I don't travel much for business, but one or two times a year I need to come to Eugene, Oregon. I wish I didn't have to.
Don't get me wrong, the people I do business with are gracious and most people are kind. But Eugene has the worst crime record for burglary, auto theft ,and car break-ins among cities of its size in the entire United States. There are 3,200 auto break-ins annually. The police chief recently announced a stepped-up awareness campaign and warned that people breaking into homes and cars would now be apprehended and punished.
Just one year ago, I was robbed on one of these trips. The culprit walked away with my wallet just as casually as you please in front of two dozen bystanders while I pleaded for help. The onlookers were unlovely denizens of the Occupy camp across the street who came into a Starbucks store to loiter for hours and stay warm without buying anything. This is Eugene. That sort of thing is tolerated.
A few minutes ago, I got a ride to the train station from a cabbie who, in a journey of one mile, explained to me that he really wanted a bullet train between Eugene and Seattle and the "regulators" and "good ol' boys" were keeping it from him. I suggested that such a train would require an enormous amount of money. The rail is adequate for freight but not high-speed trains. The cost of equipment alone could be hundreds of millions.
He shrugged. He rode a bullet train from London to Amsterdam and it cost him $20. "That's what we need here. But "they" won't allow the infrastructure."
It must be comforting to have a philosophy that dictates you deserve everything you want and if you're not getting it, the Evil Powers That Be are keeping it from you.
Did I mention the homeless?
You can't travel more than a block or two in Central Eugene without beginning to sense the scope of Eugene's homelessness issue. I casually remarked to a companion, "I think if I were homeless and had just a little money, I'd use that to travel to a warmer clime." Winters here are cold and rainy. Why stay?
You've probably guessed. Eugene has an elaborate safety net for indigents. People come here for the benefits, not the liquid sunshine. The city has plans to build a large permanent encampment (euphemistically called "Opportunity Village"). There's no money in the budget for it, but the homeless deserve it.