Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Return of the Living
Can Oregon bring public health insurance back from the dead?
Squawk – Sports and Shit:
From Ducks to Deadheads, all the world’s a stage
DOWNTOWN COULD BOOM
Downtown Eugene is looking up.
Four big new buildings could rise in the long struggling downtown core if all goes well: a new office/commercial building in Aster’s Hole, a historic remodel of the adjacent Centre Court building, the massive LCC classroom/residential project in the library pit and a new hotel at the 5th Street Public Market.
The city played a role in financing all the projects, sometimes heavily. But the flurry of new building represents the most investment downtown has seen in decades and could make the city center a hot spot amid the chilly local economy.
Here’s a look at the projects:
The hole, named after the developer who bought the old Woolworth’s building in 1994 and then tore it down to a pit, may finally be filled with Bennett Management Company’s proposal for a five-story building with ground floor commercial space. Bennett, which remodeled the Downtown Athletic Club three decades ago, will get a lower interest rate on its $8 million construction loan by using a federal tax-exempt bonding authority. The City Council approved the use of the federal stimulus program which subsidizes the project by forgoing income taxes on a bank’s profits from the loan. The city has also agreed to lease a large part of the building if Bennett can’t find tenants.
The Centre Court building next to Aster’s Hole at Broadway and Willamette streets was left vacant for almost a decade after a developer moved tenants out. Now Beam development from Portland has gutted the structure for a historic remodel into offices with ground floor commercial. The city has loaned Beam most of the $10 million project cost and agreed to lease about half the building if Beam can’t find tenants.
LCC has planned a 90,000 sq. ft. downtown center for the pit created after Sears abandoned downtown two decades ago. The energy-efficient center across from the library will include classrooms used by thousands of students and housing for about 200. The city has subsidized the project with $8 million in urban renewal money diverted from state and local tax revenue, free land and $7.4 million in lower interest loans from the federal stimulus program approved by the city for the project.
5th Street Hotel
5th Street Public Market owner Brian Obie has planned a five-story “boutique inn” with 68 rooms and some new stores. The $12 million project was subsidized by a $500,000 loan from the city. The market has planned a project unveiling at 5:30 pm, Sept. 24. The building will be the first hotel built downtown in three decades.
|This old maple tree is doomed|
Eugene urban foresters plan to remove a large bigleaf maple from Pearl Street, beside the 5th Street Public Market. The Parks and Open Space Division posted a notice of removal, inviting interested citizens to comment on the process.
Mark Snyder, urban forester, says that about 35 percent of the tree’s root system was removed during the construction of the space formerly occupied by the Nike store, a move that would render the tree legally felled under updated city codes. Since then, white rot fungus has developed in the remaining root system and has reached the trunk, destroying the cells that allow the wood to maintain its structure.
“We’ve known for a long time that root decay has been happening in this tree,” Snyder says, “but there has been no reason until recently to remove the tree.” When 5th Street Public Market submitted paperwork related to the construction of the hotel planned in the space that the Nike store formerly occupied, including more arborist reports, the city inspected the tree again and put it on its hazardous watch list.
“It’s not clear from the most recent report that much has changed since 2008,” says Kevin Matthews, spokesperson for Friends of Eugene. “Our system of care for urban trees is broken. The system gives developers incentive to damage trees and cut them down. We need to fix that system as a community to save our urban trees.”
Brian Obie, owner of the 5th Street Public Market, hired arborist Terrence Flanagan, who pronounced the tree in very poor condition. “The risk assessment rating for the whole tree failing comes to 11 out of a possible 12, considered to be a very high risk category that warrants the tree’s removal within weeks rather than months,” Flanagan writes in his report.
The city’s notice of removal states: “The condition of the tree constitutes a hazard with high potential to cause harm to the public or damage to property. In order to abate this hazard, this tree will need to be removed.”
The tree will likely be removed in the coming weeks if public comments don’t persuade the city to take another course of action.
A record of the tree hazard assessment can be viewed at the Parks and Open Space office, at 1820 Roosevelt Blvd. Urban Forestry staff can be reached at 682-4800. — Shannon Finnell
WILL GAS EXPLODE IN OREGON?
The massive explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that killed at least four people and injured another 60 when a natural gas pipeline running through a suburban neighborhood blew up on Sept. 9 reminded Oregonians that there are 2,000 miles of gas pipelines in this state, with more being planned. Pipeline plans are being debated in the courts and in the Oregon Legislature and Congress.
One pipeline project is the Ruby Pipeline, which would bring natural gas in from Wyoming to Malin in southern Oregon. Proponents say Oregon needs the gas, calling it a “bridge fuel” to renewable energy. Opponents say most of the gas is intended for California, not Oregon. The Center for Biological Diversity has sued to stop the project arguing it will hurt endangered fish species. Counties in Wyoming, Defenders of Wildlife and several other groups have sued as well, citing environmental as well as social concerns.
Gas-drilling and pipeline opponents were alarmed recently when leaked documents from the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security revealed the organization has been tracking anti-gas drilling groups and their meetings, including monitoring a screening of the gas-drilling documentary film, Gasland.
The other big Oregon pipeline projects are associated with the proposed importation of liquefied natural gas (see cover story 5/27). The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) announced that several Oregon landowners joined a lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the company that owns the deadly San Bruno pipeline and is fighting to put a “Pacific Connector” pipeline into place that would run from the proposed Jordan Cove LNG terminal in Coos Bay over 200 miles to Malin.
The proposed 36-inch Pacific Connector line would be bigger and higher pressure than the defective San Bruno line.
PG&E has sued Oregon agencies for ruling their application for the pipeline incomplete. Oregon law requires landowner permission for wetland and stream crossing permits on private land, and PG&E’s project has been unable to obtain landowner permission for these permits, according to WELC.
Under the Bush administration, the Natural Gas Act was amended to give Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the exclusive authority to site onshore LNG facilities, but states can rule on Clean Water Act and other environmental issues.
On Sept. 14, Rep. David Wu introduced the “Local Control for Energy and the Environment Act” (HR 6124), a companion bill to Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley’s S. 3056. Both bills are amendments to the Gas Act that would bring state authority back into the siting process.
Brett VandenHeuvel of Columbia Riverkeeper, a group that successfully fought one of the LNG terminal/pipeline projects, Bradwood landing, near Portland says, “I think the bill introduced by Wu is a good idea,” but he adds, “Nothing in this act affects the state’s rights under the Clean Water Act. In my opinion the states still can say no, whether this bill passes or not.”
On the state level, he says in the last Oregon legislative sessions, HB 3058 and SB 1020 both tried to create legislation that said “linear energy projects” didn’t have to get permission from the landowners to get permits for pipelines that would cross streams and wetlands. Opponents called the bills “LNG fast-track bills.” VandenHeuvel says neither bill was passed, but nor was a bill favored by LNG opponents, HB 2015, that asked the state to consider the impact on natural resources and required a needs assessment to determine if LNG is necessary.
“There seems to be a feeling that it’s a FERC issue,” he says. “Nothing’s further from the truth; this is an Oregon issue.”
Tom Ivancie, executive director of Energy Action Northwest, a group that has promoted LNG and gas infrastructure says, “We are monitoring legislative developments in Salem. Energy Action NW wants to ensure that our goal of clean, affordable and reliable energy is achieved while protecting and creating jobs for Oregonians.”
VandenHeuvel says, “I hope that the ‘LNG fast-track bill,’ which was defeated twice, will not rear its ugly head again.” — Camilla Mortensen
MUSIC CONTEST WRAPS UP
Eugene Weekly’s Next Big Thing music singles contest closed to new entries last Friday, but voting and commenting on the songs continues through, Sept. 27.
The contest attracted 95 artists and bands who submitted 153 original songs in all. The top 40 vote-getting songs will go on to the next round of judging by a panel of local and regional music professionals. The judges will pick 16 songs for a compilation CD, and the winners will be announced at the Best of Eugene Awards show Oct. 29. CD release parties will be held at Luckey’s, Doc’s Pad, Black Forest and Diablo’s, at dates to be announced.
Bill Shreve, EW’s director of sales and marketing, says “the quality of entries this year is remarkable.” See http://nextbigthingeugene.com
• Internet barriers is the topic of a series of free public meetings with local residents and community leaders in 20 different locations throughout Oregon, hosted by the group One Economy. The meeting in Eugene is at 6:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 23, at Lane County’s Harris Hall on Oak Street. The town hall interactive format provides for direct community input ranging from how residents access and use the Internet to identifying the barriers to bringing desired Internet resources to their community. The results of these meetings along with a statewide scientific survey will, in large part, form the basis for broadband policy in Oregon in the next few years.
• Breakfast at the Bike Bridges makes its final stop of the season from 7 to 9:30 am Friday, Sept. 24 at the Dave and Lynn Frohnmayer Bridge (former Autzen Footbridge). UO President Richard Lariviere and Jan Lariviere plan to be there. Free breakfast, free “bike stuff,” and Burley Design will demonstrate its urban bicycle trailer system and give one away in a drawing.
• John Kitzhaber will speak on the importance of early childhood education at City Club of Eugene at noon Friday, Sept. 24, at the Hilton. The City Club gubernatorial debate planned for that day was canceled when Republican Chris Dudley declined to show up, but a gubernatorial forum is part of the members-only annual conference luncheon of the League of Oregon Cities Saturday at the Hilton.
• A sanctioned Volkssport event is planned for Saturday, Sept. 25, at Shotgun Creek Park north of Marcola, about 24 miles from Eugene. The free non-competitive hikes through BLM land at the foot of the Cascades are 5K or 10K in length and registration is from 9 am to 2 pm at the park. Sponsored by the Eugene-Springfield Mossback Volkssport Club. Call 726-7169 or email email@example.com
• SOLV’s annual Beach and Riverside Cleanup is from 10 am to 1 pm Saturday, Sept. 25. Thousands of volunteers will clean up Oregon’s beaches from the California border to the Columbia River, and also work along rivers, creeks, lakes and other waterways throughout Oregon and southwest Washington. SOLV is now on Facebook and Twitter.
• The documentary Jamaica for Sale will be shown free at 7 pm Monday, Sept. 27, at 110 Knight Law Center on campus. The filmmaker Esther Figueroa will be there for discussion, along with UO environmental justice scholar Maxine Burkett. Sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center and UO Ethnic Studies.
• Independent candidates Mark Callahan and Kevin Prociw are hosting a town hall meeting at 7 pm Monday, Sept. 27, at the EWEB Training Center, 500 E. 4th Ave. Callahan is running against Rep. Nancy Nathanson and Bill Young for House District 13. Prociw is running against Rep. Val Hoyle and Dwight Coon for District 14.
• What should happen regarding the Lane County Fairgrounds? Lane County Commissioner Rob Handy has scheduled a follow-up event which will include the full Board of County Commissioners, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm Wednesday, Sept. 29. at the Fairgrounds/ Lane Events Center Meeting room #1.
• West Lane County Commission candidates Jerry Rust and Jay Bozievich will be debating at 6:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 30, at the Community Services Center at 175 W. 7th Ave. in Junction City. The forum is sponsored by the Junction City/Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce.
• The Many Rivers Group of the Sierra Club will sponsor a talk by Lisa Arkin of the Oregon Toxics Alliance on “Environmental Laws Killed and Buried from View: Can Oregon Lead Again?” at 7 pm Thursday, Sept. 30, at the Eugene Garden Club, 1645 High St. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
•• The Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene does remarkable work in protecting the constitutional rights of ordinary people who get squished under the thumbs of government agencies and corporations. We were pleased to see a big turnout in rainy Hendricks Park Saturday night for a CLDC “Local Harvest Feast” that raised about $2,000 for the nonprofit and spotlighted the bounty and talents of local farmers and chefs such as C. Ashley Hawkins. CLDC’s founder Lauren Regan and her guest speaker Day Owen of the Pitchfork Rebellion reminded us that civil rights are at the center of many of the biggest political issues today. We have the right to equality regardless of skin color, gender and disability; and we also have a right to uncontaminated farmland and school yards, healthy food, clean water and air — and even the right to be homeless and on the streets.
The CLDC is, among other cases, challenging the constitutionality of Eugene’s Downtown Public Safety Zone. The “exclusion zone” is being used to ban people from downtown who are cited for nuisance crimes, even before they are convicted. CLDC is representing William Biggs, a young man who is homeless and was cited for standing on one of the metal grates that surrounds trees on a public sidewalk downtown. There are many such incidents downtown that continue to drive a wedge between the police and the people. A court hearing on the exclusion zone set for Sept. 27 has been delayed a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, supporting the CLDC is one of the best ways to hold public officials accountable and help restore justice. See www.cldc.org or call 687-9180.
• Here’s what one City Club member at the Sept. 10 meeting in the Hilton called a “dazzling” definition for economic development in Eugene: “The role of city government in economic development is to provide coordinated and sustainable policies designed to increase the overall standard of living for most individuals living in the community.” This definition came out of an extensive City Club research project done by Dan Herbert, Pat Skipper and Rick Gates. They interviewed 30 Eugeneans, producing a solid study draft available online at http://wkly.ws/s6 Their definition of the city’s role makes sense to us, and as the threesome wrote, “Such a definition could begin to re-establish trust that development is driven by more than just the growth of business.”
• As we go to press, we hear the Network Charter School is being offered free classroom space in several empty buildings downtown, actually more space than they need for their 120 students. The alternative public school’s Executive Director Mary Leighton says this is good news while the school is negotiating to buy or lease a more permanent location downtown. “What a lovely neighborhood we work in,” she tells us. School started this week.
• Arts meetup! at 5 pm Wednesday, Sept. 29, at Ninkasi Brewery (or Sam Bond’s if it rains.) We’re hoping to see Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, and going to host a show and tell — what are you working on, artists of the literary, cinematic, musical, visual, theatrical, dance and other stripes? Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or RSVP on Facebook at the Eugene Weekly page — or just show up, grab beer and brag on yourself.
Speaking of the arts, please find reviews of the Lord Leebrick’s Speech & Debate and ACE’s Smokey Joe’s Café in this week’s BRAVO section.
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