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Letters to the Editor: 10-29-2015

THE BEST SOLUTION

I served as a volunteer citizen Eugene Budget Committee member when we made the agonizing decision to reduce library hours. The City Council opted not to continue our longstanding library levy during the recession. We carried the library hours on General Fund dollars and reserves as long as we could. We pared back the cuts from closure of both branch libraries to only reduced hours. No one wanted to cut those library hours, but it was the best of several bad options. 

I also served on the Revenue Committee when citizens asked us to restore those cuts. Our existing revenues are not adequate to provide the services that people expect and deserve. A property tax levy is more progressive than fee increases or other taxes, and it has the advantage of being familiar and transparent to the voters.

My first job was as a shelving assistant in a public library, when it was merely a place to find books. These days our libraries are so much more! Students can do homework, job seekers can find work and we all benefit from having a quiet place to relax, read and research. Please vote “yes” for the libraries! 

Marshall Wilde, Eugene

 

THE LIBRARY QUANDARY

On the one hand, I like our new library, I’m proud of it, I am a cardholder and I use it. I’d like to see our library expand and operate at full capacity. On the other hand, I have a tough time justifying rewarding the city of Eugene, which has squandered millions of dollars destroying a still-serviceable City Hall and lining the pockets of politically connected developers by handing them another $2.7 million.

Why didn’t the City Council consider support for libraries (and parks, streets and homeless shelters, for that matter) when they passed MUPTE (Multiple Unit Property Tax Exemption program) and razed City Hall?

So I’m in a quandary. I don’t know how I will vote, and I suspect I am not alone.

Tom Arnold, Eugene

 

A SMARTER COMMUNITY

Support the Eugene Public Library; it benefits everyone. We can all enjoy better services and help our neighbors, especially those with little money. We’ve already invested in the buildings, books and staff training; a little more money would keep the doors open longer so we could enjoy these investments. It will cost the average household only 10 cents a day ($36 a year) to open the branch libraries on Sundays and Mondays, and provide programs that help kids read, get teens motivated and support job hunters. We need everyone functioning at his or her best as the world is getting more competitive. The library levy is a very cost-effective way to have a smarter, more productive community.

 Nancy Cheng, Eugene

 

MOMS FOR LIBRARY

Almost four years ago, we made our way to Baby Story Time at the Eugene Public Library. One minute the librarian was quieting a room full of babies with a slide whistle; the next he was eliciting coos and giggles (from babies and parents alike) revealing in a pop-up book Dog (“All dogs pee!”). We showed up weekly and learned to use classic nursery rhymes and the newest board books to build a foundation of literacy. Just as importantly, it gave us time and space to connect. At the library, a community formed. Ten of us started a playgroup — a group that has brought an immeasurable amount of intention, knowledge and joy to our parenting and, in turn, to the lives of our kids.

We are all changed because of the space, time and knowledge shared at the Eugene Public Library. We continue to imagine in its play corner, discover in its courtyard and fill tote bags of books in which we can curl up and find new worlds. A vote “yes” on Measure 20-235 will support critical programs that build a foundation of reading and sense of community in young families. As moms, we urge you to support this measure.

Carolyn Williams, Hannah Vasey Vehrs, Jodie St. Clair, Leia Runner, Melanie Manning, Sara Starlin, Shannon Harty, Eugene

 

ALREADY PAYING

Regarding the Eugene library levy measure: Since the owners of many of the most valuable properties in Eugene have been released from their obligations to pay property taxes, do I consent to help pay their share for them? Since the city has declined to include adequate funding for the library in the city budget, instead choosing to spend the library’s share of funding for city planners and their Portland consultants who conduct endless circuses during which they claim to be consulting with Eugene citizens about destroying our City Hall and destroying neighborhoods by replacing small businesses and homes with massive, ugly, tax-exempt apartment buildings, do I consent to pay a special tax for the library?

No, I do not. I like the library, but I already am paying my share. It’s not my fault that those developers and investors aren’t paying their share.

Ann Tattersall, Eugene

 

LIBRARY USER FEE?

I’d like to explain in greater detail why I’m voting “no” on the library levy, but I’m only allowed so much room, so here are my reasons in brief: 

• Adding more operating hours adds more dollars to the PERS payroll — enough said.

• The vast majority of my income is Social Security. My property taxes are 20 percent of that income — nearly two and a half months of my Social Security income. My property taxes increased by $60 and the new tax would add to that increase. SSA isn’t giving a cost-of-living adjustment this year, so it’s another hundred bucks or so less than I had last year.

• What about a user fee? $5 or $10 a year for a library card isn’t outrageous. Children can be exempt, and I’m sure all those expounding the value of the library would agree it’s well worth it. I use the library and would gladly pay for my card; after all, it’s just a couple of beers or coffees. 

• By far, the hated MUPTE. There would have been plenty of money if the City Council hadn’t given away all those millions in tax breaks, and they’re poised to give away more. Voting “no” is the only weapon I have to voice my extreme displeasure with this giveaway. Is it fair to take more of my Social Security to pay for services while wealthy development corporations pay nothing? 

No, I’m not singling out the library. I intend to vote “no” on all tax increases or bond issues until this practice is stopped and we’re all taxed equally.

Ted Chudy, Eugene

 

SEND A MESSAGE

The library levy is important, but for different reasons. The supporters are correct in the value of access to books computers, etc. It is rare that anyone disagrees with these reasons and the value of libraries. Their platform suggests the levy is about if we want more services or not. It’s incorrect.

What the supporters don’t get and why I’m voting against the levy is about the funding source. Basic services need to come out of the general fund. 

We are on our second street levy. No doubt there will be a third and fourth. There is an idea of a levy for park maintenance and railroad quiet zone.

The economy is improving, housing starts are up, commercial real estate is booming, so why do property owners need to pay more for basic services? Spending patterns and reduced revenue due to corporate tax breaks are the reason for the funding shortage.

Please vote “no” on the library levy to send the message that fairness and a new funding formula is needed.

 Don French, Eugene

 

WEIRD VENUE

Why in the world would anyone go to LCC to see the “Flying People” exhibit? Out of the airport context, it would seem like a weird, pointless waste of space. But, unfortunately, not weird enough. 

Todd Richard, Eugene

 

CRITICAL COLLABORATION

Thank you for the Oct. 15 feature “Invest in Kids.” The in-depth coverage of the collaborative work of Kids in Transition to School, Head Start of Lane County and the UO Brain Development Lab is critical. It underlines the benefits these efforts provide not only to children and families but to the community as a whole. Everyone benefits when children successfully transition to school. Positive learning outcomes increase and concrete steps toward closing the achievement gap are taken.

The news gets even better. Groundbreaking research into the effects of extreme adverse childhood experiences confirms that not only academic but also long-term health outcomes improve when children and families are supported early. Fostering academic and physical and mental health from the start builds the foundation for lifelong wellbeing. To learn more, including about free community workshops about adverse childhood experiences, I encourage readers to visit “Lane County Adverse Childhood Experiences/ Trauma” at lanecounty.org/aces.

 Katharine V. Gallagher, Adverse Childhood Experiences Community Education & Engagement Project

 

OTHER POLLUTERS

Lots of ink has been spilled about the camping along the Willamette River’s waterline, and a suggestion that the campers come up to “the top of the bank and at least protect the waters,” which, for anyone living near the area knows, would be folly. It would lead to immediate arrest. The out-of-sight/out-of-complaint method seems to work, until it doesn’t, and the issue of river detritus rises up. The suggestions from those who would prevent the riverside pollution are disingenuous. Try suggestions that would actually work: for instance, campsites along Goodpasture Island Road?

Little ink has been spilled about the pollution created by the well-to-do non-camper mansions on the upper Willamette and McKenzie rivers who clear their property past the riparian zone right down to the river’s waterline, delivering the detritus from their chemical lawns and faulty septic systems directly to us. Perhaps these polluters could pull back their activities to “the top of the bank and at least protect the waters.” And they wouldn’t even get arrested.

 Richard Guske, The Whiteaker

 

GUNS PROTECT CHILDREN?

As a preschool teacher I am heartbroken over needless deaths from guns. I am not just talking about the horrible mass shootings which happen far too often, as tragic as they are. I am talking about accidental child deaths from guns. There are those who tell us that adults with guns will protect our children, but will more guns prevent children from accidentally shooting themselves and others? 

The recent findings of two Boston surgeons drawing on pediatric records found about 500 deaths of children and teens per year, and an additional 7,500 hospitalizations from gunshot wounds. I weep for those children as I do for anyone who is the victim of preventable gun death. When I look at our children and all our fellow citizens, I think of how great teachers have told us that we should love one another and that we are responsible to help each other. Our country is in dire need of healing love and help when it comes to guns. A majority of people favor minimal gun control and more gun safety education. I don’t want guns taken from people who purchased them legally. I just want us to protect our children and fellow citizens. 

Christopher Michaels, Eugene

 

AMAZING RESOURCES

Mental illness is a hot topic these days. It seems everyone and their mother has an opinion on how it affects society, why it exists and how it should be remedied. While discussions like these raise awareness and are sometimes even productive, they rarely bring it home and focus the issue locally. 

A person living with a mental illness in Eugene — and their family and friends — has access to a few supports that they likely do not even know about; I have personal experience with two such supports: Laurel Hill Center and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Lane County.

The former strives to promote the ability to live independently; this can range from supported employment and housing to Assertive Community Treatment, covering things like finding a job, communicating needs to an employer, sending rent reminders, education on best nutritional practices and evidence-based intensive psychological treatment out in the community. Laurel Hill Center also offers classes on a myriad subjects through its Pathways Learning Center.

Similarly, NAMI Lane County provides education, support and advocacy for people in the mental health community. A largely volunteer-driven organization, most of its classes and support groups are peer-led and free, which helps people feel more comfortable and makes it easier to receive help when it is needed. Additionally, NAMI does a great deal of work promoting compassion and understanding in the community, working with local businesses, other professionals and elected officials.

Both organizations could be amazing supports, if only people knew about them! Please help spread the word!

Ryan Moore, Eugene

 

BAT FAN

Halloween is on the way with all the spooks that come with it. There is one creature that has become less sinister for me this year: the large brown bat. Over the summer I’d often take my dog out for exercise in the Springfield High School parking lot at sunset. She’s a terrier and has a lot of energy to run off after a long hot day and the fenced parking lot is big enough and handy. The neighbors are also coming out into their yards or to stretch their legs on the sidewalks once the heat passed, and soon I noticed “other neighbors” of whom I’d been unaware. Attracted by the flying insects, that were in turn attracted by the parking lot lighting, were these beautiful bats out for their evening feast. I don’t know how it is that I’d never noticed them before, with their acrobatic loop-the-loops, scooping up their dinner. Often one would fly close enough, about 15 feet away, for me to get a good look at some details of their little bodies. What terrific joy they provided me and my dog, and I soon took their sighting as a good omen for the day. There were never more than four together at any time.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has a fact sheet online about bats found in the state. It’s full of interesting information that puts aside fear and myth to give an appreciative perspective to our flying cousins. Bats are the only mammals that fly, and they are more closely related to us than they are to mice or rodents, as commonly thought. Also, they aren’t blind at all. They aren’t interested enough in humans to fly into our hair or touch our skin, but they aren’t shy, either. There was one particular fellow who seemed to enjoy his audience and responded by clowning around and fearlessly approaching near enough for us to take stock of one another. Moments like that are thrilling. Sadly it has been three weeks since one has appeared. I hope they’re off hibernating or migrating safely somewhere and will return with full vigor next summer.

Tim Hilton, Springfield

 

TESTING MADNESS

They say love means never having to say you’re sorry. I guess that’s why 30,000 California high school students will be retroactively awarded their high school diplomas that were unfairly withheld based on bogus high-stakes standardized high school tests. In mid-October, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law that does away with these worthless and cruel elements of the corporate model testocracy. In the meantime, lots and lots of damage has been done to kids who did nothing to deserve it. Nothing. 

These tests, which a whole lot of supportive politicians could not themselves pass, are going the way of the dinosaurs. This week, Idaho suspended their use for high school graduation. There are now only 20 states that still cling to this foolish and crazy practice. Oregon is one of them.

It seems we have lost our minds. The average public school student in the U.S. now takes 113 standardized tests. Oregon is now giving standardized tests to kindergarten kids. Yes, we are tracking 5-year-olds, teaching them that they are dumb before they step foot in first grade.

It is up to parents and students to say “no” to the testing madness. Now.

Roscoe Caron, Eugene

 

THE KARENG FUND

You’ve been to Saturday Market. You know what’s up: People make stuff and sell it, eat delicious food, do the twirly dance. It morphs into Holiday Market, then opens again in spring. Your friend sells jewelry there, and your mom did a zombie flash mob. Free music!

You feel some old-style hippieness. It’s a nonprofit membership organization formed in 1970. A lot of volunteers make the decisions, and they still use a consensus-seeking process, sitting around a table for hours to handle what comes up. Over 45 years there have been thousands of people who have started small and now range all over the world. For a miniscule investment of your soul, you can be a craftsperson, or find out that you don’t have what it takes. You want a retirement fund and overtime, but you wish.

There is a semi-hidden continuing community going on in the gathering place, which includes all of the visitors as well as the maker-sellers. Right from the start, a hat had to be periodically passed to help community members in crisis, and in 2002 some kind-hearted people created an emergency-relief fund, the Kareng Fund.

That hat has collected enough to give over $25,000 in small grants. Another $25,000 waits to be given, and our hippie connections just brought a successful application to the Rex Foundation for their gift of $5,000. No longer just a fall-back plan for Saturday Market crafters, this little nonprofit is aiming to give $1 million statewide. People donate with their Market fees, with the Auction with Percussive Interludes at the Holiday Market, and you could give, too. Like each weekly happening, it is what you bring it. You’re not shallow, and when you look, there’s a lot of light in that rainbow crystal. All those colors! Everybody gets to shine. Go to karengfund.org

Diane McWhorter, Eugene

 

 

FOSTERING LITERACY

As a local author and a parent, I consider the Eugene Public Library a vital asset to our community. My family and I live out of district and gladly pay each year for library services. While I am not eligible to vote on the library levy, if I were voting I would vote “yes” on Nov. 3.

My 3-year-old son is rapidly progressing into early literacy, and my 11-month-old daughter loves the stories and songs at Baby Storytime. My wife and I have involved our children in library events since infancy, and we credit that with much of their development and engagement in learning.

The Eugene Public Library is not a political scapegoat. Its services benefit the community's culture, whether serving as a meeting space, encouraging civic participation or fostering early literacy and ongoing learning. While I respect the criticisms some have of overall public funding, the library, its patrons and our community's children should not be punished in the name of reform.

The Library is a vital public asset, and the levy is a community investment in our local quality. Please vote “yes” on the Nov. 3 library levy.

Anthony St. Clair

Eugene

 

RIGHT TO DECIDE

Support Local Food Rights is gathering signatures to put the Right to a Local Food System of Lane County Charter Amendment on the May 2016 ballot. Why do we need this? Because corporate industrial agricultural power brokers should not be determining what farming should look like in our county. They don’t value our precious food system like we do. Our local farmers are the experts in matters of farming and have a vested interest in the long-term health of our county’s farmlands. 

We Lane County residents have a right to decide what agricultural activities should take place here in this place we call home. We have the right to save and share seed, as farmers have been doing for generations. We have the right to say “no” to corporate GMO agriculture that threatens to contaminate our farms, and undermine traditional farming practices. We have a right to protect ourselves from corporate harm. We have the right to reclaim our democracy and be the decision-makers and architects of our collective future.

When asked, please sign the petition to ensure the people’s right to be heard through your vote in May. And vote “yes”! Who decides? We the people decide!

Michelle Holman

Community Rights Lane County

 

DEFENDING HILLARY

In 1983 militants in Beirut bombed the U.S. Embassy killing 63 people. Terrorists drove a suicide bomb into the Marine barracks in Beirut killing 241 U.S. servicemen. The secretary of state was George Schultz, the president was Ronald Reagan. A congressional committee investigated the attacks and made recommendations to improve security.  The investigation lasted two months and showed there were serious security problems at both locations. In contrast, the current Benghazi “investigation” has lasted 16 months and cost taxpayers $4.7 million. 

Currently, there is no uproar from Congress about the fact that Colin Powell also used a private email server while he was Secretary of State. It is clear that the Benghazi investigation is nothing more than a politically motivated attempt by extremist Republicans in Congress to attack Hillary Clinton and prevent her from becoming the first woman president.  

 Irene Henjum

 Springfield

 

LORD OF THE FLAGPOLE

Regarding the photograph "A Rewarding Incentive" that appeared in the Oct. 21 Register-Guard, depicting Spencer Butte Middle School students duct-taping their principal and assistant principal to the flagpole to reward fundraising efforts: 

Being put to the pole rarely ends well. Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc and Pvt. Eddie Slovik all come to mind, all suffering anew. Not only is duct-taping anyone to a flagpole an inherently violent and dangerous act, but the wide-grinned, chop-licking glare of utter glee hanging from the faces of the students as they apparently prepare to seal their assistant principal's airway shut forever, is really quite horrifying.

Somewhere, William Golding sheds a sad and knowing smile.

Here, in Chris Pietsch's photo, hangs the end result of our beloved Positive Effective Behavior systems, a "school" of thought that focuses upon extrinsic rewards and incentives for top achievers, and one that permeates Oregon schools. (Thank you, U of Yell-O!) We say: "Here, dear Spencer Butte Middle School students, here is the reward that all of your hard work and good behavior has earned. To immobilize, subjugate and humiliate your principal and assistant principal." 

 And this is a positive learning experience ... how?

 We could, it seems to me, quite simply and effectively, change channels. We could emphasize mindfulness in education, focus instead on developing and maintaining social and emotional competency and positive emotions. Compassion immersion schools, if you will. And if we chose to do so we might once again use our poles for vaulting, and free our schools' top administrators to — oh, I don't know — perhaps lead, steward and propel our students towards a more peaceful and secure future.

David Perham

Eugene