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Letters to the Editor: 4-23-2015

EWEB LISTENS

Being a public utility means listening to your customers. The Eugene Water & Electric Board did that last October when its elected commissioners adopted the first smart meter “opt-in” program in the nation. Customers who want to take advantage of new services (enhanced energy monitoring, new billing options, remote start and stop of service, better outage and leak detection, etc.) can choose to have a new meter installed to enable enhanced services.

Those who do not want the services will not have to do anything. They won’t have to “opt out” as they do in half of the nation, where more than 50 million advanced meters already are in service. EWEB also has no plans to levy a surcharge for reading meters manually, and the utility has taken steps to ensure that all meters will have UL certification — the gold standard for safety of electrical equipment.

These actions were preceded by more than two years of listening to customers, including a small number who remain opposed to allowing other customers a choice. The utility solicited additional expert opinions from the state of Oregon’s chief epidemiologist, the local health authority and other medical experts to help understand what, if any, health risks were posed.

Rather than “not listening,” as a recent viewpoint claimed, EWEB’s actions seem like the hallmark of a public utility that not only is listening to its customers but is acting in their best interest by carefully exploring and adopting sound technology to enhance customer service.

Angie R. Marzano, Eugene

 

TONE-DEAF MISSION?

I read with great interest [News section, 4/16] of the desire of owner-operator Colin Graham to open “an entirely queer-owned and queer-run business.” 

You see, for years now, I myself have cherished the dream of one day opening my own entirely straight-owned and straight-run business. 

A friend recently confessed to me his own bosom-wish of opening an entirely white-owned and white-run business. Meanwhile, online, I’ve made contact with a fellow who’d like to own an entirely Christian-owned and Christian-run business here in Eugene — but he was shy of relocating from his native Topeka, Kansas, fearing a left-wing ad-rag such as the Weekly would never air an outrageously tone-deaf mission statement. 

However, now each one of us has every confidence that the Weekly will not only highlight our planned business ventures, but additionally air our sincere reassurances in some successive paragraph that we (all of us) plan to make our businesses “inclusive, empowering and safe spaces.” 

Mahla Shaebanyan-Bady, Eugene

 

COMPLACENT EUGENE

EW’s “Biz Beat” April 9 noted that the new Whole Foods store “has been relatively uncontroversial” but was challenged when they tried to locate here in 2006.

In 2006, there was enough opposition to stop this big box chain store. Last year, when the City Council rubberstamped Whole Foods’ request, there were three people who spoke in opposition. The other two were the owner and an employee of Sundance Natural Foods. Whole Foods is being brought here by the Giustina timber company’s real estate division — a company that sprays poison from helicopters over their clearcuts.

Eugene is a more complacent community today, with little civic interest in challenging City Hall. A decade of ostensible liberal Democratic control has neutered most activists (even though the real power is held by the Republican city manager). 

Another factor is the decline of grassroots environmentalism, a national problem, not just a local issue. Greenwashing has become a substitute for understanding ecological problems. Democratic politicians (Kitty Piercy, Peter DeFazio, John Kitzhaber, President Obama) admit climate change is happening while they promote policies that make climate change worse.

Who remembers that a decade and a half ago, the issue of Nike sweatshops was a controversial concern for many UO students? 

Mark Robinowitz, sustaineugene.org

 

THE DUKE OF 4J

There’s a first time for everything. The other day during the NCAA championship game was the first time that I’ve taken a political phone call at the same time. As we both watched the game, a candidate for the local school board told me during the commercial breaks about how we starved our school system, dropping from fourth in the national bracket for best education system all the way down to 49th.

Let’s hear it for Kevin Cronin, the duke of the 4J School Board. It was unorthodox, but it was enlightening. Mr. Cronin, it was a pleasure. Good luck in your competition with our old Republican Mayor Jim Torrey for local 4J School Board. I’m a fan, and I’m rooting for you!

Ryan Kounovsky, UO student

 

HELP FOR HORSES

Picture a beautiful horse — a model of strength and grace, happy to carry you for work or play. Now picture that same horse, emaciated and with untreated wounds because the owner doesn’t care. Or picture that horse, still healthy but headed to slaughter because the owner can’t afford his care anymore.

Horse neglect and abuse is a huge problem in Lane County, and significant throughout the nation. That’s why the ASPCA created National Help a Horse Day, observed every April 26.

We operate Oregon Horse Rescue, one of our state’s larger nonprofit horse rescues/sanctuaries. (Find us on Facebook and at oregonhorserescue.com.) Help us help the horses: If you are aware of a horse not getting proper care, offer to help the owner with the horse’s care. If you are thinking of getting a horse, consider adopting a rescued horse. If you have the means, donate to an organization that helps these magnificent beings. The horses thank you.

David and Jane Kelly, Oregon Horse Rescue, Rural Eugene

 

TORREY’S LEADERSHIP

I enthusiastically support Jim Torrey’s candidacy for the Eugene School Board. Torrey is conscientious and knowledgeable about the complex challenges facing our schools. Anyone who has spent time with Jim knows that he cares deeply about the well-being of our community’s children and youth. He has served as a powerful voice on behalf of students and always used their best interests to guide his decisions. Our schools need the continuing benefit of Torrey’s passionate commitment and proven leadership. Please join me in re-electing Jim Torrey on May 19.

Marshall Peter, Eugene

 

THE WAR PRAYER

Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” depicts a group of hyper-religious citizens in mid-prayer, asking God to bring their military boys a crushing victory. God’s messenger arrives to describe the silent half of the prayer — that their military would destroy villages and leave the wounded screeching wildly.

It reminds me of Measure 5, passed as a prayer for lower property taxes. It was the most contentious tax measure in Oregon history, with roughly 500,000 votes on either side. The earnest prayer was that “future homeowner property tax payments would be lower with Measure 5 than without it, [Amen].”

War is zero-sum — education shouldn’t be.

The prayer was granted — our kids have heard the silent prayer. It’s a prayer to cut PE, theater, shop, music; to pack classrooms, eliminate nurses; to cut after-school programs that keep kids safe and engaged.

We’ve robbed our children of adequate education. Our schools have dropped from fourth best educational system to 49th.

That’s why I’m voting for Kevin Cronin for the 4J School Board, Position 5. He describes the long, difficult road before us if we really want to improve our schools. Cronin is the only candidate I’ve seen with the inspiration and plan to move Oregon schools forward — by organizing, one vote at a time.

Steve Coatsworth, Eugene

 

CRONIN: FRESH IDEAS

Seven decades of experience. That’s what Jim Torrey brings to the table. Torrey has a lot to show for those seven decades — not all good. I have no major complaints about his tenure as 4J School Board member. What 4J needs now, though, is fresh blood and fresh ideas, someone with youth and vigor to marry ideas to action.

Even though Torrey belonged to the Republican Party responsible for our current funding crisis, he does support school bonds that build new buildings. But we can’t even fill those buildings with enough teachers to keep core curriculum classes reasonable in size.

To do that, we must revisit the mistakes that put us here — mistakes Torrey at least tacitly supported and that the next generation must work to correct. We need someone to spark conversations in our local communities and lead us out of this mess.

Torrey has neither the time nor energy to correct these mistakes. Kevin Cronin — a committed Eugenean, age 25, young enough to experience the failings of our school system first-hand — does. He is my friend, and I have seen him organize small groups of people to achieve great things in his role as budget chair of LCC and his tireless work as a community organizer. Harnessing the power of common people, he has accomplished feats I thought impossible.

We need his unique ability to listen and lead. Eugene voters, join me by checking the ballot May 19 for Kevin Cronin for 4J School Board, Position 5. 

Constance Prior, Eugene

 

CONDUITS OF SPEECH?

The internet was an amazingly open and free “information system” — largely unregulated. No government really likes this, so a clever strategy was devised: We need to fear the evil internet service providers (ISPs) who just “might” offer different levels of service, a “slow lane” — heavens!

Quick, regulate them. Net neutrality re-classifies the internet as a telecommunication service that could be regulated by the FCC. The FCC had tried twice before, but the regs were thrown out by a federal court.

The strategy of the FCC was to vote first (three of five said yes) and then write the regulations. Well, they wrote 400 pages, now finally published.

Advocates of net neutrality should now read them. They do seem to stress that ISPs are not “speakers” but mere “conduits” of speech, thus they will be left alone. So who is the target of regulation?

Answer: You. Content regulation is coming along with the power to fine or worse. The FCC regulates TV content and the net is not likely to be different.

This was a scam inspired by WikiLeaks and the revelations of Edward Snowden. Maybe the court will throw it out again, or maybe just say goodbye to the free and open internet.

Maybe all you need to know is on TV?

So don’t just click “I agree” — read the 400 pages and see if you still think this is all good.

Michael Lee, Eugene

 

SLEEP DEPRIVATION

Eugene is abloom with “no trespassing” and “no camping” signs, an attempt by the city to close down traditional places where the homeless sleep.

 So where exactly should the homeless sleep? Strange, how that question is never really answered except by a vague sense of somewhere else — somewhere where they won’t be our problem.

 But there is nowhere else. All Oregon’s cities have homeless populations; all the powers-that-be wish the homeless were somewhere else. The police get the terrible job of rousting the homeless and telling them to move on.

What if every night when you lay down, you had to worry that you would be rudely awakened, that your possessions might be stolen, and that you might end up in jail? What if you had PTSD, as do many of our homeless veterans, or an addiction or were on the edge of a mental breakdown?

 Sleep deprivation could push you over the edge. And it does push many unhoused over the edge, making them a danger to themselves and others, and creating a bigger public safety issue than a few people sleeping under a highway bridge.

 Experts tell us that sleep deprivation can lead to hypertension, diabetes, irritability and hallucinations. It is used as a form of torture and can even kill us.

Let’s become a more humane society here in Oregon and end the criminalization of rest.

 Vickie Nelson, Eugene

 

DEADLINE NEARS

Have you protected your right to vote? The deadline for new voters to register is April 28 to vote in the May 19 election. However, currently registered voters must update their registrations if they have moved, have a new mailing address or changed their names.

 Fortunately, updating your registration is easy, and you have until 8 pm the day of the election. You can re-register by going to the Lane County Government web page lanecounty.org and clicking on “Elections” under the “Your Government” tab. That page has links to the Oregon secretary of state’s voter registration pages and provides additional information, including a form to check the status of your registration and whether you need to re-register. Another option is going to the Lane County Elections Department office at 275 W. 10th Ave. in Eugene. You may have to do that if you have waited until close to the election date.

 The May ballot will include Lane County’s vehicle registration fee and a variety of school board and special district issues, including candidate elections. Remember, voting is our opportunity to make our voices heard on the questions that matter to our communities. We all need to weigh in.

 Rhonda Livesay, Voter Service chair

League of Women Voters of Lane County