News Briefs: Eugene Activists Disrupt Inauguration NEW REPORT| LTD Manager Blamed for Overspending | Toothless Oversight | Cops Input | Jennison Backs TRTK | Strategy to Keep Cool | Art Without Borders | Hot Topics |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Choose Your Own
An interview with Saul Williams.
A Measure of Life
Composer Jon Sutton lives on in memories, art and music.
EUGENE ACTIVISTS DISRUPT INAUGURATION
Dogged Eugene activists Peter and Willow Chabarek and Carol Melia traveled to Washington, D.C. to protest President George W. Bush’s inauguration on Jan. 20. They nabbed seats about 50 yards from the podium, and just as Supreme Court Justice Renquist was about to deliver the oath of office, they stepped into the aisle and started screaming, "Stop the war! Bring home the troops!"
Although military ushers guarded the aisles, Peter describes a slow response from security personnel. "They seemed stunned," he says. "They didn’t know what to do. They decided not to do anything."
More daunting were the Bush supporters in the crowd. One tossed water in Willow’s face and threw her to the ground, and then he did the same to Peter. Carol got into a wrestling match with a woman who tried to steal the camera from her. "But we all popped up and just kept screaming," Peter says. Police finally told the protesters, "We’d like you to leave for your own safety."
Although many media filtered out the protest from their Inauguration Day reports, Amy Goodman spoke with Carol Melia, and the interview aired on Democracy Now! on Jan. 21. Reuters also picked up the story, and local radio news producer Amy Pincus Merwin aired the report on KWVA and KBOO. On Jan. 21, the activists plan to protest in front of the offices of powerful America neo-conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and Project for New American Century.
LTD MANAGER BLAMED FOR OVERSPENDING
LTD's operating revenues for fiscal year 2004-05 are expected to exceed operating costs by more than $2 million, and the district has operating reserves of almost $8 million. So why, ask unionized LTD workers, is the district cutting both services for riders and health care benefits for employees?
|LTD employee Sherry Watson at an ATU rally Jan. 14.|
The answer, in short, is a huge increase in capital spending. In the 2005 fiscal year, LTD plans to spend $14.1 million on the Bus Rapid Transit project, $3.5 million on administrative support equipment and $5.2 million on relocation of the Springfield Station, among other expenditures.
This represents a huge increase in capital spending for LTD. The district spent about $5 million on capital projects in 2001-02, $10 million in 2002-03, and $15 million in 2003-04. The adopted budget for 2004-05 allocates more than $27 million for capital projects. While the bulk of the funding for these projects is federal, the district is required to match federal funds with a local share of 20 percent. Much of this money will come out of the operations budget, which funds employee salaries.
"The money that is flowing through these projects would turn any school supporter green with envy," Metropolitan Policy Committee (MPC) chair Bonny Bettman says.
But LTD Service Planning and Marketing Manager Andy Vobora claims that the district has the right to tap the operations budget for capital expenditures. "The union says 'That's our money,' but it's the community's money," he says.
Members of the local Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) blame the district's general manager, Ken Hamm, for the inflated capital spending. "We need a good manager, not fat-laden Hamm that is unhealthy for us all," ATU member and 15-year LTD employee Sherry Watson says.
Hamm once managed the transportation systems in Wenatchee and Kitsap, Wash. "He had misguided priorities then; he has carried those misguided priorities here," union supporter and LTD rider Sarah Jacobson says.
But LTD Director of Transportation Mark Johnson defends Hamm's record. "He's done a great job everywhere he's gone," Johnson says.
LTD levies an employer payroll tax which funds its services, but its board is appointed by the governor rather than elected. County Commissioner Bill Dwyer says this structure allows the board to be dominated by business interests while being unaccountable to the public. "The LTD board serves the public at large and it should be elected by the public at large," he says.
The R-G has presented the strife between the district and the union as a health care issue ("Health care costs fuel LTD labor rift," 1/7/05), but ATU spokesperson Jason Reynolds says that the union's chief complaint is not the scaling back of the employees' medical plan. Rather, union members primarily object to the mismanagement of public monies to fund unnecessary capital projects at the expense of riders and employees, he says.
Negotiations between the district and the union continue, but the ATU may go on strike at any time after giving a 10-day notice.
— Kera Abraham
Eugene Police Chief Robert Lehner wrote a rare 2,200 word op-ed in the R-G Jan. 16 outlining a vision for the Eugene Police Department that includes only weak citizen review.
EPD scandals have resulted in calls for a strong, independent citizen review board for complaints against police. But Lehner criticized such boards in his op-ed. Lehner wrote that boards that are created under the assumption that they will "eliminate or minimize future acts of misconduct," or reach conclusions "substantially different than those of internal police investigations" will fail. "Under these types of systems, all that results is a very expensive, additional bureaucratic layer with no change in outcome, often mired in legal challenges."
As an alternative, Lehner said "very successful police auditor models" in San Jose and Sacramento "hold great promise for a city such as Eugene."
But the controversial auditor models Lehner sites lack independence and teeth. The San Jose auditor lacks the power to independently investigate, subpoena witnesses or impose discipline and was criticized by supporters of a real citizen review board for that city. The Sacramento auditor isn't even independent but is rather hired, fired and supervised by the city manager.
Lehner's opinion piece also goes further than the department has gone before in dismissing a recent racial profiling complaint. Lehner claimed that officer Wayne Dorman was "right" in stopping Cortez Jordan, despite Jordan's complaint of racial profiling. Dorman "did not violate either the nationally accepted or local version of the racial profiling policy," Lehner wrote.
But that claim goes beyond even what Lehner's own Internal Affairs investigator found. IA found that the racial accusation against Dorman by Jordan was "not sustained." By IA definition, that means that due to insufficient and/or conflicting evidence, "the complaint can be neither proved nor disproved." It does not mean that the officer was proven right.
Lehner's long op-ed also describes Roger Magaña and Juan Lara, the two officers convicted last year of rape and/or abuse against more than a dozen women, as "rogues," implying that they are little more than an anomaly within the EPD. Lehner's statement comes before EPD has completed a promised year-long investigation into whether Magaña and Lara were in fact anomalous rogues, or whether other officers were also engaged or complicit in abuse.
Lehner lamented the lack of media attention for letters from former drug addicted people commending a particular police officer for turning their lives around. "These are the cases that bring tears to your eyes," the chief wrote.
Magaña brought tears to the eyes of his victims with one such letter that was covered by the media. A former drug addict raped and assaulted by Magaña testified that the EPD officer forced her into writing him a letter of commendation. "He was going to hurt me, kill me, hurt my daughter, take my daughter away," the woman said.
Police supervisors were easily fooled by the coerced letter. Police Captain Becky Hanson wrote a note at the bottom: "Roger, this is a tremendous testimonial to your work and efforts with this young woman …. You are a credit to all police officers."
— Alan Pittman
A consultant hired by the city of Eugene to recommend ways to improve the Eugene Police Department in the wake of officer sex abuse scandals has set up a toll-free number for community input. Dial (866) 292-4860 by the end of January to leave a recorded message with your "values, expectations and recommendations for improving police-community relations." — Alan Pittman
JENNISON BACKS TRTK
Local air pollution regulators support a proposal to expand Eugene's Toxics Right to Know reporting program to include emissions from smaller businesses such as dry cleaners, auto painting shops and gas stations.
Right now, the city only requires larger manufacturers to report their toxics use to the public right-to-know database. The city is considering expanding the program to reduce fees for small companies now under the program. In the past, fees were based on number of employees, but the Legislature passed a law capping fees, resulting in big savings for the Hynix Corporation, but much higher fees for smaller companies.
Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority (LRAPA) Director Brian Jennison wrote to the council this month that "LRAPA could make good use of the data" from smaller sources. "Individually some of these sources are small, but together they add up and represent a significant part of the volatile organic solvent usage inventory in Eugene."
Data from TRTK on small sources would enable LRAPA to provide accurate numbers to the EPA on such emissions rather than the current estimates. "This would be a real improvement in the program," according to Jennison. Using city TRTK data rather than requiring duplicate reporting could "reduce the regulatory reporting burden on small business."
Jennison also notes, "one of the principal benefits of reporting is that it requires a business to take a closer look at its practices, often resulting in a shift to the use of less hazardous materials. One sure way to avoid having to report something is to stop using it."
Jennison's position on TRTK could anger the Eugene Chamber of Commerce which has for years attacked the reporting program as a waste. After writing the email, Jennison was fired by the LRAPA board. But it's unclear if the firing and e-mail are related since Jennison's problems with the agency reportedly relate to personnel clashes predating the email.
The Eugene City Council plans a Feb. 14 hearing on expanding the TRTK program.
— Alan Pittman
STRATEGY TO KEEP COOL
The Bush administration continues to scoff at greenhouse gas reduction measures while the rest of the world is taking action. Russia has pledged to join the 132 nations that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, a move that will put the plan into effect by Feb. 16. Only four industrialized nations continue to snub the treaty: the U.S., Australia, Liechtenstein and Monaco (the latter two countries have a combined population of about 67,000).
But even if the feds won't do anything about global warming, Oregon will. Gov. Ted Kulongoski convened the Governor's Advisory Group on Global Warming to outline Oregon's part in cutting back on greenhouse gases. On Dec. 17, the group recommended a spectrum of actions, from improving energy efficiency to reducing vehicle emissions to exploring renewable energy sources. "They have proposed a set of pretty aggressive actions," says Chris Hagerbaumer, program director for the Oregon Environmental Council. "If all of these were implemented, it would get us on a trajectory of lowering our emissions."
The recommendations come as part of the West Coast Governors' Initiative on Global Warming. In November 2004, the governors of Oregon, Washington and California agreed to a series of joint greenhouse gas-reducing initiatives such as collaborating on hybrid vehicle purchases, setting up electric "fueling" stations at truck stops along the I-5 and adopting energy efficiency standards for products not regulated by the federal government. These actions could make a big difference. If the West Coast were a country, its greenhouse gas emissions would rank seventh-highest in the world.
The West Coast initiative is part of a national trend — seemingly in defiance of the federal government — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels permitted by the Kyoto Protocol, which requires participating developed countries to stabilize six major greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2005. The New England governors and Eastern Canadian premiers crafted a regional climate change action plan in 2001, and Connecticut released its own strategy in 2004. "These states recognize the imperative of addressing global warming because it's going to affect them, and because changes can be made on a local and regional level," Hagerbaumer says.
According to Foreign Direct Investment online magazine, some U.S. companies — including General Motors, DuPont, Xerox and Dow Chemical — have also adopted strategies to meet the Kyoto Protocol's targets. The reason is not ecological, but economical. If they fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels permitted by the treaty, they may lose their ability to operate facilities or sell products in participating nations.
Some Oregon residents have assumed their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions even closer to home. The Douglas County Global Warming Coalition formed in early 2003 to offer Umpqua-area residents ways to reduce their fossil fuel consumption. The coalition has sponsored educational forums and a hybrid car rally, installed solar panels and water heaters, and surveyed local industries to highlight green-minded businesses. "We want positive solutions to the problem of global warming to become a part of the mainstream way of thinking," says Stuart Liebowitz, one of the coalition's founding members.
Liebowitz hopes that the Douglas County coalition inspires other counties to take local action against global warming. "I think that it is critical that this type of issue be brought down to a practical, hands-on level," he says. "Only by combining individual actions can we begin to make a difference."
— Kera Abraham
ART WITHOUT BORDERS
With the presidential inauguration lurking around the corner like a bad, laboratory-concocted flu strain, little recourse remains for the disenfranchised. What is left is our art and our bodies.
On Tuesday, Jan. 25, at Eugene's Morse Center on the Northwest Christian College Campus, Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Emiko R. Lewis perform "Mapa Corpo: Oppositional Rites for a Borderless Society".
Gómez-Peña, an internationally recognized performance artist and author, is the artistic director and co-founder of the "trans-disciplinary art organization" La Pocha Nostra.
Described as a network of rebel artists, rather than an art troupe, La Pocha Nostra's goal is to realign artists with other social roles such as political critic, inter-cultural diplomat, information architect, media pirate and experimental linguist. Escaping destructive labels and definitions set to limit artists from examining issues of race, sexuality, politics and gender from a truly borderless perspective, La Pocha Nostra challenges cultural stereotypes in both the minds of the artist and the audience.
"Mapa Corpo" is a two-part performance piece. It explores both issues of neo-colonization and decolonization though a symbolic reenactment of the current occupation of Iraq by the U.S. and coalition forces. The visually jarring performance begins with Lewis' American flag-draped body lying on a hospital gurney. Next, an acupuncturist inserts 40 needles into her nude body, representing the 40 coalition nations occupying Iraq. Gómez-Peña, dressed in his "techno-shaman-in-drag-persona," then invites the audience to decolonize Lewis' body.
"The audience will remove the needles under the supervision of the acupuncturist," explains Steve Morozumi, ASUO Multicultural Center director.
The second part of the performance requires all willing audience members to partake in a "performance karaoke" game. Along with supplied costumes, make-up and the assistance of Gómez-Peña and Lewis, audience members turned performance artists will engage in cultural role-play through a constantly evolving, living diorama.
— Steven Sawada
Attorney Paul Hoffman will give a public lecture on "Pirates and Dictators: The Alien Tort Claims Act and its Impact on International Law" at 7:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 20 at Room 175, Knight Law Center, 1515 Agate St. In the spring of 2004, Hoffman argued the case of U.S. v. Alvarez-Machain, the first Alien Tort Claims Act case to be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Alien Tort Claims Act allows a non-citizen to bring a tort suit in the courts of the U.S. if the tort was committed in violation of international law or a treaty of the U.S.
Author and law professor Hilary Charlesworth will talk on "The Missing Voice: Women and the War in Iraq" in a free public lecture at 7:30 pm Wednesday, Jan. 26 at Room 175, Knight Law Center, UO.
"Issues of sex and gender are rarely considered relevant to invasions, conflict, or state-building," says Charlesworth. "In fact, the roles of women and the values assigned to these roles shape our understanding of violence at the international level. The war in Iraq and its aftermath illustrate this point well."
Hey Joanie, what happened to you? More than a few of us in Eugene had an on-going love affair with Joanie McGowan, that wild and funny, beautiful woman from Ashland who made us laugh and think with her absurd, yet poignant political theater. As Joanie would say, "It's never too late to save the world," but now it's too late to save Joanie. Her body was found along Bear Creek last week, an apparent suicide. Some 600 people showed up for her memorial in Ashland Sunday. We didn't know about the demons of depression and addiction that we now hear tormented her. What we witnessed was her infectious, playful energy and her boundless dedication to peace, justice and fun with duct tape. In one of her stand-up comedy routines in Eugene she urged us to "start living like we've been talking about living since the summer of '69." In her intense living, she gave us all that she had to give, and then there was no more. But we are blessed for it.
John Musumeci's firm Arlie & Co. is getting plenty of head pats in the R-G and TV news following the company's press conference last week. Arlie announced its plans for redeveloping the EWEB site if Triad/McKenzie-Willamette bows out of its hospital plans. Sleepy R-G newshounds wrote about Arlie's "offer" and "proposal," but where's the kibble? No dollar amounts were mentioned, no earnest money offered, no plans for traffic across those nasty railroad tracks. What's behind this dog and pony show? We hear rumors that Musumeci, who once mated with PeaceHealth on the RiverBend deal and carried off 18 million bones, is now barking about Triad building its new hospital at Crescent Drive, not more than a five-minute trot from PeaceHealth's RiverBend site. Such a deal might scratch Arlie's back, but it would be a choke collar for the public, unless of course PeaceHealth rolls over and retreats to lick its wounds in Glenwood. We can't help but wonder if PeaceHealth board members had any idea what kinds of dogs they were about to unleash when they walked along the McKenzie River in 2001, inhaled the aroma of pine trees and thought, "This would be a healing spot for our new hospital." Leaves us scratching our heads.
Counter-inauguration events abound today (Thursday) on campus (see Calendar) and a Eugene contingency is headed for Washington, D.C., to join the protests there. If we hear from Peter Chabarak and others, we will try to get a short report on our website News Briefs this week (www.eugeneweekly.com).Look for tales from the streets of D.C. next 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, email@example.com
Choose Your Own
An interview with Saul Williams.
BY KERA ABRAHAM
Minutes before his spoken word performance at the UO on the evening of Jan. 14, poet/actor/musician Saul Williams looks tired. He seems to retreat behind the green knit scarf wrapped around his neck, and his voice is sleepy-soft. He says that he got up at 3 am to catch a flight from L.A. to Portland, and he's been looking forward to some sleep. When Multicultural Center Director Steve Morozumi offers him a can of Red Bull, he politely declines. "I choose life," he jokes. But following this interview, when he takes the stage in front of a packed-beyond-capacity audience in the EMU Ballroom, he exudes energy, alternating between performing poems and taking questions. His dominant message is this: Make change in the world by doing what you love.
Has hip hop provided a forum for the comeback of poetry?
I think that new forms of meter and stanza have been created through hip hop. Also, there is something that hip hop has done to the lyrical attention span of its audience. We are more used to dissecting lyrics, perhaps, than past generations. I remember in the earlier days of hip hop, playing songs for my mom or my dad, and them being like, "Huh?"
In the piece posted on your website (www.saulwilliams.com),your friend Kalamu ya Salaam wrote that our generation — the people who are 20 to 40 years old right now — is putting less emphasis on dividers like race and class than our parents. Do you agree?
Yes and no, because we have to realize that we are still subject to a lot of those dividers that have been instilled and installed by predecessors. Those of us who are willingly entering the job market will pave the way for the changes that have to be made. We can't just sit back and complain or expect our parents to do it. It has to be done by us. And that's where things get difficult. Because it's hard work, and a lot of us are like, 'Fuck! Why did you make this so difficult?'
Do you think there's validity to the stereotype of the "slacker generation?"
We may be late bloomers in a way. Our childhood has been prolonged more so than other generations. This is the first generation where you have grown men playing Sega. Look at hip hop dudes who wear oversized clothes and big floppy shoes and shirts. Literally, grown men dressed like babies, like that's the style. [Chuckles.] I don't think that we're lazy or apathetic; I just think that it's gonna take a minute for us to mature. But when we do, the changes that we will bring about hopefully will shed some light on who we are.
How much of your life do you feel is under your control and how much is guided by fate?
It seems as if there are pivotal things that come about that are a bit of both. People pop into your life, like "Oh my God. Wow. She's just what I asked for." You didn't know she existed, but this is what you'd been asking for all along. It's up to you to face this reality and allow it to continue to manifest beyond its initial appearance, to see it through.
A lot of people give you credit for the takeoff of Slam Poetry. Do you feel that the scene is evolving in a positive direction?
I think it's a wonderful thing that so many young people have been inspired to voice their views, whether it be through poetry or whatever. I don't think of poetry as a place to voice my opinions. I think of it as a way to develop.
What helps you develop — the process or the performance?
In my writing, there's a lot of equations, like "If this is this, then this must be this." And I'm not doing that to show you how my mind works. I'm doing that because I'm literally working it out on the page. That's what a great deal of my poetry is — me processing out loud.
Has being in the spotlight affected the content of your writing?
It would be easy for me to say "No effect at all," but of course, I've become more aware of the fact that people are watching, people are listening. It's a matter of challenging myself continually to grow. 'Cause there's never been one singular message. There are so many things that I aim to do from my work. I've never acknowledged this before, but part of the work is entertainment.
Is that a part you're comfortable with?
Yeah, I'm completely comfortable with it. In fact, I may be most comfortable with it. People ask, "What are you more into, the poetry or the music or the acting?" and for me, the through-line of all that is the performance.
Do you feel like people look to you for answers that you don't have?
No; I feel like people look to me for answers when they could quite simply look to themselves. It continues a process of people looking outside of themselves for an answer. Because truthfully, they're closer to it than they've ever been by raising the question and then just looking within.
How do you feel about the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012?
You know, I'm been somewhat focused on it for years, and I have intuited — before I knew about the Mayan calendar — that something amazing is going to happen. There's nothing we can do, the same way we could never have prepared for the tsunami. But we also have to realize that it's not just some big hand of fate. There are several routes that we can go as a society, and it's dependent on each and every one of us. Like we're all a part of those novels with the many endings — Choose Your Own Adventure. The sooner we realize we're all a part of that, the sooner we can all get on the same team and start working towards a peaceful outcome.
A Measure of Life
Composer Jon Sutton lives on in memories, art and music.
By Melissa Bearns
Eugene Concert Choir Director Diane Retallack first met Jon Sutton when he came to sing for her years ago. Last August she sat at his bedside two days before he died, and told him she had decided to have the choir perform one of his compositions, The Family of Man.
In her living room under December's gray, afternoon light, her long dark hair fell across her shoulders as she looked out the window, immersed in the memory of the first time they discussed performing his music. It was sometime in the spring, and Sutton was already very ill with a disease that causes scar tissue to form in the lungs. "Even though he had been bed-ridden, he was up for our meeting," Retallack said in a voice barely louder than a whisper, but filled with emotion. "He was vibrant, talking about his music, walking around with his tether of an oxygen tube," she said. "Then in August, I called Ella [Jon's widow] and told her I just wanted to see him, just wanted to be with him. I sat with him and told him everything was OK, that we had the music, and that we were going to do a great job, and he could relax. He was so happy. He smiled. His whole face lit up, and his eyes … they just shined."
People who knew Jon Sutton remember that about him: the way his face glowed when he was excited about something, the way his eyes sparkled and danced when he talked about a subject he was passionate about. "Jon's eyes were the windows to his soul," said painter Michael Gibbons, who met Jon in 1986. Jon and Ella visited Gibbons to look at and buy one of his paintings. "There's a communication that goes on at a different level when you meet a soul like that," Gibbons said.
Perhaps it was Sutton's childlike innocence that drew children to him. David White taught at Washington Elementary, and occasionally Jon visited his class and talked to the students about poetry, writing, drama and art. "I don't think I ever met a child who responded negatively to him or his suggestions," White said. "He was just a bundle of enthusiasm, and continually asked children where they were coming from, where they were going with things."
In photographs, Sutton has an ethereal quality and almost looks as though he's radiating light. "You know
how a little kid has friends down the block that he likes to go play with?" Gibbons asked. "Well Jon's [playmates] were angels. When you talked to him, he was like a kid in a candy store, especially if you talked to him about his universal language, music. Music goes into other universes and Jon was comfortable there."
That translated into what Sutton's friends describe as a refreshing naïveté. "He was a truly beautiful soul who seemed to never totally assimilate the fact that the world can be a rotten place," Gibbons added. "God bless him for showing us that there's another side to things."
Yet the innocence people so loved about Sutton created his life's biggest challenge. He didn't work a regular 9-to-5 job. He lived in the realm of the creative process all the time — the world of the muse, the world of inspiration, not the "real world" of hard edges and cold realities.
"Sometimes the bumps in the road can look like walls," Gibbons said. "Jon ran into that a lot. He didn't flow in the circles that could have afforded him a public voice. Jon never made that connection, and it was tragic in that respect. He was honest, straightforward and talked in a creative language that the people who could have funded him didn't understand."
Ella shielded the calm bay of Jon's creative world from the crashing and pounding of the everyday. Sitting in the house they shared for 29 years, sipping mint tea, she laughed remembering how Jon told her that he wouldn't have had the nerve to ask her to marry him if he hadn't owned more than 80 acres in California. He told her that having that land made him feel like he had something to offer.
Their meeting was magical and lucky in the first place. Ella was born in Holland and was living in the U.S. with her husband who was here on business. They had one son, David, and she was pregnant with their daughter, Fleur, when her husband was killed in a hit-and-run. She stayed in Oregon for a little more than a year after the accident, but had decided to return home. Her things were already in the shipping yard bound for Holland when she met Jon. "He knew he had no time," she said. "I was ready to go."
When Ella traveled, Jon always had a little piece of artwork for her when she returned home. Here he made a three-layer cutout with a poem he wrote.
Jon fell in love with Ella and her children, raising them as his own. "He felt right away that he needed to be the father," Ella said. "We were a really good team. He did the cooking. I did the cleaning. He did the shopping, and I took care of the finance. I'm the creative one financially. And I took care of that side of things."
Jon and Ella loved to entertain, and frequently invited friends and neighbors including Janice and David White to share breakfast with them. "It was always a treat to go to their house," Janice White said. "Jon would have the table set in some lovely way. He had a real eye for color and combinations … the place mats, the dishes, the decorations." Together Jon and Ella cooked elaborate omelets or crépes with fresh fruits and toppings such as an appetizing apricot reduction. "It was always something new and interesting," White said. The breakfast conversations lasted for hours as they debated politics, religion, concepts and ideas.
Rupert (Bo) Harris, pastor of Central Presbyterian Church from 1986-1999, sang in the choir with Jon and often drove him to practice. Sutton was a talker and Harris waited for Jon after rehearsal, while he made the rounds, chatting with people, inquiring about their health, family and affairs. Harris said Jon Sutton was one of the few people in the choir of nearly 100 who knew almost everyone.
Harris still keeps the "artsy cards and notes" Jon sent him: thank you notes, random little hellos, invitations to come for pancakes, or quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., whom Sutton greatly admired. "He heard me preach on a regular basis and he'd be the one who would walk out with you talking about the ideas that were in the message," Harris said.
Neighbor David White thinks of Sutton as a seeker and a questioner, someone who didn't care so much about being right as about learning everything he could about something that interested him. "Even when he was talking with someone who disagreed with him, he was searching for answers," White said.
That search extended far beyond the plane of music. Before he started composing, Sutton made tapestries so big he had to work on them using 15-foot ladders or spread them out on supports underneath the carport. At their house, Ella pulled out a notebook and started flipping through page after page of photographs, each showing the rich, multi-layered colors and swirling, abstract shapes of dozens of tapestries. Now they decorate the walls of churches, hospitals and even museums.
He also built elaborate sets for some of the Concert Choir productions. For a fund raiser, an English madrigal dinner, Sutton designed and painted a multi-paneled backdrop and crafted a huge papier-maché boar's head for the table. It looked so real, Retallack said, "you felt like you could bite into it." He wrote all compositions by hand and the calligraphy itself has a feeling of movement and art.
He leaves all that behind: the compositions, the paintings, the tapestries, things which will live on longer than the people who remember Jon Sutton. But what they remember most is how he made them feel.
Gibbons summed it up the best: "Have you ever been in a situation in your life where you couldn't explain it but you felt like everything was right with the world? Well, that's what it was like when you were around Jon."
The Eugene Concert Choir performs Jon Sutton's Family of Man and other works by Sutton at 7:30 pm Jan. 22 in the Soreng Theater. Order tickets online at www.eugeneconcertchoir.orgor call 687-6865.