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Eugene Weekly : News : 05.18.06



News Briefs: Patterson Case DismissedWEP BypassTeen Center Gets a PlaceWind Rates in FluxGTFF Settles ContractCage-Free CallCorrections/Clarifications |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

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Happening People: Stina Watkins


PATTERSON CASE DISMISSED

The City of Eugene has dropped its case against Perry Patterson, a 56-year-old mother of two who was charged with criminal trespass after shouting "No" at a 2004 Republican campaign rally featuring U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

Lauren Regan (left) and Perry Patterson

In September 2005, Municipal Court Judge Alan Leiman dismissed the trespass charge against Patterson, ruling that Eugene Police did not have the authority to remove Patterson from the public property outside the hangar. The story might have ended there, but City Prosecutor Mark Haight appealed the case to the Lane County Circuit Court.

In March, City Prosecutor C. Michael Arnold took over the case from Haight. In early May he filed a motion to withdraw the appeal, effectively dropping the charges against Patterson. Circuit Court Judge Karsten Rasmussen granted the motion on May 10.

Arnold explained that information uncovered by EW's Feb 9. and 16 articles — that the "men in black" who removed Patterson from the rally were not federal agents, as EPD and the city prosecutor had assumed, but likely private security working for Cheney — was the city's primary motivation for dropping the case.

"This was new information, and it was a surprise to both EPD and our office when we learned that. It changed the analysis on the original security plan," Arnold said. "I'm relying on your research as well as the research from our investigation. "

Also influencing Arnold's decision was a February ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of a street preacher who was kicked out of private events on public property in Portland. The judges wrote that the preacher had a right to speak because no one would confuse his message (in this case, calling passing women "Jezebels") with event organizers' message.

The same logic can be applied to the Patterson case. "In essence, there's no way someone can confuse 'No, no, no' in response to comments by Cheney as her wanting to be part of the event," Arnold said.

But the identities of the "men in black" who took Patterson by the elbows and delivered her to EPD remain a mystery. In mid-February, Regan and Patterson had decided to file a civil suit against the men, alleging that they illegally ejected Patterson. But that suit is becoming increasingly unlikely, as Regan still hasn't been able to uncover the men's identities.

Regan said that the men were probably Bush/Cheney '04 campaign staffers who were directed to make the rally appear "Republican-perfect" for the media cameras, and their boss was likely Ken Millman, then the head person in charge of the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign rallies and now the chair of the Republican National Committee. But Cheney's office "is not releasing even a scintilla of information" regarding the staffers' identities, making a lawsuit against them difficult, she added.

Regan hopes that the Patterson case, which cost city and state taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, will at least prompt a City Council resolution to prevent similar snafus in the future. "How can we, as a community, use this case to better ourselves and be sure that in a time of suppression, our community remains vibrant and our First Amendment rights protected?" she asked.

Patterson asks that her supporters donate to Regan's nonprofit, the Civil Liberties Defense Center, as Regan handled most of her case pro bono. "I couldn't have done this without her," she said. — Kera Abraham

 

WEP BYPASS

Proponents of the West Eugene Parkway (WEP) are working on a way around the opposition of the Eugene City Council and Mayor by using a little-known council of local governments.

In recent months the Eugene delegation to the Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) has opposed passing a list of road projects if they include the controversial freeway through wetlands. Proponents of the WEP on the MPC, led by County Commissioner Bobby Green and including representatives from Springfield, have refused to vote for the list of 66 projects unless it includes the WEP. The stalemate could interfere with the flow of federal road funding if it's not resolved by Sept. 30.

But in recent weeks Commissioner Green has looked to provisions in the by-laws of the Lane Council of Governments Board for a way to circumvent the MPC. The LCOG board originally delegated authority for the required local approval of the list of federal road projects to the MPC and could take back that authority, according to LCOG staff.

If that happened, the LCOG board, made up of representatives from the county and small and large cities. would have the final vote on the WEP. LCOG board meetings often have low attendance by board members and the public. A straight vote would be highly undemocratic with the smallest city in the county having as many votes as Eugene, the largest city.

There is a provision in the LCOG bylaws for the Eugene representative to ask for a vote weighted by population. It's unclear how such an unprecedented vote would come out. Eugene has just under 50 percent of the population in the county. — Alan Pittman

 

 

 

TEEN CENTER GETS A PLACE

After months of working with the city and real estate appraiser John Brown, a trio of youth groups may finally get a teen center downtown.

The LEAD teen program, Youth Advisory Board and Juventud Faceta have found a building for the new teen center they're calling Nuestro Lugar/Our Place. The proposed center will be at 965 Oak Alley under the Overpark Garage.

The teens had earlier hoped to use the old fire station in City Hall, but the city told them in an April 28 meeting that the empty space wasn't up to code. According to D Cohen, LEAD's teen center co-coordinator, Brown stepped in to help. The Oak Alley building was a storage space, but the city was willing to clear out the city-owned space.

The group worked with the city of Eugene to get the necessary permissions and paperwork. Cohen says the teens and staff, hoping to receive help from local contractors, will spend the summer renovating and repairing the building. The new downtown teen center will open for the three groups to meet in the fall and for regular hours in the spring. — Suzi Steffen

 

 

WIND RATES IN FLUX

EWEB's recent electricity rate increase, effective May 1, did not affect wind power rates. As a result, more EWEB customers can save money by switching to wind power — for a while, at least.

"At a certain level of consumption, it's cheaper for some people to go wind," said EWEB spokesman John Mitchell.

Under the current EWEB rate plan, consumers who choose conventional electricity pay higher rates when they use more energy. For example, the summer rate is $0.042 per kilowatt-hour for the first 800 kilowatt-hours and $0.059 per kilowatt-hour for the next 900 kilowatt-hours.

Consumers who subscribe to 100 percent wind power, however, pay a constant rate — $0.053 per kilowatt-hour — no matter how much energy they use.

Under the old rate plan, wind power was cheaper than conventional power for households and businesses that used at least 2,600 kilowatt-hours per month in the summer and 3,800 kilowatt-hours per month the winter.

Under the new rate plan, wind power is cheaper for consumers who use at least 1,800 kilowatt-hours in the summer and 2,300 kilowatt-hours in the winter.

That news may cheer alternative-energy advocates and others concerned with EWEB's dependence on hydroelectric power, which damages salmon habitat and river ecosystems. But Mitchell also sees a downside to the dynamic. "It may not seem right to some people that we would reward big energy users by charging them less for wind," he said.

Mitchell noted that EWEB may soon impose a wind rate hike to cover maintenance costs associated with the wind turbine facility in Wyoming and the loss of a federal tax credit. "It was never promised that wind rates would stay the same forever, but the fact of the matter is that they've stayed the same for seven years," Mitchell said. "It's looking like a double-digit rate increase could be likely." Kera Abraham

 

 

 

GTFF SETTLES CONTRACT

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (AFT Local 3544) and the UO wrapped up contract bargaining the night of May 2, and the GTFF presented the tentative agreement at a general meeting May 16.

Basic wins for the GTFF, organizer Dave Cecil says, include a reduction in student fees by $72 each year, a "historically unusual" 10% raise over the two years of the contract and a continuation of the health care agreement through the 2007-2008 school year. "We are reasonably confident that health care will remain free to GTFs for the next two years," Cecil says. The UO will pay for any increase in health care premiums up to 20% and pay 90% of any increase over 20%.

One sticking point came around what Cecil called "non-monetary issues." Some GTFs don't receive free copies of books (desk copies) for classes they teach, know their teaching assignments much before classes begin or have access to an office or a telephone. GTFF President Courtney Smith says, "The UO says these things are unreasonable, which seems bizarre." The UO contended that "offices and telephones are for safety only, not for meeting with students," Cecil says.

But now, Cecil adds, "the words desk copies and photocopies are in the contract" for the first time.

The UO agreed to form a committee of three GTFs and three UO representatives to look into "best practices" for graduate teachers and researchers.

The UO also didn't want to bargain around child care because student fees help subsidize child care for some UO students. Despite the child care and office issues, Smith thinks the contract is strong, and Cecil says, "It's probably the best contract the GTFF has signed in 20 years." — Suzi Steffen

 

 

 

CAGE-FREE CALL

The local chapter of Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (SETA) continues its campaign to pressure University of Oregon food services to purchase only cage-free eggs for use in cafeterias and school-catered events.

SETA met with Tom Driscoll, director of food services, and Allen Gidley, associate director of housing and director of business affairs, on March 10 to ask the UO to only use cage-free eggs. The request is still under advisement, according to Carrie Freeman of SETA.

"It's not a very controversial campaign," Freeman said. "It's more animal welfare than animal rights."

The use of small cages is considered by activists one of the top three most objectionable practices of the commercial farm industry alongside veal and bovine gestation crates. If the SETA campaign succeeds, it would add the UO to a list of over 75 other universities that choose to purchase eggs only from farms that allow laying hens space to spread their wings, dust bathe and scratch with their claws.

Freeman acknowledged that the cost of purchasing cage-free eggs is often a source of hesitation.

"We don't really know what the cost would be," Freeman explained. "Eggs are an invisible product. You know when you are eating an omelet, but they are in everything. The university currently spends $50,000 on eggs each year. It is hard to know what the actual cost would be to the students because we would be buying in volume, but it would be cents per person."

SETA hoped the campaign would generate results by the end of the school year, but representatives have not been granted a second meeting with Driscoll or Gidley. Freeman encourages community members to contact the UO in support of the cage-free movement.

"If the campaign needs to go into the fall term, I'm willing for that to happen, but that's just more hens sitting in cages," Freeman said. "This is the kind of practice that is getting phased out in the European Union. If entire countries can phase it out, I don't see why we can't."

For more information about the SETA campaign, visit www.uoregon.edu/~seta.Adrienne van der Valk

 

 

 

CORRECTIONS/CLARIFICATIONS

• A news brief last week, "Big Cop Increase," reported that Eugene police patrol and investigations could increase 35 percent by 2006. The date should have been 2010.

• Regarding a May 4 news brief, "River Moves Toward House," Randy Mathews tells EW that he did not install riprap along the river's edge, as originally reported, but that he simply replaced lost rocks in an Army Corps revetment around 1996. "I didn't change anything," he said, noting that FEMA installed jetties and a bar upstream in 1997, which may have accelerated the erosion of the riverbank toward his house.

 

 

 

SLANT

The big local news from the elections Tuesday is the smashing defeat of arch-conservative County Commissioner Anna Morrison by Bill Fleenor. With Fleenor as a swing vote, the county could swing more to the public interest and the environment on a host of issues including the West Eugene Parkway (WEP), corporate tax breaks and crime treatment and prevention.

We're also pleased with progressive Alan Zelenka's solid victory over Bruce Mulligan for the Eugene Council Ward 3 seat. Mulligan got the endorsement of the pro-sprawl Register-Guard but only 23 percent of the vote. Zelenka will continue councilor David Kelly's progressive stands against the WEP and on other issues but, unlike Kelly, also opposed the Whole Foods garage.

 

Who cares about regional transportation planning? Only 60 people showed up May 11 at a cavernous hall at the Fairgrounds for the return of Osprey Group consultants Dennis Donald and John Huyler. They were here to talk about their assessment of the West Eugene Parkway impasse. But 60 people might have been enough. We left the two-hour meeting hopeful that it is possible to avoid years of litigation. The consultants told us they see collaboration as a workable option, even though "the hurdles are serious," and include a "history of animosities and polarization" and an "undercurrent of suspicion." We don't mind squabbles and partisan bickering — it's a sign of a healthy and vibrant public process — but this WEP quagmire is growing tiresome, draining time and energy from progress on a host of other community issues. What we've been doing with the WEP over the past 25 years simply hasn't been working. Here is a way out, and it doesn't even require that we trust each other! What it requires is getting two dozen good people around the table for 10 to 18 months to nail down the facts and examine various transportation solutions for west Eugene. Is that too long? Not when you consider the lawsuits that would certainly drag out a top-down decision for many years. Will key players ODOT and the FHWA cooperate and support collaboration? Transportation agencies have traditionally balked at collaboration, but we heard from both the state and federal agencies at the May 11 meeting that they are open to the process. The Osprey Group has provided us with a clear mirror to look at ourselves regarding the WEP. A collaboration process leading to agreement on the WEP can provide a foundation for resolving other metro planning issues that will come before us, and there are many on the horizon. Let's not blow this opportunity.


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

 

 

 

STINA WATKINS

At age 12, Krystine "Stina" Watkins was a charter member of the LEAD (Leadership, Education, Adventure and Direction) teen program. LEAD offers weekly dinner meetings and semi-monthly weekend outings to help low-income young people develop leadership skills. "Stina was so shy, she didn't open her mouth," says program founder and director Maj Rafferty. "Now she speaks in public wherever anyone wants to learn about LEAD." After graduation from Willamette High in 2003, Watkins stayed with LEAD as a volunteer. "We have five volunteers for each group of 15 kids," she says. "They meet Wednesday and Thursday evenings at Station 7." In 2004, Watkins was hired part-time as fundraising director. She is also a full-time student at the UO with a Ford Family Foundation Scholarship. In the long term, she hopes to build an endowment to provide stable funding for LEAD and to start programs in new locales. In the near term, she looks forward to LEAD's annual five-day raft trip on the Deschutes River in June. Volunteer training begins in August. Learn more at leadteen.com.

Know anyone whose good work deserves attention in this space? Call the editor at 484-0519 or editor@eugeneweekly.com