News Briefs: Cop Chief Talks Jails, Abuse | River Road Park District Eyes Choices | Rolling Stops for Bikes? | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections Clarifications
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: David Tam
Bridge to Somewhere
Will big stimulus trickle down green and wanted?
Cop Chief Talks Jails, Abuse
Eugene’s acting police chief Pete Kerns told the City Club Eugene should increase local jail capacity by up to 20 fold — without saying how he’d pay for it.
Kerns claimed that fewer jail beds led to increased crime, but FBI statistics show the crime rate in Eugene has dropped sharply in the last decade and that Eugene is one of the safest cities in the nation.
Lane County now has between 75 and 100 jail beds, down from 450 due to budget cuts in recent years, according to Kerns. “It’s like not having a jail at all,” he said. “We should have a jail that can hold between 1,000 and 1,600.”
A 1,600 bed jail would cost roughly $160 million to build and $50 million a year to operate, based on the costs of other facilities.
Kerns appeared to recognize that a new mega-jail isn’t likely. “I don’t know if the county will ever have the capacity,” Kerns said.
Kerns claimed that a lack of jail capacity had lead to a “spike in armed robberies here.” But 2007 FBI data show that Eugene’s robbery rate has declined 51 percent since 1997. According to the FBI, Eugene’s violent crime rate has fallen 53 percent and its property crime rate has fallen 43 percent since 1997. Out of 398 cities with more than 100,000 people, Eugene ranks 280th for violent crime rate and 90th for property crime rate, according to the FBI.
Eugene has a similar overall crime rate and population to Salem. But Eugene’s police budget is about one-third higher, according to city budget documents.
Kerns did say that the city could do more to inform neighborhoods of rashes of burglaries, within the police department’s existing budget. Eugene has a “well-staffed crime prevention unit,” he said. “We can do that.”
Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz appointed Kerns as acting police chief in October, ignoring an allegation that Kerns had failed to act on a sex abuse complaint against Roger Magaña. One of Magaña’s dozen victims alleged under oath in his criminal trial that she told Kerns and two other EPD officers about the sex abuse, but Kerns and the other officers did nothing.
Asked why EPD failed to act to stop Magana’s six-year sex abuse spree, Kerns said, “It was impossible for us to believe that could happen.”
Kerns called the police oversight system twice passed by voters in the wake of the scandal “a good one.” He said the system had led to improvements in training. He said the police union, which has attacked independent oversight, has “a duty to protect the labor rights of every member in their organization.” But he said union leaders “do not always speak in a way that reflects the values” of every member of the police department.
Kerns also said police jail many mentally ill people because “Lane County doesn’t have enough mental health care.” He made a call for an increase in mental health treatment beds similar to his call for increased jail beds.
Whether or not marijuana should be legalized “is a really good question,” Kerns said. “Alcohol does far more damage to our society than any other drug,” Kerns said. “I’m more concerned about that.” — Alan Pittman
RIVER ROAD PARK DISTRICT EYES CHOICES
The River Road Park & Recreation District has received supplemental funding from the city of Eugene for the past 24 years, but that funding is about to dry up due to budget tightening by the city. According to district manager Dale Weigandt, the organization has two options to replace the $100,000 that will soon be gone from the district’s $3 million budget: a five-year serial levy in May that would increase the taxes paid by in-district residents; or expanding the district.
Out-of-district residents who currently use the pool, fitness center, community center and other activities pay a higher fee to compensate for not paying district taxes. Community use of the recreation center has been increasing in recent years, along with operating expenses.
“There are folks out in the Santa Clara area that are in the city, and a lot of folks that are out of the city. So what we would be doing is expanding our district out to the end of Santa Clara.” The district is meeting with community groups and also looking into legal issues involved in changing district boundaries. Weigandt says a questionnaire might be sent to Santa Clara residents soon “to see if they’d be up for it, and we’d proceed from there.”
The district currently runs north from the Chambers connector to Beltline. The west boundary is the NW Expressway, and the east boundary is the Willamette River.
The original source of city funding was to compensate the district for lost revenues when part of the River Road area was annexed into the city 24 years ago. “We were in a 20-year agreement to begin with,” says Weigandt. “That agreement ended, so year by year they gave us $100,000, which was a little bit less. This last year we met with the City Council, and they had instructed the city manager to reconstruct the budget and cut us out. … We’ve been in discussion with the council and have come up empty.”
The topic is expected to be on the agenda when River Road residents and community groups get together for a mid-winter celebration from 1 to 5 pm Saturday, Feb. 7, at the River Road Rec Center, 1400 Lake Dr. At 1:30 pm will be a discussion of the River Road Park District; and at 3:15 pm will be a discussion of “creating a livable neighborhood.” For more information, call 686-6761. The district’s website is rrpark.org — Ted Taylor
ROLLING STOPS FOR BIKES?
The Portland-based Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) is calling for a new state law that would make it legal for cyclists to roll through stop signs after yielding the right of way if there are other vehicles at the intersection. The bill, being drafted in Salem, is inspired by Idaho legislation.
The Idaho law passed in 1982 and has reportedly not led to increased bike collisions and injuries. A similar bill (HB 2768) was introduced in Oregon in 2003 and passed the House but did not make it through the Senate. BikePortland.org reports that Senate support is expected to be stronger this time.
What about Eugene’s more dangerous intersections? A provision in the bill would allow Oregon cities to require bikes to come to a complete stop at certain marked intersections. Stop light rules would continue to be enforced for cyclists.
Supporters of the bill say constant stopping and starting is energy-inefficient, slows commuting time, is a danger for riders with toe clips or shoe cleats and adds an element of police paranoia to bike riding. Changing the law would also free up police time to focus on more dangerous activities by motorists and bicyclists. Reckless bike riders would still be subjected to tickets.
A response to frequently asked questions about the bill can be found at www.bta4bikes.org — Ted Taylor
• The Police Auditor Ordinance Review Committee meets from 5 to 7:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 5 at the McNutt Room at City Hall. Public input time is at the beginning and end of the meetings. Guest speaker (by phone) will be Pete Sandrock, a Portland attorney and consultant specializing in government administration. Sandrock will speak and answer questions on the issue of “concurrency.”
• Eat Here Now, a local foods community potluck honoring local farmers, is planned for 6 to 9 pm Saturday, Feb. 7, at the First United Methodist Church, 13th & Olive. Suggested Donation is $5, and participants are asked to bring a dish to share. Music, ice cream, massage for farmers, and a contest or two are planned. Farmers will give a “State of the Local Farm” address. For more information, contact Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, 341-1216, or email email@example.com
• Feb. 6 is the deadline to apply to fill a vacancy on the Eugene Police Commission (EPC). Chuck Hare resigned, reportedly due to scheduling conflicts with his work. The person appointed will serve the remainder of Hare’s term, which will expire Oct. 31, 2011. Apply online via www.eugene-or.gov/bcc or contact the City Manager’s Office at 682-5406. All meetings are at 5:30 pm in the McNutt Room at City Hall. The EPC’s Universal Access Committee meets Wednesday, Feb. 11. The regular meeting of the EPC is Thursday, Feb. 12. The EPC’s Public Outreach Committee meets Feb. 25.
• The trial of Ian Van Ornum is tentatively set for 9 am Tuesday, Feb. 10, at the Lane County Courthouse. Van Ornum was Tasered and arrested during a May protest in Eugene. He is charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Court dockets are published daily at www.ojd.state.or.us/lane/calendar or see www.crazypeopleforwildplaces.com for more information.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,237 U.S. troops killed* (4,236)
• 31,004 U.S. troops injured* (30,984)
• 167 U.S. military suicides* (167)
• 317 coalition troops killed** (317)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 98,848 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (98,731)
• $593.5 billion cost of war ($591.6 billion)
• $168.8 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($168.2 million)
* through Feb. 2, 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)
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• From Triangle Lake to Lorane: Seneca Jones (461-6245) will aerially spray 174 acres near Lake, Fish, Camus, Barlow, Letz creeks and Siuslaw River with 2,4-D, Triclopyr ester, Velpar, Atrazine and sulfometuron methyl starting Feb. 23rd (#50075).
• Near Fox Hollow and Lorane Highway area: Transition Management Inc. (484-6706) will ground spray 289 acres with Triclopyr ester, glyphosate, Imazapyr, Metsulfuron/Sulfometuron and Hexazinone plus Induce, MSO and Crop Oil adjuvants near Doak, Fox Hollow, Coyote and Preacher Creeks starting immediately (renewal of #50265, 50757, 50765-66).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org
In last week’s issue of Chow, The Humble Beagle Pub’s blog was listed incorrectly; the correct site is thehumblebeagle.blogspot.com
• With the economy down, local developers, land speculators and their allies have wrangled what looks like and smells like no-interest, high-risk loans from taxpayers. Springfield’s developer-dominated government recently enacted a taxpayer subsidy in the form of delayed planning and systems development fees. Now, the developer lobbyists and R-G want to stick up every other government in the state for taxpayer money as well. Are they crazy? How about the rest of us poor schmucks? Where are our no-interest, high-risk loans? With the same money, many local businesses and other taxpayers could create far more jobs than the over-building developers. That’s why the banks won’t lend to them. Hey, how about no-interest loans for any taxpayer who has something better to do with their taxes? If you really want to help the developers, how about no-interest loans for low-income home buyers?
• Jim Klonoski was an academician and progressive activist whose impact will ripple through our world for generations. He died Jan. 30 at age 83 after a short illness. A celebration of life is planned at 2 pm Friday, Feb. 6, at the Jaqua Concert Hall in The Shedd at East Broadway and High.
Many of his former UO political science students can be found holding office and performing public service all over the country, following his fine example. He was chair of the Lane County Democratic Party and Oregon Democratic Party, unusual efforts for an academic. His students learned to reason, listen, examine the political history and fabric of this country, and always care about other people. Just as he inspired his students, he inspired and supported his wife, federal Judge Ann Aiken, in her professional and public service. Jim Klonoski was a great American.
• Layoffs at EW? We’ve been immune in large part to the tribulations of mainstream media, and we even posted record revenues in 2007 and 2008. But surprise! 2009 is not looking so good. Some of our loyal advertisers are predicting they will spend fewer dollars this year. We are still solid and debt-free, but to stay that way, we need to make some adjustments. Last week, we reshuffled job descriptions and painfully cut the equivalent of about three full-time positions. We figure this is a temporary move, based on the fact that our readership remains strong, with nearly 90,000 readers in print and 250,000 page views on our website each month. The economy will turn around, and people will always appreciate a free newspaper and an alternative voice.
How can you help? The best thing to do is support our advertisers and buy local goods and services whenever possible. These small businesses keep jobs in our community, and keep us afloat. Additionally, many struggling nonprofit organizations would love to advertise in EW in order to promote their services and build community support. If you have the resources, you could help them do just that, and get a tax write-off to boot.
• Students are familiar with www.RateMyProfessor.com where they can log in and comment, and read comments about profs on campus before taking a class. We discovered this week www.RateMyCop.com where you can log in and make comments about the officer who just pulled you over, helped protect you or Tasered you. Comments are anonymous, the site says, unless you make threatening or abusive comments. Then they turn you in to the cops.
Born in 1976, shortly after his parents arrived from Guangzhou, China, David Tam was the only non-white kid in his class through grade school in Depoe Bay and high school in Lincoln City. “My parents owned a restaurant, a hotel, and a tavern,” he says. “I was cleaning hotel rooms when I was 8.” Tam first fell in love with Eugene when he came to town for a high school track meet. He returned to earn a UO degree in business and economics in 1999 and now works as an independent broker with Lincoln Financial. “Growing up in a small town, I learned how to deal with cultural identity issues,” says Tam, who mentors a group of teenage Chinese Lion Dancers every Saturday at Westmoreland School. “I can relate to the challenges of youth.” Currently president of the Chinese-American Benevolent Association and the Asian Council, Tam is in his fourth year as chairman of the Oregon Asian Celebration. “It takes nine months of planning,” he notes. “We have a committee of 30 that works year-round.” This year’s 24th annual celebration, “Heart of Asia,” is scheduled for Feb. 14-15 at the Lane County Fairgrounds. Find a complete listing of activities and events at asiancelebration.org.