Eugene Weekly : News : 8.2.07

News Briefs: Will Eugene Subsidize Springfield? | Councilors Get New Offices | City Tickets Unexpired MetersVideo Store Inventory PurchasedLane Area Herbicide Spray ScheduleCorrections/Clarifications |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes

Stealth Advertising

Commercial influence on TV news

City Hall vs. Developer Subsidy

City may have to choose one or the other

Happening Person: Christy Obie


The cities of Eugene and Springfield have all but merged their fire departments through an automatic aid agreement that has Eugene firefighters routinely responding to calls in Springfield and vice versa. But does that mean that Eugene taxpayers are subsidizing fire services in Springfield?

Eugene Fire Chief Randy Groves doesn’t think so. “The disparity has been relatively small, particularly in view of the lifesaving spirit of automatic aid,” he wrote the council July 11 in response to questions.

Last year Eugene responded to 33 calls in Springfield, but Springfield responded to 23 calls in Eugene. That would indicate a substantial subsidy for the expensive service. Eugene taxpayers pay $20 million a year for firefighting.

But Groves wrote that in previous years the situation was reversed. For the previous four years, Springfield responded into Eugene 195 times, but Eugene responded to only 101 Springfield calls.

Springfield spends about $8 million a year on its smaller fire department. But per resident, Springfield spends $144 a year on firefighting, slightly more than Eugene’s expenditure of $139 per resident.

However, Springfield taxpayers appear to get much more for their money than Eugene taxpayers. Springfield’s average response time of 5:19 minutes is more than a minute less than Eugene’s average of 6:35. Eugene pays about 26 percent more per on-duty firefighter than Springfield, according to EW calculations.

Chief Groves blames Eugene’s slower response times on geography and Eugene’s greater number of calls per capita.

Groves’ memo does not compare capital expenditures for expensive new fire stations and trucks. Nor does the memo discuss whether the shared firefighting policy could eventually mean that Eugene taxpayers end up subsidizing Springfield’s urban sprawl in the rapidly growing Gateway area.

In the end, whether Eugene taxpayers subsidize Springfield may not matter much to many Eugene firefighters. According to city data from the 1990s, two-thirds of Eugene firefighters don’t live in Eugene and don’t pay Eugene taxes. — Alan Pittman


A proposed new City Hall hasn’t been built, but the city of Eugene has started a remodeling project on the old City Hall to add offices for city councilors.

The city plans to add eight work stations, a small conference room, a copier area and a small kitchen for councilor use. The mayor already has a large office near the city manager’s office.

“Sustainability has been a strong element in planning for this office space,” according to a staff memo to councilors. “The chairs are made from 96 percent recycled and recyclable materials, paints are low- or no-VOC products, the covering on the work unit walls are made of a corn-based material, and the laminates on the work surfaces are made of a wheat-based fiber.”

Of course, if the city tears down the building as proposed, much of this sustainable stuff will be thrown away.

The adjacent McNutt Room where the council holds most of its meetings will also be remodeled by moving a wall to add some more seating space. On occasion the small room has had to turn people away or pack them in when it reached capacity. The council has a large City Council chamber that seats hundreds but appears to prefer the more intimate McNutt Room, where councilors eat and talk to each other across a large table. — Alan Pittman


The city of Eugene sometimes gives parking tickets for unexpired meters.

“Section 5.315 of the Eugene City code prohibits ‘feeding the meter,'” explains a memo to elected officials from city parking manager Jeff Petry.

“But the daily enforcement practice is to not issue such citations and such a citation will only occur on a complaint basis,” Petry wrote. For example, Petry said the city has “a long-term agreement with the Saturday Market to cite vehicles that choose to park at a meter and feed the meter all day (the driver could have parked for free in any city garage on Saturdays). … On average, 1-2 citations are written each Saturday for this violation during the Saturday Market season.”

To help businesses, many cities design their downtown parking rules to create turnover for shoppers rather than allowing workers to use convenient spaces for long-term parking.

Petry writes that people will also insert a coin in a meter after a citation has been issued and while a ticket writer is present; feed the wrong meter; get booted while time is on the meter; drive to another space and feed the meter while not noticing a parking ticket; and place a parking ticket on someone else’s car. — Alan Pittman




The remainder of the inventory of Flicks and Pics store on Friendly Street in Eugene has been sold to an independent video store in Cottage Grove named Abraxas Video, according to Abraxas owners James and Debbie Kiser.

Part of the Flicks and Pics stock was previously acquired by the Eugene Library, and part was sold to the public.

“My wife and I obtained the inventory in order to preserve the collection and continue to offer it to the public,” says James Kiser. “The purchase included some 1,000 or so DVD titles, nearly 16,000 VHS titles, and an as yet undetermined number of video games.”



Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule

• Near Marcola Elementary School: Weyerhaeuser Company (741-5211) will ground spray 25 acres with Transline, Oust, Oust Extra, SFM and MSM E-Pro, Escort, SFM G-Pro Dispersible Granules, and Garlon herbicides plus Crop Oil adjuvant and Epoleon Odor Masking Agent to hide the smell of chemicals starting Aug. 27 through Oct. 15 (#55773).

• To view how much herbicide has been sprayed by timber companies around Marcola Elementary and other schools between 1990 and 2006, see: Dwellers: 342-8332,



Despite our headline to the contrary in News Briefs last week, Norman Solomon was not physically in Eugene last week to talk about his War made Easy DVD showing. The press information sent to us did not say he would only be available via conference call.





BREAKING NEWS: Too late for our paper edition this week, we’ve heard unconfirmed reports that KOPT AM 1600 has laid off its entire local news and talk show staff as of Wednesday, Aug. 1. Staff members were apparently not given notice, though rumors of change at the station preceded the news. Phone messages and emails to KOPT staffers have not been returned as of late afternoon Wednesday. Stay tuned for details. The Air America affiliate is owned by Churchill Media, which is owned by developers and land speculators Suzanne Arlie and John Musumeci. The station was founded in December 2004. National programming is continuing on KOPT.

In his July 25 exit interview with The Register-Guard, former Eugene City Manager Dennis Taylor said he is considering becoming a politician back in Montana. That explains a lot. In Eugene Taylor already was a politician in the worst sense of the word, routinely crossing the line from administration into policy making in ignoring and misleading the City Council. The big difference here was that Taylor never had to stand before voters and be accountable in an election. Such is the sad state of Eugene democracy.

Congrats to Eugene illustrator Jesse Springer (see News Briefs 7/5) for winning first place honors in a political cartoon contest sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Springer has drawn hundreds of cartoons and illustrations for EW, the R-G and other publications. Political cartoons can make powerful statements, and Springer has shown himself to be a master of this medium. See his work at and now Shown is his winning cartoon.

Downtown Portland and downtown Eugene have a lot in common when it comes to the challenges of creating and maintaining a safe and viable district where people want to go to shop, eat, hang out and live. The scale is different, but the challenges are similar. Eugene can take some lessons from its big neighbor to the north if we pay attention to the reported successes of the Portland Business Alliance and the Street Access for Everyone (SAFE) collaboration. Mike Kuykendall, VP of downtown services for the PBA, was in town last week to talk to City Club about how the alliance has helped clean up downtown and make it a friendlier, safer place to live and do business.

Some ideas that have worked for Portland? The PBA hired 22 retired cops to walk downtown streets as security officers along with funding three extra city bicycle police officer positions. Uniformed officers became ubiquitous. Part of the punishment for petty crimes is community service: cleaning up downtown. The SAFE program identified 200 chronic offenders and discovered 85 percent of them were homeless. Getting many of them into housing programs reduced this group’s crime rate by 71 percent. Day shelters and lockers were established for homeless people, benches were provided to keep people off sidewalks, 24-hour public toilets were provided at City Hall and panhandlers were “killed with kindness,” says Kuykendall. Friendly security officers mingled with panhandlers daily, in effect driving them away.

All of these things take resources. What can Eugene do with our limited city and private business funds? We can start by thinking bigger. How about taking some of the $50 million in tax breaks and cash we’re considering to subsidize big redevelopment downtown and using it to make downtown more attractive to smaller investors who don’t demand free land and more parking garages?

Speaking of downtown subsidies, should this really be our top priority as a city? Downtown needs help, but it’s improving on its own through smaller scale private investment. What about the growing dilemma of pollution in the Trainsong Neighborhood of north Eugene? Do we not have a moral and perhaps legal obligation to invest in the clean-up of our most toxic urban areas?

We expect to hear a lot of contentious debate on Measure 49, the Legislature’s compromise “fix” of Measure 37 coming up on the Nov. 6 special election ballot, and a lot of criticism will come from progressive voices who want Measure 37 completely voided. We’re still studying this measure and looking at its implications. It’s hardly a perfect solution to a flawed ballot measure that rips apart Oregon’s land-use rules and regulations, but it deserves a closer look. We also need a reality check. The majority of Oregon voters are not ready to toss out Measure 37, despite its abundant flaws, so some kind of compromise appears necessary. So dig in for three months of acrimony and probably a lot of misinformation and exaggeration on all sides. We have three months to sort it all out. A lot of useful information, including links to newspaper articles and editorials, can be found at

As we go to press we hear that Tolly’s restaurant in little Oakland, Ore., one of our longtime favorite spots to stop as we travel south on I-5, has been sold to some as-yet-unnamed Eugene folks who apparently have some related business here. Carol and Terry Tollefson started Tolly’s in 1968 and are retiring due to age and health reasons. The restaurant was set to go on the auction block Aug. 1. The Tollefsons plan to continue operating the business until Sept. 15 when the new owners take over. Tolly’s is known for not only good food, but also its collection of antiques, fine art and an old-fashioned soda fountain. Let’s hope the new owners carry on the tradition.

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,




Lifelong Eugenean Christy Obie sits on the front porch of her south Eugene home with six of her 12 children. The youngest, 8-year-old twins Lilly and Delaney, peer out from behind Karson, Cooper, Bailey and Broyden. The family was started soon after Obie’s marriage at age 22 to Bill Barrett, when the couple adopted Jason, the son of her cousin who was tragically killed. They later adopted Jason’s half-sister Maleah, in between the births of bio-babies Casey, Molly and Mason, and also raised Mike, an adopted boy from down the road. “At that point, we decided to adopt through a minority program,” says Obie. “There’s a need for homes for African-American kids.” Since the twins entered school, Obie has had time to start a non-profit, A Family for Every Child (, devoted to finding “forever families” for foster children. The first annual Heart Gallery exhibit, 33 portraits of local foster kids, has toured the area since its debut at the 5th Street Public Market last November. “All but five have been adopted,” says Obie. “But there are 1,000 kids in foster care in Lane County.”