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Letters to the Editor: 4-25-2013

COST-SAVING SERVICES

If Measure 20-211, the fee to fund city services ranging from Eugene Public Library to Fire Station #2 to Buckley House and CAHOOTS, etc. fails, I hope both its opponents and proponents will get to work to make sure these cuts don’t actually happen.

Some dismiss the notion of services being reduced or eliminated as a “scare tactic” while ignoring that such cutbacks are already happening. Buckley, for instance, is constantly in danger of closing its doors, and has been for years. Buckley is staffed by people who make nothing to serve people who have nothing. Closing Buckley would not only be morally criminal but financially irresponsible: Many Buckley clients would merely end up in jail or the emergency room, at much greater cost to the public, if Buckley weren’t available.

The program I work for, CAHOOTS (which I don’t represent in this letter), is another cost-saving service that is faced with losing up to 50 percent of its budget. In five years of working on CAHOOTS, I’ve responded to thousands of calls involving people who are intoxicated, sick, injured, depressed, suicidal, delusional, grieving, etc. If CAHOOTS weren’t available, most of those calls would have gone to more costly and already exhausted 911 services.

Cost-saving benefits aside, I know there are countless people whose suffering would be ignored if CAHOOTS or Buckley weren’t available. And business is booming: Society is becoming more sad and disturbing by the moment, with rates of poverty, addiction and mental illness skyrocketing, making these programs more essential than ever. We badly need more of what they offer. The absence of such programs only guarantees our community worse financial and social problems. 

Brenton Gicker, Eugene

 

LAW FIRMS CALLING

County Administrator Liane Richardson: Please, please, please take the several job offers you’ve had from local law firms where your pay will be equal to your overblown and inflated ego. Nor do we need you speaking out of both sides of your mouth, turning down an immediate pay increase while lobbying via emails for said increase.

If you can make more money somewhere else (and this seems to be your driving force), please go there.

P.S. I will admit you have the ability to smell out human feces at the Free Speech Plaza but that is an ability we really don’t want or need anymore. 

Philip Dietz, Springfield

 

A MODEST PROPOSAL

Bonny Bettman McCornack and opponents of the city service fee have offered an exhaustive critique of city government, elected officials, spending priorities and budget process. That’s great.

Despite their noise, they have not offered any relevant commentary on the city service fee itself. The fee is modest — up to $10 a month per household and $30 a month per business — and pays for a specific list of services. Funds raised by the fee would be put into a separate bank account, and a citizen oversight committee would keep the city honest about spending the money only on the services proscribed by the measure. Lastly, there is an assistance program to waive the fee for low-income families. If you are worried your family can’t afford to pay the fee, chances are you would be exempt.

McCornack says opponents of the fee value city services, and I believe her. We agree that mental health services, CAHOOTS, libraries and public pools enhance our quality of life here in Eugene.

The difference between us — and the reason why I am voting “yes” on the city service fee — is that I’m willing to put my money (less than $10 a month) where my mouth is.

Chris Wig, Campaign Manager, Eugene Cares, Eugene

 

CONTROLLING THE FEE

Support for the proposed city service fee has been confusing at best. Early zealot Councilor George Brown did a 180-degree about face and laid out a combination of the traditional “there’s gold in them thar hills” rant about poorly applied resources and thereby calling it an “unnecessary fee,” mixed with a city government insider’s cynical conviction that, once approved, such a service fee would only be applied to the agreed upon list of services for the first year’s budget, but that following year’s budget processes would, as always, usurp these fees for whatever general fund priorities suits each year’s budgeteers. 

Fee supporters speak of an included oversight committee, seemingly to guarantee the intended application of funds, and of a built-in review process in five years to ensure the appropriate next step — elimination of the fee; extension of fee at a different amount; realignment of funding allocations and proportions; assignment of fee resources to new priorities; etc. 

Clearly there has been disagreement inside city government as to how and where to spent its resources. The support for the proposed fee results from the level of frustration that we, the people, feel at the ongoing dysfunctional city government who can’t/won’t do better with our current level of resources. The challenge to Eugene Weekly: Confirm the truth or not of the assertion that the city fee measure as written cannot maintains complete control of the funds it generates on an ongoing basis.

Tom Snyder, Eugene

 

FEE IS JUST A HEAD TAX

I will not be paying the flat fee that will be the same for me as for lumber baron Aaron Jones. This is not a flat tax because a flat tax taxes something at a flat rate. A sales tax is a flat tax that taxes everyone’s purchases at the same percentage rate. A flat income tax taxes everyone’s income at the same percentage rate. No, this is not a flat tax but it is a tax. It is a tax, not a fee, because we are not paying for a service. EWEB charges a fee for utility services. 

The city service fee is not a fee. Nothing is provided to the payer. It is a tax, but not a flat tax, because everyone doesn’t pay the same rate. Aaron Jones will pay around 0.001 percent of his income for this fee. I will be required to pay nearly 1 percent of my income for this “fee” on top of my property taxes and other payments to government. This is not a flat tax because a flat income tax would charge me at the same rate as Jones, not a rate 1,000 times greater. 

Our property taxes are flat taxes. Everyone pays the same rate based on the value of their property. The “city service fee” will be something far worse. The rich pay a much lower rate than the rest of us, on any basis except a per head basis.

The city service fee is a head tax. Everyone pays the same tax, no matter what. Head taxes are illegal under the Oregon Constitution. It is illegal even if it exempts people on the streets or people on food stamps. It’s still a head tax. 

If the city of Eugene wants to know what massive refusal to pay looks like, they can go right ahead and impose this unconstitutional head tax. A tax by any other name is still a tax. A head tax is a head tax, no matter what you call it. Unconstitutional is unconstitutional. 

Ann Tattersall, Eugene

 

TIME TO STEP UP

It seems there are two main components in the arguments against the city fee: 1) city government needs to be reorganized, 2) there is money elsewhere to be used. I take issue with both as reasons to vote against the city fee. 

Reorganize the government? Seriously? Even if I agreed, I don’t see this conversation as being anywhere close to the issue on the ballot; i.e. funding basic services now. This is a complicated and very serious conversation to have in a thoughtful way and not as a reaction to need for funds.

Money elsewhere? The sources I’ve seen noted are legitimate funds with designated and financially responsible purposes. Raiding other funds in the short term, even if possible, does potential harm in the long term.

Resources are lean throughout Oregon, including Eugene. I’m impressed that we’ve held basic services together as long as we have. The streets are becoming a joy to travel minus the potholes, and that wouldn’t have happened without “we the people” stepping up and passing bond measures.

We need to step up again and pass this safety net for the quality of life in Eugene. The ordinance clearly designates the fee to be used only for homeless and human resources, fire and police protection and libraries and pools; i.e. quality of life issues. Your “yes” vote is needed and is appropriate.

Jay Moseley, Eugene

 

LIFE UNDERGROUND

We escape from some of our problems by acting like we are gators and crocs living in the sewer systems. It really isn’t pleasant down there. The scenery sucks; it’s chilly; it’s wet; it really, really stinks. Sewers are our dark side, a repository for the things we try to hide from ourselves. We are schizoid: a somewhat pleasant life aboveground, and a life we are hiding from in the sewers — the hidden life of few jobs, endless war, our kids’ empty prospects, planetary population headed to nine billion — and last, and worst, there’s the unmitigated global warming/energy disaster. Ugh.

But stuffing our awareness of our civilization’s plagues into sewers doesn’t work: Now and again we flash on what we have hidden from, and are sick with worry.

Better to do something about the dark side. We need to go down, embrace the dark side, crawl up the slimy, crusty manhole ladders, lift off the manhole covers, look around, crawl out of the sewers and face the future squarely. We need a revolution in the way humans think, feel and live.

Tom Giesenm Eugene

 

TURN THE DIAL

While listening to the Brickwall Comedy Show on All Comedy 1450-AM they talked about a letter of complaint (or it might have been a call) that the station received concerning “offensive material.” I want to say that it was such a problem for her then all she had to do was change the channel. 

I love the comedy that 1450 brings to the area as well as the choice they give to listeners. The people who run the place are friends of mine and even if they weren’t I would still feel the same. So I applaud EW for supporting local radio versus chains. While I listen to both kinds I do think more support is needed to be given to local efforts to bring choice to the people. 

I understand that comedy is not for everyone and that some subject are not for everyone. But this in mind: I hope that they don’t think that all stand-ups are innocent little angels.

James Ready, Springfield

 

POOCH PARK POTTY

I am disabled and a dog owner who has limited access to dog parks. I am able to go to Alton Baker Dog Park, but the dog park is not equipped with any Porta-Pottys or restrooms. Other elderly people and disabled people share my frustration with the lack of toilet facilities. Other public spaces are afforded restrooms. I feel that with the frequent use and essential service this dog park provides, the city of Eugene can assist dog owners by maintaining one Porta-Potty. I would like to ask that one toilet be provided for the Alton Baker Dog Park. Thank you for your consideration of this.

Michele Kernes, Eugene

 

IMPACT ON RIVER ROAD

How would you like being on a boat with only 32 percent of the occupants having control over whether the boat sinks or floats? The River Road neighborhood (Chamber Connector to Beltline and Willamette River to Northwest Expressway) contains 32 percent incorporated and 68 percent unincorporated households. Only city residents may vote on a city service fee of up to $10 per month for each household and up to $30 a month for a business.

Some believe the city’s budget situation would not affect unincorporated residents, but River Road receives many city services taken for granted. Most River Roaders obtain fire services from Eugene Fire Department, via a contract between the River Road Water District and the City. Have you considered the possibility of a longer response time if one Whiteaker fire crew, as proposed, is eliminated? Unincorporated property owners pay for services but cannot vote to sustain them.

Additionally, generous support is extended through Neighborhood Services, whether we are city residents or not. Reduction of Neighborhood Services could be a loss of viable forums for discussing community concerns.

City parks and the West Bank Bike Path (separate from our River Road Emerald Park) might suffer maintenance losses if seen as expendable cost-cutting measures. Fewer Eugene police investigators and the current lack of sheriff patrols would create a playground for criminal activity.

Our River Road boat is in turbulent waters. Vote “yes” to keep our boat afloat.

Carleen Reilly, Eugene

 

A REAL CHOICE

Insinuating that Measure 20-211, the proposed Eugene city service fee, holds our most valued services hostage is, quite frankly, asinine. The General Fund pays largely for vital and continuous city services —which have ongoing costs. Over 75 percent of the General Fund pays for basic service like police, fire, and the like. The proposed cuts try to “spread the pain,” as Councilor Claire Syrett puts it, and reflect feedback received from Eugene voters.

Cuts to police and fire are minimized — one team of first responders and four detectives — because voters said in the survey that they value these services the most. Cuts to parks, libraries, pools, etc. are more extensive precisely because voters ranked these as lower priorities.

I’m one who believes that all the services above are essential to making Eugene a safe, thriving, and attractive home for businesses and families alike.

Opponents who cry “Hostage!” offer at first no solutions, then bad solutions similar to those that bankrupted California (i.e. using “one-time” money).

We have a practical, modest solution on the ballot that will help us hold strong to our community services provided by the city. There are built-in protections for low-income folks. There is a requirement that the money is spent as allocated. There is citizen oversight.

This isn’t a “fake” or “phony” choice we’re making in May. It’s real. It’s important. Let’s make it together, and vote “yes” on Measure 20-211, the Eugene city services fee.

Sonny Mehta, Eugene

 

NO MORE CENSORSHIP

I hope you will continue to post letters from both sides of the Israel/Palestinian debate. This simply cannot be subject to censorship any longer.

People have been afraid to criticize Israel for fear of being labeled “anti-Semitic.” Yet Israel must be criticized if we are to honor the American principle of free speech. And those supporting Israel must also be allowed to present their reasons why.

I do disagree with your contention that this is a cultural battle [Slant, 4/4]. It is really about land and politics. There is no longer any possibility of a two-state “solution,” since Israel has completed their takeover of Area C, which is 60 percent of the West Bank. This was the intention of Oslo and has been an Israeli plan since before 1967 — Israel has always wanted all the land. Now members of the Knesset want to annex Area C and appease the world by giving the vote to the few Palestinians remaining (about 50,000) after Israel has demolished their homes, farms, orchards, and water sources.

That simply is not fair to the people who inhabited the land before the Jews began to arrive — and who make up half the population of the entire area. Equal populations should have equal space, and especially equal rights. Most people don’t know there is no hope any longer for two states.

So the more information on this subject the better. Please continue to publish both sides, and let your readers decide where the truth lies.

Besides, people have a great interest in Israel, as they should since we give Israel some $30 billion every year.

June Forsyth Kenagy, Albany