Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening Person: Dan Plaster
Tax hits homes, won’t fix worst first
LCC’s Bond Measure
Aging campus would get modernized
Good and Evil
Do these words make sense in today’s world?
RUIZ WANTS TO GAG AUDITOR
The problem isn’t that the Eugene police auditor got locked out of the police department and is threatened with union legal action for doing her job. The problem, according to Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz, is that the auditor let the public know there is a problem.
|Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz|
After news came out last week about the lockout and union opposition in response to EW and R-G reporting, Ruiz emailed the City Council. He said he was “more concerned about” Auditor Dawn Reynolds’ “practice of elevating the auditor’s dissatisfaction with how City personnel are interacting with her to a front-page story.”
Ruiz claimed the auditor had not told him about the lockout before talking to the press. But in an interview Reynolds said she told Ruiz earlier, but he did not respond.
Contrary to Ruiz’s email, Reynolds did not initiate contact with the media; she responded to an inquiry from EW. The council hired Ruiz, a former assistant city manager from Fresno, eight months ago.
Councilor Mike Clark echoed Ruiz in an email to the council and city staff, calling the auditor a “petulant child” for her “inflammatory” speech to the media.
But Councilor Bonny Bettman said at a meeting Oct. 13 that the whole point of the auditor, who has no power to impose discipline, is to tell the public if there are problems. “Transparency and openness are the only power in our oversight system,” said Bettman.
Oversight supporter Carol Berg-Caldwell said at the meeting’s public forum that the city shouldn’t keep police oversight secret. “I don’t understand this concern about the media covering what the people need to know. I’m glad we have a free press.”
Councilor Bonny Bettman emailed the auditor in response to Clark’s attack, “I am sorry you are experiencing this kind of treatment from one councilor.” Bettman wrote, “This is just part of the ongoing attack on any form of police complaint oversight that does not give the police total control to monitor themselves.” — Alan Pittman
STOPPING THE WOPR
After 30,000 public comments and months of waiting, the BLM released its Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) last week. Nobody is very happy with the plan, and it’s not over yet.
The plan, which calls for a 335 percent increase in logging on Oregon’s BLM lands, is now about to undergo a 60-day review period by Gov. Ted Kulongoski as well as a 30-day administrative protest period in which groups outline shortcomings with the plan.
Kulongoski’s office is charged with ensuring the 1,000-page document stays in compliance with state laws. “Gov. Kulongoski is the only thing that stands between the Bush administration and Oregon’s treasured forests,” says Josh Laughlin of the Cascadia Wildlands Project, one of the many Oregon environmental groups who oppose the WOPR’s planned logging. “The ball is in his court.”
Conservationists object to the planned old growth logging and the lack of protection for Oregon’s water and threatened and endangered species. The WOPR reduces stream buffers that protect waterways from the effects of logging.
Samantha Chirillo of Cascadia’s Ecosystem Advocates says the governor’s office has a misconception that the WOPR will reduce fire risk. “Logging old growth and replacing it with [tree] plantations increases fire risk,” she says. She says the governor’s office also seems to have a misperception that saving old growth is a rural versus an urban issue. “It’s not a small majority of people who are in favor of preserving old growth,” she says. It’s a large majority, made of up urban and rural dwellers alike, she adds.
Other conservationists point to a recent study commissioned by the European Union that shows logging and deforestation have a greater impact on the world’s economy than the recent Wall Street financial crisis. The study shows that as trees are logged, forests can no longer provides services (absorbing carbon, providing clean water) which they used to provide for free, so the world’s economy has to find a way to provide for those losses. The authors of the study estimate deforestation and loss of “natural capital” costs the world’s economy between $2 trillion and $5 trillion a year. Wall Street has lost about $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion to date.
To learn more about the effects of the WOPR, head over to Cozmic Pizza on Oct. 20. The Stop the WOPR! multimedia roadshow put on by the WOPR and Beyond Coalition and PictureEugene kicks off at 8:15 pm. From there the roadshow will move on to Corvallis, Salem, Ashland and Portland, culminating in a Nov. 14 rally in Salem. The Cozmic Pizza event will be preceded at 7 pm by a separate science education panel convened by Euglena Academy discussing climate change. Both events are free. — Camilla Mortensen
CIVIC STADIUM TURNS 70
It’s Civic Stadium’s 70th anniversary next week, and not only can Eugeneans come and blow out the candles on the baseball stadium’s cake, they can celebrate Civic Stadium’s recent listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The group Save Civic Stadium welcomes the listing on the Register. “There are so many people who’ve grown up, played, gone to games, fallen in love” at the stadium says Tom Halferty, secretary of Save Civic Stadium’s Board of Directors.
The Depression-era stadium was built by the federal government’s Works Progress Administration as well as by the city, local businesses, local lumber mills and the 4J School District, and it was financed by a bond measure back in 1938. Civic Stadium, owned by 4J, has faced an uncertain future in the last two years since the UO decided to restart baseball and build its team a brand-new stadium. The Emeralds, Eugene’s minor league team, which has played at Civic since 1969, announced they, too, intend to move to the new stadium.
Save Civic Stadium is a nonprofit group that formed out of grassroots efforts to save Civic Stadium’s field and old-growth Douglas fir grandstand. The venerable building is so esteemed by baseball fans that people have come from across the country to experience a game, according to a NPR story on the facility.
The National Park Service administers the National Register of Historic Places, which essentially decides which places are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture, and deems them worthy of preservation. The listing doesn’t guarantee Civic Stadium any protection, however. Back in 1996 the UO’s Amazon Family Housing Complex at 24th and Patterson was also designated on the National Register of Historic Places, and the buildings on that complex were either razed or moved a couple of years later to make way for new construction.
However, Halferty and Save Civic Stadium are hopeful they can raise the money to preserve the historic playing field and its grandstand and keep it around for ongoing use. The group is applying for 501(c)3 status, can accept donations and will soon be able to apply for grants. According to Halferty, Eugene School District 4J, which owns the property, is open to turning it over to another owner under certain conditions, including one that says it must remain a recreational facility. A similar ballpark in Birmingham, Ala., called Rickwood Field was preserved and restored by a nonprofit group and is used for exhibition games as well as “heritage tourism” for fans of old ballparks.
Civic Stadium’s birthday party will be held at 5 pm Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the stadium at 20th and Willamette. Go to www.savecivicstadium.org for more information on the efforts to preserve the stadium. — Camilla Mortensen
COMMISSIONERS ENDORSE HANDY
In a joint statement this week, two Lane County commissioners have endorsed Rob Handy based on their question, “Who would be better for Lane County?”
Commissioners Pete Sorenson and Bill Fleenor said they have been asked repeatedly why they are endorsing Handy for the north Eugene commission post over the 14-year incumbent, Bobby Green. “We work with Commissioner Green every week and we have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Handy on a variety of issues,” they said. “We have a depth of experience upon which to base our decision of whom to support in this race.”
A key reason for the endorsement, they said is that “Rob Handy has flatly stated he would not impose an income tax on the people of Lane County. Commissioner Bobby Green not only imposed the tax in February 2007 but also failed to heed voter wishes to have the tax repealed. Putting the tax to an unnecessary vote cost taxpayers over $70,000 — close to the cost of a sheriff’s deputy for one entire year. It is irresponsible to squander the resources we do have. “
The two commissioners also praised Handy for his energetic grassroots campaign. They said, “He will bring that same work ethic and determination to his role as county commissioner along with his experience as a civic leader and business owner. We have a need for a fresh perspective to take on the tough issues of balancing the county budget, jobs and spending your money wisely.”
ON THE WEB
• At blogs.eugeneweekly.com: Alan Pittman notes Gordon Smith’s endorsement of Sarah Palin; Chuck Adams writes about last week’s Brightblack Morning Light concert (with photos by Todd Cooper); Suzi Steffen posts a video of the Human Rights Campaign attempt to find Sarah Palin’s gay friends in Alaska; and Camilla Mortensen rounds up international songs devoted to Obama. Zachary Vishanoff continues to post his comments on “academic pork-barrel ‘green’ nano spending.”
• Our new interactive and searchable Chow site is getting more and more people writing their unedited opinions on local restaurants and cafés. See chow.eugeneweekly.com
• More letters to the editor can also be found online, along with a news brief on hunting season and which of the presidential candidates likes to blast wildlife.
• 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 School, 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.
• Noted Portland trial attorney Elden Rosenthal will speak at the Civil Liberties Defense Center’s fundraiser, “Rebel Revelry: A PATRIOT Act Bash,” to be held on the seventh anniversary of the PATRIOT Act passage. The event runs 6:30 to 10 pm Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Campbell Community Center, 155 High St., in Eugene. Admission is $10 and includes a raffle ticket, food and music. The CLDC is a nonprofit organization of public interest attorneys and organizers that work to preserve the strength and vitality of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. and state constitutions, as well as to protect freedom of expression.
• The Lane Bus Project is planning a Trick or Vote election canvassing event from 2 to 10 pm Sunday, Oct. 26, at the WOW Hall. Music will be provided by Samba Ja and Fortune Cookie. State treasurer candidate Ben Westlund will send off canvassers. Costume contest and free food are planned. See TrickorVote.org
HEADS UP, IT’S HUNTING SEASON
Maybe your first clue was the sudden upsurge in people sporting blaze orange. Maybe you went hiking last weekend to check out the leaves starting to turn to bright fall colors and found the peace of your walk a little disturbed by booming gunshots. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s not just election season; hunting season is upon us too.
Over the next two months it’s deer season, elk season and wild fowl season (and for a couple dollars more, hunters can buy a tag to shoot bear and cougar too). The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to reassure you that despite the presence of gun-toting hunters and the sounds of gunfire, it’s still safe to hike, mushroom hunt and birdwatch in the woods. There are fewer than 10 “hunting incidents” a year in Oregon, and the last fatal hunting accident (for a human) was in 2004, according to ODFW.
In a recent press release, ODFW advised those of you venturing out into the woods this fall to wear blaze orange — avoid earth tones — so hunters can see you. (Despite rumors to the contrary PETA has never clothed deer in blaze orange vests to protect them.) The agency advises you to “make noise: Alert hunters to your presence by talking, singing or whistling.” That’s a fine technique for keeping mushroom hunters safe, but perhaps problematic for the birdwatchers. Finally, “If you hear someone shooting, let the hunters know you are in the area by raising your voice.” EW suggests that old stand by: “Don’t shoot!”
Hunting season does coincide with election season, and while presidential candidates may not be sporting their safety orange hunting vests just yet, both have made appeals to the hook-and-bullet population. In recent interviews with Field & Stream magazine the candidates put forth their credentials as sportsmen.
While neither may have the moose-hunting stories that Gov. Sarah Palin has, Sen. John McCain said he doesn’t own a gun, but he does fish. Sen. Barack Obama said, “You know, when you’re in the south side of Chicago, there’s not too much — too many opportunities for hunting and fishing,” but he said while he was growing up in Hawaii he used to go spearfishing, telling the magazine, “I would snorkel and [use a] spear gun.”
If you are curious about the “sportsmen” vote, you may want to check out the Oregon gun owners caucus at www.oregondemocrats.org/gun_owners Their slogan is: “Democrats don’t want your guns. We’ve already got our own.” — Camilla Mortensen
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,182 U.S. troops killed* (4,177)
• 30,702 U.S. troops injured* (30,680)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 96,466 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (96,262)
• $562.1 billion cost of war ($560.2 billion)
• $159.9 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($159.3 million)
* through Oct. 13, 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)
• Our election endorsements are in this issue, arriving for your reading pleasure just as ballots are about to be mailed. We will continue our election coverage next week and the week after. We have not had space for all our election stories, letters and commentaries, so if you are still in doubt about some of the issues and candidates, keep reading EW, along with the daily papers, voter guides and your Voters’ Pamphlet. Too many important issues are on the line to snooze through this election. And don’t forget to pay attention to the local issues and candidates farther down the ballot. Take your time and happy voting!
• Not on our ballot this year: anti-gay initiatives. But the folks in California, where Propositiaon 8 would take away the marriage rights same-sex couples have enjoyed since June, need help. Conservative forces have raised millions of dollars to push lying, fear-mongering TV ads on California airwaves. Since Oregonians aren’t spending money to fight homophobic initiatives at home, we can help the bellwether state to the south. See sweet newlywed videos and donate money at www.noonprop8.com — and spread the word to friends and family in Cali: No on H8te!
• Surprise! The R-G editorial board decided to switch its mayoral endorsement from Kitty Piercy last May to Jim Torrey this week. What’s changed? The economy has gotten worse. Well, back in May the R-G endorsement was “skeptical” of Torrey’s job ideas, and praised Piercy for having “demonstrated how a focus on sustainable jobs can translate into meaningful economic development opportunities for Eugene and Lane County.” This unprecedented switch is puzzling in more ways than one. Torrey’s obstructionist views on Eugene’s independent police auditor run contrary to the editorial board’s strong stands on the issue. We suspect not everyone on the R-G editorial staff is pleased with this nonsensical turnabout.
• Just about every week Eugene police find some new way to drive another wedge between themselves and the community. Obstinate police continue to interfere with the voter-mandated operations of the independent police auditor. Mayoral candidate Jim Torrey is adding to the division by not supporting independent review and just this week criticized “turmoil” on the auditor’s Community Review Board. Torrey, along with Councilor Mike Clark, has done nothing but inflame the growing conflict. Clark is criticizing Auditor Dawn Reynolds for “going to the media” when her access to the police department was curtailed, when in fact the media contacted Reynolds after getting a tip from a councilor. Mayor Piercy, on the other hand, is doing something constructive. She’s calling for a council executive session with the police union leadership to air the issues. A meeting is a good idea, though we would prefer a session open to the public. Regardless, we urge the council to hold firm to the law. It’s odd to even have to say it, but the absence of contract language does not trump city ordinance and the intent of the voters.
And as Police Chief Bob Lehner leaves Eugene this week to run a smaller cop shop in Elk Grove, Calif., we predict we will never know why he purposefully and secretly violated city law by withholding information from our police auditor. Shouldn’t lawbreakers be prosecuted? Should be easy for the DA to get a conviction or at least get Lehner’s Oregon law enforcement credentials revoked since he’s already confessed to his crime. And he’s no longer our police chief.
• It was a party to warm a progressive’s heart Tuesday afternoon when Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin flew in here to rally money and support for Jeff Merkley and Kitty Piercy. Introduced by our own gutsy progressive populist Peter DeFazio, Merkley reminded the crowd in the EMU at UO that Gordon Smith voted 90 percent of the time with George Bush. Feingold wants another progressive Democrat to build toward 60 filibuster-proof votes in the Senate. Piercy rallied the crowd for her progressive agenda here in Eugene. Merkley is up 5 points against Smith in the latest published Oregon poll, but the Piercy-Torrey race is too close to call and Kitty’s TV ads are just beginning this week. Torrey’s ads have been running for weeks.
• Tax breaks coming? Presidential candidate Barack Obama has rolled out some fresh and compelling ideas on fixing the economy. Princeton economist Paul Krugman’s Nobel Prize this week gives credibility to the Obama plans. Krugman and Obama are thinking alike: Tax breaks for the lower and middle classes are more stimulating to the economy because those classes are more likely to spend their money, and that money has a multiplying effect in our communities. McCain and his advisors are still hung up on discredited old trickle-down theories that hearken to the Reagan years. Rep. Peter DeFazio and Obama are also in sync with Krugman’s theories when they call for pumping billions into our nation’s infrastructure and education, rather than bailing out mismanaged investment firms.
“I love sharing and talking about music,” says Dan Plaster, who started as a fill-in host on KLCC radio shortly after arriving in Eugene in 1990. Plaster’s own show, “The Front Porch,” began in 2000 as an hour-long program on Saturday evening. Two years later, it was expanded to three hours on Sunday afternoon. “I play contemporary Americana: bluegrass, country, rock-and-roll, gospel, R&B and soul,” he says. “I call it, ‘everything twangy.’” After high school in Davenport, Iowa, and a degree in drafting, Plaster moved to Austin, Texas, to check out the blues scene. “The big touring groups come to Austin,” he explains. Plaster worked for architects in Austin until a late-1980s building bust prompted a move to Jacksonville Beach, Fla., where he met Holly Steer, now his wife, and researched his next move. “Eugene is one of those cities where architects bunch up,” he says. Following their marriage in ’93, he and Steer trained as foster parents and raised three infants over a period of five years. “I enjoyed working with kids,” says Plaster, who took classes at LCC, began as a volunteer with the DHS Child Welfare Program, and was hired 16 months later in his current job as a social service assistant.