Eugene Weekly : Letters : 5.19.11


I read with great interest Rick Levins review of the film Meeks Cutoff (arts feature, 5/12). I had seen the film at a special showing in Salem earlier this spring. It was an artsy piece depicting the struggles of three wagons when Stephen Meek convinced the wagon train to hire him to guide the company away from the established Oregon Trail and to take a route south of the Blue Mountains to avoid hostile Indians.

My great-great-grandfather William Helm, his wife Martha and their 7 children were on this wagon train. The movie did not have any commentary and very little dialogue, so it was hard to get an overview of the trip. I have read several journals of the journey and think that your readers might be interested in some of the factual data.

William Helm, a Methodist circuit rider, was a member of the twelve-man executive committee. The wagon train consisted of 296 persons, including 57 females under the age of 14, and 68 males under the age of 16. There were 66 covered wagons, 74 horses and mules, 624 head of cattle and 353 oxen. Captain Solomon Tetherow led the group together with six other officers and 61 armed men. There were 38 cattle drivers.

The wagon train left Platte County, Missouri, on May 6, 1884, and arrived at The Dalles, Oregon, on Oct. 6, 1845, five months later. At least 23 died during the long trip. The plan had been to follow the traditional Oregon Trail. Near Fort Boise a supposedly knowledgeable trail guide, Stephen Meek, met with the leaders and convinced them that the trail over the Blue Mountains was very dangerous and subject to hostile Indian raids, and that for 50 dollars he would lead them on a trail south of the Blue Mountains and then north to The Dalles on the Columbia River. He led them through the desert. They were running out of water and were exhausted.

After several weeks it was clear that they were lost and that Stephen Meek didnt know the way. They were very angry with Meek who, fearing for his life, took off on his own and made it to The Dalles. He did send back an Indian guide who was able to guide the company out of the desert and over some mountains to the Columbia River near The Dalles.

F. Del Helm, Eugene


The Seneca biomass-fired generator (cover story, 5/12) is profitable, not economically sustainable, because the company, owned by perhaps the wealthiest man in Lane County, Aaron Jones, is planning on a $10 million tax break ã half its investment ã from the state government.

This is the Oregon government that is so broke it is cutting to the point of destroying programs that actually reduce the cost of services, provide living-wage jobs (such as home health care workers), put armies of volunteers in efficient service to the those whom no one else will help, and rescue families with children from desperate and dire straits.

The Seneca situation is somewhat analogous to the largest and most profitable corporation in the history of the world, Exxon Mobil, getting ongoing federal tax breaks, for doing what it does best ã making rich people richer and poor people poorer.

Finally, if you think sending forest nutrients up an urban smokestack and into landfills while using enough water for 1,444 households is renewable or ecologically sustainable, the Oregon Joint Committee on Tax Credits would like to add you to their list of special (very special) interest supporters.

Robert Beal, We the People ã Eugene


Seneca, with the approval of the state of Oregon, wants to continue the practice of burning the chips, wood debris and even whole trees from the site of former clearcuts. Allowing nonsustainable logging to take place is bad enough. Taking away biomass from the forests for any reason, (which when decomposed with the help of fungi, insects and microorganisms,) will be the foundation upon which the forest will re-grow, is lack of foresight. Without abundant vegetation to photosynthesize oxygen and consume CO2, this planet will die. Furthermore, burning cellulose produces more greenhouse gases than burning coal.

There are some local politicians who call this method of producing electricity green or clean. I am referring to Mayor Piercy, Rep. DeFazio, Sen. Wyden and Gov. Kitzhaber. There are others who refer vaguely to the economy, but biomass provides fewer jobs than truly green sustainable forestry and energy production. To create electricity there are more modern and reliable methods. Using the power of the sun, wind and geothermal will get civilization simultaneously out of the energy crisis, climate change, war over resources and weak economy.

Putting solar collectors on every rooftop and spreading windmills out evenly to account for loss of power during transportation is the way to go. In this manner, we would have our energy needs met and wouldnt have to worry about the destruction of our forests.

David Ivan Piccioni, Eugene


Its encouraging that the UO is finally starting to consider more appropriate locations for their Riverfront Research Park expansion. Its depressing that they continue to cling to an unhealthy obsession with vast parking lots. Gas hit $4 a gallon this week, and is going to go nowhere but up. Parking lots are for dinosaurs.

The Pacific Northwest is home to a growing number of 21st century construction projects. In Seattle, they are designing the super-green Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction. It will include facilities for lots of bicycles and a small pool of electric cars, but tenants will be expected to commute via bikes and public transit. Portland is planning the Oregon Sustainability Center, which provides just bicycle parking and street rail access. In beautiful downtown Eugene, LCC is busy building a green housing facility for 250 students. It will provide generous parking for bicycles and zero parking for cars. The building is located conveniently close to the citys totally amazing EmX system.

The UO is a world-class institution of higher learning. It wants to become a growing center for world-class research. So why design a 21st century facility surrounded by an asphalt pasture for ugly, smelly, stupid horseless carriages? If the Texas developer insists on building a weird anachronism, maybe its time for a new developer ã maybe a progressive Oregon developer, someone with their eyes on tomorrow, not yesterday (if expansion is truly necessary).

Richard Reese, Eugene


Thank you for publishing my Viewpoint, “Smells Fishy” in your April 21 issue. In light of Congressman DeFazios reply, “Breaching Dams?” (5/5), and other feedback, Id like to make a clarification.

In my opinion piece I summarized that the Northwest Power and Conservation Council determined the Northwest could meet its increased electricity needs over the next 20 years, remove the lower Snake River dams and retire all Northwest coal plants, and save on energy bills. This actually represents the findings from a related study called “Bright Future” by the Northwest Energy Coalition, an alliance of environmental, civic, and human service organizations, progressive utilities and businesses. The two plans differ on replacing the energy from the four lower Snake River dams. NPCCs analysis looked at energy replacement primarily through gas and coal, a proposal many conservation groups would never support. Instead, salmon and clean energy advocates call for the forward thinking found in “Bright Future.”

There is a lot more to the story and fight for salmon in the Snake River Basin than can be discussed by DeFazio, or myself, in this forum about the pros and cons of dam removal. I stand by what I wrote: DeFazio seems clouded by old arguments on this issue. What is needed most right now is his political will to step away from supporting status quo hydro power operations and start embracing sustainable values that will and actually can recover salmon, restore habitat, enhance communities and gives back more than we take.

Sheena Moore, Eugene


To the woman who said how heartless it was to remove an illegal camp under the Franklin Bridge: Our neighborhood had a camp in an undeveloped property between Moon Mountain and Augusta. The landowner was made to clean it up and filled a industrial dumpster with massive mounds of feces, hypodermic needles, stolen property such as a dozen bikes being stripped down to sell, a burned and stripped stolen car, lawnmowers, patio furniture, a moped, potted trees and plants, tools, cell phones, a wheelchair and just about anything else that could be stolen. Several of the campers had warrants out for their arrest. A new housing development nearby had 24-hour security guards to prevent copper pipes from being stolen.

After the camp was cleared out they relocated blocks away to the I-5 Glenwood exit area by the cemetery, referred to as “Heroin Hill.” More than once the police have gone up to take away dead, overdosed people. Some of the evicted campers went to camp under Franklin Boulevard and on county land behind the Shell gas station at the Glenwood exit. The sheriffs office said they wont go up there unless a crime was being committed at the time.

The stealing continues in our neighborhood around 4 to 5 am. In the morning they head to the pawnshops in Glenwood. We know that people have found some of their items there the following morning. Four bikes, a license plate and a big moped were stolen in broad daylight in one small cul-de-sac.

Mark Alaniz, Eugene


On April 16, a very soggy Saturday, a number of us gathered at the Free Speech Plaza in Eugene for our “Id Rather Pay for Peace than War” and “Fashion Resistance to Militarism” event. We pitched canopies, set up our casket replete with names of corporations that profit from arms production, and undeterred by the rain, bravely paraded through Saturday Market and Farmers Market. We were led by mourners for the wars and war expenses that continue, followed by some in Fashion Resistance to Militarism costumes, signs and flags. We chanted, “Wed rather pay for schools! Wed rather pay for farmers!” and we were cheered by by-standers.

The short rally featured a cogent talk by Jim Schmidt of Veterans for Peace, and two children who spoke powerfully about the effect of global warming and invited all to join the Mothers Day “iMatter!” march. It all ended with a delightful fashion show that also featured two children, one a large yellow banana, the other giant teeth: “Wed Rather Pay for Organic Food than War,” also a “Carbon Footprint” with trails of trash attached and a “Hanford Clean-Up,” covered by a large white baggy suit and a gas mask for protection pushing a vacuum cleaner, and more.

We all returned home, soaked to the bone but with our spirits buoyed. Who knows, maybe this small action was effective in its own way! The event was sponsored by WAND, CALC, Taxes for Peace Not War, and Veterans for Peace.

Peg Morton, Eugene


So now it comes out from IRS records that the top 400 households own 50 percent of the wealth in the U.S. and their federal tax averages 16 percent. Their Social Security tax is capped at $106,000, making it less than 0.0001 percent. And we ask why Social Security is in trouble? Their capital gains are taxed at 15 percent, but they pay nothing until they take money out of the market, possibly for years! Their techniques get state, local, gas, employment, phone, internet and property taxes to less than 1 percent of their wealth. Their health, home and auto insurance costs are comparatively zilch.

When calculating the common mans taxes, even the poor pay more when factoring in gas, employment, phone, parking and internet taxes. All of the loopholes benefit them, not us. None of this takes into consideration their offshore tax havens where the real money is hidden.

Their businesses include the industrial military complex, oil, coal and other taxpayer subsidized ventures and their investments are tax sheltered. Their money can be translated into influence-able speech which is currently shifting the tax burden from federal to state/local, where we, the burdened middle class, are left to fight amongst ourselves over crumbs for education and the most basic of needs.

Im sorry but the richest man in Eugene is not of the class that owns 50 percent of America. The Tea Partys efforts benefit this class immensely and themselves barely but they are not alone. We are all fools and need to wake up.

Greg Norman, Eugene


I have read EW to get another take on local and international events and politics. I may not have agreed with all the opinions and ways things were stated, but they seemed at least evenhanded. On April 28 the News Briefs “New Electric Car Unveiled” started with the sentence “Easter weekend marked the return of Zombie Jesus.” I was outraged. This was a mean-spirited attack on Christians that was not relevant at all to the article, just insulting in an attempt to probably be clever. Even though you may not agree with the faith of Christians, Jews, Muslims or any other people, treat all with respect. I will not read this newspaper again.

David Olszyk, Corvallis


EW piles the blame on Republicans for “this mess” were in (Slant, 4/14). The Rs certainly deserve it. One of my alma maters professors, David Cay Johnson, masterfully describes in the same issue how Republican manipulation of the tax code contributed to “the mess.”

But you conveniently forget that this “mess” was precipitated to a large degree by the collapse of the housing market. That part of the story began under a Democratic administration (Carter) with the passage of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

CRA essentially required banks to write mortgage loans to people who could not realistically afford them. Certain banks took this to extremes by writing “NINA” loans (No Income, No Job, No Assets). One of the biggest banks reportedly didnt even require Social Security numbers in some cases.

Then came the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, also under a Democratic administration (Clinton), that gave financial institutions a blank check to venture down very risky paths with their assets, and we all know the result.

The bottom line: If we want real, meaningful change, we must stop sending Republicans and Democrats back to Washington. Neither major party represents you and me.

Jerry Ritter, Springfield


We have something to celebrate in Eugene. I want to publicly thank President Lariviere of the UO for suggesting that the Oregon Research Institute (ORI) build their offices away from the riverfront. A university should consider all the latest science for any projects near sensitive natural areas. The habitats along rivers are critically important for water quality and wildlife.

There is no logical reason, with so many other options, to build on some of the last undeveloped riverfront in Eugene. This issue has been ongoing for 20-plus years. Other cities around the country are removing structures along their rivers, understanding the vital importance of natural riparian flora and fauna. “Sustainable Eugene” should keep these areas from being developed. ORI must build elsewhere. Thank you President Lariviere for making a wise decision that will be remembered for a long time.

ORI, please do what is right for now and the future health of our community, and make every effort to relocate your building plans.

Pamela Driscoll, Dexter