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Environmental protections, housing policy, transit plans and more are addressed in our weekly bundle of letters.

It's bigger than just one tree

I would like to thank Evan Bryan for his recent article "Let's preserve Oregon, not pave over it." It was a refreshing perspective and important to remember that with so-called progress there is also a cost.

It is a shame that county leaders deemed the ancient white oak tree unimportant and that an interim road was a better fit. This is becoming an all-too-common trend within Oregon and Washington County. Intersections such as Scholls Ferry and Tile Flat Road or along Jackson School Road bear the recent scars of development and progress where dozens of old-growth trees once stood.

Basic historical and ecological evidence clearly shows something that is centuries old simply cannot be "mitigated" and replaced with something new and be equal. It is not how nature or history work.

Once this white oak tree is gone, it is gone forever and will take at least a century to gain back what it already provided.

Refer to Evan Bryan's commentary, first published online Dec. 1, 2020.

While this is simply one tree, Bryan raises several good points and questions, and one has to wonder where this all stops.

This tree is an important microcosm of other events that have transpired recently, such as Washington County receiving a state-level reprimand for not enforcing Ordinance 869, which focuses on its significant natural resources and preservation specifically within urban areas. Furthermore, a recent report was released by American Farmland Trust and Conservation Science Partners that conducted a study within all 50 states and found that from 2001 to 2016, Oregon lost over a total of 65,000 acres to some type of development. Finally, earlier this year, the News-Times also released an article discussing years of permit violations and potential large scale environmental contamination from Westside Rock Hayden Quarry in western Washington County.

At some point, every Oregonian will have to ask themselves if Oregon's unofficial mantra of "Keep Oregon Green" is still happening.

Andy Haugen, Hillsboro

Be careful driving this time of year

Today, Dec. 5, I took a walk, and between 4:30 and 4:40 p.m., there were five cars driving with no lights on.

Four of the drivers saw me yell, "No lights!" And thanked me by waving and turning on their headlights. The fifth driver didn't see me and continued to drive without the headlights.

When I was 9 years old, my mom was in a terrible car accident and almost didn't make it. A drunk driver was using her as a guide on the freeway. She was so scared to have this driver driving right behind her that she just wanted to get away from him. She tried to exit off the freeway and hit the exit sign and divider. A Portland General Electric truck driver saw the accident and called the police.

She was in the hospital for two weeks, and I was not allowed to see her because I was underage. I saw the badly damaged car she had driven before I was allowed to see my mom. My dad took us to the wrecking yard to pick the car up.

I know that this is an extremely stressful time for all of us to have to deal with the holidays and this virus.

Please don't let someone drive drunk or high. And please remember to put your headlights on.

Lisa MacDonald, Sherwood

Moving toward better housing policy

Regardless of political affiliation, the Biden presidency is a win for low-income citizens. This is blatantly clear in comparing the current leader of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with the appointee to head Biden's HUD transition team.

Current HUD Secretary Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon and politician who has no previous experience whatsoever in housing. His inhumane housing policies have inflicted severe damage on poor families.

Carson has attempted to eliminate fair housing regulations meant to combat racial discrimination, proposed raises in rent for tenants of affordable housing, removed protections for minorities, and decimated the budget of housing assistance programs systemwide.

On the other hand, Biden appointed Erika Poethig as team lead of his HUD transition team. Poethig has extensive experience working on affordable housing. She is vice president of the Urban Institute, a think tank serving decision makers to affect social change in housing and equity. Her previous appointments include a top position in HUD under the Obama administration, associate director of housing for the MacArthur Foundation, and assistant commissioner for policy and program development at Chicago's Department of Housing.

Poethig has developed grant-making strategies for rental housing and designed campaigns to combat predatory lending, prevent foreclosures, and stabilize communities. This shift is something to be thankful for.

Louis Celt, Portland

Sherwood can be proud of peace pole

As we fight through this time of uncertainty, Sherwood High School is introducing a peace pole as a point of unity.

There are several peace poles scattered throughout Sherwood, and soon there will be one at the new high school. The Sherwood Rotary Club has generously funded not only this pole, but over 30 other poles around Sherwood.

A peace pole is a visual reminder for people to think, speak, and act in peaceful ways by displaying the phrase "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in several different languages.

The Peace Pole Project was founded in 1975 in Japan by Masahisa Goi, author of the universal message and prayer, "May Peace Prevail on Earth," and founder of the World Peace Prayer Society. The Sherwood Rotary hopes that these poles allow people the opportunity to reflect, and preserve peace within our community.

Sherwood High School's student council members want this pole to represent unity and peace among our students and staff. They have selected to display the languages of English, French, Spanish and American Sign Language on the pole, to show the ways in which our school is diverse yet unified, and accepting of everyone.

Sherwood High School's awareness director, Kailey Furino, has taken on this project, and hopes that high school students will see this as a chance for them to rally together and accept one another.

We are excited to announce this project and bring it to life during our upcoming school unity week, which is set to take place the week of Jan. 19. Sherwood High School and the Sherwood Rotary understand how difficult it has been for many during this past year, but we are together from afar and now unified through our new peace pole.

Kailey Furino

Awareness Director, Sherwood High School

TriMet's zombie light rail project

President Donald Trump is not the only one refusing to accept election results. The general manager of TriMet, Doug Kelsey, is claiming that the $3 billion Tigard light rail project is still alive, even though Portland-area voters rejected a proposed funding measure by a wide margin last month.

At a recent public meeting, Mr. Kelsey stated that Tigard light rail would be built eventually because "demand still exists."

That is a complete fantasy. Peak-hour ridership on all MAX lines during October was down 72% from a year ago. Unlike driving levels, which have nearly returned to normal, transit ridership has remained depressed over the past 9 months. Transit riders have simply moved on to other options.

Rail transit in particular requires high levels of both residential and worker density, but COVID has induced a mass exodus of workers from downtown Portland. Many of these changes will become permanent. Employers have discovered that remote working is not only feasible, it's preferred by many employees.

Where is the value proposition for a network of slow trains to the city center if few people need to go there?

The TriMet board should start downsizing the agency immediately, and the easiest first step would be to cancel a rail line that doesn't yet exist.

John A. Charles Jr.

President/CEO, Cascade Policy Institute

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