THE CITY HALL VOID
Where, oh where has our City Hall gone? We ask ourselves that question as we pass the barren site daily. It stands there as the largest “kitty litter box” in the world.
The most symbolic project for our city in 50 years has received little or no public input, display or conversation. So what’s the problem? The current version shown is certainly not radical or particularly imaginative.
We see the same perspective rendering over and over and hear that if we make the building more seismically resistant it will extend the time to occupancy an additional year and cost more. Experience says it would take no more than a month to revise any structural engineering to the higher “essential” seismic status. And based on what we know, the building does not house any function that could be classified as “essential” for seismic purposes anyway.
The delay suggests that something else is happening under the covers.
We also note the curious proposal to eliminate any office space for city councilors and the provision that the open council space provided be segregated from the mayor and the manager. Doesn’t this organization send just the wrong message to its citizens? And furthermore, it physically “builds-in” the manager-council form of government because it would then require a substantial interior renovation to change the layout to a mayor and councilor form of government, probably a better fit now for a city of this size.
Are there any answers out there and does anyone care?
Otto P. Poticha, FAIA, Eugene
GET ON WITH IT
Round about the time we were carving November’s tofu turkey, Marco Rubio said, “We need more welders, less philosophers.” (We won’t belabor his diction herein.) Had Marco received and embraced a better education he might have opined, “We need more welders who are philosophers; more philosophers who are welders.” Where did he learn that you can’t be both at the same time? Not in my classroom, I hope.
I applaud EW for its “Our Kids Deserve Better” lead story in the annual Education issue Feb. 25. Some good stuff. A cautionary note: More time in a classroom isn’t necessarily more learning. Our Little House on the Prairie model is limiting. Kids are not cordwood. Sometimes the very best we can do is get the hell out of their way. Common Core? Forced algebra? Don’t get me started.
IP 28 is a cop-out, isn’t it? A necessary cop-out, maybe. But I tend to agree with the suits who tell me it’s regressive and a sales tax in disguise. So, let’s get on with it and commence with the sales tax.
An administrator and school board member, quoted in the piece, are pointedly said to “not take a stance on the initiative.” That’s a head scratcher. I recognize the problem, but I’m not willing to piss off the constituency? Get out there like Ian Paisley — damn the Molotov cocktails — and beat the drum.
Kids, pay attention. Understand that the Earth travels ’round the sun, and the moon ’round the Earth. And you have your sacred place in that orchestration, no matter what the standardized test tells you.
Dave Sheehan, Eugene
ACCESS IS DECLINING
I am a member of a large medical group in Eugene, and I am worried. In the past couple of years I have noticed that it is more and more difficult to see a doctor in a timely manner. Regardless of the urgency of the problem, the wait time can stretch from one month to three or more before getting an appointment. This is crazy.
The basic problem? There aren’t enough doctors and more people need service, because we live longer. The cause of the problem? The high cost of medical school discourages young people from going in the first place. Those who incur debt choose fields that promise to pay the most so they can free themselves of debt. This situation leaves some specialties lacking sufficient practitioners. In the event of a real health emergency, we are forced to resort to emergency services, which are shorthanded, bringing us back to the underlying problem.
I no longer feel that if I need treatment it will be available. What to do? Can others offer ways to deal with this urgent problem? In the meantime, we will all have to make the best of a bad situation and hope that when we need a doctor, we can get the care we deserve.
Penny Jennings, Eugene
Regarding the Feb. 18 letter about the monopoly status of attorneys, physicians and dentists. The number of phone book pages devoted to listings for those professions (79) indicates a great deal of competition, not monopoly status. The author may have confused the concept with licensure requirements, which exist at least in part to protect consumers in particularly vulnerable situations from predatory behaviors by unscrupulous “professionals.” To be fair, critics of licensure often argue such rules serve to protect incumbents and are inconsistent — Oregon requires new cosmetologists to have 2,300 hours of training whereas Washington requires only 1,600 — but “less competition” does not mean “no competition at all.”
True statutory monopolies are rare, but can be found in the phone book under “professional football” (the NFL) or “cable franchise” (Comcast).
Keaton Miller, Ph.D., UO assistant professor of economics, Eugene
ABOUT KESEY SQUARE
I have worked downtown for more than 20 years. The above is not an inviting place to visit.
George Carlson, Eugene
To all of the men and women whose daily job it is to pick up our garbage and haul it away to the landfill: You are also our heroes — no less than firemen, EMTs or police. All of you drivers look great and we thank you for helping us keep our neighborhoods looking great, too! But is it fair to expect homeless individuals to be their own garbage collector, hauling and removal service?
Privatizing the service of garbage disposal for companies to handle is fine, because we all live in such a wasteful, throw-away society, so it is very convenient, efficient, it creates jobs, and without these companies, we would all be living in junkyards, having neighborhood garbage wars with each other.
But the convenience of that service is only available to those who live in an apartment, or a home with an address, and can afford to pay for it, or at least has it included in their rent.
This is where government’s compelling interest in the sanitation, health and safety of all community members should be assisting the homeless to do what they are unable to do for themselves. But that is not what is happening.
Because the homeless are not welcome to camp here at all, and anything like public toilets, or garbage service that would further invite, or enable them to do so, is to be avoided, instead. These homeless are merely a nuisance to be abated.
To add insult to injury, their abandoned garbage is being used against them, as part of a strategy to discredit and scapegoat, effectively using them and their waste as a renewable resource for public discontent.
Danielle R. Smith, Springfield
QUIT THE GAME
It is time for other football players at the UO to follow the admirable example of teammate Tom Tyner. He quit after the game resulted in injuries to both shoulders. Others should not wait for injuries to alert them to the violence of football. They should get out before such injuries cause them to suffer increasing pains in their later years.
George Beres, Eugene
A panel addressing the controversy of minimum wage was held at the UO Feb. 24 by the Student Labor Action Project. The question was whether small businesses can afford to pay wages such as $15 an hour.
The Department of Labor a few weeks ago stated that 50 percent of businesses don’t last more than four years as is. Also, the expenditures a small venture devotes to paying workers is relatively small compared with other expenses. This supports the idea that minimum wages don’t majorly influence businesses’ survival and can rise.
But should they? A country that considers itself “the greatest in history” and cannot supply its workforce with the basics after performing any function is deluding itself and its citizenry as to its worth. Social democracies such as Canada and the European nations with the highest standards of living have other things at play that help this delicate balance.
One major cost for employers is health care. All these other countries have some form of single-payer, which shifts a lot of the burden off the owners. Even with a modest tax increase, this is a definite plus for businesses. Another benefit these other countries have compared with ours is that education for them is not a cause for indebtedness. For most it is free and depends on effort and intelligence, not money.
Because of these reasons alone it is feasible and ethical to shrink the gap in wealth inequality by paying our workforce more money.
David Ivan Piccioni, ESSN board member, Eugene
Those espousing the positives of raising the minimum wage usually neglect to mention some potential negatives and unintended consequences. Here are some:
A loss of business flexibility in staffing. A potential and likely reduction in benefits for employees paid for by their forced “raise.” (Wages are taxed but benefits are not.) A reduction in the incentive for low wage-workers to improve skills and education. The effect on morale of those already making $15 an hour, or anywhere near it, if and when they don’t get a commensurate increase.
Larger businesses, as if they already need it, will be further encouraged to automate low wage positions. Small businesses will be affected the most and are least able to afford it resulting in downsizing or outright closure.
The economy has improved since 2008, but when the next economic downturn comes the unemployment will likely be much worse as more expensive workers are shed at an ever-greater rate than in the past. The effect will be on those on fixed income who will not see a “raise”; for example, Social Security’s COLA will not accurately reflect any increased inflation that a lone state’s increased minimum wage will engender.
There are other potential negatives one could add to this bold and risky experiment that is being rammed through without a vote by the public who will be affected. The old saying the road to perdition is paved with good intentions still applies, unfortunately.
Karl Stout, Eugene
As a property owner, my property tax bill shows many bond issues for schools, which seem to be used for repairs. I also have a difficult time with the fact that anyone who has a disabled/ autistic child can send him or her to school each day and they learn nothing. One of the teachers shared with me about a 15-year-old boy who lies in a stroller and masturbates, and they have a screen around him. We as taxpayers pay for that!
And what about the 40 percent of the sales tax the schools will be receiving from marijuana sales? When does that happen?
Marlene Pearson, Eugene
This year may be the last time we see swallows and swifts in our beautiful state for some years to come. I intend to enjoy their flying antics as much as possible this summer until they return south to Mexico and beyond in the fall.
As it seems quite possible that Donald Trump may be elected in November, I expect they, along with many others, will fall victim to the closure of the southern border.
I can only hope that Congress may get off their fat a… OK, maybe not. Let’s just hope that they can find their own coyotes next year.
Peter Tildesley, Eugene
I’m a Green and cannot vote in the May primary, but later I will vote for the Democratic Party’s nomination in the general election. This one is too crucial not to. Personally, I lean toward European-style socialism. However, I do understand that the president’s job is too multifaceted to sum up easily. The job requires addressing dozens of precarious global and domestic issues every day.
What worries me the most about this primary election is the naïve emotionalism of fan mentality in Bernie vs. Hillary. This isn’t football. Bernie and Hillary are both incredible people! Isn’t our job, as informed and participating citizens, to vote for (hire) the candidate we see as having the best skill set to meet the rigors of the job of president? Surely, as things stand, we must continue with a Democratic administration in office. But some Democrats threaten that if their guy, or gal, doesn’t get the nomination, they will just stomp away. (And hold their breath until they turn blue and the nation turns red?) That would sure make things much worse.
Please stay open and alert. Hang in there, everyone!
Deb Huntley, Eugene
HILLARY IS PRAGMATIC
Bernie Sanders supporters like to criticize Hillary Clinton for her support of the Iraq War. Bernie Sanders, because he is a senator from a small, relatively liberal state, had the luxury of voting against military force in Iraq. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, represented New York, the site of the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. She had no choice under the circumstances; she was representing the voice of her constituents.
As a woman, I think it is historically important to elect the first woman president. Too many generations of woman have put up with visible and invisible sexism. I resent Bernie Sanders and his revolutionaries for once again telling women that they will have to wait, that electing a progressive woman president is not important.
Clinton is a progressive woman who has fought for liberal values for years. Is she perfect? No, she is not, but neither is Sanders. I absolutely disagree with his views on gun control. Liberals and progressives in this country should be thrilled that we have an opportunity to elect the first woman president; instead, we are having the same old tired arguments that have divided us for years. I don’t personally agree with every political stance taken by Clinton. I don’t expect politicians to agree with everything I believe.
Sanders has a utopian view of politics. He promises changes that are unlikely to happen due to the diverse political atmosphere in the U.S. Clinton is pragmatic and tough and has a realistic view of politics; she would make a great president.
Irene Henjum, Springfield
U.S. per capita health care spending is more than twice the average of other developed countries (2016 Peter G. Peterson Foundation). Now that Bernie Sanders’ campaign has kindled the fire for change in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, Medicare for All is just around the corner! Berniecare gives full (head to toe) medical benefits to everyone. (Haven’t you wondered why in our health care-for-profit-system vision, mental health services and dental care cost “extra”?)
Bernie’s plan is financed by a moderate tax increase for most people and heavier taxes for the rich. Gone are co-pays, monthly premiums and the $5,000 to $10,000 deductible you must first pay out of pocket before your expensive policy kicks in. This is a serious net savings to the average person. A prosperous country like ours can afford a health care system designed to serve its people, not its corporate elite. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was neither, although a slight improvement.
Let’s leap to Berniecare, and get our country on par with the rest of the western and democratic world with universal, high quality and equitable health care for everyone. Already over half of all health care provided is publicly funded — think Medicare, Medicaid and VA benefits — and highly valued. This isn’t rocket science. We’re working hard for it to pass next year in Oregon, but a federal system would be the big leap forward we need.
Patricia Hine, Eugene
NO ROOM FOR BIGOTS?
Since David Duke’s announcement of his support for Donald Trump, Republicans have been trying to assure us all that there is no room in their party for bigots, that they are certainly not a racist party. Let them prove it by restoring the Voting Rights Act, stop pushing voter suppression laws, ease their attacks on affirmative action, and, most of all, apologize to our president for the shameful, disrespectful and dishonest way they have treated him for the past eight years.
Spud Smith, Oakridge
In spite of the politics involved — LaVoy Finicum and Michael Brown would (and should) be alive today if police tactics had not degenerated to some form of commando tactics.
The cases are treated very differently by the media, with coverage of the Finicum shooting apparently deserving zero investigation. But this shooting also deserves detailed investigation because we are becoming too accepting of military tactics in what should be professional police work.
Police work ultimately involves force, sanctioned and funded by our collective tax money. Although simplistic answers are satisfying, at the end of the day we should seriously consider who we want in charge of deadly violence — Andy or Barney.
Those too young for the analogy, see the YouTube video “Barney’s Gun.”
Michael Lee, Eugene