As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

June 27, 2012

He wasn’t talking about Oregon … but he might as well have been.

A column titled “Choice is between public pensions or services” appeared in a recent issue of The Register-Guard, and was written by Michael Gerson, a columnist for The Washington Post. He served as President George W. Bush’s assistant for policy and strategic planning. But that really isn’t important; his message is.

The issue of pensions for public sector workers, like teachers and municipal employees, is the elephant in the room. You don’t hear about it as much at a local level as you should, but maybe it’s because the people who should be concerned are part of the Public Employees Retirement System. Just like the Oregon state legislature.

The main culprits are the Tier 1 people who are earning anywhere from $4,000 to $6,500 a month for the rest of their lives … plus Social Security. Of course, it isn’t their fault; it is the fault of the system that allowed these exorbitant pensions that few in the private sector receive.

Although he wrote the column after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s decisive victory (in surviving recall), it’s not about Wisconsin.

It seems that members of the progressive coalition value public services highly, like parks, libraries, public safety, education and things like that. Gerson says, “They are joined by civic-minded independents and non-libertarian conservatives. These voters have seen the commitments made to public-sector unions devouring state and local budgets, leaving little room for initiatives in the public good.

“The Pew Center on the States has quantified the problem. In 2008, states had set aside $2.35 trillion to pay for public employees’ retirement benefits while owing $3.35 trillion in promises (say Oregon) – a difference of $1 trillion. A year later, the gap has grown by 26 percent. This massive, expanding obligation cuts into the provision of government services.”

As the writer points out, in California the growth of salaries, health benefits and pensions (for public employees) has far outpaced the growth of revenues. “Payments by the city of San Jose to its public retirement fund have gone from $73 million this year – crowding out spending on libraries and public safety.” On Election Day, 71 percent of San Jose voters approved a measure to cut retirement benefits for city workers.

As former L.A. Mayor Richard Rjordan put it: “A lot of things are going to happen dramatically over the next couple of years, and then people will listen. If you close down all the parks and all the libraries, this is political dynamite.

“By siding with public employees in the state and local budget disputes, the Democratic Party is playing with dynamite. Voters sometimes are willing to accept new taxes to purchase shared public benefits, such as roads or schools. But even in liberal California cities, voters are reluctant to raise tax revenues to transfer directly to the retirement benefits of a middle-class interest group,” Gerson says.

Stay tuned for the same scenario in Oregon.

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I’m not sure what the difference is between a stun gun and a Taser, but it appears that the result is pretty much the same. Proponents of these “weapons” (and I don’t know what else you can call them) say that no one has been killed, but I’ve read of a number of cases where people have died after being stunned or tasered … so I don’t know where they are coming up with their information.

The latest is the death of a 44-year-old Eagle Point man. A man, who was acting “very erratically,” was subdued with a stun gun after a struggle as officers tried to get him into a patrol vehicle. It didn’t appear to affect him, but as he was being transported he stopped breathing and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

I understand that it’s better to use a Taser on someone than to shoot them … but from what I’ve read, officers across the country are using these weapons on people that wouldn’t be “candidates” to be shot. People are sometimes zapped just because they won’t obey an officer’s command (for example, the woman who was 7 months pregnant who refused to sign a traffic ticket because she didn’t feel it was justified).

And that’s wrong . . .

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It’s always fun to report a bit of trivia in my column. At the Herald we recently received a press release from the Social Security Administration listing the top five boys and girls names for 2011 in Oregon.

Mason tops the list for boys, followed by Liam, Logan, Jacob and Alexander.

For girls, Sophia was the most popular, followed by Emma, Olivia, Ava and Isabella.

Earlier, the federal government’s top official for baby names (now that’s a much-needed government job) said Jacob and Sophia were the most popular names in the United States.

Wonder how much he is paid to track, and divulge, that information?

I don’t think we really want to know …

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My article about pit bulls in a recent column brought a response from one of my faithful readers: Johnny Sorenson. A BHS graduate, Johnny is the author of a book titled “True Secret of Golf.” He’s lived for many years in Alaska, but keeps in touch with what’s going on in his hometown by reading my column.

Here’s what he had to say: “A dog lover my whole life and I agree with you about ‘pit bulls’ etc. As verification, our insurance policy on our old Bandon house for renters does not allow pit bull-type aggressive dogs. That is simply what the insurance company requires.”

Thanks Johnny. That’s one more thing to add to my “pit bull” file. It just keeps growing.

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Last week’s sheriff’s office log had an attack by a Rottweiler, which took place on north Ohio in the middle of the night. It seems that a person comes to visit on the weekend and brings his Rottweiler. The dog attacked Les and Jeanette Funk’s dog on their porch. I happened to notice it in the SO log and asked our animal control officer (who is doing a great job) to look into it. And he did.

I am totally amazed that people don’t start taking the law into their own hands when a dog comes onto their property and attacks their animal.

I most certainly would.

In fact, some years ago, a dog came off the highway and was attacking a Siamese cat, who had adopted me. The dog had the cat’s head in his mouth and was in my open garage. I wrestled the dog to the ground (I am not recommending this for everyone) so that he released my cat, who headed up a tree. But the dog kept trying to get the cat. I yelled at my neighbor at the time (the late Chuck Markham) to call the police as I raced upstairs to get my gun. Fortunately for the dog, the police got there before I was forced to shoot the aggressive dog.

But I would have.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

June 20, 2012

The EAT (Everyone at Table) program celebrated its birthday last week with a turkey dinner and all the trimmings. Each year the city council and the budget committee members are invited to join the group at their Tuesday night dinner. It’s EAT’s way of saying thanks to the City for the money that we donate to them from the revenue-sharing fund. We definitely appreciate what they do for the community, and I know I can speak for the people who enjoy a home-cooked dinner each week.

I was sitting at a table with the EAT spokesperson, Allison Hundley, before the dinner got under way. There was a group of little girls, ages kindergarten through about fourth grade, all dressed in pink T-shirts, who assist with the set-up, seated at the next table. One little girl (a second grader, I believe) came up and asked Allison where the president was. At first Allison didn’t know what she meant, but she said, “You know, the president … or the mayor …” and I turned to her said “I’m the mayor.” She began hugging me, and then each of the girls took turns hugging me.

Being a city official can be tough at times, but it us evenings like this that make it all worthwhile.

Allison is trying to get their names so I can send each of them a special note.

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Three items on one page of the sheriff’s office log for June 15 were pretty scary … especially if you happen to be a police officer. The first one involved an “attempt to locate” a man who absconded five years ago from the California Department of Probation. Apparently his girlfriend posted that they were at Whiskey Run Beach. He was on parole for kidnap, and California had been looking for him for years.

The second one was a call for assistance in the Coquille area for a home invasion. The man who broke into a house on North Cedar Point Road was described as a white male, 25-30, 5-10, last seen wearing dark glasses … and possibly armed with a .9 mm handgun.

Less than half an hour later, officers throughout the county were warned by Douglas County that a subject, headed to Coos County, had threatened suicide by cop. The log warned that William Brian Meithoff, 42, may be armed with a .45 handgun and an assault rifle. He was said to be driving a white 1986 Toyota pickup, license number UDZ298. His last known address in Coos County was at 1960 Oak Street in North Bend. The sheriff’s office said Meithoff had already been flagged as a threat for officer safety from previous contacts.

This is the kind of information that seldom makes the papers.

All in a day’s work for the men and women in blue ….

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As I write this I am busy watching the 112th U.S. Open, being played at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. I understand that PGA golfer Geoff Ogilvy, an Australian pro golfer, stopped for a few rounds at Bandon Dunes on his way to San Francisco. Although he didn’t make the cut this year, Ogilvy was the 2006 U.S. Open champion.

I almost forgot that Miami and Oklahoma City were playing game 3 tonight, so I’ve been switching between golf and basketball.

Sorry if my column seems to take a back-seat to sports tonight.

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One of my friends is pretty vocal about all the dog poo that he finds as he walks his dog along Beach Loop Drive, and I certainly don’t blame him. I can’t for the life of me see how a person can let their dog defecate on the sidewalk … and walk on like nothing has happened.

But there may be hope. An article in a recent USA News talks about property managers across the nation who are turning to DNA technology to match which canine is responsible for leaving the piles so their owners can face fines.

A property manager in Montgomery, Ala, is quoted as saying they sent out letters to residents about what they were going to do. “The problem of owners not cleaning up after their dogs just disappeared,” said one manager.

Getting the DNA sample is $29.95 per dog, and each sample test is $49.95, but just the threat of being identified has seemed to solve the problem.

What a novel idea ….

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I learned today that Holy Trinity Catholic Church has a new priest, who will be coming soon to serve the church. He’s 28-years-old and has recently graduated from seminary. The current priest has been reassigned to Scappoose.

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The first in a series of Friday-Saturday Farmers Markets in the former blue (now green) building at the Port of Bandon opened this week. Some of the vendors felt things were pretty slow, but others did fairly well. I went both Friday (11-6) and Saturday (9-3) and was glad to see that although some vendors were there both days, new people set up their wares on Saturday. Some people were expecting it to be like Nancy’s Little Farmers Market, but she didn’t open until mid-July, for obvious reasons. Most produce and fresh berries simply aren’t ready until later in the season.

There was a great assortment of arts and crafts, and things like wonderful cheesecake, iris rhizomes, jewelry, cranberry products, and a good assortment of hand-made wood products.

It’s definitely worth making the trip each weekend (or even both Friday and Saturday) to see what is being offered. And it won’t be long until there should be a good assortment of fresh produce.

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There’s still time to see the Bandon Playhouse production of “Blithe Spirit,” playing Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Sprague Community Theater. It starts out a bit slowly, but once Johnna Hickox arrives on stage, it moves into high gear. The actors, including popular Bandonites, Kathy Underdown, Darby Underdown and Linda Sack, had a huge number of lines to learn … but they do an excellent job, as does the entire cast.

It’s a bit long (2 hours and 45 minutes), but it’s a great way to spend the evening or a Sunday afternoon, and, if you’re like me, you don’t want to miss a Playhouse production.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

June 13, 2012

People all over the county are happy to learn that Bandon will soon have a new cheese factory. Actually, there are people all over the country who loved to visit the old Bandon Cheese Factory and still ask what happened to it when they visit town.

Several weeks ago I received a call from a writer with the Daily Journal of Commerce, who wanted some quotes about the cheese factory project. Since I was headed to coffee with a friend (no, I wasn’t driving), I suggested that the guy go to my column on this website to get all the quotes from me that he would need. And that’s what he did. Not only did he write a great story after interviewing Matt, but Mongo (Steve Buck) shared one of his pictures of the demolition of the building, and the Bandon Historical Museum shared a picture of two men making cheese many years ago.

The article explains the funding (a mezzanine lender, the Port of Bandon and Business Oregon) used by the private developer, Greg Drobot, who wasn’t able to obtain financing from either Umpqua or Sterling Bank.

The writer adds: “But perhaps the most important piece to the financial puzzle is a deal with the city of Bandon to lease the future factory’s land for $40 a month for the next 20 years, with three 10-year renewal options. The city is hoping that the cheese factory will anchor its plan to create a large rest stop and tourist center for coastal travelers.”

City Manager Matt Winkel pointed out that the site is adjacent to the central business district (Old Town), so it will be “a sort of launch point for visitors to enter the city. Winkel said another major financial holdup was that the city previously would not have been able to afford yearly maintenance for new restroom facilities. Winkel said the new creamery will cover those expenses.”

If you haven’t seen the article, go to

Having grown up directly across from the old cheese factory, it was an especially sad day when Tillamook closed the business and tore down the building.

I hope I’m still mayor when it comes time to cut the ribbon on the new factory … but regardless, it will be a great day for the people of Bandon.

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People seldom think about the expense of maintaining restrooms for the public, but an email from Matt this week (after he talked to Port Director Gina Dearth) puts it into perspective.

For the last year, May to May, the Port restroom expenditures were: supplies (toilet tissue, hand soap, liners, gloves, urinal blocks, mops, aerosol, etc., $6,393.30; parts, $289; labor, $16,302.35 and utilities, $2,480.01 for a total of $25,464.71.

For the proposed City restrooms (at the cheese factory site), the City would be paying for the parts and utilities, so the annual comparable savings to the City … and expense to the cheese factory for labor and supplies, would be $22,695.70, for an average of $1,891.31 per month.

He adds that the Port’s restrooms only have two stalls on each side, whereas the City’s will have five stalls on each side. The port usage for the nine-month period Oct. 1, 2011, through June 1, 2012, was men – 25,175 – and women – 28,898 – for an average of 2,797 men and 3,210 women per month.

Matt adds that he expects that the usage at the new City restrooms would be more than that, and the expenses would be proportionately greater as well.

“So, considering the fixed fee, the percentage of profits over $1 million, and restroom maintenance being paid by the cheese factory, I think the City taxpayers will be getting a pretty good deal. Remember, too, that the lease is not for a building … just the land,” Winkel said.

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I recently attended a workshop of fire chiefs, city officials, etc., to talk about the debris that was headed our way from the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake that struck Japan … but it wasn’t expected to arrive until 2013. The front page of most major newspapers last week tells a different story. The 60-foot dock that arrived on the beach at Depoe Bay (near Newport) is evidence that it’s already here.

It’s frightening to think what might had happened had a small fishing boat gotten in the way of that huge piece of debris as it made its way to shore.

And that’s just the beginning ….

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A well-known Bandon woman and long-time Rotarian Betty Fedji fell and broke her hip while visiting her daughter in California recently. Betty had just purchased a new car and they were planning to drive to Cape Cod, Mass., for a summer visit. But that’s all changed as Betty is now in a hospital, and I don’t think the doctors know how long it will take for her to heal.

I know she’d love cards or letters from her Bandon friends. Her address is Betty Fedji, P.O. Box 5785, LaQuinta, Calif., 92248.

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Bandon’s new drug dog, Reckless, is making quite a name for himself … along with his handler, Sgt. Larry Lynch. Not only were he and Larry pictured on the front page of The World last Wednesday, while searching lockers at the high school in Reedsport, but he’s been busy sniffing out the “real thing.”

According to Larry, Reckless hit on a vehicle Wednesday, operated by two clean-cut looking guys, who just happened to be delivering 10 ounces of methamphetamine somewhere in the county.

I saw them in the back of the Oregon State Police officer's car, (the officer also took part in the drug bust), and they looked like the kind that don’t use meth … they just profit from those whose lives they destroy.

Several days earlier, during another traffic stop, apparently Reckless smelled meth, but unfortunately the LA couple, who spent only a couple of hours in the county, had already made their delivery.

I’m not sure what the street value of 10 ounces of meth would be, but after it’s cut with filler, it could amount to quite a bit of cash for the dealer.

Good job Larry, Officer Looney of the OSP and canine Reckless.

As I See It

by Mary Schamehorn

Mary Schamehorn

June 06, 2012

I was saddened to learn that Harbor Lights Middle School teacher Diane Smith is battling leukemia, and is currently undergoing extensive chemotherapy treatments in Portland. Diane is a beautiful young woman and it’s so sad to learn that she is facing cancer – for a second time.

An Italian dinner fundraiser is being held for her Tuesday night (June 5) from 4:30 to 6:30 in the Bandon School District Cafeteria on Ninth Street. The cost is $6 for adults and $4 for children under 12.

After people enjoy their meal of pasta, salad bar, French bread, assorted desserts and coffee and punch, they are encouraged to head next door to the BHS gym at 7 to enjoy the final HLMS band/choir concert for this school year.

Our prayers are with Diane and hope that the prognosis is good.

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For those of you who love a good garage sale or sales, the annual Powers Townwide Garage Sale is this Saturday (June 9) in the small town on the South Fork of the Coquille River. It runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is always a lot of fun (if the weather cooperates).

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I knew that the $250,000 price paid for the Bandon Boatworks building and property, located just across the river from the lighthouse, was a virtual “steal,” but I had no idea just how far the price had dropped in just a little over two years.

In January of 2010, the property was listed for just under $2 million ($1,950,000). It was dropped to $1.1 million in February of 2010 and raised again to $1.495 in January of 2011. A year ago, in June 2011, it was lowered to $995,000 and lowered again to $500,000 in November of 2011. But the price was raised to $600,000 in November of 2011 and the remained at that price through April 24 of this year. On May 2, 2012, it was sold for $250,000. The agent was Vicki Gernandt.

The former owner, John Hancock, who moved to California many years ago, also owns a home on Beach Loop Road, which is listed for just under a million dollars.

Who knows what that will actually sell for, if it sells at all in this market.

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I often clip articles out of the paper or off the Internet and set them aside on my “As I See It” pile. As I began to sort through it this week, I noticed two articles about Republican politicians who are the polar opposite of each other.

The first was an article in the Parade section of the Register-Guard titled “Kindness Works.” It was adapted from Colin Powell’s new book, “It Worked for Me.”

Powell talks about an experience he encountered when he served as warden (the senior layperson) of a small Episcopal church in northern Virginia. During that time the Bishop assigned an elderly priest, in some kind of distress and in need of a parish, to serve as an assistant pastor.

Powell said they welcomed him into the church, and on his last Sunday, as he finished his sermon, he looked out over the congregation with a smile on his face and quietly concluded: “Always show more kindness than seems necessary, because the person receiving it needs it more than you will ever know.”

Powell said the message was a powerful one: Kindness is not just about being nice; it’s about recognizing another human being who deserves care and respect.”

The second Republican to make the news this week was Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh. Here’s what he allegedly said at a recent Town Hall meeting: “The Democratic Party promises groups of people everything. They want the Hispanic vote; they want Hispanics to be dependent upon government, just like they got African-Americans dependent upon government. That’s their game. Jesse Jackson would be out of work if they weren’t dependent upon government. There’d be no work for him.” Rather than apologize, he later added: “All Jesse Jackson is trying to do is to keep African Americans down on some plantation.”

A bit about Walsh’s background shows that he not only relies on a government paycheck, but he has had multiple tax liens filed against him and he reportedly fought his wife in court for almost 10 years over $100,000 in back child support.

The only thing those two men appear to have in common is they are both Republicans. The differences are clear: one is a statesman, the other a radical racist.

Isn’t it time that kindness at every level prevailed before we further tear this country apart?

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Wow. Here’s one for the books. An item in Sunday’s Oregonian says that prosecutors in Cleveland are tossing out a $344 littering ticket against an Ohio driver who stopped to give money to a panhandler in a wheelchair. A police officer had cited the driver after the cash fell to the ground at a busy freeway interchange. The city said during a court hearing Thursday that it’s dropping the case because it doesn’t consider money to be trash.

After going through that, the guy said from now on he’ll give money only to charities.

Apparently it’s illegal to solicit or give money at the side of the road in Ohio.

Just another example of political correctness run amok.

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Here’s a ruling that I definitely agree with. Maryland’s highest court has declared pit bulls “inherently dangerous.” The state’s court ruled in April that pit bull owners can be found liable for damages in attacks, regardless of an animal’s history.

Maryland lawmakers are introducing legislation to overturn the ruling; one of the reasons is they fear the ruling could make finding homes for pit bulls more difficult. (You think?)

That little item comes a couple of weeks after an Ohio newborn was killed by the family’s pit bull mix dog.

(The dog was quarantined for 10 days. Wow, now that’s punishment).

And the three-day-old girl’s death came weeks after a 2-month-old South Carolina boy was pulled from an infant swing and dismembered by a dog as his father slept in another room.

It also occurred shortly before an Ohio law took effect on May 20 removing an automatic “vicious dog” label for pit bull breeds and mixes, a move the state Legislature approved in February.

It’s time people pulled their collective heads out of the sand. I’d be happy to share my three-inch file on attacks by vicious dogs (97 percent of them pit bull, Rottweiler, mastiffs or other pit bull mixes).

As if that would do any good.

previous columns by mary schamehorn