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Eugene Weekly : News : 12.16.10





News Briefs:
UO Tuition Increase Planned? | County Lands Labors Lost | Fountain to Reuse, Not Recycle | TransPlan is Back | Petition Seeks Second Concert | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lighten Up | Corrections/Clarifications |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

News:

DeFazio Blasts Tax Deal for Wealthy

Local congressman leads revolt in House

News:

Small Town Strip Mine

Dexter’s Parvin Butte is slated to become a quarry

Something Euge!

 

 


UO TUITION INCREASE PLANNED?

So what does the UO’s complicated restructuring plan really mean?

Nike billionaire Phil Knight, the UO mega-donor who some critics have said has too much power over the public university, told The Oregonian Dec. 5 that it’s about going private and raising tuition. 

Knight told the paper that he supports and was consulted on the restructuring plan the UO is lobbying for in the state Legislature. “It’s to take a step — I hate to use the word because it’s an oversimplification — but to take a step toward becoming more of a private university.”

In more of a private university, the UO president “can set his own tuition. He’s hamstrung in the sense he can’t charge more tuition than the Legislature will let him do for in-state kids.”

The UO had a plan for privatizing the university and raising tuition in response to dramatic budget cuts in the early 1990s, but the plan failed in the state Legislature. The Register-Guard reported in 1993 on a study of UO privatization in a story headlined: “Making UO private would save little money; A legislative report says that higher tuition would drive away students and force cuts in faculty.” 

The legislative report found that the plan would about quadruple in-state tuition. Such a dramatic increase would out-price about 60 percent of students, causing a big reduction in enrollment, according to the study. The loss of students would force the UO to lay off large numbers of faculty and staff who would take their federal grants with them, the R-G reported. 

Privatization “would not only sharply reduce access to Oregonians but also have wrenching consequences for the economy of Lane County,” the R-G quoted the report.

The UO has not said how much tuition would increase under its new restructuring plan. The UO has also changed significantly since 1993 with higher out-of-state tuition increasingly making up for reductions in state funding. Knight told The Oregonian: “It’s become the University of California at Eugene. That’s the result of the current Legislature’s policies.”

The State University of New York (SUNY) chancellor has proposed an autonomy/restructuring plan similar to the UO’s proposal. A hedge fund billionaire raised “hackles” this year when he made a big donation conditional to approval of the plan, The New York Times reported. But recent press reports have the SUNY plan failing in the legislature due to concerns from unions and fears that tuition increases will reduce access to higher education.  — Alan Pittman




COUNTY LANDS LABORS LOST

Trucks taking old-growth logs from the swapped land to the coast for overseas export, according to PictureEugene. Still courtesy PictureEugene

Buy high, sell low? That’s what critics say Oregon’s Land Board has done in the sale of 857 acres of Lane County land since 2006. And Lane County commissioners say they didn’t have their fair, law-mandated say in the matter. Tim Lewis of PictureEugene says the timber being cut on one of the swapped properties in the McKenzie River watershed includes massive old-growth trees.

The State Land Board oversees about 770,000 acres of land dedicated to the Common School Fund. While timber no longer produces revenue comparable to the state’s original funding scheme, it continues to contribute between $40 million and $55 million to the fund each year. 

Lane County Commissioners sent a letter to the Land Board in November, declaring their opposition to the sales and protesting a lack of notification in the matter.

Land Board spokeswoman Julie Curtis says that despite some technical glitches, commissioners were notified of the sales by email or with paper copies. In addition, Curtis says that the sales were advertised in the R-G and the Oregonian to solicit public comment.

Forester and timber broker Roy Keene says that however the deal was made, selling land used for timber in a slump rather than waiting for a bump in prices was a bad idea. “If I had a client who came to me with a deal like that,” he says, “I’d say no way, José! Don’t touch it!”

According to Keene, shifting the public land into private hands is a boon to timber companies, including one owned by the relative of a forestry board member. “The timber was appraised at domestic lot prices,” he says. “However, since they are not holding the timber as a public entity they can export that timber, so they’ve got an immediate 30 to 40 percent windfall on that price.”

Curtis asserts that all decisions regarding the Common School Fund lands were made according to the Land Board's master plan. “We have an asset management plan that guides our staff and the Land Board in managing our lands,” she says. “One of the things that we’re trying to do is to take a look at isolated or difficult for us to manage parcels that we could sell and we reinvest those sale proceeds into either purchase property that has either a higher degree of generating revenue for the Common School Fund or we put it back into our existing properties.” 

Samantha Chirillo of Cascadia's Ecosystem Advocates says some of the trees in the North Fork Quartz Creek parcel were at least 500 years old. The group is concerned, she says, because a member of the Giustina family sat on the Board of Forestry, which has jurisdiction over two parcels that Giustina timber company acquired in the swap.

PictureEugene’s video of  the  massive logs Lewis says were cut from former public land can be seen at blogs.eugeneweekly.com —  Shannon Finnell

 

FOUNTAIN TO REUSE, NOT RECYCLE

In response to new state health rules, EWEB has changed its popular interactive fountain by the river to not recirculate water. Instead, the fountain will spray drinking water in smaller jets, for fewer hours and fewer days and the water will be reused for irrigation, according to EWEB. The work to reconfigure the fountain was finished in June and cost $85,000, EWEB spokesman Joe Harwood said.

Portland took a less expensive and disruptive approach of just posting signs near its waterfront Salmon Street Springs and other popular interactive fountains warning that the water was not drinkable, according to the city website. 

Told of Portland’s approach, Harwood said, “Really?” Asked if EWEB had considered just putting in signs, he said, “Nope, didn’t look into that.” Harwood added, “I guess we didn’t think about trying to subvert the law; Portland did.”

EWEB estimated that treating the recirculated fountain water to comply with regulations similar to those for swimming pools would require a large, unsightly water treatment facility at the plaza at a cost of $180,000. Instead, EWEB chose to use smaller jets and pump the water into a new 15,000 gallon irrigation storage tank on the side of the building. Re-using the water for irrigation could reduce the amount of potable water the utility uses.

Because of the limited storage capacity, the public utility will now run the fountain from 8 am until midnight during the irrigation season from April 15 to Nov. 15 instead of running it all the time like the old fountain. 

The Portland Water Bureau took a simpler signage approach and interpretation of the state health rules. “New regulations require us to post signage that meets health codes at any fountain considered to be interactive,” the bureau wrote on its website in May. “We have been working with state and county representatives for many months now, trying to agree on language that meets their needs, our needs and the needs of the community. Thankfully, final language has been approved and approved signage is on order.”

The new EWEB fountain will look substantially different, according to an EWEB newsletter. “Regular visitors to the plaza will notice some fairly significant changes, as the nine large jets that used to shoot straight up in the air have been replaced with several smaller jets that form a dome-like appearance.”

The original riverfront plaza was built by the city of Eugene in 1990 and given to EWEB to maintain. — Alan Pittman

 

TRANSPLAN IS BACK

Public comments are being solicited on the future of the Eugene area’s transportation needs over the next 20 years. The area’s current transportation plan, called TransPlan, was adopted in 2001, calling for increased emphasis on bike and pedestrian networks, transit connections to mixed use centers, and bus rapid transit. Some of this planning has been implemented in recent years, though the bulk of transportation dollars have gone to pavement for cars and trucks. 

The Eugene Transportation System Plan “will look at all transportation modes, including freight, pedestrians and bicyclists, transit, rail networks, airport and personal vehicles, to see what changes could be made to better meet the long-term needs of Eugene’s residents, businesses, and visitors,” according to a statement from Eugene Public Works. 

A survey (see www.eugenetsp.org) is gathering information to be used by local agencies, including the cities of Eugene, Springfield and Coburg, Lane Transit District and the Lane Council of Governments. 

 

PETITION SEEKS SECOND CONCERT

An online petition at http://wkly.ws/yx is gathering “signatures” to lobby the UO Department Of Intercollegiate Athletics to schedule a second Elton John concert at the new Matthew Knight Arena. 

Mister Ooh-La-La of Faux Show Productions in Eugene says he was one of the people caught up in the “fiasco” surrounding the purchase of Elton John tickets for Feb. 17. “I was so frustrated by the UO’s lackadaisical response that I started an online petition to attempt to compel them to add another show to Elton’s engagement,” says Ooh-La-La.

“The intent of this petition,” says the website, “is to establish that there is adequate interest to schedule an additional Elton John concert the night before, Wednesday, Feb. 16. There are currently no events scheduled at the arena on this date, and Elton John is performing back-to-back concerts about a week before in Vancouver, B.C., indicating that he is not opposed to doing consecutive shows.”

“Let’s convince the UO brass that we want and deserve our chance to see Elton John live!”

 

ACTIVIST ALERT

• A retirement party for Lane County Commissioner Bill Dwyer is planned for 4 to 6:30 pm Thursday, Dec. 16, at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave. in Eugene. A reception will follow. RSVP to Melissa Zimmer, 682-6503.

• Oak Hill School invites all parents and community members to celebrate the annual “Posada” at 6 pm Thursday, Dec. 16, in the gymnasium. Oak Hill is at 86397 East Way Drive (next to LCC). There will be piñatas. Los esperamos con toda la familia el jueves 16 de diciembre a la tradicional “Posada.” Por favor, inviten a los que puedan. El evento es gratis y habrá tamales, ponche y no puede faltar la  reina de la posada “La piñata” para los niños. For info call Armando Morales, 744-0954, ext.125.

• The nonprofit homeless support group Free People is gathering for free music, food, clothing exchange and fellowship from 11 am to 3 pm Saturday, Dec. 18, at the WOW Hall. See www.freepeopleeugene.com

• Misty River is planning a benefit concert for the Egan Warming Center at 3:30 pm Sunday, Dec. 19, at First Christian Church, 1166 Oak St. in Eugene. Doors open at 3 pm. Tickets are $16 advance, $20 at the door. Advance tickets at CD World, 3215 W. 11th, and at www.mistyriverband.com

• National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is Tuesday, Dec. 21, and among the observances in Oregon will be a free memorial gathering from 5 to 7 pm at WOW Hall in Eugene; and at 2 pm at Albany City Hall Plaza on Broadalvin St. The observance is in memory of the homeless people who have died on the streets,  in abandoned properties or open places, and from illnesses or conditions directly related to homelessness. 

• A new Facebook page is up regarding Civic Stadium. Keep Civic Civic can be found at http://wkly.ws/yw and is dedicated to “keep our historic Civic Stadium in public ownership and available to the community as a recreational facility.” Lonnie McCulloch started the page (which is independent from Save Civic Stadium) in light of the Feb. 1 deadline for bids on the property. McCulloch favors LCC buying Civic Stadium.

 

WAR DEAD

In Afghanistan

• 1,417 U.S. troops killed* (1,407)

• 9,675 U.S. troops wounded in action (9,583)

• 594 U.S. contractors killed (594)

• $374.6 billion cost of war ($372.4 billion)

• $106.5 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($105.9 million)

In Iraq

• 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)

• 108,107 to 1.2 million civilians killed* (108,094)

• $746.2 billion cost of war ($745.2 billion) 

• $212.2 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($211.9 million)

Through Dec. 13, 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)

 

LIGHTEN UP          

Why is it that when Democrats oppose President Obama he takes them to the woodshed, but when Republicans do he takes them to lunch?  —  Rafael Aldave, Eugene

 

CORRECTIONS/ CLARIFICATIONS

Regarding our cover story Dec. 9, “Freshwater Fisticuffs,” neither the McDougals nor Greg Demers nor any of their entities own any interest in Tribute Properties LLC.

 

 

 

 

SLANT

•• Alan Pittman’s extended interview with Peter DeFazio this week provides insights into how Congress functions and malfunctions in times of crisis. As we go to press our nation is at an ideological balancing point, and our home-grown congressman is right at the fulcrum. Obama and Congress are gambling that adding to our massive deficits will stimulate our economy enough to avoid catastrophe in the future. Will it work? We won’t know for years, and whatever we do is tempered by the global economy, but we do know that the actions taken by Congress before it adjourns will become fodder for cynical and twisted finger-pointing in the 2012 elections. And the rich will get even richer.

• The trial testimony against three Lane County commissioners is over (see two Viewpoints this week) and it has become even more obvious to us that politics is driving this case rather than concern for justice or transparency. Much of the case and testimony merely tossed unsubstantiated accusations against the wall (and onto the pages of the R-G) to see what might stick, with the intention of stockpiling accusations and innuendos to be recycled by future opponents running against the commissioners. Ironically, the plaintiffs said early on that they were bringing this suit to protest the expense of part-time assistants for the commissioners, but this frivolous trial has cost the taxpayers enough money to fund those constituent services positions for many years. 

• LCC is taking heat for canceling Barry Sommer’s class on Islam, but the college is well within its rights as an institution of higher education to reevaluate its decision and bag the class. It’s not an issue of free speech. Sommer can speak, and has spoken, anywhere he can find a podium, including the inflammatory Pacifica Forum series that ran for years on the UO campus. It appears LCC community education staff did not do enough research and were unaware of Sommer’s talks at Pacifica Forum or his role as a founder of the Oregon chapter of ACT! for America with its exaggerated rhetoric against Islamic extremism. Sommer also has a blog at http://wkly.ws/z1 focused on Muslims conspiring to take over the world. LCC has an obligation to tread very carefully in highly sensitive issues of religion, and examine the context of instruction. Canceling Sommer’s class was a necessary, if awkward step.

• Chalk one up for gov-elect Kitzhaber. Good that he appointed Nancy Golden, Springfield superintendent of schools, and Mary Spilde, LCC president, to his education task force. He has given the group a short timeline to lay out the problems and possible solutions for Oregon’s education crisis. It won’t take long to figure out that this is a tough assignment in a state with a broken piggy bank.

• Remember Cris Beamud, Eugene’s first independent police auditor? We were sad to see her go in 2008 after two tough, ground-breaking years. She was a strong and smart voice for transparency and oversight in Eugene after decades of police profiling, secrecy and abuse. We see she’s now a finalist for the police monitor job in Austin, Texas. The issues in Austin are similar to those in Eugene. How much power and independence should the auditor have? At what point does the police union overstep its role and compromise the functioning of the auditor’s office? If Austin is ready to take its auditor function to the next level, Beamud would be a good choice. We wish she were still here, confronting the police union and holding cops’ feet to the fire.

• If you want even more reading material to while away the winter weather, here’s a fine book by two prominent professors who grew up in Eugene and graduated from South Eugene High School. Winner-Take-All Politics with the subtitle How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class was published a few months ago by Simon & Schuster. The authors, Paul Pierson, political science professor at Berkeley, and Jacob Hacker, political science professor at Yale, nail both Democrats and Republicans for shredding much of the regulation that followed the Depression, and for abandoning progressive tax policies that helped the middle class. Pierson was in Eugene a few weeks ago to visit his parents, Joan and Stan Pierson, and met with a few UO academicians and like-minded friends. As for solutions, not much in sight, but the creative analysis in this book could help find a way. 

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