News Briefs: Food Security Action No Longer a Choice | Enviro Law on Campus | Council Votes to Extend Property Tax Diversion | Supremes Say No to Pests | Lawmakers Target Slave Trafficking | Economic Gardening II | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
FOOD SECURITY ACTION NO LONGER A CHOICE
Federal stimulus money is available for “shovel-ready” projects, mostly involving bulldozers, steel and concrete. What about stimulus money for projects involving actual shovels?
Lane County produces only 3 to 5 percent of the food consumed locally, and that needs to change radically if we are to cope successfully with peak oil, climate change and an economy that is creating more and more hungry people. That’s the message coming from participants at a town hall forum on food security Feb. 17 at Harris Hall.
Despite the gloomy forecast and lack of federal help in the pipeline, several of the presenters outlined positive steps currently under way locally and talked about meeting the challenges as a “great adventure.”
Participating were Lane County Commissioners Pete Sorenson and Rob Handy, Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, Lynne Fessenden of the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition; Mary Wood of the UO Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, Jabrila Via of Winter Green Farm, and Jason Bradford of Vital Farmland LP.
Handy started off the program talking about Oregon being “second only to Mississippi when it comes to food insecurity. A third of our food boxes go to people under 18.” Handy said he finds hope in that “we are an incredibly resilient people and we have the good land and water needed for a locally owned and green economy.”
Piercy said food security and local agriculture are on the city’s list of priorities. She talked about the work of the city’s Sustainability Commission, and touted “urban homesteading” as a concept to build self-sufficiency within neighborhoods. Urban homesteading involves backyard livestock, turning yards into gardens, sharing with neighbors, and more. “We need to use what land we have in our county,” she said, “and farm in spaces we don’t normally farm in.”
Sorenson agreed, saying, “if we are looking for space for farming, sometimes it’s right in the middle of our cities.”
Handy said there are obstacles to urban farming that need to be addressed, such as zoning rules that restrict agriculture inside urban growth boundaries. Handy also called for reclaiming abandoned parking lots and other developed sites that once had agricultural value.
Fessenden said the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition serves as a “matchmaker” between growers and restaurants, school cafeterias and other consumers. “We look at the missing pieces in our food system,” she said. Economically viable farms need healthy soil, food processors, storage and distribution, and enough farmers, she said.
Wood talked about climate change and the need to reduce our CO2 emissions. She said excessive packaging and trucking our food thousands of miles have a huge impact on emissions. “We have to change drastically now,” she said, and making changes will help “build neighborhoods and communities.”
Via is a full-time organic farmer and said, “the farmer’s duty is to keep a healthy soil.” She sees farms as a “living organism” that needs to be nurtured. She also advocates for taking good care of farm workers, providing them a living wage and good working conditions.
Bradford talked about the economics of climate change and soil depletion through conventional agriculture. “We have an ecological debt crisis,” he said, “and nature doesn’t do bailouts.” He would like to see our valley’s grass seed fields converted to diversified farming for local consumption. One example is the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project, http://wkly.ws/d2
“We really have no choice,” said Bradford. “So let’s take it on as a great adventure and become active participants.”
A slideshow on imaginative urban gardening can be found at http://wkly.ws/d4 and see Activist Alert for a local urban gardening workshop. — Ted Taylor
ENVIRO LAW ON CAMPUS
|Steve Donzinger in the movie Crude|
|Bindi and Terri Irwin|
From panels on “Governmental Attempts at Repression of Environmental Activists” to speeches by Oregon AG John Kroger and Congressman Peter DeFazio, the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) pulls together voices from all over the environmental spectrum. PIELC has been an arena over the years that allows for conversations, mingling and debate between high-powered lawyers, dreadlocked treesitters and a few participants that even those left of mainstream might call wingnuts.
The conference runs from Thursday, Feb. 25 through the weekend at the UO Law School and other campus buildings. See pielc.org for information.
Keynoters this year, in addition to speakers like Kroger and DeFazio, include:
• Ramona Africa, minister of information for MOVE and the only adult survivor of the 1985 bombing of the MOVE house in West Philadelphia by the Philadelphia police.
• Patricia Cochran, an Inupiaq Eskimo, executive director of the Alaska Native Science Commission and chair of the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change.
• Steven Donziger, a member of an Ecuadorian-American legal team representing 80 indigenous and farming communities of the Amazon Region of Ecuador in a class-action lawsuit against Chevron Texaco, featured in the movie, Crude.
• Maria Gunnoe, a Cherokee native and organizer for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition of West Virginia, working to end mountaintop removal mining.
• Rizwana Hasan, an environmental attorney in Bangladesh who works to reduce the impact of the country’s exploitative and environmentally devastating ship breaking industry. She was named one of Time’s 2009 Heroes of the Environment.
• Terri Irwin, originally from Eugene, is a co-founder of Wildlife Warriors Worldwide and the owner of Australia Zoo. She co-starred with her husband Steve Irwin on The Crocodile Hunter before his death in 2006.
As always at PIELC, the long list of keynoters (the rest of them, as well as the panels can be found at pielc.org) is supplemented by an array of panelists from all over the world, as well as local speakers and issues like County Commissioner Rob Handy on roadside pesticide sprays and recently released environmental activist Jeff “Free” Luers.
PIELC-associated activities extend beyond the campus, with a fundraiser for Eugene’s Civil Liberties Defense Center at the WOW Hall Feb. 27 (go to cldc.org) and the grand opening of Eugene’s newest infoshop, Bad Egg Books, at 13th and Oak (open Monday-Saturday. 11 am to 3 pm and Sunday noon to 4 pm). — Camilla Mortensen
COUNCIL VOTES TO EXTEND PROPERTY TAX DIVERSION
Two years ago Eugene citizens voted 2-1 against extending downtown urban renewal, but this week the Eugene City Council voted 6-2 to move toward continuing the tax diversion scheme anyway.
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy spoke in favor of tax diversion and Councilors Mike Clark, Jennifer Solomon, George Poling, Chris Pryor, Andrea Ortiz and Alan Zelenka voted for it. Councilors George Brown and Betty Taylor voted against it.
“It will be referred to the ballot,” said Brown, saying he’s “very confident” citizens can gather the thousands of needed signatures.
Former councilor Bonny Bettman McCornack predicted that citizens would again roundly defeat the council’s urban renewal measure at the ballot. “People are sick of watching their government play shell games with their taxes.”
City staff have not provided a full accounting, but the council appears to be moving toward a plan to divert roughly $25 million in property taxes through a 20-year urban renewal extension. About $8 million will go to help LCC move its downtown center to the library pit, but about $5 million will go to the city general fund and $10 million to administrative costs, based on city figures provided so far.
A $25 million property tax diversion would take about $8 million in revenue from state school funding, $1 million from LCC, $12 million from the city of Eugene, $2 million from Lane County, and increase local taxes about $2 million to pay off bonded debt, according to calculations from the city’s budget document.
But the city doesn’t appear to want anyone to know where urban renewal money really comes from.
“I still haven’t seen these figures” from city staff of where the urban renewal money comes from, said Councilor Taylor. “It seems that no one wants to share that,” she said. “It isn’t as if urban renewal creates money, it moves it around.”
Tax diversion supporters argue the money diverted from 4J property taxes doesn’t matter because school funding is equalized per pupil through the state.
“Of course it matters,” McCornack said. She questioned how school supporters could ask the state for more money while they are taking away state school revenue. “It’s ridiculous,” she said. “Statewide funding for schools is an issue for all the students in Oregon.”
Opponents argue the city could easily fund the popular LCC project through revenue the city would get if urban renewal ended and tax diversion ended. “We have plenty of money right now to help LCC,” Brown said.
McCornack said city bureaucrats are using LCC as a way to protect cuts in their large administrative budgets. “If they really cared about LCC, they wouldn’t put LCC in the middle of this fight.”
Councilor Zelenka said he might change his mind about using urban renewal for LCC. “I’m more interested in having them [the downtown projects] happen than having a blood bath battle.” — Alan Pittman
SUPREMES SAY NO TO PESTS
Pro-pesticide forces met with defeat Feb. 22 in their attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the application of pesticides to waterways without a Clean Water Act permit.
The court’s decision not to review the case makes final the conclusion reached on National Cotton Council v. EPA by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals last year that aquatic pesticide residues and drift from aerial pesticide spraying are pollutants under the CWA. As pollutants they must be regulated to minimize impacts on human health and the environment.
Eugene attorney Charlie Tebbutt, who has been the lead attorney on the case, says “Pesticide use has historically been the equivalent of shoot first, ask questions later. Now the process will first require asking questions about whether the pesticides are necessary at all before discharging them into our already imperiled rivers and streams.”
The petitioners, including CropLife America and the American Farm Bureau Federation, argued that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio decision threatened essential activities that protect the nation’s public health and food supply because the delay caused by the permitting process would “threaten the biosecurity of the United States.”
Tebbutt calls this “a bunch of hogwash.”
The 2006 rule, put into place by the EPA under the Bush administration, said pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act were exempt from the permitting requirements of the Clean Water Act. Under the new ruling, starting in 2011, virtually all commercial pesticide application to, over, and around waterways will require National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits.
NPDES permits allow for citizens to comment on plans to apply pesticides and to demand oversight by regulatory agencies. The agencies will have to evaluate the effects of individual pesticide applications on fish and wildlife, monitor the amount of pesticide that goes into U.S. waterways and monitor the cumulative impact on aquatic organisms. Tebbutt says, “People in the community need to pay attention to the permit process and comment on it when it comes out from EPA in the next three to four months.” — Camilla Mortensen
LAWMAKERS TARGET SLAVE TRAFFICKING
Oregon lawmakers have approved a bill to promote awareness of human trafficking. The Oregon Senate voted unanimously Feb. 19 to pass HB 3623, which requires the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) to distribute informational stickers for the hotline of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center to all liquor stores. The bill is on its way to Gov. Ted Kulongoski for approval.
Apparently, the I-5 corridor allows victims to be moved throughout the West Coast, turning Oregon — specifically Portland — into a hub for human trafficking. HB 3623 attempts to address state officials’ concerns regarding human trafficking in Oregon.
Although statistics on human trafficking in Oregon are unavailable, law enforcement operations show that it is a problem. Oregon State Police encounter three to five trafficking victims each week. In an FBI sting operation in 2009, seven victims were recovered in a single eight-hour shift, ranking Oregon second in the nation for recovered victims.
“What we are talking about is a form of modern day slavery,” said Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem). “We’re talking about totally misusing the human person. It’s abhorrent to every fiber of our society.”
Stickers will be provided at no cost to the state by the Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that combats human trafficking. The project will give stickers to all 11,000 OLCC-registered businesses. Owners will be encouraged to make the stickers highly visible to their patrons so that people who are victims or know victims of human trafficking can call for help.
“The approach taken in this bill is not going to solve this problem,” said Sen. Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland). “But it will do a lot of good to let people who are victims know that help is available to them when they are ready to get it.”
Multnomah County Commissioner Diane McKeel explained that human trafficking is a phenomenon that is absent from the headlines and widely misunderstood. “By showing that Oregon is committed to ending this injustice, we can be an example to the rest of the U.S.” — Deborah Bloom
ECONOMIC GARDENING II
The concept of economic gardening (EG) is catching on around the country (see News Briefs, 1/28) and Oregon State Rep. Jefferson Smith is working on legislation to implement the concepts in Oregon. Rep. Paul Holvey is one of the co-sponsors.
The basic idea, pioneered and refined in Littleton, Colo., over the past 20 years, is to focus on nurturing second-stage growth companies and growing a local economy from within. The concept is contrary to the more conventional strategies of trying to recruit business and industry by offering free land, infrastructure, tax breaks and other expensive incentives.
HB 3644 passed unanimously out of the House Sustainability and Economic Development committee during the 2010 special session. It was referred to Ways and Means Feb. 22 with a recommendation to pass with amendments.
The bill calls for a task force on “stage two business development and economic gardening,” and a statewide strategy in support of small businesses with high growth potential. Such businesses, according to the bill’s sponsors, “often lack access to sophisticated market information tools which can be the catalyst for rapid growth and expansion into new markets, particularly out of state.” — Ted Taylor
• The Al-Nakba Awareness Project and UO Arab Student Union will sponsor a talk by Rebecca Tumposky of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and Monadel Herzollah of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network on “One Year After Gaza. What Happened? What’s Next? What Can We Do Now?” The presentation will at 7 pm Thursday. Feb. 25, in the UO Knight Library Browsing Room, and at 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 27, at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, 2945 Circle Blvd. in Corvallis.
• A series of lectures on “Changing Demographics” continues with Alan Beck speaking on “Saving Civic Stadium” at 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 25. Ibrahim Hamide speaks on “The Islamic Community” at 2 pm Sunday, Feb. 25. Finn John speaks on “Offbeat Oregon: Stories You Might Not Know” at 6 pm Thursday, March 4. All talks are at the Lane County Historical Museum next to the Fairgrounds.
• Steve Lewis, one of Alaska’s foremost cavers, will speak and show photos at 4 pm Friday, Feb. 26, at Wilkinson Hall, Room 108, on the OSU campus. He will talk about his experiences measuring and mapping caves in southeast Alaska. The forests are in immediate need of protection, Lewis says, in order to protect the caves from runoff and erosion caused by excessive or careless logging.
• A film showing and benefit for Haiti earthquake relief will be at 7:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 27, at DIVA, 110 E. Broadway. A Voodoo Memory is a film by Irene Lichtenstein about her collection of voodoo objects, and the link between voodoo and the emancipation of the Haitian people. Suggested donation is $10.
• An afternoon workshop on Urban Family Gardening organized by Nearby Nature is planned from 1 to 4 pm Sunday, Feb. 28, at Alton Baker Park. Preregistration required. Cost is $30 for members, $35 for non-members. Call 687-9699 or visit www.nearbynature.org
• A fundraiser chili feed for the Oregon Winnemem Support Group with Chief Caleen Sisk-Franco and Headman Mark Franco will begin at 5 pm Sunday, Feb. 28, at the School District 4J office building, 200 N. Monroe St. For more information, call 344-0872.
• Filmmaker Patti Duncan screens her feature-length film Finding Face, about an acid attack on a young woman singer in Cambodia, at 3 pm Thursday, March 4, at the EMU Ballroom on the UO campus. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women in Society’s Women of Color Project, this free event will include a discussion session with the filmmaker.
• Eugene’s Climate and Energy Action Plan discussions continue with a look at natural resources March 4. The meetings are held from 6 to 9 pm at the EWEB community meeting room, 500 E. 4th Ave. More information at www.sustaineugene.com/eugeneclimate
• An analysis of President Obama’s first year in office is the topic of a series of talks at UO that continue March 4, April 9 and April 29. All talks are at 7 pm at 110 Knight Law Center on campus. The March 4 speaker is Leslie McCall of Northwestern University speaking on “The Undeserving Rich? American Perceptions of Inequality, Opportunity, and Redistribution.” Sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center and UO Political Science Department.
• The Lane Peace Symposium this year will be Friday, March 5, on the LCC campus. Speakers include activist Tom Hayden, Anita Weiss and Gwynn Kirk. Songwriter Jim Page is also on the schedule. See details at http://wkly.ws/ab
• The Beyond Patriarchy conference is coming to UO May 14-16. Organizers, presenters, performers and volunteers are being sought for this “radical feminist gathering for men, women, and everyone else.” Email email@example.com
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,379 U.S. troops killed* (4,378)
• 31,669 U.S. troops injured** (31,648)
• 185 U.S. military suicides* (updates NA)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (updates NA)
• 104,103 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (104,005)
• $708.4 billion cost of war ($707.1 billion)
• $201.4 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($201.1 million)
• 990 U.S. troops killed* (969)
• 5,004 U.S. troops injured** (4,923)
• $255.4 billion cost of war ($253.9 billion)
• $72.6 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($72.2 million)
* through Feb. 22, 2010; 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 1.2 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
• Near Triangle Lake and Lorane Elementary Schools (Low Pass, Horton, Blachly, Triangle Lake, Noti, Lorane): Weyerhaeuser Company — South Valley Timberlands (744-4600) will aerially spray 434 acres with 2,4-D LV6, Garlon 3A/4, Tahoe 3A/4E, Atrazine 4L/90 WSL, Velpar DF, Oust XP/SFM, Westar, Hardball, Accord Concentrate, Transline, and Cleanslate herbicides near Michaels, Fish, Hayes, and Poodle Creeks, North and South Forks of the Siuslaw River starting March 1 (Notification No. 2010-781-00278). Call Paul Clements or Robert Johnson, ODF stewardship foresters at 935-2283.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
In last week’s news brief “City Can Help LCC Without Tax Diversion,” it was stated that Eugene’s Downtown Urban Renewal District funds $500,000 a year in “administrative” costs. The same number was used in Bonny Bettman McCornack’s commentary last week. According to McCornack, the updated amount in the December supplemental budget has grown to $972,000.
• Last week both Alan Pittman and Bonny Bettman McCornack wrote about $500,000 in staff salaries being paid from the Downtown Urban Renewal District fund. We’ve since learned that the December supplemental budget has expanded that figure to $972,000. It’s obvious the URD doesn’t require that much administration, so it appears we’re looking at a method for maintaining jobs in Planning & Development during tough budget times. This creates a distinct conflict of interest for city administration to maintain urban renewal regardless of its value in revitalizing downtown. If we really need these subsidized staff positions, the city manager should justify and support them through the general fund.
This is one more example of why Eugene needs an independent performance auditor. An auditor could tell us if urban renewal is cost-effective and if city departments such as Planning & Development are overstaffed or understaffed and why. An auditor could also shed light on our mysterious police department’s staffing and operations. Right now we have to trust the police chief and city manager on whether more cops are needed downtown and elsewhere. An effective independent auditor could sort out the politics from the reality on the street; and perhaps more importantly, help restore our confidence in city government.
• Seymour Hersh, brilliant American journalist, opened his talk on Feb. 18 to a full house in the EMU ballroom with a little query about Eugene, “Is there a downtown here?” Ouch! The full house laughed loudly. Hersh went on to global topics, suggesting that “we need an angry black man” in the White house. He tempered criticism of Obama with the reminder that “a lot of neocons are left in the government … political stay-behinds are still there” blocking the Obama agenda. Hersh called Afghanistan an “impossible mission …. as dumb as anything we’ve done in 30 years.” Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Geoff Norcross interviewed Hersh the next day; that interview is available at http://wkly.ws/d5
• What is the impact of UO athletic programs on the UO faculty? We hear a lot of grumbles from faculty about being underpaid while coaches make millions, unequal study facilities, and even lost parking spaces. But there are also workload issues beyond trying to teach undermotivated jocks. We were forwarded a recent memo from Russ Tomlin, senior vice provost of academic affairs, asking faculty to accommodate student athletes and their entourages if winter term post-season athletic contests conflict with final exams. Instructors are being asked to schedule make-up exams and other “special accommodations.” Tomlin says, “I recognize that considerable extra work by faculty may be involved in preparing a duplicate examination, and those efforts are greatly appreciated. President Richard Lariviere, Senior Vice President and Provost Jim Bean, Athletic Director Mike Bellotti, and I sincerely thank you for your cooperation in this matter.” Go Ducks.
• Speaking of Ducks, receiver Jamere Holland was kicked off the football team Feb. 21, apparently for dissing his coach on Facebook. What did he actually write? The R-G won’t say, but here is his response to hearing that Kiko Alonso was booted off the team for a DUI charge (Alonso wasn’t, at the time; he’s now suspended): how the fuck you kick kinko off the team,,, on some weak shit, niggas always faded he slipped up but ive been slippin up, and I’m still here, that shit week buff cuh could have done damage for the ducks, that shit is weak, weak ass fuck, quote me The comment was posted by iPhone on his Facebook page.
After Holland got the boot, he sent another comment: call me what you want but it’s gone take more than crazy messages and an Oregon scholly to break me…Freedom of speech fuck it!!! Don’t exist (Check out the string of posts yourself at http://wkly.ws/d6)
• Former governor Barbara Roberts took time from writing her autobiography to help the Lane County League of Women Voters celebrate 90 years of the league Feb. 18 in Eugene. Tracing the history of Oregon women in politics, she called the last 30 years a real revolution. Her career in state government started in 1981 when she was elected to the House, then in 1985 to secretary of state, and then in 1991 to be our first and, so far, only woman governor. Why the revolution? Roberts said women were more politicized by the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment than they would have been by its passage. As she put it, “You know what happens when you say ‘no’ to a woman!” Listening to this dynamic and still determined politician makes us hope that Kate Brown has a chance to follow Roberts’ path from secretary of state to governor of Oregon.