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Eugene Weekly : News : 5.21.09





News Briefs:
Taking It To the Trees | The Blind in a Bind | Manager Hits Taxpayers With Big Hidden Fee | Councilors Balk at Rapid Transit | Email Docs Follow-Up | Activist Alert | Calling All Old Hippies | War Dead | Early Deadlines | Corrections/Clarifications |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

News:

Inconvenient Truth


City barely supports carbon reduction


Taking It To the Trees

Summer is almost here and so is clearcut season. In an effort to stop Northwest trees from falling on public lands, Cascadia Summer 2009, a direct action campaign, is looking to train people on how to do everything from tree sitting to community and media outreach and lobbying.

This Memorial Day weekend, May 23-25, Cascadia Summer will be in the Fall Creek area putting on an “action camp.” Attendees will be schooled in techniques important in forest defense including: tree climbing, living in the woods, forest medic training, cooking in the forest, setting up a tree sit, identifying forest flora and fauna and participating in non-violent direct action.

“What we hope to do is get a lot of people into the forest, inspired and empowered to do forest defense. That is what we have geared all the workshops toward, getting people who care about protecting our last native forests, getting them the skills they need and the motivation, and building a base to do forest defense,” says Trip Jennings, known in Eugene and beyond for his work with National Geographic. Jennings is helping organize the action camp and will be holding a video workshop related to recording action and using photography and video to assist in activism. 

Other presenters will be from the Civil Liberties Defense Center, Earth First!, Cascadia Rising Tide, and others.

“I see such an overwhelmingly positive response to what we have been doing,” Jennings says. “I think people want to get involved and I think that this is a really good opportunity to do it.”

The site will no running water, bathrooms, electricity or sleeping shelters, so people should bring camping gear. An onsite kitchen will serve breakfast and dinner, but attendees are encouraged to bring snacks, and food or money to donate to the kitchen. 

Camp carpools will be leaving at 6 pm Friday, May 22, from the Grower’s Market by the train station. Carpools will also be leaving the Grower’s Market everyday at 8 am through Monday. Jennings says he hopes most people will choose to stay in the forest for the whole weekend, but there is no requirement to stay the whole time. 

Cascadia Summer’s goal is to create an ongoing camp in the forest after the action camp has ended, and give people the option to stay through the summer. For more information visit http://forestdefensenow.blogspot.com The group also holds general interest meetings at 6 pm Thursdays at 17th and Charnelton.  — Topher Vollmer

The Blind in a Bind

The Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB) has been told by Gov. Kulongoski’s office that he is recommending the commission be “suspended” due to the economic crisis.

“This would mean that the agency would cease to operate effective July 1, and the services we provide would somehow be integrated into other programs within state government,” said an email sent to interested parties statewide from Robin Illers, a rehabilitation instructor at OCB in Roseburg.

“We believe that this is not a cost effective decision and that the services that the agency provides to blind Oregonians are at great risk if this recommendation is carried out,” said the email.

 The Legislature will be left with the final decision as to whether or not to continue the OCB.

The agency provides specialized vocational rehabilitation and independent living services to individuals who are blind or vision-impaired. It is the only state agency in Oregon which provides these services. The state provides 11 percent of the agency’s budget, and that money is used to leverage matching federal grants. 

 Rob Cook, secretary of the Lane County Council of the Blind, thinks some positive change can come from the funding crisis. He believes the commission should be saved as a separate agency, but also restructured to be more efficient. “You can spend two-thirds the money and get 10 times the services,” he says. Cook would like to see less bureaucracy and more direct help to find jobs for those who are blind. Supporters of the agency say money spent training and keeping blind people employed more than pays for itself in increased tax revenues and reduced social services. 

Cook, James Edwards and possibly other advocates for the blind are going to Salem this week to lobby members of the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee, whose members include Sen. Vicki Walker and Rep. Nancy Nathanson.  — Ted Taylor

Manager Hits Taxpayers With Big Hidden Fee

Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz has imposed a large, but largely unnoticed tax increase that will take effect June 5 unless the Eugene City Council objects.

Homeowners will pay an average of $61 per year more on their EWEB water bills to cover up to 24 percent increases in stormwater and wastewater fees tacked on by the city. Ruiz signed an administrative order May 1 that will impose the fees in July unless the City Council votes to overrule him.

The increase comes at a time of record unemployment and furloughs and cutbacks of other government employees to meet deepening deficits. 

The fee increases include about $5 a year for local stormwater fees (5 percent increase), $20 a year for local wastewater fees (24 percent increase) and $36 for regional wastewater fees (18 percent increase). 

Ruiz and other city and wastewater staff argue the fee increases are needed to improve facilities and cover rising costs and declining revenues. 

Compared to other revenue measures that have been referred to a public vote, the taxpayer impact is high. For example, a $61 tax per year on the average homeowner would be equivalent to about a $22 million five-year property tax levy. — Alan Pittman

 

Councilors Balk at Rapid Transit

In a radical shift away from controlling global warming and  urban sprawl and preserving livability, a majority of the Eugene City Council now appears opposed to an EmX bus rapid transit line in west Eugene. 

At a May 13 meeting Councilors George Brown, George Poling and Mike Clark appeared opposed to the effort to reduce traffic snarl and pollution with public transit. Councilors Betty Taylor, Andrea Ortiz, Jennifer Solomon and Chris Pryor appeared to be leaning against BRT. Only Councilor Alan Zelenka and Mayor Kitty Piercy appeared supportive in their statements.

Based on the council discussion, it appeared that a majority coalition of progressives and conservatives has allied against BRT. Progressives have criticized LTD for neighborhood impacts such cutting down large trees; and conservatives oppose public transportation in general. 

Poling said he favors an outcome for the west Eugene BRT study similar to what happened when business groups killed a proposal for BRT on Coburg Road. “At the end of those 18 months the stakeholder group says no build,” Poling said. “That worked really well.”

The no build alternative “is a very promising idea,” Brown said. “A lot of people are questioning is this even necessary.”

 Brown said Seattle and San Francisco don’t have BRT. Actually, Seattle spent a half billion on a downtown bus tunnel and is moving to light rail, and San Francisco has one of the largest subway systems in the nation.

Councilors Taylor, Clark, and Ortiz said the views of opponent homeowners and businesses along the route should decide whether BRT gets built. Those stakeholders should be considered “first and foremost,” Clark said. 

Mayor Piercy appeared supportive of BRT’s environmental benefits. “I only wish we could get it up and running faster.” But the mayor said that LTD should follow the Coburg process which resulted in a killed route. “We’ll work toward a stakeholders meeting.”

The Coburg group was dominated by businesses opposed to losing driveway access to BRT, while a large number of environmentalists and transit riders supported the project.   

Conservatives have questioned BRT’s cost, but the project is funded almost entirely by state and federal funds and will be a big boost to the local economy.

Councilor Zelenka appeared to be the only elected official clearly supportive of BRT. “I’m a great supporter of EmX,” he said, using LTD’s name for BRT. 

Zelenka said the dedicated BRT line is needed to secure right of way for a future light rail system to reduce global warming and sprawl and increase livability, as in Portland. “To me EmX is really about right-of-way, right-of-way, right-of-way,” he said. — Alan Pittman

 

Email Docs Follow-Up

Last week’s cover story on email use by doctors and medical offices has inspired a few responses. 

William Balsom, M.D., of Oregon Medical Group, likes the efficiencies of email and websites for routine patient-office communication, “but anything that involves medical inquiry, problem solving, diagnostic issues and treatment recommendations seems unfit for a non-real-time format such as e-mail. … In medicine, body language, speech pattern and inflection, nature of inquiry and visual cues count for a lot (not to mention an actual exam).”

Regarding the payment quandary, Balsom says, “When Regence says ‘We don’t have a policy for e-visits’ they really mean, ‘We don’t pay for that because we have no way of determining the value of this doctor-patient interaction since it isn’t in the usual documentation format.’”

 Corvallis engineer Thomas Kraemer says, “The reason doctors are resisting electronic communications is because of the high cost of using multiple and incompatible electronic health record systems. Health records software companies have intentionally designed proprietary systems under the guise of ‘security’ while secretly hoping they will become the next Microsoft-like monopoly.”

Looking ahead, Kraemer says he envisions “an open standards medical records system that would allow for competing software systems while also allowing for easy and secure access to medical records by both patients and their doctors. Electronic doctor-patient communications would be a part of this standard.” 

He adds, “A single-payer system could make it easier to enforce an open standard for records and communication instead of the current mess of incompatible software systems. Of course, unless open standards are required by legislation they may not happen.”

On the topic of who owns medical records, Kraemer says, “In the 1950s, patients were not even allowed to see their own medical records and doctors would sometimes refuse to transfer them to another doctor. Various federal and state laws along with changing customs have made records more accessible, but ultimately patients should have free access and copying rights no matter who ‘owns’ the records.”

John D. Wilson, M.D., of Eugene says, “Patients own the information in the medical record and have the right to keep it private, see it or receive copies. There might be a charge if copying costs are significant. The provider is the conservator of the physical record itself, whether on paper or a hard disk.” — Ted Taylor 

 

Activist Alert

Travis Williams, executive director of the nonprofit Willamette Riverkeeper, will give a free talk about the Willamette River and its environmental issues at 7 pm Thursday, May 21, at REI in Eugene. Williams’ new book The Willamette Field Guide was recently published and includes maps and suggested boat trips and hikes. “The whole goal is to better connect people to the river that is so close geographically to where most of Oregon’s population is,” says Williams. For more information, see www.travis-williams.net or www.willamette-riverkeeper.org

• The Pitchfork Rebellion is organizing “A Legal, Peaceful Rally to Save our Forests by Ending Financial Conflict of Interest” from noon to 2 pm Wednesday, May 27, outside the district offices of the Oregon Department of Forestry at 87950 Territorial Road in Veneta. The rally will urge the state to adopt federal ethics/anti-corruption standards by revoking the current statute that permits three members of the Oregon Board of Forestry to have significant financial conflicts of interest. BOF members include Larry Giustina of Giustina Land and Timber, and Jennifer Phillippi of Rough & Ready Lumber, both of whom are involved in controversial aerial pesticide spraying. The BOF oversees the Oregon Department of Forestry.

• Jewish anti-Zionist social justice activists Darlene and Donna Wallach will give a presentation titled “Eyewitness Gaza” at 7 pm Wednesday, May 27,  in Harris Hall, at 8th and Oak.  The Wallach sisters challenged the Israeli blockade aboard the first Free Gaza boatlift in August 2008 and remained until December, living among Palestinian fishermen and farmers. They will speak about “the spirit, resilience, kindness, generosity, and sense of humor of the Palestinian people, and the peaceful ways they survive the brutal and genocidal Israeli blockade and occupation.” Sponsored by the Al Nakba Awareness Project, the UO Arab Student Union, Veterans for Peace Squadron 13, and Peter Chabarek.

 

Calling All Old Hippies

Eugene was a hip and happening place back in the late ’60s and early ’70s and became a counterculture destination spot. Hippies migrated here from all over, and many of them stayed to create viable businesses and nonprofits.

  Now, Mary Dole, exhibits coordinator at the Lane County Historical Museum, is helping plan a May 2010 major exhibit titled “Tie Dye to Tofu: Mainstream Eugene Becomes a Counter Culture Haven.” 

“We would like to get input from community members for this,” says Dole. “We are looking for people who remember ‘Switchboard,’ Vietnam War protests, the Odyssey Coffee House, the band ‘Wheatfield,’ or perhaps they may have lived on a commune or in a school bus. We want to know what brought them to Eugene, how they lived, what they did. We want to tell the stories of individuals as well as those specialized entrepreneurships and annual events that came about during that time period.”

“We are hoping we can even find an old pickup with a home built on the back from that time period,” she says.

Dole can be reached at 682-4242 or visit www.lanecountyhistoricalsociety.org

 

WAR DEAD

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

In Iraq

• 4,296 U.S. troops killed* (4,292)

• 31,256 U.S. troops injured* (31,245) 

• 182 U.S. military suicides* (182)

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

• 100,361 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (100,339)

• $670.7 billion cost of war ($667.9 billion) 

• $190.6 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($189.9 million)

In Afganistan

• 685 U.S. troops killed* (682)

• 2,828 U.S. troops injured* (2,820)

• $188.2 billion cost of war ($187.7 million)

• $53.3 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($53.3 million)

* through May 18, 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)

 

Early Deadlines

EW offices will be closed Monday, Memorial Day. The early deadline for reserving display ads for our May 28 issue will be 5 pm  Thursday, May 21. Classified line ad deadline is 4:30 pm Friday, May 22. Questions? Call 484-0519.

 

Corrections/Clarifications

• In our election endorsements last week, we wrote that Anne Marie Levis tried to unseat City Councilor Betty Taylor in 1996, but actually both were running for an open seat. 

• Also in our election endorsements, we wrote that Beth Gerot currently chairs the 4J School Board. She does not, though she has been elected to leadership positions on the board for seven of the 10 years she has served on the board.  

 

 

 

SLANT

• Climate expert Bob Doppelt’s message is clear: Climate change will have a huge impact on our planet and on our community in the next few decades, and to deal with it effectively we need to invent new ways of providing for our needs. Tweaking our existing systems will not do nearly enough to offset increasing forest fires, more insects, worse air pollution, hotter summers and lower river flows, said Doppelt in his talk to City Club May 15. Doppelt is director of resource innovations and the Climate Leadership Initiative at the UO’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment. 

Doppelt was cautious in talking about specifics, such as moving the police across the river from downtown, tearing down City Hall, or allowing Seneca’s cogeneration plant. But all these things have potential negative impacts on our city’s carbon footprint: more driving miles, more energy-intensive concrete, more CO2 in the air. Doppelt lauds some of the city’s sustainability efforts, but are our elected officials and city staff really making substantive changes to head off disaster? We see improvement in policies and procedures, but when it comes to the big, high-impact decisions, it’s business as usual.

Watch Doppelt’s talk at www.youtube.com/user/CityClubEugene

• Two top environmental jobs are open in Oregon right now. Bob Stacey is leaving his executive director slot at 1000 Friends of Oregon this fall, and Jonathan Poisner has given notice as ED of Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Both jobs are based in Portland with plenty of travel around the state, especially to Salem.

Neither Stacey nor Poisner is announcing his next gig, but replacement will be tough. Their organizations deserve plenty of credit for moving the Oregon Legislature toward greater support of the livability of this state. Both Stacey and Poisner should be knighted for the jobs they have done, if we did such things. What's more important than the leadership of the Oregon environmental nonprofits? 

Tiny turds on campus? Two weeks ago in this column (5/7) we wrote about the UO faculty blog http://uomatters.com and now a look-alike parody has appeared at http://uomutters.blogspot.com commenting on everything from the new president to sports scandals to the questionable sources of dorm food. Here’s a sample: “University Counsel Melinda Grier STILL refuses to comment on the rumors that physical plant workers are asked to regularly remove small brown turds from campus. Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Charles Martinez STILL has failed to deny claims that goats are an underrepresented class on the UO campus.” Our favorite headline on the blog: “Eugene Weekly is run by morons.” 

• Early in the basketball arena siting saga, a neighborhood group, chaired by a small business owner, asked the UO to answer questions about traffic, parking, noise and garbage on the streets. The neighbors were quite moderate, not opposing the elephant ahead, but only raising valid questions. To its credit, the UO responded to the concerns and has worked to ameliorate them. But, when this story hit the mainstream press and the chairman's name was printed, he received enough threatening calls and comments about boycotting his business that he resigned from the chairmanship. Same scene when a woman who lives in sight of Autzen Stadium questioned the permitting for the monster "O." She was threatened, vilified and ridiculed until she withdrew with concern for the safety of her family. 

The UO and local sports media have skillfully created the Ducks sports fans and their carnival, and while only a few fans are idiotic in their obsession, it’s time for a teaching moment from the academic institution. Someone suggested that every ticket buyer receive a copy of a "code of ethics for a Duck." Someone else suggested that the same public relations machine that created the sports giant be put to use civilizing it. 



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