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EW! A Blog.

March 13, 2009 10:43 AM

Twenty-one Roosevelt Middle School students biked to school today to save the world and perhaps win a prize, according to Freiker.

What’s Freiker? Freiker (short for frequent biker) is a growing program started in Boulder, Colorado that rewards kids with iPods and other prizes for biking to schools. Kids put a RFID sticker (like in the library) on their bike helmets and pass under a solar powered scanner that counts their bike trips and sends the data to the Freiker.org website.

Frequent bikers get a prize from program sponsors, but the big prize is healthier kids, more livable cities and less global warming. Freiker has counted 105,000 rides since 2005.

March 13, 2009 04:38 PM

After the closure of the county’s armory warming shelter, the homeless have few choices but the county jail now.

Eugene Acting Police Chief Pete Kerns told the City Club last month that arrest and the jail is where “many” homeless mentally ill people wind up. “It’s a dry warm place where they can get warm meals and some treatment,” he said.

But instead of calling for a homeless shelter to properly treat such victims of mental illness, Kerns called for an increase in the size of the jail by up to 20 fold. The 1,600 bed jail Kerns envisions would cost $160 million to build and $50 million a year to operate, far more than a homeless shelter.

Meanwhile, Eugene police continue to take enforcement actions against human beings for the “crime” of homelessness.

According to a staff memo this week, the city code only permits being homeless under certain prescribed conditions:

“Eugene Code 4.816 allows up to three vehicles to camp on vacant, industrial, commercial, religious or public property with the owner’s permission if standards such as sanitation are met. In addition, one vehicle can camp in the driveway of a single family residence or in the backyard in a tent if the same standards are met. EC 4.815 allows limited camping on public streets.”

The memo states: “Because of the worsening economy and unemployment, the number of homeless people has increased by a third compared to last year.” And the homeless, or homeless “crime” problem as the city may see it, is only getting worse: “Despite the economy, rental vacancy rates remain low and rental rates remain high in our community. We expect an increase in complaints….”

March 13, 2009 02:55 PM

Remember all the hype last fall in The Register-Guard and local TV news that crime downtown was frightening people away from the Eugene public library?

Library visits were up 21 percent last year, the largest increase in five years, according to the library’s recent annual report.

Here’s a shot of the relevant table and other indicators of increasing library use from the report:

The scary library hype was part of a successful campaign to pass an exclusion ordinance by exaggerating crime downtown, which police statistics show 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.

March 13, 2009 09:42 AM

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-tenths of one 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 for new jobs but rather to prevent layoffs of existing workers. Even with the stimulus, he said, LTD will cut services 3 percent.

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.

March 12, 2009 01:30 PM

Eugene will get half as much federal stimulus money per citizen as Springfield under an allocation approved unanimously today by the Metropolitan Policy Committee.

Eugene will get $3 million for road preservation projects while Springfield will get $1.7 million. The money will create an estimated 30 jobs in Eugene and 17 in Springfield.

Portland allocated about one-third of its federal stimulus money to bike, pedestrian and transit projects to fight global warming. But the local MPC gave only 4 percent of the $6.6 million of stimulus money it controlled to the green transportation category.

For more information on state and local stimulus spending, see the EW story this week.

March 11, 2009 03:44 PM

Sad news for Bijou fans: Boo, the enormous, ever-present theater cat, died this weekend. "She would have been 23 on the 17th," says Joe Lewis, whose exact job I am unsure of but who, as far as I can tell, is the Bijou's general does-everything-what-needs-doing kind of guy (the R-G last referred to him as the "administrative assistant," but that sounds less fun). "She'd had kidney disease for several years, and it got better and got worse, but it was progressing." They took her to the vet on Sunday night, when, Lewis says, she was ready to go after having a hard time the last few weeks.

Lewis says Boo had been at the Bijou for 11 years. Last year, there was talk about finding her a new home, as she was disturbing the building's other tenants when the theater was closed, but she stayed with the Bijou until the end. As for whether or not the theater will get another cat, he says, "I'd rather take a little bit of a break," and notes that Boo's lack of interest in escape probably kept her around, and safe, longer than most cats. "A lot of cats have wanderlust. She was kind of one in a million."

That's the truth. Bye, Boo! I'll miss your cranky yowls when I'd walk in for noon screenings, and the rumbling purr that even the smallest of ear-skritches could conjure up. I'n not looking forward to the first time I go to the Bijou and there's no complaining — but sweet — kitty on her own particular chair.

Image provided by the Bijou.

March 10, 2009 11:58 AM

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, the state and the Oregon Toxics Alliance have planed a town hall meeting on the planned gypsy moth spraying over a large swath of south Eugene.

Here’s the press release:

Mayor Piercy Co-Sponsors Town Hall on Gypsy Moth Spraying

Panel Members Will Provide Information and Respond to Questions, Comments from the Public

Thursday, March 12, 2009
7:00-9:00 p.m.
Eugene City Council Chamber, 777 Pearl Street

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy is co-sponsoring a public town hall to help provide information to Eugene residents regarding the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) proposal to spray an area in SE Eugene to control gypsy moths. Other town hall co-sponsors are the Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA) and the Southeast Neighbors neighborhood association.

The town hall will include a panel of expert speakers and time for questions and public comment. The panel will include and Dan Hilburn, ODA, and Lisa Arkin, executive director, OTA, as well as other biological and environmental specialists.

ODA’s public comment period on the planned spray to eradicate the gypsy moth ends on Friday, March 13.

For more information on the gypsy moth:

Comments and questions may also be directed to:
Helmuth W. Rogg
Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, Plant Division
1-800-525-0137; Fax: (503) 986-4786

March 10, 2009 08:51 AM

News of a whale washing up on the beach at Devil's Elbow has given the media an excuse to talk about video of ODOT mistakenly blowing up a previous whale. So...here's the old video, seen 1.3 million times on YouTube:

Now, if only the brilliant engineers at ODOT could learn from their other stinking mistakes and take a new approach to global warming.

March 9, 2009 07:29 PM

The Eugene City Council voted unanimously to consider delaying the imposition of pending street assessments to look for a fairer way to finance the projects.

March 9, 2009 06:39 PM

The Eugene City Council voted unanimously to send the recommendations of a subcommittee on the Police Auditor to a public hearing.

March 9, 2009 06:01 PM

The Eugene City Council voted 6-1 tonight to give WG development another six months to commit to a project to fill the pit across from the downtown library with a office and retail project.

The council rejected a recommendation by City Manager Jon Ruiz to instead pursue a student housing project proposed for the site by Opus development.

March 6, 2009 05:31 PM

Eugene Police say they cited three adults and four juveniles for drug possession and/or sales at Sheldon High School today.

Police cited Matthew Pankey, 24, Christopher Pankey, 21, and Daniel Grossman, 23, for alleged possession and or delivery of marijuana, meth, and/or cocaine, according to an EPD press release. The police alleged they found less than 40 grams of the drugs in their vehicle. Police took Matthew Pankey to jail and cited and released the other two.

Police also cited a 15-year-old for alleged possession and delivery of marijuana and cited three Sheldon students for purchasing pot.

According to police, the 15-year old alleged he had been asked to sell pot by Matthew Pankey. When Pankey showed up at Ron’s Grill across from the high school during the lunch hour, the juvenile believed he was there to collect money from the pot sales and called his mother, according to police. The mother arrived and she and the three adults got into a dispute, according to EPD. Someone called the police, and they responded.

March 6, 2009 07:03 PM

While students at the UO Emerald appear to have ended their strike and are working on resolving differences with the board, the newspaper, like many today, still faces big financial hurdles.

That’s clear from a look at the non-profit paper’s tax forms, which are public documents by law. The most recent return available, for the year ending June 30, 2007, shows:

  • The Emerald had $917,231 in revenue on $965,142 in expenses for a deficit of $47,911 (p. 1). A tax return from two years earlier (2005) shows a $34,457 deficit with revenue of $907,954.
  • The paper had $115,822 in cash and $586,840 in stock after covering its 2007 deficit (p. 4). That stock endowment may have fallen dramatically this year.
  • The previous general manager had a salary of $65,000 plus about $8,693 in benefits in 2007 (p. 27).
  • The paper paid about 75 students a total of $843,060 in 2007 (p. 3).

Here’s a look at the 2007 Emerald tax document:

UO Emerald Taxes 2007

Publish at Scribd or explore others: Periodicals & Report 2007 taxes

March 4, 2009 05:18 PM

I-5 Beltline

The Oregon Department of Transportation has stiffed the local unemployed and the environment on federal stimulus money.

Out of $133 million, of federal stimulus money divied up by ODOT so far, only about 2.4 million will be spent in Lane County. The project lists are here and here.

At a time that everyone from Barack Obama to Gov. Ted Kulongoski to Mayor Kitty Piercy is calling for big steps to reduce oil addiction and global warming, ODOT will dedicate more than 90 percent of the stimulus money to highways.

The two local stimulus projects include $2.2 million for a city of Eugene Delta ponds bike path and bridge project and $180,000 for sidewalk and lighting work at the Eugene train station. The projects are scheduled to start in the next three months.

Lane County has about 9 percent of the state’s population, but ODOT allocated less than 2 percent of the stimulus money for locals. The county’s January unemployment rate of 11.9 percent exceeds the state rate of 10.9 percent.

ODOT did not dedicate any of the stimulus money for public transit. The state gave pedestrian and bike facilities only about eight percent of the funds.

Environmentalists had hoped that ODOT would dedicate most of the flexible federal stimulus money to greener transportation. A coalition of nine environmental groups delivered a letter and hundreds of petitions to ODOT’s Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) calling for spending the stimulus on a long list of ready to go bike, pedestrian and transit projects.

But the environmetal lobbying apparently had no effect. Bob Stacey, director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, emailed BikePortland.org to explain what went wrong: “The Transportation Commission got heavy pressure from pro-highway legislators, road builders, and Washington County and other local governments looking for road-building money.”

The OTC voted Feb. 27 to spend 90 percent on highways—about $64 million on paving, safety and enhancement projects and $41 million on road widening for more traffic.

The vote caused some blog commenters on BikePortland to accuse Gov. Kulongoski, who appoints the OTC members, of “greenwash.” Kulongoski has proclaimed soaring goals of reducing global warming, but has taken few concrete actions to actually reduce carbon emissions.

In a speech last year Kulongoski said, “I want Oregon to lead the nation in cutting greenhouse gases.”

But after his OTC voted zero stimulus for transit without a public hearing, the Governor proclaimed, "I applaud the speed at which the Oregon Transportation Commission and the Department of Transportation moved….This is exactly the intent of the federal stimulus dollars.”

Other states devoted a large share of their stimulus money to environmentally friendly transit projects rather than polluting highways. Maryland, for example, devoted 39 percent of its stimulus money to transit.

The transportation commission plans to vote March 18 on how to spend the remaining $100 million in federal stimulus that it controls. Oregon counties and cities will also share about another $100 million in transportation stimulus money and decide how to spend it. Some other federal stimulus funding may go directly to local transit agencies, bypassing ODOT.