is your decision to not get vaccinated and not take other preventative measures. It is false that you beat this alone or that the burden of your decision is felt by you alone. Klickitat County taxpayers paid for the health coverage you get through your employer, our county government. The majority of your preventable stay at the hospital and ongoing care is paid for by us, the constituents you serve as a public official. You took up a hospital bed, the time of already overworked hospital staff, and our limited community resources for a likely avoidable illness that you made worse through your own hubris and apathy. It was our community who took care of you when you were ill and hold the burden of your decisions. Please stop compromising the health and wellbeing of our community because of your selfishness.

Matthew Byrne

White Salmon

Swap for housing

The elephant in the room: That great parcel of land on Cascade Avenue currently used by the state to have gravel and whatever available. Would somebody please explain why this cannot be swapped to make it our dream come true for low income housing.

Maria Kollas

Hood River

Smart Solution

For three days this June, Gorge residents sweltered in unprecedented extreme heat. Many flocked to buy air conditioning for the first time. In some regions air conditioner use overwhelmed utilities causing rolling blackouts. Fortunately, in Oregon and Washington, the power remained stable this time.

Research tells us that extreme heat and the resulting strain to the electric grid will probably happen more frequently, and that it impacts low- and middle-income communities health and economies disproportionately.

The pumped storage hydro facility being developed near Goldendale, and reported on in the Columbia Gorge News, would help our region become more resilient to power outages while also reducing climate changing and particulate pollution.

Currently, when there is not enough electricity on the grid during times of peak demand, grid managers look to gas-powered “peaker plants” to produce electricity quickly. These plants emit air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and harmful particulates, contributing to poor air quality and climate change. The Goldendale project would provide stored power on demand, and without the pollution of today’s generators!

The Goldendale project represents the type of infrastructure we should support here. It could deliver real resilience benefits to the electric grid and Columbia Gorge communities that depend on it. Just as important, it’s be a smart way for utilities to start delivering on their promises of a green energy future.

Lach Litwer

Hood River

Solar plans

Every resident who is living or planning to live in Klickitat County, should be aware of the current and future solar projects. I have lived here five years and never knew of these plans. It was a shock to learn that two-thirds of the land in this county has been designated as an energy use area.

Current and potential homeowners were/are not being told that plans were put into place years before. Their views and wildlife will be destroyed. Property values decimated.

Ordinances and guidelines to safeguard the environment and homeowners are non-existent. Input and concern from citizens ignored.

The Klickitat County Commissioners do not seem concerned about the effects this will have on the ecosystem, individuals, and county. A local Native American woman who will be living next to the Cypress Creek project shared her knowledge of the land with me. She told me about the native herbs she and her ancestors collect in this area. She pointed out the animal trails, wetlands and fishery that will be destroyed. This land is in her blood and history. A time when no one owned the lands.

Now this property is owned by people who are profiting from leasing these sacred grounds (even a local elected official).

It is easy to talk the talk about being woke to saving the environment and preserving cultural history if it doesn’t personally affect you. On your next vacation, go camping next to a large solar project, hike between the dusty tight rows, look for signs of creatures and plants that can no longer survive.

Maybe you could build your next home there?

Cynthia Arnett

Goldendale

Voter suppression

It is no surprise to anyone who can spell the word “science” that states with low vaccination rates and rules blocking mask mandates are in big trouble right now. Most of these states are solid red voting and home to some of the most adamant anti-vax/anti-mask politicians and citizens in the U.S.

Conservatives continue to tie vaccinations and mask use to their political futures. Our national crisis could end quickly if Donald Trump would simply state the obvious: “I, and I alone, am responsible for Operation Warp Speed and the rapid creation of an extremely effective vaccine against this virus.” He seems unwilling to do so because he will not get enough political credit for that courageous and highly intelligent decision he made as president.

Unfortunately for his supporters, they will never hear this message and their lives and economic futures hang in the balance. The irony in all this is that the same people guaranteed to vote for him in 2024 may not be alive to do so because of his selfishness and political motivations. This really sounds like voter suppression to me, and I hope the Attorneys General in Florida and Texas will launch thorough investigations into this systematic removal of loyal Republican voters. It certainly gives new meaning to the term “die-hard supporters.”

Steve Kaplan

Hood River

Don’t be a sheeple

Someone please explain ... If the CDC testing for the COVID-19 was taken off the table because the tests could not discern the difference from regular COVID flu and COVID-19, how the hell do they know anything about this so called variant? We have to stop this government, local and federal. Stop being Sheeple. We are being lied to.

Levi Squire

White Salmon

Editor’s note: The CDC currently recommends testing for those exposed to or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. COVID-19 is not the flu, and the flu does not give positive results when testing for COVID. The tests do not, however, differentiate between variants of COVID-19; that is done with genetic sequencing of the virus itself. Such sampling shows the COVID-19 delta variant as currently the dominant variant in Oregon.