Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Power Plant Delayed
Proposed Coburg gas-fired generator hits resistance.
An antelope walks warily among the hyenas.
Happening Place: Madison Meadow
The Oregon Bus Project gathers for its biggest canvassing effort yet at 10:30 am Saturday Sept 25 at Skinner Butte Park, Lambs Cottage, going door-to-door for candidates Bev Ficek, Phil Barnhart, and Don Hampton. Free snacks, lunch, and a chili feed and BBQ after. RSVP to James Mattiace, 914-0293.
The Eugene Leave No Voter Behind kick-off training grassroots event for progressive activists runs from noon to 3 pm Sunday, Sept. 26 at Cozmic Pizza. Call (503) 228-1562 or visit www.moveonpac.org Learn a few simple, proven techniques for turning out new Kerry voters in your neighborhood.
INSURANCE HIKE RALLIES AFSCME
More than 200 cheering city union workers rallied last Wednesday, Sept 15 at city hall calling for city managers to not stick them with rising health insurance costs.
For the last five months, city managers have failed to reach an agreement with the local chapter of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The union and management are now in mediation, according to an AFSCME flier handed out at the rally.
City workers at the rally chanted, "Where is the money?"; "We want equity!" and "We will win!" Union members waived signs calling for "Jobs with Justice" and "Settle a Fair Contract Now."
At one point, the fire alarm at city hall sounded with a recorded voice ordering a building evacuation. The alarm resulted in city councilors and managers spilling out of a noon meeting into the rally. Mayor Jim Torrey shouted to the crowd, telling them that an alarm had sounded and that the building was being evacuated. But the all-clear had just been given by the fire department. The rally continued and councilors went back inside after eight minutes. "Never mind," said Torrey.
"I've never seen a rally like that," said City Manager Dennis Taylor. Taylor declined to provide further details of the labor dispute saying he wanted to discuss the contract at the bargaining table and not through the media.
It's not clear whether rally opponents or supporters pulled the alarm. "We don't know that it was pulled," said a fire department official. He acknowledged the coincidence of the very rare alarm and rarer rally coinciding, but said, "It may have been a malfunction."
The AFSCME flier gives the union's side of the labor dispute with the city. The city has demanded employees start paying 5 percent of the monthly premium for their health insurance, about $18 to $55 per month, depending on dependent coverage. The city also wants to cut health benefits 7 percent, resulting in higher out of pocket costs for employees, according to AFSCME.
AFSCME says in later years as insurance costs continue to soar 15 to 20 percent a year, the 5 percent will continually increase and benefits will further erode. The union says the city has rejected its offers to cut wages to balance rising health insurance costs. "This battle is not about costs to the city but about the city's philosophy, that we are somehow responsible for the health care industry's excessive profits," the AFSCME flier states. "The city has said that 'employees must feel the pain.'"
But the union complains that city managers aren't feeling the pain. Managers have given themselves a special 2 percent wage increase in the form of a "deferred compensation" package they can use for retirement. "When their PERS retirement was gutted by the Legislature, they have a deferred comp nest egg to fall back on," AFSCME states in the flier.
In contrast, the city refuses to promise to increase wages to make up for cuts in union members' PERS, according to AFCME. The union says it has given up wage increases in the past in exchange for more retirement benefits.
Other, apparently more minor sticking points include wage increases (the city offers 1.75 percent), holidays and protecting union jobs from being done by non-union and contracted out workers.
At the rally, a tin with a note asked for donations to a strike fund. But the note said an actual strike was still a ways off.
Oddly, the unusual labor friction for the city comes at a time when it is sitting on the biggest cash reserves in its history. City managers say they want to spend $29 million in internal money they have squirreled away for a huge new police headquarters.
"I think it's fine for the workers to go out there and press their issues," Eugene mayor-elect Kitty Piercy said. Piercy said she understands workers are concerned about opening up a "Pandora's box" if they agree to help pay for rising health care costs.
"It's a very big and difficult challenge," she said. "My hope is that they have a successful bargaining process." — Alan Pittman
UO CONFERENCE FULL
A UO conference on "Making Sustainable Development Work" scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 23, has filled all 130 available seats, according to Shanda LeVan, one of the organizers.
LeVan says the sessions will be taped and edited by Ray Wolf for later broadcast on Community Television.
ROBB HANKINS URGES MORE ARTS DOWNTOWN
Eugene Cultural Services Director Robb Hankins says Eugene has the potential to become the "world's greatest city for the arts and outdoors," and it's not too early to tout ourselves as such.
"When it comes to the outdoors, Eugene is inspiring," Hankins says. "When it comes to the arts and entertainment, Eugene is spectacular."
Hankins, still relatively new to Eugene (he arrived last December), spoke to the City Club of Eugene Sept. 17 and outlined what he would like to see happen to revitalize Eugene, particularly downtown, and build stronger connections between the city and the UO.
"Successful cities do two things consistently," he said. "They define themselves as being great and they make it reality by starting on it today."
His wish list includes filling empty downtown buildings with arts and artists, even buildings that are for sale. Hankins suggested that property owners provide cheap rent month-to-month for fine art and music studios, offices and rehearsal space for performing arts.
Hankins says artists associated with UO also need studio space and he's particularly interested in seeing cutting-edge "high-tech electronic arts" downtown, drawing tourists and increasing foot traffic for other downtown businesses.
Hankin's talk was not taped for broadcast on KLCC, but was videotaped for OPAN cable TV broadcast at a later date. Videotapes are available for $10. Contact email@example.com or call 485-7433. — TJT
VANDALS TRASH RURAL HAMPTON SIGNS
Large campaign signs supporting the candidacy of incumbent Lane County Commissioner Don Hampton have been vandalized at the corner of Highway 58 and Parkway Road in rural Pleasant Hill.
"If this keeps up, we'll have to hang them from the trees," says Carol Berg, whose family has owned the visible wooded corner for the past 33 years. She says the first large sign on the property was completely demolished, and the second one had a large chunk cut of of the middle.
"I see this as a suppression of the American right to express what we support," says Berg.
Last week's news story "Courage to Change" about the upcoming new energy conference had an erroneous sub-headline about the timing of the event. The conference in Portland will be held Sept. 25, as noted in the story. For more information, visit www.newenergymovement.orgor call (866) 585-2344.
The Eugene Celebration was a gas, as usual, despite the Eugene weather. Who loves Eugene? They showed up in raincoats, umbrellas and grins. The only grimaces were on the mugs of the shivering vendors who took it in their soggy shorts. Our local food and arts and crafts vendors are still around. Give 'em some love. Saturday Market continues rain or shine until Nov. 13, then goes indoors starting Nov. 20 for the Holiday Market.
Robb Hankins at City Club Sept. 17 tossed out the idea that downtown Eugene would be enhanced and enlivened if all the empty buildings that are for sale were rented out cheap month-to-month to artists of all kinds for studios, galleries, rehearsal space, etc. Excellent idea and we hope downtown property owners get the message. But we are reminded of a related problem with empty downtown buildings: Few are available for long-term leasing since they are for sale. What upper-end restaurant or clothing store is willing to spend $100,000 for remodeling with only one-year leases available? We're puzzled by the business strategies of downtown property owners. We recognize that commercial real estate is often valued by a factor of its rental income (no rent might look better on paper than low rent), but vacant buildings keep people away, which in turn lowers property values. Are we looking at empty buildings in Eugene being used as tax write-offs for profits made elsewhere? If so, then parts of downtown Eugene are in effect being held hostage, and our city suffers because of it.
Peter Chabarek was physically attacked by a Cheney supporter at the Cheney rally in Eugene last week for speaking his mind in protest, but police at the scene did not handcuff and haul off his assailant. Instead Chabarek was tossed out of the rally. We hear Chabarek is choosing to not file charges as a citizen, but why is it up to him? Is assault no longer a crime? Freedom of speech no longer protected?
SLANT includes short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, firstname.lastname@example.org
Power Plant Delayed
Proposed Coburg gas-fired generator hits resistance.
BY KERA ABRAHAM
The West Cascade Energy Facility, a proposed 900-megawatt, natural- gas-fired power plant to be sited in Coburg, is facing new hurdles from local government. Several recent developments will delay permitting for the plant for at least 18 months.
Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority (LRAPA) has put a one-year hold on developer Gary Marcus' application for a permit to release emissions from the plant. To better assess the potential impacts that emissions could have on the airshed, LRAPA will do on-site ambient monitoring and collect wind data for one year.
Such monitoring is required under the federal Clean Air Act. But according to LRAPA, additional monitoring was not required. "Marcus could have insisted that we process his query immediately," says LRAPA Permit Section Manager Robert Koster, "but we applied what pressure we had, and he agreed to that [permit hold]."
Over the summer, the Lane County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed four motions — all introduced by Commissioner Peter Sorenson — regarding the proposed facility.
First, the board reaffirmed its decision to withhold facility permits for the right-of-way of water transmission from the McKenzie River up Coburg Road toward the proposed power plant. In response, Marcus withdrew the permit.
"I decided that I couldn't get a fair hearing at the county and withdrew the permit. In the end, the state will grant it to me because legally, it should be granted," says Marcus. "It doesn't make any difference in terms of the project going forward; it just exposes the true intentions of the county commissioners, which are not to give this project a fair hearing." The developer adds that he would prefer to pursue plans to transport water via the Muddy Creek Canal that runs through Coburg farmland.
The board passed a second motion to hold an executive session meeting with the Lane County legal counsel regarding the board's jurisdiction over siting of the proposed plant. Currently, the plant's siting permits are handled by the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC), a state agency. Groups such as Save Our Valley and Oregon Toxics Alliance argue that the local county commissioners ought to have jurisdiction over land use issues in Lane County. The confidential legal meeting, titled "Lane County versus EFSC," took place on
The third motion was to authorize a letter from the board to Governor Ted Kulongoski, inviting the governor to Eugene to discuss issues around the proposed facility.
The fourth motion was to hold public hearings to allow proponents and opponents to present their perspectives on the proposed facility. The date of the hearing has not yet been announced.
In the meantime, Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA) plans to present arguments against the proposed energy facility to city councils throughout Lane County. In collaboration with the American Lung Association of Oregon, OTA will also host a forum series, "Breathless in Lane County," to address the dangers of local air pollution. The forums will be held on Oct. 4 and 5; see next week's Calendar for details.
These developments are timely in the context of new research on the effects of air pollution on developing lungs. According to a study released in the Sept. 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, children who grow up breathing air contaminated with fine particulate matter have reduced lung capacity as teenagers. The proposed facility would release 326 tons of fine particulate matter annually.
According to Patrick Callahan, Asthma Program Coordinator for the American Lung Association of Oregon, teenagers with reduced lung capacity are not able to exercise as much as people with healthy lungs, and there may be other complications. Reduced lung capacity is a symptom for people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
OTA is working with citizens of Klamath Falls and Turner to oppose proposed power plants in those areas. "Eugene-Springfield-Coburg residents have to realize that there are people in Marion County and Klamath County that are battling these proposals too," says OTA Administrative Coordinator Lisa Arkin. "If you add up the wattage — 620 in Turner, 900 here, 1120 in Klamath — that's 2,640 megawatts. With that much wattage being proposed and the Northwest having a surplus, it helps us realize that this plant is intended to supply power to cities and states outside of the places where they would be built."
Despite recent decisions delaying the permitting of the plant, former Commissioner Tom Lininger says that the proposed facility is still viable. "People need to give this plant full consideration now as if it were to be built in the near future, because when they get their regulatory permit, they have many years in which to build the plant," he says.
Commissioner Peter Sorenson suggests that even if local government will not deny the proposed plant outright, enough concerns abound that agencies may delay approval of permits. "Government that is timid about approving a project often continues to process until the project dies," he says. "They just keep considering it, considering it, considering it — but they never do deny it. They just keep asking more and more questions."
City Councilor Betty Taylor, who sits on the LRAPA board, is asking some of those questions regarding the proposed plant. "I'm concerned about the visual part and the air quality. When they say that they're going to put the emissions so far into the air that it won't bother anyone, what goes up is going to come down somewhere on someone else. I don't think our air in the area is dirty yet, but I don't think we need more pollution, and I don't think the plant is necessary. And the people who live in the area are opposed to it," she says. "I hope it will not be approved. I don't know that it's the [LRAPA] board's decision, but anything I can do to prevent the plant, I will do."
An antelope walks warily among the hyenas.
BY KERA ABRAHAM
Vice President Dick Cheney's Sept. 17 visit to Lane County was billed as an exclusive partisan rally for a Bush-Cheney victory in the 2004 election. But I, a bleeding-heart liberal, feel it's my right to see the VP in the flesh. So I head to the local Republican Party headquarters to try to finagle a ticket.
The office is hung with framed mug shots of GOP heroes: Bush, Ashcroft, and Cheney, with his sinister lopsided sneer. A man in a business suit eyes my long fringed skirt. My forehead might as well be stamped "Communist."
I approach a heavily lipsticked woman and ask for a ticket to the rally. She has me fill out a form and asks, "Are you a supporter of President Bush and Vice President Cheney?"
I don't want to lie, so I flash my Republicanest smile. "You bet," I chirp. But you'll lose.
"And are you registered to vote?"
She gives me a conspiratorial grin and hands me the ticket.
The rally is held in a private airplane hangar near the Eugene Airport. The parking meadow — more than a mile away — is full of gas guzzlers, many of them displaying "Bush-Cheney '04" bumper stickers. My little red Toyota's bumper reads, "Wage Peace." Big cars keep cutting me off. I turn down my reggae music.
As rally-goers wait for the shuttle bus to whisk them to the hangar, several high school and college-aged kids register voters. One of them wears a shirt that says "Liberalism is a disease." Another T-shirt reads, "Students for Bush: No flip-flops!"
There is camaraderie in the shuttle line. An elderly gentleman with a buzz cut and dark sunglasses remarks to a middle-aged man in a cowboy hat, "I used to be a Democrat, when I was working. But every time I got my paycheck I saw all these taxes taken out."
"Yeah," sympathizes the middle-aged man. "I'll become a Democrat when I retire."
I feel like an antelope in a field of hyenas.
The shuttle drops us off outside the hangar, where we have to wait in another long line to pass through security. The rain picks up and hundreds of umbrellas open. Under those umbrellas are businesspeople, middle-class housewives and grizzled cowboys; babies, teenagers and seniors; Asians, blacks, whites and Hispanics. A young woman shares her umbrella with me. Most of these people, I think, are good folk.
Security lets me through with my camera, notebook, and steel-toed boots, but they take my small rose quartz marble.
"It's a projectile," explains Secret Service Officer Kirk, a strong-jawed man with steely eyes. "I'm going to confiscate it, and you probably won't get it back."
I hadn't considered chucking the marble at Cheney's big bald noodle.
Inside the hangar, country music blasts through the speakers. A banner on the wall reads, "Cheney is Our Man." A woman holds a sign that says, "W. Stands for Women."
The 3.5-hour delay that precedes Cheney's appearance is filled by a lineup of Republican politicians. Molly Bordonaro, the northwest regional chair for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, speaks first. "Lane County is Bush-Cheney country!" she enthuses. Oregon Republican Party chair Kevin Mannix follows with chummy digs on the state's Democrats.
Pastor Kimball Hodge of the First Baptist Church of Eugene leads the crowd in prayer. Three thousand heads bow; mine doesn't. "Father, we thank you for Vice President Cheney … for his strength in leadership," says Pastor Hodge reverently. After his final "amen," the man in front of me leaps into the air, fist raised, and yelps "AMMMEN!"
We sing the National Anthem. We pledge allegiance to the flag. Jim Feldkamp, candidate for the 4th Congressional District, reminds us of all the wonderful results of the international war on terror. Bordonaro seethes that the economic recession under Bush was handed to him by Clinton. Every time John Kerry is referenced, the crowd jeers "Flip-flop! Flip-flop!"
When Cheney's plane finally touches down, Bordonaro takes up the reigns. "Ladies and gentlemen, as you saw, Airforce Two has landed!" She rallies the crowd to chant as Cheney approaches in his motorcade.
A rock song with a throbbing bass blasts over the speakers: James Brown's "Living in America." The crowd is ecstatic, but I wonder if people hear the criticism in the lyrics: "Smokestack, fatback, many miles of railroad track … You might have to walk the fine line, you might take the hard line, but everybody's working overtime."
Cheney's daughter Liz, a blond mother of four with a bubbly voice, introduces her daddy. "Unlike his opponent, his hair is not his best asset," she says, soliciting chuckles from the crowd. "He looks you in the eye when he talks to you, he has a firm handshake, and his word is his bond."
Cheney begins his half-hour speech on a local note. "The Willamette Valley is a fabulous piece of real estate," he says. "This is Dick Cheney Country." The crowd roars.
Noting my lack of enthusiasm, Ted Scherer, precinct organization chairman of the Lane County Republican Party, deems me fishy. As I try to take photos of Cheney, Scherer sticks his Jim Feldkamp sign in front of my camera lens.
A lonely voice shouts from the back of the crowd, "Stop the war!"
It's Peter Chabarek, who came to the rally with Carol Melia to protest. They'd shown up in conservative dress, then peeled off their outer layers to reveal shirts with anti-war slogans.
"Four more years!" screams a man in front of Chabarek, raising his Bush-Cheney sign. The crowd joins in.
Scherer elbows me. "There's your man," he says icily, jerking his head toward Chabarek.
But Chabarek isn't finished. "You're a war profiteer! You're a war criminal!" he yells at Cheney. Art Briga, an ex-Marine from Springfield, wraps his arm around Chabarek's neck and tries to put him in a choke hold. Somebody else gives Chabarek a shove. They all tumble to the floor. The police break up the scuffle and lead Chabarek and Melia outside, allowing Briga and the other assailant to stay. Chabarek pauses in front of the television cameras and tells reporters, "This is what democracy looks like."
Cheney rambles on. His speech sounds canned; it's similar to the one he gave at the Republican National Convention. "Some people say that John Edwards got the vice presidential nomination because he's sexy and has great hair," says Cheney. "Well, how do you think I got the job?"
The audience laughs.
Cheney continues: "We've killed or captured hundreds of al-Qaeda. … We will always seek international support for international efforts." The world according to Cheney is a dark and dangerous place, rife with Democrats and terrorists — but why be redundant — and only the Bush administration can vanquish evil with its military-industrial might. And a dose of cowboy charisma.
A woman in the crowd shouts in protest, "No!"
The crowd shuts her up. "Four more years!"
Scherer leers at me. "Too many Democrats in here. Illegally."
One of the "illegal" Democrats at the rally is Morgan Munro, a 23-year-old recent college graduate. Munro was raised in a bipartisan family, and she believes in hearing from both sides. "I really felt that what [Cheney] said was recycled," she says. "It was just the same old stuff that he's trying to sell America."
At the end of Cheney's speech, Scherer announces that he is going to personally escort me outside. He stays at my heels, a hostile smirk on his face, as I work through the crowd toward the exit. He only disappears when I approach a policeman to ask about my confiscated marble. The officer finds it and gives it back to me.
The avenue leading back to the parking lot is speckled with protesters holding signs and shouting their dissent. About 30 veterans stage their protest at the airport's south entrance, denouncing the Bush administration's mistreatment of American soldiers in Iraq and their dependents at home.
"We are all disappointed with the broken promises that Bush has made to the U.S. military," says protester Jim Fields of Lane County Vets for Kerry.
I'm relieved to get back to my little red Toyota and scoot away from the venue. Rolling the rose quartz marble around in my palm, I try to empathize with the Republican crowd. Maybe Ted Scherer was really worried that I'd sabotage the rally. Maybe that lady holding the "W. Stands for Women" sign had a bad experience with a Democrat boyfriend. Maybe Eugene Republicans feel as uncomfortable at local Democratic gatherings as I did at the Cheney rally. Still, it's hard to imagine the likes of Kitty Piercy putting a man in a choke hold for protesting liberal policies.
In any case, I'm free. And, as I assured the woman at the local Republican headquarters, I vote.
Friendly Area Neighborhood residents Lorri Goodman, Craig Haines, Debbie Summers, Noel, Olga Turner, Doug Yook, Susan Jerde, Linda Prier and Lora Byxbe have become even more friendly since last October, when for-sale signs first appeared on two acres of remnant meadow and orchard south of Madison and 22nd Avenue. "It's our only little wild place," says 12-year resident Prier, a transplant from New York. "I love the trees and flowers, the birds that come. It means a lot to children and older people." An initial meeting of neighbors last fall, on two days notice, attracted 35 people. The nine pictured here now serve as the Board of Directors of Madison Meadow, a new non-profit corporation dedicated to maintaining the land as open space. MM needs to raise $200,000 by the end of this year to preserve an option to purchase the property. (News flash: An anonymous donor has offered to match all pledges up to a total of $100,000!) Madison Meadow is planning a silent auction and musical extravaganza for the evening of Saturday, Oct. 2, at Cozmic Pizza in Eugene. For more information online go to madisonmeadow.org