Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Eugene factory increasing use while others cut back
Badass Supersleuth and the Bozo Factor
A Q&A with investigative journalist Greg Palast
CITY RUSHES DOWNTOWN DECISION
The city of Eugene continues to charge ahead with a recommendation to give $50 million in subsidies to a Portland developer for a downtown megaproject without significant public input.
As early as April 25, the City Council could decide to endorse the staff recommendation for a KWG development proposal that could involve tearing down almost four blocks of downtown and replacing them mostly with parking garages, high-rent housing and chain stores.
“Are we ready to make this decision in the community and the council?” asked councilor Alan Zelenka at a Monday, April 16 meeting. “I think the answer is a big no.”
While the decision could have enormous public cost and community impact, the city has planned no public hearings or public information sessions before the planned vote. City Manager Dennis Taylor said purchase options that city staff crafted for the property to be torn down require that the council vote “no later than” May 14.
The council did hear from a panel of staff selected developers and community members on Monday.
Debate on the council is centering around whether the city should pursue an incremental development approach stressing a diversity of local ownership or a single-owner megaproject that would generate critical mass with chain stores.
Mayor Kitty Piercy appeared to favor a big project by a single owner. “Something that’s big could be incremental” if done in phases, she said at the Monday meeting. Also a big owner could in the future sell off pieces so it “could have individual owners.”
The mayor said the city could try to engage the public, but many people in the city don’t come downtown. “There’s public and there’s public.”
But Councilor Bonny Bettman said, “We can achieve critical mass by proceeding incrementally” with diverse, local ownership. She questioned how a monopoly single owner could bring the diversity needed for a vital downtown.
Bettman suggested focusing on bringing people downtown rather than new buildings. “To me it’s a critical mass of people downtown, not cars, not parking, not concrete, not asphalt,” she said.
City staff are pushing for a quick decision with public input and cost benefit studies after the major decisions on the developer and development approach are made. “That’s really putting the cart before the horse,” Bettman said. — Alan Pittman
WILL 2008 BE STOLEN TOO?
Oregonians who want a Democrat to win in 2008, Greg Palast says, should “get out of Oregon.”
Palast, who extensively documents stolen, miscounted and undercounted votes from the 2004 election in his book Armed Madhouse, predicts that the 2008 election will be riddled with similar (or worse) problems. “Oregon’s one of the only places in America where you’re not going to expect the election to be stolen,” he says. Instead, he says, Oregonians committed to democracy should move to other western states — to N.M., Nev., Colo. or Ariz., where they can make sure the votes of Latinos, for instance, don’t simply get lost.
He’ll say more Wednesday, April 25 at the UO, where KOPT’s Brian Shaw hosts Palast speaking about “How George Bush Drowned New Orleans and the Theft of 2008.” Standing room only crowds usually greet Palast in his Oregon stops, and Eugene’s no exception.
The man who claims not only that Gore won in 2000 but that Kerry also won, the man who writes about the Bush administration’s “two secret plans” for Iraqi oil, the man who always, always follows the money trail, says investigative reporting is too expensive and politically charged for media outlets in the U.S.
Palast didn’t start out as an investigative reporter tracking insider politicking, vote stealing and the desolation of New Orleans. But he had the best training: He was an economic gumshoe, busting corporations for their bad deeds, discovering what actually happened when the Exxon Valdez dumped its load in Prince William Sound and looking into Enron when it was still Houston Natural Gas. When he took his findings to media, he says, they ran stories that “were all corporate PR horseshit.”
So he decided to become the media outlet. “It was a quick career shift,” he says, “an instant transition” because the U.K.’s left-wing paper The Guardian loved his work and hired him immediately, as did the BBC. Now he’s available on Democracy Now! and online as well — or on tour. His talk, sponsored by the UO’s Cultural Center, starts at 7 pm in 180 PLC. Be prepared to get angry and to appreciate his dark sense of humor. “It’s so grim,” he says, “that you have to laugh about it.” — Suzi Steffen
A longer Q&A with Palast is available online.
TOURISM FUNDED, SERVICES CUT
Lane County faces cutting essential services such as violent crimes detectives, services to the elderly and disabled and community health centers. But at a recent Lane County Commissioner’s meeting, $21,000 was allocated to produce commemorative coins and prints of the county’s covered bridges.
Part of the county budget comes from the Transient Room Tax (TRT), a tax on hotel rooms and RV parking. Funds from this tax are earmarked specifically for state tourism marketing.
The county hopes to sell the commemorative coins and prints of covered bridge paintings to raise funds to maintain the three covered bridges not funded by road funds, thus promoting tourism.
TRT funds have also been used to fund the Lane County Fairgrounds. According to county documents, the fairgrounds received $250,000 in 2004/05 and $350,000 of TRT in 2005/06. A discussion of using excess TRT funds for capital improvements at the fairgrounds was pushed back to May 9.
At the same meeting, copies of the proposed 2007-08 budget prioritization lists were handed out. One budget list showed what would be funded if county funding continued as usual. The other, featuring a bright red line, showed the budget without federal funds replacing former timber funds (the Secure Rural Schools Act).
Above the red line on the budget were the items that would continue to receive funding, including revenue generating, neutral or cost avoiding departments such as concealed handgun licensing and emergency management. Also above the red line were service priorities including the sheriff’s department, rural law enforcement and portions of the jail.
Below the red line were the agencies whose funding would be cut completely. These included mandated treatment for sex offenders, supervision of domestic violence offenders, funding for animal control and health and nutrition services for thousands of women, infants and children.
After allocating another $14,000 of TRT money for updated tourism maps showing parks closed due to budget cuts, Commissioner Pete Sorenson remarked on the irony of allocating money for tourism in view of the budget situation.
According to Chapter 818 of Oregon law, 80 percent of the TRT goes to promoting tourism. Tourism in Oregon is defined by law as “that which makes money from tourists.” A tourist is a person who, “for business, pleasure, recreation or participation in events related to the arts, heritage or culture, travels from the community in which that person is a resident to a different community that is separate, distinct from and unrelated to the person’s community of residence, and that trip.”
Commissioners didn’t discuss the effects on tourism if the budget cuts go through. – Camilla Mortensen
The Eugene Middle East Peace Group will hold a benefit for itself and a Bethlehem charity on Sunday, April 22.
The benefit, from 6 pm to 9 pm at the LCC main campus cafeteria, will include a peace talk, Middle Eastern food, music and dance. The cost is $15; it’s free for children 12 and under.
UO Professor Diane Baxter, who has done research in the West Bank, and Eugene Middle East Peace Group President Ibrahim Hamide will discuss current events affecting the peace process and how to sustain peace work.
Entertainment includes Americanistan, Bhangra dancers, Native American drummers and songs by Beth Rose. There will be food from Café Soriah and a children’s art area.
The Middle East Peace Group was founded by Israelis and Palestinians and seeks to model cross-cultural friendships while engaging in dialogue on current events. Money is also being raised for the Nasaem Arrahma Charitable Society in Bethlehem. The charity provides food, health care, education and other assistance to needy widows and orphans. Call 343-7970 for more information.
ZUNES HERE FOR FORUM
What can American citizens do to facilitate peace in the Middle East? What can the U.S. government do?
Progressive Responses of CALC is presenting a forum from 7 to 9:30 pm Wednesday, April 25 at the Methodist Church, 1376 Olive, titled “Creating Peace in Israel and Palestine.”
Guest speaker is Stephen Zunes, Ph.D who is a professor of political science and chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. Zunes is Middle East editor for the Foreign Policy in Focus project and author of Tinderbox: US Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism.
The forum will begin with a panel (Rabbi Maurice Harris, Ibrahim Hamide, Diane Baxter and Chris Bargout) who will lay out the fear, the pain, the suffering and the urgency on each side. Zunes will address attempts at solutions, what needs to happen to create peace and justice, what the U.S. government needs to do and what citizens can do to help.
LANE COUNTY HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
• Oregon Department of Transportation herbicide spraying schedule: see www.forestlanddwellers.org/notices/ODOT/ Call Dennis Joll, IVM Coordinator for District 5 (Lane) at 686-7526 or 1-888-996-4366 for roads that have been sprayed.
• For complaints, call Becky Thoreson at (503) 986-4366.
• Forestry aerial herbicide spray notifications in NE Lane totals are 9,588 acres for 2007 so far including Weyerhaeuser notices for 9,165 acres; ground spray totals are 406 acres.
• OR Dept. of Forestry: East Lane 726-3588; West Lane 935-2238.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
We’d like to say the shooting of 33 university students in Blacksburg surprised us. Sadly, it did not. We’ve seen our own gun slaughter here at Thurston High School. We’d like to say the Thurston shooting changed things in Oregon, so it could never happen again. Sadly, it did not. There are no tough new gun laws and no big increase in continuing funding for mental health treatment or school counselors. The Blacksburg massacre set a new record for wanton gun violence in this nation. We’d like to say that record will never be broken. But sadly …
Greg Bothun, UO physics professor, gave the Eugene City Club a persuasive lecture last Friday on the virtues of switchgrass as an alternative to gasoline in this country. George Bush even mentions switchgrass, and Jon Stewart makes fun of him for doing so. Bothun says switchgrass has the highest energy density per gram of any of the gasoline alternatives we’re looking at. The professor also suggests what individuals can do, short of planting switchgrass in your parking strip, to combat global climate change: 1) Replace all your lightbulbs 2) Weatherstrip 3) Drive 25% less.
It used to be that Oregon was an environmental leader. Thirty-six years ago the state passed the nation’s first bottle bill. But that nickel deposit wouldn’t pass today. Efforts to up the return to a dime or just expand deposits to water, juice and other containers are foundering in a state legislature awash in grocery and beverage distributor cash. Some of that lobbying cash comes from keeping the millions of nickels that go unredeemed when their cans and bottles litter out of state. Pathetic.
The city of Eugene is rushing toward giving $50 million to a single developer to rip up four blocks of downtown to build mostly condos and a chain store mall. The city’s like a bulldozer on rails with this, but how about a compromise? Have Beam do its proposal for a historic renovation of the Center Court and Washburne buildings and a small building in Aster’s Hole. Give the block across from the library (including the Sears pit) to KWG for apartments, a movie theater, a corner park and retail. Leave the rest for local diversity. Subsidies for KWG and Beam could be minimized by using the existing mostly empty garages for parking and EmX. If Connor/Woolley won’t follow with a project in their former Symantec building, condemn the building and fill the boarded-ip ground floor with local businesses and nonprofits displaced by redevelopment.
It’s not too early to place your bets. Who will challenge Gordon Smith for his Senate seat in 2008? The Oregonian‘s list of possibles is long: Congressmen Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer and David Wu; R-turned-D State Senator Ben Westlund from Bend; Portland progressive Steve Novick; and even former Governor John Kitzhaber, still considered most likely to win a statewide race. We’ll bet that our Congressman DeFazio will not run, although it’s more tempting with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee promising to come up with most of the dreaded dollars. Why would Peter foolishly give up his powerful transportation subcommittee chairmanship for a contest he’s likely to lose, no matter what the polls might show this week or next? If we win this bet, no need to place another one on candidates to succeed DeFazio, but the chattering class (including us) can’t resist. Try Peter Sorenson, Floyd Prozanski, Susan Castillo. What about Kitty Piercy or Jim Torrey or Jack Roberts? Somebody suggested bringing Jim Weaver back. Have fun. Place your bets.
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, email@example.com
The daughter of a bartender who was the the only single mom among 2000 residents of Red Lodge, Montana, Doe Tabor got married at 14 to a Vietnam vet with post-traumatic stress disorder. “I called him Buck and he called me Doe,” says Tabor, born Dorene O. Ewing. At 16 she got a divorce and ran off with their baby daughter to the wilds of Wyoming. “He was serious about killing us,” she says. “He killed himself 14 years later.” Tabor studied vet tech in Demopolis, Wyoming, then worked in animal health for 16 years, mostly in Eugene after her arrival in 1977. A novel-writing class at LCC in 1995 led to the publication of Do Drums Beat There, the story of a Lakota girl, a psychedelic journey and the occupation of Alcatraz, nominated for an Oregon Book Award in 2001. Energized by literary success and the Bush election, Tabor has leapt into activism, from Truth in Voting in ’01 to the Code Pink occupation of Hilary Clinton’s office early this year. She is also writing her second novel, Tug of War. “It’s about Buck and me,” she says. “It’s about how war ripples through society when soldiers come home.”