Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
A greener response to economic and climate crises
GRAYING R-G LOSES ADS AND READERS
Last year was “the worst financial year my newspaper has ever had,” Register-Guard editor and publisher Tony Baker III told the City Club Jan. 9.
Baker said his paper has permanently lost more than two-thirds of its classified ads to Craigslist and eBay, has lost 21 percent of its circulation since 1994, cut more than 10 percent of its jobs in the last two years and saw declining ad sales for Christmas when sales usually increase. “Business this year is going to be very, very slow,” Baker said.
|R-G’s Tony Baker|
In an interview after his speech to a crowd of 200, Baker refused to say how much profits have declined while the paper cuts jobs and content. “We don’t share that information; we’re a private family business,” he said.
Baker declined to give a range of profits or revenue for the paper or the trend in those figures or say whether the newspaper was even still making profits. When pressed on the profit trend, the newspaper editor and publisher admitted, “Yes, it’s gone down,” before ending the interview, saying, “We’re through.”
Daily newspapers have come under criticism in the past for maintaining profit margins far higher than other businesses while cutting staff and content. A reliable source who has spoken with Baker family members says the R-G had a profit of about 28 percent in the early 1990s but that the profit margin may have fallen to about 3 percent.
Baker told the City Club that the paper has given up on attracting younger readers who use the Internet. “We’re not going to chase them,” he said. “It’s folly,” he said. “They’re not reading newspapers.”
“There are very few 18-34 year-olds in here if any,” Baker said, looking at the City Club crowd that included many with hearing aids and at least one oxygen tank. Baker said the paper would focus on its “core readership” of people like those in the room.
With the staff cuts, “We are a small newsroom today,” Baker said. “We’ve lost some really good people.”
To save money on paper, Baker said the paper will cut its physical width by 1.5 inches. Some days the paper cuts news stories to save paper, he said; other days, “It’s simply a matter of fewer people” writing stories.
But while cutting local news, Baker said the paper will not cut sports pages because “we hear loud and clear” from sports readers not to. But the section attracts few advertisers, he said. Baker said advertisers say, “If you put me on sports, I won’t pay for it.”
Baker said the paper has a “fledgling website” to which it will add some staff in the hope that the site will attract younger readers and grow from $1 million in revenues to $5 million in the next five years. He said the paper won’t scrap any daily printing to go online “anytime soon.”
Baker said that although the 82-year-old newspaper is his family’s “crown jewel,” the business has also diversified into development. Fifteen years ago the newspaper sold its downtown headquarters. “We took that money and purchased a strip mall in Boise,” Baker said.
Moving the paper to a field on the edge of town has drawn criticism from opponents of urban sprawl, but Baker said the paper needed big surface parking lots. Baker said the family rejected selling the downtown property for a retail mall and instead got a “good deal” selling to the UO. The paper also built an adjacent office and apartment building.
The R-G is still trying to build a large office park development on the 43 acres it bought on Chad Drive in north Eugene. But, Baker said, “this isn’t the right time to do that.” — Alan Pittman
ANOTHER HATE CRIME?
“I was pretty much attacked over a cigarette,” says Joshua Fred of the attack Friday night, Jan. 9, that may have left him with half an ear. Fred says he didn’t think of the attack as a hate crime at first, but during the fray, his knife-wielding attacker said, “We’re white supremacists, and we’re going to fucking kill you.”
|Billy L. Brosowske|
Fred, who is Puerto Rican and self-identifies as “dark skinned,” says he, his girlfriend and another friend were walking down the 13th Alley near Pegasus Pizza to 7-11 around 2:30am when a couple of men called out to him, asking for a cigarette. Fred told them, “I don’t have any; I bummed one from someone else.”
The two men, later identified by the EPD as Billy L. Brosowske and Michael J. Hikes, kept approaching, and according to Fred, they pushed him to the ground and began a fight even though he told them to leave him alone. A white van then pulled up, and a couple girls got out and joined the fight, at one point striking his girlfriend, Fred says.
Fred says that Brosowske pulled out a curved knife, “almost like a fillet knife,” Fred says. “I was like, what are you doing with a knife?”
Fred alleges that Brosowske said he was a white supremacist and added, “I’m going to stab holes in you.”
“I’ve been in front of racism before,” Fred says, “but I’ve never had someone come after me just after a cigarette. I can still see the light flashing off the blade.”
After Brosowske pulled the knife, “he got the craziest look,” Fred says. “I don’t even know what happened to the knife. He bit my ear, tore the top half off and spit it out.”
The suspects left in the van, but they were soon pulled over and apprehended by the EPD.
“I went and grabbed my ear; I was really upset,” says Fred.
Fred went to the hospital, where medical staff attempted to reattach his ear. According to Fred’s mother, Yvonne Fred, the attempt failed, but doctors hope to reconstruct his ear. She writes, “I’m horrified that after being attacked by self-proclaimed white supremacists, my son had to sort through leaves and rocks to find the piece of his ear the guy bit off.”
According to EPD spokeswoman, Melinda Kletzok, “EPD took quite a bit of time investigating this to see if it was a hate crime, and early on we gave a heads up to the Human Rights Commission and others in case it ended up being one.”
Brosowske has been charged with second- and third-degree assault and menacing, and Hikes was charged with two counts of third-degree assault. The two women involved, Kimberly Willis and Taeza Lowell, were charged with third-degree assault. At press time, Hikes and Brosowske were still at the Lane County Jail.
According to Kletzok, “It didn’t end up having a chargeable hate offense because there wasn’t anything that made it a bias crime as defined by ORS 166.155.” She says, “Brosowske stated he was a white supremacist, but there are no statutes on the books making a simple statement a hate crime.”
Yvonne Fred says she wants people to be “aware of the horrible racism still lurking in our cities. I am so shocked and devastated. He’s my only son, and I could have lost him because of his color.” — Camilla Mortensen
PIERCY ON STTE OF THE CITY
In her fifth State of the City speech last week, Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy called for an economic summit, discussion of an in-house city attorney, tapping into the Obama federal stimulus package and locating a solar panel factory at the closed-down Hynix plant. She also hinted at possible tax measures for more jail beds, crime prevention and affordable housing.
|Mayor Kitty Piercy|
Here are some highlights from Piercy’s speech to a standing-room crowd of more than 300 people in the Hult Center lobby:
• “Eugene has a list of over $200 million in ‘ready to go’ projects that fit” Obama’s plans for a federal stimulus. Piercy said that the projects, if funded, “could create 4,404 well-paying jobs by the end of next year — with an emphasis on green industry.”
• Piercy called for an economic summit early this year. She called for decreasing “our impact on climate change and finite resources” and said, “Moving from Hynix to solar is our community goal.”
• “We cannot have this revolving door in our jail, and a court system that cannot do its job. While our city is still rated one of the safest, this won’t continue if the system is not fixed. Eugene voters will support specific, balanced and accountable solutions that are not simply a forwarding of failed policies.”
• Piercy said the council should discuss ways to help the homeless with housing and “ensure that more citizens have basic needs met, including treatment programs, mental health care and shelter options. It will not be cheap.”
• Piercy said the city manager “will examine whether or not an in-house city attorney makes good governance sense for a city of our size and complexity, and will be seeking input from the City Council as part of his analysis.”
In the past, Piercy’s State of the City addresses have included performances by the Soromundi lesbian choir and a local group of young people rapping about global warming. This year the event appeared less diverse. The Eugene police union publicly attacked Mayor Piercy’s last State of the City address as a “bizarre” “three-ringed circus.” The police oppose the independent police auditor Piercy supports and the voters twice passed. The union was one of the largest financial backers for Jim Torrey’s failed campaign to unseat Piercy last year.
This year, Piercy included an award to a group of unsmiling officers from the police Violent Crimes Unit and posed with them for an awkward picture (see blogs.eugeneweekly.com for the video). —Alan Pittman
PARTY FOR AND WITH NEW PREZ
Lane County Obama fans who can’t make it to Washington, D.C., next Tuesday will be whooping it up at home, at their desks and workbenches, on job sites, in their cars, on their bikes and skateboards, and around TVs , radios and websites Jan. 20. And those who can get away are gathering for morning and evening group love-fests around town. They include:
• Inauguration Celebration, benefit for FOOD for Lane County and Dr. John Crumbley Youth Support Fund, 8:30 to 10:30 am, Bijou Cinemas on 13th Avenue. $10, $20 family.
• Obama Inauguration and Peace Ball, 6 to 9 pm, Cozmic Pizza, downtown. Music, dancing to the Sugar Beets, comedy, spoken word poetry, Department of Peace updates, “general rowdiness” are expected. Proceeds from sliding scale $10-$50 admission fees will be donated to Refugees International, an organization that aids war refugees in many countries and has successfully provided field reports to Congress to lobby for more aid. See www.refugeesinternational.org
• The Downtown Get Down Inauguration Party, benefit for White Bird Clinic, featuring karaoke, raffle, dance party, more, 6:30 pm, Diablo’s Downtown Lounge. 21+. $1.
• Sierra Club’s Inauguration Day beer social to discuss priorities for the Obama administration, 7 pm, McMenamins East 19th and Agate. Free.
NEW NCAP DIRECTOR
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) is under new leadership. As Norma Grier, the executive director since 1983 (see EW 1/8), retires after more than 31 years working to reform pesticide use, Kim Leval will take the reins of the organization. Grier will serve as a transition consultant for the next six months.
Leval has a long history of working with rural residents, family farmers and ranchers, first as a policy analyst with the Center for Rural Affairs and then as fund development director for Rural Development Initiatives (RDI). She graduated from the UO in 1989 and went on to get master’s degree in adult education and agricultural extension from Cornell.
Originally based out of Nebraska where she worked for the Center for Rural Affairs, Leval moved back to Oregon to be near her family, according to her bio. It was here that she met her husband, Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson.
NCAP works on programs ranging from clean water for salmon, to pesticide free parks and sustainable, pesticide-free agriculture among many other pesticide issues. — Camilla Mortensen
• CALC is hosting a public forum, “Afghanistan/Pakistan/India: Time for a New U.S. Peace Strategy,” at 7 pm Thursday, Jan. 15, at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave. The Obama administration is planning to increase U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. Dan Goldrich and Stan Taylor of CALC’s Progressive Responses will present a different approach that will outline alternative strategies to resolve conflicts and create lasting peace in the region.
• Rep. Phil Barnhart will be holding a joint town hall meeting with Sen. Floyd Prozanski and Rep. Paul Holvey at 9:30 am Saturday, Jan. 17, in the Library at Roosevelt Middle School.
• Brewhaha is back. The monthly forum sponsored by the Bus Project and EW is at 6 pm Wednesday, Jan. 21 at Davis’ Restaurant, 94 W. Broadway. The topic is “City Government 101,” looking at our current manager/council form of government and examining alternatives.
• Citizens for Public Accountability is planning its annual meeting at 7 pm Wednesday, Jan. 21 at Tsunami Books, 26th and Willamette. The tentative list of speakers includes Police Auditor Dawn Reynolds, Carol Berg of Citizens for Ethical Law Enforcement, Tim Lewis of Eugene Copwatch, former Councilor Bonny Bettman and Rick Brissenden of the Civilian Review Board. To get on CPA’s email list, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,225 U.S. troops killed* (4,221)
• 30,934 U.S. troops injured* (30,920)
• 167 U.S. military suicides* (167)
• 317 coalition troops killed** (316)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 98,564 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (98,521)
• $587.7 billion cost of war ($585.7 billion)
• $167.1 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($166.6 million)
* through Jan. 12, 2009; 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)
Eugene Weekly offices will be closed Monday, Jan. 19, to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The early deadline for reserving display ad space for our Jan. 22 issue is 5 pm Thursday, Jan. 15. Questions? Call 484-0519.
• These are hopeful times despite the economic free-fall that affects just about every family. Barack Obama is about to become the new boss, and he’s a walking, talking stimulus package all by himself. It’s a peculiar phenomenon that the dollar values of our nation’s stocks and bonds are driven in part by emotions such as fear, distrust, hope and confidence. Obama has the power to affect the mood of the nation, which in turn can help restore our economy.
But the value of equities is only a part of our economic system. This recession provides extra motivation to clamp down on the excesses and abuses that have evolved over the years: our unbalanced tax system, unreasonable pay for corporate executives, unfair labor practices, unregulated banking practices, the growing gap between rich and poor, our overblown penal system, medical care inequities, unsustainable land use practices that harm us in the long run and others.
This week in EW we are printing your letters to Obama, and for the most part they are hopeful, reflecting the best wishes and best intentions of a community and a nation more than ready for a peaceful revolution.
• Kulongoski this week said he wants to raise state taxes; Obama wants to cut federal taxes. We’ve seen evidence that both raising and lowering taxes can provide an economic boost. Depends on how it’s done: who pays more, who pays less, how new revenues are spent, how cuts in spending are made. Democrats are bringing new priorities to the table.
• Police harassment at the mayor’s address? River Road community activist Jan Spencer says he was threatened with arrest at the Mayor’s State of the City address Jan. 7. His offense? Passing out flyers for the annual Citizens State of the City and County address. Spencer says he was told by a woman passing out programs that the Hult Center does not allow such activity. He said “Show me where that’s written,” and walked away. The woman apparently complained, and a plainclothes police officer escorted Spencer outside and told him handing out flyers was “not allowed” at council meetings. Since when? Spencer says a woman holding a sign was also taken outside by an officer. Both of these incidents cross the line when it comes to free speech at a public event on public property and cannot be tolerated.
• Last week we received an odd email from “David Minor’s Ghost.” It reads in part: I’m touched at how much feeling was stirred by my death. The outpourings of love, the flowers, the theater (with beer!) named for me, these are all wonderful things. Thank you, it means a lot. But it’s time to let me go. I’m stuck at the corner of 13th & Willamette. I want to get on with my afterlife. There’s too much psychic energy holding me here. It’s time to move on. You have no idea how boring it is hanging around Kinko’s all day. So please, dismantle the memorial and let me go. It’s time.
On Aug. 28, 2008 in this column we wrote about a community effort to create a permanent memorial for 10-year-old Vaclav Hajek, killed by a car while walking his bicycle across Bailey Hill Road. The Hajek family and friends want to create permanent memorials for those who have lost their lives in pedestrian or bicycle accidents, including David Minor and others. The city has a Memorial Bench Program already in place, but perhaps something more than a bench could be erected to honor the victims and also remind everyone passing by to be more careful. SELCO Credit Union branches now have a “Safe Passages Memorial Fund” set up, account number 453949.
• Can pharmacists do more? Here is an idea we picked up in a New Year’s Eve conversation with an Oregon physician: How about legislatively expanding the role and practice of pharmacists in Oregon? Other states and even some government agencies are ahead of us. Pharmacists are highly trained medical professionals who, in certain circumstances, should be able to prescribe and administer drug therapies in collaboration with doctors. In fact, pharmacists sometimes know more about the medications, dosages and drug interactions than MDs. The improvements in medical records technology planned by Obama would be very helpful in tracking prescriptions, avoiding abuse and errors and saving millions in unnecessary doctor visits. Patients could carry cards with their medical histories right on them, or the cards could provide access to web-based medical records.