Take pride in your hometown

In the last few years, the Valley Record has reported its share of graffiti, tagging and other outbursts of unwanted artistic license.

Such scrawls and sprees happen occasionally in the Valley. In the alley behind our office, a would-be herbal enthusiast has scrawled “POT” in bright red and green. A few years ago, Snoqualmie Police busted a man who was stenciling unwanted logos on downtown businesses. The man was caught red-handed — his shirt bore the same logo he had painted on the buildings.

One of my first stories here examined a number of “tagging” or emblem-painting incidents in North Bend parks. That story merited a letter, posted through the door one night by, apparently, one of the graffiti artists in question, informing me that his particular group of painters was not responsible for specific tags outside their neighborhood, and asking me to mind my own business. I kept the letter, impressed by the fact that the young man spelled every word correctly.

Young people need a creative outlet. Some cities set up authorized graffiti walls to give spray-can artists a place to do their thing.

To be clear, graffiti is a nuisance, damaging property and giving parks and neighborhoods a seedy look.

But sometimes, graffiti is much worse. County prosecutors weighed charges this winter against a man who police suspect was behind a whole slew of racist screeds defacing local churches and bookstores last summer. Churches are places of forgiveness and love; the attacks, which happened continuously over several weeks, defy reason.

This winter, residents and police noted blantant words of hate scrawled on an underpass just outside North Bend city limits. The lonely site seemed to invite spraypainting, but the white-supremacist words and swastika symbols reflect a poisonous outlook that chilled onlookers.

When Hilary Bernstein, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, spoke to the Valley Record’s Allison Espiritu this week, I think she said it best when she urged communities who fall victim to hate to take a stand. These ignorant, hateful messages need to be nipped in the bud early on. If ignored, they send a message that poisonous words and denigrating scrawls against a single group or race will be tolerated. Those who care about maintaining a welcoming feel here should report this type of thing when they see it, and help stamp it out.

This graffiti does not reflect the kind of community we are. Let’s take some pride in our Valley.

Scenes of beauty

Speaking of pride, my inbox is filling up with residents’ best shots of the Valley. We have kicked off our third annual Scenic Photo Contest, and entries are already rolling in. In one morning, I received dozens of shots from local shutterbugs who snapped leaves, elk, morning mist, and a colorful, fuzzy caterpillar climbing an ancient fencepost, as Mount Si rose in the background.

In an era when people are so stressed and preoccupied by economic concerns and disasters, and when even our beloved trailheads seem under siege, it’s great to see the creativity and wonder that locals show in this contest. Scenic photos show the amazing beauty of the Valley and provide a wonderful break from “hard news” like graffiti sprees.

This year, we have opened up a separate section of the contest, purely for students. In 2009, we had a number of great entries from students who showed true photographic artistry and potential. We could easily devote an entire contest just to student photos — visit Mount Si High School’s photo classes, and you’ll discover amazing art. By giving students their own scenic forum in this contest, we hope to present some of these budding artists.

Check out the full contest information in this week’s edition.

• E-mail Valley Record editor Seth Truscott at editor@valleyrecord.com

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