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Eugene Weekly : News : 12.22.05



News Briefs: LTD's Legal LegacyNutria Poop Sinks SkaterPeacemakers Still MissingGreens Join in Gov RaceSalvation DoomedHomeless Priorities |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

News:

An Ama-Zine Workshop

Eugene Public Library workshop teaches kids how to self-publish.

News:

LTD Shake-Up

Questions linger at Lane Transit District.

Commentary:

Harbin's Aftermath

Reticence, resignation and resilience follow toxin spill in China.

Happening Person: Jill Winans


 

LTD'S LEGAL LEGACY

Facing a barrage of complaints from employees, poor reviews from community members and an article in EW outlining the case against him, LTD General Manager Ken Hamm announced his resignation on Dec. 2 (see cover story, 12/1, and news story this week, p. 12). The criticisms against Hamm focused on declining employee morale and a perceived over-emphasis on long-term projects to the detriment of LTD's day-to-day service, but little attention has been given to the accusations of illegal activity that plagued Hamm's tenure. Twice in the past three years, officials have found some evidence that Hamm behaved inappropriately in his capacity as general manager.

Ken Hamm

In October 2002, Former LTD Human Resources Manager David Dickman filed a complaint against Hamm with the Government Standards and Practices Commission (GSPC), alleging, among other things, that Hamm had used public resources for personal use, in violation of state law. The staff preliminary reviewer recommended that the GSPC proceed with a formal  investigation, but in a January 2003 meeting, the commission voted to dismiss the case.

Hamm fired Dickman in April 2003. Dickman filed a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) Civil Rights Division alleging, among other things, that Hamm had retaliated against him for filing the original complaint with the GSPC. Retaliation against an employee is illegal under Oregon law. A BOLI investigator found substantial evidence that Hamm had retaliated against Dickman, and Dickman filed a lawsuit against LTD, Hamm and Assistant General Manager Mark Pangborn. In February 2005 the defendants settled the case with Dickman, agreeing to pay him $150,000.

Dickman then obtained a copy of his personnel file. The file contains a memo from Hamm, dated March 20, 2003, that indicates that the board had met in executive session the previous day to discuss Dickman's job performance, a meeting that ostensibly contributed to Dickman's termination. But according to former LTD board secretary Pat Hocken's notes, the board never met on March 19, 2003; the meeting was cancelled for lack of a quorum.

Dickman took the case to the Springfield police, accusing Hamm of forgery. According to the police report, Hamm first told Sgt. Richard Putnam that he accidentally mis-dated the memo, which may have been written after a board meeting on April 7, 2003. When Putnam pointed out a discrepancy in that explanation, Hamm revised his story, saying that the memo actually referred to a meeting on March 10, 2003. Putnam requested that the report "be forwarded to the district attorney's office for review and possible prosecution." The DA, however, declined to prosecute the case.

All of the accusations against Hamm originated with Dickman, and Hamm was not held liable in any of the cases.

Kera Abraham

 

NUTRIA POOP SINKS SKATER

Avid ice skater Bill Wood blames nutria feces or some such organic matter for weakening ice more than an inch thick that would normally bear his weight. Wood broke through the ice on a shallow pond near Stewart Road Saturday morning and was rescued by a friend, Wayne Eckertson, who pulled him out after pausing to take a few photos.

Bill Wood takes a painful plunge.

"I have ice skated all of my life and I like any opportunity to skate new ice," says Wood, who had been watching the ice build-up on the pond for about 10 days and had been waiting for an opportunity to skate. "I knew the thickness of the ice on Friday and monitored the temperature at home that night. On Saturday morning I saw that we had had prolonged overnight temperatures in the lower 20s. I also knew that warmer weather was on its way and this might be my last chance to skate that pond."

He brought along a rope and small tire, and a friend, just in case.

"The water was not especially deep where I went in, but Wayne threw me a rope anyway and took some pictures. I don't mind icy water unless it is in a large river or in deep water far from shore. In this case the ice was substantial enough to cause hemorrhaging in my leg, and to bruise and sprain my ribs as I fell through it."

"The normal rule is that one inch of ice will safely hold a person," he says. "I am certain that impurities in the pond water, perhaps from nutria, contributed to the low ice strength."

Wood has been planning to skate at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris early next month and says, "I hope that my ribs heal enough by then." — TJT

 

 

PEACEMAKERS STILL MISSING

Eugene-area people are joining with organizations around the world this holiday season in response to four members of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) who are missing after being kidnapped in Baghdad. The four were taken Nov. 26 by a militant group that has twice threatened to execute them if all U.S. detainees in Iraq were not released.

The deadlines have passed, "and now there is silence," says Peg Morton of Eugene. "There has been no word."

The four are Tom Fox, 54, from Virginia; Norman Kember, 74, from London; James Lney, 41, from Toronto; and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, from Montreal.

Morton says the CPT has been a presence in Iraq since six months before the U.S.-led invasion, and has been monitoring and documenting detainee abuse along with legal and human rights issues.

"The four men are not forgotten," says Morton, "nor are the thousands of detainees in Iraq and elsewhere who suffer abuse and from the lack of basic human and legal rights, nor the Iraqi people who suffer daily from violence and deprivation. We pray for their release and a resolution to the tragic circumstances in Iraq that throw a large shadow over the world.

Matt Chandler of Springfield has served in the Middle East with CPT and has been giving talks about the organization and showing slides. For more information, call Morton at 342-2914.

 

GREENS JOIN IN GOV RACE

Lane County Commissioner Peter Sorenson made it official last week, joining incumbent Ted Kulongoski in filing for the May 16 Democratic primary for governor in 2006. Sen. Vicki Walker and former Gov. John Kitzhaber are still considering running on the Democratic ticket. On the Republican ballot so far are Kevin Mannix, William Spidal and David Beem. The deadline for filing for the primary is March 7.

The Pacific Green Party (PGP) is seeing its first contested gubernatorial nomination in the party's history. The candidates are forest activist Joe Keating and socially responsible investment pioneer Ed Winslow. The PGP plans a nominating convention March 11 in Corvallis.

"The Dems primary will be interesting, especially if Kitz gets into it, but unfortunately, Sorenson won't survive either way," says Blair Bobier of the PGP. "The primaries are a good indication of why we need instant runoff voting. Under the current system, the progressives could split the primary vote and either of the Big K's could win. Regardless, the Dems won't have a progressive candidate. The PGP will."

Sorenson, campaigning as "A Real Democrat for a Change," announced his candidacy for governor in January 2005, and since then has traveled more than 12,000 miles throughout the state.

"The current governor has done nothing to alleviate the suffering that I've seen during the 11 months I've been working on this campaign," Sorenson says. "Worse yet, he has no plans and, really, no aspiration to do things differently. Oregon needs to put more public money into education and health care. Oregon needs protection for our most vulnerable citizens and for protection of equal rights for all. Oregon needs a sustainable and prosperous economy. Oregon needs tax reform."

Incumbent Phil Barnhart has filed for re-election to the 11th House District, as have incumbents Terry Beyer in the 12th District and Debi Farr in the 14th. So far, Farr will face either Rich Cunningham or Chris Edwards in the general election. Nancy Nathanson is the only candidate who has filed for the 13th House District.

In Senate primary races so far, Jim Torrey has filed for Distrit 7, and incumbents Bill Morrisette and Floyd Prozanski have filed for Districts 6 and 4. — TJT

 

SALVATION DOOMED

Cottage Grove is about to lose one of its two thrift stores unless the 1,500 local residents who have signed a petition can persuade The Salvation Army to hold off on closing its store next to Bi-Mart. The local Goodwill store, with its higher prices, plans to stay in business.

The Salvation Army pays nearly $4,000 a month in rent and is losing money each month, says Marla Miller of Save Our Salvation Army Store (SOS). But Miller says cheaper options are available elsewhere in town. She says at least two commercial properties with more space are available for purchase in the range of $225,000 to $250,000. With a small down payment on the cheaper property, Miller figures the monthly mortgage payment would be $1,313 based on a 30-year loan at a 5.76 percent interest rate.

SOS members plan to picket The Salvation Army store in Eugene this week and have sent letters voicing their concerns to the divisional commander of charity. They heard back: "While financial realities make it impossible for us to maintain the store at this time, we certainly hope to return to Cottage Grove in the future."

Miller says the organization does not appear to be interested in looking at options. The store has seven employees who hope to be offered jobs at other Salvation Army sites. — TJT

 

HOMELESS PRIORITIES

Should the city of Eugene focus on helping those at risk of becoming homeless or those already out in the cold? That's the question that the City Council struggled with at a recent meeting concerning a city initiative to address the homeless problem.

Councilor Bonny Bettman said that the city needs to concentrate on helping the currently homeless. "There are people living outside in 30 degree weather in the Oregon rain," she said. She said the street homeless live "without the dignity of a bathroom."

"At this time we have an acute problem that needs to be addressed," Bettman said. The city's current strategy of building affordable housing "doesn't really focus on that problem."

"There's a need for tax-supported shelters," Councilor Betty Taylor said.

Councilor David Kelly said that in the past the city has focused more on people at risk of becoming homeless rather than the currently homeless. He said it's "very important" that the city balance its effort.

"It is cheaper to keep people in a house than to start all over again," said Councilor Andrea Ortiz, but "there is an acute problem out there."

Besides a city shelter, councilors also discussed other ideas to help the homeless. Taylor said the city should pass a living wage ordinance, provide loans for security deposits, help with utility bills and examine homeless health care issues.

Kelly said Portland has implemented a program called "Real Change Not Spare Change" that allows people to give vouchers for food and shelter to panhandlers.

Bettman said that was a "great idea," and the vouchers should also include bus rides. Bettman said the city should consider again trying to pass a utility tax to fund homeless services.

Voters rejected a utility tax for low income housing programs a decade ago amid concerns that it would unfairly tax essential heat and light used by the poor. — Alan Pittman

 

 

 

 

SLANT

Freezing rain, traffic jams, cruising endlessly looking for parking spaces, no real daylight to speak of, polluted air, high electric bills, hacking coughs, awkward moments at Holiday Market when you can't remember someone's name. It must be the holy days, observed by skeptics and agnostics along with the religiously endowed of several faiths. It's the time of year when tradition, convention, materialism, politics and emotions overrun rationality. It's as though some invisible matrix of expectations is superimposed upon us all, based on numbers on the wall. We might fight the holidays, reject them, go along with them, or embrace them with tears and laughter. It's all part of an ancient rhythm of darkness and light, an enigmatic and inescapable element of the human experience. And despite the chaos and insanity, the holidays can be more full of wonder than any lingering June day. We wish you all as much loving warmth, music, good humor and tasty treats as you can absorb on these cold, gray days. And if you are feeling gloomy, remember that the days will only get brighter from here.

Bush has admitted to authorizing spying on American citizens without due process, and he intends to keep doing it, claiming America is at war and Congress gave him the power to pursue terrorists "by all means necessary." Well, the war is of Bush's own making, and he was not given permission to violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution on U.S. soil. For one thing, it's not necessary — we have a court system that's been used to authorize thousands of secret surveillance operations, even on very short notice. In addition, the Fourth Amendment is there to counter excessive zeal and downright idiocy by our government. We heard this week about a Dartmouth senior who was visited in his home and grilled by the FBI because he had ordered a library copy of Mao Tse-Tung's classic The Little Red Book for a research paper he was doing on communism. The evesdropping on the student's library records was apparently not done with a warrant. This is a clear example of why our founding fathers wanted judges involved. Let's refresh our memory on the Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. Bush's latest violation of our constitutional rights is just one more crime worthy of impeachment.

We enjoyed Eugene City Club's first of two luncheons Friday in which local folks were asked "If you could give the community any gift, what would it be?" It was an upbeat and lighthearted affair, full of goodwill and the holiday spirit. Only one Grinch was there to raise eyebrows. Former Mayor Brian Obie took the occasion to ungraciously castigate local elected officials of the progressive persuasion, offering them lumps of coal for casting votes he found offensive. Sounds like our grumpy ex-mayor could use some hugs and chocolate this holiday season. Part two of the series is at 11:50 am Friday at the Hilton, and even non-members are invited to show up and offer their gifts to Eugene. Bring a can of food for FOOD for Lane County. See www.cityclubofeugene.orgfor details.

We ran our big cover story on Kris Millegan and the lawsuit against his Trine Day publishing company back on Aug. 25 and the R-G did their version of the story Sunday, including quotes from transcripts now online at www.expendableelite.com What's odd, however, is that only about 500 words of the R-G's 1,500-word-long story ended up on the website for historians and the rest of the world to see. Missing were a lot of the gritty details of the story, including accusations of illegal acts and Special Forces Association intimidation. Was the missing information another sinister secret cover-up, or just a web glitch? Just the latter, according to Web Content Editor John Heasly, who tells us the "errant editorial subhead markup" has been fixed.


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, editor@eugeneweekly.com

JILL WINANS

Fed up with hot weather and the rat race, Southern California native Jill Winans headed north 13 years ago. "I wanted to go where it always rains," she says. "I came here and opened a boarding kennel for cats." In the 10 years she operated her business, the CatSpa, Winans became increasingly involved in animal rescue. "Greenhill needed a place for victims of domestic violence to leave their cats," she says. "I had as many as 15 at a time." As a board member of the Stray Cat Alliance, she organized an adopt-a-thon in 2003 and brought the Oregon Neutermobile to town for two months in '04. "We altered 611 dogs and cats," she notes. "But we estimate 40,000 stray animals in Lane County." Winans and two fellow cat fanciers started a new non-profit, the Willamette Animal Guild, dedicated to raising funds for a full-time, low-cost spay-and-neuter clinic in Lane County. In April this year, WAG opened Pick of the Litter, a consignment shop at 329 W 4th Ave., run by volunteers and open 10:30 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday. In the photo, Winans holds Silk, the shop cat, available for adoption but living with Winans in the meantime.