As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

December 30, 2009

The older I get the more sensitive I am to stereotypes such as the word “elderly,” particularly when it was used recently to describe a 56-year-old man. Yes, that’s right, 56 years old is now elderly on the pages of some newspapers. I am sure it had more to do with the age of the writer than it did the policy of the paper, and my guess is that it escaped the editor’s view.

To a 21-year-old, a person who is in his or her mid-50s may very well seem to be “elderly,” whatever that means. But to us who have reached that “golden age” of 70, we would prefer to move the bar to 80 or older.

Maybe it’s just because I reached that age, or maybe it’s because people seem to be in better health and they are certainly living longer, but I think 70 is the new 60 … or maybe the new 50.

I am also a bit fearful about a move to retest the driving skills of everyone over a certain age … not that I don’t think I would pass the test, but I don’t believe people should be singled out because of their age.

Ability, yes … but not age.

If you really want to make the roads safer, you’d make teens wait until they are 18 or older to get a driver’s license … not take us seniors off the road.

*           *           *

Do you ever wonder why an emergency vehicle has to blast its siren in the middle of the night? Shortly after 1 a.m. on a recent Tuesday morning, an emergency vehicle went through town with a siren that sounded like a cross between an air raid and the tsunami warning. It was so shrill that I sat straight up in bed, pondering my next move. Should I run for high ground or duck under the bed?

I can’t for the life of me see why flashing lights wouldn’t accomplish the same goal (getting vehicles out of the way) without the siren that most likely woke everyone up for many miles as the emergency vehicle traveled to wherever it was going.

It doesn’t make sense to me.

*           *           *

It appears that the suspension of varsity basketball coach Matt Angove by BHS Principal Gaye Knapp (with acquiescence by AD Jamie Freitag) may well end up in the hands of the school board. And if it does, I surely hope that Matt will request the hearing be held in open session (which is his right) so that the public can learn what “charges” Knapp brings against him, as well as getting an opportunity to hear from the parents.

My support for Matt is even stronger after talking at length with Lee Pestana, who has served as a volunteer coach with Matt for the last eight years. Pestana was the head basketball coach at a Texas university before he moved to this area. He is an outstanding man and knows basketball.

He is so upset about what has happened to Matt that he told me he would never set foot in the BHS gym again. He said he will watch the Tigers when they play in Myrtle Point, Coquille or other venues, but he will not go into the Bandon High School gymnasium.

After the article I wrote last week, I have had many people come up to me and tell me they definitely support Matt and they are glad that I took a stand.

The school board meets on the second Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at the school district cafeteria, and I hope everyone who supports Matt will attend the meeting. I am not sure it will be on the January agenda, but if it is, I hope the district will let the public know so we can show our support.

*           *           *

I’m not sure who gets the most fun out of the community holiday meals … those who enjoy the meals or those who serve them. There is such a spirit of camaraderie and friendship, and the new venue (at the Bandon Community Center/Barn) makes it even more fun. You don’t feel like you have to “eat and run” because there is ample seating for everyone, and people stay long after they’re through eating to enjoy the music and the friendship.

I watched Marge Scott, general chairman for the meals, be interviewed by KCBY the other night, and she said the Barn is a wonderful facility … and the biggest space in the community to hold such an event.

And as mayor, I am definitely proud of what we’ve done out there. We’ve needed a space like that for years … and now we have it.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

December 23, 2009

The news that long-time varsity boys basketball coach Matt Angove had been suspended by the school administration hit me like a ton of bricks. During the last years that I worked at Western World, I handled a lot of the sports, and dealt on a weekly basis with Matt Angove.

I never missed a game, and I can truly say I was so proud of the way he handled the team with his quiet demeanor. Yes, he expected the boys to adhere to a strict set of standards. He wanted to make them better young men, both on and off the playing court.

Over the years, and with a sometimes “new breed” of player, it’s been increasingly more difficult to walk the delicate balance of not stepping on someone’s toes and still flooring a team that he and the community could be proud of.

My good friend Airlee Owens, who is undergoing treatment for cancer in the Portland/Vancouver area, was equally as shocked when someone e-mailed him the news that Matt had been suspended.

Here’s what he had to say:
”I traveled with Matt and the basketball team for at least a couple of years and I always thought Matt was a good coach. He was not the kind of coach I liked because I always liked a coach who was somewhat psychotic. Matt never yelled or swore at the kids. I used to hope he would. It seems strange that someone would think that he is too tough on the kids.

“By the way, I think character is a very important part of being part of a winning program. The character of a kid is not relegated to the school or the gym. His true character is how he acts when he is outside that system.

“I have a young friend who goes to school in Port Orford and wants to go to the Air Force Academy someday. I read what the Air Force wants in a young man and character was the number one thing they look for. I told this young man to always keep that in mind if he is ever tempted to violate the law or school policy while he is there.”

Another strong endorsement comes from Lee Pestana, a former college coach and owner of the Langlois Market, who has served as a volunteer assistant for Matt. He continues to be a strong supporter of Matt.

As to those who vandalized and trashed his pickup while he was away on a road trip with the basketball team, I understand that arrests will soon be made. I only pray that the names of those people will become public record, regardless of their age. This was a serious violation against a fine man and a good coach, and I join many others in the community to lend my solid support to Matt Angove.

*           *           *

The more I hear about the $200,000 fine levied against Bandon Pacific Inc., I can’t help but feel that politics played a role in what happened.

But it wasn’t until I read the front page of the Oregonian last Sunday (Dec. 13) that I realized how inconsistent the Department of Environmental Quality is in the levying of fines.

As recounted by Oregonian reporter Les Zaitz, a cement plant located along the highway outside of Baker City has poisoned the air for years with an unbelievable amount of toxic mercury.

State officials (DEQ is the state’s chief environmental regulator) reportedly ignored company reports disclosing toxic pollutants. Zaitz points out that had they checked, they would have found one ton of mercury a year drifting out alongside Interstate 84. In spite of the latest information, they still have no idea how many people may be at risk. One estimate puts some of the mercury into downtown Boise.

The cement kiln is the nation’s second-largest source of airborne mercury pollution, in large part, Zaitz points out, because the limestone from its quarry is abnormally rich in mercury.

Mercury is a known health hazard … still, in spite of that, DEQ has not levied a single fine against Ash Grove Cement Co.

It appears that the majority of Bandon Pacific’s fine had to do with the company allegedly failing to monitor wastewater and report the results to DEQ on more than 2,800 occasions. Another part of the fine came for failing to pass wastewater through a fine screen prior to discharge into the Coquille River.

It’s hard to figure out how such a small operation could receive such a huge fine … when less than a block away fish waste is routinely, openly and apparently legally dumped into the river as food for the gulls as fishermen’s catch is cleaned at the fish cleaning stations.

It also makes you wonder why DEQ didn’t notice the monitoring violation long before 2,800 violations had occurred.

What if it had really been a threat to human health?

But then they couldn’t see the air being polluted by tons of mercury in another part of the state, either.

Or at least they chose to do nothing about it.

They were busy keeping track of Bandon’s 2,800 “violations.”

*           *           *

I’ve heard a lot of rumors about “all the tax breaks” that Bandon Dunes has gotten over the years. I always knew it wasn’t true, but it wasn’t until The World did an article titled “Who pays the most?” that even I realized just how much the Dunes has contributed to Coos County’s economy in the 10 years that they’ve been in business.

At the present time they pay the second highest amount of corporate taxes in the county, second only to GTE-Verizon, and assessor Adam Colby expects that to change once the new course is open. At that point they will become the number one taxpayer in the county.

I wish I could say that the City of Bandon benefits from the over half a million dollars in taxes paid by Bandon Dunes Golf Resort each year, but we don’t. They aren’t located in the city limits, but a lot of taxing bodies, including Coos County, do benefit. (Our benefit comes in a myriad of other ways; just not in the form of property taxes).

Colby pointed out that if a portion of the Dunes development had not been designated for enterprise-zone tax benefits (which will expire in 2011), they would have paid an additional $34,377.

That information was extremely eye-opening and much appreciated.

I’m often blown away by the difference between reality and rumor. And this is one of those times.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

December 16, 2009

It always irritates me when I see paper, empty coffee cups and cigarette butts littering the sidewalks around town. But that’s nothing compared to what I saw when I drove up to the post office about mid-day Friday.

Abandoned on the sidewalk, amid four or five discarded plastic bags, were two brown stuffed office-type chairs, which were sitting on the sidewalk as if their occupants had been having a fireside chat. But considering the weather, I doubt that was the case.

How they got there is anyone’s guess, and I’d talked with several people who’d been at the post office earlier and they hadn’t seen them. But that wasn’t surprising if they pulled into the parking lot from the side street. The swivel-type chairs were on the sidewalk, up against the hedge, across from the Western World office.

I immediately called Matt at City Hall to see if he could get someone over there to haul them off. The gal who does the janitorial work at the post office picked up the plastic bags, and in less than five minutes, a city worker came, tossed them into his truck, and the sidewalk was once again clear.

It would certainly be interesting to know why someone dumped them there. Were they on their way to the dump and decided it would be easier to leave them alongside the road? Did they think someone might want them? Or, as evidenced by the plastic bags thrown around, were they just making a mess? Or having a late-night party?

*           *           *

I was amazed at how little ice there was on the roads during the big freeze. And I guess that’s why I decided to activate my window washer as I headed to Myrtle Point Wednesday morning.

Oops . . . definitely not a good idea. Within seconds the water had frozen (duh) all across the windshield, making driving a bit difficult to say the least. Fortunately, I had the heater going so it didn’t take long before the ice had melted . . . and I could see again.

That’s one stunt I won’t try again.

Talk about the freezing weather; people were still commenting about my beautiful flower garden along the highway … but this time with a tinge of sadness in their voices.

Yes, almost everything died, even the heartiest of flowers, including my new rose bushes.

Maybe, just maybe, some of them will come back next spring, but I am sure my big beautiful red geraniums won’t be among them.

In my 70 years in Bandon, I can’t remember such a prolonged freeze.

*           *           *

I continue to be angry about the manipulation of truth in the campaign against Ballot Measures 66 and 67. I think the opponents reached a new low in the ad featuring President Barack Obama, from Aug. 5, 2009, where he talks about not raising taxes during a recession.

Of course, we all know that Obama knows nothing about the tax situation in Oregon. He doesn’t know that Oregon has the third lowest corporate income tax in the nation. Or that we would still be fifth lowest in the nation if the ballot measures are approved. He doesn’t know that 97.5 percent of Oregonians will see no difference in their income taxes, and that 88 percent of businesses will pay state taxes of just $150 a year.

A Eugene businessman, who has weighed in to support Measures 66 and 67, points out that the measures “will end up saving jobs, not killing them.”

One measure would raise the state corporate minimum tax from $10 to $150. The other measure would increase the marginal tax rate by 1.8 percent on personal income above $250,000 for couples and above $125,000 for individuals. The highest state income tax rate would then be 11 percent.

When you reduce the opposition to a few sound bites, the truth seldom matters. And that is what appears to have happened in this campaign to kill two measures that are so vitally important to education, health care and public safety.

I’ve learned that only 383 Coos County households or individuals will pay more taxes as a result of Measure 67. And many, many more will benefit.

It appears that there is no increase on sole proprietorships, which are most of the small businesses in the area.

These measures, especially the increase in the corporate tax, are long overdue in Oregon. And now is our chance to right a wrong.

*           *           *

We generally think of little children as the victims of abuse. But the latest horror story, coming out of Eugene, involves a 15-year-old girl, who allegedly died at the hands of her mother and step-father in a case of neglect and torture so horrific that it shocked the investigating officers.

It didn’t surprise me to learn that the girl’s step-grandmother had called the Department of Human Services an estimated seven times to report that she believed the girl was being abused. Now she’s sorry it wasn’t the police she called, and who could blame her. Several of her classmates (before her parents decided to “home school” her) said they knew that she lived in an abusive situation. They saw the cuts and bruises. Why didn’t someone else? I’m tired of hearing how overworked case workers are and what they should have done, and that they “will investigate what went wrong.”

It’s a little late for an investigation because it is painfully clear that this is an agency that simply can’t protect the youngsters of Oregon. The best example of this is the number of calls that were made by teachers in the Coos Bay School District who warned that Henry Cozad would seriously injure or kill someone if something wasn’t done.

Nothing was done … and he did.

Now his father is being tried on charges of mistreatment.

But I believe at least one state agency should also be on trial.

*           *           *

It seems that the Bandon Chamber’s “Shop at Home” campaign is working. When people take in $50 worth of receipts to the visitor center, they receive one in a series of “Bandon” glasses. As of last week, it was reported that the receipts have amounted to $23,000 worth of merchandise that has been purchased since the campaign began. And that’s awesome.

And there are still quite a few “shopping days” left and people definitely need to spend their dollars with our local merchants.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

December 09, 2009

I know of several homeless men in the community, and I wonder where they are staying during this unusually cold spell. I know that other communities open their church halls for people so they will have a place to sleep on nights like these, but I’m not sure there is a place like that in Bandon.

We often see a man walking the streets, always looking like he has a purpose, but it is clear that he has all his worldly possessions on his back. I do know that he was seeking shelter on a bench under cover at the Bandon Shopping Center early one morning, but several days later, in the police reports, it appeared that someone called the police when they saw him. And I am sure they told him to “move on.”

But when you don’t have a home, and it’s 26 degrees out, I am not sure what that means. Where do they “move on” to that would be warm and dry?

I guess this is a question for the Bandon Ministerial Association as it may well be that they do have a place for people to get out of the elements, and maybe I just don’t know about it.

*           *           *

I received a call from a very upset lady Sunday. She had just been given a “speeding” ticket for 45 miles an hour on Riverside Drive by a Bandon police officer. The fine was $195. She simply had not paid attention to the speed limit in that area, and I had to agree, as many times as I’ve driven it, I didn’t know what it was either, thinking it must be at least 35 miles an hour.

So my partner and I decided to do a “test run” on Riverside Drive (sometimes referred to by the locals as River Road). To my surprise, the speed limit is 25 miles an hour. But when we finally got to the highway (which seemed to take forever), the first thing I noticed was the 45 mile-an-hour speed limit directly across Highway 101 on Prosper Road.

I’m not sure who determines those limits, but my guess is there are no more homes along Riverside Drive than there are along Prosper Road … and I can’t for the life of me figure out why the 20-mile-an-hour difference in the speed limit.

I challenge you to drive the entire length of Riverside Drive at 25 miles an hour.

It’s not easy.

*           *           *

I got all bundled up in layers Sunday afternoon and headed to the Sprague Community Theater to see the Bandon Playhouse production of “Christmas Belles.” I got there with not much time to spare and was surprised to see only two cars in the parking lot … and one of those belonged to Jeff Norris, the theater manager. I knew something was wrong.

I learned that Johnna Hickox, who has one of the leads, was sick. You don’t have understudies in small-town productions like this, so we’re all hoping that Johnna will be well by Friday night for next weekend’s shows … and that none of the other cast members come down with it.

I’ve heard it’s a great production and I don’t want to miss it, so I’ve marked my calendar for next Sunday afternoon.

And you should, too.

*           *           *

I don’t usually fall for the latest diet fad, but over the years I will have to admit I’ve drunk my share of Slim-Fast dark chocolate drinks as a way to lose a few pounds (although I’ve found that the older I get, the results haven’t been good).

This week, the Internet site, WebMD, reported that because of possible bacterial contamination all ready-to-drink Slim Fast canned products are being recalled. It seems that the products could possibly be contaminated with Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that may cause diarrhea and possibly nausea and/or vomiting.

The recall involves all ready-to-drink Slim Fast products sold in cans, regardless of flavor, “Best-By” date, lot code or UPC number.

It doesn’t affect other products such as their powdered shakes, meal bars or snack bars.

I generally have a few cans on hand, and if I do have any hidden way I will definitely toss them.

I haven’t read anything about this in the print media, but it appears to be a legitimate recall.

*           *           *

Last week, shortly after the Tiger Woods scandal broke, CBS morning anchor Harry Smith was basically castigating the publisher of US magazine for breaking a story about Woods. “At what point does it cross the line between news and personal life?” Smith asked the guy.

I couldn’t believe it. When a public figure like Tiger Woods makes millions off endorsements because of his fame, he had better be prepared for his personal life to make the headlines.

Now I know why CBS news is so boring. They haven’t figured out what news is.

*           *           *

On the same subject, I can imagine how the editors of Golf Digest felt this week when their January 2010 magazine made it into people’s mail boxes sporting a big picture of Tiger Woods on the front cover. But it was the article, “10 things Obama Might Learn from Tiger” that surely will result with “egg on the face” of the magazine’s editors.

Among the 10 items were: “The quick recovery,” “The cold ferocity,” “How to step on their necks,” “The trouble with compromise,” “Clothes the Deal,” “Controlling the message,” and “The Danger of Looking Ridiculous.”

The “controlling the message” segment was particularly telling. Tiger said: “My dad taught me that when I’m asked a question, I have control of the answer.” That’s the strategy he tried last week; unfortunately for the World’s No. 1 golfer, it didn’t work.

It appears there were some very important life lessons that Tiger didn’t learn, and the title of the 10th segment said it all: “The danger of looking ridiculous.”

I think I’ll hold onto this magazine; it may become a collector’s item.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

December 02, 2009

The community Thanksgiving dinner brought people together in more ways than one. First, the most obvious and the reason for the dinner: a place for people from all walks of life to gather, meet friends and neighbors, and enjoy a wonderful dinner. But what is more telling is the large number of volunteers who make the dinner possible. Some people volunteer year after year and most of them are members of one of the three service clubs, Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions, who sponsor the dinner.

But it’s really the volunteers who are the heart and soul of the dinner. It’s what makes Bandon special. And the ages of the volunteers ranges from probably around 10 to ….?

This year’s event was especially great because it was the first year in the spacious new community center/Barn, which is a wonderful gathering place for big groups of people. There were enough tables to seat everyone, and you didn’t feel like you had to eat and rush away so someone else could have a seat.

We definitely owe a big thank you to the volunteers. There were so many that it would be impossible to name them all, but I do know that Marge Scott (in charge of the volunteers) and Roseanne Gates (head chef) deserve a lot of credit.

I’m already looking forward to the Christmas dinner ….

*           *           *

A friend of mine from Pennsylvania sent me a copy of an article from Fox News titled “First U.S. Marijuana Café Opens in Oregon.” The Cannabis Café in Portland is the first to give medical marijuana users a place to get a hold of the drug and smoke it – as long as they are out of public view – despite a federal ban.

“The creation of the café comes almost a month after the Obama administration told federal attorneys not to prosecute patients who use marijuana for medical reasons or dispensaries in states, which have legalized them,” according to the article.

I know of instances that “medical” marijuana has been abused, and is sometimes used to treat people whose illness stems from illegal drug use. I certainly sympathize with people who truly need it for a legitimate medical condition, but this seems to be opening the door to legalizing marijuana.

In fact, several years ago the doctor who issued most of the prescriptions for medical marijuana in the state contacted me about doing an article for the Herald, and I remember his e-mail address was something like “grammychicken.” I thought surely it must be some kind of joke, but I guess it really was him. It was also difficult for me to understand why just one doctor would be writing the majority of the prescriptions. At any rate, I chose not to interview him.

I personally have never tried marijuana (or smoked a cigarette, for that matter), but I have certainly been around people who have and witnessed their altered state, which seemed to be different from the buzz a person gets from a couple of glasses of wine.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to legalize it, but if the government decides to do just that, it may well take the “middle man” out of the equation. Too many people are getting rich peddling illegal drugs, and in some areas, like Northern California, it’s their main cash crop.

*           *           *

There is one thing that infuriates me more than high-speed chases, which endanger and often kill innocent people, and that is Oregon’s reliance on gambling to fund much- needed services.

The Oregonian is to be commended for forcing the state to produce its records on the negative impact gambling has had on many of our citizens. They found that more than half the money the lottery collects from video gambling – about $375 million last year – comes from a small number of Oregonians, many with big gambling problems. These gamblers tell the lottery they lose more than $500 a month, every month. (That’s nothing, a friend of mine who had a serious gambling problem lost $10,000 in one weekend in Reno some years ago.)

I know too many personal stories right here in our county about people whose lives have been ruined by gambling.

The latest is a man I’ve known for years. A resident of Coquille, he was an outstanding athlete, worked at a great job, had a wonderful family and spent his off hours as a sports official, until he “found” gambling. He became addicted to gambling and began stealing from people, including the one that caused him to lose his job – taking a purse out of a woman’s shopping bag in Fred Meyer.

He’s now out of a job, his wife has divorced him and a friend of mine who knows him well said he has been reduced to a pitiful drunk.

It’s a very sad ending for a guy who had it all.

To say that I am not a fan of gambling is a huge understatement.

*           *           *

It’s not often that you fall headlong across the pavement, cut and bruise both knees, bang up one leg and bruise both elbows … and still feel lucky. That’s what happened to me while out taking pictures for the Herald last week in Myrtle Point. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was wearing my favorite purple and black velour top, and black dress slacks. But that was nothing compared to the $1,400 Nikon camera, belonging to my boss, that was clutched tightly (thank heavens) in my right hand. Had it been around my neck, it would have been destroyed.

At any rate, I attempted to step up the curb, which turned out to be about eight-inches high, rather than the standard four or five, and my feet didn’t make it. I crashed onto the sidewalk, with the Nikon still clutched in my hand, and heard the sound of glass hitting the pavement. I was sure the Nikon was “history,” but it turned out to be my sunglasses hitting the pavement, and even they didn’t break. The Nikon was fine and my purple top wasn’t torn.

Now that’s a good day.

*           *           *

Bandon is rapidly becoming a bird lover’s paradise. Not only have the pelicans hung around for way longer than anyone expected, but the seagulls seem to have multiplied rapidly. Sunday I was taking pictures along Jetty Road of the pelicans (as if 400 photos weren’t enough) when the seagulls began literally swarming back and forth in front of the lighthouse.

I was beginning to wonder if the “Big One” was approaching. Something must be setting them off because I have never seen gulls in such large numbers flying back and forth along the river channel in some sort of frenzy.

It may be that the pelicans are spooking them, I’m not sure, but it made me want to seek out higher ground… just in case they knew something I didn’t.

previous columns by mary schamehorn