Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Is Eugene up to the challenge?
News that gets little attention in local media.
Happening Person: Snatam Kaur Khalsa
PLAQUES AND ADVICE
New Mayor Kitty Piercy wasn't the only official to speak at the Eugene State of the City event Jan. 3.
Incoming and outgoing elected officials, even political opposites, exchanged praise and plaques. Councilor Bonny Bettman thanked Piercy for "sharing the platform so liberally" and praised outgoing Mayor Jim Torrey for his "down to earth" style and sense of humor. Torrey "has been a very, very powerful political force in this community for more than a decade," Bettman said.
Torrey returned the praise, noting Bettman's key role in passing a measure to provide city tax money to bail out local schools. Without Bettman, the funding might not have happened, Torrey said. "Council President Bonny Bettman saved the day."
Torrey also offered the new mayor and council this parting advice: "Keep Eugene a great place for kids, because if you do, it will remain a great place for everyone."
Re-elected Councilor Betty Taylor used her turn to offer a long list of what she'd like to see the new city government accomplish: an independent performance auditor; helping Oregon Research Institute in its plans to build a new office at the old Sears building across from the downtown library; tax reform; an equitable system of funding road repairs; a living wage ordinance; regulating big box stores; increased funding for neighborhood organizations, community television and the sister city program; daylighting the millrace at the old Agripac site; creating a downtown youth center with the cooperation of the UO and private donations; and making government "sensible, transparent and fair to everyone."
Taylor's progressive list brought some of the biggest applause of the evening from the packed Hult Center lobby.
— Alan Pittman
UO STUDENTS OUTLINE PLAN
Members of the nascent UO peace group Students for Change have outlined their plan for an ambitious movement called the Commongood Project. In the first phase of the project, members will raise funds and build networks with local and national interfaith groups and social justice organizations. They will also organize "communities for the common good," or "comcoms," which will host educational events and facilitate public conversations. "We want to welcome people who are attracted to a new kind of spirit," says SFC member Brian Bogart. "It's not just for young people, but for all concerned citizens."
The project's umbrella goal is to provide "a creative response to the destructive US agenda of spreading subordination through violence," according to SFC's draft. "The Commongood Project claims the future as a common ground for life and the human family, to be protected from unjust, violent, and unsustainable systems we live under today. Everyone has the right to evolve equally in a hopeful, peaceful world. That which threatens our common ground — obstacles to equitable coexistence — must be changed."
SFC is leading a campus rally and a march to the Federal Building to protest George W. Bush's inauguration on Jan. 20. Pre-march activities will take place at the EMU amphitheater on the UO campus from noon to 4 pm. For more information, seethe following story or visit the SFC website at www.students4change.org
— Kera Abraham
UO students, faculty, and community members will gather at several locations on Thursday, Jan. 20, to mark President-elect George W. Bush's inauguration day with a series of events that will encourage individuals to help inaugurate an alternative, more just and peaceful vision for the U.S., according to Michael Carrigan, one of the organizers. In addition, participants will use the occasion to "celebrate the dawning of a new era in Eugene with the election of Kitty Piercy as mayor," Carrigan says.
Events at UO begin at noon at the EMU with talks by Sandy Morgen, Garrett Epps, Shaul Cohen, Sharon Schuman and Brian Bogart. Related student events with music and more speakers run from 2 to 4 pm.
At 4 pm, students and faculty will march from the EMU to the Federal Building at 7th and Pearl to join the events there.
Federal Building events begin at 1 pm with music, dancing, and chanting. Speakers beginning at 5 pm include Jim Rassman, Josh Laughlin, Amy Pincus-Merwin, Lucy Lahr and William Maxwell. Following the talks will be a candlelight vigil and march around the Federal Building from 5:30 to 6 pm.
Events at Cozmic Pizza run from 6 to 9 pm with music, speakers and theater.
At 7 pm a day earlier, on Jan. 19, a free pre-inaugural event will be held at Cozmic Pizza that includes a showing of Barrie Zwicker's film The Great Conspiracy about Bush and 9/11.
GRAFFITI BY COP
If you paint graffiti on city property you could face a fine, an order to clean it up or even jail time. But a different standard apparently applies to a Eugene police officer's illegal graffiti.
City Manager Dennis Taylor admitted Jan. 10 to the City Council that Eugene police officers had illegally spray painted "no trespassing" signs on public sidewalks in an effort to stop panhandlers. Panhandling on public property is not illegal, courts have ruled. "Panhandling is a constitutionally protected activity," Taylor said. The four police officer painted sidewalks were "clearly inappropriate" and the markings were removed, Taylor said.
But asked if the spraying officers will be punished like other taggers, Taylor responded, "Probably not."
Taylor's admission of illegal tagging by officers followed a week of confusion in the media with police officers and city officials making conflicting statements about what the city policy was about the no trespassing signs. Taylor said it took the city three to four days to confer with the police, public works and city attorney to decide what the city policy was.
Taylor said the city will now train police officers to not spray paint illegal signs that deprive people of their constitutional rights. "We're not going to do the signs anymore."
But that might be too late to prevent yet another public black eye to a police department already battered by accusations that its leadership has failed to control officers who have sexually preyed on women and racially targeted minorities.
Human rights activist Hope Marston said the city shouldn't have allowed officers to launch their own illegal campaigns against the homeless. "There are a lot of people in this community who are upset about that," she told councilors. "We have a real problem here in Eugene."
— Alan Pittman
IN THE SPIRIT OF DR. KING
Springfield's 7th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will take place from 2 to 4 pm Jan. 17 at Springfield Middle School. The theme of the event is "Martin Luther King Jr.: Fulfill the Dream!" and will feature artwork, poetry, speakers, music and entertainment by Springfield students.
Beginning at 2 pm, students who submitted to the MLK art, essay and poetry contests will have their work on display. Attendees can browse, enjoy refreshments and listen to music by Ricardo Cardenas prior to the 2:30 pm entertainment segment.
In past years, the event featured an adult keynote speaker, but this year, students compete in a MLK speech contest. Megan Wright and Stephanie Badenoch will give their winning speeches. The other two winners were Thomas Lovell and Bria Light.
There will also be performances from the Eugene Peace Choir, the Elizabeth Page Elementary Rockin' Amigos, and the Mt. Vernon Elementary 5th grade choir.
"The primary reason for youth orientation and involvement is that unless we keep Martin Luther King's dream alive for the next generation, the dream dies," said Kate Wallace, Springfield Alliance for Equity and Respect (SAfER) member and MLK Committee member. "It is particularly applicable at this time with the horrors in the world to keep these kids positive and focused on how the world could be a better place."
Last year, more than 300 people attended the MLK Day celebration, and 650 students submitted contest entries.
The free event will take place from 2 to 4 pm. The site is wheelchair-accessible.
— Sara Brickner
Due to an editor's error in Brett Campbell's story in Bravo last week, the cor anglais was incorrectly identified. It is an English horn.
Last week's cover story, "Old McDougal's Have a Farm," incorrectly referred to the location of the swap sites. The Santa Clara property is in northwest Eugene; the Laurel Hill property is in southeast Eugene.
We love seeing Kulongoski showing some spunk and taking on the Bush administration in his State of the State Address this week. The guv said he would not sit by while "the federal government attempts to dismantle our environmental legacy, undermine our values and erode our sovereignty." That statement covers a multitude of sins, from destructive salmon and forest policies to gay rights restrictions to attempts to override Oregonians' votes on assisted suicide and medical pot. Meanwhile, Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson has announced his gubernatorial candidacy to oppose Kulongoski in 2006. It's a long shot, but Sorenson's pressure from the left might be just what's prodding Kulongoski to show some leadership and initiative in what's so far been an unremarkable governorship. Smart move by Sorenson. We hear Pete somehow got invited to sit among state lawmakers in the audience for the guv's State of the State Address. How did he manage that?
Tsunami reports and winter weather news are overshadowing war and politics these days, so here's a quick recap on the presidential election as we approach the re-inauguration of Bush next week. Congress met Jan. 6 to approve the Electoral College votes and U.S. Rep. Conyers and several colleagues objected to the votes from Ohio on the basis of "numerous, serious election irregularities." Conyers had written to all 100 senators asking them to join him. Locally, members of Truthinvoting.org continued a vigil at Sen. Wyden's Eugene office, and Sarah Gray continued her fast, all asking Wyden to join Conyers. Tens of thousands of people across the country phoned, faxed, and wrote to Congress. The morning of Jan. 6, Sen. Boxer agreed to join the objection, and later, in a joint session of Congress, Rep. Tubbs Jones from Ohio came forward with Boxer to raise an objection to the Ohio votes. The House and Senate then held separate debates. Wyden, Clinton, Obama, Kennedy, and others spoke in support of raising questions about the election. But when the vote came, Boxer stood alone. In the House, many spoke in support of the objection and some strongly called for election reform. Conyers, Jesse Jackson Jr., Kucinich, Waters, Tubb Jones, and Lee gave rousing speeches, alternating with a Republican chorus of "Get over it." In the House vote, 31 lawmakers supported the objection. DeFazio was at home in Oregon and missed the vote. What's next? The momentum for accountability may lead to crucial voting reforms. We need to thank members of Congress, especially Wyden, who listened to his constituents.
As we go to press, we hear members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 575 are planning an informational picketing from 4 to 6 pm Thursday, Jan. 13 at the LTD station downtown. For more information, contact Carol Allred at 729-1903, or read Gary Gillespie's comments on the threatened strike in our cover story this week.
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
Is Eugene up to the challenge?
BY KERA ABRAHAM
A coalition of nonprofits known as Pesticide Free Partners recently convinced the City of Portland to stop applying pesticides – including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides – in three public parks. Portland will test organic pesticide alternatives such as vinegar and natural soaps in three other parks. The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), with support from nine other environmentally progressive nonprofits, spearheaded the effort.
Managing parks without pesticides minimizes hazards to park users while reducing toxic runoff into streams. "Our goal is to be more sensitive to environmental and human health," says city of Portland Horticultural Services Supervisor Kathleen Murrin. "Whether or not that can be achieved by eliminating the use of pesticides is something that we're trying to look at."
Cities from Seattle to Santa Barbara, Calif., have adopted similar initiatives, but not Eugene. "We don't have a pesticide-free program," says Eugene Parks and Open Space Landscape Supervisor Chris Girard, "but my work group is always looking for alternatives to pesticides."
According to Parks Maintenance Manager Sarah Medary, the city generally uses integrated pest management (IPM) to control weeds and insects in public open space. IPM emphasizes non-chemical methods, allowing pesticides use only when other approaches fail. Pesticide spraying "is the last practice we tend to use," Medary says.
Non-chemical pest control methods include hand weeding, mulching, mowing, and the use of propane flame devices and infrared heaters. "We have a lot of environmentally focused staff members who are constantly looking for better ways to do things," Medary says.
Girard says that his landscape crew is looking into eco-friendly products like Waipuna Hot Foam, which is derived from the sugars of corn and coconut, and BurnOut, a biodegradable herbicide made with clove oil. But for tough invaders like Japanese knotweed, Girard's crew spot-sprays glyphosate (the active chemical in Monsanto's popular herbicide Roundup).
Park Amenities Supervisor Richard Zucker says that city workers weed by hand near restrooms, picnic areas and playgrounds. But there is no written policy forbidding pesticide applications in high-use areas. "It's supposed to be common knowledge," Zucker says.
Even without a clear pesticide policy, the city takes precaution when applying chemicals to public open spaces, Medary says. Only licensed applicators spray pesticides, and the city tracks all chemical applications in compliance with the Toxics Right-to-Know Act. But workers are not required to post notices when they spray, and spray they do. According to the Toxics Right-to-Know database, the city applied 274 pounds of glyphosate to public open spaces in 2003.
Medary says that the city has a "good working relationship" with NCAP, and one park — Scobert Park in Whiteaker — is already pesticide-free. But NCAP has not proposed a pesticide-free park program for Eugene. "For strategic reasons we chose Portland," says NCAP Program Coordinator Megan Kemple.
Could Eugene try a pesticide-free park program like Portland's? "We're open to it," Medary says. "I'd have to be convinced that we're doing it for the right reasons."
Eugene's Parks and Open Space Department plans to draft a written pesticide policy within the next two months, making this an opportune time for citizens to share their thoughts with the city.
"The public always has the right to give us input on our practices," Medary says. She can be reached at 682-2809 or email@example.com.
News that gets little attention in local media.
A delegation of American health workers and parents whose soldier sons and daughters died in Iraq visited Jordan to meet with Fallujah refugees there and bring $600,000 of medical supplies and donations for children's hospitals. Fernardo Suarez, whose son died stepping on a U.S. cluster bomb, said, "It's time to stop the killing and comfort the children" (codepink.org).
Although an estimated 40,000 refugees have ventured back into Fallujah, most don't stay. "I couldn't stand it," one said. "I was born in that town ... but I didn't recognize it." Burned, leveled, and ransacked buildings, decaying corpses, land mines, open sewage, no water and electricity, U.S. checkpoints featuring retina scans, fingerprinting, and hours-long waits, and heavy U.S. military presence are deterrents, though troops hand out water, food, and blankets. The U.S. claims few civilian deaths in Fallujah, yet Iraqi survivors report families crushed in their collapsing homes, civilians with white flags shot in the street, wounded people run over by tanks, and victims torched by phosphorus weapons. Witnesses mention cluster bombs and DU tank rounds. U.S. casualties include 136 dead and 800 wounded in the November offensive; so far Iraqi doctors have counted 700 Iraqi bodies, including 550 women and children, in the rubble of nine neighborhoods, with 18 neighborhoods still to go. Numerous bodies already buried cannot be counted (LA Times, aljazeera.net, IRIN News, Ester Republic).
More than 1,300 Iraqi policemen were killed in the last four months of 2004; as the election looms, many are leaving the force. "We will be the first targets, and I will leave the country next week for Syria," said Kamal al-Rabia'a, a Baghdad policeman (alertnet.org).
At a Canada hearing regarding refugee status for U.S. deserters (5,500 U.S. troops have deserted thus far) servicemen gave testimony about being told to regard all Iraqis as potential terrorists, and about killing unarmed families, protesters, and bystanders (canoe.ca).
Howard Coble, a 10-term Republican North Carolina congressman and close ally of Bush, now agrees with Dennis Kucinich that the U.S. should consider leaving Iraq (bellaciao.org). Congress members and senators can be reached at (800) 839-5276. Meanwhile, British citizens are insisting on accurate counting of civilian casualties.
Scientists hope that a sea otter who spent six months on Stimson Reef at Cape Arago is an "advance wanderer" who will be followed by others, possibly from a burgeoning Washington State population (The Oregonian).
The Inuits of Canada are asking the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to rule against the U.S. for violating their human rights by producing 25 percent of the greenhouse gases, which are destroying Inuits' homeland and livelihood (Independent). As Arctic air temperatures rise, ice thins and permafrost melts. Arctic precipitation is as low as in a desert, so most available fresh water disappears with the permafrost. Soil slides away, exposing a salty marine deposit underneath. Loss of sea ice is disastrous for ice-dwelling animals such as polar bears, expected to be extinct within 50 years (Christian Science Monitor).
At the recent International Conference on Global Warming, intended to begin the implementation process for 132 countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia blocked efforts to begin payments to poor, low-lying island nations to help these nations mitigate problems connected with global warming: land erosion, greater storm damage, and rising sea levels. The U.S. delegation also objected to the term "climate change," preferring "climate variability" (bushgreenwatch.org).
Bowing to pressure from shareholders and environmentalists, British Petroleum and Conoco Phillips dropped out of Arctic Power, the lobbying group that pushes for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, a new struggle is brewing in Congress, with proponents planning to slip ANWR drilling into a budget resolution, which cannot be filibustered (bushgreenwatch.org). With the support of his constituents, Sen. Gordon Smith voted against drilling the last time. Smith can be reached at 465-6750 or (800) 839-5276 or write to 211 E. 7th Ave, Room 211, Eugene 97401.
On Dec. 24, the Russian military test-fired a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile. With that, the Bush administration's brand-new, partly-functional National Missile Defense system, which is based on intercepting older types of missiles, became obsolete (Christian Science Monitor).
Buried in the recently approved federal budget is $4 million that the BLM must use to rewrite all management plans for western Oregon, plans that specify which forests and streams get destroyed and which are protected. Pursuant to a back-room deal with the timber industry, BLM will use this process to eliminate protected old-growth forests and stream-side buffers. Contacts include Senators Wyden and Smith and Rep. DeFazio regarding the need for legislation to protect old-growth forests (ONRC).
Snatam Kaur Khalsa
As part of a Sikh household in Colorado and California, Snatam Kaur Khalsa grew up with Kundalini yoga, meditation, and Kirtan chants. "Both of my parents were musicians," says Snatam, who studied voice, violin and percussion. "The Sikh path celebrates music." After high school, Snatam worked at a boarding school in India, taking care of children and playing music for their chants. She graduated from Mills College with a biochemistry degree, then began work in research and development at Peace Cereals, a Golden Temple brand made in Eugene. "I developed a number of cereal flavors," says Snatam, who also returned to India to study with Kirtan master Bhai Hari Singh. Her first CD, To Heaven and Beyond, was released by Spirit Voyage Music in 2000. Her fourth album, Grace, appeared in late 2004. In a concert marking the start of her international Celebrate Peace Tour, Snatam will perform on harmonium and vocals, along with collaborators Thomas Barquee and GuruGanesha Singh, at Eugene's First Christian Church Jan. 29 (details at snatamkaur.com). Between tour dates, she will continue to teach Kundalini and Naad yoga at Yoga West.