viewpoint

Welcome To Eugene

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Warning, this may get a little “blue” as they used to say.  This is also going to piss you off. All of you. Some of you because I’m speaking out and you think I don’t understand, some of you because of what I’m speaking out about. Both groups need to do this City that you live in a favor. Call the City Manager. Call the Mayor’s Office. Call the City Council.

Nice flowers.  They really spruce up the downtown mall.
Nice flowers. They really spruce up the downtown mall.

Complain about the way we are handling homelessness. Complain about the way we are allowing “travelers” and youth with no respect for this city, or the people in it, to cloud the issues, confuse the dialog and trash our city at the same time.  Call and complain about the hostile environment that Downtown Eugene is becoming.  Call and complain about the complete lack of response to illegal activities in what is arguably one of the highest crime areas in the City: Downtown Eugene.  Call before you go to work.  Call at Lunch, call during a small slice of your facebook browsing time, call before you go Pokemon hunting.  Call.

For those us you who are more focused on everything but the homeless and vagrant population issues in Eugene – here’s a little history on what has/hasn’t been done about the problem since 1947.  Of course this only covers through 2012, but you’ll get the idea.  Naturally there is plenty of opinion on the subject, like this article from Amy Bowers (via RG) last year: http://www.calclane.org/homelessness-is-not-a-crime/

Homelessness may not be a crime, but a lot of what they are doing here in the heart of the city is.  The worse crime is the blind eye turned to it by our City Government.

Here’s a little info compiled by AreaVibes.com

Downtown  Eugene  OR Crime Rates   Statistics

Gives you something to think about.  I’d had my car broken into a year ago (downtown).  Talking to a friend of mine, a police office for EPD, he guessed it was the Park District before I had done more than said the window had been broken out.

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You want to use the downtown mall area (where the Saturday Market and Farmers Market sets up)?  Clean your shit up.  Don’t hassle people who work and (try) to shop down here.  The City spends money giving you trash service and port-a-potty’s, use them.  I even watch the never ending stream of homeless youth taking turns charging their iPhone 6’s on the outlets provided just for that purpose while simultaneously talking trash to each other, arguing, fighting and dumping their trash in the flowerbeds while doing it.  This isn’t governance.  This isn’t sensitivity to the homeless problem.  This is nuts.  Our police and city workers don’t need to spend large chunks of their time cleaning this shit up.

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Starting to get the picture?  Unless you work down here or spend time down here, you really don’t understand how empowered this group of people feel.  There is no accountability for their actions, there is no concern for repercussions when they trash the bathrooms or the park.  There is no concern for anything but themselves.  Here’s a little more perspective:  while panhandling is (apparently) considered a respectable trade here in the Emerald City, and I have no problem buying a hungry person food or helping how I can, but the last 10 or 12 panhandlers I’ve dealt with downtown aren’t looking for food or money, they want to know if I’ve got a joint.  Sorry folks, but that’s not a homeless person.  That’s not someone who needs a hand out/up.  That’s just bullshit.

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So what’s the solution?  I’d like to seem them bring back the Exclusion Zone, strengthen vagrancy laws, write tickets for littering and vandalism and being a public nuisance.  You sure have no problem writing parking tickets and overcharging for parking (watch for a viewpoint on that one soon). In short, care for the people who live and work downtown at least as much as you “care” about the vagrant population living in our parks, doorways and alleys.  And for God’s sake, spend funding on organizations like the Mission, like WomenSpace and Occupy Medical instead of making the new City Hall into yet another government palace.

The Occupy Medical tent in Eugene. Photo courtesy of Occupy Medical.
The Occupy Medical tent in Eugene. Susan and her group put their time and money where their beliefs are. This is how you make a difference. Photo courtesy of Occupy Medical.

Or maybe they just need to put a couple of rare Pokemon downtown…

Viewpoint: Go Set A Watchman

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Go Set A Watchman
Go Set A Watchman US Book cover.

On July 14, 2015, one of the most anticipated fiction novels was released both in the United States and the United Kingdom. Go Set A Watchman, the second book by author Harper Lee made it’s debut almost fifty five years to the day after the first release of To Kill A Mockingbird. The storyline of Watchman centers on Jean Louise Finch, “Scout” returning home to Maycomb County to discover, everything has changed since she and her brother Jem were the object of attention from neighbor Arthur ‘Boo’ Radley.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch

In the weeks leading up to the release, reviews began to emerge that the father of Jean Louise, Attica Finch, had become a racist. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus defends a man falsely accused of rape, and later during the film of the same name, Gregory Peck delivers one of the revered performances ever, which won him an Academy Award.

Writers and the blogosphere cried out in dismay at the fall from grace.

“Say it isn’t so?”

“Falls from grace – first Cliff Huxtable, now Atticus Finch.”

With a simultaneous release in both the United Kingdom and the United States, fellow writers “across the pond” got their hands on the book and were putting their thoughts into newspapers, before I even woke up. After reading their reviews, I wondered if it was worth preordering and prepaying for my copy on the first day release.

On the third day, and after avoiding the “mass hysteria” about Mister Finch’s tainted view, I picked up my copy and isolated myself for the read. Cover to cover, one sitting. As I read the book, I could not help but be drawn back to the circumstances that brought Lee’s first book to me.

Growing up in Australia, there was not a lot of detail paid to the civil issues of the South. The book, To Kill a Mockingbird, is required reading in junior High School English, along with Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, and Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. My first viewing of the film was in 1982 – not a lot of television in Australia. However, as my daughters grew up, they too also experienced Mockingbird as required reading in both Australia and the USA. Like myself, they also were not exposed to the civil issues of the south before the book, but had more exposure to Hollywood’s interpretation of the issues.

Go Set A Watchman draws on the premise that every person has a Watchman, a conscience. Jean Louise, on a humid Sunday afternoon finds herself sitting in the same balcony of the courthouse where she watched her father so many years ago. This time, Atticus is leading a Citizen’s Council. Jean Louise is horrified and then goes on tirade against almost everyone. Almost.

The book has flashback scenes interspersed explaining where her childhood friends ended up.  Dill lives in Italy and her older brother, Jem, passed away with a heart attack. About the only person in Maycomb that hasn’t changed is Calpurnia, who is still the housekeeper for Mister Finch.

Go Set A Watchman reads like a “first draft”, including a reference to Atticus defending Tom Robinson, and having him acquitted of rape twenty years earlier – the storyline that would eventually became Mockingbird. Watchman does not have the same hold as Mockingbird, and it’s hard to imagine that Lee would “allow” this to be released, after a lifetime of rejecting pleas for a sequel. Lee, aged 89 and still living in Alabama, had her manuscript of Watchman “found” during an audit of assets by her lawyer.

Widower Atticus Finch
Widower Atticus Finch

The commotion about Atticus appears to be, unjustified. After getting into a heated discussion with Jean Louise, Mister Finch delivers the same lines from Mockingbird that his daughter has always heard from him. As her father, Atticus has never “forced” her daughter to do anything, and this time is no exception. The hysteria about Atticus being a racist old Southern lawyer, is unfounded. The town of Maycomb may have had a change of viewpoint towards civil rights, but Atticus, is still the same reserved man fighting the same internal demons that he did in Mockingbird.

I wouldn’t expect anything else from a single father bringing up his children in a evolving world.

VIEWPOINT: LTD Attempts to Blindside Us……..Again

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VIEWPOINT: Erin Walters – Springfield, Oregon.

Lane Transit District (LTD) has already begun their relentless and focused pursuit of a new EmX line connecting LCC and Thurston. This is a project that will greatly impact Springfield and Eugene.

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I am 1 of 17 members of a Stakeholder’s Advisory Committee (SAC) for the City of Springfield’s McVay-Main Street Transit Study- or in other words, the development of mis-information in LTD’s attempt to ramrod in another ill-guided EmX line. Of course, the committee is stacked in LTD’s favor. The list of committee members can be located on the “study” website. What this list doesn’t show (because it doesn’t provide
a member’s employer) is the overwhelming influence of the public sector and LTD infiltrated non-profit groups. http://ourmainstreetspringfield.org/main-mcvay-transit-improvement-study/

The City of Springfield claims the SAC “is now exploring transit options to address and enhance all modes of travel along the corridor.” But we know this is a sole pursuit of EmX. So why not call it that? The City claims the SAC is a true representation of the citizens of Springfield. In September, Springfield Mayor Lundberg sent the SAC an email stating “The wide range of draft transit solutions that you recently recommended to the Governance Team clearly considered all of Springfield citizens’ interests and concerns.” The Mayor’s statement is unfounded, unless, of course, she is not considering those that will be most directly impacted by the project. But again, this is no surprise, as we all remember how well the City of Eugene listened to its citizens regarding the West Eugene EmX Extension (noted sarcasm).

One SAC member stands out- Mike Eyster, a previous President of the LTD Board of Directors. He is 1 of 38 on the Board of Advisors for Better Eugene-Springfield Transit (BEST). BEST is just another group LTD has infiltrated in an attempt to brainwash the public. Safe to say, BEST is propagating ideals to a non-informed public, much to their delight, BEST doesn’t hide the fact that their main purpose is to facilitate “extend(ing) EmX bus rapid transit to other parts of the Eugene-Springfield area”, yet they also claim they are here “to educate the public about and promote a regional transit system that fosters prosperity, social equity, and a healthy natural environment.” What a deceitful statement. BEST tries to give the appearance of neutrality, yet is just another arm of LTD. Of their 12 Board of Directors, five are previous members of the LTD Board of Directors. You will also notice, the SAC is comprised of 2 BEST Board of Directors, although you have to do a little research to find this out, because the “study’s” website won’t provide you with that.

If you did even more extensive research, you would notice the BEST Board of Advisors is compiled of not only former LTD employees and board members, but of those who qualify for contracts with LTD once a new EmX project has been approved. BEST isn’t hiding the fact it’s in cahoots with LTD, but is it fair to say the SAC is a balanced representation of the “stakeholders”? This study would be a little more believable if the City truly made an effort to inform the private businesses and citizens along the proposed corridor- those that pay the tax to LTD and actually have a legitimate stake in the outcome.

LTD will tell you this is a “high level study” to help determine if there is even a need to pursue the new EmX line. Assuredly, LTD is using this committee to check one of the boxes on their path to destruction. The information they are compiling will be used as the catalyst for LTD’s next attack. The Small Starts process consists of two primary steps: Project Planning and Project Development. For FTA approval to enter the Project Development Phase, the process must have a “description of corridor and transportation problem to be solved”. So, technically we are already in the “Project Planning” phase. This committee has already reviewed and recommended a Project Problem Statement, Purpose & Need Statement, Project Goals and Objectives (PNGO) and related evaluation criteria. And let me tell you, these pieces are all part of the Environmental Assessment (EA) that’s required. LTD is attempting to sneak this right through, disguised as a pre-study to see if “real” study should be completed. Folks, this study is the start of the EA.

After learning of the City of Springfield’s “Community Outreach” efforts, or lack of, I went door-to-door, talking with businesses. Most were unaware of the new EmX study. About 4% said they would support it. One thing this showed me- LTD was hoping to blindside the businesses. Well, they have another thing coming. A stacked committee is not surprising. Actually, it’s pretty smart. This new “high level study” is an attempt to speed up the process so opposition has less of a chance to gain traction. We all know what comes to light when a process takes longer- the truth is revealed. And if the truth of LTD’s intentions and actions were exposed, these new EmX locations would only be a figment of LTD’s imagination.

Here are some examples of truths that even LTD cannot dispute:

1) LTD admitted, during SAC Meeting #7, they are over-servicing the Gateway/Riverbend area with the current EmX line. This means LTD doesn’t have the ridership on that line to justify providing the current amount of EmX service. LTD would like to connect the new LCC EmX line with the existing Gateway line and operate based on a “reduced transit demand”.

So, basically LTD made a mistake when projecting the ridership to Gateway and would like to fix this mistake by providing a new EmX line to LCC that won’t run as often as the current EmX. I find this interesting because data provided by LTD that led to the approval of the West Eugene EmX was based on an assessment of the Gateway/Riverbend EmX. The assessment presented this line as successful. LTD couldn’t stop patting themselves on the back, even though all we could see were empty busses. LTD developed the West Eugene ridership projections with the same analytical process. And now they will be attempting to do the same with this new proposed line.

2) Supporting data was not yet available during the development of the “Needs” and
“Purpose” statements. It would be provided later.How do you develop a need for something if you don’t have proof there is a need- if the data doesn’t exist yet? This in entirety is absolutely backwards. And the examples LTD provided were deceiving. Example:

“During the past year, seven buses were overcrowded to the point that 78 riders were left behind at stop(s)”. LTD fails to mention where or when each of these occurred or what circumstances may have triggered it. LTD states Route 11 has an average of more than 3,500 boardings per weekday. Assuming 240 weekdays a year would mean 840,000 average boardings per year. Although I agree, leaving someone behind at the bus station is not ideal, is 78 of 840,000 boardings enough to create a need for EmX? I believe it’s merely a need for better management of existing transit service.

Erin Walters
Springfield, Oregon

VIEWPOINT: Closing The Clean Water Act Loopholes

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by Jordan Singh

On the 42nd anniversary of the Clean Water Act, a new report from Environment Oregon, “Waterways Restored,” highlights the success the law has brought to the Willamette River, taking it from a river overwhelmed by sewage, to one that Oregonians can once again enjoy for swimming.

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All of Oregon’s rivers and streams deserve a success story, but right now, a loophole in the Clean Water Act has left over half of Oregon’s streams, including those that feed into our beloved rivers such as the Willamette, the Columbia, the Deschutes, and the Rogue, vulnerable to pollution.

In 2001 and 2006, there were two Supreme Court case decisions which opened up these loopholes in the Clean Water Act by calling into question in the term “navigable.” This may not sound like a big deal, but it essentially stripped the Clean Water Act of its ability to protect ephemeral streams, wetlands, and smaller streams from pollution, because polluters argued that it was impossible to determine whether or not they were navigable. According to EPA data, this means 61,000 miles of Oregon’s streams no longer receive Clean Water Act protections.

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Earlier this year, the EPA proposed a rule to close these loopholes and restore protections to streams, rivers, wetlands, and headwaters across the country.  In effect, there is essentially no new legislation being written, the EPA is just making a point to close these loopholes.  We’ve already collected more than 26,000 public comments in Oregon, and our national federation has collected 200,000 nationwide. But with big polluters fighting harder than ever to block the EPA from finalizing this rule, it’s crucial that we get every possible person to voice their support of the rule. There is too much at stake to let this rulemaking die.

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The agency is taking public comments on its rule until November 14, but polluters like agribusiness’ and big developers are waging a bitter campaign against it. The Clean Water Act has meant progress for Oregon’s rivers, but its promise isn’t yet fulfilled. That’s why it’s so important for EPA to stand up to the polluters and restore safeguards to all of the rivers and streams that crisscross our state.

Jordan Singh – Environment Oregon


Do you have an opinion you would like to share.  Our viewpoints sections is an anything goes forum for issues, opinions, even politics.  Contact Kelly Asay at [email protected] SUBJECT: Viewpoint. We would like to hear from you.


To Think is a Dangerous Thing

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As I sit here drinking my morning coffee looking out at seven beautiful snow covered mountains my mind is developing some ideas on development.

No Change/Slow Change

When I come to Central Oregon is see growth and change. I see communities committed to making this a better place for people to move to. There is a feeling over here that discussion is important but so is growth and getting things done.

Whole Foods:

We needed food so we stopped by Whole Foods Grocery and had a blast walking, eating and drinking our way through the store. As I exit I think in my head, yes that was a little expensive for everyday grocery shopping but it was fun, it fills a need and in Eugene we have people fighting this. Why, because they are out of state, big business and they charge too much.

New Blood Infusion:

I’m a native Oregonian and wonder if people like me are part of the problem. We have that Tom McCall attitude that wishes Oregon would stay the same and never grow. I think a lot of folks come here from places where overgrowth destroyed their town and they don’t want to see the same thing happen here. In their well-meaning attempts to protect us they really limit our vision. I don’t want over growth but I also don’t want to limit change. When we do that we miss things because we all have blind spots.

In over protecting our little corner of the world we are also stifling it and hindering our own growth as a community and as people.

Bustling Little Place:

I know the economy is tough on this side of the mountain (Central Oregon) but I see growth even in places like Prineville, where Face Book and others have changed their little world. Riding my bike through the downtown it feels a lot different than when I came here during my campaign for Secretary of State.

Change is Difficult:

Change is difficult for people and communities but it has to happen or we get stuck in a fog. I think Eugene and even Springfield to some extent are stuck in a fog. I wonder that our little corner of Western Oregon is too comfortable with what it is and is fearful of becoming something more vibrant and different. We say we want growth but over-talk things to death and kill as much business as we lure. Eugene is talking of this Sick Pay ordinance at a time when small business is struggling just to keep the doors open. I want to ask those considering such a measure if they’ve ever owned their own business? What I really want to ask them is “What in the world do you think you are doing?” (Okay I’ll get off that topic for now or the trolls will surface and miss my real message and instead get focused on something they can argue over)

Oh, and I do care about those who don’t have sick pay and I understand how they feel. I am a small business owner who has no sick pay and must either work or lose money when I’m sick but I don’t see the city coming to my rescue.

It’s an Attitude:

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It really is an attitude, an attitude and a lack of doing our homework. We are afraid to grow. We are protecting something we can’t protect. I’m all about smart growth but when games are being played behind the scenes to prevent new development that’s where I draw the line. Do your homework before you start killing Fred Meyer and other projects like it. Find out who’s fighting it, find out why, look at their motives and then make an educated decision not some judgment based on fear.

We are becoming an area that is choosing who gets to come in and who doesn’t. If we don’t like a certain type of business, they don’t get to play here. If you stand back and really listen to that mentality you will begin to see how dangerous it really is.

What happens if I can get enough people to stop all corporate broadcasting companies from buying what used to be locally owned TV stations? I can paint them out as the bad guy, write letters to the editor and complain about what they are going to do to the local television market and limit my competition at the same time.

A Better Option:

The other option is to get in the game. Instead of chasing them away I can get more creative, look for better solutions, find new ways to do television and spend my time fighting to win rather than crying because someone bigger is playing in my sandbox. And if it doesn’t work out for me I can find a new sandbox. This is called life my friends and we need to live it rather than trying to control it.

What if we decide we no longer want businesses owned by a certain political party to come to our community? Or, a religious group tries to open a store and we as a community don’t agree with that religion so we chase it away. This is a slippery slope and we’d better step back and look at the bigger picture or vibrancy is going to reach the rest of Oregon while our little corner at the base of the valley sits idle in a fog of fear.

Please Read This Clause:

If you don’t like what I have said that is fine. If you’d like to make a comment offering “your opinion” you are welcome to do so, but do it in a constructive way and play nice. Some of you will try to take each word and rip it to shreds and I understand that. Some will try to lure me into a debate and I will read your comments but don’t expect me to answer back I don’t have to it’s my article. If you want to educate me with your facts do it in a way that causes me and my other readers to want to listen or your efforts are a waste of time.

Voters Pamphlet: Now That Should Come in Useful?

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A long time ago, in a far away land, I was a registered Democrat. I’m not exactly sure why I registered that way but in college I thought Democrat was the way to go. The older I got and the more I began to understand, the more I realized I wasn’t a D so after moving to Eugene I re-registered as a Republican. Living in this community I realized I wasn’t a far left and the only other direction I could go at the time was the far right.

During my run for Secretary of State in 2008 I realized the Republican Party was not me either so now I am a Non-Affiliated-Voter. To the D’s and R’s that means I’m one of the growing number of people who can’t make up their mind. Party hardliners really think you have to choose one or the other or you are fickle.

What I’ve learned is more and more of us are not relating to the two major parties, in fact in Oregon more people register non-affiliated or Independent than are registering D or R. The NAV’s and the Independent parties together are a growing block of voters in Oregon.

So why is it when I get my Primary Voter’s Pamphlet there is basically nothing in there for me. I literally can vote on maybe two issues because they are outside the party line.

My tax dollars are used to pay for the Primary election and yet I can’t participate. Does that sound like taxation without representation to any of you? Sure does to me. If the D’s and R’s want to keep me from participating in the primary or as they call it “Their Primary” then perhaps “They” should start paying for it? Rather than sticking the bill for “Their” primary to all taxpayers in Oregon, let the Secretary of State’s office issue a bill to both parties following each Primary Election.

The real answer to this problem is Opening the Primary in Oregon. Right now, the Unions and both major parties fight these efforts, Why? They have a lot to lose….power. But if We the People want to see more candidates that look like us, more “Moderate choices” the change has to happen.

To all of you NAV’s or Green Party or Independent Party members, remind yourself of these facts as you cast your limited vote in May. Remember that you are blocked from participating in something that’s important and that you are helping to pay for. When you get angry enough, perhaps you will actually do something about it?

Oh, and as for the Voters Pamphlet, perhaps we should stop allowing candidates and their friends to pay to put BS in a document that should be limited to the facts. We already have enough media sources out there offering opinions I don’t think we need anymore.

Enough Talk, Lets Find A Solution

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I spent some time on the Internet and the phone yesterday looking for answers to the homelessness question. We hear solutions coming from one group of people as the media circus grinds its wheels and drones on about this and that. We, the public tend to either buy-into the message or stick our heads in the sand and avert our eyes to the issues at hand because no one seems to be listening to us.

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Perhaps they aren’t listening because we don’t buy their message and haven’t created our own.

We need to find, be part of and help design a solution and quit giving the floor to the few. We are not very good at messaging because we are working, trying to pay our bills and frustrated with the current line of communication that sets an agenda bought into by traditional media. Now, with social media, You tube and all the other channels out there we have a voice but need to learn to use it wisely.

We also must really look for our own ideas and solutions to the problems at hand and redefine the way we talk about these issues.

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There are two problems in our area that often get lumped into one. We have an issue with Homelessness that impacts many of our fellow citizens. These are families and young people who have lost their jobs, hit a string of bad luck and need a lift. There are also many mentally ill folks on the street who need assistance and we as a state have let them down by failing to give them the services they need. Many of these folks respect our community and are involved in programs as they look to find work and get back on their feet.

There are many organizations in our community who are working to help these folks and we can support those agencies as a way of assisting the homeless issue in our community.

I’m looking into some of those programs and will offer ideas in the coming days.

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The second issue is the transient issue. We have become a haven for transients and they too need our compassion but also need to respect our community, our parks and our laws.
 We must not get so wrapped up in the transient issue that we fail to assist those in our own community who are homeless and need our help. We can stand up for our community by demanding respect and adherence to the law while assisting our homeless but we must properly define the two issues.


I’m tired of watching people trying to put others, and me, in a box as they push for the change they see as the only answer. I want to be involved in a discussion that is not owned by any one group but by our entire community. So it’s time we start our own discussion and set our own message.

In order for us to be heard we have to act. I understand we are busy and government holds public hearings at times when the public can’t really attend. (That’s something that also needs to change) But instead of getting involved in the argument, find a program that assists the truly homeless and volunteer, give money, talk about the work they do and feel compassion for those without a home. Don’t lump the transient population in with those in our community who are having a tough time.

It’s time to get involved and stop allowing the conversation to be controlled by a single group. It’s time to do more than talk, even out of true compassion, it’s time to elevate the discourse and focus on solutions, not who can yell the loudest.

— ED: Here are a couple of stories and resources:

Kim Carver: http://eugenedailynews.com/2013/03/20/spring-is-here-and-so-are-more-resources-for-low-incomes/

Laurel Hayles: http://eugenedailynews.com/2012/11/13/adopt-eugene-part-two-ending-homelessness/

Ruby Resourceress: http://eugenedailynews.com/author/rubyresourceress/

I Want to Recycle I Just Want to be Pro-Choice About it

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Shopping at Winco in Springfield tonight I finally figured out what it is about this Eugene Plastic Bag Ban that bugs me.

I’M PRO-RECYCLING AND PRO-CHOICE – I support the use of reusable bags. I understand plastic waste is bad for the environment and I want to do my part to reduce, reuse and renew the resource. I even refuse to use those plastic bags for my dog’s poop because they also are bad for the environment. (Especially when you leave them full of poop sitting along a trail) Watch This:

But the real problem I have with the Eugene ban is that the ban is anti-choice and I want choices.

LET ME DECIDE – Oregonians hate it when other people shove their morality down our throats. We like to be educated and allowed to choose how we respond. We love encouragement but recoil when you punish. We support choice and this ban robs me of the right to choose it forces my hand.

wincoNOT A NEW IDEA – The Winco Store in Springfield knocks a nickel off your grocery bill for every reusable bag you bring to the store. Winco has done this for as long as Kathy and I can remember.
It didn’t take a group of politicians creating a law or a big headline to do the right thing, they just did it and people have a choice as to whether they participate.


STAY OFF MY BACK – 
Before you go jumping down my throat, I know Winco is basically doing the same thing Eugene is doing but at Winco I still have “Choice.”

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Oh, I have the choice whether to bring a reusable bag or buy a paper one but that’s like saying we shouldn’t open the primary in Oregon because I have the choice to be a Republican or a Democrat when I choose to be neither. You are forcing me to go along with your beliefs and pretending to still give me a choice, that’s not pro-choice.

YOU AREN’T MY MORAL COMPASS – Eugene politicians seem to be setting their moral standard in a community that prides itself on leaving people alone to make their own moral choices.

Kathy and I have been using reusable bags for a long time and we feel good about it because our belief system tells us recycling is the right thing to do but not everyone is going to agree and I think they should have the right to disagree with you and me.

This ban feels like someone shoving his or her religion/morals down my throat and I’m choking.

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BOTTLE BILL – Some of you will throw the bottle bill in my face as an example of a program similar to this that works. Problem is I agree the bottle bill is working. I’m conflicted because perhaps someday I will change my tune.

I CHOOSE NOT TO PARTICIPATE IN BOTTLE BILL

I don’t participate in the bottle bill. I obviously have to pay the deposit but I don’t return my bottles to the store anymore. I got tired of the hassle so I leave my cans and bottles for the recycler every Wednesday. I have a choice to do the right thing (recycle) and when left alone this Oregonian makes good choices. Perhaps they aren’t your choices and that really is the point of SoapBox I’m on. Encourage me to participate and then trust that I will make good decisions.

UNCLE-SAM-GET-OUTGET OUT OF MY LIFE – Eugene, your heart is in the right place but you forgot whom you are dealing with. You can’t buy my participation. I recoil when forced to follow one more government mandate and respond to encouragement far more than masked punishment. I am an Independent Oregonian who is passionate about recycling, taking care of my state and being able to choose how I do that.

Your only mistake Eugene is you failed to recognize your audience. You failed to remember we are rugged individualist and we are pro-recycling but also very pro-choice.

Autism: Disorder to some, Normal to Me.

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autismyearsFirst, lets establish the fact that I’m not an expert on Autism but I can look things up and I do get help from people who are experts.

Try this statistic: according to the CDC one in 54 boys and one in 252 girls are diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. Now, this is something that will blow you away: By comparison there are more children diagnosed on the autism spectrum than there are children diagnosed with diabetes, aids, cancer, CP, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy or Downs Syndrome combined.

Oregon has the second highest diagnosed rate in the nation and Lane County is one of the highest county’s with Autism rates in Oregon if not the highest.

One in every 88 people in this country live with Autism Spectrum Disorder, yep, people you know have it and you don’t even know it. In fact, you might be on the spectrum and have no clue. Most in the industry believe the numbers are much higher than what we just reported.

autism_art_257_20080504100445You hear the term “Autism” and think of people who can’t look you in the eye or have trouble socially. It’s true those are some of the symptoms, however the spectrum is so deep and so wide experts have no idea how many people actually live in autisms shadow. Many go undiagnosed and live their lives feeling unaccepted, overlooked, made fun of and so on. It breaks my heart to think of all those people who really are normal; it’s just a different normal.

People learn to cope and some simply don’t have enough symptoms to be classified on the scale but find the world just marches to a different drummer and they feel off beat.

When someone in your life is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder everything is turned upside down. What was, changes and uncertainty becomes a constant companion. I have a lot of people in my life on the spectrum. The more I learn about the spectrum the more I see a few of those traits in myself.

autism-cityscapeWe see people on the street or in the workplace and label them odd or different and we write them off as this or that. But what if that person is actually smarter than you or me but just has trouble connecting some of our cultural dots because of Autism?

What would it be like to live in a world where you always have to think twice as hard to communicate with those around you? How difficult is it to be wired differently than the society you live in and find yourself unable to explain what you are feeling? Misunderstandings are routine, just part of your life.

WHATS THE POINT RICK?

I’m glad you asked. The point is tolerance and acceptance. Since the dominate culture gets to set the “normal standard” I guess what I’m asking is that dominates broaden their perspective.

Instead of looking at the guy who doesn’t fit in and writing him off as weird, open your mind, close your mouth and assume he or she communicates differently than what is normal to you.

autismadultInstead of looking at folks as troublemakers or difficult employees, find out what’s really going on and look at them as an asset still being discovered. Perhaps we can all put ourselves in someone else place and image what it would be like to live on a planet where everyone spoke a different language and expected you to act socially like them, but you weren’t like them.

Acceptance is a funny thing. Next time you see a child screaming in the grocery store rather than looking in disgust at his or her “terrible parent”, instead assume this may be one of those kids born on the Autistic Spectrum and give mom or dad a look of kindness not a look of pity or judgment.

If you really want to test yourself and have the balls to do so, try this. Imagine for a minute that it is you who are socially awkward and acceptable behavior eludes you and “acting normal” is an unreachable goal.

look_me_in_the_eye_by_greenrapsodyIf you truly do this you realize normal is overrated and not all that interesting and the thing that makes us human truly is our uniqueness and our differences.

Now, don’t just believe and say how nice: to truly make a difference we have to do more than “feel”differently we have to “act the change we seek to find” and that is where the real work comes in.

Side Note: To those put off by my use of the word “Normal” I am sorry. I’m a communicator first and in order to get my message across must speak in terms understandable to the dominant culture. If the word hangs you up ignore my behavior and assume my heart is in the right place. Yes, sometimes the way I put things is a little awkward for society.

Christopher Dorner and the Monsters in Our Heads

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I hate violence. I hate it with a passion. I get sick to my stomach when I think about the shootings in Springfield, Oregon, Aurora, Colorado, and Newton, Conneticut. I cannot fathom what would drive individuals to spill the blood of innocent people, especially children.

Christopher Dorner killed innocent people, too. (I guess to be entirely accurate I should say he was charged with killing innocent people, because technically he was “not…convicted of any crime under the law.”) He killed “the daughter of one of the people he had a beef with.” That woman was Monica Quan, the daughter of Randy Quan,  a retired police captain who had “represented Dorner in the disciplinary proceedings that led to his firing.” He even killed Keith Lawrence, Monica Quan’s fiance, who was neither related to anyone involved nor a police officer. He was, rather, a “public safety officer at the University of Southern California.” The couple was newly engaged: “Days before their deaths, Lawrence…scattered rose petals on the floor of their Irvine home, got down on a knee and asked for her hand.”

When it comes to the actual violence, there’s not a lot of difference between Christopher Dorner and Adam Lanza, the school shooter from Newton. Both took innocent lives; both almost senselessly took sons and daughters away from their families forever.

Christopher Dorner is not the new Batman, neither is he the new Joker. He's a human being who made the wrong decision based on being wronged.
Christopher Dorner was not the new Batman, neither was he the new Joker. He was a human being who made the wrong decision based on being wronged.

But as much as I hate violence, I also hate the words we often use to describe it. What Adam Lanza did in Newton to those kids was deplorable, tragic, and evil. I have no problem saying that. But when I hear people call him a mental case or psychotic or the embodiment of Satan, I cringe. When I hear people shout that Dorner is insane or a lunatic or a monster, I cringe, too.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why. I honestly haven’t quite figured it out. But I think that there’s something about saying someone’s a crazy monster that in itself feels violent to me — even if that person has done crazy, monstrous things. I feel that, even if you do crazy or monstrous things, you’re still a human being. You aren’t just some otherworldly puppet being manipulated by cosmic forces. You aren’t just born broken and thus deserve to be locked up at birth. Human beings can be mean and cruel creatures but we call them “human” still for a reason.

I think I simply want to know what happened. Adam Lanza was just 20 years old. He was a real live person — he played video games, wore short-sleeved, button-down shirts, and liked to read. What makes a person like that massacre 27 other people, including 20 kids? Christopher Dorner was a real live person, too, who dreamed about being a cop since a little boyloved football, and once found a bank bag with almost $8,000 and returned it to its rightful owner. What makes a person like that justify killing innocent people that never wronged him?

I know I’ll never fully comprehend these tragedies. But I’d like to try. Because trying to understand what happens to people like Lanza and Dorner seems more effective in preventing future acts of violence than just saying, “Another crazy monster!” and moving on to the next action-packed news phenomenon.

I think I also want to comprehend these tragedies because I myself suffer from major depression and struggle with suicidal urges. And while I know those aren’t mental disorders that usually lead to mass shootings or cop-killings, they are mental disorders just the same. Some people would call me “crazy.” I certainly think I am crazy sometimes. So when I hear all this anger at “crazy monsters,” I flinch a bit, because I think, “Well, at one point Lanza and Dorner were just walking around like normal people, just like me, then all of a sudden they ‘go crazy.’ What if I ‘go crazy’?”

People with intellectual developmental disabilities don’t like foolish or rash decisions being associated with them. People with mental disorders don’t like murderous rampages and school shootings associated with them, either.

That’s the best reason I can come up with for why I want to know what happened. To know that these people aren’t suddenly possessed by cosmic forces of evil, so easily labeled as “crazy monsters.” To know that they — like all of us — are human beings that experience the difficulty of life with the minds and bodies we are given and then make choices — more or less consciously — that lead to new life-difficulties. What those choices are, and how in control we are of our minds and bodies, will of course determine whether we are acting intentionally and morally. But, like I said, I’m not one to withhold judgment if you decide to shoot innocent people. I will, nevertheless, refrain from calling you a crazy monster — not just because it makes me cringe, but also because calling you a monster actually abdicates you of your responsibility. If you’re a monster, you’re merely acting according to your nature. And what separates me from someone who kills innocent people is not some magically evil enchantment but my decision that killing innocent people is a horrible idea.

There's something about saying someone's a crazy monster that in itself feels violent to me — even if that person has done crazy, monstrous things.
There’s something about saying someone’s a crazy monster that in itself feels violent to me — even if that person has done crazy, monstrous things.

But some people, like Christopher Dorner, aren’t willing to make a similar decision. And though I vehemently disagree, I consider it important — both for the sake of my taking an educated stance against his decision as well as a nod to his own humanity — to try to figure out why. Adam Lanza seems a much more difficult, elusive case, as do most school shooters. But Christopher Dorner was a very articulate, intelligent person who pretty much layed out his case in his now-infamous manifesto. In fact, some have suggested that, “The manifesto answers a lot of the whys behind what Dorner did. For the most part, the manifesto was minimized by those who were covering the Dorner situation. Instead of pushing the manifesto…sensationalist titles were affixed to Dorner’s name in the headlines.”

Much internet space has already been filled over that manifesto. I care little about contributing to that. But I do want to share a few stories that I found while trying to figure out Dorner’s motives and the context in which he lived (and died). I want to share these stories not to justify his actions, but to simply show that he wasn’t by any means unexplainable. He’s not the new Batman, neither is he the new Joker. He’s a human being who made the wrong decision based on being wronged.

For each of these observations, I give both a few links to the full stories as well as an excerpt that summarizes the point of the story.

Observation 1: There is a serious “use of force” problem in the LAPD.

Christopher Dorner claimed that another officer, Teresa Evans, used excessive force against a man with schizophrenia, Christopher Gettler. It was this claim that got Dorner fired. Whether or not that’s true, it doesn’t strike me as abnormal. If you haven’t read or heard about the LAPD’s consistent overuse of force, you should. Here are just a few recent examples:

“A friend of 20year-old college student Ronald Weekley says he was beat up by overzealous LAPD officers in Venice on Saturday. The confrontation was captured on video (after the jump). The friend, Alexis Parker, says Weekley was trying to avoid gangsters on the other side of the street when police asked him to stop — and then tackled him when he didn’t…Parker says Weekley suffered a broken chin bone, a broken nose and a concussion in the confrontation.” (Full story)

“Police tonight said they’re investigating a videotaped beat-down ‘use of force’ by two LAPD cops in its San Fernando Valley Foothill Divison…The woman was ID’d tonight as 34-year-old Michelle Jordan of Sunland…The station described Jordan’s situation as ‘getting your head slammed into the pavement.’ The video, apparently security footage from a nearby business, depicts the officers sharing a fist bump after the woman is slammed to the ground.” (Full story)

“A South Los Angeles woman who was treated to a ‘leg sweep’ by an LAPD cop after allegedly struggling with officers died while in custody, police said in a statement tonight. In-car video of the situation, when the suspect was in custody, ‘revealed some questionable tactics and improper comments,’ according to an LAPD statement. The Los Angeles Times said the woman was stomped in the groin and possibly called ‘fat ass.'” (Full story)

“The civilian commission that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department has taken the rare step of rejecting a recommendation from the department’s chief, ruling that two police officers were wrong when they fatally shot an unarmed autistic man last year. Police Chief Charlie Beck concluded after a lengthy internal investigation that the officers made serious tactical mistakes during the brief, late-night encounter…” (Full story)

“The family of a man who was fatally shot by police after a freeway chase filed a $120 million legal claim against the city of Los Angeles Monday. The claim could be the beginning of a lawsuit…Police fired more than 90 rounds in Arian’s direction, killing him. Officers later discovered that Arian was unarmed throughout the entire confrontation.” (Full story)

Observation 2: Law enforcement agencies should encourage whistleblowing and  transparency, not attempt to hide mistakes from the public.

Christopher Dorner believed that he wasn’t taken seriously by his superiors when he reported Gettler’s abuse at the hands (or feet) of Evans. He also believed that they tried to suppress the fact. Again, that wouldn’t be the first time that happened:

“The Los Angeles Police Department’s news release on an Oct. 12 officer-involved shooting seemed fairly routine…But one crucial piece of information was left out of the release: The suspect’s hands were cuffed behind his back at the time and he was lying on his stomach…LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said investigators are trying to understand the circumstances that led to an officer shooting a restrained and unarmed man…The case marks the second time in as many months that the LAPD has withheld important and potentially unfavorable information from the public in cases involving serious uses of force by officers. Last month, the department released an account of an incident in which a woman died after several officers forced her into the back seat of a police car. The news release made no mention of the fact that a female officer was under investigation for berating the woman and stomping on her genitals during the encounter.” (Full story)

Observation 3: Abuse fosters more abuse. It’s a deadly cycle.

This isn't the first time the LAPD has been accused of rampant racism (Rodney King comes to mind).
This isn’t the first time the LAPD has been accused of rampant racism (Rodney King comes to mind).

Christopher Dorner claimed to have suffered abuse his entire life due to his skin color, and that the LAPD were relentlessly racist against him. This isn’t the first time the LAPD has been accused of rampant racism (Rodney King comes to mind). In fact, another former LAPD officer has come forward and said that, while he would never support killing innocent people like Dorner did, he agrees with Dorner that the LAPD has some serious problems. From what I’ve read, those serious problems — and Dorner making them public, albeit with murder — is why some people view him as a hero.

“In the first six months of this year, one Black person every 36 hours was executed. This wanton disregard for Black life resulted in the killing of 13 year-old children, fathers taking care of their kids, women driving the wrong cars, as well as people with mental health and drug problems.” (Full story)

“In 2006, Schefres was interviewed about the punching incident during an investigation into allegations that Dorner slapped the hand of another recruit officer, internal affairs records show. Dorner had accused that second recruit–as well as another recruit — of using a racial slur while they were traveling in a police vehicle during their time in the academy. The department confirmed Dorner’s slur allegation against one of the recruits but not the other, the records said…Two months later, Dorner lodged another complaint against fellow cops, according to an LAPD complaint review report. Dorner said that after work on Oct. 10, 2007, he discovered that his jacket, on top of his duty bag, ‘was wet and dirty,’ according to the report. He believed someone had urinated on it.” (Full story)

“A former LAPD officer who wrote a Christopher Dorner ‘manifesto’ of his own supporting claims of racism at the department told the Weekly today that ‘I understand why he snapped.’…Jones said he didn’t find it unusual at all to hear of a situation like Dorner’s in which a rookie, African American officer’s case against a senior white officer was met with disbelief and rejection by the department and court system…Asked if he experienced racism on-the-job, Jones almost laughed. Asked if he was surprised to see the African American community in L.A. respond so differently to Dorner than the rest of town, he said, ‘Of course they’re going to see it different.’…’I definitely know what it’s like to go through having your name slandered after having done the right thing,’ Jones told us. ‘It’s a terrible feeling.’…He wants readers to know that his greatest sympathy for the victims of the suspect in this case. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I don’t understand him killing people. I don’t understand a police officer that’s dead.'” (Full story)

“Disgraced ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner has been described by police and experts as a delusional and perhaps even psychopathic killer. But in the African American community he’s often viewed in a different light — as a victim of racism who became unhinged only after exhausting legitimate avenues to fight the good fight against his firing. Some are even calling him a hero…Earl Ofari Hutchinson of The Hutchinson Report and the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, says Dorner’s allegations ‘have resonance’ in L.A.’s African American community. ‘I’m not surprised,’ he says, ‘that Dorner would emerge almost as a folk hero, a perverse Robinhood.'” (Full story)

I do not understand the Robinhood sentiment. Yes, the LAPD has some serious issues. But I do not think killing innocent people is the right way to address those. But I also do not understand the delusional, psychopathic killer sentiment.  If you were discriminated against your whole life, tried to stand up for a mentally ill person against someone you believed was abusing her badge, and then got fired for doing the right thing by people who were calling you a n****r every other day — I can make the psychological connections very easily. It doesn’t justify murder. But it’s not a case for the X-Files, either.

What I see is neither an otherworldly embodiment of evil nor a folk hero. What I see is a man who suffered abuse at the hands of an abusive culture — and who chose to further perpetuate it.

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