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Eugene Weekly : News : 12.20.07





News Briefs: Pitchfork Rebellion Vs. the WOPR | Whiteaker ElectionsSurvey Says Road Tax Won't PassBlame the Beer FridgeDowntown Code Limits Surface Parking LotsRacial Wage DisparitiesA Case for HearingsLane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | War DeadEarly Deadlines | Corrections/Clarifications |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

News:

City Hall Design


Project cost grows while popularity shrinks

News:

Four Meetings


What really goes on at the Pacifica Forum

Happening People: Curt and Cathy Brodner


PITCHFORK REBELLION VS. THE WOPR

The Pitchfork Rebellion, a coalition of forest-dwellers who originally got together to stop the spraying of herbicides near their homes, is now up against the BLM's Western Oregon Plan Revision (WOPR) which, according to Day Owen, will increase logging by 700 percent.

Owen and the Rebellion are holding a rally to stop the WOPR at noon Friday, Dec. 21 in front of the new U.S. Courthouse, 405 East 8th Avenue.

"Clearcutting is linked to the aerial spray of herbicides," says Owen. "We're already being sprayed by the private industry. If BLM was to get their preferred option, Alternative 2, that would also increase the use of herbicides by a huge amount," he says.

After the rally, Owen and others plan to head over to the Eugene BLM office on Chad Drive and gather again at 2:30 pm. There they will seek to hand over a statement requesting the BLM not act on the WOPR until completion of the Interior Department's investigation into endangered species decisions influenced by former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald. The investigation, demanded by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, includes decisions about old-growth species like the northern spotted owl.

Speakers at the noon rally include Owen, former Congressman Jim Weaver, as well as activists and forest-dwellers. — Camilla Mortensen

 

WHITEAKER ELECTIONS

The power base appears to be changing in Eugene's Whiteaker neighborhood. Until last week's neighborhood elections, some Whiteaker residents were concerned that their "collective voice" was not being represented by a majority on the Whiteaker Community Council (WCC).

The neighborhood faces the prospect of condominiums and new home developments, according to a flyer that went out to Whiteaker homes last Tuesday. The development debate is in response to the Eugene City Council's Neighborhood Initiative Plan, which seeks to increase density in existing neighborhoods "thoughtfully." A number of the neighbors feared that they wouldn't have input on development in the Whiteaker.

Other neighborhood issues include planning bus rapid transit routes, the development of a railroad quiet zone, ways of dealing with homelessness and green neighborhoods, said Whiteaker resident Kari Johnson.

According to Marcella Monroe, at-large member of the WCC, "It is really important our neighborhood association doesn't become disempowered."

The board majority had reduced WCC board meetings to once every three months instead of once a month, said Monroe, and changed the WCC's long-standing "open community discussion" to what the flyer calls a "tightly controlled agenda prepared by the board."

The WCC held midterm elections Dec. 12 to fill six vacant board positions and elect a vice chair and secretary. The previous vice chair resigned in June, citing "a consolidation of power" and "the active exclusion of particular ideas and individuals" in a letter of resignation.

Some residents were worried a contentious meeting would be held the day of the elections, said Johnson, but the city facilitator was "fantastic," and council candidates gave "rousing speeches."

After the elections, with a new majority in place on the council, the "concern is alleviated," said Majeska Seese-Green, one of the concerned neighbors. For election results, see the EW's Dec. 13 blog. — Camilla Mortensen

 

SURVEY SAYS ROAD TAX WON'T PASS

An $81 million bond measure for road repair that the city of Eugene has proposed putting on the May ballot will likely fail, according to a recent city survey.

The survey last month found only 50 percent support for a smaller, $65 million road property tax, well shy of the 60 percent the survey consultant said was needed for a money measure before an election.

More people would likely oppose a larger bond measure, according to city poling consultant Barry Pack, who conducted the Nov. 14-18 survey of 400 likely voters. The margin of error was 5 percent.

"Fifty percent is not a great place to start a tax measure," Pack told the council Dec. 12. He noted that during a campaign it's easier to convince people not to vote for more taxes than to vote for them. To have a chance to pass, "starting around 60 percent would be a good place."

The Eugene Chamber of Commerce and council conservatives have pushed the property tax as a substitute for an earlier proposal for a tax on parking spaces that would have shifted more of the tax burden from home owners to big box stores that generate high road use.

The council voted to pursue the road property tax, the largest tax increase in the city's history, after the road gas tax failed in November.

The survey showed that likely voters are split evenly on whether Eugene is on the right track in general. Of voters who have heard of Mayor Kitty Piercy, 56 percent have a favorable opinion, a 4 percent drop from a survey six months earlier.

The City Council's favorable rating dropped from 47 to 44 percent. Of survey respondents, 82 percent said the council was doing only a fair or poor job of revitalizing downtown. On fixing roads the fair/poor rating was 78 percent and spending tax dollars was 70 percent fair/poor. On being responsive to the needs and priorities of Eugene residents, 71 percent rated the council fair or poor.

The survey did not ask what voters' top priorities are. Nor did the survey ask for favorability ratings about city staff. Under the direction of the city manager, staff are largely responsible for most city actions, including designing the survey. — Alan Pittman

BLAME THE BEER FRIDGE

In case you missed the breaking eco-news on the EW blog: A recent scientific study has revealed that the use of "beer fridges" by our neighbors to the north has a direct link to a lack of energy savings. The study, entitled: "Who Pays for the 'Beer' Fridge?: Evidence from Canada" explores the energy waste generated by households that when purchasing a new refrigerator, turn their older "vintage" one into a "beer fridge."

"Beer fridge" is the term employed by University of Alberta economist Denise Young in her research. EW didn't make it up.

"Older vintage 'beer fridges' are costly for households to run and impose costs on the environment," writes Young in her study published in the journal Energy Policy.

Also in breaking eco-news is the study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that says divorce is bad for the environment. The increasing numbers of divorces worldwide has led to more houses with fewer people in them.

The researchers found that divorce causes an increase in the number of houses constructed, which takes up energy and space. The new homes also use energy in heating and cooling.

The researchers' 2005 data showed that divorced households used an extra 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water when compared to married households.

All of this energy consumption leads, as almost everyone seems to agree these days, to greenhouse gases and global warming.

Now, if you just add "beer fridges" into the equation — assuming here that a certain percentage of newly single divorced folks may want to indulge in the "beer fridge" practice — then you're talking about a lot of polar bears sliding into the sea off of the melting polar ice thanks to drinking and divorce.

Just what is the logical conclusion from these studies is not entirely clear, but perhaps it's save the earth by staying together — and drinking warm beer. — Camilla Mortensen

 

DOWNTOWN CODE LIMITS SURFACE PARKING LOTS

After a developer's opinion piece in The Register-Guard claimed that "Eugene's development code, more than anything else, is strangling downtown" by making it "virtually impossible" to build anything, there have been increasing calls for repealing the regulations.

Mayor Kitty Piercy and Councilor Mike Clark have publicly said the city should examine the issue, and so have a half dozen letters to the editor at the daily paper.

But the downtown code is there for a reason, and throwing it out could leave downtown looking like a suburban mall parking lot, according to city staff and documents.

Chapter 9 of the Eugene code describes the purpose of downtown code provisions requiring denser development: "The development standards are designed to encourage compact urban growth ... reduced reliance on the automobile, and a safe and pleasant pedestrian environment, by insuring an attractive streetscape, a functional mix of complementary uses, and provision of amenities that support the use of transit, bicycles, and pedestrian facilities."

To accomplish those goals, the code requires at least two-story buildings completely filling sites in the small downtown core and at least one-story buildings filling sites on the edge of downtown. The code's "floor area ratio" (FAR) requirements are flexible; for example, they allow a developer to satisfy requirements on the edge of downtown by building a two story building on half of her site. The code also restricts new surface parking lots in the core of downtown to a maximum of 20 spaces.

Prichard claimed in the R-G and in a subsequent KEZI-TV report that the current U.S. Bank tower, The Tate condominium project, Newman's fish shop and the proposed KWG and Beam redevelopment projects could not be built downtown now.

The U.S. Bank building meets the FAR requirement, but its large adjacent surface parking lot exceeds the 20-space limit, according to city planner Nan Laurence. The KEZI report did not mention that there is a large, half-full city parking garage directly across the street from the bank.

The Tate building satisfies current code for its location on the edge of downtown, according to Laurence. If it were built in the downtown core, it would exceed FAR requirements but violate the 20-surface parking space limit, she said.

The one-story Newman's fish market with surrounding surface parking filling its site would likely violate code provisions for the downtown core and edge of downtown if it were built now the same way. A two-story building on half the site with the rest in parking might meet the code in that location, according to code provisions.

The KWG and Beam downtown redevelopment and rehabilitation proposals would have met the current code requirements, according to Laurence.

The WestTown on 8th affordable housing project is now being completed downtown and meeting city code.

"There are regulations in our current land use code that are confusing and contradictory, and changes to those provisions could make downtown development easier," Laurence said in an email. She added that staff are now "working on possible code amendment strategies."

In response to Prichard, Art Farley, a former Eugene Planning Commission member, wrote a letter to the R-G pointing out that rather than removing code provisions downtown to level the playing field with suburban development, the city could expand the density requirements to sprawling development. "I'd rather raise our expectations regarding development elsewhere than lower our hopes for downtown." — Alan Pittman

 

RACIAL WAGE DISPARITIES

Fifty-five percent of current jobs in the Oregon economy do not pay a living wage for a family of four with both parents working, and for people of color the situation is even worse, according to the latest report from the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations. "The Race for Wages: Jobs in the Current Economy" was released this week by Oregon Action.

"This holiday season is not a merry time for many families in Oregon," said Clayborn Collins, a businessman and board member of Oregon Action. "Families forced to make tradeoffs between basic needs all year round face even greater burdens at this time when heating costs are high and things like presents under the tree need to be traded off, too, because the money just isn't there."

While all workers and family sizes are challenged to making a living wage, it's even more difficult for people of color, according to the report. While 40 percent of white workers' earnings fall below the living wage share for each parent in a dual income family of four, for Latino workers that number is 77 percent. On household income, while 65 percent of white households have incomes below the living wage for a family of four with both parents working, this number is 83 percent for African American households and 82 percent for Native American households. A living wage is defined as a wage that allows a family to meet basic needs without public assistance while providing some ability to save for emergencies.

"This report highlights a fact that many of us already knew — that people of color are disproportionately trapped in low-wage work," said Oregon Action Organizer Geri Washington.

Solutions to closing the gap include the creation of living wage jobs, expanding education and training opportunities and investing in programs that meet basic needs, according to the report. "If we're serious about closing the job gap, then it's time for decision makers to create and enact race conscious policies to raise the wages for all Oregon's workers." said Connie Ashbrook, executive director of the Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. The report is available online (www.nwfco.org)..

 

A CASE FOR HEARINGS

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Nov. 7 to send a resolution of impeachment of Vice President Cheney to the Judiciary Committee, and several members of the House Judiciary Committee are pushing for the hearings to go forward. The impeachment language in HR 333 was written by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

"The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our Constitution," says Judiciary Committee member ?Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) in an op-ed sent to newspapers across the nation. "The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq War, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.??"

Wexler is gathering supporters at his website WexlerWantsHearings.com and has gathered nearly 90,000 names so far to pass on to Congress.

"Even if the hearings do not lead to removal from office, putting these grievous abuses on the record is important for the sake of history," Wexler writes. "For an administration that has consistently skirted the Constitution and asserted that it is above the law, it is imperative for Congress to make clear that we do not accept this dangerous precedent. Our Founding Fathers provided Congress the power of impeachment for just this reason, and we must now at least consider using it.???"

 

Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule

• Lane Vegetation Management Advisory Committee (VMAC) has voted 6-2 in favor of spraying herbicides around guardrails and to eliminate noxious weeds instead of using manual or mechanical means of control. The vote was in defiance of the considerations for health as mandated by the Lane Board of Health and the Last Resort Herbicide Use Policy. The issue will come before the Board of Commissioners as early as Jan. 2. Call your county commissioner at 682-4203 to register your concerns.

Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org

 

WAR DEAD

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began onMarch 20, 2003 (last week's numbers in parentheses):

• 3,894 U.S. troops killed*(3,887)

• 28,661 U.S. troops injured* (28,451)

• 132 U.S. military suicides*(130)

• 307 coalition troops killed** (306)

• 933 contractors killed(accurate updates NA)

• 85,711 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (85.072)

• $477.8 billion cost of war ($475.9 billion)

• $135.3 million cost toEugene taxpayers($135.3 million) 

* through Dec. 17, 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

 

EARLY DEADLINES

The holiday season means our offices will be closed Tuesday, Dec. 25 and Tuesday, Jan. 1. Early deadlines for reserving display ads will be 5 pm Thursday, Dec. 21 and 5 pm Thursday, Dec. 28. For more information, call 484-0519.

 

CORRECTIONS/CLARIFICATIONS

In Slant last week, we said a "small but hardy group of adventurers" showed up for a planned hike into the Devil's Staircase Dec. 2. But this week we heard from one of those who made the trip that the group numbered 30 to 40 people. Group leader James Johnston counted 30, including himself. We still think they were hardy.

 

 

 

SLANT

Holiday good wishes abound in Eugene these days, and more than a few were expressed by a parade of gift-givers at City Club Dec. 14. The long list of virtual gifts included bringing the troops home from Iraq, sheltering the homeless, restoring the addicted, dispelling hate in the world with love, saving the Amazon headwaters, free parking downtown, recycling awareness and action, tango for everyone, a better attitude, scientific knowledge and the will to use it to benefit humanity, the gift of time to get to know each other, making Eugene a "Peace-Maker City," a new motto for Eugene: "A Great City for the Arts and Outdoors" and a strong ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) for UO footballer Dennis Dixon. Better late than never.

The guest speakers included John Attig, Alan Beck, George Evano, Felicity Fahy, Alder Fuller, David Funk, Lorraine Kerwood, Ev Marcel, Frank Nearing, Tulku Jigme Thrinley Rinpoche, Quinn Wilhelmi Reilly, Betty Snowden and Betty Taylor. Missed the program? Find it in the audio archives at KLCC (www.KLCC.org).Listening to these gifts is a good antidote for the less-than-joyful stresses of the holidays.

 

• The Eugene City Council is wringing its hands over the two recent failed votes and a negative post-election survey (see News Briefs). Conservatives hoping to unseat the centrist/progressive majority in coming elections argue that the negative feedback is a political right-turn signal from the voters. The truth is the opposite: The majority of people in Eugene don't want the city to become like every other city in America. That's why centrist and progressive candidates won in the last election and pro-sprawl interests lost. The problem today? Some of those centrist/progressives have forgotten why they were elected. They have pursued the city staff's unpopular agenda of corporate tax breaks, developer subsidies, bigger City Hall offices, parking garages and asphalt rather than the popular progressive interests.

 

• Letters about "¡Ask a Mexican!" keep coming in, and we are hearing about a variety of groups around Lane County debating the virtues and failings of Gustavo Arellano. Book club or sewing circle getting boring? Add a little spice. After the holiday break, the provocative column might find its way into classroom discussions as well, if it hasn't already. Here are some suggested questions for "teachable moments":

How do the topics raised in "¡Ask a Mexican!" relate to the national debate on immigration? Does this type of humor diminish or reinforce stereotypes? Are the issues facing local Latinos the same or different from issues facing Southern California Latinos? What are the local issues for Latino adults and children? Why is there a disparity of income between whites and non-whites in Lane County? What kinds of diversity can be found within the Latino communities? What are the generational differences? What are the preferred usages of terms such as Latino, Hispanic and Chicano?

Why does Eugene have so few people of color? What is the impact of Eugene's school choice system on the mixing of races and economic groups? What is the role of the police? Can privileged white people ever understand the experience of being a member of minority race in Eugene? Are white attitudes consistent with political leanings? Are diversity programs effective? Where do we get our personal racial and cultural prejudices, and how do we temper them?

We're not suggesting from on high; we have these talks too. And we're hoping that a variety of local Latino and Latina voices can participate in the discussions, specifically by writing columns for the EW. That's one gift we'd love to get for Yule.

 

• More than 28,000 U.S. military personnel have been wounded badly enough in Iraq to require air evacuation, and many end up in long and painful rehabilitation. Regardless of how we might feel about Bush/Cheney and their illegal war, the wounded are not to blame. Here's a suggestion we've seen making the rounds. When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, think about sending one to: A Recovering American Soldier, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20307-5001.


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

 

 

CURT AND CATHY BRODNER

For 18 years in Boulder, then Gunnison, Colo., Michigan natives Curt and Cathy Brodner ran a specialty machine shop and engineering firm. "Inventors came to us," says Curt Brodner. "We made their dreams reality." But when their younger daughter left for college in 1998, the Brodners sold the business, their house and possessions and flew to Madrid with a tandem bicycle and a Burley trailer. "We bicycled through 27 countries in two years," says Cathy. Stopping over in Thailand, they started several vocational projects in refugee camps, most notably a manufacturing facility for ceramic water filters, porous pottery bowls that filter out bacteria and protozoa. "Water-borne illness is the largest killer of children under age 5," says Curt, displaying one of the filters. The Brodners settled in Eugene early in 2005 but soon returned to Asia to distribute 6,000 filters to the region affected by the tsunami of December 2004. With funding from UNICEF, the Brodners established a filter factory in Myanmar in 2006. Another is planned for India in 2008. Learn more about the filters online (www.thirst-aid.org).