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Public health, vaccinations and disability accommodations are on readers' minds this week.

We need access to healthcare now more than ever

As an essential worker who doesn't meet my employer's requirements for healthcare enrollment, the worry that comes from falling in and out of insurance programs or being dependent on another family member's benefits has only increased throughout the pandemic.

Access to quality healthcare was already a prominent issue for many Oregonians, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the shortfalls of the system. Job uncertainty and fluctuating income are no reason for someone to be without access to necessary medical resources and services, especially as we try to handle COVID-19 and maintain our economy. That's why a public healthcare option should be a top priority for Oregon lawmakers.

I want to thank Rep. Andrea Salinas for championing the public option legislation; not only does she understand that this policy can bring much needed help now, but also how it will improve the overall quality of life for Oregonians in the future.

Ashley Hilfer, Hillsboro

Let's give Oregonians the 'Right to Repair'

There is a proposal before the Oregon Legislature that deserves wide public support.

House Bill 2698 is also known as the Right to Repair. The bill would require that tools, schematics, plans, software, etc., would be made available by manufacturers to owners and repair workshops to allow for the repair of electronic devices and appliances.

This common-sense initiative would help to develop secondary markets for the resale of consumer electronics — vital at this point in time, lessening waste through "planned obsolescence" and extending the useful life of consumer products that would otherwise end up in the ever-growing waste stream.

This bill is endorsed by OSPIRG, Free Geek, Oregon Citizens Utility Board, and the Oregon Association of Recyclers, I encourage everyone to contact your legislator and convey your support for this worthy proposal.

John Bloss, Laurelwood

Sloppy system shortchanges seniors

Once again, Oregon's seniors seem to have been drop-kicked in the vaccine signup process.

Pushed back behind teachers, they now compete with prisoners for vaccines, and even some in long-term care have not been vaccinated. Yesterday, instead of starting vaccine scheduling for those 80 and older at the advertised time, the system was turned on hours earlier; those who signed on at the advertised time were out of luck. [Ed.: This letter was received Feb. 9, the day after vaccine signups for older adults launched.]

The state needs program managers who can stick to their own schedule, instead of sticking it to vulnerable seniors who really need the vaccine.

The state has had months to plan this, and it comes off as improv theater, and it's not very funny.

Sue Bliss, Hillsboro

Fight for accessibility continues

The construction of sidewalk curb ramps taking place in Cornelius and Forest Grove is a result of a landmark settlement agreement — the largest commitment to accessible transportation in state history — between the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), eight individuals with mobility and visual disabilities, the Association of Oregon Centers for Independent Living (AOCIL), and Disability Rights Oregon.

These improvements will connect parts of communities that have been difficult or unsafe to access for Oregonians with physical disabilities, and make paths of travel along the Highway 8 safer.

Last July, the Americans with Disabilities Act turned 30.

Oregonians should be proud of the steps that our state is taking to bring our communities into compliance with this federal civil rights law. The improvements will allow all Oregonians to enjoy their communities safely.

We are measuring the state's progress in meeting their goals of bringing more than 12,000 curb ramps across the state into compliance with the ADA and upgrading crossing signals across the entire state highway system.

If you know of a missing or inaccessible curb ramp, you can report problems to ODOT using their "ADA Accessibility Requests" complaint form (oregon.gov/ODOT/About/Pages/ADA-Issue-Request-Form.aspx).

You can use the "Ask ODOT" form (highway.odot.state.or.us/cf/comments/comments.cfm) for complaints not covered by the settlement agreement, but within ODOT's control — such as railroad crossing without barriers or sidewalk obstacles that make it impossible for you to reach the curb ramp or use the signal.

Jake Cornett

Executive Director, Disability Rights Oregon

What 'starve the beast' has wrought

I am a frustrated septuagenerian when I read Oregon is the last state offering COVID-19 vaccines to seniors.

Clearly, the federal government has failed in implementing the vaccine rollout.

Oregon lags behind other states in providing public health services. It ranks 31st nationally (2020) in public health funding and 42nd in annual immunization rates. Among 29 states reporting COVID-19 vaccination rates in seniors, Oregon is 26th at 11%.

Despite missteps, it is difficult to fault Gov. Kate Brown and our public health leadership. They have been thoughtful, deliberate, practical, evidence-based, and compassionate in decision-making. Clearly, opening schools and prioritizing vaccinations for our educators and classified staff are the right priorities.

What role do we citizens play in Oregon's poor performance in providing public health? Many of us bought into the philosophy of "starve the beast" (1980s) promising tax cuts, but silent on cuts in services. Fifty-two percent of us voted for Measure 5 (1990) cutting property taxes, which ultimately paralyzed our ability to fund schools adequately and equitably. Cutting taxes means cutting budgets, programs, and people, and doing so has caused harm to our public health.

No wonder Oregon's leadership faces difficult challenges in testing, contact tracing, and vaccinating us against COVID-19 in a timely fashion.

It is time to abandon "starve the beast" and embrace "you only get what you pay for." We must tell Gov. Brown and our legislators we value public health and are willing to pay our fair share in taxes. We must support volunteers serving on Oregon's Vaccine Equity Group, focusing on priorities and fairness in vaccine distribution. We owe them our gratitude for being willing to address very difficult clinical, ethical, and social issues. Finally, we must remain patient, continue masking, and keep our physical distance.

David Nardone, Hillsboro

Frustrations of a Forest Grove High School parent

I recently read John Canzano's article on OregonLive.com concerning sports in Oregon. One of his key points was that the people who could afford to play sports are playing. It related to my own thoughts of late.

I have been thinking about sending my kids to a private school. I actually thought about it last summer, but we decided that we would have faith in the state's public school system and in our district — faith that they would keep them safe while also doing what is best for them.

I have started thinking about private school again, because that isn't happening.

Sports aren't happening, either. Again, I don't think that is best for people as a whole. Other parents don't as well. That is why some are moving out of state — so their child/children can play. That is why some people who can afford it are putting their children on club teams — so they can play.

While reading this article and thinking of my own situation, something struck me. What about all the people who can't afford club teams that charge thousands of dollars? The people that can't afford to leave the area, their jobs, family commitments? What about the people who don't have the means to pay for private school? Why are the only ones that can give their children the opportunity to be back in the classroom or back on the courts/fields the ones who can afford it?

Everyone should have the opportunity to have these things regardless of their financial status.

I am not going to give up fighting for these basic rights for my kids, for all kids. Our kids deserve the opportunity to be in a classroom and on a court/field if they want. It shouldn't come down to who can afford it.

Valyrie Ingram, Forest Grove


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