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Our readers also write in about how PPS treats special needs students and the power of public employee unions.

I am writing in regard to the proposal to allow 400- to 600-foot-tall buildings in downtown Portland, specifically in the Riverplace neighborhood, if not elsewhere.

My primary objection to building towering residential buildings is very simple. Over 20 years ago, I was at a public hearing in Corvallis, where a proposal to allow Accessory Dwelling Units was under consideration. The debate was measured and wide-ranging. ADUs were a somewhat novel concept back then, and most attendees were generally open-minded.

The most arresting testimony came from one of those open-minded attendees, a widely respected local pediatrician. His comment, etched into my memory because of its wisdom, was as follows: "Zookeepers know you can only crowd the animals so much, and then they begin to fight and turn on each other. Please keep in mind that humans are also animals."

I am acutely aware that Portland needs more housing. But 40, 50, 60-story residential towers are not the answer. While they may help solve one problem, the problems they will create in all likelihood will be greater and costlier in the long run.

Why the push to densify beyond reasonable levels? Cui bono? Who benefits (or in the vernacular: "follow the money")?

The answer: developers, first and foremost! Good government standards say their interests should not drive the decision-making in matters such as building height. And no one I've met believes these massive residential towers will actually solve Portland's housing problems.

Tammy Goesch

Southwest Portland

Problem goes beyond Pioneer program

Thank you for the excellent article about this travesty being carried out by Portland Public Schools. The story goes deeper than just the Pioneer program; ask any special-ed teacher in the district and they will tell you that all special-needs students are not being given the support they need.

Over the past few years, special-needs students and teachers have been on the lowest priority list for the district. This district is in serious need of an overhaul, and unless it happens these special teachers and students will continue to get lost in the shuffle as the district continues to turn its back on them.

Many of the general population teachers look down on the special-needs classrooms that they feel have been pushed in to their buildings, and they go out of their way to make it hard on those SPED teachers and classes that are mixed in with the general population.

My wife was a special-ed teacher for 16 years with PPS. When she was reassigned to a special-ed behavioral classroom in a general population school, after three years of trying to advocate for her students with the administrators and putting up with all of the harassment from other teachers at that school, she left the job and profession she loved and worked so hard at. She moved to another district and remained there for a few years.

It was my wife who got me involved with special needs, and in my retirement I have spent the last six years working within the PPS program and in the past couple of years almost exclusively at Pioneer, mostly because it is the one program in PPS that needs the most support.

There are many more reasons to leave this program intact at its current location than there are to break it up and move it out of the neighborhood where many of the students live. The long bus ride to and from the proposed North Portland facilities will in itself add to both staff and safety issue.

Thank you again for the well-written article. It is appreciated by families and staff of Pioneer.

Rex Caffall

Southwest Portland

Better bargaining needed

Unions exist to protect and improve the lives of their members.

In the olden days, before we had public-sector unions, such as teachers or police unions, the unions' foes were employers who, without organized opposition, would chew up their workers, spit them out, replace them with new ones, and then do it over again. After all, they had to protect their owners, the stockholders, didn't they? In that context, I support the workers and the unions 100 percent.

Members of today's public-sector unions have it a little different. They really have it pretty good, and the reason is that they are better bargainers than the opposition, such as cities and school boards. Those employers are bargaining with taxpayers' money, and they sometimes play fast and loose with it.

I read in the Tribune on Feb. 13 that members of the Portland public schools teachers union can be put on paid administrative leave (I assume for an unlimited period of time) for only four reasons: the alleged behavior is grounds for firing; the teacher's presence may interfere with an internal investigation; the teacher is likely to repeat the alleged misconduct; or the teacher's removal from the school "is appropriate to maintain the safety and security of students and/or staff." This is pretty serious stuff.

I assume the police union's contract has similar provisions. A person is innocent until proven guilty, and administrative leave may be appropriate until innocence or guilt is determined, but that does not mean that the public, yes the taxpayers, have any obligation to pay the salary and benefits of union members who are put on administrative leave. It doesn't have to be "paid" administrative leave.

And what happens if the person is found guilty in a criminal or civil proceeding after having been on paid administrative leave for an extended period of time? Any bets on whether the money gets returned to the taxpayers?

Unions once had, and possibly still have, reserves to carry over their members economically during periods of strike. That is for all their members, not just a very small number, such as the number put on administrative leave. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of the union and not the taxpayers to support union members who are on administrative leave.

The taxpayers, through their elected and appointed officials, will just have to do a better job of bargaining the next time around.

Richard Friedmar

Southwest Portland

blic must be transparently identified. The leadership must be willing to listen and agree to lessen financial impact on the working class and seniors as opposed to dictatorially tinkering with the economy which could possibly trigger downturn or recession.

Terry Parker

Northeast Portland

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