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Readers sound off on homeless campers, affordable energy, preschool and economic justice.

I was delighted to see the online article "Bill empowers PUC to discount rates for low-income customers," regarding the passage of House Bill 2475, the Oregon Energy Affordability Act.

With this bill's passage of the Oregon Senate, it now heads to Gov. Kate Brown to be signed into law.

Now more than ever, we need to find creative ways to offer relief to the communities in Oregon who are struggling the most. Energy burden (paying more than 6% of monthly income on utility bills) has been a huge problem for rural Oregonians and Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color for a long time, with some counties in Eastern Oregon and the South Coast experiencing close to 50% of low-income Oregonians who are energy burdened.

House Bill 2475 will allow our Public Utility Commission to set rates at a more appropriate level so that families need not access as much bill assistance or arrearage relief for falling behind on energy bills.

This bill is just one of three pieces of legislation being supported by the Oregon Clean Energy Opportunity campaign, a rural and BIPOC-led effort to advance environmental justice statewide. Next up I hope to see lawmakers approve House Bill 2842 to establish a Healthy Homes Repair Fund for low-income home retrofits and energy efficiency upgrades as well as a 100% Clean Energy for All standard for Oregon's electricity sector (House Bill 2021).

Damon Motz-Storey

Northeast Portland

Bridge is nice, but plazas are too inviting to campers

The Tribune's May 12 article on the Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge was informative and I look forward to utilizing it traveling between the Lloyd District and the Southeast Industrial area.

It's attractive and will be a real plus to the neighborhood. Unfortunately however, I can promise that the "plazas" designed by the architects will become homeless encampments in short order.

The city of Portland, Portland Bureau of Transportation and Oregon's Department of Transportation have shown no persistent interest in keeping people from camping pretty much wherever they want to: greenspaces, roadways, freeway exchanges, downtown, the Eastbank Esplanade, bikeways, you name it.

So I expect this beautiful new bridge and it's plazas will be covered in trash, littered with dirty needles and human excrement fairly quickly.

Paul Douglas

Northeast Portland

Universal preschool could help families function better

I believe that the addition of universal preschool in the American Family Plan not only reduces the amount of inequality in today's early childhood education, but makes it easier for lower to middle-class parents to perform their needed family functions.

There are five functions that are performed within each family that include family formation and membership; family relations, economic support, child rearing and caregiving.

Universal preschool affects three of the five functions in a positive manner. First is economic support. Early childhood education such as preschool can be difficult to afford for marginalized and low income families. As it becomes universal, it not only helps many youth in their early education, but also helps lower equity gaps between these families and the middle to higher classes.

It can also save money in child care as many lower income families have to place children in cheaper child care options rather than early education so that they may continue to work. The money saved can go toward creating a better and more stable environment for the families current situation and future developments. This also affects child rearing caregiving as it provides a stimulating environment outside of one's household to grow socially and academically, while parents are free to work.

Although traditional child care facilities can watch children and help them grow socially, the added benefit of the educational programs in preschool will help prepare children to enter school and will still show benefits once they become an adult.

Andrew Jessani

Corvallis

U.S. must share its COVID vaccine with the world

The COVID-19 outbreak in India is a humanitarian crisis with global implications. It's also a powerful reminder that we won't end this pandemic anywhere unless we end it everywhere.

The world is facing a vaccine access crisis. While wealthy countries continue ramping up vaccinations, only 0.4% of COVID-19 vaccines globally have been administered to people in low-income countries. The U.S. alone has secured well more than 550 million excess COVID-19 vaccine doses.

We are in a race against time. These vaccines are desperately needed around the world and will save lives and stem further mutations that could result in a resurgence of the virus in the U.S. and around the world.

Gov. Kate Brown, U.S. Sens. Merkley and Wyden, along with Congresswoman Bonamici, should call on the Biden administration to do more to share America's vaccine stockpile equitably with countries in need.

Regardless of whether you live in Portland or Port Harcourt in Nigeria we're all in this fight together. Sharing excess vaccines isn't just the humane thing to do, it's the smart thing to do to reduce the spread of variants, reopen our global economy, and help to end this pandemic faster, everywhere.

Elizabeth Dix

Beaverton

Blumenauer earns White Coat Waste Warrior honor

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) is a champion for animals and taxpayers, and White Coat Waste Project is proud to honor him with our 2020 Congressional Waste Warrior award.

Blumenauer has led key initiatives to stop painful and outdated taxpayer-funded experiments on dogs, cats and other animals that most people oppose and that cost Americans more than $20 billion every year. He's also behind efforts to give animals a second chance in loving homes when testing in government labs ends.

Our 3 million members in Oregon and beyond are lucky to have Rep. Blumenauer in Washington protecting animals from abuse and taxpayers from wasteful government spending.

Natalie Warhit

White Coat Waste Project

Washington, D.C.

Economic recovery without justice is wrong

In the last year, nearly 600 thousand lives have been lost to COVID, we've hit record unemployment levels, and multiple ecological catastrophes have challenged our urban infrastructure.

We've seen the extent that our system simply doesn't work for many Americans in times of crisis. And as we look toward the post-pandemic future we are faced with the overlapping issues of climate change, job loss and social inequality.

The solution is multifaceted: fighting the climate crisis with jobs in the clean energy sector requires us to see the greater numbers of Black and Brown people left without jobs and living in environmentally unsound homes.

To quote U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley in an article published May 2021, "We won't be able to recover from this pandemic without addressing the urgent need to ensure that every Oregonian — regardless of what they look like, where they work, or their Zip Code — has access to a safe, affordable roof over their head" ("Wyden, Merkley: Oregon to Receive More than $220 Million in Additional Emergency Rental Assistance").

President Biden's American Jobs Plan seeks to address these three crises through greater investments in renewable energy sources, improved transportation systems, living-wage union jobs, and investments in communities that have been most impacted, overlooked, and ignored.

Recovery without social justice and long-term sustainable solutions in mind will only set us up for a collapse further down the road. To create community resilience for the future we need to re-orient our state and nation with intersectional solutions for all.

Rae Blackbird

Northeast Portland

Our students deserve more education funding

As president of the Oregon Parent Teacher Association, I work alongside a group of committed parents advocating for Oregon's children's health, well-being and educational success. We want every child to be able to reach their full potential — and to do so very often requires ensuring our schools have the resources students need.

We were thrilled when, in 2019, the Legislature passed landmark school funding with the Student Success Act, but now they are considering taking a step backward by reducing our State School Fund by $300 million — a difference that would have a real impact on districts across Oregon.

In my home district of North Clackamas, this cut would significantly reduce our budget for maintaining current services for the next school year. That level reduction would mean eliminating teaching positions or cutting school days from our district calendar.

Our students deserve better — especially as they continue to endure the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our schools are stepping up in major ways to keep education on track for our students. We can't afford cuts to our basic operating budget — and neither can our kids. Join me in urging legislators to fund the State School Fund at $9.6 billion.

Kristi Dille

Clackamas


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