Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
City Club Shocker
Auditor, police chief back Tasers, despite abuse
Happening People: William Kasper
AIR OUTCRY CONTINUES
The debate over Seneca’s proposed biomass cogeneration plant continues as the Aug. 14 end date to the comment period draws closer. On July 30, the public outcry reached the ears of Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) members in a packed Harris Hall over the proposed plant’s air pollution permit. LRAPA speakers and others expressed surprise at the high attendance rate for the biomass meeting, which had latecomers scavenging for seats stacked by the walls and more than 40 people giving comments.
Among the questions raised during the meeting’s Q&A period were issues with security measures at the entrance to the burner hopper for fuel. Audience members had concerns over pesticides sometimes used on wood and whether the pesticides on the lumber would be burned and put into the air. Seneca supporters said no such measures had been taken thus far because, according to one of the Seneca representatives, “Regarding the fuel question, we are not installing cameras because, frankly, we didn’t think about it.”
When a question was asked about plant shutdown for days in the Willamette Valley where air quality had become too bad, an LRAPA representative said that Seneca would be required to shut down their biomass plant for emergency air quality days, “I don’t believe we’ve ever had any in Lane County,” he added.
In a later interview, Lane County commissioner for north Eugene Rob Handy said the proposed biomass plant is of particular concern for his district, which has neighborhoods downwind of the proposed plant. He said among the people possibly affected by the proposed wood burning plant are low income families, Latinos and people of color and a disproportionately large number of disabled people.
“Part of the irony here,” he said, “is that across the south Willamette Valley as we are celebrating the end of field burning, we are looking at the possible air impacts from 500 tons of additional air pollution.”
Because LRAPA’s focus is upon the air permit itself and not on environmental justice issues, Handy said he and other groups such as Oregon Toxics Alliance and the American Lung Association have been looking into an environmental justice stakeholders’ process through the Environmental Protection Agency. He said, “The EPA will be coming to town in the next couple weeks to talk to interested parties.” He added, “It’s a way to get everyone to the table sooner.”
Handy said, “Seneca is a good company; they’ve done the right thing in the past.” He said two things he would like to see happen include placing an ambient air monitoring station in west Eugene and for Seneca to install a regenerative selective catalytic reduction system, as opposed the planned selective non-catalytic reduction system. The regenerative system, he said, would reduce the plant’s nitrogen oxide emissions by 70 percent; the current proposed system reduces those emissions by 45 percent.
Written comments on the air permit can be sent or dropped off to of LRAPA at 1010 Main St., Springfield 97477 by 5 pm Aug. 14. — Camilla Mortensen and Shaun O’Dell
A PARTY FOR CLEANER AIR
The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is planning an Aug. 12 community celebration of the end of field burning in the southern Willamette Valley.
“For 40 years, area legislators tried, but failed, to end this practice that causes serious health problems for those exposed to the smoke,” says Charlie Tebbut who co-directed WELC’s Campaign to End Field Burning along with Dan Galpern. “But in 2009 we galvanized the community.”
“We worked hand-in-glove with the medical and public health community, concerned citizens, and key lawmakers — including Rep. Paul Holvey and Sen. Floyd Prozanski — to get this done.”
Galpern says the campaign overcame heavy opposition from the grass seed industry, “by proving, with overwhelming medical and scientific evidence, that the burning imposes intolerable risks to public health, particularly for children, the elderly and people with respiratory disease. This rare victory vindicates our common right to breathe clean air and needs to be celebrated.”
“Clear Skies: A Community Celebration of the End of Field Burning,” runs from 6 to 8 pm Wednesday, Aug. 12, at the King Estate Winery Pavilion. RSVP is requested. Find details at www.westernlaw.org — Ted Taylor
SLUG QUEEN SLIME BALL
Soon the burning hot days of summer will draw to a close, and Eugene’s rains will start again. You know what that means: slug season. Yes, in only a few weeks it will be time for Eugene to coronate a new Slug Queen, but before she hands on her slimey scepter, current “raining” queen Marie Slugtoinette has a couple of things she’d like to accomplish.
First on Slugtoinette’s (aka Constance Van Flandern) agenda is this weekend’s Slime Ball. The masquerade fancy dress dance and cake party on Saturday, Aug. 8, is a fundraiser with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Birth to Three, a local nonprofit that provides support to families with young children.
Van Flandern and the other old queens, very old queens and exquisitely old queens, in addition to raising money for their respective causes, have been working to support local businesses in Eugene. They’re contemplating “knighting” someone each year who has given back to their community through charitable works or local business.
The busy queens have been giving a “Slug Queen Seal of Excellence” to businesses that participated in last year’s “Slug Trail” and came up with unique slug products, such as Wandering Goat’s Slug Queen coffee blend. Another Slug Trail is in the works for this year, Van Flandern said, and she hopes this time shoppers will be guided by temporary glittery slug-prints along the way.
Also in the works are Gastropodcasts of local events, businesses and personalities that Van Flandern hopes to make and post with the help of students from the UO’s School of Journalism and Communication. She said she hopes to get the UO more involved in the local community.
An ongoing project has been the proposed bronze slug queen statue in Hendricks Park, which Van Flandern hopes to fund through small community donations. The statue would cost $5,000 all told. “That’s 1,000 $5 donations. How hard could that be? Everybody loves the Slug Queen,” Van Flandern said.
Finally, there’s the Slug Queen throwdown. “I’d like to challenge the Kiefer Kia Princess to a duel,” she said. “A charity marathon maybe.” Slug Queen Marie Slugtoinette versus the Kiefer Kia Princess? We’ll see. For now, the next Slug Queen competition and coronation is Sept. 3. Go to www.slugqueen.com to find out more about the coronation and Saturday’s Slime Ball at The District. Tickets are $6; $10 a couple. — Camilla Mortensen
FORUM FOR CONTROVERSY
Pacifica Forum which, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center is Eugene’s resident white nationalist hate group, is certainly no stranger to the battle over what constitutes freedom of speech vs. hate speech.
Pacifica has gained attention in recent years by hosting controversial speakers and revisionist historians, most prominently British revisionist historian David Irving and Forum regular Valdas Anelauskas, whose opinions have been met with vigorous cries of anti-Semitism, among other accusations.
“They consistently have programs that are promoting anti-Semitic statements, ideas ideologies and histories. During the last three years since Valdas Anelauskas began lecturing at Pacifica Forum, they have incorporated Neo-Nazi ideology, Holocaust denial, overtly racist attacks on Martin Luther King and the civil rights movements and anti-feminist attacks on women’s rights,” said Michael Williams, a member of Eugene’s Anti-Hate Task Force.
“Trial by Indymedia: Anti-racism or Anti-freedom?” will be presented by Jay Knott and the Pacifica Forum from 3 to 4:45 pm Friday, Aug. 7, in the Walnut Room of the EMU on campus. Knott (aka Roderick McLaughlin) is a Portland-based Forum regular who maintains a website dedicated to Pacifica. The meeting’s topic comes from a controversy that sprang up after Irving delivered a speech on his controversial ideas, including his revisionist ideas about the Holocaust, in Portland on July 19.
Portland Indymedia covered Irving’s lecture, and the online coverage drew comments from both supporters and critics of Irving. Indymedia removed some of the comments, generally in support of Irving’s ideas, from the site because, according to Indymedia volunteers, they could be categorized as hate speech under the Indymedia editorial policy. The policy allows comments to be removed if they “promote racism, homophobia, sexism, or other oppression against human or non-human animals.”
“Intolerant commentary will not easily find a place on the site. I think people get caught up in hearing themselves speak and with their own opinions. They start to feel a sense of entitlement that they should be able to go anywhere and say whatever they want. Freedom does not mean you can go into anyone’s living room and say whatever you want,” said Deva, an Indymedia volunteer.
Pacifica Forum supporters, however, are encouraged by the group’s determination to take on what they see as the censorship of their ideas by Indymedia and others.
George Beres, a Eugene resident who supports PF and has spoken at PF events in the past, does not believe controversial speakers like Irving and Anelauskas are Holocaust deniers. Instead he said that he believes that people like Irving and Anelauskus have faced attempts at censorship from what Beres called “Zionists” largely because they believe that Jewish groups with political agendas have enlarged the “horrible realities of the Holocaust.”
Beres said it is this sort of selective editing that is occurring on Indymedia. “Indymedia is an area where they would practice censorship if they could get away with it. I think this discussion is important to have on Friday,” Beres said. — Topher Vollmer
• A gathering in memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is planned for 7 to 9:30 pm Thursday, Aug. 6, at Alton Baker Park’s small shelter, near the park entrance. A 7 pm community potluck will be followed by a 8 pm program featuring Bob Watada, Mayor Kitty Piercy and Sen. Merkley’s Eugene staffer Dan Whelan speaking about nuclear weapons abolition. The event will also feature poetry and Japanese Koto music, Taiko drumming and Obon dancing. The event will close at dusk with the floating of candle lanterns on the duck pond. Call CALC at 485-1755 for more information.
• Ordinance revisions related to police oversight are on the agenda of the Eugene City Council when it meets at 7:30 pm Monday, Aug. 10, at the council chambers, 777 Pearl St. The council will review recommendations from the Police Auditor Ordinance Review Committee, a 15-member panel convened last November to examine 18 proposed rules and powers for the auditor and Civilian Review Board. Activists objected to the committee because it included members who were strong advocates for dismantling independent police oversight, and letting the police police themselves behind closed doors. For more information, search for “PAORC” at www.eugeneweekly.com/archive.html
• The Downtown Urban Renewal District is also on the Aug. 10 council agenda as a work session at 5:30 pm. The council is looking at trying to expand the URD’s spending cap to allow the accumulation of future property tax revenue increases that can be used for downtown revitalization.
• Groundbreaking at the Springfield Millrace Restoration Project is planned for 11:30 am Tuesday, Aug. 11, at Clearwater Park in Springfield. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Ron Wyden are scheduled to join Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken for the event.
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Weyerhaeuser Company (744-4600) will ground spray 661 acres: Near Low Pass, Horton, Blachly, Triangle Lake, Greenleaf, Deadwood, and Lorane near Long Tom, Hayes, Fish, Congdon, Lake and Cow creeks with herbicides; Accord XRT, Accord Concentrate, Oust XP, Oust Extra, Chopper, Escort, Arsenal, Garlon 3A and Garlon 4, Garlon XRT, Garlon Ultra, Transline, Tahoe, Cleanslate, and with adjuvants; Activator 90, Moract, Induce, Support, Methylated Seed Oil, and silicone adjuvants to kill big leaf maple, madrone, chinkapin, etc., starting Aug. 10 (Notification #2009-781-50429 & 50430).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org
• Tasers are back in the public eye (ouch!) and we’re still scratching our collective heads, flabbergasted at why our well-educated community still tolerates potentially deadly torture by our guys and gals in blue. Lauren Regan, director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, spoke out at City Club last week saying we simply can’t trust Eugene police with these zappers. And apparently we can’t trust EPD statistics either. In its May report on Tasers, the EPD said Tasers were used in six cases where the use of deadly force was justified. So six people would have otherwise been shot by EPD in 15 months? EPD hasn’t killed anyone in years. Six shootings would have certainly put our town on the map, and likely spurred investigation by the federal Department of Justice.
Maybe federal intervention is not such a far-fetched idea. The EPD and its union are dead set against accountability and transparency; and our city manager, mayor and council majority are apparently ignoring the auditor’s scathing 2008 annual report on EPD violence, unlawful entry, abuse of the homeless and violations of free speech (see our news story, July 2). Instead of bold action toward reform, the council majority and staff are busy blowing most of our city’s facility reserves on moving EPD to an overpriced building across the river in a floodplain.
• Is Dawn Reynolds on her way out? Our exceptionally bright and otherwise excellent former interim police auditor is now back in the number two position, and is rumored to be resigning her post and seeking less frustrating work in a more enlightened community. As of press time she had not returned our phone calls or email.
Meanwhile, new rules for the auditor and Civilian Review Board are on the agenda of the City Council this week (see Activist Alert) and we urge our status quo-loving council majority to read the graffiti on the wall: If we do not adequately empower our independent police auditor, EPD conduct and public trust in police will continue to erode.
• We want to welcome Kellee Weinhold back to the wild world of newspapering in Eugene. As the new publisher of the Oregon Daily Emerald on the UO campus, she’ll have fun fighting figures on that relentless bottom line. Not a new experience for Kellee — she was once the bookkeeper for EW. Sonja Snyder, her old boss in our Lincoln Street house, says Kellee was “terrific.” We expect she’ll be terrific in her new office in the EMU.
• Our cover story this week explains why Oregon is different from Michigan when it comes to unemployment, but the two states have some things in common. Flint, Mich., is a college town about the same population as Eugene and is staggering from the auto industry collapse much like Eugene did when our timber industry collapsed in the 1980s. Flint is now doing something unthinkable — bulldozing or salvaging 1,000 homes on the outskirts and paying people to move to the city core. Another 3,000 homes may be next, all to be returned to fields and farmlands, saving the depressed Vehicle City millions in public safety, street maintenance, schools and other expenses of suburbia. Will other cities follow? Will “Flint” become a verb? Will governors across the nation call on cities to go Flint themselves?
Eugene might not be ready to Flint, but conservatives on the Eugene City Council are joining land speculators and builders in trying to expand our urban growth boundary. Ironically, Flint is already much more compact than Eugene and is working to become even more dense, while some players in spread-out Eugene are demanding that we become even less dense.
• Did we see a woman raise her hand to run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010? Not yet. So far all the chatter is about John Kitzhaber (will he announce in August?), Peter DeFazio (will he announce in September?) Bill Bradbury (already unofficially announced), Brian Clem (young legislator from Salem — is it too early for him?). Sounds like an opportunity to be the second woman governor of the state of Oregon. Barbara Roberts was the first way back in 1991.
• Makes us proud! Shelley Poticha, who grew up in Eugene and went to South Eugene High School, has just been appointed senior advisor for sustainable housing and communities at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Legislation is in the works to create an office of sustainable housing and communities which Poticha will head, says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. He says she “will help lead HUD’s effort to change the way we think about how our communities fit with how Americans live their lives … her wealth of experience will help move us forward in creating sustainable, greener, and smarter communities.” Based in Oakland, Calif., Poticia is president and CEO of the national nonprofit Reconnecting America. She’s a national leader for the reform of land use and transportation planning and policy. She’s the daughter of Sharon and Otto Poticha.
“I’ve always been exposed to art,” says William Kasper, who grew up in Lind, a small town in Eastern Washington. “My mother was the high school art teacher.” Kasper got started in photography at Central Washington University, pursued painting and jewelry-making while working in LA in the early 1970s, then had a darkroom and worked at a photo store in Spokane during the ’74 World’s Fair. He got married, had two sons, and returned to Ellensburg in 1980 for a job in facilities management at CWU. “I met the art professors, hired the students, and used their darkroom,” he says. “I visited galleries and brought the kids.” In 1999, when their sons had finished high school, he and his wife moved to Eugene for his current job as purchasing manager for facilities services at the UO. “I’ve gotten into digital photography and using software to manipulate images,” says Kasper, who serves as president of the New Zone Artists’ Collective. This year he established the New Zone’s Gallery on the Bus project, a partnership with LTD that has placed posters by local artists in each of its buses, plus an internship program for students of the UO, LCC, and alternative schools. Learn more at kasperart.com and newzone.org.