Our readers respond to others readers and the issues of the day, including PERS reform

I was dismayed to read Richard LaMountain's poorly formed opinion on your Insight page on March 9. He equates a school's ability to build character with their ability to follow U.S. laws.

I learned in high school that character has little to do with one's ability to blindly follow laws, but depends greatly on one's ability to discern, and lead oneself and others, to higher moral ground. Inspirations of character for me include the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, John T. Scopes, and Harriet Tubman — all of whom flouted unjust laws in the interests of humanity.

On the contrary, a privileged class of mostly white men (of a not-so-representative government) have enacted scores of oppressive and unjust laws as they've removed native inhabitants and annexed lands of others through violent or coercive means.

To build character in youth is to encourage critical thought about their role in the course of our humanity.

Any person or institution who chooses to challenge the contemptible laws of the U.S. government are surely qualified to teach about character.

Jonathan Brandt

Southeast Portland

Hold pedestrians accountable, too

Dear Portland City Council and leadership: My condolences go out to the families of those who have lost their lives on Southeast Division Street. But I feel that the "state of emergency" created on Division is only punishing one aspect of the problem.

The city has spent thousands of dollars to create safe crosswalks all along Division. Yet jaywalking still occurs on a daily basis. Along with holding drivers responsible, we need to hold those who choose not to use crosswalks accountable.

I've had a number of close calls on dark mornings driving to work in the rain when someone dressed in all black chooses to cross Division illegally. By holding pedestrians and drivers accountable we can properly fix the problem.

I challenge the city of Portland to impose a $500 fine to any pedestrian caught not using a designated crosswalk during the 120-day state of emergency speed-limit reduction. By having a stiff penalty for those who choose to cross the road illegally we can properly fix the problem.

Sincerely, a Division Street business owner.

Cory Price


If write-off ends, so do dreams

Lawmakers in our state Capitol are once again trying to take a swipe at the middle class and the working poor. Again the idea is being bantered around via lawmakers to end the mortgage interest tax write-off.

Instead of fixing the broken PERS system (once again), our leaders prefer to try to fix the system by gouging homeowners out of one of the last actual tax benefits available to them. Once the mortgage interest deduction is gone, the great American dream of homeownership will evaporate as well.

We will live in a world of renters, and the rich who are the landlords will get richer and the disparity between rich and poor will become even more prevalent and extreme. Everyone who has struggled to make their mortgage payment on time over the years will be thrown under the bus by our so called leaders in Salem.

I suggest everyone who has a vested interest in this bill contact your representatives in Salem as soon as possible before this becomes law.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer is already here, and it will only get worse if Salem gets its way on this last slap in the face to all the working folks in Oregon. Salem should grow a spine and fix the broken PERS system instead of trying to get the working poor to bail them out once again, and again and again.

James Maass


Will keep working for school services

As Shasta Kearns Moore's March 1 piece noted, the Multnomah Education Service District is headed for changes. As a candidate for Position 2 on the MESD Board of Directors, I plan to continue strong current leadership and tackle serious issues still affecting the agency.

MESD programs lack success metrics. Having worked in Multnomah County's schools for 26 years, success is impossible to achieve unless we've defined it. Since Oregon has no success metrics for education service districts, we need to develop our own. How are we retaining talented staff? What inequities are we working to address? We need to ask questions like these while developing short- and long-term MESD success metrics.

MESD needs culturally competent programming. Oregon prides itself on inclusivity and openness. Isn't it time we brought those values into MESD programs? I am ready to work with Sam Breyer and communities of color so that MESD programs reflect the full vibrancy of our state.

More Oregonians need to know what MESD does. I will continue the work of outgoing directors and uplift the achievements of this vital organization.

In my career, I've worked closely with many students served by MESD. They deserve the very best. I have the knowledge and experience to give them that.

Helen Ying

Southwest Portland

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