CANNON BEACH — Whenever I’m in Cannon Beach, people want to talk to me about Donald Trump. It’s not because the Donald and I have the same hairdresser, but we did live in the same town, Bedford, New York.
“You must write another article on your old pal Donald Trump,” Rex Amos wrote. “You might be interested to know that I keep telling Diane that if he’d just shave off that horse’s mane, he’d look just like Mussolini. You know, the way he purses his lips and juts his jaw.
“Well, today he quoted Mussolini. The NASCAR circuit loved him for it!” Amos continued. We have become dumbed down in our ever-loving search for entertainment. Our culture is becoming caramel corn (which I really like).”
For the record, I am no “pal” of Trump. I talked to him as a journalist a few times on the phone. The first time after he won a lawsuit against the town I lived in and then again when he commented on a lawsuit he won against the Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit the Trump Organization had just KO’d in court.
Both times, I might add, he was quite cheerful. In general, though, I fear I may be in the same category as the protester Trump singled out at Central Florida University. “Get that guy out of here,” Trump snapped to his security force. “But don’t hurt him.”
As entertaining as Trump is today when he’s not discussing actual policy, he was making us laugh — and weep — in Bedford long before his first bankruptcy.
Trump is the owner of Seven Springs, 213 acres straddling three suburban towns.(Coincidentally, Seven Springs’ address is 52 Oregon Road, which may give Trump something of a “native son” feel to us in the Beaver State.)
Trump planned to turn the fancy estate into a Masters-quality, 750-member golf course. When neighbors objected to limos arriving on dirt roads and choppers landing on wetlands, the plan stalled.
A decade ago, Trump said he would build a ghetto of 109 luxury homes if the three towns — Bedford, North Castle and New Castle — didn’t approve his golf course.
While Trump’s plans slogged through the courts, he decided to rent the place out. He made the most daring short-term rental deal ever, leasing his property to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and entourage.
The Libyans were occupied pitching tents when town officials told them they were violating local zoning code.
A couple years later Trump declared he got the better of Gadhafi in the deal by refusing to return the dictator’s deposit.
Foregoing Seven Springs as transient lodging, Trump’s son Eric moved in.
Meanwhile, there is no golf course there and the McMansions have yet to be built.
Public, private interest
My dad, who retired to western Michigan a few years back, has long been railing about a guy named Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of Chesapeake Energy, a midwestern Trump, bullying everyone in his way.
McClendon bought what’s known as the Denison property, overlooking the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, in 2006 for $ 39.5 million. He sold a portion which is now the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area, but was involved in a lengthy legal battle over his plans for a development that would include high-end homes, a resort and golf course.
The McLendon developer of Singapore Dunes has built a 2-mile, paved road in what are described as “critical dunes” along Lake Michigan to provide access to proposed homes.
As I’m writing this my dad informed me McClendon was killed in a crash in Oklahoma City after his car hit a highway overpass at high speeds early this month. It happened the day after McClendon was indicted on federal bid-rigging charges accusing him of conspiring to suppress prices for oil and natural gas leases.
Castles in the sand
The North Coast has faced big egos before: It took Gov. Tom McCall to stand up in 1967 in Cannon Beach to the string of developers, successful and not, who had chosen to take their God-given rights as corporate citizens all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A little more than a century ago, real estate developer Thomas Benton Potter and surveyor H.L. Chapin were so eager to make a quick buck that, despite geologic evidence to the contrary, he built a town along the Oregon Coast, south of Nehalem, called Bayocean. It was billed as “the next Atlantic City.”
“Never once,” wrote author Bert Webber in his book “Bayocean,” “did Potter seem concerned about putting buildings on sand foundations.”
The town of Bayocean fell into the sea one house at a time, until 1952 when giant breakers collapsed the spit leaving an island separated from the land by a mile of ocean. Within a month the population dwindled to six people.
Author Matt Love may be touching an important nerve when he writes in “The Great Birthright”: “Ever since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, much of the country had suffered from an ongoing political conspiracy to implant a virus to privatize, profitize and corporatize everything. The virus was of such a malignant strain that it had weakened the resolve for community leaders and politicians to come out in favor of anything that proposed or even lauded elevating the larger public good over the smaller private interest.”
Matt Love is not the only Oregonian to share this thought. His passion for the land and sea — and the shared goals of most Oregonians –is what keeps our beaches public and forests protected. It is important for Oregonians to cherish this rare privilege.
Straight to the top
Back to my pal, the Donald.
Long before Trump’s presidential visions were an apple in Melania’s eyes, his political charisma was apparent. In 2014, New York’s 19th Congressional District lacked a Republican candidate to face off against incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney. Maloney had easily knocked off a health care industry lobbyist in 2012 and the GOP needed some muscle to compete.
Perhaps prophetically, we wrote: “Finally, we are confident that Donald Trump, despite a Bedford residence, will not run for Congress. Unless someone asks him to.”
He skipped Congress.
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