Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Will local crime go up with the economy down?
No, according to a study last month by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.
The “Lane County Criminal Justice Report” analyzed Lane County crime rates compared to unemployment rates since 1990. “We saw no relationship,” the researchers wrote. The report noted that the finding is consistent with other studies done elsewhere: “Research has not shown that the unemployment rate is a determinant of crime rates.”
Since 1997, the violent crime rate has fallen 46 percent in Eugene and the property crime rate has fallen 30 percent, according to FBI data.
But from 2007 to 2008, the violent crime rate increased 14 percent, and the property crime rate increased 23 percent. Two thirds of the increase in violent crime was due to more robberies and about a third due to an increase in aggravated assaults, based on police reporting. Almost all the increase in property crime was due to an increase in reports of larceny-theft.
Even with the increase last year, Eugene’s crime rates remain far below their historic highs. With two murders last year, Eugene is one of the safest cities in the nation. — Alan Pittman
Uninsured to Take Hit in Birthing Costs
The decision by PeaceHealth to shut down its Birth Center for nearly a year will create an additional $4,600 burden for uninsured pregnant families who will need to have their babies in the hospital, or seek the services of midwives at home. The news came at a meeting of PeaceHealth officials and members of the Lane County Friends of the Birth Center (FBC) June 10.
The FBC asked PeaceHealth to “find a way to honor cost estimates provided to expecting families who, in good faith, selected the Birth Center with the stated preference of an out-of-hospital birth,” according to FBC’s report on the meeting that was closed to the media. But the hospital only suggested that women call Patient Financial Services and said “charity care and payment plans” were available.
An unidentified pregnant woman at the meeting was quoted on the FBC blog saying, “I’m not asking for any handouts. I’m simply asking that I be charged the price I was quoted when I chose this service.”
PeaceHealth officials at the meeting did say the current Birth Center would remain open an extra week, providing services through July 8, rebids on the new construction could lower the cost and provide resources for restoring facility features that had been cut, and the hospital is hopeful that construction could begin early and go quickly.
The hospital is also expanding the number of nurses trained in midwifery, and plans to add to its prenatal education program.
In a statement prepared for the meeting, PeaceHealth said the estimated costs for a normal midwife-attended birth in the hospital is $10,700, including $6,600 in hospital charges. By comparison, the cost at the Birth Center is about $6,100.
Why were pregnant families not given more notice? PeaceHealth said it was a “combination of factors,” including the hospital’s failed efforts to find an affordable interim out-of-hospital facility, the “unpredictable nature of a complex, ongoing real estate negotiation,” and the Birth Center building’s new owners not willing to lease back the building during the interim.
Groundbreaking is planned July 13 at the new Springfield site near RiverBend, and construction is expected to last for nine to 10 months. — Ted Taylor
Diversity Photo Exhibit on Display
|David and Mo Young represent people from a mix of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Photo by Jennifer Meyer|
A photo exhibit of 25 people representing the ethnic and racial diversity of Lane County, including a transgender woman, drew criticism from a few parents when it was displayed in Eugene public schools this spring, but the “Shared Community, Mixed Identities” exhibit is now on prominent display at the Lane County Courthouse.
To highlight and celebrate the multifaceted experiences of county residents, Lane County Commissioner Rob Handy will be hosting a social gathering from noon to 1:30 pm Wednesday, June 24, in the lobby of the courthouse.
The social gathering will draw attention to CALC’s photo exhibit on display inside the Wayne Morse Plaza entrance to the courthouse. The traveling exhibit was reserved by the Lane County Diversity Action Committee.
“As a leader in the community I feel it’s my duty to publicly acknowledge this wonderful exhibit which demonstrates what a truly unique and special community Lane County is,” Handy says. “I applaud the work of CALC and the individuals featured in the exhibit in the endeavor to educate our fellow community members about the importance of acceptance and respect for diversity.”
The purpose of the exhibit is to counter stereotyping by helping people recognize there are many different experiences in Lane County, and it encourages people to be more accepting of their neighbors, co-workers and classmates. The exhibit is comprised of a wide range of subjects across race, ethnicity, age, gender identity, geographic location, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation.
The exhibit is part of a series, including “We Are Neighbors” and “What Does Family Look Like?” recognizing immigrant neighbors and family diversity. For more information or to book any of these exhibits, call CALC at 485-1755 or visit www.calclane.org
Summer is ‘Nice’ Time
The city of Eugene, Lane County, local utilities, LCC, HACSA, and students from the UO and LCC are teaming up with community members this summer to support energy conservation and efficiency, renewable energy projects and efforts to lower our area’s carbon footprint. The program is called Northwest Institute for Community Energy (NICE).
Coordinators Jesse Hough, Natasha Hultmann and Samantha Chirillo will lead a team of students in community-scale projects in Eugene during NICE’s 10-week Summer Think and Do Program. Projects will include energy conservation and efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transportation, local/organic food, and waste reduction.
Chirillo says NICE is intended to “bring community members and students together to develop grassroots organizing skills in the Think Tanks and utilizing these skills with in the Do Tanks.” She says the program “will make tangible strides toward a more local and energy efficient Eugene.”
Mayor Kitty Piercy has endorsed the program, saying “I have no doubt that the NICE will soon become an integral and critical partner helping community members, public utilities, and local government work toward common goals for a sustainable and equitable future.“ Neighborhood associations have also expressed interest in working with the NICE.
Projects will be showcased at 7 pm Friday, June 19, at EWEB’s Training Room. The focus project involves students engaging low-income families to raise awareness about the economic and environmental benefits of weatherization, performing basic home energy audits, and providing referrals
“In the NICE’s pilot program in Southeast Portland last summer, we supported a large-scale solar thermal project that would provide carbon-free hot water and air cooling for 300 homes. The project received $12,500 in funding and started a non-profit after the NICE’s work, so I’m excited to see what will grow from the Eugene NICE,” says Jesse Hough, who will be coordinating his second NICE program.
For more information, visit thenice.org
|The beloved Civic Stadium|
• Supporters of Civic Stadium have until early Saturday afternoon, June 20, to buy raffle tickets at Capella Market on south Willamette. The raffle is for a man’s bicycle from Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life. Proceeds go to Save Civic Stadium. The winning $1 ticket will be picked at random at 4 pm Saturday, the same day as the opening homestand for Civic Stadium and the Ems.
• The next monthly meeting of the 4J Equity Committee is from 4:30 to 6 pm Thursday, June 18, in the Parr Room at the 4J Education Center, 200 N. Monroe St. “Next Year Visioning” is on the agenda. Time for public comment is provided early in the meeting.
• The ninth annual (and final) Day of Solidarity with Jeff “Free” Luers will begin at 7 pm Saturday, June 20, at the Pizza Research Institute, 5th and Blair, $5 at the door. The benefit will feature The Blair Street Mugwumps and Le Petite Mort from Eugene, and Coffin Ship from Portland. Luers is expected to be released from the state prison in December. He was sentenced in June 2001 for his role in the protest arson of three SUVs at a Eugene auto dealership.
• Two public forums are planned by the Eugene City Council to hear from the public on moving police offices to Country Club Road, and what the city should do to provide for city offices and a possible new City Hall. One recent proposal would have the city lease space in a downtown commercial redevelopment. The first forum is at 7 pm Tuesday, June 23, at the Atrium Building, 99 W. 10th Ave.; and the second is at 7 pm Thursday, June 25, at Sheldon Community Center, 2445 Willakenzie Road. Input will be gathered and consolidated in a report to the City Council.
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Gypsy moth spraying (southeast Eugene): If you or your family members were sickened, your property contaminated, or you feel your rights were violated by the forced exposure to the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s aerial spraying of the biological (and chemical) insecticide FORAY 48B during April and May, you need to file a “Report of Loss” form no later than Friday, June 26, in order to preserve your right to recover damages. For forms and information, go to forestlanddwellers.org/News/GypsyMothSpray/ and for assistance contact Lisa Warnes, VP of the SE Neighbors Association, at 484-2210.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org
• Hanging onto federal payments for rainy days appears to be standard procedure for most Oregon counties. To read the local daily, you’d think Lane County was the only county hesitating to fund jail beds. Back on Oct. 18, 2008, The Oregonian reported that Oregon counties could expect to see $740 million in bailout funds over the next four years, and most counties were planning to put the money into reserves rather than spend it on roads and public safety. County officials have been warned that funding from the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 is due to expire in less than four years. The money just buys some time for Oregon counties to try to become more self-reliant.
Meanwhile, the Lane County Budget Committee is wrapping up its public hearings this week in anticipation of a June 24 budget deadline, a week before the level of state funding will be known. The outcry for funding jail beds is all about dangerous criminals running loose in our community, but FBI statistics tell us violent crime is actually down over the last decade. So what’s going on? It appears a lot of folks are using the budget quandary to advance their personal and political agendas rather than working to solve the serious long-term problems facing the county.
Conservatives and Republicans are very unhappy with the new progressive majority on the County Commission and are working strategically to bring back their buddies in the next elections. The deputies, of course, are lobbying loudly to keep their jobs and benefits. The R-G’s relentless fear-mongering is more puzzling. The attack editorials remind us of the infamous Willie Horton smears used to elect Bush I. Are the editorial writers still angry that voters ignored them and elected Rob Handy to the commission? We never saw this kind of editorial fervor when Bobby Green and other conservatives were cutting funding for public safety.
• Raise your hand, please, if you know what the West Eugene Collaborative is. Not many hands up, except those belonging to City Club members who learned about the WEC last week. Maybe that’s because we media are generally more interested in conflict, crime and controversy than in wonkish collaborations. Maybe that’s because the public has, or is perceived to have, those same interests.
The WEC is a real opportunity for change in this community. After 20 years of bitter conflict over the finally deceased West Eugene Parkway, Mary O’Brien, a veteran of national environmental collaborations, worked with Kitty Piercy, Jack Roberts and other leaders to form the WEC. Individuals, organizations and agencies put up the money to hire facilitators. After two years of sometimes grueling meetings, these 27 men and women from across the political spectrum have issued a report taking the first steps to “develop an integrated land use and transportation solution, supported by stakeholders, that will facilitate movement of people and commerce from/through/to west Eugene and west of Eugene while enhancing community, business and the environment.” Big bite. The full report is at www.odrc.state.or.us/WestEugeneForum.php
We trust that the leadership to implement these recommendations will come from these WEC members who already have invested too much to let the report sit on a shelf: John Allcott, Susan Ban, Alan Buck, Rick Duncan, Gerry Gaydos, Rob Inerfeld, Pat Johnston, Don Kahle, Kevin Matthews, Aleta Miller, Ed Moore, Deborah Noble, Mary O’Brien, Kitty Piercy, Emily Proudfoot, Chris Pryor, Larry Reed, Rusty Rexius, Jack Roberts, Tom Schwetz, Faye Stewart, Paul Thompson, Jim Welsh, Gary Wildish, Sue Wolling, Jan Wostmann and Rob Zako.
• Last week in our News Briefs we wrote about the pending legislation that would protect the Metolius Basin from development of two destination resorts. Word this week is that HB 3298 passed in the Oregon Senate. The bill would designate the basin as an Area of Critical Statewide Concern and is now back in the House, where senate amendments have halted approval by one vote. Curiously, do-little Gov. Kulongoski took a stand in favor of the bill while our own Sen. Vicki Walker stood behind the developers and voted with Republicans against the bill. Walker’s apparently concerned that this bill is unfair to the developers of the proposed Metolian resort. But when it comes to major land-use decisions in sensitive areas of our state, the Legislature trumps land speculators.