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Eugene Weekly : Letters : 4.16.09




HOW DO YOU SLEEP?

If this here progressive, left-wing, organic gardening, former radical home schooler knows that John Brown is not a conservative, how come your weekly tabloid does not? And the recent assertion of that National Enquirer reject Alan Pittman that the Civilian Review Board (CRB) has been meeting in secret? What was that about? Every last meeting has been in the Public Meetings Calendar on the city's website and in the other paper in this city — the one that still has the corner on accurate reporting in this town, apparently. 

I would like to challenge EW to be honest for one solid month. I will bet you a $50 bill and a gallon jug of Hop Valley Stepchild Red Ale that your readership will increase along with your advertising revenue and you'll be able to quit your endless dependence on seamy phone sex ads if you do so. It's time for EW to face the fact that this town is not full of endless conspiracies and corruption. In fact, Eugene is pretty sleepy, if a person actually pays attention.

Meanwhile, just for your edification, which you so solidly seem to need: John Brown is a rabid environmentalist, to put it mildly, and this area’s biggest advocate for the protection of our fresh waterways. And the CRB most often meets on the fourth Monday of the month starting at 5:30 pm. The problem with spreading half-truths and lies is that people believe you and then, sheep-like, parrot the lie until it grows legs and takes over. 

EW is not making Eugene a better place to live with its lack of journalistic integrity. It is contributing to anger and discontent, the antithesis to progress of any kind.

Ruth M. Atcherson, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: For the record, Alan Pittman’s story March 19 was about the CRB’s discussion about excluding the public from its meetings. The story did not assert that any meetings had been held in secret.

 

BUSINESS AS USUAL

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving down Franklin Boulevard headed toward Glenwood. A rock hit my windshield. The source of this insult was a large truck over-filled with dirt and completely uncovered. As the driver continued down the road, a steady amount of debris spilled out on to the roadway.

The truck was hauling away the excavation dirt from the new UO basketball arena. I noticed the name of the trucking outfit, and I also noticed that several different companies are employed to haul away this debris. Two weeks later, as I was driving down Franklin, trucks continued to drive out of the construction site, overfilled and uncovered.

I understand this is business as usual for this project. There is not one person working on the construction site who could not notice the overfilling. Is the source big money, the big name project or just good-old-boy half-assedness? I tend to suspect it is the collaboration of all three. The news mentioned the lack of an impact statement to the neighborhood, and how the whole project was rubberstamped through permits. Now the project is fully under way and there is little evidence to suggest any care is being paid to the people who live and work in this area. 

At first I was all for the basketball arena. We were under the impression that big Nike money was going to cover the costs, but not so. I am still happy we will have a new arena, but the lack of forethought to the neighborhood impact is appalling. Maybe shifting the focus to winning basketball games, and not how to spend the next $20 million, should be at the top of UO/Nike boardroom itinerary.

Dan Johnston, Eugene

 

GYPSY MOTH NOT SO SCARY

Nobody wants to see deciduous trees defoliated by gypsy moth caterpillars. As anyone visiting gypsy moth habitat in Europe, Asia, and the northeastern U.S. can see, it is not treeless. Although it is quite devastating when the moth is out of control, like all overpopulating species, they do crash and the majority of the trees survive.

The controversy lies between control and eradication. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) continues to press for eradication with each outbreak (which questions the use of the term eradication). I attended the ODA informational meeting. The people planning the pesticide application are entomologists. It became clear that their eradication mission is to protect the plant nursery business (the largest, most profitable agriculture business in Oregon) from export quarantine laws. For anyone online, check the website Gypsy Moth in North America, a U.S. Forest Service site. The link to “life cycle” is most instructive in showing how easy it would be to find the egg masses and even the stages after hatching. Once the caterpillars begin eating tree leaves, it’s almost impossible to miss them. After a caterpillar-infested tree has been identified, it could be sprayed at that point without subjecting the whole area to the pesticide. Better yet, ODA could use the $250,000 planned for the helicopter applicators to pay some local unemployed people or biology students to collect them.

The helicopters plan to spray a product called Foray 48B. This consists of 12.65 percent bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki (btk) strain ABTS-351, fermentation solids, spores and insecticidal toxins; and 87.35 percent undisclosed ingredients (Google No Spray Zone btk).

The ODA argues that this product is approved for organic agriculture. Not all organic growers agree with its use. Nevertheless, growers are allowed to helicopter spray crops, not people.

The hysteria being propagated over the gypsy moth is unnecessary. The pesticide is more of a cause for concern. Once it is sprayed, the ingredients or their degraded products will be in the environment and animals’ (people’s) bodies (see National Geographic, October 2006). It would be nice if the ODA were more honest about their reason for subjecting people to pesticide.

Jan Nelson, Eugene

 

FEAR OF SOLIDARITY?

Frank Stahl and Jette Foss argue that the creation of a faculty union at the UO is somehow a threat to faculty governance. From their point of view, the establishment of collective bargaining between the faculty and administration is a worrisome prospect because “Governance may then cease to be the joint responsibility of the professors and president. Instead, professors may become, simply, salaried employees.”

Their position is a misrepresentation of the relationship between a faculty union and a faculty senate (or assembly). The establishment of a faculty union does not eliminate the faculty senate. Rather, the establishment of a faculty union enhances faculty governance by adding the legal right to engage in collective bargaining over conditions of employment. 

Faculty at PSU, SOU, EOU and WOU are all represented by democratic labor unions, and all four universities continue to engage in shared governance through faculty senates and university assemblies.

My experience at Western Oregon University is that the faculty union amplifies the democratic voice of faculty. Our union, in negotiation with the administration, has added legal protections on matters of workload, salary, benefits, evaluation and promotion. Our union, in negotiation with the administration, has also increased mandatory funding levels for professional travel, scholarship and release time. In sum, our union has expanded the role of faculty in university governance and it has done so by augmenting the mission of our faculty senate.

Peter Callero, Western Oregon University

 

TELL ’EM ALL

The federal and state governments as well as county and local governments are getting ready to waste hundreds of billions of dollars to widen and build new freeways with your taxpayer dollars to prop up the corporate paving industry. 

Tell Congressmen Peter DeFazio and Senators Wyden and Merkley that you are opposed to spending hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on wider freeways and new freeways across the country.

Tell Governor Kulongoski and the Oregon Legislature that you are opposed to the governor’s plans to spend 18 billion dollars of your money on expanding freeways, widening bridges and highways.

Tell the mayors of Eugene and Springfield as well as the city councils that you are opposed to their plans to waste nearly 800 million dollars of your tax dollars (actually your wages) on wider freeways and bigger off ramps.

Instead, urge them to spend these funds on new high-speed rail, light rail and heavy rail infrastructure as well as building new infrastructure for human powered transportation nationwide to prepare for the climate crisis and peak oil.

If they do not heed our requests, maybe we should seek to replace them during the next election cycle.

Shannon Wilson, Eugene

 

BAD BIKE IDEAS?

A few weeks ago I tried to have my letter posted in EW about the reasons why it is a bad idea to make bike helmets mandatory. Unfortunately, EW didn't find it interesting enough (but the Sunday R-G did), but last week EW did post a letter by Latasha Williams, who tried to push through a mandatory bike helmet law in Oregon after she was involved in a fatal car vs. bicycle accident. Australia started enforcing mandatory bike helmets and bicyclist ridership dropped by 50 percent. Is that what we are trying to achieve: 50 percent fewer bikes in Eugene, so that bikes can be even more marginalized?

Williams also calls the Oregon politicians stupid for even considering a possible new law for bicyclists not having to stop at stop signs. This is another bad idea of Williams making biking more unpopular. As far as I know, the statistics in Idaho, where rolling through a stop sign is allowed for bicyclists, do not show an increase in accidents, so why make bicycle riding more unpopular by enforcing unnecessary rules? Bicyclists are slow moving traffic, and they have plenty of time to look both ways when approaching an intersection, so they should be allowed to roll through stop signs.

I feel sorry for Williams having been involved in such a bad accident, but the ideas she is promoting make the situation even worse for bicyclists. I would like to suggest to Williams that she reads the research that has been done on bicycle safety in countries like the Netherlands, where bicyclists are not marginalized, do not wear helmets and have a fatality rate that is one fifth of the rate in the U.S.

Arjen Hoekstra, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: The letter did run in EW, but not in print. It can be found in our web archives for March 26.

 

MATH FOR STARS

Movies are expensive, and movie reviews can help decide which to see. Years ago I could count on Lois Wadsworth that way. If she hated a movie I knew I’d like it, and vice versa.

This was caused by two things typical of weekly papers: The smaller paper’s insecurity comes out as contempt for anything that isn’t itself an expression of contempt (familiar to many teenagers but alien to the rest of us); and reviewers have seen thousands of movies and judge new ones in that esoteric context (oblivious to our more practical perspective).

The current reviewers, unfortunately, follow this tradition. While they’re not going to change anything in response to this letter, a more realistic star-assignment by the editors seems possible.

The review of Monsters vs. Aliens contained 16 sentences. If we assign one star out of five to each of the eight purely negative statements, and two stars each to the remaining positive-but-negative statements (a negative-but-positive statement would get four stars) then the overall review should have shown one and a half stars, not three.

Such a system would make it a little easier for regular, unsophisticated folks like myself to apply the Wadsworth test to movie reviews.

Steve Downey, Eugene

 

SKIP THE LIDS

As we approach Earth Day, may I make a suggestion? If you are one to occasionally indulge in a coffee shop-purchased hot drink to go, the next time you find yourself without your own mug, ask for the beverage sans lid to go without or reuse one you have saved. 

Being non-recyclable, every one of these lids must be thrown away and represents a small amount of oil that could have seen better use as medicine or clothing. 

If you go without a lid, you'll notice in yourself a more mindful state in order too not spill the drink, thus providing a good opportunity to meditate on the cumulative impact that your everyday actions have upon our environment.

Thomas Kirkpatrick, Thurston

 

THAT’S HOW WE ROLL

Since 1982 Idaho state law has allowed bicyclists to approach stop signs and roll through after first yielding the right of way. Bicyclists in Idaho are also allowed to turn right at red lights without stopping, so long as the bicyclist first yields to other vehicles. Researchers at the University of California analyzed accident statistics and have concluded that riding a bicycle in Idaho is as safe if not safer than other states. (This study is available at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance website). That's why top officials in Idaho — including sheriffs and transportation planners — consistently support their law.

Polls indicate that about 60 percent of the public is interested in bicycling but concerned about their safety and convenience. Most people would prefer to ride on low volume, low-speed residential streets, but in the interest of traffic calming, these streets are often loaded with stop signs to discourage high speed automobile traffic. The problem is that they also discourage bicycle traffic.

If we want to encourage bicycling as an alternative mode of transportation, our laws must allow for safe and efficient bicycle travel. Idaho's 27 years of experience provide ample evidence that Oregon can enact similar legislation without endangering bicyclists or motorists.

Allen Hancock, Eugene

 

GELLER FOR 4J

We all are keenly aware of the many challenges facing our 4J schools: the loss of state revenue, the achievement gap, the workload demands placed on teachers and administrators, the changing demographics of our community and the need for our students to enter the work force able to compete in a global economy. Voters in the 4J School District will have a wonderful opportunity in May to elect a person who is uniquely qualified to face these many challenges.

Jennifer Geller has spent countless hours as an advocate for great schools. As the parent of 4J students, she chaired her children’s parent group, organized and advocated for the successful local option levy for 4J schools, led a successful effort to rid schools of soda and junk food and worked to ensure excellence in each the classroom.

She is also a recognized community leader. She was the past chair of the Lane County Stand for Children chapter and is a current member of the Eugene Public Library Foundation Board and a gubernatorial appointee on the statewide Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring Task Force. She is a former Washington state assistant attorney general and while serving in that capacity worked on many issues related to education law in a environment of shrinking resources and tax limitation measures. At the present time she is an instructor in the Academic Learning Services department at the UO. It is obvious that she is qualified to serve on the board.

Geller will bring a transparent and inclusive style of decision making to the school board. She will listen to parents and voters and will work to see that limited funds are spent wisely. She promises a fair, balanced approach to the challenges of our community and will put the interests of our children first. Please join me in voting for Jennifer Geller for Position 6 on the Eugene 4J School Board.

Mary Walston, Eugene



 

TOXIC ATTACHMENTS

As spring and the gardening season finally arrive I'd like to alert my fellow gardeners to a not-so-obvious threat. I recently purchased a "Do It Best" brand plastic garden hose sprayer attachment at a local hardware store. Later, I happened to notice on the back of the label a warning stating that the product, "contains lead, which is known to cause cancer and birth defects," (not to mention lead poisoning). It went on to say that users should wash their hands immediately after touching and refrain from ingesting food while using the product. All this is in quite small type, of course, which would be very easy to miss entirely.

I immediately returned to the store, and found that every single model of  "Do It Best" garden hose attachments (sprayers, sprinklers, shut off valves, etc.) contains lead! I found another brand to exchange for, and happily paid a few dollars more for a lead-free attachment.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no reason why lead needs to be in a plastic garden hose attachment — something that is specifically meant to be hand held, and also something it is quite likely children might use (or even drink from). It seems quite unconscionable to gratuitously include known toxins where they serve no useful purpose whatsoever. I am now deeply suspicious of  "Do It Best" products, and will choose other brands in the future.

So to all gardeners, lawn waterers, car washers, etc. — read the fine print, and make sure you aren't being poisoned while you happily putter about in your yard! If you'd like to let the "Do It Best" folks know what you think about their toxic products, as I did, you can call them at (260) 748-7175; write them at PO Box 868, Fort Wayne, IN, 46801; or email them through the customer care page at doitbest.com. 

Erica Trappe, Creswell

 

GOP VICTORY

Sniveling coward that I am, I surrender. I don’t care how you cut it, the corporate Republican juggernaut has won the war. We Americans are finally the enfeebled, indebted slobs we deserve to be, rolling swiftly down the gaping drainpipe of history. Thank you, Republicans. You did your job and you did it well. 

Your corporate agribusinesses turned our bodies into porky starch and sugars; your war against unions turned our cities into havens for illegal laborers; your quest for maximum profit turned our factories into rusted hulks. Your relentless clawing for personal wealth gutted funding for our schools, law enforcement and social services while bloating your net worth from tax breaks, tax dodges and tax shelters. 

Your consolidation of mass media gave you a vast audience for the narcissistic propaganda which celebrates, as a “free market,” a deregulated market for a few monied investors, while demonizing as “socialist” anyone who disagrees, even though your biggest trading partner is a communist regime flooding our country with toxic goods made by their enslaved millions. 

You’ve burdened us with unfathomable debt and sold it cheap to foreign investors, manipulated financial markets so as to inflate valueless stocks and then feigned outrage at the very tactics you espoused and utilized.  

And — after decades of effort — you dismantled the New Deal, handing us another worldwide Depression. Whew! Republicans, I surrender. Your policies are triumphant; your hero Reagan, correct: “Government is not the solution … government is the problem.” So sadly true. But only when it’s run by you.

Tom  Erwin, Springfield