Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recessions and resolutions

Times have gotten really tough for a lot of folks in Sisters. Jobs lost, hours cut, retirement incomes shrunk or gone up in smoke.

We’re not in the hurt locker yet, but we need to be careful to stay out of it. My wife’s hours have been cut back and we need to watch the dollars pretty closely. Our situation is by no means really tough and we’re thankful that the cuts we need to make are not vital ones.

As an irrepressibly optimistic pessimist (or is that a pessimistic optimist?), I’m trying to find ways to make getting lean beneficial and maybe even fun.

I don’t have a book budget anymore. But I have a stack of books I still want to read and there’s always the library. We’ve given up movie rentals in favor of read-aloud sessions with our nine-year-old, Ceili. We start “Inkheart” tonight. I’ll miss watching my obscure Eastern European historical epics (see “The Wild East”), but I’m really excited about the reading sessions. There’s something timeless and satisfying about reading a well-wrought tale aloud together.

My Brazilian Jujitsu class has been cut back to once a week. A small savings and it will let me focus with more intensity on my conditioning, which I need to ramp up to keep improving on the mat.

My wife, Marilyn, will use some of her extra time to make more home cooked meals, which is good for the pocketbook and good for the body. We’ll still sometimes bring home Oryisa’s phenomenal soups from Ali’s and hit Coyote Creek and Soji for takeout. We want to support the local businesses that support us. But it will be more of a special occasion thing.

Even though gas prices have plummeted in a way I thought I’d never see, we’re still paying close attention to our driving, especially with my gas pig truck.
Restraining impulse purchases and watching utility use are also habits we need to reinforce. Non-essential expenditures on the horse are out (at least we can keep him fed!)

And I can reduce my weekly quota of ammunition... I can. I will. Really.

Making music with friends remains cheap — and there’s no price tag you can put on the value.

Fortunately we’re not in the position of making drastic moves — and hopefully we’ll stay out of that kind of trouble. There’s plenty of people who have to make much tougher choices every day and I feel for them and salute them for their fortitude. I also salute all of those in Sisters who work hard to help those in real need.

I can honestly say that the changes we need to make are beneficial, making for a better way of life. We’ve always lived pretty modestly, but some enforced conservatism will help us live more frugally and with more intent, better focus on our genuine priorities, on what “prosperity” really means to us.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Too bad our governmental officials at the national, state and local levels aren't as conservative.

    Big government from both sides of the aisle got us into this mess, and apparently, bigger government is the answer they think is best. Poppycock.

    Let us all hope that our elected officials, who supposedly work for us, start to cut the fat like we all have had to do.

    Michael Preedin

  2. It’s especially bad that our arrogant school board doesn’t get it.

    There is not one director on the current board willing to stand up for the taxpayers who elected them. Next year, the district will have approximately 1200 students and a $13,000,000 budget if the levy is passed. That's about $11,000 in funding per student. Three to four years ago it was about $8,000 per student. The current average class size is 23 students, which equates to $253,000 per classroom; i.e., a quarter million dollars per year to run each and every classroom. As 20/20 host John Stossel would say, give me a break!

    I think they are counting on apathy to get the levy passed. Too many people on the conservative side will not vote thinking that, as it was before the last election, the 50% rule applied. This meant that not voting was virtually equivalent to a no vote. No more. Now apathy works against the taxpayer because I guarantee you the people who benefit from getting more of our money will get their supporters to vote.

    Jim, I hope you and the owners of the Nugget will get this message out to the local community, you must vote to be heard and counted. Let’s not let this board pull another fast one at our expense. I’ll have much more to say on this later.

  3. To Mike Morgan,

    It is always worth pointing out to you that the board is standing up for the taxpayers who elected them. You seem to forget that we taxpayers voted for this board and against you and your views. so It is not surprising that the boards decisions diverge from your views as do the view s of the taxpayers who elected THEM..and specifically NOT YOU.

  4. Thank- you Mr. Morgan for again taking a critical look at the way our schools are being run and to you Jim for your nicely written piece.I lost my job last week but at least I have another part-time job to fall back on. Did anyone else notice there was no "help wanted"ads in last weeks Nugget?And no to the school board AGAIN until they can gain some sort of accountablility and trust w/ our money.It seems the board fails to understand that we the citizens,have been keeping track of their prior "record"(except for all the "executive" sessions".Trust and accountablity are issues they must address if they ever want my hard-earned and sparse cash/vote.

  5. It seems some people don’t remember that the taxpayers defeated the local option levy two months ago. This was done with no organized opposition while the other side twisted arms with phone calls, personal pleas, and spent a lot of money on advertising.

    I think we all have a duty to ask tough questions. There is stiff competition for our tax dollars. Our school and community leaders claim we have the best district in the state. Therefore, it seems logical that the district could give up a little to make a little more available to the elderly, handicapped, mentally ill, and parents that can’t adequately care for their kids.

    It’s extremely arrogant and self-centered to think schools are the only need in the community.

  6. Mr Morgan

    We are getting tired of listening to you. Why don't you find another conspiracy like tinted bus windows. That was a good laugh.

  7. Too bad anonymous can’t understand the intent of the school bus letter. About 20% of district children on average ride the school busses to and from school. Twenty years ago the percentage was much higher. This downward trend is not unique to Sisters, it’s happening everywhere. The decrease is due to many reasons, parents concerns about safety, getting a ride from parents is more convenient, older students have cars, and a high percentage of students participate in before and/or after school activities that makes their schedule incompatible with the bus schedule.

    The district spends approximately $500K per year to run the bus program. Are we going to continue to spend this much money when participation falls to 10%, 5%, or lower? Maybe it’s time to think outside the box to save money where it can be saved so more is available for more pressing needs elsewhere. I am completely aware that some educational costs are mandated by State and Federal regulations. My letter recognized that fact and suggested maybe it’s time to lobby those agencies to ease restrictions that are outdated, expensive, and no longer serve the best interest of our district.

    It would be nice to have an adult debate of the merits of the ideas expressed on this blog instead of the hostility and personal attacks that seem to dominate most comments.

  8. Mr. Morgan will get the decrease in school funding he so desperately wants when the state cuts back on distributions to local districts. With so many states in trouble it is only a matter of time. Reducing the school budget further by removing the local option is too big a cut in an outstanding school system.

    I suggest you keep pressing for accountability instead of penalizing the youth of this community by taking away some of the programs (and teachers) that help our students excell.

  9. Mr. Ross

    I have never said I was against the local option levy. My agenda is accountability, full disclosure, public participation and oversight. Apathy can destroy a democratic society. I’m against using smoke and mirrors, fear, or other emotional arguments to get issues past voters. For the electorate to make a good decision on the levy we need to know how the district is doing in total. If it’s doing really well there is cause to believe a 10% cut won’t be too painful, if not it could be very painful. The point is the information we need is much more than rhetoric designed to scare us. The more of that the district puts out the more I will try to counter it.

  10. I read with interest the article in the Bend Bulletin yesterday about the budget issues/short falls that the Bend Lapine Districts are dealing with currently. They have planned and are executing cuts and fewer school days. When they went on to talk about what other schools were doing, they indicated Redmond was planning on fewer dollars as was Crook County. Curiously missing was Sisters ? Its not just Central Oregon Schools that are dealing with these issues, making the hard choices, its a tatewide issue. Pick up an Oregonian and you will see the same topics. I guess my question is what are we planning to do ? Leave it to the last minute and cry wolf ? Now, I will grant you that is what we have done in the past and it has worked to a degree but that is also why there is so much skepticism with our School Board.

  11. Mr Morgan

    I have volunteered at the schools for eight years and have known all the board memebers. Not one of them has treated me with arrogance. Maybe its your approach. By the way, its very easy to sit on the side lines and complain. And you sure like using the work arrogant!

  12. Maybe you never pushed them to comply with the plain language of Oregon law, pointed out bad decisions, or did anything other than go along to get along. If you get out in the community and listen you will find many people that won't bring anything up that's negative regarding the schools because they have kids in school or a spouse that works in the district. You will also find people that have tried to bring up concerns and feel they have been totally ignored.

    You suggest a differant approach but don't elaborate. Part of my agenda is getting people to pay attention to what their elected officials are doing. Sometimes throwing a bomb over the fence or starting a cat fight is the only way to get them interested. If you have a better way I'm all ears.

  13. I sure am enoying Mr. Morgans comments as opposed to "anoymous".I am sick of people who try make the local option tax one of emotion and "for the children's sake".This is about how business should be run, accountability,and the current economy.Until one or all of the people involved who chose to take STATE funds and put them into a private religious school are in charge of education I will be voting NO NO NO! OUR children are the ones paying back 1.2 MILLION dollars!How's that for emotion? The last bond issue passes with NO voter approval! How much did the last push to vote yes cost us?There are some great options in this town now for education other than the public schools and I have pulled my youngest out of it as I think the trend of financing huge buildings,payrolls,unions,administration, ect.ect. ect. is on the way out,the internet is in.The state is so busy pushing it's agenda of education on the schools that it is the teachers who care and the kids that suffer. I volunteered for over ten yrs. in the schools here so this is no sideline observation. Thank-you Mr. Morgan again for expressing what alot of people are thinking!

  14. Oh Mr. Morgan, always good for a laugh.

    Pray tell, how exactly is the school district making cuts the same as it "giving up a little" to help the elderly, handicapped, etc.? Do you think the district can say to Salem, "No no, we don't want that last million dollars... please use it for other social services?"

    Maybe those arrogant, selfish senior services people should give some money back so there will be enough for schools! After all, doesn't it make more sense to put the money to people who will have the rest of their lives left to use it?(sarcasm! sarcasm!)

  15. What a hoot! Let’s round up all the handicapped, mentally ill, and the elderly and put them in concentration camps, feed them dog food, take away their social security and other subsidies, and force them to make things that can be given to our kids because they have their whole life ahead of them. Give me a break! Wasn’t this what the Second World War was all about?

    I can be as sarcastic as anyone but sarcasm rarely advances an intelligent discussion of ideas. Taxpayers have only so much to give with many competing demands for necessary and worthwhile services, including feeding their own family. It seems reasonable to think the school district would do its share and go up and down with the tide. The district is willing to go up but whines like the devil when the tide goes down. We’re all in this recession together, let’s act like it, suck it up, and pull together.