Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
MADISON MEADOW SAVED
Madison Meadow is more than big enough for a good game of tag, and has just enough trees for some good climbing. This grassy meadow, an unassuming two-acre remnant orchard tucked into the Friendly Area Neighborhood, is the last natural open space in that area, but five years ago it was for sale and at risk of being developed.
Now neighborhood residents no longer need to worry about the future of the meadow. On Oct. 30, after five years of hard work, the Madison Meadow nonprofit group raised the last dollar towards purchase of the meadow.
“We’re so happy to have this green space saved for the future for everyone,” said Susan Jerde, a longtime area resident and early organizer of the Madison Meadow group. “We’re so grateful for every single donation,” she said.
Within a few months of forming, said Jerde, the informal group had become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with plans to purchase the meadow. It had also launched an outreach effort with lawn signs, T-shirts, articles in local newspapers, a table at the Mt. Pisgah Wildflower Festival and donation jars at local markets.
“This was a totally grassroots effort,” said Jerde. “It started out with about 30 neighbors one rainy night meeting in someone’s living room.”
Large and small donations soon began to come in. Over the course of five years, the Oregon Community Foundation made several donations, and the Madison Meadow group received many small donations from people all over the city, Jerde said. The group also received a $100,000 donation from an anonymous source, she said.
In a year, the group had raised $220,000 for a down payment on the property and was given three years to raise the remaining $250,000.
“So many people came together, realizing the value of these two acres of green. The city does need to get denser, but as that happens, we need to hang on to these green spaces. They become so much more precious,” Jerde said.
The Madison Meadow group emphasizes the importance of knowing when not to build and refers to the greening of neighborhoods as “the new smart growth.”
“The meadow is a place where there’s a chance to see a snake or a dragonfly,” said Jerde. “Ball fields and school parks are great, but those are not places where you might catch a little glimpse of wildlife,” she said.
Now that the neighborhood group is the final steward of the meadow, it plans to continue enhancement projects it started several years ago. Jerde said the group plans to enhance biodiversity and native plants but doesn’t have any plans to make the meadow an off-limits reserve. She added that group wants to preserve the meadow’s rural feeling. “Rather than planting fussy garden plants, we want to help people feel like they’ve stepped back in time,” she said.
The group’s plans for the meadow include planting native prairie grasses as well as some heritage trees: several white oaks and a big leaf maple. Last spring, the group planted a butterfly garden as part of a project to help draw more monarch butterflies to the Willamette Valley. It has also been working with local schools to plant milkweed and native grasses, and plans to continue working with schoolchildren to reintroduce the camas flower.
Jerde said that because there is so much volunteer interest in enhancing the meadow, the Madison Meadow board will be doubling in size. She added that the board plans to consult with other neighborhood groups who want to preserve open space.
For now, Jerde encouraged anyone who’s interested to walk through the meadow. “It’s just a couple minutes of mental peace, to see all that green and all those trees,” she said. — Jessica Hirst
SNOW JOBS GET SPENDY
With dangerous snow and ice lingering for days on major city streets, should the city of Eugene be doing more to remove it?
“To be able to go out and get every street clear of ice and snow immediately, Eugene would have to make such an investment that it probably wouldn’t be justified,” said Eugene Public Works spokesman Eric Jones.
Snow removal is expensive. Chicago spends half a million dollars for a two-inch storm, according to press reports. Toronto, Canada, has a snow removal budget of more than $60 million a year. Windsor, Canada, a city a little larger than Eugene, has a fleet of 21 plows and trucks clearing streets at a cost of more than $12,000 an hour.
Jones said Eugene had eight trucks with attached plows or sanding boxes running around the clock for this snow storm since 3 am Monday, Dec. 15. The trucks had spread 400 cubic yards of sand by Tuesday morning.
“Every street that’s a priority route has received some treatment,” Jones said. Eugene has about 600 miles of snow routes.
The city gives top priority to its highest traffic streets and streets with major bus routes. A city map shows that 6th and 7th through town, Coburg Road and Chambers Street are first priority. Willamette Street, much of which had little hint of sand or plowing on Monday after the snow, is a second priority.
ODOT plows the I-5 and other freeways. Lane County does 30th Avenue and Delta Highway.
Like many cities, Eugene has an ordinance requiring businesses and citizens to shovel the sidewalk in front of their property. The city does sidewalks around public property, but not bike paths. “They are not a priority,” Jones said, noting cyclists may find the bus an attractive option when there is ice.
Like many cities, Eugene has reduced its use of salt to protect the environment and save money. Eugene uses magnesium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate as less damaging salt alternatives, according to Jones. After the melt, Eugene tries to sweep up sand to keep it out of storm drains.
Jones said snow storms are relatively rare in Eugene, so the city doesn’t have a set snow removal budget. As for the cost of the snow and ice this year, Jones said, “We won’t know for several days.”
The city of Toronto estimates that its $60 million snow removal budget saves twice that much in lost productivity from a single snowed-in day.
Not removing snow also has costs for Eugene. The city reported twice the usual number of accidents on Monday after the snow.
But while Eugene may average six usually quickly melting inches of snow a year, frozen Toronto averages 52 inches. —Alan Pittman
OLD WALNUT STILL STANDS
The arborists at the Eugene Tree Foundation have found a way to preserve the old black walnut tree that towers over the corner of 6th and Madison (News Briefs, 12/11). The Tree Foundation and other concerned tree lovers met with Eugene’s urban forester, Mark Snyder, last week to discuss the walnut that was scheduled to come down Dec. 15.
Alby Thoumsin, an arborist with Sperry Tree care and former president of the Eugene Tree Foundation, says they looked at the tree and it’s evaluation and decided the tree didn’t merit removal. Thoumsin says that the group went to Snyder and asked, “How can we help?”
Snyder says that he “appreciated that they contacted me” and that the calls from the arborists led him to review the report on the tree. He discovered that two of the main areas of concern — the cankers and the horizontal ridges in the bark caused by stress — did not actually make the tree unsafe. The stem cankers don’t decay the wood beneath them, Snyder says. The ridges, because they are beneath the branches, not above them in the “tension wood,” which gives the tree its strength, are not a sign that the branches are in danger of breaking. With these findings, Snyder says, “the significance of the safety risk is lowered.”
Even with those issues resolved, the problem still remained that the tree needed pruning to prevent future branches from breaking and falling, and such pruning is not in the city’s budget.
That’s where the Eugene Tree Foundation stepped in. They offered to partner with the city and not only take care of the branches that need pruning but also to pick the walnuts every July to reduce the weight on the branches and reduce walnut-induced car problems. That would leave the walnut tree to stand safely where it’s been for 100 years. Black walnut trees can live to be 200 years old. The LaFollette Black Walnut in Salem, a designated Heritage Tree, was believed to have been planted around 1880.
Thoumsin says different arborist companies will help out with the walnut tree and other trees in the future. For this tree, the city will supply a bucket truck and traffic control, and the arborists will provide their labor and expertise. “It’s a win-win situation,” Thoumsin says.
POLITICAL FOOTBALL MAJORS
The UO has an “extreme” concentration of men’s football and basketball players majoring in political science, which could raise concerns that the university may have clustered athletes in easy classes to protect eligibility.
Forty-one percent of UO seniors and juniors on the football team, 15 of 37 students, major in political science, according to a USA Today database published on the internet. Half the UO basketball team, four of eight players, majors in political science.
Only 4 percent of UO students as a whole major in political science.
An investigative report by USA Today found that such statistically “extreme” clusters of athlete majors raise questions of whether athletes and the athletic department are using easy classes in the major to avoid NCAA penalties for poor academic performance by athletes.
“When you have extreme clustering,” NCAA President Myles Brand, a former president of the UO told USA Today, “you really do have to ask some hard questions: Is there an adviser who’s pushing students into this? Are there some faculty members who are too friendly with student athletes?”
The New York Times reported in 2006 on an academic scandal at Auburn University involving a sociology professor who gave athletes high grades and full course credits for “independent study” classes that required little or no actual study.
According to its website, the UO Political Science Department offers similar “self-directed courses designed to allow students to explore an area of interest outside of the courses offered through the department. Because students’ interests are so varied, topics have run the gamut.” — Alan Pittman
GRINCH OF THE YEAR
Jobs with Justice, part of the Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network (ESSN), has named CEO Eric Eddings of Monterey Gourmet Foods, parent company of Eugene’s Emerald Valley Kitchen, as “Grinch of the Year.” The award was announced at ESSN’s holiday party Dec. 24.
Mel Bankoff founded the Eugene business in 1983, producing high quality, healthy organic foods; and he began promoting socially conscious, environmentally sustainable practices as well. He sold the business to Monterey Gourmet Foods in 2002, and now the company is planning to relocate the kitchen to Kent, Wash., as a cost-saving measure, says Jeanine Malito of ESSN.
“The parent company may save some overhead, but in the process sacrifice much more valuable assets inherent in the present location,” Malito says. “Much more than authenticity and integrity will become a causality if they uproot the company. It is questionable whether standards of quality, craftsmanship and efficiency will actually transfer and/or improve in the process.”
Emerald Valley Kitchen has 25 employ-ees and “is one of Monterey Gourmet Foods’ most efficient and profitable businesses,” says Malito.
ESSN is urging local people to contact Monterey Gourmet Foods to try to stop the move. The company’s address is 1528 Moffet St., Salinas, CA, 93905. Call (800) 588-7782 or email human resources at hr@MontereyGourmetFoods.com or Eric Eddings at erice@Monterey GourmetFoods.com
Christmas and New Year’s Day both fall on Thursday, our usual publishing day, so EW offices will be publishing a day early the next two weeks. Our offices will be closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, and closing at 3 pm Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Early deadline for reserving display ads for the Dec. 24 issue will be 3 pm Thursday, Dec. 18, and the early deadline for the Dec. 31 issue will be 3 pm Wednesday, Dec. 24. Deadlines return to normal Friday, Jan. 2, for the Jan. 8 issue. Questions? Call 484-0519.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,209 U.S. troops killed* (4,209)
• 30,871 U.S. troops injured* (30,852)
• 167 U.S. military suicides* (167)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 98,133 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (97,828)
• $579.8 billion cost of war ($577.8 billion)
• $164.9 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($163.2 million)
* through Dec. 15, 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)
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Lane County Vegetation Management Advisory Committee has three openings. Deadline to apply is 5pm Monday, Dec. 19. Contact Orin Shumacher, Integrated Vegetation Management coordinator at 682-6908. See www.co.lane.or.us/BCC/vacancies.htm
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org
• In calling for yet more prison beds, Lane County’s 15 Circuit Court judges should be hauled off for contempt of the citizens’ intelligence. Fact: The U.S. incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world. Fact: Oregon spends a larger portion of its budget on prisons than any other state in the nation (Pew Center). Fact: Lane County’s violent crime rate has fallen 42 percent in the last decade (Oregon Criminal Justice Commission). Fact: Eugene ranks as one of the safest cities in the nation (FBI data).
Even if the judges ignore the evidence and continue to argue that there’s a “deepening crisis” in crime and “the county cannot provide a safe place for our citizens to live and work,” what’s the best way to reduce crime? Studies confirm that prevention using drug, alcohol and mental health treatment, education and social welfare programs provide far more bang for the buck than prisons. Prisons cost $100,000 a bed to build and $30,000 a bed per year to operate.
If the judges still want to lock up taxpayer money in expensive jails, what would they cut to do it? Head Start? Senior programs? Mental health and drug treatment? Judge salaries? Whose taxes would they increase? On the realities of the county’s budget, the county’s blind justices are mum, and that makes them moot.
• Suppose Peter DeFazio decides to run for governor in 2012. He’d have a good shot at winning, and that would open up all sorts of possibilities. Pete Sorenson could run for DeFazio’s seat in Congress. Bonny Bettman, all rested and refreshed, could run for Sorenson’s seat on the County Commission. She’s too energetic and driven to just sit around.
Meanwhile, we’re looking forward to seeing what George Brown does with Bettman’s City Council seat next year. He’s much quieter and more diplomatic than Bettman, but she says his intelligence, dedication and values make her feel much better about retiring from the council. In fact, if George Brown hadn’t come forward, we’re not sure Bettman would have stepped down.
• Another looming departure has us musing about whether we ought to have a column that tracks the creative folk who leave Eugene for Stumptown. The latest to plan a trek north is just-crowned (in the EW Best of Eugene readers’ poll) Best Bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler, who’s riding a wave of national publicity (including mentions in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal) as he leaves Bel Ami for Portland’s Clyde Common. We’re sad to see him go, but at least he’s not going far.
• Kudos to Mason Williams and his friends and colleagues for putting on a spectacular Holiday Show last weekend at the Hult. The production showcased the exceptional musical talent that can be found in our community, from middle school kids to white-haired professionals. Loved every minute. Mason Williams has talked about retiring from performing, but he recently completed a road tour, and he’s back in top form. We hope he produces this community Holiday Show again, and again.
• Sold out? David Wagner’s hand-drawn Willamette Valley Nature Calendar makes an excellent local gift for nature lovers, but it’s been hard to find. Wagner tells us he’s just delivered 40 more to Down to Earth, and more can be found at the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Wagner writes and illustrates a monthly “It’s About Time” feature in EW the first week of each month.
• Tossing shoes at the president? Why would Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi undertake such a bold and dangerous insult? Look at the numbers; look at the lives. Somewhere between 98,000 and one million Iraqis have suffered violent deaths since the U.S. invasion. Countless others have been maimed. No U.S. soldiers have died this week (19 were seriously injured), but 305 Iraqi civilians have been reported killed in bombings and assassinations this past week, and 335 the week before that. Bush’s invasion unleashed and inflamed a disastrous civil war. This shoe-tossing incident is profoundly symbolic for the people of the Mideast, and Bush, in typical callous fashion, joked about it.