Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Kara Penniman
BLURRY BIKE PLAN VISION
Eugene’s bike commuting rate dropped from 8 percent in 1990 to 5.5 percent in 2007. The city now trails Davis, Calif., with a 17 percent bike commuting, Corvallis with 7.5 percent rate and Portland, where the biking rate has almost doubled in the last decade. The city’s TransPlan predicts bike commuting here will continue to drop and devotes hundreds of millions of dollars to more freeways while giving only about 1 percent of funds to cycling. Bike theft and bike accidents are both increasing, and the city has abandoned adding new bike lanes downtown.
|Portland’s annual Bridge Pedal clogs streets and gives biking a huge boost|
Into this grim picture for local cycling comes a new “Pedestrian and Bicycling Strategic Plan” from the city. The draft plan “presents a dynamic, compelling and exciting vision,” the plan states about itself. But the plan does not acknowledge the decline in bicycle commuting and funding in Eugene or call for reversing the trend.
Rather than calling for specifics, such as a targeted increase in the bike commuting rate, increasing bike funding to 5.5 percent to match its mode share or adding a certain number of miles of additional bike lanes or paths, the vague five-year plan focuses on education and promotion.
Top plan priorities include: creating a new advisory committee, a “share the road” media campaign, bike boulevards where the city puts up signs on quieter streets, safe routes to school, more bike parking, improved lighting, clearing bike paths of leaves, efforts to “develop” more funding and applying for grants.
Unlike previous plans and city efforts, the new plan mixes bike and pedestrian modes. The mix dilutes the focus on bicycling in previous plans and creates conflicts. For example, the plan calls for enforcement against cyclists using sidewalks downtown, often to avoid dangerous streets.
The plan calls for integrating the city’s bike efforts with its sustainability focus. The city has focused on reducing power use to combat global warming, but with most local power produced by dams, cycling may offer much bigger carbon reductions. The average local person here generates almost 10 times more global warming per day by driving alone than by using energy in the home, based on carbon accounting and local data.
The plan includes, but places its lowest priority on, organizing a signature biking event in Eugene. Such an event was a high priority among participants at the city’s Walking and Biking summit in Eugene last year. A Portland Bridge Pedal event promotes bike culture with 17,000 people a year.
Also not included in the vague plan is Mayor Kitty Piercy’s call to increase Eugene’s silver rating from the League of American Bicyclists to gold.
The draft “Eugene Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Plan” is available at www.eugene-or.gov/walkbikeand the city is taking comments at firstname.lastname@example.org until Dec. 1. — Alan Pittman
TOP PLACES TO CRASH
For a decade, the city the city has been compiling a list of the top 10 places in the city for vehicle collisions.
Every year the list is about the same. This year the intersection of 7th Avenue and Jefferson Street tops the list again. Over the last 10 years, the intersection has averaged about 30 crashes a year. Other top crash contenders every year include: River Avenue/Silver Lane at River Road, 7th Avenue at Washington/I-105, and 11th Avenue at Bailey Hill Road.
So if the top 10 places for crashes are so predictable, and with people’s lives at stake, why hasn’t the city made the intersections safer?
It’s not the city’s fault; it’s drivers’ fault, according to Eugene Public Works spokesman Eric Jones. “Public works can’t prevent people from running red lights, speeding, chatting on the cell phone and paying more attention to their cup of latte than to the car ahead of them,” Jones wrote in an email.
The city has done “close to the max” to engineer safety at the top crash sites with traffic lights, posted speed limits, etc. at the intersections “within the bounds of reasonable driver behavior,” Jones said.
Rear-end collisions are the most common cause of crashes at the intersections, according to the city. At 7th and Washington, 30 of the 46 reported crashes in 2006 were rear-end collisions. Eugene averages about 2,000 crashes a year.
“What these figures tell me is that there are serious consequences when drivers follow too closely and don’t pay enough attention to the road ahead of them,” said Tom Larsen, the city’s traffic engineer.
But new to the top 10 places to crash list this year is 29th and Willamette. In recent years the city has permitted multiple narrow driveways at or near the increasingly busy intersection, including a corner credit union with drive-through lanes. —Alan Pittman
CPA THROWS A PARTY
The Eugene grassroots activist group Citizens for Public Accountability normally has its annual meeting this time of the year, but instead, the group is planning a party. Mixed in with the music, food and wine, however, will be a bit of politics.
Next week’s event begins at 7 pm Thursday, Nov. 29 at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St. Keynote speakers will include Mayor Kitty Piercy talking about downtown, the recent election and where we go from here. Music at the event will be provided by classical guitarist Craig Einhorn.
The guest speaker will be Gary Blackmer, performance auditor for the city of Portland, talking about how independent auditors add transparency and accountability to local government and can potentially save millions of taxpayer dollars. Blackmer serves as an elected official answerable only to the voters, but independent auditors can also be hired by city councils to examine the performance of city government departments and provide other services that require an independent evaluation. Lane County government has such a position.
A charter review committee in Eugene in 2002 recommended establishing an independent performance auditor, along with other reforms, but the issue has never gone to a vote. Recent city managers, along with some conservative councilors, have opposed the idea.
To get on the CPA mailing list, email email@example.com
PARKING THE LEAVES
All over Eugene, leaves recently shed by trees are getting a second chance at life thanks to a city recycling program that has been in place since the late 1960s.
The city of Eugene Public Works collects leaves from all parts of Eugene twice each year between early November and mid-January to keep the leaves from clogging storm drains. Eric Johnson, surface operations manager for Eugene Public Works, said the city collects about 16,000 cubic yards of leaves every leaf season. Last year, about a quarter of them went to private properties. The rest were divided among local recyclers, community gardens and processing for use as compost in parks.
|PHOTO: EVA SYLWESTER|
“We never deliver leaves to our landfill,” Johnson said.
Some of this year’s collected leaves have already found a home at West University Park. The park, located at the corner of East 14th Avene and Hilyard Street, was shut down about 10 years ago because of criminal activity. Now, on a different plot of land that is more visible to the street, members of West University Neighbors (WUN) are planning to re-open the park, says WUN Secretary Eugene Drix.
Progress on the park has been slower than expected, leaving the plot as a patch of grassless soil for the upcoming rainy winter months, so the WUN arranged for 14 truckloads of leaves to be dumped on the park site. The leaves are expected to cut down on the worst of the muddiness and to serve as mulch to fertilize the soil for future plants, Drix says.
“Leaves are rich in minerals, so when they do break down, they provide a great source of minerals to the soil,” says Anne Donohue, compost specialist for the city of Eugene.
Donohue said two things that help leaves decompose faster are shredding them into smaller pieces and adding materials containing nitrogen to the compost pile. Sources of nitrogen include coffee grounds, alfalfa pellets and grass clippings.
Donohue added that though some people worry that leaves will make their compost piles too acidic, leaves are actually less acidic than some commonly composted food items, like apples and oranges, and that the bacteria in the compost pile buffer the acidity. For more tips on composting, Donohue recommends the website eugenerecycles.org
Johnson said many people choose to compost their own leaves. Residents can request extra leaves for their yards by visiting eugene-or.gov/leaf or calling 682-4800. A schedule for leaf collection is also available at the website.
“The sooner the better to get your request in because it is pretty popular,” Johnson said.
Leaf pickup in unincorporated Santa Clara/River Road and Springfield areas is handled through Lane County Public Works. Information is available at lanecounty.org/PW/Leaf.htm — Eva Sylwester
Former longtime Eugene singer and musician June (Moonwater) Pierce died Oct. 26 and will be remembered in a celebration of life at dusk Sunday, Nov. 25 at Spencer Creek Grange on Lorane Highway. A potluck is planned.
Moonwater was born in Brooklyn in 1944, lived in California and Oregon and died of a stroke at age 63. She is survived by two daughters, three sons, two sisters, two brothers, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. A memorial fund has been set up at Oregon Community Credit Union.
A website with photos, a flickr slideshow and remembrances by family and friends can be found at moonwater13.blogspot.com Writers on the site refer to her beauty and kindness and her “radiance, wisdom and vitality.”
‘KEEP OREGON AWESOME’
She combines a perky Midwestern friendliness with the kind of idealism you find only in Eugene. U.S. Senate hopeful Candy Neville is making the Democratic race to defeat incumbent Republican Gordon Smith even more fun. She was the first Democrat to put her name in the hat for the Senate race but remains one of the least known.
Neville officially started her campaign in Eugene the weekend of Nov. 16 with small gatherings at the UO campus and Skinner Butte Park.
Even fitness guru-candidate Pavel Goberman had gotten more press than Neville before this week. Goberman proclaims: “Be Healthy, Get Fit, Be Energized, Vote for Me!” He went before Portland’s City Council to chide them for not taking up his 3-minute fitness workout and to try to persuade them to revoke The Oregonian’s business license for not reporting on him.
Neville points out that she’s different from the other candidates, well-known and not. Rather than just talk about replacing politicians like Smith, she says that she wants to get the attention of the people who are in office “right now” who can do something about the war in Iraq.
She is indeed different from other Democratic candidates such as experienced state lawmaker Jeff Merkley and hook-wielding lawyer Steve Novick. She admits that some of her ideas “almost sound Pollyanna-ish,” such as her plan to market Oregon’s timber as a “designer label” in order to both save trees and promote industry. But, she points out, “People make a lot of money following ideas like that.” It’s part of her plan to “keep Oregon awesome.”
Neville describes her work background (including a one time stint as a door-to door pie seller) as entrepreneurial. She has been a real estate agent and developed a small subdivision here. And as wide-eyed as she seems, she’s got the savvy to skirt questions on downtown development, saying, “Eugene and all towns have to grow and prosper.”
Neville has no political background in political office and no staff. According to blogger Kari Chisholm on the progressive political website BlueOregon, “she’s not a serious candidate” because she doesn’t have a fundraising account with them. She does have a MySpace page with a “determined” smiley face emoticon and encouraging messages from her daughter.
She also managed to get both the R-G and the Oregonian to cover her recent campaign kick-off, which is pretty impressive for what many call a “fringe candidate.” The R-G acknowledges that Neville’s husband is an editorial writer for the paper.
Mainly what Neville has is a whole lot of optimism and a mission to end the war in Iraq and “stop the rising death tolls.”
She’s not a one-issue candidate, she says. She sees health care and mass transit as big issues. In fact, she plans to try to use the bus and trains as much as possible during her campaign. She’s also interested in education and programs for foster children. “A strong candidate can’t be an ignorant candidate,” she says.
Everyone needs to “lift a finger,” says Neville. This mother of three, a former Quaker minister, felt that the current war and possible plans to attack Iran meant it was time to do a little more. “It’s a wonderful time to have a campaign,” she says. “People have to be active and have to stand up.”— Camilla Mortensen
• We’re besieged with letters complaining about ¡Ask a Mexican!, our new syndicated column by Gustavo Arellano. Most of these letters came in too late for this issue since we are going to press a day early. Look for them next week. Meanwhile, a lively interview with Arellano can be found in Utne magazine. Go to utne.com and search for “Gustavo.” In the introduction to the Q&A, interviewer Steven Robert Allen of Alibi newspaper writes, “I couldn’t help but think that if we ran his column an angry mob would storm our offices … After my initial horror subsided, however, I realized that beneath Arellano’s offensive stereotypes and penchant for vulgarity lurked a smart, subversive social critic.”
“From day one,” Allen writes, “his column has embraced the full, terrifying scope of the immigration debate, ramming into it head-on, sometimes with what seems like reckless abandon.”
In the interview, Arellano says he has critics and fans among both Latinos and Anglos. “What we tried to do from the start was just slam people and challenge everything they believe about Mexicans. That’s why we run that logo. Of course it’s a racist logo. But it’s the Mexican that has been perpetuated by American culture for the past 150 years. … There is a lot of racism out there, and stereotyping continues. As a child of Mexican immigrants, I’m not going to stand idly by and let people perpetuate those stereotypes. I’m going to go after them with everything I have.”
• A Medal of Valor award for killing a mentally ill teenager? The Register-Guard reported the story Sunday in a follow-up to the shooting of Ryan Salisbury last November. The award makes no sense. Why would the Oregon Peace Officers Association honor officer Shawn Trotter for actions “above and beyond the call of duty to protect the public”? Is this award supposed to make Trotter feel better or somehow portray this tragedy as a positive response worthy of emulation? All it does is make police officers and their professional organization appear clueless and insensitive .
• As Duck watchers lose one football star after another with season-ending leg injuries, they must be wondering: Is this just the bad luck of a violent sport or is something else at play? Is the Autzen turf too grabby? Are the players’ strengthening or stretching programs all wrong? Could Duck practices be too physical? Is the new high-octane Duck offense especially hard on players’ legs? Could those fancy Nike shoes be part of the problem? Wouldn’t that be ironic!
• Do you hear the word “passengers” in any of the hot debate about the 120-mile railroad line from Eugene to Coquille on the coast? Owned by a Florida hedge fund, the line was shut down in September for safety reasons confirmed by the Federal Railways Administration. The shutdown also has nearly shut down at least four major employers on the south coast that move lumber, wood chips and steel. With a nod to the grim forecasts of the latest climate change science , why don’t we use this breakdown to start talking about moving passengers, too? With repair costs estimated at $23 million, how much more will it cost to put on passenger cars, perhaps adding a short bus connection up to Florence? Plenty, but our Congressman Peter DeFazio is chair of the House Transportation Sub-committee and he would rather fund trains than wars. This could be the time.
• We wandered down to the Holiday Market this weekend at the fairgrounds and saw people in the booths actually dancing for joy and hugging each other and their customers. The first weekend of the market is a big reunion for people associated with the event, and the energy is infectious. And whoever’s in charge of the live music has booked some great talent. Let’s pack the market this year. It’s free, it’s fun. What’s not to love?
• Overheard: a conversation between two women waiting in the long line to use the Hult Center women’s bathrooms during the intermission of Evita Saturday: “Why haven’t they added more toilets for women here?” one asked. “Nothing’s going to change until we get more women architects,” another responded.
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
“My co-workers wouldn’t recognize me,” says Kara Penniman, by day a social worker at Churchill and South Eugene high schools. “I help kids and families in crisis. It’s what I always wanted to do.” Four nights a week, Penniman transforms into Burnadeath of the Flat Track Furies when the Emerald City Roller Girls work out at the Regional Sports Center in Springfield. Last winter, when Penniman was feeling lonely and low, her sister in Baltimore suggested she look at roller derby. “A group of us saw the Rose City Rollers in Portland, and I was hooked,” she says. “I hadn’t exercised in 20 years.” Emails and a post on Craig’s List drew six people to a first meeting in January. Ten months later, ECRG has grown to 75 members and three teams, plus an additional 25 newbies or “fresh meat,” according to league founder and President Burnadeath. “Most of us had never played team sports before,” she says. “We like to say, ‘Roller derby saved my soul.'” ECRG’s first public bout, in October, sold out in 30 minutes. The next is set for Feb. 17. Learn how you can be fresh meat at emeraldcityrollergirls.com