Slant 4-9-2015

• After listening to Phyllis Barkhurst and Jeff Todahl at City Club of Eugene last week talk about 90by30, their initiative that seeks to reduce child abuse 90 percent by 2030, we’re even more convinced that we need more teachers, more counselors, more school nurses, more frontline professionals who interact with children and can recognize signals of abuse. To date, the education budget being debated in the Oregon Legislature this week doesn’t bring that about. We’re looking for the leadership that will. Democrats have the upper hand in Oregon; let’s see some long overdue reform of our state tax structure.

• Legislation is pending in Salem to make private timberland spraying more transparent and notification more timely, but there are solid reasons why state and federal agencies have banned aerial herbicide spraying on public lands. The sprays that kill broadleaf plants in clearcuts also kill wildlife and harm humans. These bills are an excellent step forward in protecting those who live near these sprays, but the next question is: Why do we allow toxic spraying on private timberlands at all, particularly when more labor-intensive alternatives exist and would create jobs? We can think of worse summer jobs than hiking through replanted forestland, hacking at broadleaf plants with a machete. Most of us would be willing to pay an extra dime for a two-by-four.

• No single solution exists to solving homelessness in Eugene, but providing some kind of basic shelter is fundamental to getting people off the streets and transitioning back into self-reliance and safety. We like what the nonprofit Community Supported Shelters is doing, managing Eugene’s Safe Spots legal homeless camps, connecting clients to community resources and providing Conestoga huts as temporary housing. CSS has built, placed and managed 41 of the rounded huts so far. Most of the huts have plastic greenhouse roofs that will break down within about four years. Thermoplastic overlay (TPO) is available and will last 30 years, but of course it’s more expensive. Eric de Buhr, one of the founders of CSS, says his budget was $54,000 last year, and he compares that to the $250,000 Eugene Public Works spent last year cleaning up homeless camps in the city — yep, we confirmed that number with the city. Donating at seems like a good investment. CSS can use building materials as well. 

Raise the speed limit on Oregon freeways to 75 mph? Idiocy is the word that comes to mind for this bill introduced in Salem last week. What sane person would want traffic fatalities to go up and fuel economy to go down? In the name of freedom, should we raise the legal blood alcohol level at the same time? Last time we braved I-5, many drivers were already cruising past us at 75-plus. Don’t encourage them.

• Curious that PeaceHealth is announcing high patient census and full ERs at the same time as Oregon Nurses Association lawn signs are popping up around town calling for increased nurse staffing at PeaceHealth facilities. Other than supporting the ONA and its efforts, what can we do? If you need medical help and your own doctor (if you have one) can’t see you right away, call one of the several urgent care clinics to make an appointment. If you think you need a fully equipped hospital ER, call first to check waiting times. We hear the McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center ER often has a shorter wait time than PeaceHealth at Riverbend, but not always. Good idea to keep urgent care and ER phone numbers handy.