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Letters to the Editor: 2-19-2015

WHAT UBER DOES

The Eugene City Council recently voted to have Uber abide by taxi regulations, jeopardizing Uber’s future in Eugene. On the surface this may appear as if the city is acting in the residents’ best interest. Its argument is that taxi licensing ensures that drivers are vetted and accounted for. Yet Uber does state and federal criminal background checks and a 10-year driver history check. What Uber does that taxi companies don’t do is put its driver information on the internet, as well as precisely document every ride online. 

The question stands then: If Uber exceeds industry standard safety regulations, why is the City Council so insistent on making it abide by the city’s taxi regulations? I trust readers to draw their own conclusions. But it should be noted that taxi licensing costs money that goes to the city.

It should also be noted that Mothers Against Drunk Driving released a study showing that drunk driving significantly decreased when Uber entered a market.

I am an artist, I am a teacher, I am an Uber driver, trying my hardest to make ends meet in a community I love. I’m not the big corporate guy. But who is your city government?

Steve Buettler, Eugene

 

NEW CITY POLICY NEEDED

It’s becoming tricky for our leaders to legislate the local economy. Uber and Airbnb are two of the largest examples of an emerging economic boom that is taking place around the U.S. I personally feel that it’s a pretty great trend. I’m not making claims that these are benevolent companies that want to encourage the growth of a “sharing economy.” These are still very much large corporations that are looking mostly at quarterly profits. Still, it’s a step in an interesting direction and one I think we should pay attention to and not hinder.

Eugene wants Uber to pay the same modest fees for licensing that taxi companies pay. That seems fine and reasonable at the first glance, but there is a lot more to this. I’m sure that normally Uber would be happy to oblige and would even like a healthy relationship with the city. The problem is that it has potential to set legal precedence that they are taxi companies, which could cost them millions in places like New York City. Are they taxi companies? The end result for the consumer is certainly the same, but they have a radically different business model.

I’ve heard a lot of people discussing safety issues as being the primary reason for the licensing requirement. Maybe we should be looking at these requirements a little differently. Let’s do away with traditional licensing. Eugene could set up a unique designation, whether we’re talking about transportation services like this, temporary housing or any of the other types of “shared” services that we will be inundated with in the coming years. 

Find a way to keep the background check requirements if that makes people feel better, but do away with the traditional licensing that would link these services directly with their soon-to-be antiquated counterparts so that legal precedence is less of an issue. A new designation is needed as this is not likely a short-lived trend. I just hope that lawmakers can make new policy instead of banning anything that doesn’t fit quite right into the old policy.

And let’s not pretend that taxi companies are the most benevolent employers either. They hire their workers like strip clubs do: independent contractors with no guaranteed wages and next to no labor rights.

On a side note: When a group is interested in getting citizens to reach out and petition their local government to make policy changes, I think it’s pretty horrible that the government would attack it on Twitter for doing so — like the city of Eugene did recently [see http://wkly.ws/ly6].

Christopher Anglin, Eugene

 

HITTING THE POOR

The proposed Lane County annual vehicle registration fee is a negative potential revenue generating idea. Oregon has been recognized two years running by national moving company United Van Lines as the number one inbound relocation destination, and our county commissioners are cooking up new taxes to ensure newcomers are detoured from choosing Lane County. 

It’s not hard to choose between a county that charges entrance fines and one that does not. You can be sure, many who already live in the county are going to figure out how to either move out of the county or get rid of currently registered vehicles. You know who is really going to scramble: the poor. Though the fees are not significant to wealthy people, like our commissioners, the majority of Lane County’s residents are going to be hit hard. Many of the wealthy will just change their residence to another county or state, where they have another home, to avoid the fees, if they feel it at all. 

The fees are being collected as a tax to repair our roads. They will be flat fees, no matter your vehicle, within two broad classes: $35 for each car, truck and trailer (above and below specific weights), or $20 for motorcycles. So, it’s the same price for a compact car as it is for a monster truck with 42-inch tires? Who is damaging the road more? 

Another consideration should be given to our small business owners, who struggle to maintain service vehicles and trailers. This is just one more slap during a hard economy. Have our commissioners considered the lost potential tax revenue of the detoured incoming future residents, the outstream of current residents or the registered vehicles that will be taken off the rolls? Fortunately, by some grace, the commissioners are putting it up to a vote. Vote “no” in May and then vote out the commissioners who came up with the idea.

Sam Dantone, Florence

 

BALANCE OF POWER

UO head coach gets a $17.5 million contract. Eugene taxpayers get a dollar from the UO for prime downtown city owned property. Makes me dizzy. 

Vince Loving, Eugene

 

NINKASI NOISEFEST

I do not like playing dodgeball. It is a mean-spirited sport that pits the strong against the weak and plays out until everyone but one person has been injured and knocked out of the game. Just like Brian Green [Letters, 2/12], many neighbors have been living in misery since Ninkasi’s 220 Blair St. operation went online. The 24/7 noise is debilitating and akin to having a semitruck idling in your home. The noise is constant with intermittent noxious odor. The sound often exceeds 60 decibels and registers as high as 50 decibels in my home. All rooms are affected. I am awakened several times a night by the unsettling monotonous tone and vibration. It gives me heart palpitations.

It will soon be a year since Nikos Ridge assured us of his commitment to resolving the negative impact of placing a multimillion-dollar operation against established residential homes in the Whiteaker. The architect and design of the manufacturing warehouse placed cooling fans exhausting directly on the residential homes instead of the commercial side of their operations.

I have been told by neighbors that the impact of this drawn-out noisefest has brought about suicidal thoughts, lack of sleep, depression, negative feelings, hate, desperation, illness, ill will, depreciation of property with long-term residents vested in the Whiteaker looking at options to sell their homes and dreams just to escape the noise. I haven’t been in my yard or used the hot tub since last February. 

On Feb. 2, Ridge held a meeting at the administration building for those affected to meet with the sound engineer. Neighbors were not given ample notice nor may not have received an invitation because their contact information was not available to Ninkasi. However, three neighbors along with Whiteaker Community Council Chair Sam Hahn attended. Currently, the project has been stalled due to the bankruptcy of the steel manufacturer. This project is complex with very few companies able to meet the standards required. We are assured that they are working on finding someone to finish the project.

I want Ninkasi to buy my home so that I can get on with my life. I want out of the dodgeball lineup.

Marcia Knee, Eugene

 

PIZZA FRISK

Last Tuesday [2/10] I went to Cozmic to see a band. As I walked through the door to pay the cover, I noticed two security guards fully clad in near-military style black garments, one with an American flag strapped to his chest and the other wielding a metal detector. One of these security guards had a gentleman with his hands against the wall, searching him near his genital area. I immediately asked for my money back and left promptly. 

Is there really a need for security at such a venue? If someone was driven to terrorize, I can guarantee these two security guards couldn’t have stopped it. What is the difference between someone going down the street to Sizzle Pie, walking in and causing harm to its patrons?

The mentality of the police state has become so infectious that hordes of people, simply going in to a local pizza joint, will willfully subject themselves to grave violations of their personal space and gross infringements on our natural-born, God-given, self-evident rights. Next time you walk into a Pizza Hut and order a Stuffed Crust Supreme, just imagine how good that pizza would taste if you just had your private parts handled by a stranger. 

Marty Leeds, Eugene

 

THE ETHOS OF MONEY

Thank you, Philip Goss [“Violating Whose Rights?” letter, 2/ 12], for demonstrating the intolerance, privilege and hypocrisy that typifies the dark side of those who wear the badge of “American values” on their chest.

While there are many decent business owners downtown and legitimate problems they face, it seems that “primacy of profit” and “money equals rights” is a growing ethos, as the exclusion zone grows with more classes of people being added to the list of those not welcomed downtown.

A previous writer on these pages likened downtown to a theme park. After the privatization of sidewalks, what’s next? Building a fence around downtown and charging admission? This in a town where a quarter of the residents live in poverty? It’s hard not to see this as part of the growing economic bifurcation of society. But there are better solutions than economic discrimination.

Jim Stauffer, Eugene

 

MULTIPLE CRITERIA

I can’t be your wingman, because I am a grammar Nazi single lady. But, Camilla [Mortensen], criteria is plural, criterion is singular. I was disappointed to see in only the second paragraph of the article, “Your Grammar Needs a Wingman,” Feb. 12, that you said “criteria even seems” instead of “seem.” Trying to give the benefit of the doubt, I was horrified to read, about halfway through, the phrase “that criteria.”

Remember glass houses.

Cheryl K. Smith, Cheshire

EDITOR’S NOTE: Criteria has been commonly used as a singular noun for decades and is now considered acceptable (even if not proper) in conversation and most media. Data is another example of an evolving word; the singular “datum” is rarely used today.

 

CUTTING CARBON

I am so excited by the possibilities that this carbon bill could bring [see story on Tom Bowerman’s Climate Stability and Justice Act, 1/29]. For too long I have been sitting around waiting for Oregon to be the progressive green state that we all want it to be. Our use of sustainable resources is astonishing. Currently, less than 1 percent of our energy is coming from the sun, and I think that is embarrassing. We need to be promoting many more bills like this that will increase our uses of sustainable energy sources if we ever want to become a leader in environmental action.

Caitlin Feely, Eugene

 

CLAIM RELIGION

To Geoffrey Barrett [Letters, 2/12] and any other parents who wish to withhold their children from participating in the ever-increasing number of standardized tests at public schools: You can claim the religious exemption. The state defines religion as “a set of beliefs,” and it is illegal for any part of the government (including the school district) to ask what your religion is. Certainly you do have a set of beliefs which is guiding your decision, so you are not lying. All you have to do is tell the school “I claim the religious exemption,” and they will have to abide by your decision not to have your children participate in standardized testing. 

Sharon Blick, Eugene

 

DEPLETION DENIAL

EW’s article “Legalizing reduction with a bill to cap and cut Oregon’s carbon emissions” (1/29) had math errors. The article quoted State Sen. Doug Whitsett, claiming he dismissed local environmental efforts since Oregon only has “.0000057 percent of the global population.” Whether he used this figure or EW misquoted him, it is off by a factor of 10,000. Oregon has about four million people and the world has over seven billion, so we’re about .0005 of the world (.05 percent).

A bigger math error is the pretense that we’re going to decide emission limits “for the next 35 years.” I realize it’s politically incorrect to discuss fossil fuel depletion, but in 2050 the Alaska Pipeline will be long abandoned, the fracking bubble will be over and we will be lucky to have any fossil fuels to worry about restricting.

Oregon’s Constitution requires that motor fuels taxes must be dedicated to highway construction. Therefore, the carbon tax under consideration in Salem would have to allocate any new tax on gasoline, diesel and other motor fuels for more bypasses and highway widenings. 

It is theoretically possible to remove this constitutional restriction. But who would champion this cause? Oregon’s environmental groups ignore Gov. John Kitzhaber’s nearly $20 billion of highway expansion. See peaktraffic.org.

Living on our solar budget would power a much smaller, steady state economy not based on endless growth on a finite planet. Depletion denial is more popular than climate denial. Peak energy and climate chaos are two aspects of overshoot; neither can be mitigated without the other. See peakchoice.org.

Mark Robinowitz, Eugene

 

 

QUALITY OF LIFE

I was stopped at a light on 6th Avenue and noticed some pedestrians getting ready to cross the street. What caught my eye was the look of worry and trepidation on this woman’s face as she guided her child, holding both hands, through the valley of steel. Both of their eyes were fixed on the five lanes of huge trucks and cars that waited momentarily to resume velocity. The difference was that her face registered fear, and the innocent child whom she sought to preserve’s eyes shone big and trusting, not realizing, as she did, that one false move would squish them.

I, and others, love trees. Tibetans preserve worms when building. Could we not have a transportation plan that preserves trees? LTD sent out a giant postcard promoting the tree killing on 6th and 7th avenues. In it they say “New plants to help clean streams; and more room to grow, in better soil.” Didn’t the old trees help clean streams even more than new trees, and are they going to change the soil and actually give them more room (not so in the pictures on the other side which show the new trees planted in narrow squares). 

Every picture is a before and after of an area devoid of trees and then planted with new trees. Who would object to that? I object to the clearcut that is taking place every night of all the established trees that have miraculously honored us by growing, some for over 100 years, to make way for “progress.” Couldn’t it be designed to accommodate the trees? Who made that decision and why?

Our lives are eroded in big and small ways as we struggle to live, and we seem powerless to stop it.

Jean Denis, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some information on the decision process and the tree-planting beds can be found in our Oct. 2, 2014 story at http://wkly.ws/1xv.

 

CALL TO ARMS, OVERHEAD

Where is the NRA when you need them? Oregon is ready to pass a law outlawing hunting with drones. The right to possess an armed UVA (unmanned aerial vehicle) is guaranteed by the Constitutions. When you consider the diminishing population of fair game, the only way to give hunters a sporting chance is to defeat House Bill 2534.     

Vince Loving, Eugene

 

PROTECTING THIEVES

In Obama’s new budget he wants to hit the $2 trillion offshore tax-dodging bank accounts American corporations have stashed to jumpstart infrastructure jobs to repair roads and bridges. A good idea but Republican Mitch McConnell says it’s dead on arrival in Congress.

Is it just me or don’t you think it’s un-American for our elected leaders to protect this thievery? I blame both parties for putting the endless tax burden on workers while the interests of 10 percent of our population live in opulence. The only thing these cats do is make a few phone calls in the morning and then issue orders to their servants (us) the rest of the day.

These same jetsetters are the armchair hawks that send our kids into global conflicts so their kids are safe to intermarry within the elite bubble. Aren’t you tired of bailing out bankers and stockholders without a vote, trimming down our retirement security while issuing blank checks to police the planet, and supporting a stingy bunch of egomaniacs to keep this deplorable status quo going? In the meantime the media blinds us with celebrity worship, cyber drama and economic psychoblab.

It’s time to cold shoulder the wealthy gated communities who live high on union-busting so they can park free money in the Bahamas. We need a labor party with teeth in it to dissolve these congressmen and senators who are dominated by the real white trash representing this country today. I’d rather pick our leaders randomly from the phone books similar to how the Greeks began democracy than to choose between two vented oligarchy butt-kissers again in another meaningless election.

Woody Woodmark, Eugene