It’s spring and – in case you haven’t seen the letters to the editor in two months – it’s also election time.
On Thursday, the American Association of University Women (of which I am a member) and the Headlight Herald co-sponsored a political forum featuring 15 local and state candidates. All candidates in contested May 15 elections were present – that includes two candidates for tax assessor, two candidates for county commissioner Position 2 and seven candidates for county commissioner Position 1.
Written questions were solicited from the audience and candidates each had one minute to answer.
It’s an intense election, with Charles Hurliman’s commissioner seat up for grabs by a newcomer. At the Headlight Herald, we’ve worked to expand our elections coverage by (for the first time) conducting in-depth video interviews with each of the commissioner candidates.
Another first – we live-streamed video of the political forum online, as it was happening. Granted, you can see me and reporter Anthony Rimel fiddling to get the video started, but I was pleasantly surprised with the audio quality. You can watch the entire forum at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/21975614 or follow a link from tillamookheadlightherald.com.
One forum question in particular drew my interest – candidates were asked their opinion on the potential for ocean energy devices off Tillamook County’s shores.
The first to answer was David Downs. He responded in part, “I live down in Pacific City and I really have a great view, and in all honesty, just drive I-5 toward San Francisco and you see all these wind producing machines, and it looks terrible. It’s just a bad view. It couldn’t be any worse… I think I’d rather see an oil rig out there than a couple hundred windmills.”
I don’t mean to pick on David. Several candidates weren’t thrilled with the prospect. You can listen to all the candidates answer this question starting at the 1:39 minute mark.
But of all the reasons to oppose ocean energy development, I have trouble with “the view” defense.
I fully admit that I come to the issue of “the view” from a skewed standpoint. I have lived in Tillamook for less than two years and cannot see the ocean from my window.
For four years prior to coming to Oregon, I lived in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, where the view of the mountains is just as beautiful as the ocean. In parts of Appalachia, a practice called mountaintop removal mining blasts 500-800 feet off the tops of these mountains in order to reach the coal seams below.
(You can learn more about this devastating practice at ilovemountains.org).
A field of windmills generating electricity atop one of those mountains would look beautiful, because it would mean the mountain would still be there.
Kentucky is not my birthplace. I was raised along the Gulf Coast in New Orleans and Houston, where the ocean plays a vital part in the livelihoods of local residents.
Two years ago, a BP oil rig in the Gulf exploded. I wish our need for crude oil hadn’t played a part in the deaths of 11 men and the widespread damage to an eco-system and an economy.
Am I asking to throw energy devices into Oregon’s waters tomorrow? Heck no. I don’t know if it will be feasible in the long-run. I don’t know what effects it could have on other marine life. The big one – I don’t want to harm our fishing industry.
But these are the reasons we might oppose – or perhaps approach with caution – the placement of energy devices off our shores. The worst excuse, the most blatant example of “not in my backyard” syndrome, is to dismiss the entire industry because of its potential to mar the view of the horizon.
And I happen to think the wind turbines along the Columbia Gorge are beautiful, because of the values they represent.
Many months ago, a very “green” fella from north county was telling me we needed to oppose these ocean devices, which surprised me. He said the Native Americans thought the view over the Pacific was sacred and we had a duty to preserve it.
Well, I’m sure that’s true. I’ll only counter that the mountains are sacred to the people of Appalachia, and the wetlands are sacred to the people of southern Louisiana.
In other parts of this country, people sacrifice their health and environment to power America. I can’t think of anything more selfish than to say we won’t sacrifice “the view.”