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Public pays; who profits?

by: L.E. BASKOW, Portland State University doctoral student Derek Nowak constructs a microscope that may be used in a nanoscale imaging lab. The state has invested millions of dollars in nanotech studies and research, but a reader wonders who will profit from the results.

I'm grateful that the public safety implications of nanotechnology are being pushed to the forefront of the debate (Tiny's big promise, Oct. 30).

I would strongly suggest that the funding and development phases be included in this debate as well.

As the article states, the purpose of the $37 million in state funds was for job creation. But I remain unclear about the use of taxpayer money in Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute's ventures.

One example was Crystal Clear Technologies Inc., whose water-filtration product is 'now being shopped to private investors.' Does this mean that publicly funded research technology is being sold to for-profit private companies simply to spur job creation?

I would caution that the current military-industrial complex arose from this pattern of private, unaccountable corporations gaining proprietary control of publicly funded research.

Couldn't the state do more to protect the public's investment in nanotechnology?

Instead of attracting a few corporate jobs to Oregon while losing control of our hard-earned research products, shouldn't the state be more concerned with protecting our public health from potentially harmful private technology?

As many have said, it's not technology itself that's good or bad, it's who controls it that determines its benefactors.

Jonathan Brandt

Southeast Portland

Average kindergarten class is 22.5 students

Your story 'For kindergarten, local schools pack them in' (Nov. 2) might have left the impression that all of our kindergarten classrooms are crowded.

Not so: The average kindergarten class size in Portland Public Schools this fall is 22.5 kids.

Of course, that average doesn't reflect the broad range in the numbers. A dozen schools report that their kindergarten classes have 19 or fewer kids, while nine others (including Abernethy) report average kindergarten classes over 27, with teacher's aides.

The real problem is that principals never know how many kids to expect until they walk in the door in September, and kindergarten is wildly unpredictable.

Add the complications of lack of state support for full-day kindergarten and it's particularly difficult to set class sizes for kindergarten. Abernethy, for example, had only 10 families wanting half-day kindergarten, far too few to set up their own class.

Overall and on average, Portland Public Schools elementary class sizes actually are smaller than those in the suburbs. While the Abernethy experience has been difficult, let's not pose that as the school district norm.

Sarah Carlin Ames

Portland Public Schools

North Portland

Dare to be different for the holidays

The consumer juggernaut formerly known individually as Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas now envelops us.

A little more than a week ago and for the second year, I handed out school supplies to trick-or-treaters: new pencils (including supersweet 'mechanical' ones), pens, pink erasers, rulers, glue sticks, binder paper and spiral notebooks instead of candy.

One might think I was setting up myself and my small home for toilet papering and egging, but as I promised my co-workers, the reaction was dramatically opposite.

Indeed, two 16-year-old Jefferson High School students knocked at 9:30 p.m., returning their last-year visit because of the quirky offering. (A wonderful thing about handing out such things is that I no longer need to draw a line against older trick-or-treaters.)

Parents and children responded with not only surprise, but genuine appreciation and pleasure, and apparent awareness of my wink at our society's priorities.

Our community - by whatever borders you measure it - requires the participation of an active and engaged citizenry, whether it's on health, education or street-renaming matters.

In my view, our community's kids deserve and have earned our support. Parents (and I'm not one) owe them the responsibility of clearly established priorities that are demonstrated tangibly.

Putting one's proverbial 'money where your mouth is' is one way to do so.

I look forward to a bigger group of trick-or-treaters next year. Maybe I'll dress up as Santa Claus. In the meantime, Merry Thanksgivoween!

Gregory C. MacCrone

North Portland

Consider other ways to honor activists

This constant street renaming is mind-boggling (Mayor's walkout leaves Chávez fate unclear, Oct. 30).

A group gets together, urges City Hall to rename a street to honor someone, like Rosa Parks or César Chávez. If anyone dissents, he or she is called racist despite the fact that many citizens are against the renaming.

It begs the question, What good does renaming a street do?

Does it help people to know more about the prominent figure or does it make people irritated because a local street was named without proper consensus?

Here we are close to a direct democracy, but we have a long way to go.

Why not have information kiosks describing the good deeds of the person? The advocacy group would organize funding and information, which then would be more informative than a street name and actually would honor the person.

Solutions like this would save time and money on the part of the city and its taxpayers.

It also would do more to educate people about why Rosa Parks and César Chávez are important.

Street name changes should be voter approved if educating citizens is the goal.

Michelle Lasley

North Portland

Why not rename city while we're at it?

I respected Tom Potter as a police chief, but I am surprised and disappointed in him as a mayor.

His stand on renaming North Interstate Avenue seems to be 'to hell with history, to hell with the public.'

If he is so intent on name changes, why not rename Portland 'Multnomah'? We would be one of a kind rather than imitating at least 12 other Portlands in the nation.

Carl Ronson

Happy Valley