Don't tell him it doesn't flood hereLast week, we ran a story about Pendleton's updated emergency flood plan, done in the wake of changing FEMA regulations. But while reporting the story, I?found that several people scoffed at the idea of a major flood even in Pendleton.
At least one resident begs to differ.
Shortly after the story ran, I?found a message on my desk from a gentleman from the Riverside area who had called about subject. I called him back.
The man spoke breathlessly about a flood he experienced here around 40-45 years ago. He couldn't remember exactly when, only that it was during "basketball season." The Umatilla River reached such heights, he said, "I?had water right up to my steps." He and others had to "fight like hell"?with sand bags to keep the water at bay, he said.
The man added, adamantly:?"They can't tell me it don't flood around here."
During interviews, one insurance agent said he'd seen one flood claim in 35 years here - and that was at a home near McKay Creek. Another said fewer than 10 percent of her clients have any kind of flood insurance.
- Eric Florip
Big news in a small townI've been covering news in the town of Athena for nearly a year now. Just as I was feeling like I had my feet under me - visiting fairly regularly, doing nice little stories about things like the school kids' litter pick-up or the cancer walk - the rug got pulled.
In the past two weeks, Athena has hosted four big-town type stories. A casual observer might think the town was in chaos.
At two city council meetings on consecutive weeks, a city councilor resigned. One said he didn't like the way the mayor was running things, or presuming to run things. The other took a more personal approach, choosing not to tell his troubles in to the council or to the paper.
Then Monday, an Athena-area man was arrested for sexual abuse charges. Then Monday evening, another, more prominent Athena face appeared on the Umatilla County Jail roster - that of policeman Mark Ashcraft. He'd been arrested under suspicion of sexual abuse.
Tuesday afternoon I?spoke to a few people, trying to get a beat on how small-town Athena was dealing with these big-city happenings. When I do things like this, people usually see the reporter's notebook, hear I'm from the EO, and take off in the other direction. No one wanted to speak on the record, but I could hardly blame them. They gave a good reason. They didn't want to talk about something they didn't know about personally - at least not to the paper.
But the feeling I?got from people is similar to the feeling I'd had when I heard all that news:?surprise.
Everyone I talked to said they would let the court system do its job and assume Ashcraft's innocence until he is proven guilty.
- Samantha Bates
Gushwa's stepping out serves justiceUmatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa did the right thing in handing the prosecution of Mark Benton Ashcraft to the Oregon Department of justice.
Ashcraft, 36, is the Athena police officer facing multiple charges of sex crimes against a minor. Gushwa knew Ashcraft because of their mutual work in law enforcement.
In covering Gushwa and his office, it's apparent sex crimes are something he and his deputy attorneys take on with a dogged ferocity. They build solid cases, go after the bad guys and protect the rights of victims. So the arrest of a local cop must have stung, even if Gushwa hasn't said so publically.
Gushwa said he recused himself to avoid any conflict of interest and the apparence of impropriety. His move serves that purpose because it quashes any rumors he would have shown favoritism to a suspect who was a cop. It also helps to head off any objections from the defense or even potential reasons for appeals.
Far more importantly, though, the state prosecutors only know Ashcraft was a cop, but they don't know him the way Gushwa does. For anyone in Gushwa's position, making the case personal would have been a nigh-unavoidable ethical pitfall. Gushwa, though, set himself on the ethical high ground and helped to ensure Ashcraft will get fair treatment in the justice system. And that just may be the highest form of service an attorney can give.
- Phil Wright
Famous Angus!People who are familiar with the Blue Mountain Wildlife raptor rehabilitation center might recognize a familiar face on the cover of the July-August issue of Mid Columbian Magazine.
It's Angus, the American kestrel from Blue Mountain Wildlife's education team.
His photo op is for the story "Kestrels: Friends to Farmers" by Kathleen Walker. BMW Director Lyn Tompkins said the photos are by Scott Butner, who is from the Tri-Cities. The article talks about the help the "feisty little raptor" can give farmers in keeping pests from crops, but it doesn't mention Blue Mountain Wildlife or the character that is Angus.
He deserves a story of his own.
"He is a human imprint," Tompkins said in an e-mail.
He was taken from his nest when he was very young, so instead of imprinting on his parents like a normal animal, he imprinted on humans.
"Imprinting is how we know what we are and is especially important when it is time to find a mate,"?Tompkins said. "Angus is a bit confused about what he is, sometimes makes very poor choices and is not at all fond of other kestrels."
When he was still young but able to fly he was injured. Tompkins said she likes to think it was in his escape from his human captors. He tore a talon off one foot - which would be like one of us losing a toenail - and broke one leg. She said he ended up flying around the John Day area with a broken leg and injured foot unable to hunt and "getting pretty hungry."
"Whoever raised him must have fed him hamburger because he recognizes it as food (a normal bird would not)," Tompkins continued.
He found a hamburger patty, which had just been placed on a grill to cook, flew down and started to eat. The woman cooking the hamburger saw him and caught him before he got burned. She later called the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who eventually contacted Tompkins.
"That is how we got Angus and that is how he got his name,"?Tompkins said. "He does seem to prefer all-beef patties, although now he eats mice rather than hamburger."
Angus is now six years old and spends his days flying around the Tompkins home - when he's not posing for photographers, that is - which also houses the office and rehabilitation center just outside Pendleton. He also travels all over Eastern Oregon as "one of the stars," of the center's education team.