Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
WOLVES IN THE HOUSE
After years of public and stakeholder input, Oregon put its Wolf Conservation and Management Plan into place in 2005. Then the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife began a five-year review of the plan with input from groups including sheep growers and hunters that finished in 2010. Now conservationists say the plan, and Oregons 23 confirmed gray wolves, are under attack from bills in the Legislature that would reduce the predators protections.
|Wolf from Oregon's Wenaha pack. This wolf was later killed by a poacher. Photo courtesy ODFW|
Native gray wolves were killed off in Oregon by the 1920s, but wolves have made their way back from a pack that was reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995. The Oregon Cattlemens Association, which sponsored the wolf bills in the Legislature, calls the wolves "Canadian gray wolves.” The OCA says in its talking points that the "federal government should shoulder the burden of protectinglife, property and livelihood” but short of that, the cattlemen argue that the Oregon bills are needed to give ranchers tools to fight the predators.
The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources heard testimony on the five bills concerning wolves on March 30 and April 5. Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands, which was involved in the wolf plan process, testified at the March 30 hearing in general support of HB 3013 and HB 3560, bills that would give ranchers compensation for livestock killed by wolves. But the group has caveats to its support, such as that wolf kills should be confirmed by ODFW, and hunting dogs injured or killed by wolves should not be compensated for, given the risky nature of the activity.
Laughlin points out that in January 2010 there were 1.2 million cows in Oregon, but only 14 wolves. In 2005 over 60,000 cattle died from reasons such as digestive problems. Since wolves began to reenter Oregon in 1999, Laughlin says less than 40 cows have been killed by the predators.
He says that the wolf plan already calls for compensation, and the compensation bills merely parallel the plan. Cascadia Wildlands and other conservation groups would want to be in on the discussion process if they were to support the bills, he says. The groups also advocate funding to encourage ranchers to get flagged electric fences to ward off the wolves
Three other bills that have been brought up in the House give more cause for alarm, according to Laughlin. He says the bills "diminish the protections for recovering gray wolves.” HB3561 would reduce the number of breeding pairs to only four in Oregon before delisting them from thestateEndangered Species Act, which Laughlin says undermines the stakeholder created wolf plan. HB 3562 would allow for the killing of a wolf if it attacks a human, but Laughlin says that is already allowed under the wolf plan. He calls 3562 "the Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs” bill and says it was introduced to "try to whip up fear” and play off the falsehoods that have surrounded wolves for centuries. He says only two people have been killed by wolves in North America in the last 100 years.
The final bill, HB 3563 allows people to kill wolves without a permit or cause if they venture within 500 feet of a house or if they chase, harass, wound or bite livestock, pets or working or sporting dogs. This bill, Laughlin says, makes poaching laws unenforceable and undermines the wolf plan. "We should encourage wolf recovery,” he says, "not legislatively work to reduce protections for the species.” ã Camilla Mortensen
NEW DECISION ON R-G EMAIL CASE?
Union advocates and businesses alike are awaiting a decision from the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) on a case called Roundys Inc., wondering if it will overturn the controversial 2007 Bush-era decision inThe Register-Guard v. NLRB, which found an employer could restrict employee use of its computer systems for union solicitation purposes, even though it allowed employees to use it for other personal, non-business purposes.
Then-proofreader and employee union president Suzi Prozanski was disciplined for using her R-G email account to encourage coworkers to wear green to support the union and march in the Eugene Celebration parade as part of the unions entry.
The current NLRB board chair, Wilma Liebman dissented with the boards decision, writing, "NLRB has become the 'Rip Van Winkle' of administrative agencies Ä Only a board that has been asleep for the past 20 years could fail to recognize that email has revolutionized communication both within and outside the workplace.”
In 2009 the decision was partially reversed by the D.C. Circuit Court. Evidence showed that the R-G allowed email messages such as baby announcements, party invitations, invitations for poker games and requests for volunteers its annual United Way campaign. The NLRB accepted the R-Gs argument that it allowed some personal use of email but that it didnt allow solicitation to support a group or organization. The court disagreed and said the R-Gs policy enforcement was discriminatory.
Last November, the NLRB announced that it is reconsidering the legal standard to "determine whether an employer has violated the National Labor Relations Act by denying nonemployee union agents access to its premises while allowing other individuals, groups and/or organizations to use its premises for various activities.”
The Roundys grocery store chain had asked police to remove union members who were distributing flyers criticizing Roundys use of nonunion construction labor. But the stores allowed others to flyer in the same area.
Bob Bussel of UOs Labor Education and Research Center (LERC), says the R-G case has become a "labor cause célúbre.” He says the NLRB "ruled initially that there was a basic property rights issue,” where others, like Liebman see the email issue as more nuanced.
The NLRB asked for amicus briefs looking into the question of: "What bearing, if any, does Register-Guard have on the boards standard for finding unlawful discrimination in nonemployee access cases?”
NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon filed a brief saying Register-Guard "adopted an inappropriate analysis and should be overruled.”
Because the R-G case created limits on employee use of an employers email system to solicit support for a union, union watchers say, this invitation for input might signal that the standard under an Obama-appointed board may get a little looser in the future ã unions and employees may have greater rights to use a companys email. ã Camilla Mortensen
BIKING AROUND BELTLINE
ODOT plans to provide a bike connection over or under Beltline in North Eugene as part of its $202 million I-5 Beltline interchange project.
"The bike path will be connected from the south side of Beltline to the north side of Beltline,” said ODOTs local spokesman Rick Little.
ODOT engineers havent decided yet on an underpass or an overpass, according to Little. With all the interchange on and off ramps, "its not an easy design,” he said.
ODOT is designing the bike/pedestrian link now to fit in with the road project, but the path wont be built until 2014. Not all the federal funding for the interchange project is secured, but Little said ODOT is confident it will be. "At this point its not a concern.”
Once ODOT engineers come up with a draft design in the next few months, they plan to share it with members of the local bike community to get feedback, according to Little. "Its all going to start happening here pretty quick,” he said.
A way to get around the Beltline freeway wall that cut north Eugene in half has long been sought by local bicyclists. Busy Coburg Road offers only a long and dangerous detour. The path would connect to existing paths and bridges leading to the riverfront path systems and Gateway Mall and could be heavily used by commuters to businesses on Chad Drive, employees going to lunch and errands, neighborhood residents and/or recreational cyclists heading to rural routes. ã Alan Pittman
SHELTERCARE HOUSING AT RISK
A non-profit that houses poor families has taken a big hit from a county budget cut.
ShelterCare has lost $300,000 in county funding that it used to pay for family housing. ShelterCare director Susan Ban said that this loss of funding means it will lose 11 units of their facility, which is located out on Highway 99.
The reduction of 11 units, which serve about 81 families with children affects around 277 individuals, Steven Manela, division manager for Lane County Health and Human Services said in a March 28 viewpoint in The Register-Guard.
The county claimed the cuts were necessary due to the hard economic times. The county, through its Human Services Commission, had approximately $2.9 million more in requests from local agencies than they had in their budget. Of the countys $102-million discretionary general fund, the countys primary operating fund, only 6 percent is spent on public health and welfare. Public safety accounts for 63 percent. Conservative county commissioners, which now hold a board majority, have pushed to dedicate more and more money to expensive deputies and jail beds.
ShelterCare already has a waiting list of eight to 12 weeks to get into shelter. This wait will grow even longer, as it is left with only six of its 11 units. ShelterCare is exploring other funding options ã looking for grants and soliciting even more private donations. Ban said that no matter how well ShelterCare copes, the cuts will make a lasting impact.
Data collected by the McKinney-Vento Educational Programs shows that more than 22,000 children in Oregon will face homelessness during the year. The National Center on Family Homelessness computed that a single parent working at the states minimum wage would, taking into account other basic living expenses, need to work at least 70 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment priced at fair market rent.
"Local community members came together and felt that we needed a shelter that served families where they could live together,” said Ban. ShelterCare opened a shelter for families in 1970.
Families can stay in the shelter for up to sixty days (though sometimes longer in cases of special circumstances). Families receive aid in housing searches, as well as employment counseling that is part of a long-term stabilization program. Families are provided with food, clothing and household necessities. Shelter helps get kids back to school. ShelterCare claims a 70 percent success rate of families who stay in shelter and successfully transition to stable long-term housing
To make a donation, contact ShelterCare at 686-1262 or mail to ShelterCare Administration, P.O. Box 23339, 1790 West 11th, Ste. 290, Eugene Or. 97402. You can indicate if you want the donation to go specifically to the Emergency Housing Program. ã Philip Shackleton
TWO-DAY FREE MEDICAL CLINIC
A non-profit that provides medical care in the third world is coming home to work in Lane County.
The Cascade Medical Team Foundation (CMTF) is offering free medical care to Eugene-Springfield area residents without health insurance, 8 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17, at Peace Health Medical Group, 1162 Willamette St. (east entrance).
According to CMTF, more than 66,000 individuals in Lane County do not have health insurance and are ineligible for the Oregon Health Plan. "There is a huge need in the community because when people are uninsured they put off seeing a doctor,” foundation board member Rick Kangail explains.
Formed in 2002, the Cascade Medical Team (CMT) is a local, all-volunteer organization that travels to Guatemalas highlands annually providing medical care, filters for clean drinking water and energy efficient cooking stoves to the Mayan people in the region. In conjunction with its parent organization HELPS International, and the support of PeaceHealth and McKenzie Willamette hospitals, the team has provided medical and dental care to more than 14,000 Guatemalan adults and children.
In June 2010, CMT decided to bring their services to Oregon for the first time, hosting a free medical clinic in Coburg. "We saw a huge need in our own community ã we are calling the clinics "Cascade Medical Team Comes Home,” Kangail said.
Several services will be provided at the weekend clinic including, basic dental care and minimal teeth cleaning (Saturday only), general medical care and examinations for on-going symptoms. There will be connections available in the community if patients need follow-up care, and a free on-site limited pharmacy for medicine prescribed at the clinic.
The medical care will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis, "We have many wonderful volunteers from the Rotary and other community members so the process will be well organized and we dont foresee a long wait,” Kangail said. CMT recommends bringing past medical records if possible.
Health care professionals interested in volunteering medical services can contact Margie Groshong at 934-4129 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Community members interested in volunteering, go to: www.211lane.org
For more information on CMT and to donate visit: www.cmt-oregon.org ã Heather Cyrus
« The Oregon Conservation Network is planning its annual Environmental Lobby Day from 9 am to 4 pm Thursday, April 7, at the state Capitol in Salem. This free event will start with expert training on OCNs priority bills, including banning plastic checkout bags, protecting children from toxic BPA, and expanding the bottle bill, among others. That afternoon, participants will put their new skills to use, directly lobbying lawmakers. Register at http://wkly.ws/11p
« Oregon House co-speakers Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg) and Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) will have a joint town hall meeting in Cottage Grove. According to Hanna, "These joint town halls are an excellent chance to have a very rich conversation about all the issues facing Oregon.” The meeting is
Saturday, April 9 from 9:30-11 am at the Cottage Grove Community Center, Shepherd Room
700 E. Gibbs Ave.
The best way to promote celibacy among Catholic priests may be to allow them to marry. ã Rafael Aldave, Eugene
« April Fools was the day that U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan announced a possible settlement in the Seneca timber-funded lawsuit against county commissioners Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson. If Coos County Circuit Judge Michael Gillespie accepts the mediation brokered by Hogan and Lane Circuit Judge Lyle Velure, then the county pays the plaintiffs and/or Seneca and other secret backers of the political lawsuit $350,000 in attorneys fees. After wasting $600,000 in county money, the lawsuits perpetrators would then "donate” $75,000 of the settlement back to county public safety services. Handy and Sorenson would each pay the county $20,000 in attorneysfees over three years but admit no fault. The good news is that the absurd finding of "willful” misconduct by Handy and Sorenson for violating a future novel interpretation of the public meetings law would be removed. The bad news is that there would be a declaration that the county violated public meetings lawand Gillespies strange ruling on emails and "serial meetings,” rather than helping keep the doings of our public officials in the light, will continue to make it unclear what sort of communication they can have.
Whats the take-away lesson from all of this? The serial meeting "misconduct” described in the lawsuit has been routinely practiced by conservative elected officials for decades. The only difference is that Handy and Sorenson worked for the public interest and pissed off some people with deep pockets to fund a lawsuit.
« Did someone put a "kick me” sign on the back of the nations teachers? As they turn to the blackboard to do their tough jobs, theyre getting pummeled from class clowns. Even the normally good kids are joining in on the abuse, launching spitball after spitball. Enough is enough. Settle down and learn something about the facts as demonstrated by copious research. Teachers arent overpaid. They have far more education but earn far less than firefighters, prison guards or cops and have far more accountability. They didnt go into teaching to get rich. Charter schools arent inherently superior to public schools. Standardized tests distract from actually learning. Bubble tests measure student income and parental education levels better than they measure teacher performance. Class size and funding matters, just ask the expensive private schools. Chinas illiteracy rate is 10 times higher than the U.S. Just because you are a billionaire and went to high school yourself doesnt make you an expert on education. Just because you are a Democrat or Republican politician and went to school yourself doesnt make you an expert on education, despite your urge to demagogue the issue. The teachers can and should defend themselves from all this bashing, they are adults. What were worried about is the kids. With so much time and effort wasted on the politicians and high-tech and hedge fund billionaires shooting the "reform” spitballs, its getting hard to actually learn.
« Is it just us, or have Legislatures across the country gone wild? As Obama announces his reelection bid, we can only hope that the wellspring of silly bills cropping up sounds a death knell for the Tea Party. Oregons House passed a resolution calling for Oregon to adopt the 10 principles of the "Code of the West," leaving us wondering just what is involved if you "ride for the brand?” In Florida, the Republican-dominated House has banned the word "uterus” from being spoken. Apparently while they debate a bill that would make a woman look at ultrasound of her fetus before having an abortion they will refer to the offending part as "the baby garage.” Meanwhile back in Oregon, Repub Sen. Ted Ferriolis bid to make the border collie the state dog is languishing in the Senate General Government Consumer and Small Business Protection Committee.
On the national level, the GOP has introduced bills that would prevent environmental nonprofits from recovering legal fees when they successfully sue under the Equal Access to Justice Act or the Endangered Species Act. Hey, Tea Party, we thought you wanted a more accountable government, what gives?
« This month Boise kicks off a drive to raise $500,000 to $1 million for what the Boise Statesman calls a permanent, covered space for a public farmers market downtown. Their dream building "would mean a longer season and provide offices, restaurants, a commercial kitchen, cold storage and more. Sounds like the conversation we should be having in Eugene. "Locally grown” in the Willamette Valley is more exciting than "locally grown” in the Magic Valley.
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