News Briefs: AG Looks to Crack Down on Polluters | Anniversary of Battle in Seattle | Bill Fleenor to Run Again | Taser Reports Raise Issues | Town Hall to Examine Issues of Homeless | Activist Alert | Early Deadlines
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Q & A:
Iraqi student finds welcome in Eugene
AG LOOKS TO CRACK DOWN ON POLLUTERS
During a recent visit to EW, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger said the new ecocrimes unit is under way. He announced two new hires this week: Patrick A. Flanagan is a former Clackamas County prosecutor and federal law enforcement officer with the U.S. National Park Service, and Stephanie M. Parent is an attorney who has both defended the federal government and represented environmental groups. Before Kroger came to office, Oregon had an environmental crimes task force but didn’t have any environmental prosecutors. One of Kroger’s campaign promises was to crack down on Oregon’s polluters.
The funding for the new environmental crimes enforcement unit was created during the last session of the Oregon Legislature. The legislation allowed the Oregon Department of Justice to use existing funds to begin an enforcement program focusing on illegal and intentional violation of Oregon’s environmental laws.
Kroger said the AG’s office has four to five potential cases of pollution already identified. Where in the past companies often were simply fined, “We now charge people with crimes and we now get injunctions ordering them to stop,” he said.
He cited the case of Lehman Hot Springs in Eastern Oregon, which was using a sewage lagoon system to store human waste behind earth dams. He said not only were the dams leaking 20,000 gallons of sewage wastewater per day into a tributary of the John Day River, but they had “the risk of a catastrophic break.” According to the Oregon DEQ, such break could release 2.4 million gallons of sewage wastewater into Warm Spring Creek and into the John Day River system.
The DEQ said that Lehman Hot Springs resort has been operating for years without water quality permits required under state pollution laws.
The AG’s office got a court order ordering Lehman Hot Springs to pump down the lagoons and remove the waste, Kroger said, and he added, “That’s a perfect example of what we’re trying to do.” — Camilla Mortensen
ANNIVERSARY OF BATTLE IN SEATTLE
A community coalition of labor unions, fair trade advocates and other organizers for social and economic justice will host the “WTO 2009 Teach-In” and the “Eugene Says NO to the WTO Celebration” on Saturday, Nov. 21. The events are being held to alert the public to the threat posed by the new World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial being held later this year, and to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the “Battle in Seattle” protests that shut down the WTO in 1999.
The teach-in will take place from 1 to 4 pm Saturday in the Fir Room of the EMU on the UO campus. A panel of local experts will present the history of the WTO, its role in job loss, environmental destruction, forced migration and financial deregulation, as well as the Seattle protests’ impact on the right to dissent. Panelists will also discuss the Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 WTO Ministerial in Geneva, Switzerland.
The WTO celebration will run from 6:30 to 11:30 pm Saturday at the WOW Hall and will feature a screening of This Is What Democracy Looks Like, a film about the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. The screening will be followed by performances by the Sugar Beets and the New Mexican Revolution. Suggested donation is $5 to $15, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
“The WTO is trying to expand harmful trade policies that offshore Oregon jobs, push small farmers off their land, worsen climate change and deregulate banks,” said Arthur Stamoulis, director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, in a prepared statement. “It’s especially important that these policies be reversed now with the U.S. and global economies in a crisis caused in large part by 30 years of wage stagnation in the U.S. The shortage of family-wage jobs threatens the ability of our economy to recover.”
Stamoulis said Eugene played a “huge role” in shutting down the WTO 10 years ago, and “this teach-in and celebration will let people know how they can make a difference today.”
As part of the anniversary, local videographer Tim Lewis is planning to show two films Nov. 29 at the Bijou Theatre, Breaking the Spell: Anarchists, Eugene and the WTO and RIP WTP N30. See next week’s Calendar for times.
The Eugene events are being held earlier than the actual anniversary to avoid the Thanksgiving weekend and also to allow local activists to attend Portland events the weekend of Dec. 5. That Saturday at noon will be a rally at Tom McCall Waterfront Park under the Hawthorne Bridge, followed by a 1 pm march to the nearby World Trade Center, Federal Building and Wells Fargo buildings. At 2 pm will be an indoor rally and concert at PSU. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org— Ted Taylor
BILL FLEENOR TO RUN AGAIN
West Lane County Commissioner Bill Fleenor officially announced Nov. 18 that he has decided to run for office after all. Fleenor had declared in early September that he would not run for his commissioner’s seat again.
In an interview with the EW last week, he said he subsequently heard from “hundreds of people” dismayed by his decision to not run to keep the seat he wrested away from pro-logging former Commissioner Anna Morrison in 2006.
Fleenor said his decision not to run was based on his concerns about effectively serving the citizens of Lane County. “My need to serve outweighed my need to run,” he said. “I needed to have a life. How do you do that working 50-60 hours a week and then running a big money campaign?” Fleenor commutes to commissioners’ meetings from Mapleton, sometimes staying in his RV in Eugene during the week.
He said he had concerns about raising the kind of money that it would take to run another campaign. “I am an independent man, not bought and sold,” he said. “If I had to raise a half million dollars I might lose that independence.” Fleenor said a “grassroots groundswell” of unpaid supporters have offered to run the campaign, and he is “just tickled that all of the elements are coming together.” He said to reflect his focus on keeping Lane County on task, on budget and on message, his proposed campaign slogan is “Tough, Tight and In Touch.” — Camilla Mortensen
TASER REPORTS RAISE ISSUES
The Lane County district attorney last week forced the city of Eugene to release police reports from the controversial Tasing of a Chinese student, but the carefully worded reports raise more questions than they answer.
The DA ruled on an Oregon Public Records Law appeal from Eugene Weekly and The Register-Guard that the police chief broke the law when he hid the records from the public. After the DA ordered the city to release the documents, the city waited three days, after EW went to press, to release them.
Perhaps the most important question raised by the documents is: Should police have known that the two Chinese students in their own apartment could not understand them before they Tasered one of them as a suspected trespasser?
The two officers, Judd Warden and Bill Barnes, wrote in their typed, undated reports sometime after the incident that they first encountered and handcuffed one of the students while going up the stairs in the apartment. The officers did not say whether or not the student spoke and in what language. The two officers’ reports omit any mention of the Chinese students actually speaking.
Warden wrote, “He would not obey my commands to put his hands on his head.”
Barnes wrote, “It appeared [the student] did not clearly understand our directions since he was slow to comply.” The officer continued that when he asked if there was anyone else in the apartment, the student “was unable to provide a sufficient answer.”
But the reports do not say why the answer was not “sufficient.” Was it because the student was only speaking Chinese or in broken English?
If so, Barnes and Warden could have called a “Language Line” the police regularly use for instant translations. If the officers had, the student could have explained that they were renting the apartment and provided their written rental document.
As it was, the police claim they only realized that the two couldn’t speak English after Warden went upstairs and woke and Tasered the other student in his own bedroom after the other non-English speaker also failed to comply with the officer’s orders in English. Warden claims that he thought the unarmed student “sitting on the ground” was “coming at me to potentially hurt me.”
The city has known that its police officers Taser people who don’t understand police orders, without changing its policy and training to address the problem.
In June, the Eugene police auditor and Civilian Review Board described in their annual report an incident in which police officers Tasered a nonthreatening, noncommunicative mentally ill man for failing to comply with orders. The report said the police policy allowing shocking after warning is “flawed” in that “it does not address the issue that to be meaningful a warning must be heard and understood.”
The only apparent city response to the report was the City Council appointing an auditor and review board members who are less critical of police. Failing to respond to documented problems can open the city to expensive lawsuits. — Alan Pittman
TOWN HALL TO EXAMINE ISSUES OF HOMELESS
A town hall meeting titled “Intersections: The Rights of the Homeless and the Rights of the Community” is planned for 7 to 10 pm Tuesday, Nov. 24, at Harris Hall, 8th and Oak in Eugene.
This working meeting will address the need for local jurisdictions to change their ordinances and policies to comply with a 2006 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Jones v. Los Angeles, in which the court held that homeless individuals in public spaces cannot be intimidated, harassed, rousted or arrested for having no shelter to go to, according to Eugene activist Paul Prensky.
“This ruling is binding on local jurisdictions, and L.A., Fresno, and Portland, among others, have changed their laws and policies accordingly,” says Prensky. “We will organize a public effort to get the cities of Lane County and the county administration to change their ordinances and for police departments to change their policies to come into compliance.”
Prensky says the meeting will also be an effort “to get our arms around the totality of the situation faced by the homeless — no access to shelter, food or clothing for the winter, the problem of predators among the homeless population, and the need for a support system to respond in real time to the need of those stranded in public this winter to get to available shelter, or have some of their needs met on the spot if they choose to ‘stay out.’”
Prensky envisions a paid hotline coordinator, a network of volunteers to take one or more 7 pm to 3 am shifts on-call to offer transport to available shelter, and a street patrol to assist people in connecting with unmet needs, and in weeding out predators.
A panel is being formed of law enforcers, downtown security personnel and concerned business community members to balance a panel representing the homeless themselves.
Prensky says he hopes to see “an effort to destigmatize homelessness and encourage local residents to make the effort this winter to do unto the least among us as we would want done unto us.”
A panel discussion of homelessness is also on the program at City Club of Eugene Friday, Nov. 20. See Activist Alert.
• Two Lane County Green Drinks groups are combining from 6 to 8 pm Thursday, Nov. 19, for a special meeting at Davis’ Restaurant on Broadway. Erik Stafl, CEO of the new electric vehicle company Arcimoto, is scheduled to give a very brief presentation. To get on the Green Drinks mailing list, send a note to email@example.com or call 284-7020.
• At least two members of the “Mad as Hell Doctors” contingency that recently returned from Washington, D.C., are planning to attend a potluck and discussion about health insurance reform at 7 pm Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Eugene Garden Club, 1645 High St. (see News Briefs last week).
• “Sheltering the Homeless: Why Bother?” is the topic at City Club of Eugene at noon Friday, Nov, 20, at the Hilton. Speakers are Terry McDonald, David Robertson and Susan Ban.
• MECCA, the Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts, is celebrating its 10th anniversary and grand re-opening following a move this summer. A public celebration and open house will be held from 4 to 7 pm Saturday, Nov. 21, at MECCA, 449 Willamette St., in Eugene. Refreshments, live music, prizes and creative activities will be available.
• A “We are One” fundraiser performance for the International Arts Center in Guinea, West Africa, is planned for 7 pm Saturday, Nov. 21, at Agate Hall Auditorium, 1787 Agate St. Tickets are $5 in advance through the WOW Hall, or $10 at the door.
• Stand for Children is organizing a rain-or-shine, door-to-door and sidewalk leafletting day Sunday, Nov. 22, in support of Measures 66 and 67 on the January ballot. Volunteers are gathering at 1 pm at the SEIU office in the basement of the Oregon Community Credit Union at 488 E. 11th Ave. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 912-2921.
EW offices will be closed Nov. 26-27 for the long Thanksgiving weekend and we will be publishing a day early, Wednesday, Nov. 25. Early deadline to reserve display ad space for our Nov. 25 issue will be 5 pm Thursday, Nov. 19. Camera ready ads due by noon on Monday, Nov. 23. Questions? Call 484-0519.
• Opponents to the Eugene City Council intervening on the police department’s out-of-control Taser use would have you believe Eugene isn’t a democracy but some banana dictatorship. Eugene doesn’t have a democratic council form of government, the argument goes; we have a “strong city manager form of government.” Huh? The City Charter says, “All power of the city is vested in the City Council.” If the councilors can pass an ordinance micromanaging the exact angle at which pedestrians can cross the street (jaywalking), they can certainly set policy on the use by city employees of potentially lethal, 50,000-volt weapons.
• County Commissioner Bill Fleenor announced this week that he will seek another four-year term, and we’re pleased to hear it. Fleenor has been a huge improvement over his predecessor, Anna Morrison, when it comes to environmental and social justice issues. And he’s been good on taxation issues and public safety, despite efforts by conservatives and The Register-Guard to unfairly label him as soft on crime and punishment. The campaign will hopefully provide an opportunity to set the record straight, though we predict the same old erroneous information will be trotted out again and again, particularly regarding the funding of jail beds. Fleenor is still being blamed for jail bed cuts made by Commissioners Faye Stewart and Bobby Green, before Fleenor was even on the board.
In Fleenor’s prepared remarks at his announcement this week, he recalled the words of the late Sen. Wayne Morse: “Why can’t there be elected officials who just follow the facts wherever they lead, let the chips fall wherever they may, while always putting the people first?” Fleenor added, “Maybe it’s naïve for me to think I can be that person, but believe me, I’m trying to be!”
• Lane Transit District finds itself in a pickle, trying to choose between several unwieldy options for the federally subsidized EmX bus rapid transit route in west Eugene. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, but probably the option that will draw the most public ire is along the north bank of Amazon Creek and the popular creekside bike path that hundreds of cyclists and walkers use each day. Less resistance is likely for a route that would use parts of 6th, 7th, 11th and 13th avenues, particularly if those routes can be designed to serve transit riders, create minimal disruption to existing residents and businesses, and remove few trees.
This is a difficult and painful process, but establishing bus rapid transit lines to serve west Eugene is vitally important, not so much for the next few years, but for the long term. We need to plan for 20 to 50 years and beyond, when mass transit will dominate our evolving transportation system. The EmX routes may have noisy, stinky buses for the next 10 years, but after that the same dedicated routes can be converted to relatively quiet, clean light rail.
• Imagine a 4,500-acre natural area in the middle of our metropolitan area. That’s the hope Chris Orsinger held out to the City Club of Eugene Nov. 3 at the Hilton. Orsinger is executive director of Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah. For years, he has been negotiating with the Wildish company for an option to purchase its 1,200-acre parcel to add to our precious park. If that big deal can come together, river restoration will be huge for salmon, other fish, turtles and waterfowl. Listening to both Orsinger and Jonathan Stafford, president of the arboretum at Pisgah, we were impressed at the power of patience in bringing such great assets to our community.
• Dunno if columnist David Sarasohn in The Sunday Oregonian (Nov. 15) is ahead or behind the curve. He’s still bringing up the possibility of Peter DeFazio running for governor. Sarasohn says DeFazio told him he won’t make his final decision until filing day, next March. We’ll put ourselves in that large group the Portlander mentions that does not expect our congressman to run. For many reasons, we want him right where he is, as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee.
• The residents of Cottage Grove and Veneta are finding out that growth doesn’t pay. Both cities are now faced with crushing sewer bills that they never would have had if they had restricted wanton sprawl. Little rural villages can run on septic systems. Cities can’t without drowning in their own poop. Rural villages work fine with low taxes. Sprawling cities can’t. If the residents of Veneta and Cottage Grove don’t want ever-rising taxes and fees, they should dump the development interests and speculators who run their towns.
ERIK DE BUHR & FAY CARTER
A graphic designer for Northwest Media while he was still at North Eugene High, Erik de Buhr left college early to travel. “I fished in Alaska and lived in Las Vegas for a year,” says de Buhr, who was appalled by Las Vegas’ level of consumption and waste. “I made dumpster runs for what I needed.” Returning to Eugene after three years away in 2005, he found work in construction and in flash animation at Northwest Media, and also discovered a venue for his ideas on sustainability at Maitreya Ecovillage. That’s where he met Fay Carter, an LA County native who came north by way of Santa Cruz and Wolf Creek in southern Oregon, then in 2002 moved to Eugene, where she opened the Park Street Cafe. “We found a common passion for simplifying and recycling,” says Carter. Since they met two years ago, she and de Buhr have founded the Resurrected Refuse Action Team and produced a son, Abram. Behind them in the photo is their backyard bedroom, an Icosa Hut (half an icosahedron), built from 98 percent post-industrial waste. To learn about Icosa Huts and other RRAT projects, visit rractionteam.com. Check out the RRAT free box (Eugene’s biggest!) on the corner of Broadway and Almaden.