News Briefs: Occupy Wall Street and Eugene | City Violates Its Own Code | Coast House Controversy | County Boundary Issues Continue | Working on Safer Streets | Will WOPR Ever Die? | Eugene Still Leads U.S. in Biking | Activist Alert | Biz Beat | War Dead | Lighten Up
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
|Photos by Rob Sydor • robsydor.com|
OCCUPY WALL STREET AND EUGENE
After what seemed to be a media blackout, the Occupy Wall Street protests caught the eye not only of journalists but also of unions, luminaries and everyone in between. Airline pilots in uniform, author and professor Cornell West, mothers with children … all have shown up in the financial district in lower Manhattan. Hundreds have been arrested. Now the movement has come to Eugene.
According to occupywallstreet.org the protest is a leaderless resistance movement made up of “the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent” and is inspired by the Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation that brought change in Egypt and elsewhere.
Occupy Eugene, in the space of a week, rapidly grew to more than 1,400 members on its Facebook page and has already held two general assembly meetings. Shalaya Cass, one of the organizers, says the group started when her friend Sam Chapman simply created a Facebook group page. She says, “He wanted to reach out to the community and see if there were like-minded people who perhaps wanted to take part in standing in solidarity with the ongoing protest in NYC.”
Cass says, “The main goal right now is really about educating the public about the occupation on Wall Street.” The group has handed out flyers and talked to people at Saturday Market.
Some have criticized Occupy Wall Street for having too many diverse grievances, but Cass says the diversity is part of the beauty of the movement. Foreclosed homes, unemployment, college debt — “all of these things do stem from the way our country is being managed by the few wealthiest citizens,” she says.
She says the general consensus of the group — at least 40 people are actively involved at this early stage in addition to the more than 1,400 Facebook members — is that in addition to standing in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, they would like to start an occupation protest of their own in Eugene.
Occupy Eugene, like Occupy Wall Street, seems to be garnering support. Local grant-making organization the McKenzie River Gathering (MRG) Foundation put out a call for applicants for grant requests on Facebook, writing, “Organizing in Oregon in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street? Our Critical Response grants are up to $2,000 to support organizing in response to unexpected opportunities to build a movement for racial and economic justice. Find out if your organizing can get some support from us!”
CITY VIOLATES ITS OWN CODE
If you have something you don’t want and some people you don’t want, can you lock the trash to city property to try and keep the undesirables away?
Not according to City of Eugene Code, but that’s exactly what Eugene police have done in locking trashed bicycles to city landscaping downtown to keep street people away.
The city strategy appears to violate several sections of the City Code:
• 5.420 prohibits “a bicycle left on public property for a period in excess of 24 hours.”
• 5.135 states “no person shall store or permit to be stored a vehicle or personal property on a street or other public property for a period in excess of 72 hours.”
• 6.010 prohibits “nuisances affecting the public” on “public or private property.
• 6.010(k) prohibits “sidewalk accumulations” and “any obstruction on a sidewalk.”
• 4.872 prohibits “impeding access to any public pedestrian area.”
• 6.007(1) states “no person responsible shall cause or permit a nuisance on public or private property.”
• 6.010(c) prohibits “debris,” “waste” or “trash” or “other refuse matter or substance which by itself in conjunction with other substances is deleterious to public health or comfort or is unsightly.”
So will the city code enforcers enforce the City Code against the city or will Eugene police ticket fellow officers for breaking the law? That hasn’t happened in the past.
Six years ago Eugene police were caught targeting the homeless with “no trespassing” and “no soliciting” stencils on city sidewalks in violation of state law. They weren’t ticketed, cited or disciplined for the illegal graffiti. — Alan Pittman
COAST HOUSE CONTROVERSY
LandWatch Lane County, a group dedicated to stopping sprawl and protecting natural areas and farmland, has concerns over a house that Eugene architect Otto Poticha is building on the Oregon Coast and its possible effects both on the environment and on the scenic view from Highway 101.
Poticha requested approval to construct a dwelling on a property situated between Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean. Poticha’s land is on a spot that Nena Lovinger of LandWatch calls in comments submitted to the county Land Management Division, “one of the most majestic and imposing headlands along the Oregon coast.” The property is near Sea Lion Caves and near to cormorants and puffins, Lovinger writes.
LandWatch expressed concern that the property, which is in a designated “significant natural shorelands combining zone,” could have a septic field that could adversely affect the beach below. The concerns also include the severity of the slope and the possibility of Native American artifacts on the site.
“Any house constructed on the site, no matter how well designed, would be a reprehensible blight on the Oregon coastline,” Lovinger writes. Highway 101 is a National Scenic Byway. She says Oregon’s coast has taken too many hits.
Poticha Architects is known for designing and winning prizes for local buildings including the Wildish Community Theater.
Poticha takes umbrage at LandWatch’s criticism. He says, “I guess one could say, ‘Let’s not build anywhere.’”
LandWatch’s facts are not correct, Poticha says. He says though he had approval for a septic system, he will put in a high-tech sand sewage filter and disposal system instead, which he also has approval for. He says he has a water right to the stream on the property, and “I don’t want effluent running into the Pacific Ocean or the stream.”
He says, “I have had soil testing by a licensed soils engineer, and the strata has been determined to be very stable,” and he has a report and on-site survey from an Oregon State professor and consultant that shows no Native artifacts will be present. And the house, he says, was designed so it would not be seen from the highway.
Poticha says he has owned the property since 1970 and spent the last 10 years obtaining all the necessary approvals. His previous permit expired when it was not used. The downturn in the economy kept him from building as planned, and he ran out of renewals, which he says is a good thing — “You should have to reapply; the rules might have changed.”
Lovinger says her understanding is that there is likely no way to appeal the expected approval for the property. “Nonetheless,” she says, “I want Otto to know that people disapprove of him building in this location. It sets a bad example. If other people also try to play God, there goes the sublime majesty of the Oregon coast.”
Lane County is accepting written comments on the issue until 5 pm Oct. 10. — Camilla Mortensen
COUNTY BOUNDARY ISSUES CONTINUE
Lane County is getting closer to making a decision about its voter district boundaries, but fears of gerrymandering the districts to give an advantage to a particular person or party continue. The progressive group Onward Oregon, affiliated with the Bus Project, has weighed in on the issue.
“Gerrymandering? Bozimandering? I don’t know what it is but it’s a ‘mander,’” says Scott Bartlett, a member of the county redistricting committee who has expressed concerns that Commissioner Jay Bozievich had too much influence on what is supposed to be a citizens’ committee.
When Bartlett voiced his concern during a committee meeting, Bozievich agreed that he should no longer participate in committee discussions, though he said he was happy to continue to provide technical assistance. Bozievich, who advocated for the purchase of the Moonshadow software called Borderline, is experienced with using the product.
But Bartlett says Bozievich is still over-involved in the process. The committee approved five possible scenarios, Bartlett says, including scenario one, which calls for leaving the districts as is. Onward Oregon says that scenario was favored by most of the committee.
Bartlett says the committee was told in a memo from Bill Clingman, a senior GIS analyst with the Lane Council of Governments, that the existing population figures have less than 1 percent deviation and therefore already are in compliance for redistricting.
At the Sept. 27 Board of Commissioners’ meeting, the Redistricting Task Force presented the five possible scenarios it recommended. Bozievich moved to restore two more scenarios that the committee had left out, and the move was approved.
According to Onward Oregon, a volunteer run group working for progressive change, scenarios three through seven are problematic, and “any major changes to the current district boundaries are politically motivated and political gerrymandering.”
The group says those scenarios do not meet the criteria for redistricting that the committee was given and argues that scenarios three through seven propose to split areas within the urban grown boundary or urban areas and place them into districts that are primarily rural.
Steve Brock and the conservative 9.12 Project Lane County group sent out an email to 9.12 members originally advocating for scenario two, but then revised the recommendation, writing, “After speaking with people more familiar with the process than myself,” scenario two “would favor the liberal factions much more than we would like,” and goes on to advocate for scenario six.
According to Onward Oregon, “Commissioner Bozievich is doing this simply to make the North Eugene district more conservative in order to increase the odds that a conservative will win this seat and that right wing conservatives will maintain their majority on the Board of County Commissioners.” North Eugene is current commissioner Rob Handy’s district. Onward Oregon describes Bozievich as a “Tea Party leader and former Libertarian.”
The county held a public meeting on the issue Oct. 5 and a decision will be made in the next couple weeks, Bartlett says.
For more on Onward Oregon go to onwardoregon.org and for the county’s redistricting scenarios go to http://wkly.ws/14d — Camilla Mortensen
WORKING ON SAFER STREETS
This summer city construction workers unnecessarily and dangerously converted many of the city’s bike lanes and sidewalks into places to put construction signs, but that practice may change.
A safety subcommittee circulated a draft of a “Pedestrian and Bicycle Accommodations During Construction Projects” pamphlet at a meeting of the Eugene Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee last month.
The pamphlet is an effort to educate city staff and construction workers, and save cyclists and walkers from having to swerve into fast-moving traffic to avoid construction work and construction signs. The pamphlet states “place signage to block neither bike nor pedestrian traffic.” The draft calls for advanced warning signs when bike lanes or sidewalks must be closed for construction, cones marking four-foot wide new bike lanes through construction and/or placing “bikes in roadway” or “share the road” warning signs when closing a bike lane is unavoidable.
Unnecessarily and dangerously blocking bike lanes and sidewalks for construction projects is already illegal under state and local law.
Eugene Code (7.100) adopts rules in an ODOT handbook that states: “avoid placing bicycles and pedestrians in conflict with traffic.” The handbook and code require advanced warning, a lane with a “4-foot minimum width for bicycles,” and bikes on roadway warning signs. — Alan Pittman
WILL WOPR EVER DIE?
The Western Oregon Plan Revisions (aka the WOPR) has been killed, reborn and killed again. The latest skirmish in the battle over the Bureau of Land Management’s effort to increase logging on 2.2 million acres of public forests in Western Oregon is another death blow, one that conservationists hope will draw things one step closer to killing the plan once and for all.
The timber industry argued the WOPR wouldn’t log enough trees — the plan calls for about 500 million board feet of wood a year — and sued. Environmentalists said the plan, which would increase logging by 700 percent, is bad for old-growth and mature forests. Enviros sued arguing that the plan was illegal because there was no Endangered Species Act consultation. Some of the forests that were included in the WOPR are home to ESA-listed species such as the northern spotted owl.
Susan Jane Brown of the Eugene-based Western Environmental Law Center argued the case along with attorneys from Earthjustice.
In 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar withdrew the WOPR, calling it legally indefensible, but a federal judge in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled in April 2011 that Salazar acted illegally when he did not ask for public comment when he withdrew the WOPR. So the WOPR returned and WELC and Earthjustice re-filed their ESA-based complaint, Brown says.
On Sept. 29, U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Hubel in Portland recommended that the plan be vacated, agreeing that the BLM should have consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Brown says Hubel’s opinion and findings must now be endorsed by a federal judge. “I don’t expect her to do anything different than Judge Hubel did,” Brown says
Because of the Center for Biological Diversity, more species in the Northwest are moving toward the ESA protection that is trying to help keep the spotted owl from extinction. The group recently reached an agreement with the USFWS to expedite protections for 757 species across the country, including 26 Pacific Northwest slugs and snails. — Camilla Mortensen
EUGENE STILL LEADS U.S. IN BIKING
Eugene’s bike commute rate dropped last year, but the U.S. Census survey has a big margin of error and Eugene remains the top city in the U.S. of its size or larger for biking.
In 2010 8.3 percent of commuters in Eugene, almost 6,000 people, rode their bikes to work, according to the Census’s American Community Survey estimates. That’s down from 10.8 percent in 2009, but the survey reported a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points for the 2010 data.
Eugene’s 2010 bike rate is still the highest in the nation for cities its size or larger. Portland’s 2010 rate is 6 percent.
A few smaller cities have higher rates than Eugene. Boulder, Colo. has a 9.9 percent bike commute rate, Davis, Calif. has a 22.1 percent rate and Corvallis has a 9.3 percent rate. But Eugene is a third larger than Boulder and more than twice the size of Davis and Corvallis.
The long-term trend for bike commuting in Eugene is increasing after a decline, according to Census data. In 1980 8 percent biked, in 1990 5.8 percent and in 2000 5.5 percent.
A new bicycle and pedestrian plan headed to the Eugene City Council this month calls for more accurate local counts of cyclists. To dramatically reduce global warming pollution and increase health and livability while saving money, the plan calls for a doubling in biking rates over the next two decades. — Alan Pittman
(A version of this story first appeared at EugeneCycles.com)
• A community forum on possible improvements to Hwy. 126 between Veneta and Eugene is planned for 6 to 8 pm Thursday, Oct. 6, at Elmira High School cafeteria. RSVP by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 345-5091,
• Eugene’s Nobel Peace Park Project is inviting the community to an “Over-the-Top” dinner gala from 5:30 to 8:30 pm Saturday, Oct. 8, and LCC’s Center for Meeting & Learning. Author and noted human rights activist John Prendergast will speak, along with Claes Nobel. Tickets for $60 a person available at www.nobelpeacelaureates.org or call 485-1604.
• The Oregon League of Conservation Voters is planning parties around the state Oct. 13 for the release of OLCV’s Environmental Scorecard for the Oregon Legislature. See olcv.org for information.
An independent book store called The Book Nest has joined the shops at INDULGE! Wine & Food mall at 1461 Mohawk Blvd. in Springfield. Owner Amanda Bird will offer new and used books, including a collection of cook books.
The Oregon-based nonprofit Friends of Trees is planning to open a Eugene office this fall. The news comes with the announcement by Eugene director Erik Burke that the local branch will benefit from a $25,000 Meyer Memorial Trust grant that will help the organization integrate with the Eugene Tree Foundation. Friends of Trees has also received a $5,000 grant from REI for expanding natural area improvements in the Eugene-Springfield area. Friends of Trees-Eugene plants trees and does urban restoration work in partnership with the Eugene Tree Foundation. To volunteer or donate, visit friendsoftrees.org
Eugene environmental attorney Charlie Tebbutt has a new office and a new staff with Dan Snyder, staff attorney, and Marisela Taylor as assistant. Open house is from 4:30 to 6:30 pm Thursday, Oct. 13, at 451 Blair St. See charlietebbutt.com
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• 1,780 U.S. troops killed* (1,773)
• 14,239 U.S. troops wounded in action (14,094)
• 887 U.S. contractors killed (887)
• $459.7 billion cost of war ($458.3 billion)
• $135.7 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($135.3 million)
• 4,421 U.S. troops killed (4,421)
• 31,921 U.S. troops wounded in action (31,921)
• 185 U.S. military suicides (updates NA)
• 1,542 U.S. contractors killed (1,542)
• 112,285 to 1.2 million civilians killed* (112,253)
• $797.3 billion cost of war ($796.7 billion)
• $235.4 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($235.3 million)
Through Sept. 30, 2011; 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 by Rafael Aldave
The Republicans are still looking for the right presidential candidate to run against Obama.
It’s not easy to find a fraud voters can believe in.
• What does “overbuilt” mean when we talk about new apartments in Eugene, especially around the UO campus? We keep hearing from sources who should know that developers have overbuilt demand, while we also hear hammers pounding away on yet another project. Maybe the best indicator is all those “for rent” signs we still see on little houses around the campus usually full of students by early October. We’re wary of market forces and tax breaks from the city these days.
• Downtown Eugene is booming with exciting new construction that should reinvigorate the area. But the downtown is at risk from a continuing effort at downtown “crapification” by the city itself. Locking trashed bicycles to city landscaping isn’t likely to scare away street people. Stepping around the unsightly city nuisance will, however, hurt efforts to bring more business people and shoppers downtown. Hyping downtown crime to justify the “trash downtown to save it” approach does little to help the area.
• It’s great to see the Occupy Wall Street protests heating up in New York and in other cities across the nation including Eugene. It’s about friggin’ time. It’s been three years since greedy corporate fat cats drove this country over an economic cliff. The corporate executives got billions in bailouts, big bonuses, tax breaks and no new tough regulations. Regular Americans got mugged with the Great Recession. The populist rage at Wall Street is felt by Tea Partiers and lefties alike. Hopefully, it will bring some real change.
• The west Eugene LTD EmX got yet another official stamp of approval last week, this time from yet another ODOT analysis of the project. It’s past time to get this project built. A few anti-public transportation wingnuts shouldn’t be able to block hundreds of construction jobs and a rapid, livable, green way to move for tens of thousands of people.
• Two columnists, often far apart, recently wrote in The Oregonian words of high praise for UO President Richard Lariviere and his raises for administrators and professors. Columnist Steve Duin said, “Lariviere has campaigned for increased autonomy in a state with a diminished interest in supporting higher education. He has emulated Knight’s unapologetic commitment to run the university like a business.” Lane Metro Partnership director Jack Roberts, identified in his every-other-Thursday column as “a Eugene businessman and former Oregon labor commissioner,” concludes: “The fact that President Lariviere’s action is so controversial says less about the economy than about a state that talks excellence while pursuing mediocrity.” In a Sept. 22 Slant, we praised the needed raise for faculty but called Lariviere’s raise for administrators an “arrogant mistake.”
• So many social justice issues churning out there today, and so many good documentary films spotlighting them. A really good documentary should move us to do something about the issue or at least think hard about it. That perspective, plus a new Eugene party time, is what motivates the Good Works Film Festival, starting Friday, Oct. 7, at the Bijou theater and moving to the Hult Center Saturday afternoon. The event was created by Cynthia Wooten, a former Eugene activist for social justice and good times (she helped start the Country Fair and the Eugene Celebration) and by Linda Blackaby from the San Francisco film festival. The Eugene festival will be a model for the rest of the country. After the showings relevant community groups will lead discussions, always provocative and usually fun in this diverse city. For an artistic advanced look, be sure to read John Locanthi’s fine reviews in this issue.
• Word is that tireless local defenders of civil rights at the Civil Liberties Defense Center could use a little boost to the group’s cash flow. Check out the CLDC’s work — both locally and nationally — at cldc.org and click on its link to donate or go to the ChipIn page at http://bit.ly/q5Y9fq
• More thoughts on banning dogs on 13th and downtown, as suggested by Councilor Mike Clark: Nobody likes slipping on fresh dog turds, but bigger issues are at play here. People who are homeless can’t leave their dog companions at home, so banning dogs is in effect banning people who are homeless. Is that the unnamed agenda here? One more way to discriminate against the unkempt and disenfranchised members of our community? And more than a few women in Eugene feel safer on our streets with their trusty canines at their sides, particularly after dark. The 13th Avenue dog ban is making our streets less safe and less welcoming for pedestrians out for an evening walk or going to or from work around campus.
• PBS this week is airing filmmaker Ken Burns’ five-hour documentary series Prohibition, and we expect to see a lot of parallels with the counterproductive War on Drugs that Richard Nixon imposed upon us 40 years ago in the spirit of Prohibition. The 18th Amendment banning alcohol was short-lived, but our nation’s four-decade-long drug policy has created a massive, violent and untaxed underground economy, international organized crime, an overloaded court system, civil rights violations, corrupt prison industry and border strife. Time to end our idiotic obsession with drugs. Legalize them, regulate them, tax them. Put a fraction of those trillion dollars spent on cops, courts and incarceration into drug education, intervention and treatment. We’ll all be better off.
• If you really like to be scared, read this warning from a recent National Rifle Association mailing: “Your constitutional right to own a gun is under attack by anti-gun politicians and Obama’s hand-picked political appointees, global gun ban diplomats at the U.N., militant anti-hunting extremists, radical billionaires and the freedom-hating Hollywood elite.”
• Wall Street got you pissed off and you want to join the growing street protests? Bank of America and other national banks added fuel to the fire with their announcement of new fees for debit cards. Hit them where they hurt. Move your money to a credit union or other local financial institution.
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