News Briefs: UN Hires Local Woman | County Budget Questions | Wolves Back in Gunsights | LNG Projects Return | Civil Right to Food Choice | Backing Up on 13th Ave. | Activist Alert | War Dead | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Tax break out for UO area, but may expand elsewhere
Happening People: Heather Nic an Fhleisdeir
UN HIRES LOCAL WOMAN
When Hillary McBride started applying for positions with the United Nations, she wasn’t expecting to be called back. Although extensively traveled and an accomplished professional, she was the public relations rep for a small electric utility, Emerald People’s Utility District. To her surprise the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) flew her to Bonn, Germany during the first week of July for an interview. A little over a month later, on Aug. 22, the UNFCCC hired her as an associate communications officer.
The UNFCCC is the branch of the U.N. most involved in attempting to reduce carbon emissions, regulating the carbon credit market and providing economic incentives for countries to be more environmentally sustainable.
“I was pretty excited to get the job,” McBride said. “I just really did it as more of an exploratory thing.”
“I started applying thinking I wasn’t going to get it,” she added, “but I proved myself wrong.”
“Basically what the organization does is help the countries involved in the Kyoto Protocol achieve their goals,” said McBride, who will help organize communication campaigns designed to educate countries on how they can use U.N. resources to reach their carbon emission reduction targets.
McBride’s new job requires her to relocate to Bonn, but she is no stranger to living abroad, having visited over 25 different countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas. She also studied and worked for three years in Japan. She moved to Eugene seven years ago after finishing a volunteer stint in Southeast Asia.
“When you’re living outside your comfort zone in another country you really see the magic of things,” she said. “We’re looking forward to it — it’s going to be a challenge but we’re definitely looking forward to it.”
“I am really excited to be a part of the U.N.,” she said. “I would like to stay in the organization for the rest of my career.” — Nils Holst
COUNTY BUDGET QUESTIONS
County administrator Liane Richardson authorized $46,800 to pay for 12 videos and six “watercooler Skype chats” during the same time period that county commissioners were voting to not spend money on a video series because county agencies from the Sheriff’s Office to advocates for the homeless are experiencing deep budget cuts. Longtime Budget Committee chair Scott Bartlett says his questions about the expenditure are going unanswered.
According to county documents, Rick Dancer Media Services proposed the videos on “various topics to be decided by Lane County and Rick Dancer.” Dancer is a former journalist and former Republican candidate for Oregon secretary of state. In Dancer’s proposal, he writes “the stories will set the record straight rather than relying on public relations or the traditional media to do this for you.”
The first two videos have covered the Lane County budget and cuts to the Sheriff’s Office.
On April 6, Judy Williams, a Lane County budget specialist, sent an email to Robert Lewis, the creator of the award-winning video series that went unfunded in the recent county budget, asking him to propose 12 four-to-five minute informative videos and six watercooler-type videos and gave him seven days to come up with a proposal. Lewis proposed 12 videos for $14,640. In Dancer’s proposal the videos cost $40,800.
Richardson chose to go with Dancer’s proposal and he signed the contract in early May, but it was not signed off on by the acting county administrator until May 19 — two days after the Budget Committee adjourned.
Questions about the proposal are going unanswered. Bartlett wants to know why the Budget Committee wasn’t told about the Dancer video series proposal when it was being told there was no money in the budget for the previous video series. He also questions the “watercooler” proposal, as watercooler segments were one of Dancer’s hallmarks as a KEZI television news anchor.
Bartlett says Lane County has been “stonewalling” his requests for more information.
EW asked Richardson how the more expensive proposal was chosen as well as how the process of soliciting proposals proceeded. Richardson replied via email that she “had a full schedule of meetings the last few days and do tomorrow as well” and could not respond to questions.
Dancer responded to questions about the videos with “I need to check with Lane County, since they are my client and I am contracted through them.”
EW filed a public records request with Lane County in order to get more information about the Rick Dancer video series proposal. According to Judy Williams, the county would charge EW $200 for each machine searched for emails about the proposal.
Under Oregon law, agencies can waive fees for public records requests that are in the public interest. Niel Laudati, Springfield’s community relations manager, says in response to an April 2010 public records request from the R-G, “we provided full access to more than 5,000 emails within 48 hours.” He says, “We always try to provide media records requests quickly and free of charge, since typically it is a benefit to the public.” — Camilla Mortensen
WOLVES BACK IN GUNSIGHTS
Reintroduced wolves are on the brink of a blood bath. Activists are calling for a boycott to save the wolves from outright extermination in some key Western states.
The federal government’s wildlife management strategy will allow wolves to be slain in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Open season began on Aug. 30 in Idaho, where the up to 78 percent of the wolf population is up for slaughter. And the other states will follow in this decimation in the next two weeks.
Brooks Fahy, executive director of the Eugene-based national nonprofit Predator Defense, says it’s important for Oregonians to pay attention to what’s going on because Oregon will eventually implement a hunting decree on wolves as the population grows too.
Predator Defense started the boycott with the international animal advocacy group Friends of Animals and is working to get other nonprofits involved and to expand its grassroots movement. The organizations are boycotting these “killing” states and are urging people to stop buying any products from these states and cancel any plans to visit them. They are calling for people to write letters to state representatives, congressmen, editors and even travel agents explaining the boycott.
But Fahy says the American public is so inundated with news of other things that it has no idea about the impending wolf slaughter. “This (boycott) is a last ditch effort to stop or slow this thing down — or to get the American public to wake up.”
Wolves, which lost protection under the Endangered Species act in April thanks to a congressional rider, are now subject to the merciless killings of ranchers and hunters.
“The body count isn’t going to be just the number of animals killed,” Fahy says. “There is going to be an unforeseen death toll. And in states like Idaho, this could stand to wipe out the entire wolf population.” He says many of the wolf pups, which are about 4 to 5 months old right now, will not be able to survive alone.
Fahy doesn’t want the wolves hunted at all. Predators are beneficial, he says. A recent study out of OSU shows that wolves could play an important role in helping to save other threatened species like the Canada lynx. When apex predators such as wolves are removed from an ecosystem it causes a “trophic cascade” of impacts, scientists say.
Fahy says the hunting “isn’t wildlife management; this isn’t based on science.” He adds that this is about people with a siege mentality trying to “show the environmentalists who is in charge.”
Now it’s time to show those people who’s really in charge. For more information on the boycott and to find out how you can save the wolves go to www.predatordefense.org — Kendall Fields
LNG PROJECTS RETURN
Oregon continues to fight proposals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on its coastlines and associated pipelines through its pristine forests and under rivers.
Landowners and conservationists have argued not only that LNG import terminals are not needed and harm the environment, but also that using eminent domain to grab lands for pipelines is not needed.
There are two current LNG terminal and pipeline projects in Oregon. A third, Bradwood Landing, went under last year when the company proposing the terminal, Northern Star, when bankrupt. But Oregon Business reports that a consultant in Seaside, John Dunzer of Columbia Bioenergy LLC, is attempting to resurrect the terminal on the Columbia River and use it to import LNG from Alaska as part of an “alternative energy farm.”
Dunzer tells Oregon Business that his proposal is smaller than the previous attempt and would not require dredging. He says he “scaled down the project to ‘go around the local people’ and ‘avoid public hearings.’”
Brett VandenHeuvel of Columbia Riverkeeper, which successfully fought Northern Star’s Bradwood Landing, says, “LNG is very unpopular in Oregon. The public had made clear that they don’t want LNG at Bradwood or anywhere else in the state.”
LNG opponents predicted that proposed LNG import terminals would be “flipped” and become LNG export terminals, a charge the companies denied. According to a recent press release, the company behind the proposed Jordan Cove LNG terminal will be participating in the “World LNG Series,” an Asia Pacific summit being held Sept. 19-21 in Singapore. The release says that Joe B’Oris, vice president commercial of the Jordan Cove Energy Project, will be presenting on the project that he says “provides the most cost-effective method for delivering LNG from North America to the Pacific Basin.”
The press release says, “economics could allow U.S. producers to double or triple their net by exporting to Asia rather than selling domestically.”
LNG opponents also predict exports will result in increased natural gas prices for Americans. Much of the natural gas to be exported will be the result of the controversial practice of “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing. Fracking involves injecting chemicals and water into rock as it is drilled, and environmentalists say the practice contaminates groundwater, and some have speculated it is linked to recent earthquakes in the Eastern U.S.
— Camilla Mortensen
CIVIL RIGHT TO FOOD CHOICE
Healthy, sustainable food and the ability to farm organically are civil rights, according to the Eugene’s Civil Liberties Defense Center. The group’s second annual Harvest Feast from 5:30 to 9:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 1, at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum will inform guests about the connection between civil liberties and food while raising money to defend local farmers and other civil rights.
George Kimbrell, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety, will be a guest speaker at the event. He says he will talk about the intersection of industrial agriculture and the environmental impact of food production and genetically modified organisms.
“There’s a real problem with food sovereignty and food security,” Kimbrell says, because companies like Monsanto are patenting seeds and spreading products like Roundup Ready alfalfa that promote pesticide use on a usually low-pesticide crop. “For 10,000 years farmers have saved their seed after each planting,” but patents on seeds are taking away farmers’ rights to use seeds as they wish. Farmers who want to be organic or non-GMO run the risk of contamination by wind or bees, so they could begin infringing on seed patents despite their desire to avoid the patented seed.
“I think the Willamette Valley is sort of ground zero for seed production for many crops, particularly vegetable crops,” Kimbrell says. “It’s a wonderful place to grow.” Local crops like organic chard and table beets are at risk for contamination.
Kimbrell says not only are local crops at risk for contamination by GMO and patented seeds, seeds that are grown here that are then used across the country for food production are at risk as well. “That contamination is going to spread,” he says.
In addition to hurting food choice, the infestation of crops with GMO seed has the potential to hurt the economy. “A lot of the Pacific Northwest sends their food to countries like Japan that reject GMO,” Kimbrell says. “Similar to domestic sensitive markets, these export markets are also at risk.”
Companies use myths like the need for GMO crops to combat climate change or increasing yields to justify their use, Kimbrell says, but that’s not what they do. “They are engineered to do one thing, which is be resistant to herbicide,” he says, which will promote pesticide dependence as the seeds spread.
The Harvest Feast will include a locally grown four-course dinner from chef C. Ashley Hawkins and music by Sol de los Andes. Cost is $35 per person, $65 per couple, $10 for kids 12 and under. RSVP to 687-9180 or visit www.cldc.org
— Shannon Finnell
BACKING UP ON 13th AVE.
Early media reviews of the city’s controversial bike lane-removal and back-in parking makeover of 13th Avenue near the UO, one of the busiest bike corridors in the nation, are in, and they aren’t all positive.
“I think it stinks,” barber Pete Peterson told The Register-Guard. “There’s going to be a lot of accidents.”
“I jokingly said at one point, ‘I need to get a kiosk here where all I do is leave exchange forms and accident reports here so people don’t have to go far to get it,’” Eugene police officer Randy Ellis told KEZI TV.
“People are pulling clearly into the bike lane across the street to get in which will probably pose some sort of a problem,” Ellis told KVAL TV.
KVAL aired video of cars using the remaining bike lane as a passing lane, posing the danger of head-on collisions with cyclists. EW observed the same thing when a reporter visited the street.
After the city eliminated the eastbound bike lane, KVAL also shot video of bikers going dangerously head-on in the remaining bike lane.
Before the city rebuilt the street with a design that prioritized car parking, cyclists could use a westbound cycle-track protected by cement barriers and parked cars and an eastbound bike lane. But the city converted the protected cycle-track into an exposed bike lane going one way and eliminated the bike lane going the other way to make room for the back-in parking.
The dangers with backing drivers and eastbound cars and bikes going head-on in the westbound bike lane without a physical barrier were predicted a year ago when the city’s controversial design was revealed in a grant application.
But city staff and their supporters bristled at critics and did nothing to change the design to make it safer. The staffer responsible for the design has since left for a job in Canada.
A design that eliminated a few parking spaces would have provided room for a physically separated, two-way cycle-track and wider sidewalks. The crowded area has far more people going to businesses and the UO by foot and by bike than by car. But the city never publicly considered a design that would prioritize people over car storage.
The city’s failure raises the question of if the city won’t remove even one parking space to increase safety for people on foot and bikes in its most heavily concentrated bike and pedestrian area, will it do it anywhere?
The city plans to better paint the remaining bike lane and add “sharrow” bike markings in the street after a final asphalt layer is added. That could improve safety if the city frequently maintains the paint and regularly tickets drivers for using the bike lane or for not sharing the street with bike riders. But such ongoing maintenance and policing are rare in other parts of the city.
Next month, thousands of inexperienced drivers and cyclists will return to Eugene to try to navigate the city’s controversial new design on busy 13th, hopefully without many accidents. — Alan Pittman
• The Eugene-based Health Care for All organization monthly meeting will be at 7 pm Wednesday, Sept. 7 at EWEB, and will focus on organizing special events for the single-payer campaign statewide and in Eugene. A leader from the campaign will speak, and time will be provided for questions. Contact email@example.com
• The Oregon Board of Forestry will discuss the economics of wildfire protection, management of federal forestlands and use of forest biomass at its 8:30 am Sept. 7 meeting at the Fremont-Winema National Forest Headquarters, 1301 S. G St., in Lakeview. On Sept. 8, the board will tour a large area of insect-killed timber on federal and private forestland. Public comment times are planned for the Sept. 7 meeting. See www.oregonforestry.gov for details or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson is expected to file his reelection papers at 7:30 am Thursday, Sept. 8, at Lane County Elections, 10th and Lincoln.
• 1,742 U.S. troops killed* (1,736)
• 13,447 U.S. troops wounded in action (13,316)
• 887 U.S. contractors killed (887)
• $448.9 billion cost of war ($446.6 billion)
• $132.6 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($131.9 million)
• 4,421 U.S. troops killed (4,421)
• 31,921 U.S. troops wounded in action (31,921)
• 185 U.S. military suicides (updates NA)
• 1,542 U.S. contractors killed (1,542)
• 111,832 to 1.2 million civilians killed* (111,724)
• $793.1 billion cost of war ($792.2 billion)
• $234.2 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($234 million)
Through Aug. 29, 2011; sources: icasualties.org; defense.gov, U.S. Dept. of Labor
* highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate Iraqi civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.2 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
EW inadvertently offended local royalty when we implied in our “It’s Good to be Queen” story last week that the newest “raining” SLUG Queen Holly GoSlugly “branded” the SLUG Queen monarchy. Indeed 2008 Queen Slugtoinette was the slimy creator of the SLUG Queen as a local and national brand. Slugtoinette took Eugene’s delightful gastropodal contest to new heights when she got it put into the slimelight in the Wall Street Journal, and promoted the SLUG-branding of local products such as wine, coffee, pastries and ice cream. EW has been covering the campy contest for decades and is just happy to help keep the tradition alive and salt-free.
• Sept. 13 is the deadline for weighing in on Lane County’s land grab. Proposed revisions to the Metro Plan would result in land use decisions once made together by Eugene, Springfield and Lane County being made by Lane County — and the current conservative majority — alone. Given the county’s tendency to allow all kinds of exceptions to land use rules, like letting houses and their septic systems be built right on the river, and given the county’s inability to come up with a plan to protect Eugene’s valuable drinking water, letting the county take control is a bad idea. Gravel company Knife River is all for the plan, because it would allow for gravel mining close to residential neighborhoods that previously the cities have been able to block. The plan would no doubt also allow for more industrial development near neighborhoods. If this plan goes through, Eugene and Springfield residents will see themselves excluded from the decision-making process that affects the land around us. Tell the county what you think at http://wkly.ws/13n
• We hear rumors that the EWEB board is pondering paying board members $200 a month in partial compensation for their time, and $300 for the chair. Nothing on the agenda yet, but might be there for the Sept. 6 meeting. Interesting timing with EPUD’s paid board embroiled in controversy. It’s not a lot of money, but we predict an unhappy response from households struggling to make their utility payments.
• The Oregon Ducks and the LSU Tigers will tee up the football Saturday night in Dallas, TX for an early season match-up of two top-five teams. Unfortunately, the game might showcase more than exciting football. Between these two programs in recent years we’ve witnessed player arrests and convictions, suspect dealings with scout Willie Lyles, player drug and alcohol violations, recruiting violations and more. Both teams will be missing marquee players due to suspensions: LSU is already on NCAA probation, and Oregon may be headed there. Not a great showcase for the troubled game of major college football. Good news is that RV parking near Cowboys Stadium in Dallas can be reserved for only $220 a night. Go Ducks and trucks!
• Natural disasters in the news keeping you awake at night? Rest easy in Corvallis. According to the latest New York Times “Week in Review” (http://wkly.ws/13p), Corvallis is ranked #1 in low risk based on historical data for hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought and earthquakes (of course The Big One is overdue, but let’s worry about that tomorrow). The analysis is by Sperling’s Best Places. Also on the safe list are Salem, several Washington cities and Grand Junction, Colo. Texas is ranked highest risk for disaster and that doesn’t even include Gov. Rick Perry’s ambitions.
On a different ranking, the NYT Aug. 27 also put Oregon #2 in the nation for child hunger, right below Washington, D.C. The ranking is based on 2009 statistics for “children in food insecure households,” documenting 29.2 percent of households and 252,510 kids, and it’s certain to have gotten worse since 2009. Our flawed state tax system contributes to the problem by allowing multiple tax exemptions for wealthy corporations and individuals. Oregon’s high unemployment and poverty are also due in part to nobody wanting to pack up and move to where jobs are more plentiful. North Dakota has the fewest hungry kids. Fargo is far to go.
• Rep. Peter DeFazio was in town over the weekend for the Eugene Celebration and pulled no punches at City Club Friday talking about the economy, even poking Obama for going along with the Republican ideology that cutting taxes creates jobs. DeFazio said investing in education and our nation’s bridges, dams and other infrastructure would create millions of jobs and help turn our economy around. But cutting tax revenues, such as the temporary Social Security tax break, adds to the deficit and just puts a few bucks in people’s pockets that will go to pay higher gas prices to pump up profits for Big Oil, “and Exxon is not hiring.”
DeFazio denied media reports that members of Congress are abandoning town hall meetings across the country this summer. He’s held 14 town halls across his district and the tone is different from last year’s Tea Party rage. The Eugene meeting and questions were a civil, polite platform for one of America’s toughest congressmen right now when “tough” is so rare.
• Congrats to Next Big Thing co-winners Betty and the Boy, and Tyler Fortier. The split decision by the judges came after both bands performed energetic, crowd-pleasing sets Saturday afternoon at the Eugene Celebration’s Eugene Weekly Stage. Stay tuned for more about these bands and be sure to catch their future performances, along with other Next Big Thing top-16 finalists (Boomchick is playing at 8 pm Friday at Cowfish). The CD is coming out soon. Thanks to everyone who listened, voted, sponsored, showed up for the finals Saturday and otherwise supported this effort to showcase local talent on the rise.
• The monster hurricane spared our East Coast of catastrophe, but as we watched hours of TV coverage and read dozens of newspaper stories we didn’t see one reference to climate change as contributing to this unusual weather. We did see lots of slick TV ads from the energy giants talking about the wonders of safe fracking and the joys of clean and responsible fossil fuels.
• Labor Day carries special significance this year since labor is under attack on all fronts. Conservatives are wanting to quash unions and even the minimum wage because they are “bad for business and jobs,” but a strong middle class provides the foundation to our economy. Consumer spending on goods and services drives 70 percent of U.S. economic activity and we’ll be in even bigger trouble if and when our middle class can’t afford housing, medical care, education, transportation and groceries.
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, editor at eugeneweekly dot com
HEATHER NIC AN FHLEISDEIR
“I’m Irish, Welsh and I’ve got a bit of Scotch in me,” says Heather Nic an Fhleisdeir, quoting her grandmother. “She infused me with her culture and sense of humor.” Born Heather Petty in Excelsior, Minn., she spent childhood summers with grandma in South Dakota. She studied art in Minneapolis, then moved to L.A. to enroll in the Otis Institute of the Parsons School of Design. In 1985 she became ill, and doctors were unable to help. “They said I’d maybe live to be 30,” she notes. Hearing a radio interview with an herbalist, she saw her within a week. “She gave me a list, things I could eat: garlic, onions, brown rice, broccoli and turkey,” she says. “My symptoms turned around.” She left school to pay medical bills, got married, worked in health-food stores and relocated to Eugene in 1993. She found work as a chef at Friendly Street Market, studied at the Oregon School of Herbal Studies, and opened her shop, Mrs. Thompson’s Herbs, Gifts and Folklore in 1994. “Herbalism is a more friendly, comfortable way of caring for your health,” she says. “It’s like something you get from your grandma or aunt.” After a divorce, she kept the shop name but changed her own to Nic an Fhleisdeir, a Gaelic version of Fletcher, her grandma’s name. Learn about classes, Celtic imports, and more at http://celticherbs.com