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The Times' last reader mailbag of 2021 is a doozy, with letters about Build Back Better, affordable housing and more.

Editor's note: Have a letter to share? Email your thoughts to Editor-in-Chief Mark Miller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Letters should be no more than 400 words. All submissions must include the name and hometown of the author. Commercial solicitations and campaign announcements will not be accepted as letters to the editor. Submissions should not include profane or defamatory language. We may lightly edit submissions for style and clarity.

Lowering greenhouse gas emissions is top priority

President Joe Biden took an exciting step to address the United States' largest source of greenhouse gasses — the transportation sector.

Among a number of sustainability targets, the recent executive order issued by the president sets the federal government on track to purchase 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

This follows the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which included $7.5 billion in electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the country.

Additionally, Congress is now negotiating the Build Back Better Act, which includes up to $12,500 in consumer tax credits for people who purchase electric vehicles.

In order to curb the most severe impacts of climate change, we must do everything we can to transition away from gas-powered vehicles. We need commitments from all levels of government — from local, state and federal — to transition to zero-emission vehicles.

The Biden administration moving the federal fleet to 100% is a big step in the right direction.

Congress must pass the Build Back Better Bill to further aid in the transition to a clean transportation future.

Carlie Davis, Portland

Big money for military, but not to Build Back Better?

I'm in my late 20s, with a background in environmental science and policy.

Watching the current discourse on how spending for the Build Back Better Act is too high, while the Pentagon's annual budget is twice the amount proposed for Build Back Better, is mind-boggling. Especially while we are standing on the precipice of disaster.

I understand the initial sticker shock; Build Back Better will cost $3.5 trillion. But over a 10-year period, this is $350 billion annually. The National Defense Authorization Act was $768 billion this year alone. Why do we scoff at the price tag of investing in our and our planet's future, but don't give a second glance to spending twice that much on death and destruction?

Whether or not you support Build Back Better, I ask you to seriously question why the Defense Department needs $768 billion when we have people across the nation sleeping in tents, or on the verge of being evicted, or freezing because they cannot afford their utilities. Let's ask our elected officials to pass laws that invest in our country's citizens, not wage destruction.

Georgia Davis, Hillsboro

Encourage Congress to fight climate change

Anyone scorched by last summer's deadly "heat dome" or impacted by devastating forest fires is keenly aware that Oregon already is experiencing the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Global warming presents an existential threat to humanity beyond geographic borders. The United States is the world's second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide behind only China.

President Joe Biden deserves credit for making climate investments a centerpiece of his Build Back Better plan. However, unless the Senate fixes the proposed electric vehicle tax credit to make it universal for all new electric car sales, we will miss a critical target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. Currently, the full tax credit of $12,500 only applies to a couple of American-made makes and models.

While I appreciate President Biden's intended Buy American sentiment, a higher priority must be policies that halt and reverse rising global temperatures. Using this tax incentive to accelerate our transition to zero-emission vehicles is our best, most political feasible chance to make progress in reducing a leading source of CO2 emissions.

Sen. Joe Manchin opposes the EV tax credit for being too protectionist and stifling industry innovation. He has a point, but rather than kill the proposal, Congress should call his bluff by expanding eligibility to all new EV sales. This a far simpler, more equitable and most importantly, more effective approach.

A global crisis demands innovation and cooperation from proud domestic manufacturers as well as from international competitors who employ countless Americans.

Please join me in encouraging Oregon U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to pull out all the stops to maximize this critical investment in a carbon-free transportation future.

Eric Weeks, Portland

Protect the people for whom you work

Why do unvaccinated contractors feel it is OK to come into our houses and put us, their customers, at risk?

Some of their customers are elderly. Some have coexisting medical conditions. These issues mean we are at extreme risk for severe consequences of a COVID infection. The omicron variant is even more infectious than delta.

The CDC says COVID can be transmitted for days before symptoms become noticeable. Increased exertion creates increased aerosols. The CDC also says fine droplets from our breaths can remain suspended in the air for "minutes to hours."

Contractors do heavy physical labor, which means they will be inside our home, breathing hard, for many hours.

Contractors who put their customers at risk by not being fully vaccinated — including a booster — are engaging in unconscionable behavior during a public health emergency.

Elisabeth Genly, Forest Grove

Oregon must invest in caregivers

The human services sector is facing a historic workforce shortage of frontline caregivers. The impact of COVID-19 has pushed our statewide system of care past the breaking point. If Oregon doesn't take immediate action, it's poised for failure and collapse.

Insufficient reimbursement rates from the state and private health insurance payers have created an ongoing struggle for human services providers to recruit and retain qualified staff, especially child and family therapists, who deal with children's mental health, and direct support professionals (DSPs), who provide 24/7 essential care for people experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities and behavioral health issues.

These highly trained professionals and caregivers perform physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging work. However, the long-term underfunding and lack of investment by Oregon to ensure the stability of care has taken its toll. The job is unsustainable financially for many employees.

The state needs to show it values caregiving with compensation reflective of this challenging work. Lawmakers need to significantly and immediately increase reimbursement rates or provide funding streams, so human services providers can offer equitable, competitive wages that compete with other sectors.

In February, Oregon's Legislature will convene for a special session. It's our hope they'll pass critical legislation to address the need for long-term, ongoing investments in our caregiving workforce.

Without additional state funding, human services providers will have to reduce services and close programs. For those who need around-the-clock residential care, they could end up in a hotel monitored by overwhelmed state workers, a homeless shelter, or worse, in crisis waiting in an overcrowded emergency room or even jail.

People who spend their career caring for our most vulnerable citizens deserve our admiration and respect. The need to invest in these workers is greater than ever. We're counting on our elected officials to do the right thing.

Miki Herman

Interim Chief Executive Officer, Albertina Kerr

Affordable housing approach is all wrong

Jules Rogers' article on Metro's regional housing bond listed seven projects approved by Metro to be built. I was flabbergasted to see that the Tistlilal Village will cost $26.6 million for only 24 units. That equates to $1,108,333 per apartment.

Really?

Read the story from Dec. 6, 2021, on Metro-endorsed affordable housing projects.

Of the seven projects, the least costly was at the Meridian Gardens project, of $305,888 per apartment.

Is this really the best use of our tax dollars? Why do subsidized apartments have to cost way more than regular built housing?  Existing apartments for sale could be purchased for much less.  

I would personally prefer to see the money going to Home Forward (Portland Housing Authority), to help pay renters to stay in their current homes or to help subsidize rent in existing units. Portland does need more housing, but the city's new inclusionary zoning has stopped most new buildings, as they want the rich landlords to subsidize the new housing, charging regular rent-payers in the new buildings roughly $200 more a month to cover the forced subsidized units. This new city regulation has prohibited thousands of new units from being built in the last three years.

Repeal the inclusionary building demands and see a rapid response to new building permits. 

John Winquist, Tigard


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