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Letters to the Editor: 12-17-2015

MAKE IT POSSIBLE

I have been reading with concern of the proposals and letters to the editor concerning the future of Kesey Square. I have been living in a senior apartment community, Olive Plaza, in downtown Eugene. Many of us walk for our exercise and refreshment. There are no places where we can go and sit. There is no green, no small park near the area where we live. A new City Hall park is much too far away. Kesey Square remains the one place where we could go, but the benches have been removed.

I personally like the diversity of our downtown neighborhood, and I envision Kesey Square as an attractive public park. There we would find young people finding their way in the world, other apartment dwellers, parents with their babies, some homeless older adults, all passing through.

To make this happen as a city park, there could be regulations. For example, no smoking allowed, and the park could be closed to the public from 11 pm to 7 am, as others are.

Please, city leaders, let’s make this possible!

Peg Morton, Eugene

 

KESEY’S WISDOM

Ken Kesey died in 2002. As a tribute, photographer Brian Lanker led a visionary — and successful — effort to fund and create a memorial: the bronze sculpture “The Storyteller” by Pete Helzer placed in 2003 in Kesey Square.

The fundraising poster and pro-bono ads in national publications appeared with a portrait of Kesey by Lanker. They featured this now-famous quote from an interview with Ken:

"The answer is never the answer. What’s really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you’ll always be seeking. I’ve never seen anybody really find the answer, but they think they have. So they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer. "

May we heed this shape-shifting wisdom whatever we — locals, travelers, councilors, developers and editors! — do or don’t do in Kesey Square.

Douglas Beauchamp, Eugene

 

WHAT EUGENE LACKS

I’m just trying to understand Joshua Purvis’ actual viewpoint on Kesey Square Dec. 10. First he states his credentials as a film buff — OK, whatever. Then he opens with a thesis statement with a double negative in favor of development — I guess that’s his view. 

He praises the would-be developers of a publicly owned and used space for actually getting some public input — that’s good, but hopefully it’s legally required at some point anyway. 

He praises/encourages EW editors for devoting column space to the issue (borderline brown-nosing). He sums up with a snarky comment about those who actually had a vision for downtown decades ago — a boorish comment.

What is lacking is a vision for Eugene’s heart — right now the heart of Eugene is a four-way stop at Broadway and Willamette with a manhole cover where a fountain once stood, traffic-centric not people-centric. Eugene has finally integrated housing, restaurants, retail, art, etc., into downtown in the European model of community, but Eugene lacks the one thing that brings the community together: a public space (not parking space).

The public square is a solution that has worked for centuries in Europe and has been successfully imported to places like Portland’s Pearl District (but with too much car traffic). The vision of an open pedestrian square is a long-proven economic and societal solution for a city’s heart. The solution is not to cover Kesey Square with a high-rise but to expand it by creating a car-free pedestrian circle at Broadway and Willamette. 

The argument against this seems founded on fear of homeless and transient “others” who might show up. Purvis points out that “natural surveillance” can be developed to counter this problem, and I would also encourage Eugene’s police to get out of their cars and walk around downtown and actually smile and converse, not just enforce.

Finally, I would like to thank Purvis for his snide summary comment that annoyed me enough to write.

Mark Barbour, Eugene

 

A SHARED VISION

The Register-Guard on Dec. 4 printed a Don Kahle column — “Let Kesey Square walls come tumbling down.” Yes, let the metaphorical walls of our closed-in imaginations come tumbling down, but don’t privatize the only public space in the heart of downtown Eugene, including the walls themselves. 

Why is it that some people feel this urgent need to empower someone else, such as the private interest group who wants to construct another apartment complex, or business owner Ali Emami, who wants to build business access fronts on the two existing walls and presumably utilize the square for his own customer seating, to envision the future of Kesey Square? 

This is not so much a bad idea but certainly premature in the absence of any comprehensive study of the multiple programmatic uses of the square as public space. 

We do not want private development to foreclose the use of Kesey Square for many different kinds of programs, such as the successful movie-on-the-square showing of King Kong and the mob dance performance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Just imagine all the possibilities: performance artists; poetry slams; installation artworks; music on the square; dancing; political rallies; civic ceremonies.

What we need are two or three small creative groups, one of which could explore the successful development of other comparable small urban spaces. For example, Paley Park in New York City, which is a space of similar size with three closed walls, two of which are covered with lush green ivy and the other a wall of falling water, beautifully lighted for nighttime and gloomy cloudy days. It is an oasis where people love to sit and talk and eat, named one of the best parks in the world by the Project for Public Spaces. 

Another group could explore all the possible program possibilities and how to form a volunteer committee to do year-round programming. Another group could explore how other cities successfully manage the challenges of addressing “travelers” while also attracting families. 

Yes, the weather does conspire against us. Inclemency is both an obstacle and hopefully an inspiration to study simple structures, such as those found in Portland and Seattle, which would solve our problem and allow for the space to be used year round.

Let’s take the city to heart and restore the cultural heart of Eugene in a way that inspires and empowers the people. Let’s create a space for all of our shared visions. 

The Rev. Gary James, Unitarian Universalist minister emeritus, Eugene

 

OUR CHAMBER IS SILENT

COP 21 in Paris focused on what is most certain about climate change, such as the amount of sea-level rise. I am most concerned about uncertain disasters, such as positive runaway feedback loops, like methane release. We might hit a tipping point that could result in a chaotic Russian roulette with our planet. With such a worst-case scenario a possibility, our local response is far too silent.

For several years I have helped a campaign by the well-respected national group, 350.org. They ask local businesses to say that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not speak for them! Our local Eugene Area Chamber is actually independent from the U.S. Chamber, but unfortunately, after years of emails, visits and publicity, their leadership has stayed silent about global warming and refuses to put out a simple statement that the U.S. Chamber does not speak for them! Only about 56 local chambers, out of thousands, have spoken up. 

Approaching friendly local businesses to talk about this issue is a good test of our nonviolence, compassion and civility. For example, several of us have communicated and visited with Ninkasi Brewing Company, whose Chief Financial Officer Nigel Francisco is the chair-elect for the Eugene Area Chamber. The Chamber’s website has a convenient business directory so that anyone can easily see if their favorite businesses are members. Eugene Weekly is a member.

Info about this is on my blog: davidwoaks.com. Click on the tab marked "Normalgeddon."

David W. Oaks, Eugene

 

GIFTS FOR KIDS

First Place Family Center for homeless families needs our help! They have taken care of more than 240 families last month, and with more than 600 families this year and 1,100 children, this is a growing population. Holidays will soon be here and even homeless children are looking for gifts on Christmas morning, but so far none have arrived at First Place! This is unusual, and they keep hoping unwrapped toys will arrive at 19th and Amazon! Do join me and tell friends and organizations that there are a few hundred children who would love receiving a gift on Christmas morning! 

Ruth Duemler, Eugene

 

LEAVE TREES STANDING

As the climate conference winds down in Paris and the “Leave 80 Percent of the Fossil Fuels in the Ground” campaign continues, there is something we in Oregon should be working on to help stave off the effects of global warming. We need to work on leaving our trees in the ground. 

The forests in western Oregon are some of the best forests in the world for carbon sequestration, among many other ecosystem services they provide for humans and wildlife. We need to demand legislation to keep the trees in the ground rather than the current rush to clearcut private forests and the ongoing effort to clearcut our last, best public forests. Unfortunately, many of our “public servants” are bought by the logging industry via large campaign donations, and they must be voted out. Time is of the essence.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Pamela Driscoll, Dexter

 

BIRD CRASH SOLUTIONS

I appreciate EW querying King Estate about birds slamming into the glass pavilion (“Is King Estate a Haven or Hazard for Birds, Dec. 3). There are two types of birds on the estate: high-class predators like hawks and owls who are invited guests; and lower-class ones like robins, finches, scrub jays, cedar waxwings and grackles who dine without making reservations. 

I can see management’s ambivalence to bird-proofing the pavilion, but bird stickers just window-dress the issue. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that “window decals rarely prevent bird strikes.” Covering the glass when it’s not in use would help. Sound devices that mimic predators or a bird's distress call could work when it’s occupied, according to research. 

The University of California’s Integrated Pest Management program says, “Bird damage is usually most severe at sites that are adjacent to wild or brushy areas where birds find refuge ... orchards surrounded by other orchards often have fewer problems with birds.” The sprawling vineyards of the King Estate may help, but they're an ecological problem of viticulture.

Californiacating the upper Willamette Valley will drive some of us away along with the birds. Flocks of migrants from the Sunshine State are helping push up the price of land and houses as their taste and status is reproduced. Limos and RVs that drive to the estate harm the environment more than the party birds that follow. So who are the real pests of the valley?

Chris Piché, Eugene

 

POISONED AIR

The youngest members of any species are always protected by the older, stronger members. Humans protect our children as well. We vaccinate our children against possible diseases, we buy Velcro shoes so there’s no worry of untied-shoelaces-induced falling and we even wrap them up in extra layers just to keep them warm. If protecting our children is so important, why do we ignore the health of the environment they live in?

Beyond Toxics conducted a study in 2013 in West Eugene that showed that the average percentage of high schoolers who suffer from self-reported asthma was 19 percent, middle schoolers were 17 percent, elementary schoolers were 10 percent, and kindergarten through 8th grade schoolers were 12 percent. Asthma is a side effect of the toxic emissions from the nearby factories. Other side effects include rashes and an inability to play outside. 

We try to protect our children from diseases, but we ignore something they might have caught from the air they breathe. We need to not only protect them from the cold, but from the polluted heavy air they breathe every day. The very air they breathe is poison to their lungs, poison to their voices and poison to their lives. 

Oona Schwanekamp, Eugene

 

INDUSTRY’S IMPACT

I am concerned about industrialization polluting our homes and our city. More and more respiratory, reproductive and overall medical problems are affecting us and our children, but it is “justified” with the flawed idea that cities must always continue to grow. Envision Eugene has produced a plan of action that expands the urban growth boundary closer to the Bethel homes so that there are new jobs for the growing population. What they didn't tell us from the start is how many negative effects this industrial growth will have on us. 

I don’t have a proposal regarding how to better run the city, but I know that we should not place factories directly next to our homes, and I know that we can’t risk increasing medical issue rates. Most of all I know that there has got to be a better plan than the one Eugene has proposed.

Sophia Knoles, Eugene

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PEOPLE OVER PROFITS

To see the place that I grew up in being polluted and ruined to an extent that it is being right now is truly upsetting. I am a freshman in high school right now, and we’ve been learning about the industrial plants in west Eugene. I can easily remember all the fun I’ve had throughout my years while playing outside with my friends at recess or after school. 

But hearing that schools in west Eugene have to prevent children from playing at recess breaks my heart and infuriates me because these plants are juggernauts. Our laws about pollution feel toothless, because these industrial plants have exceeded their pollution allowance multiple times with the only punishment being small fines. 

It’s time that we add harsher restrictions and punishments for industries going over their pollution limits. The asthma rates in children in west Eugene are at 14 percent, while other areas are at 8 percent. It’s time that our government stops thinking about profits and starts thinking about the people.

Pearce Campbell, Eugene

 

SUPPORT CLIMATE BILL

In 2007 the Oregon Legislature set goals for reductions in Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is essential that these goals be met in order to do our part in helping to avert changes in the climate that would not be conducive to our economy and ways of living, as we currently enjoy them. This is the biggest threat our society faces. 

The expert panel in our state, the Oregon Global Warming Commission, reports that we are not on track to meet those reduction goals. The state Legislature could pass, in the upcoming session, a bill that would gradually reduce Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions through a system of allotments for emissions that would be monitored. Other states are already doing this and are achieving necessary results. 

Oregonians should contact their state senators and representatives and ask for support of the “Healthy Climate Bill,” which is sponsored by Sen. Chris Edwards of Eugene.

Stephen M. Amy, Eugene

 

SHODDY PLANNING

I’ve been watching the Kesey Square controversy with a sense of cynical deja vu. The city motto should be “Eugene: Where anything is possible but change.”

Like the Whole Foods debate, people will complain and protest, the City Council will back away until the clamor dies down, then turn around and give the developers what they want, who will then build quickly before any legal protest can be filed.

Developing downtown is not a guarantee of success. The apartments on Charnelton to facilitate Symantec were built after a huge demonstration only to have the company move, leaving the storefronts and apartments begging for occupants. The new Capstone apartments have had complaints of shoddy construction and poor design.

Meanwhile, what ever happened to the construction of the new City Hall? Maybe the “travelers” should occupy that lot to encourage its quick development. 

 Many voices have offered fine and reasonable ideas to improve the square but if Eugene›s past urban planning is any indication, the city manager, council and profiteers will choose the richest solution for them and the poorest for the rest of us.

Alisa McLaughlin, Eugene

 

MONSANTO ON TRIAL

Almost before any of us were born, Monsanto was developing highly toxic products which have permanently damaged the environment and caused illness or death for thousands of people. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russian Parliament that Russia should become the world’s largest supplier of organic foods, signing the Russian Federation Code of Administrative Offences into law, establishing liability for the violation of mandatory requirements for the labeling of food products that contain GMOs. Russian Minister of Agriculture Nikolai Fyodorov said the government will not “poison their citizens.”

Recently a march Against Monsanto exploded globally. World citizens staged massive protests across 38 countries and 428 cities. Eugene was a vocal part of this.

Organic Consumers Association, International Organics, Navdanya, Regeneration International, and Millions Against Monsanto, joined by dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups announced they will put Monsanto, a U.S.-based transnational corporation, on trial for crimes against nature and humanity, and ecocide, in The Hague, Netherlands, next year on World Food Day, Oct. 16. 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”Margaret Mead 

Eve Woodward-Shawl, Eugene

 

STRICTER RULES NEEDED

As a student at the Academy of Arts and Academics, also known as A3, I have recently been hearing a lot about climate change in Eugene. It has come to my attention that the city of Eugene is trying to set goals to make all of the greenhouse gas emissions all carbon neutral by 2020. It’s great that Eugene is trying to make its climate better, but what happens if one of the places doesn’t follow through with the goal? Is there any strong punishment? Will any of the businesses lose income? Will they be fined?

Now don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that Eugene is doing something for change but if we want to keep Oregon healthy, we should have stricter rules and punishments to keep our climate healthy and strong for more than just a few years. If we don’t get this done, the city of Eugene’s goals could do more harm for the next generation than good.

Kristen Chunn, Springfield

 

WEST EUGENE OVERLOOKED

As Americans we are relatively privileged. We have warm homes, freedom for women, rights for men and women of color and free public schools, yet as a country we seem to forget everyone else. America is one of the biggest contributor to pollution; being just one of those contributors can have massive causes that affect everyone.

The global warming problem has become more prominent as more disasters have been showing up due to the issues, mostly in developing countries. Some examples of these disasters are islands sinking and parts of Africa being swallowed by sand. So why is it we don’t jump to save these people? The reason is it’s not a problem for us, yet. 

Just like developing countries, west Eugene is often overlooked because of lack privilege. They aren’t as important due to being in poverty so no one pays attention. West Eugene has been experiencing some acts of environmental injustice, children showing up with sicknesses, animals becoming weaker, asthma rates skyrocketing due to the factories that contribute to global warming. If we don’t change our ways it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

Alexis Putnam, Eugene