Letters to the Editor: 9-6-2012


Like the Land of Oz, Eugene is a magical place. But, as we learned from L. Frank Baum’s story, magic can be complicated and sometimes dark. Industry sorcerers are presently employing black magic to conjure up coal trains that threaten our fair city. If they succeed, dark clouds of coal dust will envelop Eugene as trains carry their toxic loads from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming through Eugene to the Port of Coos Bay for export to Asia.

The sorcerers are spinning coal export as “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” and energy independence. But we know few jobs will be created at the port, and the dirty fuel will be burned on foreign shores before returning to our own as air pollution. We know coal dust pollutes our air, poisons our water and damages our health. And we know trains that deliver it spew diesel particulates, congest our traffic and disturb our peace.

Our city councilors are returning from summer vacation, hopefully refreshed and ready to again consider a resolution opposing coal transport through Eugene. The choice is clear: support industry or support our community.

Baum’s initially flawed characters ultimately find the brains, heart and courage required to defeat evil and earn redemption. I hope wavering councilors will find those same qualities in themselves and do the right thing for our community.

We all need to speak up on this critical issue. So summon your inner Dorothy and tell the councilors what you think. Just click your heels and say, “There’s no place like home.”

Benton Elliott, Eugene


As a member of the Police Commission, I had the pleasure of working with Juan Carlos Valle, a candidate for City Council Ward 2. From the very first moment, Juan Carlos appeared to me as warm and genuine, with a ready smile to go with his sharp appearance. I saw firsthand Juan Carlos’s dedication to searching for the facts so he could make an informed decision, to reaching out to the community to discover the diversity of perspectives to be found there, to treating others — no matter who they are — with respect and interest.

That respect extends to the police officers whose opinion he solicits at every Police Commission meeting, to the all members of the public who share their views, to so many members of our community who are Spanish speakers and struggle with the barriers they face, to seniors and people living with disabilities that I work with in KindTree-Autism Rocks, and that he works with in his day job.

With Juan Carlos on the council I can be confident the community perspective will be represented in the proceedings, that he will work tirelessly for positive change that benefits all the people of Eugene, defending families, the environment, and our ability to live happy and fulfilling lives.

From humble beginnings to an energetic life dedicated to proactive service, I admire Juan Carlos’s perspective. “A New Perspective.” That, I believe, is what we need now to tackle the problems we are facing.

Tim Mueller, Former Eugene police commissioner


Reading in the Aug. 16 Slant that Betty Taylor’s opponent for the Ward 2 Eugene City Council seat recently resigned as chair of the Police Commission makes you wonder why anyone would do this in the midst of a race. Doesn’t it have to involve something bigger than, as he maintains, needing more time to campaign? People on city boards, commissions and committees accept a responsibility to serve out their full term, especially when they chair a commission to which they’ve been appointed by the mayor, and confirmed by the council.

Ward 2 voters can re-elect Taylor, a veteran councilor with a consistent record of environmental advocacy, or they can switch allegiance in favor of a newcomer to the ward, supported by money from corporate interests who haven’t been stroked by Taylor’s tell-it-like-it-is style.

Taylor will continue to be there for her constituents, having no interest in using one office as a stepping stone to the next. Anyone choosing Taylor’s opponent must be comfortable with the reality that electing him would yield a City Council made up of seven men and one woman. For so many reasons, that’s an environment way out of balance.

David Sonnichsen, Eugene


I want to add my own words of praise and appreciation for the quality of public service I’ve seen Juan Carlos Valle perform for our community for a number of years. My appreciation for his opponent, councilor Betty Taylor, is exactly the same, also for her many years serving the community. As I do not live in Taylor’s ward, I won’t be faced with making a voting choice. 

Voters in this ward will be facing a touch choice, for Valle and Taylor share many hopes and goals for the betterment of our community. I have observed Valle’s work on the Police Commission and I am deeply grateful for the reasoned, fair and professional voice he brings to that table. I understand he resigned as chair in order to work on his campaign, and to allow another appointment to the leadership so that this new chair could give full attention to this vitally important task. That was a responsible, community needs-based choice Valle made. 

This race is a win-win, no-lose situation for our community. We will be well served whether Valle or Taylor is chosen and I wish them both the very best. I thank them both for their past and present exceptional service for our community. 

Carol Berg-Caldwell, Eugene


I was very dismayed to see a photograph in your recent coverage of the Whiteaker Block Party’s fashion show [8/9] which featured a white woman wea-ring a Native American feather headdress. The feather headdress is a sacred object to Native American culture. Throughout U.S. history, white colonizers have specifically and intentionally perpetrated both physical and cultural genocide against Native Americans. Every attempt was made to annihilate and assimilate the Native American people and their culture — to literally and symbolically wipe them off the face of the earth. Considering this recent, brutal history, the casual use of this sacred object for a “fashion statement” worn by white models is highly offensive. 

For many Native people, it is yet another reminder that their land has been stolen and their culture appropriated and disrespected. White people have already taken everything from Native Americans — and this use of a feather headdress for “fashion” is just another example of these offenses, showing a clear lack of sensitivity to Native American culture.

I am sure that the fashion designers involved in the show are highly creative individuals. Given the infinite possibilities of expression available to these designers, why would this highly offensive image be chosen, and then on top of it be featured in an EW photo spread? We all have the choice to empower or oppress. Fashion designers, please think before you sew.

Jennifer Donovan, Eugene


Regarding Jeff Zekas’ delightful letter, “Dangerous Bums” [8/9], I think it’s time for some reality therapy for all those saps who think the homed are all harmless Wards going off to work daily, while June washes dishes with her pearl necklace on and Wally and the Beav get into mischief, but not trouble. Make no mistake, the homed are not harmless.

When I first came to Eugene, in my neighborhood, cars started getting broken into and robbed. Just around the corner, a homed couple had been cooking meth and stealing to support their choice of addiction. Their home had to be destroyed. This is not harmless.

Not long ago, a woman was found killed and buried in her own backyard by the man she shared her home with. Many homed men have chosen to kill their spouses or girlfriends, in their own homes, in a choice of anger. Recently a homed police officer in our town was jailed for sexually abusing the very people he’d sworn to protect and serve. This is not harmless.

In a former town I lived in, a homed man who lived in a mansion ran a Ponzi scheme that stole millions of dollars from other people, destroying their life savings and sending them into poverty in their later years. Because of his actions, his own son committed suicide in shame. This is not harmless.

I was a social worker for a while, and regularly had to deal with children whose homed parents regularly beat them and sexually abused them, homed fathers who ran off leaving their homed families helpless and abandoned, or gambled away the family savings. These were choices made by the homed, who made themselves that way. They are not harmless.

Walker Ryan, Eugene


“Meth-using fence cutters are victims of failed drug policies and lack of social services.” So says Gail Gould in Letters, Aug. 30. I guess these “victims” share none of the blame for their own (that’s right: their own, not society’s) bad decisions.

Classic liberalspeak – no personal accountability! As Ron White famously says, “You can’t fix stupid!”

Jerry Ritter, Springfield


I can certainly understand exactly where Jeff Zekas of Veneta is coming from in his “Dangerous Bums” letter [8/9]. A person gets tired of being robbed, cheated, harassed and manipulated by scumbags, drunks, thieves, drug addicts, convicts and downright dangerous thugs.

I have had all the same ugly experiences throughout my life. I’ve been robbed and cheated out of more than $80,000. I’ve been physically attacked. I’ve been threatened. An arsonist burned my house to the ground. My own uncle was a drunken bum all his life.

But there is one difference between Zekas and myself. Everyone who robbed me — my drunk uncle, the man who destroyed my house and those who threatened me — were wealthy landowners with big houses. They committed these lowlife behaviors and crimes with suits, ties, polished shoes, fancy cars, big fake smiles and ink pens.

Zekas describes the homeless as “narcissistic, selfish, immature folks.” Maybe they aren’t the only ones. Just maybe we all need to look at issues with a little more depth and compassion. Just maybe our failure to exercise compassion is “narcissistic, selfish and immature.” Food for thought.

Eli Cutler, Eugene


The R-G’s story (“New Spaces Attracting Many Local Tenants” 8/19) truly astounded me! Many people may have missed important points deep in the article.

The city of Eugene, being the main tenant in the rehabbed Woolworth Building, in April began paying $577,200 per year (that’s over $48,000 a month) to lease 26,000 sq. ft. of space, but will only be using just under 10,000 sq ft of it. The city agreed to this sweetheart deal in order to “help” the local Bennett family secure a loan to pay for the rehab of that same building. This family owns buildings all over town, and has gotten “help” like this, before. They don’t have collateral for a construction loan? Or maybe they just don’t want to risk their own money? 

So anyway, the city also guarantees to pay for that extra space for up to seven years if another tenant isn’t found. 

I find this outrageous! Why does the city keep “helping” big-bucks developers, while neglecting the basics for the regular folks who need housing and other services right now? 

The city now rents space in numerous buildings since City Hall closed. Could they move some agencies into the empty 16,000 sq. ft. pre-paid space? And if not, then offer it to hard-pressed grassroots groups who work on a shoestring to make Eugene a better place for everyone. I bet they could do wonders with that opportunity!

By the way, I wish the city would help me guaranty a loan to buy a tiny home to live in!

 Robin Bee, Eugene


According to the Oregon Tourism Commission there were 84 million visitor days spent in the state in 2010. Those visitors spent $8.7 billion while in the state. Oregon resident taxpayers subsidized services provided to these visitors to the tune of $522 million (based on a 6 percent sales tax rate). The central and southern Willamette Valley portion of this service subsidy equaled $89.5 million. 

The argument against a state/local sales tax is that it is regressive. That argument is specious, however, as all citizens of the state pay for services available to visitors primarily through local resident income and property taxes. Most other jurisdictions recognize this and charge a sales tax. Even if the net taxes remained the same, the citizens of the state could cut our own tax burden by half a billion dollars per year by instituting a sales tax and cutting income and property taxes proportionally to the increased tax derived from sales. However, the real benefit is to adjust income and property taxes to the new sales tax revenue, resulting in the same tax burden that exists today, while generating an additional half billion dollars a year to the state to provide much needed services used by all residents of the state, whether they stay here permanently or just reside here for a few days.

So I support putting on the ballot a statewide and local sales tax in conjunction with automatic adjustments to income and property tax rates so that today’s total tax burden for residents stays the same, while asking our guests to pay for the services we provide for them while they are here. The result is a net increase in revenue to the state, the counties and the citizens of Oregon.

Mark Sixel, Eugene


Humorist Ann Coulter once said that if the GOP didn’t run Chris Christie for president, then Mitt Romney would win the nomination and the Republicans would lose in 2012. That prophecy certainly had its manifestation in Romney’s convention in Tampa this past week. 

The lies, innuendos and falsifications demonstrated that Team Romney has a program for America that includes reduced voting rights for “inner-city” residents, a continuing attack on reproductive rights of women, reducing Medicare to a you’re-on-your-own program, and gutting the ability of students to get lower interest rates on college loans. 

Smiling faces and a smattering of diversity does not cover up or hide the true intent of the Romney/Ryan campaign. It is to trade your social safety net for lower taxes on the wealthy and higher taxes on the middle class. It is to hand over the security that government programs provide to undefined and profit driven enterprises that somehow will magically replace everything that government does. The Romney/Ryan contention that civil society is wrong for America is proven to be false when compared to the government we actually have and what it really does.

Gerry Merritt, Eugene


What I find lacking in the debates on forestry in Lane County is a recognition of the fact that because deforestation contributes to global warming, people in the U.S. need to consume less wood. Otherwise, less logging in one part of the world will lead to more loss of forests in some other place.

 I would like to propose a worldwide moratorium on the construction of new residences larger than, say, 700 sq. ft. Many people who aspire to own a house need to settle for buying a condominium or cottage. People in the U.S. need to live in smaller dwellings.

 Fighting global warming will lead to people becoming unemployed. Governments could tax the rich and use the extra money to help create green jobs, say in public transit. However, many displaced workers would have trouble finding new livelihoods. The late labor leader Tony Mazzocchi suggested paying people not to work. People who lose their jobs could get something like monthly disability checks.

 Milton Takei, Eugene


In an ideal world, all pregnancies would be planned and every child welcomed. It is through a joining of liberal and conservative hands that we can reduce the number of abortions that occur until they reach zero.

 No matter how we counsel our children, some percentage of teens of all faiths do become sexually active. We are shirking our responsibilities if we don’t instruct them, and poor women, in their birth control options. 

This is a secular domestic issue and a dire one internationally. When there was a “gag rule” barring funds to foreign aid groups that counseled women, the result was more unplanned pregnancies, more unsafe abortions and more deaths for women and girls. In countries where UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) ran pilot programs providing birth control to women, the rates of abortion were reduced by 40 percent, much greater than the success of pro-life groups. In China alone, 10 million abortions were prevented through the use of IUDs. Prioritizing the reproductive rights of women and children also has bearing on world population control and global warming. 

Politicizing women’s health care by trying to roll back our rights is a clear attempt to legislate morality and violates the separation of church and state as laid out by the Constitution. The effort is misguided and fails to address the more urgent issue. 

Women will be heard on this matter. We “hold up half the sky,” and we vote!

Marti Berger, Eugene

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