Don Larson is the mayor of Seaside.
How did you feel about the Hood to Coast forum? How did it go?
It was extremely well done. It was a time when people were able to speak for it, against it and what they would like to do to make it more compatible if they were not really in favor of it. Some wonderful suggestions about possibly changing it. Some of the changes were to change the date; there were also thoughts that maybe we should get more financial return from the Hood to Coast corporation. They give us now $18,000 a year and we've been using that for parks. And they believe possibly that we should up that and get a better return for the inconvenience.
But there were probably close to 60 people there and it was just a real good display of thoughts just well done, nicely done. A great group of people. ... I went as Don Larson. I just wanted to hear what people said. I didn't say one word.
How are you feeling about what's going on with the U.S. Highway 101 flood mitigation project?
The 101 flooding has been going on for way over 20 years. ... What they feel is that this should remove the need to close the highway. In other words, we might get two or three inches, but that's not going to stop anybody. They believe this is a marvelous solution for only $1 million spent on this, and it's been a lot of work.
How do you feel like these two projects (flood mitigation and widening a portion of highway at the Holladay Drive intersection) in concert will affect the traffic of this town?
People don't like to be delayed. It will just move traffic better on 101. And let's face it, on the flooding issue, that has stopped emergency vehicles. That has stopped ambulances coming from the south to our hospital or coming from the north here to pick up somebody from the south stopped them. The ambulance can't go through. We've had babies being there, and their grandparents can't get there. We've been isolated, Seaside has been totally isolated going to the south. And then Cannon Beach, of course, can't get north.
So this should enhance the day-to-day use of us as residents, plus the tourist doesn't like to hear that Highway 101 is blocked, flooded, because the news might over exaggerate or it might have been flooded two hours ago and, according to the media, it's still flooded. ... It's just a good feeling to know that we'll never now be stopped going south and the south people won't be stopped going north. ... Plus our schools. Our school buses have to come from the south also. So it's a wonderful change.
Speaking of schools, this school year has obviously brought some changes with the closing of Cannon Beach Elementary and (Sheila) Roley taking over as principal of Seaside High and Broadway Middle schools. And then there's the big vote in November. What's your sense of how this will play out?
I don't have a sense of how it's going to play out on Nov. 5, but right now, people are looking for more information. Most people say, "Well, I don't know exactly what is happening, and I don't know why they're doing it, and the cost has changed, so what is the final and true cost?" In other words, "What is this going to cost me? I need to know before I vote."
I know it's coming, and we're just kind of waiting for that. As far as a win or a defeat, I just can't say.
I have supported schools all my life. Time will tell with this one. This is a very large one.
Many people say, "If it's because of the tsunami, we don't need to do it. We haven't had a tsunami." Well, you know, its a preparation in place also because it is a safe place for kids, the new campus. ... The last two or three years, it's been very serious talk [of moving the school] because of the tsunami scare and very serious talk because the Cannon Beach school building is just not an adequate school building. The last three years it's just been a lot of positive talk about, "We must do something." There's also a lot of talk that the high school needs just millions of dollars of work to bring it up to code, and code also means some safety factors. ... Not only do the buildings need some work, but, instead of spending money where we are, because of the tsunami, it's probably wise to move in the long run.
Is there momentum on a plastic bag ban? Is that still being talked about?
What I'm doing on plastic bags, I've asked the councilors, "Do you wish to discuss the use of plastic bags in Seaside?" Three councilors have said no, two councilors have said yes and I'm still waiting for a response from the other two. In other words, what I'm asking the council to do, because we've had people who brought it up, is "Do you want to discuss the use of plastic bags in Seaside? Do you want to have a workshop to do it?" And until I get the responses from all seven, I can't do anything about it. In other words, I'm not just calling a workshop to discuss plastic bags unless they want to do it. It's a very controversial issue.
What's the background of the issue in Seaside?
It's happening in some bigger cities, and people here have said, "Why are we doing plastic bags?" And we have a real mess on the beach because of plastic bags. They get in the sand and in the growth, and they don't come out. So, would it be wise? One thing that's maybe not wise is we have a lot of water and a lot of rain, and what about carrying paper bags? In other words, as a mayor I could say, "We're having a workshop on plastic bags." I don't do that unless council wants to do it. That way, we're doing this together as a team, we're working as a team, not just listening to what the mayor says. ... So when I get that information, I will decide whether we're going to talk about it, have a workshop on it or it's over. Gearhart's been very interested in that, too. So Gearhart might join us if we discuss it at a workshop.
I'm about to spend my first winter here. Any tips for people spending their first winter on the coast?
You'll find it very interesting. You'll find some nice days, and you'll probably some socked-in days with fog, and they get kind of dreary. You'll also find, as a newbie, that we could get a little bit of ice and we could get a quarter of an inch of snow and it'll turn to ice and we can't move. ... Here, our snow turns to ice. We're pretty well stopped. Hills to the east, and our school buses we have some concerns. But I think you'll find it's more apt to have some dark days, maybe it'll stay too many days in a row before we get out of it. Rain? Just carry an umbrella, put up your hood.