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Eugene Weekly : News : 11.25.09





News Briefs:
Toxic Plume Menaces Tap Water | Swine Flu or Kitty Flu | City Budget 'Gloomy' | Civil Rights Hero Tinker to Speak | Pole Dance Gets a Leg Up on Aerobics | UO Dorm Seen as Problem for Local Tribal Events | LRAPA Seeks Air Monitor for W. Eugene | Activist Alert | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | War Dead

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

Happening Person: Jeremy Hall

Obituary:

RIP, Papa Soul


Remembering Ted ‘Papa’ Lee

 

 






TOXIC PLUME MENACES TAP WATER

A toxic plume from Weyerhaeuser menaces local drinking water sources, and the pollution is worse than expected. But don’t panic: The low chemical concentration is still considered safe, according to EWEB.

“We believe the plume poses a low risk,” EWEB staff wrote to the public utility’s board of commissioners Nov. 12.

That’s partly because the Springfield utility (SUB/RWD) is sucking up the pollution in its drinking water wells before it reaches Eugene’s source of water, the McKenzie, according to the EWEB memo. “The SUB/RWD well field acts as a groundwater capture zone effectively drawing PCP contamination toward the pumping wells before contaminants can enter the river.”

Last May SUB/RWD started up carbon filters to remove the pollution for its customers. 

From the early 1960s until 1987, Weyerhaeuser spilled a wood preservative, pentachlorophenol (PCP), on the ground at its Springfield mill about a mile up the McKenzie from EWEB’s drinking water intake and Springfield’s drinking water wells. Weyerhaeuser sold its Springfield plant to International Paper last year.

PCP is an industrial chemical that can cause liver, immune system, reproductive and developmental damage and is a probable carcinogen, according to federal research. EPA has a safety goal (MCLG) of zero PCP in drinking water but has set an enforceable limit (MCL) of one part per billion (1 ppb). That’s about one drop in 500 barrels of water.

State regulators (DEQ) have known about the underground PCP plume since 1991. Weyerhaeuser did a partial cleanup and installed a monitoring system to determine when the toxic plume would reach Springfield’s wells and the McKenzie. It’s unclear why DEQ didn’t require a full or more complete cleanup. 

The pollution has moved faster than DEQ predicted. “Actual concentrations are higher than what was modeled,” according to an EWEB staff memo to the public utility’s board of commissioners. “Obviously, the modeling needs to be updated.” 

Last May the Springfield utility (SUB) detected low levels of PCP in its drinking water at 0.21 ppb, which is below the enforceable limit. SUB began filtering its well water to remove PCP pollution.

EWEB has not detected PCP at its downstream water intake but has found low levels of PCP in a slough (.47 ppb) and stormwater channel (.2 ppb) near the river. EWEB did find an extremely minute level (65 parts per quadrillion) of a PCP degradation product at its intake, but the utility is unsure if it came from Weyerhaeuser. 

EWEB staff “does not believe it [PCP] poses a threat to EWEB’s drinking water quality,” the staff memo states. Weyerhaeuser’s toxic plume will mix with large volumes of river water, bringing it well below unsafe levels, according to the memo. If monitoring shows concentrations are again higher than expected, EWEB could always start using filters like Springfield to remove the Weyerhaeuser toxin. — Alan Pittman

 

SWINE FLU OR KITTY FLU?

Is Oregon the ground zero of swine flu for pets? This month the Beaver State laid claim to the first cat to die of H1N1: Buddy Lou, a tabby cat from Lebanon. Oregon was also the state to have the first confirmed case of a ferret with H1N1, as well as the first to have a ferret die of the illness. So far no dogs have contracted swine flu, but veterinarians say that doesn’t mean that they can’t get it. 

Pigs can get and transmit the disease. Though the Oregon Animal Health and Identification Division hasn’t reported any pig outbreaks in this state, pigs are where swine flu got its name, and herds of pigs in Iowa and elsewhere have tested positive for the virus. 

A flock of domestic turkeys in Ontario, Canada, came down with the illness earlier this year, but even if that turkey you’re cooking up for Thanksgiving dinner was sneezing before it made its way to your plate, don’t worry, “Proper cooking practices destroy the influenza virus,” according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Internal Affairs. So your vegetarian friends have got just as much chance as of getting swine flu over the holidays as your meat-eating pals. If you’re going to catch the illness, it will be from your friends and family, not from the turkey you cooked.

In case you were wondering, it isn’t unusual for diseases to be passed from animals to humans. Such illnesses, known as zoonoses, include anthrax, rabies, Hantavirus, typhus, Ebola and of course, everybody’s favorite, the plague, as well as less frightening diseases like ringworm. It’s less common for a human to pass a disease to an animal, but in the cases of Buddy Lou and the other domestic pets, that’s what happened.

Don’t panic: That pussycat you see wandering down your block isn’t the next Typhoid Mary. Precautions for your pets are similar to what you would do to prevent human-to-human transmission of disease. According to Oregon State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Emilio DeBess, you should wash your hands frequently, cover your cough and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if you have had contact with a turkey, cat or anything else with a respiratory illness. Happy Turkey Day. — Camilla Mortensen

 

CITY BUDGET 'GLOOMY’

With police and fire unions balking at skipping a raise this year and the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) in the tank, the city of Eugene’s bleak budget outlook is getting worse.

“It feels sort of gloomy, and it is really difficult,” City Manger Jon Ruiz said at a city Budget Committee meeting Nov. 2.

Councilor Alan Zelenka described the budget forecast as “scary.” If the city isn’t able to close ongoing deficits, “we’re going to be in a heap of trouble,” he said.  

Ruiz had proposed cutting $12 million from this year’s budget to make up a shortfall with “minimal impact” on employee layoffs and citizen services. 

But the police union has so far refused to accept an elimination of its contracted cost of living (COLA) increase this year, even though there is no actual inflation in this recession. The firefighters’ union may accept some COLA reduction, Ruiz said. The city’s largest union, AFSCME, bargained for reduced work instead of the pay freeze, meaning closed offices and some reductions in service, according to Ruiz.

Of the $12 million in cuts, Ruiz said that he’s so far fallen about $4 million short. But now he faces the more difficult challenge of repeating those cuts in ongoing years. 

The city faces the added threat of a looming statewide PERS disaster. The retirement system lost more than a quarter of its value when the stock market crashed but still guarantees many of its beneficiaries an 8 percent return. Because of the way public employees and the city have negotiated the retirement system, taxpayers will likely have to make up the billions of dollars in lost services and/or higher taxes.

Unless there is a dramatic stock turnaround, the PERS hit on the city could amount to about $4 million or more per year in two years.

Council conservative Chris Pryor said he’d like to cut city services that he views as a lower priority. “This is going to be an incredibly difficult nut to crack,” he said. “There may be entire areas that have to be turned off.”

In the past such prioritizations have been criticized for cutting popular services while allowing waste in the large police and fire department budgets to go unscrutinized.

Ruiz said he may do it differently this time. “There may be a high priority service that can be provided differently.”

One thing the city isn’t doing differently is planning to spend $16 million from its reserves to move the police out of downtown. 

The spending on a controversial new police building amid budget cuts could complicate Ruiz’s effort to pass a tax increase. Ruiz has created a “Meeting the Challenge Task Force” to look at options for a tax increase. 

State Democrats are now pushing to pass an income tax increase on the wealthy and corporations. A local version of the progressive tax could pass in Eugene. But Ruiz, a Republican, has stacked his committee with people from the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the state tax increase for schools. — Alan Pittman

 

CIVIL RIGHTS HERO TINKER TO SPEAK

Mary Beth Tinker and her brother John

Mary Beth Tinker made history as a teenager by standing up for freedom of expression for young people, and she continues her campaign today. She is being brought to Eugene by the ACLU and will speak at a 6 to 8 pm benefit reception Thursday, Dec. 3, at Café Maroc, 30 E. Broadway. Tickets are $50 for ACLU members and $60 for non-members. For information and tickets, visit www.aclu-or.org/ACLUHero or email emitchell@aclu-or.org

Tinker was a 13-year-old student in 1965 in Des Moines, Iowa, and wore a black armband to school to protest deaths on both sides of the Vietnam War. She and her brother, John, and a third student, Chris Eckhardt, were suspended from school for wearing the armbands, and their appeal resulted in the landmark 1969 decision Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. School Dist. affirming that students in public schools do have free speech rights under the First Amendment.

In an article in Freedom Forum, Tinker said she was motivated to protest the carnage on both sides of the war because her family had a strong tradition of taking action to illustrate their religious beliefs.

“My family had a commitment for your religious views to be put into action,” she said. “I had taken that to heart as part of my upbringing.

“Kids have a general feeling about unfairness,” she continued. “Largely it (the armband protest) was an emotional reaction from seeing what was on the news every day.”

The four-year-long legal battle was highly controversial at the time; Tinker’s family even got death threats. 

Tinker is now a registered nurse and is still actively educating young people around the country about their rights, according to the Oregon ACLU. She is quoted saying, “Not only do children and teens often pay the price for policies made by adults, but youths, with their natural energy and creativity, are well-suited to taking the world forward.” 

While in town, Tinker will also be speaking to a group of South Eugene High School students about standing up for their rights.

 

POLE DANCE GETS LEG UP ON AEROBICS

Hollie Judy

Pole dancing isn’t just for strip clubs anymore. When the racks of clothes and lingerie are pulled away at olivejuice in the Whiteaker neighborhood, poles go up and women start to get down, sweaty and in shape. Three adjustable metal pipes are erected over round disc platforms and attach to the venue’s exposed-beam ceiling. Once the poles are in place, Hollie Judy, instructor and founder of the Lane Pole Aerobics Academy classes, gets everybody limbered up.

Judy, who started dancing professionally in gentlemen’s clubs at age 20, said she began teaching professional dancers in 2005 when she was 24 years old. “It can be very competitive to learn all the pole stuff, and there’s no one to help the new girls. So that’s where it originated,” she said.

Removing the audience and the alcohol, and keeping the clothing on, Judy said, allows her to make it all about the dance and art form of pole dancing. The class is fun opportunity for women who have always wanted to try pole dancing for recreational purposes, but weren’t exactly up for trying out their potential pole dance skills at a strip club, she said. The women who come to these classes are all ages, from college women in their 20s, to an older woman who Judy said self-describes as having “still got it.”

But for those women who are hell-bent on being part of the professional exotic dance industry, Judy (or Penny Lane, her stage name) offers a class called an “Introduction to the Industry.” This class is intended for women who want to transfer the dance skills learned in her class to gentlemen’s clubs. The focus of this class is to teach pre-professionals about the state laws regarding dancing and to teach dancers “how to be your own best bouncer,” she said. 

Judy herself knows the need for women to protect themselves. She is a survivor of rape and abuse, and she has been actively involved with Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) for the past seven years. She participates regularly in Take Back the Night. She said, “My focus is helping ladies have fun, opening their minds to a world where media driven perceptions of beauty are left behind.” She said in her classes, “You’re able to find strength in your own sensuality. You don’t have to give up your strength to express your softer side.”

For the regular aerobics class, there are few restrictions on who can partake. “This isn’t just for skinny girls. I want to make that very clear,” Judy said. “This is not for a particular style of female. This is for every woman. You don’t have to share it with anybody. You can just keep it in your back pocket knowing that you’ve got it.” However, Judy said, body size limitations can keep some women from getting way up on the pole. “We do start with very basic strength-building cardio with ladies in the beginning classes,” she said.

Classes are offered every Tuesday from 6 to 8 pm at olivejuice. The cost is $20 for the two hours, and space is limited to 12 women with valid identification. Call Hollie Judy for reservations at 541-606-5937. — Shaun O’Dell

 

UO DORM SEEN AS PROBLEM FOR LOCAL TRIBAL EVENTS 

The UO’s Campus Planning Committee voted Nov. 11 to postpone allocating space for the construction of a new dormitory in response to concerns from community members that such an undertaking is an affront to Native American tradition.  

The East Campus Residence Hall, a $75 million project meant to house 450 to 500 students, will be built in the Fairmount neighborhood at the corner of 15th and Moss. 

To the northeast is the Many Nations Longhouse, the cultural center of Eugene’s Native American community. The proposed large-scale dorm would be positioned in such a way that it would directly impact the Native community’s ability to utilize the morning sunlight — an essential component to Native American tradition — in its ceremonies. 

“For my culture, the sun represents a new day and a new beginning. It is important for connecting with the creator and for connecting with the earth; it’s us being thankful for who we are,” said Carina Miller, university student and co-director of the Native American Student Union. 

The Many Nations Longhouse, described on its website as “part of a larger initiative … [to] make the UO a regional and national center for Native American education and research” was designed in 2004 to be a hallmark of the strengthening relationship between the university and Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes. 

However, the manifestation of this relationship — a $1.2 million building of maple and cedar with an open fireplace, made possible by the grants, monetary and material gifts of local tribes and private donations — fell far short of its original four-building floor plan due to budgetary and logistical constraints. 

Regardless, at the Longhouse’s opening ceremony of January 2005, Oregon’s Native American community publicy lauded the building as a true accomplishment between American Indians and the UO. 

“The Longhouse is really great for the community and it has definitely strengthened the relationship between the university and the nine tribes,” said Miller. “Just don’t block the sunlight.” 

A meeting was scheduled for Nov. 19 after the University Campus Planning Committee’s unanimous decision to table the motion to approve the East Campus Residence Hall open-space framework, but was later cancelld. 

“That is often the case. It’s protocol,” said University Planning Associate Cathy Soutar. When asked about a possible resolution to this problem, Soutar responded, “I have no idea, but it is still fairly early in the process and I hope that the resolution will be beneficial to all parties involved.” — Deborah Bloom

LRAPA SEEKS AIR MONITOR FOR W. EUGENE

The Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) passed a motion at its Nov. 10 meeting to establish an air toxics monitor in west Eugene. And last week, west Eugene residents, environmental activists, County Commissioner Rob Handy, and representatives from the Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA) and Centro Latino met to discuss where they thought that monitor should be located within the west Eugene area.

The ensuing discussion raised more questions than it answered: Which locations needed more monitoring? From what air toxins? What does the data actually mean?

 “There’s no one place that will be best for everything,” said Becky Riley, an air toxics activist. The group looked over data gathered by LRAPA from the Environmental Protection Agency’s national air toxics assessment of the Eugene and Springfield areas. 

The second monitor would work in conjunction with a toxics monitor already established in Eugene’s Amazon area. LRAPA, according to Director Merlyn Hough and OTA Director Lisa Arkin, does not have the funding to operate both monitors full-time. Instead, the monitors would be on a six-month rotation, taking turns being active.  

The most encouraging thing about the meeting, Arkin said later that day, was that everyone present, while concerned specifically about the west Eugene neighborhood, ultimately wanted what would be best for Lane County as a whole.

The second air monitor is one small victory for the OTA in its fight for cleaner air in West Eugene.

The organization has spent months battling the approval of Seneca Sustainable Energy’s plant permit. The permit was approved in October and OTA filed a petition this month requesting that LRAPA overrule the permit.

OTA has also lodged another formal appeal with the EPA, according to Arkin.

OTA’s initial request to the EPA and Environmental Justice to intervene using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the permitting issue has hit a dead end.

“Seneca was very clear that it would not participate,” said Hough. He said the company submitted a letter to that effect. LRAPA, he added, would participate in any ADR discussions and actions.

“I would expect LRAPA to participate to the fullest extent of our resources to do so,” he said.

Meanwhile, OTA continues to work with community members to educate people in Lane County about air quality and work with individual neighborhoods to identify problems and concerns.

“Air should be free,” Arkin said. “It affects us all.” — Katie Wilson

 

ACTIVIST ALERT

World AIDS Day is Tuesday, Dec. 1, and the Lane County HIV Alliance is planning an open house at 4 pm at 1966 Garden Ave. in Eugene, followed by events on campus. A volunteer appreciation event is set for 5 pm Dec. 1 and memorial ceremony follows at 5:30 pm at the EMU Ballroom at UO. A discussion is planned at 7 pm about “HIV/AIDS International Human Rights Challenges” with HIV/AIDS expert Bob Fischer. For more information, call 342-5088.

• A Lane County informational meeting on food security is planned for 6:30 pm Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 6:30 pm at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave. in Eugene.  The town hall is hosted by Commissioners Pete Sorenson and Rob Handy, and Mayor Kitty Piercy.

 

LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE

• Recreational, administrative, roadsides, rangeland, forestlands, and federally listed species sites will be treated with 16 different herbicides on 45,000 acres of land in Oregon under the BLM’s Preferred Alternative No. 4 in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Vegetation Treatments. View documents at www.blm.gov/or/plans/vegtreatmentseis/

Send comments endorsing Alternative 1, the no-herbicide option, to the BLM by Dec. 1.

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

WAR DEAD 

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

In Iraq

• 4,366 U.S. troops killed* (4,364)

• 31,571 U.S. troops injured** (31,556) 

• 185 U.S. military suicides* (185)

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

• 102,820 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (102,710)

• $700.7 billion cost of war ($700.7 billion) 

• $199.6 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($199.3 million)

In Afganistan

• 923 U.S. troops killed* (916)

• 4,529 U.S. troops injured** (4,472)

• $232.1 billion cost of war ($231.7 billion)

• $65.9 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($65.9 million)

* through Nov. 20, 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)

 

 

 

SLANT

What is there to be thankful for in a recession when only hunting dogs have job security? When even more children and adults are living in poverty and sleeping in cars and under tarps? When the richest nation in the world can’t take care of its sick kids? Well, before we all get too depressed and jump off the Dave and Lynn Frohnmayer Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge, let’s remember that it’s human nature to suffer, but also to embrace hope and strive for a better life for ourselves and others. 

All we can do is all we can do. So if you are feeling depressed around the holidays, do something. If you have some money, give it to a good cause. If you have no money, help a neighbor. Find a dog ear to scratch. Adopt a lower life form.

Speaking of lower life forms, what about opening up the family gene pool gatherings? Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a place to go this long weekend. This is a good time to look around and gather up the strays among us. Make room at the table.

• This year Lane County commissioners caught holy hell from The Register-Guard for not increasing the budget for sheriff’s deputies. Dangerous criminals would be released from the jail if the deputies didn’t get more money, the argument went. Turns out a chunk of the money will be going to salaries and benefits instead of jail beds. The sheriff just gave his deputies a 6 percent raise over three years and maintained the deputies’ Cadillac health plan. This comes at a time when other public and private employees are facing big cuts in wages, furloughs and increases in insurance. Grandma won’t get her cost of living increase from Social Security this year, but the sheriff’s deputies will get it from local taxpayers.

• We heard that longtime local LGBTQ and human rights activist Alan Brown was hospitalized recently with the H1N1 flu and complications from diabetes that required foot surgery and toe loss. “It’s been a rough month for me,” he tells us, both physically and financially. “The community response to my difficulties has surprised me,” he says. “My family has been very supportive but they have lives and bills of their own. I am actively looking for some sort of full time work and leaving the ranks of the self-not-employed in the current economy.” Brown has computer skills including web design, graphic design and database management. His portfolio is available at www.eagelonthewing.com and a medical fund has been set up at branches of Pacific Cascade Federal Credit Union, account #102261. 

• The line to hear indie journalist Amy Goodman speak at the WOW Hall was out the door and down the block Nov. 23. This is good news for KWVA and Eugene PeaceWorks, which benefited from the event. And it’s good news for EW because this means Eugeneans are interested in the aggressive attempts to clean up politics that Goodman and EW specialize in. We’ll be listening to Democracy Now! to hear if Goodman talks about Lane County’s issues from Tasers to pesticide sprays and the Navy’s plans to expand its training range on the Oregon Coast.



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

 

 

JEREMY HALL

The son of a priest and a nun who left their vocations after they met in grad school, Jeremy Hall grew up on a nursery farm in Sonoma County, Calif.. His father later sold the business and worked as custodian at Oak Grove Elementary in Graton, where he enlisted the kids in recycling and cut the landfill haul by 90 percent. “When he retired, they commissioned a statue of him from recycled materials,” reports Hall, who took a year off from studies at Willamette University to intern at Aprovecho, then returned and started a community garden. “We mixed kitchen scraps from Willamette with wood chips and saved 75 tons from the landfill.” Made aware of forest issues by the 1996 flood in Salem, he “crossed the line” and got arrested at a logging protest, and afterwards worked seven years for the Oregon Natural Resources Council (now Oregon Wild) in Portland and Eugene. After a year away in Phoenix for his wife Erin Chaparro’s Ph.D., he and business partner Bruce Kreitzberg opened Back to the Earth Landscaping, an all-organic company. He volunteers as board president of Cascadia Wildlands. “Our next big campaign will be wolves,” he says. “We need a viable population here for a healthy relationship between predator and prey.”