Readers' letters: Small businesses deserve better from officials
In all my 46 years as the co-owner of a brick-and-mortar store, I never thought about how important it would be to have reliable access to broadband.
After the pandemic paralyzed our economy, small businesses like mine quickly set up online shops for the first time ever. Our community of entrepreneurs, and our customers, greatly benefitted from this new outlet.
However, I've seen firsthand that too many Americans still lack reliable access to broadband and our national infrastructure as a whole needs solid investments to boost our local economies. That's why small businesses need Congress to move swiftly on a bipartisan plan to invest in a 21st century infrastructure.
But small business needs don't stop there. Hard-hit small businesses like restaurants, shops and salons are still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe that increasing access to loans and grants, boosting workforce development programs and increasing access to affordable health care will make a difference between closing permanently and surviving the pandemic.
The work continues, and we need our elected officials to put their differences aside and put small businesses front and center. Our recovery depends upon their support.
Why should we be Zenith's energy hub?
I have been following the Zenith Energy issue and have two questions.
It's understood that we will continue to need energy, and we can't get rid of all carbon-based energy immediately. But why would Portland allow a transport hub for the most carbon-intense energy around--the very sources that should be eliminated first?
Second, there are clearly investors looking for opportunities in the energy field. Who in Portland, Multnomah County, or the state of Oregon, is seeking green energy investments?
Protect our bees from neonicotinoids
When I think about my favorite parts of living in Oregon, I picture rocky beaches, coastal forests, snow-capped volcanoes, rivers, waterfalls, orchards, farms, deserts, and wildflowers.
Oregon's beauty relies on pollinators. Bees, birds, bats, and butterflies are vital to the existence and diversity of Oregon's plant life, and the survival of the farms that feed so many of us. 90% of all wild plants and 75% of all food crops rely on animal pollination to some extent. Without our animal pollinators, especially the humble bee, our natural world would deteriorate, and we'd likely fall into famine.
With all that the bees do for us and the natural world that we Oregonians love so dearly, it's our responsibility to protect these integral parts of the ecosystems that we are all a part of.
As neonicotinoid pesticides kill off bee populations, we must raise our voices and tell our representatives why we care. Across the country, there are movements to ban the use of neonics, so why can't we work to ban these bee-killing pesticides as well? It's time to voice our concern to save the bees and, by doing so, to protect Oregon's nature and its people.
Public option is good for health care, state
A summer of calling, organizing, and connecting with community members around the issue of affordable health care has had a substantial emotional impact upon me.
Out of all of the experiences, one thing that will forever resonate with me is hearing the pain in consumers' voices when asked about the cost of health care. Premiums have increased 71% over the last few years, and I've spoken with many small-business owners who can't offer health benefits or have had to cut them recently due to the cost.
Health care in this country is too expensive, and something needs to be done. Recently, the state passed House Bill 2010, which works to implement a public health care option in Oregon. A public option would give people the choice to enroll in lower-cost health plans, something especially important for people who lack or can't afford commercial health insurance coverage and don't qualify for Medicaid or Medicare.
About 260,000 Oregonians don't have health coverage of any kind. This means that there is a definite gap in who's being served by our healthcare system, and who's being left out of that system.
This became evident to me this summer. I was surprised to find so many people — friends, family and strangers — all negatively impacted by the absurd cost of healthcare. That financial impact affects people differently but has an overall detrimental impact on those trying to get the care they need for themselves and their families.
One student-athlete at Portland State University needed a $22,000 surgery. Luckily, the school paid for it, but along with pre- and post-surgery rehab sessions, the financial burden would have crippled this family, and that shouldn't happen.
With HB 2010, the state has an opportunity to design this public health plan to include comprehensive coverage that gets to the root of health inequity and cost in this country.
Between introducing more competition into the health insurance market and providing lower-cost alternatives to individuals and families shopping there, the public option can pave the way to a better health care system that works for Oregonians.
We should improve local government structure
I've been a Multnomah County resident since 2006, and have followed local government through various news media, including The Portland Tribune, which does a good job.
I have been disappointed many times with the results of various civic projects, and simply put, with the way things have been going in general. Until recently, I put the blame on various individuals who had been elected or appointed to leadership positions. But now I believe that most of the reason for the mediocre or worse results lies in the county's weird form of government.
Portland might pride itself on its weirdness, but its form of government is the weirdest (and worst) form of municipal government of all. A government structure comprised of an appointed city manager and city counselors elected on a district basis would achieve better and fairer results.
And, the nine requests made by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the Portland Police Bureau should be implemented as soon as possible.
Looking further down the road, Multnomah and Washington counties should explore the possible benefits of a merger. Clackamas County should be welcome to participate in that as well.
Improvement is needed. Why wait?
Congress must approve act to fight obesity
As a bariatric surgeon at OHSU, I live on the frontlines of fighting the obesity epidemic that is facing our state and our country.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in Oregon, sadly causing an estimated 1,500 deaths each year. The current pandemic further highlighted the state of vulnerability within our obese population and the major risk factors for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and significantly increases the risks of serious illness from COVID-19.
Nationally, 78% of COVID-19 cases where patients were hospitalized, needed a ventilator, or died from COVID-19, were patients affected by obesity or obesity-related diseases. We can do more for our obese population.
In 2017, 29% of Oregon adults were unfortunately living with obesity. That proportion has almost tripled since 1990. We can begin to fight obesity by amplifying health care access and passing the S. 596, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act. The legislation looks to treat obesity in adults by expanding benefits for Medicare beneficiaries. Specifically, it would widen coverage for anti-obesity medications that treat obesity through Medicare Part D and increase the types of healthcare providers qualified to provide intensive behavioral therapy.
We must tackle the growing obesity crisis with increased awareness and timely resources to our most vulnerable populations. Passing S. 596 strongly puts Oregon on the right path to accomplish both goals.
One of the best parts of my job on the frontline of obesity is getting to know my patients and helping them work towards their goals to embrace optimal health. By treating obesity as the chronic medical condition that it is, we can finally give medical professionals the tools they need to save lives by investing in Oregon's residents. Congress should pass the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act.
Farah A. Husain MD, FACS, FASMBS
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