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Reader's Letters: Tax breaks for Nike project are unethical

It takes some serious gall to spin extortion into a boon for Oregon, but you attempted just that in your editorial praising state and local officials for giving into Nike’s tax extortion. On the day your editorial appeared (Nike’s math adds up for region, state, April 11), hundreds of Portlanders came to the City Budget Forum to fight back against the austerity cuts the City Council is attempting across the board.

We are told that there is no choice but to accept deep cuts to city services and the jobs of those who provide them, yet when it comes to doling out tax breaks to Nike, you would have us believe that there is no room for debate. Of particular concern is your willingness to embrace the logic that tax breaks for Nike are a sound investment because their hypothetical Portland employees’ tax burdens will add to the public bottom line.

The notion that tax breaks for one of the wealthiest corporations in the world should be paid for on the backs of workers who created that wealth is austerity in its essence. The economic and moral flaws of this “logic” are readily apparent, and the serious ethical implications of Portland officials signing away their ability to discuss their dealings with Nike require more than just a wink and a nod from you.

It is obscene for Nike to cry poor and demand tax breaks at every level of government while families are being thrown out of their homes, living-wage jobs are becoming an endangered species and children grow up facing a bleak future. There are many of us who know that there is an alternative to austerity in Portland, and it involves insisting that wealthy interests pay a fair share to build equitable, healthy communities rather than giving in to their economic hostage-taking.

We’re not broke. We’re being robbed.

Peter Hybertsen

Southeast Portland

TriMet misconstrues facts about union

We note that the media frequently publishes erroneous statements like: “TriMet is pushing for ATU 757 members to pay more of their health care costs, which the union opposes.”

This is an untrue statement that puts the union in a false light. The union does not oppose the idea of its members paying more of their health care costs. The union recently published the following statement in a number of community newspapers: “... we understand that we are going to have to shoulder more of the health care burden created by our jobs.” We further noted that numerous studies have established that transit operators become disabled and die younger than people working in most other professions and that is the major reason for the higher cost of our health insurance.

There are some other facts that should be recognized. The first is that no one, including TriMet, has seen a health care proposal from the union.

Second, the union members of the TriMet work force are currently paying more for health care than nonunion employees at the agency. TriMet has repeatedly acknowledged this fact in its internal public relations statements.

Finally, the union does not have a health care proposal at this time. We do not yet have a health care proposal for one simple reason. We cannot get the information needed to formulate such a proposal. The union has been struggling to obtain accurate and consistent health care cost information from TriMet. It takes months for them to respond to our requests and then, when they do respond, the documents are incomplete.

Moreover, those documents often contain information that seriously conflicts with TriMet’s public statements, testimony and actuarial reports about the cost of health care. Obviously, until we get complete and accurate information the union cannot formulate a response to TriMet’s health care proposal, let alone develop one of its own on the issue.

We realize that labor negotiations are a complicated subject. We hope in the future, however, that the union itself will be consulted about its bargaining positions rather than folks relying on what TriMet’s public relations department claims is the union’s position. In the meantime, we want you to know that we appreciate the effort your newspaper is making to keep the community informed about transit issues.

Bruce Hansen

President, ATU 757

Lawmakers over-react to mugshot sites

I am sure, as editors and news professionals for many years, you are no doubt all aware of an Oregon bill that would seek to all but eliminate any meaningful access to what are absolutely every citizen’s right to know about arrests.

Forgetting (for the moment) about the First Amendment, shouldn’t safety and knowledge accessible by the community at large trump the minute portion of embarrassment of the very few?

Most think the answer is quite obvious, but apparently the legislators in Oregon have blinders on. The Oregon Legislature is about to make a laughingstock of the Freedom of Information Act and its Oregon counterpart.

The overreactive, knee-jerk response is, in essence, protecting the few at the expense of many. The pending House Bill 3467 seeks to limit the public’s access and right to know and is cowing to a “squeaky wheel” when the larger picture tells a much different story.

There are numerous instances where the “Mugshots.com database” and other publications have been used as a “free searchable resource tool” to do a preliminary investigation of a particular individual. Rather than recite anecdotal evidence here, I would direct the reader to the link reciting the Publisher’s Response to HB 3467: mugshots.com/Blog/Mugshots-com-response-to-Oregon-HB-3467.53310805.html

Marc G. Epstein

Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Call NW Natural before digging

Spring is in the air, and gardeners in our beautiful part of the country will soon roll up their sleeves to get started on long-awaited yard work.

If that work includes digging, NW Natural wants to remind you to call 811 — the Utility Notification Center — to locate underground gas and other utility lines. This is a free service, and it’s not only a smart thing to do to help prevent damage, it’s the law.

Once you call, a technician will visit the property within two business days to locate your gas and utility lines.

If a gas line has been accidentally damaged, remember these tips: Smell. Go. Let us know. If you smell rotten eggs or hear a hissing sound, immediately leave the area on foot and then call NW Natural’s 24-hour emergency line at 800-882-3377.

Be safe this spring, and be sure to call before you dig.

Scott Gallegos

NW Natural Compliance Supervisor

Northwest Portland

Puerto Ricans are Americans by birth

Peter Korn’s article on Portland Latinos was interesting (Latinos flex, April 11). What really got me was Korn’s comparing “immigrants from Puerto Rico” to immigrants from Mexico. Hello?! There are no immigrants from Puerto Rico, they are American citizens from birth.

B.J. Anderson

Northwest Portland

Large part of work force needs WES

R. A. Fontes’ article about the WES needing to go (WES a costly error that must be fixed, April 4) is premature, to say the least.

My employer is moving its entire 1,000-person work force to Wilsonville. As soon as we move into our new facility, it instantly will be the largest employer in Wilsonville.

About 75 percent of our work force takes public transit, so cutting off the WES from approximately 500 riders per day would not only be costly to the employer but to the employees who depend on their job to pay the bills. Mr. Fontes, seeing you are a Lake Oswego resident means you most likely are middle- to upper-class in your income level. I would like to invite you to live on our level where those who make just above minimum wage are not eligible for tax advantages, but see our gap shrink more and more every time you vote to raise the minimum wage.

John Weiner

Beaverton