Here at Eugene Weekly, we love our letter writers, but with COVID still hurting our advertisers — and thus our page count — we can’t fit all the letters fit to print in print. Here are this week’s online extra letters.
WHITE VIOLENCE IS A PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT
Not so long ago, two young Black male transplants to Oregon were shot to death by two murderous white males. Aidan Ellison, 19, relocated to Ashland and was shot dead by a white male who felt Ellison’s music was too loud, and played too late at night. Barry Washington, 22, was shot dead in Bend by a white male who didn’t like that Washington was talking to his (white male’s) alleged girlfriend.
I’m not picking on these cities. But my point is that these shining star municipalities claim to offer splendid qualities of life. Great places to raise kids, work, retire, etc. Communities that most white people call “ideal” and “friendly.” Not so for black people.
Civilized people, when annoyed by the behavior of others, talk it out with them. If unresolved, they leave the situation, live with it or (if appropriate) call someone who can authorize the offending party to knock it off. Plenty of times the behavior of others have irritated or even angered me. But I didn’t gun them down.
Why do so many white people waste their lives trying to suppress and destroy Black people? What’s their sick need to control? Are they so fearful of competing with black people if our society finally became a level playing field? Afraid that their supremacy claims will shrivel and disintegrate in an equitable reality?
News flash insecure white people: You’re the minority on this planet, and soon in the US. You’re the emperor without clothes. And your ruling days are numbered.
COUNTY COVID TASK FORCE IS IMPOTENT
I guess there isn’t much that Lane County’s Health Dept. Coronavirus Task Force can do about someone who tested positive for COVID twice and was told to self-quarantine, yet she refuses. This impotent task force is good at collecting a paycheck but is a toothless watchdog, all bark and no bite. I have twice alerted it to a potential super-spreader situation at Falcon Wood Village 55+ Manufactured Home Park. Nothing done.
Because of this person’s close association with another tenant who was hospitalized with COVID for 12 days, the county did contact tracing and testing. This infected person asserts the tests were false positives and she doesn’t have any symptoms, so she doesn’t have COVID. It is believed either she or the hospitalized woman have infected others. This “refuser” continues to interact with unsuspecting senior citizens in the park. Now it’s gotten dreadful. The woman hospitalized for COVID has returned home. She and her side-kick in refusing to get vaccinated are back at it: walking their dogs side-by-side, no masks, no regard for others. They exude a dangerous naivete or a to hell with you attitude.
So one of these ladies gets discharged after treatment for COVID and is not told to self-quarantine? And if she is, who monitors compliance for the safety and well-being of the community? Clearly not county health, worthless as I am accusing it of.
When others get infected by these women the county holds some blame. I believe the legal term is contributory negligence.
Stay safe, prepare for the worst and hope for the best, love others, adapt.
SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS DOESN’T HELP
“Meanwhile, those of us with extremely vulnerable people in our lives are forced to remain hyper-vigilant…”
Thank you, Rick Moser, (Letters, 10/21) for making the COVID vaccine issue all about you! Susceptibility to mental health symptoms, financial devastation, debilitating levels of anxiety and depression are what some of the “extremely vulnerable people” in our society are facing because of the hysteria surrounding the vaccine.
Your snarky jab at Trump supporters, meant to earn you some cred, is weak. It’s none of your business whom I choose to follow as a source of authority on health, economics, resource conservation or any other area requiring free, educated and critical thought. Stay safe; but, please, lay off the self-righteousness, already!
Jo Anne Ryan
THANKS FOR APPROVING ADU HOUSING
I am thankful to the Eugene City Council for finally passing the ADU code. It was concerning to see the messaging from a small contingent seeking to preserve the housing status quo by falsely claiming that doing so would help alleviate the plight of many Eugeneans that spend an oversized amount of their income towards rent or down payments.
Anyone paying attention knows that there is an affordable housing crisis in Eugene, part of which can be traced back to antiquated zoning regulations. The exclusionary policies of single family zoning were designed to keep lower income folks (and people of color) out of wealthier (and whiter) neighborhoods, and yet some local interests argue that keeping those restrictions in place will somehow protect these same disenfranchised populations.
While ADUs are not the panacea to our housing issues, they are definitely a useful piece of the puzzle to providing more housing options at a reasonable rate to lower income renters, people looking to downsize as well as offering owners a revenue stream to help pay down their mortgage and save for retirement. ADUs also play a role in mitigating some of the environmental costs associated with new home construction due to their smaller footprint.
Additionally, their construction doesn’t necessitate an expansion of the urban growth boundary, allowing us to increase housing while simultaneously working towards our CAP2.0 climate change goals. This ADU housing policy change was an important step forward to making our city more livable today and in the future.
EUGENE IS OVERBUILDING
What happened to so many of our trees?
How did Eugene seemingly, suddenly, get so many “stack and packs” — RFK Jr.’s label. Are our neighborhoods next? The Oregon Legislature voted to be the first to do away with R1 zoning. What does this mean to homeowners who bought houses in R1 areas?
Are you aware of the sweeping zoning changes being proposed by the Planning Department and soon to be voted on by our council? Such important changes should not be voted on during COVID restrictions.
A very large projected population expansion is being planned that does not seem to consider Eugene’s topography. We are in a valley; we need our large trees and solar access, and we already have what seems to be an overburdened infrastructure.
Other areas such as Boulder, Colorado, have 1 percent population growth, and Colorado is slow growth. Why aren’t Eugene and Oregon similarly protected?
Some of the new housing is heavily subsidized and very expensive. What happens when the average taxpayer in the rest of the country starts to understand the implications of the Panama, Paradise, Pandora Papers and other policies, and no longer wants to pay.
We are in very challenging times. If our residential properties are compromised, who do think will also own the outer areas? Remember what the farmers and homeowners of Seavey Loop went through to protect their land only a few years ago.
NO TO EXTREME HOUSING DEREGULATION
Recent letters from a couple of architects (EW 10/21 and 10/28) supporting the Eugene planning staff’s recommendation for extreme deregulation of Eugene’s residential zoning reflect a serious disconnect between their ivory tower world and practical solutions to address the debilitating housing cost burdens that fall almost entirely on low-income households.
The nostalgic picture of streetcar neighborhoods they portray is ironic, because around 1890 electric streetcars made it possible to extend transportation lines outward and greatly expanded the availability of farmland for residential development — in other words, urban sprawl.
The other irony is their describing of “missing middle housing.” Completely detached houses up to 42 feet high at five times the current density would be allowed if staff’s recommended HB 2001 code amendments were adopted. The more accurate term would be “mythical middle housing.” The reality is that the staff’s recommended code amendments would be bad for housing affordability and bad for the environment, but terrific for private equity fund investors.
If you’re an architect or designer, please explore Housing-Facts.org before lifting that glass of Kool-Aid.
PLANNING TO INCREASE CLIMATE CHANGE
Recent articles highlighting the importance of Eugene’s tree canopy and the impact of heat islands or heat disparity have failed to note the absence of the Planning Department in this important conversation. One might assume that the planning staff is unaware of the discussion happening elsewhere in the city or, more likely, they’re being pushed beyond reasonable residential code changes by powerful lobbyists whose interests lie elsewhere.
For example, the planning staff and commissioners are both currently recommending that the City Council “exempt middle housing from tree preservation standards” as part of upcoming residential zones changes. (Middle housing traditionally meant a small multi-unit building but that has now shifted to multiples of single-family houses on very small lots.)
At the same time they are recommending minimum lot sizes so unrealistically small that with current property line setbacks (5 feet for interior and 10 feet front), new houses will entirely cover the remainder of the lot. There will be no practical room for trees, let alone gardens and play areas. It wouldn’t be surprising to see these setback standards decreased as well.
The planning staff’s failure to address climate concerns is also glaring elsewhere. The most current recommendations to the City Council include elimination of on-site parking requirements in all areas. This one move will block the necessary shift to electric vehicles as residents will be unable to charge their vehicles. Unfortunately, vehicle ownership will be a necessity as public transportation is very limited in all neighborhoods with the exception of a few major corridors.
MUZZLE NORTHWEST NATURAL
Recently, I was encouraged to hear support for a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure from a majority of Eugene city councilors. Yet I was disturbed hearing our city manager discuss the need to “build trust” with Northwest Natural, and a few of our councilors wax poetic about the benefits of “collaborating” with the gas utility. As climate chaos unfolds across the globe, aspiring to build trust with the fossil fuel industry is akin to building trust with a wild animal that has been backed into a corner.
These corporations are facing an existential crisis as their business models are at odds with any hope of averting climate chaos. As such, not only do companies like Northwest Natural have an incentive to undermine policies to enshrine emission reductions, but with every win for the climate movement they become more desperate and unpredictable.
We are in no way obligated to play ball with Northwest Natural. In fact, having walked away from the toxic franchise negotiations we were mired in for years, we are in a stronger position than we ever have been to transition away from their dirty gas.
It is critical that our councilors move forward with a work session to develop ordinances to transition our city to renewable energy, and vote against the franchise agreement that will be presented to council later this year. Now is the perfect time to pass a ban on new infrastructure and muzzle Northwest Natural’s emissions, not to “build trust” with the rabid corporation.
WHY ARE WE STILL CUTTING OLD GROWTH?
As someone that has drunk the water and breathed the air of Eugene my entire life, I was appalled to read about the Flat Country Timber Sale in Taylor Perse’s article “Fighting Against the Forest Sale” (EW 9/15). In this time of climate crisis and instability, why are old growth and mature forests still in danger?
Even though science from Beverly Law at Oregon State University and others clearly states the importance of old growth and mature forests for mitigating climate change, the so-called Forest “Service” is still targeting old growth to meet outdated board-feet mandates. I cannot wrap my head around this. We’ve known for decades that industrial logging poses a serious threat to local communities. While the timber industry is enacting an incredibly successful greenwashing campaign touting “sustainable” timber harvest, groups like Cascadia Forest Defenders are trying to educate the public with a truthful bottom line: We cannot let these trees be cut and sold for private profit.
Currently, the record of decision has already been made and the timber sale could be auctioned off any day. As soon as that happens, and saws hit the trees, it increases risks for communities across Oregon ten-fold by threatening drinking water, exacerbating climate change, increasing wildfire risk, and destroying habitat for already imperiled species.
Ultimately, people have been fighting the timber industry for many years. That is why I am begging the question, why are these trees still on the chopping block?
THE TIME HAS COME FOR CLEAN ENERGY
After this summer’s heat wave that killed 96 Oregonians, it’s easy to say that this record-breaking heat won’t happen again. The truth of the matter is, if we don’t do something to combat climate change, then these heat waves will continuously become more frequent and more intense. Our wildfire seasons that have already displaced thousands of Oregonians will also become more frequent and intense. We need to make the switch to 100 percent renewable energy, and Oregon can become the first state to do so.
Regardless of if you believe in climate change or not, a switch to renewable energy is necessary, because our current energy sources will soon be completely depleted. By switching to renewable energy we are ensuring the health of our planet and our accessibility to energy, all while providing five times more job opportunities than are currently available through the fossil fuel industry. Why would we not make the change?
This is something Oregonians care about, and that’s why I’m excited to be working with OSPIRG Students to call on Oregon to make a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy. After our win this summer, in which we got Oregon to commit to 100 percent clean electricity, a transition to renewable energy is closer than ever. Oregon can make the change, and you can help, if you let Gov. Kate Brown know that you want Oregon to make a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy!
TIME TO TAKE POLLUTION SERIOUSLY
Since 2018 I have attempted to work with Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, my state Rep. Marty Wilde and County Commissioner Joe Berney to clean up Springfield’s air quality by first reining in Eugene and Springfield’s biggest polluters, International Paper and Kingsford, which combined emit more than 4,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide and particulates.
I’ve also urged LRAPA and Rep. Wilde to seek to impose stricter standards on cancer-causing diesel emissions from heavy equipment and heavy trucks in urban environments. However, LRAPA and elected officials do not act to protect the public’s health.
I have also worked over the last three years to rein in illegal camping, dumping, poaching and other destructive activities in the Willamette National Forest along Fall Creek, the McKenzie River and the Willamette River. Even though I have seen some improvements, mostly through my own personal actions and pure persistence, federal agencies and Oregon’s congressional delegation, urged to act, mostly refuse to do so.
In most cases all I am asking for is enforcement of existing laws to reduce the harms to the populations of Springfield and Eugene via our air and water occurring 365 days a year. However, it appears, based on 30 years of attempting to work with Oregon and federal agencies as well as my elected representatives, that there is a lack of motivation to rise above mediocrity, which I surmise is deliberate to serve the wealthy and powerful to the detriment of all others.
SUPPORT SEA OTTERS
During my first visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium as a young child, I was enthralled by the sea otter section. My family had to pry me from the railing as I watched them swim, float and enjoy life. I was enamored by them the moment I first saw them. You can imagine how shocked and saddened I was to find out, as someone deeply loves the Oregon coast, that sea otters called our coasts home 100 years ago before they were hunted to near extinction.
Not only do sea otters boost morale and have a cuteness appeal, but they are also a keystone species essential to the health of our ocean’s ecosystems. They are fundamental in the health of our kelp forests, which have dwindled significantly since the disappearance of sea otters. Kelp forests store a significant amount of carbon, and are key in our response to the climate crisis.
For the health of our oceans and Earth, the return of the sea otters is imperative. With your support in the Environment Oregon campaign to bring back sea otters, we can restore the health of our coasts, and give our children the chance to enjoy the wonders of the Oregon coast.
PEOPLE MUST PUSH BACK ON PLASTICS
From the city banks of the Willamette River to the wilderness-surrounded banks of the McKenzie, everywhere you turn on a river in Oregon there are pieces of single-use plastics littering the shores and floating in the water. Even in places that may seem remote, it is easy to dig up a plastic water bottle from the muddy silt and find a broken plastic fork stuck in the ground.
This plastic does more than just ruin the view; it chokes wildlife, interferes with native vegetation and pollutes the waterways with harmful microplastics that end up in our food and in our drinking water. Even those with the best of intentions are left with no choice but to purchase items in plastic packaging. Corporations are finally starting to catch on that people want better options, but the change is slow, and the plastics industry is a powerful one, backed by big money and fossil fuel companies.
Recycling is no longer a viable solution to this dire problem. OSPIRG is starting with the grocery industry by taking on Whole Foods and calling for them to eliminate any unnecessary single-use plastic packaging. Whole Foods, once a leader in plastic reduction, has dropped the ball when it comes to their waste policies and needs to take the lead in shifting the industry. As corporations, Whole Foods and other stores carry the power to change the industry. And if the people push for them to change, they will.
Perry Lynn Wright
HOW ABOUT PROTECTING CHILDREN, TOO?
Texas has passed an unconstitutional abortion ban, and the deeply imbalanced Mitch McConnell-engineered Supreme Court has refused to hear the case.
I don’t know when life begins, and I don’t want to condone killing babies, but the deep, heartfelt opposition to abortion exhibited by some in this country seems a little half-baked when many of those same people are fine with economic and military policies responsible for the deaths of countless living, breathing children and their parents.
Humans evolved to have a strangely selective type of sanctity that we place on human life. If a child is killed in the U.S., it is viewed as an epic tragedy, but if Saudi Arabia drops a U.S.-made bomb on a Yemeni school bus, it is scarcely noticed in the news. About 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 terror attacks, but the U.S. response has been to kill a far greater number of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. With population overshoot and resource depletion coming toward us, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate a number of things: not just abortion, but also U.S. economic and foreign policy.
SUDDEN SENATE FEMINISTS
The Democratic women of the U.S. Senate have decided to remind the world how much they care about women’s rights. They have in unison demanded that Afghani women should have equal rights! Oh, the wonder of such goodness, such selflessness. Or really just cynical.
Where were these women for the last 20 years? I heard not a peep out of them while Afghani women were being bombed and droned. I heard not a whisper as white phosphorus fell on these women and their children. Not a word while NATO and U.S. men raped and murdered women in Afghanistan. While their weddings, schools, hospitals and funerals were bombed. This silence was carried out in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia — all Muslim countries — but on top of all of this they all have such harsh sanctions on them that starvation is another atrocity faced by these women.
Where were these senators for the last 20 years? I can tell you where the West Cpast senators were: They were climbing all over each other giving the war profiteers more and more money through the Pentagon. Let all of them know you see through a cynical effort to garner even more money for the Pentagon.
DON’T LET BIDEN KEEP OUT ASYLUM SEEKERS
I remember standing in front of the Federal Courthouse in Eugene in January 2017 with hundreds of others protesting Trump’s Muslim ban. Fast forward to now, when the Biden Administration is using a public-health order to keep most migrants from seeking asylum. Yet there are no protests.
In fact, it feels as if few people are aware that Biden has continued using Title 42, which Trump imposed in 2020, expelling hundreds of thousands of individuals without a hearing. Only non-Mexican children arriving alone are exempted, which sets up a sort of de facto family separation policy as some parents, desperate to keep their children from harm, send them across the border alone.
Invoking Title 42 to expel immigrants and asylum seekers violates international human rights and has been assailed by the U.N. Refugee Agency, Physicians for Human Rights and the ACLU, among others.
I understand that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, but if the CDC has ways to assure that other asylum seekers (such as Afghans) don’t have the virus, then certainly it can do the same for those attempting to cross our southern border. Failure to do so makes it appear that the continued use of Title 42 is politically motivated.
Don’t stay silent about this matter. Write your elected officials and tell them that invoking Title 42 to expel immigrants and asylum seekers is wrong. Raise your voice on behalf of all those who cannot do so.
WE SPEND TOO MUCH ON WAR
The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to spend $740 billion this year on the Pentagon budget. The Senate may soon take a similar vote. Spending the same amount for the Pentagon each year for 10 years would cost $7.4 trillion, more than twice the amount of the 10-year spending proposal of $3.5 trillion to support families and children and to address urgent needs to prevent climate disaster in the Build Back Better program.
Something is definitely wrong when spending on war passes easily yet spending on children and addressing climate, both investments in the future, is a struggle and considered too much. How did our priorities get so wrong? Investments in the future are attacked (stopped?) but paying for war easily passes in Congress.
Our local congressman, Peter DeFazio, voted “No” on this year’s Pentagon budget. How could we get more members of Congress to join him?
Carol Van Houten
SKARLATOS DONATED TO HIS FAVORITE CHARITY
Republican Alek Skarlatos apparently set up a fake nonprofit, in the name of helping veterans, in order to launder money. After his defeat in 2020 he donated $93,000 to his organization, 15:17 Trust. Shortly after announcing his plan to run for Congress in 2022, he refunded $65,000 of his “donation” back to his campaign. This is illegal. What happened to the other $28,000? 15:17 Trust has no website, no social media activity. What is it doing for veterans?
In a recent article by the Associated Press, a former Federal Election Committee lawyer said Skarlatos’s campaign finance activity reveals “serious corruption,” and is in direct violation of campaign finance law. Campaign finance law prohibits candidates from self dealing. This includes a prohibition on candidates donating campaign cash to nonprofit groups they control.
Skarlato’s campaign also reimbursed him $28,000 in driving mileage, which is over 80,500 miles. This is like driving from Florence to New York 13.5 times. Keep in mind Oregon’s 4th Congressional District only covers 17,181 square miles.
Alek Skarlatos violated campaign finance law. How many other ways has he violated federal law, and fooled veterans into donating to his “nonprofit”? Skarlatos should never be allowed to represent us in Congress.