News Briefs: New Chief Ignored Magaña Complaint | Competing Measures | Police Lock Out Auditor | Teen Raises Africa Awareness | Going Electric | Register to Vote Now | Gastropod Slug-Fest | Activist Alert | War Dead | Commuting By Bicycle | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Greener Ventures: Uncommon Scents
Statements fly unchecked in mayor debates
Guns on Campus
School shootings are rare, but UO has had one
Socialism, sex and smorgasbord in Sweden
New Chief Ignored Magaña Complaint
New interim Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns ignored a woman’s complaint that officer Roger Magaña had sexually abused her, a victim alleged in Magaña’s criminal trial.
The prosecutor played a tape of the woman’s phone conversation with Det. Scott McKee at the 2004 trial. The woman alleged that Magaña forced oral sex from her on multiple occasions by threatening to arrest or shoot her.
The woman alleged she told then Lt. Pete Kerns and two other EPD officers of the sex abuse, but Kerns and the other officers did nothing.
“Why the hell didn’t they listen to me? That’s gravely offensive,” the woman told McKee on the tape.
“It’s disturbing to me,” McKee admitted.
“It’s absolutely horrendous,” the woman said. She compared it to police failing to investigate the Green River serial murders because they involved prostitutes.
Police Chief Robert Lehner refused to investigate and discipline other officers for failing to act on repeated complaints about Magaña’s abuse.
In a national investigation of officer sex abuse, The Philadelphia Inquirer asked Lehner why other Eugene officers weren’t held accountable. The newspaper wrote: “Mistakes were made, Lehner said, but he’s not sure that means anyone should be punished: ‘Do I go back and end [someone’s] career because of it?’“
Instead of investigating Kerns, Lehner promoted him last year to captain in charge of police patrol, the department’s largest unit.
On Oct. 6, City Manager Jon Ruiz announced that he had promoted Kerns to the city’s acting police chief after Lehner stepped down. The position could give Kerns an inside shot at the permanent job.
“Capt. Kerns is widely recognized for his integrity, operational expertise, effective leadership and for his longstanding and strong relationships with many aspects of our diverse community,” Ruiz said. “He will do an excellent job as Eugene’s police chief.”
Under Eugene’s City Charter, Ruiz has sole authority to select the city’s police chief although elected officials may comment on the selection in open session. The City Council hired Ruiz, an assistant city manager from Fresno, eight months ago. — Alan Pittman
Four organizations associated with the UO School of Law (The Portia Project, the American Constitution Society, the National Lawyers Guild and the Public Interest/Public Service Program) will cosponsor a public forum featuring Max Williams, director of the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC). The forum begins at 7 pm Tuesday, Oct. 14, at the law school in room 175. Williams, a former attorney and lawmaker, oversees the policies and practices of an agency that is responsible for the operation of 14 prisons housing 13,000 prisoners. The DOC has about 4,300 employees and a budget of more than $1 billion per biennium.
Williams will describe the work of the DOC and the impact that the passage of either of two competing ballot measures, Measure 57 or Measure 61, would have on Oregon’s prison population and the state’s budget. Each of these measures would significantly increase the total number of incarcerated persons, especially women, by lengthening the sentences meted out to those convicted of any of a number of nonviolent drug or property crimes. According to an analysis by The Oregonian, “Measures 57 and 61 would cost the state plenty: from $411 million to $797 million over the next five years and $314 million to $1.3 billion in prison construction debt.”
Police Lock Out Auditor
The Eugene Police Department changed its locks to prevent the police auditor’s key from working, according to the auditor.
“It’s true that I’m locked out,” said acting Police Auditor Dawn Reynolds when asked. “It seems strange to me.”
Under the police auditor system approved by voters and the City Council in the wake of police sex abuse scandals, the police auditor was given access to the department to review and monitor police complaints. “Under the ordinance, we’re supposed to have access to the files,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said a police captain informed her last week that her electronic key card would no longer work. She said the police captain told her she should never have had a pass key to begin with.
Reynolds said she left a message for City Manager Jon Ruiz about the lockout, but he did not respond. Ruiz also did not respond to messages for this story by press time.
In another matter, Reynolds said the police union has challenged her authority under the auditor ordinance to “actively monitor” internal investigations and “participate” in witness interviews.
In a letter from the union attorney and email from the union president, the police union argued that the auditor should not be able to provide suggestions on how to locate a witness.
Under the union contract, the auditor “cannot actively participate in the internal affairs investigations,” union attorney Rhonda Fenrich wrote to Reynolds. Fenrich said if it happened again, the union would file an official contract grievance.
Reynolds emailed the City Council that her reading of the ordinance is that the auditor is allowed to be more active in monitoring and participating. “If something starts to slip, or if something important has been overlooked, you step in and say something.” — Alan Pittman
TEEN RAISES AFRICA AWARENES
Rebekah Spencer tried many different activities in high school, but it wasn’t until she went to Africa that she became truly passionate about one pursuit.
After working with poverty- and disease-stricken children in Africa for a month this summer, Spencer, 18, couldn’t forget the experience. Now home in Cottage Grove, Spencer is working to raise money for some of the children she wasn’t able to help during her trip.
After graduating from Cottage Grove High School in the spring, Spencer traveled with some of her classmates through the organization Whole World Improved to the village of Mtakataka in Malawi, Africa.
Malawi is the poorest country in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. The people of Malawi struggle with food shortages, poor living conditions, AIDS and malaria. According to Whole World Improved, AIDS has orphaned 1 million Malawi children.
While Spencer was in Mtakataka, she worked as a classroom instructor and helped expand a village orphanage and open a feeding center. Due to a miscommunication, Spencer explained, 60 children initially showed up at the new feeding center even though the center had only 11 meals. Spencer noticed one child sharing his meal with a younger child who did not have a meal and was struggling not to cry. “Malawis are very proud,” she said. “It was heartbreaking.”
During her time in Malawi, Spencer said, she learned the individual stories and struggles of the children she worked with and grew committed to helping them. The children “have done nothing wrong but are living a life filled with famine and disease,” she said.
Spencer is now trying to raise money for the Whole World Improved Sponsorship Program, which allows participants to sponsor a Malawian child for $30 per month. The funds provide a child with a set of clothes, hygiene supplies, access to medical attention, a mosquito net to help prevent malaria and two meals a day. Without proper clothing, children are not permitted to attend school.
Spencer and former classmate Chantel Chambers, who also participated in the Malawi trip, are holding an Africa Awareness Meeting this week. During the meeting, Spencer and Chambers will present a slide show, give a speech about their trip and their current work, provide details about sponsoring a child and answer questions. The meeting will be held at 6 pm Saturday, Oct. 11, in the cafetorium of Cottage Grove High School, 1375 S. River Road.
For more information, contact Rebekah Spencer at email@example.com — Jessica Hirst
Eat dinner, watch some TV, brush your teeth and plug in your car: It really is as easy as it sounds. One big trend in the energy-efficient spectrum is alternative transportation, and Lane County, as usual, is interested.
The Lane County Energy Round-up, now in its third year, focuses on “Our Transportation Future: Electric Vehicles, Local Biofuels, Mass Transit? How can we prepare?” The forum features speakers and panelists talking about electric vehicles and answering questions.
The event is from 7 to 9:30 pm Thursday, Oct. 16, at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th St. Doors will open at 6 pm and admission is free. For more information visit www.oregonenergymodel.org
The keynote speaker is Paul Scott, president of Southern California Electric Vehicles Association and the co-founder of PlugInAmerica.org. He will speak on “The Case for Electric Cars.”
“People will walk away with the knowledge that this technology is completely viable,” says Scott.
According to Kathy Ging, director of the Lane County Round-up, the need is growing for information on electric vehicles and local biofuels. EWEB may need 10 to 20 percent more electricity to supply the technology transfer that could occur if roughly 50 percent of local gas-powered autos become electricity powered.
Scott spends $44 a year on electricity to power his car and home, and he estimates that by 2010 there will be a significant number of electric cars on the road. “Every single automobile industry is building electric cars. We’re going to get electric cars out there,” says Scott.
Also speaking at this year’s Round-up will be attorney Ilona Koleszar; Ian Hill, co-founder of SeQuential Biofuels; County Commissioner Pete Sorenson; Dr. Will Klausmeier, founder of SYLVATEX; Mike Hatten of Solarc Architecture and Engineering; and community activist Pamela Driscoll. — Courtney Jacobs
REGISTER TO VOTE NOW
The deadline to register for the Nov. 4 election is 5 pm Tuesday, Oct. 14. Ballots will be mailed beginning Oct. 17.
Have you moved? Ballots will not be forwarded. You must re-register at your new address. Re-registration is also required if you want to change your political party affiliation or have changed your name.
Registration is open to those 18 and older or 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before Nov. 4. Been in jail? If you served your time and have paid restitution, you may vote. If you live in Lane County, call the Lane County Elections Office at 682-4234 between 8 am and 5 pm weekdays.
In Florence, look for volunteers at the post office who will have voter registration forms and can answer any questions you may have. Forms are also available at DMV sites, libraries and online at www.lanecounty.org/election
Eugene’s new S.L.U.G. Queen Marie Slugtoinette is holding a contest (see News Briefs, 9/18) to see what other words the acronym S.L.U.G. could represent. Dave Taube of Eugene offers these in response: Slugs Like Ugly Guys. Shellless Legless Underfoot Grassdweller. Slimy Loathsome Ugly Gastropods. Slimy Loathsome Uber Gross. Slippery Lipless Underfoot Gastropods.
Writer Rick Levin came up with a bunch: Salt Leaves Us Gooey. Shapeless Legless Ubiquitous Goop. Showers Leave Us Gay. Somewhat Lascivious Urban Grime. Should Live Under Ground. Semi-Literate Uber-Goober. Sounds Like “UG.” Some Like Us Gastronomically. Stupid Libertarians Underestimate Greed. Shitty Legislation Undermines Geopolitics. Should Legalize Using Ganja. State Lottery Underscores Graft. Spineless Legless Undulate Gastropod. Sidney Lumet Understands Guilt.
Some anonymous entries that slipped under the EW door include: Sexy Little Under Garments. Sizemore Lurks Under Ground. Santa Loves Underage Gnomes. Senate Lacks Understanding of Greed. Sarah Lavishes Uninformed Generalizations. Sarah Lacks Understanding in General. Smith Lies Ubout Greencards.
Come on, people. Send some more. We’re just getting started.
• Nobel Peace Prize nominee Jeff Halper will speak at 7 pm Friday, Oct. 10, at United Lutheran Church, 2230 Washington in Eugene. Dr. Halper is director of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (www.icahd.org), which actively attempts to prevent destruction of Palestinian homes by the Israeli Defense Force, and failing that, works with a consortium of Israeli and Palestinian partners to quickly rebuild them. The lead sponsor for Halper’s Eugene appearance is the Al-Nakba Awareness Project. For information, call 513-3833.
• Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury will speak at a free energy law and policy symposium: “Living on a Finite Earth: Energy Law and Policy for a New Era.” The event is scheduled from 8 am to 4:30 pm Friday, Oct. 10, at the UO Knight Law Center, room 175, 1515 Agate St. The symposium will address energy technology and innovative energy policy through panel discussions and keynote presentations. Registration is required at www.law.uoregon.edu/org/jell/energy.php
• Willamalane Park and Recreation District and the Friends of Clearwater Park will hold a Clearwater Park Cleanup event from 11 am to 12:30 pm Saturday, Oct. 11, at the boat landing at Clearwater Park. Call 736-4544 for information.
• Bill Fletcher Jr., executive editor of BlackCommentator.com and a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, will be speaking at 7 pm Thursday, Oct. 16 at the Knight Law Center, room 110. His topic is “Can the Elections Really Shift Power for Working People?” Fletcher will examine what is at stake in the November elections, and how race and gender affect electoral politics. He has served in several positions in organized labor including assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO under John Sweeney.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,177 U.S. troops killed* (4,174)
• 30,680 U.S. troops injured* (30,662)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 96,262 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (95,866)
• $560.2 billion cost of war ($558.2 billion)
• $159.3 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($158.7 million)
* through Oct. 6, 2008; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** sources: icasualties.org, defenselink.mil
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.1 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
COMMUTING BY BICYCLE
A free workshop, “Commuting by Bike”, will be offered at noon Wednesday, Oct. 15, in the Tykeson Room at the Eugene Public Library. Participants are encouraged to bring their lunch and join in. The one-hour class will cover bike laws, bike safety, and tools and gear that a rider might consider for a successful commute by bike.
Free bike safety education classed will be offered periodically through the Greater Eugene Area Riders group (GEARs) in partnership with the City of Eugene Transportation Options program. Additional bike education classes can be found on the GEARs website at www.eugenegears.org
In last week’s Happening People feature, Alder Fuller is quoted regarding climate change saying, “We need to plan to adapt, rather than try to change it.” Fuller says he was misquoted, and his long-held position is: “We need to plan to adapt to climate change in addition to doing everything we can to slow it, even if it is almost certainly too late to stop it.”
• Where is our economy going? In our cover story this week, the savvy economists down at ECONorthwest provide a refreshingly clear view of this complex and constantly changing economic crisis. Even the experts don’t know what’s coming next in this “perfect storm” that’s rattling the foundations of our economy, but crises always stimulate learning, adapting and reevaluating what’s important in our lives. To quote a Unitarian minister we once knew, “Here comes an AFO — another fucking opportunity for personal growth.”
• Metal theft in our community continues to be a problem, and we’re pleased to hear that Mayor Kitty Piercy is taking an active role in trying to stop it. This is a tricky crime spree to solve since most of the wire and other metal stolen locally is sold in the Portland area or even out of state. Piercy and Councilor Andrea Ortiz have toured local recycling facilities, and Piercy says stopping the theft will require a coordinated effort by law enforcement, the Legislature, business, industry, utilities and recyclers. We expect she will announce a comprehensive plan soon. Some ideas she says need consideration would include bans on unauthorized beer keg recycling, requiring recyclers to get valid ID from metal sellers, paying for metal only by check, video monitoring of metal sales and rejection by recyclers of suspicious metals. Meanwhile, we hear the theft of vehicle catalytic converters is on the rise. What’s next?
• Judging by the op-eds and letters from police officers in The Register-Guard, we get the impression that the lesson these police officers learned from the Magaña/Lara sex abuse scandal wasn’t that the police need better supervision, integrity and oversight so officers aren’t going around raping women for years despite numerous complaints. No, the lesson in the mind of too many Eugene police officers was that they shouldn’t be under the control of the city’s Human Resources department and shouldn’t hire minorities. Shocking. Why do we pay to arm these people? Eugene’s city manager should hire a real police chief who will shake up the department to put citizens ahead of the police union.
• Eugene is getting national attention, for better or worse, nearly every week, and the latest news to cross our desk is the 2,500-word story on the Pacifica Forum in the fall newsletter of the Southern Poverty Law Center (splcenter.org). The Intelligence Report story delves into the history of the local group that meets on the UO campus and how it has changed over the years. “The group appears to have forsaken its left-wing origins and made a giant leap to the extreme right,” says author Sonia Scherr, citing a string of radical speakers. “Community activists fear that white supremacists are seizing control of the group and using it to recruit others to their cause.” In the article, Pacifica Forum founder Orval Etter defends the group and its mission to provide open discussion on controversial topics. But he also indicates a growing irritation with the barrage of criticism leveled at his group, saying, “The way Jews in this town have treated the forum, I must confess that I’m being impelled quite against my wishes to see in the Jewish community a lot of unsavory behavior. … So I’ve undergone a transformation somewhat in the direction of becoming an anti-Semite.”
• Cozmic Pizza was packed with hundreds of progressives in recent weeks to hear the presidential and VP debates. It’s great to see the political awareness. But locals should keep in mind that with Obama way ahead in Oregon polls, the really important votes, donations and volunteer work lie elsewhere. Jeff Merkley is in a tight fight to throw out Republican Gordon Smith and tip the U.S. Senate to Democrats. Local races could have an even greater impact here. Rob Handy is fighting a tough race to unseat conservative Bobby Green and swing county government to progressives. Mayor Kitty Piercy is fighting to keep her progressive agenda on track in face of a well-funded challenge by conservative Jim Torrey, who seeks to undo her good work.
• The Iraq War was back in the spotlight during the VP debate last week, and the presidential debate this week, after being ignored for months. We continue to run the “War Dead” box in our News Briefs section each week. We lost “only” three U.S. soldiers last week, and “only” 18 were seriously injured, so we can forget about the war, right? Well, 396 Iraqi civilians died in the ongoing violence, untold hundreds more were maimed and U.S. taxpayers spent another $2 billion last week to maintain our occupation.
Meanwhile, climate change and other huge environmental issues are getting minimal attention in the national debates. The major media apparently think we don’t care about the health and well-being of life on our planet.