Eugene Weekly : Letters : 2.21.08


Although I have the highest regard for your outdoor columnist James Johnston’s work, I have finally found myself at odds with his advice and thus feel compelled to respond to his “Wilderness 101” piece in the Jan. 31 EW.

Johnston states that in a survival situation it is inadvisable to eat bugs. “Do you know how much energy you’ll burn rustling up enough bugs to make a meal?” he asks. He suggests that it is much more practical to gobble down the headless versions of Ariolimax columbianus, i.e. the Pacific banana slug.

Whereas I have no particular aversion to the consumption of one or several “slug nuggets,” it would certainly be advisable to throw them into your fire and cook them into a burnt marshmallow consistency (black on the outside, mushy in the middle). This will purge them of the glue-like slime that is their natural defense against predators, which takes a long and unpleasant time to rinse from your tongue and the inside of your mouth — don’t ask how I know this.

A better source of survival protein is this:Scavenge the decaying snags nearby you as well as logs on the forest floor and tear of the bark and decaying humous until you find a nice colony of termites or carpenter ants. Once you find the brood chamber of the colony where the juicy white grubs are, then help yourself.

They both have a rich, nutty flavor, and even a large man with a hearty appetite could get a sufficient meal. The adult termites are also quite palatable and a little bit crunchy. The ants have a bit of an acrid taste though. C’est la vie.

Once you are done, cover up the colony you have exposed and return when you are hungry again — it’ll take them awhile to catch on.

P.S. I sure liked the pretty girls on the cover.

Matt Watkins, Eugene


The massive landslide east of Oakridge that cut Union Pacific Railroad’s main north-south line has turned out to be a blessing for many of us. What a pleasure it has been these past weeks to be able to sleep at night, conduct business or just have a simple conversation outside without the disruption caused by more than 1,000 (!) horn blasts per day — that’s a daily average of 26 trains blowing their horns four times at each of 10 downtown crossings.

The Federal Railroad Administration requires trains to blow their horns as they approach street/rail crossings. But the FRA also understands the effect that trains horns can have on community livability and allows the establishment of quiet zones where supplemental safety measures are implemented and train horns are silenced except for emergencies. Over 200 quiet zones already exist across the U.S. Now it’s Eugene’s turn.

At a work session Feb. 25, Eugene city councilors will be considering the establishment of a quiet zone. If you have appreciated the relative peace and quiet of these past weeks, you might wish to contact your councilor to express your support for a quiet zone.

Ultimately, of course, the solution for the noise and other problems associated with a railroad corridor that slices right through our downtown is to place the tracks underground as other cities have done. But that project is still a decade or more away. In the meantime, a designated quiet zone could improve livability significantly, at little or no cost.

Whitey Lueck, Eugene


Let us define insanity. The biosphere and civilization are facing collapse because of toxics and greenhouse gases released as result of our current lifestyles and industrial processes.

Yet, as the entire human race, its leaders and all its highest institutions around the world foresee this doomsday we have the UO pushing to spend $200-300 million for new basketball and baseball stadiums. How about spending $200 million on efficiency, conservation, solar and research to save the biosphere?

We have Eugene, Lane County and ODOT run by the most educated minds in the county planning to spend $800 million on new freeway projects. No mention in their documents about the end of cheap oil or the collapse of the biosphere.

We have EWEB telling us that they must have a brand new $85 million palace on undeveloped land in west Eugene. Is this preparing EWEB ratepayers for future shortages of water and hydroelectricity when the glaciers feeding our community are gone? What about spending $85 million on energy conservation, efficiency and solar?

We have agencies federal (BLM, USFS) and state (ODF) again run by the most educated minds in the state pushing for the good ol’ days of extraction on our publicly owned lands so that a handful benefit while ecosystems and salmon runs collapse.

What are our elected leaders doing to prepare us? And why are the media not exposing this insanity instead of covering stories about downtown or cops or politics?

Shannon Wilson, Eugene


EW readers regularly write about the joys and benefits of bicycle riding. Alan Pittman celebrates cycling and bemoans Eugene’s lack of will to implement plans which encourage more trips by bicycle.

The Jan. 31 EW reported on an effort under way to open Willamette Street for periodic non-motorized Walk-N-Roll Sundays.

On streets in the Morse Ranch area of south Eugene there are a couple of hundred residents who want to be invited to the party: men, women and children who want to be able to safely bicycle on Crest Drive, Storey Boulevard and Friendly Street. Narrow traffic lanes, curvy streets and uphill grades where bikes go 5 mph and cars 27 mph currently make for few cyclists on those roads.

The council is about to pass an ordinance spending nearly $3 million to completely rebuild those streets and yet keep the same narrow lanes and unsafe conditions for bicyclists. These streets absolutely must have a bicycle lane on the uphill traffic side throughout the project. Parks, schools and businesses on Willamette Street beckon residents who are stuck with using their cars.

Speak up for these citizens’ rights. Write to or call the mayor and councilors (682-5010, Please ask them to include an uphill bicycle lane on all rebuilt streets in the Morse Ranch area.

Paul Moore, Eugene


I am sad to see that my wonderful City Councilor Bonny Bettman has decided to move on. She has been a courageous champion of the people and will be missed dearly by many when she is gone. I don’t know all the reasons motivating Bonny, but we can be confident that the ridiculously low salary isn’t difficult to leave. Our beloved former City Councilor David Kelly moved on not so long ago because it was too hard on him financially. His replacement Alan Zelenka has not filled his shoes thus far.

Large numbers of people in Eugene have been quite dissatisfied with city politics and rightfully so, but if we want real change we need to seriously consider paying city councilors a salary somebody can live on. We expect our councilors to make some of the most vital decisions that help determine the future of our city, but we only want to pay them $13,000 or $14,000 annually.

Reagan-loving Republican City Councilor Mike Clark was elected [unopposed] in a ward that voted a majority for John Kerry in 2004. If we paid a reasonable wage, we probably could have drawn some progressives into that race and could now have a strong progressive majority on the council. The same case can be made for the mayor’s position — lots of important difficult work but little compensation.

We are asking for more trouble as long as we continue with the status quo.

Joshua Welch, Eugene


Mark Gillem toured urban parks in Oregon and Washington to help him envision what could be done for downtown Eugene (“Priming the Pump,” 1/24). But somehow he appears to have overlooked Eugene. A visit to Eugene would show him that our downtown parks are unique and valuable.

His critique of Eugene downtown parks doesn’t mention the Park Blocks, site of the Saturday Market and the Tuesday Farmers’ Market. There’s no more vital “cultural heart of the city” than what goes on there. The children’s reading court at the Public Library and the plaza at Broadway and Willamette are other public spaces that he shouldn’t miss. He dismisses Skinner Butte Park as being “hidden behind a hill” when it’s a short, easy walk from downtown on High Street. Although Alton Baker Park is, as he says, across the river, it’s pretty close to downtown over the DeFazio Bike Bridge.

Most important, it’s essential to understand the development possibilities that Eugene is working to realize. For example, the opportunities are ripe for connecting Eugene’s downtown to the river and its incredible park system through development of the Courthouse District and the EWEB site.

Eugene’s downtown parks and urban spaces are not perfect, but Gillem’s dismissal of them shows ignorance of much of what makes downtown Eugene unique and full of possibilities. To build a better city with vital public places we have to start by looking at the outdoor spaces that we already enjoy.

David Amundson, Eugene


C’mon, Eric Betrand. After reading the review for Ratatouille in Chow (1/31), I feel as though there is an important part of the story missing. The restaurant Ratatouille is a direct result of the closing down of the Sundance kitchen. Four of the laid-off employees of that kitchen came over to start Ratatouille with the former kitchen manager’s, Betrand’s, funds.

Eric worked on the front of the house while the rest of us got the kitchen going. The entire planning and execution of the menu was without Eric’s input. As the restaurant started to get busy, the chefs who created the food were fired. So I was surprised to see in the article that no mention was made of the hard work that the chefs put into making that food, that restaurant. I sincerely hope that this place does well as I believe that we need an organic and veggie place in town.

Give credit where it is due though, Eric. In the two years I worked with you, I never saw you cook.

Winter Hose, Former head chef, Ratatouille


I would like to thank B.D. May of Eugene for his letter (1/10) concerning urban blight. This problem is not only prevalent in the areas of Adams Street, 24th and 25th avenues, but it has taken hold of a broad area of the Friendly Street neighborhood, and no one seems to care. There is so little pride among some homeowners when it comes to keeping their yards clean and trimmed.

Much of the problem lies with the city of Eugene. The city plants trees in the parking strips, but does not care for them. Young trees are allowed to grow not as trees but as shrubs. Consequently, these bushes, as well as an assortment of other shrubs planted by the homeowners in the parking strips, block the view of drivers at intersections. A city ordinance meant to control these plantings is not enforced.

I have lived on Friendly Street for 21 years. I have watched this neighborhood deteriorate, especially since the city made this street a connector between 18th and 28th. Adding speed bumps was a sick joke and a waste of money. Friendly Street was never intended to become a “freeway.” Speed and heavy trucks are tearing up the surface of the street which will not be repaired in the foreseeable future.

Eugene not only needs to update its codes, as May mentioned. It needs to enforce ordinances or remove them. Catering to the affluent communities and utter failure to declare a war on urban blight in the older sections of the city seems to be the future plan by the powers that be.

Betty Williams Johnson, Eugene


Well, apparently, we in Oregon may have a rare opportunity in May to have a small say as to who will be the nominee for, at least, the Democratic candidate for president. However, none of us should lose sight of those campaigns closer to home. In fact, the May primary could determine who will represent north Eugene as Lane County commissioner. Rob Handy is running against incumbent Bobby Green. This is the most important race for all Lane County, bar none.

Over the years, I have seen Rob in action. From taking on issues in his neighborhood to working in the community at large, he has garnered a wealth of experience that will serve all of us countywide. As the treasurer of Rob’s campaign, I have had the unique opportunity to see the incredible and broad base of support for Rob.

He is the man for all reasons and the man for all ages. He has even gained the support of a young lad who donated $12 earned from picking blackberries. I see significance in that gesture regarding both the giver and the recipient. Rob Handy listens and speaks to and on behalf of his district and, really, all of us. Only his district can elect Rob, but all of us will have leadership for a change.

Mona Linstromberg, Veneta


John Zerzan’s (1/31) criticism of my letter (1/24) favoring light rail over bus rapid transit raises some profound and fascinating questions: Is it possible for a technological, industrial civilization to be genuinely sustainable and humane? Are technology and industrial civilization themselves inherently evil or does the problem lie in the consciousness of the people — particularly those in charge?

I’ll be the first to concede that present modern industrial civilization is very bleak and that achieving genuine, meaningful and humane sustainability is a dauntingly complicated task. I believe Zerzan will soon get his wish at seeing modern civilization begin to crumble. I’ll rather enjoy seeing this too. I don’t know how Paleolithic Zerzan envisions humankind going. The world can’t support 6.6 billion hunter/gatherers. Will our numbers be reduced through benign attrition or through brutality and famine?

I don’t especially want to live in a Mad Max/Road Warrior scenario. Perhaps Zerzan would like to offer a vision for the future that is both positive and plausible.

Meanwhile, building a light rail system would, in one sense, be contributing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, but it would eliminate more greenhouse gases by taking cars off the road. If engineered, planned and built correctly, it would perhaps be the most enduring mass transportation system possible. I expect that in the coming turbulent times, the communities that saw the writing on the wall and began constructing enduring infrastructure not dependent on petroleum will have a better chance at retaining some semblance of order — to say nothing of food distribution.

Robert Bolman, Eugene