TO THEIR DEFENSE
As I think about the accusations, condemnation, and persecution of Pete Sorenson and Rob Handy, I think of these lines from The Second Coming (Yeats): "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." Who is going to come to the defense of two dedicated public servants who are unjustly accused, convicted, and penalized?
As an elected official in a related body, I have had ample opportunity to observe Sorenson and Handy and have been impressed by their dedication to the public good and to government transparency. I haveadmired their honesty andtheir unselfish contributions of time and talents.
I am dismayed by the injustice perpetrated on Pete and Rob. I am also very concerned about the chilling effect on other public officials and potential candidates — will everyone currently in office who is not wealthy enough to pay huge fines walk in fear? Will spouses of potential candidates warn them against risking the family's security by the possibility of being put on trial for planning actions or discussing issues outside of a public meeting?
As an English teacher, I alwaysencouraged my students to test ideas through sharing and listening and questioning. One's thinking is sharpened — and sometimes modified or even reversed — through interaction with the ideas of friends and colleagues. I would hope that elected officials, when they have the opportunity, would test their ideas and refine them by discussion before a meeting in which a decision is made.
We all know that we cannot make decisions except in a public meeting and that we cannot meet as a quorum to deliberate outside a public meeting. But to have the entire process be public would prevent discussions with constituents. As I think about it, it becomes more ridiculous.
I hope that Pete and Rob's constituents will speak out against injustice and urge the other commissioners to join their colleagues in appealing the court decision.
Betty Taylor, Ward 2 City Councilor
Public officials all over the state better be looking over their shoulders. Thanks to an imaginative interpretation of what constitutes a quorum in the Public Meetings Law by a Coos County judge, routine communication and strategizing among decision makers is now in jeopardy.
Politically motivated and orchestrated by a ruthless, conservative lot, including Aaron Jones of Seneca Lumber, the suit filed by former commissioner Ellie Dumdi and Gang of Nine member Ed Anderson, meant to bring down liberal commissioners Handy and Sorenson and assure a long-term pro-growth, supermajority on the county board.
However, in his reckless ruling the Coos judge cast a wide net. In it East Lane Commissioner Faye Stewart, who testified against two of his fellow commissioners, was caught as well. For narrow-minded political reasons, Handy and Sorenson were singled out as fall guys.
But the implication of the ruling has sent shock waves through the entire system of public officialdom.
If not out of compassion and common decency, then for their own self interests, the board majority should join the minority and appeal a bad decision. Judge Gillespie's reasoning distorts the meaning of a quorum and testifies to the moral, "Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it."
Robert Emmons, Fall Creek
NOT SO BRILLIANT
I attended Van Jones lecture and read the Slant piece in last week's (1/27) EW. I wonder if I went to the same lecture as the author of that piece who touted the lecture as brilliant, while I think it was a disappointing pep talk for the high tech industry.
Jones pointed out that a wind turbine needs the amount of steel of 20 cars and has about 8,000 finely machined parts per turbine. These turbines and solar panels can only be manufactured by using large amounts of fossil fuels. How are we going to pay for that when oil is $200 per barrel?
Never mind the wildlife kills of the wind turbines and the e-waste of discarded solar panels.
Jones talked about changing the way we grow food and expressed his desire to see more urban greenhouses for growing food, noting that we are already capable of growing large crops of marijuana in greenhouses. I definitely believe that we need more urban farming, but it is rather misleading to point out how marijuana is grown, without pointing out the huge amount of electricity that it takes.
I do believe that we need to promote much more alternative energy, but Jones could have pointed out that there is no way we will be able to maintain current levels of GDP with declining fossil fuels. I would have liked to see him promote promising low tech solutions to our dilemmas, like biogas and better efficiency, instead of the delusional high tech solutions.
Arjen Hoekstra, Eugene
TRIAGE FOR SCHOOLS
Its $22 million shortfall gives District 4J the opportunity to do the right thing. During flush times, "the right thing" is banished, because ok politically incorrect truths make too many people feel uncomfortable. But now is a different time. When tears flow, sometimes minds open, and opportunity will then find its champions.
Our predicament requires triage thinking: doing the greatest good for the most people with the available resources. In triage, some victims are not helped, but "greatest good" thinking can go a long way toward helping everyone.
District 4J should: 1) transform Edison School from a neighborhood elementary school to a citywide high school for Eugene's most brilliant mathematics and science students; 2) transform North Eugene High School from a regional general high school to a citywide special education high school focused on preparing students for blue-collar work, independent contractor self-employment, and/or apprenticeships in union and/or shop trades; and 3) create a citywide on-campus middle school at South Eugene High School so Eugene's most brilliant eighth grade students can enroll in high school classes.
The basic education standard should be: every child 21st-century-literate at no less than grade level while being actively challenged and fully facilitated to achieve personal potentials in all core academics.
At the top end, the education standard should be: Students must be advanced to the academic level at which they can succeed while being challenged.
Schools teach to the middle. Therefore, more on-topic learning happens if students are grouped according to their academic ability.
Steven A. Sywester, Eugene
EDITOR'S NOTE: A longer essay on this proposal can be found at http://wkly.ws/10t
As one who lives, commutes and shops along West 11th Avenue, I agree with Ralph Wombat's proposal (letters, 1/20) to boycott businesses that display anti-EmX signs. Improved mass transit is key to improving the current livability of our community, and is our best bet to pass on a decent and sustainable environment to our children. Plenty of high-density apartments are directly south of the route and residents would no doubt take advantage of more efficient bus travel to go to work and school.
While these businesses may have legitimate reasons to oppose EmX, by taking such a visible stand on a controversial issue they can alienate a substantial portion of their customer base. They are mixing politics and business in a way they have previously avoided. The profusion of signs is ugly.
Please notify these businesses that you are boycotting them through letters and phone calls, especially if you have been a customer. Notify the corporate headquarters of the chains since they may not know what their franchises are up to. Let businesses know that with their in-your-face signs, they can lose customers forever.
Chuck Areford, Eugene
WHY SO FAGGOTY?
In her Jan. 28 column, Sally Sheklow uses the term "faggoty" to describe the guest conductor. Why is this an acceptable adjective to her? I thought the LGBT community tried to discourage the use of the word. Or is it only OK for LGBT people to use it and not straight people? Clarification desired please, Sally.
Jessica Zuckerman, Lorane
Ruth Duemler (letters, 1/20) seems to think "we all know" income tax is the fairest tax. I disagree. A tax on income is a punishment for being successful — a punishment for being efficient — a punishment for being productive and able to compete. And a graduated tax of any kind is ridiculous and obscene. Ability to pay is irrelevant when it comes to raising the revenue to fund government operations. The "fairest tax" — if there is such a thing — is an activity tax like they have in Washington state. Locally, a "fair" tax is the tax on gasoline — the more activity you have the more tax you pay.
In Washington state companies who have a lot of activity and no profits pay a lot of tax — because their activities create a need for government services. In Oregon there are hundreds of companies that pay no tax because they have no "taxable income." But still create the same need for government services.
Frank Skipton, Springfield
At a recent Eugene town hall forum, we discussed the 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizen's United v. FEC. With its 5-4 decision in this case, and earlier rulings (Buckley v. Valeo and Santa Clara), the court has constructed these head-scratching equations: Corporations = people and money = speech.
By anthropomorphizing inanimate objects and redefining language, the supremes have given corporations the green light to spend unlimited funds to influence our national, state, local, and judicial elections. Constitutionally protected democracy busting, so to speak. Kind of ironic.
Here's an example of what's at stake. By spending just 1 percent of their profits, the largest 100 corporations will be able to double the current political spending by all parties and federal candidates. So who's your daddy? Soon all elected officials will know the answer.
I scanned the forum for any paper and ink corporations that might stand for Citizens United, et aland unlimited corporate campaign financing. No thing stood. But the flesh and blood people who filled the room all stood for democracy and common sense.
My conclusion: Corporations have no legs, and Citizens United and its ilk make no sense. If you agree, then join me in telling our elected representatives that corporations are not people and money is not speech. Hurry, while they'll still take our calls.
Benton Elliott, Eugene
THE REAL TEA PARTY
There are some realities to the origin and motives of the Tea Party that, apparently, are not as well researched by some Eugeneans as the colors of prison garb worn by WW II Nazi prison camp inmates ("Tea Party of the ï20s" letter, 1/27).
A quick visit to Wikipedia will show that the Tea Party was born of Ron Paul supporters commemorating the anniversary of the original Boston Tea Party. A fundraiser was held for the 2008 presidential primaries advocating and end to fiat monies, disengaging from foreign entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan, and upholding states' rights. It endorses reduced government spending (on war and entitlement programs), lower taxes, reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit, and adherence to an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. I pulled this information almost verbatim from Wiki.
Glen Beck hijacked the Tea Party. He assumed control of something that was born of the people. Something simple and very American in motivation; millions of citizens who had little to no political involvement until they collectively said aloud what they were thinking for many years. Beck represents the ideology of millions of uninformed and under-educated people, but he does not represent the ideology of the Tea Party. Anyone who wants a real high profile representation of Tea Party ideology should look at Ron Paul. Paul and Beck could not be further apart in motivation, life experience, ideology or credibility.
Perhaps if either side of the political spectrum stop casting their opponents as "modern day Nazis" there could be real and fruitful debate and agreement on issues that are bankrupting our country financially and socially.
Keith Schneider, Kerry Sipe, Eugene
EAT LOCAL MEAT
In response to Elijah Hennison's letter to the editor (1/20), yes, there are many problems in the factory-farmed world of meat and eggs, but I don't believe that going vegan is the right solution.
In an amazing foodie town such as Eugene, one doesn't have to (and, in fact, shouldn't) support low-quality, factory-raised animal products from other parts of the country. I completely support the FDA asking these concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to stop routine use of antibiotics; if only they would actually demand such changes.
For several years I was a vegetarian/borderline vegan because of the way many animals are treated in our food production. Fortunately, I then realized that there are many amazing local farms producing meat, eggs and cheese of the highest quality, all within a short drive of our city, and all are treating these animals and our local ecosystem with the utmost respect.
Now I patronize Long's Meat Market for my Knee Deep grass-fed beef and Ranger organic chicken, and local stores all over carry amazing eggs that will beat the hell out of any commercial eggs (no pun intended). Eugenelocalfoods.com is also an amazing resource for people who want to eat meat and dairy responsibly.
Veganism is extreme, in my opinion, not to mention the diet regularly leads people to consuming high amounts of soy and "alternative" meat products that are laden with overly processed, often genetically modified foods with long ingredient lists and little nutritional value.
Andrew Harmon, Eugene
DO KIDS RIGHT
In the Devil Makes Three song "Do Wrong Right" there is a line, "Most thing that I know, I didn't learn in class," and since we are doing our schools wrong by cutting funding and cramming classes, we can still do our kids right. With classroom sizes entering the 50s, kids aren't going to learn. Kids in a class of 50 have iPhones with Facebook; are they learning while so distracted?
We can try to allocate more resources to keeping our schools open, but budget deficits are a symptom of a civilization that is beyond its peak and is on its downward spiral. Our kids deserve education and we all are going to depend on their energy and ingenuity to spearhead our society into a dynamic post-oil future. Our world is changing and we are doing our kids and ourselves wrong by hoarding them in classrooms where they don't receive the attention to learn.
As long as our economy is tied to cheap oil, industrialized food, and consumer imports, it will continue to fail and thus public education will advance on its downward spiral. We need volunteers to stand up and lead victory gardens, bicycle safety and maintenance, local production of materials and goods, and parents to put an emphasis on recruiting our kids out of limbo and allowing them access to these skills. School days are being cut and kids are standing idle; getting them engaged in enterprises that will lead us in the future might be the best way to do them right.
Micah Olson, Eugene
ANOTHER ïLIGHTEN UP'
Pity poor pundit Rush Limbaugh. The radio talk show host has the hardest job in the U.S. Five days a week he has to find actual differences between the Republicans and the Obama administration.
Scott Fife, Eugene
LEARN FROM PIT BULLS
As a dog lover I was very happy to seethe cover story in your Jan. 6 issue dealing with pit bulls. Unfortunately the letters in your Jan. 13 issue show just how far are area needs to go to give these wonderful animals a fair chance. For a number of years I have volunteered for a local non-profit which finds home for abandoned and abused dogs and cats. Our organization handles all breeds of dogs including a large number of pit bulls. In all the years that I have worked with these dogs I have never been bitten and have indeed never felt threatened. With all of thepit bulls I have handled the thing thatstruck me most was the friendship andcaring that they show to everyone they meet.
Many of these dogs have been mistreated and abandoned in the past yet they are willing to treat everyone they meet as a new friend without prejudging. Perhaps we could learn something from them.
Roger Schaefer, Eugene
ON THE EDGE
I am concerned that with such lax gun laws in this country we are just waiting for someone who is a ticking time bomb to go off his or her own deep end and take more lives in a public setting.
There are individuals in this country that are in dire need of a mental evaluation and help that will never receive it. More alarming is the fact that it's quite easy for someone to purchase a gun. As we saw in the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 and the recent shooting in Tucson, Ariz., people with severe mental illness have virtually no problem securing a firearm.
Do a few questions on a background check really address the mental capacity of someone attempting to purchase a gun? The NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) was created with the intent to keep guns out of the hands of individuals that are not mentally sound enough to be in possession of a firearm. Surprisingly, it is voluntary for states to report such information to the NICS index. If states are not required to report the information in the first place, how is this protecting us American citizens?
I can't help but wonder how long we as a nation will be content with profit over safety and moral obligation. We must insist on improving mental health care and imposing stricter gun laws at the federal and the state level. More guns are not the answer.
Shavon N. Eubanks, Eugene
TheCigar Association of America hasrequested OR House Bill 2363 ban the sales of " blunt wraps." According to its Oregon lobbyist, Paul Cosgrove,"the cigar group ...represents manufacturers ...plansto argue in Salem,that the reputation of its own tobaccoproducts arebeing sullied by the marketing ofbluntwrappers tomarijuanausers under the guise of being part of the cigar culture."
As an OMMA patient, I question the wisdom of wrapping cannabis in tobacco leaf and smoking it. There are better ways to obtain the benefits of the healing herb. As a citizen,I am amazed,in these times of economic and environmental crisis, thatany ofour legislative bodies' time would be wastedby an industry that sullies the health of everyone and contributes to more deaths annually than dowars.
As for tobacco's reputation being sullied by association with cannabis — that is the ultimate hypocrisy. It is time to end the lies about cannabis. Our founding fathers grew it, our first flag was made of it, andour first Constitution wasprinted on it. It was the cash crop for the baby nation that helped us become economically autonomous.
WhenCongress passed the Cannabis Transfer Tax Act in 1937,the intent was to eliminate this versatile plant fromcompetition for food, fuel, fiber, medicineand recreation. In place of cannabis hemp thatcan growanywhere without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, we havebig oil, big pharmaceuticals, bad air, bad water, tainted food supply — the list goes on and on.
We have the power to restore cannabis to its historic and rightful place in our culture. In doing so, we wouldrestore our own autonomy, end the oligarchy,and the politics of greed.
There are two excellent TV documentaries on the history and benefits of cannabis. One isMarijuana Inc.which airs on CNBC. The other isChronic Marijuanawhich airs on The History Channel. In addition there are many on-line resources where one canlearn about cannabis.
In Genesis 1:29,God tells us, "Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed , which is upon the face of the earth and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; for you it shall be for meat." How saddened our Creator must be by our rejection of one of the most wonderful blessings given us for our use.
Do your research, then tell your legislators. We don't want higher taxes and we don't want more services cut. We want to restore our economy and our environment through restoration of this holy herb.
Linda Lee Charles, Florence
YOU GET COVERED
Listen up, 20-somethings. Let's cut through the Republican lies and look at the facts. You will get health-care coverage and you will not need topay for itunder the Obama plan if you as an individual earn less than 150 percent of the poverty level, about $14,000. And if you are fortunate enough in this rough economy to earn more than $14,000, there are programs to help with the cost. You get coverage.
If you earned less than $14,000 in 2010, raise your hand. You have or are about to get medical coverage. That's a good thing. And if you have a partner, and perhaps a kid, there's coverage for all. So, please make sure you get out there and vote next time, and remember those who put this together. And don't let the Republicans take anything away from you.
Paul Schultz, Eugene
IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE
I am writing this seemingly dated letter about Christmas to emphasize a point. Christmas has nothing to do with a specific time of year, or about the supremacy of one religion over another, or about a birth, for that matter. Christmas is a celebration of the spiritual commonality of all religions; to remind us of the fundamental teaching of love and peace between human beings.
The great men and women of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism lived and died for this message of peace. I do not know what Judaism teaches about peace between men; perhaps Mr. Grossman (letters, 12/16/2010) could enlighten us.
This message of peace is as dangerous today as it was when our spiritual leaders first taught it. And because it is dangerous to the mentality of war and violence in which we are forced to live, the meaning and message of Christmas is consciously being assaulted. Consider the media invention of "Black Friday" to define the beginning of the holiday season. Instead of the greens and lights and bright anticipation that not so long ago greeted the day after Thanksgiving, we are inundated with this perception of sadness, death, of "Black Tuesday" to begin our celebration.
And this is the time we must endure diatribes against Christmas via letters to the editor with cries of defamation of other faiths, of commercialism, of holiday stress, etc. Along with overemphasis on Halloween and the virtual ignorance of Thanksgiving, the holiday season most Americans grew up with no longer exists.
Christmas has become almost a nuisance according to those who would have us spend our money but forget why. But worst of all, Christmas is now, quite intentionally, the targeted season for violent movies, all offered up to cause us to forget Christ's teaching of love and peace.
Kathryn Mason, Eugene