Our letters section wasn’t big enough this week to fit in all the letters that are fit to print, so please check out these online extra letters on housing, Vietnam, homelessness, online school, speed humps and water safety.
CITY PLANNERS BUILD MISTRUST
As Paul Conte stated in “Housing for The Rich” (EW 8/12), the Eugene Planning Division staff has conducted a misinformation campaign to push an agenda instead of providing honest, unbiased facts to citizens. The staff has also kept most primary stakeholders, i.e., property owners, from meaningful participation in how the city responds to HB 2001. The staff’s manipulation of the process to amend zoning for accessory dwellings demonstrates its unwillingness to engage with residents who will be impacted by major changes.
The Jefferson Westside Neighbors elected leaders have tried repeatedly since April to meet with the planning staff to seek common ground on possible modifications. Not until mid-August did the staff agree to a one-hour Zoom meeting, after which the staff’s response was a set of objections that had no basis in law or city policies. The staff then claimed that even considering the JWN recommendations would cause “significant delays.”
City planners should be willing to meaningfully engage citizens, particularly residents living in neighborhoods that will be transformed by the proposed changes. The current city staff and planning management seem driven by ideology to promote an agenda because “they know best.” Sadly, the city manager has allowed this attitude to go unchecked.
The City Council should require that this process engage actual residents, not just zealous advocacy groups such as the Realtors Association. If the staff ultimately push councilors to simply rubber stamp staff’s proposals, the result will harm poorer households and provoke years of mistrust of local government.
EUGENE HOUSING PROPOSAL FALLS SHORT
Housing affordability, racial injustice, economic inequality, homelessness and climate change are all topics that have been discussed in great detail in recent years. The residential zone changes currently being proposed by Eugene planners and planning commissioners should seriously address these issues, but appear to fall short. (See EW Viewpoint column “Housing the Rich,” 8/12.)
The citizens of Eugene will be greatly disappointed if we find out that we have exacerbated these problems by approving the zoning changes as proposed instead of using this opportunity to create solutions.
The Viewpoint piece quotes a report: “(F)air housing will only be fulfilled if displacement prevention and preservation/production of deeply affordable housing are uppermost priorities.”
Adequate attention has not been paid to the negative effects that demolition of existing affordable housing can have on those who will be displaced into a housing market that is already out of balance. The new residential zone changes need to include provisions that focus on preserving and producing deeply affordable housing as part of this process, not separate from it. The proposed changes also need provisions for preserving our tree canopy and green spaces for the health of our entire community.
As a community we want to find ways to house people of all income levels and races in a healthy environment. Proposals that only smooth the path for investors and builders to add market-rate middle housing in single family neighborhoods without equal provisions for improving, preserving and adding affordable housing options are not acceptable.
THE VIETNAM CONFLICT CONTINUES…
In response to an earlier letter of mine, Dirk Beaulieu (“The Things Veterans Carry,” EW Letters 7/22) takes me to task for things I never said.
He uses the word “cakewalk” — in quotes, just like that — as if quoting something I said in my letter to describe the lives of Vietnam veterans. But I never used the word “cakewalk,” or the words “cake” or “walk” at all, and never even implied that veterans had an easy time of it.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Here’s something I actually did say, in taking pampered boomers to task: “What about helping those (Vietnam) vets?” Beaulieu clearly has taken my letter as some sort of attack on veterans, when in fact, it was expressing disappointment with the many, many millions of privileged white Baby Boomers who walked away from activism when the 1960s wound down. Tie-dye faded, and real estate beckoned.
In any case, trying to stir up outrage over something someone didn’t say is a very Trumpy thing to do, and doesn’t serve to elevate the level of discourse in any way. But the many letters this subject has generated shows that Boomers seem to be very touchy about this subject. Objecting too much?
WE CAN ELIMINATE HOMELESSNESS
A new way to look at the homeless: refugees in our own country (“A Refugee Camp by Any Other Name” by Lonnie Stoner, EW Letters, 8/12). Efforts to fix this crisis, like the government buying motels for housing, are catching on, as are tiny houses. The key is to continue to search for answers until there is no problem. Prevention measures are also needed, like increasing the budget for the Housing Voucher Program so it reaches 100 percent of those who qualify. Only 25 percent of those who qualify currently receive vouchers, meaning that the other 75 percent are fodder for homelessness.
A refundable renter’s tax credit, working like the current Child Tax Credit would also help. This idea has been proposed by Sen. Cory Booker and then-Sen., now Vice President, Kamala Harris. It would prevent people plagued by poverty from paying 50 percent and more of their income for rent. It will be our relentless voices and votes that can make sure this happens. We can call the president (202-456-1111) and our representatives (202-224-3121) until these and other changes become reality. Let them know you vote and solving this and other everyday people issues will determine who you vote for.
HOMELESSNESS HAPPENS AT GROUND LEVEL
As a part of the readership that has come to rely on EW for compassionate treatment of struggles we face, I am dismayed to be allowed only 200 words to respond to the well over 1,000 word story and camp photos in the Aug. 5 issue.
Here goes: Granted, the two city-sanctioned camps are only a start; but we have to nurture baby steps. Rather than deplore by drone the tops of structures, how about some side shots at the human level, showing the tomato plants, tidy areas and workers or friends devoted to the area? Imploring attracts help; it builds from there.
I got permission from Euphoria to pick and distribute pears and apples, much needed in this heat. The article itself stressed strong communication as a condition of a healthy status quo, which is, in turn, better able to handle a crisis. Your paper is vital in this regard; please consider carefully any medium that pushes people away.
Lisa Schultz Tucker
WE DON’T OWE ‘VAGRANTS’ ANYTHING
I recently sent an email to both the Eugene city manager and the mayor about the vagrant problem, and, as you would expect, neither one responded, and I asked for a reply. We have a small homeless problem and a large vagrant problem. I don’t mean anything negative by using the word “vagrant.” The word “vagrant” means a person who lives on the street with no visible means of support.
Many businesses have had enough of them using their restrooms for cleaning up and stealing from them. They park on city rights of way, and when they leave they leave piles of trash and heaven knows what. We have had to clean up feces several times, and when we call the city we get no response. Now they are talking about designated places for them to camp.
Why? What do we owe them? We have vehicles and trailers loaded down with stuff with flat tires. Exactly who are we helping by letting them clutter up our streets? We have got vehicles that have been stripped and abandoned and sit for months and months. Who are we helping by leaving them on the streets?
Again, no help from the city. We have enough laws on the books but no enforcement. If you place a vagrant in a designated camp like the city is planning to do, he is still a vagrant and will continue to steal from the local businesses. Outlaw panhandling and illegal camping and get them out of what used to be a beautiful city. You could give me two dump trucks and I couldn’t clean up everything they have left behind. If you leave them alone, and they keep doing drugs and stealing from honest people, are you helping them? I understand why the city manager and mayor don’t respond.
JEFFERSON HUMPS STOP SPEEDERS
“Dump the Humps” letter (EW 6/10) erects a straw man argument in claiming that proposed speed bumps along Jefferson Street are bad for children, neighborhoods and the Earth. The writer claims that accelerating and decelerating drivers create more exhaust and emergency vehicles are slowed. Both assertions are false, thus the argument is incorrect.
Drivers who maintain a steady legal speed of 25 mph along Jefferson have no need to accelerate or decelerate at speed bumps. Only drivers who ignore posted speeds will be hindered by the bumps, and that is the whole point. If drivers simply maintain posted speeds, bumps to slow them down would not be needed or wanted. Likewise, emergency vehicles are not unduly slowed by speed bumps, thus impact on response times is non-existent or negligible.
I agree with Friendly Neighbor signs saying “20 Is Plenty.” I maintain a 20-25 mph speed along Jefferson Street. Often drivers ride my bumper and express irritation by honks, finger salutes and yells. It is those drivers who are the “control freak activists” to whom I invite Don Richey to direct his anger.
DON’T THROW OUT VIRTUAL LEARNING
As we approach the possibility of schools requiring remote school again this fall, the clarion call against remote learning is sure to rear its angry head. While I don’t disagree that schools that were never well equipped to handle virtual learning have tainted the entire concept of online classrooms, I still find it an unfair correlation.
Virtual learning isn’t bad because it’s virtual. It’s often bad because the school wasn’t prepared to offer innovative, interactive online classes. This isn’t a dig on teachers who had to upend their classrooms and fully convert everything online. Instead, it’s an understanding that schools that weren’t already equipped for online learning can’t compete with schools that have it in their mission. This conversation has been focusing on the wrong things, and instead of touting either/or, why not both: blended learning.
A 2021 Forbes article highlighted that blended learning is not a new concept for many forward thinking schools like Le Sallay International Academy and Laurel Springs High School. Blended learning utilizes both online and in-person learning, giving students the best of both worlds. For schools that have built blended learning into their mission, the often touted “horrors” of remote learning are completely irrelevant.
As technology evolves, so, too, should education. The pandemic has shown us that our traditional approach to education is in serious need of an overhaul. With so many educational options like blended learning available now, why choose schools based purely on proximity when we have the entire world in our laps?
BE CAREFUL IN THE WATER
Recently, there have been deaths of people on solo excursions on local waterways. Gill-less land mammals need to recognize that even a minor medical incident or accident that might be survivable on land can be fatal on water. Flotation devices should be used by even strong swimmers. You never have 100 percent control of your situation. And the people tasked with finding your body would much rather it was breathing.