News Briefs: Spread the Wealth in Oregon | WOPR Protest Period Reinstated | Ecohillel Green Judaism at the UO | Travel Guide: See Prairie Before It's Gone | Descent Into Wassen | Activist Alert | War Dead | On the Web This Week |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening Person: Elise Crum
SPREAD THE WEALTH IN OREGON
With Barack Obama popular in Oregon while calling for a tax increase on those earning more than $250,000, could such a tax plan work here?
If Oregon state income taxes were raised 10 percent on those earning more than $250,000 adjusted gross income, taxes on everyone else could be cut about 4 percent, according to an EW analysis of state tax return data. That’s an average savings of $86.
About 2 percent of people in Oregon make more than $250,000 after deductions. The rest, 98 percent, make less and would get the tax break.
If somewhat similar to Obama’s plan, taxes went up for those over $250,000 and stayed the same for those earning $100,000 to $250,000, everyone else would save 6 percent or $91 on average. About 90 percent of state taxpayers make less than $100,000.
The state could, of course, decide to keep the money to unpack crowded classrooms. In that case the tax increase for the wealthiest 2 percent translates into $143 million in new annual revenue.
Oregon’s wealthiest could easily afford a tax increase. In the last three decades the income of the wealthiest 1 percent of Oregonians has doubled while the wage of the typical Oregon worker has dropped slightly after adjusting for inflation, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP).
Lane County doesn’t have an income tax. A regressive, flat tax on people at the same rate regardless of income was voted down last year. If the county imposed a 10 percent surcharge on state income taxes only for those making more than $250,000 a year, the tax would generate about $11 million per year.
The $11 million could be used to reduce county property taxes on the poor. In Oregon, property taxes hit the poor about three times harder than the rich, according to studies of taxes as a percent of income by the Center for Tax Justice (CTJ).
The county could also keep the revenue. Lane County faces big deficits as federal timber payments are scheduled to ramp down over the next four years and may not be renewed.
The city of Eugene could also do an Obama-style tax on the rich. A surcharge on state income taxes for those earning more than $100,000 a year (beginning at 2 percent and increasing to 4 percent for incomes over $500,000) would generate roughly $5 million per year, according to city tax studies.
The city could use the money to help 4J reduce class sizes. An earlier city effort using property taxes to help schools ran afoul of Measure 5. But Measure 5 does not restrict using income taxes to fund schools. — Alan Pittman
WOPR PROTEST PERIOD REINSTATED
Local activists including Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands Project were among five groups that filed a complaint in federal court last week against the BLM’s Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR). The groups argued that by eliminating a 30-day public protest period, the BLM violated federal law. On Nov. 4, the BLM decided to reverse its decision and will allow the protest period after all.
Normally anyone who participated in a comment period is given the opportunity to protest the version of a plan that results from the agency’s planning process. The BLM had argued that because the WOPR has caused such controversy, it won’t be signed off on by BLM state director Ed Shepard; instead, Assistant Interior Secretary Stephen Allred will sign off. This meant, according to the BLM, that there was no need for a protest period since that applies only to documents approved by state directors or district managers.
The enviros begged to differ. Some 30,000 people commented on the BLM’s controversial plan, which calls for a dramatic increase in public lands logging, and reduces protections for old-growth forests. Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild says, “the public has a right to comment on the government’s proposal” and points out that there have been substantive changes to the WOPR since the original comment period.
According to CWP’s legal director Dan Kruse, the BLM under the Bush administration tried to cut out that review period because “they want the final decision made while the Bush administration is still in office.”
Kruse says that both the decision to move the decision up the administrative echelon and the decision to cut out the protest period violated federal law.
Kruse says of the decision to go forward with the protest period after all, “This is great news, so long as the BLM takes the protest period seriously and uses it as an opportunity to actually consider the input they receive. But if the BLM is just going to plow forward with their original schedule, without any meaningful response or review, then I don't think we've accomplished much.”
The BLM is taking protests by mail only. For the address and other information go to http://www.blm.gov/or/plans/wopr/protest.php or call 202-208-5010. Protests must by filed be Dec. 8, 2008. — Camilla Mortensen
ECOHILLEL GREEN JUDAISM AT THE UO
It is 6:30 on a Friday night, and voices singing ancient songs fill the warm living room of the UO Hillel House where students in the Jewish community gather to socialize, share Shabbat (the Jewish name for Sabbath or day of rest) and get exposed to service opportunities.
Rows of students sit for weekly Shabbat services, which involve prayer and dinner, but this week comes with a twist. Tonight is spotlighting ECOHillel, a committee of students focusing on environmental issues. “The environment and Judaism are my biggest passions,” says Belinda Judelman, head of the committee.
After prayers, students are requested to read from pieces of 100 percent recycled paper left on top of reusable bags donated by Market of Choice. The students read quotes on sustainability from Deuteronomy, Jewish folktales about respecting the earth, tips on sustainability and statistics on energy consumption.
“I would like to make this the greenest Hillel possible,” says Paul Bessemer, Hillel’s executive director, addressing the room. “We should be a light unto nations, bright … but only a 20 watt bulb.” Everyone chuckles as they hurry to line up for the evening’s completely organic menu of stuffed peppers, potatoes, orzo and butternut squash soup, purchased at the local Tuesday Market. Tonight the usual paper plates, plastic forks and cups are traded in for reusable plates and silverware.
“Our goal is to make baby steps,” says Navit Parker. The committee is currently working to make some green changes in the Hillel building, like improving the lack of insulation from single paned windows. The committee started recycling practices last year, and when the weather improves, community gardens may be planted. ECOHillel also wants to see other students eating locally grown foods, especially in the dorms.
The committee looks forward to having more events that focus on the educational points. Parker would like to have short environmental discussions after services. For now, the committee is happy to have students attend the event.
After dinner several students make sure no food goes to waste by taking leftover orzo home. “It’s delicious,” says Maya Protter, who regularly attends Hillel. “The perfect mix of veggies and starch.”
For information on future events contact ECOHillel at firstname.lastname@example.org — Cali Bagby
TRAVEL GUIDE: SEE PRAIRIE BEFORE IT’S GONE
Activists are always asking Eugeneans to sign a petition, take a hike, attend a rally or write a letter to save some wild place in Oregon before it disappears. Thanks to Frommer’s travel guides, one of those wild places has received national attention this week as a top 500 place to see before it disappears. Willow Creek Preserve, “remarkably close to downtown Eugene” as the guide puts it, was counted among famed places like the city of Babylon, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Taj Mahal, the Dead Sea and the Galapagos Islands in Frommer’s 500 Places to See Before They Disappear.
Stephen Anderson of the Nature Conservancy says that the preserve itself is actually in no danger of disappearing because the Conservancy protects it, “It’s part of a system of protected areas in the West Eugene Wetlands that are protected because visionary local leaders saw the threats decades ago and took action which continues today,” says Anderson.
Willow Creek Preserve protects a small portion of the endangered native prairie and oak savanna that used to exist across the Willamette Valley. Only 2 percent of the habitat remains, says Anderson. Although Willow Creek is protected, he says, he thinks the book “makes a larger point” about the Willamette Valley’s endangered prairie and savanna habitats. Those habitats are the home of the Willamette Valley daisy and the threatened Kincaid’s lupine, which is the host for the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly.
The butterfly is so rare it was thought to be extinct until 1989, when an OSU researcher found one by accident. The species are “increasingly jeopardized by relentless growth and development in the valley,” says Anderson, who adds we are at a “tipping point of being able to save them for future generations.”
If you want to check out Willow Creek Preserve for yourself and see what all the eco-tourists will soon be heading to Eugene to see, head out West 18th, go one third of a mile past Bertelsen Road and park on the left side of the road; the preserve is on your left (and LTD route 30-Bertelsen stops at 18th & Bertselsen). For more information, call the Nature Conservancy’s Willamette Valley Office at 343-1010. And if you think you know some endangered places that Frommer’s should add in the future, the editors are taking submission for future editions of the book. See www.frommers.com — Camilla Mortensen
DESCENT INTO WASSEN
|Peter DeFazio at Wassen Creek|
Last Dec. 2, local environmentalists planned an off-trail hike deep into the wilds of the Oregon Coast Range inland from Reedsport. About 30 hikers carpooled two hours to the Wassen Creek area during the biggest storm of the season. They turned back soon after the hike began as trees fell and branches crashed down around them.
A few hikers, including Congressman Peter DeFazio, have since made the strenuous eight-mile round-trip bushwhack into the proposed Devil’s Staircase wilderness area, and an organized hike is planned again for Saturday, Nov. 8, rain or shine. The forecast for Saturday is 70 percent chance of rain.
The Devil’s Staircase is a place where Wassen Creek “spills over a half dozen sandstone benches into deep, bathtub-sized pools,” says EW outdoors writer James Johnston, last year’s trip leader.
The purpose of the hike is to educate people about the remote and biologically diverse 19,000-acre roadless forest targeted for logging under the Bush administration’s Western Oregon Plan Revision. Until recently Wassen Creek was protected as an “Area of Critical Environmental Concern” and as spotted owl habitat.
Photos of the area can now be found at www.devilsstaircasewilderness.org and at www.northforkphotos.com and for information about the Saturday hike, contact this year’s hike leader Josh Laughlin at Cascadia Wildlands, 434-1463, email email@example.com
• The effects of climate change on watersheds will be a major focus of the 2008 Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board 10th Biennial Conference Nov. 5-7 at the Hilton in Eugene. Keynote speakers include Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. The event will feature a concentrated workshop series on invasive species, organization management, community engagement and restoration project management. Late registration (after Oct. 27) is $200, or $100 for students. Call (503) 986-0178 or visit www.oregon.gov/OWEB
• Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, speaks on “Eye-witness to War, Courage for Peace,” at 7:30 pm Saturday, Nov. 8, at 180 PLC at 14th and Kincaid, UO. Kelly and her companions defied economic sanctions to bring medicine to children and families in Iraq before the war, and stayed in Baghdad throughout the invasion. Call 342-2914 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• The Laurel Hill Valley in Eugene is under assault by invasive species, and Northwest Youth Corp and AmeriCorps are planning a work day beginning at 9 am Saturday, Nov. 8, at 2621 Augusta St. Volunteers are needed to remove invasive plants and replace them with native species. Tools and instruction provided. Call 349-5055 or email email@example.com
• Friendship with Cambodia, a Eugene-based nonprofit, is holding a benefit and cultural experience of Cambodia from 6 to 9 pm Saturday, Nov. 8, at the First Christian Church, 1166 Oak St. The evening includes a Southeast Asian dinner, a visual tour of the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, and life in Cambodia by professional photographer and guide Don Lyon. Tickets are $15-$50 suggested donation at the door. Reservations at 343-3782. Children under 12 are free.
• The UO arena alley appeal hearing (Bowers vs. UO) is scheduled for 9 am Thursday, Nov. 13 at 550 Capitol St. NE, in Salem, second floor small hearing room. UO student Jonathan Bowers filed the appeal to LUBA in an effort to retain Mac Court as the UO basketball facility. The case number is 2008-156/157.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,189 U.S. troops killed* (4,188)
• 30,764 U.S. troops injured* (30,757)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 96,976 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (96,766)
• $568.0 billion cost of war ($566.1 billion)
• $161.5 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($161.0 million)
* through Nov. 3, 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)
ON THE WEB THIS WEEK
• At blogs.eugeneweekly.com: EW’s team of bloggers posts video clips of what a world would look like if either Obama or McCain won the presidency, some dude singing a four-part a cappella tribute to composer John Williams, SNL’s Tina Fey (as Sarah Palin) and John McCain hawking election memorabilia on QVC, hockey moms voicing their support for Obama and lesbian talk show host Rachel Maddow interviewing Obama. Additionally, Suzi posts on the incredible symbolism in Obama’s candidacy (and presidency) and the UO’s fog index, Chuck checks out Indigo District’s new ‘90s Night on Wednesdays and Camilla posts Kitty Piercy’s mayoral song.
• Trouble-makers aren’t hanging out downtown now that it’s rainy and cold, but the EPD has assigned a half-dozen police officers to the area for a month. Why didn’t they do this back in July? If they’d done it then, the officers may have headed off the hysteria that lead to the draconian and unconstitutional exclusion ordinance downtown. Downtown didn’t need to suspend civil rights, it just needed a few more cops to enforce existing laws against minor offenses. How does constantly and falsely hyping downtown as a crime hotbed help to attract people downtown?
• Here’s something for extreme political junkies to masticate. It’s about the run for Oregon governor in 2010. The loser of the Merkley-Smith Senate race would be a likely candidate after he takes a short vacation from politics. Lame-duck Secretary of State Bill Bradbury talks openly about his hopes to succeed Ted Kulongoski. Peter DeFazio brushes off the subject in this week’s Q&A in EW. Newly elected Secretary of State Kate Brown and Attorney General John Kroger often are mentioned. It’s too early for either of them. Steve Novick is a possibility. And, of course, there’s Eugene’s Rick Dancer, whose strong Republican financial support and TV personality pushed him surprisingly high in the secretary of state race. Enough! Let’s go take a hike in the non-political rain.
• Here’s a sticky argument we all can have now that the big arguments are over for a couple of days. Retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts spoke to the City Club of Eugene Oct. 31 and took the first question from Jack Roberts, director of the Lane Metro Partnership. He asked about the “Sarah Palin effect.”
Betty Roberts, who was the first woman on the Oregon Supreme Court, said she thought it was good to have more women of every political persuasion running. It’s important for women to get more visibility in public life, she said, no matter what their politics. We would argue that the selection of a woefully unprepared and inadequate woman to run for vice-president with an elderly man on the top of the ticket does not advance the cause of women in politics. To really compete, women in politics probably need to be smarter and tougher than the men out there.
• Mainstream newspapers are shrinking and broadcast newsrooms are also in trouble, particularly now that election ads are over. What will save them? The UO hosted a Society for Professional Journalists all-day conference Oct. 25 for reporters and editors. Excellent presenters from around the Northwest focused on how news organizations can reinvent themselves. Lots of talk about websites, blogs, YouTube, Twitter and new “economic models” for success, but little discussion about how journalism itself is to blame for the financial woes of traditional media. Give the public lively, compelling, relevant content and they will stick with you. Give people superficial, predictable stories and recycled press releases and they will flock to something more stimulating, such as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, or conservative talk radio. National content in print form is yesterday’s news, so political junkies turn to interactive political websites.
To be fair, top-notch journalists are still cranking out great copy and newspapers remain the primary source for original content in this country, but big papers are unwisely laying off innovative reporters and creative photographers in order to maintain profits. It’s a downward spiral. Newspapers need to rise to the challenge with better content, rather than dumb down and pander to their shrinking advertiser base.
• Why are squad cars often left locked and idling on the street? One EW reader recently told us she observed an EPD officer go into Starbucks at Broadway and Pearl for a 45-minute lunch, leaving his patrol car running: “With people bitching about the cost of gas and the lack of funding for the police, did he really feel the need to leave his car running for the duration of his lunch?” EPD’s spokesperson Kerry Delf says: “The standard equipment in police patrol vehicles draws an enormous amount of power compared with the average citizen’s vehicle. An officer’s decision whether or not to leave his or her vehicle idling is a balancing act between the desire to conserve fuel and reduce emissions on the one hand, and the need to keep the vehicle’s battery and the necessary equipment powered up and ready to respond to emergency calls on the other hand. That said, the city of Eugene is currently working to implement new guidelines to further limit idling of police vehicles.”
U.S. government figures tell us idling a V6 engine at 800 RPM for one hour with AC running burns about .7 gallon of gas, costing about $2. EPD has 45 police cars and idling each an hour a day would cost taxpayers $33,000 a year, not counting engine wear and the hidden costs of air pollution. One solution here would be to outfit our high-mileage cops with hybrids, which have huge batteries. Another solution: less driving, more walking.
A Junction City High School grad, Elise Crum majored in political science at Lewis & Clark College and spent her senior year working on a biology field study in Kenya. “I stayed with host families,” she says. “As a work project, we raised money and built a room onto a school.” Back in the U.S., Crum lived in California for a while, then moved to Eugene, pregnant with her son Shabir. She was a single mom for three years before she married Adam Wendt in 1998. Crum and Wendt have since adopted two infants, Ramyia, now 7 years old, and Kahlil, who just turned 4. When Ramyia was a baby, Crum joined the board of Adoptive Families of Lane County, a support and education organization for families and anyone interested in adoption. She is currently president of the non-profit group, now known as Adoption Connections of Oregon. “We have play groups once a month and four main events per year,” she says. “Almost 60 people showed up for our hayride this fall.” ACO’s 7th Annual Conference, with a workshop for adults and playshops for kids led by adoption educator Jane Brown, is set for this weekend, Nov. 7-9, at Meadow View School. Call Crum at 345-4209 for details or visit adoptionconnectionsoforegon.org.