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Make people No. 1, not cars

More automobiles and parking on the transit mall, and autos on Southwest Yamhill Street between First and Third avenues Ñ in conflict with MAX, and presumably to increase business activity? Back to the 1950s and '60s, instead of forward to the new millennium!

These proposed changes would jeopardize the success of transit in downtown Portland; they would hijack pedestrian space for private autos and discourage transit and pedestrian use.

We suggest instead five actions to improve transit mall business and downtown vitality:

• Increase bus frequency in the evenings and on weekends.

• Encourage residential use in the core as soon as possible.

• Establish an auto-free core area, as European cities do.

• Again limit downtown parking on-street and off-street.

• Begin serious planning promptly for underground regional rail to increase capacity to and through downtown.

These actions are all designed to augment people's use of downtown because it is people who are the key, not more automobiles consuming scarce space!

Vibrant, car-free downtowns, well served by fast, volume-carrying underground rail, spell urban success everywhere and show us the way to a livelier, more prosperous Portland of the future.

Ray Polani

Citizens for Better Transit

Southeast Portland

Concerns about police

are backed by facts

In recent letters, the concerns expressed by Promise King (Shooting feeds racial mistrust, March 12) and the Albina Ministerial Alliance (Pastors lament motel death, March 12) over the Byron Hammick shooting were dismissed as playing the race card, as condoning drug use and child abuse, or as reverse discrimination against whites.

One letter writer dismisses a black minister's fears that the police might shoot and kill him over something like a broken taillight (Letters, March 29).

Absurd? Try telling that to Amadou Diallo, the unarmed, innocent black man, a West African immigrant, who was shot by New York City police in February 1999.

African-Americans have been saying for years that racial profiling is real. Now they have the data to prove it.

Traffic-stop data collected last year by Portland police show that African-American motorists are more than twice as likely to be stopped as white motorists. And police records show that racial minorities, who make up under 25 percent of Portland's population, make up 45 percent of those shot at by police since January 2001.

Rather than take responsibility for solving this problem, Portland's white leadership continues to make excuses: The data are preliminary; it's too soon to tell; we've got a task force working on it. É

Against this background, it is no wonder that African-Americans in Portland do not trust the police version of what happened to Byron Hammick. Police accounts of the events of Feb. 22 certainly paint a damning picture of Hammick, and then make it seem that the police had no other choice than to kill him.

But are the police telling the truth? Don't Hammick's own calls to 911 indicate a man seeking help, rather than one hell-bent on killing a child? Has an independent investigator spoken to the witnesses?

If city leadership has its way, we will never know the truth behind the Hammick shooting, or any other police shooting. The City Council has voted to keep the public shut out from reviewing police shootings and deaths in custody. Instead, these cases will continue to be reviewed by grand juries, in closed-door proceedings controlled by the district attorney's office.

Promise King and the AMA ministers are to be commended for raising these issues publicly.

Kathleen Juergens

Northeast Portland

Investigation frustrates

dead man's family

I am Max Uffelman's older sister, and I wanted to write you to thank you for trying to clear up some of the mystery around my brother's death (Mystery pervades model's death, April 26).

I am extremely upset with the police and the way they are handling things. I don't know how they can say there were no signs of struggle when they didn't even tape off the scene to protect it. That should always be the first thing they do at any suspicious scene; even I know that.

No matter what, somebody screwed up royally and is covering their backside(s), and we are going to do everything in our power to find the truth.

How they can say it is a possible suicide blows me away. I know of five or six people who decided to see how plausible that theory was, and every one of them said you can't strangle yourself with a pay phone cord. They all said the cord wouldn't tighten up; even when tied in a knot it came loose.

How about the fact that some authorities said a patron found Max, when the medical examiner said the bartender found him? Are you starting to see some discrepancies?

I hope the police really are doing all they can and interviewing everyone who was with him.

My brother was never depressed to the point of taking drugs to bring him back up, though he had his bad days just like any normal person. He counseled a friend out of suicide just a couple months ago, so why would he turn around and do it to himself?

He would not. He told his friend there is too much out there to live for: God, family, friends, fun, everything.

Joy Orhn

East Bethel, Minn.