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Eugene Weekly : Letters : 4.15.10




FALSE DILEMMA

LCC’s plan to build a downtown campus, supplanting the pit across from the library, has wide community support, as well as the support of the mayor and all the city councilors. We, city elected officials, also support giving financial assistance — $8 million plus the land. The source of the money, however, is a matter of disagreement.

Many of the comments supporting LCC bring to mind the words of a 1950s song, “Love and marriage — you can’t have one without the other.” It wasn’t true then, and today almost everyone knows it is not true. It is a good example of one of the logical fallacies I studied in an undergraduate logic course — the False Dilemma. A false dilemma persuades by convincing people that the choice is either this or that, with no third, fourth, or more possibilities. Thus, the current argument goes, we must preserve, expand, extend, increase urban renewal or we cannot support LCC’s plan to build. This is not true.

We can use existing resources to guarantee our contribution to the LCC project. A motion which I made on March 8 would have accomplished this purpose without continued diversion of funds from other taxing entities and the city’s general fund. I moved, and George Brown seconded, that we support LCC’s project using a combination of $2.4 million from the current urban renewal fund, the balance of the $1.9 million downtown loan fund, and a $3.9 million bond, funded by the additional $810,000 (yearly) that would come to the city’s general fund if it were no longer diverted to the Urban Renewal District. 

The motion would also have authorized the city manager to substitute other available sources of funds ( one example is the facility reserve). The motion failed, 6-2. My purpose was not to hinder the development, but rather to insure that it could happen without the delay of a possible referendum and without continuing the diversion of funds from other entities, such as Lane County, which is in desperate need of money.

If we decided to use existing funds for LCC, then we could take time to scrutinize other sources of revenue for additional projects — and to decide which projects have the highest priority. If we want to use urban renewal as a source of funds, we should let the public vote before we decide to increase the debt limit, extend the duration, or expand the boundaries. 

We need a healthy, informed discussion on the sources of the money and the costs of administering the district, as well as the costs of reduced services such as the county’s public safety services. The money comes from taxpayers, and they should be able to decide who controls it and whether its use is restricted to one area.

For now, we should decide how to contribute to the LCC building from existing funds — thus ending anxiety and controversy on that project, terminate the Urban Renewal District, and then consider whether it is wise to create a new URD with public support.

Betty Taylor, Eugene City Councilor

EDITOR’S NOTE: A public hearing on extending the Downtown Urban Renewal District is on the agenda of the City Council at 7:30 pm Monday, April 19.



LEARN FROM THE PAST

The March 24 EWEB/riverfront CAT meeting finally provided useful counsel: “This is not a good time to find development money,” and “any riverfront development will likely involve a public/private partnership.” One translation: “Slow down, this isn’t going to happen quickly.” So why don’t we open the plaza to the public for a year once EWEB is done with it? No fences or walls. Then, for the first time in nearly a century, the people of Eugene will be able to acquaint themselves with this amazing space on the river and see just what is at stake here. 

The Lane County Historical Museum (LCHM, at the County Fairgrounds) is tasked with telling the county’s stories, which include the forest, river, and farmland people and the townspeople of Eugene, Springfield, Florence, Cottage Grove, Creswell, etc. LCHM needs a larger facility to tell the county’s stories (perhaps the EWEB barrel-roofed operations warehouse?), and Eugene needs a museum to tell the stories of why people have thought that Eugene was a special place to live for more than a hundred years.

Learning how things in the past have changed as we’ve gotten to the present helps us see how things are changing as we head into our future. A repurposed Steam Plant could become Eugene’s city museum and tell these stories, including high-speed rail, clean water management, timber management and energy, and still include a brew pub. 

Tom Snyder, Eugene



MAKE A SOLAR GARDEN

Calling all EWEB Greenpower customers! Participants in EWEB’s Greenpower program have until April 19 to cast their vote to make community solar a reality in Eugene. 

There are plenty of reasons that supporters of renewable energy don’t invest in a system on their own building. Renters and owners planning to move soon are unlikely to spare the capital. Some properties are too shady or lack the right roof slant. People are stalled by the incentives, rebates and contractor selection process or can’t spare the cash for a full solar array.

Community solar addresses all of these barriers. 

Like a community garden, such programs invite all community members, regardless of their housing situation, to be a part of a “community solar garden.” 

Households and businesses gain the benefits of solar energy by buying one or more shares of a centrally located solar photovoltaic system. Based on the amount of shares they own, participants receive regular checks reflecting the power generated by the system. 

The Resource Innovation Group (TRIG), a local 501(c) non-profit, is proposing to manage and administer Eugene’s first community solar system. TRIG’s community solar project was chosen as one of five finalists of EWEB’s Greenpower Grant Program. Participants in the Greenpower Program have received their ballots and have until April 19 to mail them back to EWEB. 

We hope your vote will bring community solar to Eugene.

Sarah Mazze, Eugene



FULL COURSE STEAL

For some time now, the public sector has had to go beyond trimming the fat and has had to cut to the bone. State and local governments have sought balance with further cuts to expenditures, along with the need for additional revenue. I have a novel concept: Why don’t those who do not follow the laws that most of us follow pull their weight in supporting services from which we all benefit?

During this time of year when most of us are declaring our income and expenditures honestly, others go to great lengths to, well, cheat. With all sorts of rationalizations, these people choose to leave the tax burden to the rest of us. I am not talking about the urban and rural poor on the fringe. I am speaking of people who can well afford to pay their fair share. If one wants to engage in a tax protest, then a public statement needs to be made or the protest is hollow.

Also, at the county level, many worthy programs are supported by our property tax dollars: education, fire protection, libraries, public safety, etc. Again, while our counties are straining to fund those services, there are people out there who circumvent (i.e. break) the law. I wonder what would happen if those firefighters stopped fighting a fire at the square footage declared on the homeowner’s property tax account.

There should be consequences, and I think the county, state and even the federal government could benefit by stepping up enforcement.

Mona Linstromberg, Tidewater (formerly Veneta area)



BE AWARE OF AUDIENCE

On “getting screwed by motherfuckers,” one of the “familiar concerns” addressed by the lyrics of Hank Williams III and the Assjacks (music story, 4/1): As an old, very liberal “hippie” and fan of the Weekly since its beginning as the alternative to the other, quite conservative local paper, I never thought I’d be writing a letter against offensive language in the EW. But I now have five grandchildren who are excellent readers and who might be reading the music section occasionally. I doubt if they are yet calloused enough to take the concept/image and common usage of “motherfucking” in stride like we can expect from mature adults. I hope not!

How about it, staff? Do you think all your readers are mature adults who can handle this kind of language? Think again, if you thought about it at all in the first place!

Michael Mooney, Pleasant Hill



CHERRY DOGWOOD

I was delighted to read the very accurate information on dogwood trees written by Rachel Foster. I couldn’t help, however, adding to the list another dogwood that is dear to me: Cornus mas, also called Cornelian cherry dogwood — although it doesn’t have any connection with cherry trees. This handsome and usually unknown tree can be seen in some gardens in Eugene and also at Hendricks Park.

Originally from Europe and Asia minor, Cornus mas blossoms a lot earlier than other dogwoods. Sometimes as early as mid-February, the tree will open its tiny pale yellow flowers at the end of the branches and transform the tree into the Milky Way since each flower is so small and clustered with others.

Later in the season, the flowers will mature into small red berries that can be harvested and used to make jelly. The fall color of the foliage is not as remarkable as Cornus nuttallii but nice enough to be noticed, especially in sunny spots. There. Another variety to add to the choice.

 Alby Thoumsin, Eugene Tree Foundation



BUG-EYED TAR BABIES?

Once again, EW makes a racist faux pas in its choice of “clever” cartoons. First was the baffling image of a man passing off his Nazi salute as a pose for Lord of the Dance — in SCOTTISH garb. Now we have the distasteful April 8 cover by Sean Aaberg. The style may be a nod to R. Crumb and/or underground comics of the ’60s/’70s but I’m sorry to report that there are images of blacks portrayed as bug-eyed big-lipped tar babies. Of course, they’re in the back of a bus. It’s pathetic.

EW, aren’t you even looking at this stuff?! Again I must remind you that we’re in the 21st century.

Glenn Leonard, Eugene



THIS IS SOLAR RHODES 

I was extremely pleased to learn about Lane County’s plans to install solar panels at the dump, because that is exactly where they belong. Solar panels are not renewable, recyclable or repairable and are manufactured with toxic chemicals that cause illness, death and birth defects and release nitrogen trifluoride, which has 17,000 times the global warming potential of CO2 and an atmospheric lifespan of 740 years. 

Why even Greenpeace calls them “clean” technology defies reason. They produce an insignificant amount of energy of no value without net metering and government subsidies. Yet planners and their elected enablers have a pathological obsession with these pieces of garbage, leaving the public with zero consumer protection and nowhere to get straight answers. 

Instead of wasting students’ time and tuition and taxpayer money, LCC should focus on learning how to build and work on the engines, generators, boilers, machines and equipment that are going to power this nation after fossil fuels are exhausted and prepare students to get living wage jobs and help restore American manufacturing leadership. If you think solar panels are going to become feasible if we just keep throwing money at them, I’ve got a little story for you: There is an old expression about a man in Athens at a dinner party who boasts while on the island of Rhodes he jumped 21 feet. Another guest makes two marks on the floor 21 feet apart and says, “C’est Rhodes.” This is Rhodes. 

Let’s see it. 

Warren Weisman, Eugene



MEGA MOTTOS

I have a suggestion for a new slogan for Eugene:

“Welcome to Eugene, Oregon: A bum on every corner.”

“Two million homeless nationwide and counting. Good job, America!”

“‘The least of these my brethren’? The hell with that! Let’s cut more taxes!”

Ron Ramsey, Eugene



CRITICAL CREATIVITY

I am from Brazil, where art education is a public right for elementary, middle and high school. It is obligatory for all schools. In some states, the municipal preschools adopted art education twice a week for the kids, and I was one of the hundreds of teachers who were able to bring new perspectives for these kids. We could listen to parents saying that their children wanted to go to school especially because of the art classes. Also, other teachers were able to enhance their work in other disciplines incorporating more creativity in an interdisciplinary work.

The arts are proven to help close the achievement gap. The collection of research described in Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development finds that learning in the arts may be uniquely able to boost learning and achievement for young children, students from economically disadvantaged circumstances and students needing remedial instruction.

President Obama’s arts platform statement included support for arts education, stating: “In addition to giving our children the science and math skills they need to compete in the new global context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that comes from a meaningful arts education.”

Kelly Tavares, Eugene



CANNABIS CHURCH

Just when you thought you had heard it all. I’m told there is a church beginning in Eugene that expounds cannabis as a sacrament for use in a biblical context just as certain American Indian tribes can use peyote (psychoactive substance) and a Brazilian church can use a different psychoactive substance in their spiritual discipline. The authorization comes from the discovery of changed words in later translations of the Bible in the Book of Exodus. We’re told there have been letters written to the governor, state attorney general, federal prosecutors and local police asking for a police bulletin directing officers of the legality of the church to avoid any costly false arrest or malicious prosecution suits against the city of Eugene or others.

It might be in the best interest of everyone to get to the bottom of this. The website www.greenpool.us has more information and a link to the Baptist website that contains information about the original discovery of the changed words.

Dennis Lock, Eugene



REDIRECTING MY TAXES

An open letter to the IRS: 

This year I owe $1,132 in federal taxes. If federal taxes went to life-affirming things I would be happy to pay all that I owe and more. For example, our country could provide a free and appropriate education to all young people between the ages of 3 and 25, including a bachelor’s degree or other post secondary education. We could provide food, a place to live and free health care to all who need it. All who need free drug, alcohol, gambling and sex addiction treatment could have it provided for them. Our land, water and air could be cleaned up and protected. Global warming could be reversed and alternative energy provided. All people living in this county could be treated with respect and granted the same freedoms.

Instead of programs that affirm life, over half our taxes are going towards killing people in wars. Our taxes are breeding ill will through this country and the world. If our country had not spent so much money on killing people through wars the financial crisis we are in could have been averted. I can’t condone war by paying for it. 

I have redirected the $1.132 I owe into life-affirming programs here in Oregon. I will be giving money to Habitat for Humanity, Womenspace, Shelter Care, Planned Parenthood, Citizens Alliance of Lane County, Amigos Multicultural Services, Nature Conservancy, Family School, FOOD for Lane County and the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Council.

Susan P. Barnhart, Eugene