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Eugene Weekly : News : 9.25.08





News Briefs: Smith Trained Latino Workers Only in English | WCC Backs Auditor Measure | Diablo & the Dog Whisperer | Take a Kid Mountain Biking | Help Needed for Haiti | Big Win for Mentoring Program | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

News:

Leave No CEO Behind

Big bailout sparks calls for accountability

Happening Person: Chip Kiger




SMITH TRAINED LATINO WORKERS ONLY IN ENGLISH

Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith told Project Vote Smart that he supports efforts to “establish English as the official national language” and would “support harsher financial punishments for those who knowingly employ illegal immigrants.”

But a 1998 OSHA report investigating a serious forklift accident alleged that at Smith’s frozen food factory, “nearly all of the safety and health information provided is in English, yet nearly 80 percent of all employees are Spanish speaking.”

Smith, in the midst of a tough re-election fight, has vehemently denied decades of allegations and evidence that he has exploited undocumented workers at his factory near Pendleton (see last week’s cover story).

The OSHA documents, released by the Oregon Democratic Party this week, allege that at Smith Frozen Foods “there is no system in place to ensure Spanish-speaking employees are comprehending the safety and health information provided to them.” The OSHA documents cited interviews with a dozen Smith employees, 10 workers with Hispanic surnames and two managers with Anglo-Saxon surnames.

OSHA was investigating an accident in which two Latino workers without helmets fell 20 feet from a basket attached to a forklift that tipped over on a hill. One worker was rushed to a local hospital, another flown to OHSU by helicopter ambulance.

OSHA fined the Smith factory $5,000 for one repeat and three serious violations of safety and training rules. OSHA found that only 33 of the 109 employees operating forklifts were trained to safely operate them. The inspectors found that “out of the 548 Spanish-speaking employees, there are only two [bilingual] supervisors who can effectively communicate with them. This is approximately 274 employees per supervisor.”

OSHA found that safety training is given in English only by “clerical staff who have no background in safety and health.”

In 1986 INS investigators described Smith’s factory workforce as “mostly illegal.” In 1995 arrest records indicated two Smith workers were referred to the INS for deportation. The Eugene Weekly and The Register-Guard reported on this and other undocumented worker evidence in 1996. This month Willamette Week reported that dozens of interviews and documents provide “ample evidence to suggest that the hiring of illegal workers is a regular fact of life at Smith’s operation.”  —Alan Pittman




WCC BACKS AUDITOR MEASURE

The Whiteaker Community Council at its Sept. 17 meeting voted 7-0, with two abstaining, to endorse Ballot Measure 20-146. The Eugene charter amendment strengthens the language in the earlier charter amendment allowing the city to have an independent police auditor and Civilian Review Board. 

The new measure, if it passes, assures that the city will have an independent auditor in the future. The auditor position and its independence from the city manager have been under attack by the police union, conservative city councilors and mayoral candidate Jim Torrey.

The board did not include reasons with the decision.  

Speaking not for the WCC, but only as an individual, community activist Majeska Seese Green says the endorsement was a “no-brainer” since WCC “has for so many years previously supported and worked for the strongest possible independent police review.”

She said the vote count in the Whiteaker neighborhood for the original ballot measure “confirmed that a strong majority in the neighborhood support independent police review.”

 The topic is expected to come up at the WCC’s general meeting at 7 pm Wednesday, Oct. 8, at the Whiteaker Community Center, at Clark and North Jackson streets. The meeting will include a mayoral candidates forum with Mayor Kitty Piercy and challenger Jim Torrey and will focus on development and police issues, particularly as related to Whiteaker and its future.  

Supporters of the measure now have a website (www.yeson20-146.org), and contributions can be sent to Coalition to Strengthen Police and Community Trust — Yes on 20-146, 1430 Willamette St. #234, Eugene 97401. 




DIABLO & THE DOG WHISPERER

Diablo and his peeps

Diablo, the baddest Chihuahua ever to set paw in Lane County (see EW 8/28), has found a new home with a member of the Dog Whisperer’s staff. The pint-sized pup has gone from a feral stray slated for euthanasia at Lane County Animal Services due to his behavioral problems to a sleek pooch partying with celebrities on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Liesl Wilhardt, executive director of Luv-a-Bull Pit Bull Rescue, who took Diablo in and tried to rehabilitate him, went to visit the dog at his new home in Hollywood. She says, “He wouldn’t stop kissing me. Then he turned and growled at everyone around us. I think he thinks he needs to protect me.”

Wilhardt called in Cesar Millan after Diablo’s issues began to prove too much for the pit bull rescue to handle, and Millan took the dog back to his Dog Psychology Center for continued rehabilitation. The episode, filmed here in Eugene, will be aired later this season.

Since being adopted by a member of Millan’s staff, Diablo has spent his time traveling around the country with the crew filming the popular National Geographic Channel series, hanging out with his new dad’s elderly Labrador retriever and sleeping under the covers at night with his new owner to keep warm. 

Wilhardt was reunited with Diablo at the Dog Whisperer’s swank party celebrating the show’s 100th episode last week.  — Camilla Mortensen




TAKE A KID MOUNTAIN BIKING

Oct. 4 is Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day in Lane County, offering adults an opportunity to “get kids off the couch, off the streets, and into the wild,” according to organizer John Herberg.

The event is in association with the International Mountain Bike Association and the local Center for Appropriate Technology (CAT). 

Trips for Kids-CAT is a local non-profit that provides outdoor experiences for youth who otherwise don’t get a chance for such activities. The group provides transportation, bikes, helmets, food and water.

Herberg says creating a passion for mountain biking, fostering an appreciation for the natural world and promoting personal fitness and a healthy lifestyle are “just a few of the benefits to participating youth. There are just so many negative influences out there. It’s important to provide kids with fun, healthy alternatives.”

Herberg quotes one of the earlier participants in the activity, Eli, age 17, as saying, “Throughout the whole trip I was amazed at the beauty of the path and its surrounding area. I was quite happy with myself. On and on we pressed forward, over hills and down again, through the canopies made by trees and through fields. I would have to say it was a brilliant ride if there ever was one.” 

For more information, contact Herberg at 344-6892 or trips4kids@catoregon.org or www.catoregon.org




HELP NEEDED FOR HAITI

Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike this past month all hit Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Hanna left the towns of Gonaives and Les Cayes underwater. According to Sen. Yuri Latortue, who represents Gonaives, as of last week there were 200,000 people who had not eaten in three days because of the hurricanes. Updated information and donation links are at www.konpay.org or checks can be sent to Haiti KONPAY, 7 Wall Street, Gloucester, MA 01930. 

According to retired Eugene attorney Robert Roth, Haiti’s largest union, the Confédération des Travailleurs Haitiens (CTH), is also organizing and distributing aid to its affiliates and their families and communities. CTH has been rebuilding since a U.S.-sponsored coup in 2004 overthrew Haiti’s elected government, says Roth. According to the Campaign for Labor Rights (CLR), the coup was led by groups funded and trained by the International Republican Institute, whose board is chaired by John McCain. “CTH members were targeted because of their support for Haitian democracy and opposition to foreign intervention, but the CTH continues today to fight against privatization in Haiti and for workers’ rights,” says Roth. CLR is collecting funds for the CTH to distribute to union sisters and brothers and their families for hurricane relief.

Tax-deductible contributions may be made at www.nicanet.org/?page_id=341; click on “Other” and type in Haitian Hurricane Relief, or send a check or money order payable to the Campaign for Labor Rights, with Haitian Workers Hurricane Relief Fund in the memo line, to Campaign for Labor Rights, Haitian Workers Hurricane Relief Fund, 1247 E Street SE, Washington, D.C. 20003.

MADRE, a New York-based human rights group, is also working on disaster relief with one of its sister organizations in Haiti. Go to madre.org/index.html and to donate, click on “Emergency in Haiti.”  Or send a check to Madre, Haiti Hurricane Emergency, 121 West 27th Street #301, New York, NY 10001.

Roth says another group working on the ground in Haiti that is soliciting donations is Partners In Health, 641 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115. For more and updated information go to www.pih.org/home.html 




BIG WIN FOR MENTORING PROGRAM

Eugene’s Committed Partners for Youth was awarded as the “Oregon Mentoring Program of the Year” at a ceremony in Portland last week with Oregon secretary of state candidate Sen. Kate Brown and Greg Oden of the Portland Trail Blazers among the award presenters.

Founded in 1991 by Llew Wells, a local mother and psychologist, Committed Partners for Youth was designed to enhance youth development with proper mentoring from adult volunteers. Wells was struggling with the challenges of adolescence in her own children and needed a way to make a difference in their lives. Ultimately, Wells made it her mission to create CPY, a local nonprofit mentoring agency serving ages 6-17. 

 “All of our mentors start the relationship wanting to give back to the child. Our mentors walk away with a better understanding of the complexity of the issues facing children and families today,” says Susie Walsh, executive director of CPY.

“Maximizing our collaborative relationships with other organizations, in particular Big Brother Big Sister,” is one of the agency’s main goals says Walsh. She also says that right now is the biggest season for recruiting mentors.

Earlier this year, CPY received two national Mentoring Excellence Awards from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration of Children and Families and also gained national recognition at the 2008 Helping America’s Youth conference in Portland.

“We have been working tremendously hard to be the best mentoring program in the state and the nation,” says Walsh. “We have such an unbelievably dedicated staff and board. We have successfully created a sense of family.”

For more information, visit www.committedpartners.org — Courtney Jacobs




ACTIVIST ALERT

• A public hearing on a potential sewer rate increase will be at 8 am Thursday, Sep. 25, at Springfield City Hall, Library Meeting Room. The rate hike would affect Eugene-Springfield residents who pay for wastewater services. The Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission (www.mwmcpartners.org) is implementing a $200 million capital improvement program “to meet regulatory requirements and to ensure protection of public health and the environment.”

• The statewide Big Look Task Force is planning a meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 pm Friday, Sept. 26, at LCC’s Center for Meeting and Learning. The group is seeking public input on a series of proposed changes to Oregon’s land use laws, including some weakening of regulations that protect farmlands, forests and natural resources. See www.OregonBigLook.org for more info and a public opinion survey.

Bill Sizemore’s Measure 58 proposal to restrict bilingual education in public schools will be the subject of a free forum at 1 pm Friday, Sept. 26, at the UO School of Law, room 175. Invited speakers include Sizemore or his designee; Alejandra Favela of Lewis and Clark College; Steve Bender, a UO law professor; Paco Furlan, principal of a local elementary school; and Marcia Koenig of the Lane Migrant Education Program. 

• The Klamath Basin and its wildlife are the subjects of an Oregon Wild presentation at 6:30 pm Wednesday, Oct. 1, at the Eugene Public Library Tykeson Room. Noted nature photographer Brett Cole’s images of the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge will be shown and Oregon Wild Klamath Campaign Coordinator Ani Kame’enui will be the guide.

• A public hearing on the UO basketball arena conditional use permit is coming up at 5 pm Tuesday, Oct. 7, at the City Council Chambers at City Hall. Comments can also be sent to steve.p.ochs@ci.eugene.or.us

• The Civil Liberties Defense Center holds its rescheduled Wine, Whimsy and Willpower wine bottling and corking fundraiser at Rainsong Vineyards at 6 pm Friday, Sept. 26. Tickets for the event are still available ($75 per person, $120 a pair, $200 for four), with a 50 percent “do-gooder discount” for volunteers. The price includes three bottles of wine and transportation to the event. Contact the CLDC at 687-9180 or www.cldc.org for more information.




WAR DEAD

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

• 4,169 U.S. troops killed* (4,157)

• 30,642 U.S. troops injured* (30,642) 

• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)

• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)

• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)

• 95,640 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (94,782)

• $556.3 billion cost of war ($554.3 billion) 

• $158.2 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($157.6 million)

* through September 22, 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 1.1 million.




Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule

• Near Look Out Point: Strata Forestry (726-0845) will ground spray (hack and squirt) 118 acres with Arsenal (imazapyr — modified nicotine) and glyphosate herbicides near Look Out Point tributary for Giustina Resources Limited Partnership (485-1500) starting Sept. 26 (ODF #2008-771-55724). Call Marvin Vetter, Oregon Department of Forestry Stewardship Forester, at 726-3588.

Between January and August 2008, ODF received notification for herbicide spraying on nearly 67,000 acres of forest land in Lane County.

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




CORRECTIONS/CLARIFICATIONS

Regarding the number of police jobs created in Mayor Kitty Piercy’s time in office (referred to in our Slant column last week), Piercy says, “It is true that I was given the information from our budget documents that FTE for patrol for 2005 was 135.5 and for 2009 was 164.5. However that amounted to how the city accounts for various FTEs, and that has shifted and changed over time, according to Chief Lehner. The more accurate information was the total FTEs for the department, and that went from 320.7 in 2005 to 327 in 2009.” So by this calculation, 6.3 EPD positions have been added since Piercy took office. 

 

 

 

 

SLANT

• It was disappointing and disturbing to learn that members of the Eugene Police Employees’ Association voted “overwhelmingly” Sept. 16 to reelect discredited President Willy Edewaard and VP Erik Humphrey for two more years of leadership. Certainly these two police officers have redeeming qualities, but the union just blew a huge public relations opportunity. EPEA members could have rejected the unprofessional attitude these two have publicly expressed against elected officials and others in our community who are calling for police accountability and transparency. Hopefully other members of the union’s executive board — Rusty Foster, Tom Schulke, Randy Berger, Ali Anderson and Matt Lowen — will rein in future damaging public statements from Edewaard and Humphrey.

There’s not much information on the EPEA website (www.epea1971.com), but there is an address and phone number there, and in the phone book. People might want to send comments to the EPEA regarding its role in the fragile relationship between Eugene police and the residents who pay their salaries.

• The Eugene Police Department and DA continue to delay providing the police auditor and Civilian Review Board with the information needed to review complaints against police officers in the May 30 Taser incident. The chief’s rationale is that the cases against the protesters must run their course first, but that’s a judgment call, and we haven’t heard any justification for the delay. Let’s not forget the Lara/Magaña cases in which complaints against the two criminally abusive cops were ignored for six years before justice was served. The reason voters approved creating the independent police auditor function was to make sure such police obfuscation and delays would never happen again. Kudos to the mayor and CRB members for pushing the issue. They shouldn’t have to.

• It’s refreshing to hear a “good news” rumor, for a change. A reliable source tells us that talks continue positively to bring a solar production facility into the nearly deserted Hynix plant in west Eugene. If huge public subsidies are involved, and they probably are, we trust that City Manager Ruiz and our elected officials will bring the public in sooner rather than later. There should be lessons learned from the introduction of the Hyundai, later Hynix, plant to the public by officialdom. “It’s a done deal,” they told the public in the first announcement, citing a “memorandum of understanding” hashed out behind closed doors — a mistake never to be repeated, we hope.

Like to bike to work or school? Good for you, and keep it up. But oddly enough, the percentage of people who bike to work was actually higher 20 years ago when gas was a buck a gallon and we had fewer bike paths. What’s changed? More traffic, more sprawl, more congestion, more opportunities to get knocked off your Schwinn by someone in an SUV drinking a latte and chatting on a cell phone. 

Berkeley, Calif., is actively working to make biking and walking safer by separating traffic, and some folks on the Eugene Sustainability Commission are thinking we should do the same. Berkeley now has designated “bike boulevards,” mostly residential streets that make great corridors for bikers, walkers, rollerbladers and skateboarders to get around the city safely. The routes are clearly marked with oversized pavement arrows. Speed humps and other traffic calming features discourage and slow car traffic. Google “street films Berkeley” to watch an excellent video of how it works. 

Eugene built a good bike boulevard decades ago on a short stretch of Alder Street near the UO. But a recent north-south “bike boulevard” the city declared on Friendly and Monroe streets lacks the huge road stencils, fewer stop signs, protected bike areas, car barriers and diverters that make Berkeley’s system work. The city could try again with a real bike boulevard on 15th. The city should also narrow or take out a lane and/or remove parking on High Street to connect the Amazon Creek separated bike path all the way to the separated path system along the river. This would be a two-way, vital and safe link for commuters and biking families.

• Eugene’s S.L.U.G. Queen contest made the front page of the Wall Street Journal this week (Sept. 22), so we are now famous for track, Ducks, anarchists, old hippies, rain and gastropods. Not a bad mix.  

DriftBoatsforTruth.com is a new interactive Lane County political website that’s “fishing for truth” in the murky waters of Lane County. The “Old Drifter” who writes the content gleans material from EW, R-G and other sources, and adds his progressive spin. He leads off with a quote from George Orwell: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” 

What would your name be if Sarah and Todd Palin were your parents? We couldn’t resist David Harrington’s web-based “Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator,” creating “all-American names for our children.” See our staff listings on page 3 this week.

Donald Trump was on CNN this past weekend, talking to Larry King about the economy, saying our financial system is already too highly regulated. Leave it alone, he said. You can’t regulate away greed. Well, The Donald is wrong. He, his buddy John McCain and Gordon Smith have supported and praised our deregulated, laissez faire G.W. Bush economy for years and look what we’ve ended up with: an outrageous gap between the rich and poor, millions without health insurance; polluters, oil companies and Wall Street moguls pocketing billions; retirement plans on the rocks; and now a trillion dollars of debt needed to keep our financial system from meltdown. 

We’ve forgotten the FDR-era reforms that followed the stock market crash of 1929. The two Glass-Steagall Acts of the 1930s prohibited today’s structural conflicts of interest in the banking industry, the packaging and selling off of securitized credits, speculations, short-selling and other financial tricks dreamed up to make a quick buck without adding value. Bankers finally persuaded Republicans in Congress to repeal Glass-Steagall in 1999 (Democrats were overruled) and the evils of 1920s unregulated banking have returned; and this time the greed is powered by computers.

We’re not sure what a complete banking and credit meltdown would look like today, but it would be certain to be disastrous for the poorest among us, painful for the middle class, and further erode our critical standing in the global economy. Meanwhile, the corporate bastards and their lawyers who finagled us into this chaos are likely to follow the example of their Depression-era grandparents and jump out of skyscraper windows — this time with golden parachutes. 

And without re-regulation, it will happen all over again in a few years.



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 at eugeneweekly dot com

 

 

CHIP KIGER

The son of a government employee, Chip Kiger grew up in suburban northern Virginia. He studied psychology at UNC and then worked two years as a teacher’s aide, educating handicapped kids. “I enjoyed working with special-needs children,” says Kiger, who moved west in 1972 for a master’s program at the UO. He was hired by the Eugene School District 4J as a special-ed kindergarten teacher at Washington Elementary in 1977. “I also taught a resource-room program in the afternoon,” he says. “In the mid-’80s, I moved to full-time in the resource room.” Kiger worked at Washington (now demolished) until he retired in 2001. In retirement, he has found time to volunteer for numerous local agencies. “I currently volunteer at LCC adult basic ed, Lane County Kids First and Cascade Hospice,” he says. “I got into hospice volunteering in 2002, after four friends died within six months. It’s an opportunity to suspend your ego and focus on the needs of others.” Volunteers put in up to four hours per week, providing respite for caregivers and companionship for patients. Cascade Health Solutions will offer a free training program for volunteers on the weekend of Oct. 24-26. Details at cascadehealth.org