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Eugene Weekly : News : 3.26.09





News Briefs:
Beamud Slams Police Auditor ‘Twisted Scrutiny’ | Bus Project Raises Bucks | EPD Held REFs at Gunpoint | Downtown Re-Bar | Paper Gets Concessions From Unions | LCOG Pushes Computers Over Safety | HOPES Confab Nears at UO | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

News:

Collaborative Boulevard


Former opponents share west Eugene vision

Something Eug! By Dan Pagoda





Beamud Slams Police Auditor ‘Twisted Scrutiny’

The allegations that resulted in the Eugene City Council putting interim Police Auditor Dawn Reynolds on leave are “disturbing and disruptive” and lack merit, Eugene’s previous auditor Cris Beamud said in a written statement. 

Cris Beamud

“I have had an opportunity to speak with Dawn Reynolds, and I do not believe that the allegations against her are meritorious,” wrote Beamud, who left Eugene last summer to head the police oversight system in Atlanta.

Interim deputy auditor Elizabeth Southworth accused Reynolds of disclosing confidential information, and the City Council met in a session closed to the public on Saturday and put Reynolds on administrative leave while investigating the complaint. “It doesn’t sit well that the auditor would be exposed to such scrutiny for so little,” said Beamud in an interview.

“The information that she [Reynolds] disclosed to the lawyer representing a complainant was not privileged or private or even investigatory in nature,” Beamud wrote in her statement. “You cannot take otherwise public information and transform it into privileged information by putting it in a file. That is exactly what some members of the police department would like to do.”

Beamud continued, “No human being can withstand the twisted scrutiny that the police would like to impose on the auditor. This is a very difficult position, and I do not believe that any person can do this type of work without the support of the City Council. The City Council needs to examine the nature of the allegation, including the auditor’s perspective, before doing anything that undermines her authority and ability to do her work.”

Reynolds’ attorney Margaret Wilson issued a statement saying the interim auditor’s “conduct was professional and entirely consistent with her public duties.” Wilson compared the complaint to a previous unfounded complaint against Beamud.  “These controversies are spawned by those opposed to civilian oversight and those who do not understand that transparency cannot be achieved if absolute and unreasoned secrecy is required.”  — Alan Pittman

 

Bus Project Raises Bucks

Nearly 60 Bus Project supporters from Lane County and Portland turned out for a fundraiser at Davis’ Restaurant March 15. The Lane County ShowBUSiness event, complete with music, food, local political celebrities and kung-fu-fighting ninja waiters, raised about $2,500 toward getting the group’s bus insured and on the road.

Sen. Vicki Walker is recognized at the Bus Project event. Photo by Brian Jones

Individuals recognized at the event included volunteer Robin Caldwell and County Commissioner Rob Handy, who won the James Mattiace Campaign Commemorative Award for canvassing 19,000-plus doors in 10 months in 2008. “We are hoping to make this a tradition, recognizing people who really embrace grassroots campaigning,” says Ashley Miller of the Lane Bus Project.

Other elected officials at the event were Rep. Chris Edwards and Sen. Vicki Walker. “One of the things I really like about this event is that we had a chance to see our electeds let their hair down a little,” says Miller. 

Bajuana Tea, a local band made up of Matrisha and Austin Armitage, played for much of the evening. — Ted Taylor

 

EPD Held REFs at Gunpoint

The Eugene Civilian Review Board (CRB) expressed concern that the Eugene Police Department is regularly conducting illegal searches. 

“We’ve had a number of Fourth Amendment cases that we’ve reviewed, and we seem to be finding differently than the police department,” said CRB Chairman Norton Cabell, a property manager. “I worry that we have officers who are too quick to search.” 

Cabell’s concern came after the CRB reviewed a case in which the police mistakenly believed two guests who entered an empty house dressed in their referee uniforms were burglars, pointed guns at them and then searched the residence with a police dog without obtaining a warrant. Police had responded to a concerned neighbor’s call.

The CRB discusses cases anonymously and did not identify the softball referees or police officers involved in the incident last June.

“It’s just plain not in compliance with Oregon law,” said CRB member Rick Brissenden. Brissenden is a municipal court judge in Florence and Cottage Grove.

But EPD Capt. Steve Swenson responded to the CRB and auditor’s determination that the police erred in dismissing a complaint in the case. “I don’t agree with the approach you took that the search was unreasonable and the arrest was unlawful,” he said. “I take exception that police officers should ask permission of potential suspects who may be burglarizing a place,” Swenson said. “That’s not reasonable.”

Brissenden said the evidence in the case did not indicate the police were justified. “I don’t think there’s a reasonable basis.”

Oregon law requires that to search police must have a reasonable basis to believe that a crime is in progress, or “there’s got to be an identifiable real person that is in distress,” said Brissenden. But in this case, in which the two guests were dressed as referees, had explained their presence, had left the keys in the door and had left the TV on, “everything argued against this being a burglary.”

Brissenden said he was also concerned that the police pointed their guns at the two referees, one a retired postman. He said that if one of the referees had reached for his wallet to produce ID, “in a fraction of a second,” he could have been shot. “Boom.”

CRB members also expressed concern that the Eugene police Internal Affairs investigation of the case was incomplete and biased. CRB members noted that the police internal investigator failed to interview one of the referees, the homeowner, the 911 caller, or a woman called to identify the guests. The investigator also failed to review the 911 tapes or find out why the police cruiser’s video camera was turned off.

“It was not very thorough,” said CRB member Ann-Marie Lemire, a chaplain at Sacred Heart hospital.

Brissenden said interview tapes showed the IA investigator asked “leading” questions to the investigated officer to legally justify the search. “It wasn’t even the officer’s words; it was the investigator’s words,” he said.

When the IA investigator interviewed the citizen complainant, “he seemed like he was doing more public relations than doing complaint investigation,” said Brissenden, the CRB member and judge. “It was almost like, convince the complainant this was OK.” —Alan Pittman

 

Downtown Re-Bar

More good news for downtown arrives this week in the form of Bar 201, a new cocktail-focused lounge at the corner of West Broadway and Charnelton, formerly home to the Moxie. 

“What I envision is a place to have a couple of nice cocktails before you go to the [Barmuda] Triangle and dance,” says bar manager Richard Geil, who most recently tended bar at Bel Ami. Geil says he’s saved a few popular drinks from Bel Ami’s menu and is “picking up where Bel Ami left off” in terms of craft bartending using local and house-made ingredients (including tonic, bitters and ginger beer). 

The opening menu lists 12 cocktails as well as bottled beer and a small wine selection, though beer and wine aren’t the emphasis. “We’ll try to be a nice cocktail lounge” Geil says, adding that the bar’s atmosphere is “reminiscent of a Pearl District spot.”

Bar 201’s tiny kitchen space means limited food options, but Geil says they’ll offer “good bar food” and will eventually expand the menu, possibly adding lunch service in a few months. He’s optimistic about the bar’s downtown location, which is kitty-corner from the space just purchased by the Lord Leebrick Theatre. “Just while setting [Bar 201] up I’ve seen so much foot traffic. So many people do walk by this place and are downtown, and they need a place to go,” Geil says.

Bar 201 opens at 4 pm Thursday, March 26, and will be open from 4 pm to 2:30 am daily. — Molly Templeton

 

Paper Gets Concessions From Unions

Recent bargaining sessions between Register-Guard management and three unions representing employees have led to a series of one-year concessions from unions. 

The new contract with the Eugene Newspaper Guild, which represents 135 reporters and editors, includes a week of unpaid time off, a 4 percent wage roll-back, an end to 401(k) company contributions, reductions in medical benefits and other cutbacks, according to Randi Bjornstad of the Guild. Two other unions representing press operators and typographers agreed to similar concessions. 

The three unions account for about 75 percent of the newspaper’s 350 employees, according to a Jan. 15 R-G story by Ilene Aleshire. The story says the company lost “several million dollars in 2008,” but Bjornstad says “we were told it was $5 million” in negotiations, “and that the industry projection was that we could expect half as much losses this year.” Daily newspapers nationwide lost about 15 percent of their revenues in 2008 and are projected to lose another 8 percent in 2009, she says.

The daily had already cut 32 full-time positions before what COO David Pero described as a “perfect storm” of events in late 2008 with lost advertising and increased paper costs. The new labor contracts are an attempt to maintain current staffing, according to the R-G story.

Before the contract negotiations last July and again in January, the R-G had provided “fabulous” medical benefits “for a very long time,” says Bjornstad. “We felt we really couldn’t, in good conscience, delay settling over that issue. … We knew we needed to make some concessions there.” The Guild agreed to a “straight-forward 80-20 plan with a $1,000 deductible.”

The company had asked for permanent concessions in several areas, she says, but all the bargaining units independently held out for a one-year limit, with hopes that the economy will improve.

Bjornstad says management and non-union employees are experiencing a different set of cutbacks, including a wage freeze.

The unions at the R-G have suffered through traumatic bargaining sessions in years past, particularly when notorious Tennessee union buster Michael Zinser represented management at the table. Editor and publisher Tony Baker was at the table for last July’s Guild negotiations, and “it was much more of a collaborative process than we’ve had in the past,” says Bjornstad. — Ted Taylor

 

LCOG Pushes Computers Over Safety

With pedestrian deaths in Eugene and Springfield making recent headlines along with big federal stimulus checks, you’d think some of the money could go to solve the deadly problem.

But not if you’re the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG). In a March 12 meeting of the Metropolitan Policy Committee (MPC), LCOG staff opposed spending any of the $6.6 million in federal stimulus money it controls on pedestrian safety. What was a higher priority? A half-million dollars in new computer software for LCOG staff. 

The MPC, composed of delegates from local elected and unelected bodies, quickly approved the recommendation unanimously.

Pedestrian projects are “handled better at the local level without federal dollars,” LCOG manager Andrea Riner told the MPC. 

That may be news to LCOG’s counterpart in Portland. Metro Council, an elected agency, allocated more than $2.4 million of its stimulus money to sidewalks, flashing school zone signs, wheelchair curb cuts and other pedestrian safety improvements. 

MPC member Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy argued in support of LCOG’s emphasis on roads over sidewalks and crosswalks. “A lot of people walk on our roads, so when you fix a road you’re actually meeting pedestrian need,” she said.

But Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson appeared more concerned. “People are being killed on our roads,” he said. “It’s very dangerous.”

LCOG’s citizen advisory committee to the MPC also recommended using stimulus money for pedestrian safety, but LCOG staff dismissed the recommendation.

Riner was more excited about spending stimulus money on a new LCOG office computer system. She called for spending $500,000 of the stimulus on a new “state-of-the-art” software system for modeling transportation and land use decisions. LCOG’s current system is “the transportation planning equivalent of a typewriter,” she said. With the stimulus, “this is a golden opportunity to do this.”

In a memo to the MPC, LCOG estimated that the $500,000 would create approximately five to six jobs. But the memo also describes the software as labor saving and does not say where the software is made or whether any of the new jobs will be local or at LCOG itself. — Alan Pittman

 

HOPES Confab Nears at UO

The UO’s annual HOPES eco-design arts conference will be April 2-5 in Lawrence Hall on campus. The theme this year is “Thinking Small.”

 “Solving our ecological problems requires massive change. Yet, even as we think big, we must also remember to think small, considering the details and impacts of our actions,” say organizers. 

Keynote speakers are Bill Wilkinson, Anna Maria Orru, James Tuer, Stephen Kellert and Antony Brown. For more information visit hopes.uoregon.edu

HOPES stands for Holistic Options for Planet Earth Sustainability, and the conference is the only ecological design conference developed and managed by students. The conference works to promote the deeper understanding and broader application of sustainable design principles. Workshops, a green business expo, environmental art and a 24-hour design charrette are included. 

 HOPES is sponsored by the UO’s Ecological Design Center, which seeks to educate and inspire UO students “to have the awareness, sensitivity, and expertise to lead the community toward sustainability.” EDC also advocates for ecological planning and design on both the UO campus and within the Eugene community.

 

Activist Alert

Eating locally produced food is the topic of City Club of Eugene at 11:45 am Friday, March 27, at Downtown Athletic Club. Speakers are Lynne Fessenden, David Turner and Doug Frazier.

• A Eugene City of Peace gathering is planned from 9 am to 4 pm Saturday, March 28, at Unity of the Valley Church, 39th and Hilyard, Eugene. A donation of $5 is asked, along with a potluck dish. RSVP to David Hazen, innercom@peak.org or 343-2109. Speakers and panelists include Tod Schneider, Scott Ross, Dean Ehly and Ravi Logan. 

MoveOn.org in Eugene is planning a clean energy “PowerUp Campaign Kickoff” at 5 pm Saturday, March 28, at Cozmic Pizza, featuring former secretary of state Bill Bradbury and Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson. 

“Earth Hour” is a worldwide movement to turn off lights for one hour as a “unified symbolic act to say we care about the climate crisis.” The grassroots event, which began in Australia two years ago, is planned locally from 8:30 to 9:30 pm Saturday, March 28. See www.earthhour.org for more info. The results of the action will be presented at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen Dec. 7-18.

• The Opal Network, a Lane County coalition “to support the voice, self-determination and empowerment of mental health clients,” is planning a free gathering from 2 to 4 pm Tuesday, March 31 at the Eugene Public Library Tykeson Room. Guest speaker will be Ron Unger on “Overcoming Obstacles to Full Recovery After Trauma.” Discussion to follow will be moderated by Unger and Elaine Walters of the Trauma Healing Project.

• LRAPA is holding a public information meeting on the Seneca Cogeneration Plant from 7 to 9 pm Thursday, April 2, at the Red Cross building, 862 Bethel Dr. in Eugene. This is not an official public hearing, but at least one public hearing is expected to be held in June. Seneca Sustainable Energy, LLC, is seeking an air contamination discharge permit from LRAPA. The power plant would be constructed to the north of and adjacent to the existing sawmill facility owned and operated by Seneca Sawmill Company on Highway 99.  Comments and letters asking for public hearings can be sent to colleen@lrapa.org or call LRAPA at 736-1056.

• John Frohnmayer and Dr. Paul Hochfeld will show the film Health, Money and Fear at 6:30 pm Tuesday, March 31, at Harris Hall, 8th and Oak. They will then discuss why we need a change to a publicly funded and privately delivered health care system. An estimated “14,000 Americans become unemployed each day, dramatically increasing the number of uninsured. This is our opportunity to make a difference,” says local health care activist Ruth Duemler.

 

War Dead

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003(last week’s numbers in parentheses):

• 4,260 U.S. troops killed* (4,259)

• 31,131 U.S. troops injured* (31,118) 

• 177 U.S. military suicides* (177)

• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)

• 99,622 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (99,500)

• $607.2 billion cost of war ($605.3 billion) 

• $172.7 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($172.1 million)

* through March. 23, 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 1.2 million

(Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)


Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule

• Near Fox Hollow/Lorane Hwy. and Lorane: Oregon Forest Management Services (896-3757) will ground spray 177 acres with Oust Xp, Westar and Accord herbicides for Giustina (345-2301) starting March 27 (#50170).

• Near Crow: Strata Industries (726--0845) will ground spray Scotch Broom on 50 acres with Garlon 4 for Craig Royce (942-8015) starting April 1 (50181).

Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org

 

Corrections/Clarifications

In Mary O’Brien’s “Natural Resistance” column March 12, Lily Ledbetter is misidentified in the bottom of the two photos. Ledbetter is the blonde woman directly behind the president, and the woman with her hand on Obama’s shoulder is Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

 

 

 

SLANT

• Is the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency worth saving? Like all agencies, LRAPA has positives and negatives. The agency, funded in part by Eugene, Springfield and Lane County, has been pummeled by all three governments, each in turn threatening to pull financial support for various political and financial reasons. The 40-year-old agency has survived internal and external turmoil — primarily because it has accomplished some success in raising air quality in our valley. The alternative is the state Department of Environmental Quality, which has a long history of under-enforcement of Oregon’s environmental laws and a poor track record on collecting fines (see our cover story 11/20/08). 

LRAPA now has a better representation of environmental interests than it has had in the past when industry interests called the shots, but problems remain, as came up in the City Club talk last week by LRAPA Director Merlyn Hough and Advisory Board member Larry Dunlap, M.D. Not enough monitoring stations are operating, our air is still too dirty for our health, wood stove smoke remains a problem and some of the really dangerous toxins in our air are not being adequately documented and addressed.

And now, LRAPA is looking at approving a big biomass cogeneration proposal from Seneca Jones Timber Company that would add 26 tons of particulates into our air each year, along with 480 tons of other pollutants. Dunlap is worried and notes that even “the best technology in the world” planned for the Seneca plant could still produce and vent unintended hazardous compounds, in addition to the planned emissions. 

Our valley’s exceptionally high asthma rate is related to air quality. Dunlap says he doesn’t have dollar costs for Eugene and Springfield, but statewide the direct and indirect costs of asthma total about $372 million a year. Such costs are rarely calculated in analyses of industrial development. Preventing pollution is easier and cheaper than cleaning up existing pollution.

• We’re not convinced by arguments that donors fund the big AIG-style bonuses at the UO. The UO is apparently planning to pay its new president three quarters of a million dollars a year, its new athletic director another half million and its new football coach about $3 million a year, all this while crying poor, squeezing English professors to reduce their low salaries and screwing students with yet higher fees. The UO should ask the donors to support academics instead and/or require a percentage of donations or athletic revenues go to academics, like at other universities. 

• In our search for good news, we hear the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center has announced a public/private partnership that will invest $1.6 million in green-building research conducted at OSU and PSU. New labs at the two universities will investigate green building materials and study the performance of building assemblies and completed green buildings. OSU will be studying hybrid poplar lumber, eco-friendly concrete, insulation made from recycled plastic and other innovations.

Two Eugene companies are profiting from the $1.3 million solar energy demonstration project along I-5 near Tualitin. Advanced Energy Systems is the “solar power specialty designer and installer,” and Good Company is the “community and sustainability specialist.” See www.oregonsolarhighway.com for information on what ODOT calls “the nation’s first solar highway.”

And we just heard that the independently owned CD World in Eugene is still going strong after 20 years in business. Congrats!

• We’re happy to see something new in the space formerly occupied by the Phatty Snak Shak: Albee’s N.Y. Gyros opens today, Thursday, March 26, at 391 West 11th. If the name looks familiar, it’s probably because Albee’s N.Y. Dogs has been at the corner of Olive and Broadway for some time now. The hot dog stand — a boon to late-night revelers — was voted the third-place best food cart in last year’s Best of Eugene readers’ poll. 

• Is someone ripping off stacks of our papers? Last week’s cover story on the retaliation lawsuit against the UO made for an unusually popular paper on campus, even with students fleeing for spring break — either that or some crook snatched stacks and buried them in recycle bins. We’ve heard from two readers that some of our campus boxes and stacks were raided soon after delivery last Thursday, but no one witnessed the crime. If anyone knows anything, please let us know. Meanwhile, copies of the popular March 19 issue are available at our offices, and it can be read online at eugeneweekly.com.



SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor at eugeneweekly dot com