Eugene Weekly : Letters : 5.31.07


While the May 31 Slant column harshly catalogues editorial disagreements with aspects of departing Eugene City Manager Dennis Taylor’s tenure, I do think that a nod to some of his best qualities is in order.

While I am admittedly more focused upon county rather than city issue intricacy, I have, from afar, seen Dennis Taylor in a far different, albeit perhaps less informed, light.

While the new signs were being erected in an outdoor ceremony for the renaming of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Centennial Boulevard, a project I helped initiate, I spoke at length with Taylor for the first time on a street corner. From that conversation, I gleaned that he had deep commitment to human rights and diversity, and had a basic sympathy to the historic people — first legacy of the Democratic Party. He conveyed that both he and his father had been loyal partisans to Robert F. Kennedy in Kansas and had played roles in that historic campaign.

I have watched Taylor assist the City Council during the most contentious of meetings — always facilitating complex issues with courtesy and diplomacy. I also watched him doggedly advocate for the city in its confrontation with the commission on the enterprise zone negotiations several years ago.

We should not lose sight of the fact that Eugene’s politics are riven down the middle, that city government is a huge and unwieldy herd of cats and that City Charter delineations of authority can always be changed via a vote of the people — but not through unilateral alterations by any manager.

Having seen city managers since 1965, I believe that Dennis Taylor has projected a core personal kindness and patient persona — despite the inevitable brickbats and harshly personalized criticism over this or that transient issue. We all should wish him well in his future life in Montana and thank him for those patient labors that escape the front page and controversy of the moment.

Scott Bartlett, Eugene



In the early 1970s I worked at the Brooklyn Museum and often attended Manhattan art openings. Frequently we’d end up at Broome Street Bar. It was in the middle of the 43 blocks eventually to be known as SoHo. It was utterly dark at night, with nothing open except this tavern. Home of the world’s best burger, it was the place to go for pioneering artists who found cheap loft spaces to live in (illegally) in this abandoned industrial quarter. Eventually the city surrendered and rezoned SoHo for residential use. In a few years it became one of the world’s hippest gallery and shopping districts.

From 1999 to 2001 I lived on Peachtree Street in midtown Atlanta, an area that had recently improved through renovation of classic but run-down homes. My first year there were almost no stores save a convenience store, one all-night club and scattered eateries. Then a lot of folks got tired of insane commutes and started moving into “lofts” on Peachtree Street. By 2001 every loft had been sold with more being built, and there was a major supermarket, galleries, boutiques, gourmet restaurants and vital commercial activity everywhere.

The point? If Eugene does all it can to develop housing downtown for all sectors of our population, we will reach a turning point, and business will thrive. Business follows people — especially artists, entrepreneurs and other urban pioneers. Not one nickel of subsidy is needed for parking or tax benefits for “business development” to make downtown thrive. I promise.

Bob Ransom, Eugene



My wife gave birth to our first child last week. Like most new parents, I find myself looking forward with a new appreciation to the next 20 years and beyond, wondering how her life will develop and how the world will be when she reaches maturity.

Unfortunately, that vision is looking rather foreboding. You see, my friends Jonathan Paul and Daniel McGowan, along with a number of others, may spend the next 20 years and beyond, my daughter’s entire childhood, locked up in federal prison because the government wants you to believe they are “terrorists.”

These men and women are good people, the kind of people I’d like to have my daughter grow up around. Jonathan, whom I’ve known for nearly 15 years, is kind, gentle man, an EMT who has spent years helping and training people in his rural Oregon community. Daniel has spent years working with battered women.

Over 10 years ago Daniel, Jonathan and the others committed several acts of arson. No one disputes that these were criminal acts, and that they should involve consequences, but the government [labeled] those involved “terrorists,” in spite of the fact that by the prosecution’s own evidence, the perpetrators went to great lengths to ensure that no one was hurt or killed in these fires. Arson is a crime for which there are established sentencing guidelines, and those convicted of arson should expect to serve some prison time, but to call these acts of “terrorism” does an injustice not just to my friends, but to the thousands of people were killed in Oklahoma City, on 9/11 and through other acts of real terror.

Garth Kahl, Alsea



Perusing last week’s EW (5/24 Calendar), some friends and I noticed that your writing staff stated that “Michael Franti & Spearhead make local hip hop fusion jam bands sound like zombies with plastic buckets and broomsticks.” Shame on you, EW, for putting down your local musicians, some of whom opened for Spearhead. There are a lot of talented musicians in this town who struggle to make Eugene’s music scene thrive, yet your writers continually bash them in a desperate attempt to get a laugh. How do these cheap shots support the local music scene? Comparing local acts to polished professionals accomplishes nothing. Ease up and love your local music scene, EW!

Xander Kahn, Basin & Range, Eugene



Miko Bauer may resent the new math requirements, but she has done very well in English composition. Her May 24 Viewpoint piece gave Eugene voters a valuable inside view into 4-J’s preparation of young adults. Will Eugene encourage individuals to flourish along their chosen paths? Or will we have two types of high school graduates — successful proto-technocrats and failed proto-technocrats?

Certainly the economy is selecting for technology careers in industry, in the office, in the military. But communications skills and people skills are also valuable, and what happened to art education, musicianship and life skills like permaculture and woodworking? The school garden project should be greatly expanded, for instance, and Eugene’s “green building” movement could extend to the high schools with excellent effect. This community is going to need more than tech nerds to get by the coming times, and forcing kids into narrow boxes, defined by math and science test scores, will only discourage and disempower young people with different skills and interests.

Bauer’s article was one of the best pieces of writing I’ve seen in the paper recently. Before she goes off to college, EW should ask her for a couple more stories. It’s a shame there’s no “youth desk” at the paper, because young people have a lot to tell us.

Maybe EW could partner with the schools to encourage journalism programs by airing student views more often.

Christopher Logan, Eugene



Wednesday night (5/30) I attended the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presentation of the Draft Spotted Owl Recovery Plan at the Portland Convention Center. After the presentation, I moved out to the lobby to question a Fish and Wildlife employee on certain details. Within seconds, my questions were being answered by a pugnacious Forest Service employee who had materialized at my right elbow and interrupted our conversation to inform me that Fish and Wildlife had no real power here. At my left shoulder loomed a career forester from the Bureau of Land Management, and soon I was confronted by a third Forest Service employee who spent the next few minutes “helping” me to understand that conservation of habitat for the spotted owl is not an issue, and that the real culprit is the barred owl.

So why were these government employees paid to interfere in the process of informing the public? To mug unsuspecting victims like myself, just as the Northern spotted owl is being mugged by the government’s Recovery Plan, a brand new opportunity to bring old-growth logging back to our National Forests and other public lands.

Reed Wilson, Corvallils



In response to Deb Huntley’s tirade (5/17) against Savage Love and what I’m assuming is the fetish night at Diablo’s, I am aghast that she used the term “vulgar” in terms of a “lack of sophistication.” Dan Savage may be frank and often funny, but he is not without sophistication. He is entertaining while being educational. In a recent (5/27) column, he wrote about how oral sex can potentially cause cancer. This is a public health issue, one that every adult and teen should be aware of. To accuse the EW of using “Savage Love” to pander to those who might go to Diablo’s, as if the EW has stock in the success of Diablo’s, is vulgar. This argument lacks any sophistication. I doubt that any of the dozens of weeklies around the country that run “Savage Love” do so to cater to local fetish nights or any other “red light” businesses.

What is vulgar, or lacking sophistication, is people who would censor what they are afraid of or don’t understand. Sexuality is neither obscene nor vulgar. It is an intrinsic element to living a healthy life. What’s vulgar is a war without end and a leadership taking no responsibility for it. Vulgar is giant SUVs and pickup trucks that are driven around empty. McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, etc. are vulgar. Building huge houses with little energy efficiency in what was once forest or farmland is vulgar, as is building more parking lots for downtown. But people choosing to live their lives a little edgier than Ms. Huntley’s are far from vulgar as they show a heightened level of sophistication when it comes to expressing themselves.

Jonathan Seraphim, Eugene



Dear Michael Franti and Crew: We love the message, love the show. Got your back here in Eugene. As fans from way back we feel a duty to inform you of the current musical vacuum. This “oh so diverse” community is awash in a sea of bluegrass, newgrass, punkgrass, folk music (thankfully the folk festival is over) and a spattering of metal/edgy avant garde. All very Anglo, as is the predominate culture in our valley.

As if this weren’t enough, we have a plethora of radio DJs working through mid-life crises, playing an unending maudlin medley of melancholy sounds rife with Caucasian existential angst. What we lack, and are in dire need of, is the deep dark funk and soul. You know, the shit that comes from the dirt, crawls up your legs and sets up house in your loins, leaving us no choice … but to dance!

On behalf of the Michael (ain’t afraid of the funk) Franti fanclub, we beseech you, give up the funk and bring us what we need to satisfy our souls. Thanks for the inspiration.

Joe Wattles, Eugene



Chicken Little says, “The sky is falling!” Christine Gherardi (5/17) says, “I have seen the sun with rainbow circles around it” and interprets this as one of the signs of the impact of something called “chemical trails.”

Before we rational Oregonians get drawn into this “conspiracy theory,” let’s look at the facts. Ms Gherardi’s “rainbow circles,” those that she implies are the effect of some nefarious governmental activity, are in fact a natural phenomena of the atmosphere. Circles around the sun, sundogs and pillars of light are all caused by the refraction and reflection of sunlight as it passes through tiny ice crystals high in the atmosphere. Check out the following website:

Ms. Gherardi also referred to the chemical trails high in the sky. These “trails” are called contrails, which form when the hot humid air from jet exhaust mixes with low pressure, water-saturated air that has a low temperature. It is essentially the same thing as exhaling and seeing your breath on a cold day. A contrail can spread horizontally into a layer thin cirrus clouds. It has been estimated that in heavy air-traffic corridors, cloud cover could increase as much as 20 percent with two opposing effects: solar energy reaching the earth is reduced, causing surface cooling; and reduction of heat loss from the planet resulting in warming. I refer the reader to the following website:

I believe that it is very important for the concerned citizen today to look into the real science behind a potentially controversial subject such as this before jumping onto any grand conspiracy bandwagon. No, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling.

Maggie Pugsley




Democracy will never work in Iraq because half of all Iraqi marriages are between first or second cousins.

Loyalty between red blood related tribes will always be stronger than ballot box purple finger stained loyalty to a central government. This “kin and strangers” divide is thousands of years old and is not easily crossed. The bloody Hatfields and McCoys feud was driven by just a few generations of cousin clans.

The Bush administration is ignorant and naïve to think it can deal with a problem it doesn’t recognize, let alone understand.

Michael T. Hinojosa, Drain



I have been worried since early 2005 that President Bush will not want to leave office in 2008. I know this sounds absurd, but I believe it to be true.

A piece of evidence recently came to my attention to support my concern. It is called the National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20. These two directives give the president the power over congress and the judicial branches in the event of a national emergency. Think, for instance, a war with Iran, another attack by terrorists on U.S. soil or interests abroad, a national calamity such as a hurricane such as Katrina. He could declare martial law and suspend elections in 2008, for example.

The two directives were put in place without the knowledge of Congress on May 9. I feel that there needs to be more reporting on these directives. No president should have this power.

I hope I have misread the directives.

W. Joe Lyon, Eugene



I just wanted to write and tell you how thoroughly disappointed I am in John Henry’s burlesque show. The next time I want to see titties, I will go to a strip club. I walked into John Henry’s and expected to see a real burlesque show, pasties and all. But that isn’t what I got. I saw strippers, baring their breasts for all to see. True burlesque performers are stripteasers. Where is the tease in what they do? I moved here from New York and have seen many a burly-Q — never have I seen true burlesque performers without pasties. And honestly, I don’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going to the clubs; I am a stripper loving female; hell, I used to be one.

Basically, I just wanted to say that I am unhappy there is no real burlesque show in Eugene. Guess I will have to move back to N.Y.?

Heather Atnsley, Eugene



Immigration is one of the hot button issues in Congress and in the media and seems to produce more heat than light in these discussions. To me, all of this sounds similar to the discussions that took place in the U.S. in 1847, except the “Mexicans” were the Irish who were the first large wave of immigration.

In 1847, Ireland was still under English control and, similar to today’s Mexico, a small number of people owned most of the land and used their land to grow wheat for export while their serfs were given an acre of land upon which to grow the food they needed. One of the most common uses of the land was to grow potatoes When this crop suddenly failed, Ireland’s eight million were faced with a Hobbesian choice: they could either starve or emigrate. More than one million were allowed to starve while more than three million emigrated to the U.S. When these poor, starving people started arriving in large numbers in the U.S., they were treated in the same way that Mexicans are arriving in the U.S. are today.

In 1999, former Gov. Kitzhaber signed into law Senate Bill 771, which called for the Oregon Department of Education to prepare, and Oregon schools to teach, a unit of instruction to be known as the Irish Famine Curriculum. Ask your school district how to access it and read what those Irish immigrants had to face, how they were treated by the media of the day and what contributions they and their descendants have made to this country before you decide your position on today’s immigration debate. If we don’t know our immigration history, we may be doomed to repeat it.

G. Dennis Shine , Springfield



The U.S. emerged from World War II riding an economic engine built on cheap and plentiful petroleum to survey a world full of nations, all who looked to our accomplishments and way of life as a goal. All nations, even those who saw us as competitors, wanted, or at least needed, to do business with us. What happened to us? What happened to Our Town?

What happened was two impossible missions — a U.S. foreign policy and immigration policy built on internally inconsistent (and thus self-destructive) assumptions and doomed to fail. Why? Because it is politically impossible for our leaders and psychologically impossible for our citizens to actually face the root issues that lay behind our foreign policy and our immigration policy.

We will NOT face the issue of changing the U.S. into a nation living within its means. The U.S. has not and will not learn to live within the budget of the natural and labor resources that lie within the boundaries of the nation.

We will NOT face the issue of the changing face of the U.S. White America can no more stop Latin Americans than Native Americans could stop European colonists. The truth is the “them” pouring over our borders are going to be the new us!

In Norway, in the 1930s, my father’s history teacher said, “There are two unstoppable realities behind all the talk of ideology and great men in history. Those two realities are available natural resources and migration.” I agree with him.

Leo Rivers , Cottage Grove



Your news story “Terror Label” (5/10) makes clear the extent to which the government will go to justify its misguided war on terrorism. While this supposed war was sold to the American people as protection against future 9/11s, we now find it being waged within our borders against young people who took a stand in defense of the earth and harmed no living thing. While the government has labeled the ELF/ALF the “#1 domestic terrorist threat,” I think the FBI would be hard-pressed to find a citizen who feels threatened by them.

So, if the prosecution of these 10 activists is not for our benefit, then whose benefit is it for? Could it be for the benefit of an administration that has come up short in its search for those who participated in the 9/11 attacks? Property destruction as a tactic of protest, while contested among activists, has a long history in the U.S. dating back to the Boston Tea Party. The crackdown on dissent that has occurred during this administration has worked to extinguish the channels through which people can express dissatisfaction with the government.

This campaign is taken to new heights by designating environmental activists as “terrorists.” If the government is allowed to apply the terrorism enhancement to these young people, we will allow the vise to be tightened on what it means to stand up for what is right in the U.S.

Steven Schuller, Brooklyn, NY



I noticed your Slant comment (5/3) about the silence on gun control after Virginia Tech. Personally, as someone who was deeply affected by what happened (my stepfather was teaching the only class in the building not attacked), I was grateful for it — all of us who were deeply affected by the incident have needed time to simply understand what happened. But I have started to wonder — what do we do next? I think we need to take a deeper look at ourselves and our lives.

When some people in Eugene heard that I was headed to Utah for graduate school, I was warned about the conservatives, and, by some, the Mormons. Now, by some, when I come home to visit, I’m asked how I can live in such a conservative place. I have discovered in my short time here that we have a lot more in common than not. I could not have survived this very difficult first year in my Ph.D program without my conservative Mormon friends. While my friends back there in Eugene have been a blessing, these friends here have been an equal blessing.

I think the deeper look we need to take is at how we carry ourselves, how we treat each other and how we treat those who are different. I don’t know what the solution to not ever having such an incident ever again is, but I do know that one place that can’t hurt to go to is a place of compassion — for ourselves, for others and for those we don’t understand.

Brooke Robertshaw, Missing Eugene from Logan, Utah