• Eugene Weekly Loves You!
Share |

EW! A Blog.

March 20, 2009 11:02 AM

As explained in the last post, I'm watching the last season of Battlestar Galactica and blogging it all day. Why? Because it's awesome. Because I'm making up for not doing this as the season went on. And because the story is even better when you watch it all at once. As noted before, there are spoilers aplenty, and this is not an intro course; it's running commentary for geeks. I'm treating "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales" as one story since the mutiny spans both episodes.

Wow, this gets long. Fair warning and all.

"The Oath" begins with location and military time; it's a military story and will tell you as much from the word go.

The other thing it makes clear is that this fight is going to bring people alive again. Kara says as much – "Take a breath, Lee" — when she saves Lee from a handful of mutineers. (Her impulsive kiss is matched only by her "I could do this all day" when taking down her enemies as one of the most perfectly Starbuck moments we've seen in ages. Not to mention one of the most perfectly welcome, vibrant scenes of someone on this frakking ship knowing exactly what she wants and exactly what to do.)

In the middle of mutiny, everyone is acting in their simplest, truest form. Like Adama says, "Live or die, it's how you act today that's gonna matter." For every character, it does: Starbuck fights, fiercely and loyally, for her admiral and her ship. Adama takes control, instantly, from wobbling soldiers who aren't really, truly convinced that what they're doing is right. Gaius goes self-serving. The Chief goes efficient, organized, experienced with how to use the ship (not to mention loyal — though when Lee asks why he's doing what he is, Galen's reply — "The old man deserves a better fate than what he'll get from them" — is only half his story). And Roslin goes steely and determined; her quick thinking about using Gaius' wireless is the kind of thinking that's kept her in the presidency so long.

I had some skepticism about the mutiny as a plotline at first. Even though it does seem, in part, like it had to happen eventually — someone had to revolt, be it against the incorporation of the Cylons into the fleet or simply the fact of military governance — it also seemed like it was taking away from the questions we all want answered: the opera house, Kara's destiny, everything bigger than two men's fury. But now, what I see when I watch these episodes is Gaeta and Zarek knowing not what they've brought upon themselves. They've given fighters a clear enemy. They've given these angry, drifting people a threat they can understand and identify.

And in trying to prove how right they are, Zarek and Gaeta illustrate instead how difficult and how vital Adama's position is. It's an interesting twist, especially for a viewer who would be more likely to identify with non-military, non-Cylon folks: The revolt on behalf of the regular men and women serves only to show that those revolting aren't actually fit to lead. I kind of think it's a cop-out on the show's part; it would have been much more interesting if the rebellion was led by a person who truly believed what he or she said, not by a Tom Zarek, who only cares for "the people" when they agree with him (at least in this season, and arguably since the very beginning). Both his secret tribunals and his decision to murder the entire Quorum undermine the position of the rebels — a position that, realistically, we ought to be fairly understanding about. They're being asked to welcome in those who would have wiped out their entire race — and whose entire race they then tried to destroy. Could it be more complicated?

(The lines among characters are complicated further when you have Starbuck telling Adama "They are not your men anymore! They are the enemy!" Her view is almost as oversimplified as Zarek's, but she's not trying to take over the entire fleet, even if she is a loose cannon.)

(I've caught up to myself now and have to start with bullet points just to watch and type at once.)

• Later, Zarek says "Destroy our enemies before they destroy us." And it's too late for Gaeta, who realizes, "This is all based on lies." Zarek's war was never for the people, but against Adama. I wish it were more nuanced than that.

• But nuance is in other storylines. Nuance is the guy from the Pegasus whose name I can't remember letting the Chief go (and, later, breaking down in his indecision, finally choosing one unknown future over another); nuance is the quiet way the entire escape is thanks to the Chief, as shown in another throwaway line: Lee says he forgot that "this place," from which Roslin escapes, was there, and Galen says everyone did. Everyone but him, who knows the entire ship, every path, every way through and around.

• "Who do you want to be?" Roslin yells at Tory, trying to convince her that the fleet, the humans, have a remarkable habit of beating the odds. It's the question that covers this entire season, even the entire series: Who do you want to be? What defines you? Hope or failure? Your enemy or your ally? Who stands a chance if they all keep defining each other as enemies?

• Moments of humor with Lee and Kara: Looking away from the Roslin/Adama smooch, like they're being embarrassed by their parents, and the grenade Lee doesn't pull the pin on. Nicely done moments of relief from the tension.

• "This isn't a trial. This is the asylum." The smartest thing Romo Lampkin ever said. Followed swiftly by the smartest thing he ever did: His moment of indecision, standing in a stream of light trying to choose himself over Kara and Sam, is a tiny, character-defining glimpse at what a bad guy this slimy lawyer actually isn't.

• "I ran. Again. I disappeared in the nick of time. Again." Is Gaius actually having a moment of honesty with himself? Not half as honest as the Lieutenant brave enough to tell Adama, with Tigh right there, that he hates the Cylons and can't take orders from a leader who won't fight them. That one man, in that one sentence, has more clarity, more honesty, than ten Tom Zareks.

• It's too easy to make Roslin so right. If Zarek were a less nasty man, then Roslin's choice to fight him would be so much more complicated, more her choosing out of pain and fury than out of what's best for the fleet. Which, to be fair, is why she's choosing; it's about believing Adama is dead, not about the fleet, and she's a lesser leader for it. But we have the easy out of knowing Zarek would be a terrible, terrible leader, and should never be given command of the ragtag remnants of humanity — not when he's willing to take out everyone who disagrees with him. Neither of them are thinking about the future, but one's less dangerous than the other.

• It's almost funny when Gaeta snarks at Zarek that they have a military leader and a president in one. It's true: Zarek wants all the power. But again, it's making it too morally easy for the audience. We've already found, over the last three seasons, that it's not so simple as humans good, Cylons bad, so why make it so simple when it's humanity vs. humanity? When Zarek tries to take over in the CIC, the show lets us almost forgive Gaeta for being fooled by Zarek, for believing that Zarek had anyone's best interests in mind. It's a more complex ending for Felix Gaeta, who was, in his way, everything Zarek pretended to be: A man who believes that he's right, but has limits to what he'll do as a result. When Gaeta says he's fine with the way things went down, I believe him.

Continue with "No Exit," or skip ahead to "Deadlock."

March 20, 2009 03:17 PM

After the cancellation of the West Eugene Parkway sparked a two year search for alternatives, the West Eugene Collaborative (WEC) has recommended the eventual conversion of the West 11th commercial strip into a green, multi-modal, mixed-use, dense boulevard.

The wide boulevard with up to four lanes of through cars, two lanes of side access streets, two lanes of parallel parking, two dedicated lanes of EmX buses, wide sidewalks and five park strips with trees but no dedicated bike lanes could be built incrementally and take two decades and $180 to $250 million to complete, the WEC’s consensus report estimates.

In the short term, the diverse group of developers and environmentalists recommends improvements to signage, traffic lights, intersections and turn lanes on West 11th and adjacent 5th and 7th streets to quickly and cheaply reduce congestion.

The WEC report is vague in many details and does not recommend limiting big box development in the area nor does it call for any major new highways.

The lack of a big new road like the controversial and failed parkway through wetlands may be the plan’s biggest statement, according to Friends of Eugene President Kevin Matthews. “It represents a big decision to say West Eugene can work without the new roads,” he said.

WEC members said the report was more about creating a consensus among diverse groups for an overall vision and direction than a detailed technical plan. The next step, they said, will be seeing if the community supports the vision and fleshing out the engineering. “At this early time, it may not have a whole lot of detail in it, but it’s a first step,” said west Eugene City Councilor Chris Pryor.

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy said the biggest accomplishment of the diverse group representing both environmental and development interests is moving from the decades of divisive fighting over the parkway to a consensus vision. “To me that is a very big deal.”

March 20, 2009 04:46 PM

Remember all the talk about Oregon leading the nation in fighting global warming? Well, ODOT must have thought people meant leading the nation in increasing global warming.

The state transportation agency, Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Portland's supposedly green city government is gung ho for a 12-lane, $4 billion, that's right $4,000,000,000, I-5 freeway bridge across the Columbia River to facilitate urban sprawl.

But, grassroots opposition is building. Here's a mocking shopping channel video from a Portland bike activist:

March 20, 2009 09:34 AM


It's 10 in the morning and I've been watching TV for two hours.

I can't resist.

Battlestar Galactica ends tonight with a two-hour season finale, but the last season is running all day today. And I'm watching. I can't wait until the season comes out on DVD to see how the story lines up when it's all watched at once; this season isn't fussing with standalone episodes, or short-term storylines. It's for all the marbles.

So I woke up and started watching. I woke up to the triple whammy of "Sometimes a Great Notion": the president in tears, our girl Starbuck burning her own corpse and poor, distraught Dee ending her own story. I'm now up to "The Oath," about which I haven't previously blogged. That's the thing: I'm bummed that I didn't blog about each episode as it aired. So I'm making up for it today. These will be scattered thoughts, and at some point I'll have to take a break to, oh, eat, but I'm settled in front of the TV for the duration.

A warning: This isn't an intro-to-BSG thing. This is commentary for those already watching. And because the show deserves it. But I'll get to that tomorrow, when it's over.

Here we go.

Previous post on "Sometimes a Great Notion"
Previous thoughts on "A Disquiet Follows My Soul"

Watching the first two episodes of season 4.5 again put things in interesting perspective. What stands out is that the most important lines are hidden, not buried, but tucked under the grand moments. Dee's death still frustrates me, still makes me wish it had been someone else, but in retrospect it seems believable (for the character, acting as the illustration of Adama's story about foxes that give up the fight and let themselves drift out to sea) and pragmatic (in that the show needed to pare down a little bit to get through these last episodes; even with some characters gone, it's too busy).

But before Dee's death, we see Lee telling her about the speech he gave — a speech we were spared watching (poor Jamie Bamber deserves more to do than just speechify). What he told the fleet, or the Quorum; I'm not sure, was that they're free. No more destination, no more mythology to follow, no more visions of Earth. It's scary, but it's freedom. That's the point. It's so scary, some characters can't face it. Whether or not Dee is really one of those characters is still up for debate, a bit, but what follows, in the mutiny, shows that it's too much for the very person who claims to be all about freedom: Tom Zarek.

Zarek's mutiny is in theory all about the Cylons, and about Adama's welcome of them. He claims to want power to be in the hands of the people; he claims (in "A Disquiet Follows My Soul") that a revolution is in order to put the world at rights. But watching this again, I think there's more to it than that. Zarek watches the world change in ways he doesn't like, and his response is to take over, turn it back to the way he thinks it should be. I've never trusted his claims; the only person who behaves the way Zarek talks is Chief Tyrol. Zarek is a self-serving bastard who shields himself with talk of "the people" to justify his actions.

But I'm getting distracted. I don't mean to go over things I've already posted about. What I mean to do, with these eps, is point out things I should've seen before, and things that look differently with more of the story told:

• Kara and Felix in the mess hall. She should've seen it coming when he pushed all her buttons, made her furious, reminded her of everything he's angry about, from the tribunal that nearly killed him (established - let's remind ourselves of the irony - by Vice President Zarek) to the leg he lost after being shot by a Cylon. "Is that a threat?" Starbuck asks Gaeta. "You're gods damn right it is," he replies. But Starbuck, being Starbuck, thinks it's all about her. It's not.

• Roslin, jogging while the world tries to light itself on fire. She's as lost as Dee was, but her response is to live – to live more than ever. And as she jogs, Bear McCreary's score is fantastic, full of action movie drums and terseness, nervousness, but a nervous strength. (The more I read McCreary's fantastic blog, the more I'm impressed with the BSG music.)

• "Maybe tomorrow really isn't coming," Roslin says to Adama. It's another moment where the important part is tucked under the more dramatic one; the drama is when she asks him whether she has the right to live a little before she dies. She asks him that about herself, but tells him that he, too, has that right. She's still putting someone else first, even in her selfishness.

• Gaius Baltar's speech about the humans needing to forgive God, rather than be forgiven, is absolutely fascinating in light of the scenes with his father in "Daybreak, Part 1." His father is a salt-of-the-earth farmer type; Gaius comes from humble beginnings. And, apparently, hates it. He asks what sins his flock has committed, what dark thoughts they've harbored, that their God would abandon them in space, but he's talking about his own hatred of his father. Is his whole quasi-religion about this?

• "Every revolution begins with one small act of courage." "Disquiet" ends with two beautiful shots, the first of which hides Gaeta behind Zarek as Zarek washes his hands. But he can't wash his hands of this. Each one of them is trying to give more responsibility to the other; Gaeta asks if Zarek is the man to turn the world right side up again, which Zarek says he's one of the men to do that. "I need a partner." But he also wants someone else to get his hands dirty — or dirtier. Zarek's not afraid to kill, as we see early in the next episode, but he does let an awful lot of the death and violence fall to someone else.

• Is Roslin and Adama in bed, in the last lovely scene of "Disquiet," the last moment of peace anyone ges on this show? This quiet, sweet, simple moment?

On to "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales."
Then to "No Exit."
Then to "Deadlock."
Then to "Someone to Watch Over Me."
Then to "Islanded in a Sea of Stars."

March 19, 2009 03:30 PM

Things I learned at this year's Chef's Night Out, the annual foodtastic benefit for FOOD for Lane County:

• Do not attempt to have a time limit, for lo, you will find yourself cursing the fates, and yourself, on your way out of the Hult Center.

• Do not attempt to have a plan, for lo, your plan will be flawed and un-carry-out-able.

• Do not forget to refill your beer glass.

In short, I didn't do as thorough a job stuffing myself this time. The things I missed! I ogled plates as they swam past me in the stream of diners: jello shots! Tiny sloppy joes from Davis'! More oysters and other small shellfish items than I could count on many fingers! The entire lower level!

I had this plan, see. I was going to start at the top and work my way down. But I didn't count on things like lines, and people, and the way certain tables are so popular (Soriah, I am looking at you, with your incredible banana desserts, always reliable, always delicious) that you have to trail person after person, delicately balancing your little tray while trying not to knock theirs out of their hands, just to find the end of the line. I didn't count on how the nicer-looking but smaller trays this year would make the piling up of food (in order to go find a corner in which to photograph and eat it) much more difficult.

That isn't to say I failed. I still left stuffed; I still made a boyfriend plate for he who couldn't join me. I just didn't even manage to hit half of the night's 50 tables. Still, here are hurried, from-memory notes on some of the things I ate, in alphabetical order:

(PLEASE NOTE: I am going to get things wrong. I am going to call them by the wrong names and things. Correct me if you remember. I didn't take notes. I don't have four arms. C'mon, now.)

Adam's Sustainable Table: Tofu pot pie! After a good dose of meat dishes, I opted to try the somewhat neglected tofu; most people were going for the kidney or chicken pies. The little cups were the perfect size, enough to offer more than a nibble but not too big, easy to pick up and easy to situate on a crowded tray.

Clockwise from top: pumpkin enchilada from Agate Alley; paté from Marché, something I do not remember the name of from Red Agave and delicious puffy cream-filled pastry from Marché; ahi poki and cucumber salad from Agate Alley.

Agate Alley Bistro: Agate Alley's pumpkin enchiladas were spicy and tasty, but it was the pairing of ahi poki and cucumber salad — just spicy enough, just tangy enough — which I would have liked to have in a larger size. Say, an entire platter of the stuff.

Want to be even hungrier? Read on!

Bates Steakhouse: With all due respect, I'm going to have to disagree with the Bates server who said the sauerkraut was the best ever (I think he said best in the world, though it may have been best in town) — it was definitely good, but not Best! Ever! good — but the prime rib was delicious, straightforward and a nice change from some of the more elaborate flavors bouncing around my palate.

Café Soriah: The above-mentioned banana macademia flambé, served over vanilla ice cream. The only thing I patiently waited for; they were working on more bananas when I got to the head of the line. I'm lucky that if this dish is on the Soriah menu, I've never noticed; otherwise, I might be tempted to eat it every time I'm at the bar. (Also, Soriah had pens. Brightly colored pens. Almost out of character brightly colored pens. Of course I took one.)

I just realized I missed out on Govinda's, which I really wanted to try. I think I should make a list for next year.

Larsen's Fine Candies: I went simple and snagged a chocolate-covered caramel that made a lovely one-bite dessert for my first trayload of food.

Mac's Restaurant and Nightclub: The booklet doesn't list them, but I could swear it was from here that I picked up tiny shrimp and crab cocktails — like last year — that acted, early on, as tantalizers for the heavier things to come.

The boyfriend plate, clockwise from left: kidney pie from Adam's Sustainable Table; fruit mousse from Palace Bakery; fortune cookie from forgotten location; ahi from SweetWaters; another Red Agave whatsit.

Marché: Look, I don't mean to play favorites, but the truth is, the one thing I ate multiple servings of this year (like last year's pork belly on a stick) came from Marché: Rich, decadent little cream-filled pastries drizzled with chocolate. I love not-too-sweet, just-right cream fillings, and these little buggers had plenty. I ate one. I went back for another. And another. And I put one on the boyfriend plate and made him eat it immediately, lest I eat that one, too.

Marché also had an array of patés on slices of baguette; I'm not honestly sure which one I had, but it surprised me: It looked like far too much paté for such a little piece of bread, but — with the addition of mustard and a cornichon on top — was just right, the richness cut with spices (allspice? nutmeg?) and the cornichon providing a textural counterpoint.

Market of Choice: The good old MOC always surprises me at Chef's Night Out. This year I skipped the cheese in favor of a miniature reuben with, if memory serves, house-smoked pastrami, and a citrus seafood shot, bright and vivid and so tangy I wished I'd actually eaten it like a shot, rather than forking out the bits of shrimp, tuna and avocado. I feared the mess, you see. I only have two hands, and one had to hold the tray.

Ninkasi: I'm usually a dark beer girl, so I opted for the loved-by-Eugeneans Total Domination IPA, just for fun.

Palace Bakery: In a frantic dash to make up a boyfriend plate before said fellow picked me up, I grabbed one of the Palace's beautiful mini mousses without being sure what fruit it was — passion fruit, I think. Now, on this dreary afternoon, thinking of my single bite of the mousse is nearly enough to send me immediately to the bakery; do not pass go; do not stop for coffee.

Red Agave: Teeny pork things — I think very like but not quite the same as last year, pork confit on masa? — and even teenier cheesecake bites, the latter of which I sadly did not try, the former of which was a reminder that I need to head to Red Agave one of these nights to try the late-night menu.

Mini-reuben from Market of Choice; seared ahi from Three Forks

Three Forks Wok & Grill: I started with Three Forks and inadvertently set myself a tuna theme for the night with their seared ahi — which came on a plate with just a dab of hot sauce. More, more!

On the way out, stacking the boyfriend plate with a beautifully arranged bit of ahi on a rice cracker from SweetWaters, the aforementioned Palace Bakery mousse and a few other things, I nabbed a cookie on a stick and a chocolate-laced fortune cookie, and failed to see where the latter two treats came from. The fortune cookie was eaten before I could steal a crumb, but for the record, I was told I really should have eaten one myself.

What I most wish I hadn't missed: The Vintage's cheerful cocktails. Beppe & Gianni's lobster and crab ravioli. Crab lobster (did this night have a seafood theme universally?) bisque from Fisherman's Market. Govinda's. Vegan cupcakes from The Divine Cupcake (though I skipped these chiefly because I fall for them all the time at Novella Café at the library, and already know how good they are). Colcannon-stuffed baby potatoes (with Guinness and corned beef; it was, after all, St. Paddy's) from Mallard Banquet Hall. Oregonzola gnocchi from Mazzi's. Wine from countless places.

You can't beat yourself up too much about what you miss at Chef's Night Out, though, even if you're me and you're prone to beating yourself up over missed food opportunities: It's wonderful and it's overwhelming, and it's hard to navigate alone. You need a food buddy to help test things, to run off in one direction to load a plate while you veer in another, piling dishes high so that when the two of you spy an empty bench, you can claim it and gorge to your heart's content.

Up close and personal with the creamy puff of goodness.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm hungry...

* This title is a reference to last year's Chef's Night Out post.

March 16, 2009 11:10 AM

Cargo bikes are in.

Revolution Cycles in Whiteaker has started to sell this stable Madsen from Utah featuring a big, low-slung cargo tub and a 600-lbs. capacity (click images for links):

The non-profit Center for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) is offereing classes to build this sturdy hauling trailer:

CAT’s Human Powered Machine shop also locally builds a number of cargo bikes including this popular model:

Many bike stores in town have been selling the increasingly popular Californian XtraCycles:

Then of course, Burley has been building cargo trailers in Eugene for three decades:

What’s next for Eugene? Maybe something like this from the nirvana of bike commuting, Copenhagen, Denmark:

Seen any other cool cargo bikes around town?

March 16, 2009 10:06 AM

The Twitternets is all aflutter this morning about the now-formerly-known-as-Sci-Fi-Channel's bit of thickheaded rebranding:

Building on 16 years of water-cooler programming and soaring ratings growth following its most-watched year ever, SCI FI Channel is evolving into Syfy, beginning this summer, Dave Howe, president, SCI FI, announced today.

By changing the name to Syfy, which remains phonetically identical, the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider range of current and future imagination-based entertainment beyond just the traditional sci-fi genre, including fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure. It also positions the brand for future growth by creating an ownable trademark that can travel easily with consumers across new media and nonlinear digital platforms, new international channels and extend into new business ventures.

That last sentence is the only bit of this that makes a lick of sense. Pretending that being the Sci Fi Channel (sorry, SCI FI! I do not like to yell in all caps!) limits you from airing "fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure" programming is just making excuses. What this comes across as — and I'm hardly the first person to point this out — is "Hi! We're distancing ourselves from that crazy science fiction, 'cause it's for nerds/geeks/crazed fanboys who never leave the house/take your pick of clichés!"

If it's all about a trademark thing, though, then fine. FINE. I can even get halfway to forgiving the post for referring to both "the mainstream appeal of the world's biggest entertainment category" — without really clarifying what it means by that; TV? "Scantily clad women?" Suzi suggests — and "the generic entertainment category 'sci-fi,'" only because they're talking about trademarking. (Though the idea that their new name is "broadening perceptions," as opposed to "broadening viewer skepticism toward the wisdom of the network's choices," is almost enough to make me snort coffee.)

But the simple fact is, whatever the reason, be it corporate grabby hands or nerd distancing tactics, the new name is stupid. Stupid enough that it goes quite well, really, with such wonderful TV movie titles as Ice Spiders and Sharks in Venice. Oh, formerly-known-as-Sci-Fi-Channel, you've always been so wonderfully literal. Why go wonky with "creative" spelling now?

(Possibly my favorite Twitter response: "I like that 'SyFy' are spelling phonetically to a group that can usually explain the main theoretical barriers to warp speed technology!")

EDIT: OK, I somehow missed this gem of an article before — in which one Tim Brooks, TV historian, actually says:

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular."

We're still having this conversation? The women-don't-like [insert "geeky" thing here] conversation? Really?

But hey. That Dave Howe fella says "SyFy" makes them feel "much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise." I know I feel cooler every time I see the word I will never pronounce any way but "Siffy." Don't you?

March 14, 2009 08:23 PM

Let’s see if we got this right.

The UO’s new President will make a half million a year.

The UO’s new athletic director will make at least another half million.

The UO’s new football coach will make $3 million.

That adds up to $4 million a year for the three positions.

Due to a supposed lack of money, the UO is hitting in-state students with an extra $150 and out of state students with an extra $300 in fees Spring semester.

Those extra student fees ad up to about $4 million squeezed out of students and their families struggling in the down economy. Funny how math at the University of Oregon works out.

March 13, 2009 12:05 PM

Check out this artsy video of Eugene's funky bike culture:

See anyone you know?

March 13, 2009 09:43 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 03:38 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 01:55 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 08:42 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 12:30 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.