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Letters to the Editor: 1-2-2014

BETTER THERAPY AHEAD

I thank Catherine Burke-Maher for her thoughtful reply [12/19] to my letter [12/12] on the “Cuckoo’s Nest Option” for cleaning up downtown Eugene. While I do not feel wise, I am old enough to be the father of any reader here up to 70 years of age.

I don’t suppose I will ever fully recover from the shock of Ken Kesey’s great story. The personal experience you recount is parallel to that, but you do not say when that was. Since the new Oregon State Hospital (OSH) is still under construction, I do not know what it will be like; we do not have the facts. To say that it could be as bad as the old OSH is an uncertainty that we as citizens always face as part of the human condition.

But your comments raise an issue that is sorely neglected. The citizens of Eugene should be on top of major issues related to the new OSH. The new OSH must be a lot better than the old OSH in treating mental illness. If not, the citizens should march up to Junction City and burn it down. Starting with Gov. Kitzhaber, I feel some hope that Oregon can be a national leader in the humane treatment of mental illness.

We incarcerate people all the time for many reasons. But if mental health is too circumscribed for incarceration, when it is needed for the public good, this is not an absolute judgment. It is a question of alternatives. In Eugene the alternative may be the worst choice, because there is no alternative.

What we have are anecdotes. After a nice lunch at Poppi’s Anatolia, I was walking downtown on Willamette on a cold December day when a corpulent man with a big beard approached me. Every inch of him was dirty. His clothes were torn and flapping in the wind. He was barefoot and his feet were the dirtiest part. He carried a cardboard sign that said something like: “Look at me, I am dirty.” I call him “DirtyE.”

Now DirtyE’s civil rights may entitle him to be anywhere in the city. But the citizens of Eugene are entitled to have a clean and attractive downtown, which they are paying for. I have great empathy for the police officers that we ask to monitor the homeless population so that we can have an attractive city.

Another example: I quote from the Civil Liberties [Defense Center] section of the EW [Give Guide] Dec. 19. “a local homeless man with severe bipolar disorder and psychosis … was forced to endure inhumane conditions and was critically injured while incarcerated in Lane County Adult Correctional Facility for 13 days.” I awake at night, hearing his screams.

The other issue raised by Burke-Maher is that Thomas Egan would not have decided to freeze to death, as she said I said. I will clarify, saying that Egan was doing what he wanted to do, and did not care if he froze to death. But who can know what Thomas Egan was really thinking when he lay down under a soft blanket of Christmas snow with a bottle by his side? A couple of days after his death, an obituary by a close friend appeared in the R-G. I have taken my views from that article.

J. C. Helmer, Eugene

 

MORE TREE HUGGERS

How about adding to the “Tree Huggers” section of your valuable Give Guide [12/19] our totally local WREN organization? A small nonprofit, the Willamette Resources and Educational Network last year helped over 1,350 elementary school children, plus over a thousand more community members and families, hug (metaphorically at least) the ducks, snakes, dragonflies and varied creatures of our rich West Eugene Wetlands. WREN (wewetlands.org) offers field trips, classroom programs and free Wetland Wanders and Family Exploration Days for the public. 

Sara van Dyck, Eugene

 

MISINFORMATION

In response to Gwen Heineman’s multiple letters about Cover Oregon (10/24, 12/12): She is simply incorrect when she claims that the families of OHP recipients will be billed by the state after the person’s death. Members of the Oregon Health Plan will not be subject to estate recovery for coverage that starts Oct. 1, 2013, or later.

Ms. Heineman’s misunderstanding of the benefits offered by Cover Oregon is not uncommon. This is a complicated topic, and misinformation abounds. Working at White Bird Clinic as a Cover Oregon Community Partner, I deal with clients who have heard a wide variety of rumors regarding their health insurance options. If you or anyone you know has questions about Cover Oregon, I encourage you to contact a certified agent or community partner. We can provide you with accurate, up-to-date information and assist you with your application.

In Lane County, these services are available at White Bird Clinic as well as at Community Health Centers of Lane County (Charnelton and Riverbend locations), Centro LatinoAmericano, and The Child Center. Contact information for community partner organizations can be found at coveroregon.com. Just click the link labeled “get free assistance.”

We are here to provide assistance and information, not to force anyone into choosing coverage that they feel is a poor fit.

 Kate Wheeler, Program Coordinator, Sharing Healthcare Options Program (SHOP), White Bird Clinic

 

FILLING THE GAP

For six months now we have heard from the city that they need to “fill the gap.” Come Jan. 19 we will be given a choice of how we will want it filled to close the gap on next year’s budget. Six different choices!

All of them involve “cuts,” meaning, firing people. So who would you choose to unemploy in this economy?

No, you can’t talk about filling the gap with new revenue. It was decided last September that that was forbidden. We have had six months of talk about where we would cut services or jobs and not a word on how we could raise more money to fill the gap.

There are reserves — sometimes called “one-time money.” That is assumed by some to be forbidden money. The solution is to name that money something else. It’s sort of been earmarked for a new City Hall, but not committed to it. We could label that money a “banana.” Then we could spend it without a guilty conscience. Now, take the next six months to try to fill the gap in the following year with new revenue.

Maybe, with the revenues getting better each year, we will have solved the problem. Or maybe we can figure out a way to raise new revenue.

Bob Cassidy, Eugene

 

DESIGN TRAVESTY

Over the past year I’ve watched with interest as the Capstone Building has been built between Willamette and Olive. Now that the exterior is nearing completion, it’s become apparent that the building has only one public entrance. One! For a five-story building which encompasses much of two city blocks, this seems extraordinary. Never mind the fire hazard or logistical inconvenience for residents. From a design perspective, a single public entrance is a travesty.

Large buildings downtown are part of the urban fabric. Even if privately owned, they have a civic duty to physically engage the surrounding public space. A building which aims its attention inward while ignoring its neighbors does not belong downtown. It belongs in a suburb. How did this building pass the city’s design review? Were any modifications suggested? 

If we want a healthy city core, it requires a foundation of smart physical construction. I hope that future buildings downtown are held to a more thoughtful and urban-based standard.

Blake Andrews, Eugene

 

LYING BY OMISSION

Shannon Finnell reports [12/19] that Whoville campers worry that the city of Eugene will close their camp, just like they unexpectedly closed the Occupy Eugene camp in December 2011. She writes, “The council and EPD had no plans to close the Occupy Eugene camp at Washington-Jefferson Park during winter break. By Christmas [of 2011], it was closed.” Nowhere does she mention that the reason for the sudden closure was an episode of violence that resulted in a person’s death. To leave out such a salient fact amounts to lying by omission. 

C’mon, EW. As I and others have admonished you in the past, you need to tighten up that reporting and editing! 

Kelley Blewster

Springfield

EDITOR’S NOTE: Richard Youngblood’s tragic death was the impetus for the city to close the Occupy camp, just as Whovilllians fear reports of a “stabbing” could lead to the closing of their camp, but many point out that Youngblood was not a part of Occupy and in fact it was Occupy medics who kept him alive so he could get to the hospital. 

 

LANDWATCH IGNORED

Regarding the Give Guide in your recent [12/19] edition of EW:

Considering that had it not been for the successful effort of LandWatch Lane County (LW) to stop it in 1996, 700,000 acres of commercial forestland would have been opened up to real estate development; considering that since then LW has been working to protect farmland, forestland, natural areas and open space in Lane County; and with Goal One Coalition, natural areas and resource lands throughout the state — accomplishments and goals we thought the Weekly supports — how is it, then, that on your Christmas list we don’t merit even an honorable mention? Are we too unsexy for your taste?

What gives?

Robert Emmons, LandWatch Lane County, Fall Creek

 

BEYOND JUST THANKS

Thank you Lisa Arkin and her dedicated volunteers at Beyond Toxics for exposing the atrocious practice of chemical spraying on Oregon industrial forests. Countless hours of research produced a shocking report showing the serious risk posed to people, drinking water and salmon.

The carcinogen 2,4-D and the endocrine disruptor atrazine are sprayed from helicopters with no groundwater protection, minimal surface water and drinking water protections. Landowners must pay for vague spray notifications and posted spray records are not available to exposed individuals.

The Oregon State Forest Practices Act allows this immoral assault on Oregonians, while California, Washington, Idaho and Federal lands have significantly more protective laws governing aerial herbicide spraying. 

If you are as outraged as I, inform your state representative that the Oregon State Forest Practices Act must be changed and join me in making a tax-deductible contribution to Beyond Toxics.

Michael J. Heil, Eugene

HELP FOR PETS

I enjoyed reading the Dec. 19 Give Guide, but I was surprised that Hounds and Homeless was not listed under local groups to contribute to in “PETS, PETS, PETS!” Hounds and Homeless is responsible for rescuing, boarding and placing animals in homes here in Lane County. 

Three weeks ago this organization held a free dog and cat vaccination clinic in downtown Eugene for unhoused pet owners. I have had the pleasure of working with Megan Adler ever since she showed up offering help at the first Whoville camp. Hounds and Homeless exclusively provided food, veterinary vouchers, warm animal clothing, leashes and more to the pets of Whoville. Please give this wonderful organization the recognition they have earned.

Todd Hurlburt aka Tinman, Eugene

WHY DOWNTOWN?

In my opinion many people don’t want a “downtown comeback.” It would be interesting to see how many manhours and how much money has been pumped into projects to bring this about. 

I think there are several reasons for people not caring about a comeback. Some people chose to avoid it as a protest long ago to the closing of Willamette Street, just one reason. Others much prefer to use the shopping malls, for various reasons: free parking, security and, in inclement weather, all under one roof.

 Lisa Tyler, Springfield

 

UNDER APPRECIATED

I just wanted to write in and express my gratitude for the lovely workers at the Eugene Public Library. I have had many positive interactions with a lot of the staff members and no way to say thank you. I thought to see if they had an employee of the month award that I could recommend someone for, unfortunately they do not. Today, which is Christmas Eve, I had the chance to see how the EPL staff handled a less grateful clientele. A man came into the library and then continued on to be very pompous and offensive, asking such things as “Who pays your salary?”

I am writing this letter not only to praise the everyday efforts of the staff members, but also to let them know that their cool and professional demeanor even in the face of a Grinch has been appreciated and noticed. I wish those particular staff members the very best this holiday season and once again a big thank you for helping our community in becoming and staying a beautiful place. 

Osianna Cornell, Eugene