Letters to the Editor: 12-12-2013


Eugene is a fine city. Many volunteer organizations take care of the homeless population in fair and foul weather. But too few citizens have direct contact. In spite of best intentions, I read that many volunteers cannot work with mentally disturbed people, especially when police presence is inadequate. If a substantial fraction of homeless people are mentally disturbed, this makes it difficult to accommodate all homeless in the same program.

A way to handle this is to have a distribution center (as in New York). For example, people coming in to St. Vincent de Paul can be filtered. Families with children are sent to various church locations that provide shelter. We do not know what happens to the mentally ill. Retention in a mental hospital might be an option, and then the solution to the problem of Kesey Square might appear to be a “cuckoo’s nest.”

But consider the alternative that we adopt. Mentally ill people are turned back onto the streets to possibly suffer the same fate as Thomas Egan. This name usage avoids the observation that maybe Egan was doing exactly what he wanted to do, as the record suggests. At any rate it must be better to abstain from drinking alcohol in a mental hospital than to freeze to death.

Oregon state is building a new mental hospital just south of Junction City, to open in 2015 and embody the most modern and up-to-date knowledge of treating mental illness. If we could send our mentally ill population to Oregon State Hospital (OSH), this would enable the other homeless programs in Eugene to work a lot better.

I have been in contact with OSH regarding requirements for admission. For each person admitted, it is necessary that a judge sign a form that the treatment provided by OSH is needed. Eugene would have to organize to make use of this service, perhaps through CAHOOTS and/or a mental health specialty court. There is no financial barrier, as we are already paying taxes for OSH.

The barriers to the solution of the Kesey Square problem and the Downtown Exclusion Zone are not legal or financial. We just have to want to do it. It would help if we paid more attention to professional opinion. In my observation, the City Council has twice rejected the advice of the city manager and police chief regarding Occupy Eugene and the Downtown Exclusion Zone. Yes, Eugene can be different, but at what cost?

J.C. Helmer, Eugene


I volunteer at a local charity thrift store. The main mission of the organization that runs the store is to purchase school clothes for needy children, about 1,700 kids per year. Since no one working in the store is paid, around 90 percent of the proceeds of the organization go to its mission and are spent locally. Each year, we hold special events with our holiday merchandise and this year, through some generous donors, we had the gift of several vintage fur coats. Some had lovingly handed over the coats, saying, “This was my mother’s. I have wonderful memories of her in it.” We put good prices on the coats, knowing that the sale of one coat could clothe a child for a year. I’ve been proud to be associated with this organization. 

When the coats were on the floor, an unknown person or persons came in with a sharp instrument and slashed our coats, ruining them. We do not know the reason as the perpetrator did not have the courage to open a dialogue with us regarding the sale of the coats.

I am not a fan of wearing furs, but I do believe vintage coats fall into a separate category. No current fur breeder received a new order because our coats were on the floor. Buying new coats is what keeps animal breeders in business. Everything in our store is recycled. How does one recycle fur coats? Dump them into the landfill? 

Open dialogue and compromise would have been so much more honest. To self-righteously destroy an item which represented clothing for a needy child is cowardly and dishonest. If one is so opposed, buy the coats and take them off the market. Show your commitment to animal welfare by putting your own resources to that end rather than stealing those resources from children in need of good school clothing.  

I find my support for animal rights activists (I assume that the motives of our criminals were those) has waned. Hurting people to save animals is not a responsible moral position in my opinion. Needy children can’t speak for themselves any more than animals. It was some bad karma produced that day for someone.

Patricia John, Pleasant Hill


Although the intentions of the McKenzie Flyfishers are good, they may be misguided. The suit filed against ODFW may do more harm than good. The argument will cost the state agency quite a bit to fight in court, taking away precious dollars from positive programs for sportsmen. The hatchery fish they claim that are interbreeding with wild fish were not created in a science lab. They come from wild stocks. Although there is much to be done to improve our hatcheries and the fish they produce, this is not the best way to bring about that positive change. 

This suit, if successful, will negatively affect the economy along the rivers I so love. With less opportunity for fishing comes less tourism and enjoyment for many in this area, costing some jobs. Is this what we need? 

Saving wild salmon needs to focus on habitat restoration, dam upgrades allowing for easier fish passage and less clearcutting on tributaries. Hatcheries are not the problem. Lawsuits like this could eventually lead to the end of fishing as we know it.

Chad Wiest, Eugene


One of my earliest memories while growing up here in Eugene is of the cross on Skinner Butte. Every year in December the cross would be lit up. Even now when I go downtown with my kids to see the Christmas displays I always expect to look north and see the cross. I have vivid memories of waking up in the car after a long trip to see the cross in the distance and knowing we would be home soon. At that age I didn’t associate any political or religious significance to the cross. It was merely an illuminated design that glowed through the trees like a lantern underwater. It signified home for me.

My grandparents lived on Baker Street across from U.S. Rep. Charles O. Porter. The Porter family was close with our family. My dad was best friends with Chris Porter and Sam Porter so our families spent a decent amount of time together, especially in the summer. The Porters were very kind people, generous and loving, essentially a third set of grandparents to my sister and me.

In 1992 at a Halloween costume party in the Whiteaker I had a conversation with a sculptor wearing a wasp mask made of pancake mix. From the backyard of the party we could see the cross on the Butte. We started talking about the cross and its history, its connection with the KKK of Lane County. Prior to the concrete cross were wooden crosses. The KKK’s Klavern 3 of Lane County burned those wooden crosses atop Skinner Butte and on the knoll where Mulkey Cemetery lies. It’s no secret that Eugene has a significantly racist past; there is a plaque on Skinners Butte below the flag pole that acknowledges those wooden crosses.

In 1964 Eugene Sand & Gravel illegally erected a 51-foot concrete cross atop Skinner Butte cloaked as a “War Memorial.” After illuminating 33 Christmases, the 9th Circuit Court deemed the cross an illegal religious symbol on public property. The cross came down in June 1997 and was moved to the Eugene Bible College campus near Kennedy Middle School in west Eugene. Charles O. Porter was one of the people who advocated the removal of the cross.

Do I miss the cross on Skinner Butte? No. I do miss the innocence of my childhood and accept that I can look upon those memories as a place in time that I will always cherish; for me the cross still shines through the trees illuminating what was once a very dark time in Eugene’s history.

Jonathan Dean Guske, Eugene


Ann M. Tattersall [Letters, 12/5] has really missed my main points about affordability. When I called Cover Oregon on Oct. 1, I was told that people making under $15,000 were excluded from getting any subsidy whatsoever on the exchange. People under the limit are being railroaded over to Medicaid without being offered any other affordable choices.

I don’t doubt that those who fall within the limits for subsidies may be pleased with what they can get (if they can afford the 10 to 40 percent out-of-pocket costs). For those who do not, they need to be aware that Medicaid is not free, it’s cost deferred. Families with any assets will be billed by the state at death.  

It is very unfair that those in the middle income for subsidies will pay for part of their care while families of those who don’t qualify will get a bill for the entire amount of the recipient’s care. For families, Medicaid looks fine up front but it is a bad bargain at death. This needs to be changed whether at the state or federal level or within the rules of the exchange itself.

 Gwen Heineman, Eugene


The city code number for blocking sidewalks is 4.707. Pretty serious crime? No? For the past two days, Dec. 3-4, I have seen the rapid response squad from the EPD at the bus stop harassing school kids, including calling one kid a pain in the ass, handing out tickets for things like riding skateboards and smoking cigarettes. 

I for one don’t see school kids at the bus stop as a threat to the fabric of society, whereas the lifetime of stigma that will follow a person once brought into the judicial system does ruin the fabric of society.

Are your tax dollars well spent by policing bus stops for school kids? Do the words “schools not jails” mean anything to you? If you feel like I do, please contact the Civilian Review Board and Police Auditor Mark Gissiner, 800 Olive St., Eugene 97401, or call 682-5016.

 Chris Tawasi, Eugene

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