Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Activism and arrests in the Elliott State Forest
MT. PISGAH’S NEW POSSE
The days of broken glass in the Mt. Pisgah parking lots may be over. In response to vehicle break-ins that have plagued park users in the Pisgah parking lots, Lane County Parks, Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah and the Arboretum formed Mount Pisgah Park Watch to monitor the park's three parking lots and the park grounds.
Volunteer park watchers started after the first training session on June 4. They work in pairs to observe and report activity and can earn a Lane County Parks pass for their participation by working 12 two-hour shifts over a six-month period. Lane County Parks provides identifying signs, vests and hats for volunteers to use during their shifts.
Loralyn Spiro, public works analyst for Lane County Parks, says that the turnout for volunteers has been surprising. “We have 60 people in the program so far,” she said. “It's more than we expected to have at this point.” In fact, with so many people signed up to participate in the volunteer program, Spiro says that after one more training date in August, Mt. Pisgah will have enough volunteers that Lane County Parks won’t need to train more each month.
Spiro also says that the volunteers have been willing to sign up for more than the minimum expected volunteer requirements. Although the security volunteer program asks that people stay on for six months, some volunteers are signing up for an entire year of community service.
“We've received a lot of good feedback from park users. They've mentioned how they see less glass in the parking lot,” Spiro said. That was one of the biggest motivators for bringing on security staff. The broken glass from car windows was a real deterrent for park visitors worried about the safety of their vehicles. Along with the volunteers, the Parks Division has also installed security cameras in the parking lots.
For those interested in taking part in this volunteer program, the prerequisites are that volunteers be at least 18 years of age, preferably own a cell phone in case they need to make emergency calls and be available for 12 two-hour shifts over the course of at least six months. Volunteers are not expected to confront break-in suspects. Instead, they will provide a communication link between visitors and park staff and note hazardous situations and notify the proper authorities.
To find out more about the responsibilities of Mt. Pisgah security volunteers or the park’s improved security, visit www.lanecounty.org/parks. — Shaun O’Dell
In an effort to promote the continued growth of bicycle transportation in Eugene, a local bike group has begun a unique “Bike Rewards” program.
The GEARs (Greater Eugene Area Riders) cycling group offers GEARs members discounts at local participating businesses. The program has helped to double GEARs’ membership to about 250 since last November.
“We like the concept of businesses rewarding people for riding their bikes,” GEARs Treasurer Richard Hughes said. Hughes has been active in the creation and promotion of the Bike Rewards program since its beginning.
The program is catching on with local businesses. All of Eugene’s bike shops participate, with most offering 10 percent discounts on purchases, and a growing collection of other local business have also jumped on board. Even the national chain store OfficeMax has endorsed the program, and members can redeem their discount at stores nationwide. Participating businesses are recognizable by the Bike Rewards sticker displayed in their front windows, and individual members can be identified by a similar Bike Rewards sticker they can put on their helmets.
The Bike Rewards program is a result of GEARs’ increased role in bicycle transportation activism in recent years, according to Hughes. The group was originally formed in 1991 as a purely recreational riding club. Today, Hughes said, the recreational riding aspect is still a prominent part of GEARs, but efforts to increase and improve bike transportation in Eugene have become an ever growing objective within the group.
If you would like to learn more about GEARs, the Bike Rewards program or any of GEARs’ other programs and activities, you can check them out at www.eugenegears.org. — Topher Vollmer
CARBON CREDITS FOR STOVES
The local sustainable education and research center Aprovecho is working to increase the distribution of its “StoveTec Rocket Stoves,” which reduce 70 percent of dangerous emissions into the atmosphere from open cooking fires.
The stoves cost from $4-$12, according to Benjamin West of Aprovecho. West said that the group is looking for ways both to increase manufacturing and to improve the distribution of the stoves. Currently the stoves are being produced in China as well as in developing countries where they are being distributed. West said the Chinese manufacturing site was chosen “because that’s the only place in the world we’ve been able to find the right clay.” The clay cooking vessel is a key part of the stove’s low-emission design, which uses half as much fuel as a regular cooking fire. West said that other forms of biomass burned in the stoves include coconut shells, corn cobs and banana peels.
He said there are 3 billion people in need of the stoves and the thousands currently being produced are only beginning to dent that need.
The group, together with Shenghou Stove Manufacturers from China, recently won an international award for their work in developing countries. Aprovecho was the international winner for the Ashden International Energy Champion Award on June 10. The award was presented to Aprovecho's executive director, Dean Still, by Prince Charles. The Ashden Awards, based in England, honor work to inspire sustainable energy solutions in the UK and developing world.
U.S. buyers purchase the stoves for camping and emergency preparedness, which aids in paying to produce the stoves for those in need, West said. Those in developing countries use the stoves in place of dangerous and polluting open flames and kerosene stoves.
Aprovecho is looking into a carbon credit program to help increase their stove production. It will cost $100,000 to get verification for the carbon credits, West said. Once they are verified, the carbon credit program would be used to offset the costs of the stoves to the people in developing countries, he said.
The carbon credits would also hopefully aid in distribution costs. It’s hard to get the stoves from ports to people, West said. “We can get them to the port in Mombassa,” he said, “but to get them to Nairobi is a huge ordeal.”
“If we could be as good at distributing the stoves as we are at creating and testing them,” West said, “we’d be in a great spot.” — Camilla Mortensen
NOT THAT KIND OF PROM
The Riverbank Path Promenade, a community-oriented participatory event, will be held Sunday, July 19, along the Willamette River bike path.
From 1 pm to 5 pm, on the path between its intersection with Copping Street and Skinner Butte Park, Eugeneans are encouraged to bike, stroll, show off artwork, play music and socialize with each other, organizer Jan Spencer said. “The prom” is designed to promote community engagement and interaction with an emphasis on low environmental impacts.
Spencer, who’s on the River Road Community Organization, said that the bike path itself gave him the idea for the event. The prom “is to really recognize those special places in which we live,” he said.
Groups organizing the event include the River Road Community Organization, Whiteaker Community Council, GEARs Bike Club and the City of Eugene. Planned highlights include tours of nearby environmental restoration projects, community gardens and points of historical interest and booths with information about possible volunteer projects.
Spencer said that he hopes the prom will spark more events of its kind. As we face more environmental problems, people will be forced to stay closer to home for their entertainment, he said. “If we start building these relationships sooner rather than later, we’ll be glad we did,” Spencer said.
For more information, check out www.eugenegears.org/prom —Krista Harper
• If you want to complain about global warming, the Eugene City Council will hold a public hearing on regional transportation and land use plan amendments at 7:30 pm Monday, July 20 at City Hall. If you hate gas taxes more than global warming, there’s also a council hearing that night on the pump fees.
• Settle your Lane County Justice Court tickets from 2003 and before without paying interest through the Clean Slate Program. Call Professional Credit Services at 343-5641 to settle your tickets at the Lane County Justice Courts (Oakridge, Florence or Central Lane). It does not apply to Eugene Municipal or Circuit Court or Springfield Municipal courts. The program ends July 31.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,327 U.S. troops killed* (4,325)
• 31,431 U.S. troops injured* (31,408)
• 185 U.S. military suicides* (185)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 100,971 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (100,964)
• $687 billion cost of war ($683.6 billion)
• $195.4 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($194.7 million)
• 739 U.S. troops killed* (725)
• 3,238 U.S. troops injured* (3,063)
• $192.1 billion cost of war ($191.5 million)
• $54.6 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($54.5 million)
* through July 14, 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)
• If you're a local Democrat who has always hankered to be an Oregon state senator, here's your chance, maybe. Our tough, in-your-face Senator Vicki Walker is giving up her seat for a $97,000-a-year job as chair of the Oregon parole board. Not surprising after her years as a virtual volunteer in the legislature. We'll miss both her clout and her grit. But there's no shortage of applicants willing to be screened by the Lane County Democratic party and selected by the county commissioners.
Some progressives are trying to persuade Andrea Ortiz to leave the city council and head for Salem. We'd rather have her here. If she resigns from the council, a conservative majority could appoint her replacement. Bob Ackerman has been heard musing about going back to the legislature. He served well but would not be our first choice at this time. Probably the two strongest candidates are the two representatives from the senate district, Nancy Nathanson and Chris Edwards. A former chair of the Lane County Democratic party, Nathanson served rather conservatively in the city council, winning the endorsement of then Republican Mayor Jim Torrey when she ran for mayor against Kitty Piercy. She has strong numbers in the legislature from the OLCV, ACLU and other groups that rank members, but Edwards has the excitement right now. He has grown to be a highly effective arm-twister, best demonstrated by his effective role in passing SB 528 which banned nearly all field burning. If either Nathanson or Edwards is selected, that will leave a house seat to be filled. If you're a local Democrat who has always hankered to be an Oregon house member, here's your chance, sort of.
• Oregon has more than 10,000 violent crimes and 130,000 property crimes a year, but last week what was the biggest crime-fighting priority in the state? About 70 Oregon State Police dressed in full camo and assisted by untold numbers of county sheriff’s deputies came down hard on a few unarmed environmental protesters blocking old-growth logging in the Elliott State Forest. But that wasn’t enough. They even called out the National Guard. The tab for the paramilitary invasion force (Operation Chainsaw Freedom?) has already topped $50,000. With trial, jail and prosecution costs, the bill could easily run into the millions and will likely far exceed any timber sale revenue. Such revenue, by the way, doesn’t really go to schools as advertised. The state’s fluid budgeting in effect mixes it in with everything else, so it’s available for the state to spend on yet more wasteful, anti-environmental misadventures.
• Eugene City Councilor Betty Taylor and local architect Otto Poticha made the most sense July 10 at the Eugene City Club discussion between Taylor and Councilor Mike Clark. Clark argued for the city buying the EWEB administrative building and moving city offices over there. Taylor argued against this because the EWEB building is no bigger than the present City Hall, is difficult to reach by auto, bike and foot and such a move would further damage Eugene’s downtown. Both Taylor and Poticha, who spoke during the question period, championed the historical significance, the character (if the building is maintained properly) and the accessibility of the present City Hall. Taylor said seismic retrofitting could be done for $6 million to $8 million. But Clark claimed that it would take $40 million to make the present City Hall work. Taylor said the space vacated by the fire department is still empty. If the police leave, that's more vacant space. If the sprawling city staff needs more consolidation, even in this age of computer linkage, Taylor suggested building a functional office building on the 8th Ave. parking lot across from City Hall. We wonder how the city staff, who appear to be the movers of this "new City Hall" discussion, feel about that proposal.
• We don't seem to talk much about Republicans in "Slant," but the Republican race for Oregon governor should be fascinating to watch — if you're a political junkie, that is. Allen Alley, former Portland high-tech exec, already has announced. A mechanical engineer by profession, he was Governor Kulongoski's economic advisor and chief of staff in 2007.
Greg Walden, congressman from Oregon's 2nd district, is the biggest name tossed around, but he has nothing to say about the possibility of leaving D.C. for Salem. Jason Atkinson, legislator from southern Oregon, also makes the top tier. No public announcement there either. The trick in the elephant's ring will be to stake out conservative turf necessary to winning the R nomination in this state but make moderate moves necessary to winning the general election. Some D observers ruefully predict an Oregon unemployment rate still so high in 2010 that a Republican could steal the top job. Stay tuned.
• Kudos to ODOT staff for slipping a better bike connection to Glenwood into the I-5 bridge widening project. Here’s another good idea: Instead of tearing down and throwing away the hundreds of tons of cement and rebar in the old bridge, how about reusing it as a hanging garden? The “temporary” bridge already has the on ramps for a rest stop. Add a few dump trucks of top soil and volunteer planting efforts, and the hanging garden over the Willamette could become a spectacular tourist wonder on the I-5 corridor and powerful symbol of truly green transportation.