News Briefs: Y Civic Stadium of Choice | Will WOW Trees Stay Standing? | Kids: Don’t Drink the Toxic Water | City Unsafe for Pedestrians | Commissioner Censure? | EW Wins 14 Awards | Bike Politics | Activist Alert | Early Deadline |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Broad Income Tax Got Broad No Vote
Happening People: Mo Bowen
Y CIVIC STADIUM OF CHOICE
Eugene City Councilor Alan Zelenka this week handed the 4J School Board a bag of lemons for lemonade.
Zelenka called proposals to tear down the historic Civic Stadium lemons and said combining the YMCA and Save Civic soccer proposals with backing from the owner of Market of Choice presented an opportunity. “This is your opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons,” he said and handed over the bag of fruit he bought at Market of Choice.
Zelenka said the proposal from Rick Wright to consider a YMCA and Save Civic collaboration with Wrights financial backing was financially and legally doable for the school district. “Im pretty sure they can do it, whether they will choose to do it is a different story,” he said. “Its a significant game changer.”
Zelenka said the city of Eugene does not legally commit to having to choose among offers in its requests for proposals for selling property, and 4J could open a new process that would give the YMCA/Civic collaboration time to put together a detailed offer.
The collaboration could offer 4J more financial certainty than the Fred Meyer proposal, according to Zelenka. The shopping center is contingent on getting permits for a controversial demolition and a store that could compete with other area businesses.
Zelenka said that the collaboration still needs to figure out its financing for a combined project that could cost roughly $30-$40 million. But he said combining YMCA and Save Civic fundraising with local business backing will help. “It becomes more of a community project,” he said.
The city could also help by working with the collaboration to allow off-site parking at the adjacent high school to meet city code requirements, according to Zelenka. The city has given the UO similar waivers for its arena and stadium projects.
The city could also help by finding another site for the Fred Meyer proposal. Nearer to downtown, “theres a lot of underdeveloped areas,” Zelenka said.
Asked about whether the city could help Fred Meyer locate at the large, former Eugene Clinic site on Willamette, Zelenka said, “thats an interesting idea.” ã Alan Pittman
WILL WOW TREES STAY STANDING?
The WOW Halls two bigleaf maples that the city recently put on the chopping block could provide shade for the historic building and popular music venue a little while longer, according to a report by an independently contracted arborist. The city is willing to let one of the two trees live a little longer.
The trees were recently designated for removal by the city of Eugene due to the presence of Ganodderma Spp., a decaying fungus, as well as Armillaria shoestring root rot. Mark Snyder, Eugenes urban forester, has said he was concerned the trees are not structurally sound.
But the WOW Hall secured an extension for the removal until May 26, pending the judgment of the independently contracted arborist. Damon Shrosk, of Colton, Ore.s Treecology inspected the trees on May 16, accompanied by Jon Pincus of the WOW Hall and Snyder.
Pincus has fought to preserve the trees, not only for their historic value ã they are mentioned in the WOW Halls listing on the National Register of Historic Places ã but also because shade from the trees keeps the building cool in the summer and provides the venue with energy savings. Pincus is concerned that it will take decades for the small saplings that will be planted to replace the trees to provide the benefits of the current bigleaf maples.
Shrosks report said the trees could be maintained safely for seven to12 years, if recommended remedial measures are followed and with yearly inspections. The report said that the trees are both “obviously over mature” and the real question is if they “can be retained safely for •a while longer.” The report said the trees could be potentially manageable as living structures while the new trees are growing large enough to provide beneficial shade.
After seeing the report, city planner Neil Bjorklund responded that the city is willing to compromise and let the southernmost of the two trees slated for removal stay standing with pruning and annual inspections. The middle tree however, Bjorklund wrote, will be cut down this week.
“We do not concur with the citys analysis on this and plan on continuing the discussion,” said Pincus. ã Brit McGinnis and Camilla Mortensen
KIDS: DONT DRINK THE TOXIC WATER
Triangle Lake residents say that not only have their bodies tested positive for herbicides, a recent test showed the chemical imazapyr is in the water their children drink at Triangle Lake Charter School. School officials say the levels are too low for concern.
Day Owen, along with his rural activist group the Pitchfork Rebellion, has been an outspoken critic of toxic herbicide use in the Triangle Lake area in the Coast Range west of Eugene. He says after the school went ahead in December with a “chop and squirt” technique of applying herbicide to plants growing in a clearcut that surrounds the school, a concerned parent decided to take a sample of the drinking water.
Owen says he and other parents had asked the school board not to apply Arsenal, an herbicide containing imazapyr, within 60 feet of the school. “It should never be used near a well,” Owen says. He says that the chemical “sinks deeper into the ground than other herbicides and has a long track record of polluting groundwater and wells.”
The first day his daughter, Ivana, returned to school after the chemical application, Owen says, she had to go home sick after spending 45 minutes in a classroom with an open window near the recent chemical application. Owen says his daughters throat was so swollen she could hardly breath.
The water sample, taken in April, was sent to the USDA for testing, Owen says, and the result was a positive result for imazapyr. According to an article in the Journal of Pesticide Reform, formerly a publication of the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, the chemical breaks down into quinolinic acid, which is a neurotoxin that causes headaches and depression, nerve lesions and symptoms similar to Huntingtons disease.
But school Superintendent LeAnne Raze says, “I have been in contact with both DEQ and USDA and unofficially they have told me that the testing result is 1,000 times lower than a level that would initiate safety concerns for our students.”
“The children have been drinking some level of imazapyr from drinking fountains, and that same well water is used to prepare the food in the kitchens,” Owen says.
He says the parents involved brought the information from the test to the school board May 18 and let it know about these results.
Owen says, “We dont want our children drinking any amount of weed killer,” and that he wants parents to be notified of the test as well as for more testing to be done. “Its important for parents to know and make an informed choice,” he says. He says he is also concerned about the effects and interactions of unnamed “inert ingredients” in the chemical mixture that was applied as well as interactions with 2,4-D and atrazine, the herbicides found in the urine of 21 Triangle Lake area residents, including Owen and two children.
Raze did not respond to a question of whether the school intends to conduct its own test for the chemical. ã Camilla Mortensen
City Unsafe for Pedestrians
Eugene-Springfield ranks as the most dangerous metro area in the state for pedestrians. In the past ten years, drivers killed 63 pedestrians in the area, according to data released by Transportation for America (TforA) this week.
In Eugene, drivers have struck and injured 141 pedestrians in the last five years, killing 11 people, according to state accident data gathered by the city.
Amid such street carnage, the city of Eugene will hold its first-ever Pedestrian Safety Summit from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm Wednesday, June 1, in the Library Bascom-Tykeson room.
TforAs “Dangerous by Design” study faults politicians and transportation planners for not funding and building streets that are safe for humans: “Sadly, it is the elderly, children and minorities who are killed and injured in disproportionate numbers, due to this failure to build roads with everyones safety in mind.”
The Eugene summit will allow attendees to give input on what needs to be done to improve pedestrian safety in Eugene. Speakers include: Ray Thomas, a Portland attorney specializing in bike and pedestrian law; Dan Barkovic, city prosecutor; police Sgt. Derel Schulz; and Dr. Travis Littman, Sacred Heart trauma surgeon.
Oregon and Eugene dedicate almost all of their transportation money to increasing vehicle speed rather than pedestrian safety. Five years ago, the Eugene City Council created a policy that directed a small amount of money previously available for pedestrian and bike safety to instead be spent on street maintenance.
Nationally, pedestrians account for 12 percent of all traffic deaths, but states have allocated only 1.5 percent of available federal funds to pedestrian safety projects, according to TforA. The Republican U.S. House is also considering big cuts in pedestrian and bike safety funding, according to the national group.
The Eugene summit is sponsored by the citys Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) and the City of Eugenes Transportation Planning Team.
The city has identified 11th, 18th and 6th avenues as the streets with the most pedestrian accidents. All are busy streets the city designed to maximize fast car traffic with little concern for vulnerable road users. TforA has posted a Google street view map of deadly locations at http://bit.ly/keyGpj online.
The city hired seven new police officers to patrol downtown, but so far the unit has focused mostly on excluding the homeless rather than on the lethal threat from dangerous drivers.
Last year, the number of pedestrians killed by drivers in Oregon doubled to 62. In response, a bill clarifying when a pedestrian in a crosswalk has the right of way was proposed in the Legislature.
Eugene is working on a new Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan that proposes hundreds of key safety improvements. But it remains to be seen whether the city staff and the City Council will actually prioritize the money and road space needed to promote greener, healthier active transportation and save lives. ã Alan Pittman
Eugene Water and Electric Board Commissioner Joann Ernst faces censure from her fellow commissioners for appearing at a recent protest at the Seneca biomass plant. Ernst appeared at the May 5 protest to express her opinion on Seneca Jones Timber Companys plans to log Trapper, an old-growth forest in the McKenzie River watershed. That sale has since been halted.
Other protesters were there to speak out against Senecas new biomass burning plant and its effects on the lungs of nearby residents as well as the companys logging practices and issues of whether biomass burning is a renewable resource. EWEB is purchasing energy produced by the plant.
EWEB spokesman Joe Harwood said that on May 17 Commissioner Rich Cunningham “put forth a motion for an agenda item (to be brought for board consideration on June 7), which directed the board president and vice president to meet with EWEB legal counsel to prepare a resolution of censure relating to Commissioner Ernsts participation in the Seneca protests on May 5, 2011.”
Harwood said EWEB staff is neutral on these issues: “This is a board issue and does not involve staff.” He said the “motion was approved by a majority vote of the board and a resolution will be developed for board review, consideration and possible action.”
He added, “As of May 24, no resolution has been developed. Because no action has been taken, any comment by EWEB staff at this point would be speculative and thus inappropriate.”
It is unclear what about Ernsts presence at the protest Cunningham wants to censure. The boards code of conduct says, “Once a decision is reached, commissioners will support the board decision even though they might hold a minority viewpoint,” but it does not appear than the EWEB board has taken a position on Senecas old-growth logging.
Cunningham had no comment.
“They are trying to say that I dont have freedom of speech as a public official,” Ernst says.
She says she has not spoken in criticism of EWEB, and her concerns at the protest were with Senecas old-growth logging of Trapper.
Federal Judge Thomas Coffin wrote in his May 24 ruling on Trapper that the public is entitled to be accurately informed of the impact of the proposed action on endangered species listed northern spotted owls and be given “meaningful opportunity” to weigh in. He wrote, “Central decisions affecting the analysis and approval of the Trapper timber sale were based on a factual inaccuracy and the public has yet to be informed of the actual findings.”
As for EWEB and Ernst, “There are important decisions coming up,” Ernst says, from questions concerning the utilitys rates to dam relicensing. The censure issue, she says, “is taking time away from the real work of EWEB.” ã Camilla Mortensen
EW WINS 14 AWARDS
Not to brag Ä well, maybe a little: EW earned six first place trophies and 14 awards total from the Society of Professional Journalists at the annual awards banquet May 21.
According to SPJ, more than 2,500 entries from dozens of media organizations throughout the region were reviewed and rated by out-of-state judges.
In the Northwest Excellence in Journalism competition to honor exceptional journalism in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, EW took three first place awards in the alternative newsweeklies category: Freelancer Ben Fogelson took first in the social issues category for “Taking Mom Home,” his piece on his mother and her assisted suicide. Rick Levin won in lifestyles reporting for “Desperately Seeking Sasquatch,” and Camilla Mortensen won first in environment and science reporting for her series on the McKenzie River, “Mayhem on the McKenzie.” Photographer Todd Cooper took home a third place award for his portrait of Winona LaDuke for EWs “Fighting Fossil Fools” cover story.
EW also competed against newspapers across Oregon and Southwest Washington in the SPJ non-daily newspaper contest. Levins Sasquatch story took first in general features, and Mortensen took first in religion and ethics for her story on police fibbing, “License to Lie.” Mortensen took second in lifestyles for “Airstream Dreams” and “Mayhem on the McKenzie” was third in environment.
EW swept the arts criticism category with a first for freelancer and former visual arts and theater editor Suzi Steffens review of Eurydice at the Lord Leebrick, “Should Have Known Better;” a second for Molly Templetons book review of Blake ButlersScorch Atlas, “Demands of the Drowning;” and a third for Templeton for her review of David Mitchells novel,The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Steffen also took a second in arts reporting for “Post-Post Office Space.”
In business news, Alan Pittman, took third for “Trash + Cash: Eugenes Garbage Goes Corporate.” Editor Ted Taylor won second place for his snappy headlines.
In newspapers with circulation over 65,000, Eugenes other paper news source, the R-G, took home two awards: Greg Bolt got a second in sports reporting for “Feeding the Green Machine” and Mark Baker got a first in short feature stories for “No Leaving a Beaver.” Local CBS affiliate KVAL won eight awards in the television category with firsts in spot news, general news and special report/documentary. ãCamilla Mortensen
Oregonian political reporter and bike book author Jeff Mapes told Eugene bike advocates last week, “if you’re not having anybody complain, then, frankly, you’re not doing anything.”
Mapes, who wrote Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities two years ago, credited the big jump in biking in Portland and other cities to an “iron triangle” of organized bike advocates, politicians and city transportation bureaucrats. Mapes spoke at Cozmic Pizza at an event sponsored by the UO group Live Move.
Mapes apologized that his book didnt mention Eugene much because he didnt want to make it too Oregon-centric. “I purposely, when I was writing my book, didnt spend much time down here.”
New York Citys transportation bureaucrat Janette Sadik-Khan has become a celebrity by pushing the green, healthy, efficient and livable move to biking, according to Mapes. “Shes someone in a powerful position and she doesnt say, •oh well, just do whats easy or little crumbs,” he said. “Shes been very aggressive.”
Mapes said the increase in biking has lead to a “bikelash” in Portland, other cities and the Republican U.S. House as bikes compete for a share of road funding and space.
Multi-billion dollar road projects like a proposed bridge over the Columbia River to serve urban sprawl in Portland continue to garner support from Democrats due to lobbying by construction unions and truck freight interests, according to Mapes. Mapes said the expensive bridge may require a hike in the statewide gas tax. “You people down in Eugene will pay for it.”
Bike advocates are a “small minority” but like NRA gun advocates they enjoy the advantage of focused intensity, Mapes said. “You are very passionate about cycling,” he said. “They do pay attention when you are noisier.”
But the biggest ongoing advantage for bike advocates may be generational. Mapes said that like gay marriage, young people show much stronger support for biking. The culture shift to bike transportation “is obviously not going to be easy, but I hope Im around to see it,” Mapes said. ã Alan Pittman
A version of this story first appeared at Eugenecycles.com
« Many Rivers Group Oregon Chapter Sierra Club will hold its monthly Beer Social from 7 to 9 pm Thursday, May 26, at High Street Brewery, 1243 High St., in Eugene. To get on the mailing list, email email@example.com or visit http://wkly.ws/qk
« The Oregon Global Warming Commission is posting an online survey to provide feedback on the 2020 Roadmap, as well as the states efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint. The survey is at http://wkly.ws/12c and comments on issues of relevance to the Global Warming Commission can be emailed to Oregon.GWC@state.or.us
EW offices will be closed for Memorial Day Monday, May 30. The early deadline for reserving display ad space in our June 2 Summer Guide issue is 5 pm Thursday, May 26. For more information, call 484-0519.
« We heard the voters on the Eugene school income tax measure, but have yet to hear a single viable solution from the opposition to our school funding crisis. We also felt the ferocity of the anti-tax, anti-government, anti-public employee forces and we expect even more ferocity ahead. Who ever imagined that public school teachers would be such targets? Two groups leading the charge are Americans for Prosperity, nationally funded by the Koch brothers and professionally staffed in Oregon, and Healthy Communities Initiative (HCI), incorporated as a non-profit on March 11, 2011, by Dennis Morgan of Springfield. HCI loaned $15,000 to the PAC for Citizens for Jobs & Schools. Who donated the $15,000? The mainstream press should be interested. Speaking of the mainstream press, The Register-Guard appears to accuse Eugene Weekly, part-owner Art Johnson and his daughter-in-law Hillary Johnson of advocating for creative ways to preserve Eugenes history of excellent public education. Guilty as charged.
« “Yes we can” rings true again with the prospect of the Eugene YMCA and the Save Civic Stadium folks joining forces to develop 10.2 acres in the middle of the city with much more than a shopping mall. Rick Wright, a successful local businessman who owns Market of Choice and, incidentally, loves soccer, has offered to lease the site for three years to give the two groups time to fashion a plan and nail down financing for a great place. That leaves out the Fred Meyer development and the Ys proposed apartment plan, which would have housed 400 to 500 students out there. So, whats next? Some imagination from the school board and the city, please. This community is stepping up!
« Only our Oregon Bach Festival and Portlands Time-Based Art Festival made it to The New York Times “Summer Stages” section from Oregon this spring. Ashlands Shakespeare festival often shows up, but not this year. About OBF they said, “Bach takes a back seat to other themes, one of which is called •In Praise of Women,” and listed that wonderful program, plus other highlights. The Times called the Portland dance festival “Americas best performance festival of the summer.” Planning your summer? EWs definitive summer guide comes out next Thursday
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
On Friday, May 27, artist and gallery owner Mo Bowen celebrates the first anniversary of her Voyeur Gallery with an opening reception for her own exhibit of photographs, paintings, mixed media and scanography. “I just recently heard the name •scanography,” she says. “But Ive been doing scanner art since I was a kid on the Xerox machine in my dads print shop in Chicago.” Bowen earned degrees in photography and psychology from Dominican University in her hometown, then moved west and spent a year rock climbing in the Sierras before joining her sister in Eugene in 2004. She continued to photograph and have exhibits while working various jobs until early last year, when her boyfriend noticed a recently-vacated small storefront at 547 Blair. After three months of carpentry and painting, Voyeur Gallery opened on May 28, 2010. “Every month we have a new show. We do an artist discussion and an audience critique,” she says. “Those are great nights to engage the community and challenge the artist.” Bowens 6 pm opening coincides with other Whiteaker-area gallery receptions on the Last Friday Art Walk. She will offer a free gallery talk at 7 pm on June 9 and a $30 scanography workshop at 7 pm on June 16.