News Briefs: Secretive City Manager Selection | Party for New Park Downtown | Officials Urge End to Iraq Occupation | Big Kitty Hunt is On | Recall of Zelenka? | New Trail for Birding | War Dead | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Teamsters angry over upcoming Chamber of Commmerce award
Happening Person: Holly Peters
SECRETIVE CITY MANAGER SELECTION
The Eugene City Council appears to be heading toward making one of its most important decisions in secret.
While many cities select their city managers from among a handful of publicly announced finalists for the job, Eugene does not. In 2003, the council selected former City Manager Dennis Taylor in a secret meeting without publicly announcing any other finalists.
The secret selection for the powerful city manager position drew widespread criticism. In addition to EW editorial criticism at the time, a Register-Guard editorial compared the council’s secrecy to cardinals announcing the selection of the pope with puffs of smoke. “There really are no convincing reasons for choosing the city manager behind closed doors,” the editorial stated. “Eugene residents deserve to know who is being considered as finalists for the critical position of city manager.”
But city councilors and city staff said in a Sept. 12 meeting that they wanted to keep the names of city manager finalists secret. The city’s recruiter, Bob Neher, said that if the names were public, “I warn you, you’re going to lose some of your candidates.”
To justify secrecy, the city has used the fear of candidates withdrawing if they think the cities where they work now will find out they’re looking for another job. But many other cities manage to attract good candidates with more open processes. Cincinnati, Ohio, and Federal Way, Wash., for example, released lists of candidates and invited public comment. Lawrence, Kan., publicly announced Eugene manager Taylor was a finalist there in 2006.
The R-G called the fear of losing candidates “overblown,” noting that entertaining other job possibilities is expected for top city managers.
Neher himself explained that finalists know and understand that their applications will likely go public as citizens meet finalists and as the recruiter conducts background and recommendation interviews. “Confidentiality at that point is going to be moot.”
Despite wanting to make the decision in secret, councilors have stressed the choice as crucial to the public. The unelected city manager of Eugene is the most powerful person in the region. She or he rules over a staff of 1,400, a budget of $300 million and city assets of half a billion dollars. The manager controls all information coming out of city government.
“This is probably one of the more important things we do,” said City Councilor Mike Clark of the secret selection. — Alan Pittman
PARTY FOR NEW PARK DOWNTOWN
Got a green carpet and a potted tree? An email is circulating among Eugene community groups this week inviting everyone to join in transforming a dreary downtown parking lot into a lively public park — for two hours. The “Park This” event runs from 5 to 7 pm Friday, Sept. 21, at the parking lot across the street from the Eugene Public Library, next to the excavated hole known as Sears Pit.
All over the world Friday, people will be transforming parking lots of all sizes into people-friendly urban parks. See parkingday.org for more information. The local event coincides with city and developer plans for downtown redevelopment — plans that do not include any kind of public space other than wide sidewalks.
“Park This is intended to be a family friendly event,” reads the email. “Imagine a community frolic in a downtown park; that is what we would like. … Please bring any items that you would bring to a nice downtown park frolic: lawn chairs, potted plants, pink flamingos, croquet, Frisbees, kids’ stuff, acoustical music, a few square feet of artificial grass … color and humor! Dress up if you want!”
Participants will need to pay for the private parking, which costs $1 from 5 until 6 pm when the lot becomes free. Multiple people can share a parking space. Organizers ask, “Please help with a full clean up when it’s over, and please be on best behavior.”
“Currently, there is a good deal of debate about redevelopment in downtown Eugene, park or no park,” says the email. “It’s a safe bet most people would like to see a park so we invite all park supporters to join us! … We want to simulate what a park could be like downtown.”
OFFICIALS URGE END TO IRAQ OCCUPATION
Sixty-one elected city, school, education, county and state officials from 27 counties, representing every corner of the state and every congressional district in Oregon, signed a letter sent to Oregon’s congressional delegation, calling on them to direct the Bush administration to bring our troops home now and to cut off the funds for the Iraq War, according to Michael Carrigan, Progressive Responses community organizer for Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC).
Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson initiated the letter, and he, along with CALC’s Progressive Responses and the Rural Organizing Project, secured the support of the elected officials.
“Congress has the power of the purse and must assert its responsibility to do what is right and just. It’s time to bring our troops home now,” says Sorenson in the letter. A complete listing of those who signed the letter can be found on CALC’s website at calclane.org
Elected officials are struggling to provide basic services at a time when the occupation’s costs are mounting, says Carrigan. “They have been told by federal officials, time and time again, that federal funds for roads, schools, economic development, housing, corrections, tuition assistance, law enforcement, health care, mental health and all other purposes are limited because of the Iraq War.”
Carrigan notes that as a nation, we have spent more than $452 billion on the Iraq War, with Oregon’s share of that cost $3.7 billion.
“The movement to stop the war is at critical juncture. Congress will be voting on war funding in late September or early October,” he says. “I urge people to join with the elected officials who signed Sorenson’s letter and contact Sens. Wyden and Smith and Rep. DeFazio and insist that they oppose any further war funding.”
BIG KITTY HUNT IS ON
Fall cougar season began Aug. 1 and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife just sent out a reminder to hunters to “avoid long lines” and buy their tags now for $11.50 a pop.
The general statewide season on cougars runs Jan. 1 to May 31 and Aug. 1 to Dec. 31 or until “hunt zone quotas have been met, whichever occurs first.”
The ODFW’s hunt zone quotas allow for 777 cougars to be “harvested” by hunters in Oregon this year.
The deadline for the big cat hunters to buy a cougar tag for the 2007 season is Sept. 28. Bear tags can also be purchased for the $11.50 price tag.
“Outrageous,” says Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, “that this hunt continues under the guise of public safety.”
On the issue of safety, if you are planning on hiking, it’s time now more than ever to wear your bright orange clothing — rifle buck season begins Sept. 29.
And in related news, the ODFW, after public outcry, has decided not to “euthanize” two blacktail deer recently found living with a family in Mollalla. It would seem, according to the agency, animals killed in the wild are to be “harvested” and wild animals illegally owned by people are “euthanized.” ODFW described one of the deer as “aggressive” and said it, too, is an issue of “public safety.”— Camilla Mortensen
RECALL OF ZELENKA?
A neighborhood opponent of the UO’s planned basketball arena said he will launch a voter recall of City Councilor Alan Zelenka for his alleged support of the project.
In an email to EW, Fairmont neighborhood resident Eric Eiden said that the UO’s arena and use of eminent domain threaten his neighborhood and that Zelenka’s public support of the project warrants an upcoming recall effort.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 18, no recall petition had been filed with the city. To be successful, Eiden would have to gather at least 951 valid signatures from the ward around the UO in 90 days and then defeat Zelenka in a recall election.
Eiden argues that the UO should be maintaining existing academic buildings rather than building the new basketball arena for Phil Knight, who pays a big chunk of UO President David Frohnmayer’s salary. “The only way to get Frohnmayer to do his job and upkeep the main campus is to deny him his ability to sprawl on top of existing neighborhoods utilizing the power of eminent domain,” says Eiden. — Alan Pittman
NEW TRAIL FOR BIRDING
Birdwatchers and other nature buffs are being asked to nominate sites for a new Willamette Valley Birding Trail. The deadline for nominations has been extended to Oct. 31.
More than a dozen tourism, wildlife, park and land management groups have been working over the past year to develop the new trail as a way to enhance the public’s enjoyment of birds and their habitats.
The selection group will make its decisions based on overall habitat and the types of birds found at the site, according to oregonbirdingtrails.org where nominations can be made. Other factors include the site’s accessibility to area attractions such as historical sites, waterfalls and bike trails. The potential environmental impacts of increased visitation to the site will also be considered in the selection process.
The Willamette Valley Birding Trail will become at least the fourth major trail of its kind in Oregon. Other trails include the Cascades Birding Trail, the Klamath Basin Birding Trail and the Oregon Coast Birding Trail.
“Lane County Audubon supports this effort because of our interest in habitat preservation and education about the natural world,” says Maeve Sowles, president of the Lane County Audubon Society. “We share the goals of raising awareness and enjoyment of nature with others in the hope that they will learn to value and protect our habitat resources.”
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began onMarch 20, 2003(last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 3,771 U.S. troops killed*(3,739)
• 27,767 U.S. troops injured* (27,279)
• 122 U.S. military suicides* (118)
• 1,297 Coalition troops killed* (1,297)
• 417 contractors killed**(417)
• 78,081 Iraqi civilians killed***(77,566)
• $450.4 billion cost of war ($448.4 billion)
• $128.1 millioncost to Eugene taxpayers($127.5 million)
* through Aug. 13, 2007; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to one million
Regarding our cover story last week on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Michael Elich, who stars as Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew at OSF, is not a Portland State professor; Michael Olich, who designed the Willamette Rep’s production of King David during the Oregon Bach Festival, is a theater prof — at Lewis & Clark.
• Opponents of a new park downtown argue that it’s undesirable because it will attract “undesirables.” Their barbed-wire plan for downtown appears to be making it undesirable for the undesirables. But in doing so, they will also make downtown undesirable for the desirables, thus making it more desirable for the undesirables. If all this sounds like nonsense, we agree. Eugene should make its downtown as attractive as possible for all. That’s the public space strategy of most successful cities. What would Portland, New York and other great cities be without urban parks? Cities can’t make their vagrant, youth and petty criminal people go “poof” and disappear. They can make their downtowns more attractive with great parks and attract floods of people who will make the street people less obvious and less inclined to misbehave in public.
• We hear from a couple of our readers that Northwest Survey & Data Services (NSDS) of Eugene has been conducting a poll of local residents asking how they intend to vote on the city measure in November to authorize up to $40 million in urban renewal funds to subsidize redevelopment downtown. Polltakers are asking leading questions such as, “Did you know that urban renewal funds were used to build the Eugene Public Library? Do you approve of such uses for urban renewal funds? Does that change your mind about the upcoming measure?” etc.
Is this “push-polling,” trying to sway voters under the guise of objective polling? Not at all, says Steve Johnson of NSDS. He tells us the privately funded polling “does ask people about the effect of statements, but statements on all sides, where a push-poll would try to push you in one direction or use bizarre arguments — ‘If I told you he was a wife-beater, would it affect you?’ We don’t do that sort of thing. This poll uses what we think are very neutral statements on both sides of the issue.”
So who’s funding the proprietary poll? Johnson was not at liberty to say, other than it was nongovernmental. Our best guess would be the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce and/or the Yes for Downtown PAC.
• The debate over the proper use of Tasers by the Eugene Police Department continues, and we are pleased to see the great deal of investigation and thoughtful deliberations going on in the Police Commission and throughout the community. Conductive energy devices (CEDs) such as Tasers and stun guns can be fatal even when used on healthy people, so we urge that if they must be carried, they only be used as a near-last resort. Dave Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU in Oregon, was clear in stating the ACLU’s policy at a City Club discussion Sept. 14: “There is no federal regulation of the Taser industry, and there is no medical consensus regarding either the short- or long-term medical effects of CEDs. Given the risk of unintended fatalities, we believe the use of Tasers needs to be limited to situations that most likely would otherwise lead to the use of deadly force.” In other words, unless cops are ready to shoot to kill, they need to keep their Tasers in their holsters.
Such a policy could have saved Ryan Salisbury, the teenager suffering a mental crisis who was killed by police gunfire. Such a policy would avoid the temptation to shock into submission and possibly kill verbally abusive and uncooperative thieves, drunks, drug addicts and other offenders who are not an imminent threat to the lives of themselves and police officers.
• So who wins this Oregon Senate race in November 2008 — Gordon Smith (R), vs. John Frohnmayer (I), vs. either Steve Novick (D) or Jeff Merkley (D)? Seems unlikely that Frohnmayer will win anything other than the spoiler spot, but it was refreshing to have him blast off with a call for the impeachment of George Bush. Novick has joined that call, but for different offenses. Frohnmayer, who began his career as a lawyer in Eugene, is a charming and sharp guy from a prominent Medford family. Only one week out, we’re already tired of his being identified as David Frohnmayer’s brother — although the repeated link is hardly surprising, especially in Eugene. Too bad Dave can’t raise money or even comment on behalf of his little brother. That could help make this a real race.
• One of our iron-tough staff reporters, Camilla Mortensen, has a tender spot in her heart for abused and neglected horses. The news staff tends to avoid writing about our personal lives in these pages, but her tale about her rescued horse Flash and his life-threatening leg injury is a compelling read. See photos of Flash and her story online this week at www.eugeneweekly.com under Viewpoints.
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
Her mother died when she was born, so Holly Peters was raised by her father and 13 uncles in a Lakota tribal community in Gresham. “My dad’s grief created alcohol problems,” she says. “I became an alcoholic at age 12. I detoxed in a sweatlodge at a Lakota center in Idaho when I was 14, and I started doing traditional ceremonies.” Peters finished high school and then got a degree from WSU and a master’s in social work from Portland State. After several years in the mental health field in Portland, she came to Eugene in 2004 to work as a drug and alcohol counselor for Integrated Health Clinics. She is now clinical supervisor for IHC in Eugene and Milwaukie. When her father, who had never stopped drinking, died a year ago, Peters was motivated to start a Lane County chapter of Wellbriety, a wellness/sobriety program rooted in Native American traditions. “The solution is in the culture,” she says. “We have weekly meetings, open to native and non-native people. A lot of non-native people feel drawn to these traditions.” Learn more about Wellbriety at whitebison.org.