News Briefs: Ecotage Informant Appears in Court | Building Market Plummets | Oregonians Join in Seattle Protest | Weber Event Draws Action | Energy Round-Up | Leter Blasts Downtown Landlords | Eugene Wekly’s 2007 Halloween Pumpkin Carving Contest Winner |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Breaking News (11-07-07):
Urban Renewal Defeated
Local vote upsets scheme to divert taxes to developer subsidies
Taking the Lead
States collaborate on climate issues
Tobacco, timber, speculators spend big, TV profits
Path to Autzen
Gameday walk to the big game
Happening People: Tim Helferty
ECOTAGE INFORMANT APPEARS IN COURT
Arsonist turned informant Jacob Ferguson filed a guilty plea in court Friday, Oct. 26, to one count of attempted arson and one count of arson. His sentencing is scheduled for 2 pm Jan. 10.
Information and covert recordings by Ferguson were key to the government’s “Operation Backfire” case, leading to the prosecution of almost 20 participants in ecologically motivated arsons across the Northwest.
According to court documents, Ferguson participated, sometimes lighting the incendiary devices, in arsons at: the Detroit and Oakridge Ranger stations, Cavel West, Burns BLM Wild Horse horse corrals, Forest Land Management Center (USDA), Redwood Coast Trucking Company, Wayne Bare Trucking, BLM Wild Horse Corrals Rock Springs (attempted), Vail Ski Resort arson, U. S. Forest Industries, Childers Meat Co., Boise Cascade and the Superior Lumber Company. He also participated in the destruction of a BPA transmission tower.
Speaking quietly and wearing a black wig covering the tattoos on his head, Ferguson pled guilty only to attempted arson of the Detroit Ranger Station, and the arson of a 1992 Ford pickup at the station. He has taken a plea deal that will likely allow him to be released on probation, unlike others in the case who face from three to 13 years in federal prisons.
Judge Ann Aiken asked Ferguson standard questions about his competence to understand the charges against him and the consequences of his plea deal. In response to the question of whether he had taken any drugs or alcohol, Ferguson stated he was currently on methadone and had been for the past three and half years. Methadone is a common treatment drug for heroin addiction.
Federal prosecutor Kirk Engdall said the government will give Ferguson downward departures in sentencing to “the extent necessary” to bring his sentence to Zone A of the federal sentencing guidelines, and requested the “low end” of the sentencing scale. The low end of Zone A is zero months served.
In answer to Judge Aiken’s statement, “I assume there will be restitution,” Engdall stated that according to the plea deal, Ferguson will not have to pay toward the estimated $20 million in damages the arsons caused. He will have to pay $200 in fees.
The conditions of the plea deal involve Ferguson’s past and future cooperation with local, state and federal investigators in the arson and sabotage cases. This includes meeting with investigators at “any reasonable time and place,” providing them with all documents and submitting to polygraph testing.
Ferguson also sometimes wore a “body wire” to record conversations with other defendants. The plea deal was dated and signed Sept. 17, 2004. — Camilla Mortensen
BUILDING MARKET PLUMMETS
While developers and Springfield politicians are fervently arguing that a lack of land means that Eugene should allow more urban sprawl, the local home building market has collapsed, according to permit statistics.
Developers applied for 62 percent fewer building permits so far this year compared to the same period in 2005, according to city of Eugene data. In 2005, developers had applied for 617 residential building permits by Oct. 29. In the same period this year, permit applications had declined almost three-fold to 235, the lowest level in a decade.
Realtors have also reported a sharp drop in home sales. The September supply of unsold homes in Lane County more than tripled from 2.3 months in 2005 to eight months in 2007, the Regional Multiple Listing Service reported.
Home building and home sales have declined sharply across the nation in response to the national home mortgage collapse.
But even as local developers cancel projects and try to unload land, pro-sprawl advocates continue to argue that a supposed land shortage requires the city to open up the urban growth boundary (UGB).
Last week the Eugene City Council balked at rushing to move towards more urban sprawl in response to a bill developers and their Springfield political allies pushed through the Legislature this summer. Sprawl supporters argued the measure requires the city to inventory buildable lands for homebuilders, the first step towards a UGB expansion. But the exact wording of the half-page House Bill 3337 that developers wrote appears vague, requiring the city to “complete the inventory” required “to begin compliance” with the measure “within two years.”
The Eugene council voted to discuss the matter further at a later meeting with more information. The Register-Guard, itself a major suburban developer with an office park at I-5 and Beltline, complained about the delay in an editorial Oct. 26, blaming Eugene’s anti-sprawl stance for the developers’ bill and calling on the city to “get on with business.” — Alan Pittman
OREGONIANS JOIN IN SEATTLE PROTEST
At estimated 300 peace activists from Eugene area and other Oregon cities joined the protests in Seattle Saturday, Oct. 27, according to United for Peace and Justice. UPJ organized the regional demonstrations against the war in Iraq in 11 cities. UPJ says 6,000 people gathered for the Seattle protest, and about 100,000 showed up nationwide.
“Today marks another important step in the development of a truly national movement to end the war and occupation in Iraq,” said Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of UPJ. “This movement is strong and will only keep growing,”
Michael Carrigan of CALC went to Seattle and said, “The marchers in Seattle were fired up and demanded decisive action by Congress to cut off the war funding and bring our troops home now, to block Bush administration plans for war against Iran, and to fund human needs and not war.”
More information about the Oct. 27 actions is available online at www.oct27.org
WEBER EVENT DRAWS ACTION
Protesters are expected when the Pacifica Forum on the UO campus brings the controversial “revisionist historian” Mark Weber to speak at 7 pm Friday, Nov. 2, at McKenzie Hall, Room 129 on campus.
Weber’s free talk is titled, “the Israel Lobby: How Powerful Is It?”
EW ran an ad for the lecture last week and heard from Craig Weinerman, chairman of Jewish Community Relations Council of Lane County, objecting to the ad and saying, “The imagery in the ad of the Star of David, a symbol of Judaism, in the shape of a hissing cobra is chilling. It reminds us of similar images used throughout history to degrade Jews and denigrate the homeland of the Jewish people — the State of Israel.”
Weinerman called Weber a “Holocaust denier,” and added, “Weber is also a white supremacist who has been quoted as saying that blacks cannot be assimilated into white society.”
“If Weber was invited to lecture about race relations or affirmative action, would the Eugene Weekly publish an ad with the imagery of a hangman’s noose?” Weinerman asked.
In an Oct. 19 letter to the editor in the R-G, Weber said he is a “court-recognized expert on Germany’s wartime Jewish policy and the Holocaust issue,” and does not deny the Holocaust. “No reasonable or informed person disputes the catastrophe endured by Europe’s Jews during World War II.”
Essays by Weber can be found on the Institute for Historical Review website, ihr.org. In one essay, Weber writes, “If the U.S. had not intervened in World War II, Germany and its allies might have succeeded in vanquishing Soviet communism. A victory of the Axis powers also would have meant no communist subjugation of eastern Europe and China, no protracted East-West ‘Cold War,’ and no ‘hot wars’ in Korea and Vietnam.”
On a more current topic Weber writes, “While the unprovoked U.S. invasion of Iraq may have helped Israel, just as those who wanted and planned for the war had hoped, it has been a calamity for America and the world. It has cost tens of thousands of lives and many tens of billions of dollars. Around the world, it has generated unmatched distrust and hostility toward the U.S.”
A flier being handed out this week by local activists says, “Mark Weber is not a historian, much less a scholar of historical revisionism, nor is he a political scientist. Weber is a polemicist out to prove his viewpoint.”
A statement from Orval Etter, founder of the Pacifica Forum, says Weber has a bachelor’s degree in history from PSU and a master’s in modern European history from Indiana University. Etter says the Pacifica Forum’s purpose is to “provide information and perspectives on the issues of war and peace, militarism and pacifism, violence and nonviolence.”
In an EW Viewpoint column this week, Eugene blogger Mark Robinowitz has a different take on Weber’s visit, saying, “We don’t need neo-Nazis to tell us that Israel violates human rights. It is possible that some of the Holocaust deniers are provocateurs intended to give uncritical supporters of Israel an excuse to avoid examining human rights abuses against Palestinians, among other contemporary crimes.” — Ted Taylor
The Lane County Energy Round-Up (LCER) Steering Committee is planning two follow-up meetings for all those who have been involved in Round-Up forums held over the past 10 months.
The first meeting will be from 6 to 8:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the EWEB Training Room, 500 E. 4th St, in Eugene.
On the agenda will be an update on what LCER has done and has planned to date and a discussion of the “best strategies to help slow and prepare for climate change and peak oil in Lane County.”
The second meeting for the purpose of coalition building is planned for 6 to 8:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 14, also at EWEB. “We are including groups involved with ending the war in Iraq acknowledging the war is related to these issues and takes away necessary funding and work for these urgent problems,” says Pamela Driscoll of the LCER. “Other groups invited are active in permaculture, localization efforts, renewable energy, conservation, eco-building, community building, etc.”
For more information, visit OregonEnergyModel.org
LETTER BLASTS DOWNTOWN LANDLORDS
A letter critical of Eugene commercial property owners and developers Connor & Woolley was circulated at three downtown bars last week by bartender and stand-up comic Ty Connor. Copies of the letter generated a total of 228 signatures in 72 hours, according to Connor’s count.
The letter claims that Eugene’s downtown blight is “due directly to the prolonged dis-use of properties owned by Tom Connor & Don Woolley,” and C&W have “proven for years, beyond all doubt, that they couldn’t care less about the quality of life in the West Broadway area.”
The letter calls for a no vote on Measure 20-134 and says, “This ballot measure is nothing more than a huge bailout for these do-nothing landlords. … Essentially, Measure 20-134 hands millions of dollars of public money to these negligent property owners, rewarding their neglect while at the same time threatening already established businesses with unfairly subsidized competitors, displacement and/or destruction.”
Don Woolley was sent a copy of the letter by EW and said he was considering a response. No word was received by press time.
The full text of the letter is included with other late election letters here. — TJT
Eugene Weekly’s 2007 Halloween Pumpkin Carving ContestWinner
When this entry walked through the door, we knew right away it was a winner. Yellow Hallowrine, a tribute to the fab four by Nicole Stanley, took 1st Place in this year’s competition. Congrats, Nicole; yourfabulous prizes await. Thanks for the many entries we received.
• Not voted yet? We heard from the Lane County Elections Department that only about 17 percent of the ballots had been turned in by the start of the week. In previous special elections the voting was more like 25 percent by now. Come on, people. Let’s plow through those piles of papers on our kitchen tables, find those ballots and mail them by Nov. 1 or drop them off at one of the white ballot boxes around town before 8 pm Tuesday, Nov. 6. A list of drop box locations is at www.co.lane.or.us/Elections/DropOff.htmStill undecided? See our full endorsements in our Oct. 18 issue. Below is our short list:
Springfield Measure 20-131: NO. This measure would slightly increase taxes and divert at least $43 million from school, city and county tax revenues for “urban renewal” projects in downtown Springfield.
Eugene Measure 20-132: YES. This measure adds a 3 cents a gallon fuel tax to the current 5 cent tax, to be used to repair streets and roads within the city limits.
Eugene Measure 20-134: NO. This measure amends the downtown urban renewal plan to increase spending (public subsidies) by at least $40 million.
State Measure 49: YES. This measure repairs some of the damage and confusion created by the flawed Measure 37 that allows sprawling housing developments, strip malls, gravel pits and billboards on valuable farm and forestlands.
State Measure 50: YES. This measure adds 84.5 cents per pack to the tobacco taxes currently in effect, with the proceeds going to bolster Oregon’s Healthy Kids program.
• Supporters of Eugene’s downtown urban renewal measure argue that it won’t hurt local school revenue because the state equalizes school funding. How can supposed school advocates go to Salem with a straight face to lobby for more state school funding while they’re advocating raiding the state school funding account to pay for another parking garage downtown? If everyone had their attitude of stealing from the cookie jar, there would be no money for the state to equalize among schools. Unfortunately, this free money attitude is all too common. With urban renewal and a myriad of other corporate tax break programs, local governments have diverted billions from state school funds. The result is the tax revolt among common people forced to make up for the diverted school money and the absurdly crowded classrooms we have today. It’s a similar “tragedy of the commons” with environmental issues. “Oh, the burden of my relatively small amount of pollution will be equalized and borne by all,” goes the argument. But when everyone ignores the common good, that eventually destroys the environment, and schools, for everyone.
• Good news that Democrat Jefferson Smith is starting up the Oregon political ladder by running for the House District 47 seat. That’s east Portland and mid-county, now represented by Jeff Merkley, the Democrat who is running against Gordon Smith for the U. S. Senate. Jefferson Smith is the young lawyer who left a big Portland firm and started the Oregon Bus Project five years ago. He’s smart, liberal, effective, funny, hard-working — just what we need to join what he calls “the incredible group in the House Caucus right now — some great people to work with and learn from — and there’s a unique opportunity over the next decade to help make Oregon the place it ought to be.” His website is jeffersonsmith.com.
• So what do we think about Mark Weber, who’s being called the “this country’s foremost Holocaust denier,” and will be speaking at UO Friday? Is he a racist, a bigot, a neo-Nazi, an academic fake? Or is Weber just a historian with a different perspective on world history and U.S. foreign policy? What concerns us here more than the credibility of his writings and speeches are the people who would deny him a podium and a microphone on the UO campus. What better place is there than the UO to express and discuss provocative, even idiotic ideas? And people who figure Weber has nothing constructive to say can stay away or walk out on his lecture. Why Weber was invited by the Pacifica Forum is still puzzling to us. It would only take a few minutes to come up with a list of notable speakers who would have more credibility in advancing our understanding of U.S. foreign policy — even regarding Israel’s influence — and would draw a bigger audience than Weber.
• Thanks to all who partied with us Oct. 25 at Indigo District celebrating our 25th anniversary. The free party coincided with our big Best of Eugene issue, and it was great fun to wiggle through a friendly crowd of our kind of peeps. Special thanks go to our excellent food providers Cornucopia, Brails, Tasty Thai, Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen and Sweet Life; all our advertisers, the Indigo District gang for keeping us well lubricated, Mood Area 52, the Best of Eugene band with Eagle Park Slim, Two Legged Lucy, Gaylee Russell, John Henry’s Broadway Revue, Eugene Weekly‘s Divas, the Norma Fraser Band and Yeltsin. Let’s do it again in 25 years.
• Check out blogs.eugeneweekly.com for coverage of Tuesday night’s Brewhaha debates.
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
As a teenager growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Tim Helferty got into music at 924 Gilman Street, a non-profit club in North Berkeley, where he mixed sound for a few punk and metal bands. “It was a similar venue to the WOW Hall,” says Helferty, who left the music behind when he moved to Portland in 1991 to work in the plastics industry. He worked his way up to head tech engineer, then relocated to Pak Tech in Eugene for five years. “I was working 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week,” says Helferty, who reorganized his life after heart and kidney failure in 2004. He quit his job and began volunteering at the WOW Hall, learning from the sound guys, picking up part-time paid work and eventually taking a salaried position as office manager. “I’d rather be happy and make others happy,” he says. “Everyone who comes here is happy to see a show.” Helferty oversees building maintenance and ticket sales, with a workforce of volunteers and teens doing community service. On the side, he and his girlfriend DJ KaatSkratch hire out as a sound and DJ team.