News Briefs: ODOT Signs ‘Vandalize’ Bike Bridge | Council Backs Auditor Vote | Oregon Schools and Pesticides | No Child Left Inside | Activist Alert | On the Web This Week | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Fairmount Faces Arena
Fairmount negotiates for smarter development
Happening People: UO Family and Human Services Students
ODOT SIGNS ‘VANDALIZE’ BIKE BRIDGE
Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) workers have installed large new signs on the graceful new cable-stayed bicycle and pedestrian bridge south of the Gateway interchange. The signs give directions to the nearby freeway flyover bridge serving Beltline Road, but not everyone appreciates the positioning of the signs.
“It is clear that ODOT has absolutely no taste,” says noted Eugene architect Otto Poticia in a letter to EW. “This is the agency that Eugene has relied on to design the new and important I-5 bridge entrance to Eugene? Clearly they lack imagination and aesthetic skills to be trusted to make important design decisions as important as this one.”
Poticia calls traffic engineering “the least creative of all the engineering disciplines,” and says it’s “sad for the state, since ODOT controls more resources that influence our built environment than any other agency. No use continuing to discuss the design of the new I-5 bridge; they simply don’t, won’t and never intended to understand.”
Poticia does give credit to ODOT for the design of what he calls a “beautiful and sleek” bike bridge to serve the Gateway area. The bike bridge, he says, “truly makes an important difference to the event of driving the freeway. Alas it now turns out that they built it to support two very large and ugly standard signs to guide you to the Beltline and save two posts.”
The bike bridge, he says, “has been vandalized and ruined by its maker.” And he suggests that the signs be removed and “the person who made this decision be promoted to painting yellow traffic lines for his or her lack of caring.”
ODOT and Congressman Peter DeFazio’s office did not respond to requests for comments by press time. — Ted Taylor
COUNCIL BACKS AUDITOR VOTE
Eugene voted overwhelmingly in support of the police auditor on Nov. 4. But the 65 percent yes vote for the charter amendment didn’t appear to impress critics on the City Council who again voted against the voter-backed function.
At a Nov. 11 meeting, Councilors Mike Clark, Jennifer Solomon, George Poling and Chris Pryor voted against pursuing an ordinance to implement updates to the charter amendment passed by voters. Councilors Bonny Bettman, Betty Taylor, Alan Zelenka and Andrea Ortiz voted in favor of the police auditor ordinance. Mayor Kitty Piercy broke the 4-4 tie in favor of the pro-auditor measure.
Clark, Solomon, Poling and Pryor make up a conservative block on the council that has frequently voted against the auditor position despite its passage twice by voters. The four conservative councilors themselves were elected after running largely unopposed for their seats.
If Jim Torrey, another opponent of independent police oversight had won election, Torrey and the conservative block on the council could have repealed the police oversight system approved by voters. It was that prospect that prompted Councilor Bettman to move to refer the just-passed charter amendment to protect the will of the voters.
“The outcome of the election was important,” Bettman said at the meeting. “There is overwhelming support for the [police auditor] system,” she said. “There was a mandate by the voters.”
To follow that mandate, Bettman proposed a dozen ordinance changes and clarifications to assure the auditor access to information on police complaints and a role in the intake and review of complaints against the police.
“It’s just reinforcing what the public wants,” said Councilor Taylor in support. “It’s routine almost.”
But council conservatives appeared adamantly opposed. “This is working too fast because of a recent election,” said Councilor Clark.
But supporters said the changes have been long considered in response to continued police opposition to the auditor function. “These aren’t new issues; nobody should be surprised at it. These are issues we’ve been tackling and grappling for the past year,” Councilor Zelenka said.
The council plans to hold another work session on the ordinance changes, hold a public hearing and take final action in a month.
It’s unclear whether all the changes will end up passing. “I don’t support several of these,” said Councilor Ortiz, a key swing vote. —Alan Pittman
OREGON SCHOOLS AND PESTICIDES
Eugene-based Oregon Toxics Alliance says children in Oregon have been exposed to pesticides in classrooms, on playgrounds, on ball fields and at school bus stops. OTA reviewed pesticide poisoning complaint records kept at the State Department of Agriculture and Department of Human Services and found 56 cases of kids in Oregon schools being exposed to pesticides since 1990. Forty-three of the cases were reported in the last 10 years.
OTA Executive Director Lisa Arkin says there are probably more incidences of pesticide exposure at schools than the records indicate. Exposures can go underreported, she says, because it takes effort to report an incidence, kids don’t know why they feel ill, people are unsure of which agency to inform and some are afraid of workplace repercussions if they report the exposure.
According to OTA’s report, 14 of the reported incidents resulted in school evacuations, trips to emergency rooms or citations from a violation of state pesticide law. Unlike many other states, Oregon does not have a statewide policy promoting safe pesticide practices at schools, says Arkin.
One incident in the report took place four years ago in Lane County, at a school bus stop in Junction City. A bus driver reported smelling odors and seeing pesticide drifting from a nearby aircraft. A farmer was applying pesticides to a grassfield next to the bus stop, according to OTA’s report. The children at the bus stop were coughing and yelling to get on the bus.
Arkin says OTA’s report is “tracking the exposures to pesticides in a state like our own that really doesn’t protect people.” The report itself, she says, is not making a correlation between higher rates of illnesses like autism, asthma and breast cancer and pesticide exposure. But Oregon does have unexplained high incidences of these conditions, and Arkin says some of these highly toxic pesticides have been linked to cancer, reproductive effects and nervous system damage
OTA presented copies of the report to Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s office and State Superintendent of Schools Susan Castillo on Monday. — Camilla Mortensen
NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE
Is staying inside making your kids sick? It’s time to get them out of the living room and into the great outdoors, according to the Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah and the Youth in Nature Partnership.
The Friends of Buford Park have a solution to indoors-induced illness — they’re going to help kids get over their “nature-deficit disorder” by getting them back outside at Mount Pisgah, rain or shine, according the group’s executive director, Chris Orsinger.
Orsinger says the events are inspired by Richard Louv’s 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, which first put forth the idea of nature-deficit disorder. Since the book’s publication, a “leave no child inside” movement has started to get kids back playing in the outdoors (the ubiquitous outdoor toy, the stick, was just initiated into the Toy Hall of Fame, after all).
A study published by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine has researchers theorizing that staying indoors could lead to increased rates of autism. The study showed a link between children who live in areas of high precipitation, like Oregon, and high autism rates. Counties west of the Cascades have four times as much rain as the east side, and autism rates on the west side are twice as high.
The researchers have not determined what about rain could lead to autism in kids, but one speculation is that the rain could bring down chemicals in the atmosphere that could trigger the condition in “genetically vulnerable,” kids. Another theory is that the large amount of rainfall keeps kids inside and in front of the television, which means they get less vitamin D and are exposed to more indoor chemicals.
If you want to know more about getting kids into the outdoors and “nature-deficit disorder,” come hear Martin LeBlanc’s talk “Why leave no child inside?” at the Friends of Buford Park’s 17th Annual Fall Celebration, at 7 pm Thursday, Nov. 20, at The Shedd’s Jaqua Hall. LeBlanc will discuss how the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual benefits for children of playing outdoors. LeBlanc is one of the founding members of the Children and Nature Network, which works with people and programs to get kids off the sofa and into the woods.
Then on Saturday, Nov. 22, round up the kids and bring them over to Mt. Pisgah Arboretum’s White Oak Pavilion at Buford Park between 10 am and 2 pm for hayrides, horse rides, campfire cooking, nature crafts, and map and compass treasure hunts. Both events are free and open to the public though it costs $2 to park at Mt. Pisgah. — Camilla Mortensen
|PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk|
• Eugene Science Pub is at 7 pm Thursday, Nov. 13, at Cozmic Pizza downtown, and features Steve Larson, Ph.D., talking on “The Science of Melody: Motion, Metaphor and Meaning in Music.”
• PETA founder Ingrid E. Newkirk, author of One Can Make a Difference, will be speaking and signing books in Eugene at 7 pm Monday, Nov. 17, at Borders in the Oakway Center. Newkirk, who founded PETA in her living room in 1980, has led the organization to become the largest animal rights group in the world.
• The Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council will address floodplain restoration at its General Council meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 19 in the Oakridge High School Library. An expert from Tetra Tech, Inc., a local resource management agency, will make a presentation to be followed by a panel discussion. This event is free and open to the public. More info, call Eve Montanaro at (541) 937-9800.
ON THE WEB THIS WEEK
• An election night story by Mose Tuzik Mosley of Eugene explores the atmosphere and goings-on in Washington, D.C. And more letters to the editor can also be found on the web this week.
• At blogs.eugeneweekly.com: Chuck wrote an emotionally charged post after an election night spent at a low-key concert, called the performer a “cynical prick,” received over 50 comments and responded with a post apologizing for journalistic transgressions. Mariam posted a review of South Eugene’s RENT: School Edition (with nice images). Camilla discussed Obama’s naming a folklorist to his transition team and posted a roundup of humorous “Well duh!” headlines. Molly reviewed another Frightened Rabbit show. Alan posted a video from an allegedly “disgruntled” former KEZI-TV employee and blogged the ongoing election results.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,193 U.S. troops killed* (4,189)
• 30,774 U.S. troops injured* (30,764)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 97,084 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (96,976)
• $570.0 billion cost of war ($568.0 billion)
• $162.1 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($161.5 million)
* through Nov. 10, 2008; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** sources: icasualties.org, defenselink.mil
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.1 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Gypsy Moth Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement: Comments are due by Nov. 17 on the proposed increase in insecticide (chemical and biological pesticide) spraying to control Gypsy Moths in the U.S. including in Oregon. See details at: www.na.fs.fed.us/wv/eis/
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org
• The Register-Guard continues to beat up on Mayor Kitty Piercy after the election with a Sunday news story and sour grapes editorial that talk about Piercy riding Obama’s popularity to victory, the city is still divided, she has damage to overcome, “lessons to learn,” she needs to admit that Jim Torrey’s supporters “may be right,” etc. — enough crap to fill every trash can in Eugene’s dog parks.
The daily fails to comprehend that Torrey’s half a million dollar campaign has been a hugely divisive force in this community. His six-month-long misleading campaign, with the help of the R-G, pitted north Eugene against south Eugene. He falsely accused the mayor of doing nothing for the local economy, being anti-business, not supporting the police, not fixing roads and alienating other cities in Lane County.
Piercy’s victory is all the sweeter in that she survived a massive onslaught of negative campaigning, lame reporting and negative editorials. In the end, a majority of Eugeneans saw through the deceptions. Voters picked the candidate who is focused on quality of life issues and a sustainable economy.
• Eugene voters Nov. 4 overwhelmingly approved solidifying Eugene’s independent police auditor, and outgoing Councilor Bonny Bettman has been busy drafting a dozen code amendments. The election affected the charter language; the proposed amendments deal with the details of how the charter will be implemented. The changes primarily assure unfettered access so the auditor can do her job. Monday’s vote on the amendments was 4-4 with Mayor Piercy breaking the tie. She would probably have preferred a 5-3 or 6-2 vote, but breaking ties on an ideologically split council is what Eugeneans elected her to do. Jim Torrey did it many times during his eight years as mayor.
The four city councilors who are objecting to these common-sense amendments need to step back and listen to their constituents. The charter measure passed by two-thirds of the vote, indicating strong support for the independent auditor in every ward.
• We expect Rob Handy to be declared the victor this week in his very close race to unseat County Commissioner Bobby Green. Handy is leading by 200 votes as we go to press. What will happen with Commissioner Handy as a progressive swing vote? We’re hoping to see better protection of our county’s resource lands, transportation planning with peak oil and bicycles in mind, a shift in public safety priorities from punishment to prevention, and more progressive taxation. We also expect north Eugene to get a more accessible commissioner. Green had a reputation for not returning phone calls and not showing up for community events.
• The perfect encore to the emotion of election week moved much of the audience in Beall Hall to tears last Sunday afternoon. Jeffrey Kahane, the brilliant pianist who is one of the Bach Festival’s most popular soloists, performed music by Mendelssohn and Schubert, ending with Rachmaninoff. Returning to the stage for his single encore, Kahane gave the audience his own tender and emotional improvisation of “America the Beautiful.” How wonderful that our country is so deserving of this tribute this November.
• This election has seen the Bus Project rise to power in Oregon as a creative force for getting young people excited and involved in political work. Jefferson Smith’s innovative leadership getting out the vote with the Bus Project and his successful bid for a seat on the Legislature show he has a big future in Oregon politics. The Oregon Bus Project registered 23,000 new voters this year, increasing the Oregon youth electorate by 7 percent. Bus trips all over the state this fall knocked on 60,000 doors, including thousands in Eugene.
• Enrollments at the UO are going up with the downturn in the economy, but Lane County and the city of Eugene are making it harder for commuting students to get to school. LTD is discussing cutting several routes to the UO campus, and Eugene just raised the parking meter fees around the UO to a dollar an hour. In an ideal world, we’d all walk and bike, but commuters need to get to school somehow.
• Oregon TV stations have made untold millions on eight months of presidential and Senate campaigns, and local TV stations have also raked it in on the mayoral and County Commission races, all coming at a time when national and local ad revenues have been slipping. What will next year look like? Don’t be surprised to see more layoffs and cutbacks in broadcast newsrooms. On the up side, we no longer have to suffer through endless and repetitive back-to-back political ads. Gotta love the mute button.
UO FAMILY AND HUMAN SERVICES STUDENTS
“Since 2004, our students have logged over 253,080 hours of field work,” says Kelly Warren, field study coordinator for the UO College of Education’s degree program in Family and Human Services. “That has an economic impact of more than $3 million, based on $13 an hour.” The FHS program is designed for students considering careers with community service or government agencies, in fields such as social welfare, drug and alcohol treatment, recreation and special education. Students enter the FHS program in their junior year, after they have completed the basic course requirements for graduation. In addition to professional coursework, they serve three internships, one per term, with local agencies. As seniors, they choose one of those agencies for an extended year-long internship. “FHS is unique in giving undergrads the experience of internships in the community,” says senior Linda Cathey, who worked in the Southern California movie industry before moving to Eugene in search of a new career in 2004. “This year, I’m working with fourth and fifth-graders at Adams School. Last year, I also worked at Head Start and at Senior and Disabled Services.”