News Briefs: Crime Drops with Drop in Jail Beds | Water Grab Goes Before the County | Occupy Eugene Persists Peacefully | Corrections/Clarifications | Better News for Forest Protections | Celebrate Mushrooms on Sunday | A Blow for Biomass Burning? | Biz Beat | War Dead | Activist Alert | Lighten Up
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Nights of Living with the Dead
The caretaker of Eugene Pioneer Cemetery
Will Eugene cycle like Utrecht?
Happening Person: Jared Pruch
Crime Drops with Drop In Jail Beds
Local law enforcement has long argued that fewer county jail beds would increase crime, but that hasn’t been the case.
In the past dozen years, the number of county jail beds has dropped by 37 percent while the violent crime rate in Eugene has dropped by 50 percent and the property crime rate has dropped by 46 percent, according to FBI data.
Violent crime rates in Eugene dropped 13 percent last year and property crimes dropped 20 percent, continuing a trend since 1998 that has left Eugene as one of the safest cities in the nation, FBI data shows. Compared to FBI violent crime rates in other cities of more than 100,000 people, Eugene ranks in the top 25 percent of the safest cities in America.
Last month, Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns claimed that more jail beds reduce crime. But he admitted, “it’s theory, of course, because it’s very difficult to draw causal relationship between changes in crime and other societal effects. But in law enforcement, our theory would be that those are the greatest causal factors.”
Kerns said that the recent closure of 84 jail beds by the county sheriff could increase crime. “That’s a pretty significant increment of accountability that isn’t available for 84 repeat offenders on any given day and that’s day after day after day,” he said. “That combination of factors is going to make it pretty challenging for all of us in local law enforcement in Lane County to manage our crime rates.”
Chief Kerns used the press conference to argue for an increase in his police budget. But in the last decade, Eugene police spending has increased 72 percent, despite the falling crime rates. — Alan Pittman
Water Grab Goes Before the County
Should a privately owned corporation be given the right to 22 million gallons of water a day out of the McKenzie River? Willamette Water Company, a quasi-municipal water source, has been fighting to get an additional 34 cubic feet per second water right out of the McKenzie River, on top of a 4 cfs right it already has, but has not been fully using.
The Lane County commissioners voted 3 to 2 with Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson dissenting on a resolution on Oct. 26 to “support the Willamette Water Company’s efforts to provide water to the Pleasant Hill, Creswell and Cottage Grove areas from the McKenzie River for domestic, commercial and industrial water users in south Lane County.”
In an investigative series in 2010, EW uncovered that Willamette Water was owned and run by land and timber barons Greg and Jeff Demers and Melvin McDougal. The post office box listed by Willamette Water with the Public Utilities Commission was the same one used by the Oregon Land Company, which lists lands for sale owned by the Demers and Norman and Melvin McDougal.
The McDougals and Demers own thousands of acres of land around Lane County. Their Willamette Water Company says in its permit application that it needs the water right in order to provide water for growth in rural cities in Lane County. Oregon Land Company lists several proposed subdivisions in Veneta for sale on its website, in addition to lands up the McKenzie.
John Devoe of WaterWatch, a group which seeks to protect and restore flows in Oregon rivers, says, “Obviously we oppose this resolution, which is nothing more than a last minute attempt to bolster a record that is clearly deficient before the upcoming contested case hearing.”
In his written comments to the board, Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild opposes the resolution and asks, “Why give them 80 times the water they are currently using? How do we know this speculative future need trumps the obvious needs of the river ecosystem?”
Heiken writes that according to a 2009 document filed with the Corporations Division of the Oregon Secretary of State, the only person on the board of directors of Willamette Water Co. is Greg Demers.
He says, “It seems highly improper to give one person the power to allocate 34 cfs of public water according to his whim or profit motive.”
Devoe says WaterWatch is been preparing for the administrative trial on the Willamette Water issue that begins Nov. 14.
Commissioner Faye Stewart, whose East Lane district encompasses the areas Willamette Water has said it would serve, including Cottage Grove, Creswell and Goshen, did not respond to a request for comment before press time. — Camilla Mortensen
Occupy Eugene Persists Peacefully
Occupy Eugene’s move from the Park Blocks to Alton Baker Park on Oct. 21 left the Park Blocks clean and tidy — even the leaves were raked — and a message to the city that while the occupiers are here to stay, they are around to create positive change.
|Photo by Todd Cooper|
Occupy Eugene was inspired by Occupy Wall Street’s stand against corporate greed, its call for economic justice and critique of corporations being given the rights of human beings, among other issues.
As the camp made ready to move, word was out that City Manager John Ruiz was not going to let campers remain at the park past hours, per city park rules against overnight camping. However, Ruiz instead brought a proposal to grant the Occupy Eugene an exemption to the city’s ban on camping in municipal parks. Had the city voted against the exemption, the previous informal policy of allowing the occupation to continue without a confrontation been the demonstrators and the police might have been tested.
Occupy Eugene has been having weekly marches, in addition to its massive almost 3,000-person protest Oct. 15, and the marches have been marked by a lack of the conflicts between protesters and police that Eugene has had in the past.
The Eugene City Council voted 5-3 on Oct. 24 to allow the exemption. Councilors George Brown, Chris Pryor, Andrea Ortiz, Betty Taylor and Alan Zelenka voted to allow the camp to continue while Councilors Mike Clark, Pat Farr and George Poling voted against it.
The Occupy camps in Eugene and across the country have been compared to depression-era “Hoovervilles,” homeless encampments that sprung up in places such as Seattle and Central Park in New York City. The name “Hooverville” was a political criticism of government policies that led to the economic crisis.
Civil Liberties Defense Center attorney Lauren Regan, who has been involved with Occupy Eugene, which is a decentralized group ruled by consensus, says the composition of the campers “definitely varies.” She says, “There are certainly folks that have been there every night since the beginning, but some folks come and go.” In addition to the committed core group, Regan says, there has also been a fluid coming and going of other participants.
Occupy Eugene supporters and marchers run the gamut from students and grad students to activists to business owners. Its Facebook page has close to 3,000 followers who engage in lengthy discussion threads about the movement. The group has committees for everything from childcare to sanitation to morale and peacekeepers. For more information go to occupyeugenemedia.org — Camilla Mortensen
In our Oct. 20 story on Occupy Eugene, John Flanery was described as “a facilitator of general assemblies,” but he tells us his role was “merely that of a consultant on meeting procedure — the consensus version of a parliamentarian. This is not a leadership role, and on no account should my remarks be taken to represent the views of Occupy Eugene.”
Better News for Forest Protections
It’s been a good week to be a treehugger with positive forest news coming out of the courts and Congress.
On Oct. 21 a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the Clinton-era Roadless Rule, which proposed cordoning off millions of acres of federal lands in the West from road development. In August 2009, the 9th Circuit made a similar ruling.
The Roadless Rule, which affects about 60 million acres of National Forest land, sparked debate about wilderness versus human uses of the land. Sean Stevens of Oregon Wild called the most recent ruling “good news” and says Oregon Wild has been working on the wilderness issue for 40 years, since Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964. He says federal wilderness and roadless areas have been “under attack from all sorts of folks, including the Bush administration.”
In 2005, the Bush administration repealed the 2001 Clinton Roadless Rule and replaced it with a state petition process, and the rule has been in the courts almost since it was put into place. Had the 9th and 10th circuits ruled differently, the case might have wound up in the Supreme Court.
Potential good news for a possible wilderness designation came through on Oct. 25 when Congressman Peter DeFazio introduced the The Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act of 2011, which will attempt to protect the wild coastal forest. DeFazio has sponsored similar legislation two other times.
Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands, one of the groups working to protect the coast range forest, called the subcommittee hearing “smooth sailing.” He says, “Amid the paralysis gripping D.C., it is refreshing to see Devil’s Staircase Wilderness inching toward the finish line. This wild, remnant slice of the battered Oregon Coast Range needs the utmost protection that Congress can afford it.”
Laughlin adds, “Also, DeFazio spoke eloquently at the hearing for Devil’s protection, reminding Congress he made the arduous trek in himself.”
— Camilla Mortensen
Celebrate Mushrooms on Sunday
The 30th annual Mushroom Festival is happening at Mount Pisgah Arboretum Sunday, Oct. 30. More than 5,000 people are expected this year for a full day of mushroom exhibits and identification, mushroom-inspired food, music, hayrides, scarecrow contest, music, wine and much more. Suggested donation is $5, kids under 12 are free. Parking at Pisgah is free but a free shuttle from Civic Stadium is encouraged. No dogs allowed.
The event is part of Mushroom Madness Week that begins Oct. 30 and runs through Nov. 6. Local restaurants will be preparing wild mushroom dishes during the week, including King Estate Winery, Holy Cow, Bruno’s Chef’s Kitchen, Excelsior Inn, Café Zenon, Café Soriah, Friendly Street Cafe and Rogue Ales’ Eugene City Brewery. Mushroom workshops with Marcia Peeters will be Nov. 4, 6, 12 and 13. See the Cascade Mycological Society website (cascademyco.org) for details on workshops, lectures and other events, or call 747-3817.
This event is the largest mushroom display on the West Coast, according to Peg Douthit-Jackson, one of the organizers, and the festival will feature about 350 species of local fungi, collected throughout western Oregon. Experts will be on hand during the show to help with identification. Last year two festivalgoers brought in two undiscovered species of mushrooms.
The scarecrow contest drew 40 entries last year, says Douthit-Jackson, and she expects even more this year. Groups, such as the Oregon Country Fair, have in the past created elaborate scenes for Scarecrow Alley, and a scarecrow-building workshop was held last Sunday.
The live music lineup begins with Tara Stonecipher and Gregg Vollstedt at 10 am, followed by Next Big Thing co-winner Tyler Fortier at 11. At noon will be Jazz du Jour, followed by Voodoun Moi at 1, Cynthia Valentine & Concrete Loveseat at 2, and Satori Bob at 3 pm. The last session will be Samba Ja at 4, along with closing ceremonies and awards.
More than 30 nonprofit organizations and some 250 volunteers are involved in this event. To help out, contact Rainee at email@example.com or call 747-3817. — Ted Taylor
A Blow for Biomass Burning?
Eugene-based Beyond Toxics (formerly Oregon Toxics Alliance) has long argued that the Seneca biomass-burning cogeneration plant is a problem for the air in west Eugene. Now a study out of Oregon State University shows that production of biofuel products from forests will increase greenhouse gases.
The four-year study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy showed that an “emphasis on bioenergy would increase carbon dioxide emissions from these forests at least 14 percent, if the efficiency of such operations is optimal.”
“Basically, I would say ‘I told you so.’” says Lisa Arkin of Beyond Toxics. She says she pointed out the greenhouse gas issue to Lane Regional Air Protection Agency when Seneca applied for its air quality permits.
The study examined 80 forest types in 19 eco-regions in Oregon, Washington and California, ranging from temperate rainforests to semi-arid woodlands, according to information from OSU. It included both public and private lands and different forest management approaches.
Tara Hudiburg, a doctoral candidate at OSU and lead author on the study, says “Most people assume that wood bioenergy will be carbon-neutral, because the forest regrows and there’s also the chance of protecting forests from carbon emissions due to wildfire,” But she says the study showed that the emissions from these activities “proved to be more than the savings.”
“On the West Coast, we found that projected forest biomass removal and use for bioenergy in any form will release more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than current forest management practices,” she says.
There are some exceptions, the researchers say. Forests in high fire risk zones that are weakened by insects or drought, impairing their growth and carbon sequestration, and setting the stage for major fires, might benefit from thinning for biofuels. Hudiberg says the exceptions in Oregon would be in some areas of high fire risk areas in the east Cascades, the Northern Basin and some of the Blue Mountains. But, she says, “definitely not in the Coast Range or west Cascades.”
Hudiberg says this study differs from the 2010 Manomet Study of Woody Biomass Energy that is often cited because the OSU study is peer reviewed, not “gray-literature” commissioned for the government. Also, the Manomet study calculated for “pay-back time” that says the forest will regrow more quickly after it is thinned. Hudiberg and her fellow researchers do not assume forests grow back more quickly.
She says, “As long as the removals continue and the natural forest uptake remains strong, the carbon debt will never be paid back. If the removals ceased, then a pay-back time would eventually happen as the forest regrows.” — Camilla Mortensen
Café Yumm! at 730 E. Broadway is getting a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station this week as we go to press, and we hear it’s the first such station at a restaurant in the Northwest. The Wednesday event is drawing a flock of Oregon business people, dignitaries and lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Wyden.
“Buzzworthy Business Plans” will be a presentation by Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software, at the October Smart-Ups Pub Talk from 5 to 8 pm Thursday, Oct. 27, at The Old Pad, 3355 E. Amazon. Register at www.eugenechamber.com
The Splinters Fine Woodworking Group (splinterseugene.com) will have a new home at 191 E. Broadway next to Zenon, according to Tim Boyden. The woodcrafters were at 881 Willamette. The big new space for Splinters was previously occupied by Nick and Nora’s Classic Interiors. The website for Nick and Nora’s is still up, but inactive, and Nora did not respond to an email query about the future of the business.
Are Oregon wineries in trouble? We hear the long wet spring and short summer were worse than what vintners are claiming.
IRIS Educational Media of Eugene (www.irised.com) just got a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a self-management curriculum for elementary students.
The Eugene nonprofit Full Access (fullaccess.org) has been honored again by Oregon Business Magazine for being the best medium-size nonprofit to work for in Oregon. The organization serves 800 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Last week we wrote that Oregon Toxics Alliance is now Beyond Toxics, a response to its more regional and even national scope. Now CISCAP (Committee in Solidarity with the Central American People) is now LASC (Latin American Solidarity Committee). And we hear Progressive Responses, a branch of CALC (Community Alliance of Lane County) is looking for a new name.
KLCC public radio wrapped up its fall fundraising Radiothon Oct. 13 with total pledges of $260,080.
Send suggestions for Biz Beat items to firstname.lastname@example.org and please put “Biz Beat” in the subject line.
• 1,809 U.S. troops killed* (1,800)
• 14,534 U.S. troops wounded in action (14,455)
• 981 U.S. contractors killed (981)
• $467.7 billion cost of war ($465.3 billion)
• $138.1 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($137.4 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)
• 1,554 U.S. contractors killed (1,554)
• 112,724 to 1.2 million civilians killed* (112,562)
• $800.4 billion cost of war ($799.5 billion)
• $236.3 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($236.1 million)
Through Oct. 24, 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)
• A panel discussion on “Our Energy Future” with Mayor Kitty Piercy, Ken Dragoon of the NW Power Planning Council, Roger Gray of EWEB, and Joshua Skov of Good Company will be from 5:30 to 7:30 pm Thursday, Oct. 27, at EWEB, 500 E. 4th Ave.
• Oregon Wild’s outdoor photo contest winners and a presentation by photographer Tim Giraudier will be from 6 to 8 pm Thursday, Oct. 27, at Cozmic Pizza downtown.
• The documentary film Lt. Watada: A Matter of Conscience, will be shown free from 7 to 9 pm Thursday, Oct. 27, at Harris Hall, 125 East 8th, Eugene. Lt. Ehren Watada’s father, Bob Watada, will answer questions and help lead a discussion. Ehren Watada was the first commissioned military officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq, saying he could not participate in war crimes.
• A Howard Zinn remembrance featuring UO professor Cheyney Ryan, a short video, and Zinn’s one-man play Marx in Soho performed by Bob Weicks will be from 6 to 7:30 pm Thursday, Oct. 27, at PLC 180 on campus. Zinn wrote the widely acclaimed A People’s History of the United States, which sold more than two million copies.
• Bryan Moore and Eli Meyer of UO will talk about their recent travels to Nicaragua at 4 pm Friday, Oct. 28, at 206 Condon, 13th and Kincaid on campus.
• A Gaza update with Nuha Masri is planned for 7 pm Saturday, Oct. 29, at Willamette Hall, room 100, between University and Agate streets on the UO campus. Masri was an intern with UNESCO recently studying the effects of Israel’s blockade on the health of women and children in Gaza.
• Olympic athlete and activist John Carlos and Dave Zirin will talk about their new book The John Carlos Story at 6 pm Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Lillis 182 on campus.
Lighten Up by Rafael Aldave
The CIA spends millions of taxpayers’ dollars to bring about the failure of a foreign government it doesn’t like. The Republicans in Congress work for the same result in this country for free.
• The Occupy Eugene phenomenon is showing us a different side of the Eugene Police Department, and so far we like it. We remember the anti-corporate greed demonstrations not so long ago and the smell of tear gas in the air as police in SWAT gear tried to intimidate angry protesters with military-style tactics. The results were ugly. Now we’re seeing a remarkable level of cooperation and collaboration between the occupiers and police and city officials, despite multiple challenges from the odd mixture of activists with homeless kids, alcoholics and addicts. And when the camp was moved to Alton Baker Park, the Park Blocks downtown were left cleaner than they were before the occupation.
Peaceful political actions might not generate the blaring headlines and graphic photos that some activists think are necessary to force change, but more subtle and longer-lasting change can come from people getting together to educate and support each other, find common ground and a build a movement that can, over time, galvanize public opinion and even get better people elected to public office. The Occupy Wall Street movement and its local actions are mobilizing the next generation of social justice and peace workers. Occupy Eugene even inspires those of us who have been around the block a few times and have lost some of our fervor.
• Regarding our recent cover story (10/13) on Peter DeFazio, we heard from Veneta that “an Art Robinson supporter” raided EW boxes and racks in Veneta and Elmira and ran off with all the papers. The business owner who reported the incident tells us it has happened before. Was it really an angry Robinson supporter or was it just somebody who caught a lot of fish in Fern Ridge Reservoir? Either way it’s theft and prosecutable. Here we go again. Robinson’s candidacy is sure to bring out all the wingnuts in rural Lane County.
Speaking of Robinson, we hear both candidates in the congressional race agree on interesting uses of energy waste. Robinson’s Access to Energy newsletter has weighed in on using nuclear waste in the concrete used in building construction. DeFazio just voted in favor of a bill that would stop the EPA from regulating coal ash as hazardous waste. DeFazio wants to continue to allow for the recycling of coal ash into concrete and other building materials. DeFazio might not know, however, that coal ash can be just a little bit radioactive. That suits Robinson just dandy since he thinks a little radioactivity is good for us.
• Columnist, author and activist Dan Savage is coming back to Eugene Sunday, Oct. 30, through Tuesday, Nov. 2, to hang out with UO students and respond to their questions about sex, dating and relationships. Savage has become a national voice for gay rights and is a real thorn in the ass of conservative bigots on the political scene. He’s having a big impact on the national debate on gay marriage and other timely issues, and now he’s landed an MTV show. If you are a UO student and want to be involved in the Nov. 1 evening MTV taping, send an email to email@example.com
• Ten years of war in Iraq and the troops are finally coming home, which is way overdue, but is the war really over for us? We heard no talk about pulling out U.S. contractors, and in fact they are certain to increase. Civilians in Iraq on the U.S. payroll have contributed greatly to the $467 billion cost of the war so far. According to the Department of Defense (http://wkly.ws/14m), about 95,500 civilians are on the U.S. payroll in Iraq. Some 25,000 are U.S. citizens. About 9 percent of the Americans are armed private security contractors (aka mercenaries) and the other 91 percent serve in other capacities. All are highly paid, with armed guards pocketing up to $200,000 a year plus hazard pay. The troops in uniform will be coming home in time for the Christmas holidays, but the war and the expense of war are far from over.
Meanwhile, conservatives in Congress are complaining about the pull-out, but we don’t see them objecting to the $1.5 billion contract recently awarded to Triple Canopy to guard diplomats as they travel around Iraq. Nearly another billion will go to protecting our mega-embassy in Baghdad with its staff of 1,000. The threat is not from al Qaeda or Iran; the threat is from Iraqis angry with our occupation. Among the Republican presidential candidates, only Ron Paul finds this war and its costs outrageous.
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
Eugene native Jared Pruch got a start in environmental education as a student at South Eugene High School when he began volunteering with the Cascade Raptor Center. “We made presentations,” he says. “We brought birds into the schools.” After a trip to Europe that included a month at a wildlife rehab center in Greece, Pruch spent four years at Colorado College to earn a degree in comparative religion. Afterwards, he worked at an outdoor school in California, at the Canyonlands Field Institute in Utah, then for two years on a biodynamic farm and at a charter school in Hood River. “My job was to manage the school garden,” says Pruch, who returned to Eugene in 2007 to manage the School Garden Project. “I found the job on craigslist.” SGP, a nonprofit, helps Lane County schools create and sustain vegetable gardens. “We supply 30 schools with starts, and we offer training for teachers,” says Pruch, who partnered with the Northwest Youth Corps, FOOD for Lane County and other agencies. “Each year, we work with 15 schools to do an educational program.” In September Pruch left the SGP for a new position as coordinator of the Berggren Demonstration Farm, an experimental and educational facility on 92 acres of riparian forest and farmland acquired last year by the McKenzie River Trust.