Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
New Forest Service plan aims to cut costs, privatize recreation sites
Happenin' Person: Don Lown
STATE OF THE CITY BY KITTY
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy will deliver the 2007 State of the City Address at 5:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 4 in the lobby of the Hult Center. The event is free and open to the public. Piercy will highlight key accomplishments of the city in 2006 and outline her goals for 2007. Incoming Councilors Mike Clark and Alan Zelenka will be sworn in, and Piercy will recognize outgoing Councilors David Kelly and Gary Papé for their service.
Previewing her talk Thursday, Piercy says there are three key arenas necessary to ensure the livability of any city: a strong economy, a commitment to social equity and a healthy environment. "These must not be seen as arenas in opposition to one another, but rather as equal pieces of a larger whole," she says. "This is the true meaning of sustainability — that our success in any one arena is ultimately dependent on success in the other two. That's why we worked hard on the success of all three this last year."
Piercy says she's upbeat about the city's and state's economic health and is looking forward to a new and higher level of prosperity. But she's concerned about the growing gap between higher and lower paying jobs. "Of the 10 occupations projected to add the most jobs to Lane County's economy in the next decade," she says, "nine pay average salaries that are lower than the county average of about $32,000 per year. Here in Eugene, because we are a center for high wage occupations like education, research and development, manufacturing and wood products, health care and government services, and others, we might take solace in somewhat rosier economic projections than these. But Eugene is not an economic island; our economic future is intricately tied to that of the larger region and state."
Piercy says she plans to talk Thursday about solidifying her Sustainable Business Initiative, downtown development, the need for a new City Hall, new initiatives in culture and the arts, her proposal for a mayor's blue ribbon committee on homelessness, the new Police Civilian Review Board, the need for a city youth advisory committee, new ways for local mayors to work together on "mutual infrastructure issues" and a face-to-face collaboration between city and county officials regarding downtown development. — TJT
MILTARY SUBPOENAS REPORTERS
A U.S. Army prosecutor has subpoenaed several reporters in at attempt to substantiate charges against an Army officer who has spoken out against the Iraq War.
|Supporters gather outside of Fort Lewis, Washington, June 19, 2006. PHOTO: TELEVISEUS|
Last June, Lt. Ehren Watada refused to deploy to Iraq on the grounds that the war violates international law, calling it is his duty as an officer to reject illegal orders that could make him party to war crimes. In taking this stand, Watada became the first commissioned officer publicly to refuse deployment to Iraq.
The Army has charged Watada with one count of "missing movement" and four counts of "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," the latter charges based on statements he has made to the press. His court-martial is scheduled begin at Fort Lewis, Wash., on Feb. 5. If convicted, Watada faces up to six years in prison.
According to a Dec. 13 report from Truthout.org, a progressive political news website, an Army prosecutor stated his intent to subpoena Truthout Executive Director Marc Ash, Truthout reporter Sari Gelzer, and regular contributors Dahr Jamail and Sarah Olson. "We view this action as retaliatory, both toward Lieutenant Watada and toward our organization that has reported his courageous stand," Ash was quoted as saying.
Olson, an Oakland-based independent journalist, reports that Army prosecutors based one of the "conduct unbecoming an officer" charges on portions of her May 2006 interview with the lieutenant. In that interview, published on Truthout.org on June 7, Watada stated: "As I read about the level of deception the Bush administration used to initiate and process this war, I was shocked. I became ashamed of wearing the uniform."
Olson claims that Army prosecutors want her to verify the interview's authenticity. "[I]t is stunningly ironic that the Army seeks my testimony — the testimony of a journalist — in a case against free speech," she wrote in a Dec. 30 commentary on EditorAndPublisher.com, an online media journal. "What could be more hostile to the idea of a free press than a journalist participating in the suppression of newsworthy speech?"
Free speech rules are different for military officers than they are for civilians, and the military court-martial — which will examine the question of whether Watada broke the internal rules of permissible speech — operates outside the bounds of federal courts. Army prosecutors did not need the U.S. attorney general's permission to issue the subpoenas.
EW interviewed Watada in August ("Resisting an Illegal War," 8/17), but to date we have not been contacted by Army prosecutors.
On Jan. 4, the day of Watada's pre-trial hearing, activists with Iraq Veterans Against War, Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK and others will rally at the gates of Ft. Lewis. Eugene veterans Gordon Sturrock and Jack Dresser plan to drive their own biodiesel bus to Washington to join them.
Speakers at the rally will include Watada's father and Sara Rich, the Eugene-based mother of Army Spc. Suzanne Swift, who in December was sentenced to 30 days in prison for evading redeployment to Iraq. Swift alleged that she had been sexually harassed and abused by her commanders. — Kera Abraham
SUIT FILED TO ENFORCE MEASURE 47
Campaign finance reform supporters in Oregon filed suit Dec. 27 to require Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and Attorney General Hardy Myers to enforce Measure 47, which was adopted by voters in the November 2006 elections. State officials declared the statutory measure null and void since its companion constitutional Measure 46 failed (see Slant column last week).
The lawsuit has gotten little, if any attention in Oregon's daily newspapers or broadcast media over the holidays.
"The voters of Oregon adopted campaign finance reform in November," said attorney Linda Williams, "but the two government officials who are required to implement the reform are refusing to do so."
Bradbury issued a letter in mid-November saying he would not implement any of Measure 47, based on advice from Myers. "It is the duty of government officers to enforce what the voters enacted," said Measure 47 backer Ken Lewis, former president of the Port of Portland. "It is not for them to say it is not valid. Their job is to enforce it until someone who objects gets the courts to rule otherwise."
Portland attorney Dan Meek, author of much of the language in Measure 47, said no court decision exists to invalidate the measure, and "there are at least six provisions in Measure 47 for stricter campaign finance reporting and disclosure for which there is no question of constitutionality."
More information on the lawsuit and Measure 47 is available at www.fairelections.org
LUERS' PISS 'TOO CLEAN'
Officials at Oregon State Penitentiary have restored contact visits for Jeff "Free" Luers, who was held in solitary confinement for 42 days after his urine analysis came back "too clean."
Luers' attorney, Lauren Regan of the Eugene-based Civil Liberties Defense Center, said that one piss test administered to Luers registered as too dilute. Although five other tests came back negative for THC, prison authorities apparently interpreted the dilute sample to mean that Luers had cheated on his drug test.
After an intervention by CLDC attorneys, authorities restored Luers' full-contact visiting privileges, gave him back his job and removed him from solitary confinement. But Regan maintains that an injustice has been done. "He lost prison perks when they threw him in the hole," she said, "and the fact that they tried to do it during the holiday season seems like an additional 'screw-you.'"
Nevertheless, according to an update from Friends of Jeff Free Luers, this "little victory" means the world to Luers. "He can now hold hands, hug and kiss his loved ones" rather than speaking to them only by phone through glass, the update stated.
In 2001, Luers was sentenced to almost 23 years in prison for torching several SUVs at Joe Romania Chevrolet (which he has admitted to) and attempting to ignite a tanker at Tyree Oil (which he still denies). The Romania action was intended as a protest against fossil fuel consumption.
Due to an editing error, a letter to the editor last week regarding a Jan. 23 Lane County Energy Round-up meeting had a wrong location. The meeting will be at Harris Hall in the county public service building at 125 E 8th Ave. in downtown Eugene.
Three thousand U.S. dead in Iraq. What does it mean? A lot of us are seeing this number as a significant benchmark for a failed foreign policy and lack of congressional oversight. Will the Iraq War eventually destroy a million lives? Every life cut short in senseless warfare diminishes our humanity. Even Saddam Hussein's death creates a void. Historians are now deprived of his memories and perspectives, and since Saddam's trials were cut short, we may never know the details of how the U.S. ironically supported Saddam with weapons of mass destruction for his deadly campaigns against his enemies in the 1980s. The White House is celebrating Saddam's hanging for multiple reasons.
Our Slant blurb Dec. 21 on Sen. Ron Wyden's proposal for a national health insurance plan that includes the insurance industry generated a few responses from readers. One cited an article by Noam Chomsky in 2004 saying Americans for years have overwhelmingly favored government expansion of health care, and polls show 80 percent support for single-payer health insurance. But Chomsky says politicians understand the power of HMOs, Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry to maintain the status quo. Chomsky calls serious reform on a national level "politically impossible." Perhaps then the best approach is to foster innovative state and local health insurance programs, such as the Oregon Health Plan. The best will serve as examples, and state-by-state, successful programs will overwhelm national resistance.
Nicknames for the new courthouse kept coming in over the holidays (see our first list in Slant Dec. 21). We hear that members of the Oregon Bar have been calling it "Starship Hogan" since the building took shape a year ago. Other fresh nicknames include the Cuisinart Courthouse, the Just-Us House, Airstream Dream, Mayne's Mirror, Hogan's Reflection, Tin Can Alley, Heavy Metal, Civic Shrapnel, Schnitzer's Future, Hulk Hogan or just The Hulk. Any more? Last call.
Highly efficient wood stoves for the indigenous peoples of Guatemala and elsewhere is a story we've been following since our Nov. 24, 2004 issue. Eugene-area folks have been leaders in making people's lives safer, healthier and better through practical technology. Traditional smoky firepits in rural huts around the world cause respiratory illnesses, serious burns, and consume massive amounts of expensive fuel. We heard from Nancy Hughes, project manager of the Eugene-based StoveTeam Guatemala, that her teams installed stoves in nearly 600 homes in rural Guatemala in 2006. Aprovecho deserves a lot of credit for designing these and other remarkably efficient and simple stoves. Hughes is currently working in India, but her group is gathering more volunteers to train for Guatemala trips Feb. 17 and March 24. Can't join the expeditions? Write a check to her nonprofit. Find out more at www.stoveteam.org
Swearing-in ceremonies in Harris Hall this week were remarkable for their lack of pomp and puffery and instead their genuine focus on family, community and even fun. New Circuit Judge Debra Vogt's three children added their energy to their mom's special day, and in the Lane County ceremonies earlier Tuesday, Commissioner Bill Dwyer's dry humor set the tone. It's not easy for Dwyer to talk about the county doing "less with less" rather than the "more with less" line elected county officials have adopted in the past. Faye Stewart gets to preside over the money problems this year with Pete Sorenson his vice-chair. New Commish Bill Fleenor quoted Bob Straub, a Lane County commissioner before he was governor of Oregon, "My heart leaps like a deer as I cross back over that Lane County line." Probably the most praised folks at both ceremonies were the political spouses, "gluttons for punishment," as Dwyer called them.
Makes us proud that our own Senator Wyden is praised in an editorial in The New York Times this week for his promise to reintroduce a "Net neutrality" bill in the Senate. The bill "would require cable and telephone companies to continue to provide Web sites to Internet users on an equal basis," according to the Times. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) will carry the bill in the House. Progressives are not always so happy with Wyden, but this time we should do all we can to help him in the giant struggle to prevent cable and phone companies from dividing the Internet into rich vs. poor users.
Eugene's mystical old hippie Michael Sunanda is tuned into the environment in a way unlike anyone else we know. He perceives our planet as a living, breathing entity responding sensitively to everything that happens as we swirl through space and time. Is he right? We're not sure, but his ideas make more sense than the corporate model of relating to Mother Earth. Sunanda is a world traveler who writes and illustrates books and pamphlets on ecology and has offered his predictions to what's ahead in 2007. He sees "Gaia rage" happening with runaway greenhouse extremes combining to cause "more shocking, reversing, ecospasms and devastating climate disaster" affecting millions. He foresees mass migration from droughts, crop failures, uncontrollable wildfires and methane explosions "from multiple sources," habitat destruction, deforestation, pestilence, wind storms and disease. Rising seas, acidic waters, submerged islands, changing ocean currents, killer hurricanes. Industries battling with each other over energy conservation and pollution. Extreme corruption of the weapons industry and shocking exposés of war pollution. Mass protests over the operation and construction of nuclear power and coal-burning generators. On the positive side, he predicts phenomenal growth in the industries involved in natural and renewable energy such as wind and solar, huge growth in organic farming and expansion of local farmers markets in thousands of U.S. cities. The Food Not Lawns movement will expand in every city. Bicycling, walking and high-efficiency trains will become increasingly popular. Home energy saving devices will become the fastest growing new market in U.S. Let's check back next year about this time and see how accurate he was in his predictions.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
After 33 years in education, the final 21 as a fifth and sixth grade teacher in Greece, N.Y, a suburb of Rochester, Don Lown found his way to Oregon and a new career. "I see my life now as a professional volunteer," he says. Following his retirement in 1994, Lown and his wife Hydie packed a trailer and headed west. "We camped our way across the US," he says. "After two and a half months we ended up in Eugene." Within weeks of his arrival, Lown began volunteering at the UO Museum of Natural History (he's currently on the board) and at WISTEC, now known as The Science Factory. "I've built shelving in nearly every room here," he says. He spends one afternoon a week cleaning fossil finds in the UO's Condon Collection, another tutoring students at LCC. He's been program chair at the Emerald Empire Kiwanis Club for 10 years. Other consuming interests include photography, mineralogy and stone sculpture. "Don is a renaissance man," says Science Factory Director of Marketing Joyce Berman. "He seems to be involved in everything, but he always has time to talk or share a smile."