Eugene Weekly : Letters : 8.14.08


I was horrified by the cover of last week’s issue. Initially baffled that EW would publish such an openly racist image, I subsequently found myself wondering what sort of cocoon of self-congratulation, insouciance, or just plain ignorance one would have to be swaddled in not to recognize that that image of a black woman, her expression dominated by grotesquely exaggerated lips overshadowing the rest of her features, resonates with a painful history at least as old as minstrelsy, a history rife with white performers in blackface, ceramic statuettes of black folks featuring every exaggerated feature and stereotype in the book and triumphal postcards of lynched “coons” freely circulated in the U.S. mail (check out the book Without Sanctuary if you don’t believe the latter). 

If any of this seems fuzzy, you could watch Bamboozled; Spike will break it down for you. Do you folks believe that we live in some sort of post-racist wonderland where we no longer need to be aware of our sad collective history, and to be vigilant lest that history reassert itself? Are you not aware that a scary number of Americans are making jokes that, if Obama is elected, we will no longer be able to call the presidential residence the White House, while others are absolutely convinced that he is a radical Muslim and closet “Islamofascist,” all evidence to the contrary be damned?

I’ve recently heard all these statements; haven’t you? Are you folks at the EW paying any attention to these issues at all? I’ve tried to write this without dissing the artist, whose work I would have otherwise felt free to ignore, but I have to wonder why you chose this particular artist, and this particular image, to “celebrate.” Shame.

Michael McDonald, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: The musician depicted, Erykah Badu, is currently using the image on her MySpace page.


Although it ideally should not be this way, the audit function is typically antithetical to top management in an organization. Much effort goes into pretending otherwise, but managements invariably protect turf by devising ways to ignore, marginalize and even demonize the auditor’s role and the auditor’s findings.

It is the auditor’s direct manager, ideally the board chair or the chair of the audit committee, who has the responsibility to protect the integrity of the audit function. In Eugene city government, that role belongs to the City Council.

I find it outrageous and offensive to Eugene’s citizens that the police chief and the city manager find it appropriate to decide which complaints against the police are allowed to come to the police auditor’s attention. Given the control issues involved, this was probably bound to happen even though we have settled the matter by ballot. The procedures are in place; they are not in doubt. The council should move immediately to reprimand the police chief for his arrogant misuse of authority.

The city attorney and the city manager may have their input later in the process after the complaint has been confidentially registered and classified by the police auditor. To subvert the audit process shows cynical disregard for the rule of our laws. Mayor Piercy needs to step up and show forceful leadership on this issue and not play footsie with the public in deference to the upcoming elections.

Steve Smith, Eugene


A big “thumbs up” and huge thanks from this non-south Eugene resident to our mayor and councilors for arranging the city purchase and protection of the Green (Amazon Headwaters) property for the birds and bees and flowers and trees and current and future citizens of Eugene. Particular thanks to Mayor Piercy for her strong leadership on this issue, and to Councilors Taylor and Bettman for their steadfast support. I believe that in future days, all will look back in pride at this wonderful legacy. Now, let’s finish this process by purchasing the other Amazon Headwaters site: the Beverly property! 

On a more somber note, “thumbs down” to our police chief and city manager for their secret handshakes and pushback on independent audit. One would think that after the damage done — and allowed to be done — by officers Magaña and Lara to their victims and to our community (in both trust and treasure), law enforcement and city leadership would be at the head of the line to support independent verification of a new and improved EPD. Since this is clearly not the case, I hope the mayor and councilors will make it clear that this attitude needs to change or the leaders will be.

 Benton Elliott, Eugene


On May 30, from noon to 1:15 pm, I stood 30 feet from Ian Van Ornum’s theater antics at a pesticide rally on the intersection of Willamette and Broadway. I did not see a single vehicle being impeded by Van Ornum — who was arrested at 1:25 pm and charged with blocking traffic.

I have recently discovered the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) filed the complaint that Van Ornum was blocking traffic. I assert that the OHS filed false charges against Van Ornum on that day; this in itself is a criminal offense.

A grand jury has now been convened by Lane County District Attorney Doug  Harcleroad. However, the grand jury is not investigating the possible filing of false charges by the OHS, nor the crime of using unnecessary and deadly force to beat and Tase Van Ornum by two rogue EPD officers. Instead Harcleroad has called a grand jury to pursue more charges against people whose only purpose was to practice their constitutional rights — the same rights many men and women have fought and died to defend. The basic right to peaceable assembly, the right to freedom of speech (to expose corruption) and the right to ask our government for a redress of grievances was seriously violated in Eugene on May 30, 2008. 

Should others and I now be afraid to practice our civil and constitutional rights? By the illegal actions of the Office of Homeland Security, the illegal actions of two rogue EPD officers and the coercive actions by the DA, I question whether we still have any constitutional rights.

Shannon Wilson, Eugene


Despite the major changes that have occurred in the U.S. relative to manufacturing and the resulting disruptions to our way of life, Americans remain quite naïve about the politics that caused these changes. The U.S. government and large corporations played a key role in turning communist China into the world’s manufacturer of choice. What they saw was very cheap labor, no environmental controls, no unions, no health insurance — a situation very much like the working conditions of early America.

With prodding from the U.S. government and business community, China accomplished their goals for them by putting down worker dissent with tanks and guns and then enslaving the poor workers in unsafe sweatshops in heavily polluted towns. 

So what happened? The major disruptions to our way of life got under way when both political parties bowed to their corporate sponsors and became dedicated to the lofty ideals of capitalism. Deregulation, free trade, globalization — all benefit corporations and screw workers. When the controls were lifted, corporations started shipping their work overseas to capitalize on the reduced costs. Nice guys had no choice; in order to compete, they had to ship their work overseas. 

I worked all my life for IBM, whose employee policies and commitments were unmatched. IBM had to join the rest and start letting workers go. Many friends and I were offered early retirement and put to pasture; most of IBM’s U.S. plant sites have been shut down — some leveled. I receive an employee discount, but how ironic: Each time I receive a new PC or laptop, it has a stamp that says, “Made in China.”

The real question is in not why Hynix is leaving, but why it has waited so long.

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein is an excellent source for information about these things

Wayne Pierce, Eugene


Sadly, Eugene continues with its historical position of always being just behind the curve. Years ago it destroyed its people-scaled downtown when nationwide other cities had already found that malls were failures as cures for downtown ills. Industrial parks were also proven failures when Eugene established one along the Willamette River.

Economists reviewing tax breaks and other benefits used to attract industry had already shown the practice to have negative results when the city began its campaign to attract Hyundai, now Hynix. As it turns out, Hynix stayed in Eugene not because of the millions in savings but because it was a good place to operate to avoid the consequences of unfair business practices. Now Hynix is packing up, and the city finds itself with no provision for financial clawbacks included in its original agreements. We can now expect years of expensive legal action trying to force Hynix to clean up the mess left behind with the probable result Hynix will walk away, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.

The development of the millrace offers a chance to enhance the attractiveness of downtown beyond anything a private developer could suggest. It sits stagnant and ignored while Springfield seizes the opportunity to capitalize on their own historical past to make its millrace a catalyst for improvement and development.

When will we ever learn?

R.C. Cross, Eugene


Reading the story on Hynix’s closure (7/31), it seemed ever so clear that Eugene had been gamed by them to exact the greatest possible tax and other concessions from our city. And it is clear that similar negotiations and agreements for business’ tax advantage and profits go on all the time, all around the country. But it appears to me that these competitions between cities for job-providing employers are encouraged and played for all their worth to get the best deal by companies. As with Hynix, the deals more nearly resemble shotgun marriages than bonds between families. 

Having been burned and spurned, I hope Eugene will develop a much better economic development plan for itself, insist on prenuptials that protect the city’s investments and not swoon to the overtures of magnified job projections.

David Gilmartin, Eugene


Summer is winding down, and our attentions will soon turn from campfires and cooling off to football and first days of school. Having this summer caught our collective breath after a tedious winter-through-spring marathon of political primaries, we should be well rested for autumn and its mad quadrennial 100-meter dash to the November presidential election.

The deciding issue this election is not the economy, not health care and not Iraq. This election is not even, regrettably, all that much about issues, or ideas.

The deciding issue this election, the issue that, no matter the pundits, will ultimately be considered and decided when that curtain is drawn and that bubble is filled is how America sees itself in the early part of the 21st century, in the post-9/11 world.

Does it see itself as a young, energetic, articulate mix of backgrounds and colors, fresh and eager and perhaps just a wee bit credulous in facing the enormity of its challenges?

Or does it see itself as an aging grey battleship, hot-headed and mean-spirited, old-fashioned and intellectually ossified, beholden to powerful interest groups and wedded to money and plastic artificiality?

I know how I see America. How do you?

Todd Huffman, Eugene


As long as the responsibility for preventing global warming is dumped on people who can’t afford new hybrid cars, or who already leave the heat off in 40 degree weather because they can’t pay the heating bills, there will be no progress. 

The fact is, global warming is mostly the fault of the wealthy and the large corporations, but they are telling us it is our fault and that we have to solve it. We may have to solve it, but not because it is our fault. We have to solve it because if we don’t, it’s going to eat our grandkids.

I am including the middle class, who enjoy pointing their fingers at other people. I would like to include the people who can’t afford to pay their utility bills, but they are only going to feel dumped on, not included, unless we stop pointing fingers at them and start pointing at the real criminals, and unless we take upon ourselves the responsibility for helping, rather than dumping on someone else. 

Sometimes, helping means being kind to pedestrians. I was recently reminded of this when a driver stopped to let me cross the street, and, unable to let this model go unchallenged, another driver threatened me by speeding through the intersection while I was in the crosswalk. When I turned to wave my cane at the attacker, and then tried to proceed (if you need a cane, you probably shouldn’t try to turn around and walk in a straight line backwards at the same time), I fell. The first driver came running over and picked me up as if I were a small child and set me down gently. That’s called helping. We can’t all lift an adult off the sidewalk, but we can all help. Another young man handed me my package. It takes a community to fight global warming or local idiocy, either one. 

I am grateful to these citizens for their help.

Ann Tattersall, Eugene


Regarding Chow!: How about having a separate page for “cheapskates?”

Regarding the police auditor: Perhaps someone could suggest the city of Eugene hire as the new police auditor an ACLU attorney or a retired Oregon State Police officer or a retired FBI agent??

Frank Skipton, Springfield


Downtown business owners seem to be having a rough go of it lately. While I can empathize with their plight to some degree, I hardly think that taking on the machinations of the current administration by foregoing due process is the answer.

However, I hear the in other cities one can pay for a little extra protection — with very little coaxing perhaps our local policing force could be persuaded.

Cheryl Rivers Hailey, Eugene


This one goes out to all the young people who hang out (and should hang out) downtown.

Prove them wrong. You’re more than just troublemakers. You have more potential for awesomeness than you realize. You deserve respect and the right to use downtown spaces. So prove that you can share the library doorway. Smile at babies and their parents. Wish someone a good afternoon and mean it. Use the element of surprise. 

People who have power in this city might have their own poor opinions of young people, but that doesn’t mean that you have to accept or fulfill those opinions. I’ve met young people who take command of their lives and prove their maturity by giving respect even when they don’t get it in return, so I know it can happen.

Downtown is for everyone, so let’s show that we can share it.

Hannah Froemming, Eugene


In your article about the First Friday ArtWalk (Calendar 7/31), you failed to give credit to David Thompson, blacksmith artist who was the co-creator of the Four Seasons pillars and some other fine creations around town.

Diane Albino, Marcola

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our omission was based on information provided to us, but we should have known better.


What do the following have in common? Elvia Williams, Angel Jones, Marilyn Mays and Diamond Livingston are all African-American women who were officers of the Eugene/Springfield branch of the NAACP and have left Eugene or are in the process of doing so.

Only about 1 percent of Oregon’s population is African-American and Eugene, and the local NAACP branch cannot afford to lose its best and its brightest. Former Capt. Elvia WIlliams of the Eugene Police Department left to take a position as a chief of police in Illinois, and Angel Jones, Eugene’s assistant city manager, is leaving for a job back on the East Coast. Marilyn Mays and Diamond Livingston were presidents of the Eugene/Springfield branch of the NAACP, and Marilyn was employed by the city of Eugene to deal with human rights issues while Diamond was an administrator with the Oregon agency dealing with children and families.

The UO has also had problems in the area of recruiting and retaining faculty of color and especially those who are African-American. 

As a former board member of the Eugene/Springfield branch of the NAACP, I am concerned about the loss of these very talented women. Perhaps the local governments could conduct some exit interviews with these and other people of color leaving the area and develop some plans for retaining such people in the future. 

Dennis Shine, Springfield


It seems that with high fuel prices, people have found they don’t have to drive so much, so prices are going down a bit earlier than in most summers. Now is the time for a “gas tax,” local or national, to continue the lesson, or more generally a carbon tax, at least to keep the price of gas above $4/gallon, preferably increasing beyond that. We can save the planet and at the same time repair our streets and cities and maybe our governments and economies.

Dan Robinson, Eugene


I am writing in response to the letter by Pam Driscoll (7/31) and better ideas to save money and resources. Like most people who are conscious of renewable and sustainable resources, I agree with most of her comments. But making sacrifices is not really a requirement. We can do things in different ways that will not inconvenience ourselves in order to participate in a clean environment. We are fortunate that we live in an area which is abundant with sun, water, and wind although that abundance may be only at particular times of the year. There are ways of harnessing all of them to produce clean and renewable energy in abundance. 

For example, all new buildings must be built with solar cells and small vertical wind turbines to generate electricity. City, county and state offices should also be required to introduce these alternative energy systems into their designs. Retrofitting older buildings may be more expensive than incorporating them into new designs, but in the long run they will provide more efficient energy production with little or no adverse environmental impact.

I also applaud the school garden idea. This can be extended into community gardens, where more people will benefit from healthy food and will become less dependent on corporate agriculture. 

Hydrogen fuel for vehicles is another idea that needs more development. Contrary to a recent article in a local Corvallis newspaper, written by an OSU engineering professor, it is a viable alternative to oil-based fuels. Since it is produced from water, there are no hydrocarbon emissions at all. I cannot understand why the OSU professor came out with such a negative response. Both UO and OSU engineering should research this idea and see how they can create a viable product for the consumers if not the auto industry.

Fred Marsico, Corvallis