As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

December 28, 2011

An article in the Dec. 6 issue of USA Today was titled “If they build it, towns hope new businesses will come.”

A town of 4,000 people in Maryland has decided to build a 145-seat restaurant and bar completely on spec, hoping that an accomplished chef can be lured to town and set up business.

The article points out that “Creative public-private partnerships are a growing trend; the results of towns thinking strategically about just what they can do to boost hyper-local economics on a tight municipal budget.”

And that is exactly what the City of Bandon is trying to do with its Urban Renewal dollars and a willing private developer.

One said: “It is cool to see particularly smaller places doing relatively innovative things, where the city and the local elected officials really are taking a leadership role. That’s what we’re seeing more often.”

Maybe I’ll send the writer some information about what Bandon is trying to do. I think he would be impressed.

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I haven’t read anything about this (although it may have been in the paper and I just missed it) but, on behalf of the City, Nancy Evans submitted a grant application to Kirk and Elizabeth Day (owners of the Harbortown Events Center and well-known public benefactors) for $25,000 to purchase the Myrtlewood bar and mirror at the Bandon Community Center from master woodworker Phil Clausen.

The grant was awarded, so the City will now be able to purchase the bar and mirror which were previously on loan from Mr. Clausen. The City will match the grant with $4,800 from Urban Renewal Area 2 to also purchase the remaining two small Myrtlewood tables and the large Myrtlewood lamp.

The other large tables were already sold by Mr. Clausen to other private parties, who are letting the City continue to use them, but they will be removing them sometime in the future.

I think Matt said it best: “The Days have always taken the position that they and the City should move forward jointly in our economic development efforts to attract businesses, conferences, etc. and provide needed facilities for community service organizations, and that the Bandon Community Center (commonly referred to as The Barn) and the Harbortown Events Center (in Old Town) “complement each other and are not in competition. “I think their grant speaks volumes regarding that commitment,” Winkel said.

Evans, who has been managing the Community Center, will begin working for the Days as manager of the HEC Jan. 1.

It’s hard to miss the beautiful Myrtlewood bar and mirror at the Community Center. And it’s great that they will remain in the Center for everyone to enjoy.

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Speaking of the Community Center; it’s such a perfect venue for the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday dinner. I don’t know how many they served today, but it appeared to me that it might have been a record crowd.

The volunteers who put the dinner on deserve a big “thank you” from the town for their efforts. I know that some of them get out to the park very early in the morning to begin preparing the food, and others take shifts throughout the morning and until the clean-up is completed.

This is a gift to the community by members of the Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions clubs and many, many volunteers who do not belong to any of their service clubs, but give up their holiday to make sure that the dinners are special for everyone.

Many who enjoy the dinners give a donation, but it’s definitely not required. People are welcome no matter their financial situation.

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Just as I was leaving the Herald last Wednesday, a fax came in from the sheriff’s office warning people about particularly heavy seas that were expected to hit the coastline Friday and Saturday.

If I hadn’t seen that high-surf warning, I probably would have been a bit concerned when I went out on my deck around 11 o’clock Friday night and heard the surf roaring … as if I lived on the bluff in west Bandon. Which I don’t.

I went down to the South Jetty Saturday and it was an awesome sight. There were many people watching the waves break over both jetties, and tossing big logs around like matchsticks.

But I noticed that there was no one walking the beach – what was left of it as the waves were washing completely into the driftwood, leaving little room for anyone to walk … and certainly not safely.

The beach is a special place, but in my years at the local newspaper I can remember several times when people (usually from out of town) did not understand the ferocity of a winter ocean and paid a high price.

And we all remember a special guy (Bandon reserve officer and retired LA County firefighter Russ Simpson) who died while trying to rescue a young tourist from the raging surf three days before Christmas in 2003.

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Depending on when you read this, and unless we have had a drenching rainstorm, December 2011 will go down as the driest on record. I hear a lot of concern about the possibility of a drought, but I, for one, can remember too many winters when it seemed like it never quit raining, and I absolutely love the summer-like days we’ve experienced all month. People were flocking to the beach like it was the middle of summer … but without the dreaded north wind.

A newscaster said it would take nine inches of rain before the end of December to ensure that we wouldn’t set a new record.

And I don’t think that’s going to happen.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

December 21, 2011

The latest in a series of pit bull attacks occurred last week when a pit bull (or I believe it was two dogs) got out of Giz Rogers’ yard and went into David and Robin Koch’s yard and attacked – and seriously injured – their dog … on his own property. This is the same dog that the City had several calls on when Giz was working on the old Bandon Boatworks building.

Because of this latest attack, we have asked the Animal Control Officer (Rick Hoover) to meet with a group of us Thursday morning (the city attorney, the police chief, the chairman of the dog committee, the city manager, the port manager and me) to tell us what can be done.

Unfortunately, after Matt set up the meeting, Hoover was picking up an injured pit bull, which grabbed him just below his chin and over his windpipe. Hoover managed to pry open the dog’s jaws and free himself, and was then treated at the hospital.

The dog’s owner was contacted and took the animal to the vet, but the dog’s injuries were determined to be so severe that the animal was euthanized.

There are still a lot of people out there who see no difference between a pit bull and any other breed of dog. I’m not sure they realize that entire countries are beginning to understand the dangers of these dogs and are banning them.

When a pit bull locks onto its prey, it is often very hard to dislodge those jaws, and it takes a good-sized man, like Hoover, to do it.

This is not to be confused with a bite by a poodle, a cocker spaniel or any other domestic dog, except maybe a Rottweiler.

It’s getting to the point that I wouldn’t advise anyone to walk their dog in a neighborhood with which they are unfamiliar – unless they choose to carry pepper spray or some other deterrent.

I still remember the gash in the head of Pat and Sue Reed’s big dog after a pit bull came over the fence and attacked him several months ago on June Avenue.

Simply put, this has got to stop. People should not be afraid to walk their dog in any neighborhood in Bandon, nor should they worry about a pit bull coming into their yard and maiming or killing their dog or cat (or, God forbid) a child.

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We hear so much doom and gloom about the economy that it really helped me get into the Christmas spirit Sunday when I attended the last performance of the Bandon Playhouse production of “Old Befana,” directed by well-known musician Candace Kreitlow and produced by Richard Robinett and Dan Barnett.

The music was great, and it was upbeat, colorful and fun, and the crowd was very appreciative.

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A bit more on Urban Renewal. While the naysayers, led by Rob Taylor, try to stop all the good things that Bandon has been able to accomplish with Urban Renewal dollars, we’re busy trying to work with a private developer to build a cheese factory.

Small cities like Bandon are being heralded across the country for their efforts to spur economic development – something that big government and the naysayers can’t ‑ or won’t ‑ do.

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Port commissioner Robin Miller recently shared with me an email, which he and Gina Dearth had received from a couple in Bandon encouraging the Port to keep the rent low for the proposed new fish market, “because it is so badly needed in Bandon. You can’t have a beach town without a market that sells fresh, local fish. We want the new folks to be successful. The biggest reason that Bandon has so many empty shops is that shop owners can’t afford the high rents. Let’s give these people a break and let them get started,” said the couple.

Charleston residents have indicated they want to bring a fish market into Bandon, much like the one that formerly occupied the big Blue Building, owned by the Port of Bandon.

In his reply to the couple, Miller said: “As a general policy, we don’t want to charge ‘below market rents,’ because we don’t want a public entity to compete with private sector merchants. That was a frequent complaint I heard when I was contemplating a run for Port office.

“On the other had, we do want to support or even subsidize businesses that can uniquely benefit from a waterfront location, and which somehow, in the great mix of things, makes the whole of downtown Bandon a greater place for all our residents, merchants and visitors. In practice, this means yes to bait shops, kayak renters and fish markets ‑ and much less of a yes to, say, condominiums and professional office rentals.

“We want the mix of businesses on the waterfront to complement each other – not savage or undercut each other. That would be bad for everybody. This does not necessarily mean that we will hand out exclusive franchises – but we will work to distribute a palette of different business models which both makes for a great overall destination and which also gives our merchants the opportunity to succeed. We want the rising tide to lift all boats in the harbor.

“We have heard, loud and clear, from you, and from others, that the Blue Building fish market is dearly missed, and if these are the right people, and the right proposal, then we will pursue this with all our heart, mindful of everybody, and mindful of our dedication to serve the community,” said Miller.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

December 14, 2011

After reading Randal O’Toole’s letter in the recent Western World, which indicated that he lives in Bandon, I started doing a little research about him. In the first place, as was pointed out in an article in the New York Times, O’Toole actually lives in Camp Sherman. I understand he and his partner still own a house in Bandon, but he does not live here.

And then I looked further into who he is. It would be almost impossible to share with you everything I found, but if you are interested in Randal O’Toole, and his views on government in general, you can Google him. According to a 2009 article in the New York Times, O’Toole is employed by the Cato Institute. You might also want to Google the Cato Institute.

He takes issue with my statement that Bandonians pay far less in city taxes than do most people in the state. I said that most cities in Oregon have a tax rate far in excess of $2 or $3 a thousand, and that is true.

I decided to figure out, based on O’Toole’s letter, just how much I actually pay in taxes to the City of Bandon: including the permanent tax rate, local option tax, Urban Renewal No. 1, Urban Renewal No. 2 and two bonds.

Since I own a property in Powers, with a similar assessed value (on which property taxes are based), I decided to compare the two … and it was even more mind-boggling than I thought.

My property in Powers is assessed at $71,740. My tax bill, JUST for the City of Powers, amounted to $530.49. How does that compare to our little cottage in Bandon, with an assessed value of $77,250: my entire tax bill for the city (permanent tax rate, local option tax, bonds and UR 1 and 2) was $226.02. A house with the same assessed value in Myrtle Point would pay $617.22 (plus whatever outstanding bonds they have) … just to the City of Myrtle Point. That’s a pretty sizeable difference.

If you still think I am misrepresenting the tax issue in Bandon, I would be happy to show you my tax statements. I’m tremendously proud of what a city our size has been able to accomplish: beautiful new library, theater, community center, etc.

I have had several positive comments about Matt Winkel’s letter to the editor in last week’s Western World, and if you haven’t read it, go on line, or pick up a paper. It is the best rundown of how our community has benefitted from Urban Renewal that I have read to date.

O’Toole’s assertion that the people who benefit from urban renewal are “city officials and selected developers,” is flat out wrong. In fact, it borders on slander to infer that city officials are benefitting. He’d better go back to his “think tank” and study exactly what Bandon has accomplished with Urban Renewal dollars and who has benefitted.

I think he would be pleasantly surprised.

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I love to read the Governing website, along with the Governing magazine that I receive monthly. A recent article points out that the former Philadelphia schools superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, was paid $905,000 in public buyout money to leave the city. And then she turned around and applied for unemployment benefits.

The school district ‑ which agreed in her August separation agreement not to fight any unemployment claim filed by Ackerman – confirmed her application.

That’s one gutsy woman . . . . but it probably says more about the flawed system than anything else.

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It’s always interesting to learn the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. Unfortunately, we will never know what happened to the child who called for help shortly after 7 a.m. on Dec. 2. The call center, ACS in Coos Bay, answered for Sprint 611, and got a call from a 4-year-old child crying, who said she “can’t wake up mom and doesn’t know where her father is.”

ACS contacted the Coos County Sheriff’s Office, but even though they had Sprint security check their system, there was no data available.

The ACS call center answers 611 calls to Sprint Customer Care from all over the United States so there was no way to trace where the call originated.

It appears that the child tried to dial 9-1-1 and got 6-1-1 instead.

Hopefully her mother was only sleeping soundly and the story had a happy ending. But we’ll never know.

*           *           *

Although I plan to attend the Bandon Playhouse production of “Old Befana” next weekend so I can’t really review it, I have heard from several people who did attend, and they said it is absolutely wonderful.

It will be at the Sprague Theater again this weekend: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday afternoon at 2.

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I’ve lived here a long time, and I can’t remember ever having such great weather in December. Here it is Dec. 11th, and even though the weather report called for rain today, it was sunny. True, it was a bit windy, but if you got out of the wind, you could still sit outside and enjoy the warm sunshine.

I suppose that sooner or later we will learn that we are heading into a season of drought, but in the meantime, I will enjoy one of the best winters that I can remember in Bandon.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

December 07, 2011

While talking to a friend in church Sunday, I asked if he’d gone to the latest supper club dinner at Edgewater’s, but, with a straight face, he said after receiving his City of Bandon utility bill he really couldn’t afford to go.

And he pulled the bill out of his jacket pocket. Wow, I thought, that must have been some bill.

And, believe me, it was. His total bill was over $47,000 (yes, three zeroes). The sewer portion of his bill was based on using nearly a million gallons of water. Since he’d actually used only 1,000 gallons of water, that is what his sewer bill should have been based on, but the computer just kept adding zeroes.

Obviously he knew it was a mistake, but since he’s relatively new to town, I am sure it gave him a bit of a jolt when he opened his bill … wondering if he could really afford to live here.

I wonder if anyone else received a bill like that.

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My file on white collar crime and gambling continues to swell. The latest involved a Corvallis man, who was sentenced by a Eugene federal judge to two years in prison for an elaborate scam in which he used his relatives’ credit accounts to rack up more than $380,000 in debts to feed his gambling habit.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the man, Viengkham Virasek, 44, filed fraudulent bankruptcy petitions in his family’s names to try and discharge his huge debt load. He even went so far as to impersonate a member of his own family at a bankruptcy hearing.

He was close to earning his engineering degree at Oregon State University and was then to go to work for Hewlett-Packard in Corvallis.

Even though the family members whom he’s scammed pleaded for leniency before the judge, she still sent him to prison, not only for ripping off his family, but also defrauding the bankruptcy court.

Judge Ann Aiken also ordered the man to write letters to Governor Kitzhaber, Oregon’s congressional delegation, lottery commission director and other officials letting them know how “gambling addiction is ruining families.”

I am sure it will take more than that to wean this state off its addiction to the money that gambling generates, no matter how many broken families result.

More and more of the white collar crimes are committed by people (many with no previous records) who have become hooked on gambling.

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The City of Bandon, like others across the state, flew the flag at half staff this week in memory of an Oregon corrections officer, Buddy Herron, who was killed last week while on his way to work at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute in Pendleton. Herron, who was married and the father of four children, stopped to help a stranded motorist, who instead turned out to be a vicious killer.

But, even if the murderer were to be sentenced to death, he would never be executed as long as Governor Kitzhaber is in office. There are 37 people on Oregon’s death row, including two from Coos County, another who picked up a hitchhiker outside of Coos Bay and later killed her near Elkton, one from Curry County and three from Douglas County. The group includes one woman, Angela Darlene McAulty of Eugene, who was sentenced to die for the torture murder of her 15-year-old daughter in a case that shocked people across the country for the savagery of the brutality she inflicted upon her daughter.

The two from Coos County murdered a pair of young German women, who were hitchhiking across the United States. After they were murdered, their bodies were thrown out along a logging road off Lampa Lane where they were found by Tim Carver of Bandon and his girlfriend in the late ’80s. I’m sure they will never forget that horrifying experience.

A Douglas County man on death row had picked up a Vancouver, B.C., woman while she was hitchhiking outside of Coos Bay. After stabbing her 37 times, he dumped her body near Elkton.

Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier sent the media a lengthy letter concerning his feelings about Kitzhaber’s decision. And he definitely did not agree with the governor. He pointed out that Gary Haugen, who was sentenced to die in early December, had been sentenced to death for one murder, but while he was in prison, he killed another inmate.

“Under the Governor’s logic, Mr. Haugen can kill another inmate, or a corrections officer or one of the many civilian volunteers who provide services in our prison system and not suffer additional consequences.”

Frasier added that if the Governor believes there is an innocent person on death row, why hasn’t he pardoned or commuted the sentence of such an individual. He also points out the fact that Oregonians voted in favor of the death penalty.

The Herald newspaper carried Frasier’s statement in its entirety, as well as an article about the death row inmates who have ties to Southern Oregon.

One thing for sure: hitchhiking is dangerous, both for the person hitching a ride and the Good Samaritan (like Herron) who stops to help.

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The 72-year-old woman who was killed two weeks ago in a two-vehicle crash on Highway 42 just north of Coquille had relatives in this area. She was the former Judy Lea Panter, daughter of the late Leland and Edith Panter of Riverton, and her brother and his wife live in Bandon.

Since she was a month younger than I, I was a little shocked to read the headline in the Brookings Harbor Pilot: “Elderly woman killed in Coquille crash.”

I know I’ve said this before, but it should not be up to a headline writer to determine who is elderly and who is not.

One needs only look around at people in their 70s to see why many of us would dislike being called “elderly.”

And you and I also know many in their 80s who do not look or act “elderly,” whatever that word means.

I think I’ll look it up in the dictionary. Maybe there really is a chronological age at which point someone is elderly, and I may find out I’ve reached it.

But I hope not.

(Actually it said someone who “is approaching old age.”)

Now I have to look up “old age.”

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I joined a big group of local residents at the Bandon Executive Suites’ annual holiday party Friday in the former VA Clinic building. A highlight of the festive event was the wonderful hors d’ oeuvres catered by Tara Shaw of Coastal Mist. They were absolutely delicious and people are still talking about the different delicacies they ate that evening.

Coastal Mist is not only well known for their chocolate creations, but they also make a wonderful quiche, which is available only on weekends.

previous columns by mary schamehorn