News Briefs: Progress on Old Taco Time Building Site? | Medical Pot Initiative Nears Signature Goal | LCOG Pulls Fast One on Stimulus | Public Forum on Police Use of Force | Whack Off Ears for New Year | Activist Alert | War Dead | Corrections/Clarifications
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Pacifica Forum gets the attention it craves
PROGRESS ON OLD TACO TIME BUILDING SITE?
The core of downtown Eugene is changing incrementally and one of the key properties targeted for redevelopment is the Taco Time building at the corner of Broadway and Willamette. Last fall plans were announced for a mixed-use development on the quarter-block site, and today those ambitions appear closer to fruition.
The old bank building would be demolished and replaced with a “green” five-story, mixed-use building with more than 5,000 sq. ft. of commercial space on the ground floor and 50 apartments above.
The $10 million project, proposed by Steve Master and his associates at Master Capital Management of Eugene, would coincide with the planned redevelopment of the Centre Court Building across the street, and the new LCC downtown center a block away in the old Sears pit. Master says the demand for housing downtown is strong and he already has a waiting list of renters.
But will it happen this time? The building’s co-owner Jack Roberts is optimistic. “In this economy, there obviously remains significant uncertainty as to whether or not this deal will ultimately close but we have confidence that Steve will do everything he reasonably can to make this happen.”
Master has an option to buy the building from Roberts and his siblings for an undisclosed price and is negotiating with the city for permits, tax breaks, grants and other help with financing. Rowell Brokaw is the architect. The company has previously developed UpTown Plaza, Valley River Station, Coburg Station and other projects.
The Taco Time building was part of the multi-block Connor & Woolley/OPUS proposed development that fell through in 2007. At that time the city had negotiated a purchase option of $1.2 million for the building.
Masters says the timing now is much better, and the location is ideal. “That corner with Kesey Square is in the center of Eugene,” he says. “I’m not trying to redevelop all of downtown, just that property, and I believe there’s huge value there in connection with what the city does with Beam across the street, and with what I’m doing. And that in itself is a game-changer for downtown.”
Roberts says the cost of renovating the building “could not be recovered by the rents we could charge a prospective tenant. We think Steve’s approach is probably the most likely to be successful. The reason we aren’t doing it ourselves is that he has more development experience and is far less risk-averse than we are.”
The building dates to the 1860s, but has seen extensive remodeling, and even removal of a turret and other architectural features. “We do not view the building today as having any historic value,” says Roberts, “although the vault used by the First National Bank many years ago is still in the basement.” — Ted Taylor
MEDICAL POT INITIATIVE NEARS SIGNATURE GOAL
Signature gatherers for Initiative 28 to regulate medical marijuana turned in more than 75,000 signatures Monday, Jan. 11. The initiative needs 82,769 valid signatures by July 2 to qualify for the November ballot. New election laws requires chief petitioners to turn in signatures collected by paid circulators monthly.
The new initiative would add a regulated supply system of dispensaries and producers to the current medical marijuana law which requires patients to produce their own medicine, according to Jim Greig of Voter Power in Eugene.
“When we drafted the original Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, we didn’t include provisions for dispensaries because federal law prohibited that.” says John Sajo, executive director of the Voter Power Foundation. “But now that the Obama administration has indicated that they will allow states to regulate medical marijuana, Oregon needs to create a regulated system so every patient can access quality controlled medicine.”
Current law allows patients to grow up to six mature marijuana plants or to designate a grower to do it for them. “For many patients, producing their own medicine is a big headache,” says Sajo. “But it remains a felony for anyone to sell them marijuana. Initiative 28 will allow nonprofit dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients. Licensed producers will grow the marijuana and sell it to dispensaries. Both dispensaries and producers will be subject to inspection and auditing by the health department.”
More information on Initiative 28 and the competing Initiative 32 that would restrict and recriminalize medical marijuana can be found at http://wkly.ws/4j
LCOG PULLS FAST ONE ON STIMULUS
Local transportation planners tried to slip a software upgrade past the federal government as a job-creating stimulus, got caught, but plan to try and slip the rejected expenditure through again anyway using an accounting gimmick.
Last March Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) staff rejected calls to spend federal stimulus money on pedestrian safety projects and instead pushed to spend $500,000 on a new “state-of-the-art” office computer system for traffic modeling. The Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), made up of local elected and unelected officials, unanimously approved using the money for software over pedestrian safety.
But the U.S. Department of Transportation rejected spending the job creation money on LCOG’s office computer upgrade. A staff memo to the MPC last month states that the federal officials notified LCOG in November that their software spending was one of 10 stimulus expenditures around the country rejected by USDOT as not a “preferred use” of the funds.
Federal stimulus expenditures have been criticized for not actually creating jobs. The local unemployment rate is about 11 percent. LCOG did not specify exactly how the software upgrade would have created any actual new jobs.
After federal officials rejected the spending as inappropriate, LCOG staff devised an accounting game that would allow the agency to indirectly spend federal money for the software anyway. According to a Dec. 2 memo, LCOG recommended shifting other federal money from a Springfield repaving project to the software and then shifting the stimulus money to back-fill the repaving work. “The overall benefit would be the same,” LCOG stated. The MPC unanimously approved the scheme. — Alan Pittman
PUBLIC FORUM ON POLICE USE OF FORCE
The Eugene Police Department has been accused of excessive force many times over the years, involving bullets, beatings, pepper spraying and police dogs. Several lawsuits against the city are currently filed or threatened. Use-of-force issues are high on the agendas of the Police Commission, the police auditor, Civilian Review Board, the Human Rights Commission, the ACLU, and even the Eugene City Council, but policy changes are slow in coming, facing resistance from the police union and conservatives in city government. Now frustrated city residents are organizing their own public forum.
Citizens for Public Accountability (CPA) is planning a free and open public forum on “Police Use of Force: Accountability and Alternatives” at 7 pm Tuesday, Jan. 19. at WOW Hall, 291 W. 8th Ave. The scope will include the Eugene-Springfield metro area.
“The Eugene Police Department was invited to provide a speaker but as of this date have not done so,” says Jon Pincus of CPA. Others on the panel will include Municipal Court Judge Rick Brissenden, former chair of the Civilian Review Board; Eugene City Councilor George Brown, author and researcher Geoff Colvin; White Bird counselor Chuck Gerard; attorney Lauren Regan, director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center; and attorney Kate Wilkinson, a current member of the Civilian Review Board. A late addition to the panel is Police Commissioner Juan Carlos Valle, chair of the commission's Policy and Review Committee and a member of the commission’s Use of Force Committee.
For more information contact Mike Quillin at 206-3333 or email email@example.com — Ted Taylor
WHACK OFF EARS FOR NEW YEAR
Killing coyotes for kids with cancer? That’s the goal behind a predator derby scheduled to take place in Klamath, Lake, Harney and Malheur counties in southeastern Oregon this weekend, Jan. 16-17.
Contestants will pay $50 a person and in teams of two will have from daylight on Saturday until 4 pm Sunday day to shoot and kill as many coyotes as they can. According to the contest, posted on various hunting message boards, “Most dead coyotes (just bring in sets of ears) wins.” Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense calls the contest “indiscriminate and wanton killing.”
First prize, writes Jamie Roscoe, the contest organizer, in the contest rules will be one varmint rifle per winning team member and either a spotting scope, rifle scope or pair of binoculars for the second and third place teams. Roscoe did not respond to a request for an interview by press time.
Fahy says, “There’s been a flurry of these contests happening.” A recent predator derby put on by Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife in Idaho gave two points for every coyote, fox and bobcat killed and three points for wolves. Gray wolves were delisted from the Endangered Species Act in the spring of 2009 and according to Fahy, 522 wolves were killed in 2009 since the delisting.
While wolf hunting is currently not legal in Oregon, coyotes, Fahy says, “have virtually no protections.” Many ranchers see them as a problem. ODFW classifies coyotes as a “predatory animal” and so there are no limits on when they can be hunted, how many can be killed or with what weapons. “You can kill as many as you want, any way that you want,” says Fahy. Hunters do have to get permission from landowners to hunt on private lands.
According to the postings about this weekend’s predator derby, also called a “coyote-calling contest,” the event is in honor of an “avid coyote hunter,” Jesse Torgersen, who died this summer of brain cancer. Proceeds will be donated to a Klamath Falls child with liver cancer.
The Humane Society of the U.S. says these contests often involve gambling, as hunters place bets on which team will win. HSUS says the coyotes are lured in by mechanical coyote distress calls or prey animal sounds. Then one member of the team spots the coyote using a scope or binoculars and the other member shoots the animals.
Fahy says in addition to using ears as a proof of a kill, hunters sometimes provide the tail or a paw. “It’s a blood sport,” says Fahy. — Camilla Mortensen
• Another protest is being planned at Pacifica Forum’s meeting at 3 pm Friday, Jan. 15, at the Walnut Room in the EMU on campus (see Commentary this week). Organizers have a Facebook page, http://wkly.ws/4i and as of Tuesday, Jan. 12, some 115 people were signed up to appear at or support the protest against PF and its content.
• Three local speakers on “Voice, Choice and Human Rights in Mental Health Care” are on the program at City Club of Eugene at 11:50 am Friday, Jan. 15, at Mallard Banquet Hall, 725 W. 1st Ave. Speakers from MindFreedom Lane County are David Oaks, Tracy “TC” Dumas and Ron Unger. The event will be taped for broadcast on KLCC at 6:30 pm Monday, Jan. 18.
• The next Pacific Green Party of Oregon convention will be held from 9 am to 4 pm Saturday, Jan. 16, at Metanoia House, 2116 NE 18th Ave. in Portland. Prospective candidates for state or federal offices can seek nomination. Contact George Hutchinson in Corvallis, (541) 207-3291.
• Classes begin Jan. 19 for the “Climate Masters @ Work: Energy Efficiency for your Organization or Business” at LCC. Contact Sonja Mae at 463-4605 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for registration.
• The Black Tea Society is inviting “all its comrades” to gather at 7 pm Thursday, Jan. 14, at New Day Bakery, 449 Blair Blvd., to discuss the expansion of the anarchist movement in Eugene. Contact Damage at email@example.com or see the group’s Facebook page.
• Oregon Wild Wednesday is hosting a free talk by outdoor author Bill Sullivan and Oregon Wild Wilderness Coordinator Erik Fernandez at 6 pm Wednesday, Jan. 20, at Davis’ Restaurant, 94 W. Broadway in Eugene.
• The Single Payer Action Committee to organize public outreach, events and actions meets at 7 pm Wednesday, Jan. 20, upstairs at Grower’s Market, 454 Willamette St. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,375 U.S. troops killed* (4,373)
• 31,616 U.S. troops injured** (31,613)
• 185 U.S. military suicides* (185)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 103,555 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (103,588)
• $714.8 billion cost of war (unavailable)
• $203.3 million cost to Eugene taxpayers (unavailable)
• 942 U.S. troops killed* (936)
• 4,748 U.S. troops injured** (4,737)
• $247.0 billion cost of war ($235.6 billion)
• $70.2 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($66.9 million)
* through Jan. 11, 2010; 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)
In Slant last week we wrote that Jerry Rust represented West Lane for 20 years as a county commissioner. He actually held the South Eugene position during those years and was followed by Peter Sorenson.
• Does the jobs argument against Measures 66 & 67 hold water? J. L. Wilson of Associated Oregon Industries spoke to Eugene City Club Jan. 8 and pounded on “jobs” as the reason to vote against the measures. Chuck Sheketoff, director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, refuted that position, as does Rep. Phil Barnhart, chair of the Revenue Committee that drafted the modest measures and helped shepherd them through the Legislature. (See Camilla Mortensen’s cover story in EW Jan. 7).
It’s a cruel and misleading strategy that spins unlikely private sector job loss against all the jobs that will disappear in the public sector if this careful effort by the Legislature to balance the budget and preserve public structures fails. If you need convincing, note that Jack Roberts, a state Republican leader and director of local economic development, endorsed Measures 66 and 67 in his regular column in The Oregonian on Jan 7. Mark “yes” on your ballot and mail it in right away. Election day is Jan. 28.
To help in the campaign or get more information, visit www.defendoregon.org
• Police Chief Pete Kerns’ decision that Tasering a Chinese student sitting on the floor is “within policy” for Eugene police is outrageous. Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz should fire or demote Kerns. If Ruiz doesn’t, the City Council should replace Ruiz with someone who actually believes in human rights and accountability. There was clearly no threat to the officer from the unarmed, non-English speaker sleeping in his own apartment which the officer had entered without a warrant or even knocking on the door. If this kid could get Tasered within policy, anybody could. Who’s next? Ruiz made a big mistake promoting an insider who cares more about cops than the citizens they supposedly serve. This isn’t the first outrageous Taser case and it won’t be the last. The Eugene mayor and City Council need to wake up and assert policies in the public interest before the really big lawsuit bills start to roll in.
• What should we do with the historic downtown post office that’s now for sale? Local author and land-use consultant Eben Fodor suggests converting the post office at Willamette and 5th Avenue to a new police headquarters. It’s close to the county jail and City Hall and the location allows easy access to all of Eugene by way of 6th and 7th avenues. “Best of all, this site would support the downtown and keep the police at the city’s heart,” he wrote to the mayor and council. “The sale of this site to the private sector could result in another blighted area in Eugene. It looks like a golden opportunity to me.”
Meanwhile, the city of Eugene, in the midst of a big budget crisis, is still wanting to spend $16 million or more on moving police headquarters across the river to Country Club Drive. It’s an absurd idea, but looks like the council and staff are still gung-ho for the move. We hear negotiations with the property owner are still in process, so it’s not too late to let your city councilor know what you think about this move. City councilors know this idea would never survive a public vote, so why, as representatives of the people, are they trying to shove it down our throats?
• A new food cart tentatively called The Nosh Pit and featuring field to table dishes may be opening Jan. 9 at Farmer’s Market in Eugene. The cart has a Facebook page, see http://wkly.ws/4k and a phone number, 912-6268.
• Lots of juicy, but unconfirmed rants on the very unofficial “UO Matters” blog this week, including: The rumors were true, Phil Knight was able to take general university parking and convert it to special reserved slots for athletes only. Lot 34F was originally student basketball courts, very popular for pickup games from the nearby dorms. It was converted to parking a few months ago, to replace slots taken by construction of Knight’s new Jacqua Athletes Only Study Center, and was used by professors at the law school. (And before you complain too much, remember Uncle Phil paid for that new law school too.) Obviously Herb [Horner of Public Safety] is just following orders here, in this case from Dave Frohnmayer. Frohnmayer’s ties to Knight are complicated: Knight’s donations to the UO Foundation paid for some, and perhaps all, of his $349,360 salary supplement last year for example. Say, what are the chances he reported that conflict of interest? Go Ducks.