News Briefs: Stimulus a Bust for Eugene | Review Board Wants to Kick Public Out | WEC Group Ready to go Public | Library Use Up Despite Crime Hype | Activist Alert | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | War Dead | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Bound for Broadway
Downtown buildings to become ‘cultural core’
Stimulus a Bust for Eugene
The big federal stimulus is trickling down to a big local disappointment.
“Eugene has a list of over $200 million in ‘ready to go’ projects that fit the stimulus criteria,” Mayor Kitty Piercy said in her state of the city speech in January. “We expect these projects, if funded, could create 4,404 well-paying jobs by the end of next year — with an emphasis on green industry.”
But two months later, after getting largely stiffed on stimulus by the state and Metropolitan Policy Committee, the city is looking at a total of only $5.4 million in direct stimulus creating an estimated 54 jobs.
With local unemployment at 11.9 percent, 54 jobs is only two-10ths of 1 percent of the 22,351 jobless people in Lane County, according to state data. The Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) estimates that each $100,000 in federal stimulus creates one job.
Other money from the $787 billion federal stimulus will go directly to other local agencies. LTD will get $6.5 million, for example. But LTD General Manager Mark Pangborn said the bus agency will not use the money to create new jobs but rather to prevent layoffs of existing workers. Even with the stimulus, he said, LTD will cut services 3 percent.
The Housing and Community Services Agency of Lane County is expecting $1.7 million in federal stimulus money to bolster its public housing programs, according to HACSA Deputy Director Larry Abel.
Even after factoring in expected federal stimulus funds, Eugene’s 4J school district is looking at teacher layoffs to cover a $10 million deficit. Of course, without the stimulus 4J would have had to lay off even more teachers.
EWEB, LCC and the UO were also hoping to benefit from federal stimulus money, but it remains unclear how many new jobs that will create, if any. — Alan Pittman
Review Board Wants to Kick Public Out
The Eugene Civilian Review Board of police misconduct wants to meet in secret.
At its March 16 meeting a majority of the five-member CRB spoke in favor of the radical change in the public body to exclude the public from its review meetings and conduct them in “executive session.”
CRB Chairman Norton Cabell, a property manager, urged other members to go into executive session starting with the meeting that night. In a secret meeting “our discussion is more frank and open,” he said. Also with the public kicked out, Cabell argued, it would be “easier” to not slip and let out identifying information of police officers.
The CRB’s practice since it began reviewing cases has been to publicly discuss complaints against police officers anonymously without naming the officer. At times officers’ names have become public when citizen complainants have exercised their free speech right to provide the information to the media outside the CRB meetings.
CRB members Ann-Marie Lemire, a chaplain at Sacred Heart hospital, and Snell Fontus, a local doctor, spoke in favor of kicking the public out and holding secret meetings.
CRB member Richard Brissenden, a Florence municipal court judge, appeared to agree with secret meetings, but then changed his mind. “The more I think about it, the more uncomfortable with it I get,” Brissenden said. “One of the preeminent goals of this whole process is transparency.”
Members of the public at the meeting also objected.
“I just think its an awful, unimaginable thing that you would even consider this,” said Majeska Seese-Green, a Whitaker neighborhood leader.
Carol Berg-Caldwell of Communities for Ethical Law Enforcement said removing the public from CRB meetings “sends a poor message” to the public. If officers conduct themselves well, “they have nothing to be afraid of” from public
meetings, she said.
But Eugene City Councilor Andrea Ortiz said she favored secret CRB meetings to make the members less likely to “slip up about names.”
Cabell backed away from his proposal to immediately kick the public out of the room, saying that the issue appeared to need “more discussion” at a later meeting.
It doesn’t appear that it would be legal for the Citizen Review Board to meet in secret. State law allows such executive sessions for public bodies when discussing “personnel” matters. But the CRB does not decide personnel issues; it merely comments on anonymous cases involving anonymous officers months after final personnel disciplinary decisions have been made by fellow police officers in already secret meetings.
By law the media are allowed to attend executive sessions but are “directed” not to report on the proceedings. It’s unclear how the CRB will define “media” and whether online media that have reported negatively on police will be included. It’s also unclear how the CRB can enforce restraints on “directed” media given the First Amendment. State law allows the media to report on the proceedings of executive sessions that are held illegally. The CRB appears to have already violated the state Public Meetings Law requirements for local meetings by holding a January “retreat” in Port Orford on the coast to discuss, among other issues, excluding the public from public meetings. —Alan Pittman
WEC Group Ready to go Public
The West Eugene Collaborative (WEC) is expected to go public Friday, March 20, with its recommendations for comprehensive solutions to traffic congestion in west Eugene. A press conference is planned for 10 am Friday, March 20, at the Red Cross building, 862 Bethel Dr.
The politically diversified group of more than two dozen elected officials, planners, neighborhood leaders, transportation experts, business owners, developers and environmentalists have been meeting for two years following the City Council’s decision to withdraw support for the West Eugene Parkway, which would cut through protected wetlands.
Before Friday’s press conference, the WEC will meet to formally vote on its 44-page final report. “Since we have spent the last few weeks hammering out final compromises on the language, I expect a unanimous endorsement,” says Jan Wostmann of the group.
Wostmann says he is not at liberty to talk about the details of the plan, but he does say the group favors a “multiway boulevard
for West 11th between Chambers and Beltline.” Multiway redesigns in other cities have taken wide, busy and often dangerous streets and added landscaped medians for pedestrians, sheltered turn lanes, designated bike and bus lanes, and improved sidewalks.
The plan is expected to outline several alternatives to bypass West 11th traffic, including a reworking of 5th Avenue connecting Highway 99 with Bailey Hill Road, and improving other east-west routes through Eugene, such as 18th Avenue.
State and federal funding will hopefully be available for the plan, says Wostmann, particularly if it becomes part of a master plan for west Eugene. He believes the in-depth community collaboration will help secure eventual funding. Nothing in the plan is “shovel ready” to take advantage of the first round of federal stimulus dollars, says Wostmann.
The final WEC recommendations, including short-term, medium-term and long-term goals and objectives, will be submitted to the City Council, Metropolitan Planning Commission, County Commission, Eugene Planning Commission, LCOG, LTD and other interested groups. Public forums on the proposals will be held around the valley.
For more information and to read the full report when it’s posted, search the web for “West Eugene Forum.” — Ted Taylor
Library Use Up Despite Crime Hype
Last fall The Register-Guard and local TV news was full of hype that crime downtown was frightening people away from the Eugene Public Library.
But library visits were up 21 percent last year, the largest increase in five years, according to the library’s recent annual report.
The scary library hype was part of a successful campaign to pass a “downtown exclusion ordinance” by exaggerating crime downtown. Police statistics showed crime downtown was in reality declining.
The exclusion zone allows the city to ban people from downtown without a criminal conviction and was opposed by civil liberties groups. — Alan Pittman
• The seventh annual Cesar Chavez birthday commemoration is planned for 6:30 pm Thursday, March 19, at Agnes Stewart Middle School on South 32nd in Springfield. “We will celebrate the legacy of a man who devoted his life to workers’ rights and nonviolent social change,” say organizers. For more information, email SAfER1214@gmail.com or call 726-7377.
• The local Campaign to End Field Burning now has a website to provide information and help more people get involved. Visit www.endfieldburning.org or call the Western Environmental Law Center at 485-2471. And a white paper on field burning is now available from the Oregon Toxics Alliances, online at www.oregontoxics.org
• Lane County is seeking public input on a habitat plan for Mt. Pisgah’s Howard Buford Recreation Area. An open house and workshop are planned from 5:30 to 8 pm Thursday, March 19, at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave. The meeting is hosted by Lane County Parks Division and Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah, and will describe the park’s habitats, threats to key natural resources, and seek input on ways to sustain these habitats for future generations to enjoy.
• Local issues regarding blindness and low-vision will be discussed at the next meeting of the new Lane County Council of the Blind Chapter, at 4 pm Thursday, March 19, at room 302 of the LCC Downtown Center, 1059 Willamette. For more information, call Rob Cook at 741-4367 or 510-6160.
• A Eugene rally for comprehensive immigration reform and immigrant rights is planned for 2:30 pm Friday, March 20 at Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office and on the steps of the U.S. Courthouse on East 8th Avenue. The event is organized by the students of MEChA and CAUSA, Oregon’s immigrant rights coalition, with the help and support of various UO departments, PCUN, and Eugene community organizations. The expected turn-out is at least 500 people. The rally is to demand the congressman’s “support and prioritization of safe and fair immigration legislation.”
• Sen. Jeff Merkley will hold town halls in Lane and Benton counties Saturday, March 21. He will update constituents on his work in Washington, D.C., and answer questions about the challenges facing Oregon and America. His Eugene stop will be at 10:30 am Saturday on the third floor of the LCC Downtown Center, 1059 Willamette. At 2 pm he will be at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, 645 NW Monroe Ave., in Corvallis.
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Near Deadwood: Roseburg Resources (935-2507) will aerially spray Velpar herbicide on 18 acres starting April 1 (#50159).
• Near Mohawk River: Weyerhaeuser (741-5211) will ground spray 77 acres with Sulfometuron Methyl starting March 21 (55234).
• Near Marcola Elementary School: Weyerhaeuser will ground spray 30 acres with Atrazine, Velpar, Oust, 2,4-D LV6, Transline starting March 21st (55236).
• Near Lorane Elementary School: Oregon Forest Management (896-3767) will ground spray 42 acres with Oust XP, Foresters, Garlon XRT for Fruit Growers Supply (345-0996) starting March 24 (50157).
• Coyote Creek: Rohl Resources (998-1268) will ground spray Garlon 4E for Scotch broom throughout lands within Sections 1, 12 and 13 in Township 18S., Range 6W. starting March 23 (50452).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,259 U.S. troops killed* (4,256)
• 31,118 U.S. troops injured* (31,102)
• 177 U.S. military suicides* (176)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 99,500 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (99,433)
• $605.3 billion cost of war ($603.3 billion)
• $172.1 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($171.6 million)
* through March. 16, 2009; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** sources: icasualties.org, defenselink.mil
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.1 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
• In response to a letter last week from Jeff Harrison (“Ideology vs. Science”), Oregon Toxics Alliance challenges several of Harrison’s statements. OTA says Executive Director Lisa Arkin has never introduced herself as an assistant professor at the UO, and she was not “let go” from UO. She resigned after a federal lawsuit settlement in which she was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor. Tom Kerns is not from Portland, but rather Yachats, and he’s considered an international expert on Btk and the ethics of aerial pesticide spraying.
• We heard from Beverly Biehl about some errors in the “Here comes the Neighhborhood” article in Swizzle last week. She says Bruce Biehl has never been manager of King Estate. He owns Eugene Wine Cellars, b2 Wine Bar, and AREA (his vineyard management company). And she says she is still teaching at Corridor School, but “plans to retire sometime in the near future to help with my family’s wine businesses. Other than that we loved the article and are so appreciative that you did one on our wine bar!”
We’re astounded that the police Civilian Review Board is even considering kicking the public out of its meetings and holding them in “executive session.” The CRB is not a secret society or private club. It is a public body that’s required by law to hold public meetings and whose primary mission is to increase the transparency of the police complaint process. Without openness there’s little point in the CRB. Eugene tried secret police review meetings. We got cops out raping or sexually abusing people in the dark.
• The puffs of smoke have emerged, and the secret cabal that runs the UO has given the institution a new pope, er, president, Richard Lariviere. Lariviere swooshed into office last week in the wake of the state higher ed board’s secret hiring process. Who is he? What does he think of the tough sports vs. academics and donors vs. democracy issues the UO is grappling with? Who knows? Phil Knight probably knows, and that made La-what’s-his-face a slam dunk.
• Dealing with congestion in west Eugene is one of the most divisive issues Eugene has faced in decades, pitting conservatives against progressives and even defining council and mayoral races. The battle over the proposed West Eugene Parkway (WEP) finally ended with Mayor Kitty Piercy’s tie-breaking vote to withdraw city support for the highway. The ill-conceived parkway through protected wetlands would likely have never survived legal challenges, but the unresolved WEP question stood in the way of better solutions for dealing with traffic and other issues in west Eugene.
Plenty of skepticism surrounded the formation of the West Eugene Coalition (WEC). Was it really possible for developers, business owners, city officials and environmentalists to work together with mediators to come up with a workable transportation plan for the area? It was a difficult two-year process and we won’t know the results until a few years have passed. Meanwhile, the collaboration can serve as a model for how a politically divided city and county can come together to resolve big issues.
We will see the details of the WEC plan Friday (see News Briefs). Congrats to all those who participated in the process. The latest list of WEC members includes John Allcott, Susan Ban, Alan Buck, Rick Duncan, Gerry Gaydos, Rob Inerfeld, Patricia Johnston, Don Kahle, Kevin Matthews, Aleta Miller, Ed Moor, Deborah Noble, Mary O’Brien, Kitty Piercy, Emily Proudfoot, Chris Pryor, Larry Reed, Rusty Rexius, Jack Roberts, Tom Schwetz, Faye Stewart, Paul Thompson, Jim Welsh, Gary Wildish, Sue Wolling, Jan Wostmann and Rob Zako.
• More good news on the local economy could be found in Jack Roberts’ talk to City Club last week. Roberts heads the Lane Metro Partnership and he sees our valley as poised to recover well once the economy turns around. He figures the local RV industry will revive but will no longer be a growth industry. He sees the empty Hynix plant as a good site for solar panel construction, perhaps even as a joint venture between Hynix and another company. Eugene is already growing new technology enterprises, he says, and a cluster of natural foods manufacturers is expanding distribution nationwide. Our well-educated and trained workforce is also attractive for business and industry coming in or expanding.
Roberts is still a big advocate for expanding our urban growth boundary, enterprise zones and creating more industrial land, and he still thinks Hynix was a net gain for Eugene. What Roberts doesn’t figure into his calculations are the financial liabilities from trashing our land, air and water. Poorly regulated industries generate profits while they can, then leave us picking up the tab for habitat destruction, blight and generations of victims of asthma, cancer and countless other ailments. And do we even know what toxic chemicals are left behind at Hynix? Our economic future might better lie in arts, education and green small business rather than Roberts’s mix which includes heavy industry. For instance, the news that the Lord Leebrick Theatre is buying a huge chunk of Connor & Woolley property might mean a huge step for a languishing area of downtown.
JACQUIE AND DR. RICHARD LITCHFIELD
The descendants of pioneer families who arrived in Oregon in the 1850s and 1890s, respectively, Richard Litchfield of Newport met his wife Jacquie while both were students at Willamette University in her home town of Salem. Richard went on to dental school in Portland, then served an orthodontic residency in New Jersey, while Jacquie came to Eugene for a master’s in counseling. He rejoined her here in 1971 and had a private practice in orthodontics until his retirement two years ago. She worked as a school counselor in the 4J District. “About 12 years ago, I felt I needed to contribute something,” says Richard, who signed up with Health Volunteers Overseas to teach orthodontics at a dental school in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2000. “Jacquie came along to teach English.” The couple fell in love with the country and the people they met. This year they will return to familiar lodgings at the “Lucky Hotel” in Hanoi for the 10th consecutive year. “My style of teaching is to observe and diagnose cases together and share western techniques,” says Richard. “The idea for me is to get to the peasants. The people we teach will teach others who work in the hamlets and villages.”