News Briefs: Springfield Jumps Eugene in Bike Planning | ODOT Demands Urban Sprawl | Free Medical Clinics | Library Pulls Toxic Receipts | LTD Denies Claims in EMX Flyer | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Lighten Up |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Ray Wolfe
SPRINGFIELD JUMPS EUGENE IN BIKE PLANNING
Springfield may have leaped ahead of Eugene as far as progressive bike planning for its downtown.
Eugene’s much ignored, vague downtown plan provides little for bikes, but a proposed new plan for Springfield’s downtown includes a host of cutting edge protected bikeways — the gold standard of bike transportation.
According to a slide presentation this month to Springfield’s City Council, the proposed plan includes 9,125 linear feet of “protected pedestrian/bikeway.” Maps show up to seven protected bikeways feeding into and through downtown Springfield, including a possible new bike bridge connecting Island Park and Glenwood. The plan also calls for “increased emphasis on the design of streets to serve pedestrians and bicycles.”
When will all this actually get built, if ever? Timing and funding appear fuzzy. A project timeline goes out seven years but doesn’t mention the bike projects. One of the first projects would be a redeveloped, two-way Main Street, but it doesn’t appear to include cyclists.
Springfield hired the award-winning Portland design firm of Crandall Arambula to create the proposed downtown plan. Meanwhile, back in supposedly progressive Eugene, the council last week approved a boulevard redesign of Franklin Boulevard near the UO that includes no protected bikeways or even bike lanes. The plan has bikes supposedly “sharing” a side lane with cars. — Alan Pittman
ODOT DEMANDS URBAN SPRAWL
A local ODOT official appeared to threaten to throw away a quarter billion dollars in local transportation improvement money if he didn’t get his way on building a big new I-5 interchange near Coburg that opponents fear will spur yet more urban sprawl.
At a July 17 meeting of the Metropolitan Policy Committee, where local elected officials approve transportation projects, ODOT area manager Sonny Chickering appeared uninterested in negotiating a compromise.
“I don’t know we’ll ever get to that point,” the unelected ODOT official from Springfield said of the proposal to compromise. Chickering said he may be willing to provide county commissioners with more information.
Commissioner Rob Handy replied, “It’s actually some negotiating; it’s not just information.” Handy added, “We’re that close; we’re asking you to meet us.”
But Chickering took the curious position that the state highway bureaucracy was unwilling to negotiate with citizen’s elected representatives. “This doesn’t change our interaction or our process at all,” he said.
Chickering argued that not immediately approving the project as he demanded would put federal earmark funding from Congressman Peter DeFazio at risk. But under questioning, Chickering appeared to have no idea whether that threat was actually reality. “I’ve not had a conversation with the congressman’s office,” he admitted.
LCOG transportation planner Paul Thompson said there’s a Oct. 1 federal deadline for approving the MTIP, but federal officials often let that slide. “They are, however, usually willing to work with you.”
Commissioner Peter Sorenson said the commission voted 4-1 to support safety improvements to the interchange but not the bigger capacity project envisioned by ODOT. “We’re really close to getting what everybody in the room would want,” he told the MPC.
Handy said the county, which holds a veto vote on the MPC, would support passing a $270 million package of transportation improvements (MTIP) before the MPC, without the inclusion of the Coburg interchange. The interchange plan could be negotiated and then approved separately in two or three weeks, Handy said. “We’re close and we could amend that back in.”
But Chickering said not approving the exact interchange project he wanted immediately would mean no improvements. “Removing it from the MTIP is essentially canceling the project,” he argued without providing evidence.
Sorenson said he wouldn’t be pressured into a quick approval of the important project without negotiation. “I’m not really going to get rushed here.”
“We do want to keep it alive, and we do want to find a way to get to yes,” Handy said at the meeting. “We’re really close. It comes down to [ODOT’s] response.”
Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken asked if the delay in the MTIP approval would affect ODOT’s work on the I-5 interchange at Beltline. Chickering said it wouldn’t. ODOT has invested a quarter billion dollars in taxpayer money on the massive Gateway interchange project which critics say has effectively moved downtown Eugene and Springfield to freeway sprawl on farmland.
— Alan Pittman
FREE MEDICAL CLINICS
An all-volunteer team of medical professionals who have been operating primary care clinics in Guatemala for nine years are working with United Way to bring their experience to people in need in Lane County. Cascade Medical Team (CMT) is planning two days of free medical care from 8 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25.
The location is the Monaco RV Health Clinic Building west of the Coburg I-5 exit 199. Take Industrial Way west and follow it to the end to find the building.
The clinics are for individuals and families without health insurance or access to affordable health care. No proof of residency is required. An estimated 73,000 Lane County residents are uninsured and not eligible for the Oregon Health Plan or Medicare.
Full service primary care will be offered by nine volunteer providers, including specialists in the areas of family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology and dermatology.
In addition to short-term medical support and intervention, those who attend the clinics will be provided with referrals into the current Lane County low-cost health care system through the medical partners of United Way’s 100% Access Coalition.
Medications will be available to treat common conditions; however, there will be no controlled substances or pain medications on hand.
LIBRARY PULLS TOXIC RECEIPTS
In response to customer demand, the Eugene Public Library system has ceased printing receipts on paper that contains isphenol-A (BPA), a chemical that various studies have linked to asthma, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
In thermal paper, BPA reacts with the heat of thermal printers to produce the markings on receipts. Some thermal paper doesn’t contain BPA, but the different types of receipts appear identical. The library generates receipts each time readers check out books.
The Register-Guard reported on July 19, “Prompted by news coverage in April of the potential harm of isphenol-A, library users and staff members raised the issue of the chemical-laced paper.”
The “news coverage” mentioned by the R-G was likely the April 15 EW breaking news story “Toxic Receipts” by Deborah Bloom, which reported on the possible health affects of BPA coated receipts.
“We learned more about BPA this spring, and soon we started looking around for alternative paper,” says LaVena Norhenberg, Eugene Public Library’s customer experience manager. “It was something we’ve looked at from time to time, but more products without BPA are made now.”
Norhenberg says the BPA-free paper replaced the old paper as it began to run out at various check-outs two weeks ago.
BPA can interact with hormone receptors, mimicking the hormone estrogen. The sensitivity and intricacy of the endocrine system means that endocrine-disruptors can cause disruption to normal processes in relatively small doses.
Plastic containers for food often contain BPA as well. In January, the FDA announced that BPA may well be more harmful than previously reported.
Receipts have the potential to deliver even more BPA than food containers. In plastics, BPA is part of a larger structure whose bonds allow only some BPA to disassociate from the plastic and leach into liquid or food. However, BPA in receipts is free, not a part of a larger structure. Therefore, it can more easily transfer from receipts to hands to other areas of the skin, or from receipts to money, or from receipts to hands to food.
John C. Warner, organic chemist and co-founder of the Babcock-Warner Institute for Green Chemistry, who first discovered the enormous presence of BPA in sales receipts almost a decade ago, told EW in April that receipts are consumers’ largest source of BPA-exposure.
— Shannon Finnell
LTD DENIES CLAIMS IN EMX FLYER
An anonymous flyer circulating in Lane County claims that “LTD and EmX are tearing the HELL out of our streets, economy & bus service.” The flyer says Lane Transit District is wasting money and claims that the West Eugene extension of EmX bus rapid transit will be bad for business, bad for roads and bad for trees and will discourage bike riding.
“There has been a concerted effort by some who are of the opinion EmX is not a good strategy,” says LTD spokesperson Andy Vobora this week. “Unfortunately, the information they provide is less than accurate and doesn’t foster a healthy dialogue. The information creates fear and fear creates anxiety and anger, which appears to be one of their goals.”
Vobora says LTD has gone through an extensive environmental analysis of its plans for the EmX, and LTD has sought input from environmentalists, bicyclists and others.
“The Rosa Parks multi-use path in Springfield was enhanced as part of our Gateway EmX project,” he says. “The path was resurfaced, and lighting was installed as part of our project budget.”
Regarding concerns for tree-cutting, Vobora says no heritage trees will be cut and that LTD has “worked hard to ensure trees are maintained where possible and replaced when cutting is necessary. More trees were planted, along with a great deal of shrubbery, along the Gateway EmX line.”
The flyer claims west Eugene businesses face “hostile takeovers” and “local businesses may never recover!” But LTD managers in the past have told EW that negotiations with 63 property owners have always been resolved without condemnation, and maintaining driveway access to businesses along West 11th is a high design priority.
The individuals behind the flyer and accompanying website www.ourmoneyourtransit.com remain anonymous. The group also has a Facebook page, “Stop the Green Dragon.” — Ted Taylor
• The Al-Nakba Awareness Project will sponsor “Update Gaza” at 7 pm Thursday, July 22, in Harris Hall. The free presentation (donations accepted) will feature the nurse/physician team of Gerri and Bob Haynes, who led a medical delegation in Gaza this spring. Gerri Haynes, a palliative care consultant specializing in grief and bereavement, is an affiliate clinical faculty member of the UW School of Nursing and past president and board member of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. Since 1993, she has organized and led delegations to the Middle East, visiting Palestine at least once a year.
• Public safety is the topic at the City Club of Eugene luncheon at 11:50 am Friday, July 23, at the Hilton 12th floor ballroom. Jean Tate and Dave Frohnmayer will give a final report and recommendations from the Citizen Advocates for Public Safety committee (see Slant). More information at www.cityclubofeugene.org
• County Commissioners Pete Sorenson and Rob Handy and Mayor Kitty Piercy are holding a “Future of the Fairgrounds — Looking for a Master Plan” town hall and community forum from 6:30 to 8 pm Wednesday, July 28, at Harris Hall 125 E. 8th Ave., Eugene. This is the first in a series of town halls regarding the fairgrounds and includes a panel discussion. Time will be provided for questions from the public. Panelists will include Eric Meyers, Dan Armstrong, Mike McKenzie-Bahr, Steve Dodrill and Ken Evans speaking for the Ice Center.
• The next Brewhaha “monthly forum over a few pints” will be at 7 pm Thursday, July 29, at Davis’ Restaurant, 94 W. Broadway. Topic is “Paper or Plastic: Are Either Fantastic?” Panelists are to be announced. Brewhaha is a collaboration between The Bus Project and EW.
• 4,416 U.S. troops killed* (4,416)
• 31,883 U.S. troops injured** (31,882)
• 185 U.S. military suicides* (updates NA)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (updates NA)
• 105,855 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (105,596)
• $734.3 billion cost of war ($733.1 billion)
• $208.8 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($208.5 million)
• 1,174 U.S. troops killed* (1,151)
• 6,876 U.S. troops injured** (6,733)
• $284.4 billion cost of war ($283.0 billion)
• $80.9 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($80.5 million)
* through July 19, 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)
LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
• Massive western Lane spraying: Weyerhaeuser Company (744-4600) will ground spray 1,004 acres using Garlon 4 and Chopper herbicides in Low Pass, Horton, Blachly, Triangle Lake, Greenleaf, and Lorane next to Congdon, Conrad, Lake, Post, Fish creeks, North Fork Siuslaw and the Siuslaw River (Coho Salmon streams), and Jones, Poodle Creek, Long Tom River, starting Aug. 1 (ODF Notice No. 2010-781-00639).
• Near Marcola Elementary School: Weyerhaeuser (988-7502) will ground spray 140 acres starting July 19 (No. 771-00633).
• Near Florence: Davidson Industries (268-4422) will spray roadsides starting July 30 (No. 781-00636).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
The pope went way over the top when he implied that women who seek ordination are no better than priests who view child pornography or sexually abuse minors or mentally disabled adults. Who does he think he is? Mel Gibson?
— Rafael Aldave, Eugene
• The topic of funding public safety in Lane County is on the agenda of City Club Friday at the Hilton (see Activist Alert). Last fall Jean Tate and Dave Frohnmayer organized the Citizen Advocates for Public Safety, and we were concerned that the Republican majority on CAPS would end up calling for another tax measure to fund more cops, more jail beds and some token prevention programs. We even heard some early talk about consolidating public safety (as has happened with Eugene and Springfield fire departments) and creating a countywide public safety taxing district.
CAPS will present its final report and recommendations Friday, and we hear the proposals will be mostly visionary. CAPS is not expected to call for another tax levy, recognizing that its chances of passing are nil, plus the crime rate is actually down from last year. We expect Tate and Frohnmayer to bring us up to date on the state of public safety in Lane County, support the 82 new county jail beds and talk about the vital importance of crime prevention and early intervention, starting with preschoolers.
Sustainable funding of public safety and other essential services in Lane County remains the big question, and there’s no pat answer, particularly since federal timber payments are endangered after 2012. The public safety taxing district idea is not dead. But a countywide tax district would remove a degree of accountability and democracy that currently exists. Public safety funding needs to remain discretionary at the very local level. Eugene, Springfield and Lane County have different needs and conflicting priorities when it comes to spending. Are we ready to have Eugene’s priorities compromised and diluted? Efficiencies can be found in cooperation and mutual assistance, but we’ve seen how consolidation flopped when Eugene and Springfield attempted collaborative urban growth boundary planning.
• Arts meetups continue this week and next, as new Whiteaker gallery The Voyeur, 547 Blair St., offers a 7 pm Friday, July 23, artist discussion by Mo Bowen along with a meetup (“Let’s also use this gathering opportunity to exchange ideas about art and the community … Have an idea? Let’s make it real!,” The Voyeur’s Facebook status reads). The Weekly’s arts editors, Molly Templeton and Suzi Steffen, continue the monthly free-floating arts in Eugene discussions at 4:30 pm Wednesday, July 28, kindly hosted by MECCA, 449 Willamette St. Both meetups will have wine, snacks, artists and ideas — and probably more info about the Eugene Storefront Art Project’s planned Aug. 6 Art Parade. Email Suzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or Molly at email@example.com with topic ideas. See you at one or both!
•The Eugene city budget was adopted at the end of June, and about $6 million was cut to fill a gap in expected revenues for the general fund. City departments are feeling the squeeze. But how do we really know that each department, each city function, is giving taxpayers the most benefit for their bucks? City staff and the Budget Committee wrestle with this every year, but we’re still lacking the dogged oversight of an independent performance auditor. Other cities our size have them; why not Eugene? Is our police department too big, too small, just right? Are we spending too much on legal services, too little, just right? Why does Eugene have more city employees per 100 residents than Salem? How much would it really cost to retrofit City Hall to survive an earthquake? Who knows? An independent auditor could help provide answers and in the process build trust in local government.
• When will the wild ruckus begin? It’s still the middle of the summer, but starting in August we can expect the November election campaigning to kick off. It could get nasty with anti-government state and local candidates adopting the strategies of Tea Party campaigns. We’ve observed that conservatives don’t do well on the issues, so they focus on fear, misinformation and obfuscation. Instead of debating ideas and theories about economic recovery, Republicans will instead blame Democrats for the economy or say Democrats should have fixed it by now.
Too many Oregonians vote based on personality and ignore issues. In the governor race, John Kitzhaber is an infinitely more substantive candidate, but Chris Dudley’s sports hero persona and lively campaign are boosting his popularity. Dudley is putting off a public debate on the issues. In the Lane County Commission race, Pat Riggs-Henson has exceptional skills and experience to bring to the commission, but Springfield residents are fond of her affable but uninspiring opponent, Mayor Sid Leiken.
• Heard on the street: Right-winger Mike Clark on the Eugene City Council has mayoral ambitions, but the pay is lousy and we can’t see him happily engaged in hundreds of events each year, following in Kitty Piercy’s footsteps. He lives in the same north Eugene district as County Commissioner Rob Handy. Will he try to unseat Handy in 2012? Handy’s populist politics and initiative are gaining him allies, but he and other progressives are obvious targets for well-funded conservative interests. The frivolous lawsuit against Commissioners Handy, Sorenson and Fleenor is just one example. The three are accused of meeting in secret, but no evidence has been offered. The suit will likely be tossed out, but we predict the accusations and innuendoes will live on as campaign fodder.
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
RAY WOLFE (revisited)
June 2002: A Navy pilot in the Philippines theater during WW II, Ray Wolfe flew nighttime bombing missions in the Formosa Straits. Afterwards, he completed a doctorate in biochemistry, then taught chemistry and conducted research in enzymology at the UO until his retirement in 1983. “All those years I studied one enzyme, pivotal for getting energy from food,” he notes. “Our data led us to a model that hasn’t been disproven since 1968.” A political activist since the 1960s, Wolfe took part in the Future Power Committee campaign that blocked EWEB’s participation in the WPPSS nuclear power plant fiasco. “We saved Eugene taxpayers $50-60 million,” he says. More recently, he has opposed “growth at any cost” projects like the West Eugene Parkway through involvement with Friends of Eugene and Citizens for Public Accountability. At age 82, Wolfe is in his fifth year as producer, technician, and editor of In the Public Interest, a weekly half-hour interview program on Community Access TV.
2010 update: After 64 years of marriage, all but 10 in Eugene, Ray and Barbara Wolfe will move someday soon (as soon as they can sell their house) to Ashland to be close to their daughter Katherine and her family. Many of Ray Wolfe’s archived Public Interest interviews will continue to air on CATV.
“Ray is a one-man army — he continues to fight the good fight,” says activist Cary Thompson. In the Public Interest airs at 6 pm Wednesdays and Fridays.