News Briefs: CPA Reports on Downtown | Sign In for Democracy | Illegal Spying in SEDA Case? | Mayor Opens Campaign Office | Charter Language Changed | Grassroots vs. Grass Seed Burning | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Greener Ventures: Sweet Life
Happening Person: Richard Stevenson
CPA REPORTS ON DOWNTOWN
Citizens for Public Accountability (CPA) devoted the month of April to a series of “Downtown Together” community meetings intended to produce suggestions and priorities for development of Eugene’s downtown. Now the results of those meetings are being distributed to the mayor, City Council, city staff and others with a request: “We ask that the city take these projects seriously and have conversations with the key individuals involved.”
|Bob O’Brien of CPA speaks at an April forum|
Among the dozens of projects and hundreds of ideas discussed, CPA identified six projects (see below) that the city could help bring to fruition through facilitation, funding assistance and other support. All are described in detail at www.lanecpa.org along with an extended list of “Things people want to see downtown,” compiled from the many hours of meetings.
• WOW Hall restoration and additions. CPA is calling for the completion of restoration and equipping of the historic WOW Hall, now housing the Community Center for Performing Arts. Both interior and exterior work are outlined in the project to “restore and outfit the entire building for functionality and marketability.”
• Network Charter School development plans. The school is launching a capital campaign to develop a new downtown campus at a location to be purchased or built. The facilities would include not only the free public high school but also “compatible missions” involving education and training in an ad-hoc alliance sharing space and expenses.
• DIVA expansion. The project would create an expanded and permanent space for multiple galleries, office spaces for a director, curator and volunteers, and facilities for a permanent collection and secure storage. The center would also include a media arts center and possibly a performing arts stage. Another possibility would be space for the Lane County Historical Museum.
• The Tango Center project. The nonprofit dance center is seeking to purchase and restore the historic Eugene Producer’s Public Market, which it has leased since 2003. The center has recently offered space during the day for The Weekday Market, providing space for local micro-enterprises.
• Year-round Farmers’ Market. This project would establish a regional market in a permanent indoor-outdoor center downtown, with accessory food processing and storage and related businesses.
• The link between the library and downtown. This project would create connecting public walks, parks and open spaces between the library and the park blocks and eventually to the Willamette River. New high-rise housing and commercial development would accommodate and benefit from the park/plaza.
SIGN IN FOR DEMOCRACY
People wanting to speak out against the string of Kevin Mannix and Bill Sizemore ballot measures on the November ballot are invited to join County Commissioner Pete Sorenson for a “Sign In for Democracy Day” next week.
The 12-hour event is set for 11 am to 11 pm Tuesday, Aug. 12 at Cozmic Pizza, 199 W. 8th Ave. in Eugene. During that time, registered voters can sign ballot measure statements that will be printed in the Voters’ Pamphlet. For 1,000 signatures gathered, the $500 state fee will be waived for a statement.
“Bill Sizemore and Kevin Mannix, and their right wing financial backers, have dominated the initiative process. We need a progressive alternative,” says Sorenson. “That alternative is supporting ballot measure statements opposing their measures and supporting progressive candidates.”
Sorenson says voters can come to express opposition to so-called “merit pay” for teachers and to a measure to ban teaching of English as a second language and to express support for proposals like getting rid of the double majority and Voter Owned Elections.
“It will only take a few minutes to allow us to get the word out on the bad ballot measures,” says Sorenson. “Let’s use the tools we have to voice our opposition to the bad ideas and promote the good ideas.”
Other progressive causes and candidates are welcome to join in the event, he says.
ILLEGAL SPYING IN SEDA CASE?
Oregon lawyers have filed an attempt to prove the U.S. government was illegally spying on the Islamic group Al-Haramain. The case is the only one in the country still challenging the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The group had an Ashland-based office run by arborist Pete Seda. Al-Haramain has been labeled as a supporter of terrorism by the U.S. government, but Seda himself has not been accused of terrorism.
Attorneys for Al-Haramain say the government incriminated itself in the case by talking about the wiretapping program publicly. They also claim they found a document, accidentally turned over by the government, that proves the wiretapping.
A federal judge has ruled that the document, because it was classified, cannot be admitted in court. If Al-Haramain’s lawyers can publicly prove the warrantless wiretap program existed, the case can proceed.
Seda is awaiting trial for accusations of money laundering and tax fraud while he ran the Islamic charity. Seda, whose detention hearing was drawn out over a period of weeks here in Eugene last August, has asked U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Hogan to relax the conditions of his release as he awaits trial.
The hearings, which debated whether Seda’s religious beliefs made him “a danger to the community,” ended with Seda’s release under restrictions including wearing a GPS device and being bound to his residence unless given permission to leave. A key item of the federal government’s evidence against Seda included an email that originated from the address Osama_bin_Laden_Muslim@hotmail.com — Camilla Mortensen
MAYOR OPENS CAMPAIGN OFFICE
|Kitty Piercy introduces her new campaign manager, Mary Van Noy, at the office opening|
Mayor Kitty Piercy opened her first walk-in campaign office at 13th and Willamette July 31, saying to the gathering of about 70 supporters, “We’re the second largest city in Oregon, known for being a progressive community. Shouldn’t we have a progressive mayor?”
Piercy has been a tiebreaker on the City Council and said her reelection is important to advance a progressive agenda and “get things done” with a council politically polarized.
Despite being outspent, Piercy got nearly 800 more votes than challenger Jim Torrey in the May primary, but she came in shy of the 50 percent plus one needed to avoid a runoff in November.
Several challenges face Piercy in November, she says, including trying to match the big checks coming into Torrey’s campaign from developers and industry, and reaching out to Democrats to “vote down the line” for progressive candidates. A lot of young Obama voters in the primary, for example, skipped over local races on the ballot.
“We all want to see positive things happen at the national level,” she said, “but we don’t want to see the opposite happen here at home.”
Helping out with Piercy’s campaign will be Mary Van Noy, her new campaign manager, and Mark Weiner, a veteran Portland political consultant. — TJT
CHARTER LANGUAGE CHANGED
Wording of the charter amendment on external review of complaints involving police employees has been revised by the City Council and city attorney this week, and certified Aug. 4. The new wording will appear as below on the November ballot unless successfully challenged in court by interested parties:
Question: Shall Charter be amended to require Council to hire Independent Police Auditor, appoint Review Board, and grant authority and duties?
Summary: Charter section 15-A currently allows, but does not require, the City Council to hire an Independent Police Auditor and appoint a Civilian Review Board. If voters approve this measure, the Charter will provide that the Council shall hire a Police Auditor and appoint a Review Board.
Charter section 15-A also currently allows the Council to grant the Police Auditor and Review Board authority and duties related to complaints involving police employees. If the voters approve this measure, the Charter will provide that the Council shall grant the authority and duties to the Police Auditor and Review Board.
The Charter’s current language in section 15-A(1) and (2) provides for hiring a Police Auditor, appointing a Review Board, and granting authority and duties. The current Charter language allows Council to eliminate the Police Auditor position or reduce and/or remove the authority and duties granted the Police Auditor and Review Board. If this measure is approved, those changes may not be made by Council, but shall be approved by the voters.
GRASSROOTS vs. GRASS SEED BURNING
While farmers in Idaho have been given permission to resume field burning, the battle over the burn continues here in Oregon. There hasn’t been a peep from Gov. Ted Kulongoski in response to the latest letter, sent July 21, from the Western Environmental Law Center demanding that he stop the fires. Local opponents to field burning have now formed a group to ban the burn.
There have been several burns set around the Willamette Valley with “significant smoke incursions” into communities like Sweet Home, says Dan Galpern of WELC.
Field burning ended in Idaho after a grassroots group of physicians called Safe Air for Everyone (SAFE) and the American Lung Association of Idaho filed a petition challenging the EPA’s exemption of field burning from Idaho’s clean air plan. The ban has been challenged in the courts repeatedly.
SAFE was formed by doctors in Idaho to protect their respiratory patients from field burning smoke. Physicians in Idaho have attributed three deaths in that state directly to smoke from field burning. People with asthma and lung disease, as well as the elderly and the very young, are the most vulnerable to the small particulate matter that enter the lungs from field burning smoke, making it difficult or even impossible for them to breathe.
Last week SAFE, the Idaho DEQ and grass seed growers reached an agreement that will allow field burning. According to SAFE, “from this point forward, no Idaho citizen should have to be hospitalized, sickened, or lose their life due to agricultural burning any more.”
Oregonians now have their own grassroots group — the Campaign to End Field Burning, made up of doctors, nurses, health professionals and other individuals and organizations. The group is spearheaded by WELC attorneys Charlie Tebbutt and Dan Galpern and coordinated by Samantha Chirillo.
The group is focusing their efforts on not only protecting the Eugene-Springfield area from the health affects of field burning, but they also seek to protect smaller nearby communities overwhelmed by field burning smoke. According to the Campaign, “the prevalence of asthma in Oregon is considerably higher than the U.S. average and continues to rise.”
In addition to the letters that WELC has sent demanding that Gov. Kulongoski and the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (composed of members appointed by the governor) use their statutory authority to ban the burn, the Campaign has begun a petition drive to aid their grassroots efforts.
To access the petition, go to www.endfieldburning.org and to find out if today is a field-burning day, go to www.oda.state.or.us/nrd/fb/new_today.html for an update. — Camilla Mortensen
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,130 U.S. troops killed* (4,125)
• 30,364 U.S. troops injured* (30,324)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 94,327 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (94,285)
• $542.5 billion cost of war ($540.6 billion)
• $154.3 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($153.7 million)
* through August 4, 2008; 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 1.1 million.
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Near Lorane: Weyerhaeuser (744-4600) will aerially spray 313 acres with Garlon 4 and seven other herbicides starting Aug. 18 (#50660).
• Near Fall Creek Reservoir: Strata Forestry (726-0845) started ground spraying 39 acres with Arsenal and Accord herbicides for Giustina Resources (485-1500) at the end of July (#55601).
• Near Bear Ridge above Lake Creek: Oregon Department of Forestry (935-2283) will roadside spray Garlon 4 herbicide starting Aug. 15 (#50654). Garlon 4 and Tahoe 4E herbicides are restricted near Coastal Coho salmon streams. See Oregon Department of Agriculture’s buffer requirements at www.oregon.gov/ODA/PEST/buffers.shtml
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
• The image of the Ken Kesey sculptural work The Storyteller used on page 15 last week should have been credited to Russell Fegles.
• In last week’s news brief on Neil Van Steenbergen, injured in a bicycle accident in Germany, his correct place of recovery is the Oregon Rehabilitation Center at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
• Trust was the issue when the police auditor position and the Civilian Review Board were set up. Trust continues to erode when Police Chief Lehner decides that he alone can determine when and which civilian-initiated cases go to the auditor. In “sensitive” cases, the ordinance provides for confidentiality. As he has done in the past, Lehner delayed giving the auditor further information, thus limiting her ability to effectively monitor the case. What is he hiding?
The key point here is we, as a community, cannot allow our police chief to talk his way out of this mess, and that appears to be what’s happening. The end result would be weakened independent police review. City Manager Jon Ruiz is not blaming Lehner for violating the law, but instead is calling for “additional procedures and agreements to address this type of unusual circumstance.” And even Mayor Piercy is talking about “areas of differing opinion between the police chief and auditor,” and “issues that need to be resolved.” Well, the issue is the police chief knowingly and secretly violated the law, and he got caught. Period. The city manager’s defense of Lehner this week points out the need to keep our auditor independent from city bureaucracy.
We hear an ad-hoc group of community leaders will be addressing the City Council at 7:30 pm Monday, Aug. 11 calling for action: The council must direct the city manager to reprimand or otherwise make the police chief accountable for his illegal actions; and if he’s not willing to do that, then both the manager and chief need to be disciplined. And the council must order the city manager to make certain that shielding of personnel records from investigation not be allowed in current negotiations with the police union.
The group is also expected to voice support for the auditor and the Citizen Review Board. We were lucky to hire Cris Beamud for the first two years of our program. She has no political agenda, no axe to grind, and she is a real professional, leaving here soon for Atlanta. How about thoroughly picking Beamud’s brain before she leaves?
• Delta leaving? We hope this rumor is wrong. It comes from a staffer inside the Eugene airport who says Delta service probably will be pulling out of here within the next six months. That would be the end of the Salt Lake City and some East Coast connections. Hopefully, local persuaders can avert this one.
• We’ve long appreciated the technical skill and artistry of R-G photographers, but a Chris Pietsch photo that ran July 30 looked like a big ad for the anti-police auditor gang. The photo, in color and above the fold in the City/Region section, showed Scott Thomas holding a sign saying “A Million Dollars For Police Review While Criminals Run Loose.” Nothing in the short caption corrects the misleading message. The actual budget of the auditor is $379,000 a year, and the cost of not having effective independent police review during the Magaña/Lara police sex scandals has been estimated at $5 million in settlements plus likely monumental city attorney defense fees.
• For those who love statistics and jumping to conclusions about them, here are a few from the new Media Audit study, an independent annual spring survey subscribed to by EW and other local media. Media Audit surveyed 720 households and calculates we have about 89,600 readers in Lane County alone, a big jump over last year. The average age of our readers is getting younger at 39.6, and 62 percent of our readers have some college or a college degree. Average household income of our readers is $57,648 — higher than the average. You guessed it, dear readers: You are better educated, more prosperous and better looking than most other local media consumers (“better looking” is based on our personal observations of readers who walk in our doors).
Does this extensive survey tell us much about the local economy? Well, the average household income determined by the survey has barely grown over the past year, from $55,120 to $55,826; so it’s curious that more readers this year say they are planning to buy a home in the next two years. On the other hand, our readers report they are attending fewer rock concerts and joining fewer health clubs and buying fewer items of women’s clothing. No surprise Internet usage is up and more people are planning to upgrade their personal computer hardware and software. About 2 percent fewer readers are planning ocean cruises than last year, but 10 percent more are planning to take college courses. Priorities appear to be changing in a tightening economy and job market. So join the crowd and cruise on down to LCC for some adult ed.
While he was a student at Orinda High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, Richard Stevenson did darkroom work for his father, a commercial photographer. He later abandoned photography for many years while working in home construction and teaching mountaineering skills. “I had a guide service on Mount Shasta,” he says. “I taught cross-country skiing, ice climbing and snow camping.” When his father died of a heart attack shortly after moving to Eugene in the 1970s, Stevenson moved north to be close to his mom. The undiagnosed congenital high blood pressure that had claimed his dad began to destroy his optic nerve just as he was getting serious about photography. “We were Christian Scientists,” he explains. “I have 20 percent vision in my right eye and can see only peripherally in the left.” Stevenson nonetheless continues to take pictures with an autofocus camera, especially on yearly visits with an old friend to southern Utah. His scenic photographs of the Four Corners area will be on display at the Winestyles shop in September and October and at Allann Brothers in November and December.