News Briefs: Big Vote? Never Mind | Senate to Vote on Homegrown Terror | New City Hall? Never Mind | Rob Handy in the Race for Commish | Absconded Art Pins | Beekeepers Call on Congress | Coalition Targets Climate | Luers Turns 29 Behind Bars | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Family Values on the Border
"Angel" brings life to the desert and canyons
EW asked to stop running '¡Ask a Mexican!'
Happening People: Hokoyo
BIG VOTE? NEVER MIND
Remember the big fight over the future of downtown Eugene culminating in a vote last month by 49,326 people? Well, none of that may have mattered.
Nothing may have been built anyway as the nationwide crash of the housing market dried up financing for development.
|The city-owned Sears pit. PHOTO: WILLIAM C. MIDDLETON|
It's "extraordinarily difficult to get financed" now, said developer Tom Kemper. His KWG had proposed a $200 million remake of downtown with parking garages, chain stores and condos. "Lenders are just not interested."
"The credit market has really crashed," said Pete Eggspuehler of Beam Development. "It's not a comment on the city of Eugene."
Beam had proposed a smaller historic remodel of the Centre Court, Aster pit and Washburn buildings with a mix of local tenants. That more locally focused, incremental approach drew support from most of the citizens who campaigned against the larger measure to subsidize KWG, and defeated the measure with a 64 percent vote.
Given the housing crunch, "I wonder where we would have been" if the $40 million developer subsidy had passed, asked Councilor Bonny Bettman. "The voters were pretty wise. If the risk is too much for the developers, it's too much for the community."
Beam principal Brad Malsin said despite the credit crunch, he remained "very interested" in pursuing the smaller project. Beam said his project is a longer-term investment less subject to short-term market drops and is less focused on now risky condos. "We think we can make it work with a little cooperation" from the city, he said.
Kemper committed to redevelop the Sears pit with 106 condos and a retail shop a year before submitting the large $200 million proposal. But he said he may now want to drop everything after the market fall.
"I'm far less enthusiastic about Sears than 15 months ago," Kemper said. "I certainly wouldn't do it under the timeline we were talking about."
Councilors Bettman and Taylor said that if Kemper was backing out of the previous agreement to break ground in 12 months, then the city may have to look for another developer rather than let Kemper sit on the pit indefinitely.
Councilor Taylor pointed out the city has owned the property for more than a dozen years without redeveloping it. "It's important that we act." — Alan Pittman
SENATE TO VOTE ON HOMEGROWN TERROR
Local activists fear that vague language in a bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives will allow the government to prosecute "thought crimes." HR 1955, "the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" was passed on Oct. 23 with very little media attention. The bill has now moved to the Senate.
The bill states that "violent radicalization" is "the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change." However the bill does not define what an "extremist belief system" is, nor does it explain what it means to be "facilitating" ideologically based violence.
The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House with a vote of 404-6, with 22 members not voting. Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich was among the few dissenters. Oregon's Rep. Peter DeFazio voted in favor of the bill as did Reps. Hooley, Wu, Walden and Blumenauer.
The Homegrown Terrorism Bill is actually an amendment to the 2002 Homeland Security Act. It defines homegrown terrorists as groups or individuals "born, raised or primarily operating" in the U.S. who use, plan or threaten to use force or violence against the government or civilians "in furtherance of political or social objectives." Such objectives could include anything from environmentalism to civil rights.
The legislation would establish a commission to report on homegrown terrorism as well as establish a university-based "Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States" that would use data from anthropologists and other social and behavioral scientists to study violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.
The legislation specifically targets the Internet, stating it has "aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process" in the U.S. by allowing access to "broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda."
Lauren Regan of Eugene's Civil Liberties Defense Center is calling for people to urge their senators to vote against the bill. For more information go to www.cldc.orgor call 687-9180. — Camilla Mortensen
NEW CITY HALL? NEVER MIND
After spending more than $2 million on consultants and more than two years of meeting time on a proposal for a new City Hall building, the City Council voted last week to put the city bureaucracy's top priority on the back burner.
In the wake of losing two ballot measures last month, the council voted 4-3 on Nov. 28 to delay a vote on a $150 million new City Hall until at least 2010.
"Staff deserves City Hall, they really do," said Councilor Chris Pryor. But Pryor said the city shouldn't "send a message" that the city's internal priorities are more important than citizen priorities.
City executive Jim Carlson told councilors that instead of using it's $35 million facility reserve to reduce the tax increase for a new City Hall, the city could use the money to build a new police station. "You could use the resources you already have."
The city squirreled away the reserve money essentially by cutting services to taxpayers. By spending the diverted money on a new police building, the city would avoid a difficult vote. Bond measures for a new police station have already failed three times at the ballot box.
Pryor and other council conservatives claimed that road repair is a top voter priority and successfully pushed for a May 2008 vote on a property tax to fund it. But voters may not want to put their money in potholes. The gas tax on the Nov. 6 ballot failed with 56 percent voting no. — Alan Pittman
ROB HANDY IN THE RACE FOR COMMISH
Longtime Eugene neighborhood advocate and business owner Rob Handy is expected to announce his bid for the Lane County Board of Commissioners at noon Thursday, Dec. 6, upstairs in the County Courthouse.
He lives in District 4, which includes parts of west and north Eugene including River Road. He will likely face incumbent Commissioner Bobby Green, whose last serious challenger was Kitty Piercy. Green is considered vulnerable in 2008 due to his poor environmental voting record and his support last year for implementing a countywide income tax without first going to the voters. A recall campaign was launched against Green, but was dropped.
Handy says Lane County government "must prioritize budget decisions that put people first and build a sustainable economy that protects and enhances the resource lands that are the source of clean air, pure water and the soils that grow our food."
Handy owns and operates a landscaping contracting and consulting business and says he "understands the bottom line and the contributions of the many small and large businesses that are the backbone of our local economy — those who provide quality jobs without the benefit of government subsidies."
Handy has volunteered for decades throughout the community, mentoring at-risk teens, coaching youth sports teams and offering support to the elderly.
For five years he chaired the River Road Community Organization and served as co-chair of the Neighborhood Leaders Council. He has also served on the River Road/ Santa Clara Transition Project Task Force, the Rasor Mixed-Use Center Citizens Advisory Committee and most recently on the West Broadway Advisory Committee.
Contributions can be mailed to: Elect Rob Handy County Commissioner, P.O. Box 41449, Eugene 97404.
ABSCONDED ART PINS
The "greening" of the holidays is getting a new twist in the Eugene area this season with the sale of gift pins made from clippings from old art books and vintage magazines. The classic art is inscribed with peace messages and political statements.
The "Absconded Art Pins for Agitators & Peaceniks" sell for $1, and all proceeds will go to the Civil Liberties Defense Center, Cascadia Wildlands Project and a variety of local peace groups.
Pins can be found at the ongoing "GREEN Holiday Scene" at 2510 Augusta St. in the Laurel Hill neighborhood every weekend through Dec. 23. More homes around town will also be selling the pins to friends and neighbors.
Organizer Carol Berg Caldwell, aka "Grindle GREENelf," says the slogan for the pin sale is "Corporate box stores will 'see red' when we all start shopping GREEN!" She adds that "Wal-Mart probably isn't losing sleep yet over this, but who knows where this could go? Maybe in 2008 homes all over America will be hosting GREEN Holiday Scenes."
Caldwell says the campaign has three "green" reasons: Recycling to create gifts avoids the traditional holiday "budget-buster" facing many families; dollars spent stay in the community; and the campaign is a way to avoid clogging the landfill with holiday packaging. "We promise not to wrap the treasures you will find at the GREEN Holiday Scene," she says.
For more information, call 337-3229.
BEEKEEPERS CALL ON CONGRESS
Beekeepers have been having a bad year, and some are hoping Congress will help them out. For the past year bee colonies have been dying off and disappearing in a phenomenon called "colony collapse disorder."
Beekeepers have been reporting losses of 30 to 90 percent of their hives. In colony collapse disorder, seemingly healthy adult bees leave the hive, never to return. Bees are the number one pollinator of crops in the U.S., and their loss affects farmers from Oregon to Florida.
The USDA's Agricultural Research Service has been investigating the problem and pinpointing everything from parasites to poor nutrition. Scientists have also looked into radiation from cell phones and genetically modified crops.
The journal Science recently reported a link between colony collapse and a honeybee virus called Israeli acute paralysis virus, which is transmitted by a mite commonly found in beehives. Scientists speculate a mix of infection, genetics and environmental influences could be causing the die-offs.
According to a report in the Capital Press, an agricultural newspaper in Oregon, beekeepers are taking advantage of all the buzz about bees to ask for a little help. Beekeepers reported on an American Honeybee Producer Association survey that 15 percent of their bee losses are due to pesticides. They are pushing for an amendment to the 2007 U.S. Farm Bill that would require chemical companies to pay into a fund that would compensate beekeepers for their pesticide-related losses. More than 250 amendments to the bill have already been proposed. — Camilla Mortensen
COALITION TARGETS CLIMATE
A new coalition has recently formed among groups and individuals in Lane County "working to mitigate and prepare for challenges resulting from climate change and peak oil," according to Pam Driscoll of Dexter, one of the organizers.
Representatives from numerous groups in the area attended the first meeting in November. They included forest activists, since logging is a key component to increased CO2 in the atmosphere.
Topics being raised by the coalition include relocalization, preserving forests, mass transportation, food security, legislation and local business, says Driscoll.
A second meeting is scheduled for 6:30 pm Wednesday, Dec. 12, at the Grower's Market Building upstairs meeting room, 454 N. Willamette. For more information, call 937-3007.
LUERS TURNS 29 BEHIND BARS
Jeffrey "Free" Luers celebrated his 29th birthday at the Lane County Jail Dec. 5 as he awaits his resentencing hearing. He was convicted eight years ago in an arson that damaged three vehicles on a Eugene car lot. His 22-year sentence was recently overturned.
His address is now: Jeffrey Luers # 1306729, Lane County Adult Corrections, 101 West 5th Ave., Eugene 97401-2695.
A benefit music show for "Jeff and the Green Scare" is planned for 7 pm Thursday, Dec. 13 at Cozmic Pizza downtown. Music will be provided by the Riot Folk collective, Blair Street Mugwumps and The Spins. Jesus Sepulveda will read poetry, and Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center will lead a discussion of the "Green Scare." Suggestion donation is $5-20 sliding scale, but no one will be turned away. All proceeds go to prisoner support.
For more information, visit freejeffluers.org/donate.html
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003(last week's numbers in parentheses):
• 3,882 U.S. troops killed* (3,876)
• 28,451 U.S. troops injured* (28,451)
• 130 U.S. military suicides*(130)
• 306 coalition troops killed** (306)
• 933 contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 84,779 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (84,250)
• $473.9 billion cost of war ($471.9 billion)
• $134.7 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($134.2 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
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Lane County Roadside Vegetation Management: Renewals of No Spray Area Permits are due on Jan. 31. For more information or to request a new No Spray Area Permit, call Caroline at Public Works, 682-6911.
• For more information on Lane County Roadside Vegetation Management and Last Resort Herbicide Use Policy see lanecounty.org/Roads/Vegetation/Vegetation_Management.htm
Or call Orin Schumacher at 682-6908.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
In our Nov. 21 cover story "Silence of the Limbs," arborist Alby Thoumsin's comment, "In an urban setting trees need to be removed because they represent a risk," is in reference to hazardous urban trees.
• EW met with a large group of community leaders last week regarding Gustavo Arellano's "¡Ask a Mexican!" column, and our staff reporter Camilla Mortensen writes about it in our news section this week. We all agree we want to dispel stereotypes and bigotry, but we disagree on whether Arellano's provocative style of satire helps or hurts the cause here in Lane County. The debate goes on in our Letters section this week, and we've invited the Latino community to contribute columns on the local, regional and national issues that are important to them.
This debate raises a basic issue in our community: How do we work effectively together to make life better for all of us — rich or poor, dark-skinned or light, advantaged or disadvantaged, educated or not, fluent in English or not, documented or undocumented, abled or disabled, gay or straight, young or old, male, female or transgendered? Even these labels promote divisions among us, and yet human nature is hard-wired to fear and mistrust people who are not of our family, not of our tribe, not of the "dominant culture." Is there no hope for us?
There is hope if we can rise above the stereotypes and ignorance of earlier generations — dispel the images and attitudes we learned mostly as children. There are multiple ways of doing that: serious community dialogue, diversity training in our institutions and businesses, legislation and legal action and even provocative satire that makes us cringe and laugh at ourselves.
We are a dynamic and evolving society. The culture of Mexico has permeated the U.S. so deeply that it's integral to who we are as a nation. Almost everyone speaks at least some Spanish, millions of non-Latinos have traveled south of the border, Mexican restaurants are everywhere, we sing "Feliz Navidad" at Christmas, and Spanish geographical names are ubiquitous (partially because a large section of this country used to belong to Mexico). Hispanic/Latino businesses and institutions are growing quickly nationwide. Brown is the new white when it comes to fashion models and style, and as a society we now find great beauty in the mix of skin colors and facial features.
American culture also includes African American, Asian and Native American experiences and influences, and we celebrate people like Tiger Woods and Barak Obama who symbolize a coming together of races where there was once insurmountable division.
Even though we want to be aware of (and report on) the challenges undocumented workers and others face during the political debates over immigration, we also want to encourage hope. We're making progress toward becoming world citizens who embrace our own cultural heritage while also understanding and appreciating other cultures, languages, values, appearances and ways of living and being on this planet.
• It happens every few years downtown. There's another measure on the ballot to open this street or that street or build a parking garage for a developer. And to pass the measure, proponents publicly blast downtown as blighted and crime-ridden. After more than a decade of this, no wonder downtown is suffering from an image problem. Ironically, there are far more assaults, car break-ins and other crimes at area shopping malls, but you won't see the shopping mall managers campaigning to advertise the fact.
• We hear Kitty Piercy might be running for a second term as mayor of Eugene. The rumor is still unconfirmed, but we suspect she's having a good time and wants to follow through on work she's been doing the past three years.
Piercy's also very upbeat about what's happening downtown and around town, and that was quite evident in her talk at the Citizens for Public Accountability annual meeting last week. She was enthusiastic about smaller, more incremental redevelopment downtown following the defeat of Measure 20-134 last month. She talked about creating new parks, connecting downtown with the UO, improving safety downtown, sprucing up stores and storefronts for the influx of visitors coming to the Olympic Trials next summer, addressing parking issues downtown, and doing more in the realm of sustainability. She even talked about an ordinance that would force owners of vacant storefronts downtown (read: Connor & Woolley) to maintain some degree of aesthetic appeal and upkeep.
She is not without her detractors, of course. Conservatives, assuming they field a candidate, will certainly attack her for her tie-breaking vote to shelve the West Eugene Parkway, for bagging the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast and other offenses. Progressives, assuming they field a candidate, will criticize her support for tax breaks for Hynix, siting a medical center on the northern outskirts, expansion of urban renewal to subsidize chain stores and other offenses. Piercy is viewed by some as too unwilling to challenge Eugene's entrenched and bloated city bureaucracy. Regardless, this popular mayor will be hard to unseat.
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
Unfulfilled by a career on Wall Street, Gary Spalter traveled west in 1991, in search of "the opposite of New York City." He found Eugene, saw the Oregon Country Fair and heard Kudana, a marimba band that plays the traditional Shona music that was imported to the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s and '80s by Zimbabwean ethnomusicologist Dumi Maraire. A year later, Spalter was living in Eugene and learning to play marimba at the Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center. Now a board member of Kutsinhira, he teaches at the center and directs the youth ensemble Hokoyo. Current members of Hokoyo ("watch out" in Shona) are Casey Barkan, Will Dickman, Grace Wittig, Michael Beardsworth, Jonah Sokoloff, Jory Christiansen, Mandy Walker-LaFollette, director Spalter and Jake Roberts. "We played our first gig at the HIV-AIDS Walkathon in 2000," says Roberts, a 17-year-old who also teaches an intermediate class at the center. "We opened for Thomas Mapfumo at the WOW Hall." For information on Hokoyo's new CD, other Kutsinhira performing groups and class schedules, go to kutsinhira.org.