News Briefs: Waterfront: EWEB vs Eugene | Commish Gave Away Tax Revenue | Clean Skies Campaign | Energy Roundup II | Iraq War Cuts Funds for Needy | Cohousing Out to Bid | Lane County Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happenin’ Person: Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant
WATERFRONT: EWEB VS. EUGENE
If some or all of EWEB’s industrial land along the downtown riverfront becomes a park, who should pay for it?
On the surface, it doesn’t appear to matter. EWEB’s ratepayers are largely the same people as the city’s taxpayers. But city taxes fall harder on residents than do EWEB rates.
If EWEB sells the land for less, any lost sale revenue will come from ratepayers. About one-third of EWEB’s rate revenue comes from residential customers with the rest largely from businesses.
If the city pays top dollar to EWEB for the land, city taxpayers will foot the bill. About one-half of the city’s tax revenue comes from residential taxes and about one-half from business taxes.
That means that if EWEB pays for the park land, residents will pay less and businesses will pay more. Whatever the city pays will fall more heavily on residents.
That disparate impact could be at the heart of tense discussions that the Eugene City Council, dominated by progressives, is having with the EWEB board, dominated by business interests.
In a Feb. 12 joint meeting, EWEB commissioners urged the City Council to quickly rezone the riverfront land for high-density commercial or residential uses. That would allow the utility to demand top dollar in selling the land to the city for a park or to a developer.
If any of EWEB’s land is zoned into a park, “it has zero value,” said Commissioner John Brown, a commercial Realtor. “That would be my concern, that we get a lot of open space designation.”
But council progressives said that maximizing EWEB’s sale value for the land might not be in the broader public interest. “You’ve got two values at play here — best value in terms of your sale and best value in terms of the community,” Mayor Kitty Piercy said. “It isn’t just simply where do you get the best bang for your buck, it’s where do you get the best bang for your buck for the community.”
Councilor Bonny Bettman agreed. “To me the objective is not to maximize the profit from the piece of property, it’s to maximize the public benefit from the piece of property.”
Piercy urged EWEB commissioners to join with the city in a collaborative planning process for the riverfront public land. “I’m imploring you to be willing to step out the door with us.”
But Commissioner Ron Farmer, a Bank of America executive, balked. EWEB’s goal is “to realize as much value out of that land as we can,” he said. “We won’t give up our rights to at least manage the process for the property were going to sell.”
But Eugene councilors rejected letting EWEB master plan the site with a developer without cooperating with the city. The council voted 6-2 to bring back options for a city managed or a cooperative planning process for the downtown riverfront land. — Alan Pittman
COMMISH GAVE AWAY TAX REVENUE
Lane County officials are screaming that they’ll have to decimate public safety if they don’t get more tax revenue.
But two years ago, county officials appeared unconcerned with tax revenue when they forced the city of Eugene to give Hynix an extra $10 million in enterprise zone tax breaks.
A Eugene City Council majority had wanted a per-job cap for its enterprise zone tax breaks. Hynix had already received about $50 million in tax breaks. But county commissioners balked at the cap and other stricter community benefit criteria, forcing the city into the bigger giveaway for the joint city-county enterprise zone.
The county lost about $2 million in revenues from the bigger Hynix tax break, with the city and state school funding losing the rest. The county could revisit the enterprise zone tax break at any time to staunch the flow of revenues it’s losing to businesses and corporate profits. But the county is instead still focused on an income tax that could even hit the paychecks of county residents living below poverty. — Alan Pittman
CLEAN SKIES CAMPAIGN
Two local public interest groups, The Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA) and Citizens for Public Accountability (CPA) are organizing support for State Rep. Paul Holvey in his campaign to pass legislation banning agricultural field burning.
A gathering in support of CPA’s Clear Clean Skies campaign is planned for 7 pm Wednesday, Feb. 28 at EWEB. Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson plans to talk, and a new, short documentary by The Sky’s the Limit will be shown. The audience will see aerial photos of field burning, and citizens affected by the smoke will tell their stories.
Starting again this summer, the “dark smoke-breathing dragon of field burning comes billowing towards us,” says Lynn Apsel of CPA in a message to CPA’s mailing list. “Those formerly idyllic skies suddenly resemble the smog in Los Angeles. If you’re caught right in the path of the smoke, the choking impact can be staggering.”
CPA says the state of Oregon’s seriously flawed “solution” has merely reduced the number of acres burned, “still stranding us in the midst of 40,000 acres of dense, dark smoke, leaving our beautiful skies filthy and many gasping for breath.”
Holvey is expected to introduce legislation this session that will ban all field burning, forcing grass seed farmers to turn to more eco-friendly alternatives. Already lobbying lawmakers to oppose Holvey’s bill is the pro-field burning Oregon Seed Council.
One of the current actions of CPA and OTA is collecting stories of asthma and respiratory disease sufferers who are seriously affected by field burning. The stories will be sent to the state Legislature to support Holvey’s bill. To participate, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 520-9572. The groups are also seeking letters of support.
ENERGY ROUNDUP II
People might be more interested in putting solar panels on their roofs than sealing cracks around their windows, but according to Kathy Ging, “You’ve got to drink your conservation milk before you can eat your solar cookies.”
Ging is coordinating the second in a series of Lane County Energy Round-Up forums, scheduled for 7 to 9 pm Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 1376 Olive St. in Eugene.
The forum will include an overview of the information shared at the first forum held Jan. 23 along with an opportunity to brainstorm in small focus groups on specific ideas. The forum will also come up with suggested policy recommendations.
Fourteen focus group topics are planned, including biofuels, climate solutions, conservation and energy efficiency, electric utilities, food security and relocalization, green building, new energy, legislation and photovoltaics.
“These are important discussions,” says the group’s advisor, Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson. “How can we create jobs for a sustainable economy that will also enhance and protect our environment?”
Sponsors of the forums include the Climate Crisis Working Group, Emerald PUD, EWEB, EW, HeliosNetwork.org, Oregon Department of Energy, Northwest EcoBuilding Guild and West Wind Forest Products.
For more information, contact Ging at 342-8461, 729-1444 or email@example.com
IRAQ WAR CUTS FUNDS FOR NEEDY
President Bush is requesting an additional $100 billion in war spending for fiscal year 2007, and his proposed budget for fiscal year 2008 would cut $13 billion from programs that serve low- and middle-income Americans, according to the National Priorities Project (NPP), a non-profit, non-partisan research group that studies the local impact of federal policies.
NPP offers an analysis of the president’s budget and war spending requests that includes state-level breakdowns. The analysis is available at http://nationalpriorities.orgBush’s budget calls for cuts in Community Development Block Grants, Head Start, Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, Special Education, Child Care and Development Block Grant, and Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
COHOUSING OUT TO BID
Architectural drawings are complete, and the Eugene Downtown Cohousing project is going out for bids, according to Martin Henner, a Eugene attorney who is spearheading the project. Groundbreaking was originally planned for early 2006. Henner, at this point, has not set a new date for construction.
Land has been acquired for the 24-unit complex at 11th and Lincoln in Eugene, but construction has been delayed in the design phase. Commitments to purchase the individual living units have also been delayed since construction costs will determine unit costs. Henner says he and his co-investors do not plan on making any profit from sales of the residential and commercial units.
The bottom floor of the three-story complex will be parking and commercial space. The upper floors will be one-, two- and three-bedroom units surrounding a landscaped open-air plaza. The units can be owner-occupied or purchased as investments and rented out.
The cohousing model Henner is promoting is based on the idea of building a living community downtown where residents have their privacy and independence but also share common facilties, such as a party room, exercise room, workshop, library and guest rooms.
Henner says 14 of the 24 units are reserved. For more information, visit www.eugenecohousing.comor call 345-6466. — TJT
Lane County Herbicide Spray Schedule
Weyerhaeuser (744-4600) will aerially spray 1,275 acres near Bottle, Russell, Kelley, City, Douglas, Letz, Buck Creek, and the South Fork of the Siuslaw River with 2,4-D (Hardball, LV6); Velpar, Atrazine (4L, 90WSP), OustXP, Accord, Westar, Garlon (3A, 4); Transline Herbicides starting March 5 (781-50214); and 298 acres near Alsea, Lake Creek, and Long Tom Rivers starting March 1 (#781-50229).
Transition Management, Inc. (484-6706) will ground spray 32 acres near Jackson-Marlow Road with Triclopyr Ester, Amine; Glyphosate, Sulfometuron; Hexazinone; and Clopyralid herbicides starting Feb. 27 (#781-50215). ODF, 935-2283.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
Lane County commissioners are considering passing an income tax for public safety without a vote. That would be a bad idea. The tax would be quickly referred and thrashed at the polls. Voter backlash would make it even harder to pass any future county taxes. Instead, the county should craft a fair, progressive personal and corporate income tax based on ability to pay. The tax should exempt households earning less than $50,000. Businesses should pay their fair share. Revenues from the tax should go towards a more equal balance of incarceration and crime prevention. Such a fair, cost-effective tax will appeal to the liberal voters who defeated the last county tax measures.
There’s a kind of quaint honesty, and certainly transparency, about the appointment of Pat Kilkenny, wealthy UO donor, as the new athletic director. He’ll work for nothing in a position he helped vacate by contributing big-time to the $2 million golden parachute Bill Moos will take away with him. Kilkenny already has contributed millions to the athletic program and more is expected. As one web-footed wag put it, “We always thought the athletic department was run by the donors … this removes all doubt!” The Oregon Daily Emerald reports that the chair of the athletic director search committee, law professor Michael Moffitt, says his committee, assembled in December 2006, attempted to find the best possible candidates for the job and selected Kilkenny. Moffitt hopes the new hiring will promote a new “innovative relationship between athletics and academics.” Wow! But what about this innovative profitable personnel policy? Want to be assistant athletic director, law school dean, football coach, quarterback, even UO president? The possibilities and profits are endless. It could all go down on eBay with competitive bids. The university could even allow high bidders to call plays during games using their cell phones. Imagine the cash flow!
Imprisoned eco-activist Jeff “Free” Luers had his 22 years-plus sentence tossed out by the Oregon Court of Appeals last week and will be resentenced to a time that better fits his crime, probably something in the seven- to 13-year range, which still exceeds the sentences given to some murders and rapists around the country. Luers was convicted in 2001 when he was 22. So what happened? The appeals court found that Judge Lyle Velure had improperly made Luers’ first-degree arson acts at Romania consecutive instead of merging them; ditto for the attempted arson charges. What would be analogous to Velure’s thinking? Perhaps an arsonist thowing fire bombs through three different windows of the same house should be sentenced for three different arsons? Velure had his reasons for throwing the book at Luers, but in the end, the judge will be remembered for a bad sentencing decision, and Luers will become a free man basking in international martyrdom but damaged from years behind bars. No winners here, just lots of bad decisions, starting with the striking of a match.
Here’s something interesting we found as we searched for Eugene Weekly on Technorati: lorelei-lee.blogspot.com/2007/02/i-have-lost-my-illusions.html This blog post, by a UO science major who gave us permission to reprint the entire post (if only we had room!), made us laugh. She is super pissed about a letter we printed from Larry Lippert (“Rim Each Other,” 2/8), in which he suggests that our running of Dan Savage’s nationally syndicated “Savage Love” column means we should … well … you can read it in our archives at www.eugeneweekly.comor on her blog. One amusing moment in her post: “Calling Savage a slime ball is about on par with calling him a big ugly meanie. It shows that the writer has no real argument other then namecalling. As Robert Heinlein once said, vulgar idioms denote an inferior mind — but I think that was obvious in Larry’s case.” No, EW isn’t into calling names (we prefer to let our letter-writers and bloggers do that for us), but we should note that Lippert and Lorelei and everyone else will get their opportunity to speak to the Savage man himself on March 15 at the WOW Hall. More info on that benefit talk coming soon.
Last week in this column we said Jimmy Carter had been invited to Eugene to accept a Morse Award for Integrity in Politics. That information came from a former member of the Wayne Morse Park Association Board. But we heard this week from current board member Laura Olson that a decision has not yet been made on the award winner. And as far as she knows, Carter is not on the short list this time around, though he did win the award in 1989.
Did anyone else catch the 10 pm Sunday Northwest News on FOX affiliate KLSR to see local newscasters investigating Hallmark’s new line of personal greeting cards? Local shoppers were caught on camera examining the new cards. What did the rack browsers have to say for themselves under the glare of camera lights and probing questions by a team of crack reporters? One elderly woman said the cards were nice. These are tough, gritty stories on urban life, but somebody’s gotta do ’em.
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
LEIGH ANNE JASHEWAY-BRYANT
Burned out from the heat of Houston and a career in health care management that left her no time to be with her friends, Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant escaped in 1994 to cool north Eugene and a new life as a comedy writer and motivational speaker. “I came on vacation for a week and unexpectedly bought this house,” says Jasheway-Bryant, who has written 13 books and taught a class in comedy-writing at LCC for 12 years. Her humor column appeared in the Comic News for nine years before the magazine shut down local publication. “So I started a radio program,” she says. “On Women Under the Influence of Laughter” airs at 9 am Saturdays on the Air America affiliate KOPT AM 1600. Jasheway-Bryant speaks on health and humor to 50-plus conferences yearly. She emcees local events such as a “Playshop for Grow-Ups,” from 1 to 4:30 pm on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Eugene Red Lion, a benefit for the Willamette Animal Guild, the Shelter Animal Resource Alliance and their campaign to control pet overpopulation. Details at sarasavesanimals.org More about Jasheway-Bryant’s events (and products) can be found at accidentalcomic.com