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Eugene Weekly : Letters : 5.12.11




TAPPED OUT

Jennifer Solomon and her rich friends claim they are "tapped out” and just cant pay any more taxes. Since they are "tapped out,” they are spending a fortune to try to convince voters to reject the city ballot measure to tax everybody a little bit, in the same graduated categories the state income tax uses, but at only a tiny fraction of the state tax rate.

The rich people are claiming its unfair because families with incomes below $20,000 wont have to pay the tax. They want to tax families living in poverty, wearing clothes from Goodwill, with children eligible for free lunch and breakfast at school. Some of these families are living in cars or sleeping on the floors, but Solomon and her friends want to make them pay taxes.

Because people who dont have any money wont pay this tax, Solomon wants to withhold the money needed to keep the schools open. The school year is already full of holes. Children are going to school three or four days a week and having weekends that are just as long. They are forgetting everything theyve learned during these long weekends.

At the same time, positions such as librarians are now filled by instructional aides who earn half the hourly wage of teachers. They are expected to do the same job in 15 hours a week that a few years ago paid them for 25 hours. They work five to 10 hours a week for free, rely on parent volunteers and are not eligible for health insurance.

A friend who works for a Eugene elementary school as a library aide had a heart attack. He has no health insurance. I drove him to the VA hospital in Roseburg because he refused to go to the Eugene area hospitals because they would hound him for the rest of his life to make him pay. He survived the drive, but there is more damage to his heart because of the delay.

Who is "tapped out?” The ultra-rich like Jennifer Solomon, or the public employees without health insurance?

Ann Tattersall, Eugene



STOP THE BLEEDING

Our children need a solution to our education emergency sooner rather than later. The state will not help us with our immediate crisis. Measure 20-182 is a goodwill effort to plug the dike on a hemorrhaging local, state and national problem. For far too long schools have been asked to cut, cut, cut. Now we understand the consequences of cutting beyond a reasonable point. Thus far, we have been relatively immune to the slash-and-burn techniques of many educational reformers nationwide, but we must not weaken our local schools so that they too become easy prey for the teacher-blaming, test-based curriculum and a corporate charter school crowd seeking to privatize this most sacred institution.

Our country was built upon the rock of a public school system. Our democracy needs a strong public school system. We cannot afford to wait until the bottom falls out before we act. Let us pass this measure and then all work to rebuild a system which should provide equal opportunity for all, so that we can begin to ensure liberty and justice for all. Education is the soul of a society, and we ignore the souls of our children at their peril, and ours.

Christopher Michaels, Eugene



CIVIC CASH COW

Its hard to believe how short sighted some people can be. The Civic Stadium site is a cash cow waiting to be milked, hopefully for the benefit of all Eugene, and heres how. The City Council buys the property from the 4J School District and leases it short term to the Save Civic Stadium group so they can use their nonprofit status to get grants and donations to repair the historic bleachers. While theyre doing that, local investors organize, buy a pro soccer franchise (cheap at only $150,000) and start building the new facilities.

Part of the site is leased long-term to the Y so they can build their new digs. In about two years, when the work is done and the pro soccer club and other entertainments are generating a handsome income, the city sells the property at a profit to the soccer club and then places the entire site on the tax roles. In selling the site, the city can reformat the deed to guarantee that it will always be used as a recreational venue for the public. And for those who think its an eyesore, the plywood facing is the perfect base for a large-scale mural. Paint it to look like the Roman Coliseum. Then, as you pass by during a game, the roar of the crowd may help you imagine a gladiator smack-down or feeding time for the lions.

So, the site could provide a major multi-entertainment venue for Eugene, tax dollars for the city, a new facility for the Y and, on top of all that, bring in millions of tourist dollars. Is this a no-brainer or what?

Carlos Barerra, Eugene



CREDIT TO BUSH?

According to the tortured logic of the right-wing carnival barking pundits, President Bush should be given some credit for the death of bin Laden.

This is the same Bush who said "I dont know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really dont care. Its not that important. Its not our priority.” Bush said this after disbanding the bin Laden task force and ordering them to focus on Iraq. Bush said this after subjecting Khalid Sheik Mohamed to the illegal torture of waterboarding 183 times. The only information KSM gave while being tortured turned out to be false.

To turn President Obamas brilliant and courageous leadership into a defense of Bushs miserable failure takes a truly desperate and tortured mind.

Michael T. Hinojosa, Drain



URBAN WASTELAND

Last week I awoke to the sound of blazing chainsaws in the South University neighborhood. I assumed a neighbor was clearing a tree or two, but when I returned home from work I was stunned to see piles upon piles of trees, some more than 30 feet in length. All in all I counted 40 trunks littered across the open yard (in Emerald Alley between 19th and 20th). The tallest tree that caught the axe ã one of the biggest in all of the surrounding neighborhood ã was not felled but was stripped of all its branches and now stands towering above nearby homes like a bizarre lifeless cactus.

I grew up in the neighborhood just south of the UO, a neighborhood that has always taken pride in one thing: Its not the WEST University neighborhood. The distinction? While West University is overrun with underage binge drinkers, blaring rap music and three-story eyesore apartment complexes, the South University neighborhood is quieter, with a sprinkling of students and a more residential feel.

But apparently not for long. In the past few years, many aging houses in my neighborhood have been flipped into newer, bigger, multi-unit complexes with high price tags and wealthy college students from out of state willing to foot the bill. While its true that these new developments bring dollars into our community, I have to wonder: At what cost? Are we willing to take the steps to preserve the neighborhood feel of where we live, or is the south university neighborhood going the way of a college student utility zone?

Ian Baldwin, Eugene



CIVIC SOLUTION

Sometimes I wonder if Im reading the same news story as everyone else. When I look at the three proposals facing the Eugene School Board about what to do with the Civic Stadium property, the Y proposal seems so far and away to be the best of all worlds for this community. And yet, the school board gave a higher score to Fred Meyer. Some of our elected officials want the city to get involved and save the stadium. Then theres the Weekly with some convoluted idea about the city pressuring the Y into saving the stadium.

What I fear is going to happen, with everyone telling everyone else what they think they should be doing, is well end up with a Fred Meyer. OK, maybe a very nice Fred Meyer with recycled material from the stadium, but a Fred Meyer nonetheless. Instead, we could have a fabulous sports facility serving large portions of the community and student housing on top of it. The Ys plan dovetails beautifully with Envision Eugenes idea of creating higher density in this part of town. It will bring infill and vibrancy to a key piece of close-in property that is presently underutilized and in a key part of town that is poised for growth. It will serve unmet needs. We, as citizens, should be thankful that a partner as strong as the Y has come along and offered to caretake our land. They seem to have a solid proposal and the money and experience to make it happen. They are offering the School Board a reasonable amount of cash. We are lucky. Opportunities like this dont come along every day.

Jewel Murphy, Passionflower Design



PASSION FOR SCHOOLS

My dad has always been my hero, but I have a new realization of just how heroic he was. As a blind dairy farmer, delivering milk with my mom to half the city on alternate days, he tuned pianos afternoons and played piano and organ for dances on weekends in eastern Oklahoma.

He also had a passion for education. When I started first grade in 1946, he wanted me to have a good education and paid my tuition to attend good city schools. By second grade, he had gotten our area annexed to the city for all the children for miles around to attend public schools with art, music, social studies and math teachers along with physical education. This meant that kids graduating from the one-room school could participate in classwork on an equal basis with city kids rather than being limited to lifetime jobs as dirt farmers or sharecroppers.

I dont remember how he accomplished this feat, but from what I know about civic engagement, it wasnt done with the snap of his fingers. I know that he and our neighbors had to pay more taxes, but it was an instant improvement in their standard of living and prospects for the future. They didnt want signs hung around their childrens necks saying "Dummies are us.”

Vote yes on the 4J school tax measure and the school bond measure. "Dummies are us” shouldnt be the motto for Eugene.

Carleen Reilly, Eugene



CRITICAL MASS

Social science tells us that when enough people become the critical mass to bring about change, change happens! In the 1800s many states created public schools and land grant universities, recognizing the need for an educated populace. One teacher, Christa MacAuliffe, left this legacy, that by teaching she touched the future.

Changes in my personal life include the closing of nuclear site Rancho Seco, the end of the Vietnam War, and saving from demolition two magnificent auditoriums: Carnegie Hall and the Oakland Paramount Theater. In Eugene, we preserved the headwaters of the Amazon.

Today we have daunting but economically feasible choices: strong schools and Civic Stadium. Passionate, convincing letters from economists, parents, physicians and students speak to the necessity of preserving both schools and the stadium, to ensure that the quality of life that Eugeneans enjoy continues.

In the 1960s I experienced the heart-wrenching event of the downturn of a city in New Jersey with once-excellent schools and economy. When children were victims of unrest, the result was the departure of many, leaving abandoned businesses and real estate values negatively impacted. Will this happen in Eugene?

Lets make the decision to shore up a temporarily distressed economy by saving institutions which are dear to us. Vote yes for the morale of educators, children and, indeed, everyone. We need the temporary income tax and to preserve Civic Stadium.

Phyllis Kesner, Eugene



MUSHROOM DIVE

I think I speak for most local mushroom enthusiasts in expressing my simultaneous disdain and appreciation of William Kennedys poorly contrived "The Fungus Among Us” in the April 7 Chow. On one hand, its astounding EW did not find anyone with any experience or enthusiasm for enjoying wild mushrooms in all of Eugene (maybe a vegetarian should have been sent on a quest to find the citys best burger). On the other, its lackluster vagueness surely couldnt have inspired any newbies from picking over our prized hunting spots as morel madness kicks into gear. So what was it? A last-minute article to justify the cute cartoon on the cover? Or did EW just take a dive?

Peter Ratzloff, Eugene



LONG-TERM SOLUTION?

Im not a Tea Partier, nor am I on the other extreme. Im a construction worker struggling to pay my bills, earn a bachelors degree and put money aside for the future. This proposed income tax will cost me two months of savings each year, or one three-credit class at LCC each year.

As a lifelong Oregonian, I cant remember more than a few years at a time without some sort of school budget crises of some sort, usually ending in either temporary new or raised taxes that become permanent, or teachers getting laid off and school days being cut. Then, shortly thereafter, the event repeats itself. Not once have I heard any long-term solution for this ongoing problem. This "kick the can down the road” philosophy only makes the problems worse in the future. What exactly do we owe our children: a duct-tape fix, or a rebuild? Whats to prevent this current crises and proposal from falling into the same pattern?

Convince me this proposal is a long-term solution that will create greater prosperity for future generations, and I will vote "yes.” Otherwise, Im voting "no.”

Tim Haley, Eugene



TOUGH LOVE TIME

No thank you, Im passing on this bond measure.

As much as I would like to see our school district make needed repairs, I cannot vote to saddle our community with such debt. This bond measure for $70 million will likely cost, over 21 years, $83 million in interest, and that figure includes the federal interest subsidy. Using this kind of financing, the district will pay twice the amount for every item on the needs list. Is this the best use of our communitys funds?

Twenty-one years is a long time. The kindergartners of today will be young adults when these bills from the first years of their education will finally be paid. What about the intervening years? As of June 2010, the districts outstanding debt to be paid by property taxes was $121 million plus interest. Should we really be adding another $153 million of debt to that figure? In 2010, those property taxes totaled about $16 million and paid both interest and principal. We have a long way to go. Of course, what if we were not paying off that debt? At $16 million a year, in 5 years, $80 million. That would take care of that needs list.

It is time for tough love. Only us voters can cut up the credit bond cards. Let us live as a community within our means. Vote no, thank you.

Barbara Bochnovic, Eugene





 

 




USUAL BIAS SHOWING

In his usual biased manner, reporter Alan Pittman has written virtually identical articles in the last two issues of EW supporting the unfair and ill-conceived 4J School District tax measure. Pittman uses a broad brushstroke to lump the people who are against the measure into a bunch of right-wing nuts, but in reality, the right wing is a very small part of the group against the measure. Anyone paying even the slightest attention to the election knows that we are a diverse group of individuals who for many different reasons hope that the tax measure fails.

it is interesting to note that in both articles, he failed to mention that Art Johnson, the leading contributor to Strong Schools Eugene, has contributed $5,000 in support of the measure. He also happens to be a co-owner of EW. While Pittman is always eager to throw stones at the larger, more polished Register-Guard for the most minor transgressions, I find this lack of disclosure to be highly unethical.

Furthermore, while disparaging the anti-tax campaign, Pittman failed to mention that the 4J School District mailed election propaganda to over 7,000 district families at the expense of taxpayers. 4J understated the impact that the tax would have on middle income families. The flyer stated that the annual expense would be a mere $49, while in reality, it will be $109. That's quite a difference. The flyers were mailed at taxpayer expense. When caught, 4J immediately issued a retraction and said that they will send out a correction, again at taxpayers' expense. Ballots have already been received and many have been cast and I still haven't received that retraction.

Finally, passage of the tax measure will cause even more hardship on those who are already struggling in our shaky economy. People will have less discretionary income to support local charities and to spend at local businesses. Be careful what you wish for.

Dave Taube, Eugene

EDITORS NOTE: This letter and the two election letters that follow came in too late for our print edition. Pittmans story this week on specific campaign donations does include Art Johnson as a co-owner of the paper.



LEGAL CERTAINTY

If I were to argue against the proposed school bond because I didnt believe the money would really go to school repairs and renovations, people would dismiss such concerns as absurd. Even paranoid.

Yet the very same mechanisms that will ensure that bond funds are used as intended exist for revenues that will be generated by Measure 20-182. These include a public budgeting process, supervision by accountants, and regular checks by in-house and outside auditors. The schools routinely handle such earmarked funds, which they already receive ã for various and very specific purposes ã from the federal and state governments, as well as from foundations and as private grants.

Moreover, the added requirement of a legally binding contract between the city of Eugene and the two school systems will provide an extra level of legal certainty. Finally, the citizens review panel ã mandated by Measure 20-182 ã will establish an even greater degree of public oversight. In fact, at the recent City Club debate, Jennifer Solomon said she would serve on the oversight committee once Measure 20-182 passes.

Let's keep the real issue at the forefront. The revenue that Measure 20-182 will generate for our children is vitally important for our community's future. It will stave off massive teacher layoffs, thus keeping class sizes down, and it will prevent more no-school furlough days. To suggest that the money will somehow be "diverted” is to misrepresent what our schools do on a regular basis when handling such targeted funding.

Amy Chinitz, Eugene



DYSFUNCTIONAL THINKING

When I hear people say things, like that said in the letter to the editor written by Don Richey (5/5), I feel sad and disappointed. "”The Eugene School District is playing us for fools.” Wow Ä What couldve caused this kind of dysfunctional thinking?

When my grandparents were young, they voted for things that would make the world a better place for their children. This meant working hard, working long hours and spending money on things like education. At what point did this idealism break down? A vote for school funding means money out of my pocket!? To hell with the little bastards! They can rot in the streets like the degenerate junkies they are!

No wonder most young people feel like their vote doesnt count. Lots of my parents generation dont even care enough to make sure there is funding for schools, let alone schools at all (both of my parents are Republicans, connection?). I liked many of the things Rachel Carnes said in her little spiel (Viewpoint, 5/5). I agree that the very least these self-interested types could do is provide a place for the youth to be, as an alternative to loitering, defacing public/private property, or jail. If they want to spend money on jails, why not schools?

Those of us who choose to live in this community are members of this society. We all have some amount of social responsibility; this is a part of living in a community. We do what benefits our community as a whole. Or for the more self-interested parties, at least convince the kids of this, otherwise, those of us on the lower income bracket will have to die cold and alone in a ditch somewhere instead of living on Medicare, because you can bet that the minute those greedy, little, money-grubbing, swine( the kids) from the public schools find out were the reason their schools didnt have adequate funding, they will cut us off our publicly funded health care and leave us to our own pitiful devices.

Marcus R. Largent, Eugene



TUITION EQUITY NEEDED

This Wednesday was a hearing in Salem on SB 742 regarding tuition equity. It is important that all Oregon students and community members are aware of this. Tuition equity is about opportunity, investment, and advancement for Oregon. This bill capitalizes on our investment in Oregon students! We cant afford to let our investment in K-12 students go to waste by pricing successful Oregon educated students out of Oregon universities where out of state tuition is three times the cost of in-state tuition.

This bill advances Oregons workforce and advances Oregonians graduating from high school and pursing a college degree! In a time when we need to increase Oregons competitiveness and appeal to businesses, SB 742 ensures Oregon is more competitive and appealing to businesses. Tuition equity ensures that more Oregon students are able to go to college. This means helping increase university revenue and Oregons tax base.

As an undergraduate student and incoming vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Oregon I think it is absurd that a person can live in the state of Oregon practically their entire life and then be charged out of state tuition. I myself was not born in Oregon, I became a resident before I attended college and was charged in-state tuition. As a working class student I am thankful that I am able to more easily afford to go to school; undocumented students who have grown up in Oregon deserve as least this much.

Furthermore, I know my college experience is enhanced by the diversity of students that attend my school. We should be working towards finding ways to increase this diversity not decrease it. So with that, I am calling out to all students and community members to support SB 742 and call your representatives to ask them to do the same.

Katie Taylor, Eugene



VOTE WITH DOLLARS

Its time the businesses, that so vocally reject EmX, begin to live with the repercussions of their stance. You can do this by letting these businesses know they have lost your money. While a great deal of the businesses are automobile related, and don't support public transit because they want cars to predominate, there are other businesses that have jumped on the anti-EmX bandwagon.

The next time you want to buy furniture, office supplies or breakfast, lunch or dinner, do the community a favor and dedicate an hour of time traveling down West 6th, 7th or 11th, entering the businesses where you might make a purchase, and let them know you won't be purchasing there that day because of their anti-EmX stance. Do so respectfully, knowing the person behind the counter is probably just an employee, but ask that they let their manager or owner know that they lost your business that day.

Cathy Evans, Eugene



THANK YOU CMT

I wish to express my most sincere and heartfelt gratitude to everyone of the volunteers from the Cascade Medical Team and Medical Teams International who gave unselfishly of their time and talents at the recent free clinic downtown.

I was a slave to an infected wisdom tooth thats capriciousness had the ability to ruin any activity, including sleep. It was impossible working part time and living paycheck to paycheck, to save enough to pay for an extraction. I had to learn to live with the pain.

Thanks to the generosity of the tenderhearted souls at the clinic, my burden of pain was removed.

From my first contact with the obliging intake volunteers to the compassionate, affably natured dentist with gentle manner, I am very much in appreciation of the next day with no facial swelling.

I was genuinely moved by the sight of face after smiling face and their willingness to provide aid while preserving the dignity of everyone in attendance through an experience that might have been otherwise humiliating.

There is no overstatement or exaggeration in labeling these volunteers as saviors. They helped me in a way I could not help myself and like another well-known Savior would do.

Richard Abodeely, Creswell



AMERICAN JUSTICE?

Last night I read an article proclaiming Osama bin Laden was no ones hero. The author celebrated his death but still insisted that Americans treat people "with dignity and respect in spite of religious beliefs.” While these are American ideals, how much do they actually guide our government policies?

The assassination of bin Laden raises questions whether the Obama administration violated international rule of law and disrespected human life. While bin Ladens death could bring a sense of relief ã especially for those who lost loved ones ã we must ask if justice has been done.

Unilateral military assassinations in another sovereign country are illegal. Shooting an unarmed bin Laden in the head, dumping his body into the ocean, precluding a trial and releasing zero evidence; none of these actions of the Obama administration show a clear respect for human life or rule of law.

The judge-jury-executioner style of the U.S. government is double-edged and dangerous. It undermines rule of law and risks making Osama more of a hero in the eyes of fools. It disrespects human life and potentially makes President Obama less of a hero in the eyes of the international commmunity.

I have no respect for people who deny rule of law and revel evilly in death and slaughter ã no matter who they might be. We condemn terrorists while vaunting our own "superior” ideals. However, do our policies match our ideals? Is this justice? Even though Osama is understandably not your hero, can Obama still be?

Jesse Chambers, Springfield