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Eugene Weekly : News : 10.23.08




Mayor for All Developers

Sprawl and gravel interests invest big in Torrey, Green

By Alan Pittman

If Jim Torrey wins the Eugene mayor’s race, he could swing a key vote to approve a gravel pit expansion in north Eugene. Delta Sand & Gravel has given him 33,000 reasons to do so, in cash.

Delta and other gravel pit companies, developers, other pro-sprawl interests, timber barons and big Republican donors have stuffed Torrey’s pockets with an unprecedented total of $466,000 in contributions. That’s about four times more money than any previous mayor campaign and about $114,000 more than Mayor Kitty Piercy has raised. The huge contributions and big money at stake in city decisions could present unprecedented conflicts of interest if Torrey gets elected.

Big development interests have contributed about half of Torrey’s money. Developers and real estate and land speculators stand to make big profits from Torrey’s push for more urban sprawl. An urban growth boundary expansion can increase the value of land tenfold or more. Developer special interests also stand to make big bucks if Torrey backs land swaps, zoning changes, deregulation, parking garages, road projects, tax breaks and other subsidies for them.

Top development contributors to Torrey include: $18,150 from the Giustinas, who own much of the east side of downtown Eugene; $11,000 from the Korths, who own the Oakway shopping mall and are speculating on other developments; and $10,000 from Ed King, who has speculated on large properties in west Eugene. 

More developer contributions to Torrey include: $9,000 from Carolyn Chambers, a developer who also owns a construction company; $8,700 from the Eugene Chamber PAC, which is largely funded by development interests; $8,000 from Don Woolley, who owns much of the west side of downtown Eugene; $7,400 from developer Steve Lee; $7,000 from real estate speculator Donald Tykeson; $6,000 from the Gonyea land speculation group; and $5,000 from Van Duyn Properties.

Construction companies with a development interest have also given Torrey big bucks. Construction-related companies have given a total of at least $51,000 to Torrey. The Hamilton construction company gave $12,500 to Torrey. The Papé construction machinery group gave $11,100.  

Besides big development interests, gravel pit companies are Torrey’s biggest donor. Gravel companies, which often also do construction and land speculation, contributed a total of $73,000 to Torrey. Gravel pit companies make millions from city contracts, new roads and approvals of new pits and pit expansions and property rezonings to allow development. 

Delta Sand & Gravel is Torrey’s single largest contributor at $33,000. In July Mayor Piercy cast the deciding vote on the City Council against Delta’s proposed gravel pit expansion in north Eugene. If Torrey is elected, Delta could reapply for a permit and reverse the decision.

Other gravel companies also stand to make big profits from pit approvals or rezonings and growth boundary expansions allowing development on their property. Wildish has a real estate arm that has targeted land near Mount Pisgah for a major development. The company contributed $24,000 to Torrey. Egge contributed $10,000 to Torrey, and Eugene Sand & Gravel gave him $5,300. 

Conservative timber and Republican donors also gave Torrey big contributions. Old growth mill Zip-O-Log gave Torrey $12,500. Seneca Sawmill gave Torrey $9,000, Murphy Plywood $5,000 and the Hult timber family $5,000.

Monaco Coach CEO Kay Toolson is one of the largest contributors to George Bush and the Republican party in the region. Toolson gave Torrey $20,000. Torrey, who supported the Iraq invasion, also contributed to Bush in 2004 with a $2,000 donation, the maximum allowable. Torrey ran for Senate two years ago as a Republican, and his campaign is being run by Republican political consultant Rick Lindholm.

Torrey received another $20,000 donation from the Eugene Police Employees Association. Torrey and the union have opposed external police review not controlled by the city manager. 

Eighty-four percent of Torrey’s money came from donors who gave more than $1,000. Only 6 percent of Torrey’s money came from donations of under $100.

In contrast, only 27 percent of Piercy’s $352,000 in contributions came from donors who gave more than $1,000. A third of her money came from donations of under $100.

Many of Piercy’s largest contributors have regularly given to Democratic and environmental causes in the past. Her biggest donors include: neighborhood advocate and builder Carlos Barrera, $17,500; sustainable business Mountain Rose Herbs, $8,000; attorney and part owner of Eugene Weekly Art Johnson, $7,500; the Eugene firefighters union $7,500; environmentalist Deborah Noble, $5,800; Democratic State Rep. Paul Holvey, $3,500; and the Eugene teachers union, $3,000.



County Commission

Many of the gravel, development and timber special interests that contributed to Torrey also contributed to County Commissioner Bobby Green’s effort to cling to his seat.

Green reported $193,000 in contributions. Eighty percent of the money came from donors giving $1,000 or more. Only 5 percent came from donors giving less than $100. 

Green’s largest contributor is Jon Jaqua, who gave Green $5,000 in cash and a $25,000 loan. Jaqua, a Nike stock heir, championed corporate tax breaks when he served as head of the state economic development department and similarly bankrolled Green’s last reelection campaign.

The County Commission also votes on gravel pit permits, growth boundary expansions, tax breaks and rezoning that can make land speculators millions of dollars. Green holds a key swing seat on the commission.

Delta Sand & Gravel gave Green $15,000 in cash. Wildish gave him $13,500. Giustina, which speculates on land and timber, gave Green $13,850. Other big land and/or timber companies donating to Green include Seneca ($4,000), Swanson ($4,000) and Rosboro ($3,000). 

More big Green contributors include: the county public works union ($9,000), billboard and mall millionaire Brian Obie ($5,500), the Eugene Chamber of Commerce PAC ($4,200), the Downtown Athletic Club’s Bennett Management ($4,000), the state Realtors PAC ($3,100), the homebuilders PAC ($3,000), Papé construction equipment ($3,000) and Republican attorney Rohn Roberts ($3,000).

Green’s campaign has been run by Republican campaign consultant Lindholm and Mike Clark, a Republican campaign consultant and Eugene city councilor. 

Green’s opponent Rob Handy has raised $213,000. But in contrast to Green’s 80 percent big donors, only 35 percent of Handy’s total came from donors contributing $1,000 or more. Forty-five percent of Handy’s money, $46,000, came from donors giving less than $100. Handy said he’s knocked on more than 11,000 doors during his campaign.

Handy’s largest contributors include: Barrera ($19,350), Rising Moon organic foods co-owner Kirk Giudici ($15,100), the Oregon League of Conservation Voters ($11,900), doctors Byrke and Klarissa Beller ($10,000), Noble ($5,000 loan and $4,100 in cash), County Commissioner Bill Fleenor ($7,400), state auditor Mary Adams ($5,200) and environmentalist Bill Bowerman ($3,000). 

Handy has criticized Green for backing $6 million in county subsidies for a parkway project to subsidize developers in east Springfield while dangerous and clogged existing roads and potholes could have used the money.