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Letters to the Editor: 3-8-2012

PROGRESSIVE TRADITION

For decades, Pete Sorenson has been a courageous and highly principled servant of South Eugeneans. Since the timber-industry’s underwritten and orchestrated lawsuit of 2010, he has been the target of a sustained politics of personal destruction. This has been cold, angry and ugly — dripping with sarcasm and half-truths. Citizens should reject it.

As a South Eugenean since 1965 and as a loyal and dedicated friend and campaign aid/advisor to the late former senator Wayne L. Morse and local former congressman Charles O. Porter (both South Eugene residents), I view Sorenson’s career to be in that great tradition of public service.

As immediate past chair of the Lane County Budget Committee and a seasoned county volunteer, I know that Sorenson has been unsurpassed in his independence and professional courtesy. He has, without peer, championed the environment, education, UO, civil and privacy rights, seniors, veterans, peace and fair board process. He has a perfect board meeting attendance record and consistently has the most professional service delivery to constituents.

No other board member or candidate comes close to his breadth of knowledge and service — congressional and White House appointee assistant, LCC board chair, state senator, small business owner, and four-term board veteran.

His voice and experience are needed to balance a right-wing board majority.

Character assassination should have no place in public life. In the face of political efforts to destroy him both financially and politically, Sorenson has displayed a kindness and dignity we should admire.

 W. Scott Bartlett, Eugene


NAVIGATING THE MAZE

While manufactured legal gamesmanship and contrived political attacks garner their intended diversions and distractions, we should never overlook the ever constant and vitally important day-to-day responsibilities of being a county commissioner. One such role is the level of care and assistance dedicated commissioners give their constituents.

During my four-year term as commissioner, I provided much needed constituent outreach to the people of my district (which is roughly the size of the entire state of Rhode Island) by holding 196 town hall- style meetings and forums. Helping people navigate through the maze of local government is perhaps the single most important function a commissioner can provide.

I was continually inspired by the untiring constituent service work my colleagues Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson daily gave, and continue to give, their districts’ citizens. They are the two hardest working commissioners currently on the board with respect to instant and persistent constituent service, response and holding public meetings and meeting with citizen groups. 

Both Handy and Sorenson obviously care deeply about keeping in touch and rendering service to their districts — reflecting and giving courageous voice to their neighbors’ most noble views and ideals. Although they have been subjected to an ongoing smear campaign funded by narrow special interests, they continue to stand tall and hold their heads high in the face of these vicious personal and politically inspired attacks and specious investigations.

Fair-minded citizens will vote to reject hateful and counterproductive political warfare and will re-elect these deserving humble public servants. 

William A. “Bill” Fleenor, Former West Lane County Commissioner


BONANZA REVISITED

I’ve found recent articles in EW and the R-G on Greg Demers and his companies’ high-risk exploits interesting, informative and surprising. Demers is a speculator in logging, real estate, the water business (bought the small Willamette Water Co.) and most visibly the gravel mining at the controversial Parvin Butte mine above Dexter.

I’m stunned that a speculator with such a questionable business history, including lawsuits, at least $4 million in unpaid taxes, bankruptcies, murky ownerships, questionable grant applications and a terrible environmental record could get the approval of a majority of Lane County commissioners to give him rights to lock up millions of gallons of McKenzie River water.

The ongoing destruction of Parvin Butte, a beautiful and iconic landmark 1,500 feet from the Dexter Post Office, is explicitly tied to Demers’ application for state money to build a railroad hub to transport rock from the butte to the coast. In no way should Oregon commit taxpayer grant money to this endeavor.

What century is this?

I’m reminded of episodes from the old TV show Bonanza where a smooth talkin’ businessman comes to town promising jobs and riches. Nearly everyone in town is in his thrall, except Ben Cartright, who sounds the alarm. Ben and his boys, including Hoss, usually save the day.

County Commissioner Pete Sorenson voted against Demers’ water scheme. I guess we should call him County Commissioner “Ben” Sorenson. Having a watchdog at the courthouse is valuable. Let’s keep Sorenson our commissioner.

Leslie Weinstein, Eugene


Where’s the teeth?

The issues that we are seeing with regards to Mr. Demers and the McDougal brothers in Dexter and now on the McKenzie River are just the latest examples of how our government, on all levels, no longer represents the best interests of all citizens. 

How is bowing to the pressures and influence of corporations and the wealthy, allowing them to violate county codes and regulations for personal profit and at the expense of the environment, in the best interest of the local community? And to add insult to injury, all this is being perpetrated by a man that owes millions of dollars in back taxes. 

Demers and the McDougal brothers have shown blatant disregard of the process required by the county and state regulators. They lied on applications for mining and forestry permits and the application for a bridge to be constructed in a fragile salmon stream. Are they paying a penalty for their dishonesty? On the contrary! They are rewarded by being allowed to proceed without needing to take into account the concerns of the many citizens that surround their property. 

Citizens whose health, property values and quality of life are going to be negatively affected. Citizens who went through the proper channels to stand up for themselves, and who also don’t owe millions of dollars in back taxes. If you have natural resources in your back yard, as so many of us in Oregon do, you may be the next victim of this greed. Don’t look to local government to stop it. They have no teeth. 

Dan Orleck, Dexter


RESIDENTS OBJECT

The proposed downtown student housing project at 13th and Olive seriously threatens to inundate those who would be its closest neighbors, the residents of Olive Plaza. OP is the 12-story apartment building at 11th and Olive designated for extremely low to very low-income elderly and disabled persons, some of whom have resided there for the 30 years of its existence. The average age of its 150 residents is about 82; many use canes, walkers and wheelchairs to get around, and caregivers provide the support needed for OP residents to maintain an independent lifestyle. Does this sound like a match for a complex of 1,200 students? We think not!

We are concerned about such a huge influx of people in such a concentrated area and the impact it would have on our quality of life. Such a project is not welcome in the UO area, as an R-G editorial points out, “the influx of students, with the associated parties and demands for parking, has led to complaints from long-term residents.” Neither is it welcome here! There is a lot more at stake than the wished for influx of cash for downtown businesses. We urge reconsideration of this project.

 Phyllis Linn, Eugene


MENACE TO SOCIETY

A few nights ago I went to the local Dari Mart. As I was waiting my turn another customer was making a purchase of beer. The man behind the counter said “Hey Ted. What are you gonna do this weekend?” The customer replied, “Well I’m gonna drink this beer, smoke some pot, do a little meth, start all over again and go to work on Monday.” The man behind the counter said, “Oh, same old, same old, huh?” 

As I looked around the store and all of the other people standing in line waiting to make their purchases, I was amazed that not one person looked shocked or even surprised. Myself, my jaw dropped. Is drug use so prevalent in Springfield that it is normal to speak of it so openly? I’m beginning to think so. I see it everywhere in Springfield. On the bus. At the bus stop. 

Hard drugs are a menace to society. I really don’t care what it does to the individual who ruins his or her life with them. It’s the despicable things they do to obtain the drugs that I despise. It’s the disgusting behavior that they display under the influence of drugs like meth and heroin. I understand the city of Springfield can’t afford to take these losers off of the street. That is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. 

Maureen Jenkins, Springfield


SHARE THE STREETS

Walking from the Whiteaker neighborhood, where I live and work, through the park between Washington and Jefferson streets and on to downtown Eugene, what I notice is a town on the brink of becoming a city — and cities are diverse, complicated and bustling. In my fortunate travels to various places around the U.S. and to other parts of the world, I can report that people who live in cities do their working, shopping and living among all sorts of other people doing likewise. 

It is time, Eugene, to move beyond the idea that only some people are allowed to be some places some of the time. Under what is currently known as the exclusion zone, or officially, the Downtown Public Safety Zone, we have given police the power to decide who gets to stay and who gets hassled, ticketed or arrested. There is this idea that we can’t go to dinner or do our shopping if three young people are standing on the street corner with a dog. 

My excitement at seeing the John Lennon Memorial in Central Park (New York) was in no way dampened by the fact that Central Park is filled with children, homeless people, chess players and joggers. I went anyway. The streets, parks and sidewalks belong to all of us and I believe we can share. Walk, bike, drive, shop, eat and experience the city we are working to build and stop unfairly excluding those who live differently on the possibility that they may commit a crime. 

Kori Rodley, Executive Director, Community Alliance of Lane County


PSYCHOTIC POLICY

Recently the governors of Washington, Rhode Island and Colorado petitioned the Drug Enforcement Agency to reschedule cannabis to Schedule II. So far Gov. Kitzhaber has yet to join this bicoastal effort.

Our governor has drug policy schizophrenia — supporting both the National Governors’ Association policy of encouraging federal drug enforcement and the Western Governors’ Association resolution that states should make drug policy — not Uncle Sam.

Joining the three governors’ petition is a no-brainer!

Oregon’s Board of Pharmacy reclassified cannabis to Schedule II in 2010. The nation’s largest doctors’ group, the American Medical Association (AMA) has called for cannabis rescheduling, and in 2008 the American College of Physicians called for a review of cannabis’s Schedule I classification.

If the governor needs help overcoming his reluctance, I’ll bet the state’s 87,000 medical marijuana cardholders will be glad to help.

As a medical doctor, our governor should be ashamed.

Jim Greig, Eugene


TREES VS. SIDEWALKS

Our “Tree City” of Eugene is planning to remove numerous shade trees so they can save money on sidewalk repair. Besides the reduction in livability, this plan does not comport with the city’s plans to save energy because the reduced shade also increases heat during the summer.

The city may also be on the hook for violations of the federal Endangered Species Act since stormwater flows will be higher in temperature due to the lack of shading, and that damages the habitat of protected salmon and other fish.

If the city has failed to consult with federal agencies on this plan, it may be sued.

 Randy Webb, Eugene


POETIC INJUSTICE

A tumor pressed upon her brain, just 24 years young. She lost her job and health care too, what suffering to come?

What can we tell her infant daughter, that in America we just don’t care? The rich can have long life and health, the poor must just despair.

Millionaire CEOs, stock dividends for friends. When health care is for profit, their money never ends.

Let’s tell our public servants, we want health care for all! Come to EWEB every first Wednesday at 7 pm and you can join the call!

Deb McGee, Eugene


ALCOHOLIC BLOOD

Thank you so much, Caitlin Zemke, for your informative letter (“Bribing with Beer,” 2/9) regarding alcoholism being supported by Lane Blood Bank and Hop Valley Brewing. I did not know I was an alcoholic until I read your letter. You see, a few years ago I drank a Pabst and just last weekend I went to the KLCC Microbrew festival, consuming about 2 ounces of beer. 

I am now going to focus my energy not on my newfound interest in healthy diet and exercise, but in overcoming my alcoholism. It is good to know that one beer every once in a while, if even for a very good cause, means that the person drinking it is an alcoholic.

For more info on alcoholism check out http://wkly.ws/172

Crystal Richter, Springfield




THE POLARIZER

Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich claims he “never looked at party registration … while he developed the redistricting plan.” (R-G, 2/21). If you believe that, you may also believe super PACs don’t coordinate between national campaigns and local campaigns. 

Bozievich is the perfect local Tea Partier — he crusades for small government with one hand while the other hand accepts a fat government salary. He uses the full power of government to force his ideas onto the public. Partly thanks to Bozievich, the Lane County Commission is now as dysfunctional and polarized as Congress, hardly a flattering comparison. And one that is not worthy of the hard-working, taxpaying citizens of Lane County.

 Beverly Barr, Eugene


TOXIC ENVIRONMENT

Enough already! Recently, I watched a pedestrian cuss out a motorist for stopping to give him free crossing, then another motorist cussed out the pedestrian, and then my neighbors had an argument on the street — all of them liberally peppering their “thoughts” with words beginning with “s” and “f.” 

I read that a state legislator yelled across the room to a speaker to “shut your mouth.” Remember when a congressman called Obama a liar during his State of the Union speech? Rush Limbaugh can hurl whatever insults he wants and laugh when he’s called on it. Politicians routinely demonize their opponents and call it normal business. We know that the word “compromise” can barely be spoken, let alone enacted. 

As a result we now have a toxic environment of negative energy, a fertile ground for lies, and encouragement for aggression and hostility — all accepted as the norm. Can you dare to imagine what the future holds?

We changed the cultural norm for smoking. What’s it going to take to change the cultural norm to respectful speech — and even action? Free speech was meant to protect us from persecution for speaking our opinions. It was not meant to encourage whatever insult, demonizing or gutter language anyone wants to use to cause harm to someone else. 

Change is not in the law; it’s in we the people. When will we be fed up enough to speak out against this abuse to human civility and even withdraw financial support? I appreciate the many “acts of random kindness” and they do exist. I just hope they aren’t being drowned in the sludge that daily besets us.

What can we do? For myself, I’m going to quit ignoring this blight however I can — starting now! Onward.

 Jay Moseley, Eugene


QUICK-FIX A BAD IDEA

Senate Joint Memorial 201 (SJM 201) is a measure being considered in the current session of the Oregon Legislature. If passed, the Legislature would demand the president and Congress remove O&C Railroad grant lands from federal management and turn them over to counties to be managed by both “public and private concerns.” 

The counties lack the financial resources to oversee the management of 2.4 million acres of O&C lands. This raises the question of who would actually be managing these forests, and the answer would be the “private concerns.” Our public lands would be turned over to the timber industry, without federal environmental protections in place to prevent damaging clear-cuts, soil erosion and ensure the health of our watersheds.

There are serious economic issues facing Oregon. Members of the environmental community have developed alternative solutions to the O&C counties funding controversy and are willing to work with Oregon’s legislators to prevent depleting our resources and trading our future for a quick-fix.

Tell Oregon legislators to vote “no” on SJM 201. An online petition is available at: http://wkly.ws/171

Cristina Hubbard, project director, Forest Web of Cottage Grove


WHY IS IT RELIGIOUS?

Will someone please tell me why the Catholic church is opposed to contraception? I get the run-around from our local Catholic hospital PeaceHealth/Sacred Heart over whether they offer or support birth control coverage in workers’ insurance policies.

The opponents of contraception frame this as a religious issue, but never explain the religious basis for this belief.

Jan Nelson, Crow


A WAY TO SAVE MONEY

I’m curious as to why EWEB simply can’t have the existing “dumb” meters read on a bi-monthly basis rather than monthly. This should require the employment of half the number of meter readers currently needed. I believe this is already being done in some other utility districts. 

Jeff Innis, Eugene


MAJORITY RULE

Scientific studies demonstrate that creatures as different as insects, birds and mammals share a surprising similarity. When it comes time to make a group decision regarding movements, a basic organizing principal plays out: when 51 percent of the group’s members indicate their preference — by moving in a certain direction — the whole group follows. These “democratic principals” are upheld without the necessity of leaders or a police force, but by something much more organic. It appears to be a feature of DNA that provides these creatures with a method for harmonizing relationships with each other.

 I cannot say whether the same is true for people, but I like to imagine that it is. I think that if some of us start showing a little extra kindness to those closest to us, that eventually 51 percent will be taking part and we will then jump to a new paradigm —from the current competitive model that our society is organized around to one of full cooperation. Just imagine what changes might come about then. Join the 51 percent today and let’s see what good we can make of it!

 Dr. Wade Guthrie, D.C., Eugene


APPLIED SOCIOLOGY

I was there for the founding of O.U.R. Credit Union. It was 1965, if I remember right, 10 years earlier than you suppose. Willie Mims — then a staffer at the federal Community Organization Action Project (COAP) — was the founder and organizer of OUR. His supervisor was Dick McDevitt. Professors Raymond Lowe, Kenneth Polk and many others were advisors.

Dick McDevitt was my supervisor too. I was Rural Regional Coordinator for COAP and supervised several VISTA Volunteers living in places like Florence and Dexter. Later I went back to UO and got a Ph.D. in sociology, but that experience in applied sociology stays with me to this day. We organizers got a lot of things started.

Willie was assigned to the Whiteaker neighborhood. The theme of all COAP’s work during its brief existence was community empowerment and overcoming depression; taking control of at least some local finances was a logical extension of this idea. Willie pushed it hard and it came to pass in the form of O.U.R. Whiteaker became a center of the counterculture in the 1960s and that carried over into the flowering of local enterprises that followed and that makes Eugene the special place it is today.

Dan Knapp, CEO, Urban Ore, Inc., Berkeley, Calif.