Local readers sound off on issues like bicycle safety, saving Oregon's dairy farms and preventing youth suicide through gun safety.

On March 4, the Oregon Legislature Joint Transportation Committee received 93 Oregonians' testimony about the Bike Bill 2021 bill, Senate Bill 395. Only three were adversarial against its passage and one was semi-adversarial. The remaining 30 plus were positive.

We still have a crisis on the streets. Pedestrian deaths have increased. As a reminder, Portland, 2020 had its deadliest year since 1996 with a total of 54 traffic deaths. This city's fatalities included five cyclists & 18 pedestrians. Oregon had a total of 67 fatalities in 2020 which was up by 6% from 2019.

On a national scale, the number of people struck and killed by drivers nationwide while walking increased by an astonishing 45 percent during the past decade (2010-19).

SB 395 creates a minimum of 5% Highway gas tax to be spent on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. In the past, the 1971 Bike Bill spent 1% revenue & delivered more than 50% of funds to develop sidewalks to 150 Oregon cities, counties, and MPOs. It is time to prioritize spending gas tax revenue on cycling/pedestrian infrastructure with safety first aimed at reducing fatalities.

A. J. Zelada

Northeast Portland

Legislation could save Oregon's dairy farms

Oregon dairy farms are in crisis. In 1992, Oregon had 1,900 dairy farms. Today, only 228 remain.

Nationally the number of dairy farms has plummeted while the amount of milk produced has skyrocketed. Why? Because of massive dairy factories.

When most Oregonians think of dairy farms, they likely imagine a few hundred cows ranging on pasture eating grass. Today, Oregon's largest dairy Threemile Canyon Farms, which supplies two-thirds of the milk Tillamook uses to make cheese, houses 70,000 cows.

Is this the food system Oregonians want? One with only a few farms, each raising tens of thousands of animals in near total confinement? I don't think so. Since the 1970's farmers have been told to "get big or get out." This push led to the decline of small family farms and to moving animals indoors into cramped, inhumane confinement with no access to pasture.

The Oregon Legislature should pass House 2924 and Senate Bill 583, a bill that would halt the construction or expansion of mega-dairies (farms with more than 2,500 cows).

We have a unique opportunity to shift the trajectory of our farming system to one that uplifts our values and serves our farmers. Let's hope we don't let this chance pass us by.

Erin Eberle

Northeast Portland

Bill allowing 'resting' in public not good solution

I must write to express my alarm at the proposed House Bill 3115.

As I read it, this gives over all public spaces, city, county and state parks, sidewalks, city parking structures, city halls, public trails, ocean beaches and roadside rest areas to a homeless population without regard to, input from, or concern for the rest of the people who live in Oregon and pay the taxes to support and maintain these public facilities and spaces.

Homeless campers have not shown any respect for the services which have been provided with literally millions of dollars in public funding during the past five years. They discard their trash around their temporary sites until even they can't abide it and move on, leaving government resources to clean it up; they publicly defecate and urinate in violation of state and city law; they refuse to use the free shelters when offered; many are mentally ill, drug addicted, and violent.

This is the population that will under HB 3115 inhabit our parks with not just impunity, but with a legal cudgel to disallow any civic ordinances or legal recourse protecting the larger community from their depredations.

To invite this kind of trouble into spaces where children play, families picnic, seniors walk and people exercise, is simply a terrible, irresponsible idea. The homeless camps are an unsanitary, unhealthy, dirty, dangerous public health hazard, a trashed blight on our cities, and their spread to public spaces should not be encouraged and supported by measures such as your poorly considered HB 3115.

There is no question the problem of homelessness and all of its attendant subsets of social dilemmas of drug abuse, mental and emotional instability, poverty, crime and random violence need to be addressed at a governmental level, but HB 3115 is not the tool for the job and will not accomplish the desired and necessary solution, but will in fact only exacerbate the troubles.

Ray Horton

Southeast Portland

Gun safety law could prevent youth suicides

We know that speed is an important risk factor for car crash injury and death. When speed limits first were implemented in the United States, people protested that those limits infringed upon their personal freedom.

Few today would argue that we should abolish speed limits because they have had a large impact on reducing car crash injury and death. In Oregon, we now have before us an opportunity to pass a law, House Bill 2510, that would also have significant impact on preventing firearm injury and death.

Early in my career as a pediatrician, I cared for a 4-year-old who accidentally shot himself in the head with a gun that his grandfather kept for self-protection. Another patient was a teenage boy shot and killed with a stolen gun used by another teenager. Many of my pediatrician colleagues have cared for children or teenagers who have died by suicide using a gun. Some of these deaths might have been prevented if gun owners were required to store their guns safely.

We know that unsafe gun storage is an important risk factor for suicide and unintentional injury and death. In 2018, 40 Oregon children died by firearms, most by suicide and the remainder of deaths unintentional or by homicide. Since 2013, 258 Oregon children and teens have died by suicide. Oregon's suicide rate among children and teens is one of the highest in the country.

Suicide is most often an impulsive act. In a study from Harvard School of Public Health, half of those who have survived a suicide attempt say that they deliberated less than 10 minutes before acting. More than half of the Oregon youth suicides occurred with a gun. Guns are more lethal than other suicide means. They're quick and they're irreversible. We know that most of the time, the gun used in a youth suicide belongs to a family member, usually a parent. Having access to a lethal device such as a gun literally can make the difference between life and death.

Oregon House Bill 2510 would require that gun owners store their guns safely. This is an important measure to reduce unintentional injury and death. The 29 states that have enacted laws to require safe firearm storage have seen significant decreases in youth injury and death.

Suicide prevention cannot rely on a single measure or intervention. Undeniably, we need better ways to identify those at risk and we need to improve access to mental health.

Right now, however, we have the opportunity to implement a law that will save lives. Opponents of HB 2510 claim that this bill is unconstitutional and impractical. That's what opponents of speed limits said.

Please support safe gun storage. It will save lives.

Melissa Weddle, MD

Northeast Portland

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