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Eugene Weekly : 01.12.06

Citizens State of the City Address

In response to, and to complement last week's Mayor's State of the City address, several local organizations collaborated on the fifth annual Citizens State of the City address. The presentations, which included a slide show, were delivered at noon Monday, Jan. 9 at the Eugene Public Library. Here are the texts of the talks.

 

Protecting the Irreplaceable

By Kate Perle

As Eugene grows, the competition for use of the remaining open spaces heats up. Whether it's public land within the urban centers, occasional vacant lots, remnant farms, or urban forest or waterways. How do we best use our limited funding sources to preserve our resource lands, make our neighborhoods livable, and provide habitat for other life forms?

The tools we are using are not adequate. The acquisition opportunities pass us by as our landscape becomes more dense and impervious every day. Each loss is unique, but often it is due to the speed of land transactions, the lack of readily available funding, the inflexibility of governmental land acquisition, or the lack of creative problem solving and interagency collaboration.

As we embark on the mayor's program for a more sustainable city, we must begin to look at what that really means. Do we have adequate open space in our urban area? Have we secured enough prime farmland to feed ourselves? Are the waterways and forests adequately protected from development pressure? Are we giving enough consideration to alternate modes of transportation? Until we begin to look at the entire picture, the whole system and its interconnectivity and admit that we are part of that web, we will ultimately fall short of the goal of sustainability.

In terms of perfectly designed systems, nature is our best teacher. The natural world shows us that greater diversity provides balance and strength. When we separate and compartmentalize the parts of our environment and seek to tally up the bits we find it never adds up to the sum of the parts. In planning systemically, we must ensure more contiguity between all these resources. Not for the sake of linear recreation, but to ensure the health and maximize the biodiversity of all those parcels we have invested in.

I was asked to speak to the concept of land use in our area I am a farmer who practices stewardship on our urban growth boundary in Santa Clara. Over the last 14 years, while honing my appreciation for and dedication to sweet smelling, moist, friable soil, I have witnessed rapid development swallowing massive amounts of this precious commodity. I did not set out to champion agricultural land preservation or to help create a land use dynamic that would better preserve what I know is an irreplaceable resource. It is solely by circumstance that I have become familiar with land use policies and practices in our area.

As I commuted through River Road and Santa Clara neighborhoods, I witnessed viable small farm parcels become subdivided and paved over. I began to take note of the neon pink land use change notices. The proposed changes almost uniformly provoked in me feelings of outrage and disbelief. How could we choose to grow houses on this soil? Where there no guiding forces to direct development in a more judicious way? I went to the city and county planning divisions and started reading the files. And so it went; first a gravel pit, then a cell phone tower, then a 9.5 acre subdivision, then a 197-acre land swap, all on prime farmland. Now I find myself conversant in local and state land use codes and plans and can navigate my way around land use decisions without tripping over my own ignorance.

In the state of Oregon, we lost more than 350,000 acres of agricultural land in the 10 years between 1987-1997. In Lane County, we have given over 90 percent of our prime farmland to other uses. In the Eugene area, development pressures continue to pit farmland against urban growth, food against housing. The prime farmland we exist on in the Willamette Valley is some of the most fertile soil in the nation. It is capable of nourishing us year-round with an abundant variety of crops and allowing us to achieve a level of local food security that is the envy of communities around the world. Why then does it seem that so little of our agricultural land is in food production?

At present, the average meal at a table in the U.S. traveled over 2,000 miles. The amount of energy, measured in calories, that it took to get it to you is greater than the amount of energy contained in that meal. Any profit/loss analysis would recognize that as a debt-producing activity. Yet, we continue to subsidize food production and transportation with fossil fuel consumption. When our tank is finally empty, we may regret our lack of vision around protecting and promoting our own local food production and economy.

A recent study conducted by for FOOD for Lane County to assess Lane County's ability to feed itself given remaining agricultural lands concludes: "It is very important to realize that a massive effort towards county wide food self sufficiency would require major changes in our eating habits, food infrastructure and … a major shift in social priorities to sustain our natural resources and allocate more of them to food production."

As the pace of urbanization picks up, the level of vigilance around appropriate land usage must increase. If we are to ensure a future for ourselves, the rest of the species, and the generations to come, we must begin to act deliberately and thoughtfully to preserve resource lands, protect and improve watersheds, and direct urban growth around these valuable resources, not over and through them. It seems a puzzle to me that we are required to maintain a buildable land inventory as part of our land use planning, but have no such requirements for agricultural land, and water resources. Do we not need these resources on our most basic level and why then have we not prioritized their protection?

As the urban growth boundary moves, it takes in contiguous lands for ease of service delivery, but never considers the possibility of less uniform growth that would allow development to occur only on poorer soil types. I farm on Eugene's urban growth boundary and am acutely aware of this tacit pressure to expand this boundary. As I milk my cow, I hear the hammering of new home building 300 yards away. When the leaves drop from the trees the roof lines of homes make themselves known just above the blackberry hedge. When the sun sets, the glow from suburban lights illuminates the sky. Working in this particular field for the last nine years has driven me to seek out methods of land preservation that do not rely solely on public policy. Land trusts have a long track record of success and one of their primary tools is the conservation easement. An easement is a legal agreement between a property owner and a land trust in which the land owner donates or sells to the land trust specific property rights in exchange for the land trust's promise to protect the conservation values of the property forever. The land owner retains ownership of the land with the ability to sell it or pass it on to heirs, but future owners will be bound by the easement's terms. For instance, an easement designed to protect wildlife habitat might prohibit all development, while a farm easement might allow continued farming and the building of agricultural structures, but prohibit subdividing the land.

Here in Oregon, the Oregon Rangeland Trust holds the easement to 11,400 acres of land that was acquired through a collaboration between non profit, federal and state agencies. In Washington, the Whatcom land trust started as a farmer's land trust but has diversified to work with the county to acquire and develop parks. They have what they call the Agricultural Purchase of Development Rights Program. This is a county tax that amounts to the price of a couple of pizzas on a $100,000 home. These moneys are for use solely to purchase land for conservation. The county government uses that money to get a dollar for dollar match from the USDA to double the potential pot. When the land trust gets land donated that would serve the parks system, they bargain sell it to the county for a park. The county uses those funds for acquisition and pays them to the land trust who in turn uses that money to do the development of the park (creating trails, benches, signage, etc… for conservation and natural parks). The land trust then holds the easement for that property and ensures it will always be protected, the county gets a park that's ready to go with little to no maintenance requirements, and the community gets more open space.

Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland (SPF), another Washington land trust, has not only preserved thousands of acres of farmland, they have collaborated with other governmental agencies and foundations to expand their work and have influenced public policy to create more options and opportunities for protecting deserving lands. The American Farmland Trust conducted a "cost of community services study and found that residential development requires more in community services like schools and fire/rescue than it pays for in taxes. Conversely, the county's farmers paid more in tax revenue than they required in public services.

SPF demonstrated broad and deep community support for farming through a poll of Skagit Valley residents, 86 percnt of which agreed that the county should be doing more to protect farmland, and 90 percent recognized the importance of farming for the economy, wildlife habitat, and open space. Based on the depth and breadth of this support, County Commissioners voted, in 1996, to impose a property tax increase (Conservation Futures) to fund the purchase of development rights from willing farmers. The expected result will be incentives to develop higher densities in urban neighborhoods, with a ring of protected farmland around the city. This is similar to land use patterns in Europe where agricultural land surrounding cities has been protected for centuries.

Preserving our farmland and supporting local agriculture benefits us on multiple levels. It contributes to a strong local economy, creates local food security, provides fresher, more nutritious foods to nourish our populace, preserves open spaces, and provides habitats. Protection of our food sources is essential to our existence. The time has come for the city and county to work together to inventory prime farmland surrounding our city and to enact a plan for preserving this invaluable resource without which we have no hope for a sustainable future. I'll close with a quote from Farms of Tomorrow:

This is an essential of existence, not a matter of convenience. We have no choice about whether to farm or not, as we have a choice about whether to produce TV sets or not. So we have either to farm or to support farmers, every one of us, at any cost. We cannot give it up because it is inconvenient or unprofitable.

 

 

How Will We Eat, Eugene?

By John Pitney

One of our friends found her precocious 5-year-old reading a carton of orange juice at the supermarket the other day: "Mom, it says this orange juice is from Florida. What's it doin' all the way over here?" A telling question.

Wendell Berry has been quoted often saying, "How we eat, to a considerable extent, determines how the world is used." He has nothing on our 5-year-old from Eugene. The future health of our city and the larger region that supports it has much to do with how we respond to this and a couple other important questions: 1) "What is the impact of the majority of our food coming from way over there?" 2) "Is this strategy getting people fed?" 3) "What is in store for us if we can learn to substitute food that is owned, grown and processed closer to home for what we now import?" For my perspective on the State of the City I bring these questions. As a citizen these are important economic questions, questions of democracy. As a religious leader, they are sacred questions: questions of distributive justice, of how we steward the abundant gifts of place we are given, of love in how we nurture the essential relationships of neighborliness even in the way we buy and sell, questions of common good.

How are we answering these in today's world, and how in Eugene and its surrounds? It's an exciting time in the world of localizing food systems. In virtually every place we are reinventing ways to meet more of our local food needs from local sources. In 1975 there were 300 farmer's markets in this country. Now there are more than 3,000. We don't have to look beyond our county to see how these are enriching our communities. From Detroit to Walterville there are community gardens springing up in thousands of vacant lots and school garden projects teaching students about growth, health and entrepreneurship. In 1985, there was one farm in the U.S. practicing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Now over 1,000.

And I'm proud to see Eugene faith communities stepping up. We are beginning our 7th season of the project called "That's My Farmer." We are 17 faith communities supporting 14 local farms who practice CSA. In CSA, families become members of farms, paying $300 to $500 at the beginning of the season to get a box of fresh produce each week June-October. Money up front means community sharing economic risk with farmers who don't have to go into debt to farm. In April, more than 300 people gathered to meet the farmers and inaugurate our season. From ticket sales we raised $2,500 to subsidize CSA deliveries to low-income families. We have nearly 300 families among the faith communities joining farms. This will keep as much as $160,000 circulating in the local economy that otherwise would quickly leave town through the globally sourced, absentee-owned food economy.

$160,000 of course is a microdrop in the global food income bucket. So before I get ahead of myself let me acknowledge that we are living in a treacherous time for food and economics and it affects us here like any other community in this day of globalization. In a sentence, we are "raising all the world's food in a declining number of places, planted with a dwindling number of crop varieties, controlled by a shrinking number of companies." Economists say when four or fewer firms control 40 percent or more of any market, the real competition upon which our democracy depends ceases to exist in the marketplace. Well, the same few transnational corporations control upwards of 60 to 80 percent of most food markets. Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) now control 80 percent of the global grain trade, making them proud owners of 60 percent of the world's food because 75 percent of the food consumed on this planet is grain. Phillip Morris is the biggest food company in the U.S., getting a dime of every dollar we spend for food. WalMart is the biggest food retailer on the planet.

The tool of economic domination is vertical integration. Single corporations or clusters own our food systems from "gene to table." For instance, in covenant with each other, Cargill and Monsanto can own every step of production from the patents on the genes of the plants and animals we eat to the prime shelf space on the supermarket shelf and all the input, banking, transportation, processing and marketing transactions between. In order to reclaim an agriculture that supports community we must bring ownership of the produce and these transactions home.

But even the transnational processors no longer call the shots. Today it's the supermarket chains in charge. In 1997, the top five supermarket chains got 24 percent of our grocery dollar. Today the top five receive 60 percent. These negotiate with the vertically integrated firms to stock only their brands. 50-75 percent of supermarket income is derived not from the sale of food but from slotting fees paid for shelf space. The top five chains are Kroger, WalMart, Albertson's, Safeway and Costco, all very present in Eugene.

Now most of us, even in our progressive communities, still scratch our heads and say, "Who cares?" What difference does it make whether I buy from Costco or locally owned stores like Red Barn, Capella's, Sundance or Market of Choice? Now, I'm a preacher not an economist. But I can see, when five corporations do 60 percent of the business, they dictate everything: food pricing, who they will deal with, what level of taxes they will tolerate to stay in a community. They deal in megaquantities at great distances and if you're a small to middle-scale farmer or food business you are out.

Wal-Mart may be too easy a target but there is a great deal of pressure in the market place to dumb down to their level. This makes their organization very descriptive of our time. There's a satellite dish on each Wal-Mart. Before midnight of each business day all proceeds are beamed out of local communities to Arkansas, leaving behind just enough to pay employees enough to starve on and local economies bankrupt. The other chainstores differ only in degree. Some treat their employees better, but all are party to the monopolistic control that sucks dollars out of local communities to the benefit of CEOs and shareholders. And since these are the only games in town, our municipalities tend to do back flips to offer zoning and tax variances and other incentives to locate. And those in poverty in our communities, they shop these stores because they can't afford shopping elsewhere and they consume the highly processed fatty foods these stores advertise most in order to dominate the marketplace. Eugene can do better.

Mayor Kitty Piercy attended our That's My Farmer gathering last April. She asked the farmers present what she could do to help. One of them quickly told her to buy food locally as much as possible and be a voice for local buying. There are dozens of efforts starting in our communities that give us hope. Some have been happening for years. But there's a new urgency now. Individual efforts are not enough. Whole communities must step up and learn how to meet more local food needs from local sources, building economy, infrastructure and policy to sustain it over time. And I am here to encourage our community leaders to support and redouble these efforts and keep that hope alive. From Michael Shuman's book, Going Local. I learned two economic terms that name contrasting economies. The terms are: TINA and LOIS.

TINA stands for There Is No Alternative. That is, to the globalizing system where communities beg corporations to locate with no promise of staying while more goods are imported and local profits exported. The economics are so pervasive, most of us have come to believe deep down that there's no other way. In TINA we are in danger of losing our ability to dream.

LOIS is Local Ownership Import Substitution, a term with infinitely more imagination and hope at least for the common good. Think of Burgerville U.S.A. for example. Owned by an Oregon family, two years ago they decided to stop importing their burger from an absentee-owned source and substitute for burger from Oregon Country Beef, a cooperative of Oregon ranchers.

The farm to cafeteria movement is sweeping the country. Over 400 school districts in 22 states are connecting with local farmers, finding ways to substitute local for imported produce to feed students. Similar substitutions are getting locally owned food in the cafeterias of universities, hospitals, prisons. This year Kaiser-Permanente made a corporation-wide policy decision to favor local produce whenever possible. What difference does this make? Local ownership means business owners living in their communities, spending their profits in communities, investing there. It's about economic multipliers, about money spent at locally owned businesses circulating longer in communities before leaving.

All the same discussions that are happening around the world are happening here. Parents and others are talking about how to get local produce in schools. Local chefs are favoring local produce and advertising their choices. Our farmer's market and CSA cultures are growing. New retail businesses are being risked. We have FOOD for Lane County, one of the most innovative programs in the country, organized to meet emergency needs, while working to teach, train and support food sufficiency for low income families. Many discussions bring the realization that, if we are going to make some of these LOIS kind of changes in our community, we need the kind of local food processing capacity we've lost in recent years.

I close with a challenge, a task and a hope. The challenge: find the public will to give the same kind of credence, advantage and attention to the development of local business and local economic capacity as we now give absentee-owned concerns. The task: continue to broaden community-wide coalitions for working on these food concerns. And a place to begin is by supporting as a community the work of the Lane County Food Policy Council. Newly formed, it will meet for the first time later this month. FOOD for Lane County and the Lane County Food Coalition have worked for three years to bring it to birth. The Council will gather around one table, citizens who represent the diversity of stakeholders in the future of our food system: farmers, processors, people who buy food for cafeterias, restaurants and agencies; folks who manage community gardens and emergency food programs, urban planners, commissioners and other policy makers, bankers, university professors and grocery owners, extension agents and nutritionists, retailers and public health officials and more. Over 40 U.S. communities have established food policy councils in recent years. Much like watershed councils in watersheds, they seek to bring local wisdom, democracy and infrastructure to food choices. They have the most power to influence the public will when they have some interface with county and city governments. We must figure out how to do that.

Finally, I have great hope that together we can continue shifting our values to bring our food economies home, that we can find new energy to eat for justice, the real end to hunger and the integrity of this place. That future children won't have to wonder what our food imports are doing way over here. And may we never cease to dream.

Sources:

Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket by Brian Halweil, (W.W. Norton, New York, and Worldwatch Institute: 2004) pages 111 and 119.

•. Website of National Farmer's Union and referenced in the work of Drs William Heffernan and Mary Hendrickson, University of Missouri, Columbia.

Going Local by Micheal H. Shuman (The Free Press, New York: 1998)

 

 

 

Global Trends-Local Choices

By Jan Spencer

For full color photos and graphics, please go to www.eugenepermacultureguild.org

Current events have always fascinated me. They are history in the making and can teach us a great deal. In 2005 we witnessed a record breaking hurricane season increasingly erratic energy costs, accumulating national debt and trade deficit and the darker side of our national leadership.

Further afield, China and India's growing economic importance in world affairs is another big story. Widening populist movements, particulalry in South America reveal a deepening resistence to U.S.-led free trade initiatives. Iraq is more than we bargained for while Muslim Jihadistas show extraordinary determination to oppose Western encroachment on thier turf. What are the common denominators to these stories? What are the trends?

Here is a brief perspective. Human impacts on planet earth are mounting at an accelerating rate. Too many humans are making too many demands on what planet earth can provide leading to climate change resource depletion political instabilities, eroding civil liberties and runaway military budgets

Still, with 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. consumes some 25 percent of the world's resources. The U.S. now imports over 60 percent of its oil while it is near the top in global per capita output of green house gases. By nearly every measure of product, energy and resource consumption, the U.S. leads the world.

If one were to assess the American economy, one could conclude a huge chunk of that consumption takes place in suburbia; the cars, the roads, the malls, the overs ized houses and everyhing inside them. U.S. military doctrine is quite clear as to the purpose of our armed forces. They are to force, if necessary, access to the resources American affluence requires. Our vice president is on record as stating "The American way of life is non negotiable." He wasn't talking about living under a bridge. Suburbia and the cheap oil economy depend on the U.S. military for their continued existence.

More of the same economic growth will put the U.S. on a collision course with climate change, domestic political repression, rivals for resources we, ourselves, have helped create and growing resistence to American style affluence and culture.

This is a hard nut to crack but it is necessary to understand that American affluence, driven by the need for cheap oil, is a first tier reason why the world is not at peace, the environment is severely degraded, the climate is out of whack and we are in a resource war in Iraq. We use too much.

A term I have recently come across is "the psychology of previous investment." What it means is that we keep doing what we have always done by inertia and reflex, even as evidence mounts that we urgently need to make near 180 degree different choices. We have made ourselves hostage to this culture of auto mobile dependency and all that goes with it to such a level we can't imagine a world any different. There ARE other choices and we need them.

Mass consumption, in the short term, is good for the economy. It also creates millions of jobs repairing its own damage to the environment, public health and international relations. Imagine if what we spend on avoidable public health costs, avoidable military budgets, avoidable auto dependency and avoidable misguided land use were applied to social uplift and global cooperation. There is no shortage of money, there is a shortage of vision and integrity by the people who control it.

Lamentable as this circumstance is, it does include profound and timely opportunity. Never has there been so much information available to arrive at reasoned and thoughtful culture changing strategies. Never has there been such potent access to communications to create humane responses to our many local and global challenges. Never have so many people begun to question the basic assumptions of a culture based on oil and indulgence and are willing to explore alternatives.

Eugene has its own unique opportunities. We already have a green lean to our community. We can combine enlightened local self interest with being responsible global citizens. At the same time, we can restore our local environment to health, create a geen economy and move towards a green way of life. We can make choices to look closer to where we live to satisfy more of our own needs. We can collaborate in many positive ways with our rural and urban neighbors in western Oregon.

Urban redesign offers the single most comprehensive opportunity we have in terms of bringing about social, economic, environmental and global benefits. In Permaculture terms, urban redesign is a "key leverage point", a place where well considered input brings a seeming disproportionate amount and variety of desired results. We urgently need urban redesign where the places we live are much more walking, transit and bike accessible to where we work and the goods and services of every day life.

Urban redevelopment needs to focus on already impacted urban space such as brownfields and parking lots. Building on good farm land and unique natural assets is a great mistake. Downtown deserves to be the focus of community appropriate re-development.

Bus Rapid Transit, in particular and other bus routes should catalyze Transit Oriented Development in places like River Road, Bethel and Oakway Center to create site appropriate mixed use urban villages.

Consider the parking lot at the Red Apple in Whiteaker. This acre of chronically unused pavement can be reinvented as shops below and residential above with a green, solar-oriented, kid-friendly courtyard complete with edible landscaping tucked in.

Consider block planning, an exciting approach for redesigning entire residential or commercial blocks in a far more creative and eco-friendly way. When a block plan is adopted, the usual zoning and code regulations can become far more flexible. Redesigning blocks can create more open space, greater safety for kids; transform unused nooks and crannies into gardens or turn garages into granny flats for new income. The increased density can support accessible new businesses, new employment opportunites and more convenient transit schedules.

A consistent, well publicised and popular Community Redesign Plan, supported by a public education campaign, can attract local investment with multiple benefits for the community including jobs that advance community goals and contribute to our regional security. New Green jobs can help replace the inevitable loss of jobs that depend on poor use of resources.

Over time, money not spent on gasoline, time saved not stuck in traffic, cleaner air and water from driving less will add to our quality of life, economic security and contribute to improved public health.

Government occupies an essential position in going green but Citizens should take initiatives whenever possible. Individuals, civic networks and neighborhoods can all be points of departure for making green changes both public and private

Eugene should not be alone in going green. We should begin dialogue, by way of official, business, public health, education, agricultural and informal channels with our rural neighbors and other towns and cities in the region to make best use of existing western Oregon assets in manufacturing, education, forestry, the coast and agriculture.

Finally, a Civic Sustainability Task Force, modelled after the SBI but with expanded scope and mandate, can begin work on an ambitious public information/education campaign to advocate for a green Eugene. A well organized community strategy for building a green Eugene will attract youth, elderly, faith communities, people with backgrounds in business, education, community organizing. We all have much to offer and a compelling call to community service can transform latent potential into green action and bring out the best in who we are.

Everyday, our news is full of stories we should be learning from. Today's trends and current events will not take a break just because we as individuals and as a community are not paying attention. The painful challenges they are bringing to us are unprecedented and so are the uplifting opportunities.

 

 

Engaging a New Generation

By Adam Petkun, Lane County Director, Oregon Bus Project

It seems fitting to me that I am here to discuss bringing youth into the progressive movement as we begin this New Year — a time when we habitually think about our own age and our own experiences, a time where commitment to our passions in renewed. The thought to have me here today demonstrates Eugene's commitment to thinking about the future.

At this point it might be worth exploring why Eugene should care to engage people like me in the first place.

More than a third of our population here is made up of people under age 25. At the very least, it would be nice not to leave out one third of the city. Beyond feeling good about ourselves, bringing youth into the movement makes a lot of sense. As voters, we are overwhelmingly progressive, as volunteers we are eager to donate our most abundant asset: time; and as leaders we can infuse organizations with our unique wisdom and talent. The challenge is to bring more and more people into this process.

When the Bus Project started its engine in 2001, we identified the need to engage new voters, activists, and leaders in addition to the needs to ignite civic action in Oregon, bridge geographic divides, and create a new politics for a new world.

We all know the statistics: Youth voting rates have steadily declined for three decades. Something happened when considerable resources were directed toward the youth vote in 2004. More than 4.5 million people under 30 registered to vote nationally, and turnout soared by 11 percent from the 2000 presidential election. Students in Eugene registered more than 10,000 of their peers at UO and LCC, and turnout among registered voters in student-heavy precincts exceeded 90 percent. These numbers prove that Eugene's 18-24 year olds can be engaged in the political process.

Bustling with non-profit organizations and encouraging High School teachers and administrators, Eugene has no shortage of volunteer opportunities. Unfortunately, if Eugene is anything like the rest of the nation, not many young people volunteer for a political cause or candidate. As a 2003 study by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement pointed out, as many as 40 percent of people 15-25 volunteer for something over the course of a year, but only about 3 percent will donate their time toward political change. Similarly, there are plenty of opportunities for leadership development. Leadership, Education, Adventure, Direction – or LEAD – is an organization training low-income youth to do great things, while hundreds of student groups provide opportunity on this city's college campuses. There is little in the way, however, of serious training for young leaders in progressive political change.

With the potential to engage a large pool of young voters, volunteers, and leaders; Eugene is perfectly situated to set an example to the rest of the state about what a city with active young citizenry can look like. To actualize this potential I think youth need to be presented with creative solutions to relevant problems, and an opportunity to learn how to make a concrete impact on the outcome of these problems.

My generation has watched for years as leaders on television and in the community have engaged in the same political battles year after year. Growing up in an age where the freedom to chose from a myriad of options in most aspects of life, making voting decisions based on party affiliation alone seems confining. As a plurality of young voters are no longer registered with one of the major political parties, I think it is clear that this demographic is particularly interested in new ideas to solve the problems of today and tomorrow, rather than tribal membership. As such community leaders need to present innovative and engaging solutions.

Mayor Piercy's Sustainable Business Initiative is a shining example of a policy I believe my generation will embrace. The SBI and groups like the Apollo Alliance respond to challenges younger citizens will face in the future by offering fresh ideas, and the promise of the type of new fields of economic growth we need to keep young people in the region.

In order to help get the word out about these programs and many others, we at the Lane County office of the Bus Project have started monthly forums to present political issues with a twist. In December we discussed progressive initiatives at our ballot measure peep show, adorned with feather boas. This month we will be showcasing OLCV and the Sierra Club in a Forest Family Feud.

Youth also want to feel like they can make a meaningful contribution to advancement of the issues they care about, rather than being welcomed into an organization as a token young person to be tasked with exclusively menial chores. By providing opportunities to advance from volunteer to intern and beyond, organizations can find bright youths capable of blossoming into leaders invested in their group and their cause. In doing so there is an immediate payoff from the introduction of eager workers and their minds. In the long term leaders will emerge with the skills and knowledge necessary to replace themselves with a future generation.

I am happy to announce that this marks the beginning of our first full-scale internship program in Lane County. Brave high school and college students will get a chance to cut their teeth on Bus Project style political work supplemented by weekly skill and policy classes. This program is modeled after our summer PolitiCorps fellowship for college students and recent graduates.

Looking around this room and seeing that few of my peers are here, engaging the youth of Eugene may seem like a daunting task. The fact is that the youth of Eugene are hard at work in and out of the classroom, eager for us to reach out a hand and bring them into the movement. A serious effort to speak to people like me about the issues we care about, coupled with genuine opportunities to act as voters, volunteers, and leaders will go a long way toward creating a community befitting all citizens of Eugene.

 

Summary

By Lisa Arkin, Oregon Toxics Alliance

I have been involved in the CSOC for five years and was one of the original founders of the event. What brought us to initiate this CSOC five years ago was the mounting frustration that issues of vital importance to a majority of Eugene's residents were rarely, if ever, a part of the existing political paradigm. The ways things worked seemed to exclude and devalue public input. For example, when the public learned that then Mayor Torrey had signed a secret memo of understanding with Hyundai to build on pristine wetlands instead of industrial brownfields, citizens initiated their own public hearing on the matter. It was top-down management, with the circles of power tightly guarded and the action taking place behind closed doors.

When I take stock of where we are at the close of Mayor Piercy's first year as city leader, I believe one theme truly stands out — the mayor is renewing the legitimacy of public process. By taking issues to venues as casual as a grocery store, or as technical and complex as sustainable business round tables, the mayor has shown the courage to shake up the status quo and make the effort to broaden the civic agenda.

We all know there is an illusion of power with elected office. In a single year, neither the mayor nor the City Council has the muscle to change the course when policies and practices have long been institutionalized. Then, how does change happen?

It is said that change happens at that dramatic moment when an uncommon idea becomes a prevalent and prized value — when society tips in the direction of a newly articulated vision. I see Eugene being poised at such a tipping point.

I believe the mayor has encouraged Eugene to teeter on the edge of a tipping point — imagine it — we could be sliding towards responsible social and economic change based on values of environmental stewardship and social safeguards. I am hopeful that is where we are heading.

Critical issues are presenting themselves at a furious pace! The outcomes determine in great measure whether Eugene tips in one direction or another. Here are six examples of tipping point opportunities occurring now:

Downtown: A recent proposal from private developers on the downtown core involves fate of many pre-existing buildings. Will citizens support the developer's suggestion that the city condemn those buildings and then sell the holdings to the private developers at cost?

Hospital siting: There may be viable options that could place it closer to the city center. The process of wooing a hospital into Eugene has been characterized by lurching leadership. If concerned citizens shy away from the hospital siting issue now, they are acquiescing to needless UGB expansion at the north end of the city, a massive conversion of residential and open space to commercial zoning, and Herculean transportation upgrades — whether or not Triad actually intends to occupy the River Ridge Golf Course site. Eugene has already witnessed how hospitals play bait and switch.

Land use planning for growth: What will Eugene's role be in long range land use planning — let's not be limited to the assumptions of the 2050 Plan. Instead let's insist that our leadership think out-of-the-box regarding future growth.

West Eugene transportation: Will citizens allow the destruction of pristine wetland habitat for a boondoggle freeway, or will citizens support sensible traffic solutions in West Eugene that call for better public transit, synchronized traffic lights, and the improvement of existing streets and corridors?

West Eugene commercial developments: A proposal has been submitted to build a big-box Lowe's Department store in high value wetland prairie at the corner of Willow Creek and 11th Avenue. Will the city and citizens work together to stave off yet another big box store along West 11th that will add to problematic traffic patterns and require filling in our West Eugene wetlands?

Sustainable economic development: How quickly can we build a local economy founded on the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental well-being? After making the indefensible mistake of undermining the City Council by backing out of a previous agreement on the West Eugene Enterprise Zone, the mayor has since convened a Community Standards Committee to recommend value-based standards. Let's hope that their recommendations tie the EZ to the mayor's Sustainable Business Initiative, which seeks to attract companies that meet the triple bottom line criteria.

However, tipping points don't appear out of the blue and are not isolated events; they usually begin as controversial ideas that are rarely embraced.

The fulcrum is those innovative thinkers who first bear the brunt of doubtful public opinion. Thankfully, there are some pioneering voices within the City Council who laid the groundwork for progressive change by sticking doggedly to principles of true public benefit — and here I acknowledge Bonny Bettman, David Kelly and Betty Taylor for their persistence and political courage in the presence of personalized attacks. These three public servants set the stage for the successful campaign to set up an external police review system, are crafting an invigorated Neighborhood Initiative for better problem solving, and have tried to provide leadership for the hospital siting.

Being on the tipping point is an exciting brink — and now which way will Eugene take the momentum?

We believe the solutions are not overwhelming. There are very concrete actions that our city can take over the next year that follow directly from today's presentations. This year's Citizens State of the City proposes eight important tasks that deserve the full attention of our city leaders.

Only public engagement, activism, and supporting the gutsy courage of our elected officials will tip current events toward extraordinary thinking and an irreversible progressive course.

 

Eight recommendations

from the citizens group

• Create a Civic Sustainability Commission modeled after the Sustainable Business Initiative but with an expanded mandate and scope to recommend policy changes centered on sustainability. One task of the commission must include creating an inventory of "green" assets we already have, as well as identify the strategic goods and services we must import into the area.

• Increase the budget and the role of Eugene's Neighborhood Program in decision-making to assist city staff and advise civic process.

• Support development of the new Lane County Food Policy Council with an effective link to city government.

• Coordinate a prime farmland inventory with Lane County and enact a plan to preserve that resource.

• Adopt Eugene's Growth Management Policies into land use code.

• Develop design standards for the downtown Urban Renewal District that require energy conservation, public access and design aesthetics in building code.

• Phase out use of toxic chemicals on city and school properties.

• Direct the city manager to cease staff work on the West Eugene Parkway and vacate the parts of the State Transportation Improvement Program and Metro Transportation Improvement Program that permit the WEP.