Justice delayed is justice denied

Michael Medill will not face charges for posting warning signs at Henry Hagg Lake. Or maybe he will. It sort of all depends on the mood of bureaucrats on any given day.

On Saturday, September 6, Gaston resident Michael Medill was arrested for placing signs at Henry Hagg Lake warning about a dangerous drop-off at the Sain Creek swimming area. Continue reading

Leadership and cowardice. Only one label is appropriate in Hagg Lake fiasco.

An open letter to Bob Davis and Pat Garrett.

Dear Mr. Davis and Sheriff Garrett,

I have been a vocal critic of Washington County’s role in the drownings of four people at Scoggins Valley Park. I can’t say that either of you have done anything wrong, however, because neither of you have done anything at all. At least not publicly. You’ve left public servants to take the brunt of taxpayers’ outrage while you have remained silent. Continue reading

Hagg Lake fiasco is merely a symptom of Washington County’s arrogance and incompetence

Dropping the charges against a man arrested for bolting cardboard warning signs at Henry Hagg Lake was a good start. Putting up permanent, albeit inadequate and misleading, warning signs is another good step. But public outrage over the tragedies at Scoggins Valley Park, and the County’s incompetent response and subsequent cover-up, should be just beginning.

The first issue should be to reveal and overturn decades of public policy intentionally meant to hide deadly danger from park visitors because of a horribly misguided fear of a possible lawsuit. Since at least 1990, County officials have refused to acknowledge the steep, vertical, hidden trench cut by Sain Creek at the park’s most popular designated swimming and wading area. Continue reading

In praise of government honesty

After two weeks of Washington County spokespeople offering statements that have been convoluted, contradictory and in some case just mean-spirited, head communications honcho Phil Bransford shows how it’s done. He’s forthright, and even acknowledges that Michael Medill’s civil disobedience spurred the county into faster action because of the negative publicity commissioners were getting. I hope that his good work doesn’t cost him his job, because his bosses have been denying that.

Forget the X@–ing NIMS, ICS, JIC and EOC. Just communicate.

Two weeks after four people drowned at Henry Hagg Lake, and two full years after eight people were rescued at the same hidden danger zone, Washington County finally posted warnings. Crude, amateurish paper signs taped to sandwich boards, but still much than ever before.

The signs were accompanied by a jumble of vague and contradictory public announcements and sheriffs deputies inexplicably stringing caution tape on trees and picnic tables that have nothing do with underwater hazards that caused the deaths. Assuming that there is a reason for the tape, one wonders why they didn’t just leave it in place two weeks ago after their investigation. All this came two days after some of these same deputies issued a $5,000 fine to a local man who, angry at the lack of communication, posted better cardboard signs at the site. A ticket is appropriate, but a $5,000 fine is meant to nothing but bully people into silence and protect bureaucratic incompetence. Continue reading

A tale of three counties, and of Right vs. Wrong

hagglakeresponse“There is a right way and a wrong way to do this, to educate and outreach.” Those are the words of a Washington County official while having deputies cite a citizen for posting warning signs 12 days after three generations of a family drowned at Henry Hagg Lake. The police action came two years after eight people were saved at the same spot by the actions of a heroic family. The action came eight years after the county created an official policy of not warning swimmers of danger, 24 years after a county official went on record stating the same sentiment, and nearly 40 years after the first of nearly two dozen drownings at the reservoir. Continue reading

Decades of inaction and victim-blaming at Hagg Lake as the death toll grows

Read an updated post here. Another update: The man who placed the warning signs is facing a $5,000 fine.

By 1990, the dangers hidden beneath tranquil Hagg Lake at the Sain Creek picnic area were well known to park officials, so when two young men drowned 16 days apart that hot July, reporters asked why there were no signs warning of the submerged perils. A headline in the July 24 edition of The Oregonian summed up their response: “No changes due at Hagg Lake after second drowning.” Continue reading