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Our readers weigh in on race relations, the Multnomah County Assessor, intolerance, living with autism, and weathering winter storms.

I appreciate Shasta Kearns Moore's reporting on PSU's America on the Move reports. What is puzzling to me is why the downward trend of Portland's black population is a mystery. The reasons are rooted in Oregon's racist past, as well as the current trends of blacks feeling unwelcome in the same neighborhoods that they grew up in.

Despite having the lowest post-recession national unemployment rate, black unemployment is now and has always been twice that of whites. Why does a nonprofit organization need to hold a quarterly welcome event for newly arrived professionals of color in Portland? Shouldn't they be able to receive the same welcome as everyone else? Why do so many leave after two to three years?

It is difficult for many blacks and people of color to become acclimated here, having to seek out small dispersed populations scattered across multiple cities and counties.

The residual mind-set of black exclusion laws, and the past effort to make Oregon a part of a multistate white homeland, has left its stain on Oregon. Covert racism went underground but has reared its head again due to the recent rise of white nationalism.

Many blacks in urban metropolitan areas around the country think of Oregon in the same way they think of Idaho, Utah or other western states with homogenous populations and lots of forests and mountains. They wonder why anyone would want to move here. Their employers may transfer them here; many do not last.

Then there is negrophobia, defined as the dislike or fear of black people. Studies have shown that the darker ones' skin, the more likely they are to be feared. This fear manifests itself in opportunities for education, housing, employment and other basic rights that have become privileges.

When so few blacks are seen in prominent positions in business and government, assumptions are made that they are either unqualified or uninterested in such positions. Portland is unique among cities its size in this regard, and people who have lived here long enough can be lulled into the mythology that such shortcomings are the norm everywhere. They are not.

And so, while stratified random samples may not reveal the true colors of why the black population of Portland is decreasing, you may simply consider asking people you meet on the street. Sometimes, the anecdote is more revealing than the data.

Greg Wolley

Northeast Portland

Multnomah assessor can learn from Clark County

I read your very good article on Multnomah County's appeal operation ("County assessed with blame in property tax appeals process," March 23). Take a look how Clark County handles their appeal process. Multnomah could copy it.

I'll mention just three highlights:

1. Assessor provides his data and comparables to appealer 14 days before hearing.

2. Appealer provides his data seven days before hearing. Open communication between parties is encouraged to reach settlement before hearing.

3. Assessor attends hearing and answers questions.

This works well and is fair.

Bill Reiersgaard

Vancouver, Wash.

How did we become so intolerant?

I find it ironic that Portland, a bastion of liberalism along with Seattle, San Francisco and New York, should be confronted with intolerance when it comes to public meetings.

I refer to your front-page article "City ready for legal rematch to ban disrupters from meetings" (Portland Tribune, March 14).

Our City Council is faced with individuals who are hell-bent on simply disrupting meetings, thus limiting open and thoughtful discussion and dialogue on problems in our community. The City Council "is expected to consider a draft policy in response to more than a year of repeated disruptions of city meetings by a concerted group of audience members who heckle, jeer, shout at other testifiers and officials, and express political views on homelessness and police."

However, federal Judge Michael Simon on Dec. 31, 2015, in response to a lawsuit banning someone from future meetings due to past disruptions, ruled that would violate the First Amendment. The judge writes, "Our democratic republic is not so fragile, and our First Amendment is not so weak."

Have we become a nation of intolerance? Have we become so divided that we no longer can discuss issues in a fair and balanced way in trying to reach common ground?

We see such action in Congress in Washington, D.C., where intolerance abounds and Americans are looking to Congress for solutions and Congress can't get beyond political ideology, which does not serve our nation well.

Our congressional representatives are facing the same activity when they hold town hall meetings with their constituents across the nation, and this outrageous behavior is unacceptable and does a tremendous disservice to the nation in developing solutions through open dialogue and respect.

Like bigotry, intolerance is not acceptable.

Louis H. Bowerman

Southeast Portland

Adapting to life with autism

I read Shasta Kearns Moore's March 21 article "PSU researcher gets grants to study autistic employees in the workplace" with great enthusiasm for the promise of such a study. I am a high-functioning autistic. I can think of many ways to help autistic people achieve more in the workplace and in life.

I have accomplished far more than anyone ever thought was possible. To the point, in fact, all the so-called experts told my parents when I was a child simply to institutionalize me.

I've lived a reasonably normal life if you can call it that. I've even done things like become a scuba diver and a private pilot. I even ran for public office last year.

I had to learn to adapt to so-called normal people's way of communicating. I didn't really learn to do it extremely well until I was into my 30s, but I have done it. I even jokingly explain to people that for autistics, social norms, or trying to explain them, is akin to the character Sheldon Cooper from "The Big Bang Theory." Because it's an expected special norm. It works kind of like that.

James E Stubbs

Southeast Portland

Getting better at weathering storms

Contrary to all the griping about how the city, county and state could have done a better job keeping our roads open this winter, I'd like to say thank you for a job well done.

This has been one tough winter and the road crews have been out working constantly this year in all kinds of inclement weather and on all kinds of hazards. It is amazing to me that we were able to move around as well as we have, given what the winter dished out. Thank you so much!

While I appreciate that transportation officials are evaluating how they can do better next time, I am with the City Budget Office that there are higher priorities than purchasing more snow-removal equipment.

Even with severe weather events increasing due to climate change, rising temperatures on the planet point to more rain than snow for our area. And finally, citizens need to take more responsibility for their planning and driving habits during these winter storms and not expect road crews to carry the entire responsibility for keeping our roads safe.

Elaine Rybak

Northwest Portland

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