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"Guest Viewpoint"

As we celebrate and reflect upon another year “back to school” and brace ourselves for the upcoming election season, we are reminded of George Washington’s words in his 1797 farewell address: “… as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion be enlightened.” Ours is a much different world, but Washington’s logic is just as sound today as it was then. The government we have reflects the state of public enlightenment.

What do you think when you see someone with bad teeth — big gaps or the disturbing discoloration of decay or the sunken-jaw look of too many missing teeth —  someone who covers his or her mouth when talking, someone who seems afraid to smile? Dangerous? Criminal? Drug addict? 

Well, in some cases that might be true, but in most cases it’s not. And the judgments that you and I — often unwittingly — make about people with visibly bad teeth can be a barrier to those people overcoming difficulties in their lives.

The city of Eugene has morphed a neighborhood initiative to improve pedestrian and traffic safety on south Willamette Street into an intrusive rezone of neighborhoods in that area. They call it an “up-zone.” From the perspective of many who live there, it is more appropriately called a “down-grade” — of property values, the environment and their quality of life.

I wanted to be white for three weeks in 4th grade (1965)because I was being rejected, being the only black kid in class in my elementary school in Bel Air. After three weeks I realized, wait, there’s nothing wrong with me, it’s them. 

My home training countered the non-lessons I was getting: Slaves were smart. Slaves resisted every step of the way. We were the slaves that taught ourselves to read, when it was a death sentence. 

I am baffled by the decision of the Eugene City Council and the Lane County Board of Commissioners to give away an additional $7 million, to Singapore-based Broadcom, on top of the $14 million the company was already getting for creating 229 jobs in the West Eugene Enterprise Zone. That’s $21 million, what they paid for the property, for 229 jobs!

When the Oregon legislative session of 2015 opened, Eugene Weekly embarked upon the bold experiment of establishing a delivery route in Salem. Each Thursday I traveled there, my first stop was the Capitol, where crowds in costumes and uniforms campaigned colorfully for their causes.

The Salem experience was thoroughly enjoyable. As the final month began, I wondered how I could top the fun, and decided to meet Kate Brown.

I’m not a fan of HRC. 

But I’m no Bernie-for-the-revolution person either. 

No election will bring us the revolution we need. Even electing Jill Stein or Sanders would do the same as electing the “Hope” and “Change” of Obama. 

There is the letter of the law, then there’s the spirit. Rep. Lew Frederick, the Oregon House’s only African American legislator, was the guiding force behind two new Oregon laws: HB 2655 (the testing opt-out bill of rights) and HB 2713 (the testing cost audit bill). 

The spirit behind the two new laws is clear: To honestly examine the costs, both financial and otherwise, of the standardized testing that dominates Oregon education and to allow parents and students to make their own informed decisions about what kind of education is best for them. 

Your Queen and Mine of the Society for the Legitimization of Ubiquitous Gastropods, Markalo Parkalo, wishes to convey warmest wishes, solstice celebration and official offerings herewith:

First, thank you for your support of my favorite nonprofit: LILA (Lane Independent Living Alliance).

On Aug. 6, 1945, a single atomic bomb rendered Hiroshima a scorched plain and burned tens of thousands in its flames. By year’s end, 140,000 irreplaceable lives had been taken. Those who managed to survive, their lives grotesquely distorted, were left to suffer serious physical and emotional aftereffects compounded by discrimination and prejudice. Nuclear weapons are an absolute evil and the ultimate inhumanity. 

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) can most accurately be summed up as a conglomerate of protests. This wasn’t simply a coming-together of Democratic delegates casting their pledged vote. This was a rallying point for many groups to come together and express their displeasure, and often rage, at a system they have grown frustrated with. 

The Lane County Board of Commissioners, at the behest of Dennis Morgan, a local businessman and conservative political activist, is considering a proposal to grant themselves authority to review Lane County citizen initiatives, which have met all legal standards for placement on the ballot. The proposal would allow the board to declare that an initiative does not meet the board standard for “county concern” and, thereby, to bar it from the ballot. 

The Lane County Commission is considering a proposed ordinance that would give five elected officials a stranglehold over the people’s local initiative power.

Let’s be clear: The initiative and referendum power belongs to the people free from government interference, as recognized by the Oregon Constitution. The people’s right to circulate petitions is core political speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

With the British electorate’s dramatic and unexpected decision to pull out of the European Union, The New York Times reports that “the same yawning gap between the elite and mass opinion is fueling a populist backlash” all across Europe and the United States. 

Here we go again — up to 30 more years of urban renewal, because “the city concludes that the entire urban renewal area is blighted.” After 48 years and approximately $130 million (surely over a quarter of a billion dollars adjusted for inflation), the total taxable valuation of all of the property in the district is not even equal to the inflation-adjusted tax money we have poured into it. 

In a recent review article about forest thinning and its effectiveness to reduce wildfire severity and spread in Forest Ecology and Management, the researchers came to a conclusion with regards to reducing fire risk and effects that “thinning alone had either less of an effect or none at all, compared to untreated sites.”

I want my country back. I want the country where “All My Relations” meant an expanded humanity that lives in kinship with other life forms as relatives, not resources. That recognizes that humans in particular are relatives to be nurtured and cared for, not resources to be enslaved or exploited. When enslavement, exploitation or terror happens, that the solution to oppression is to become more humane than your oppressors. 

Summer is here, with heat that is ripening berries and tomatoes. For we locavores, lovers and eaters of local food, paradise is at hand. However, local farm fresh foods are still far from the default choice for most, and for many households, fresh produce is unaffordable. 

To help get more locally grown fruits and vegetables into the hands of those struggling to put food on the table, Willamette Farm and Food Coalition is partnering with the Lane County Farmers Market to bring Double Up Food Bucks to Lane County. 

I have followed with frustration and sadness the response to the film Vaxxed which has been showing at the David Minor Theater in Eugene. The film inaccurately represents the science of vaccines and autism, and I worry that it may mislead parents in Lane County.  

I am a mother to two young children, and I feel the weight of responsibility to make wise decisions about their healthcare. I am also trained as a scientist, and I’ve found that my background in the scientific process has been a valuable tool in helping me to make smart choices for my family. 

The Eugene City Council, Lane County Commission, Lane Community College and 4J are all on board with diverting your tax dollars to benefit private property and businesses in the Downtown Urban Renewal District (DTURD) — even though you paid those taxes assuming you were funding education, public safety, libraries, parks and other essential services.

Earlier this year, Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill affirming the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision to remove wolves from the state Endangered Species Act and essentially block judicial review. Although the delisting decision and subsequent passage and signing of HB 4040 dealt wolf recovery a blow, the wolf conservation and management plan ultimately determines the fate of this keystone species. 

Citizens of Lane County, take pride in your roadsides! Unique in the nation, the county hasn’t poisoned them since 2003, with unexpected benefits. Green, living roadsides and the well-crafted policies that achieve them are among the many gifts left by Jan Wroncy of Blachly, whose body returned to the soil April 16.

May was National Preservation Month. I’m a little late writing this, as I’ve been so distracted with the elections and gardening. I’m also still peeved by that hatchet job on Springfield EW recently published, so writing this got sidetracked. 

On April 10, Eugene First Christian Church celebrated its 150th anniversary. You’ve probably seen the church building — white columns under a massive dome, bronze-capped bell tower, stained glass windows everywhere you look. 

And maybe you’ve even heard about some of the work this congregation does: the Helping Hands Room, the Interfaith Shelter and Egan Warming Center (side by side with other outstanding local congregations) and, most recently, its sponsorship of Opportunity Village.