Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
A biofuels bill seems likely to pass, but not as drafted.
Happening Person: Nancy Wood and Paul Safar
OSPIRG RATES LAWMAKERS
Sen. Ron Wyden and Congressman Peter DeFazio led the five out of seven members of Oregon's Congressional delegation who voted "in the public interest" more than 80 percent of the time between Jan. 22, 2003 and March 16, 2005, according to the annual Congressional Scorecard for U.S. Senators and Representatives
The tally on major public interest issues was released last week by the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG). The organization is releasing its annual scorecard as part of its work with Congress to "stop the dirty, dangerous energy bill that threatens the coast, and to promote clean, safe energy policy," according to OSPIRG Field Director Laura Etherton in a prepared statement.
"These scorecards are a helpful tool to educate the public about the voting records of their elected officials and to help citizens hold those officials accountable," says Etherton.
The scorecard tracks public interest votes such as protecting the Clean Air Act; protecting the Arctic Refuge from drilling; preventing unfair credit card practices; and increasing access to affordable prescription drugs. The tally also looks at campaign contributions, biographical data, past OSPIRG scores, and accessibility.
Wyden scored 100 percent on the scorecard; Sen. Gordon Smith 32 percent; DeFazio 95 percent; Rep Earl Blumenauer 90 percent; Rep. David Wu 86 prcent; Rep. Darlene Hooley 81 percent; Rep Greg Walden 0 percent.
"We especially applaud Sen. Wyden for being a public interest hero," says Etherton, "We are particularly disappointed in Rep. Walden's consistent votes against the public interest, which earned him a zero percent score."
Nationally, 156 members of the House or Senate scored 80 percent and above, of whom 33 scored 100 percent, while 194 members of either chamber had scores at 10 percent or below, with 97 members scoring zero. The complete scorecard is available at www.ospirg.org/reports/scorecard.pdf
• The Senate Revenue Committee last week voted to invite Oregon's working poor to the front of the line for its first big tax-cutting bill of the session. Despite pleas from corporate lobbyists to add new federal tax breaks for corporations to the state tax code, the committee voted 3-2 for amendments to House Bill 2542 that will expand the state's use of federal tax breaks for Oregon's poorest working families instead, according to a statement from the Oregon AFL-CIO. The money saved from not adopting the new corporate tax breaks will be used to expand the state's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is keyed to the federal EITC.
• Farmworkers are opposing a new bill that will provide tax credits to farmers for minimum-wage jobs, but not for jobs that pay more than the minimum wage. The Senate Revenue Committee voted unanimously last week to adopt a new tax credit for agricultural employers that is designed to help them cope with future increases in the minimum wage.
• Union volunteers will reach out to Oregon's newest union members when they join the Working America canvass team in southeast Portland this week. The team will be canvassing door-to-door in opposition to a new Wal-Mart in the area.
Jonesin' for Marriage
By Matt Gaffney
Eugene Weekly reader Dan O'Reilly didn't just want to say "Will you marry me?" to his girlfriend, Angela Turner. He wanted to say "W_ _ L Y_ U _ _R RY M_?" to his girlfriend, A _ G _ _ A T_ R _ _R.
Dan and Angie solve the Jonesin' Crossword puzzle together every week in the Weekly, so Dan figured that instead of simply going down on one knee and strapping a nice rock to her finger, he'd ask Angie to be his betrothed via their weekly crossword.
Dan got in touch with me (I'm the editor of Jonesin', which is written by Oregon native Matt Jones), and I told him it sounded like fun. Dan sent me details about Angie and her life, and I forwarded them along to Matt Jones, who crafted them into the Jonesin' puzzle that ran in EW June 23.
To 99.99 percent of the people who solved that week's puzzle in alternative weeklies across the country, it just seemed like a normal crossword. But to one Oregon couple, it was filled with hidden meanings. In addition to having ANGELA at 1-across (clued as "Tony's housemate on 'Who's the Boss?'"), the puzzle had TURNER as the corresponding last across answer in the grid (clued as "Spatula, essentially").
In the center of the grid, two across entries read WILL YOU and MARRY ME. In addition, the grid included the hopeful groom's name (DAN and O'REILLY), as well as various other aspects of Angie's life — all of them clued in a straightforward, non-Angie-specific way.
How did the groom's scheme go down? I'll let him describe it:
Day started off with Angie arriving in Corvallis around 11 am, all prepared for a trip to the Rogue brewery for their summer garage sale. We took off for Newport, grabbed a bite to eat at this hole in the wall restaurant called the Chowder Bowl, then headed for the Rogue, where somehow I must have confused the dates of the garage sale by a week. Not one to leave empty handed, we grabbed a 22 oz. bottle of some of their finest to enjoy on the beach. After picking a spot, we laid down a blanket and whipped out the EW to enjoy the crossword and the sunshine. First answer she got was 1-Across "Angela." We had completed about half the puzzle when she worked on down to "Turner", where she mentioned (this is verbatim from her mouth), "Hey this puzzle has both of my names in it, we should keep it when we're finished!" It was at this point that she was just as surprised to find both of my names in the puzzle as well; must be a coincidence!
We worked on the puzzle for about a half-an-hour when we started to slow down. I asked her if she was done working on it and she said yes, to which I replied that I didn't think she was. At this point, I'm looking straight at the puzzle where it says, "WILL YOU MARRY ME" with my pencil right next to the phrase. After not getting the subtle hint, I told her that maybe I could help her finish the puzzle, which is when I took a Sharpie marker and circled the answers ANGELA TURNER WILL YOU MARRY ME. She was absolutely dumbfounded, almost to the point of embarrassment that she didn't see it while we were working on it! After an initial whisper of "Oh my God," her first complete sentence was, "There never was a garage sale today, was there!"
In case you're wondering: She said a three-letter word for "I agree."
Jocelyn McAuley tells us her 6/30 letter incorrectly stated that Ms. Killian "claims Whole Foods pays living wages." She notes, "This is not Ms. Killian's stance on Whole Foods."
The local air pollution agency, LRAPA, seems to be taking baby steps to straighten itself out after the rockiest six months in its 37-year history. At the monthly board meeting July 12, conservative board member Faye Stewart made some progressive suggestions, such as working more closely with the J.H. Baxter neighbors and pushing biofuel production in Lane County (see news story on biofuels this week). But we're disturbed by the implications of recent decisions by the Lane County Commissioners and the Springfield City Council to withhold half of their annual LRAPA contributions. The county suggests that it will pay up if it's happy with the agency's new director hire, and Springfield hints that it will fork over its share if it's pleased with LRAPA's new (dubiously created) at-large board appointment. Both jurisdictions have implied that they want more industry-friendly policies from the already industry-friendly agency. There's a word for that: blackmail. Eugene is LRAPA's biggest contributor. The Eugene City Council and local environmental nonprofits could pressure the agency to hire a public-health-minded director and appoint an environmentalist board member — or lose the city's funding. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. We may find hope, however, in Merlyn Hough, LRAPA's newest hire. He came on board to fill Robert Koster's old role as permitting and compliance manager, but he'll also take over Jim Johnson's spot as interim director.
The July 10 Sunday R-G compared the concrete pit on Willamette known affectionately as "Aster's Hole" with the bizarre Disneyland-ish Bridgeport Village project in Tualatin, complete with dancing princess nymph. Makes Aster's Hole look pretty good, especially if it were to become a giant skate park or community pool. Which reminds us: With all the planning for commercial and residential development downtown, what about kids? What about open space? We're not hearing from either the developers or the city about the need for even a mini-park downtown. Wouldn't take much space for a few benches, a few trees and some playground equipment. The Oregonian July 7 looked at how urban Vancouver, B.C., is building kid-friendly spaces. Eugene should do the same to encourage families to join the downtown mix.
Rachel Foster, gardening writer for EW, flew from Eugene to London July 7, the day of the train and bus bombings, to join her husband, Randy McGowen, UO history professor studying in England this summer. We asked for her impressions via the Internet. Rachel, who is British, responded: "I went straight from Heathrow to deepest rural Oxfordshire, with no computers in sight. In any case, you may have gathered that things were up and running again almost unimaginably quickly. By the time I arrived at Heathrow, I could have caught the tube into central London, had I need to. London has sort of shrugged this off. Seems there was little or no panic, but of course I know nothing that wasn't already in the paper. My friends don't even talk about it. I am very glad Randy was not in London, because all the bombing locations were on his daily routes, and the area worst affected is exactly where we normally stay in Bloomsbury. Bus blew up just about outside the flat where we lived for three months."
The UO this week announced a $6.5 million donation from former journalist and current PR mogul Lorry Lokey that will go toward renovating a music building on campus, and help establish a journalism program at the UO's Portland Center. This is good news for both programs, and our congrats to everyone involved. But plans for the Portland program — which is geared to public relations and communications management — have drawn criticism from those who think PR is not real journalism, just propaganda, and belongs in business schools. Strong arguments can be made. The skills taught in journalism schools, just like the skills taught in business schools, can be used for enlightened purposes, or for deception and greed. What is more disturbing is the growing popularity of PR courses, and the decline in students choosing the news-editorial track. Who do we blame? PR pays better than hard news reporting, and PR students help pay to keep the lights on at Allan Hall. But the UO also has a role in deciding which programs to promote and fund. Meanwhile, the voices of truth and justice across our nation are being drowned out by a cacophony of spinning corporate media schlock and deception. Public education's highest priority should be to serve the public interest.
Any Harry Potter fans out there? Sales of the newest Harry tale are embargoed until Saturday, but we hear J. Michaels Books at 160 E. Broadway will be open at midnight Friday for people who just can't wait.
Two third-year UO law students, David Skillman and Christopher Ledford, have prepared a detailed analysis of Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court decision. The analysis can be found on our website this week at www.eugeneweekly.com
SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, firstname.lastname@example.org
A biofuels bill seems likely to pass, but not as drafted.
BY KERA ABRAHAM
As of July 13, the Oregon Legislature seems poised to pass its first and only major environmental legislation this session. The biofuels bill, HB 3481, provides incentives for the in-state production of biodiesel and ethanol, but the House version contains an amendment that Democrats view as unnecessary corporate welfare.
The original bill creates tax incentives for biofuel-producing facilities (such as Eugene's SeQuential), farms producing raw biomass for fuel, and research and development related to biofuel production. It encourages the use of bus tailpipe emission reduction devices and designates funds to reduce exhaust from school buses. Finally, it creates a fuel tax incentive for consumers using biofuels and prohibits the sale of gasoline containing certain toxic additives.
Despite the focus on biofuels, the House and Senate versions of the bill differ dramatically. The House version drops a renewable fuels standard, a mandate to use biodiesel for the state fleet and funding for school bus retrofits from the original bill while adding an expansion of the pollution control tax credit. The Senate version reverses those changes and adds an amendment to require new public buildings to dedicate 1 percent of their costs to solar technologies.
The House version's expansion of the pollution control tax credit, which Democrats view as a corporate handout, effectively flipped the partisan positions on the bill, gaining the favor of House Republicans while losing the support of Democrats. Eugene Democratic Reps. Paul Holvey and Phil Barnhart voted against the bill, while Lane County Republican Reps. Debi Farr, Alan Brown and Bruce Hanna voted for it.
The pollution control tax credit was established in the late 1960s to provide tax relief for companies complying with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. For more than 30 years, the government offered a 50 percent tax credit on pollution control technology that helped industries comply with federal pollution laws. When the credit phased out in 2001, Oregon legislators replaced it with a 30 percent tax credit for companies that invest in pollution control technology that goes "above and beyond" the federal requirements.
The House version of the biofuels bill rolls back the 2001 pollution control tax credit and replaces it with the 1960s credit, which gives polluting companies a bigger tax break.
"Continuing to pay companies to obey the law doesn't seem to us to make much sense," says Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) spokesman Matt Blevins, who helped draft the original biofuels bill. "[The tax credit expansion] is a huge corporate giveaway."
Reps. Barnhart and Holvey voted against the bill to show their opposition to the tax credit, which they view as a loophole that gives millions of dollars to big businesses to follow mandatory environmental regulations. The Senate version of the bill is more palatable to Democrats, removing the pollution tax credit expansion and strengthening the biofuels component.
If HB 3481 passes through the Senate on July 14 as expected, the next step will be reconciling the two versions of the bill. Unless the House concurs with the Senate version, legislators will attempt to work out the kinks in a conference committee. Kulongoski has expressed his eagerness to sign the bill into law.
The shift toward biofuels would be one step toward improved auto emissions standards in Oregon. Washington recently joined California in mandating stricter-than-federal auto emission standards, and environmental nonprofits are pressuring Oregon to follow suit. If the state does so, the stricter emission standards will apply to the entire West Coast.
Diesel exhaust is linked to lung cancer, respiratory illnesses and asthma, and standard gasoline is the nation's #1 source of carbon dioxide emissions. Biofuels such as biodiesel (made from vegetable oils) and ethanol (a corn-based alcohol) can help cut down the consumption of petroleum-based fuels that contribute to global warming and smog.
The biofuels bill may prepare Oregon to follow in the steps of Minnesota, whose 14 bio-refineries produce 10 percent of the state's transportation fuel. OEC reports that Minnesota's renewable fuels industry earns the state $500 million annually.
"In classical Oregon tradition," Blevins says, "the biofuels bill is both good for the environment and good for the economy."
Nancy Wood and Paul Safar
On the day they met, when pianist Paul Safar first played in singer Nancy Wood's jazz quartet, he told her of a Swedish folk tale he had read to his young son Julian: "I thought it had potential as an opera." Seven years later, Safar and Wood will present the world premier of their collaborative children's play, Nisse's Dream, Aug. 12-21 at the Lord Leebrick Theatre. It's the story of a boy who travels to the land of trolls to rescue his family's stolen cow. "I wrote the lyrics and he wrote the music," says Wood. "We both have children the right age to tell the story to." A competitive figure skater as a kid in Minnesota and later a professional dancer, Wood began teaching yoga as a new mom, and now teaches prenatal yoga and mama-and-baby yoga at Four Winds. Safar started classical piano at age 6 in Philadelphia. He's been teaching piano and performing in Eugene since 1994. The pair founded Cherry Blossom Musical Arts and released a CD version of Nisse's Dream in 2003. They've assembled a cast of 23, mostly kids, directed by Maggie Tryk, plus six musicians under Safar's direction. Visit www.cblossom.orgfor details. -by paul neevel