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Eugene Weekly : Letters : 5.17.07

FATE OF OUR TREES

After reading the two recent letters regarding tree issues (David Caruso, 4/25, and N.L. Bell, 5/3), I feel like it's time to reach out to the community even more and remind folks that the situation of the trees in Eugene is not just about removals.

Ten years ago this summer, a group of "concerned citizens" decided to create a change and launched Eugene Tree Foundation. The idea was to do something positive following the sad fate of some of the old trees in our town and "strive to act always in a constructive and respectful manner when advocating for trees" (Whitey Lueck, ETF Newsletter, spring 2007). While most of us are upset by the removal of mature city trees, an even larger number is unaware of the annual effort put into the replanting of new trees! Since 1997, more than 1,300 new city trees have been planted by ETF, with the help of the City of Eugene NeighborWoods Program (launched in 1992).

Concrete has been cut and removed to make room for new trees in old neighborhoods where nothing had been growing for more than 40 years! The city of Eugene plants hundreds of trees annually independently from ETF and always considers replanting after removals, even looking for empty spaces in the right-of-way where a tree could shade the street, houses and cars.

The removal of city trees is always preceded by a thorough inspection, and the results of the inspection are available to the public, as David Caruso mentioned. Sometimes, trees have been on a "watch" for years when removal is delayed; the tree might look fine from the outside but have a very large cavity inside. Hazard abatement is happening until the tree is considered extremely hazardous for public safety and needs to be removed (e.g. large bigleaf maple removed three years ago at the corner of High St. and 7th Ave.).

The situation with EWEB is different but somewhat similar: Although I can't comment on the pine trees on Knoop Lane since I haven't seen them, EWEB's situation is not easy. They inherit trees that could reach 80 feet that were planted right under the power lines. Their only goal is primarily to keep the power going and they have but little choice when the branches are ready to touch the lines, risking a short-circuit. I know the pruning style could be more harmonious, but they are bound to safety rules, leaving little room for artful cuts.

I really appreciate the comments of David Caruso and N.L. Bell because it shows their level of interest in our wonderful trees. However, a hazardous tree can be deadly, and it looks like no one has ever cried over the death of a tree when it flattens a car, like the one that fell on a Volvo in February 2002, the day after its removal was postponed. The person whose house was shaded by the tree (and owned the car) had screamed and spat in the face of the city urban forester in protest against the removal.

Ironic, isn't it? I figured a while ago that despite my love for trees, I couldn't save them all either, especially in an urban environment. My daily job sometimes requires the recommendation for tree removal as much as tree care. Needless to say, I like the latter better; that's why I joined Eugene Tree Foundation seven years ago.

You want to see things change? You're welcome to join us! Thank you for reading.

Alby Thoumsin, Certified Arborist, Eugene Tree Foundation president

 

 

BOISE OR SILVER SPRING?

When thinking about the future of Eugene's downtown, it's worth considering the example of other cities. Recently I've had the chance to visit two, each roughly similar in size to Eugene, each with very different downtowns.

The first is Boise, slightly larger than Eugene and more of a regional hub. Boise's downtown is among the most vibrant I've experienced. The city core is intimately and carefully crammed with healthy, independently run businesses, many tucked into well-preserved historic buildings. There is a good flow of pedestrian traffic on most major streets. I saw virtually no chain restaurants or stores. It feels somewhat like an old European town. Comparing our downtown to Boise's, I felt jealous. Jane Jacobs would envy Boise.

The other, and perhaps more educational model, is Silver Spring, Md., an edge city not far from Washington, D.C. About 10 years ago, with the downtown decaying, the city hired a private development corporation to raze and rebuild about five of the downtown blocks, a proposal not unlike the KWG plan. The results were mixed. Downtown Silver Spring is now a vibrant place. It works, to an extent. The problem is that it felt very generic. There was a Borders, a Red Lobster, a Ben & Jerry's, a Starbucks, etc., the same stores found in any mall. And the downtown felt like a giant outdoor mall with private security. Comparing our downtown to Silver Spring, I was very happy not to live there.

Silver Spring might seem like a successful model. The stores are healthy, tax revenues are up, it attracts the "proper" demographic. I think this is the type of place that KWG, and perhaps Beam, and perhaps some of Eugene's leaders, would like to create. Yet these there is another model available: Boise. Before reaching any decision about downtown, all concerned should think about what they want that result to be, and only then consider how to get there.

Blake Andrews, Eugene

 

KWG FOR DOWNTOWN

As one of the 150 to 200 citizens packed into the standing-room-only meeting in the library on May 7 hoping to see a clear choice between the KWG and Beam proposals emerge, I came away disillusioned — but not surprised. Once again we are seemingly heading back to the drawing board to take the Eugene approach and turn it over to the populace to study to death, allowing the City Council to avoid decisive action.

In 1999 we moved out of our single-family home in the south hills into our condo at 10th & Lincoln to join the "revival" of downtown Eugene. It was exciting at first as we watched the construction of Broadway Place parking structure and apartments, the arrival of Symantec, reopening of Broadway and construction of the new library. Then Symantec opted for better digs in Springfield, and growth has since languished.

We still find many advantages to living downtown — lots of amenities within walking distance. But where are the people? The key to revival is more living units — condos, townhouses, apartments. Only then will we see a real neighborhood emerge.

The price differential between KWG and Beam may seem daunting at 10 to one, but the choice is obvious in my mind. City staff got it right. The Beam proposal seems simply a facelift and regression to early 1990s — a new "facia" on underutilized commercial space.

Let us hope that the City Council can step up to the bar — be brave; be bold — vote for KWG. We won't have a more opportune time. Our neighbors to the east are seizing the day. If Eugene does not become more decisive, the future forums will not be about redeveloping West Broadway but renaming Eugene "West Springfield."

Duane Janes, Eugene

 

END THIS WAR

Finally, someone throws a brick at the drug war in the Weekly. Jim Greig writes passionately in his opinion piece "End The War At Home" (5/3).

Those who know the state of our forests understand how beneficial hemp could be in removing the blight of harvesting trees for fiber. Hemp produces four times the fiber of trees per acre. So, if Oregonians are concerned about declining dollars, protecting salmon and trout habitat and keeping our forests vibrant and productive ... hemp is THE answer.

Medicinally, the feds have known since 1974 that cannabis has cancer-fighting potential. It's not just a palliative but has possible preventative and curative powers. In April, in a story carried only by the Indianapolis Star, "findings presented ... at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Los Angeles, add to evidence that marijuana may have anti-tumor properties and its potential should be probed further, researchers said."

Anyone who has family affected by cancer should be outraged that the federal government has been blocking critical cancer research with cannabis and lying about it being useful as medicine.

The Iraq War may suck, but the drug war really is THE war, our longest war, a war demonstrably built on nothing but fabrications and lies, a war waged on all of us. And worst of all — a war on patients.

Allan Erickson, Drug Policy Forum of Oregon, Eugene

 

DON'T PROTECT US

Regarding Jim Greig's thoughtful May 3 op-ed, if health outcomes determined drug laws instead of cultural norms, marijuana would be legal. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco.

Like any drug, marijuana can be harmful if abused, but jail cells are inappropriate as health interventions and ineffective as deterrents. The first marijuana laws were enacted in response to Mexican migration during the early 1900s, despite opposition from the American Medical Association.

Dire warnings that marijuana inspires homicidal rages have been counterproductive at best.

White Americans did not even begin to smoke pot until a soon-to-be entrenched government bureaucracy began funding reefer madness propaganda. By raiding medical marijuana providers in states with compassionate-use laws, the very same Bush administration that claims illicit drug use funds terrorism is forcing cancer and AIDS patients into the hands of street dealers. Apparently marijuana prohibition is more important than protecting the country from terrorism.

Robert Sharpe, MPA, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Washington, D.C.

 

THROW OFF THE CHAINS

I just heard a report on the radio about the percentage of U.S. corporations that have foreign ownership. It is amazing/appalling how many are over 50 percent foreign, which shows why our economy is hitting the skids. To the extent that a company is foreign owned, its profits are leaving the domestic economy.

In Eugene, people who want to do public-subsidized development are focused on bringing in chain stores. Those may pay some local salaries, but the profits are pulled out of the local economy and go wherever the owners are. It's as though the local leaders are jumping up and down screaming "Kick us! Harder! Do it again!"

It's always a struggle for local businesses to get going, let alone succeed, but there are no tax gifts to them or any encouragement whatsoever. If an outfit isn't already big, the politicians can't see it. When they give freebies to the big guys, they create a very uneven playing field for everyone else. It's as though their objective was to wipe out anything local.

People talk about the importance of tourism in the economy, but the chain-store mentality wipes out whatever local uniqueness is represented by the commercial sector. Tourists aren't going to come to Eugene to go to Whole Foods or the Gap — they don't need to. They've got the chains wherever they are. But the chains can wipe out local businesses that are unique and render the commercial sector just another fragment of homogenous corporate bland. Come to Eugene — it's just like everyplace else! Yawn.

Karen Carlson, Eugene

 

RUN OFF THE ROAD

Several mornings ago, I came within 90 seconds and a foot of asphalt from death. I was run off the road by an erratic, arrogant semi truck driver who came up behind me and proceeded to force me off the road. This happened on I-5 South, right by the exit to LCC. Since he came up behind me, it was obvious that he saw me and that this was a deliberate act. (I have seen bikes get run off the road as well in this general area of town.)

After regaining some composure, I pursued this truck and felt quite proud that I had been able to get the license plate number. Little good did this do me! After a series of phone calls to the Eugene police, the Eugene and Portland DMV, and several to the Motor Carrier Transportation (MCT) office (all of whom claimed they couldn't help me and that it was another department's responsibility), I finally discover that the plate is not traceable!

Apparently, when an enterprise rents trailer flatbeds, the license plates do not directly lead to them or the company from which it was rented. I was basically told by the MCT that there was absolutely nothing they could do. In addition, they told me they receive irate phone calls all the time from others like myself, who have been run off the road and have been unable to file complaints against the guilty parties due to untraceable plates! So apparently, between the inept and disorganized government agencies and the fact that there are actually license plates out there that cannot be identified, it is actually possible to run cars, bicycles and pedestrians off the road and not be held accountable.

By the way, the Oregon plate number was 81079.

T.D. Turner, Eugene

 

PUBLIC ART?

I sometimes wonder what those Peter Max letters mean splashed on railroad cars, bridge supports and buildings all over America. If gang affiliated, then to what purpose? A claim to turf? Recruitment ads? Desperado code exchanges? Is there someone out there that can decipher this?

Surely, some ex-banger has turned coat and become a task force insider who knows the terminology. I mean, some of these letters and logos run together without vowels and jumble together like mathematical equations. There are never any pictures, landscapes or cartoons to go with them. Ancient cave markings are easier to ponder. I say we need a graffiti "taggers" dictionary so I know whether to grab my gun or a bouquet of flowers to respond.

Dan Woodmark, Eugene

 

IMPERIAL HILLARY

Deb McGee wrote (4/26) that "it's not OK to have the Democratic National Convention in a nonunion hall owned by one of the Wal-Mart oligarchs."

While I share her distaste for Wal-Mart, I think it would be appropriate to enthrone Hillary in a Wal-Mart connected facility since she was on the Wal-Mart board of directors while Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas.

Barring a miracle, it is likely that Hillary will be the next emperor — she probably has already been selected by the power elites. ("Voting" doesn't really determine who gets to be president.)www.oilempire.us/hillary.html

links to documentation of the Bush/Clinton business ties and Hillary's connections to the hazardous waste incineration industry. I also recommend Barry and the Boys by Daniel Hopsicker, which is available at Tsunami Books. It describes how the Iran-Contra scandal flew drugs into Mena, Ark. — and that the "deep politics" of that scandal makes a Hillary presidency almost a certainty. The Bush/Clinton connections make her too compromised to be able to prosecute the current regime for its war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and New York City.

The only Democratic presidential candidate who deserves a vote is Dennis Kucinich, who recently introduced a resolution to impeach the de facto president, Richard Cheney.

Mark Robinowitz, Eugene

 

SAY NO TO NO-KILL

"No-kill" shelters euthanize animals only under extreme circumstances, if at all. Because of this, they cannot accept all the animals who are in need of help. Some no-kill shelters only take in animals who are highly attractive, young or purebred or those who come from the police stations of certain municipalities. Many of these shelters direct people with unadaptable, old, injured or sick animals to facilities that have no choice but to kill the animals to make room for new arrivals. Each time such a referral is made, there is a greater chance that the animal will be abandoned instead of taken to a shelter.

At some no-kill shelters, "unplaceable" animals end up confined to cages for years. They may become withdrawn, severely depressed and unhousebroken or develop antisocial behaviors that further reduce their chances of being adopted. Well-meaning people who take on the huge physical and financial responsibilities of a no-kill shelter often find themselves overwhelmed very quickly, and too often, the animals suffer from lack of exercise, playtime and individual care and attention, ending up warehoused in misery. Some "no-kill" shelters have been shut down by humane officials after gradual neglect turned into blatant cruelty.

Curtis Taylor, Eugene

 

NOT TRANSPARENT

Greenhill's website says "At Greenhill, we do not euthanize adoptable animals. … However, because humane euthanasia of unadoptable animals does take place here, we refuse to call ourselves a 'No Kill' shelter."

Greenhill says it has already embraced the main core of the no-kill solution, which is "no euthanasia of adoptable animals." Why won't they implement the rest of the program? Does Greenhill know better than all the other shelters and communities across the country that have successfully adopted the no-kill solution? It is not rocket science!

An important part of the no-kill solution is accountability to the community. One has to ask, why would Greenhill not welcome transparency? A community's SPCA should be the shining, guiding light towards the no-kill solution.

I used to be an untiring, loyal supporter and volunteer at Greenhill. I used to speak highly of their programs, their dedication and the lengths they went to, to save even the youngest life no matter what.

Two years ago, Greenhill had a list of over 200 active foster families. The current number of homes stated on their website is only 75. That decline speaks for itself.

On another note, I would like to personally thank the staff at LCARA for making small, positive steps towards the no-kill solution.

Tamara Barnes, Eugene

 

VULGAR SAVAGE

Raunchy sexual ads have not blinded EW. After all, more than 250 ads use artistic images and old-fashioned descriptive words to advertise every week in this paper, without being vulgar. That is an overwhelming majority of savvy advertisers.

EW is listening to the readers as well and has made some reasonable compromises concerning the dispute over printing vulgarity. For example, EW has reduced the local red light-like cottage businesses to their own little classified section (no more display ads). And only one downtown bar keeps trying to run a real vulgarity contest in Eugene, which it seems to be losing.

However, EW has continued printing the contentious words of Dan Savage. But it isn't so much what Dan says that plagues many, it is the vulgar grammar. And aren't Dan's words really there just to get attention? "Savage Love" is like the "700 Club." Both publications are simply infomercials — paid-for ads to solicit customers. Savage is not an EW columnist, and the 700 Club is not real TV news. Savage is just being used as a hook in the vulgarity contest to send you to the bar that has more theme nights than a senior center.

What Imus said was vulgar. How gangster-rappers spit on women is vulgar. Demeaning images of anyone is vulgar. Merchandising sex is vulgar. The dictionary tells us: VULGAR means a lack of sophistication. Maya Angelou has recently pointed this out.

Thank you, EW, for your responsiveness to our community.

Deb Huntley , Eugene

 

SCUM POWER

I am writing in response to the "Switch to Switch Grass" article by Camilla Mortensen (4/26). You are on the right track with the switch grass, which is a good nonfood plant source for ethanol production. It outproduces just about every food crop, except sugar cane, in ethanol raw materials. Unlike all of the food-based crops, switch grass is a perennial which means, while it must be harvested, it does not have to be planted every year. One only plants it once.

That's an easy answer for ethanol, which would be the bio replacement for gasoline. There is a very good nonfood source for biodiesel as well. That would be the same plant scientists believe our fossil fuel supply originated from. It is estimated that 70 percent of our fossil fuels came from prehistoric species of algae.

Brown algae (diatinous) can out-produce soybeans by a 500 to 1 ratio. Unlike green algae, brown algae does not grow from seeds. It self-propagates. It thrives on human waste and has been a troublesome visitor to sewage treatment plants.

This plant can be harvested several times a growing season and can be grown on land that is non-productive for food purposes (like the desert). All it needs to grow are nutrients (sewage), carbon dioxide and sunlight. When dried, it will produce half its weight in oil. It has been estimated that algae produces 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe.

We should be directing all this energy arguing about using food sources to finding ways to get real production of algae going. We should not ignore solar, wind, geothermal and ocean wave generators, but we need to get off the fossil fuel habit.

John E. Townsend, Boyertown, Pa.

 

BIOFUELS BOONDOGGLE

The Oregon governor's biofuels initiative is a bad idea at the wrong time. This plan shows that our state government really doesn't understand much of anything about forests, soil or the cycle of life. They also seem not to have a clue about global warming.

The biofuels plan will subsidize the timber industry. It would require a lot of wood, so it would give a big boost to this industry. The plan is to harvest and burn for fuel all the small size wood that "isn't economic" to harvest for framing lumber.

This plan brings to mind the economy of Haiti or the African countries of the Sahel region, where every stick is harvested for cooking fires.

The economics of the biofuels initiative will work in the same way. Every stick will be harvested off the forest floor, then all the small trees will be removed, then the big trees will be limbed. Nothing ... no ferns, no salamanders, no little rodents will inhabit the forest floor. No birds will feed or nest there. Soon, the trees will stop growing and will die because there are no longer any nutrients being added to the soil.

From a region that may take more carbon dioxide out of the air than it puts in, Oregon will become a region that puts a huge burden on the atmosphere, belching out carbon dioxide and taking up very little of it, because the land will have been sterilized.

Those who want a "clean environment" should consider what they wish for.

Ann Tattersall, Eugene

 

UNDER ATTACK

Please explain to me and our entire country why we are being attacked from within while the media stand silent?

I have seen the sun with rainbow circles around it right here in Oregon. I have seen the crisscross of jet chem trails often in our skies. Why do you all turn a blind eye to what's going on?

Christine Gherardi, Springfield

EDITOR'S NOTE: For an extensive discussion of this topic, do a web search for "chemical trails."

 

BILLION-DOLLAR MESS

Traffic issues aside, I just can't seem to get excited about building two new hospitals here.

Let's see if I understand correctly. One entity wants to mostly give up its perfectly good hospital in Eugene (I know PeaceHealth still plans to use the Hilyard site for some programs) and build a new one in Springfield at a cost of about $600 million; the other, McKenzie-Willamette Hospital in Springfield, wants to give up its perfectly good facility and build a new hospital in Eugene at a cost of about $400 million. I was never very good at math, but I think that's a billion dollars.

I can see how new state-of-the-art hospitals would be nice for employees, people with insurance, vendors, for teaching medical students and for bragging rights when you're chatting up colleagues at conferences, but I just can't seem to get excited about the prospect of spending a billion dollars for new building when there are so many other needs that are greater.

Setting aside momentarily that it's not my billion — so it doesn't really matter what I think — how about all those who have no health coverage at all to spend at any hospital or doctor's office? They make too much to qualify for Medicaid, they aren't disabled or old, so they don't get Medicare, and even though they work full time, their employers don't offer coverage. Most of their senators and representatives don't care about their health needs. I know a billion bucks doesn't go as far as it used to, but it would buy a lot of coverage for a lot of people for a long time. And just where does a "nonprofit" get $600 million anyway?

Gary Cornelius, Eugene

 

DO THEM BOTH

Recently readers have focused on what should be printed in the Weekly. On the one hand, the First Amendment speaks for itself and should be protected. At the other end of the spectrum, the morality folks want protection from the rampant sex-based information that keeps EW free and available. The pull out section makes a lot of sense and would make the family readers happy, and the progressives would still keep the edge on the pages continuing to evolve as does the readership.

We need both our morality and our freedom to show both have a place in our psyche. Let's get this done, today.

George G. Brooks, Eugene