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Letters to the Editor: 11-27-2013

WIGGLE ROOM FOR SENECA

I talk to many people in Eugene about air quality and their health. This fall, Beyond Toxics completed our second large door-to-door survey in west Eugene. Among the trends we found, this one is troubling: 37 percent of the parents we interviewed said that they judge the quality of the air before they allow their children to go outside to play. 

Many parents are concerned about poor air quality triggering asthma attacks. What does this say about kids having opportunities to be active and do all those outdoor experiences unique to childhood? 

Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) is about to make a decision to allow Seneca Sustainable Energy their request for a new air pollution permit. The comment period closed Nov. 22, and Beyond Toxics submitted substantive comments on behalf of Eugene’s residents and their families who want clean air to breathe. Seneca wants to appreciably increase their pollution of the most dangerous type of particulate matter (PM 2.5), as well as carbon monoxide and hydrogen chloride.

While parents worry about whether it is healthy enough for their kids to go outside to play, LRAPA has indicated that it intends to allow the Seneca biomass plant to emit more tons of fine particles into Eugene’s air. Why? Seneca discovered, belatedly, that its air pollution controls aren’t as effective as first promised. They want a new permit with more “wiggle room.” They want to redesign the regulations to avoid violating their existing permit.

 Exposure to fine particles exacerbates medical conditions such as asthma and causes chronic bronchitis and lung damage over the long-term. As the data has shown, west Eugene children have a very high incidence of asthma compared to children in other parts of Oregon.

LRAPA staff admitted they could deny the new permit during a public hearing, but said they would give Seneca the higher pollution allowance anyway. To allow the increase of pollutants associated with increased asthma and heart disease when it is not necessary belies LRAPA’s stated mission to protect our air quality and protect public health.

LRAPA can’t see beyond the banality of their bureaucratic approach. For Seneca and LRAPA, technicalities devised by corporate lawyers come before children’s health. 

Lisa Arkin, executive director, Beyond Toxics 

 

OLIVE STILL CLOSED

I’m a walker and I appreciate living within walking distance of most of the places I need to get to. But if I need to go downtown, my best walking route involves Olive Street. Now, as we know, Olive has been unavailable for use since last March when it was closed “for a period of six months” by the city to facilitate the Capstone student housing construction project.

Well, here we are going into the ninth month of closure and, except for sporadic and unpredictable openings of one northbound lane, Olive Street is not available for use. And I’m even less enthusiastic about having to detour my walks now that the rainy season has begun.

A friend who has operated a small business in downtown Eugene for many years has told me of being charged several hundred dollars for the convenience of vacating a couple of metered parking places adjacent to his store for a couple of days to facilitate a construction project he recently completed. I would hope that the city has made a commensurate charge to the Capstone people for vacating Olive Street. Or, is this kind of charge reserved just for small businesses in Eugene?

In the meantime, I wonder when Olive Street will be available for use again.

Jim Dotson, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: A spokesperson for Capstone tells us Olive has been open for limited vehicle traffic since early October but foot traffic will not be available until sidewalks on Olive are rebuilt in late spring or early summer. City Public Works tells us Capstone has paid about $26,000 in right-of-way use fees for Olive Street, the sidewalks and a shorter term closure of the alley north of the project.

 

WHERE’S THE IMBALANCE?

 In the Nov. 21 Letters, two north Eugene neighborhood leaders complain that the city purchasing Civic Stadium would add to the imbalance of parks between north and south Eugene. They refer to some facts from the city’s database but their argument is very misleading. They lump all park acreages together to try and show that there is more park acreage in the south. Let’s take a closer look. 

There are all kinds of parks which provide different benefits. Regional parks, like Spencer Butte and the Ridgeline Trail in the south, provide hiking opportunities for all Eugene residents. However, not everyone wants or has the time to go hiking. Neighborhood parks provide a close-by open space for casual use, especially useful for families with small children. As it happens, north Eugene has 32 neighborhood parks totaling 144 acres while the south has 24 neighborhood parks totaling 97 acres (see wkly.ws/1mm). Which kind of park do you think the majority of Eugene residents use? I would bet on the neighborhood parks of which 57 percent are in the north (60 percent by acreage). 

What disturbs me the most about the complainers’ letter is that as neighborhood leaders, they are supposed to be trying to promote inclusiveness and neighborhood cooperation, not an us-versus-them mentality. And with an issue like Civic Stadium, so important to the future of our business districts and our economy, I have to question their priorities when they try to create false issues in such a divisive manner.

 Carlos Barrera, vice chair,  Friendly Area Neighbors

 

UNFAIR AUCTION

I think the Eugene School Board should be sent on a sabbatical — to Eugene in 1938. They should be forced to look at the pride of accomplishment by the ghosts of old, forced to look at the children with smiles curving to their ears. A new recreation field! A new stadium! Safe places where their children could go.

Seeing that joy, our current school board members might reason differently. Despite 25 percent unemployment, our descendants had created something solid. It was not just the stadium; it was that the School Board and City Council worked together for the right reasons — community and children.

Now fast forward to the present. What we have is a School Board waiting breathlessly for Kroger’s [Fred Meyer’s] highest offer. If they accept that offer it would not be a community achievement, it would be a corporation for-profit achievement. By accepting that offer they will be throwing the children and members of this community in the back seat, making our grassroots initiatives and dreams baseless confetti. Our community cannot be proud of their efforts, but then a Scrooge is a Scrooge.

For Pete’s sake, put an end to this unfair auction and do what is right — put the Y and Civic Stadium at Civic. Our community would be proud of that.

 Joe R. Blakely, Eugene

 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

This entire [proposed] performance auditor function should be put in the hands of a nonprofit entity, perhaps to provide audits to several local government entities, funded entirely with tax-deductible contributions by the private sector, the citizens, grants, volunteers and anyone who wants to contribute. It would be reportable to the elected officials, the public sector, the private sector and the citizens, or a website where everyone could have access to the reports and the responses by elected officials.

Everyone outside of government should have access to these reports and the responses. But both the auditor’s report and the response should be released at the same time.

The state auditor and the CPA audits are not an acceptable substitute. The CPA audits do not perform any of the performance auditor functions and the state auditor is always too little, too late.

During my four years as an internal auditor with the U.S. Treasury Department we never had any trouble justifying out existence. Sometimes management agreed with us — sometimes not.

For any government entity to continue to get funding, it needs creditability.

Frank Skipton, CPA, Springfield

 

WHO’S AFRAID OF AUDITOR?

Forget about auditing the Eugene budget, that’s a puppy dog compared to the real troublemaker, the Big Bad Wolf disguised as the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). 

You say you never heard of it? That’s because it’s the brother locked away in the basement that the city never talks about. It’s time we let an honest performance auditor analyze it, so we can get it out of the basement and into the daylight where it belongs. It’s been giving Eugeneans nothing but unnecessary taxes for years. 

Bet you didn’t know it has $117.9 million in available funds it’s keeping from us. It invests those funds in some of the largest and detrimental corporations on earth, like Monsanto. Watch “Jerry Day CAFR” on YouTube.

Abraham Likwornik, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: See our story on the budget and Eugene’s unaudited CAFR in our Mar. 28 story, web archives at wkly.ws/1ml.

 

DEFYING THE VOTERS

EW’s support for the City Club of Portland’s call to repeal the voter-approved Measures 5 and 47/50 is disturbing [see Slant, 11/21]. Presumably, the recommendation is for a legislative repeal. 

Doesn’t anyone remember what happened the last time the Legislature thumbed its nose at a voter tax mandate? The voter mandate in that case was the defeat of Ballot Measure 28 in 2003. M28 proposed a “temporary” 1 percent increase in Oregon’s income tax. The Oregon Legislature pursued this matter in the ethical and responsible way by referring M28 to the voters. But the voters shot it down.

Undeterred, the Legislature passed House Bill 2152 in the 2003 session to impose an income tax hike anyway, the voters be damned. It took hardly any time for us to gather more than enough signatures to stick HB 2152 “where the sun don’t shine” — which angry Oregon voters did by better than 3-2 in February 2004 (Ballot Measure 30).

The fundamental money problem is that the cost of the public sector continues to escalate while the average income in the private sector continues to shrink. It’s an unsustainable situation.

If the Legislature wants to place a referendum on Measures 5 and/or 47/50 before the voters, I’m fine with that. But to anyone suggesting an outright repeal, I say, “Go ahead — make our day!”

 Jerry Ritter, Springfield

 

CLIMATE VIOLENCE

Business as usual has resulted in terroristic violence from storms intensified by the climate crisis. We must stop this violent destruction! America and the world must be protected, because we know it is getting worse.

It will take a mobilization like WWII. Fossil fuel industries must be converted to renewable energy. No more corporate smokestacks, forest burnings nor extractions that damage forest lands. There need to be quick steps on the way toward safety with severe emission limitations on factories, buildings and automobiles as new technologies are built.

9-11 brought us terroristic violence. Our government took strong actions. Present climate violence is much more like Pearl Harbor. America needs to protect our homeland and our planet from real, present and increasing climate violence.

Jerry Smith, Eugene

 

JFK and VIETNAM

Corporate media continue to promote the false narrative that John Kennedy wanted to escalate further in Vietnam before his assassination and that Lyndon Johnson was simply continuing his Vietnam directives after taking office. The truth is that Kennedy not only was going to de-escalate but had plans to completely withdraw troops and advisers by the end of 1965.

In 1998 the Assassination Records Review Board released a number of records, including Memorandum NSAM 263 signed by JFK on Oct. 11, 1963, an order to withdraw 1,000 troops out of roughly 16,000 Americans stationed in Vietnam by the end of 1963, with the complete withdrawal by the end of 1965. It was also stated in NSAM 263 that this was to remain secret until after the 1964 presidential election. Kennedy stated that he did not want to be perceived as “soft on communism” before the election but was willing to accept the backlash after the election, which he knew would be fierce.

The evidence is clear and incontrovertible that Kennedy had plans to deescalate in Vietnam and that the U.S. media are either consciously stifling this narrative or incredibly negligent. The military contractors knew they would be losing hundreds of billions in weapons contracts if Kennedy was re-elected. It would be profoundly ignorant to ignore this historical context when seeking the truth surrounding Kennedy’s assassination.

 Gerry Rempelm, Eugene

 

DEATH IS FEMININE

Note to Georgette Silber [Letters, 11/21], getting all huffy about French language: No hard feelings, but, I would suggest, before acting like an expert and correcting mistakes that are not mistakes, make sure that you don’t embarrass yourself by showing a touch of humilité

La mort (death) is in fact feminine in the French language. A dead person (if male) is un mort (masculine) or une morte (if a female). But death, you know, the Grim Reaper, is feminine in French, as is life (la vie). To be very ill (between life and death) in French is être entre la vie et la mort

That´s my grain de sel in this hugely important matter.

Marco Elliott, Eugene

 

REPUBLICANS ON BIKES

Just a few simple things concerning the safety and rights of our city’s bike riders: Follow the laws; many do not do this. See eye-to-eye before you dash in front of a car, even when you have the right-of-way. Just yesterday we were turning from Hwy. 99 heading south onto Roosevelt, going west, and this woman cyclist just dashed right in front of us without looking at us at all. I was like, “Wow! How stupid is that.” It was night as well and you could barely see her.

Then there are the riders who go on the shared bike/pedestrian paths who almost run you over with no apology. They refuse to slow down. The law says foot traffic has the right-of-way, yet these bike riders don’t seem to think so. I have lost my respect for people like this, and I swear they must be Republicans all dressed up in their fancy riding gear on their expensive bicycles. Tsk.

 Lyn Mor, Eugene

 

A THANKSGIVING WISH

The story of Thanksgiving means something different to the First Nation, because after the peaceful encounter, European settlers began to encroach upon native lands, and close off their hunting grounds. We all know the story of treaties violated, natives relocated, and bureaucratic mismanagment. Today a $3.4 billion, 2009 settlement for mineral leases has not been paid to the tribes because Congress has not appropriated the money. The U.S. owes the American Native Peoples an overdue apology.

Now let’s apply this image to the present situation in Israel/Palestine. Israelis continue to encroach upon land in the West Bank regardless of world critical opinion. There will be no peace while the encroachment continues and the inequity of Israeli settlements in the West Bank replete with good roads and adequate water, while their Palestinian neighbor villages lack basic amenities is so striking.

While we can’t undo the damage we have inflicted upon the Native Peoples of America, we can use the power of sanctions and “tough love” to convince the Israelis to desist in their land grab and show the world that they can live in peace with neighbors whose ethnic/religious heritage is an historic reality.

May the spirit of coming together to meet as equals respecting common human values aid Secretary John Kerry in bridging the chasm that divides these two noble traditions.

Vincenza Scarpaci, Eugene

 

PALESTINE ALWAYS CENSORED

Project Censored got deserved attention in the EW cover story “Undercovered” Nov. 21. But the annual Project Censored overlooked — as it has for years — the single most under-reported story of the news media: how our nation shares guilt with Israel for its ongoing brutal expansion in Palestine.

Our behavior in behalf of Israel wastes lives and money by helping an illegal state steal land and kill a people who are forced into being refugees in their own country. I say illegal because the United Nations — at the behest of the West — in 1948 created a Zionist state by giving it land and homes that belong to Palestinians.

Many Americans stay unaware of this travesty because the news media refuse to say anything about it. Some suggest that is because those sympathetic to Israel control our newspapers and broadcasters. That may be partly true. But the big problem is failure of journalists to recognize and report on injustice when it is right in front of them.

No one has greater guilt than Project Censored, which poses as the conscience of the news media, while it continues to join them in ignoring the plight of Palestinians.

George Beres, Eugene