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Letters to the Editor: 1-21-2016

A POWERFUL GIFT

I am a Quaker who has participated in Eugene Friends Meeting worship and business with Peg Morton since I moved here in 2012. Peg’s death has been a spiritual milestone for me. Her approach to dying — as a spiritual process, in community, through both strong will and submission — has provided me with a new model in a society where death is resisted at all costs and where we have few healthy ways to relate to it or to talk to each other about it. I grieve the loss of Peg as my mentor and elder, but in her death she has given me a powerful gift that will teach and change me indefinitely. It is nudging me, even at my young age, to reassess my fear of death, to envision how I would like to die and to reach out to others to ask the same questions. Peg invited our whole city to witness her process of dying, and I ask Eugene citizens to use this opportunity to talk to those you love about death, to be reflective and to be transformed.

Promise Partner, Eugene

 

SILENCE AND APATHY

My daughter was drugged and sexually assaulted, left in the mud and rain behind a Eugene bar downtown until someone found her, took her home and called the cops. Everyone can and should take action. I’ve been warned by other women that this is common!

Progressive Eugene, listen up. Tavern owners, question your bartenders — train them to protect your clientele. Women and men, protect each other. Put lids on your drinks. Buddy up and make sure your friends get home safely. Catching this and other predators should be easy. Pay attention. Look for any suspicious behavior. Demand protection from tavern owners and bartenders. Everyone is responsible. And for those who have been traumatized, check out Sexual Assault Support Services online [sass-lane.org]. They provide counseling and support. Silence is deadly. Apathy even worse. 

Your downtown is dangerous after 10 pm. This is a call to arms, Eugene. Act!

K. Dunn, Ashland

 

LAX SCRUTINY

Thanks, Alex V. Cipolle, for your Jan. 7 story on Capstone (“Tax Exempt, Design Optional”). I thought I was alone in faulting our city manager, planning department and ultimately City Council in safeguarding the permit process and MUPTE application requirements for Capstone. Does every builder get such lax scrutiny? 

When the MUPTE application stated 5,000 square foot retail space and that space didn’t appear, who was guarding the process? Should we see a voiding of the MUPTE tax exemption? Are other MUPTE agreements given such lax treatment? Should we see reprimands of those abrogating their responsibilities? As a footnote, why is the loading dock of the new Whole Foods store, on the City Hall Phases 5 or 7 or 9 corner, 8th and High, our new best street and “gateway to the river project”?

Gwen Bailey, Eugene

 

IMPROVE, NOT LOSE

While the idea to develop Kesey Square into a taxable apartment might be initially appealing for a space that some deem to be “problem” as a “magnet for vagabond types,” the rewards in building yet another largely vacant apartment or retail building in downtown Eugene pale in comparison to the benefits that will be lost by building over the Kesey Square free space.

My friends and I have positive memories attached to Kesey Square. It is a place we use throughout the summer to meet up, play music, play hacky sack, stop on our bikes to share a snack, play a board game. I have done all of those activities in Kesey Square. I own a home, run a business and am not scared of the “vagabond types.”

Kesey Square could be improved upon. Perhaps better lighting, perennial berry bushes, more seating and a fountain could improve the ambiance, making the place more inviting. Maybe the city could staff a friendly peacekeeper to hang out down there (think bigger than a rule-enforcing Red Hat). Democracy was founded partially through people talking in open public space. Public spaces have a long history of encouraging diverse citizens to interact in a way that they don’t in businesses. For the city to disconnect from that legacy, especially in these times where our society is perhaps more divided than ever, to build a gentrifying apartment complex is not the right option.

We need to improve the space but not lose the space.

Jasun Plaedo Wellman, Eugene

 

ESCAPING THE TALLY

With regards to the Toxics Right-to-Know program [news brief, 1/7], what Lisa Arkin of Beyond Toxics does not know is that the total program is a joke and always has been. Just before the bill was approved by the city, in a public meeting I attended because I was part owner of a small business that was affected by it, I spoke not against the bill but to make it really work, as my family also lives here in Eugene. 

I testified that the bill had been written by an employee of the UO and was flawed in the wording. It reads, “manufacturers who produce” and I requested it changed to read “organizations and manufacturers.” The reason being at that time there were 27 manufacturers that produced a total of approximately 3 tons of hazardous waste, but the UO and PeaceHealth together produced almost 15 to 20 tons of extremely hazardous waste yearly which, under the current wording, would not be monitored. Randy Papé, who was on the board, said, “I truly agree with you, Mr. Walker, but this is the way the bill was written and we have to go with it.” 

So, Ms. Arkin, for the past 11 years, hundreds of tons of hazardous waste have been produced by these two “organizations” in Eugene, and you have not accounted for a single pound of it. It is not a joke, but a tragedy! I guess you know which side your bread is buttered on.

Dick Walker, Eugene

 

FANTASY SOLUTIONS

Ellen Furstner’s letter Jan. 7 made most eloquently my point of how we are doing the homeless in our society as a whole and our community here in Eugene-Springfield a disservice by thinking that the warming centers, camping villages and cots in a church basement are going to solve this situation. They will not. As I read every week about some homeless person or family, at least 80 percent of them couldn’t take care of themselves, let alone a house or apartment if given to them. Perpetuating this fantasy is folly at the least and a waste of money at most.

The money (donated, from grants, taxes, lottery) would be better spent investing in dorms or group homes all staffed with counselors and caretakers, just like assisted living centers for seniors. The homeless, without families to help them, would then be supervised and offered real-life opportunities to attend support group meetings, get off illicit drugs or get the right kind of prescription drugs so that their lives could get back in balance again. I’m sure many homeless people just need someone to show them how to cope and they would graduate out of the dorms to be good citizens again.

Doesn’t doing something concrete sound better than the feel-good bandages that we are trying? The homeless need serious help, not a Thanksgiving dinner once a year. If we offer warming places, camping villages, etc., all that does is mark our community as a soft touch; the homeless or itinerant know Eugene is the place to come to flop.

I won’t give money to a bum on the street and I won’t give a dime to any local organization that is playing “feel good” games with people who are physically and mentally incapable of getting their lives back in order. Homelessness is not going away. 

Annie Kayner, Eugene

 

EXPLOITING THE LAND

Armed militia occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters should be seen for what they are: agri-businessmen seeking to enhance their taxpayer subsidies at the expense of biological diversity including greater sandhill cranes and western sage grouse.

Ranchers like the Hammonds torch their grazing allotment to further overgraze it and then expect to reap the financial rewards from dirt-cheap historic grazing leases. The Hammonds were rightly prosecuted as arsonists. They should serve time and lose their grazing lease as an example to others who would exploit the public trust and flout the law.

Cattlemens’ interests (hardly benefiting wildlife!) have actually been well served over the years by Malheur Refuge grazing policies and leases. Burning vast BLM and Forest Service upland acreage reduces important sage grouse habitat. Agency policy further gives grazing subsidies on arson-burned sagebrush areas through planting crested wheat grass, drastically reducing biodiversity. This long-term habitat degradation significantly contributes to the decline of western sage grouse populations. It must be ended.

Our federal agencies should team up with the many responsible ranchers who protect wildlife resources. Greedy ranchers who poach deer and despoil habitats on their leased lands must be held accountable; their leases should be forfeit. Federal grazing leases should be based on going rates for similar private leases. No more sweet deals favoring existing leaseholders like the criminal Hammond gang or gun-toting hooligans!

As the Tulsa World recently put it, “When the knuckleheads get through with their show, we think they should be prosecuted vigorously.”

Ethen Perkins, Eugene

 

ON GRAZING FEES

That $1.35 per month grazing fee per head on federal lands doesn’t include required fences and water troughs, which, when added in, come close to the $15 for private lands that already have strong fences and troughs that keep cattle from trampling sensitive riparian zones. Not siding with the Hammonds or Bundys, just saying.

Stephen Cole, Eugene

 

LEASES ARE FIXED

Before coming to Oregon in 2009, I had a small, 50-acre, horse breeding and training operation in Montana for a couple of decades. As a small-scale ranch, I was very interested in leasing extra grazing land, and the AUM fee (Animal Unit Month — for instance a cow/calf pair) on the public lands was very low. The lease ran for fixed amounts of time, and at the end of the lease period, there was an open auction to buy the lease for the next span of time. The hitch was, that at the close of the auction, the current leaseholder had the opportunity to match the high bid, if it wasn’t his, and keep the lease. Thus bidding against the current lease holders was futile, unless one could bid the lease up high enough that it was unfeasible to the current holder to pay that much for it. 

The only bidder that was able to do that was a conservation group. Later, their winning bid was overturned in court because the “conservation” use was counter to the “grazing” use that had been set for the land. Thus, the land was never available for local ranches, and it wasn’t possible to keep its ecosystem from being destroyed by overgrazing. The leases were always controlled and used by a few big outfits that had usually gotten in the game pretty close to the initial land grab from the original holders. When the big spreads sold, the grazing rights went with them.

How are these leases handled in Oregon?

Elena Rae, Eugene

 

THE END OF RANCHING

I enjoy connecting the dots between issues. The Malheur Wilderness Refuge malcontents need to go on home and take up cricket farming. The heyday of the cattle rancher has left the building, like that of loggers and fishermen. They got greedy when the going was good and have long been left in the dust by even greedier, mega-multi-corporations, who, hell-bent-on-wheels, roll over us all. The wrath, ire and good organizing skills of these contentious groups could be better directed towards fighting the cause of all humanity. Hey, they could campaign for Bernie!

Besides, as a society, we need to phase out of large-mammal meat-eating, pronto. It is a systematically barbaric industry overall and responsible for two of the biggest factors leading to global warming, methane (CO2) discharge and deforestation. We’re not giving up traditional native lands and what few parks and wilderness refuges we have left. 

Erica Snowlake, Eugene

 

LOW-WAGE SLAVERY

It seems that Gov. Kate Brown is now compromising with the previous compromisers. Is the only “leadership” we get from the Democratic Party coming from Sen. Bernie Sanders?

How can phasing in increases to the minimum wage to the year 2022 be any different than what will already happen under the present law? And at that time the expected inflation will wipe out any real increase. Why is it these legislators can tolerate a “get by” minimum wage that still makes a person qualify for food stamps? We all want “good quality jobs" to be available, but does that mean that the job pays just enough to cover the cost of the usual monthly expenses and the monthly food bill, with nothing left over to cover the unexpected happenings? Food stamps should be thought of like unemployment insurance — a stopgap for an emergency — not a subsidy for inadequate wages by either a business or city workers.

Low wages do promote jobs. But we made that type of economy illegal in this country when we eliminated slavery. We must at least try to get $15 as a minimum now. If people vote against that, we should know who they are so that we know who to vote for in the next election.

Bob Cassidy, Eugene

 

CHANGING HABITS

I greatly appreciate the sentiment expressed by Jack Van Dusen Jan. 7 that each of us makes a definite and significant impact on global climate impacts with our everyday decisions about what we buy and how we dispose. Analysts of Oregon’s recycling systems report that in one year alone, the greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions achieved by recycling our waste into new products was very nearly equal to the GHG emissions of all air travel by all Oregonians in that same year. The environmental benefits of using recycled materials instead of Earth’s virgin resources cannot be overstated.

But Van Dusen did not apply the most effective message to his example of a coffee cup. Coffee cups are not very recyclable. They have a plastic liner that renders them undesirable to a paper mill. This item, along with all other paper constructed to package wet materials, are frustrating recyclers across the industry. Either they have a plastic liner, or they have a wet-strength chemical, or both. Both are detrimental to the effectiveness of paper mills that refine old paper to make new. The use of these two methods is not consistent across the packaging industry, so there is no way for recyclers to sort, or give easy instructions to the public. Most recycling programs in Lane County give a resounding no to paper cups — plastic cups too, for that matter.

The far better answer is to use your own durable cup for coffee. Recycling is the best thing, if something is recyclable, but far more effective is reducing the production of manufactured materials when we can. Shop at thrift stores, bring your own bag to the store or find a repair service (repair2reuse.org). 

We got ourselves into this mess with our consumer purchasing choices; we can get out of it by changing our consumer habits. Seek more durable products and use every penny as a vote for a better future. 

 Sarah Grimm, Eugene