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Eugene Weekly : Letters : 10.6.11




SAFETY NET HOLES

I want to commend Alan Pitman for his cover story on “Wet Beds” (9/29). Since the 1980s when I went to visit the homeless shelters and volunteered at the soup kitchens run by the Community for Creative Non-Violence in Washington, D.C., I have been aware of the homelessness in the self-proclaimed “richest nation in the world.” And we all know that the problem has gotten worse during the last three decades. When my wife and I opened the Eugene International Hostel in Eugene in 1997, we tried to accommodate as many transients as we could, without jeopardizing the business.

Especially during the last decade, all the safety nets seem to act like big sieves. Many people have no safe place to rest at night. Our governments, from national to local level, seem to have been bought out by the rich; they pass laws and ordinances that defy basic needs.

Why can’t we have safe sleeping quarters for anyone in need in every community, large and small? The nonprofit sector has successfully taken on projects like soup kitchens and groceries for the needy and small projects like Cahoots help substance-abusers. But the charitable sector can not take on the whole burden without collective action through public funding. 

And, of course, we need to work on the root causes. In a democratic country such as ours, government must bear the full responsibility. President Reagan was uninformed and irresponsible when he suggested that the nonprofit and charitable sector take care of these problems. We can be caring, loving and compassionate in our daily lives. But alcoholism, drug abuse, mental problems, rampant homelessness and poverty are symptoms of a much larger problem in society.

We have not seen the worst yet. The current economic and political policies will put millions more on the street, and hundreds of thousands will be regular alcohol or substance users. What good is this so-called democracy when the elected government bodies fails to fulfill social needs and obligations? 

Arun N. Toke’, Eugene



IT’S JUST A TEST

Dr. Michael Lee, a public health advocate and sociologist, recently raised concerns about the health effects of EWEB’s plan to test residential smart meters (Viewpoint, 9/22).

The Integrated Electric Resources Plan Advisory Panel, of which I am a member, generally favors a five-year trial of demand management strategies as an adjunct to EWEB’s current exemplary and transparent conservation policies and practices. Smart metering is a portion of that effort, and I would expect it to be initially restricted to the main meter and, perhaps, smart water heaters to address peak load constraints and the intermittent nature of renewable resources. It is just a test and will be reviewed in five years. 

Demand management can involve both feedback about use and pricing signals. Both are required to change any consumptive behavior, not just energy use. I would urge Dr. Lee, and others who share his concerns, to turn from worrying about their extraordinary claims to a more pressing concern: The absence of pricing signals for behaviors that increase greenhouse gas production. Global warming does have evidence to warrant concern.

Shawn Boles, Eugene



COME ON DOWN

Our downtown, it’s coming back! Now it is time for us as a community to come back as well. The holes are filled in; now let’s fill the streets.

 I am quite excited and even getting my hopes up that my downtown is on the verge of making a recovery. I know it is early and that the economy is seriously struggling. But, I wish to remain optimistic. Those holes have been eyesores for as long as I can remember (which I know as I get older is not all that long), still!

 The big issue, in my opinion is will the people come back? Everyone talks a good game and speaks fondly of times past, when downtowns flourished. There was a Kresge’s drugstore, a movie theater, a local hardware store, a department store and not a big box store in sight. Ah, those were the days, eh ?

So I am challenging all those who say they desire a thriving downtown to come on down. Support those diehard local businesses who have stuck it out through the tough times. We already have restaurants, bars, galleries, rug stores, furniture stores, etc. As the movie says, “Build it, and they will come.” Well they are building it; will you come? For those who feel scared to come down, come with a group of friends; together we can create the foot traffic necessary to make all feel comfortable and welcome. Developers can build on every square inch of our downtown, but it won’t make a comeback until we come back. What do you say Eugene, do you want a thriving downtown?

Tim Boyden, Eugene



INDEFENSIBLE RAISES

UO administrators recently granted themselves raises that far exceed the rate of inflation and are an order of magnitude that is indefensible. The argument that “without raises, executive talent will be lost” is specious at best. The university recruits all the time; and with unemployment at record levels, qualified talent is readily available. Why does a provost making one third of a million dollars need a raise? Even the registrar, making $100,000 or more per year, would receive at least $17,000 increase. That’s outrageous! 

No employee is indispensable, including President Lariviere. This decision will antagonize a staff already suffering from low moral and fed up with subsidizing administrators. I trust the Legislature will remember this situation the next time the university pleads poverty. There needs to be accountability.

Pat Reilly, Eugene



NO HEALTH PROBLEM?

Seneca’s biomass plant fails first pollution tests, and Lane Regional Air Protection Agency Director Merlyn Hough doesn’t believe it poses a health problem. The American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, many medical societies across the country and our Lane County Health Advisory Committee disagree! They are all against the high rate of pollution from burning biomass (wood). 

What kind of protection are the many asthma sufferers in our community getting from Hough and his agency? I believe taxpayers should all be angry when they realize they paid millions to be polluted. In addition, many expect forests to be cut and rivers to be polluted to produce power with this very inefficient method of giving a few houses electricity. I can think of a cheaper and less polluting method such as an effort at conservation like wearing a sweater, insulating the attic or turning out the lights.

 Ruth Duemler, Eugene



PERMIT TO POISON

I read about Seneca’s biomass plant failing its first pollution test. Despite all the rhetoric, what it boils down to is that people are risking our health to make money. It doesn’t make sense to have a biomass burner in this valley. Even our home wood stoves create too much pollution. What good does it do for us to have Seneca pay a fine to LRAPA? I would like to know how much energy it takes to gather, load and drive 30 semi truckloads of biomass from the forest to the biomass burner a day compared to the whole 13,000 homes it lights.

It would be better for the forest and our health to let it lie and enrich the devastated land. It seems to me that LRAPA is supposed to be for the people of Lane County; instead, it permits as much poison in the air as it legally can.

Jean M. Denis, Eugene



THINK BEFORE INK

When I was in college, I was privileged to hear famous “’60s radical” Abbie Hoffman. One highlight of his speech was a caution that “fashion” and “fascist” are next to each other in the dictionary. Our “brave new world” has perfected social control through entertainment and distraction. 

I thought of this warning when I read EW’s Fashion issue (8/11), especially the article promoting tattoos. Perhaps it is a consequence of EW taking ads from tattoo parlors but not from dermatologists — it is not in EW’s financial interest to suggest there might be medical problems from this practice.

The Food and Drug Administration report “Think Before You Ink: Are Tattoos Safe?” warns there is no regulation of inks injected into skin. The report says “Many pigments used in tattoo inks are industrial-grade colors suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint.” See http://wkly.ws/14a 

I have had a basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) sliced off my body. Anyone who sticks needles into someone should have medical training and a good reason.

It is ironic that some who object to artificial colors in food see no problem permanently putting paint into the body’s largest organ: skin.

The tattoo fad reminds me of the crowd scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian: “We’re all individuals.” James Kunstler (www.kunstler.com) has wry commentary on the sociological significance of tattoos. Their increasing popularity is an indicator that our culture no longer has a sense of a future. 

Mark Robinowitz, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: EW is perfectly happy to take ads from dermatologists too.



OSU AARGH SCIENCE

It’s a shame that OSU doesn’t practice or even advocate humane and sustainable farming practices that improve the safety and nutrition value of meat, milk, and eggs; promote the humane husbandry of food animals; reduce environmental pollution and conserve natural resources; and broaden economic opportunities for family farmers, including the development and preservation of niche markets.

Center stage is OSU Dairy Center. I’m sure you have noticed the glaring white plastic that covers tons of cow manure at 4490 Harrison St. — manure which would emit dangerous levels of methane gas if let loose. The reason why: The dairy management is reluctant to innovate water troughs into grazing pastures, citing lack of funds and space, therefore trapping more than 250 “wet” cows into the seamy confines of the dairy barn walls. 

Next is the OSU Swine Center. Here pigs are raised under the constant glare of fluorescent lights. Fortunately, the sows are allowed to root around outside; the boars are not. The management also cites lack of funds and space as the reasons why. 

Last is the OSU Poultry Center where hundreds of chicks are gestated from eggs every term as research projects for students and deftly disposed of after they are no longer of use. 

I rest my case. Wake up, OSU Ag Science, and smell the winds of change before they blow you off the map of consumer expectation and of humane animal care. 

Kay Sams, Corvallis

 

 

BEGGAR BOTS

The economy may be depressed but my beggar bots are booting booty. Unemployed and out of insurance, I was getting worried. I reckoned I would soon be standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign. The problem with this method of procuring cash is one of scale: You can only be on one corner at a time. My solution was to deploy a platoon of robots which could cover various locations 24/7. Last winter I built a number of cyber-mendicants to test on the streets.

A big problem was predation from, you know, real beggars. No matter how realistic I made my homunculi the street smarties would wise to the occasion. One of my top bots was a crippled granny raising funds to feed her cat (a scrawny specimen with a piteous mew). A motion detector triggered her quavery voice, “Spare change so I can feed my kitty?” Whereupon a shaky, liver-spotted hand would beseechingly be proffered. This puppet was taking in 50 to 60 bucks a day. Then all of a sudden she dries up and doesn’t yield a dime. So I get mighty suspicious and set up a surveillance cam. Turns out some young street punk was filching all her collections. Stealing from granny! Tells you something about human nature to observe such wickedness.

But I am not a tech-savvy, high IQ, creative genius to be bamboozled by such a flaw in my system. I invented an aromatherapy discouragement to beggar bot crittling. Unauthorized access of the purse wherein the cash is stashed releases a powerful effluvium. This stuff makes, comparatively, a sewage treatment plant smell like Elysian Fields after a rain; makes a strong man swoon and a débutante retch out her liver. Banditry of my beggar bots has fallen off sharply. 

I now have a network of bots sucking in as much as 900 smack-a-doodly-whops a day. Tax free cash in a flutter of small bills but mostly dimes and quarters. I actually have to use a wheelbarrow to take it to the bank.

A glamour gig it is not. But it beats collecting cans and bottles or, gulp, standing out there with a cardboard sign myself.

David H. Tyson, Eugene



HUMAN VS. BICYCLE RIGHTS

Shannon Wilson’s letter (9/22) demanding safe bicycle routes would please me, however, safe bicycle routes will not significantly reduce the carnage caused by motor vehicle operations. Currently approximately 2.3 million emergency room visits, 40,000 human and 300 million-plus animal deaths are caused each year by motor vehicle incidents. Traffic engineers know that motor vehicle operation at speeds below 20 mph greatly increase collision survivability and reduce incidents, yet we permit speeds of 35, 45, or 55 mph in areas where people must cross or enter roadways. Few question why until they lose a loved one. 

Governments seem to operate at two extremes: one allowing exploitation of the people, the other to protect. I argue that our government is allowing exploitation of people for high speed commerce on our roadways. The injuries and deaths seem worth the profits from rural development and fast delivery. The problem could be solved through legislation and infrastructure, and it could be solved immediately by the people. 

If only a fraction of the humanitarians and “believers” who profess love for their fellow man and living creatures would not drive in excess of 20 mph on any secondary road, motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, equestrians and animals could all coexist safely. Will any of us take action?

Ed Gunderson, Creswell



EUGENE BIKE GRID

Both the R-G and EW have discussed the role of bikes in Eugene — the safety issues and the environmental benefits.

The R-G reports a 53-page report from the city proposing to spend $60 million on a variety of projects over the next 20 years. The EW letter, from a bike rider, simply asked for “some bicycle-only streets in this city, and every city.”

It is encouraging to think of $60 million in long-term planning. But good things do not need to cost an arm and a leg, literally and economically. We could use some nice improvements right now, this year, now.

This is the bike grid. It is not some European idea we are slow to adopt. As far as I can tell it started right here in Eugene: the call for a half dozen “bike friendly” streets, all day, every day, to make Eugene better.

A half dozen designated slow minor streets — half east-west, and half north-south, would allow many bikers to wend their way through the city in relative safety. Just a bold colored line and a few signs would transform these streets to quiet bike paths.

Most residents would want their street chosen.

Motorists, already favored, would always only be a few hundred yards from their motor speedway grid, so they should not complain. They will not miss the bikers.

So $60 million, yes, let’s do it. But also, right now, let’s get that idea to the experts in street planning and paint the streets — and ride, ride, ride.

Michael Lee, Eugene



TRUSTED PROVIDER

It is with joy and anticipation that I write to support the building of the new Planned Parenthood Regional Health & Education Center.

The demand and need for its services long ago outgrew its current facility, and the state Department of Human Services tells us that the number of women in Lane County who cannot afford reproductive health services jumped from 28,000 in 2008 to 41,000 in 2010. Planned Parenthood has long been a trusted provider of factual sex education and women’s health care services such as Pap smears, breast cancer screenings and menopause information. It meets a continuing need from low-income patients of all ages who cannot afford health insurance. Many women look back with gratitude to Planned Parenthood for the health services it provided when they were in college or just starting their careers.

The new center in Glenwood will be centrally located for easy access along an EmX line, and it will be a huge boost to the local economy. I urge you to support this project. More than 27,000 patients each year will thank you.

Margaret Hazel, Eugene



DON’T BE SO NICE 

Dear drivers: When I’m riding my bike down the street and I come to a stop sign, I do what I’m supposed to do — stop. Please, as fellow road-sharers, do what you are supposed to do. If you are coming down the cross street and you do not have a stop sign, do not stop and wave me across the street! 

I know you think you are being super-nice, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness; however, it’s incredibly dangerous. You have no idea if the cars behind you are going to stop or pull around you (as so many people do), and you are not really paying attention to the traffic coming in the other direction as you wave me across the intersection. 

I shake my head at you and end up frustrated, because if you would have just kept driving, I would have been able to cross the street when it was safe to my standards. Instead I wave at you to keep going, you wave at me to go ahead, you stop traffic when there’s no need to stop traffic, and you put people at risk (me, other drivers, yourself). Please consider this safety issue next time you think you are being nice to a bicyclist. 

Misty McLean-Schurbon, Eugene