Public Employee Unions Boost Government Efficiency

In Nigel Jaquiss' article "The Battle for Oregon" [WW, July 11, 2018], he refers to tax revenues as "the lifeblood of public employees and their unions." No. I believe tax revenues are the lifeblood of a just, fair and democratic society. And public employees are entrusted to implement our government's programs and policies.

In progressive taxation, we recognize businesses and individuals benefit from public laws, infrastructure and processes. We agree tax revenues are necessary to provide equal and basic human rights like education, shelter, health care, and safe food and water. And we look past today to see that tax revenues protect natural resources for generations.

Public workers protect those resources and provide those services by administering society's laws and rules. Calls to starve government and hobble public employees' abilities to do their jobs are irresponsible.

Society benefits when public workers—when any workers—through union membership can collectively bargain their working conditions. Public workers negotiate better training and equipment so they can work more efficiently. Public workers bargain compensation that balances their professional worth, their families' needs, and the budget priorities of their public employer. Union-represented workers can challenge employer decisions they believe compromise technical and professional ethics.

In short, engaged, fairly compensated, union-represented public workers can improve the ways government delivers service. When we debate only the size and scope of government, and not how government should work, we neglect urgent problems the general public rightfully expects the public workforce to solve.

Karen Font Williams

Southwest Portland

Clearing the air at Harriet Tubman

We're thankful for Willamette Week's coverage on the abysmal air quality near Harriet Tubman Middle School ["Running on Fumes," WW, July 4, 2018]. It seems self-evident that expanding I-5 into the literal backyard of a middle school is a wholly inappropriate use of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

We challenge WW's assertion that decongestion pricing, a thoughtful and proven alternative, is an inherently regressive policy mechanism. Decongestion pricing could direct as much as $300 million annually to fund transit investments. This could seed a transformative investment toward a regional system that provides alternatives to gridlock, air pollution and carbon emissions. If the Oregon Department of Transportation designs the policy with deliberate collaboration and engagement with frontline communities, decongestion pricing offers commuters a choice between paying for a traffic-free drive or enjoying a reliable, frequently arriving bus or train to a job center. By widening freeways instead of pricing them, suburban commuters will instead continue to have access to neither option.

Besides, research suggests commuters most likely to travel on the freeways during rush hour (and therefore, pay tolls) are wealthier than the typical regional household. ODOT could also further help low-income commuters with exemptions or rebates, structured similar to TriMet's new low-income fare program.

It's an open question as to whether Portland's elected officials will find the backbone to stand up for our children's lungs (and planet they'll inherit) in the face of this freeway pork project. It's not an open question whether road pricing can aid in a just transition to establishing an alternative.

Aaron Brown

No More Freeways PDX

Corrections

In last week's Murmurs, we incorrectly identified the executive director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. He is Doug Moore.

In last week's results of the 2018 Best of Portland Readers' Poll, we incorrectly listed Open Hand Health & Body as Best Massage and Zama Massage as runner-up. In fact, the two services tied for Best Massage.

WW regrets the errors.