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Eugene Weekly : Letters : 1.28.10




ORI’S PLAN WORKS

The important work being done by the Oregon Research Institute results in no greenhouse gases and leaves no carbon footprint. There are no solid wastes produced. Nothing is being discharged into the river, and nothing is contributed to the local landfill. ORI brings tens of millions of dollars into the local economy annually. They have an impressive alternative transportation policy. ORI is a community leader in diversity. It is run democratically, which provides each employee with a voice in the organization’s policies. Eugene is very fortunate to have such a great organization in its midst.

With typical efficiency, the institute has worked diligently to assure that the newly proposed building and surrounding areas are both environmentally sound and aesthetically pleasing. They have gone to great lengths to include diverse members of the community in the planning process. Despite these efforts, a couple of UO architecture instructors have decided to protest the project. By using their objections to the new building as a type of classroom assignment, they have encouraged a few dozen of their students to inundate the city of Eugene with letters of protest, creating the false impression of a significant local resistance. The protesters say that the space should be reserved for a green space park. 

Look across the river from the site, and you see a huge riverside park, Alton Baker. It’s very nice, and very large, considering the size of the town. On this side of the river, downstream from the site, is the even bigger and more beautiful Skinner Butte Park. Residents of either side of the river already have an enormous park at their disposal.

A good architect, presented with a proposed building, would strive for a complete, holistic view of the project. A good architect would view the site in terms of what is has been, what it currently is and what it is likely to be. This architect would imagine the project completed, and weigh the impact that it has on the surrounding spaces and the community. A good architect would consider the proposed work that is to be done in the building, and its impact, as well as the well being of the people working in the building.

It’s a poor architect who looks at a project and selects a single, impractical, ill-conceived result and then excludes all other potential possibilities, regardless of their merit. It’s disturbing to think that this type of architecture is being taught in our universities and more disturbing to see it inflicted on our community.

Bill Martin, Eugene



DISTORTIONS

EW’s article (cover story, 1/14) on the UO’s Riverfront Research Park’s conditional use permit extension and ORI’s planned development contained numerous distortions. Worse, you chose to publish an obsolete plan circulated by opponents rather than use a more accurate updated one provided to you.

ORI’s green LEED-certified Silver/Gold planned project will be a major enhancement to the pole yard area. It will redevelop a former industrial site closed to the public for 70 years. A chain-link fence surrounds the neglected site now, with a broken asphalt path, homeless camps and public safety issues.

This redevelopment benefits the community by widening, lighting and landscaping the South Bank Bike Trail and dramatically improving the connecting path linking downtown to the Willamette River. The plan can accommodate the Alder Street bike connection to the river. Adding more people to the area will enhance safety and stimulate housing, retail and other services.

RRP buildings are 100 percent leased with 30 tenants, 430 employees and $25 million in payroll, making it one of the area’s largest employers. Their innovation and entrepreneurship is diversifying the economy with jobs in neuroscience, medical devices, biotechnology, educational policy and optimization technology, among others. These companies and employees pay property and income taxes, and the RRP does not receive urban renewal funding.

To complete ORI and another project, the UO was granted a three-year extension of the RRP’s conditional use permit. That decision is now, regrettably, under appeal. There has never been a more critical time to elevate and integrate the UO’s and community’s efforts supporting the ties of research to economic development.

Diane Wiley, Riverfront Research Park Director, University of Oregon



POOR TRACK RECORD

I remember when the UO unveiled their plan for a research park along the banks of the Willamette River back in the 1980s. They had plans for a dozen buildings near the river. Advocates for the Riverfront Research Park told us how the economy would flourish with emerging high-tech public/private ventures by bringing thousands of new jobs to the area.

Twenty years later, despite years of public subsidy through urban renewal taxes, only two of those buildings have been built with only a fraction of the promised jobs. Rather than spawning start-ups or attracting research firms from other parts of the country, many of the tenants have been existing businesses that merely relocated to the RRP without adding any new jobs to the economy.

With such a poor track record, what can we expect from the UO if they are granted an extension to their expired permit? Will they actually be able to deliver? Or will Eugene taxpayers continue to subsidize the UO’s “fancy” plans? It’s time to pull the plug. A lot has changed since the 1980s, both economically and environmentally, and we need a new perspective for our city’s long-term development and preservation needs. 

Wren Davidson, Eugene



UNFORTUNATE SITE

I’m glad that Oregon Research Institute wants to build an energy-efficient building for their researchers. This will create jobs for the construction industry. It’s unfortunate, however, that ORI and the UO made plans to build along the Willamette River just before the Riverfront Research Park’s conditional use permit was set to expire. To begin development between the railroad tracks and the river on public property after 20 years of inactivity and without meaningful stakeholder engagement is an invitation for opposition.

There’s no reason a green building couldn’t be built in another location and employ just as many construction workers. If the UO and ORI worked together to find a suitable site that wasn’t controversial, our community could be united in supporting these distinguished institutions’ efforts to contribute to our local economy, while we also engage in a constructive civic dialogue about the future of our riverfront.

Jill Schwab, Eugene



PETTY CRIME

I hope the parking meter incident sheds some light on how our City Council treats its citizens.

Wasting valuable time and resources on a decent man whose only crime was swearing at the meter lady after he was harangued for doing the right thing in paying the time for other vehicles is absolutely ridiculous.

In the mind of Mayor Piercy, it seems, mouthing off against a city employee requires police enforcement. But property crimes, murders, rapes and theft have no need of bothering with law enforcement.

And they wonder why nobody will invest in the downtown.

Ryan Mitchell, Eugene



NEW GENERATION SPEAKS

The UO is trying to defend that its 20-year-old permit to build an office building next to the river is still valid. I  don’t expect the UO to involve students every time they have a  concerns about an issue, but I was too young to talk when the UO decided to develop the Riverfront Research Park. Whether they get approval for their permit or not, they’re missing the  point. 

Listen up! To be good a citizen of the community, the UO needs to  acknowledge that things have changed enormously since 1988. The  Agripac plant is now the U.S. Courthouse, EWEB will soon be  apartments and shops and alternative transportation is becoming mainstream. But most important, people today — and especially  students — have a stronger passion than ever about protecting the  environment. 

I’m sure that in the ’80s students and faculty spoke about protecting the riverfront for future generations. Well, I am the future generation and I can talk now. I’m here to tell you that students still don’t want the university building along the Willamette River!

Angela Stelson, Eugene



STAND UP, SPEAK OUT

As long as mainstream media and governments are bought out by Big Money industries and individuals, we won’t have equal pay, equal treatment, access to affordable health care, peace or a path to ecological healing.

The power is in the hands of the greedy who are “ego sick.” This has been going on for thousands of years, but now the biosphere of the Earth cannot sustain us for much longer. Time is running out. 

The good news is there are more people who truly care for each other than those who are greedy. “They got the guns but we got the numbers,” as the song goes. All life is interconnected. No species exists alone, especially humans. We must stand up, speak out and choose love over fear. Show the children the path of integrity. 

Boycott their products, run for office, put your money in local credit unions, support local, sustainable businesses as much as possible. Grow your own food. Stop consuming junk from China, all that plastic, toxic dreck. We are the ones who must make the shift happen.

Pam Driscoll, Dexter



GET USED TO IT

I suspect the best response to Michele Walter (“Area Code Bullshit,” 1/21) is “that was then and this is now.” Used to be, my partner and I and our roommate(s) had one phone. Period. Now my roommate has a cell phone, I have a cell phone, I have a landline (home phone) and I have a separate phone line for my computer. My partner, saner than I, rarely uses a cell phone and won’t have an extension phone in the shop because it messes with his concentration.

The point is, I think my household is not at all uncommon. Cell phones, in-home faxes/computer lines and landlines all require separate phone numbers, and there are only so many combinations that seven digits can morph into. And the seditious thing about cell phones is that you don’t have to be using them all the time for them to be damned handy. So you keep them instead of deciding that you can do without them. 

I think it’s possible that we have actually got enough numbers in 541 taken up that we may have to have another digit. And maybe it looks like the extra digit won’t last but a year or two, and they don’t want to bother us again in two years, ‘cause we’ll just get crankier than we are this time. And it’s annoying as all hell right now, but in six months likely we will all be dialing the prefix automatically.

Margaret Weller, Eugene



FOLLOWING PROCEDURE

Wouldn’t it be nice if every worker had even half of the protections, pay and benefits that the police are given through their union contract? The Eugene government just signs off on whatever they want. Constant raises above the cost of living. A shoot first and ask questions later policy. Let God sort them out, right?

Lara and Magaña proved that a couple of serial rapist cops can continue their crime spree for years until 15 of their victims were willing to come forward and testify. Up until then their actions were considered “reasonable.” Right, Chief Kerns? All the public needs to know is that Proper Police Procedure, as described by the union (God) was followed. A lifetime “get out of trouble free” card. 

Can we all join this union? I wish.

Spencer Hicks, Eugene



SPEAK UP, LOWELL

Do we or do we not live in a republic? As voters, are we so unimportant that those we voted in to office can ignore our vote? That is just what the city councilors of Lowell are doing. They proposed an urban renewal plan, spending thousands getting it on to a ballot for a special election. It was defeated. They wrote in the local city publication that we as voters need “re-education” because if we had “understood it we would have approved it.” 

At the public hearing and at the next City Council meeting, the majority again said no. They refuse listen to the voters and continue to push their own agenda. I know some folks who will not be reelected if they continue to ignore their constituents. Speak up, Lowell!

 Rich Peters, Lowell



GILMOUR NO HACK

I respectfully submit that whoever wrote the blurb for the Pink Floyd Experience does not know what he or she is talking about. I am not disputing the genius of Roger Waters or the ascendancy of Pink Floyd’s classic albums, but there are some good songs on A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and The Division Bell is solid throughout. Calling David Gilmour a “hack” is like calling Dali a doodler. It was Gilmour who saved Pink Floyd during the crack-up of Syd Barrett, and one of the best songs on The Division Bell is “Wearing the Inside Out,” a tribute to Syd. 

I was hoping Floyd would produce another album and tour (their stage set for the last one was too big to fit into Autzen) but the passing of Richard Wright makes that unlikely. At this “Experience” show at the Hult, I’m obviously psyched to hear the Floyd classics mentioned in your blurb, but “Astronomy Domine” and “Learning to Fly” would take the show higher for sure.

Tom Cantwell, Eugene



EXCUSING PREDATORS

Jonathan Guske’s response (“Thieves Are Us,” letters, 1/21) to my letter of Dec. 31 is incomprehensible at best. To justify the actions of predatorial thieves who wait for their “marks” to leave a parking lot so they can smash windows and steal contents from their cars is unconscionable! It’s like saying “Oh, the poor darlings, they must be worse off than us. Let them continue their struggles to survive by preying on innocent victims. After all, they need their next fix.”

What bullshit! Predators are predators, no matter what their circumstances. So the county jail is overcrowded; thus, we should not try to catch these people? Are you serious?! Furthermore, to perpetrate the notion that homeless = dishonest benefits absolutely no one.

It is a grand insult to the homeless and disadvantaged to pin what appears to be an ongoing crime spree (witness the dozen or more piles of shattered window glass I saw in that parking lot) on one of them. More likely a local criminal enterprise is behind this, and they’re probably not hurting for money, since they continue to get away with their misdeeds. In Guske’s world, apparently, such lowlifes are welcome. In mine, they are not! 

Peter Holden, Eugene



REPLACING CAPITALISM

Keith Stanton’s letter (“We Want Higher Taxes,” 1/21) is very, very interesting. Bureaucrats vote at every election, and there are more than 300,000 career bureaucrats in Oregon. Guess who is really governing Oregon?

Apparently the people who are not bureaucrats have given up any hope of every participating in their government? I wonder what is going to take the place of capitalism in Oregon? Can the bureaucrats do the same job?

Frank Skipton, Eugene



HISTORY LESSON

The Supreme Court’s decision to allow unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns is consistent with the Constitution, but it has nothing to do with free speech. Its roots are in the revolution.

In colonial America, the British were not monsters. They did not kill hundreds, imprison thousands, destroy the culture or even expropriate resources as they would in other colonies. They merely levied taxes. 

Though the unilateral taxes were broadly unpopular, what American patricians found intolerable was the insolence: The British were not treating them as equals. The founding fathers cloaked their rage in the language of rights and spread unrest to ordinary folk (see Thomas Paine’s Common Sense). The gentlemen’s revolution took off.

The constitution these gentlemen wrote kept power away from the people. States decided who could vote for representatives — the landowners. State legislatures voted for senators. State legislatures chose electors and electors voted for president and vice president. Senators representing a minority could block legislation —a practice that has evolved to give less than 10 percent of the population absolute veto power.

Cut to the 2000 presidential election: The Florida legislature was moving toward nullifying the popular election and voting George Bush into office. This threatened to expose the U.S. Constitution as undemocratic, which was unthinkable. The conservative Supreme Court had to step in. 

Ironically, the Constitution says nothing about the court’s composition or its duty to review laws for constitutionality. There is no mention of political parties either, presumably because the fathers thought of the country as a private club. What comes in for special attention are the rights of slave owners. 

Only when the people blocked ratification of the constitution did the fathers tack on the Bill of Rights. This afterthought has been the focus of legislation and litigation ever since, and this has forged the real American revolution.

For the court’s originalists, though, the Constitution remains holy writ. In creating a permanent Republican majority (see Karl Rove), they are looking out for their class, which distrusts the people and sees no need for two parties. We should call them on it.

Douglas Brown, Eugene