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Letters to the Editor: 8-30-2012

THE CARETAKERS

Several Occupy Eugene committees are collaborating on caretaking an empty downtown house which is involved in foreclosure. We have been at 1191 Lawrence for three weeks now, with the cooperation and support of the neighbors and the owner, who lives out of state.

We learned that the owner was misled by Bank of America, who told her they were about to take possession of her house after refusing to work with her on a loan modification or other options for resolving the situation. She handed in her keys in 2009 and the house still stands empty today. It had become a public safety and health hazard before the present Occupation hauled off the garbage and posted a 24/7 watch.

Here’s a shout out to sisters and brothers who support our work for economic fairness and housing as a human right. We’re painting the fence down at 1191 Lawrence on Labor Day Monday, Sept. 3, starting around 10 am. Come on down and paint yourself a picket or two, maybe meet the neighbors. You can also visit us during the First Friday Art Walk for an exhibit of Art of the Occupation on Sept. 7.

Fergus Mclean, Occupy Housing Foreclosure Action Committee

 

LEARN FROM CORVALLIS

Eugene is still struggling to re-energize our downtown, although there have been some positive improvements in recent months. Perhaps our city leaders should have a discussion with their counterparts in Corvallis. 

I visited Corvallis recently and was amazed at how vibrant its downtown core is: plenty of independent shops and restaurants that appeared to be doing well, tons of free street parking and a bustling farmers market that nonetheless didn’t feel crowded and overwhelming (as ours often does). They shut down the entire street for it, rather than forcing it onto narrower sidewalks. I don’t know what they’re doing (other than prioritizing small businesses and the Saturday Market), but they’re doing something right! 

Maybe we could learn from their success and apply it to our own city. A good start would be shutting down two blocks of 8th Avenue on Saturdays to car traffic so our wonderful market can expand and be a more pleasant experience for shoppers. And perhaps instead of spending so much energy trying to rid ourselves of “undesirables” downtown, we could focus on making it a more appealing and inviting place for everyone to relax, shop, eat, play and enjoy.

Kate Winter, Eugene

 

SOURCES WERE WRONG

EW inaccurately wrote on Aug. 16 [Slant] that Juan Carlos Valle [reportedly] resigned as chair of the Police Commission because members were dissatisfied with his leadership. I am a member of the commission and that was not the case. Juan Carlos is an important and active member of the Police Commission. He was an effective committee leader and the commission voted him to be its chairperson. Two dissatisfied “credible sources” were wrong if they made statements that Juan Carlos would be voted out of leadership.

Jesse Lohrke, Eugene

 

INTEGRITY & HONOR

I was surprised to read the piece in the Aug. 16 issue of the Weekly regarding a reported move to force out Juan Carlos Valle as chair of the Police Commission. I work with Juan Carlos and he was an effective, dedicated and energetic chair who has served the city and Police Commission with integrity and honor. He has a full time job, a family, serves on a nonprofit board, volunteers as a Rotarian and at other venues, and is running for a seat on the City Council — he is a busy guy! I look forward to continuing to serve with him on the Police Commission.

Bob Walker, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Police Commission is made up of 12 members nominated by the mayor and appointed by the City Council.

 

A NEW PLOY

On Aug. 1, we attended the public hearing for a permit application that would allow 47 housing lots to be developed in Eugene’s Amazon headwaters (end of West Amazon and Martin). This is the fourth time the owners of this property have proposed building in this fragile, natural area. All past applications were denied. Now, a revised strategy presents the project under new, locally untested criteria for “needed housing.” 

Oregon’s statewide planning Goals and Guidelines say that “needed housing” plans must consider the carrying capacity of land, air and water resources; should not exceed that capacity; and must consider environmental consequences and “the optimal use of existing urban land.” 

The headwaters area is popular with hikers and runners for natural beauty, great trails and unique geology which shields out urban noise. Trees and vegetation stem the flow of water downstream. Slopes are steep — in places exceeding established limits for new building. Neighbors have testified that drainage is already a huge problem for this area. 

From our perspective, “optimal uses” of this urban land are for truly needed soil stability, water quality, safe drainage, recreation and wildlife. 

Lots for housing can be developed on land that is not so unique and important to the livability of our city. “Needed housing” is an inappropriate pretext for developing this ecologically sensitive watershed that has been recommended for protected status by the Army Corps of Engineers. 

Elaine Weiss, Emily Fox & Lora Byxbe, Eugene

 

MENDING FENCES?

Regarding “County Funds Killing Coyotes and Bears” in News Briefs Aug. 9: The fences mentioned at the Rattlesnake dump are repeatedly destroyed by another kind of predator, not bears but desperate meth-users stealing metal. Camilla Mortensen’s article indicates that the county budget for wildlife control is being thrown away at Rattlesnake and other dump sites, while in reality most of the money is spent at Short Mountain keeping birds out of airplane engines. Our compostable food waste is mixed with recyclable materials and turned into the disaster we call landfills, attracting hungry wildlife. Meth-using fence cutters are victims of failed drug policies and a lack of social services. 

The humane professionals in Wildlife Services should not be characterized as “against wildlife” — they are dealing with a situation that we all create. The examples from California cited in the article (use of cyanide, etc.) have nothing to do with my experience of what is happening in Lane County.

I answered Mortensen’s question: “What sort of predator problems do people in Lane County have?” Our sheep, though well-fenced-in and in an area that has been safe, have been attacked and killed by coyotes. But that was the wrong question. The implication in her article is that Lane County funds the killing of predators for livestock producers, something that doesn’t happen here, for small farmers like us anyway.

 Fixing fences is a good plan. Dealing with our waste in a more evolved way will solve the bird problems that are the real source of money lost by Lane County to control wildlife. 

Gail Gould, Pleasant Hill

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Sacramento Bee story cites nationwide, not California, statistics.

 

HOYLE’S GOOD RECORD

EW recently [7/19] published in its Slant column a piece about Rep. Val Hoyle, which called into question her environmental leanings and pointed out her environmental voting score from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Hoyle has received one of the highest scores for representatives of that district, and she has been someone we can consistently work with in the Legislature. We have none of the concerns that were alluded to in that piece and think Hoyle is doing a great job at making sure her constituents have access to clean water and air and protect the natural legacy in Oregon.

Karen Booth, Chair of the Lane Co. Chapter, Oregon League of Conservation Voters

 

SPENDY BUS LANE

I wanted to support the West Eugene EmX. I spent years exposing the problems of the proposed West Eugene Porkway. Documenting the WEP’s illegalities helped persuade the Federal Highway Administration to reject the project. But I have read the EmX Environmental Assessment and can’t support this project either. 

Public transit can be planned well and it can be planned poorly. It can be designed to be cost-efficient and it can be grossly overpriced to give megabucks to road construction companies. Journalists have an obligation to describe the difference if they are watch dogs and not lap dogs.

Oregon law requires coordination of transportation and land use. In 2002 the State Supreme Court upheld Hood River’s restriction on big box megastores. The city of Eugene rubberstamped more big boxes, both under Republican Mayor Torrey and under Democrat Mayor Piercy.

The west Eugene line would be about $100 million, a bit spendy for a bus lane that is partly in mixed traffic, especially since giant bridges and overpasses are not planned.

The EmX study ignores the fact that car traffic has peaked in Lane County, Oregon and the U.S., according to the Lane Council of Governments, ODOT and FHWA websites. The rise in the price of petroleum forced some reduction in travel demand. Nearly all of Oregon’s oil comes from the almost depleted Alaska Pipeline and transportation planning — for EmX or for widening highways — must consider oil depletion when estimating future needs. 

Mark Robinowitz, PeakTraffic.org, SustainEugene.org

 

THERE ARE NO JOBS

Jeff Zekas of Veneta writes [Letters, 8/9] that all homeless people are narcissistic, selfish, immature folks who choose not to work, or live in an apartment, or get a job! And that they are not on the street by accident but by choice. He also states that those who are mentally deficient made themselves that way by drug abuse (alcohol is a drug). This is in some cases true; however, this not true for the majority of homeless persons. As a homeless disabled vet I am not a drunk, tweek, liar or thief. Yes, I do have a 36-year-old motorhome to live in, and by the grace of God and a lot of help from St. Vincent de Paul, I have a place to put it. 

I would love to be able to work as would many, many other homeless folk. Get a job? What job? There are no jobs. No phone, no home equals no job or apartment. I can’t afford an apartment with the income I receive from Uncle Sam. 

Mentally deficient by choice? No! As in all groups of people there are good and bad; that’s life. I challenge Mr. Zekas to come see for himself the other side of the coin. Come see just what is possible when homeless men are given a chance. Come see me, sir, at the corner of Elmira and Iowa, the vacant lot with the white motor home.

R. Hightower, Homeless in Eugene

 

DUST NOT THE ISSUE

Enough with the dust! I’ve been following with some amusement the recent spate of letters worried about coal dust from trains through Eugene. I grew up near some of the busier coal-hauling railroads in the Midwest (from five to 20 coal trains per day), and I never once saw dust billowing off a train or accumulations of coal dust near the tracks. 

Yes, coal trains do lose dust, but nearly all of it happens near the mine when the trains first get up to speed and the finer particles are caught in the wind. Eugene is over 1,000 rail miles from the mines, not especially windy, and trains will be traveling at reduced speed through town. Dust losses average out to a pound per mile from mine to port, but losses through Eugene will be some tiny fraction of that — small enough that you will never notice it and your neighbor’s barbecue smoke will be more of a health concern.

I make this argument not because I like coal exports, but rather because baseless NIMBY worries will be quickly washed aside when the time comes for decisions. If you want to stand against coal trains, here are some valid global-scale arguments:

Coal is the worst fossil fuel in terms of climate change and air pollution, so we need to burn less, not more. Fossil fuels are a finite resource and replacements are not yet adequate; therefore exporting our coal is not in our national interest.

And some valid local arguments: Long trains tie up crossings for longer, preventing access by emergency vehicles. More trains means increased risk of fatal collisions with vehicles and pedestrians. The track to Coos Bay is not maintained to modern standards and is vulnerable to washouts and landslides. This means a very real risk of derailments with environmental consequences (think diesel fuel and big piles of coal in salmon streams).

Mark Luterra, Corvallis