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Letters to the Editor: 8-1-2013

COUNTY DEBACLE

When Faye Stewart voted as Board of Commissioners chair, on a shotgun basis, to proceed with hiring Liane Richardson as “permanent county administrator,” Stewart said he “didn’t think they could find anyone better than Richardson.”

Stewart chose a “wired” hiring process instead of a normal public approach. Richardson was hired for Lane County’s top position without an open process, without basic background checks, without even signing an employment application. 

Why did Stewart approve the sweetheart contract, giving Richardson a $15,000 signing bonus as if she were a major league ballplayer, when Richardson had no significant prior executive management experience?

Why wasn’t Richardson hired, like many high-level administrators, on an at-will basis, able to be let go whenever it met the needs of Lane County? Why did Stewart approve the contract that promises her a full year of salary — a plush severance payment — for simple at-will termination?

And why does Richardson’s contract automatically extend for two years “if a change in board members” occurs?

Slipshod management under then board chair Faye Stewart is why we face the debacle of Richardson admittedly overpaying herself, in an arrangement spawned after her direct request for an exorbitant pay increase stalled in the cold light of public opinion — and then once exposed, responding by putting herself onto paid leave, at taxpayer expense. 

The current mess at Lane County is, sadly, an all-too-predictable outcome when a commissioner fails in basic diligence for the public trust.

Kevin Matthews, Dexter

 

A PROPER RESPONSE

And the hits keep coming. Creds and huge respect and thanks due to EPD officer Kara Williams and other EPD women who had the ethics and backbone to speak up, stand up and shine a light on the deplorable sexual harassment they endured at the hands, literally, of now-fired EPD officer Stefan Zeltvay. 

It could not have been easy for Williams and all of those other EPD women, in the midst of a “blue wall” culture, to take their stand. But they did. Undoubtedly their actions protected other women and girls as  a result. 

EPD officer Scott McKee acted conscientiously, ethically and responsibly, too, investigating an officer he’d worked with for nearly 20 years. Imagine the skills and due diligence steps he took, working with women and girls who were fearful of actually filing complaints, with good reason for such fears. For they, too, were ensconced in the blue wall culture, some with hopes to advance their careers in police work, fearful that taking a stand would harm them. They found the strength to file charges. McKee’s work undoubtedly helped these women and girls recognize that justice would be found, and good police investigatory work was key. 

I’ve come to know many police officers from 40 months of nearly daily volunteer court observing at Eugene Municipal Court. Our community is so fortunate to have so many police women and men who are a credit to EPD and the community itself. 

Kudos to another hero, Chief Pete Kerns, who made his repugnance and anger over this matter crystal clear. I’ve no doubt his leadership skills will result in concrete, proactive steps toward zero tolerance for sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact, at the department or anywhere, ever, by any EPD employee.

As for Zeltvay? No jail time? I thought voters just green-lighted more jail beds for criminals such as he? Paid administrative leave for the past seven months? Appalling. Even so, anyone can be redeemable; I hope intensive therapy, not at taxpayer’s expense, for Zeltvay is at least somewhere in the picture?

Carol Berg-Caldwell, Eugene

 

ONE OF OUR CHILDREN

America believes that electing a half-white president means we are no longer racist. “Trayvon Martin, found guilty of killing an armed George Zimmerman while high on Skittles and iced tea.” Never mind driving while black or brown (DWB). Never mind the hoodie. Many of us have always been guilty of walking while red, black, yellow or brown (WWB).

In the end, there is only one people. All of us in this life together. Dead Iraqi and Afghan children are the same as the children of Connecticut. 

Trayvon was one of our children. Don’t you feel the pain, America? You can’t kill people and then go back to your picnic.

Jim Linwood, Eugene

 

A NATIONAL DISGRACE

Martin Gilens, a professor at Princeton and author of Affluence & Influence, says his database indicates that people favored increasing the minimum wage by strong majorities up to the 90th percentile. The details are that among the poor, 86 percent supported it. Among the middle class, 81 percent. And among the affluent, those in the 90 percent category, 71 percent.

Is there anything at all that has the citizens of this country more united? Have legislators been so removed from citizens that they don’t know this? Is this not important enough for the media to be shouting about it at all times? Could an increase in the minimum wage stimulate the economy?

When there is no annual cost of living attached to the minimum wage, each year’s inflation rate makes the difference between the rich and the poor get larger. This inequity is a national disgrace.

Bob Cassidy, Eugene

 

SAME RACIST ATTITUDE

Here’s the internet address for a cogent rebuttal to the type of drivel Jerry Ritter provided in the July 25 letters: wkly.ws/1ir. As if Ritter cares one iota about violence in black communities.

Personally, I’m sick of Ritter’s racist invective and wish that EW would stop providing a platform for his bigotry. I grew up in this country, in this state, in an overwhelmingly white and racist town — I’ve heard his viewpoint my entire life.

This viewpoint isn’t an alternative articulation to anti-racism, or even leftist anti-racism, but a reinforcement of mainstream white privilege and power.

Ryan Foote, Eugene

 

COMMUNITY RIGHTS RISING

In the last 16 years small communities starting in conservative, rural Pennsylvania have begun to give more rights to residents of an area than to corporations that are just set up there.

Thomas Jefferson disagreed with James Madison’s view that it is the job of government to protect the opulent minority from the majority. He was one of our (elitist) founding fathers. 

The movement of community rights started in Pennsylvania with family pig farmers that wanted to keep factory farms from coming into town, polluting everything, undercutting the quality of their (family) products and taking all the money out of the community. Then came fracking and the rights to aquifers.

Sludge (human waste) was being applied as well under the name “bio-solids” to crops and was opposed by farmers, organic and conventional. From the start the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a group of pro bono attorneys, moved their work which was now in all of America to the West Coast. In Oregon, Lane, Benton, Jackson and Multnomah counties have submitted ordinances to protect sustainable agriculture, workers’ living wages, keep GMOs out and enshrine ecosystems. 

So far we’ve encountered opposition from our very own government but we believe that in the end we will be successful in defending our communities from corporate damage just like over 110 communities did so far. This battle, which pits the small entrepreneur against big corporations who (with their public relation firms) have bought our government, needs everybody’s help.

David Ivan Piccioni, Eugene

 

THE GREAT IMITATOR 

I am writing to bring attention to two issues. One, my husband’s medical fund and two, Lyme disease.

Last fall, my husband was diagnosed with late-stage neurological Lyme disease along with two co-infections, Bartonella and Babesia. For 15 years, he underwent a series of tests, procedures, surgeries and diagnoses in an attempt to figure out and correct his ongoing health issues. When modern medicine was unable to heal him, much less correctly diagnose him, he visited a local naturopath and Lyme specialist, upon the suggestion of a friend, a former Lyme sufferer herself. 

One visit later and a positive Lyme test gave him the answer to his ongoing health problems. 

We have no insurance and are on a fixed income. The treatment of Lyme and its co-infections is expensive and long in duration. We set up a medical fund website (www.gofundme.com/1lg310) and on Monday, Aug. 5, we are holding a fundraiser at Papa’s Pizza in Corvallis. Those wanting to attend must bring a flyer. Please email themamatrinity@gmail.com to request one or for more information.

Lyme disease is called the “great imitator” in that it mimics a plethora of other diseases, including anxiety, arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and chronic fatigue. It’s a nationwide problem, having been identified in all 50 states. Not everyone shows the classic bull’s-eye rash. In terms of testing, upward of 50 percent of patients tested for Lyme receive false negative results. Lyme-literate doctors treat when symptoms of Lyme are present, even without a positive test. If you or a loved one suspect Lyme disease may be behind your symptoms, contact the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society for more information and ask for a list of Lyme literate doctors in your area. 

 Vicki Trinity, Corvallis

 

BAD AIR DAYS

I support President Obama’s recently announced plan to combat climate change and advance clean energy. The plan calls for reducing carbon pollution from power plants — our largest source of pollution driving climate change — that also harms our health and economy.

We are already seeing the effects of climate change: Storms are becoming more intense, heat waves more severe, drought more persistent and wildfire more prevalent. Superstorm Sandy alone caused more than $1 billion in damages and a loss of life that cannot be quantified.

Rising temperatures also trigger more bad air days, which are of particular concern for the young, the elderly and those with asthma and other health issues. We can’t afford to ignore these costs any longer.

Investing in renewable energy, increased efficiency and pollution controls will create jobs and a more resilient economy. In fact, history has shown when we rein in pollution we get a big bang for our buck. Since 1970 every $1 in investment in compliance with Clean Air Act standards has produced $4 to $8 in economic benefits.

When it comes to our climate, the costs of inaction are mounting. We owe it to our children and future generations to rise to this challenge.

If not for me then for our children and grandchildren!

Fred Mallery, Eugene

 

DOUBLE BILL FOR SPYING

I read an article stating that the National Security Administration pays AT&T $360 plus $10 per day per taxpayer to disclose all data for the purposes of “national security.” That works out to $4,000 per taxpayer being paid to the telecom providers by our government without tax dollars. 

I think if the government needs this information, they should compel these carriers to provide the information without remuneration. If there is a real national security reason, these corporations should cooperate with the NSA for free, without a charge, to participate in protecting our citizens.

If the government compelled these carriers to supply the information for free, without giving them a dime, I bet they would refuse to cooperate without proof that it helps save lives.

As it is right now, the telecom companies are making huge profits not only for the services they provide us, and with our tax dollars being paid from a “secret budget” that allows for spying on every single American, while schools are being closed and firefighters are being laid off (not to mention the fact that these corporations get massive government subsidies and do not pay a dime in taxes). 

We should all call the senators and tell them to end the practice of using our tax dollars to pay for spying on us. If they want to spy on us, they should compel the information without any of our tax dollars being used to get the information they want on us. 

Those people who say they don’t care if the government spies on us — do they mind the fact that they are paying their phone company for service, and then the government is using our tax dollars to pay the phone company to spy on us? We are essentially paying the phone company twice. Still don’t mind? 

Lonnie Clark, Eugene

 

OUR TOASTY BUN

A sudden onshore flow, a couple of apple-crisp mornings, a flurry of glossy back-to-school circulars and suddenly everyone is talking about our endless summer’s end.

Don’t fall for Summer’s snow-job; she still has all of her teeth. Anxious Autumn and Woeful Winter, slumbering together high up in the Cascades, may swipe the occasional chill claw across the lid of our valley, but for now Dame Summer squats on the throne with her full, august weight. I believe that as our years toll higher Helios appears to chart a swifter course. But that, of course, is chicanery. Time compresses as we inch toward the edge, and the more deeply we appreciate our remaining days upon this mortal coil, the swifter their metronomic passage seems. 

So, chill. Drink deep those diaphanous draughts of autumn and savor their brief bursts of melancholy, and then wrap yourself anew in that toasty bun of summer and relish our succinct season of sun. Enjoy the hot dogs, Eugene, we’ll be slugging through the duck soup soon enough.

Dave Perham, Eugene

 

TEFLON POLICE CHIEF

When will EPD Chief Pete Kerns be held accountable for the actions of those people whose actions are, at best, highly questionable and, at worst, illegal? The evidence storage area is found to have stolen goods hiding in plain sight in and around his employees’ work space. Pornography on work computers. An officer who has taken an oath so afraid of her alleged attacker that she is compelled to hide from him. If I were assaulted, would she hide from my attacker as well?

The officer convicted of sexual assault and harassment was allowed to continue to work in a Eugene high school after he was investigated last fall for an improper relationship with a student. Kerns says he is “afraid there may be other victims out there.” Why has this matter not been fully investigated while the students were still in school? 

Will the chief of police be held accountable for these and other improper happenings that are occurring on his watch? Is he coated with Teflon so that nothing sticks to him? Where is Jon Ruiz while all this is happening, hiding in a bathroom?

James Murphy, Eugene

 

 

 

HANDY DESERVES APOLOGY

The Register-Guards’ desire for the Oregon Government Ethics Commission (OGEC) to issue new “guidelines” regarding the solicitation and acceptance of gifts (R-G editorial, July 23) simply reflects their disapproval of the OGEC’s dismissal of the ethics complaint against former Lane County commissioner Rob Handy. It’s like yelling at the refs for a call you don’t like.

The statutory provision that limits gifts from givers having “a legislative or administrative interest in a public official’s votes or decisions” has been the law in Oregon for decades. Furthermore, the guidelines in OGEC’s latest Guide For Public Officials (October 2010), the ones that the R-G apparently thinks are somehow lacking, are unambiguously consistent with Oregon ethics laws regarding gifts to public officials. Yet they imply that this OGEC ruling suddenly and unexpectedly changes the rules. I fail to follow their reasoning.

The Ethics Commission’s dismissal of Alan Thayer’s complaint was the only logical result of their investigation. It makes no difference that they were unable to dot the I’s and cross the T’s. The result was “The removal of a burden, charge, responsibility, duty, or blame imposed by law; a clearance from blame or dismissal of charges.” Yes, that is the legal definition of “exoneration.”

I agree with the overt theme of the R-G editorial; Oregon’s Legislature absolutely should change the ethics laws to reduce the influence of deep pockets on our governing officials. But I find their thinly veiled subtext truculent and repulsive, particularly their completely unfounded and irrelevant insinuation of bribery as Handy’s motivation. 

They owe him another apology.

Brian McCall, Eugene

 

STUCK IN REVERSE

I saw a headline the other day that read: “What If He Could Run for a Third Term?” The writer of the article thought that it would be the end of the world. I agree. It would be the end of the world for the national Republican Party. Not only would Obama win as big as he did in 2012, he’d be competitive in Texas because of the Republican’s attitude towards the largest growing demographic in the nation: the Hispanic community. 

We all know that political stereotyping is a fool’s errand. I know I look more the part of a card-carrying member of the GOP. But I’m not. I think for myself. That’s what the Hispanic community did in 2012 and that’s what they’ll do in 2014 and 2016. The modern day Republican Party is stuck in retro gear. They can’t let go of old thinking because they are afraid of losing their base. 

One example will suffice: instead of artfully moving an immigration reform bill through the House, the GOP has ceded the battlefield to those who liken any person who looks different than themselves to be drug smugglers and anchor baby carriers. 

It’s true; Obama will not be running for a third term; the Constitution forbids it. But, the Republican Party continues to deliver up a staggeringly politically inept image of a national party completely out of touch with modern America. Adios GOP. 

Gerry Merritt, Eugene

 

PAVE LIANNE’S WAY OUT

I am outraged! We now have admission from the county administrator via emails to the R-G that, having failed to get her salary increased by a requested 15.3 percent the “old fashioned way” earlier this year, she elected to use other means, which while not illegal, are certainly questionable.

Back in January, Administrator Lianne Richardson was drawing down a salary of $152,345 a year; that’s $586 a day, good people, but she wanted more — and threatened to take advantage of “several offers” outstanding from the private sector if she didn’t get it, as you might remember. Let’s also remember that during this time her employer, the county government, was asking you and me, the public, for a tax levy to provide more jail beds!

While on that memory lane, let’s also remember that County Counsel Stephen Dingle also requested a 15.3 percent increase in his salary.. seems like it was kind of a package deal. And now we are told that Stephen Dingle will head up an “investigation” into the matter. Let’s all take a leap at a guess as to the outcome.

It’s clearly time for the R-G to publish another list of FAQs, this one for public employees, on how one might increase his/her income from the public trough; and as the city is in a frenzy of improving streets around town, it’s time for the county to provide a few extra dollars to improve Lianne’s road out, to one of those private sector jobs she referred to back in January.

Bob Thompson, Eugene