News Briefs: Taxes at Work for More Taxes? | Hearing Center Rebuilding Its Staff | Eco-friendly Halloween | Adam’s Place Hosts Harvest Dinner | Growth is Topic of ‘Brewhaha’ | Toxic (Sex) Toys Dilute the Delight | A Devoted Life | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Taxing Our Gas
Ballot Measure 20-132 in perspective
Measure 49 Examined
Fix, flub or repeal of Measure 37 sprawl?
Step Up the Fight
McKibben to speak on the climate movement
Happening People: Lin Silvan & Robert Jacobucci
TAXES AT WORK FOR MORE TAXES?
Two key players in the campaign to pass Eugene Measure 20-134 for $50 million in parking garages and tax breaks for downtown developers are themselves government PR people.
Eric Stillwell, who works for the UO PR department, maintains an extensive pro-measure website and email list. Kelly Darnell does PR work for the city parks department and helped found Shop Eugene, a pro-measure group with a statement in the voters pamphlet.
State law bans using tax money to campaign for more taxes, but the law is rarely enforced.
Earlier the city denied Darnell was using her government work hours to campaign for the measure. But many of Stillwell’s posts to his website appear to bear time stamps during normal work hours. The UO has been a strong supporter of urban renewal and has plans to use the city’s separate Riverfront Urban Renewal District to subsidize development near the Autzen bike bridge and along Franklin Boulevard.
Responding to a Chamber of Commerce complaint in 1997, the UO warned staff opposed to Hyundai (now Hynix) building in wetlands to “avoid even the appearance of inappropriate uses of time or resources” in taking political stands. The UO didn’t send the same warning to the many administrators and other staff using their positions to lobby for the corporation.
The city of Springfield has a similar urban renewal measure on the ballot and appears to be using its website to campaign for the measure. A city “fact” sheet on the urban renewal measure incorrectly states that it “does not impose new property taxes.” Although state law requires such government information on measures to be neutral, the Springfield fact sheet does not say how much taxes will increase or mention that state school funding will lose about $15 million because of the measure.
The city of Eugene didn’t do an informational fact sheet, but did send out a voters pamphlet with a measure “summary” stating that urban renewal “does not impose new taxes.”
In fact urban renewal in Eugene and Springfield can directly result in slightly higher taxes by increasing taxes to pay for bonds and levies, according to documents from city of Eugene staff and the Lane County tax assessor. Critics argue that urban renewal also indirectly increases taxes by diverting government revenue that has to be made up through higher taxes. — Alan Pittman
HEARING CENTER REBUILDING ITS STAFF
It’s been a rough six months for the Eugene Hearing & Speech Center, but things are looking up. Last May, the nonprofit center’s five staff audiologists abruptly left following a dispute with management. Shortly after, Executive Director Alise Kermisch was fired and Laurence Hamblen, an attorney, long-time board member and foundation trustee, agreed to lead the agency with a focus on rebuilding.
“A lot of people thought we were shut down,” says Sandi Curtis, a volunteer with the center.
Board chairwoman Kelly Rasmusson says the center has continued its speech programs unabated in the interim while the audiology department has continued many services thanks to clincians who stayed on, help from Oregon Health Science University in Portland and the assistance of local eye, ear, nose and throat specialists.
One of the five audiologists who resigned has returned and the center has hired audiologist Todd Landsberg from North Carolina. Landsberg and newly appointed Medical Director David Tom will be officially welcomed at an open house and reception from 5 to 7 pm Thursday, Oct. 25 at the center at 1500 W. 12th Ave. During a short program at 6 pm, State Rep. Chris Edwards will deliver a brief keynote highlighting health care issues.
The event, which is open to the public, will also include entertainment, a silent auction, and refreshments. For information, call 485-8521.
Lansberg, who is himself hearing impaired since childhood, is a good fit with the center, according to Hamblen. “Todd has a compassionate perspective that made him a natural choice for us,” says Hamblen.
The Eugene Hearing & Speech Center was established in 1955 as an outgrowth of the Eugene Hearing Society, a group of parents who organized to help find services and hearing aids for their children. Since its inception, the center has grown from serving 60 clients annually to assisting nearly 7,500 in 2006. Rasmusson says the patient load only dropped a little during the months when no audiologists were on staff. — Ted Taylor
Halloween is just around the corner and in Eugene it’s just not a holiday unless it’s a “green” holiday. Environmental groups across the country are issuing their advice on how to have an eco-friendly Halloween.
Environmental Defense has advice for how to get around that whole “paper or plastic” question when it comes to what kind of bag to trick or treat with — use a pillow case or a cloth bag which can easily be decorated to coordinate with a costume. Cloth bags have the added benefit of not splitting and tearing from the sheer weight of your child’s candy.
When it comes to the Halloween treats themselves, buy local and look for products made from organic fair trade chocolate. If you’re against sweets, there are also cereal bars and fruit chips or even small gifts like markers or crayons you can give the local ghosts and goblins. And of course the less packaging the candy has, the better it is for the environment.
Interestingly enough, despite media hype to the contrary, there’s never been a documented case of children randomly poisoned by Halloween candy, says Snopes.com, a legend-debunking website. Eating themselves sick is apparently the greater danger when it comes to kids and candy. Seattle-based GreenHalloween.org lists plenty of candy alternatives for the health conscious consumer.
Trick-or-treating in your own neighbor helps fight global warming as it reduces the amount of driving you do. If you feel the need to take your kids to the mall or a party instead, then try carpooling.
Environmental Defense also recommends making a costume from old clothes at home rather than buying a disposable one from the store.
If you are among the lucky few whose jack-o-lantern doesn’t get smashed by pranksters on Halloween night, then AboutMyPlanet.com recommends composting your (preferably organic) pumpkin post-Halloween or turning it into a birdfeeder. If you do compost, be sure all the seeds are out, or your compost pile may become a pumpkin patch. — Camilla Mortensen
ADAM’S PLACE HOSTS HARVEST DINNER
Community members rallied together at Eugene’s Adam’s Place restaurant the night of Sunday, Oct. 21, in celebration of all that is local. Appetizers were nibbled, the wine was flowing and even a song was sung, all to benefit the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition. This was the first time the annual benefit was held at Adam’s Place and there wasn’t an empty seat in sight.
The Willamette Farm and Food Coalition seeks to promote public and environmental health and the viability of local farms and farmland by encouraging the purchase of locally grown foods.
The coalition’s executive director, Lynne Fessenden, complimented Adam’s Place owner Adam Bernstein for coming up with the idea of holding the benefit at the restaurant. Bernstein, however, swears it was all Fessenden’s doing. Regardless, the mission of the night was clear: to honor and encourage the ongoing efforts of community members, businesses and organizations in promoting and purchasing locally grown foods.
Bernstein strives every day at his restaurant to be sustainably focused and use compostable and recyclable products, and for half of the year Adam’s Place is 95 percent organic and uses all locally grown food.
“I am very pleased to be a part of this event. This organization is fabulous, and I stand behind their efforts of working locally to act globally,” Bernstein said. “With every step we try to make this restaurant as environmentally conscious as possible.”
All items served on the night’s four-course menu — everything from the wine to the delectable sheep’s milk cheese appetizers — were contributed by local businesses. The list was long, but to name just a few: Kronke Ranch contributed spicy rosemary hazelnuts, the Hinman Vineyards provided wine, the Hideaway Bakery brought bread and a multitude of local farms gave everything from meat to herbs.
More than 100 people attended the dinner, which benefited the bellies of the attendees just as much as the coalition. — Deanna Uutela
GROWTH IS TOPIC OF ‘BREWHAHA’
What’s a spirited debate without spirits? Or so the thinking goes with the merger of brews and brouhaha in the EW‘s and Lane County Bus Project’s monthly debate series, “Brewhaha,” a political slam over a few pints. A similar partnership has been ongoing between the Portland Mercury and Portland Bus Project, dubbed the “Debate Club,” that meets at East Burnside’s Rontoms to hash it out on issues ranging from gentrification to immigration to bikes vs. cars. The success of the debates with Portlanders (especially young PDXers) has spurred this spin-off in the Emerald City.
This month’s topic “Grow up? Grow out?” examines two ballot measures (49 and 20-134) that will affect Eugene (and Oregon’s) future growth. Tentative panelists include Mayor Kitty Piercy and City Councilor Bonny Bettman sparring over the downtown urban renewal measure while Ashley Miller of the Yes on 49 campaign dukes it out with Matthew Green-Hite of the Fix 49 campaign over land-use planning and the future of Measure 37.
And should the spirits not sufficiently loosen your tongue at the forum, visit blogs.eugeneweekly.com for a recap and chance to sound off in an even less inhibited fashion.
The Brewhaha begins at 6 pm Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Davis’ Restaurant, winner of EW‘s 2007 Best of Eugene: Best New Restaurant.
TOXIC (SEX) TOYS DILUTE THE DELIGHT
The news is full of recalls of toxic kids toys and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state’s Legislature recently signed a ban on the use of phthalates in children’s products. However the Coalition Against Toxic Toys (CATT) wants to warn adults that they are at risk too — from toxic plastics in their erotic toys.
Phthalates have been linked to cancer and reproductive defects. According to a study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, exposure to phthalates by pregnant women can cause changes in the way their sons’ genitals develop.
Many sex toys are made of polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs) and softened with phthalates. PVCs have long been criticized for their links cancer and birth defects. Softening a PVC product with phthalates creates a softer jelly-like texture popular in products used in sensitive areas from babies’ teething rings to vibrators.
CATT is the only non-profit advocacy group for the adult sex toy industry. Most adult toys such as dildos and vibrators are sold as novelties and so the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration do not have to oversee their manufacture and sale.
Greenpeace has called on the European Union to stop using phthalates in adult novelty items. Here in the U.S. the popular adult toy retailer Good Vibrations developed their own line of phthalate-free silicone for use in vibrators and dildos and marks products that are phthalate free.
The staff at Castle Megastore, the adult entertainment store in Springfield, was unaware of any store policies on phthlates in plastics, though aware of the concerns about the materials. Castle corporate headquarters had “no comment at this time” on the issue. — Camilla Mortensen
A DEVOTED LIFE
On Thursday, Oct. 18, at 13th and Hilyard, the world of Eugene shrank to a screaming instant. And when that moment ended, our town, and our state, were left with a raw and gaping hole, a tear in our communal tapestry.
Lucy Lahr, 45 when she was killed while crossing the street by a hit-and-run driver, was a bright star, an ever-cheerful, calm, steady force for good. More specifically, Lucy fought for social justice and human rights at work, in her union and in the wider community. She could — and often did — sum up fraught issues in simple words that cut through all of the bullshit. And she cared. How she cared. Her finely crafted sense of humor and her ability to smile through the worst political times couldn’t mask her beacon of tenderness, her iron strand of love.
Moments before Lucy died, I was in New York, listening to the Cleveland Orchestra play Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. In the final movement, the composer set to music words that now bring me to sobs: “Oh, believe you were not born for nothing, have not for nothing lived, suffered!”
In the midst of our collective grief, in the midst of caring for Lucy’s dear spouse and tending the strands that connect us to one another, we must remember that Lucy did not live for nothing. She worked purposefully, strategically, communally and with persistent hope to make a better world. She lived so that nurses like the one who tried to save her life might have a living wage. She lived so that undocumented workers had a witness and an advocate. She lived to build connections, to help us see the humanity in ourselves and in each other.
The unfairness — the absolute wrongness — of Lucy’s death can never be healed. Yet those of us who remain must do our utmost to honor her. She was not born for nothing; she was born to live an enormously generous life.
That burden, and that joy, falls on us now, and always. — Suzi Steffen
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 3,834 U.S. troops killed* (3,829)
• 28,171 U.S. troops injured* (28,171)
• 128 U.S. military suicides* (128)
• 303 coalition troops killed** (302)
• 933 contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 82,203 Iraqi civilians killed*** (81,887)
• $462.1 billion cost of war ($460.2 billion)
• $131.4 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($130.9 million)
* through Oct. 22, 2007; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to one million
LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
• Oregon law requires that health care professionals report suspected pesticide illnesses to the Department of Health within 24 hours. Call Lane County Department of Health at 682-4035; Oregon Dept. of Health at (971) 673-0400; or the Pesticide Analytical Response Center at (503) 986-6470. If you are made ill by pesticide/herbicide exposure, make sure your doctor reports it.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
• Is it really fair to promote the Hult Center and Eugene Public Library as examples of successful urban renewal projects? The glossy mailings in support of Ballot Measure 20-134 are flaunting these projects, but the Hult Center was built primarily with a bond measure, using only some urban renewal funds. We love and support the Hult, but today it’s struggling to keep up with maintenance, and operating costs are so high it’s difficult for local performing artists to afford to rent the facility. Our new library is another wonderful Eugene institution, but it’s also struggling to maintain services, and the last operating levy barely passed. More importantly, both of these buildings are public facilities — taxpayer money spent to directly benefit the people of our community, and they are kept alive only by community support.
The urban renewal measure on the ballot might benefit our community in the long haul, but it’s a big gamble and we know who the short-term winners and losers will be. The developers are guaranteed a profit. The building owners are guaranteed a huge profit. Established businesses renting in the buildings targeted for renovation or demolition are guaranteed eviction notices. And if KWG decides next year that the big project doesn’t pencil out, the city is guaranteed to be stuck with some very run-down and overpriced properties.
• The Lane County Fairgrounds is back in the news contemplating a move to city-owned land in the Bethel area. So what will become of the old fairgrounds? We’ve always liked that property for a hospital site, but we hear from the residents in the area that they would prefer residential development, some mix of single-family and multi-family housing. There are advantages to boosting the population in that neighborhood, which is close to downtown. But will residential land sell for enough to buy out the financially strapped fairgrounds and its expensive move? Commercial zoning might be the only way to maximize the value.
Election Endorsements at a Glance
See longer arguments and stories in our Oct. 18 issue.
• Springfield Measure 20-131: NO. This measure would slightly increase taxes and divert at least $43 million from school, city and county tax revenues for “urban renewal” projects in downtown Springfield.
• Eugene Measure 20-132: YES. This measure adds a 3 cents a gallon fuel tax to the current 5 cent tax, to be used to repair streets and roads.
• Eugene Measure 20-134: NO. This measure amends the downtown urban renewal plan to increase spending (public subsidies) by at least $40 million.
• State Measure 49: YES. This measure repairs some of the damage and confusion created by the flawed Measure 37 that allows sprawling housing developments, strip malls, gravel pits and billboards on valuable farm and forestlands.
• State Measure 50: YES. This measure adds 84.5 cents per pack to the tobacco taxes currently in effect, with the proceeds going to bolster Oregon’s Healthy Kids program.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
LIN SILVAN & ROBERT JACOBUCCI
“We met in a dance hall in South Jersey 20 years ago,” says Lin Silvan, and soon afterwards she and Robert Jacobucci were married. Retired from her work as a corporate training consultant and his as a physicist, they traveled and danced their way around the U.S. “We hit every ballroom,” she says. “Some towns had several.” The couple was also researching a place to settle. “We’re environmentalists at heart,” says Jacobucci. “We visited Eugene in ’97, came back in ’98 and 2000, and moved in 2002. We found a lot of kindred spirits.” Four years into their marriage, Silvan and Jacobucci became vegans. They found they could eat well and that various ailments went away. Surprised to find no “veg booths” at Earth Day events in ’03 and ’04, they founded the Eugene Veg Education Network in 2005. “Food choices have a big impact on the environment,” says Jacobucci. “It’s a major decision we make three times a day.” EVEN’s third annual vegan Thanksgiving Peaceful Potluck will be held at 2 pm Sunday, Nov. 18 in the LCC cafeteria. For details and more on EVEN, visit eugeneveg.org.