Letters to the Editor: 10-11-2012


“We conclude that the Fourth and 14th Amendments protect homeless persons from government seizure and summary destruction of their unabandoned, but momentarily unattended, personal property.” In early September, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Lavan v. City of Los Angeles that confiscating and destroying the personal property of the homeless constitutes unreasonable seizure. This ruling is legally binding upon the state of Oregon. 

Last Tuesday (10/2), James Finn, a homeless man who sleeps on the river at Delta Ponds, left his belongings for a short period of time while attending to other business. Sometime in the early afternoon, a Lane County Sheriff’s crew “cleaned up” his belongings and disposed of them in the county landfill, in violation of his constitutional rights as set forth in Lavan. Among the possessions seized were his bicycle, bike cart, tent, backpack, tarps and tools, and the flag that had been draped over his father’s coffin at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Finn spoke to several people at Parks and Open Space, who told him that it was their policy to confiscate and dispose of property that they find unattended in city parks. I learned of this situation Thursday afternoon, and on Friday I spoke to John Clark at Parks and Open Space, who told me that the department seizes and disposes belongings as current policy, that they knew nothing of the ruling, and that they were not told anything by the city and/or county regarding a change to the policy.

Why hasn’t general counsel for the city and/or county informed the Parks Department that this behavior is unconstitutional? The court ruling made national news, and many in the activist/advocacy community are aware of it. Surely local government can’t be ignorant of such a significant ruling. The facts and circumstances here are clear-cut. The Parks Department (and EPD) have no choice but to immediately refrain from seizing people’s possessions. And in the case of seemingly abandoned possessions, the city needs to leave notice of seizure, adequately store the seized possessions and allow the owners to come forth. 

How will the city and county make amends for the violation of Mr. Finn’s Fourth Amendment rights? As I see it, either the Sheriff’s Department needs to start digging through the landfill, or the city and/or county need to adequately compensate him for the destruction of his possessions. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for violating Finn’s constitutional rights. 

This situation is completely unacceptable and needs to be immediately rectified. I look forward to hearing how local government plans on accomplishing that, and I expect that the parks policy will be immediately changed so that such blatant constitutional violations do not land the city in federal court. 

Alley Valkyrie, Eugene


I moved to Eugene in 1991 because the people and elected leaders of Eugene and Lane County seem to have a vision of doing things that benefited the community, the working people within and the environment that surrounds us.

Around 1996, Eugene Mayor Jim Torrey and his puppet masters hijacked that vision by accommodating Hyundai to build a huge computer chip factory on endangered wetlands. Subsequent to that fateful decision the ruling elite and their puppets accommodated a Walmart, Target, Lowe,s and Home Depot. A few years later, round two of mega-stores moved in. 

This did not happen because the people of Lane County changed their vision. I attribute most if not all of the commodification and destruction of Eugene/Springfield’s livability to the ruling elite of Lane County and our so-called elected leaders. Lane County’s wealthiest families and our “elected leaders” seem to have been struck by a “vision deficient disorder.” Their vision seems to be stuck in 1950. It seems they think that all the people need is strip malls, mega-stores, football and the wealth will trickle back up to them. 

Eugene, Springfield and Lane County government actions of approving and continuing to build and or expand six- and eight-lane freeways around Eugene and Springfield to accommodate more mega-stores and housing tract sprawl trampling Lane County’s livability is crystal clear evidence that nothing has changed since that 1996 coup d’état. Good-bye to Eugene’s vision of community and livability.

Shannon Wilson, Eugene


 I appreciated the recent article [9/20] on “Children in Poverty” as part of the “Shortchanging our Schools” series. I’d like to share information about our Farm to School Program, which is working to address food insecurity in four schools in the Eugene/Springfield area which have the highest percentage of students in poverty. Many of the students we serve don’t have access to adequate food at home and don’t have exposure to farms or gardens. Students participate in lessons on where food comes from, farm field trips, cooking with food from the farm, school garden sessions, nutrition lessons and farm to school tasting tables. Through our new Family Outreach Program we are increasing their families’ exposure and access to fresh, locally grown foods. 

At our events families can sample fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables and receive produce to take home. We provide coupons for use at nearby farmers markets or farm stands and flyers educating families about the opportunity to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at these sites. We also offer family field trips to local farms and the farmers market. Read more at http://wkly.ws/1d2

Megan Kemple, Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, Eugene


The very first rule of effectiveness is: Show up.

I served for two terms on the city of Springfield’s Budget Committee, representing the same ward as Joe Pishioneri. The other City Council members showed up, barring council-related commitments. Pishioneri seldom attended. 

People can have illnesses and other things that come up … but for two terms? The citizens of our ward deserved better from him. 

He’s also running a negative ad campaign in his current bid for public office. And spending a lot of money to get it. I always wonder about politicians who are willing to spend huge amounts of money to get a position that pays modestly. 

Will he be there for us? I’m voting for John Lively. 

Rita Castillo, Springfield


Living on the “right” side of the river, I can’t vote in the Eugene Ward 2 City Council race. But if I could, I’d want to support a candidate who doesn’t have a history of resigning office in anger because of offense taken at something that a fellow office holder said.

That would seem to narrow down the choice considerably.

 Jerry Ritter, Springfield


The Lane County Parks Advisory Committee, the Homeless Coalition and St. Vincent de Paul have presented a plan to eliminate vandalism in parks and give the homeless with RVs and campers a safe place to park and live.

The plan is to utilize homeless people with RVs and campers as “hosts.” In exchange for parking, power and water hookups they will provide supervision of the area. If there is a crime committed the hosts will not intervene, but instead must call it in to the sheriff’s office or park department. 

When I read this article I was appalled and quite frankly disappointed. St. Vincent de Paul already has a program in place where homeless people with RVs and campers can park overnight. These programs are set up to help get the homeless back on their feet while they look for jobs. If the county creates these jobs then there is no incentive to go out and get a real “paying” job and move on. Who assumes workers compensation liability for these workers? 

How are these people being vetted? More importantly, how is this being paid for? I am concerned there is too much risk financially and legally from this new program.

Christopher Lay, Eugene


Providing a legal space to help shelter the homeless while keeping Lane County parks flawless over the off seasons is exactly what the Lane County Parks Committee, the Homeless Coalition and St. Vincent de Paul plan to do.

During the off seasons the 10 full-time employees struggle to check up on and maintain some of the 73 parks that are in our county; therefore, they get robbed and vandalized often. The three organizations came up with a solution to let select homeless people with RVs become park hosts in order to provide security for the facilities. As park hosts, their duties are to report any crimes that accrue to the police and maintain a well-kept RV. In return they are provided with power, water, sewer and a free, legal place to stay.

According to Keith Heath, who is running the program, there are about 69 people on his list for legal camping. Although there currently only 25 legal camp sites, they hope to expand soon. This is a great opportunity for the local citizens who live out of their cars to save for real housing, focus on jobs and worry about their families instead of stressing about where they can park for the night, while keeping our environment safe and clean. 

I fully support the idea and hope everything goes as planned to keep Eugene green!

Dominic Ambriz, Eugene


Five days ago [9/27] you were stolen from me. I was shocked that even a U-lock wasn’t strong enough to keep us together. This is a goodbye I was not expecting to have to say, but I suppose when things are going well, the loss is always blindsiding.

Bicycle, I understand that this was not a betrayal on your part, but an unfortunate fact of the community I choose to live in. Even if you are now in pieces, or squirreled away in some tweaker’s garage, I filed a police report and have my eyes peeled, for what it’s worth.

 I will say we looked damn good together. When I met you a year and half ago, it was transformative. A road bike! Speedy! Elegant! A frame that fit these long legs! I was a goner. Together, we realized joy and freedom of motion. You shaped me — not only my ass and my calves, but my outlook on transportation and personal mobility. We had some memorable times. How about that fabulously ill-planned coast ride that was our first tour-date? Or just you and I, cruising out Lorane for a quickie in the afternoon? At certain speeds, moving with you was heart-pounding. 

I know I will find another, but bicycle, you were the catalyst of this particular education. I learned from being with you, and what we had will be the foundation for future love affairs. Now I know to be more attentive to high-theft areas, the condition of my U-lock, and note serial numbers.

It was good while it lasted.

Nicole Gautier, Eugene


An open letter to EPUD board member Chappel: Would you kill your grandmother? This is what EPUD plans on doing: Our electric company wants to cut down Grandmother Oak, a tree perhaps 200 years old, and one of the oldest trees in Veneta. 

And the reason? “It might fall on the new fiber optic line.” Why not bury the new fiber optic line? Underground lines are not only safer, but require less maintenance than above-ground lines. Certainly, there must be an alternative to destroying this stately old oak.

Very few of the original old oaks remain in Lane County, precisely because of this attitude: “Why save it? It’s only a tree.” 

True, it is “only” a tree — a tree which stood when the pioneers arrived, and witnessed the birth of the town, watching silently as generations of residents have lived and died, a tree that has seen much of the history of this county.

Ms. Chappel, I am asking that you oppose the destruction of Grandmother Oak, because it is not merely a tree, but a symbol of our shared history, culture, and respect for all that is ancient and beautiful. To cut down this historic and ancient tree would be akin to destroying the Sistine Chapel or the Mona Lisa, icons that have value to all people, and they are all irreplaceable, as part of our history and our children’s heritage.

I am not against fiber optic lines or progress. I am opposed to ignorance and the mindless destruction of our natural heritage. 

As John Muir once said, “God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools … Not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress.”

I am hoping that EPUD is guided by men and women who are not fools, and who can see the value of preserving this mighty giant, rather than pursuing “blind progress.” Or as Thoreau once wisely intoned, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

Jeffrey Zekas, Veneta


Who’s unbrilliant idea was it to announce Bijou’s coming to downtown with that utterly ridiculous cover shot [9/27] of movie theater seating with idiots’ legs and feet up over the backs of the rows in front of them? Juvenile? In the extreme.

I was looking forward to Bijou’s plan; a movie theater close to my downtown dwelling. After seeing that cover I am staying with Netflix and its streaming entertainment at my fingertips.

Doug Brinkman, Eugene


Your article about air quality problems in west Eugene [9/20] was a sad comment on the treatment of people who live in that area. Your list of polluters is incomplete, however. Where is the outrage over the field burning that continues inside Eugene city limits? Field burning is a luxury bought by the few who cannot be bothered to use modern methods to manage our environment. 

The state of Oregon finally said “enough” and outlawed the foul, outdated practice. But the city of Eugene continues to allow unnecessary field burning — and the fires continue to foul our air and kill every creature in its path. After reading your article, it is interesting to note such field burning occurs in west Eugene. 

F. Verrijt, Eugene


While I am opposed to transporting coal through Eugene (or anywhere else for that matter), I think we should make some proverbial lemonade. The city of Eugene has been burning large swaths of wetlands in west Eugene. Consider how much more efficiently the vegetation will burn if it is covered with a patina of coal dust.

Tom Arnold, Eugene


The Peter DeFazio campaign owes an apology to Art Robinson for claiming in 2010 that only Robinson would bring us more clearcuts and nukes. 

DeFazio’s so-called forest “trust” would privatize much of our BLM federal forests, a gift to timber barons who turned their forests into tree farms. Privatization of public resources used to be solely a Republican goal; now, it’s bipartisan.

Last year, DeFazio praised the NuScale company in Corvallis which is seeking an Obama administration grant to build prototype modular nuclear power reactors (45 megawatts). Future generations won’t care about Democrats and Republicans, but they will curse us for the nuclear waste we leave for them. See http://wkly.ws/1d4 for DeFazio’s promotion of NuScale.

I gave up on DeFazio years ago when he told a town hall meeting that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was “legal” because Congress endorsed it. I guess he never heard of the Nuremberg trials. DeFazio is a reason I support term limits.

I’m disappointed that Corvallis City Councilor Mike Beilstein won’t be on our ballot this time as the Green candidate for Congress. From his website newmenu.org/mikebeilstein: “Resource limits will not allow us to return to the economy we knew before 2008. … the earth cannot continue giving resources at an ever increasing rate. The work of national leaders should be to start imagining how we can meet human needs in an era of diminishing resources.”

My vote will be “none of the above,” an honorable choice.

Mark Robinowitz, SustainEugene.org


Overnight visitors to Lane County staying in hotel or motel rooms are subject to a county Transient Room Tax (TRT). The state mandates that 3 percentage points of that tax be reserved for tourism-related activities. The current distribution formula awards 10 percent of the 3 percent to the Lane County Historical Museum, whose operation since 1996 has been contracted to the nonprofit operating the museum. That nonprofit today is the Lane County Historical Society.

The Lane County Historical Society is running a pretty lean operation at the museum. Over the years TRT monies have accounted for approximately 80 percent of the museum’s budget. Due to the museum’s non-governmental status, it has benefited from grant support for collections-related projects ranging from digitizing photographs to mold arrestment on a pioneer scribed tree section and expert quilt collection evaluation. Some $75,000 has come from granting organizations for these projects— none of which a county-staffed institution would have qualified for.

TRT task force instructions are to relate the monies collected to tourism generators. Hidden away at the Lane County Fairgrounds, it is difficult for the museum to compete with other stakeholders such as Travel Lane County or Lane County Parks in terms of dollars generated. However, the recent excitement over a potential move to the U.S. Post Office building in downtown Eugene exemplifies public recognition of the museum’s tourism draw potential. If present TRT museum funding is reduced, and absent a big donor, it becomes unlikely that future Society operation of a larger facility located elsewhere will occur.

Bob Hart, Executive director, Lane County Historical Society


 On my block alone there are four hand made signs reading simply "99%." I guess that means that 1 percent are causing problems with their wealth. But 1% is around three million people in this country, and that number is clearly too high. The signs might easily be modified to read "99.9%" — which would make some sense. That is the .01 percent or 30,000 people alone and in families who are indeed the problem.

 They do not conspire. But they have common interests in a society that has allowed wealth to flow dramatically to the very top. Wealth is power, and the power at the top of this pyramid is very great indeed. With that kind of money the shopping list includes things like: Congress members, presidential contributions and the hiring of lobbyists and "think tank" operatives who generate a lot of nonsense. The televised media which most of us stare at have been consolidated and is now nearly fully owned by the top elites.

 The needs of this elite group are rarely the same as those of the 99.9 percent. Their needs include eliminating unions, eliminating Social Security, shifting spending to the military where the profits are greater, allowing a high unemployment rate to drive down wages, and generally eroding the gains made by the middle class and the labor movement. 

If you are a member of the 99.9 percent club and do not see this: Wake up! The current president has been a poor fighter for most of us, but he might wake up in a final term. And for sure the Republican fellow is the handmaiden of the .01 percent club and will do their bidding, not yours — in spite of what he claims in a "zinger" statement.

Michael Lee, Eugene 


I taught cooking for many years and had to learn a lot about nutrition. One thing I found out was vegetarians need to go to their medical doctors and get special supplements of essential amino acids to make up for not eating red meat. Apparently we are still very attached to our ancient ancestors who lived off of mostly animals they killed, rather than grain. We need other foods also, now, but we still have that nutritional necessity.

 I suggest that rather than looking at it as a bad thing, realize instead that it makes us part of the animal kingdom and nature and puts us closer to our furred and feathered friends; and that’s not such a bad thing.

 Dorothy Bucher, 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 the 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 the 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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