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September 1, 2015 12:40 PM

Democratic Party of Lane County Chair Chris Wig today announced his run for Eugene City Council Ward 1 in the 2016 primary election. Joshua Skov announced his candidacy last week for the position now held by George Brown. Brown may or may not seek re-election.

Here are additional statements from the press release sent out today by Wig's campaign:

“Eugene is growing, and we’re not growing with it,” Wig said. “I have demonstrated my ability to work with diverse groups of people, and I’m running for city council because I’m ready to bring Eugenians together to address our most pressing concerns.”

Chris Wig believes our city’s concerns, such as housing, homelessness, drug addiction and police accountability, require new solutions. He will build coalitions of Eugenians to create a safer, healthier and more prosperous city.

“Time and time again, I’ve seen Chris stand up for our shared progressive values. He will be an effective voice on the city council, and I’ll be encouraging my neighbors to support him,” said Sloan Heermance, an author and retired teacher who lives on College Hill.

Through his successful leadership of the Lane County Democrats, Wig has also earned the support of elected leaders, including Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian. “Democrats in Lane County have achieved tremendous success under Chris’ leadership. He’s a rising star, and Eugene would be very lucky to have him on the city council,” Avakian said.

Chris Wig has lived in Ward 1 since moving to Eugene to earn his master’s degree at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. He is employed as a drug and alcohol counselor at Emergence Addiction and Behavioral Therapies, where he works with clients from the Lane County Drug Court and Veterans Court. Wig serves as Chair of the Democratic Party of Lane County, a member of the Eugene Civilian Review Board and a founding member of Grupo Latino de Acción Directa—Lane County’s premier Latino community action group.

To date, Wig has raised almost $4,500 in contributions, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s website.

Eugene City Ward 1 encompasses portions of the Downtown, Jefferson-Westside, Friendly Street, and Far West neighborhoods.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/friendsofchriswig or call 357-7095.

September 1, 2015 02:15 PM

Most of us love our amazing National Park system, but some turn to Yelp to voice their frustrations. Bugs, crowds, parking get people ranting. And it can be entertaining. This story is from Mother Jones.

August 28, 2015 03:05 PM
Photo by Amber Hogan
Photo by Amber Hogan

On March 27, 2014, journalist Serena Markstrom stood outside the Register-Guardnewspaper, pregnant and unemployed.

Today, Aug. 28, 2015, she filed a complaint against the paper in Lane County Circuit Court seeking economic and non-economic losses of $525,000. The case centers on claims of gender discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation and violating the Oregon Family Leave Act. You can read the full document below.

Markstrom, who also goes by her married name Serena Markstrom Nugent, was fired from the paper where she had worked for 12 years and instead of a baby shower, former fellow employees at the R-G gathered to say goodbye on a rainy sidewalk in front of the newspaper’s Chad Drive offices.

Markstrom had worked at the daily paper in Eugene, Oregon since college and was well known in the community for her lively entertainment reporting and social media presence.

In the months before the paper fired her, Nugent had been pulled from her longtime music and entertainment beat, a beat the court filing says “for which she was recruited, trained, experienced and exceptional” and put on newsroom beat that covered all of rural Lane County. As EWwrote at the time of the change in her beat:

Such switches, as well as downsizing of newspaper newsrooms, have become more common in recent years as print newspapers deal with a changing world of internet publishing and social media. Moving writers to beats they are unfamiliar with is often seen as a strategy to get rid of experienced, higher-paid writers and replace them with newer reporters at a lower pay scale.

The complaint goes on to say that The Register-Guard failed to provide Markstrom any “meaningful help,” for more than seven months, but her editors were nonetheless supportive until “all of that changed dramatically when she notified The Register-Guard of her need for pregnancy related family leave.”

The court document does not say that Markstrom never made any errors in her time at the R-G and in fact points several of them out, rather the argument is that the newspaper “precipitously re-characterized any of Ms. Markstrom's mistakes in the months before  her pregnancy as serious performance deficiencies.”

After the R-G presented Markstrom with a “lengthy performance improvement plan that threatened her with termination in the very near future over issues that it had never previously brought to Ms. Markstrom's attention as sufficiently problematic to justify discipline, let alone termination” her doctor removed her from the workplace for the rest of her pregnancy, the court filing says.

After Markstrom submitted her request for Oregon Family Leave Act intermittent leave to deal with pregnancy related illness, the complaint says that Wendy Baker — a member of the Baker family, which owns the R-G, who is legal counsel and director of human resources at the paper — instructed Markstrom’s editor to “promptly document any and all of Ms. Markstrom's conduct &rdquo that the editor, Ilene Aleshire, “could be critical of because, according to Ms. Baker, The Register-Guard ‘needed to get this  done soon,’ before Ms. Markstrom "got into her pregnancy and … claimed pregnancy discrimination."

Ultimately Markstrom was fired for being "dishonest, insubordinate and having destroyed company property” after checking her email while on pregnancy related disability leave.

According to the complaint, Aleshire told Markstrom that she could not ‘do any work, including checking emails and voicemails,’ while she was on disability leave.

However, Markstrom's complaint says she understood this to mean that she could not work — which might include checking work-related emails and voicemails. “She did not understand this to be a total prohibition against accessing her email account for personal matters.”

The R-G and its union — Eugene Newspaper Guild Local 37194 of the Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers for America — had previously been in a legal battle that the complaint says “led to a judgment authorizing Guild members to use their Register-Guard emails for union and personal matters.”

Markstrom still writes and currently freelances a parenting column for a local start-up lifestyle magazine, Lane Monthly.

EW has contacted Wendy Baker and Dave Baker at the R-G for comment. Wendy Baker says she may comment after she has seen the lawsuit. EW will be updating this blog online if more information, including a response from the R-G arises, and following up with an news story in print.

Update: the R-G has done a story on the lawsuit. EW will be coming out with a print news story on Thursday.

Full disclosure: Camilla Mortensen attended Serena Markstrom's wedding and the writers are friends.

August 27, 2015 11:55 AM

Ever notice that the Register-Guard writes a lot about Duck football? Like three stories a day. R-G readers must like football (and crime and the weather, based on an informal survey of what shows up on the web).

Last week the web editors must have gotten just a wee bit football crazed, what with a game coming up Sept. 5 and all.

August 26, 2015 03:42 PM

Student debt? Nah. Rising cost of tuition? Nope. Who can think about that when you’ve got yellow O’s in your eyes? Now, you can put your student loan dollars toward Dooney & Bourke’s (ironically named) $218 NCAA Oregon Hobo bag or the $128 NCAA Oregon Continental Clutch. In fact, when those student loan bills come due, you can store them chicly in the $248 NCAA Oregon Zip Zip Satchel.

Yes, the University of Oregon’s ubiquitous green and yellow spirit has finally vomited on designer fashion (it’s no longer limited to Victoria’s Secret). The luxury handbag and accessories brand has added the University of Oregon to its Signature Collegiate Collection, which includes 31 other schools. Thank god. Those co-eds have to keep their ticket stubs somewhere. At bowl games, UO students can now swing their school-pride designer duds at other schools’ fans when things get heated (Auburn is also part of the collection).

Dooney & Bourke wants you to know (via press release) that this collection is perfect:
“For newly graduated high school student entering their freshman year of college or seasoned college veterans with a few years under their belt, it’s never too late too late to proudly support their new home or the place they called home for the past few years.”

Select UO Duck Stores will begin selling them during 2015-16 football season.

According to an Aug. 12 Forbes article: “The collegiate merchandise market is second only to Major League Baseball, with $4.6 billion in annual retail sales.”

The article also states these licensing deals for universities are brokered via sports licensing brand IMG College, a third-party media rights holder, which the UO has been a client of since 2008.

The IMG College client webpage for UO states: Production and distribution of radio programs; signage; corporate partner program; game and special events promotions for radio and television; market Duck Vision Video Production on football game day; printing and publishing; hospitality; naming rights for baseball facility; sale of advertising on ticket fronts/back; ticket envelopes and parking passes.

A December 2014 Around the O post says that “Currently, almost 400 companies are licensed to use University of Oregon trademarks.”

Raise a green and yellow clutch to pure unbridled and un-commercialized school spirit. To quote Garfunkle & Oates, “Don’t I look cute in this football shirt?”

Sports! Go Sports!

August 26, 2015 03:32 PM

Back in 2008, some UO students and other local groups held a rally downtown to celebrate that the Lane County Commission was limiting use of pesticide sprays. Seven years later, the Oregon Court of Appeals has handed down a ruling in a case related to an arrest at that rally, an arrest that was later appealed and has been making its way through the court system ever since.


At the time of the rally and arrest there was a little, shall we say, confusion between Homeland Security and the Eugene Police Department. 

Ian Van Ornum, then an 18-year-old college student was performing street theater dressed in a fake Hazmat suit and carrying a fake pesticide spray bottle — actually a large spray bottle of water with a skull and crossbones Sharpied on to it. A Homeland Security officer, according to police reports at the time, called the Eugene police, specifically naming Van Ornum.

As EW wrote back in 2008:

According to the police reports, Federal Protective Services (FPS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, was made aware of the rally in support of Lane County’s no-roadside spray policy by the EPD on May 22. That is the day EW published an article on the planned rally, featuring a photo of Ian Van Ornum, one of the leaders of “Crazy People for Wild Places,” the student group that organized the rally. Van Ornum was Tasered twice and arrested with [Day] Owen and UO student (and Eagle Scout) Tony Farley.

Day Owen, who spoke at the May 22, 2008 rally, was a member of the Pitchfork Rebellion — a group of organic farmers working to end pesticide sprays, and according to the documents, Homeland Security had been monitoring the Pitchfork Rebellion.

According to today's ruling (and the court's account of the incident is worth a read):

As the demonstration was winding down, Keedy, a federal Homeland Security officer, arrived at the demonstration, concerned because one of the other speakers had previously threatened acts of civil disobedience at federal buildings. Keedy called Solesbee of the Eugene Police Department to let him know that he was at the rally and that the rally was peaceful. Keedy described a couple of people dressed up in “exterminator costumes” who were spraying something around planters, but stated that it seemed innocuous and that he could not see “anything wrong” with what they were doing.

Eugene police came anyway, and Van Ornum was soon Tasered while prostrate on the ground. 

On Dec. 27, 2013, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that Van Ornum could continue to pursue his appeal of his conviction for resisting arrest. As EW wrote at the time:

The state Supreme Court ruling centered on the judge having proposed instructions to the jury that said a police officer should determine the appropriate use of force. Van Ornum’s attorney proposed that that the jury should consider unreasonable force from the point of view of the person being arrested. Van Ornum was convicted but as he began his appeals process there was another case of a person resisting arrest after being pepper sprayed and punched by police. In that case, the Oregon Supreme Court instructed judges to tell juries to consider the issue from the point of view of the person being arrested, and that affects Van Ornum’s case.

Today, Aug. 26, 2015, the Oregon Court of Appeals wrote  that 

The court then concluded that the trial court’s use of the Uniform Criminal Jury Instruction (UCrJI) 1227 (describing when a person is allowed to use physical force for self-defense in response to an officer’s use of unreasonable force when making an arrest) was plain error, and remanded for us to determine if we would exercise our discretion to review the error. We conclude that the gravity of the error and the ends of justice require us to exercise our discretion to correct the error and, accordingly, reverse and remand for a new trial.

In other words, seven years after his orignal arrest and Tasering, Van Ornum can have a new trial. He now plays mandolin in the Ashland-based band Patchy Sanders.

Update: KLCC is reporting that the DA has declined to retry the case.

August 26, 2015 10:05 AM

Chatter of a $15 minimum wage has permeated the nation this year, with Bernie Sanders introducing legislation last month to raise the federal minimum wage and Seattle being among the first cities to try a living wage for its citizens

The Oregon Center for Public Policy recently updated its cost of living figures for Oregon, and it's pretty clear that $9.25 an hour isn't even close to cutting it for single adults, let alone adults with children.

Check out the full update here.

August 25, 2015 01:24 PM

If you missed retired professor Guy McPherson's talk on near-term human extinction June 24, the video is now on McPherson's website. See also our cover story "Radical Predictions" July 16.