News Briefs: No Answers to Civil Liberties Issues Locally | Bettman Weighs In on Local Funding | Local Reps Back Porky Asphalt Bill | Criminalizing Bodily Functions | Some Progress on Skate Park | Calling All Old Hippies | Activist Alert | War Dead | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
No Answers to Civil Liberties Issues Locally
The May 30 one-year anniversary of the anti-pesticide rally that ended in the Tasering and arrest of Ian Van Ornum, as well as the arrest of several other participants, has passed, but key civil rights questions remain unanswered. Here in Eugene the ethics of the Tasering itself has been in debate, but the larger question is whether the federal government should be monitoring peaceful protests.
David Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU), sent a letter to Congressman Peter DeFazio last July after EW reported on the federal involvement in monitoring the rally. Fidanque asked that DeFazio look into what Federal Protective Services (FPS) was doing at the downtown Eugene rally and also look into a 2006 document from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) obtained by the group Defending Dissent. The document provides a “civil activists and extremists action calendar” of events, mainly anti-war rallies, across the country for “situational awareness in the law enforcement/government security/force protection arena.”
The document begins by warning of nationwide rallies organized by CodePink, a woman-initiated anti-war group. According to the ICE document, “Code Pink has deemed March 8, 2006 International Women’s Day. They will be holding rally’s [sic] nationwide.”
According to the International Women’s Day website, the day has been celebrated since 1911 and is a national holiday in countries such as China and Russia.
Ironically, no rallies in Eugene were listed in the ICE document. DeFazio’s office received a reply from ICE in September 2008, which, according to Findanque, “basically said an agent was there in uniform because of concerns the demonstration might move towards the federal building.” This contradicts what witnesses at the rally report — that agent Thomas Keedy was not in uniform when he called the Eugene police into the rally.
Fidanque wrote to DeFazio that this response from ICE was “unsatisfactory” and pointed out it indicated that no one at FPS, including ICE Acting Director Judy C. Rogers, who signed the letter, had really looked into the May 30 incident.
Fidanque says Rogers’ “letter then goes on to acknowledge that the FPS routinely monitors First Amendment protected activity in order ‘to effectively carry out its protective mission.’” The ICE letter says that one of the purposes of engaging in this routine monitoring “publicly available information” is so that FPS can communicate with event organizers to “ensure an educated and measured public safety response” and to protect against threats to lawful demonstrators “by those who may disagree with their views.”
Fidanque points out that no one is aware of any attempts by FPS to contact organizers of the rally, whom the agency mistakenly thought was Day Owen’s Pitchfork Rebellion. Owen had participated in (but also not organized) an earlier rally with Van Ornum at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference that culminated in presenting letters to DeFazio’s and Sen. Ron Wyden’s offices at the U.S. Courthouse.
At issue here, Fidanque says, are the AG’s guidelines. They were revised by former AG John Ashcroft that allow for assessments of individuals without any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. “The kind of snooping FPS was up to does not require any authority or accountability under the attorney general’s guidelines,” Fidanque says. “I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg of just what the FBI is up to,” he says.
“It’s just ludicrous,” Fidanque says, “The FPS can launch a full blown investigation into Day Owen or someone else based on the idea that someday they might have a demonstration at a federal building.”
In response to Fidanque’s inquiry and after an April meeting between DeFazio’s office and ACLU of Oregon, DeFazio wrote a May 29 letter to current U.S. AG Eric Holder, asking that he review Fidanque’s concerns and have his staff contact Fidanque directly about them.
DeFazio also requested that the Department of Justice review Ashcroft’s changes to the AG guidelines and provide information on other “civilian arrests, citations, problems and concerns associated with these changes to the monitoring guidelines.” Finally he inquired whether Holder intends to revise Ashcroft’s guidelines “to restore, or strengthen, the civil liberties protections which existed prior to his revisions.” DeFazio’s office says the Congressman has no further comment until he gets a response from Holder.
Fidanque says, “Had FPS not called EPD, I do believe that the demonstration would have ended peacefully with no Tasering and no arrests.” — Camilla Mortensen
Bettman Weighs In on Local Funding
Bonny Bettman is no longer on the Eugene City Council, but she’s still tracking city, county and state politics and occasionally weighs in on the issues.
In a recent email discussion about funding for Lane County services, she noted that the county is “siphoning off about $6 million per year to urban renewal districts (URDs) in Lane County,” which she says is “real money that real taxpayers paid thinking it would go for essential services, not to profit developers and property owners.”
She said the $6 million per year would have been much higher if the mayor and council majority “had their way instead of the voters’ way.” She was referring to the last attempt to increase the URD spending limit, which citizens referred to the ballot, where it “went down in flames” in November 2007.
Adding to the discussion this week, Bettman told EW that the mayor, council and city manager are “planning to ignore the voters and increase the URD spending limit in the downtown district under the auspices of ‘helping LCC.’ They say that they will spend the money on LCC and Farmers’ or Saturday Market, but it is just a ploy to garner support for the increase in spending. According to the URD plan and state statutes, once they have the increase they can spend it on anything they want. It’s a developer slush fund.”
She says it’s ironic that “URD tax-shifting schemes take money away from schools, Lane ESD and LCC. The state loses almost $40 million per year to URDs.”
Her advice is to tell local elected officials that their priority should be to “plug the hole in the revenue bucket by terminating all tax giveaways except those that directly benefit very low income members of our community … no more tax giveaways.”
She says the $6 million in URD’s tax transfers does not include enterprise zone tax breaks or multiple-unit property tax exemptions (MUPTE), often for housing that would have been built without the tax breaks.
Bettman blames Lane County’s tax break strategy for causing a much more extreme contraction now that the overall economy is weak. “Their overzealous ‘stimulate business to create jobs with taxes’ strategy has directly resulted in more extreme repercussions in the down economy.” — Ted Taylor
Local Reps Back Porky Asphalt Bill
The Democrat-controlled Oregon Legislature last month passed a bill criticized as one of the most environmentally damaging and corrupt in decades — with unanimous support from Eugene’s elected representatives.
HB 2001 spends $960 million on more freeways that would increase global warming, urban sprawl, traffic snarl and smog, and destroy natural areas, Oregon’s leading environmental groups say. Support for the bill from tax opponents was bought with earmarks for legislative pet projects, critics say.
Local Reps. Phil Barnhart, Paul Holvey, Nancy Nathanson, Chris Edwards and Terry Beyer, and state Senators Floyd Prozanski, Vicki Walker and Bill Morrisette all voted for the controversial bill. The bill passed 38-22 in the House and 24 -6 in the Senate.
The Oregon League of Conservation Voters, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Oregon Environmental Council, Environment Oregon and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance opposed the bill.
Bob Stacey, director of 1,000 Friends, said that the bill started with provisions for better planning to reduce global warming from sprawl and funding for transit, rail, bike and pedestrian projects but those were largely “stripped from the bill.” What remained was a “highway funding bill that takes the state backward,” he said.
Steve Novick, a former U.S. Senate candidate and leading state environmentalist, used toy props at the press conference to make the point. “The polar bear has been taken out of the basket,” he said. “What we have left, my friends, is a basket of asphalt.”
Novick and Stacey also criticized the bill for breaking Oregon’s long tradition of good government by earmarking hundreds of millions of dollars to legislators’ pet projects rather than the most important transportation projects in Oregon. Novick noted a $192 million earmark for a Dundee bypass. The spending amounted to about $2,000 per constituent of a state senator who’s friends with the leader of an anti-tax group that threatened to refer the bill. “The price is too high,” said Novick, holding up a pig’s ear.
An Oregonian editorial opposed the bypass pork, comparing it to Alaska’s infamous bridge to nowhere. Gov. Ted Kulongoski earlier threatened to veto such unprecedented earmarks but has since supported the bill.
The earmarks may have succeeded in buying off right-wing opposition, but it’s unclear if environmentalists will themselves gather signatures to refer the bill to voters. — Alan Pittman
Criminalizing Bodily Functions
Everybody has to pee and poo on a regular basis, but if you’re homeless in Eugene, these basic bodily functions are often illegal.
After 8 pm there’s only one public restroom open in all of downtown Eugene, a little known bathroom, tucked next to the police department in City Hall which is always open.
Bathrooms in the downtown parking garages are closed on Sundays and lock up by 4 or 6:30 pm the rest of the week. The library bathrooms are open until 8 pm, or 6 pm Friday through Sunday. LTD’s bus station bathroom has similar hours.
If you can hold it for about 20 blocks, you could shimmy to the Owen Rose Garden, if you can get there before 11 pm. Other riverside park bathrooms are only open May to October.
The alternative would be to find an open business downtown willing to let you use their restroom. But that’s often hard enough for people in business suits.
Responding to complaints of public urination and defecation, the city of Eugene has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars downtown on a police crackdown, but nothing on increased potties.
That could change. The City Council asked staff to bring back toilet options. City staff wrote a memo late last month with a wide range of pricey options. Signs, maybe for that hidden potty at City Hall, would cost $1,000. Restroom attendants to open up the parking garage bathrooms at night and prevent vandalism would cost $225,000 a year, at $15 per hour pay. Just adding 24 hour security for the garage restrooms would cost $132,000 a year. The city could rent portable potties for $3,000 a year each. Building a new four-stall restroom would cost $300,000, more than a luxury home, staff claim.
The city has a “Cross Departmental Staff Team” on the potty problem. The memo didn’t say how much staffing the toilet task force will cost. The task force will recommend what the council should do about going to the bathroom in 90 days, if you can hold it that long.— Alan Pittman
Some Progress on Skate Park
In late April the city of Eugene officially submitted a request for proposals for an approximately 18,000 sq. ft. public skate park under the Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge. Although design submissions closed on May 12, the project still has a long way to go. Construction is tentatively set to begin next February.
The concrete recreational skate park facility will feature a covered, well-lit space for local skateboarders, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Washington-Jefferson Park has a reputation for illicit activity, but supporters of the skate park say a well-designed facility will make the area safer.
Total costs are expect to exceed $500,000, and the city of Eugene has already allocated nearly $300,000. The Tony Hawk Foundation endorses the W-J skate park and plans to contribute $5,000.
A local group, Skaters for Eugene Skateparks, continues to track the project on their updated website (www.skateeugene.org). The group will host a fundraiser for the skate park from 5:30 to 11 pm Friday, June 5, at Sacred Traveler, 790 Willamette St. The scheduled event includes a silent auction of community artwork, live music and food. There is no cover charge, but sliding-scale donations will be welcomed.
Bob Chandler, a SES Steering Committee Member, hopes the W-J Park “becomes home to a signature destination skatepark that becomes world renowned and helps lend proof to Eugene’s claim of the ‘Greatest City for the Arts and Outdoors.'” — Sachie Yorck
Calling All Old Hippies
Eugene was a hip and happening place back in the late ’60s and early ’70s and became a counterculture destination spot. Hippies migrated here from all over, and many of them stayed to create businesses and nonprofits, raise families and become well-known members of our community.
Now, Mary Dole, exhibits coordinator at the Lane County Historical Museum, is helping plan a May 2010 major exhibit titled “Tie Dye to Tofu: Mainstream Eugene Becomes a Counter Culture Haven.”
“We would like to get input from community members for this,” says Dole. “We are looking for people who remember ‘Switchboard,’ Vietnam War protests, the Odyssey Coffee House, the band ‘Wheatfield,’ or perhaps they may have lived on a commune or in a school bus. We want to know what brought them to Eugene, how they lived, what they did. We want to tell the stories of individuals as well as those specialized entrepreneurships and annual events that came about during that time period.”
“We are hoping we can even find an old pickup with a home built on the back from that time period,” she says.
Dole can be reached at 682-4242, or visit www.lanecountyhistoricalsociety.org
• What would Jesus ink? Northwest Collegiate Ministries is giving away tattoos this week to those who donate $15 to Springfield/Eugene Habitat for Humanity. The event ends at 2 pm Thursday, June 4, in front of the EMU on campus. The tats are only press-ons, but those who donate more than $15 will be entered into a drawing for a $250 gift certificate to High Priestess.
• “Climate Change and Architectural Responses” is the title of an AIA-SWO and Eco-Building Guild joint seminar featuring Alder Fuller, Ph.D., and John Reynolds, FAIA. The event is from 8 am to noon Friday, June 5, at the UO Downtown Baker Center, Alaska Room, 975 High St.
Cost is $35 for AIA associates, interns, students and Northwest EcoBuilding Guild members; $50 for AIA members; and $75 for non-AIA architects. Call Lana Sadler at 342-8077 for more information.
• World Naked Bike Ride in support of Cascadia Summer 2009, clothing optional during ride time, gathering at 5:30 pm Saturday, June 6, at Monroe Street Park, ride at 6 pm.
• Local improvement districts (LIDs) are on the agenda of the Eugene City Council in June, involving levy assessments on property owners for street improvements. The council meeting June 8 is scheduled for action on the formation of the LID on Old Coburg Road/Chad Drive. The Crest Area project is scheduled for a public hearing June 15 and council action June 22. Property owners in both areas have complained about high assessments for paving and sidewalks. See the city website at www.eugene-or.gov for agendas and times.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,306 U.S. troops killed* (4,300)
• 31,312 U.S. troops injured* (31,285)
• 182 U.S. military suicides* (182)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 100,591 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (100,555)
• $674.2 billion cost of war ($672.2 billion)
• $191.7 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($191.2 million)
• 690 U.S. troops killed* (687)
• 2,828 U.S. troops injured* (2,843)
• $189.1 billion cost of war ($187.7 million)
• $53.8 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($53.7 million)
* through June 1, 2009; 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)
Our May 14 cover story on doctors who email said that one company, Medfusion, charges $40,000 for “secure patient portals” for a medical practice with more than 100 doctors. Medfusion tells us the $40,000 includes “development of a brand new interactive, content management website” for the practice. More information on the company can be found at www.medfusion.net
• The R-G editorial board has worked itself into a rabid froth over the funding of jail beds, without any substantive reporting to support the paper’s fear mongering and recall threats. Early releases, known in the enforcement community as capacity-based releases (CBRs), are nothing new. Years ago when the county jail had twice the capacity, about 10 prisoners a day were released early. Today it’s about 13 a day. The problem is not the releases as much as which prisoners get released and why. No useful statistics have been made available to the public, so we only hear about the nonsensical CBR extremes. Complicating the topic are the multiple jurisdictions that contract with the jail for beds. Eugene, Springfield, Cottage Grove, the county and the feds all rent beds in the jail and have different priorities.
The highly vocal jail staffers and their families have a distinct conflict of interest in increasing jail bed funding. It’s about protecting their jobs. And cynics in and out of government are wondering if the early release of dangerous felons might be done on purpose to inflame support for incarceration funding. Nothing surprises us these days, but it’s more likely that human error or poor judgment are to blame.
Meanwhile, the daily is espousing other conservative stands lately, calling for taxpayer support for the Lane Metro Partnership (the folks who brought you Hynix and big tax breaks for polluters) and the Association of Oregon Counties (the folks who want to privatize and clearcut state forest lands). Those taxpayer bucks would pay for some jail beds. Should we blame the R-G if some criminal gets out of jail early and kills or rapes someone? That’s how absurd the finger-pointing has become.
The bottom line is we’re finally seeing some fiscally responsible action from the County Commission. It’s ironic that conservatives are fighting it.
• Why is Peter DeFazio weighing in on the wrong side of the jail bed debate when he normally keeps his distance? Might be a coincidence, but he sent out a fundraising letter last week for his reelection campaign. We guess he’s either wanting to raise his profile in the mostly conservative District 4 or he simply bought into the R-G editorial rants and story slants. DeFazio appears to have dropped his plans to run for governor now that John Kitzhaber is making his move.
• Last week the Democratic Oregon Legislature betrayed environmentalists by passing a corrupt, porky, billion dollar freeway bill that represents a huge step backward for efforts to fight global warming and urban sprawl. If green voters want to be taken seriously, they need to kick back where it counts. Immediately start gathering signatures to refer this pile of steaming asphalt to the voters.
• As we go to press with our Summer Guide, many Eugeneans are looking forward to months of outdoor activities, but some people in Lane County and beyond look at the summer as a time to hide indoors from clouds of choking field burning smoke.
Oregon’s legislators should vote for SB 528, Rep. Paul Holvey’s bill to put an end to field burning, because the burning puts a black cloud over the lives of Eugeneans and rural dwellers in the “sacrifice zones” alike. In 2007 a bill to end field burning was brought before Oregon’s Legislature; it was allowed to fizzle in committee. SB 528 should not be allowed to die this time, nor should the people of Oregon be allowed to die because of field burning smoke.
• How to scare a gang of wild turkeys? We asked this question in Slant last week and got two responses from readers. Phil recommends “motion-activated sprinklers.” Google those words and several commercially made products pop up claiming they scare off deer, dogs, cats, peeping toms and feral children. David Hunt tells us “turkeys are afraid of owls, and so are many other pesky birds, so an owl decoy in the space may discourage them.”
• A drowsy friend of ours stood in line at 6 am June 1 at the Emeralds ticket office to buy precious tickets to the traditional Fourth of July fireworks on the Ems field. She said some real drowsies lined up at 4:30 am. They’re concerned that this classic event in the historic old ballpark will go away. Not if the Civic Stadium advocates win their fight to preserve this great place in a city that has wiped out too much of its history. We’re cheering them on.
• We hear reports that many unemployed Japanese are turning to vegetable farming part time to feed their families, cultivating highly efficient small plots everywhere. These new farmers, returning to their agricultural roots, also help pay their bills by selling surplus to neighbors and local stores. Some Eugeneans have been doing this for decades, but in Japan it’s quickly becoming a mainstream part of the economy. The Japanese have an added incentive: Most of their food is imported. A pear in Tokyo can cost $4, a watermelon $50. Are any local organic seed producers sowing the sprouting market in Japan?
• Late breaking news: Eugene joins cities across the country as Planned Parenthood holds a vigil for Dr. George Tiller, the doctor who was murdered by a Christian domestic terrorist earlier this week. The vigil’s at 6 pm Friday, June 5, at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza. Stories from women whose lives Tiller saved through late-term abortions have been flooding the Internet this week, and check out Kate Harding’s post on Salon about how law enforcement officials often ignore domestic terrorists at women’s health clinics.