Thanks from Ski for Light

Dear Editor:

A huge thank you to Methow Valley Ski for Light Partners. The recent event was a huge success. Ski for Light Puget Sound is an all-volunteer organization with a mission to teach visually and mobility impaired persons the sport of cross country skiing.

Thank you to Mary Milka and the rest of the Mazama Country Inn team for the hospitality and wonderful food. Thank you, Methow Trails for the special tracks that allowed our guides and visually impaired skiers to ski side-by-side. Guides and skiers alike were thrilled to enjoy River Run Inn, Cow Beach and the Mazama Meadow. Thank you, local guides: Deb Olson, Karen Mulcahy, Rick Rottman, Kurt Snover, Tracey Weiss, Marie Tracy and Gina Monteverde for sharing your love of skiing with visually and mobility impaired skiers! Thank you, Kip Roberts, for taking two days to teach techniques to guides and skiers. Thank you, Mazama Ski School, for helping with pole straps and equipment, and thank you to Winthrop Mountain Sports for helping visually impaired skiers get the right equipment.

It is exciting to be a part of Methow Trails’ effort to have accessible trails — the new sit skis were used by some in our group including a blind skier that wanted to “see” what sit skiing is all about. The group will be back next year — if you see us on the trails, feel free to stop and say hello.

Rich and Nancy Milsteadt, Winthrop

Dubious protection

Dear Editor:

President Trump has banned travel to seven Moslem nations, however, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirate and Pakistan have produced even more terrorists. Those countries have Trump business properties, and are not banned for travel.

It would appear that we are to be protected only if it doesn’t conflict with President Trump’s business.

Dan Weinstein, Winthrop

Questions about ACA repeal

Dear Editor:

Some questions for Congressman Newhouse:

As you know, many Americans are concerned about their access to health care if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed without a meaningful replacement. One of the key provisions of the ACA, which you supported in your recent letter to me, is that insurers are not permitted to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions. In other words, someone who is sick and needing care cannot be denied insurance on that basis. That is a fortunate position you take, as, prior to the ACA, many individuals could not get insurance. For example, some years ago my sister-in-law, who took one pill once a day for controlled high blood pressure, applied for insurance when her husband quit his job. In spite of her minor level of medical care, she was denied insurance. 

I said your position is fortunate, but it is also meaningless unless backed up with other regulations. You see, if people can get insurance when they are sick without penalty, then why would they pay premiums when they are well? Insurers are very good at calculating their costs; insurance will rapidly become unaffordable if only sick people are trying to get it. Insurance only works when lots of healthy people are paying into it. Which brings us back to the individual mandate: enacting the mandate is part of the reason health care cost inflation slowed dramatically the first two years of the ACA (because more healthy young people joined the insurance pool). Another provision of the ACA that makes my insurance affordable as an older working American, is the regulation that sets maximum premiums at three times the lowest premium. 

So, Congressman Newhouse: could you please tell us how you will keep health care affordable for ordinary working Americans after you repeal the ACA? As you enjoy your taxpayer-funded health insurance, keep in mind your constituents’ needs.

Thank you for addressing this issue of great importance to 30 million Americans who currently buy their insurance on the individual market.

Peter Bauer, Winthrop

Action, not words

Dear Editor:

I recently wrote to Congressman Dan Newhouse asking if he supported Trump’s Muslim travel ban. The congressman conceded that the order was poorly implemented but declined to criticize its substance, repeating the administration’s blatant lie that “Our current vetting procedures are too inconsistent and fail to prevent terrorists and those seeking to do us harm from entering our country.”

Where is the evidence supporting this statement? Where are the terrorists from any of these countries who have gotten through our vetting procedures? If the danger is so critical and the vetting so inadequate, why was the order not applied to citizens of Saudi Arabia, home to most of the 9/11 terrorists and seedbed of some of the most virulent forms of radical Islam? Is that consistent? Are Trump’s orders (and rhetoric) consistent with these words: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses longing to be free? Mr. Newhouse, what do these words mean to you now? 

The Congressman goes on to write: … “we must also remember who we are as a nation.  The United States is a nation of immigrants and we have a long history of providing safe harbor to refugees …  It is imperative that we continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression abroad.”

Mr. Newhouse, I am glad to hear you feel this way. But your words are hollow if you’re not saying them to Trump, if you’re not acting on them. 

We are poorly served by a Congress that does not stand up to a president who has no regard for the truth and no concern for the consequences of his actions, and who so heedlessly trashes our most fundamental values.

Nick Hershenow, Twisp

Many questions

Dear Editor:

To date the Methow Valley News discussion of U.S. Forest Service fire policy, and of the large-scale logging projects justified by it such as the Mission Project, has omitted a number of problematic questions and facts. Letter length allows me to address only a few.

  • The Forest Service plans to suppress virtually all natural fire ignitions outside of remote wilderness. In place of wildfire, they plan a regime of logging, in a computer-generated pattern designed to simulate fire. However, logging cannot fill the same complex, important role in the forest ecosystem that wildfire does.

  • The Mission Project Environmental Assessment calls for millions of board feet of overstory (large-diameter, tall trees) to be removed and sold for a profit by the purchaser (though the public will lose money on the sale). It is not clear at all that the loss of these large trees really promotes fire resiliency.

  • The Forest Service has lumped diverse ecosystems together into a vast 50,000-acre analysis area called the “Mission Project,” and proposed that over a decade’s worth of logging and other activities be examined in a single environmental review. That document is in the format of the less-stringent Environmental Assessment (instead of an Environmental Impact Statement, which involves a higher standard of analysis and planning). The Forest Service hopes to avoid, for years to come, any further environmental review, or input from the public in regards to these activities.

  • The proposed feller-buncher harvest of millions of board feet of timber, and the thousands of trips by log trucks, hauling winter and summer for years, are not viewed as safety risks, significant causes of sedimentation, or in fact to have any negative consequences whatsoever.

  • Perhaps most fundamentally, is the substitution of an “engineered forest,” an industrially mediated landscape managed by technocrats, truly an improvement over protecting what public wildlands we have left, and allowing natural processes to prevail?

Chris Frue, Carlton

‘Yes’ on annexation

Dear Editor:

It is clear from conversations with others that last week’s article about the proposed annexation of the Town of Winthrop into Okanogan County Fire District 6 has left some people with the mistaken impression that the only change annexation will bring will be a property tax increase for Winthrop property owners. Annexation will have many benefits for both Winthrop and District 6 residents:

Winthrop residents will acquire the right to vote in District 6 elections and the right to run for any of the three commissioner positions. Fire is probably the greatest threat to our quality of life here in the Methow Valley. So, having a say in district matters is a big deal.

The town currently contracts with the district for fire protection services. Annexation will eliminate the possibility of a contract negotiation impasse and the potential for Winthrop to be in a position where it would need to re-establish its own fire department. Re-establishing a Winthrop fire department would almost certainly require the purchase of another fire truck and hiring paid staff. And, that would result in property tax increases for Winthrop property owners that would be much higher than they would be under annexation.

Annexation will provide the town with about $60,000: $10,000 from leasing the Town owned fire station to the district, and about $50,000 from not paying the district for fire protection. This money will be used for improvements, repairs, services and other useful things for Winthrop residents that could not otherwise be funded.

Discontinuing contracting will result in a savings of time and money for both the town and the fire district. Personnel will not have to spend time in contract negotiations, and legal fees will not have to be spent for writing and reviewing contracts.

Annexation will result in a small net revenue increase for the district amounting to about $4,000 per year and a change for the district to a more reliable revenue source. (A property tax is more reliable than a service contract because it is not dependent upon negotiations.)

Annexation is in everyone’s best interest, and both Winthrop voters and District 6 voters should vote for it.

Paul Sisson, Winthrop