News Briefs: Will City Tax Save Schools? | Imam Says 'You Are All Muslims' | Islam Class Nixed by LCC | Invasion of the Volt Suckers | Buy Stuff for Big Trees | Best of Eugene Show on CTV | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lighten Up | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Elena Villa
Will City Tax Save Schools?
A local movement for a city income tax on upper incomes to help local schools has run into opposition from The Register-Guard editorial board and conservatives who argue that it is unlikely to pass.
But a very similar income tax passed in Eugene this year by a 3-1 margin. In January, the state Measure 66 income tax increase on those earning more than $250,000 passed with 73 percent support in Eugene.
In addition, local voters have shown strong support for schools, repeatedly passing local tax increases by 2-1 margins. A web survey by School District 4J last month found that three-fourths of the 1,999 respondents supported a city tax for local schools.
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy has announced a public forum on the possibility of a city tax for local schools from 7 to 9 pm Tuesday, Dec. 14, in the council chamber at City Hall.
The forum will examine the possibility of a sales tax instead of an income tax (city property taxes for schools are legally prohibited). But sales taxes hit the poor harder than the wealthy and have failed over and over in Oregon and Eugene by wide margins.
Statewide sales tax measures have failed nine times in Oregon, often by huge margins. In the last attempt, a state sales tax targeted at school funding with reductions in property taxes, exemptions for groceries and tax credits for the poor failed by a 3-1 vote statewide and by a 2-1 vote in Lane County.
In 1993 a Eugene sales tax on restaurants failed by a 20 percent margin with strong opposition from restaurant owners.
Sales taxes take a larger share of income from the poor than the wealthy as the poor tend to spend all their incomes, while wealthier people have the luxury of savings and investment, research has found.
There’s also some discussion of a less progressive local income tax that would reduce rates on the wealthy by targeting the middle class. Saving upper income people money may win a few conservative supporters but could lead to defeat at the polls, especially with lower-wage people struggling in the recession. In 1999 a flat income tax proposal from Lane County to fund the jail by targeting the poor and middle class failed by a wide margin.
A city income tax on incomes above $100,000 would raise roughly $14 million for each percentage point of tax, according to EW estimates based on state tax data.
While, there’s some discussion on exactly what tax to propose, there appears to be broad support for the importance of saving local schools from draconian budget cuts.
A city press release on the City Hall forum next week states: “Good public schools keep a city vibrant and healthy. Businesses need them, both as an immediate source of workers and as a means to attract employees to Eugene. Professionals considering relocation here often focus as much on the quality of the schools as on salaries and benefits being offered. Good schools raise property values and help reduce crime.” — Alan Pittman
IMAM SAYS ‘YOU ARE ALL MUSLIMS’
In response to recent distressing news events in Portland and Corvallis, Temple Beth Israel (TBI) hosted an interfaith teach-in Dec. 5 led by Imam Khalid Alfallatah of Eugene’s Islamic Center to help clarify and define what exactly modern Islam is, and is not. He used a PowerPoint presentation, including videos suggesting scientific proof that the Quran is the divinely inspired word of God.
TBI’s outreach was an attempt to counter ignorance, lessen misunderstandings and sow respect among Eugene’s diverse religious and secular communities. Ever since Somali-born Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested by FBI agents for attempting to bomb Portland’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony on Nov. 26, incidents of hate speech and bigotry towards Oregon’s Muslim community have increased, culminating in an act of fiery retaliation on Nov. 28 against the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center in Corvallis where Mohamud periodically attended services.
However, a similar presentation by Alfallatah, also titled “Intro to Islam 101,” held at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection on Hilyard Street on Oct. 14, resulted in Rector Natasha Brubaker Garrison having to spend a lot of follow-up face time with gay and lesbian members of her congregation disturbed by Islam’s vehement stance against homosexuality.
At TBI, that subject barely came up, but when the imam, whose Arabic/African family have resided in Medina (Saudi Arabia) for centuries, was asked if it’s possible for an Islamic country to embrace a Western-style division of church and state, he compared countries living under Sharia law favorably against secular Western nations that do not adhere as strictly to their own religious doctrines.
“It’s impossible to accept some of the Quran’s teachings and reject others,” Alfallatah said. “The Quran controls our personal and societal lives. Therefore, such separation of church and state is not encouraged.”
When confronting misconceptions regarding Islamic Jihad, terrorism and the role of women, the imam pointed out Quranic passages that are often taken out of context. “Jihad simply means struggle,” he said. “Yes, there is also jihad by sword, fighting for the sake of Allah — but the media seldom mentions the second part of that passage — that Muslims are limited to fighting those who are fighting us.”
Some would argue that such wording still leaves the passage open to an extremist interpretation, but on another question, Alfallatah was quite clear. A member of the audience asked if religious Christians, Jews and Muslims who led good lives would all be equally accepted into heaven. “Yes,” was the reply, “because the Hebrew and Christian Bibles are part of the Muslim tradition.”
In that sense, he said, “You are all Muslims.” — Joseph A. Lieberman
ISLAM CLASS NIXED BY LCC
Barry Sommer, host of CTV’s Islam Today program, says his contract with LCC to teach a non-credit winter course called ”What is Islam?” has been suddenly terminated without explanation, purportedly under pressure from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) which considers Sommer’s views to be anti-Islamic. Sommer claims that since the LCC termination, he has also received a stream of vicious hate-mails from unidentified sources. Sommer says he is considering legal action against LCC.
LCC President Mary Spilde and spokesperson Joan Aschim said Monday that LCC “administrators and faculty are considering the most effective way to provide learning experiences on religious topics to students and the community at a time when sensitivity is high because of recent, close-to-home events in Portland and Corvallis,” and that Sommer’s class scheduled for January “reached the attention of administration after a phone call from a local television station on Thursday. … Due to the subject matter and in the context of recent events in Oregon, administrators conducted an immediate review and determined that it was in the best interest of students and the community to step back, pause for careful consideration, and engage our faculty in how to best provide a rich learning experience.”
The statement from LCC also says “It was the desire to have a more intentional conversation about how to move forward that led to the decision to not proceed with the new noncredit class.”
“This promises to a big fight,” says Billy Rojas in a message to his email group Monday. Rojas and Sommer founded the local chapter of ACT! for America (www.actforamerica.org), which defends American values from “Islamic militants.” Rojas says “CAIR, which enjoys a substantial amount of support from Mid-East organizations, is a political force to be reckoned with, and has sympathizers in the U.S. government and in Barack Hussein Obama’s administration. The implications, while it still remains to be seen how far this may go, are serious.”
Rojas describes CAIR as “an advocacy group that seeks to silence all critics of Islam; it is a known supporter of Muslim terrorist groups; it shows little inclination to report much of anything objectively; and is well known for ad hominum attacks, smear campaigns, and willful misrepresentation of facts.”
A similar case played out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison several years ago. UW was criticized for allowing part-time lecturer Kevin Barrett, Ph.D., to teach an introductory course on Islamic history and culture, despite Barrett’s “highly controversial personal views on the Sept. 11 attacks on America, in which he asserts the attacks were an ‘inside job’ orchestrated to justify a long-term war in the Middle East,” according to the UW website.
Barrett is a Fulbright Scholar and convert to Islam, and the decision to allow him to teach the course was based on the provost’s examination of Barrett’s course plan, teaching record and academic credentials. Barrett also insisted he would leave his personal views out of the course. — Ted Taylor
This story first broke at blogs.eugeneweekly.com Dec. 3. Joseph Lieberman and Camilla Mortensen contributed to this later version.
INVASION OF THE VOLT SUCKERS
As electric cars hit the mass market this month, Eugene Water and Electric Board is ready to face both exciting and unnerving changes: an increase in profits and a simultaneous increase in power usage.
The electricity-fueled Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt transfer oil profits to the utility’s pocket but also require enough energy to power a small house to charge.
While national electric utilities fear that the potential surge of electric vehicle sales will lead to citywide blackouts from their power consumption, EWEB remains confident that the utility is well-equipped for the future.
“At this point in time, we have few concerns,” EWEB spokesperson Joe Hardwood said. “There’s no question we won’t be able to handle the electricity demands.”
However, in a community where you can spot a Prius on nearly every block, it’s hard for the utility to estimate the potential popularity of the emission-free vehicles.
“We’re not expecting a huge spike, at least initially,” Harwood said. “But it’s impossible to say how quickly they will catch on.”
Harwood said that, at the most, EWEB might have to replace a few small residential power lines with larger distribution cables.
Nonethless, excited anticipation overshadows EWEB’s minimal worries.
“To be honest, we’re fairly thrilled,” Harwood said.
The Leaf and Volt are expected to sell a combined 30,000 vehicles over the next year, and will shortly be accompanied by other car company’s all-electric designs. Even a local company, Arcimoto, is hoping to add its electric car models to the market in the beginning of next year.
According to Harwood, EWEB has not heard from any local electric vehicle owners yet.
Although EWEB feels secure about its role in the influx of electric vehicles, Harwood stressed the importance of providing reliable electricians to install the 110- or 220-volt circuits or provide electric upgrades.
“Eugene has homes built in the 1920s up to last year— it’s such a wide range of infrastructures. We need to make sure each house is safely prepared,” Harwood said.
Aside from home chargers, EWEB is looking towards the possibility of installing public commercial chargers once the vehicles become more mainstream. LCC already hosts a charging station, which EWEB may use as a model for future design.
“It’s a really positive step that could be in our future,” Harwood said. “But for now, we just have to watch how the present market grows.”
EWEB has a web page of frequently asked questions about electric vehicles at http://wkly.ws/yq — Alex Zielinski
BUY STUFF FOR BIG TREES
Step right up ladies and gentleman, and bid on some nature-related prizes!
Cascadia Wildlands hosts its annual fundraising event at 7 pm Saturday, Dec. 11, at the EMU Ballroom. The eighth annual Wonderland Auction features a Mediterranean dinner catered by Cornucopia, plus Ninkasi brews and locally donated wines. There’s a silent auction throughout the evening for most items, followed by a live auction for 25 featured prizes. All goods and services have been donated, including a small-ship cruise through the Alaskan Prince William Sound and a three-day guided trip through the Devil’s Staircase, a dense forest and proposed wilderness that requires local expertise.
Each year, the proceeds of the event fund Cascadia Wildlands’ conservation work. “The entirety of the proceeds goes to support our work to safeguard the Elliott rainforest in the central Oregon Coast Range,” Campaign Director Josh Laughlin says. “It’s an area where the largest trees in Oregon are clear cut year after year.”
Laughlin hopes that Eugeneans will take advantage of the auction to buy presents for loved ones. “It’s an opportunity to get holiday shopping done at generally good prices. There’s not a better way to do that than purchasing locally produced goods and services from Cascadia Wildlands,” he says.
Tickets to the auction are $20 when purchased online at http://wkly.ws/yp or $25 at the door.
Heads up: The UO men’s basketball team is playing the same night, which will make public transportation, carpooling and planning ahead an even smarter idea than usual.
And if you miss this auction, take a trip down to Cottage Grove later in the week when the Coast Fork Willamette Watershed Council is also having a holiday auction at 8 pm Thursday, Dec. 16, at the Old City Hall. — Shannon Finnell
BEST OF EUGENE SHOW ON CTV
A video of Eugene Weekly’s Best of Eugene Awards Show Oct. 29 at WOW Hall will be shown at least eight times on Community Access TV, channel 29. The show includes performances by the top four finalists in EW’s Next Big Thong Contest: Anna Gilbert, Adventure Galley, Endr Won, and Jameson & The Sordid Seeds.
See ctv29.org for show times; search the site for “best.” Among the showings will be 3 pm Sunday, Dec. 12; 6:30 pm Tuesday, Dec. 14; and noon Saturday, Dec. 18.
• In commemoration of Human Rights Day on the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Al-Nakba Awareness Project and the UO Arab Student Union will show the film Belonging at 7 pm Thursday, Dec. 9, in the UO Knight Library Browsing Room. Free. The film traces the dispossessed Palestinian family of the film’s producer/director, Tariq Nasir, over two generations including historic footage. Following the film Dr. Ibrahim Soudy will speak on the potentially powerful role of international civil society in securing Palestinian human rights denied by governments.
• A holiday thank-you party for volunteers and contributors to Pat Riggs-Henson and other Democratic candidates is planned for 4 to 6:30 pm Saturday, Dec. 11, at Roundtable Pizza, 5547 Main St., Springfield. RSVP to Henson at 914-6928 or email email@example.com
• 1,407 U.S. troops killed (1,397)
• 9,583 U.S. troops wounded in action (9,469)
• 594 U.S. contractors killed (594)
• $372.4 billion cost of war ($370.1 billion)
• $105.9 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($105.2 million)
• 4,421 U.S. troops killed (4,421)
• 31,935 U.S. troops wounded in action (31,935)
• 185 U.S. military suicides (updates NA)
• 1,507 U.S. contractors killed (1,507)
• 108,094 to 1.2 million civilians killed* (107,939)
• $745.2 billion cost of war ($744.2 billion)
• $211.9 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($211.6 million)
Through Dec. 6, 2010; 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)
When the Republicans in Congress try to block everything the president tries to do, that’s not politics — that’s juvenile delinquency.
— Rafael Aldave, Eugene
• In last week’s cover story, we somehow confused local media mogul Josh Finch of Exiled in Eugene with novelist Joshua Ferris (Then We Came to the End). Our serious bad. In addition, Jaculynn Peterson of MyEugene certainly did not ever live in California (she moved here from New Mexico), and MyEugene’s application with the Oregonian is not about “micro-blogging,” Peterson tells us. Instead, it’s to partner with the O in a “one-year pilot program sponsored by the J-Labs Networked Journalism project.”
•• We hope to see a good turnout at Mayor Kitty Piercy’s public forum at 7 pm Tuesday, Dec. 14, at City Hall on local funding options for schools. District 4J and Bethel schools have already cut spending to the point where the quality of education we are providing is being compromised. The only solution left is some kind of new tax. Piercy has formed an ad-hoc committee to look at what is legally defensible and also acceptable to voters. We’ve been advocating for an income tax surcharge on those who can best afford it — Eugeneans with high incomes. The timing for such a tax is auspicious. As we write this, Congress is about to extend Bush-era tax breaks for everyone, including the wealthiest Americans. We think a graduated local tax measure will fly on the May ballot.
• The Ellie Dumdi and Ed Anderson case against three progressive Lane County commissioners goes before Judge Michael Gillespie this week as we go to press, and the testimony should be enlightening. We haven’t seen all the “evidence,” but what we’ve seen so far is just speculation and innuendo about Commissioners Rob Handy, Bill Fleenor and Pete Sorenson emailing or meeting in private to conspire, among other things, to pass Supplemental Budget #2 in 2009 to fund aide positions. As it turns out, Fleenor voted against that budget item. So much for that conspiracy theory. And to paraphrase Coos County Circuit Judge Michael Gillespie, the definition of a public meeting under the law is not just three people standing together in the same room.
Dumdi, in a July 15 deposition, admitted she never witnessed any secret meetings, never heard of any witnesses to secret meetings and never even asked the commissioners if they had secret meetings. Dumdi read about an unsubstantiated secret meeting in a Register-Guard story and called her friend Dale Riddle, a staff attorney for timber baron Aaron Jones and Seneca Sawmill Co. It appears Dumdi’s conservative buddies, angry with the commissioners over their environmental stands, created a lawsuit to make their political enemies squirm and also damage their reputations. The R-G is going along with the plan, giving a big banner headline to the allegations Dec. 2 and downplaying the politics behind this frivolous lawsuit. Even Dumdi says she doesn’t know who’s paying her Salem attorney, Nathan Rietmann. Looks like big timber money still tries to run Lane County from behind closed doors.
• It’s a banner season for Duck fans with UO’s all-male a cappella group On the Rocks appearing on NBC’s The Sing-off performing their viral YouTube cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and the football team finishing the season 12-0 and heading off to play Auburn in the Arizona championship game. Word from the UO is that academics won’t take a backseat to sports this time, and classes won’t be canceled in honor of the Monday, Jan. 10 game. The big news lately has been how to get tickets, and just how many hundreds of dollars those tix are going to cost. But as long as we’re talking about spending money, did everyone forget that little Arizona immigration law issue? There’s still a boycott going on, and while it hasn’t crippled the Arizona economy, it has cost the state $141 million in lost meeting and convention business. Twenty years ago Arizona voters refused to give the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. a holiday, and as a result, the NFL pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from Phoenix. Any ideas on how we can celebrate our Ducks without supporting a state that supports racial and ethnic profiling?
• Speaking of the Duck extravaganza, a little perspective, please. The day the Ducks were ranked #1 in the BCS, at least one of the departments on the UO campus announced that it was taking out land-line phones, as an economy measure. Everybody has a cell phone now, right?
• The Oregon Public Employees Retirement System is under constant attack these days, and it’s an easy target since state retirees are benefiting from taxpayer-guaranteed 8 percent earnings while private-sector retiree’s portfolios are suffering. But there’s another side we don’t hear much about. PERS paid about $2.5 billion in benefits to retired Oregonians in 2009, and most of that money got pumped into local economies and recirculated. PERS payments and related economic activity sustain an estimated 31,000 jobs, according to the August PERS Perspective newsletter. Those 31,000 jobs added about $915 million in wages to Oregon’s economy. And according to PERS, the state collected $117 million in taxes on PERS benefits. More information and past newsletters can be found at www.oregon.gov/pers
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
“I’m focused on education,” says Elena Villa, who teaches film and literature courses as an adjunct instructor at the UO, and also teaches Middle Eastern belly dance and flamenco classes in local dance studios. “My goal is to expose people to other cultures.” Villa got an early start as a belly dancer in a Big Sur community that came together around music and dance. “I first performed when I was 10 years old. That introduction set me on a path,” says Villa, who continued with belly dance through high school in Carmel, added flamenco dance while in college at UC Santa Cruz, and went professional as a dance teacher and performer in the mid-1990s. “I developed my own style of Spanish-Arabic fusion, based on the history of cultural exchange in al-Andalus.” She returned to UCSC for a master’s in literature, then came to Eugene in 1998 to pursue a doctorate in comparative literature. “My first year at the Oregon Country Fair was 1999,” says Villa, who completed her Ph.D. in 2006 and has served as performance coordinator (as well as a principal dancer) for the fair’s Gypsy Caravan Stage since 2007. “It’s a big job, but it’s a labor of love. We bring in artists from all over the world.” Learn about Villa’s classes at elenavilladanza.net