Letters to the Editor, August 9, 2012

Tonasket mayor off base

Dear Editor,
As Executive Director of Okanogan County Transportation & Nutrition (OCTN), I would like to clarify the inaccurate and irresponsible statements made by Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb in the article
“Council asked for public transport input” published in the August 2nd issue of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune.
Mayor Plumb made egregious accusations against the transportation currently in place in Okanogan County. Not only were his statements against us untruthful, but were harmful to our reputation and were made without thought to checking his facts.
First, we do not, nor have we ever used our buses for ANY political purposes. We sell our old buses to private individuals when they are replaced with new buses. This is done in a closed bid process. All markings are removed from the buses prior to the individual using the bus for private purposes. Once the bus is purchased by private individuals we have no say in what purpose they are used for. I personally investigated his accusation that an OCTN bus was used by the Democratic Party and was fully satisfied that the person who purchased our old bus had removed any OCTN markings prior to its use. I do know that the person in question had run against Mayor Plumb for a political position and that may be why he is spouting these irresponsible accusations.
He goes on to say that “there should be rules against that.” We are very much aware of the rules of our funding and never, ever, use our buses for political purposes. However, I would pose the question why he isn’t aware that there are also rules against making false and defamatory statements against a person or company. These statements would have been bad enough coming from a private individual, but coming from an elected official is totally unacceptable. Those in a position of power should take care in what they say in public meetings and should not use their position of power to pontificate on personal opinions; especially when the opinions are just that, opinions and not fact.
Mayor Plumb also states that he has requested ridership data and we have “not been forthcoming.” That is another false statement. He has never once requested ridership data from OCTN. We are more than happy to provide ridership data whenever requested as we are very proud of the service we provide and the ridership is impressive for a county that has so small a population. In 2011, we provided over 66,768 rides. He goes on to state that “We can’t be doing this for 20 people” and states there are more important things to fund “than for this current bus for grandma to call up.” Again, he is totally uninformed. Of those 66,768 rides we provided in 2011, 27,091 were senior rides. I am surprised and disillusioned that the Mayor of Tonasket is so willing to throw “grandma” under the bus, so to speak. I wonder what the seniors of Tonasket are thinking right about now.
When I was informed of these statements that he made in a public meeting, I immediately called the City of Tonasket and requested to be placed on the August 14th agenda to officially correct his accusations and to provide him with the data that he never requested.
I invite all citizens of Tonasket to attend the August 14th Council Meeting at 7 p.m., Tonasket City Hall to hear the true facts regarding the current transportation service in Okanogan County.
Leanne Whitener,
Executive Director, OCTN

What Streetscape does

Dear Editor,
The Oroville Streetscape Committee is celebrating a memorial bench for Margaret Young arranged for by her family. A plaque commemorating her life was installed on the bench outside of Hometown Pizza this week. It is such a pleasure to celebrate with a family who has chosen a non-profit in their own town for their donation. And this occasion allows me to explain to newcomers what Streetscape is and what we do.
The Streetscape Committee was formed in 1996 by the City of Oroville and the Oroville Chamber of Commerce to encourage business by making Main Street more inviting. We held public meetings for input as to what the community would like to see most in the downtown. The hanging baskets won approval hands down! Gary Eagle designed the wrought iron hangers and Jon Snyman manufactured the huge baskets. The group then polled the merchants about trees in front of their stores. Each merchant who said yes had his choice from a list of ten trees that research showed would do well on Main Street. Letters of agreement were signed by 22 merchants. The expense for preparing the four-foot tree well, the tree and the grate was $750 per tree. Memorials were made by many families to fund each tree. Since the city had no money to replace the old light poles, Streetscape volunteers painted the poles a shiny black. Next came the fire hydrants which were painted shiny red. We bought concrete planters for the sidewalks and advocated for more garbage cans for the downtown corridor which were built by the city. After many years of saving, the committee accrued enough money in donations to add ten benches to the downtown sidewalks at a cost of $700 each.
Our primary project has always been the beautiful hanging baskets on Main Street. It took 50 volunteers to keep them watered daily throughout each summer until 2011 when we hired Fred Cook to install automatic watering. Fred donated much of his time for this project. We expanded our flower project to include planting the pots in front of many businesses. Each spring we call a dozen of our very best friends to come help plant and get ready for the many visitors who enjoy May Festival.
To celebrate the City of Oroville’s 100 year birthday, Joan Cool and Hilary Blackler headed up Streetscape’s biggest project, Centennial Park. The Park was completed in time for the Centennial Celebration in August of 2008 and has become the site the of many community affairs including the Arbor Day celebration, the annual Christmas program and even a wedding. We encourage the use of this park for community events.
Members of the Streetscape Committee prune the downtown trees each fall, saving the city funds for this chore. We also keep our downtown flower planters weeded throughout the season. We want to make our town look well cared for and vital.
Our latest project is the construction of Welcome Gate Park. The new head of the Streetscape Committee, Lynn Chapman, with her husband, Lee, took the project on as if it were their own! With the help of many committee members and spouses the Park is taking shape and will be an attractive addition to our downtown “streetscape.”
We are asking that you remember your town when making memorial contributions. Please add Oroville Streetscape to your notice in the paper and at your churches with the donation address of P.O Box 299, Oroville, WA. 98844. We will send a note to your contributors and let you know of their donation. When you think of your loved one, just look up and enjoy a lovely hanging basket as a memory of their life.
It is my hope that this has explained the Oroville Streetscape Committee and what we try to do. We welcome new energy and would like to hear from all those interested in helping out. Please call (509) 476-4626 or (509) 476-2027.
Barbara Drummond
Former Chairperson
Oroville Streetscape Committee