As the city considers subsidizing development downtown, it might be wise to consider those who are already subsidizing the quality of life in this city: the underpaid employees of the nonprofit organizations that look after the emotionally ill, the developmentally delayed, the abused or neglected children, the homeless and others struggling on the fringes of our economy. These nonprofits have benefited over the years from a ready source of well-educated and committed young college graduates who could afford to work for low wages and wished to stay in a city they loved.
The high rents and increased burden of college loan payments are shrinking this pool of talent, and often workers move on quickly, which means the agencies experience high turnover instead of experienced employees. Additionally, as more and more retirees settle here, the need for lower paid hospital and nursing home staff will increase.
It would be to our city’s advantage to provide low-income housing downtown for this largely younger workforce. They are the people who will patronize the kind of businesses we say we want downtown. We could have a two-for-one deal: higher quality caregiving and patrons for restaurants and nightlife.
August Sabini, Eugene
IT WON’T HURT SCHOOLS
By using a statewide figure to make a point about the relationship between education and urban renewal, your cover story on Measure 20-134 may have given your readers a mistaken impression. I am writing to correct that.
You state that the urban renewal district will divert $28 million from school funding statewide. However, the local number is far smaller: $17,000 this year under the district now in effect. While that number may grow as investment in the urban renewal district grows, we must also take into account that the urban renewal district will employ more people, generating new income taxes that are the principal source of education funding today.
In fact, the urban renewal district may actually help generate more funding for schools in cases like Eugene where voters have approved local property tax levies. That’s because taxes generated in urban renewal districts don’t apply toward the constitutionally imposed limit on property tax funding for education.
I’m a passionate advocate for schools, volunteering countless hours along with my colleagues to our educational mission, and yet I can’t tell voters that all tax dollars should flow to schools. We also need a vibrant downtown, quality health care, affordable housing, good streets, mass transit and parks — all necessary for a livable community.
We are so fortunate to have a community that values its schools, but that doesn’t need to come at the expense of other important values. Schools are part of the fabric of a community. Right now our community fabric is torn in the center. What better way to fix it than to use taxes generated by investment in the district itself — investment that likely would not have happened if the district didn’t exist?
Individually, members of the Eugene School District board have endorsed Measure 20-134, because we think it’s the right thing for our community. Mayor Kitty Piercy was a devoted educator herself. She has also endorsed Measure 20-134. I trust your readers to understand that if Measure 20-134 hurt schools, none of us would support it. Yet we do.
Beth Gerot, Vice Chair, Eugene School Board
A 13 percent profit guarantee? Portland developers are demanding that the city of Eugene pay exorbitant prices for downtown property and then resell it to them for pennies on the dollar to guarantee their standard 13 percent profit. Absurd. Every businessperson reading this should march down to City Hall and demand a 13 percent profit for fiscal 2007. If they refuse to sign you up for the giveaway, then refuse to give them their play money.
Another Measure 20-134 deal-killer is that $10 million of the $40 million will be spent on administrative expenses: salaries, benefits, pensions, and lame PowerPoint presentations for overpaid bureaucrats: the same folks who brought us the Sears pit and the eyesore parking lot at 8th & Charnelton. If they can’t turn the Sears and Aster pits into beautiful, affordable housing and retail with the $29 million they already have, then they need to be fired. Incremental development will gradually bring us a downtown filled with a variety of spaces, places and people. Don’t let the proponents fool you with their “all or nothing” red herring. We can make a big impact with existing funds. Vote no on 20-134.
Charlie Magee, Eugene
After lambasting the R-G one year ago for “sticking the finger through the line between advertising and news” and being “more and more willing to cross ethical lines for ad money,” (EW, 10/26/06), and, three months later, gleefully reporting that the R-G had received the journalistic equivalent of a Darwin award from the Columbia Journalism Review for the same bit of trashy advertising (EW, 1/18), how does the Weekly justify the advertisement/advice column Downtown Dan, a political action committee ad masquerading as a Savage Love knockoff (down to the acronym names for people supposedly asking “Dan” for advice)?
Truthfully, I don’t care very much about the political issues surrounding this latest cash fight for downtown, and I sure as hell have never been a huge fan of the R-G. I’m simply nauseated by this attitude of “It’s OK if we do it” that seems so typical these days, and typical of the Weekly more and more.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The ad in question was submitted to our advertising department, which operates independently of our newsroom. Part of our mission on the news side is to point out what we observe as ethical blunders in other local media, such as when advertising and editorial commingle. A parody on a sex column doesn’t raise a red flag for us; a big advertising finger sticking up into a news story does.
M50 SAVES LIVES
Should we raise prices on cigarettes? I think we should! Cigarettes are bad for our health and bad for people’s health around us, and we could be giving the money to children’s health care.
Smoking is bad for our health. Smoking creates bad habits for thousands of people; it also kills people from lung cancer and many other diseases. Not only is it bad for the smokers, it is bad for the people around the smokers.
There are so many Americans getting sick and dying from second-hand smoke. There are many Americans who have never smoked a day in their life, yet they’re dying from other people’s smoke. If we raise the prices of cigarettes maybe some people will stop smoking, and we wouldn’t have that problem, and the money could go to a good cause.
If we raise the prices, we can give the money to the children’s health care. We could be saving lives of children if we pass Measure 50.
Some people who smoke can’t pay for the raised prices, but children’s health care is more important than cheap cigarettes. If we want to improve the health in our country or even the state, we should raise the prices of cigarettes.
Jacey Eberlein, Kennedy Middle School
Proponents of Measure 20-134 are upping the ante on their fallacies. Not only are they telling us that increasing the urban renewal $40 million won’t take money from schools and public services, but now they are expecting us to buy the claim that the West Broadway redevelopment project will stop urban sprawl and save our wetlands and watersheds. Are the developers buying up the hillsides of Eugene for development and the big box stores they want to build on our West Eugene Wetlands just going to walk away if 20-134 passes? What about the Homebuilders Association? Will the passage of 20-134 make this group cease and desist from lobbying to bump out the UGB? I think not.
The KWG concept only offers about 200 housing units and 95 hotel rooms. Oh, that ought to put a dent in urban sprawl. To actually impact sprawl, downtown needs thousands of new residents.
And please don’t be fooled by the claim that the language of the West Broadway Advisory Committee recommendations has been strengthened to tell the developers what they “shall do.”
Customizing a developer’s formula plan will cost us. If 20-134 passes and the developers come back and say, “Yeah, sure, we will do what the advisory committee recommends, but it will cost an additional $20, $30 or $40 million,” would you support that?
If voters fall for all of the deception coming the proponents of 20-134, then I have a bridge for sale.
Lisa Warnes, Eugene
NO SET PRICE TAG
To buy “a pig in a poke” is to pay for something you can’t see. That about sums up what we’re being asked to do with Measure 20-134. Except that even the price tag is under wraps.
Thanks for Betty Taylor’s column and Alan Pittman’s excellent summary and explanation (10/18). I had been wondering what I was missing, having listened to the two radio debates and read a lot of material and still feeling in the dark. Now Pittman explains the project “has no set price tag and no set description and relies on [a] … financing scheme so complex only a few tax experts really understand it.”
But it’s clear $40,000,000 is just the proposed increase in expenditures. The full cost is at least $69 million (Voters Pamphlet, p. 32) — with $10 million for administration. A “rebuttal” from backers (Pamphlet, p. 33) doesn’t even try to rebut the point that revenue to 4J, Lane ESD, LCC, the city and the county would be reduced by $86,940,000 over the next 23 years.
We’ve never been asked what we want for downtown without preconditions. Instead, a complex and hugely expensive plan is the starting point. Further “recommendations” are now being used to sell the plan, but they are not binding. Some people are desperate to “do something” about downtown. But spending $69 million on 5.2 of the 70 acres downtown to get a few hundred housing units when we need 6,000 to form a critical mass won’t provide the density essential to real improvement. And much cheaper and more promising alternatives are available (e.g., Betty Taylor, “Risky Business: the case for smaller-scale redevelopment,” EW, 10/18.)
The setup is to make us vote without knowing what will really be done with all that money — however much it turns out to be. Let’s wait till the smokescreen clears. Vote No on 20-134.
Robert Roth, Eugene
HARSH & CRUEL
I was saddened by Chuck Adams’ unkind review (10/18) of the Springfield Mayor’s Art Show. It isn’t that I necessarily disagree so much, but I am curious why he put so much energy into being so very harsh and cruel. I can’t help but think that it has much more to do with what is going on in his life than the Springfield Mayor’s Art Show.
To borrow some of Chuck’s works, it doesn’t take much in the way of psychological depth, life or vitality to write a view that aims so low.
Tom Gettys, Eugene
Alisa McLaughlin almost got it right in her Oct. 4 letter to the editor. She wrote, “Our votes are too valuable to give away, so I suggest, like the people we elected, you sell your vote to the highest bidder.”
McLaughlin should advocate democracy instead. Under a democracy, special interests would have no influence because their bribes would be spread too thin to make a difference.
We need a statewide initiative that allows voters to vote directly on a bill or lend their votes to a fulltime representative in Salem. This initiative will give power to voters who refuse to vote for corrupt politicians.
T. Poulsen, Eugene
TIME FOR TEARS
I know it’s election time and I should be writing on why I support Measures 49 and 50, but I must tell you why I’m shedding tears thinking of our friend Lucy Lahr, who was hit by a truck and dragged and killed. She was a friend to our community, where she worked for human justice and a fairer treatment of those going through difficult times. There was always a smile on her face and sparkling eyes as she greeted you, making you feel welcome.
Winter rains are here, and too many are driving too fast, not putting on their headlights soon enough and not watching for pedestrians. I see bikes at night with no lights or only with only dim spots and no reflectors. Maybe we all need to find white umbrellas and at least wear a little white at night. The rain makes it very difficult for me to see at night. Let us all remember the great loss of Lucy Lahr, so young and with so much to offer our community, and be more considerate when we drive our streets. We can’t afford to lose another Lucy Lahr.
Ruth Duemler, Eugene
OUR BEST TOOL?
I listened to the “Sunday at Noon” (KLCC 10/14) call-in program hosting Sara Gelser (co-author of Measure 50) with great frustration. I didn’t realize that this measure funds private insurance companies! As many of us know, most insurance companies are able to provide tiered health insurance. Depending on your choice of premiums, you are able to purchase your access, or reduced access, to heath care — emphasis on “purchase” to draw attention to the fact that health care in this country is a business. There is no mention of restrictions on these insurance companies to provide health care premiums at a reasonable cost.
The analyst on the program mentions that within two years premiums will most likely cost the purchaser $160 per month. I don’t know any impoverished families that are capable of paying premiums of this amount. One of the comments Gelser made is that “This is the best tool we have to get kids health care.” I disagree. We already have a health care system in place (Oregon Health Plan) that has miserably failed to provide health care to these children. Why isn’t the money being spent on this measure being funneled into this system to improve access and coverage? Gelser mentions that we have significant problems with enrolling children into this program. Why is that? Bureaucracy does not improve by funding another program and certainly not one that changes the constitution.
What about improving access to the Oregon Health Plan, less restrictions, less red tape, broader coverage?
Listen for yourself: Log onto KLCC’s website, go to the archives and type in Measure 50.
Kimberley Anne R.N. , Eugene
LADY IN RED
I would like to respond to Sue Kupka’s letter (10/11) regarding the Jethro Tull show. It sounded like she enjoyed the show without even hearing the music. She speaks of the lady in a short red dress who happens to be an extension of rock ‘n’ roll music, especially in Jethro Tull’s case. As Ian Anderson sung her beloved song “Aqualung,” there was a woman voluntarily performing the song’s lyrics in theatrical form (“watching as the pretty panties run”) — a song that Kupka claims she loves so much.
I’m sorry Kupka was so distracted. Maybe Kupka should investigate her sexual attraction for women since she was so utterly infatuated with the woman in the red dress. I moved to Eugene because I heard about its freedom, people who express themselves and people who are sexually and socially liberated. What I have discovered is that Eugeneans claim these ideals, but in reality are prudes, unaccepting of personal expression and any form of sexuality that is not their own.
Everyone should have a good time when they spend their hard-earned money, and that includes the woman in the short red dress.
Jared Bryant, Eugene
DOWNTOWN IS A-OK
To hear the boosters of Measure 20-134 tell it, our downtown is almost apocalyptic — chock full of gangs fighting with guns and knives amidst blighted, crumbling slums and wailing sirens, a place terrified citizens rarely enter.
Correcting this shameful problem, the boosters say, requires the diversion of tens of millions of our tax dollars from their intended recipients (schools, fire, police, library, etc.) to a boutique hotel and a lifestyle mall. Then, they say, we will finally have a downtown we can be proud of, and we’ll feel a lot better about ourselves.
Pop! Meanwhile, back on Earth in real time, thousands of Eugeneans are enjoying their downtown every day and night. Why? Because it contains the highest concentration of fine restaurants and late-night music and dance venues in the whole city. Vacancies are filling in: there are two new restaurants on Broadway, the old Bookmark building is being remodeled by its new owner with no subsidies and Conner-Woolley are remodeling the old Bon building for two new tenants.
The city has the financial ability right now to infill both pits, redo Centre Court and create Library Park without any more Viking raid on our commonly-held infrastructure. Once this is done, the few remaining vacancies will quickly disappear. Let’s all take a few deep breaths, calm down and try to solve real problems in the real world.
Jessica Hampton, Eugene
EYE BEAM RESPONDS
As a representative of Eye Beam Event Services, I would like to respond to Zachary Payne’s letter (10/18) expressing his dissatisfaction with the “Gods of Hip Hop and Comedy” concert at Mac Court. I would like to assure him that the show did not meet our expectations either and that we share his disappointment.
Eye Beam Event Services was hired by 94.9 Jamz to provide necessary equipment for the event. Eye Beam was responsible for transforming Mac Court from a sports arena into a performance venue appropriate for an artist the caliber of Lil’ Wayne. To facilitate this, we arrived well before sunrise to begin erecting the stage, truss structure and drapery. We hung, programmed and focused each individual lighting instrument. We set up and tuned the video projectors and screens. I am proud of the astonishing amount of work we completed before the doors were opened to concertgoers. I am extremely proud of the performance space that emerged as a result of our labor.
94.9 Jamz projected our name up on the screens as a way of thanking us and publicly recognizing our hard work in building the stage.
The fact of the matter is that Eye Beam was simply hired by the promoters to provide equipment for this show. Eye Beam was neither in contact with nor responsible for the performers in any way. We were not in a position to know any more regarding Lil’ Wayne’s incarceration than any member of the audience. We were as surprised and upset as everyone else was when the house lights came up and the show suddenly declared over.
I understand that the promoter is currently in negotiations to bring Lil’ Wayne back to Eugene to perform a make-up concert. I sincerely hope that this next show goes off without a hitch and that everyone has a great time. I know that, given the opportunity, the small and extremely hardworking staff here at Eye Beam will eagerly do everything within our power to ensure that the performers have a safe, well lit and good-looking platform from which to perform their art.
Wade Jelinek, Eye Beam Event Services, Eugene
BLAME FOR THE BLIGHT
The downtown “blight” over which so many of our elected officials are wringing their hands is due directly to the prolonged dis-use of properties owned by Tom Connor and Don Woolley. Their hulking and run-down buildings, with the loiterers they have spawned, cast a pall over the many locally owned, sustainable and thriving businesses that exist on West Broadway. This is Eugene’s “entertainment district,” and the supporters of Measure 20-134 want to tear it all down.
Essentially, Measure 20-134 hands millions of dollars of public money to these negligent owners, rewarding their neglect while at the same time threatening already established businesses with unfairly subsidized competitors, displacement and/or destruction. C&W have proven for years, beyond all doubt, that they couldn’t care less about the quality of life in the West Broadway area. They and their cheerleaders on the City Council would like nothing more than for the citizens of Eugene to cough up $40 million (minimum) so they can wash their hands of the “blight” downtown — a “blight” of their own creation. This ballot measure is nothing more than a huge bailout for these do-nothing landlords.
The vision for downtown put forth by the well-intentioned West Broadway Advisory Committee (WBAC) and the backers of 20-134 is bandied about as though places like the Horsehead, Jameson’s and John Henry’s are part of the “problem” with downtown. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people who work, eat, drink, dance and perform in these bars and restaurants that are making it happen on West Broadway in downtown Eugene urge you to vote no on Ballot Measure 20-134.
Ty Connor, Eugene
EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter, co-signed by 228 people, was the subject of a News Brief in this week’s paper. Don Woolley was considering a response to the letter, but had declined by press time.
Thank you, EW, for printing Thomas Lincoln’s letter (10/25) regarding the price tag on Library Park. I stand dancingly corrected.
I absolutely adore good information. Here’s why. I’m figuring Mr. Lincoln is a park designer and should know how much a truly lovely park would cost to build across from the library. In his letter, he states $1.5 million tops. YEE-HAH!
So, let’s say we go nuts and spend $2 million on the park. Go all out and create an eighth-wonder-of-the-Northwest tourist attraction. That leaves us, Eugene, with $38 million to decorate the area around the park. $38 million could build a gorgeous seven-story multi-use housing unit on Willamette, replacing the dilapidated purple mural. There would be millions in change left over from that project to doll the heck out of and bring up to sparkling code many of the other older buildings downtown. And if that doesn’t use up the $40 million we do have, we could fill pot holes with the rest till it runs out.
In my world of confused facts, that’s still what revitalization means and what revitalization does and what revitalization looks like. It revitalizes what exists. It does not destroy what exists and build something else in its stead.
Either way, now that we know exactly how cheap happiness is compared to unmitigated chaos and loss, why are we still looking at “The Pit” instead of Library Park?
More excited than ever,
Loren M. Mohler, Eugene
I have been searching for detailed information regarding Measure 20-134. I want to thank Alan Pittman (cover story, 10/18) for providing to this community some facts not mentioned elsewhere.
In the past, I have supported opportunities to improve our downtown, but one of the things I was concerned about was the 13 percent guaranteed profit for the developers. Another concern I had was that the funds going to urban renewal were going to be diverted from other entities our taxes are paid towards, but I didn’t understand how it worked. I just didn’t have enough knowledge to make an informed decision on this one until now. I am now confident a “no” vote on this measure is in our collective best interests. Thanks so much!
Beckie Abbott, Eugene
The desire to redevelop downtown should also reflect our other American democratic values. A lot of people believe that when it comes to politics that neither only one or even two political parties are enough but that we should always have a minimum of at least three political parties at all times. I can’t see how re-development projects should be any different than politics so I believe that we are derelict in our democratic duties by not having a minimum of three re-development schemes to choose from.
I propose a third scheme for downtown re-development that I refer to as the Knader option. The Knader option has a history of doing things to benefit the general public and would again if these things could be allowed to be implemented. As times happen to be, the Knader option (although as hazy and fuzzy as the other re-development schemes) will split the vote and allow for the worst plan (mega-stores and unneeded cinemas) to prevail. The public will be saddled with the urban blight of yet more homogeneous repetition, long after the guaranteed profits have been paid and more holes have been left in the ground.
Martin E. Williams, Eugene
IT’S A JOKE
The KWG drawing shown in the City/Region section of the Oct. 31 Register-Guard is a gross distortion. The view from West Broadway looking south toward the library in this plan is a physical impossibility. The plan indicates a park/plaza centered on the arched entrance of the library. The architect of this plan must think the library entrance is centered on the block. It isn’t. The entrance is centered 85 feet to the east of center. The relationships of the buildings presented in this drawing could not occur unless 1) the library were to be physically moved 85 feet to the west, or 2) the residential building indicated on the Olive Street side were to be trimmed to about 25 feet in width. And as an excuse for rejecting a 1/4 block park across from the library entrance, Mr. Kemper says he is concerned about how the two residential buildings would relate to each other! How about considering how they would relate to the library?
Further, the developer’s attempt to include a park/plaza in the center of a wide street running north to south between West Broadway and 10th Avenue is, at best, a poor compromise. It would be no more than about 30 feet wide and would be essentially an isolated island surrounded by automobile traffic and exhaust fumes; not exactly the most relaxing place on the block or a place to take a stroll with the kids. This proposal is a joke.
Thomas Lincoln, Lincoln Design, Springfield
EUGENE’S LOVE CANAL
Now that property tax statements are in the mail, those of us living on top of the Union Pacific Railroad’s toxic plume have until Dec. 31 to appeal our property value assessment. The Department of Revenue’s website has the pertinent information: egov.oregon.gov/DOR/PTD/IC_303_668.shtml
It should be easy to make a case for a reduction in value. Since our situation has been plastered across the R-G’s front page more than once, everybody knows that we sit in the middle of Superfund site. People remember Love Canal. Would you buy a house sitting on a carcinogenic plume?
Those of us in the Trainsong neighborhood are used to being ignored. It is just a working-class neighborhood with a majority of renters. If the toxic plume was underneath the south hills or Ferry Street Bridge areas, officials would be falling all over themselves trying to get things cleaned up. They rarely come our way, perhaps because they are worried about wrecking their cars in our gaping potholes. Or having the tweakers clout their cars.
Instead, they are content to let Union Pacific deal with the problem. Since UP is much more concerned about their bottom line than our health, they are focusing on public relations campaigns, tame scientists or passing the buck. Fortunately, they also have the Oregon DEQ watching their back. We have just received a letter from DEQ absolving UP and blaming the homeowners for any solvent fumes in their homes. Has DEQ become a wholly owned subsidiary of FEMA?
Lane County should send UP the cumulative property tax bill for the entire affected area. That might get their attention.
Doug Hintz, Eugene
TIP OF THE ICEBERG
If you think Measure 49 will have no effect on your life, you need to understand that David Steves’ article on the Haffner subdivision in West Eugene (R-G 10/5) is just the tip of the iceberg. Our Pleasant Hill neighbor received a Measure 37 claim waiver several months ago and has recently submitted a subdivision development plan to put up to 28 homes on his property. This development, called Deer Run Ranch, would be surrounded by rural farms in an area with a shortage of ground water and inadequate access roads for both traffic and fire control. And we have learned that it is only one of dozens of such planned subdivisions in Lane County.
We recommend that you go to the Lane County website (www.lanecounty.org)and follow the Measure 37 information links to the map of Measure 37 claims in our area. We were amazed at the number and size of development claims in the rural areas surrounding Eugene-Springfield. No matter where you live in Oregon, your quality of life will be changed if Measure 49 does not pass next month.
The opposition to Measure 49 is funded by wealthy landowners who seek a windfall from destroying our state’s land use planning laws. Stimson Lumber Company, who holds the largest Measure 37 claim in Oregon, recently donated $200,000 to defeat Measure 49 (Oregonian 10/2). If you love Oregon, you owe it to yourself to become educated on this issue and to support the Yes on 49 campaign.
Paul Kaplan, Jane Kaplan Squires, Pleasant Hill
NULL AND VOID
If Vince Loving’s Oct. 4 letter is correct and the Supreme Court broke the Constitution by deciding to make Bush president, then the lawful solution is to impeach the Supreme Court, which would invalidate all Supreme Court decisions made from that point on. Every decision made by the Bushies since then would be invalidated and all U.S. law touched by the Supreme Court from 2000 to now would revert to 2000 status and all decisions made by the Bush White House would be null and void. The entire body of Bush activity would be null and void and clearly criminal in many aspects.
America has been conned and blinded by really bad lies and laws made by really bad men and a few bad women. In any event, America needs to see truth and justice and peace once again.
Bob Saxton, Eugene