Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Sue Supriano
MANY DUSTY PLANS FOR DOWNTOWN
The city of Eugene is working on yet another plan for downtown to add to the stack of 21 planning documents for the downtown that are gathering dust while the downtown gathers vacant pits.
City staff counted “21 plans, policy documents, or community involvement efforts relevant to a discussion of desired downtown” in a memo about the new plan last week.
Despite all the plans and tens of millions of dollars spent on “urban renewal” in the downtown district for the last four decades, property there has lost so much value that the city now is having difficulty giving property away to developers to fill vacant pits and parking lots.
Here are some highlights (or lowlights) of the many failed city downtown plans that have consumed millions of dollars of taxpayer money and thousands of hours of citizen time in meetings, workshops and hearings with little or nothing to show for it:
• Downtown Plan 2004. Lots of workshops and meetings produced only a vague vision of downtown (e.g., “great streets”) that’s been largely ignored.
• Downtown Urban Renewal Plans 1968, 1989, 1998, 2004. In 1968 the city started diverting tax revenue to remove the “blight” from downtown, largely by tearing down historic buildings and replacing them with concrete parking garages. Since then property value increases downtown have trailed the rest of the city and staff still call the area “blighted.”
• West Broadway Advisory Committee 2007. Endorsed big taxpayer subsidies for parking garages for chain store developers who backed out as the economy fell.
• Broadway Street Reopening 2002. The city ripped out the pedestrian mall it had spent millions installing for urban renewal and replaced it with a “great street” for urban renewal. Little actual renewal happened.
• City Hall Plan 2005-2008. The city spent countless meetings and at least $1.5 million on a plan and public relations for a new City Hall to help invigorate downtown, then dropped it.
• Courthouse District Concept Plan 2002. The plan included some vague concepts of mixed-use development and open space around the new U.S. Courthouse. The area remains a rubble-and-weed-strewn vacant lot.
• Downtown Vision 2000. The plan involved hundreds of community members and a committee of 17, but came up with a vague call for “great streets” and “special places” that has been largely ignored and forgotten.
The Eugene mayor and City Council plan to discuss their new strategic plan for downtown Oct. 21. So far, the new plan appears to be largely a rehash of the many old failed plans.
The mayor and council have, however, taken one concrete step regarding redevelopment downtown. Instead of building a new police station downtown in one of the many pits and vacant lots to make the area more safe and lively, elected officials and city staff decided to instead move the entire police department across the river near a golf course. — Alan Pittman
LEED-ING US ASTRAY?
LEED certification for supposed leading work on green buildings, a focus of the city of Eugene, is facing criticism.
Las Vegas Weekly reports on LEED Gold certification by the private U.S. Green Building Council for two new Las Vegas Casinos. The paper writes: “Giant buildings that welcome and encourage the extravagant, wasteful behavior of thousands of guests at the same time hardly seem like a recipe for saving Mother Earth.”
The article also notes use of LEED certification for parking garages and for building a new school in Texas on the edge of town to replace one that required less driving to get to. “Sure, it features a bioswale to capture storm-water runoff from the parking lot — but the old school didn’t have a parking lot.”
In Eugene some dubious LEED buildings include the UO’s Lillis Business School. The building has solar cells on its often shaded front windows that serve more for their green PR value than actual power generation. Lillis also has larger, although less visible, solar panels on the roof.
Another dubious LEED building is the Royal Caribbean call center. Instead of choosing to locate downtown, the cruise line chose to put its building next to the I-5 freeway on the edge of the urban area, and surround it by acres of surface parking lots for employees. With a mild climate and most local power from hydroelectricity, most global warming pollution here comes not from heating and cooling buildings but from driving. — Alan Pittman
WATADA’S WAR IS NOW OVER
First Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the war in Iraq, has finally ended his long legal battle with the military. Watada
refused to deploy to Iraq in the summer of 2006 with his Stryker brigade because he believed the war was illegal, saying at the time, “I am wholeheartedly opposed to the continued war in Iraq, the deception used to wage this war, and the lawlessness that has pervaded every aspect of our civilian leadership.”
Watada offered to be deployed instead to Afghanistan or to resign, but the Army refused. His court martial for missing his unit’s deployment ended in a mistrial in February 2007, and a federal judge ruled a second court martial would be double jeopardy. The Army also threatened to court martial him for “conduct unbecoming an officer” for appearing at anti-war rallies and speaking out against the decision to invade Iraq. If he had been convicted on all counts, he could have served six years in prison and been given a dishonorable discharge.
Watada has been working a military desk job since the mistrial. He was supposed to have been discharged in December 2006, but his legal proceedings prevented that. The Army accepted Watada’s latest resignation on Sept. 16, 2009, and he was discharged the first week of October, under “other than honorable conditions.”
Watada’s attorney told reporters that he felt history would treat Watada “more favorably” than the Army had, calling him “a hero and a patriot.” — Camilla Mortensen
Vandals have again struck historic Luper Cemetery. EW reported on the volunteer clean-up effort of the pioneer cemetery, first used in 1857, in our Sept. 17 issue. Vandals have been an ongoing problem at the River Road-area cemetery, but the recent burst of destruction was the worst yet.
Almost every headstone was tipped over and broken, including the largest family grave markers. The vandals left behind beer cans and a fire pit, ringed with the broken pieces of tombstones they had knocked over. The destruction took place Oct. 11, and was discovered the next morning. Eugene police are aware of the vandalism and have filed a report.
Chris Jensen, a city wastewater employee who has led the volunteer clean-up efforts, was dismayed but undaunted. Jensen estimated that before the vandalism, 50 percent of the headstones required significant restoration. Now, that number is higher than 90 percent. A late September push to clear brush and litter brought the clean-up team to within hours of completion. “The damage is just unbelievable,” Jensen says. “It was looking so nice. We’re not going to quit on it, but I think that’s what someone would like to see.”
The city’s nearby water pump stations are also frequent targets of vandalism. Jensen hopes increased attention on the cemetery will bring an end to the destruction. “People like to brag, and maybe someone will shoot their mouth off a little too much and somebody will turn them in,” Jensen says. “I have to look at it as if I had descendants in that cemetery. They deserve better than what that place looked like when we started.”
To volunteer for future Luper Cemetery clean-up efforts, contact Chris Jensen at 541-510-5113. — Vanessa Salvia
• A local fair celebrating International White Cane Day is planned from noon to 6 pm Thursday, Oct. 15, at the Hilyard Community Center, 2580 Hilyard St. in Eugene. Featured will be exhibits, resources, products and possibly workshops. “Our main goal is to heighten awareness of the public, and the blind and visually impaired community to the wonderful array of resources and programs currently available,” says Rob Cook, secretary of the Lane County Council of the Blind. For more information, call 741-4367 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• A new film For the Next 7 Generations: 13 Indigenous Grandmothers Weaving A World That Works will be shown at 7 pm Friday, Oct. 16, at Unity of the Valley, 3912 Dillard Road, Eugene, followed by dessert, tea and discussion. The documentary covers the travels of the medicine women around the world, and includes our local indigenous elder, Agnes Baker Pilgrim, or “Grandma Aggie.” The film showing is a fundraiser for the Grandmothers’ upcoming trip to Arizona to meet with Grandma Mona.
• An Afghanistan peace rally is being planned for noon, Oct. 17, at the old Federal Building. 7th and Pearl. The theme of the rally is “Stop the Killing: War Will Not Bring Peace in Afghanistan.” The list of speakers includes Mayor Kitty Piercy, professor Anita Weiss, the Rev. Dan Bryant, Jim Schmidt of Veterans for Peace and Marion Malcolm of CALC. Samba Ja will close the event and lead a peace march around downtown. Contact CALC at 485-1755 for more information or to volunteer.
• A town hall meeting about domestic violence with Mayor Kitty Piercy and Commissioners Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson is planned for 6:30 pm Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Harris Hall (8th & Oak), followed by a candlelight vigil with Womenspace.
• 1000 Friends of Oregon is organizing meetings to discuss strategies to provide better transportation choices, lower household transportation costs and ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first for Eugene and Springfield is at 6 pm Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Springfield Public Library. Speaking will be Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and 1000 Friends of Oregon’s policy director and task force member Mary Kyle McCurdy. Next for the Salem areas is at 6 pm Wednesday, Oct. 28, at Salem Central Library’s Anderson Room. RSVP to Tara Sulzen with 1000 Friends at email@example.com or call (503) 497-1000 ext. 153.
• A big, free Artists for Climate Action event is being planned for 3 to 5 pm Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Hult Center Lobby in Eugene, in conjunction with the global 350 Project (www.350.org). Dozens of local musicians and other artists are involved. Brian McWhorter (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Paul Bodin (email@example.com) are the producers. See story next week.
• The Partnership for Safety and Justice (PSJ) is engaged in a campaign to encourage the city of Eugene to remove the question “Have you ever been convicted of a felony” off of the front page of the city application for employment. “Having the ‘the question’ on the front page of applications for employment deters ex-offenders from even considering to apply,” according to Paul Solomon, president of PSJ. A public meeting is planned at 5:30 pm Monday, Oct. 26, at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 166 E. 13th Ave., Eugene.
• Local Dems are preparing for their annual Democratic Party of Lane County Gala Auction from 5 to 8 pm Saturday, Nov. 7, at Mallard Hall, 725 W. 1st Ave., in Eugene. Gourmet food, entertainment, and DNC consultant Dan Carol as keynote speaker. Only 200 seats are available. See www.dplc.org for details and reservations.
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Weyerhaeuser aerially sprayed Thursday, Oct. 8, near Blachly (Sec. 14, T16S, R7W), and Greenleaf (Sec. 26, T6S, R7W) (Sec. 36, T16S, R8W) with sulfonyl urea and imazapyr herbicides in the morning (ODF Notice No. 50427).
• If you suffered damages from gypsy moth spraying (SE Eugene): you need to file a Notice of Tort Claim against the state of Oregon no later than Monday, Oct. 26, in order to preserve your right to recover damages. For forms and information, go to forestlanddwellers.org/News/GypsyMothSpray/
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
Our news story last week, “Taser Review,” misspelled the name of Kate Wilkinson, a member of the police Civilian Review Board.
• EWEB’s surplus property along the Willamette River generated lively talk at City Club Oct. 9 and some provocative ideas were kicked around by Brian Obie, Kari Westlund and Otto Poticia. These are community members and not EWEB staff, commissioners or even members of the EWEB Citizen Advisory Team. Why community members? The talk coincides with the beginning of a broader public input process that featured recent tours of the property and a public gathering to look at possibilities.
The big issues at City Club: Should EWEB’s surplus riverfront property be kept in public ownership with developers leasing parcels instead of buying them? Would public ownership discourage private development and mean less cash for EWEB, which needs the sale to finance its new facilities? Who would pay to keep the property in public ownership? Would the burden fall to city taxpayers or EWEB ratepayers?
What about open space, the millrace, Emerald Canal plans and restoring the old mill pond? How do we connect the property to the rest of downtown, the Riverfront Research Park, the UO and government buildings? Will the problematic rail tracks someday become an asset with light rail? Will developing the property help or hurt central downtown? Should the master plan be expanded to include surrounding areas and the riverfront all the way to Glenwood? At what point should public input end and the architects be left alone to do their work? And should Eugene have a development commission similar to Portland’s in order to facilitate major redevelopment projects such as the EWEB site? No one at the meeting voiced confidence in city planning and development staff taking on such projects.
We are pleased to see some long-term thinking in this process. As Brian Obie says, “It’s not all about the river; it’s about the next 150 years.” But we predict collisions between visions and reality. Poticia pointed out that this property, as it stands, is fraught with challenges to redevelopment, including ground pollution. “The site is not saleable,” he says.
• With two-thirds of Eugeneans voting for independent police oversight, you’d think it would be easy for the mayor and City Council to find people to appoint to the Civilian Review Board who support the concept. But our elected officials have pulled a fast one on the voters, appointing a seeming majority to the oversight panel who apparently don’t believe in police oversight. To add to the insult, the mayor and council have also hired a police auditor who’s on record stating that he won’t publicly disagree with the police. Huh? Isn’t that his job? It looks like the mayor and council have defied voters and cynically installed the auditor and review board system they want: a quiet system that doesn’t believe in assertive police oversight or auditing.
The council should only appoint or reappoint people to the review board and auditor positions who are strong supporters of human rights, civil liberties and independent police oversight and auditing. Eugeneans did not vote to maintain the status quo.
• Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize should give a boost to Lane County efforts to fund the national Nobel Peace Monument project being planned for Alton Baker Park. Historian John Attig spoke about the Nobel Peace Prize at the Eugene Public Library last week, the day before Obama was named the winner. One more American will now grace the monument’s spiral walk. More volunteers, letters of support and financial contributions are needed to make this national monument happen. Call Attig at 686-1027 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• We’re wondering why Eugene is so eager to move its employees out of what is described as a desperately dangerous earthquake-prone City Hall and seems to take no leadership in moving our kids out of rickety schools. Different governance, we know, but we’re all in the same quake zone.
• It’s long past time that the 4J School Board consider an inconvenient truth. The district’s school choice system of privileged parents driving all over town to drop off kids at traffic jams at elite schools has a big impact on safety, neighborhood livability and global warming. The district should get with the sustainability program and reform its choice system and design its schools and school policies with the goal of reducing driving and increasing walking and biking to school.
• Now that the cold, wet season has hit and the forest fires of summer are slowly smoldering out, what’s going to happen to the forests that burned? Will the Forest Service use the Tumblebug fire that burned almost 15,000 acres near Oakridge as an excuse for some post-fire salvage logging and risk the protests that sprung up around Warner Creek and southern Oregon’s Biscuit fire? Or will the USFS concentrate on restoration, thinning and less controversial forest practices?
• Some of us were sorry to see Boston drop out of the play-offs for the provincial reason that we like to watch and cheer for Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox centerfielder who hails from Madras and played brilliantly for OSU. An Oregonian of Navajo descent, Ellsbury batted 301 this season and never gave up in center field. He’ll bring us back to Boston in 2010.
Raised in rural northern Illinois, Sue Supriano went to a one-room school through third grade, rode the bus to Dundee schools until age 16, then graduated from Dana Hall prep school in Massachusetts. She started college at Michigan, spent three years away in Paris, returned for a political science degree from the University of Chicago, and moved to Berkeley. “I became active in the civil rights movement,” she says. “I jumped into SNCC and CORE.” By the mid-’60s, Supriano was a community organizer in the free-speech, anti-Vietnam War, and women’s movements. “I worked all the time,” she says. “It was great! I didn’t give speeches. I went to meetings, made flyers, and handed them out.” In the early ’80s, Supriano began recording interviews for KPFA, Pacifica Radio. “I became hooked on radio activism,” she says, “bringing the voices of ordinary people, and the activists, onto the airwaves to be heard by folks all over.” Since she moved to Eugene in 2005, Supriano’s radio interview series Steppin’ out of Babylon has featured such topics as peak oil, climate change, environmental pollution and militarism. Subscribe to podcasts or check out the archive of more than 250 shows at www.suesupriano.com