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Eugene Weekly : Letters : 1.14.10




HELP FOR HAITI

New York-based MADRE (www.madre.org) is one of the organizations I trust to make the best use of scarce resources for emergency and development assistance. In response to the earthquake in Haiti, MADRE has activated an emergency response through its partner organization, Zamni Lasante Clinic. Doctors, nurses and community health workers there are working to get bring medical assistance and supplies to areas that have been hardest hit.



The most urgent needs right now are bandages, broad-spectrum antibiotics and other medical supplies, as well as water tablets to prevent cholera outbreaks. The need for food, shelter and other types of relief are growing by the hour. 

MADRE has worked in Haiti for many years, supporting community-based organizations in times of disaster. The situation is catastrophic and immediate action is key to saving lives. You can donate online by going to www.madre.org and at the home page, scroll down to emergency in Haiti; or, send a check to Madre, 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, N.Y. 10001, or call (212) 627-0444. 

Robert Roth, Eugene



HEAL THE FRACTURES

Whether or not the UO is granted an extension to construct a building and a parking lot for more than 250 cars next to the Willamette River, the smart thing to do is to acknowledge that things have changed tremendously since the Riverfront Research Park (RFRP) plan was approved 20 years ago. The economy has changed, neighboring land uses have changed, our concern for protecting the environment has changed and our community has changed. Even if the RFRP’s master plan is still legally valid, these changes mean it is functionally obsolete and won’t serve the university or the community.

The university has a history of getting whatever it wants, but at a high cost to our community and the university. Rather than finding solutions that work for everyone, the UO gets locked into drawn-out battles with its neighbors leading to resentment, mistrust and outcomes that don’t serve the wider community. 

It’s time for the UO to heal the fractures with its neighbors. A good place to begin is to give all stakeholders a fresh opportunity to envision the future of the RRFP before any asphalt is laid.

Charles Biggs, Eugene



PAYING A FAIR SHARE 

Phil Knight now has another campus memorial with a glass bauble for his sport stars! I only wish he would support fair taxation and be willing to spend the same portion of his income on schools, human services, and making our community safe as any middle class Oregonian spends. 

He is one of the large donors for a “no” on Measures 66 and 67 campaign that would have the very rich pitch in just a little more to stop more huge cuts in our state budget. Former laws have eliminated taxing the rich. I understand he also keeps his business from paying taxes to the city of Beaverton by not allowing it within the boundary by one block but enjoys all the city benefits. Funny how he enjoys the support of Oregonians but continually refuses to pay a fair share of taxes.

Ruth Duemler, Eugene



PUBLIC SECTOR GROWTH

Leslie Weinstein (letters, 12/31) urges passage of Measures 66 & 67 and laments the “cuts” that have allegedly been made to the state budget.

The state budget for the 2009­2011 biennium was not cut! It was increased 9 percent. In addition, the state created around 1,600 new government jobs, including one paying about $100,000 a year to a former Democratic senator.

In the past two years, Oregon has lost nearly 115,000 private sector jobs but gained almost 10,000 public sector jobs. The Oregon Legislature continues to spend our tax money like Paris Hilton in the shoe and handbag departments.

So — let’s go ahead and soak the rich and our problems will be solved … until the Legislature comes after your wallet next! Oh, wait — they already did that with all the new fees they imposed.

Jerry Ritter, Springfield



PROTECTING LANE COUNTY

We join you in appreciating the excellent work of the local nonprofits in your Dec. 24 “Giving Guide” for 2009. 

Given the Weekly’s bias, however, it was not surprising to find a guide long in groups devoted to social issues that “rank high on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, shelter, safety, medical care,” and short in nonprofits working on environmental protections.

We realize that choosing from an abundance of worthy local organizations can be difficult and controversial. Nevertheless, we were surprised to find no mention of LandWatch Lane County, a volunteer nonprofit that has worked for years to protect the natural resources without which Lane County would be a poorer place — both ecologically and sociologically.

For 14 years LandWatch has helped neighbors from the coast to the Cascades defend farms and forests, floodplains, riparian areas and open space from sprawl. To be sure, most of our work takes place in legal briefs, code amendments, committees, hearings, courtrooms and other facets of the land use-political interface foreign to most citizens.

While these seemingly arcane efforts may take years to winnow through the process, their success, such as recently adopted amendments to Lane Code making land use appeals more affordable and lot line adjustments more transparent, has resulted and will result in greater citizen empowerment and fewer acres of our incomparable landscape ravaged by growth and greed.

A sound environment should be at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, and LandWatch’s mission is to make it the top priority for Lane County and the state of Oregon.

Robert Emmons, President, LandWatch Lane County



ECONOMY AND JUSTICE

In response to Douglas Brown’s letter “Economics Status Quo” (1/7) I have to comment on your simplistic argument. I used to detest the study of economics because I naively believed as you do. But while in college up in Olympia, Wash., I took a program titled “Political Economy and Social Change.” The coordinator of the program was a Marxist philosopher and we were lucky to learn economics from an Evergreen graduate who understood our collective ignorance. 

During his first lecture he articulated that economics is simply the act of putting bread in one’s mouth. How you get the bread, or the flour, salt and yeast to bake it, or the electricity to toast it all depends on economics. The study of economics is not intrinsically capitalist, as you describe in your diatribe. It is simply the study of all economic systems, both great and small, including capitalism, socialism, communism, anarchy, etc. And by studying economics one can more easily wrap one’s brain around all of the injustice inherent with capitalism. 

Our country follows a sort of Adam Smith version of capitalism on the surface, yet below the surface we operate in more of a corporate socialism, where the largest of corporations are subsidized by the government. By some definitions this amounts to fascism, as the corporations exercise more direct governmental control than voting citizens. And we do have viable alternatives to this downward spiral of neoclassical capitalism. 

By studying and understanding basic economic models one can conclude which systems work well. And by understanding the mechanisms of an economy, hopefully we can change them and stop the destructive practices of a system out of control. 

Jonathan Seraphim, Eugene

 

DRONING ON

Hey, I like drone instruments, like bagpipes and sitars, as much as anyone else. They are kind of soothing. However, the U.S. media, President Obama and the military types aren’t into the soothing thing. They drone on about how we need to be at war with the world as we stand in line at airports to have our underwear checked.

People in war-torn countries are droning in their tears as their family members are blown to bits by Hellfire missiles fired from U.S. drones. The leaders of those countries, bought fair and square by the U.S., drone on about how they don’t like drones blowing their people up. 

And our politicians, also bought fair and square, drone on about how we need to be more afraid and how we need more military spending for security. On TV, “retired” military experts drone on about how we need more weapons.

But droning can also put people to sleep, like the heroin poppy crops run by Afghani warlords that some U.S. drones have protected. Come to think of it, Afghanistan is kind of like the Vietnam quagmire that the U.S. droned in during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

We currently have drones in Afghan-istan, in Pakistan, in Iraq, in Yemen and in Somalia. Soon, we might have drones in Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan or Tajikistan, or, yes, even in southern Kenya!

Just think, soon the world will be droning in drones. And we and our children and their children will pay the price.

Roscoe Caron, Eugene



ROUTE TO THE RIVER

As a father of two children and a regular bicycle traveler here in town, I’ve looked for a direct route between the West University area and the Willamette River. Hilyard and 13th are dangerous for young cyclists. We’re not likely to go on a huge detour the other direction and cross eight lanes of traffic on Franklin Boulevard to get to the tunnel near the Autzen footbridge. 

What we need is a more direct route to the river with a way to get under the railroad tracks. I was dismayed to learn the Riverfront Research Park will block that option for the generations to come. As my children grow up, I want them to inherit a bike-friendly city that includes a direct corridor between the Alder Street bike route and the river. Let’s preserve this cycling right of way for today and for our children!

Patrick McIlrath, Eugene



WHERE’S THE BEEF?

With each election people are asked to approve an increase or new wealth transfer, else the world as we know it will end. Sometimes, the request is appropriate; especially, when additional responsibilities are being transferred to government. To people asking how the current largesse has been spent, government reports — the tools of transparency — are not sufficiently developed to provide clear answers, and further inquiry will cost $80 to $120 per hour.

With Lane County, there is a cost-neutral solution which fits the existing county operations. Let’s add a financial advisory committee (FAC); 20 committees exist now comprised of volunteers costing little and allowing folks to be involved. Government accounting organizations have recommended these since 1993.

A FAC could develop and manage the missing tools. One is the citizen financial report, a 20 to 30 page translation of the confusing 200-plus-page Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. In response to my urging, Lane Finance recently announced the expansion of Internet reporting. “All bills paid of $500/month and over” will soon be “both all bills paid and funds received of $100/month and over.” The county wants to be more transparent but lacks the resources and expertise which a FAC could provide.

The bylaws are written, CFR samples gathered and meetings with commissioners and staff individually are under way. A 15-minute presentation is being prepared for a regular commissioner meeting to formally request adoption. The committee will have the typical five plus two volunteers. Those wanting to participate may contact Keith@TheUS.Com or call (541) 997-1398.

Keith Stanton, Florence