News Briefs: Councilor Changes Tune on Project | Endangered Ethics | Tattoos Too Sexy for the Fair? | Torah Repaired | Solomon Film Showing | Slime Time Once Again | EW Wins Awards | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Housing Goes Underground
Demand high for swank Olympic Trials digs
Happening Person: Ken Goyer
COUNCILOR CHANGES TUNE ON PROJECT
Opponents of a plan to kick out local businesses and redevelop downtown with chain stores and condos and $50 million of public subsidies managed to chip away a councilor this week from the majority block pushing the project forward.
Councilor Andrea Ortiz broke away to vote July 23 against a proposal to use $8 million in federal anti-poverty funds to help fund the project. The council voted 5-3 to support the project with Councilors Ortiz, Bonny Bettman and Betty Taylor voting against.
Ortiz said she’d wondered when she’d get to the point of joining opponents and remains troubled that the big developer subsidy won’t be referred to a vote. “It still takes my breath away to think of how much money we’re asking taxpayers to spend without their little check at the ballot box.”
During the meeting Bettman tried to find out from staff what the total taxpayer tab was.
But city Finance Manager Sue Cutsogeorge said that tally wouldn’t be available until mid-August.
Bettman questioned how other councilors could vote for the project without knowing its cost or what else the money could be used for.
Ortiz also expressed concern that the project could fall through and the city get stuck with property that it couldn’t sell for the high prices it paid for it. She said she was “really concerned what direction we’re going in the amount of money on the premise of what if.”
City Development Manager Denny Braud said if the project fell through, the city could have to “resell the properties in a fire sale.” He said the city would have to make up for the loss by taking money from urban renewal funds to pay back the federal government.
Ironically, Braud argued that using the federal anti-poverty money for the upscale project is allowable because of the low-wage retail and service jobs for poor people the project will create. “We’re targeting entry-level jobs.”
But Councilor Taylor questioned whether displacing local businesses with corporate chain stores would create any jobs. “Are you subtracting the jobs that are going to be destroyed?”
Councilor Alan Zelenka, now a potential key swing vote, said the city may pay for “some or all” of the businesses and nonprofits to be relocated. Zelenka said council actions over the next two months are needed to make financial tools available should the council make a final decision by Sept. 25 to proceed with the project.
“This just sets us up to be able to say ‘yes’ and pay for it,” Zelenka said. He said the council was being “very prudent” and compared the financing motions to “wedding planning.”
But Bettman said it was “egregious” to rush the council actions past the public. “What we’re doing is offering an astronomical dowry of over $50 million to a private developer.” — Alan Pittman
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) will reconsider eight decisions involving endangered species. The decisions were “inappropriately influenced” by a political appointee — former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Julie A. MacDonald.
USFW Director H. Dale Hall said he hopes the “blemish on the scientific integrity” of the agency will be rectified by the reviews.
The list includes the white-tailed prairie dog, Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, arroyo toad, southwestern willow flycatcher, California red-legged frog, Canada lynx and 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies.
At the last minute USFW pulled the marbled murrelet seabird that is found along Oregon’s coast from the list.
According to Hall, the regional listing of the murrelet as well as a decision on bull trout habitat were removed from review because MacDonald’s impact on those decisions had been within her “legitimate purview,” minimal, or related to law or policy.
MacDonald resigned from her position in May after the department’s inspector general found that she had broken federal rules. She is accused of browbeating federal scientists and improperly leaking information about endangered species to private groups.
“Despite no scientific training, MacDonald interfered in dozens of scientific decisions concerning endangered species,” said Noah Greenwald, a conservation biologist in Portland.
The review “falls far short of what is needed to redress MacDonald’s role in weakening protection of the nation’s endangered species,” according to Greenwald’s group, the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Although we are glad these species will receive consideration for additional protection, the list of decisions to be reconsidered is outrageously incomplete,” the center said, and called for more species to be reconsidered.
One of the officials charged with reviewing the ethics issues raised in the report on MacDonald, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Mark Limbaugh, has since resigned to take a job with the Ferguson Group. He will work as a lobbyist representing local and state water agencies with interests before the Interior Department, the Army Corps of Engineers and Congress.
In a July 20 letter, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to clarify how his department will ensure its accountability and ethics in the after MacDonald’s “scandal” and Limbaugh’s new position as a lobbyist. –— Camilla Mortensen
TATTOOS TOO SEXY FOR THE FAIR?
Tattooing is a violation of “community standards of decency,” according to a letter from Rachel Bivens, event and commercial exhibits coordinator for the Lane Events Center to Dr. Julien’s Black Lotus Tattoo of Eugene.
Amy Shuttleworth of Black Lotus said the tattoo shop had applied for a booth at the 2007 Lane County Fair, but “they told us their board voted against us.” This decision was later reversed by the Lane County Board of Commissioners.
Tattooing, she said, “was lumped into pornography.” She was told they were not welcome because the fair was “family-oriented.”
Shuttleworth didn’t see how tattoos were anti-family. “More than half our staff has a family,” she said.
Piercing is allowed at the fair, and tattooing must pass the same stringent health licensing requirements.
Shuttleworth checked and discovered that the Fair Board does not currently exist – it dissolved back in January when the Lane County commissioners voted not to fill two of the position on the five-person board. The three remaining members quit. The commissioners currently serve as the acting board.
So Black Lotus took the problem to the commissioners during a June 27 public comment session.
“Tattoos do not violate our community standards, mores or morals,” said commissioner Bill Dwyer, “I’ve known judges, doctors and lawyers that have tattoos. I actually have several of them myself.”
The commissioners heard from fairgrounds manager Warren Wong on July 11. Wong said the comparison to pornography was “misunderstood.”
He surveyed the policies of other county fairs in Oregon, including the State Fair, he said. The Oregon State Fair does allow tattooing.
“It doesn’t appear tattooing would work” at the Lane County Fair, he said, because of the need for hot and cold running water, nonporous surfaces and a separate area for the actual tattooing process.
The issue of whether tattooing violates “community values or not depends on your perspective,” he said.
The commissioners decided tattooing does not violate Lane County Fair policies. They decided that if Black Lotus can get the proper permits, then the business should be allowed at the fair.
Black Lotus will not have a booth this year, but, Shuttleworth said, Black Lotus plans to apply for a tattoo booth for the 2008 fair. – Camilla Mortensen
A community-wide celebration is planned from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm Sunday, July 29 at Ahavas Torah Synagogue, 3800 Ferry St. The free event marks the return of a Sifrei Torah that had survived World War II but was damaged by vandals Feb. 22. The sacred scroll was repaired by experts in New York.
“This Torah was rescued from the Holocaust, only to be desecrated in the hate crime here in Eugene where vandals also threw another Torah out in the rain, hacked viciously at a volume of the Talmud and damaged many more religious objects,” reads a statement from the synagogue. “The rest of the synagogue was undamaged.”
At the celebration, Mayor Kitty Piercy is expected to talk about the city of Eugene’s proposed new anti-hate crime legislation. “The city will be attempting to get legislation passed on a state level, but at least a city ordinance that will take a stand for acceptance and diversity here in Eugene,” says the group.
Live music and refreshments will be provided and all are welcome. For more information, call 334-6772.
SOLOMON FILM SHOWING
Media critic Norman Solomon will be available by conference call July 27 following a free screening of his new documentary War Made Easy.
The DVD is based on Solomon’s 2005 book, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Solomon is the director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, author of other books of media criticism and a frequent national talk show guest. After the screening at 7 pm Friday, July 27 in Columbia 150 on the UO campus, Solomon will answer questions.
The movie “reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq,” according to promotional materials. The movie presents a montage of footage from the Vietnam era with footage from the Iraq War. President George Bush’s arguments that leaving Iraq would destabilize the Middle East are juxtaposed with former President Richard Nixon’s similar “domino theory” argument about leaving Vietnam. “It would not bring peace, it would bring more war,” Nixon argued.
The documentary, narrated by Sean Penn, includes footage of Eugene’s U.S. Senator Wayne Morse, one of the earliest opponents to the Vietnam War. “I’m pleading that the American people be given the facts,” Morse said.
SLIME TIME ONCE AGAIN
Hot August nights are approaching, and one of them will bring a unique Eugene tradition that the straight-laced among us would just as soon see fade into history. Yep, it’s the 25th annual coronation of Eugene’s new S.L.U.G. Queen, an event viewed by many as one of the most outrageous and unpredictable happenings in town. S.L.U.G. is an acronym for Society for the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod.
The new queen will reign (unofficially) over the Eugene Celebration the second weekend in September. The queen-crowning “talent” contest is free and starts at 6 pm Saturday, Aug. 11 at the Broadway Plaza downtown. Dancing music following the coronation will be provided by JC Rico and Zulu Dragon.
It’s not too late for aspiring queens to join the competition. Entry forms can be found at Saturday Market’s information booth. And as Queen Irspira suggests to applicants, “bribe early and bribe often.” Donations are also being sought to help cover the costs of the event, says Old Queen Scarlett Slimera.
EW WINS AWARDS
Eugene Weekly won three journalism awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association at its July convention. The awards, based on 2006 editorial and design content, followed 18 earlier regional awards and one national award from other professional journalism contests.
EW won third place awards from ONPA for writing, design and target audience in the ONPA’s 2007 associate member contest.
“Oh, wow. The piece on the police department’s hiring practices was great. Very nice work,” a judge commented about Alan Pittman’s story concerning the EPD officer sex abuse scandals. Judges also praised EW‘s graphic artist Todd Cooper for “strong” cover design, and said the paper does an “excellent” job of serving its target audience and “delivers on its goals and promises in each edition.”
Since the U.S. invasion began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 3,633 U.S. troops killed* (3,618)
• 26,558 U.S. troops injured* (26,558)
• 292 Coalition troops killed* (287)
• 414 contractors killed** (411)
• 74,336 Iraqi civilians killed*** (73,611)
• $445.7 billion cost of war ($444 billion)
* through July 23, 2007; source: icasualties.org
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Oregon Forest Management (896-3757) will ground spray 264 acres for Giustina (345-2301) near Coyote, Rebel, and Camas Swale tributaries starting July 25 (#50805).
• Weyerhaeuser (744-4600) will ground spray 659 acres in Blachly and Low Pass starting Aug. 1 (#50801).
• Reforestation Services (503-362-8322) will aerially spray 51 acres for Freres Timber (503-859-2121) in Horton starting July 24 (#50810).
• Comments due on BLM Vegetation Treatment EIS on July 31. www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/veg_eis.html
Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
Where is she now? Former Lane County Commissioner Anna Morrison has resurfaced. She appeared at a recent showing of the local environmental film Boom, Bust and the BLM, apparently representing the Association of O&C Counties. The group of county commissioners is known for their logging and timber industry advocacy. The association was part of a lawsuit that has led the way to the possible reopening of the logging of formerly protected old-growth forests in western Oregon. Conservative commissioners on the association have even called for selling large tracts of O&C lands to private timber companies.
We hear Beppe & Gianni’s may have a full orchestra playing its backyard next summer. Some Fairmount Neighbors are proposing to use a matching grant from the city of Eugene to help construct a bandshell in Washburne Park, with one idea put forward that it could host free Bach Fest-associated concerts. Bandshells are an attractive addition to any park, but would especially complement the sloping grounds of Washburne. We hope this project finds the funding to get rolling soon to debut before or during next year’s Olympic Trials.
We’ve been running statistics in our News Briefs section on the casualites of the Iraq occupation nearly every week since early June, and these numbers come from the best sources we can find. Several of our readers have pointed out that the number of civilian deaths calculated by the British Iraq Body Count (IraqBodyCount.org) is lower by hundreds of thousands than estimates by other groups and reports. Iraq Body Count says it updates its numbers when the organization has “located and cross-checked two or more independent approved news sources for the same incident.” The group admits its numbers can “only be a sample of true deaths unless one assumes that every civilian death has been reported. It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media. That is the sad nature of war.”
So how many Iraqi civilians have died as a direct or indirect result of the U.S. invasion? We will never know, but we recall the British medical journal Lancet last October reported on a survey of Iraqi households conducted by Iraqi physicians, overseen by epidemiologists at John Hopkins University. The study concluded that 655,000 civilians have died of war causes. Of that number, 601,000 suffered violent deaths. Those numbers will soon be a year out of date. Hundreds of Iraqis die each day and more than a billion dollars a week are squandered as Congress and the White House bicker over benchmarks and study public opinion polls.
Kudos to CNN and YouTube this week for organizing one of the liveliest and most unpredictable presidential candidate forums we’ve seen yet. Ordinary folks submitted videotaped questions via YouTube, and some the questions put the Democratic candidates on the spot. Despite some dodging and squirming, the Ds’ responses gave us hope for the future. The election of anyone on the stage Monday night would mean a monumental improvement in White House accountability, diplomacy, and environmental and social consciousness. We’re looking forward to seeing Republican candidates facing even tougher questions in their YouTube forum September. We can’t really call these debates. Despite the innovative format, the candidates were allowed little sparring among themselves.
Lane County Animal Regulation Authority (LCARA) has recently earned kudos from local animal lovers for its attempts to move towards a No-Kill philosophy. To go along with its kinder-gentler approach to animal control, unofficial reports say LCARA will also move to a kinder-gentler name: Lane County Animal Services (LCAS). No announcements have been made, but several of the agency’s vehicles are reported to be sporting the new name.
How green is our brain power? Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy has been contacted by the producers of The Science Channel seeking ideas for environmentally advanced inventions and initiatives. The popular cable and satellite network is featuring a new program with the best ideas to share with communities across the nation. Peace Point Entertainment is the producer of the new show, and the contact is Michael Chong (firstname.lastname@example.org).
One idea that comes to mind for the TV show is the local Community Climate Stewards (CCS) program, formerly the Neighborhood Climate Councils, a program of the UO Climate Leadership Initiative. Already the city of San Francisco and a nonprofit reaching out to multiple cities in the Bay Area are looking at replicating the program and using CCS materials. CCS is also gearing up for a 35-student fall Climate Masters training. Email email@example.com or call 346-0786 for more information.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
On the front porch of the house he built in west Eugene, Ken Goyer shows an example of the SixBricks Rocket Stove he developed at Aprovecho, in collaboration with rocket stove pioneer Larry Winiarski. Rocket stoves produce more heat from less fuel with less pollution than the three-stone open fires commonly used for cooking in the Third World. A native of Burbank, Goyer has worked at car repair (Ken’s Ten-Buck Tune-Ups) and carpentry since he arrived in Eugene in 1979. He first saw open cooking fires when he went to El Salvador 10 years ago to help Sylvia Gregory with her women’s empowerment project. “I made a few stoves,” he says. “They were a great hit.” Over the past two years, with funding from the Rotary Club, Goyer has traveled to Africa to oversee the construction of brickmaking facilities for refugee camps surrounding Lira in Uganda and Gulu in Darfur. “We’ve made 30,000 stoves at Lira,” he reports. “We have nine employees at Gulu.” For an photo-essay showing how the stoves are built and used, visit Goyer’s website, aiduganda.org