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Letters to the Editor: 9-3-2015

HOUSING FIRST IS HERE

Contrary to information provided in the Aug. 20 “Housing First?” cover feature, Eugene does have true Housing First, and ShelterCare has been a leader in implementing this effective but not-so-new model since 2006. That year, we used a private grant to launch The Inside Program (TIP), our initial Housing First venture. 

At launch, the program supported just a half-dozen housing units, but state money soon allowed expansion to 28 units. TIP no longer operates, having been replaced by other programs, but the Housing First strategy it pioneered maintains an important role at ShelterCare. 

Currently, our agency manages five different funding streams explicitly requiring the use of Housing First criteria when selecting participants. Together, these programs support a robust supply of roughly 100 Housing First beds. Does Housing First make sense for Eugene? Yes it does, as ShelterCare has proven for nearly a decade. 

We welcome any efforts to expand funding to support this highly effective model and look forward to continuing our role as a leader in finding innovative ways to permanently shelter our community’s homeless men, women and children.

Susan Ban, Executive director of ShelterCare

 

 

DELAY DECISION

The Eugene City Council owes it to the residents of south Eugene to postpone any decision on the South Willamette rezoning proposal until spring to allow time for us to be truly informed and heard.

I live in south Eugene and I frequent South Willamette for shopping and passing through. I have a stake in maintaining the area's residential character and not becoming more crowded and dense. Congestion from 24th to 29th is already a problem. 

Significant environmental damage would be done by the removal of old and majestic trees, replacing beautiful views with tall apartment buildings, and the general degradation of the area with structures like the Capstone tenements, which most agree have degraded the quality of downtown. 

But as flawed as the rezoning plan itself is, the more immediate problem is the process the city has followed. Staff says it did its due diligence with informing the community and soliciting input. How does one gauge this? Is it by the fact that “efforts were made,” no matter how ineffectual? The city hosted a low-key, poorly publicized meeting in May at the Public Library downtown, a safe distance away, assuring very little attendance by potentially affected residents. 

While this may have met the letter of the law, it minimized public involvement. 

Having attended several neighborhood meetings recently, it is clear to me that most residents in the areas that would be affected do not know about the plan or its potential impact on them. 

Several significant revisions and expansions of the plan, like adding more blocks at both the north and south ends, have been quietly made without explanation or public input. Have there been developers sitting in on planning meetings and shaping the plan? They certainly do not represent homeowners and residents of the area. 

What was originally only a concept plan has morphed into an implementation plan. No one at the city has been able to tell us when that transition took place, yet the council could vote on the proposal as early as this fall. 

People who live here are just now learning the details of the proposal, and as a result are very concerned about the potential impact on their neighborhoods and the environment. A decision by the council this fall would be premature and should be postponed so residents can be informed and heard.

William Collinge, Eugene

 

LIVING WITH DENSITY

I am a potter with a home business in south Eugene. My husband and I have lived just a few blocks off Willamette Street on West 27th Avenue for the past two years. We have attended nearly every meeting concerning the rezoning of South Willamette as well as the street redesign over the past few years.

There has been much publicity recently of the possible negative impacts the rezoning could have with little balance given to the potential positive impacts. This, I believe, is due to ignorance on the subject as well as some intentional exaggerations and omitting of facts.

The city staff has gone out of its way to repeatedly invite the public on numerous occasions at convenient locations to give their input into this process. Many of us expressed concerns with proposed building heights and step-backs of buildings according to their proximity to both Willamette Street and into the residential areas. The city responded by changing the plan to reflect many of these concerns. 

There seems to be a strong “not in my backyard” response to the rezoning. South Eugene is blessed with a large number of parks such as the Amazon Headwaters. Many of us worked hard to preserve the last two headwater parcels because it made sense to add them to the existing parkland and preserve the natural areas at our city’s perimeter. 

Using that same logic it seems to make sense to allow housing density to increase closer in, such as in the South Willamette area where there already is a higher density of people living and patronizing great businesses that are within walking distance. 

Some have expressed concerns that if this zoning plan passes, property values will plummet, while showing no evidence to support this claim. As with all real estate, some will go up and some will go down depending on many factors unrelated to the rezoning.

We did our research before buying. We realized that the cost of living within a few blocks of Willamette would be that things could change in substantial ways. This rezoning, if passed, would directly affect “our backyard.” Right next door we could have rows of town homes that would overlook our home and garden. Not something we relish but if we want to keep our urban growth boundaries tight, fertile farmland preserved and have great parks close by, we all may need to live a bit closer together. That might not be the horrible disaster some in our community present it to be.

Ken Standhardt, Eugene

 

VITAL LIBRARIES

A healthy and vibrant public library is vital to a strong economy and socially active city. In the age of computers, public libraries are actually more important than ever. Eugene is blessed with an award-winning and nationally respected public library system, but the financial hardship of the last several years has forced sharp reductions in operating hours, in programs and in reading materials.

A “yes” vote on Ballot Measure 20-235, a local option levy, restores the Eugene Public Library’s capacity to provide all our citizens with fair access to the tools of modern literacy.

The local option levy will restore a total of 44 operational hours per week to the neighborhood libraries in Bethel and in Sheldon, and three hours per week to the downtown library. This proposal will allow expansion of early literacy programs for preschool children. These programs are absolutely essential to children’s academic success throughout their lives.

As someone concerned about economic development and social services, I’ll point out that the levy, if approved by voters, will allow for adequate computers, software and media equipment for citizens of all ages learning new job skills, or who need online communication with potential employers, or must contact the providers of social and health services.

In the Nov. 3 election, I ask all Eugene voters to join me in voting “yes” for libraries. Vote “yes” for a healthier and stronger Eugene.

Pete Sorenson, Lane County Commissioner, Eugene

 

URGENCY LACKING

Oregon children deserve a first-class education, which they are most certainly not getting. Citizens must ask legislators and the governor what their plan is to fund a first-class public school system. I’ve been asking this question to legislators and the governor for years, never getting a response let alone an actual plan to fund education. The reason is because they haven’t had one.

Many Oregon legislators enjoyed a first-class education because their parents and grandparents were willing to do what it took to fund it. These same legislators have failed do to the same for Oregon’s children and remain unwilling to do so.

In order to properly fund public education, a big fight will be required over the tax structure with the timber barons, the sweatshop pioneers, big business, the Oregon Republican Party, etc. It’s a fight that most of our current legislators have been unwilling to have. 

Sadly, while Oregon students are being ripped off year after year, the fierce urgency of now is nowhere to be seen amongst Oregon politicians.

I strongly suggest that voters start demanding that legislators and the governor put forth a detailed plan to properly fund public education.

Joshua Welch, Eugene

 

ANOTHER SOLUTION

Thanks, EW, for your “Solution to Homelessness” issue Aug. 20. And thanks, also, to Lynn Porter for his letter on smarter ways to spend money on the problem, which comes down to applying the money towards solutions rather than paying for the expensive aftermath of no solutions.

In addition to the $250,000 Porter cited that could be redirected, more money could be accessed if Eugene and Lane County ended their war on homeless protesters. 

A recent article from the Civil Liberties Defense Center described their actions in defending protesters against unconstitutional arrests for (note the irony) protesting in the Free Speech Plaza. Every time the city or county loses one of these cases they just concoct another plan of attack. 

How much is this endless war costing us taxpayers while providing no relief from the problem?

Jim Stauffer, Eugene

 

APPALLING IMAGE

I agree with the letter by Kenner McAlister Aug. 20 about the cover of your Aug. 13 edition. The big jumble of books, the disinterested expression on the woman’s face and the blurred image of a book being tossed onto another pile of books were all appalling. 

For all the good works St. Vinnie’s does in our community, it seems the Weekly could have chosen another image to showcase the organization. 

I have visited three St. Vinnie’s resale stores periodically over the last few years and have always found the stores to be clean, well organized and well staffed, especially the book sections. The Chad Drive location has a young female employee who takes care of the books and who can help you find just about anything in the bookshelves. 

Please consider the image you are projecting with photos like the one on your recent cover.

Margaret Hadaway, Eugene

 

TWICE AS GOOD?

Kudos to Tom Giesen for his Aug. 20 viewpoint “The Die is Cast.” Few people are prepared to state that we are viciously shafting future generations with our inability to understand reality and take bold, decisive action. But I never know how to use the word “we” in this context. Joe Six Pack is under no obligation to be aware of what’s happening and act responsibly. That’s what our “leaders” are supposed to do.

When you factor in climate change, peak oil and the degree of economic collapse and human suffering that will accompany them, it is not an exaggeration to say that we need a complete, bottom-to-top restructuring of human civilization, and we need it right fucking now. 

Any politician who tries to do 10 percent of what needs to be done will be committing political suicide, so a progressive, liberal, environmentally conscious Democrat will say: “Vote for me! I’m going to do 2 percent of what needs to be done and my opponent, the Republican, is only going to do 1 percent. So I’m clearly twice as good as my opponent. So vote for me!”

While a few people in leadership positions are psychopathic, surely the vast majority are delusional when they gaze into the mirror and genuinely feel that their behavior is acceptable. In either case, we need to bring the full weight of modern psychology to bear on those who are running the world off the edge of a cliff.

Robert Bolman, Eugene

 

NO TO REZONING

I would like to add my voice to those in opposition to any rezoning of the Willamette Street and south hills area. Surely, no one but developers would be interested in this proposal that would add a great deal of unresolvable congestion throughout the area.

Please look beyond the dollars to the long-term livability of our town.

Laura Magpali, Eugene

 

PISGAH IN PERIL

Lane County Parks has posted its newly written 20-year Parks and Open Space Master Plan for public review. Google Lane County Master Plan or find a hard copy at the Eugene Public Library. Come to the public open house from 6 to 8 pm Thursday, Sept. 24, at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave. in Eugene. 

It is imperative the public be aware that the Master Plan reclassifies the North Bottomlands (NBL) of Buford Park (Mount Pisgah). It removes 354 acres of the NBL and the arboretum from “nature park,” changing them to urban “regional parkland” similar to Alton Baker Park. The arboretum is protected by its lease and nonprofit status. However, the reclassification appears intended to give Lane County Parks permission to continue conversion of the NBL to a high intensity, high density, commercial entertainment center, a process begun in 2009, culminating in the Kaleidoscope catastrophe of 2013. 

The Lane County Board of Commissioners canceled event contracts for 2015 only, giving time for the Large Event Task Force to determine appropriateness and set policies. The task force has worked diligently, hoping to complete its report by early fall, but Lane County Parks has gone on without them. Listing “Emerald Meadows at Buford” as a new park, separate from Howard Buford Recreation Area, on the Lane County Parks website is an obvious land grab that completely ignores HBRA’s own master plan. I say speak now or forever behold your park in pieces. 

Ellen Otani, Eugene

 

SUPPORT FOR THE DEAL

Eugene Friends Meeting would like our community to know that Friends’ historic testimony on peace includes a commitment to nonviolent resolution of conflict. Eugene Friends Meeting declares support of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear agreement). We see the agreement as the best course to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and to improve relations between Iran and the international community.

 John Allcot, Co-presiding clerk Eugene Friends Meeting

 

THE NEW NORMAL

Indeed, the “middle class” no longer exists in our country. I remember growing up in part of what is now termed a “nuclear” family; i.e. father, mother and sister in what then were ordinary circumstances. My mother was a housewife, my father, the breadwinner. My grandmother lived with us, as at that time, it was unthinkable that she would move to an assisted living facility or nursing home. No need for my mother to work or for my father to hold down two jobs in order to make ends meet. 

We had an automobile, a savings accounts to be tapped for yearly vacations and access, for my sister and me, to an excellent education, thanks to highly functioning public schools. This is simply not the “norm” these days; most families have to work two jobs and instead of savings accounts, credit card debt is enormous.

Not a moment too soon, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders states: “There is far too little discussion in Washington about the collapse of the middle class, almost no discussion at all about the incredible income inequality and wealth inequality in this country, and the fact that we’re moving toward an oligarch form of society.” He has my vote!

Joyce Curtis, Eugene

 

PREVENTING TRAGEDY

Good news: The Senate has introduced the life-saving legislation called for in my letter this past May 28. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware) have introduced this bill that will focus on saving the lives of 16,000 children and more than 800 mothers in the world who die each day from mostly preventable causes. 

This will be accomplished by putting into law the reforms in our developmental assistance agency, USAID, that make it more efficient and transparent. There is no extra money called for in this bipartisan bill. So please take the time to call or write Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, asking them to co-sponsor this legislation that will make our assistance more efficient and save lives.

Willie Dickerson, Snohomish, Washington

 

WYDEN BALKING ON IRAN

Even during his recent vacation in Martha’s Vineyard Obama was calling members of Congress to support the Iran deal. In case of a veto he needs 34 senators to support this historic agreement between Iran and world power such as 5+1. Sen. Jeff Merkley just became the 31st senator to publicly support the Iran deal. 

There is a talk that some of the Republican senators are thinking about breaking away from party lines and voting for it. Sen. Joe Donnelly, a conservative Democrat from Indiana, had this to say in his public support: “I owe it to the men and women of our Armed Forces and to the people of Indiana to have exhausted every other option to stop Iran before we would consider putting any of our service members in harm’s way.” 

So why is it that Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, a much less conservative state than Indiana, has not come out to support the president, Secretary John Kerry and diplomacy? Obama is in Alaska trying to bring awareness to the melting of glaciers and global warming. Let him focus on that and other issues, Sen. Wyden.

Roz Omid, Eugene

 

SENSELESS GUN VIOLENCE

We often hear and see stories about gun violence in America but on Aug. 26 Americans watched in horror as it played out on live television.

While there are still a lot of questions to be answered about the tragedy in Virginia, the fact remains that 89 people die from gun violence in the U.S. every day — often at the hands of people who have no legal reason to own firearms.

That’s why gun violence prevention advocates are committed to doing everything we can to keep guns out of dangerous hands and off our streets by expanding background checks to cover all gun sales and shutting down the small number of “bad apple” gun dealers who sell virtually every gun used to commit criminal acts in our nation.

My deepest sympathies go out to the family, friends and colleagues of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and to everyone who’s been affected by the Virginia shootings. We won’t rest until such senseless tragedies no longer happen.

Curtis Taylor, Eugene