Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Green Cities Movement
Is Eugene on the bus?
SITE DEBATE CONTINUES
Lane County Commissioner Bill Dwyer last week called for Triad-McKenzie Willamette Medical Center (MWMC) to build a new hospital in Glenwood instead of the newly announced site north of the Eugene city limits. Triad officials have announced that a Glenwood site would be their second choice for a new medical center to compete with PeaceHealth's regional medical center currently under construction in north Springfield.
Dwyer in a prepared statement said many "minefields," such as rezoning, transportation, agricultural land use, metro plan issues, neighborhood and "other thorny barriers could be avoided" with a hospital relocation to Glenwood.
Dwyer, the Springfield-based county commissioner and a member of the Springfield Economic Development Agency, said he believes the "costly and serious transportation problems which confront the proposed Eugene site could be avoided."
Dwyer also said that MWMC would not have to wait long to get started, and. "Glenwood is on the Eugene side and west of the river. Citizens of both communities and beyond would be well served by the move to Glenwood."
Dwyer added, "For about 50 years the people of Springfield have sacrificed thousands of hours and millions of dollars to create, sustain and expand McKenzie-Willamette, including almost $3 million in tax forgiveness this past decade alone. Springfield folks took great pride in building their community hospital."
"It would be unfair considering the investment, hard work and related gifts of generations of Springfielders over decades to see the people's investment leave greater Springfield," he said.
Springfield, however, will soon have a major regional medical center with PeaceHealth building at RiverBend, and the future of the existing MWMC is still undecided. MWMC is upgrading its current facilities for cardiac services, and anticipates being in the same location for at least three more years.
Hospital spokesperson Rosie Pryor says MWMC "could consider keeping some outpatient services here, since our Springfield community is accustomed to getting their care in this location." But she also notes that some of the buildings cannot be remodeled due to asbestos concerns, "but other parts could be re-used as continuous care facilities, etc."
PeaceHealth is also upgrading its Hilyard facilities. Could the metro area end up with four hospitals? Pryor says "it should be of greater concern that many of the highest margin/least risk diagnostic and surgical procedures are now being taken out of hospitals by physician groups into free-standing diagnostic and surgery centers … This leaves hospitals to care for those who are the least stable, most infectious, or most sick or broken. Unlike free-standing centers, hospitals cannot screen patients and cannot turn away anyone who presents at the ER seeking care, regardless of their ability to pay." — Ted Taylor
NEW ALLY FOR STUDENTS
A new citizen group has joined the coalition of students, campus organizations and neighborhood groups who oppose the UO's proposed sale of Westmoreland Family Housing. Westmoreland is a 45-year-old, 404-unit affordable student housing complex on Garfield Street in west Eugene. The university has informed tenants that their leases will not be renewed in June (see EW cover story, 11/17).
Eugeneans for Affordable Housing was created in recent weeks to organize citizens opposed to the Westmoreland sale. Members include activists from the Homeless Action Coalition and Save Amazon, a group that opposed the loss of affordable student housing in the 1990s.
EAH adds more inertia to the Save Westmoreland Coalition, which includes the Westmoreland Tenants' Council, the Associated Students of the University of Oregon, the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, the Nontraditional Student Union, the Residence Hall Association, Far West Neighbors, the West University Neighbors and a half-dozen local politicians.
"Right now we believe that the best way to protect the affordable housing resources in the community is by keeping Westmoreland affordable for students," said EAH member David Zupan. "We believe that the people who are proposing this sale are out of touch with what the real world is like."
EAH will meet at 4 pm Sunday, Dec. 4 at Latitude Café in the Friendly Street Market. Zupan invites community members to join in the discussion about how to preserve Westmoreland as affordable student housing.
More importantly, Zupan says, supportive Eugeneans can attend Save Westmoreland Coalition's hearing at 7 pm Tuesday, Dec. 6 in the EMU Fir Room on the UO campus "to sound off before elected officials about how important Westmoreland is as an extremely diverse, affordable living community." — Kera Abraham
COLIN POWELL IN SALEM
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is scheduled to speak at 5 pm Friday, Dec. 2 at the Salem Conference Center. His visit is triggering picketing before his talk and an anti-war rally scheduled to begin at 6 pm at the southwest corner of the Conference Center.
Speakers at the protest will include Willamette University history professor Bill Smaldone and WU student Kaitlyn Pulhamus. Willamette Students for Peace and Justice and the College Progressives group have been educating both students and faculty about the war and Powell's background. They hope to direct "hard questions" toward Powell when he makes an appearance before the campus community just before his downtown address.
In addition, more than 100 Salem-area citizens have joined Oregon PeaceWorks in placing their names on an end-the-war advertisement that will appear in the Statesman Journal on the morning of Dec. 2. The ad's message begins: "Mr. Powell: We reject your Iraq war."
"We cannot allow a major architect of the Iraq war to appear in our city without confronting the war's immorality and pointing out its astronomical cost in both lives and dollars," said Willamette religion professor Douglas McGaughey, a representative of an ad hoc committee of university and community activists who are organizing the events.
RALLY FOR PROTESTERS
A support rally is being planned when the "Eugene Eleven" arrested Nov. 18 for civil disobedience at the ROTC and the Churchill Army recruiting center are arraigned (see News Brief last week). The court time is 1 pm Friday, Dec. 2 in Eugene Municipal Court, 777 Pearl St. Room 104.
"We are having a rally to show support for our local heroes who put their bodies on the line to stop the senseless bloody war in Iraq," says Peter Chabarek in an e-mail. "Please join us and demonstrate that our folks have public support, and that when resisters take the momentous step of peacefully breaking the law to stop a great injustice, the people will back them up."
Another political action will follow at noon Monday, Dec. 5 outside Sen. Gordon Smith's office at the Federal Building downtown. Activists plan to meet with Smith's aide Terri Moffet and turn in petitions calling on Smith to support an end to the war in Iraq.
"We're trying to keep the momentum going," says Michael Carrigan of CALC's Progressive Responses. Carrigan says he's inspired by the new faces he sees at peace rallies along with the stalwart activists. For more information, contact CALC at 455-1755 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
"Leiken's candidacy feels shifty" is the headline in a 1,600-word Springfield News opinion piece published Nov. 16. The author is Eugene free-lancer George Beres writing on Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken's filing for county commissioner, challenging incumbent Bill Dwyer in 2006. The article chronicles Leiken's shift from supporting Dwyer to opposing Dwyer, Leiken's dealings with PeaceHealth and land speculator John Musumici, and Leiken's potential conflicts of interest regarding Glenwood development. "Uneasiness is created when an elected official has close ties with big money interests," writes Beres. "It grows if those ties are undisclosed, only partly disclosed, or not disclosed in a timely fashion." Beres has no damning revelations in his tale — it's unclear whether Leiken has stepped over the line when it comes to the inevitable conflicts of interest that all politicians have. Beres does shed some light on how business are government are intertwined, sometimes with backroom deals and "hidden machinations." Beres tells us he relied on research from the Springfield News staff for his commentary, but apparently he didn't talk to the mayor. "Who is George Beres? I don't know him at all," Leiken tells us. "The reaction from everyone I have talked to is very negative toward him and his piece." See the archives at www.springfieldnews.com for the complete commentary.
What's particularly frustrating about the whole dragged-out squabble over hospital siting is that there is no real public input and involvement. All citizens can do (if they have the money) is go to court. All local elected officials can do is offer limited financial incentives or try to block or delay land-use approvals. But these siting decisions are vitally important to the public interest. They are key to shaping the future of our metropolitan area; and these decisions can be a matter of life and death. If you are in south or southwest Eugene and have a heart attack, stroke or a life-threatening accident during rush hour, it could take 30 minutes from dialing 911 before you arrive at a major trauma center up north. South Eugene councilor Betty Taylor this week voted against having our city manager pursue of memorandum of understanding with Triad for a north Eugene hospital. So, where do we go from here? It might be unheard of for a state agency such as Oregon Public Health Services to hold public hearings or information sessions on hospital sitings, but this is Eugene. We debate everything, and the turnout for such a meeting would be huge. We are trying to understand the issues surrounding medical facilities, and attempting to have a voice in our future.
The threat of Triad/McKenzie-Willamette building in Glenwood appears to be motivating Eugene's mayor and council to consider an illogical hospital site. But Glenwood is actually closer to downtown than the proposed hospital site at RiverRidge Golf Course. And more and more, Eugene, Springfield and Glenwood are becoming one city. Many UO students live in Springfield, about half of Springfield breadwinners work in Eugene. We share an urban growth boundary. We work on transportation and air quality issues together. Our land-use rules are much more alike than different. We share riparian habitat and parkland. Our political divisions are mellowing. Even our criminals ignore the arbitrary lines on the map. We will likely never merge into Springene or Eugenefield, but it's time to recognize we're all part of a larger community with shared concerns.
Big story in last Sunday's real estate section of The New York Times asked this question about Bend: "Can a city grow quickly and stay simple?" Projecting that the population of 65,000 will double in 10 years, the writer repeatedly pointed out that this high-desert city, sixth fastest growing in the country, has no public transportation system. If you've been snarled in Bend traffic lately, you're probably wondering, like we are, how long it will take those folks to support a transit district. Judging by the comments in the article, it could be a very long time.
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, email@example.com
Green Cities Movement
Is Eugene on the bus?
BY MICHAEL COCKRAM
The Green Cities Movement is an effort by local governments around the globe to deal directly with the environmental problems they face. As national governments, such as our own, stay the course toward environmental disaster, cities are left to deal with the results.
|The new Oregon Research Institute Building aims to achieve LEED Platinum rating.|
One unlikely champion of the movement is Jaime Lerner — the former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil. In the early '70s Lerner was "installed" by the government and he promptly made a high-tech bus system a priority. The city grew in density around the system — concentrating the population and conserving green space. Now in a city of 2.2 million the system accommodates an amazing two million rides a day and helps make Curitiba perhaps the greenest city on earth.
But we don't have to look very far for inspiration. Our big sister Portland was the first U.S. city to meet the Kyoto Protocol's target for reducing carbon emissions. President Bush's myopic statement that "Kyoto would have wrecked our economy" is rebuffed by Portland leaders who contend the city has benefited with a effective public transportation, more green space, lower energy costs and cleaner air. Mayor Tom Potter told The New York Times that the perception that these measures would be drain on the economy is just wrong: "It's economical; it makes sense in dollars."
Although Eugene lags behind many other cities, Mayor Piercy's administration has shown signs of positive change. The city has announced a partnership with three developers building green projects. The developers are given somewhat lightweight incentives such as a greased permit process and free technical advice — not exactly the big tax breaks that Hynix sucks up — but it's a start.
The city hasn't yet allocated real financial resources to promoting sustainable projects. And there is more they could do without spending much money. One move that should have been adopted years ago is to follow Portland's lead and require all new civic structures (such as the new City Hall) to be LEED certified. The U.S. Green Builders Council's LEED rating program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has become the standard in determining the sustainability of a project. Another is to increase tipping fees at the dump (also done by Portland) to encourage reuse and recycling.
The U.N. reports that in 2005, for the first time in history, more than half the world's population lives in cities. In the U.S., the Jeffersonian ideal of the citizen farmer spreading across the country is being supplanted by population pressures and a cultural shift to urban/suburban living.
When I moved to Eugene in 1986 the population was less than two-thirds what it is today — yet the urban core has changed little in those 20 years. We have a small city downtown with sprawling population of a mid-sized city.
A recent article in The New Yorker pointed out that if you really want to reduce your environmental footprint you shouldn't think about a little cabin in the woods — you should move to Manhattan. In terms of efficiency of energy and materials one answer is density. The apartment building is a model of efficiency with shared walls, floors and ceilings reducing materials. If you spread New York City's population out to the density of Eugene it would fill a 20-mile-wide swath from here to Portland. Of course many of us live in Eugene for its relaxed atmosphere, its trees, its wooded bike paths. A more intense urban core could actually help preserve those things — and with density should come green space in the form of urban parks and greener streets.
The Madison Avenue high-rise isn't the answer in Eugene. But St. Vincent de Paul's Aurora Building and the upscale Tate Condominiums represent what downtown Eugene should begin to look like — four to eight stories tall. At different ends of the economic scale both buildings incorporate commercial elements on the lower floor and get people invested in living downtown. The city should encourage denser development and discourage more pancake buildings downtown — if a Whole Foods wants to move downtown it should be in a mixed-use multi-story building development.
Our city has some catching up to do. Without the resources of Portland it will take vision, creativity and commitment. Let's hope the current city administration has that commitment to sustainable development, and isn't applying more of the thin coats of "greenwash" coming out of Washington.