May 30th, 2001 12:00 am | Letters to the Editor


WW's cover story on radon and carbon monoxide poisoning at Whitaker Middle School ["The Poisoning of Whitaker," May 23, 2001] is a great piece of public-interest reporting, and should shock the people of Portland into action. One of our finest civic moments in recent history occurred during the early '90s flood, when Mayor Vera Katz summoned volunteer carpenters and others to build a temporary seawall to protect the downtown area from rising water. If Portland can mount such an effort to save mere property, we should be able to generate at least as much money and volunteer labor to protect the health and lives of children and teachers.

If the problem is poor ventilation that traps poison gases in the school, and the windows are permanently shut, the solution appears obvious. How about a call for donated materials and labor to install windows that open? Mayor Katz could get behind this, as she did in the flood. In addition, people in more affluent areas of the city could help. Whitaker teacher Clara Lafayette is right when she says, "If this problem was happening at West Sylvan, they would have fixed it a long time ago."

The students, parents and teachers at West Sylvan Middle School (and perhaps Robert Gray and Jackson as well) could help by becoming volunteers and donors, and by encouraging other individuals and businesses to contribute their time, labor, money and materials.

Of course, more cautious bureaucrats could do yet another study, and then survey myriad options, before taking action. This would undoubtedly take years, and might not result in any action. Maybe it's time for a more passionate, less reasoned, more direct and immediate response. Windows, anyone?

Barb Gazeley
Southwest 45th Avenue

Bravo to you for publishing "The Poisoning of Whitaker" [May 23, 2001] and exposing the truth to the unwitting public. What a sorry mess the Portland Public Schools are in! They can't find or keep a good leader, and now this: unacceptable levels of radon in some of its schools. After reading the disturbing account about high levels of this toxic gas permeating Whitaker Middle School, I was shocked to think the district knowingly looked the other way. My first reaction was "If I had children at that school, I would yank them out of there faster than you could say 'class action suit!'" No doubt the district is now in "damage control," and rightfully so! What about the other schools on the uranium-deposit-rich banks of the Alameda Ridge, like Beaumont, Fernwood and Harvey Scott, to name a few others? If I were a parent of PPS children, I'd be very, very leery of its leaders.

Pauline Dugas Tait

Northeast 43rd Avenue

Does it matter that the song "Your Revolution" was a tirade "against" the misogyny and sexism of rap [see Rogue of the Week, WW, May 23, 2001]? Whether someone is "pro-misogyny" or "anti-misogyny" should have no bearing on what the FCC does. Isn't that part of free speech?

I took a look at the lyrics of the song and don't mind any of them being said on the radio or anywhere else. But that'd also be true if the song were pro-misogyny. The FCC, I believe, does have guidelines about what can be said on the air. Those guidelines should be content-neutral (I am unfamiliar with FCC regulations, so am not sure whether they all are). If the FCC is not also fining those stations that air pro-misogyny songs that contain the same phrases and words, then, yes, there might be a problem. But the content/purpose of the song should have no bearing.

Can a newscaster say "I'm against the word 'fuck'" on the radio or television? Is it all right because he (he is still grammatically correct even if there might be female newscasters somewhere in the world) is against it?

Do liberals still care about free speech?

Or maybe there really is a conspiracy and the FCC is trying to "suppress" the feminists.

David A. Stradley
Southeast Schiller Street

As one who was the art critic for Willamette Week for its first nine years, I'm a bit dismayed to see the paper stoop to innuendo more typical of a TV news crew in "A Monumental Blunder" [April 23, 2001], your Buzz note about the work in progress for the Multnomah County eastside headquarters building.

Just a few thoughts:

The work is not yet done, therefore it is too soon to spout public opinions about it. Very few people (even the artist him/herself) can accurately predict the impact of an artwork from an illustration (even an animation such as the one on the Web).

Philip Dawdy refers to "several piles of dirt" being part of the sculpture. This is true if one's lawn is also a "pile of dirt." The illustration I see includes a grassy mound. Dawdy's word choice is obviously meant to inflame, not to clarify.

The public art process does not include government review, probably because government officials have no expertise in the area. They are too likely to jump to conclusions from little information (just as they did in the quotes in this piece).

There is always a representative of the user group on the selection panel to give voice to appropriateness. There was a highly placed county official on this panel. The public art process is enough of a headache without having to wait for higher government to make a political football out of it. No artist in their right mind would get involved in that kind of process.

In reference to the "questions" about a Canadian artist being selected for a government building: If a couple of commissioners felt that protectionism was important for American artists, then they should have stated that up front in the process. As an artist I would find that attitude insultingly paternalistic.

A historical note: There is a large mural by Louis Bunce at Portland International Airport. When it was made, in the late 1950s, it was extremely controversial (abstract art and all that). Louis told me that he got obscene phone calls and garbage was dumped on his lawn. Nowadays, you look at this huge painting and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Art that pleases everybody will inspire nobody. Adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

Paul Sutinen
Southeast Alder Street

"Pathetic" is the only word I can come up with to describe your editorial position. In your May 9 issue ["Buddha Bing!"], you and your staff trashed the Dalai Lama's image and message, reducing him to a cartoon joke on at least six occasions. Then, in the next issue, you further insulted his Holiness and his followers by suggesting (again as a joke) that he is the possible reincarnation of an HIV-positive basketball player ["Coaching the Blazers," WW, May 16, 2001]! Furthermore, suggesting that one of our most cherished mantras would be used as a "probable courtside chant" is simply beyond the pale. I am a devout follower of his Holiness--one who chants his mantras, practices compassion and generosity on a moment-to-moment basis, and firmly believes in the message recently brought to Portland--but you and your rude, sophomoric publication take me to the brink of my faith in these attributes when it comes to understanding your reasons (whatever they might be) for printing this nonsense.

Hammond Guthrie
Southwest Taylor Street

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