Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Martin Starr
REPORT FROM FORT BENNING
A local delegation of peace activists have returned from Fort Benning, Ga., where they protested outside the gates of the School of the Americas (SOA), which has been renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). The annual demonstration draws thousands of activists calling for the permanent closing of the facility, known for training hundreds of Latin American dictators, military officers and death squads.
|PHOTO COURTESY INDY MEDIA|
The group included Fred Thomas, a retired police officer; Shelley Bowerman, a UO international studies student; Sister John Backenstos, SNJM, a retired nun and English teacher; and Peg Morton, a Quaker scholar. Morton served a three-month sentence in a federal prison in 2004 for engaging in criminal trespass on the base.
A U.N. Truth Commission in the 1980s uncovered the relation of SOA graduates and atrocities in Latin America. The struggle to close the school began soon after that under the leadership of Father Roy Bourgeois.
This year the crowd of around 20,000 was about half high school and college students, says Morton. It "included organizations from union to veteran to religious, from Iraq concerns to vegan and marriage for priests," she says. "On the stage was a huge banner of Rufina Maya, who died earlier this year. She was the sole survivor of the 1980 El Mozote massacre of 800 in El Salvador. Hidden behind a bush, she listened to her children crying out, 'Mama, they are killing us!' She devoted the remainder of her life to informing the world of this massacre," reportedly involving SOA-trained Salvadoran army soldiers.
"There are half a million survivors of torture currently living in the U.S., seeking healing and urging, demanding, that our country end the practice and promotion of torture," says Morton. "We were reminded of the torture manuals found to be used in the SOA. And we were reminded that the atrocities continue, in Colombia, in Haiti and elsewhere."
Eleven people were arrested this year and will join the 226 who have served prison sentences and 51 who have served probations and home confinement related to the protests.
Morton says five Latin American countries have committed to no longer send soldiers to be trained at the facility: Argentina, Venenzuela, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Costa Rica.
CHRISTMAS GOES TO THE DOGS
It's cold out, and while there's no snow on the ground here in the Willamette Valley, a Eugene-based dog and cat adoption group, Save the Pets, is hoping you may want a furry friend to keep you warm this Christmas. They've teamed up with Lane County Animal Services (LCAS) and other rescue groups to try and find homes for 100 of Lane County's homeless pets in December.
Save the Pets will be at PetSmart every weekend from 11 am to 3 pm through December with dogs and cats needing homes. They're calling this campaign "Home for the Holidays."
As part of the campaign, LCAS has dropped their cat adoption fee to $78 for boy kitties and $63 for girl kitties — neutered or spayed, of course. Dog adoptions range from about $57 to $132. If you mention "Home for the Holidays" at the shelter, LCAS will throw in a free pet picture.
If you can't fit a pup or a kitty into your life right now, you can contribute to the Bearen Foundation's eighth annual "Presents for Pets" drive (think Toys for Tots, only for critters).
The group has placed barrels at pet stores and veterinarians' offices around town to be filled with new and used toys, blankets and other pet items for the homeless pets at LCAS. Food and medical items must be unopened.
Go to www.bearenfoundation.orgto find out more about Presents for Pets. You can find out more about Save the Pets at www.savethepets.netand go to www.lanecounty.org/animals/impound to see adoptable animals from pugs to kittens. — Camilla Mortensen
MORONES ON IMMIGRATION
Human rights activist Enrique Morones will discuss the humanitarian and political aspects of border issues at 6 pm Thursday, Nov. 29 in Room 175 of the Knight Law Center, 15th and Agate on the UO campus.
Morones is the former president of the San Diego Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and former director of Hispanic and multicultural marketing for the San Diego Padres. He is also the founder and director of Mexico's Border Commission, an advisory group to former Mexican President Vincente Fox.
In 1986, he founded Border Angels, a nonprofit organization to assist with food, water and other supplies placed near U.S. borders with Mexico to save migrant lives during harsh weather conditions throughout the year. In addition, Border Angels volunteers were active in the efforts to provide emergency supplies to those in need such as migrant workers during the recent Southern California fires.
"Enrique Morones' visit to the UO campus is an important testimony of how the issue of immigration is no longer only of interest to those who live in border states next to Mexico," says education professor Edward Olivos in a prepared statement. "Oregon is becoming a diverse state, and it is apparent that we must become part of the dialogue of how we can approach the issue of immigration — documented and undocumented — with compassion and civility."
A reception in the Knight Law Center's Lewis Lounge will follow the lecture.
The event is sponsored by the UO's College of Education, the ASUO Multicultural Center, MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), Amigos Multicultural Services, CAUSA, the UO ethnic studies program, UO Gender, Families and Immigrant Project of Center for the Study of Women in Society and the UO Center for Latin American Studies.
MEASURE 20-134 FELL CITYWIDE
Eugene's urban renewal Measure 20-134, which would have authorized an additional $40 million in subsidies for downtown redevelopment, failed because it was rejected by progressive south Eugene voters normally supportive of government.
The urban renewal measure failed in all of the city's south Eugene precincts except two, a tiny downtown precinct and the Fairmount neighborhood, where the measure squeaked past with 51 percent. Citywide, the developer subsidy failed in 32 out of 34 precincts. Citywide, 64 percent voted no.
Historically, the city's progressive south Eugene precincts have been key to passing city measures. A strong yes vote in these neighborhoods has often overcome frequent anti-tax voting in more conservative west and north Eugene.
But the vote on 20-134 was different. In one Friendly neighborhood precinct in south Eugene, for example, 64 percent voted no for urban renewal. But in the same precinct last year the vote was reversed with 65 percent supporting a parks bond measure.
In a total of eight progressive south Eugene precincts, the spread between the parks vote and urban renewal vote was greater than 25 percent. Thousands of usually pro-tax voters voted no to the urban renewal subsidy. Even in the one large precinct to support the measure, the 51 percent yes vote in Fairmount was 27 percentage points lower than the parks vote.
The no vote in south Eugene was pushed higher by heavier than normal no votes in the Bethel and north Eugene precincts. In three precincts in west Eugene and Bethel, the measure failed with more than 80 percent voting no. In 13 precincts — covering the Whiteaker neighborhood, west Eugene and the River Road/Santa Clara areas — the measure failed with more than 70 percent voting no.
The voting pattern showed a huge disconnect between council conservatives, some of the strongest supporters of diverting taxes to developer subsidies, and their constituents. Bethel Councilor Jennifer Solomon strongly supported the measure, but 79 percent of voters in her ward voted no. Southwest Eugene Councilor Chris Pryor was another strong supporter, but 67 percent voted no in his ward. Similarly, 62 percent voted no in supporter Mike Clark's ward and 63 percent voted no in supporter George Poling's ward.
Councilor Andrea Ortiz, with a ward stretching from Whiteaker to River Road/Santa Clara, voted in support of the developer subsidy after some wavering, but 72 percent of her constituents voted no. — Alan Pittman
CHEMICALS ON COUNTY ROADSIDES?
Despite all the evidence about the toxicity of herbicides, will Lane County resume roadside spraying for weed control? On Dec. 5, the issue of how Lane County manages its roadside vegetation will come before county commissioners in their role as Lane County Board of Health.
Lane County has used alternatives such as mowing, pulling and planting other ground covers since Aug. 31, 2005, with chemicals only as a "last resort." ODOT and private companies do use herbicide sprays along roadways and on timber lands, as reported each week in EW during the spraying season, courtesy of Forestland Dwellers.
"In this era when people are so aware of how harmful these chemicals are, why not use the safer alternatives?" says Lisa Arkin of Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA). She is calling for concerned citizens to attend the upcoming commissioners' meetings, or express their issues with herbicide use in writing.
The county uses Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) which, according the Public Works' website, "incorporates various methods such as mechanical, manual, biological, and to a lesser degree chemical methods to control roadside vegetation."
Herbicides are a "last resort" under the current plans. The section on herbicide use in the Lane County code cites concerns over endangered Willamette River steelhead and Chinook salmon as a reason for using herbicides only when other methods "have been proven ineffective."
However the 2008 proposed plan includes language that Arkin worries could lead to the county using herbicides in conjunction with "other agencies, private sector groups and other cooperatives."
The plan doesn't establish upper limits for amounts of spray used, according to Arkin, and she is calling for Lane County to leave the current plan alone: "Don't fix something that is not broken," she says.
Herbicides include chemicals like glyphosate, a Monsanto product called Roundup, which is also listed under the name "Aquamaster" and is on Lane County's "permitted products list." The Aquamaster label states it is a hazard to "humans and domestic animals," and according the EPA, long-term exposure to glyphosate at over 0.7 parts per million (ppm) in water can cause kidney damage and reproductive effects. — Camilla Mortensen
MASSAGE BENEFIT IS SUNDAY
Area massage therapists are gathering this weekend to raise money to help a colleague with medical bills associated with cancer treatment.
"Rhys" Kelly Holland is a massage therapist, former Digger and longtime community activist "who lives in that middle ground of making too much money to be eligible for the Oregon Health Plan and too little money to afford health insurance," says Mikaela Scott of Eugene.
Scott says Cascade Health Center, where Rhys has worked for years, has donated space, and many massage therapists have volunteered to give chair and full-body massages from 10 am to 7 pm Sunday, Dec. 2. All proceeds will go to help Rhys with her medical expenses.
Cascade Health Center is located at 525 E 11th. Call 343-4343 to schedule a massage or for more information. Drop-in customers will also be welcome.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week's numbers in parentheses):
• 3,876 U.S. troops killed* (3,871)
• 28,757 U.S. troops injured* (28,451)
• 130 U.S. military suicides* (130)
• 306 coalition troops killed** (304)
• 933 contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 84,250 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (84,199)
• $471.9 billion cost of war ($469.9 billion)
• $134.2 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($133.6 million)
* through Nov. 12, 2007; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to one million
• The decision by acting City Manager Angel Jones to not seek the permanent job will allow the City Council to hire an outsider for a much needed shake-up of City Hall. For this powerful, unelected position, the city needs someone open to city reforms such as real police accountability, an independent performance auditor and in-house city attorney. The new city manager should be focused externally to serve the council and citizens first rather than entrenched city executives.
• We're happy to hear Citizens for Public Accountability is bringing Gary Blackmer back to town to talk about his work as an independent performance auditor in Portland. Blackmer, along with Mayor Kitty Piercy, will speak at the CPA annual meeting and party at 7 pm Thursday, Nov. 29 at Tsunami (see News Briefs last week). One of the biggest problems facing Eugene city government is its chronic lack of accountability. Our council/manager form of government does not provide the kind of oversight required in a truly democratic process. We don't need to toss out our city government, but we can improve it greatly with some basic reforms. Among them is the hiring of an independent performance auditor, someone not under the thumb of the city manager.
Such an auditor would look closely and objectively at each city department, and finally we would get an independent analysis of basic questions: Is the Eugene Police Department adequately staffed, working efficiently and properly supervised? Are our outsourced city legal services competent, and cost-efficient compared to other cities our size? Is our relatively high number of city employees justified? Is Public Works operating as efficiently as possible? Is the bidding process for city contracts fair and equitable?
A good auditor can't perform miracles, but he or she can uncover inefficiencies, avoid lawsuits, save millions of dollars, and help restore public trust in local government.
• In a format designed more for questions than answers, UO President Dave Frohnmayer and Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny plus a fleet of UO staff members and the design team met last Monday with Fairmount neighbors concerned about the elephant soon to settle in east Eugene. Best case scenario, Frohnmayer said, is that ground will be broken for the new basketball arena after the Olympic Trials next summer. It will open in fall, 2010, on the old Williams Bakery site on Franklin. All the predictable issues of parking, traffic, noise, litter, pollution of all kinds, and general destruction of the neighborhood came up at the public relations meeting. The UO has bought the Romania site and will acquire the ODOT land adjacent to it, the president said, with present plans to provide parking where the auto dealer once parked their vehicles. He promised that the UO plan for the area "will be coherent" with the city of Eugene plans for the Walnut node.
One other important "present plan" put forward by Frohnmayer is that the new 12,500-seat arena will be "egalitarian" with no sky-boxes and a reasonable ticket-pricing structure.
The meeting was congenial with surprisingly little hostility considering the size of the elephant. It's the answers to the neighborhood's questions put to the UO and its athletic department that will bring on the debate.
• KOPT to be sold to OPB? We blogged about this Monday (at blogs.eugeneweekly.com), and by the time our paper hits the streets Thursday the sale will likely be old news. In short, KOPT AM 1600 has agreed to sell to Oregon Public Broadcasting. KOPT will become another public radio station in collaberation with KLCC. KOPT is owned by Churchill Media and is an Air America affiliate. The station also had a strong local news and progressive talk show element until August, when a string of award-winning broadcast journalists were laid off. Will the new KOPT revive local progressive talk radio? We certainly hope so. Meanwhile, former KOPT newsman Rick Little has taken a temporary post on the PR team at PeaceHealth, but other top-notch broadcast journalists are still circling Eugene and Springfield looking for a place to land.
• After urban renewal passed in Springfield but not in Eugene, the conservative, have-Eugene-be-ruled-by-Springfield-crowd is arguing that it's about trust. Springfield's conservative Republican officials have it whereas Eugene doesn't, goes their argument. We suspect it's more about apathy. Look at the 20,000 flyers Springfield recently sent out to get people to an important urban renewal hearing. Only a handful of people reportedly showed up to speak.
• Speaking of war funding, Sen. Gordon Smith has voted four times in 2007 to keep troops in Iraq and prolong the war, despite his public statements against the war. We hear local peace activists are planning a demonstration at 11:30 am Wednesday, Dec. 5 at Smith's office at the U.S. Courthouse in Eugene. To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit StopGordonSmith.com
• If you're hankering for another national champion collegiate team from Oregon (having just lost one in football and gained one in cross-country), tune in at 6 pm Friday, Nov. 30, to national TV and catch the University of Portland women's soccer team play UCLA in the quarter-finals. Last weekend they were wonderful to watch in their 3-0 win against Tennessee in Portland. Equally great are the fans, including a wild band of drummers.
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, email@example.com
"Most of the kids we work with have broken hearts," says Martin Starr, mental health specialist for Lane County's Department of Youth Services. "I hear the saddest stories, every horrible thing that can happen to a kid." A graduate of Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, Starr began work in drug rehab straight out of school, and met his wife, Sandra, while working in Maine. After the wedding, they came west to study social work in Berkeley and then moved to Eugene. Sandra is a social worker at the Child Center, and Martin has been at Youth Services for nine years. "I do assessments," he says, noting that substance abuse and mental illness assessments send kids to different programs with separate budgets. "Everybody I see has co-occurring disorders. It's my job to figure it out." Starr also spends time with kids at risk of suicide. "I talk about love every day," he says. "I have a personal mission to increase love in the world. Not just feeling, but right action." In October 2007, Starr received a Mental Health Award for Excellence from the state's Addictions & Mental Health Division.