News Briefs: Taser Witnesses Want Criminal Investigation | County Crime Dropped | Eugene Soldier's Court Martial Looms Closer | City’s Biggest Tax Increase | Piercy Leads Fight Against Warming | SLUG Trail 08 | Take a Fish for a Hike | Market Inside Tango Center | War Dead | Activist Alert |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Elephants on the Track
At the Trials, large questions go unanswered
Cancer and Chemicals
Lane County’s links between breast cancer and pesticide spray
Happening Person: Hilary Anthony
TASER WITNESSES WANT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Three witnesses to the May 30 Tasering of anti-pesticide activist and UO student Ian Van Ornum have submitted a formal request for a criminal investigation into whether the use of force by Eugene police officers “constitutes the crimes of assault, harassment and other crimes.”
The criminal complaint alleges that Van Ornum was physically injured and suffered a concussion due to the unjustified police use of force, which has caused him “possibly protracted impairment of health.”
The complaint letter against EPD officers Jud Warden and Bill Solesbee was drafted with the assitance of local attorney Brian Michaels and sent to Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers, Lane County District Attorney Douglas Harcleroad, Mayor Kitty Piercy, Police Auditor Cristina Beamud and EPD Internal Affairs Sgt. Scott McKee. The witnesses are Samantha Chirillo, Josh Schlossberg and Amy Pincus Merwin.
The complainants specifically request the investigation be conducted by someone outside the EPD and district attorney’s offices, citing actions and statements by the police and DA that “reveal their bias towards the officers and reflect an inability to be fair and impartial.”
Harcleroad and McKee have come under fire lately for McKee’s dual role as an investigator both for the grand jury inquiry into possibly felony charges against Van Ornum and other protesters, as well as working as an Internal Affairs officer investigating complaints against the police.
The three witnesses allege that their complaint is based on four main points drawn from the officers’ own official reports: The officers dragged Van Ornum by his hair and used a “hair hold take down,” which has a “high potential to inflict serious physical injury to the subject’s neck and spine.” Officer Warden used his Taser on Van Ornum while he was already prone on the ground and according to the reports, his resistance was “active but not combative.” There were two other officers nearby who could have assisted Warden and Solesbee if they needed help restraining Van Ornum. Deploying a Taser, alleges the letter of complaint, “under the totality of circumstances, constituted an unjustified use of force.”
Witness Schlossberg has previously said it was “800 pounds of cop versus 150 pounds of hippie.”
Finally, the complaint says the Taser was deployed again while Van Ornum was on the ground with his right, handcuffed wrist behind his back and unable to comply with officers due to the first Tasering, also “an unjustified use of force.” — Camilla Mortensen
COUNTY CRIME DROPPED
Lane County has been complaining that it must drastically increase the number of beds in its jail for more than a decade, lately arguing that it needs a ten fold increase to 1,500 beds.
But while so many criminals were supposedly running free, the crime rate in Lane County has been falling, not increasing, according to a Regional Trends report released last month by the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG). The report shows person, property and behavior crime rates all fell between 1991 and 2005 (see chart). From 1997 to 2005, crime rates fell substantially during the time the county was complaining loudly that a lack of jail and law enforcement funding was making the county unsafe.
Adding unneeded jail beds could be a costly mistake for taxpayers. Each jail bed can cost more than $30,000 a year to operate and more than $100,000 to build. — Alan Pittman
EUGENE SOLDIER’S COURT MARTIAL LOOMS CLOSER
Eugene soldier James Burmeister (EW 5/22) faces a special court martial on July 16 at Ft. Knox, Ky., for desertion from fighting in Iraq. Burmeister’s assignments included participating in “bait and kill teams.” The teams lured Iraqis often unarmed and sometimes Iraqi children out to be shot. Burmeister said he was unable to bring himself to continue to participate in what he saw as war crimes and went AWOL.
For leaving the military, Burmeister said he is threatened with prison, dishonorable discharge and loss of veterans’ benefits for his post-traumatic stress disorder and for the effects of a brain injury from a roadside bomb.
Jack Dresser and Gordon Sturrock of Veterans For Peace and Squadron13.com posted a video statement on YouTube on July 4 in support of Burmeister. They chose to speak out rather than observe the traditional fireworks, they said. “As Veterans for Peace we reject these simulations of war, which should not be used to celebrate or represent our country.”
Burmeister discussed the “bait and kill teams” with the CBC news in Canada months before their existence was confirmed in a September 2007 Washington Post story. Dresser and Sturrock say, “As a whistleblower, Burmeister deserves our gratitude and support in restoring the rule of law to our country.”
Burmeister’s attorney has requested a discharge in lieu of a court martial, and his supporters hope that media and public attention to the case will persuade the Army to give Burmeister the discharge.
They are asking people to call the Fort Knox Public Affairs Office (502) 624-7451 and request that Burmeister be released immediately, and write or call Peter DeFazio, asking him to show that he supports fair treatment for all soldiers: Congressman Peter DeFazio, 405 East 8th Avenue, #2030, Eugene, Oregon 97401; 465-6732. — Camilla Mortensen
CITY'S BIGGEST TAX INCREASE
On July 16 the Eugene City Council plans to discuss the largest tax increase in the city’s history, a $81-million property tax, to fix potholes.
The council appears headed toward referring the tax to voters, but the tax doesn’t appear likely to pass. A more modest gas tax for potholes, more directly related to road use was shot down last year with 56 percent opposed. A city survey last year showed that a property tax for potholes would also likely fail.
But the Eugene Chamber of Commerce has pushed the property tax as a replacement for a tax that would count parking spaces or estimate vehicle trips so that big box retailers would pay more of their fair share for inducing road use and wear.
The city has not considered an apparently fairer approach that would use available data to calculate a truck impact fee for local businesses, industry and construction companies. Studies show that almost all road damage is caused by heavy trucks, not cars. Matt Rodrigues, the city’s pothole manager, told a Register-Guard columnist last month, “Cars have little to do with the damage inflicted on streets ... It’s all about trucks and buses.” — Alan Pittman
PIERCY LEADS FIGHT AGAINST WARMING
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy spearheaded an effort to fight global warming at the U.S. Conference of mayors last month in Miami, Fla.
Piercy submitted a successful resolution calling for cities to oppose the purchase of high-pollution fuel from tar sands, liquid coal, oil shale and other unconventional sources, according to a city press release.
With oil prices at more than $140 a barrel, corporations are looking to unconventional sources for fuel that were previously cost prohibitive. But extracting fuel from such sources requires much more processing, resulting in emissions two to five times higher than conventional oil.
“We don’t want to spend taxpayer dollars on fuels that make global warming worse,” Piercy said.
The resolution also calls for federal and state guidelines for tracking the origin of various types of fuel so cities will know what they are buying.
In the absence of federal action by the Bush Administration, cities have become leaders in calling for action on climate change. More than 850 mayors across the country, including Piercy, have adopted goals to reduce carbon emissions in their cities.
“There is incredible public momentum for energy innovation,” said Piercy. “Our cities are asking for environmentally sustainable energy and not fuels from dirty sources such as tar sands.” — Alan Pittman
SLUG TRAIL 08
How about a scoop of slug ice cream? Or a slug latte?
To celebrate a quarter century of S.L.U.G. Queens at the Eugene Celebration, local businesses have put together a Slug Trail 2008 of slug-themed goodies, art and products for August 15-22.
Wandering Goat will offer a special Royal Slug Queen Coffee Blend; Prince Pücklers plans a Slug Queen ice cream flavor; Adam’s Place will have Slug Sliders; New Zone Gallery whimsical slug art and slug-themed goodies will come from Hideaway Bakery, Sweet Life, Divine Cupcakes and Marché Provisions, according to organizer Constance Van Flandern.
Van Flandern says she came up with the Slug Trail idea when she was thinking about bribing judges with slug ice cream in her bid for the 2008 S.L.U.G. Queen crown. For more information go to the slugqueeneugene.com website. — Alan Pittman
TAKE A FISH FOR A HIKE
Looking for an excuse to leave the hot city streets of Eugene behind and hit the backcountry? Well, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) would love it if you’d take a hike on July 19 or 26 and toss some trout in your backpack when you go.
ODFW stocks lakes in the Mt. Washington Wilderness, Three Sisters Wilderness, Waldo Lake Wilderness, Diamond Peak Wilderness and on U.S. Forest Service Land with trout fingerlings in hopes they’ll grow up into big fish. Yes, many fishermen and women do eat the trout when they catch them as full-grown fishies, so this may not be the ideal hike for vegetarians and vegans.
If you are up for hitting the trail with a pack full of native-Nemos, you’ll need your own transportation, a backpack (bigger is better says ODFW) and of course all the appropriate water, clothes and mosquito repellant. Be prepared to carry all the supplies the fish need, like water and ice to keep them cool. ODFW calls this “a great family experience” and says that some of the hikes are even good for those with not much outdoor experience. ODFW provides a map.
Volunteers can pick the lakes they want to hike to or you’ll be assigned “to a lake that best fits your vehicle, ability and experience.”
If you’re interested in hiking with the fishes, contact Erik Moberly with your name, phone, email and mailing address at Erik.R.Moberly@state.or.us or 726-3515, ext. 28. — Camilla Mortensen
MARKET INSIDE TANGO CENTER
A new initiative has been launched inside the Tango Center at 194 W. Broadway. It’s called The Weekday Market, and Tango Center director Greg Bryant describes it as “an 8,000 sq. ft. vendor market, service market, café, performance space, teaching/ workshop space, workspace-showcase space and local micro-entrepreneur networking space.”
The market will operate from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, and at night the space will continue to be used for dancing and other activities.
There’s not enough happening during the day on West Broadway,” says Bryant. “We’ve been telling people that vendors’ markets, such as Eugene’s Saturday Market, can resolve this problem. We could fill all the empty buildings downtown with local-product markets of different types.”
The historic building was Eugene’s indoor Public Market in the 1920s, and is currently owned by developers Connor & Woolley.
The new market already has “espresso and Wi-Fi and fascinating people,” says Bryant, and is looking for local vendors, service providers, performers, teachers and entrepreneurs. Go to the weekdaymarket.org website for information.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003
(last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,114 U.S. troops killed* (4,113)
• 29,978 U.S. troops injured* (29,978)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (313)
• 1,123 contractors killed
(accurate updates NA)
• 93,585 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (92,871)
• $534.7 billion cost of war
• $152.1 million cost to
* through July 7, 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.
• The City Council will talk about proposals to fill the Sears pit on Monday, July 14, at 5:30 pm in the City Hall McNutt Room (see Slant).
• The City Council may vote to give away a bunch of controversial tax breaks to developers at its 7:30 pm meeting Monday, July 14, in the City Hall Council Chambers. The city also plans to vote at the meeting on a controversial ordinance to weaken density rules downtown.
• The City Council will meet with the County Commission and Springfield Council to discuss interjurisdictional priorities on Tuesday, July 15, at noon in the McNutt room. In the past Eugene has prioritized livability and the environment while the county and Springfield have prioritized jails, freeways and urban sprawl.
• Let the debate begin! After the great events of the last two weeks, the track world is musing the possibility of Eugene becoming the permanent site of the U.S. Olympic Trials. Already Oregonian columnist Steve Duin not surprisingly has offered his view that if “that is the city’s (and the university’s and the shoe company’s ) goal, it must be purposeful in fine-tuning the 2012 event so that it celebrates a sport that is still bigger, believe it or not, than the city, school and sneaker maker.” Anybody detect a little envy there? An astute local observer once said that Eugene does two things really well — track and Bach. Portland has nothing comparable to either. Anybody detect a little puffed up pride there? We come away from Eugene 08 with only a few tough questions for the brilliant problem-solvers who put it all on: Is there any way to bring more people of color to the audience? Is it possible to steer more business to local restaurants who added staff and supplies but didn’t add customers? Thanks for the big TVs, but is it possible to make tickets more affordable so more regular Eugene folks can actually get in the stadium? To sum it up, we quote the visitor from D.C., more a fan of sailing than running, who offered his take on the permanent site question after only one day at Hayward Field, “How could this show be any other place? It’s perfect right here.”
• The city is lucky to have five proposals to fill the Sears pit. Kudos to the City Council for pressing ahead to ask for proposals to fill the pit over city staff objections. The two leading candidates appear to be a proposal by Portland-based Opus to build a six-story student apartment building and a proposal by local developer WG to build a five-story office/apartment mix. Either would be great for downtown. Opus would infuse the area with almost 500 students, creating a boom for street life and downtown businesses. Opus said the market is strong for the project, it has the money and it will build it right away. Can any developer promise that in this economy? The best elements of the WG proposal are the superior design and the “quasi-public plaza” it offers facing the library, although exactly what that means will have to be clarified. WG also says it wants the land for free from the city, whereas Opus says it will pay about $500,000. We favor the city giving WG the first shot at this important project, while setting a deadline to confirm and sign a deal. If WG fails to do that, on to number two, Opus. If either of these two don’t pan out, the city should quickly fall back to the other three proposals — a hip hotel, a green housing transit center or an energy village, community/housing center. We also like the idea of a city park and underground parking, or even filling the pit with leaf compost for a community garden. Nearly anything would be better than the pit. Fill it now.
• Not to beat a dead horse, but what’s up with the mainstream media in this town? EW had the scoop on the whole Homeland Security targeting local activists story (EW 6/26) for a good week before anyone else decided it was news. People all over town were talking about the feds’ part in the Tasering for days before the R-G and KVAL realized there was a story there — that’s despite getting the press release that rally participant (and arrestee) Day Owen sent out after EW ran our “Big Brother” story. Even KLCC decided to wait until the R-G had the news — quoting the R-G’s article rather than use the EW’s news tip or protester press release. Maybe they were distracted. Local activist Josh Schlossberg quipped, “Homeland Security orchestrating arrests of protesters? Ho hum. Grand Jury convenes in Eugene? Boring ... Next! People running around a track in circles? Now that’s news! Tell me more!”
• If the county is so hard up for money, why is DA Doug Harcleroad making the investigation of pesticide protesters at the recent EPD Taser incident a top priority? Why is the city giving the county millions of dollars for such spurious law enforcement priorities. The DA seems focused more on intimidating people who complain about police abuse than on public safety. Next time the county says it can’t prosecute a car thief or burglar because of a lack of resources, think of all the time it lavished on prosecuting protesters.
•Why did the city have to pay the county for pothole money from the road fund while Springfield got millions from the road fund for a parkway to subsidize sprawl for free? Eugene elected officials should demand an answer to this question at an upcoming interjurisdictional meeting next week. Every time the county complains of releasing another inmate from the county jail, voters should think about the millions the county wasted on the Rob Straub freeway to subsidize developers.
In 1982, only two months after arriving in Eugene with a couple of friends from Florida, Hilary Anthony got a pass to her first Oregon Country Fair. “I was buying produce for Growers Market,” she recalls. “They sent me to a meeting, and I ended up coordinating a booth on local self-reliance in Community Village.” An avid juggler, Anthony organized juggling workshops and demos in Community Village for the following 10 years. But work in Eugene was hard to find, so for two years she went back to school in Florida (returning for the Fair in July) to get a degree in accounting. In the early '90s, she agreed to serve as treasurer for the OCF, a job she still shares with Steve Gorham. “He organizes the budgets, and I do the financial reporting,” she explains. Anthony also coordinates Chela Mela Meadow, which has been a center for kids’ activities since 1997, and such participatory venues as the Dharma Garden for Yoga practice and the Yes You Canopy for jugglers. “I love the Fair. It’s my major volunteer activity,” she says. “The friendships are rewarding and the shared vision of community feels healthy and positive to me.”