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Letters to the Editor: 4-14-2016

HIS MONEY, OUR DEMOCRACY

Bob Macherione, leader of the “Our Money Our Transit” opposition to the new West Eugene EmX bus line out W. 6th, 7th and 11th avenues, complains that the EW March 17 article “Don’t Let a Loser Win” shows “what is wrong with the U.S. and especially Eugene politics today: the lack of civil public discourse with others who may not agree with your point of view.” (Letters, March 31)

Mr. Macherione should know about the lack of civil public discourse — his group is behind the anti-EmX signs along W. 11th Avenue. Can you picture those signs that complained about “arrogant bureaucrats” and referred to “drug dealers” riding on the buses? I wish I had photos of all those signs. Over-the-top, mean-spirited, dubious references. The worst of uncivil discourse.

Sure, he has a different point of view about the EmX project; OK, I respect that. But his tactics on those signs are exactly the lack of civil public discourse he laments.

Larry Lewin, Eugene

 

ELECTORAL DISFUNCTION

There’s no blue pill to cure this type of ED. Among the myriad dysfunctions in our 17th century electoral system, “vote splitting” could afflict the Eugene mayor’s race.

The five candidates for mayor could, ostensibly, be categorized as four liberals and one conservative. Even with a majority liberal electorate, what can happen is that the liberal vote is split among four candidates while the conservative vote is coalesced onto one candidate. In this situation, it is possible for the conservative to win.

Without doing detailed analysis, I don’t know the likelihood of the conservative garnering the 50-plus percent needed to win the office in the primary. However, another form of ED could amplify the vote-split phenomenon: low voter turnout. Voting data shows that, despite Oregon’s accommodating vote-by-mail, primary elections garner half the turnout of the general election and liberals have lower turnout than conservatives. 

So, will liberals put down their (now legal) joints long enough to vote in the primary? Will Oregon adopt ranked-choice voting, which can mitigate many ED symptoms? It’s up to us, folks.

James Stauffer, Eugene

 

SPEAK TRUTH

I am going to take part in Democracy Spring, a huge grassroots effort to speak truth to power, from April 11-18. What do we risk if we don’t speak our minds? We risk the possibility of addressing collectively and creatively the myriad issues of social inequality, ferocious bellicosity and environmental disaster. The life-affirming option is to take ownership of our policies, politics, country and communal voice.

This is not comfortable. I’d rather stay home in this splendid spring and not expend money and energy to travel to Washington, nor experience discomforts. I am not excited about the crowd, the cold cement outside the Capitol, the prospect of arrest. And, when you have to do something, you have to do it.

Does this make sense? I don’t know. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. Am I feeling a strong pull to do this? Yes, clearly. Maybe that’s what’s meant by being spirit-led, or following the heart.

Democracy Spring is organizing the demonstration and civil disobedience to call for fair elections and real democracy. Every day thousands of protesters — including me — will risk arrest (democracyspring.org).

I invite you to support me. Join physically or in spirit. Sit in, even if it’s symbolic.

Katherine Bragg, Eugene

 

PROTECT NATURAL AREAS

Much obliged to Bob Warren for his explication of the function and enduring value of our national land trusts [Viewpoint, 3/31]. While public interest land use advocacy groups such as LandWatch Lane County scrap with city, county and state agencies to protect farms, forests and natural areas, individual landowners can do that job themselves — without the fuss and bother — by donating or selling their lands to an accredited land trust or by putting them into conservation easements in perpetuity.

As a long-time regional business development officer for the Oregon Business Development Department, Warren was no stranger to the interests that threaten our natural heritage. Happily, in his retirement and as a board member of McKenzie River Trust (MRT), he appears to see more value in protecting land than in promoting its exploitation.

By protecting “more than 4,500 acres of land in the McKenzie, Upper Willamette, Siuslaw and Umpqua watersheds,” MRT has earned our gratitude and respect. Its efforts have not come easily or cheaply: The trust depends on foundation grants and consistent, sizeable contributions from individuals to pay staff and purchase desirable land.

Unfortunately, but necessarily, due to its size, its policies and its obligations, MRT can neither purchase from willing sellers nor oversee donations on many properties that would qualify for a conservation easement.

Fortunately, as one of the number of “small, locally-driven land trusts” that, Warren notes, “protect historic sites, farmland, wildlife habitat, water quality, rural heritage and more,” Northwest Land Conservation Trust (NWLCT) is able to conserve lands statewide that larger organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and MRT cannot or will not. 

With a volunteer board and as an accredited nonprofit land trust, NWLCT has for more than 25 years preserved the natural, historical and cultural values of private properties both large and small through conservation easement donations.

If you have property you wish to conserve and believe would qualify for a conservation easement, please consult the NWLCT website at nwlct.org. 

Lives are finite, legacies infinite.

Robert Emmons, Fall Creek

 

TURN THE TESTING TIDE

Parents, you should opt your children out of Smarter Balanced tests. Here’s why: 

1. Common Core isn’t over until states agree, meaning students keep taking the same flawed standardized tests until you opt them out.

2. Zero schools have lost funding from opt-outs, contrary to propaganda. New York’s 15-percent rate didn’t cost one federal dime. 

3. Test questions focus unfairly above grade level, while containing errors in punctuation, grammar and logic. 

4. Scores don’t show which answers students get wrong or Common Core standards they meet. Results arrive the next year, too late to act. 

5. Tests waste seven hours for a third grader and 11 for older kids, not including drills and practice tests.  Classes lose two to four weeks of instructional time.

6. Oregon’s $27.5 million Smarter Balanced tests consume electives that would motivate kids, teach lifelong skills and improve graduation rates.

7. Expanded testing is merely the first step in corporate plans to profit from every classroom activity “from cradle to college,” they boast.

8. Better, less expensive methods are available.

9. Oregon’s Department of Education is working jointly with the Oregon Education Association on improved assessments. Yet some officials still resist.

You have the power to turn the tide. The Community Alliance for Public Education is hosting a parent meeting about opting out: 7 pm Monday, April 18, at the Springfield Public Library. For more information, go to oregoncape.org. 

Rachel Rich, Eugene

 

A QUIET ZONE

The city of Eugene is seeking input from citizens regarding its plans to silence train horns in Eugene.

One of the primary issues in planning is how to change current street crossings to be compatible with federal rules for establishing the quiet zone. The current plan calls for a combination of medians, quad gates, one road closure and other modifications.

Citizens are asked to give feedback on the city’s plan on their webpage at goo.gl/UCBVbB.

Please let the city of Eugene know you support the creation of a quiet zone sooner than later by signing the petition at eugenequietzone.com. 

David A. Caruso, Eugene

 

EULOGY FOR A TREE

I savored the gentle spring air as it caressed me on my last night of life. The moon was a thin crescent which soon set, the rest of the night dark with stars. I trembled with excitement of a springtime unfolding, anticipating another bright summer tall and proud under the sun. 

Too soon, a faint line began to appear on the horizon as birds sang their morning songs to me one more time. The urban cityscape slowly hummed awake with its bustle, and dawn broke over the east. The bright rays of first light hit me as the woodchipper started its roaring motor. My arms shook as they were bitten down by sharp saws. 

I stood here over Amazon Creek giving my gifts for 48 years, and in a few short hours I was gone.

Mike McFadden, Eugene

 

THE CHOICE IS SEMPLE

My neighbors in south Eugene have appreciated Ward 1 City Councilor George Brown’s support in our work to protect Eugene homes from speculators’ plans for bulk rezoning around south Willamette. Large Capstone-like structures here would also increase traffic on nearby streets, including Lincoln, Washington and Friendly.

I recently bumped into Councilor Brown at The Kiva grocery store. Brown told me that yes, he was retiring from the City Council. But he added that a candidate had stepped forward who he could heartily endorse for his Ward 1 seat: Democrat Emily Semple.  

Semple has raised a family in Eugene. She is a gardener who studied chemistry at Duke and earned a degree in renewable natural resources at University of Connecticut. She later studied forest ecology at Oregon State University. She is a widely appreciated Eugene community activist. 

Most importantly, in working with her over the years, I’ve seen that Semple understands Eugene’s problems and listens to neighbors in the Ward 1 area she will represent.

In contrast, opponents of Semple have acted in lockstep with policy promoted by the Chamber of Commerce and Big Timber. Their record should be looked at closely. One opponent, for example, has opposed the city budget for neighborhood associations and neighborhood newsletters and has worked to greenwash (that is, to give an appearance of environmental acceptability) the Seneca Sawmill incinerator now polluting Eugene’s airshed.

For environmental protection, labor and economic justice, affordable housing and neighborhood livability, the choice is Semple.

Ralph McDonald, Eugene

 

SHAPES AND SIZES

Respectfully, Grant Roberts (Letters, “Calorie Counting,” April 7), what “center” are you referring to? If the bottom line is your pocketbook, then please disregard this. If your center includes understanding what obesity actually is, where it comes from and how to potentially change that system, then let us have that conversation. Let’s talk about quality food availability in public schools, socioeconomic barriers and the huge price discrepancies between wholesome foods and processed foods. 

Let’s talk about food and nutritional education and reintegrating everyday physical activities into our children’s lives as preventative measures. Health and prevention should be the priority, whether it is smoking or food related. Let's talk about our own biases, ignorance and judgments of people’s body shapes and sizes. 

’Cause the us vs. them mentality really doesn’t get us anywhere.

Rebecca Rose, Eugene

 

SUNSHINE STREK

Stefan Strek brings a fresh spark of sunshine to Eugene’s mayoral election. He’s filled with positive energy, he’s a soft-spoken soul and a real good listener.

Strek has worked for seven years at Carson Hall Dining at the University of Oregon. It’s time we had a working-class person for mayor. Strek has a lot of empathy for others. He helped out a friend by paying his fine of $50 for not having his dog liscensed. 

As mayor, Stefan Strek will provide gentle leadership, which our community can certainly benefit from.

Misha Seymour, Eugene