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Eugene Weekly : News : 02.16.06



News Briefs: Pitchfork RebellionCop Auditor Undermined | Hefty Pay-Out for HammAlternatives to GaragesLessons in Black HistoryChoco-DruidsCorrection/Clarifications |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

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Thermal imaging gives picture of breast health.


 

PITCHFORK REBELLION

The Pitchfork Rebellion takes a stand.

More than 70 people gathered along Highway 36 near Triangle Lake Feb. 11 to protest logging companies' use of herbicides near their homes. The group, which calls itself The Pitchfork Rebellion, consists of farmers and concerned citizens who believe that timber companies that spray herbicides on nearby forests are to blame for a number of their health problems, according to event organizer and organic farmer Day Onowen.

"We're nonviolent folks, but when we see our neighbors being poisoned, frankly, we get mad as hell," Onowen said.

Greenleaf, Deadwood and Blachly-area residents who believe they've been physically affected by the herbicides took turns speaking about their health problems. One farmer testified that both he and his 13-year-old son suffered heart attacks after helicopters sprayed herbicides on the hill behind their home. Onowen says that when helicopters spray the mountains, wind can blow the herbicides as far as 10 miles from the targeted site.

Protesters with eggs, vegetables and livestock in tow lined the street holding signs that said "Quit poisoning our children," and "No more clear cut," a reference to the heavy use of herbicides on freshly clear-cut forests.

"All of the mountains out here get clear cut," Onowen says. "When they clear cut, they soak the mountains with poison so that the weeds can't grow, so that when they come back to plant new little trees the weeds won't compete."

The group plans to continue fighting for a healthy community.

"We were pleasantly surprised to see that we had even more people than expected [at the protest]," Onowen says. "The one thing that we came away with a consensus agreement that this is just the beginning of The Pitchfork Rebellion." — Danny Cross

 

COP AUDITOR UNDERMINED

Eugene citizens voted for an independent police auditor last fall. But now the independence and functioning of that auditor is threatened by a legal opinion that the auditor's support staff will not be independent, but controlled by the city manager.

City Manager Dennis Taylor opposed the independent auditor before the measure was put on the ballot. Now the private law firm Taylor hired and directs as city attorneys, Harrang Long Gary Rudnick, has issued a legal opinion that the auditor's staff will not be hired and controlled by the auditor, but by the city manager.

That could set up a situation where the independent auditor couldn't directly ask his secretary and assistant to do anything. The auditor's staff could oppose the existence of the auditor and be hired and controlled by a manager who also opposes the independent auditor.

The charter amendment (20-106) authorized the City Council to hire and supervise an auditor, but made no provision for the auditor to hire and supervise his or her staff, the city attorney's memo argues. Under the charter, all city employees are hired, supervised and assigned tasks by the manager unless otherwise specified.

"I think it's an attempt to undermine the independence of the police auditor's office," said Councilor Bonny Bettman, a leader in the campaign for the measure.

Bettman said that when the measure was crafted, the city attorney assured her that the wording of the measure would allow the implementation of the council's independent police auditor model, which assumed that the auditor would hire and supervise his or her own staff. Had the attorney mentioned the staffing issue earlier, it could have been included in the ballot measure.

The situation will make it difficult for the council to attract a high caliber auditor, given that the auditor will have to work with support staff but can't supervise them, Bettman said. "From a professional point of view, that's highly unusual."

Bettman said she questions the legal reasoning behind the attorney opinion, but to fight it under the city's powerful manager form of government, she would have to pay to hire her own attorney.

It's unclear whether the city could find a way to legally finesse the issue. For example, could the council hire an auditor as a contractor who would then subcontract parts of the work to the staff? The city manager generally doesn't hire and supervise subcontractors. The city's attorney did not return a call requesting comment. — Alan Pittman

 

HEFTY PAY-OUT FOR HAMM

On Feb. 9, the Lane Transit District board awarded former General Manager Ken Hamm a $112,000 settlement in a severance package that includes nine months' salary, car allowance, taxes, insurance and attorney fees. Hamm announced his resignation on Dec. 2 and stepped down on Jan. 27 after weathering mounting criticism from LTD employees, riders and community leaders. The agency is funded by payroll taxes.

LTD Board Chair Gerry Gaydos called the settlement "reasonable and realistic," but union leaders question why Hamm should receive any settlement at all. Hamm's employment contract with LTD stipulates that no severance payment shall be made if he resigns or is terminated with cause.

"If [Hamm's] contract does not provide for any severance, then why are we even talking about it?" asked Amalgamated Transit Union 727 Executive Board Officer Carol Allred, who represents unionized LTD drivers and mechanics, in December. "The district holds the bargaining unit to our contract."

LTD spokesman Andy Vobora declined to comment, and neither Gaydos nor Hamm responded to calls by press time. Assistant General Manager Mark Pangborn will assume Hamm's former duties while the board conducts a search for a new general manager, with a target hire date in the fall. — Kera Abraham

 

ALTERNATIVES TO GARAGES

The Eugene City Council is moving forward with plans to spend about $30 million on parking garages downtown to subsidize developments for the Connor/Woolley/Opus and the Whole Foods/Giustina partnerships.

That's a lot of taxpayer money — about what it cost to build Eugene's popular new downtown library.

Here, based on the city's own cost estimates, are some other things the city could use the taxpayer money for:

• Preserve 200 acres of ridgeline and 65 acres of riverfront for natural area parks, improve natural area access, buy land for a new natural area in West Eugene and buy land for nine new neighborhood and community parks for $19.9 million.

• Fund the city's property tax levy to reduce classroom size for two and a half more years.

• Cover most of the cost of a new $36 million police station.

• Build a new city office building that's one of the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly buildings in the world — $25 million.

• Unearth the historic millrace through downtown and build a $4.5 million rail bridge over the canal and path.

• Install a new indoor swimming pool downtown (based on other cities' costs).

• Buy all of the 40 luxury homes and mansions on the local Home Builders Association's 2004 and 2005 "Tour of Homes" to house the homeless.

• Write a $130 tax refund check for every man, woman and child in Eugene. Alan Pittman

 

LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY

As Eugene residents, we like to think of our city as progressive, open-minded and free of discrimination. But a history of racism still manifests in local social and institutional structures.

"The state of Oregon was founded on the principal of exclusion," says Mark Harris, the coordinator of the multicultural substance abuse prevention program at LCC. "Eugene was like a Southern town."

The Heilig Theatre, the predecessor of the Hult Center, was the place where Japanese-Americans were brought before being sent to internment camps, and the same theater showed a Ku Klux Klan film in the 1920s. Springfield had laws on the books until the 1950s that made it illegal for blacks to be in public at night. Another law forbade Eugene's early African-American residents from owning property within city limits, forcing many to live in a tent city on what is now the site of Lithia Nissan on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Practices and events like these created an infrastructure that today supports, at the very least, a misunderstanding of the issues faced by people of color. And Harris says that local media, including EW, are partly to blame.

"You don't get much coverage of (multicultural) events unless they're controversial," says Greg Evans, special projects coordinator for LCC's multicultural center.

Harris and Evans agree that media coverage of multicultural events and issues is amplified during the month of February. But, as Evans says, even last week's "Classical Music and the African-American Experience," celebrating Black History Month, didn't get the coverage the show's award-winning star, Elizabeth Lyra Ross, deserved. It was hoped that 300 people would show up to the free afternoon concert, but only around 100 attended.

But LCC will be putting on two more events to celebrate Black History Month. On Feb. 18, "Remembering Our Roots: Eugene's Tent City Revisited" will take place from 1 to 4 pm at Lamb Cottage in Skinner's Butte Park. On Feb. 21, author J.L. King will speak about his books, On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of 'Straight' Black Men Who Sleep with Men and Coming Up From the Down Low: The Journey to Acceptance, Healing, and Honest Love. A Q&A and book-signing will follow his lecture. — Tim O'Rourke

 

 

CHOCO-DRUIDS

A chocolate Stonehenge wins favor at a Camp Fire fund-raiser.

Eugene Weekly's very own Jef Stout and Molly Templeton took home the coveted "Most Imaginative" award at this past weekends' A Chocolate Affair fund-raiser for Camp Fire USA.

Their reinterpretation of Stonehenge received odd looks throughout the carving. While keeping mum on their design plans, they were given guesses ranging from Autzen Stadium to a crossword puzzle. A minor injury forced Stout to the sidelines and a kind woman stepped in as a designated carver. Stout later returned to the task, bandaged and in pain but revitalized after nibbling chocolate shavings.

Relying on excellent teamwork and creative, spur-of-the-moment problem solving, they completed a 1/50 scale model of Stonehenge.

For pictures of the creative process and final product, see www.fileh.com/automator/Images

 

CORRECTIONS/CLARIFICATIONS

• In last week's Morsels column, The Vintage's hours were listed incorrectly due to changes since the menu was printed. The restaurant is open 11 am to 10 pm Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 am to midnight Thursdays, 7 am-midnight Fridays, 9 am-midnight Saturdays and 9 am-3 pm Sundays.

• In last week's news story on Whole Foods, the correct size of the proposed store should have been 50,000 sq. ft. Also, we wrote about the city "giving" the store an $8 million parking garage, but the city would own and pay to maintain the garage and it could serve the entire neighborhood. The developers and Whole Foods, however, have demanded that the city pay them to build the attached garage as a condition of the project.

 

 

SLANT

Connor/Woolley/Opus have removed their threat to try to have the city condemn private businesses for them downtown. That's good, and a wise PR move. But CWO also issued a new threat last week — if the downtown hold-outs don't sell for CWO's price, CWO will not redevelop any of its property downtown. That's bad. CWO's land speculation downtown has for years made for empty eyesores that have depressed downtown and made it less safe. CWO shouldn't act like a kindergartner saying that if it can't have all the blocks, it won't play. With others also willing to invest, one corporation doesn't need to own everything in the city center. Diversity is a core value of this city for a good reason. It makes for a stronger, more vital and interesting community. That's true of downtown development also.

A showdown is brewing on the UO campus between faculty and administration. President Frohnmayer has the authority and overall responsibility for running the university, and is on the record enthusiastically supporting the funding of Pentagon research on campus. But the UO Senate oversees the curriculum and student conduct, and some Senate leaders are on the record opposing military research, particularly secret research. This debate has been going on for years, but might be coming to a head. A Senate-sponsored public forum on the topic is at 3 pm Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 282 Lillis on campus, and out of that forum could come a resolution that would test the power of the Senate, and the power of the president. This is a confrontation worth watching in that it raises a monumental question: Is academia independent, or are universities just becoming part of the military-industrial complex? Complicating the question is the fact that some military research has beneficial civilian applications, and vice versa. We urge the Senate to set high standards regarding the ethics of technology. No one else is providing this leadership as we charge ahead developing a multitude of technologies that can either liberate us, or destroy us.

Excellent turnout this past weekend for eight Native American films playing at the Bijou as a part of the "Imagining Indians" film festival sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics and Eugene Weekly. Some 473 people attended, and many of the showings were sold out, including both showings of the 1992 silent film Nanook of the North. EW's Lois Wadsworth organized this film festival that was not only a great success in terms of community response, but also told remarkable stories of North American natives, their lives, triumphs and struggles. Our thanks to everyone involved in this great event.

Gravel is the grist of cities. It makes the roads, parking lots, buildings and bridges. But Eugene is more than its concrete and asphalt. It's a confluence of two of the nation's most beautiful urban rivers. Riverside gravel mining has for too long threatened that valuable natural resource. Denying permits for new mines is important, but we also need to reduce our use of sand and gravel. The massive fill envisioned by the West Eugene Parkway would be a good place to start. Tearing up and recycling some of the asphalt we've already laid down would also help. The rivers bring far more to the city than just grist to pave paradise. What will our children say when they look at how we pitted our beautiful rivers to dump gravel in our beautiful wetlands?

Tree swallows are flying in this valley with confusion about their calendar. That's the word from our staff biologist who admits to no certainty about causation. Could be global climate change. Anyway, according to David Wagner's wonderful and reliable Willamette Valley Nature Calendar for 2006, the tree swallows return to this area about the third week of February. Our biologist agrees, but he says that some were back this year in December and fairly large numbers were spotted early in January. That's a significant shift.


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