News Briefs: Disunited Front Going to D.C. | Local Group Wants Rey in Pokey | Paper or, Choke, Plastic | Oregon’s Highest Cougar Kill | Call Centers Prefer U.S. Accent | Challenging Military’s Media Blitz | MLK on War and the Spirit of America | Quakers Go Before Fed Judge | Greening the Hood | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Your car’s benzene pollution causes cancer
Voter Owned Elections
Sorenson heads effort for campaign finance reform
The Men Who Would Be King
Finalists for Eugene city manager offer strengths, flaws
Happening Person: The Rev. Stephen Landale
DISUNITED FRONT GOING TO D.C.
Every year local officials travel to Washington, D.C., in a “United Front” (UF) lobbying trip for federal pork.
But just how “united” is that front? It turns out that despite the label, it doesn’t mean that the local officials are actually united in supporting the project list presented to Congressional delegates.
Acting City Manager Angel Jones and city lobbyist Brenda Wilson described the process at a Jan. 15 council meeting. Each city prepares its own list and approves it independently; then the lists are combined into the United Front list for the lobbying trip.
Councilor Bonny Bettman questioned how the Eugene Council could approve and back the UF list without actually seeing or approving the entire list of projects. “Why aren’t we as a council approving the entire list?”
“I see a problem brewing,” said Councilor Alan Zelenka. Springfield has put two new freeway interchanges on the UF list “so they can grow in a different direction,” he said. Springfield’s promotion of the $90 million in interchanges “clearly competes with the Beltline project where people are dying” in accidents due to unmet safety needs in Eugene, Zelenka said.
The UF label “is very confusing,” Mayor Kitty Piercy said. The lobbying effort shouldn’t be presented as Eugene endorsing the Springfield projects. “It shouldn’t be presented as what it really isn’t, and that is a concern for me.”
The name “means to me that we’re going forward united” in support of the project list, Councilor Andrea Ortiz said. “Maybe we need to change the name of it.”
But Piercy said, “I don’t want to change the name, I don’t want to tear it apart.”
A motion to officially recharacterize the UF was defeated 5-3 with Ortiz and conservative councilors who support Springfield’s pro-sprawl agenda voting no. —Alan Pittman
LOCAL GROUP WANTS REY IN POKEY
Thanks to a court case filed by Eugene-based Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEEE), a federal judge is threatening to put Bush administration official and former timber lobbyist Mark Rey in prison.
The case centers on the Forest Service’s use of aerially dropped fire retardants that are toxic to fish. FSEEE Executive Director Andy Stahl wants the Forest Service to assess the environmental impacts of the chemicals, which have been used on forest fires across the country.
The fire retardants contain ammonia-based fertilizer and sometimes sodium ferrocyanide, which converts to free cyanide when it is exposed to ultraviolet rays through water. Tens of thousands of fish in Oregon and elsewhere have been killed when fire retardant was dropped on waterways.
Rey is the undersecretary of agriculture in charge of the Forest Service, and according to Stahl, FSEEE became involved with the issue when a Forest Service employee’s work developing an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the use of the retardant was “buried” by Rey.
In a ruling in August 2007, Montana federal Judge Donald Molloy gave Rey three months to either complete the environmental review of the fire retardant or appear in court: “The time I am giving is likely to prove insufficient if: 1) the agency is simply unwilling to follow the law; or, 2) it is prevented from following the law by its political masters, as was the case when Under Secretary of Agriculture Mark Rey ordered that formal (Endangered Species Act) consultation regarding fire retardant not to occur,” he wrote.
In Friday, Jan. 11’s ruling, Molloy found that Rey and the Forest Service still had not complied. He writes that the “record in the case shows the Forest Service had no real intention to comply with the law or the Court’s orders.”
Molloy has set a hearing date of Feb. 26, writing, “In my view, the Forest Service is in contempt of the law and the prior orders of this court.”
Stahl says, “It’s an extraordinary case of the government thumbing its nose at Congress and the courts.”
If Rey and the Forest Service do not comply with the order to conduct an EA by the hearing date, Molloy writes that he is considering these sanctions: He will have Rey placed in a “correctional facility,” place him “under house arrest subject to electronic monitoring” and/or enjoin the Forest Service from using any fire retardant except water until it complies with the court’s orders.
“There’s never really been a case like this before,” says Stahl, “I don’t know of any instance where a public official was jailed for violating environmental law while in his official capacity.” He says, “But I don’t know of any case where the government has been so duplicitous.” — Camilla Mortensen
PAPER OR, CHOKE, PLASTIC
Sanipac and the city of Eugene plan to ban plastic bags from recycling bins because they are choking sorting machinery, according to a city newsletter.
In November 2006 Sanipac announced that bags could go in the mixed bins. But In October 2007 a sorting company in Portland told Sanipac that the bags were wrapping around the pulleys, axles and screens in sorting machinery. The bag-choking caused facility shut-downs and resulted in “significant volumes of other plastics not being recycled,” according to the city.
In response to similar problems, San Francisco recently banned plastic bags. Australia, Bangladesh, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Taiwan and several Alaskan Native villages have also restricted plastic bags, which can choke wildlife. Portland and a host of other cities and states have considered ban restrictions, which grocery lobbyists strongly oppose because plastic bags are cheaper.
Many environmentalists have argued that the best option is reusable bags. Failing that, paper bags made with recycled materials are better than plastic bags made with oil, bags that take a millennium to decompose when buried in landfills.
Sanipac plans to mail customers a notice later this month banning bags from bins, the city newsletter said. The city is working with area grocers on a “return to retail” campaign to offer a way to still recycle some of the bags, which can be remade into composite lumber.
Part of the campaign includes display ads in The Register-Guard, which delivers tens of thousands of papers every day, often in plastic bags. —Alan Pittman
OREGON’S HIGHEST COUGAR KILL
Last year marked Oregon’s highest cougar kill, with a total of 509 cougars killed by hunters or through other means. Oregon Fish and Wildlife sold 41,813 cougar tags at $11.50 each to hunters in 2007, prompting Brooks Fahy of Eugene’s Predator Defense to ask, “What’s the message that sends?”
Oregon has an estimated 5,100 cougars, according to ODFW, but the agency’s draft cougar management plans calls for a reduction of that number to 3,000, which the agency calls “much greater than the minimum number of individuals required for genetic and/or demographic viability.”
ODFW has targeted three areas in which it wants to cut cougar populations, causing an outcry from environmental and animal protection groups. The areas are in the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon, Malheur County in Eastern Oregon and near Heppner in north-central Oregon.
Although voters passed Measure 18 in 1994, banning the hunting of cougars with dogs, the agency continued to use agents with hounds to track and kill cougars. In 2007, the Oregon Legislature enacted HB 2971to clarify the law. Now ODFW can use volunteer agents to hunt the big cats. But after a meeting of ODFW commissioners on Friday, Jan. 11, those agents cannot have a record of felony convictions, wildlife violations or violations of animal cruelty, animal abuse or domestic abuse laws.
According to Fahy, hunting cougars can aggravate rather than decrease problems with humans. To date, no human has been killed by a cougar in Oregon.
Cougar advocates fear the cougar kill numbers will continue to rise. Fahy says, “It’s unprecedented. This is a slaughter.”
Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands Project says, the group is “seriously considering” options, including “a legal challenge to the state and federal proposal that has begun to slaughter Oregon’s big cats.” — Camilla Mortensen
CALL CENTERS PREFER U.S. ACCENT
Eugene’s downtown is getting a new Enterprise Rent-A-Car call center in the old Symantec building, and callers will have their questions answered in Pacific Northwest-accented English.
As it turns out, you don’t have to call Eugene to get an accent from the West Coast. Companies are aware of the angry reactions some American customers have to an East Indian accent and are starting to train Indian workers to speak like Americans in a process often called “accent neutralization.”
Companies like Communicaid teach Indian workers to speak English without a British-influenced Indian accent. Microsoft began sending a Seattle-based language instructor to India in 2004 who asked her trainees to listen to NPR and watch Ken Burns documentaries to neutralize their accents. The trainees preferred watching movies like Independence Day and sitcoms, the Seattle Times reported.
Call center jobs pay well, both in Eugene and abroad. Enterprise workers can make $37,000 a year including wages and benefits, the R-G reports, and an Associated Press article reports that Indian call center workers make more than employees in most other professions.
However, according to the AP article there is a trade-off. Indian call center employees are stressed out from late nights dealing with angry, rude American customers, and they are “facing sleep disorders, heart disease, depression and family discord.” — Camilla Mortensen
CHALLENGING MILITARY’S MEDIA BLITZ
The U.S. military is facing a recruitment crisis, and without a draft in place, the Army is struggling to find enough new soldiers to fill its ranks. So the military has turned to public relations firms to create a massive advertising campaign. In turn, peace activists are challenging the Pentagon PR blitz.
Two noted anti-war activists are coming to Eugene to talk about what they call the “military recruitment complex” and give support to local peace activists countering local military recruitment efforts.
Global justice and antiwar organizer David Solnit and Seattle-based Iraq war veteran Chanan Suarez Diaz will talk and offer a multimedia presentation from 3 pm to 5 pm Sunday, Jan. 20, at Cozmic Pizza.
Solnit, coauthor with Aimee Allison of Army of None: Strategies for Countering Military Recruitment, Ending War, and Building a Better World, has been touring the U.S. offering guides, tools, resources and strategies to groups working to shut down the U.S. “war machine.”
The goal of Eugene’s Committee for Countering Military Recruitment is to “challenge the military’s lies of omission, false portrayals of military life and what it claims it has to offer.”
For more information email email@example.com
MLK ON WAR AND THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA
From Martin Luther King Jr. April 4, 1967: “The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. …”I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered. ….
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” (Hear the rest of the speech at www.oilempire.us/mlk.html)
QUAKERS GO BEFORE FED JUDGE
A small group of local Quakers arrested in a protest at the U.S. Courthouse Oct. 12 will return to the building to face federal Judge Thomas Coffin at 1 pm Thursday. The protesters were arrested for refusing to leave the offices of Sen. Gordon Smith.
The group that was arrested included physician Paul Qualtere-Burcher, pediatric nurse practitioner Laurie Knackstadt and retired rural outreach counselor Peg Morton. An unnamed high school student and special education teacher were also arrested in the protest at Sen. Smith’s office.
The action was part of the national Occupation Project, developed by the organization Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org).Morethan 320 people, including 11 in Eugene, have been arrested for nonviolently occupying offices of members of Congress who were unwilling to make a commitment to vote against funding for the Iraq occupation.
Morton says she faces the possibility of a stiffer penalty since she is not a first-time offender. She was arrested in a similar protest at Rep. Peter DeFazio’s office March 12.
GREENING THE HOOD
“Greening the Neighborhood” is an upcoming neighborhood empowerment series planned at the River Road Recreation Center, 1400 Lake Drive. Jan Spencer will be hosting a series of films and discussions, a tour and action plans.
The free series begins 7 pm Wednesday, Jan. 23 with a showing of An Inconvenient Truth and will continue into the spring. Subsequent dates will look at peak oil, market capitalism, human potential, home economics, suburban renewal and other topics Spencer identifies as part of “ecological culture change.”
For more information, call Spencer at 686-6761 or visit the website suburbanpermaculture.org
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
Lane County has opened a 60-day comment period ending March 3 regarding proposed herbicide uses originally listed in the Integrated Vegetation Management 2007 Report. See details at: forestlanddwellers.org/News/LaneCounty/2008-RoadsideSpraying/
Renewals of No Spray Area Permits are due Jan. 31. For more information or to request a new No Spray Area Permit, call Caroline at Public Works, 682-6911.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
Last week in News Briefs was a story on Erin Ely and her entry in a national online contest to win $10,000 to kick-start an indoor farmers market for Eugene. Public voting actually continues until Jan. 21. “If I get into one of the top two positions in the ‘heavy hitters’ category,” she says, “then I will be in the final voting for this month, which takes place from Jan. 22 to Jan. 29, and people will need to go back and vote again during that last week of January.” To vote, go to www.ideablob.comFree registration is required before voting.
We’re pleased to hear that McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center won’t be building its high-traffic new hospital at the end of a dead-end road north of town. This was a bad idea from day one. So where does the hospital go from here? McKenzie-Willamette’s rival PeaceHealth is busy working to monopolize health care in the region by maintaining a nontrauma hospital at its old Eugene site while building a mega-hospital in north Springfield. From a marketing and accessibility standpoint, it makes sense for McKenzie-Willamette to build a high-rise hospital as close as possible to Eugene’s population center. Most hospital stays involve a stream of family and friends. In addition, hundreds of doctors, nurses and other medical workers live in the south and southwest hills, not far from downtown. Less convenient, but still close to town and public transportation would be just about any site along Franklin Boulevard, even Glenwood.
The R-G is once again egging on some sort of development race to the bottom between Eugene and Springfield. A recent R-G news story proclaimed the “starting bell” has rung in a fight between Eugene and Springfield for siting McKenzie-Willamette’s new hospital. An R-G editorial followed, arguing that Eugene “often loses development competitions with Springfield.” Really. That must be why Eugene’s population growth rate has outpaced Springfield’s since 1990 and why about two-thirds of Springfield’s working folks work in Eugene. How about a race for most livable city?
Gas station owners in Eugene are threatening to go to the voters again if the City Council doesn’t sunset a temporary 2-cent-a-gallon fuel tax that was tacked onto Eugene’s 3-cent fuel tax in 2005. But the council should call their bluff and extend the 2-cent tax for a couple more years to give the Legislature time to raise the state gas tax. An attempt to raise the city tax from 5 to 8 cents and make it permanent was nixed by voters in November, but voters shouldn’t get too riled up about keeping the tax at 5 cents for two or three more years. Meanwhile, Eugene’s pot holes and pavement cracks grow bigger.
As we go to press this week we hear Ethan Nelson, chair of the Whiteaker Community Council and a member of the board of directors, has resigned. No reason was given, but Nelson’s representation of neighborhood interests on the city’s Opportunity Siting Task Force was the subject of a “no-confidence” vote that passed 17-7 at the WCC general membership meeting Jan. 9. Nelson’s opponents claim he has a conflict of interest due to his employment with Vista Construction. In an email to the WCC Board dated Jan. 14, Nelson says he has turned over organizational documents to Majeska Seese-Green and coordinated an “information exchange” with the newly elected WCC Vice Chair Michael (Miguel) Board.
R-G stories and editorials frequently label anyone who doesn’t agree solidly with the paper’s right-leaning, pro-sprawl agenda as “liberals.” Anyone who matches the R-G‘s political litmus test is a “moderate” or “conservative.” Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy gets the “liberal” label, as does County Commissioner Bill Dwyer. Huh? We know the R-G didn’t endorse them, but in the spectrum of local politics these two clearly have moderate to conservative voting records. Piercy annoyed liberals on Hynix tax breaks, downtown developer subsidies and pro-sprawl hospital siting. Dwyer, who had a moderate to conservative record in the Legislature, backed the conservatives’ failed flat tax and recently dissed South Eugene Commissioner Peter Sorenson for a board chairman seat.
John Kerry has endorsed Barack Obama, saying Obama can really bring people together, which sounds good, but is that really what we need in America? Do progressives need to find common ground with people who don’t believe in science, are OK with torture and unprovoked warfare, think diplomacy is a waste of time, want public schools privatized, think low-income people don’t deserve health care? Do we look for compromise with people who dismiss corporate abuse, massive deficits, the destruction of the environment, the growing gap between rich and poor? No. America is in the middle of an ideological showdown, and it’s not time for kumbaya; it’s time for revolution. So when it comes to picking our next president, the big question we should be asking is not who can bring us together, but rather who has the power to bring peace, prosperity and justice at home and abroad.
A similar ideological clash is evident on the local level as well. Divisiveness on the Eugene City Council, for example, is painful to watch, and some call for compromise. But should our police department be only partially transparent and accountable? Should we allow the creation of an independent city auditor to be only half independent? Should development interests be allowed to dictate half our planning policies? Should we strive to be only partially sustainable in our policies and practices? We welcome the times when we do come together as a community to accomplish something in the public interest, such as building a new library or supporting our schools; but let’s not shy away from democracy’s noisy, rude clash of ideas and perspectives. May the best ones win.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
THE REV. STEPHEN LANDALE
“I am passionate about making liberal religion a vital force in American society,” says the Rev. Stephen Landale, who will be installed this month as minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene. Raised in Williamsport, Penn., the youngest of 10 kids in a Roman Catholic family, Landale was introduced to the UU Church shortly after his 1990 graduation from Cornell with a degree in urban studies. “I was drawn to the focus on Jesus as a human exemplar rather than as the unique son of God,” says Landale, who enrolled in UU’s Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley. From 2001 through June of ’07, he served his first settled ministry at the Bell Street Chapel in Providence, R.I. “My church was the first in the state to oppose the U.S. initiating war with Iraq,” he notes. “For a couple of years, I was the most visible religious leader supporting equal marriage rights.” Because of limited space at UU Eugene’s East 40th facility, Landale’s installment ceremony will be hosted by the First Christian Church, 1166 Oak St., at 4 pm Sunday, Jan. 27. See details at www.uueugene.org