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Letters to the Editor: 2-14-2013

WHAT BUDGET CRISIS?

We are being told that we have a budget crisis, but what most people don’t know is that the budget is not the only way to gauge the financial health of the city. The full picture can be found in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. The CAFR reports all the assets and liabilities of the city; the budget is just a very small part of that report. The CAFR has always shown a huge surplus, even when the budget shows a deficit. 

The following are quotes from the 2012 CAFR report (page 15): As noted earlier, net assets may serve over time as a useful indicator of a government’s financial position. In the case of the city, assets exceeded liabilities by $817.1 million at close of fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. ….The remaining balance of net assets $117.9 million (14 percent) are unrestricted and may be used to meet the government’s ongoing obligations to citizens and creditors. The problem is that very little, if any, of this $117.9 million is being “used to meet the government’s ongoing obligations to citizens and creditors,” or we would not have this “budget crisis.” 

Go to the city of Eugene website, search for FY12 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and see for yourself. The library has a copy also. Why are these assets not being used by the city? Why are we being asked once again to pay more taxes? Go to cafr1.com and cafrman.com to find out what’s going on.

Abraham Likwornik, Eugene

 

SPECIFICS NEEDED

Bonny Bettman McCornack seemed to be channeling “Romney-Ryan-speak” in her column [2/7]. She opposes new revenue for the city of Eugene and rails against the proposals floated by the mayor and council. It is just like Romney and Ryan’s claim that they would close unidentified loopholes and tax breaks and identify unnamed spending cuts. She is as silent on actual solutions as the Republican congressional leadership is now. 

The city of Eugene has a real $6 million problem next year and into the future. She claims she knows where there is “waste, deadwood and too many giveaways.” I’d like to hear specifics and what real services and programs she would cut to balance next year’s budget. Real numbers and real impacts, please. Or what new revenue that has any chance of approval would she actually campaign for? 

It’s easy to complain about what’s wrong. No one likes to pay more taxes. I’d be in favor of exempting any taxpayer who receives food stamps from the tax. Call me a tax-and-spend liberal. I like to live in a place where we have nice parks, recreation opportunities, library access, safe streets, assistance for our impoverished neighbors and thoughtful planning. To me, working for a better future is what “progressive” should be all about. 

Richie Weinman, Eugene

 

MAD AT GOVERNMENT?

Bonny Bettman McCornack makes some excellent points in her column “Bailing Out City Hall” [2/7]. Maybe it’s true the city has hired consultants to “survey residents and determine what services reliable voters cherish most. Then City Hall ties those favored services to the tracks, and says ‘give us more money or else.’” Obviously, that’s not a good arrangement.

What McCornack proposes is standing up to city bureaucrats by rejecting new taxes, as if that will have a positive outcome. Principally, I agree with her. I don’t think there’s any disagreement between us that the government is unfair, wasteful and corrupt. But who will suffer the most if the proposed tax measure is defeated: government bureaucrats, or low-level public employees and low-wage social service providers from the nonprofit sector? 

Among the services that will be eliminated or reduced are programs of Looking Glass, White Bird Clinic and St. Vincent de Paul, as well as Mental Health Court, Buckley House and other programs largely for low-income and struggling members of our community. Are we to eliminate, or dramatically reduce, programs like CAHOOTS, Fire Station #2, etc., because we are mad at the government? 

I support “radical” change to create a more fair and equitable society. Ultimately, I don’t believe real answers to our problems can be found in government or corporate solutions. But if a tax is necessary to preserve services that benefit those who are suffering most, then I’ll put my anti-government sentiment aside to support taxes to save such services.

Pat Coogan, Eugene

 

FEES NEEDED

There’s widespread frustration with the prospect of City Council adding new fees to pay for public services. That’s understandable: Eugene is constantly faced with new budget crises, which our leaders don’t seem creative or innovative enough to fix or improve. And it seems politicians are doing better than ever as vital services face major cuts and growing numbers face economic woes.

Despite this, in the absence of immediate solutions, I support the fees. Some of the services that would lose funds, such as the library or fire department, serve a broad section of the community. Others, such as Buckley House or CAHOOTS, have more specific clientele, which includes some of the worst-off in our community (mostly homeless and mentally ill). Additionally, Buckley and CAHOOTS staff are not city or county employees; they don’t receive PERS benefits; they receive meager wages for what is a labor of love: serving those who are suffering.

Aside from alleviating suffering, Buckley and CAHOOTS are relatively low-cost programs that actually save the public money. In the absence of CAHOOTS, most of their “business” would go to much more expensive police and paramedics. In the absence of Buckley, many of their clients would go to jail or the hospital, further burdening those costly resources. 

These new fees would help preserve badly needed services. Our local leaders deserve criticism for their many failings, but rejecting the proposed fees will mainly hurt service providers and their clients, not overpaid government bureaucrats. 

Thomas James, Eugene

 

STAYING ALIVE

Regarding Lynn Porter’s letter of Feb. 7: We are lucky to live in Eugene, where at least there are laws for drivers and pedestrians. Try walking in many other cities.

I walk. I ride a bike. I rode motorcycles. In all cases I was aware that cars were bigger and stronger than I was. Quit walking offensively and try defensively.

Fred McCord, Eugene