Who has been naughty and nice this year? We take a quick tour of 2002 just in time for Christmas. The following list will be transmitted to Santa Claus electronically so he can deliver the appropriate gifts tonight. In some cases, of course, goodness is its own reward, and foolishness metes out its own consequences to the perpetrators. But, just to drive home a point, here's our list. Santa, sharpen your No. 2 pencil.
Buckets of coal to ...
Environmentalists who oppose forest health - The year began with environmental groups prevailing in a lawsuit against the Forest Service to prevent post-fire logging on the Prineville Ranger District in the Ochoco National Forest. The complaint, filed in federal district court in Portland, alleged that the Forest Service ignored what the groups called "the available science that cautions against logging after wildfire because of likely significant impacts on already sensitive soils and watersheds." Of course, they didn't mention the "significant impacts" of forest fires that feed off of overstocked, unmanaged forests.
Dan Bishop, a representative of D.R. Johnson Timber Co. which would have benefited from the Ochoco sale, summed it up correctly when he said, "They have a mission, the preservationist community ... and it's to shut us down, and not harvest any timber on our national forest."
Shutting us down comes at a cost. By the start of the summer, 3,346,423 acres were on fire in the United States, and of that acreage, 94,428 were burning in Oregon. Thanks, environmentalists. Coal may be the wrong gift for these extremist groups. They seem to oppose every form of energy that modern society can generate, so maybe they should spend the new year with their lights out and the heat off.
Big-city voters fooled into electing pro-tax candidates - So far, governor-elect Ted Kulongoski has been cagey about raising taxes - although, during the election, he supported the "temporary" income-tax increase measure facing voters on Jan. 28. We suspect the Multnomah County voters who pushed Kulongoski over the top in the general election will be in for a rude awakening once the Jan. 28 measure crashes and burns. Then, it will become time for fee and tax increases. The clumps of coal arriving in these voters' stockings will not hurt their feelings nearly as much as the hefty tax increases that they (and the rest of us) can expect from a Democratic governor with no belly (and no expressed desire) for government budget-cutting. California voters are learning the same lesson already. Re-elected Gov. Gray Davis has announced plans to raise taxes in that state rather than make substantive cuts to the state budget.
But enough of the rogue's gallery. Here are some of the heroes of 2002:
Baskets of gifts to ...
Local public servants, including (but not limited to) the following:
Grant County Circuit Court Judge William Cramer Jr. - His compassion and patience make him an outstanding judge; we're sorry that the Jan. 28 "temporary" income-tax measure holds people like him and his staff hostage to budget cuts.
Outgoing Central Oregon Battering and Rape Alliance staffer Jan Barfield - Jan, with her husband, Steve, a Forest Service employee, will be sorely missed. They left the area in November for bigger and better opportunities in Roseburg. Speaking of compassion ... Jan showered it upon the most needy. Sometimes (to paraphrase the Rolling Stones) we don't know what we've got until they're gone.
Arlene Oliver and the Grant County Family Heritage Foundation - Established in 1999 by local citizens, including members of longtime ranching families in Grant County such as Oliver's, the foundation tackled an ambitious project of building a youth agricultural facility at the Grant County Fairgrounds. Initially, the projected cost was $460,367. Now, with the final tally exceeding $690,000 (all of it private), the foundation needs continued contributions to balance the books on the completed building.
Law enforcement officers - It was a brutal year for police. On Jan. 16, a Grant County jury exonerated Dayville rancher Robert Allan Humphreys Jr. of the most serious charges stemming from an Aug. 21, 2001, confrontation with police when police responded to the Humphreys residence off Highway 19. Not exactly a resounding endorsement of law and justice, jurors. Then, in February, came the harrowing manhunt for Almeron "Willie" Hinton, who later would be convicted of murdering his parents in Long Creek. Not only did police risk their lives pursuing Hinton, but they faced the constant second-guessing and derision of citizens who played armchair quarterbacks. The summer wasn't much better - a standoff with a suicidal man in July; wildfires in August. Goodbye 2002, and good riddance to its tribulations.
Volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians - Operating mostly out of the spotlight, these patron saints of our communities respond at all hours to any manner of emergency and disaster. The same kudo applies to the foot soldiers who attack fires in our forests. Let's hope their dangerous job is not the new cornerstone of our economy.
Merry Christmas, and stay safe out there in 2003.