News Briefs: Kroger Continues Crackdowns on Polluters | Wyden Wants to Update Health Bill | Egan Warming Centers Open This Week | Pesticide Foes Charge Ahead | Population Growth Slows | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lighten Up | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Stephanie Barrow
KROGER CONTINUES CRACKDOWNS ON POLLUTERS
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger promised when he was running his election campaign to crackdown on environmental crimes. And in between cracking down on child pornographers and government officials acting unethically or illegally while on the job, the AG has indeed been taking a bite out of environmental crimes.
Under Kroger’s watch the Oregon Legislature created a new environmental crimes enforcement unit allowing the Oregon Department of Justice to use existing funds to begin an enforcement program focusing on intentional violation of Oregon’s environmental laws.
“The laws themselves are fine; they are not perfect,” Kroger said on a recent visit to EW’s offices, but enforcement has been an issue. “District attorneys' offices are under-resourced,” he said, and lack the funds to fight the big law firms often hired by big companies. He said the AG’s office and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are still very reliant on monitoring that’s done by environmental groups.
Kroger gave instances of seven indictments and 15 other investigations out of the AG’s office that “run the gamut” from illegal dumping to Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and illegal water well drilling.
One case is completed, Kroger said. Hood River Juice Company pleaded guilty to one water pollution charge and one charge of providing false information to a state agency. The company is in a probationary period and needs to get hooked up properly to a legally compliant wastewater disposal system.
One of the cases is against a construction company in Marion County that allegedly dumped a large number of truckloads of construction debris onto land they didn’t own and used a backhoe to shove it off into a ravine.
“It turns out that’s illegal,” Kroger said.
The ongoing case against Lehman Hot Springs in Eastern Oregon has seen the former owner charged with felony criminal pollution violations and given a court order to pump down the waste: 2.3 million gallons of human sewage in lagoons with leaking earthen walls.
The CAFO cases were referred to the AG’s office by the Department of Agriculture, he said. The companies allegedly allowed fecal matter containing E. coli bacteria into waterways.
Kroger said, “These are not first-time accidental mistakes. These are cases where there is a long history of regulatory action. Most companies will fix their behavior when fined, but some companies will not. We’re going to charge those companies with crimes.”
Kroger said, “We’re charging people who are intentionally, with full knowledge that they’re doing it, violating the law.” — Camilla Mortensen
WYDEN WANTS TO UPDATE HEALTH BILL
Oregon might be able to get a state health care plan a little sooner if a bipartisan bill introduced last week by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden goes through.
The story that newly elected Republican congressman from Maryland, Andy Harris, complained in an orientation session for new lawmakers that his government-provided health care coverage wouldn’t take effect for a month after he took office got a lot of press last week. After all, Dems pointed out, many Americans don’t have health care at all. Harris was a vocal opponent of the Obama health care bill.
But the big news for Oregon is that Wyden, along with Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Mass., introduced legislation Nov. 18 that would give states the ability to implement their own health care plans when the bulk of the new federal health care law goes into effect in 2014.
Wyden previously inserted a section into the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (or, as some like to call it, “ObamaCare”) that lets states opt out of the national health care bill and come up with their own plan (see EW cover story 9/23). Under Wyden’s addition, a state legislator could propose a bill with an Oregon public option plan and get it passed and signed by the governor, after which it would be waived in at the federal level.
That waiver wasn’t scheduled to take place until 2017, but if the Wyden-Brown bill goes through, the option would be available for states to get early approval as soon as 2014.
In a press release on the new bill, Wyden said, “It doesn’t make sense — especially given the current budget environment — to force states to put off or abandon health care innovations in order to fully implement the federal law. Bumping up the start date means that states can focus on ways to make the new health law work at its best from day one.” — Camilla Mortensen
EGAN WARMING CENTERS OPEN THIS WEEK
Below-freezing nights this week have residents cranking up the heat, and local groups are activating services for those among us who have no heat or even shelter from the potentially deadly weather.
The Egan Warming Center website at http://eganwarmingcenter.com shows which sites are open this week and also lists times and locations for volunteer training and orientation. Trainings were held earlier this week and will resume Dec. 2, 9 and 11.
The Egan Warming Center is described as “a coalition of community member representing providers, religious congregations, nonprofits and social activist communities and local governments who have come together to ensure that homeless people in Lane County have a place to sleep indoors when temperatures drop to 28 degrees or below.” The sites are prepared to open between Nov. 15 and March 31. They open at 7 pm and close at 8 am.
Eight host sites around the valley are available when needed. In Eugene the sites are at First Christian Church at 12th and Oak, Grace Community Church at 989 Country Club Road, Hosea Youth Services (youth site) at 834 Monroe, Temple Beth Israel at 1175 E. 29th Ave., Valley Covenant Church at 18th and Bailey Hill, and Dayspring Ministries at 1580 River Road. Springfield sites are at Ebbert United Methodist Church at 532 C St., and First Nazarene Church at 1761 E St.
Donations of winter clothing, tarps, tents and toiletries can be dropped off at St. Vincent dePaul stores (label them “Egan”), and food donations can be taken to FOOD for Lane County, 770 Bailey Hill Road.
Lane County’s Homeless Action Coalition (HAC) now has a Facebook page at http://wkly.ws/x8 with commentary, notices about HAC meetings and links to stories.
PESTICIDE FOES CHARGE AHEAD
Dealing with bedbugs without chemicals, parks without pesticides, protecting water quality and more all fall under Eugene-based Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides’ new strategic plan for major pesticide reform. The group, which covers a five-state area, is shifting its pesticide reform work to “broader citizen education and engagement, demonstration projects and policy advocacy with a social change agenda.”
Executive Director Kim Leval took over in 2009, just as the economy was tanking, when longtime NCAP leader Norma Grier retired. Grier took NCAP from a coalition of groups in 1977 working to stop pesticide use in Northwest forests to the national leader in pesticide reform it is today. Despite the current poor economy, Leval points to reasons for hope: the EPA’s appointment of Lisa Jackson, and a positive movement at the EPA to strengthen regulation and improve monitoring.
The group enacts “the most change we can with our resources,” Leval says. “We’re passionate about our issues.”
Among the issues NCAP will be focusing on are promoting alternatives to pesticides in schools, parks and in urban places; protecting water quality and endangered fish and wildlife; expanding efforts to affect federal pesticide reform and expanding educational, technical assistance and citizen engagement among farmers in Oregon and Idaho. NCAP hopes to someday have satellite offices across the Northwest, Leval says.
She says that pesticide reform is also a social justice issue, and one of NCAP’s projects is community building in low income housing communities so the people living there can have a say when pesticides are being used to kill bugs and rodents.
Despite the fact the bedbugs don’t carry diseases, Leval says, people go after the creepy crawlies with unnecessary and possibly harmful chemicals. For example the pesticide propoxur, which was used against bedbugs for years, until EPA banned its use in homes only three years ago, was found to cause short-term symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, incontinence, excessive sweating, salivating, blurred vision, disorientation, difficulty breathing and high blood pressure. In some instances it caused organ tissue damage.
For more on NCAP’s efforts and tips on how to deal with bedbugs sans pesticides, go to the (recently updated) website at www.pesticide.org — Camilla Mortensen
POPULATION GROWTH SLOWS
Oregon’s population increased only by 0.5 percent in the past year, marking the fourth year in a row of slowing growth, according to the latest population estimates by Portland State University’s Population Research Center (PRC). Oregon’s population grew from 3,823,465 in 2009 to 3,844,195 in 2010, or by 20,730. The statistics, comparing July 1 last year to July 1 this year, represent the slowest growth rate since the 1980s.
Lane County’s population grew by only 860 people, an increase of 0.2 percent. Our total now stands at 348,550. Benton County grew by 0.3 percent, from 86,725 to 87,000. Coos and Curry counties lost population.
This past year saw a decline in both the “natural increase” of more births than deaths, but also “net migration” of more people moving in than moving out.
“Net migration accounted for a dwindling percentage of the overall population growth,” says the report. “Net migration during previous years in the decade and in the 1990s accounted for most of Oregon’s annual population growth.” PRC estimates that the net number of newcomers to Oregon during the past year at around 6,400, less than half the number estimated for last year.
PRC says recent data show “a decrease in employment, school enrollment, and building permits for new housing, but an increase in the number of Medicare enrollees.”
Oregon’s largest metropolitan areas continued to experience Oregon’s greatest population gains. Five counties accounted for about 80 percent of the state’s overall population change: Washington and Multnomah Counties each increased by almost 5,500; and Marion, Clackamas and Deschutes Counties added 2,470, 1,930, and 1,345, respectively. Oregon’s remaining counties each experienced population growth of less than 900 persons.
Oregon’s population is affected by many complex factors, including the availability of jobs, self-employment opportunities, the social services network, crime rate, tourism and retirement opportunities, education, recreation, even scenery and weather. Oregon’s high unemployment rate has been linked to the state’s high ranking for livability.
Statistics and more information are available at http://www.pdx.edu/prc
• Buy Nothing Day coat exchange will be from 11 am to 3 pm Friday, Nov. 26, at Bad Egg Books, 112 E. 13th Ave. Bring coats, hats, scarves and gloves, or if you have none, come get some. Sponsored by the Lane branch of the Industrial Workers of the World and Bad Egg Books. For more information, call 232-2868 or email email@example.com
• A demonstration against the sale of fur products is planned outside of Valley River Center from 10:45 am to noon Friday Nov. 26. Materials will be provided. Black Friday is also Fur-Free Friday. “Every year, the fur industry heartlessly kills 50 million animals, many of whom are skinned alive,” says Curtis Taylor, one of the organizers. “Whether it came from an animal on a fur farm or one who was trapped in the wild, every fur coat, trinket, and bit of trim caused an animal tremendous suffering — and took away a life.” Taylor can be reached at 337-8811 or CurtisTaylor85@gmail.com
• UO students are teaming up with Save Our Wild Salmon to encourage Rep. Peter DeFazio “to support a stakeholder process — bringing together fishermen, farmers, energy users and decision-makers — to craft durable solutions for the Columbia and Snake Rivers based on sound science and economics.” For more info go to sows.convio.net/defazio
• Eugene’s International Human Rights Day celebration will be from 6 to 9 pm Friday, Dec. 10, at the UO Baker Downtown Center, 975 High St. The free event will feature talks by Greg Rikhoff and Mayor Kitty Piercy, followed by a video titled, Human Rights Are at Home in Eugene. For more information, call 682-5177.
• EWEB is holding a meeting at 7:30 pm Tuesday, Dec. 7, at EWEB to discuss the upcoming rate hike due in spring 2011.
• EWEB’s proposal to sell water to Veneta is tentatively listed on the Eugene City Council agenda at 7 pm Monday, Dec. 13. Meanwhile, “Veneta has asked the Eugene City Council to support the sale of water to Veneta, regardless of the outcome of the current court appeal by the city,” says EWEB spokesman Lance Robertson.
• An international Justice Conference is being planned Feb. 11-12 in Bend. See www.thejusticeconference.com for details and registration.
• 1,388 U.S. troops killed* (1,373)
• 9,368 U.S. troops injured** (9,240)
• 594 U.S. contractors killed** (594)
• $367.6 billion cost of war ($365.5 billion)
• $104.5 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($103.9 million)
• 4,422 U.S. troops killed* (4,422)
• 31,936 U.S. troops injured** (31,936)
• 185 U.S. military suicides (updates NA)
• 1,507 U.S. contractors killed** (1,507)
• 107,932 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (107,708)
• $743.2 billion cost of war ($742.3 billion)
• $211.3 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($211.1 million)
* through Nov. 21, 2010; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** sources: icasualties.org, defense.gov, U.S. Dept. of Labor
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate Iraqi civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.2 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
Not all air travelers are complaining about the new security measures at airports. For some passengers, the enhanced pat-down may be the only sex they can count on. — Rafael Aldave, Eugene
• In honor of Thanksgiving, we would like to beat ourselves with soy drumsticks to make up for the fact that in last week’s issue we misspelled Eugene’s favorite alternative to stuffing rice up a dead bird’s butt. It’s Tofurky, not Tofurkey.
• Regarding Rachel Foster’s Gardening column Nov. 11, she paraphrased professor Douglas Tallamy saying, “54 percent of the land area of the lower 48 states is now in towns and suburbs.” To clarify in a follow-up email, he says “54 percent of the U.S. is in what I call the suburban/urban matrix, the patchwork of cities and towns with small patches of fragmented habitat between and within them. What most people don’t understand is that those habitat patches that look so healthy to us are way too small to sustain nature for any length of time.”
•• Another Thanksgiving is upon us and as gloomy winter weather settles in it’s always therapeutic to contemplate reasons for gratitude. We’re in a scary recession but everywhere we look we see folks taking care of each other. Good-hearted people are volunteering their time and resources to keep nonprofits afloat, support food banks, shelter the homeless and keep our schools energized. We take care of our friends and family and even raise each other’s troubled adolescent kids. We give away eggs from our backyard hen houses and help ailing neighbors with fall yard clean-up.
Heroes can be found everywhere if we pay attention. People in the medical professions often go way beyond providing just basic services. Likewise, heroes can be found among construction workers, taxi drivers, locksmiths, janitors, bus drivers, office workers, salespeople, financial services workers, police officers, firefighters, preachers, computer geeks — even prison inmates, sex workers, journalists and attorneys.
Our educational institutions are filled with visionary minds wrestling with the biggest issues and ideas of our time, and herding small children into healthy activities. Our small businesses keep our economy healthy and serve as training grounds for future generations. The musicians, writers, dancers, visual artists and other creative spirits among us elevate our thinking and breathe vitality into our community. And even on short, gray days we can also find joy in the beauty of our natural environment. Feeling depressed? Don’t jump in the Willamette; rather sit on its banks (with an umbrella and a tarp) and seek wisdom from its graceful flow and cycles.
While we’re at it, let us also be grateful for ordinary newsprint, which serves not only the pursuit of truth and justice, but also makes excellent fish wrap, gift wrap and bird cage lining.
• EWEB is holding a meeting at 7:30 pm Dec. 7 to discuss the upcoming rate hike due in spring 2011, which would cost the average residential customer about $2.60 per month for electricity and about $1.70 per month for water (hey, that’s cheaper than buying those bottles of water you shouldn’t be buying anyway). EWEB says there will be another rate hike next fall, when Bonneville Power Administration raises its rates.
We get it that if BPA, which supplies EWEB with 70 percent of its power is going to raise its rates, then that affects EWEB’s rates. We’d rather rates go up a little than have EWEB resort to layoffs to balance the budget in this economy. But what’re less thrilled with is that some of the hike is due to “EWEB’s cost of renewable power investment.” Renewable power is great — but not when part of the “renewable power” is the Seneca biomass incinerator. Can we opt out of paying more to pollute the air?
• Organize if you care about this country and this county. That was the message from two wildly different events in Eugene Nov. 19 and 21. First was the 10th anniversary of the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics on campus. Three former holders of the Morse Chair reminded their audience that social change in the U.S. has come from the bottom up, not the top down, and that now is the time for social change in immigration policy, distribution of wealth and opportunity, Native American policy, and much more. Ray Marshall, secretary of labor under Carter, laid out the immigration piece. Frances Fox Piven, NYU professor and authority on poverty and social justice, talked about the “Politics of a New New Deal,” and W. Richard West Jr., founding director of the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian, focused on the Indian Trust Settlement.
A different crowd gathered Sunday night tin the Alvarado house on Skyline Boulevard to party and pay off the debt for Jerry Rust’s failed campaign for county commissioner. It was not a downer, as Karen Alvarado put it, but an exciting organizing party for progressives in this county and region. Sounds good to us. Let’s do it. And speaking of organizing, let’s support staff members at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center who walked a picket line last week protesting cuts in health insurance benefits at a time when the hospital is making record profits.
• Ouch or oh yeah? New York Magazine’s Nov. 22 issue offers its “Approval Matrix ... Our deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on our taste hierarchies.” The “Despicable” category includes, of all distant places, “the University of Oregon’s new basketball court,” complete with a picture of the spendy new Nike-Kilkenny floor. Wonder where the new six-story football building, “unsurpassed in the nation,” according to a UO news release, would fall in their matrix. Not that it really matters. The UO sports marketers are cheering all the way to the national championships.
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
“Wherever I’ve lived, I’m always drawing and painting,” says Stephanie Barrow, who grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho, got married out of high school, then lived, worked and studied art in locations from rural Texas to New York City. After a divorce, she and her two kids, then 14 and 11, moved to Alaska, where she worked as an editor at the Anchorage Daily News and earned a BFA degree at UA-Anchorage. “I did freelance artwork for the paper and other clients,” she says. In the mid-1990s, Barrow and her daughter followed her son to the Oregon Coast. After a few years at The Daily Astorian, she moved to Eugene and spent seven years as an illustrator at The Register-Guard. Five years ago, she began volunteering at Committed Partners for Youth. “I’ve mentored two teen-age girls,” says Barrow, who left the R-G in 2007 in favor of a low-key job at Gray’s Garden Center and more time for painting and volunteer activities. Early in 2010, she resolved to make and sell 200 paintings at $25 each before year’s end, donating the proceeds to CPY. Paintings can be seen and purchased online at claimyourpainting.posterous.com “I encourage people to mentor. It’s great,” says Barrow. “These kids haven’t had people show up for them.”