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Eugene Weekly : News : 5.22.08





News Briefs: Coughing Up for the Bags | 4J Seeks to Save Teachers With Levy | To Spray or Not to Spray | Inquiry or Indoctri-Nation? | Health Care Reform Advancing | Ely Back in Contest | OCF Tickets Now on Sale | Activist Alert | War Dead | Early Deadline |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

News:

Myths and Facts


Conference examines Latino immigration

News:

Buying Votes


Record developer money in election stirs call for reform

Happening Person: Gene Chism


COUGHING UP FOR THE BAGS

Lane County Commissioners next week will be hearing arguments from local recycling advocates for establishing a countywide fee on paper and plastic grocery bags.

Talking to the commissioners around 10 am Wednesday, May 28, will be Julie Daniel, executive director of BRING Recycling; Terry McDonald, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul; and Sarah Grimm, Lane County waste management specialist.

Also at the meeting will be local activist Bob Cassidy, who has been researching this idea for some time. Cassidy says it makes sense economically and environmentally for Lane County to follow the lead of other countries and cities that have cut plastic bag use by as much as 90 percent.

"Bob approached the commissioners with an idea to raise funds for the county," says Daniel. "(Commissioner) Pete Sorensen asked me my opinion, and while I thought Bob's original proposal would have difficulty politically, I agreed the concept had potential and was worth looking into. … I applaud the commissioners' willingness to explore the possibilities."

Daniel says many communities are looking at or have already implemented bag fees, for a variety of reasons. "Ireland was the pioneer, and has had a successful plastic bag program for some time."

Seattle activists, with the backing of Mayor Greg Nickels, proposed a 20-cent fee on both paper and plastic bags in April. The city ordinance would also ban take-out food containers that can't be recycled or composted. Seattle consumers currently use about 360 million disposable bags each year, and most end up in landfills. San Francisco banned disposable plastic grocery bags last year, and other California cities are looking into it.

Why a fee on both paper and plastic bags? "If you put a fee on plastic, you'd just drive everyone to paper," says Daniel. "Both paper and plastic have considerable environmental impact, and you'd be hard pressed to say one is 'better' than the other, since impact occurs during production rather than at end of life. … Plastic bags pose an extra end of life issue — litter — which ends up in places it shouldn't and causes additional problems."

Grimm favors a fee paid by customers rather than by stores. "Big stores could cover the tax and not impose it on customers, which would give them advantage over little stores," she says.

Cassidy says the bag fee could generate much-needed revenue for the county, but Daniel figures the revenue would shrink over time as people change their bag habits.

The idea is not new in Oregon. The Ashland Community Food Store began charging customers a nickel a bag more than a dozen years ago, and some local grocery stores give customers a nickel credit for every used paper bag they bring in for reuse.

If the county pursues the idea, many issues would need to be resolved: how much to charge customers, how the fees would be collected and administered, where the money would go, whether stores would get a service fee back and how to deal with the new biodegradable plastic bags. The commissioners could also look at putting the proposal to the voters. — Ted Taylor

 

4J SEEKS TO SAVE TEACHERS WITH LEVY

To avoid cutting funds for about 160 teachers, Eugene School District 4J Superintendent George Russell has proposed that the district send a renewal of its local option levy to voters this November.

The new levy would generate about $15 million a year and cost the average homeowner about $250 a year.

The expiring levy passed in November 2004 with a 72 percent yes vote.

Local option levies are one of the few ways local voters have to increase local school funding. In 1990 state voters passed Measure 5 capping local property taxes and equalizing school funding regardless of local tax levels. In 1999 the Legislature allowed school districts to supplement their state money with local option levies.

The 4J levy would generate about the maximum local revenue the district is allowed. The state capped local option revenue at 20 percent of state funding.

The complicated local option levies tax the gap between a property's Measure 5 capped assessed value and its value under Measure 50, a later property tax measure. Generally, properties that had increased more rapidly in market value have a bigger gap.

The state formula shifts more of the tax burden from industrial property owners to homeowners and commercial properties. Under 4J's levy homeowners would pay about $1.48 per $1,000 of value and commercial properties about $1.46. Industrial property, which generally trails in rising real estate values, would pay only $1.10 per $1,000 more.

The 4J local option levy is not to be confused with the city of Eugene's property tax levy for schools, which generated about $8 million a year after passing with a 54 percent yes vote in 2002. In 2006 the Oregon Tax Court ruled that the city school levy violated Measure 5, and the city decided not to put the expiring four-year levy up for renewal.

Portland schools have evaded Measure 5 by passing an income tax for local schools. Both mayoral candidate Kitty Piercy and Jim Torrey supported the city levy for schools. EW asked them at a May 14 Fox TV debate if they would support an income tax for schools to reduce class sizes.

Torrey said the focus now should be on 4J's local option levy. "Let's step up to that issue first."

Piercy said if 4J officials approved of the idea, "I'm more than willing to talk about it." — Alan Pittman

TO SPRAY OR NOT TO SPRAY

Crazy People for Wild Places' Ian Van Ornum and Carly Barnicle

Carly Barnicle and Ian Van Ornum, co-directors of "Crazy" People for Wild Places (CPWP), don white hazardous material suits. Sweating under the 90-degree weather at the Farmers' Market, they hand out flyers to promote a demonstration about the pesticide and herbicide sprayings on the side of I-5.

The demonstration, scheduled for noon on Friday, May 30, at Kesey Square, will begin with speakers from Pitchfork Rebellion, OPAG, Forestland Dwellers and the Organic Trade Association. Open mic time will be allotted for the community. Barnicle hopes that people will be able to share their personal stories. "There are so many pesticide horror stories out there," she says.

At 1 pm the demonstration will move to Harlow Bridge on Coburg road by bike, foot or car to drop a banner. Barnicle and Van Ornum hope for a large turnout.

"We want people to gain awareness," says Van Ornum. "Pesticides are detrimental to humans, plants and other wildlife. We want to tell them how they can get involved." Flyers will be provided with the names of people and places to contact to stop pesticide spraying.

"The Oregon Transportation Commission is proposing to the Oregon Department of Transportation a pilot that is a last resort no spray policy. It would prohibit routine seasons spray policy to 1-5 [and Hwys.] 58, 126, 36 and 99," says Barnicle. "Instead of spraying there would be manual labor for pulling weeds, planting competitive species or mulch. It's the perfect time to show support for a no-spray policy."

Next year the CPWP focus will be the fight to make the UO a pesticide free campus. "We're 'crazy' because we want to preserve natural beauty," says Van Ornum.

For more information contact Van Ornum at ivanornu@uoregon.edu

 

INQUIRY OR INDOCTRI-NATION?

Does the freedom to teach and learn flourish in American universities? Does it flourish when a professor indoctrinates students with his or her political views? Is the latter a regular occurrence?

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, and David Horowitz, president of the Freedom Center, debated these issues at Northwest Christian College's Morse Event Center May 19. NCC and the UO hosted the debate collaboratively as part of the UO Contrarian Forum, a new program to foster critical discussion of controversial issues.

Nelson accused Horowitz, who has drafted an Academic Bill of Rights that would bar faculty from indoctrinating students with their own political views, of wanting to institute surveillance and reduce education to a service industry. He said while professors do sometimes inappropriately impose their political views on students, only 1/10th of 1 percent of the population of professors commits these excesses, which the existing system is capable of resolving. He added that failure to police intellectual aggression usually only happens on pervasively dysfunctional campuses that also fail to prosecute physical assaults and protect professors' academic freedom. Furthermore, the tenure system has weakened to the point that professors no longer have as much freedom to express controversial ideas as they did in the past, Nelson said.

Horowitz identified himself as politically conservative and a defender of the university's independence, adding he does not advocate spying on teachers. He described his experiences speaking on 400 college campuses over the past 20 years. He said metal detectors and security personnel are sometimes present at his lectures; posters advertising his lectures have been vandalized; and he can't discuss reparations for slavery, the Iraq War or Islamofascism without a bodyguard.

"University administrators tolerate intimidation on their campuses," Horowitz said.

Horowitz said liberal bias is so prevalent in academia that people don't even see it when it happens and that some entire university departments are set up to indoctrinate students with a particular ideology rather than inform them of a wide variety of ideas. He read out loud the mission statement of the UO Women's and Gender Studies Program, which said the program "examines the meaning of gender as a socially constructed category." Other fields of inquiry, such as biology, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology note gender differences from innate rather than environmental causes, he said, and Horowitz expressed concern that students in the Women's and Gender Studies Program would not learn about those perspectives.

Barbara Warnick, professor of communication at the University of Pittsburgh, was one of the debate's moderators. She asked Nelson and Horowitz repeatedly to clarify whether provocation equaled debate and whether the persecution of an individual was relevant to the issue being debated.

"As a member of the audience, I would be frustrated," Warnick said after the debate, adding that both parties failed to support their arguments with factual evidence, relied too heavily on anecdotal evidence and left many points unaddressed. — Eva Sylwester

 

 

HEALTH CARE REFORM ADVANCING

When it comes to reforming health insurance, the political climate has changed a lot and will change more before the 2009 legislative session, according to Frank Turner, a Eugene doctor. "National political leaders (with notable exceptions) are committed to universal health care," he says. "Most doctors now favor a centralized federally managed health care system. Citizens overwhelmingly favor the same and are willing to work and pay for it."

The Oregon Health Fund Board, now in its second year, is nearing the end of its assigned task: proposing a universal, sustainable, accountable health care system for Oregon. The board plans to send its proposals to the Legislature by October, hoping for action in January 2009.

Turner says about 90 Oregonians are working on the project, including doctors, activists, insurers and representatives of hospitals and medical groups. The board is also seeking public input.

A presentation and workshop by the Archimedes Movement and Health Care for All-Oregon is planned for 7 pm Wednesday, May 28, at EWEB, 500 E. 4th Ave. And the board plans to meet at 7 pm Wednesday, June 4, at LCC, Building 19.

"I think the board is quite aware of the severity of the problems we face and the tremendous political pressure that will be brought to bear on it and on the Legislature," says Turner. "Our whole community is feeling anxious, victimized and fearful of the impact of our economy of their jobs and health insurance. As a community, we have had to put up with unfairness, uninsurance, inefficiency, delays and poor health results. Our supply of doctors is drying up. We see our money disappearing into a deep dark pit."

 

 

ELY BACK IN CONTEST

Eugene community activist and fundraiser Erin Ely is a finalist again in her campaign to raise seed money for an indoor Farmers' Market in Eugene. Ely has entered a national contest at www.ideablob.comand a link to her proposal can be found on the website's home page, where visitors can vote for her idea after free registration.

If Ely wins, she says she will donate the $10,000 prize to Willamette Farm and Food Coalition to facilitate public discussion of Farmers' Market options and to draft a preliminary presentation of two or three designs as well as a business plan.

Ely entered this competition two months ago with the idea for a permanent Farmers' Market for Eugene. She lost the contest by 20 votes and is trying again this month.?

 

 

OCF TICKETS NOW ON SALE

Tickets for the 2008 Oregon Country Fair are now available at TicketsWest outlets and online at www.ticketswest.com and www.oregoncountryfair.org.The OCF, now in its 39th year, runs from 11 am to 7 pm Friday through Sunday, July 11-13, at the OCF site near Veneta. All tickets must be purchased off-site through the TicketsWest system; no tickets will be sold at the fair.

The OCF brings three days filled with handmade crafts, international cuisine, and entertainment, including musicians, poets, hip-hop artists, jugglers, clowns, comics, magicians and live circus performances on several vaudeville stages. More than 350 craft and food booths are planned this year.

The voluntary $1 "green ticket" contribution that began last year continues this year in order to promote projects that reduce the Fair's carbon footprint. Green tickets will fund carbon sequestering or carbon reducing fair projects that will move the fair closer to its goal of becoming climate neutral.

Advance ticket prices are a few bucks higher this year: $18 for Friday, $21 for Saturday and $18 for Sunday. Tickets for all three days are $48. Children under 10 are free, and discounts are available for those who are over 65 or alter-abled.

 

ACTIVIST ALERT

Pete Sorenson

• The May Brewhaha political forum is set for 6 pm Wednesday, May 28, at Sam Bond's Garage, 407 Blair in Eugene. The topic is "Spring Cleaning: Dusting off Democracy" and will include discussion of the Citizen Initiative Review Project and Voter Owned Oregon. Presenters will include members of Healthy Democracy and Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson. The May forum is at a different location due to a scheduling conflict.

 

 

WAR DEAD

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

• 4,079 U.S. troops killed* (4,071)

• 29,978 U.S. troops injured* (29,395)

• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)

• 312 coalition troops killed** (312)

• 1,123 contractors killed (accurate updates NA)

• 91,460 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (91,094)

• $520.9 billion cost of war ($518.9 billion)

• $148.1 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($147.6 million)

* through May 19 2008; 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 DEADLINE

EW offices will be closed Monday, May 26, for Memorial Day. Early deadline for reserving display advertising space for our May 29 issue will be 5 pm Thursday, May 22. Questions? Call 484-0519.

 

 

 

 

SLANT

• Pivotal races for Eugene mayor and county commission appear headed for a runoff in November.

In unofficial final results, candidates in both races failed to cross the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. Mayor Kitty Piercy led Jim Torrey 48.4 percent to 47.8 percent. Rob Handy led County Commissioner Bobby Green 48.7 percent to 44.9 percent.

The most important election here was not Barack Obama. He'd already sewn up the state and the Democratic nomination for President. The most important races were a battle for control of local government between pro-sprawl developers, represented by Torrey and Green and pro-livability environmentalists, represented by Piercy and Handy.

A November runoff could favor conservatives Torrey and Green. Republican turnout will be higher in November. Torrey and Green will be able to tap deeper developer pockets for an extended campaign.

Already developer, gravel pit and construction interests have stuffed Torrey's pockets with a quarter million dollars, outspending Piercy two to one. Will developers spend a half million dollars by November to buy the mayor's race?

To win, Piercy will have to run a more aggressive campaign. From early returns, it appears that perhaps a thousand Obama voters didn't bother to vote in the mayor's race. Piercy needs to educate new voters on campus that Torrey is a pro-Bush closet Republican.

She will also need to fight biased news coverage in The Register-Guard, which gets parroted back by local radio and TV news. The R-G downplayed Torrey's developer money and Republican background and ran a string of negative stories in the days before the election.

Handy faces many of the same obstacles as Piercy. He won't be able to sneak up on Green now that development interests know that their profitable grip on county government is in peril. Handy may be in slightly better position as he holds a 4 percentage point lead and is more likely to capture the 6 percent of votes that went to minor candidates.

We're happy to see that Eugene City Councilor Andrea Ortiz trounced John Crane despite being massively outspent by developer interests.

The election of three more progressive EWEB board members should serve as a jolt to the public utility. This city won't tolerate wanton development of the riverfront or rates that favor corporations over citizens.

At the state level, we hope that the election of John Kroger will shake up the Attorney General's office to work as the people's advocate rather than the corporate lawyer for the state bureaucracy.

Getting back to Barack Obama: His solid victory here gave Oregon — one of the whitest states in the nation — an international reputation for racial tolerance that will serve it well.

Little mistake, maybe. The Sunday, May 11, issue of the national summer arts calendar in The New York Times offered one Oregon listing: "Oregon Bach Festival. Portland, June 27-July 13." That's probably what happens when the festival opens in Portland, as it does this year, partly because of the Olympic Trials and partly because of the prospect of deeper pockets in the big city. But it is a wee alert to all of us who love the festival right here in Eugene where Royce Saltzman and Helmuth Rilling started and nurtured it. Bach belongs to Eugene, from beginning to end.

Wink & Kink is our popular new packaging of the personals ads we've been running for 25 years. We've gotten several complaints about the content, but nothing in the ads has really changed. Only the name is different, and people looking to connect can now self-select whether their interests fall into the conventional "Wink" or less inhibited "Kink" categories. Our human urge to merge expresses itself in a thousand variations. And some folks are reserved and refined in seeking connection, while others are blunt and get straight to the point. Not all the Wink & Kink ads from our website go in print. We try to spare our print readers from ads that are gratuitously explicit.

Worried about kids reading our personals or Savage Love? Most children under about 12 just aren't interested. In the teen years, kids are very interested, even obsessed. This is a good age for parents and kids to engage in frank and nonjudgmental discussions about sex and sexuality. You might be surprised at how much they know — and how much bad information they have picked up from other kids.

China's earthquake followed Myanmar's cyclone which followed a quake in Pakistan and a string of other catastrophes around the globe. Ironically, the more death and destruction we see on TV and read about in newspapers, the less money we are inclined to give to charitable relief organizations. Lisa Tolin of AP calls it "disaster fatigue," being overwhelmed by never-ending and seemingly hopeless crisis, on top of our own economic worries. But we who have resources and are not living under plastic sheets in the rubble can make a difference, even save lives. We urge everyone who can to donate to a reputable organization such as Direct Relief International (www.directrelief.org),which distributes aid where it's most needed and can be used most effectively.

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

 

 

GENE CHISM

The youngest of six kids from a single-parent household in Riverside, Calif., Gene Chism was the first in his family to earn a college degree. "I wanted to go to school away from home," says Chism, who moved to Eugene. "It was all about having fun." It was three years after college, in 2000, that Chism got serious about education. "I got a job as an educational assistant at Springfield Middle School," he says. "In my second year, I worked with special-needs children. I felt a calling to teach them." In his third year, Chism was hired as multicultural liaison to three Springfield middle schools. He developed an after-school program called FACES (Freely Accepting the Culture of Every Student), "It's my vision of using unconventional teaching to reach students," he says. "Everyone has a love of music and dance." For five years, Chism has put on a RED (Respecting Everyone's Differences) Day at the three schools, featuring food, crafts, music and speakers representing many cultures around the world. Also back in school at the UO since '05, Chism will finish a master's in special education next spring.