News Briefs: Public Records Law Needs a Fix | City Targets Homeless with Cops, Not Housing | Conservative Guns for Top State Schools Job | Seedballz for Fast Gardening | Activist Alert | War Dead | Endorsements at a Glance
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Potential Home Run for Fútbol Fans
Civic Stadium plan includes pro men’s and women’s soccer
PUBLIC RECORDS LAW NEEDS A FIX
In 1973, Oregon’s public records law was one of the broadest in the nation. Since then 455 exemptions to the law have been added, making exactly what records are open to the public more confusing and letting local agencies from the UO athletic department to the Eugene police drag their feet or outright ignore public records requests.
Under Oregon’s public records law (ORS 192.410-192.505), public institutions, from schools to state agencies, must provide public documents to those who ask for them. On a federal level, these requests are made under the Freedom of Information Act.
|AG John Kroger|
While there’s a seven-day deadline in Oregon for elected officials to respond to records requests, public bodies are simply supposed to avoid “unreasonable delay.”
Oregon’s Attorney General John Kroger is looking into legislative reform of Oregon’s laws. He said at a May 5 meeting in Eugene put on by his office and the Oregon Newspaper’s Publishers’ Association that he is focusing on accelerating government response to public records requests, reforming the fee structure, ensuring that exemptions are appropriate and improving the accessibility of public meetings.
Kroger said he has heard from citizen activists that months can go by after records requests have been made, making the standard of reasonableness “kind of a mockery.”
Citizens, attorneys and public representatives gave comments at the meeting, which was attended by about 50 people.
City of Springfield attorney Joe Leahy said in his comments he thinks it should be inculcated in city and state agencies that “providing public records is not an accessory function.” Springfield is still reeling from the disclosure that public employees were using city accounts to send racist and sexist emails. “Public records requests should be met,” Leahy said, “no matter how embarrassing the documents.”
Leahy and local attorney Dave Bahr, a public records law specialist, stressed the need for training public employees, particularly in areas off the I-5 corridor, on how to respond to records requests. Bahr expressed concern over high costs charged for obtaining records — electronically searchable email requests have cost thousands of dollars, he said.
Eugene’s police auditor Mark Gissiner also spoke in favor of a more clear public records law. Making personnel and administrative files clearly public is “the best way to ensure accountability of our public employees,” he said. Currently, he said, the law is unclear, and, “I’m not smart enough to make that decision on behalf of the entire state or city.”
On the other side of the putting public records into the sunshine issue, Scott Winkels of the League of Oregon Cities said some public records requests can be “massive and paralyzing” and that “hard deadlines will relegate a person to poor customer service.”
Representing the Association of Oregon Counties, Paul Snyder said he was also concerned about the monetary costs of providing public records to citizens and journalists and said such requests “need to be balanced with other things the government needs to deal with” and “to impose an absolute deadline, I’m against that.”
The majority of the speakers were in favor of open public records and a more clear law. Some speakers expressed concern over public employees like city councilors and county commissioners deleting emails to keep them from being entered into the public record.
Michael Kron, an attorney on Kroger’s staff who specializes in government transparency and public records issues, said that not only are all the emails of public employees part of the public record, if private email accounts are used for official business, those emails are public records too.
UO professor Bill Harbaugh, who agitated successfully last year to have the public records manual available for free online, tweaked Kroger for going the slower legislative route to fix the problem with public records laws. He said as the AG, Kroger “could waive fees and expedite public records requests.”
Kroger said, “I could order everything expedited, but I’d rather have some actual deadlines,” and, getting a little testy at some of Harbaugh’s criticisms, told him “waiving fees is different from having a better, rational fee structure.”
After the AG finishes taking public comments and proposing legislation, the revisions to the public records law would have to be voted on and passed by Oregon’s legislature.
“What’s going to happen if your efforts to change the law come to nothing?” Harbaugh asked.
Kroger responded by stressing the need for citizens to come to Salem and “lobby to change the law.” — Camilla Mortensen
City Targets Homeless With Cops, Not Housing
The city of Eugene is pushing to spend almost a million dollars a year on more police to go after street people downtown, but the planned cop sweep may end up doing more to push around street problems than actually solve them.
“You’re not going to succeed,” Terry McDonald, the director of St. Vincent de Paul and a city budget committee member, said at a May 3 meeting.
McDonald said that a mayor’s homeless taskforce he served on two years ago found that chronically drug and alcohol addicted homeless people need a “wet bed” housing program to get them off the streets. “That absolutely was one of the greatest keys to reducing the amount of repetitive bad behavior on the street,” he said. “It was identified as one of the easiest ways to get people off the street that are chronic re-offenders.”
Without such a housing program, McDonald said, “all efforts are just going to release these people back out on the street endlessly over and over again.”
“It’s surprising to me that [housing] wouldn’t have been an issue that was pushed up higher in the priority list,” McDonald said. “I would strongly encourage you to get that as part of the agenda.”
Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns admitted the city’s approach does not “turn the dials on that problem” of housing. “We haven’t fleshed out a plan for that yet. It would be a sizeable investment,” Kerns said.
Kerns responded at the meeting that the city’s police strategy “will make things much better” downtown. “But I completely agree with you. The other components of helping people who are chronically on the street, drug and alcohol addicted, we need to improve on those services.”
— Alan Pittman
Conservative Guns for top state Schools Job
The Register-Guard has provided the leading endorsement to an anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-evolution, anti-affirmative action Republican who wants guns and prayer in classrooms and the state’s top schools post.
Republican Ron Maurer, a state House representative from Grants Pass, is running against incumbent Democrat Susan Castillo, a former TV reporter from Eugene, for state schools superintendent.
The Oregonian, which endorsed Castillo, cited the R-G’s April 28 editorial as one of Maurer’s top endorsements.
Maurer, who told Project Vote Smart that he’s named one of his sons Remington and another Winchester, endorsed guns in schools before the Washington County Public Affairs Forum last month.
“If you have a concealed handgun license, then you should be permitted to bring it to school,” Maurer said.
Castillo, a political moderate endorsed by teachers groups, took the opposite position. “I do not support having guns in school. At all.”
Guns in schools isn’t the only issue Maurer and Castillo have stark differences on.
Maurer told Vote Smart abortions should “always be illegal” even in cases of incest, rape or the danger to life of the mother. He also opposed stem cell research funding and supported allowing pharmacists to refuse dispensing emergency contraception. Castillo told the nonpartisan voter education nonprofit that abortions should always be legally available.
Castillo told Vote Smart she supports sex education in schools. Maurer told Willamette Week sex education should be up to local school boards rather than the state. Maurer also told the Portland paper, “I am not a supporter of evolution.”
Maurer told Vote Smart that he supports “voluntary prayer in public schools.” He told the nonprofit that he opposes same sex marriage and state recognition of domestic partnerships between same sex couples. The Basic Rights Oregon Equality PAC endorsed Castillo and said Maurer voted against extending non-discrimination protections to gay and transgender Oregonians.
Maurer opposed Measure 66 and 67 tax increases on the wealthy and corporations to save schools from big budget cuts. Castillo supported the measures and increased school funding.
Vote Smart reported that the ACLU gave Castillo a voting record in the Legislature of 100 percent and gave Maurer a 0 percent rating. The Oregon Education Associated rated Maurer 43 percent and Castillo 100 percent. The League of Conservation Voters gave Maurer a 40 percent voting record and Castillo a 92 percent. Castillo got an ‘F’ grade from the NRA, Maurer an ‘A.’
Castillo served as the first Hispanic woman in the state legislature and told Vote Smart she supports affirmative action. Maurer told the nonprofit that he opposes affirmative action and supports state and local law enforcement officials enforcing federal immigration laws. — Alan Pittman
SEEDBALLZ for fast GARDENING
From tossing seeds over fences to turn abandoned lots into gardens, to protecting seeds from birds in your backyard, Eugene-based SeedBallz is trying to make gardening easier, faster and more fulfilling.
An interface between social and environmental consciousness, SeedBallz LLC employs developmentally-disabled workers to hand-roll and package balls of seed, red clay and organic humus.
“It gives [the disabled] meaningful work,” said company co-owner Alice Strong. “It’s unique work because it’s tactile. They enjoy the process of it, it helps with behavior, and it’s simple.”
To facilitate planting in garden beds and planter pots, each of the nickel-sized “ballz” uses around 40 seeds that germinate inside the ball with watering. Clusters of flowers form in just a few weeks. All the gardener does is insert the ball into the soil and give it plenty of water.
There is a Native American tradition of rolling seeds in clay and compost in order to protect them from drying out, blowing away or being eaten by birds. A Japanese proponent of organic, non-invasive farming methods, Masanobu Fukuoka, popularized the seed balling technique in his book One Straw Revolution.
Strong decided to use this technique in order to offer gardeners a new way to grow flowers and herbs without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. “With traditional gardening, you’re either putting single seeds into the ground as you plant or you’re dry broadcasting,” said Strong. With SeedBallz, a gardener can yield multiple plants from one ball.
Such seed balls have also been a bastion of urban “guerilla gardening.” Environmental activists either purchase the pre-made Seedballz or make seed balls of their own from native seeds and clay and toss the lumps into vacant lots to turn them into gardens. Each rainstorm gradually breaks the ball down and allows the plants to grow.
Strong said her company has rolled over eight million “ballz” last year. In addition to donating to various gardeners on Earth Day, the company has also had its products used in New York’s Clinton Global Initiative, Seattle’s Seeds of Compassion event and U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken’s personal garden. “We’re having a lot of fun.” — Deborah Bloom
• A Fashioning Resistance to Militarism Fashion Show is planned for 7 pm Thursday, May 13, at Agate Hall on campus. Contact Gwyn Kirk at email@example.com
• The Beyond Patriarchy conference is May 14-16 at the Erb Memorial Union on campus. See story last week about this “radical feminist gathering for men, women and everyone else.” Keynote speakers are Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore and Tobi Hill-Meyer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://wkly.ws/jb for list of events and times.
• The 2010 Commute Challenge begins May 15 and offers a full work-week of competition between businesses and individuals. Prizes will be awarded. visit http://commutechallenge.org or find the challenge page on Facebook.
• Coffee Party meeting from 5:30 to 7 pm Tuesday, May 18, at Gary’s Coffee House 525 High St. Facilitated by Wintergreen, email email@example.com
• 1000 Friends of Oregon is celebrating the opening of its new Willamette Valley office in Eugene. Executive Director Jason Miner and Willamette Valley Advocate Mia Nelson will meet and greet from 6 to 8 pm Thursday, May 20, at 220 E. 11th Ave., Suite 5. Light refreshments will be served. RSVP or more information, call 653-8703 or email firstname.lastname@example.org The office website is at http://wkly.ws/jm
• Lane County Budget Committee meetings have begun and are open to the public. The next deliberation session is from 5:15 to 8 pm Thursday, May 13, in Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave. Public comments will be invited for the first 45 minutes.
• The Glenwood Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) and
Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) joint meeting will be from 5:30 to 7:30 pm Wednesday, May 19, at Springfield City Hall, Library Meeting Room. Public comments begin the meeting. For more information, contact Molly Markarian at 726-4611 or email@example.com
• 4,400 U.S. troops killed* (4,398)
• 31,809 U.S. troops injured** (31,790)
• 185 U.S. military suicides* (updates NA)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (updates NA)
• 104,767 to 1.2 million
civilians killed*** (104,754)
• $721.4 billion cost of war
• $205.2 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($204.9 million)
• 1,049 U.S. troops killed* (1,045)
• 5,730 U.S. troops injured** (5,677)
• $270.0 billion cost of war
• $76.8 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($76.5 million)
* through May 7, 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)
Endorsements at a Glance
Deadline for dropping off ballots is 8 pm Tuesday, May 18. To mail in ballots, it’s best to post them by May 14. Below are our selected endorsements. See our explanations last week. For races and issues not listed, please refer to your Voters’ Pamphlet.
Ron Wyden (D)
John Kitzhaber (D)
Ted Wheeler (D)
Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Oregon Supreme Court. Position 5.
NONPARTISAN CITY OFFICES
City Council Ward 5.
Write in somebody
City Council Ward 6.
EWEB At-Large Position.
STATE BALLOT MEASURES
Measure 68. Bonds for capital expenditures. Yes
Measure 69. Expands borrowing authority. Yes
COUNTY MEASURES & CANDIDATES
Measure 20-158. Extension Service local option. Yes
Measure 20-159. Amends County Charter. Yes
Measure 20-160. Amends County Charter. Yes
Measure 20-161. Amends County Charter. Yes
West Lane County Commissioner.
East Lane County Commissioner.
Springfield County Commissioner.
• Deadline for voting in the primary is 5 pm Tuesday, May 18. Postmarks don’t count, so if your ballot is not already in the mail, you might want to locate one of those white ballot boxes around town or on campus. See our Endorsements-at-a-Glance this week or check our last two issues for more information on the issues and candidates.
• Pat Riggs-Henson clearly stood out as the star of the Springfield, Position 2, race for Lane County commissioner on May 7 at the Eugene City Club meeting in the Hilton.
Maybe it helped that she was the only woman in that long row of candidates for three of the only decently paid political jobs in this area. She’s a Democrat, and, although those are nonpartisan contests, her working-people values came through loud and clear.
Both State Senator Bill Morrisette and Congressman Peter DeFazio endorse Riggs-Henson, with Morrisette saying, “She has been protecting working families in Springfield for 27 years. As Springfield County Commissioner, she will continue that tradition.”
• Former mayor Jim Torrey and County Commission candidate Jay Bozievich are both bitching about EW in their political emails lately. We appreciate the plugs.
Torrey, stumping for Bozievich, wrote that “The Eugene Weekly-Lane County Commission majority has been in command for the last year and a half, and they have had a devastating and negative impact on our county.” Devastating? Really? We like to think that we’re using our powers for good, not evil. Bozievich also called on his mailing list to show up at City Club last Friday because, “The room is sure to be loaded with the Eugene Weekly crowed (sic) as this is their forum.”
EW is a sponsor of City Club, along with Sanipac, Essex Construction, Duncan & Brown, a couple of banks and law firms, and other local businesses and institutions. The Eugene Weekly has endorsed Jerry Rust for the West Lane County position for which Bozievich is running.
• Ride your bike over to the Courthouse Garden at 8th and Ferry for a lift on a drizzly May day. Spring crops are all in, growing well with this encouraging weather, says Ann Bettman, the UO assistant professor of landscape architecture who is the start-up garden director. Three 40-foot long potato beds have just been established, now home to Russet Burbanks, Red Norlands, Yukon Gold, and Desiree. The first 25 of 100 tomato plants already are out there, nurtured first at home by architect Lorri Nelson, who is co-teaching the UO courthouse garden class in landscape architecture this spring and will carry it in the summer and fall tems. Bean tunnels went in this week, a solid signal that summer crops are underway. Food for Lane County, the Relief Nursery, and other local charities will receive the produce. Shovel-ready volunteers will be welcome again this Saturday from 10 am to about 12:30 pm at the city-owned acreage east of the Wayne Morse Courthouse.
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, editor at eugeneweekly dot com
“As early as I can remember, I wanted to be a dancer,” says Sara Lombardi, executive director of the Eugene Ballet Academy. “But the opportunity unfolded in gymnastics.” A two-time state champ at Parkrose High in Portland, she competed on scholarship at the UO and earned a PE degree. “I took dance classes as well,” says Lombardi, who continued in school for a masters in sports medicine while she began dancing with the fledgling Eugene Ballet Company. “I fell into it at 21, an unheard-of age.” Her career at the EBC lasted six years, during which time she also began teaching and administering the school, then known as the Eugene School of Ballet. “It was started in 1959 by Doreen Gilday,” she notes. “Her student was Riley Grannan, and I was Riley Grannan’s student.” Lombardi purchased the school in 1994 and ran it as a personal business until 2006, when she sold it back to the ballet company, staying on as instructor and director, as well as artistic director of the Eugene Youth Ballet. A maestra of multi-tasking, she has also raised her three kids, now ranging in age from seventh grade to high-school senior. Learn about EBA classes and summer camps at eugeneballetacademy.org.