News Briefs: Taser Victim Sentenced | EPD Gives Award to Taser Cop | U.N. Event at UO is a First | Predator Media Frenzy? | Tax Day Poll Sees Change This Year | Activist Alert | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Costly Cop Sprawl
Council backs $16 million Country Club police station
Taser Victim Sentenced
Circuit Court Judge Jack Billings punished Taser victim Ian Van Ornum last week, sentencing him to 80 hours of community service, 18 months of probation and $500 in attorney fees, plus court costs.
A jury found Van Ornum guilty April 16 of the misdemeanor crimes of slowing traffic (disorderly conduct) and resisting arrest at an anti-pesticide protest last May. Many witnesses have accused the police of brutality in the arrest.
Police video in the case shows that Van Ornum was Tasered twice in the back while he lay face down on the ground with his arms pinned under his side or held behind his back. Van Ornum's doctor testified that he suffered a concussion.
Van Ornum's attorney Laura Fine said an appeal of the verdict will be filed but declined further comment.
Still pending are reviews by the Eugene Police Department Internal Affairs unit, the independent Eugene police auditor and Civilian Review Board, and a likely civil lawsuit.
“Today is not in all likelihood the end of this case,” Judge Billings said of the coming investigations.
Billings cited incriminating testimony for the prosecution by passersby as significant in the criminal case. Billings did not mention testimony for the defense from passersby that Van Ornum had done nothing illegal. “The jurors found you were lying,” Billings told Van Ornum.
Fine unsuccessfully argued that Van Ornum should not get a stiffer sentence than other protesters at the incident who pled guilty to more serious crimes. Last year two protesters convicted of attempted assault of the police officer who Tasered Van Ornum were sentenced to 40 hours of community service.
This month three UO basketball players who plead guilty to shooting an air gun at ducks in Alton Baker Park were sentenced to 30 hours of community service.
Fine said that Van Ornum had taken time off from the UO because he “struggled with issues of concentration and memory” after the concussion last year. She argued against court fees, saying he was working at Sundance Natural Foods and was “absolutely without resources.”
In assessing the court appointed attorney fees, Billings said that if Van Ornum and his family could pay UO tuition last year, “he can figure out how to get that paid.” —Alan Pittman
EPD Gives Award to Taser Cop
The Eugene Police Department has given its “Officer of the Year” award to the police officer who police video showed shocked a teenaged pesticide protester in the back twice with a Taser while the protester lay face down with his arms pinned or behind his back.
The EPD gave officer Judd Warden the prize at an Awards Ceremony April 16. Numerous witnesses have alleged police brutality in the violent May 30, 2008 arrest of anti-pesticide protester Ian Van Ornum. Police officers allegedly pulled Van Ornum’s hair, twisted his arms and threw him to the pavement. Van Ornum suffered a concussion, according to his doctors.
The police Internal Affairs unit and independent police auditor and Civilian Review Board are investigating the incident. Van Ornum was convicted of the misdemeanors of resisting arrest and slowing traffic on April 16 and sentenced to probation and community service. A criminal appeal and a civil lawsuit against the city appear likely.
EPD gives the annual “Officer of the Year” award for “performance during a 12-month period that demonstrates a quality of work clearly and significantly exceeding the requirements of his/her position,” police spokeswoman Melinda Kletzok wrote in an email.
Warden was “nominated by employees based on the criteria,” Kletzok wrote. “There is a selection process with an employee committee and final approval by executive staff.”
The Eugene Police Union gave Warden its “congratulations” on its website.
This isn’t the first time a Eugene officer involved in a controversial use of force has won an award from fellow police officers.
In 2007 the Oregon Peace Officers Association gave its “Medal of Valor” to the EPD officer who shot and killed Ryan Salisbury, a suicidal, mentally ill 19-year-old holding a kitchen knife. Community members called for better police training, but police ruled shooting the teen four times with an assault rifle was justified self defense. —Alan Pittman
U.N. Event at UO is a First
For the first time in its history, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will hold the UNESCO Chairs Conference on U.S. soil.
|Mary Evelyn Tucker|
From May 8-12 the UO’s Center for Intercultural Dialogue, which was created last fall by university professor and UNESCO Chair Steven Shankman, will host representatives from Austria, France, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Moldova, Russia, Romania, Tajikistan, the U.K. and Uzbekistan. The leaders will be meeting to discuss and give presentations on their individual research in the area of “interreligious dialogue for intercultural understanding.”
The Chairs Program is a product of UNESCO’s University Twinning program (UNITWIN). UNITWIN and the Chairs Program were created by UNESCO in 1992, “as a way to advance research, training and program development in higher education by building university networks and encouraging inter-university cooperation through transfer of knowledge across borders,” according to the UNESCO website.
Along with the meeting of the UNESCO chairs, which will take place on Monday, May 11, the Center for Intercultural Dialogue will host a symposium called “Ethics, Religion and the Environment.” The symposium, which is mostly free and open to the public, includes research presentations from the international representatives and addresses by academics from across the nation.
The public presentations by the UNESCO chairs run from 10:30 am to 5 pm Friday, May 8. Mary Evelyn Tucker, a professor from Yale, will deliver the symposium’s keynote address, titled “The Emerging Alliance of Religion and Ecology,” at 7:30 pm Saturday, May 9.
“There has been so much interest in having this connection to UNESCO that it has been overwhelming,” says conference director Kelley Totten.
For a complete schedule of the weekend’s events, along with the locations of specific presentations and other general information about the event and the presenters visit the Center for Intercultural Dialogue at unesco.uoregon.edu and go to the 2009 UNESCO Chairs Conference link. Anyone interested in volunteering at the event is encouraged to contact Totten at email@example.com or 346-4150. — Topher Vollmer
Predator Media Frenzy?
Cougars, wolves and swine fever are sweeping across the land, leaving destruction in their wake, according to media reports. Local predator advocate Brooks Fahy says the media is not only blowing issues like the wolf pack in eastern Oregon out of proportion, but missing the real story as well.
Fahy says the real story behind the pack of wolves that allegedly killed 23 lambs, is not that lambs were killed, but that “Wow! We’ve got wolves!”
Wolves have only recently returned to Oregon after being extirpated (wiped out) here in the 1940s. Summer 2008 marked the first signs that a wolf pack, including adults and pups existed in the state. Biologists confirmed their existence through a “howling survey” in which the biologists howl like wolves, and the wolves howl back, according the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
The video that was released earlier this month of the wolf pack near Baker City shows a pack of wolves, adults and pups, eating lambs. This is the first visual documentation of a pack returning to Oregon. That according the Fahy, is the story: Wolves are back in Oregon. “We know that wolves create biodiversity,” he says, “that’s a scientific fact; there’s no disputing that.”
Fahy says, “Sheep and cattle make the environment less diverse.” He points out that the sheep the wolves ate would have been killed for their meat or wool in the long run anyway. The Defenders of Wildlife has offered to compensate the rancher monetarily for his loss. Grey wolves are currently protected federally and on the state level in Oregon from being hunted or killed.
Fahy says the media need to lose “the entrenched philosophy of good animal/bad animal” when it comes to predators and prey. The same issue applies to the cougar that has been spotted in a neighborhood in Corvallis. ODFW says it is “moving aggressively” to control the animal which they describe as a “human safety concern.” State guidelines call for problem animals to be killed if an accredited zoo or sanctuary can’t be found.
Fahy says it isn’t necessary to kill the animal if people are informed on how to deal with it and other predators that exist in the interface between wildlife and urban areas. He says he dislikes the media’s tendency to make a cougar spotted in daylight sound like a huge danger, “These animals transect these areas all the time.” He says that “informing and educating,” is what the media should be doing. — Camilla Mortensen
Tax Day Poll Sees Change This Year
Peace Activists gathered at the Eugene downtown post office on Tax Day, April 15, to call for the re-ordering of federal spending priorities from supporting war to meeting human and environmental needs.
Along with handing out literature, the group asked passersby to vote for their federal budget priorities. Each participant was given 10 pennies and asked them to drop them into jars representing six categories of the federal budget. Some 90 people took the time to join in the “penny poll” this year.
The poll showed last year’s 59 percent support for human resource spending (social programs) dropping to 45 percent this year. Physical resources (infrastructure and the environment) got 21 percent last year, 31 percent this year. General government spending rose from 9 to 12 percent. Military spending went from 2 to 3.5 percent.
The poll showed a small increase in spending priority on the Iraq and Afghan wars, from 2 to 3 percent. Paying interest on the national debt dropped from 7 to 5.5 percent.
“We wish Congress would listen to Eugene residents and appropriate 6.5 percent of the federal budget for the military instead of the 58 percent they appropriated this fiscal year for the Iraq/Afghanistan wars and other military programs,” says Michael Carrigan of CALC, one of the groups involved in the event. “The amount the U.S. spends on its military exceeds the amount of all other nations' military budgets combined.”
Penny polls on Tax Day have been held at Gateway Mall in Springfield in years past, but did not happen this year. Past Gateway polls have indicated Springfield residents are much more willing to pay for military expenses, and less willing to fund human resources. — Ted Taylor
• Oregon residents, businesses and health organizations will join the Tobacco Free Coalition of Oregon in Salem from 9 am to 3:30 pm Thursday, April 30, to support the Tobacco Prevention Act of 2009 (HB 2122). The act would increase the state’s cigarette tax by 60 cents to increase funding for tobacco education programs. Activists are gathering for an 11:30 am press conference at the Capitol building’s press room.
• The free Beyond Patriarchy conference is May 1-3 on the UO campus. Keynote speaker this year is Andrea Smith, author of Conquest and co-founder of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence. She will speak at 7 pm Friday at the EMU. The gathering is “intended to provide information, support, and healing surrounding all forms of oppression through a radical and feminist perspective,” according to the conference vision statement. “Patriarchy is a system of domination which privileges masculinity and enforces strict, exclusive, and unequal gender roles; and which interlocks with racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, and all other forms of oppression.” See schedule at http://beyondpatriarchyconference.wordpress.com
• The 10th Annual Global Marijuana March begins at noon Saturday, May 2, at the old federal building, 7th and Pearl (see cover story this week). Speakers include Elvy Musikka, Dr. Arthur Livermore, Allan Erickson, Brian Michaels, “Nurse Ed” Glick, Jennifer Valley, Shawn Flury, Barry Stull, the Rev, Will I Am, Jim Greig and Dan Koozer. Salem’s gathering will be from 9 am to 3 pm Friday at the State Capitol Gallery. Portland’s colorful march and rally run from 10 am to 5 pm Saturday, beginning at Pioneer Courthouse Square.
• Town hall meetings with Sen. Bill Morrisette and Rep. Phil Barnhart are planned at 11:30 am Saturday, May 2, at the Creswell Community Center; 10 am Saturday, May 16, at the Eugene City Council chambers, 777 Pearl St.; and 11:30 am Saturday, May 23, at Coburg City Hall.
• Oregon attorney Tom Nelson will speak on Gaza at 5:30 pm Sunday, May 3, at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library; and at 7 pm Monday, May 4, at Harris Hall, 8th and Oak in Eugene. Nelson visited Gaza as part of an eight-member National Lawyers Guild delegation to investigate possible “violations of international humanitarian law” committed by Israel during its military offensive in Gaza. He will share the delegation’s findings. The talks are sponsored by the Al-Nakba Awareness Project and the Corvallis-Albany Friends of Middle East Peace Group.
• Author George Wuerthner is speaking at a public forum at 7 pm Wednesday, May 6, at Harris Hall, 8th and Oak. The forum is titled, “Wildfire Hysteria & ‘Forest Biomass’ Greenwash,” and is sponsored
by Eco Advocates. See Viewpoint this week.
• Designer Jimi Witt of Mindful Living solid wall yurt manufactures (formerly Oregon Yurtworks) will speak at 7 pm Wednesday, May 6, at BRING’s Planet Improvement Center, 4446 Franklin Blvd. His talk, hosted by the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, will discuss “the design processes and the beauty and benefits of yurt living.”
• WOW Hall’s annual meeting is coming up at 6 pm June 2, and the Community Center for the Performing Arts is looking for more candidates for board positions, particularly people who have a background in business, nonprofit management and fundraising. To be eligible for the board, candidates need to be members for at least 30 days, so the deadline to join the organization is May 2.
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Seneca Jones Timber Co. is eradicating, again this year, scotch broom in all its holdings in west Lane Forestry District, using Forestry Garlon (triclopyr) Milestone VM (aminopyralid) and Methylated Seed Oil (surfactant), applied by backpack and spray truck. Units include locations near Twin Oaks and Lorane schools, and Lake Creek Fish Passage, starting May 15. Questions? Call Mike Emmons at Seneca Jones (541) 461-6245 or Paul Clements at ODF (541) 935-2283 (notification 50212).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org
• A judge punished Taser victim Ian Van Ornum last week with probation and community service for two misdemeanors. That’s how the criminal justice system works: punishment by a judge after a trial. Unfortunately, the EPD already tried, convicted and more than amply punished Van Ornum on the street last year for annoying a police officer. His EPD-imposed sentence was harsh: twisted arms, yanked hair, slammed to the pavement, a concussion and two torturous 50,000-volt shocks.
• EWEB is meeting this week to talk about the Seneca biomass generation plant proposal and a decision is expected at the board’s May 5 meeting on whether or not to buy electricity from Seneca. EWEB is in a bit of a bind since the electricity generated from this plant could be sold to another utility, but regardless, we urge EWEB to say “no thanks,” and not become a party to environmental degradation beyond what we already endure.
For those used to the smog of Los Angeles and other metro areas, the air in the Eugene-Springfield area seems pristine on most days. But not only do we generate a remarkable amount of air pollution in our area, the hills and mountains surrounding our valley tend to hold pollution in place. In national health studies, Lane County ranks high in childhood cancer deaths and asthma, and our air is ranked high for carbon monoxide and hazardous chemicals. A good book on this topic is The Truth About Where You Live: An Atlas for Action on Toxins and Mortality by Benjamin Goldman.
EWEB has plenty of electricity for now and even sells its excess to California utilities. That could change when BPA reduces its output by more than a third in 2011, but that gives EWEB time to work on conservation and develop new and cleaner power sources.
The Seneca biomass plant also needs approval by LRAPA, our local air quality agency, and public hearings will be held. Here the decision might be easier to quantify. LRAPA can compare the air quality impact of seasonal slash burning with the 24/7 output of a wood-fired generator upwind from our population centers, plus the diesel exhaust from logging equipment and countless truck trips hauling wood debris as far as 50 miles.
And why do we need to haul so much wood mass out of our forests? Fire protection? Or simple profits for Seneca? George Wuerthner in Viewpoints this week outlines the role of dead wood in forest ecosystems.
• The U.S. has set a bad example for the rest of the world with our sprawling car culture and excessive consumption, according to Eugene architect Michael Pease. But perhaps, if we can find the will, Eugene can become a more walkable, transit-friendly example for the nation and the world. Pease laid out his concerns about our future at a City Club talk April 24.
Pease says Eugene, like all American cities, has become suburbanized with low-density housing and car-dependent transportation. The problem, of course, is that our way of life consumes far too many resources to be sustainable. Painful changes are already being forced upon us, and future generations will feel it the most.
We’ve heard all this before, but Pease remains hopeful for three reasons: Eugene is still a small enough community that we can talk about changes and make them happen; we have a strong “communitarian” sense that encourages working together; and Eugene is a “very beautiful place” to live and work — we can be a magnet for people from all over the country who want to join us in building a model for positive and proactive adaptation.
There’s no time left for baby steps, he says. The economy, transportation, urban design, energy and the environment must be addressed “all at once,” and with a clear vision of what we want to see happen.
Radical change will not come from local government, he says. He’s right. We have some good people in elected office and on city staff, but they are thwarted by those who fear change and enjoy talking good ideas to death. It’s time for the many smart and visionary people in our community to rise up and provide the decisive leadership to confront the serious challenges we face. Government will follow.
A New England native who moved with her parents to California at age 13, Minalee Saks earned a degree in psychology from UC Berkeley. She got into education as an intern with the Native American Teacher Corps in Black River Falls, Wisc., and taught at Eastside School after she and her then-husband moved to Eugene in 1975. She also got pregnant and had Joshua, the first of two sons, a year later. "When I took him for a walk in the stroller, there was no one around," says Saks, who signed up for an infant temperament study at the UO. "I wanted to talk to someone about my kid." Saks joined with researchers Andi Fischoff and Sue Kelly to found Birth To Three, a non-profit organization that brings families with young children together to create support groups and share parenting experiences. Since 1978, when it began with 45 families, BT3 has served more than 80,000 parents and children in Lane County. "This is my life," says Saks, the primary author of Make Parenting a Pleasure and other curricula now in use in over 800 sites around the US and in 13 other countries. "I believe that being a parent is the most important thing that any of us can do." Learn more at birthto3.org.