News Briefs: RiverBend Can't Snarl Traffic | Pepper Balls Now in Police Arsenal | People Offer Different Take on State of City | Scientists Talk about Post-inferno Logging | Geographer to lecture on Globalization | Top Slogans Picked | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes.
Funding extended for Oregon's Family Planning Expansion Project.
PeaceHealth may have to pay millions of dollars more to improve roads to build its huge new hospital complex on the banks of the McKenzie River, according to a decision Jan. 5 by the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).
PeaceHealth has argued that it doesn't need to pay for most new road infrastructure to serve its hospital because congestion would be at acceptable levels by 2018, when Springfield planned to build new roads to serve the area.
But critics charged that would leave people struggling with traffic snarl for more than a decade and said the hospital was legally required to address traffic concerns now. "Real compliance would require almost $100 million in new roads on or before the date the hospital and associated commercial facilities become operational," Jan Wilson of CHOICES commented on the RiverBend proposal.
Opponents, including CHOICES, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Lane County and Robin and Jon Jaqua, appealed the city of Springfield's approval of land use changes to accommodate the hospital to LUBA and the appeals board agreed that PeaceHealth's traffic impacts must be addressed before 2018. LUBA cited previous decisions and court cases that waiting a decade or more could make state regulations requiring traffic mitigation for such major projects "meaningless."
"To conclude that OAR 660-012-0060 is unconcerned with such potentially lengthy periods of failure seems inconsistent with the rule's prime directive: to assure that allowed uses are consistent with the function, capacity, etc. of transportation facilities," the LUBA opinion stated.
LUBA noted that given financial and other constraints, it is "something of a polite fiction" to assume that all the city's planned road improvements for the Gateway area will in fact be constructed by 2018. Therefore, area roads may be failing with congestion "well beyond" 2018, according to LUBA.
To address immediate traffic congestion from the project, PeaceHealth and Springfield could build a smaller/less dense hospital development, redesign the facility to better promote buses, amend the regional TransPlan to provide more roads or bus rapid transit and/or amend the plan to accept higher levels of congestion, LUBA noted.
But amending TransPlan would require potentially difficult city and county approvals and PeaceHealth has strongly resisted any restraints on the size or location of it's plans for a car-oriented hospital. Another option would be to pay for more roads. PeaceHealth had earlier agreed to pay $10 million for road improvements to mitigate congestion that would otherwise continue after 2018. PeaceHealth officials have said the hospital is already paying "more than it's fair share" for roads in the area.
What the higher road tab for PeaceHealth may be is unclear but could be hefty. Wilson has totaled $130 million in area transportation projects that PeaceHealth will rely on that are mostly unfunded. The list includes $38 million for extending BRT to the development but doesn't include the $122 million estimated cost of upgrading the I-5/Beltline interchange.
Another option would be hoping to win an appeal of the LUBA decision in state court. One of the three LUBA members did dissent from the majority on the road congestion issue.
Of course, RiverBend opponents could also appeal and challenge LUBA's dismissal of their complaints that RiverBend violates rules about building in flood plains, building a hospital in a residential zone, and requiring county and city of Eugene approval and coordination.
LUBA also ruled that PeaceHealth's RiverBend plan was inconsistent with Springfield's adopted Commercial Lands Study, which designated the area for far less commercial development. But LUBA did say that PeaceHealth and Springfield may be able to get around that problem later with arguments that RiverBend met the overall policy goals of the study. — Alan Pittman
Eugene police have bought a new weapon to use against protesters. The pepper ball gun shoots volleys of paint-ball like spheres that hit victims at 380 ft. per second and explode in a cloud of concentrated pepper powder.
Police use of the weapon has been controversial in other cities, according to news reports. Protesters against a President George Bush fund-raiser in Portland last year complained that Portland police opened fire on them with the weapons without provocation. At Wesleyan College in Connecticut, students complained after police attacked a peaceful street gathering by firing pepper guns.
In the past, Eugene police have been zealous in their use of pepper spray, emptying can after can of the searing chemical on peaceful tree sitters protesting the cutting of stately trees downtown in 1997. The City Council recently passed a controversial new ordinance banning unpermitted gatherings of 25 or more downtown, providing the police yet more opportunities to use their pain compliance weapons. — Alan Pittman
In response to Mayor Torrey's annual State of the City Address Jan. 7, local progressive groups are joining forces once again for the Third Annual Citizens' State of the City Address from noon to 1:30 pm Monday, Jan. 12 at Harris Hall at 8th and Oak.
The event, organized by Citizens for Public Accountability and Friends of Eugene, is billed as "the people's companion" to the mayor's perspectives, and will include several speakers:
Cara Stevensen will speak on creating networks, empowerment and community at the neighborhood level. Gary Gillespie will speak for the Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network on jobs, justice and the local economy. Lauri Segel of 1000 Friends of Oregon will speak on key Eugene land use issues. A speaker from Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) will talk on human rights issues affecting transgender people and immigrants. And Becky Reilly will speak on the environment and public health.
The mayor's State of the City Address Jan. 7 will be recorded by Metro Television for broadcast at 9 am and 4:30 pm Jan. 8; 9 and 10:30 am Jan. 9; and 10:30 am and 12:30 and 3 pm Jan. 10 on Comcast Channel 21.
Two leading scientists with very different perspectives will be discussing in a public forum one of the most controversial topics in public land management today — the logging of burned-over forest lands..
The free dialog with John Sessions and Bob Beschta will be held at 7 pm Jan. 13 in Harris Hall at 8th and Oak.
Jan. 20 is the deadline for public comment on the most ambitious post-fire logging project in modern history slated for the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area.
The Forest Service used Beschta's recommendations to develop one logging alternative that would log 105 million board feet (21,000 log truck loads) and a report authored by Sessions to develop another alternative that would cut nearly 10 times as much (1.02 billion board feet or 204,000 log truck loads).
For more information, call the Cascadia Wildlands Project at 434-1463.
Neil Smith, geographer, anthropologist and current holder of the Wayne Morse Chair of Law and Politics for 2003-04, will speak on "Lost Geographies and Failed Globalizations: From Versailles to Iraq." The free public talk will be at 7:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 15 at the Hilton downtown.
Smith is a distinguished professor of anthropology and geography at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He also serves as director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, an interdisciplinary
center providing an forum for the examination of a wide range of vital contemporary issues.
Along with public lecture on Jan. 15, Smith is teaching a geography course and leading a roundtable for activists on Jan. 22. "In the early 21st century we are living through a new and dangerous American imperialism that Americans have the responsibility to challenge," Smith says. During his visit, he will explore "the origins of this new empire over the last century and especially highlight the largely unacknowledged political geography of its creation."
For more information, call 346-3700 or visit www.morsechair.uoregon.edu
Purely subjective judging has been completed in EW's Eugene Slogan Contest (see story in our Dec. 31 issue). The idea was to come up with a tourism slogan for Eugene in light of our state's new slogan: "Oregon: We Love Dreamers."
"Eugene: Sometimes a Great Notion," by Benton Elliot takes a prize for being a slogan that might actually become adopted someday. The hopeful message honors the literary and philosophical insights of Ken Kesey.
"Eugene: Sustainable Disagreement" by Rachael Dillman wins for being succinct and insightful, and only slightly cynical.
"Eugene: Caucasians for Cultural Diversity" by Martin and Linda Sage wins for its wit, truth and irony.
"Eugene: Come for the rain, stay for the hippies" by Jake Wilson takes a prize for reminding us that life is unpredictable and full of surprises.
Winners can claim their prizes, a choice of Bijou tickets or an EW sweatshirt, at our offices.
In our New Year's Eve music roundup in our Dec. 24 issue, the performance group Wongai was incorrectly identified as being from Guinea. Wongai is actually a Eugene collection of local West African drummers and dancers.
Despite scanty coverage in local media this week, it was huge news that PeaceHealth and the city of Springfield lost major issues in a Land Use Board of Appeals decision regarding the RiverBend project (see Alan Pittman's news story on page 8). The appeal was filed by the Jaqua family, 1000 Friends of Oregon, CHOICES and Lane County. The 58-page ruling clearly indicates that PeaceHealth and Springfield did not do adequate transportation planning in light of the massive impact of this medical center on the region. Will the sprawling hospital still be built as planned? The LUBA decision sets major hurdles for hospital backers to overcome. And the ruling validates concerns by citizens and land-use groups that the project is both out of scale and poorly sited. We applaud the excellent work that went into this appeal.
Mayor Torrey is scheduled to deliver his 2004 State of the City Address as we go to press Wednesday noon and we hope he talks about some issues of substance. Eugene faces chronic problems that call for decisive action that we have not yet seen under Torrey's tenure. A logical new year's resolution for the mayor would be rededication to the council's Growth Management Policies, but that's not likely. His votes and statements have often been contrary to the council's 1998 stated goals of reducing sprawl, preserving our urban growth boundary and protecting our city's few remaining natural areas. Our mayor has been a vocal advocate for youth and education in Oregon. We hope he uses his bully pulpit to urge Eugeneans to vote for Measure 30 in February. The annual State of the County Address is also scheduled the morning of Jan. 7 with Commissioner Pete Sorenson honoring former Congressmen Charlie Porter and Jim Weaver, along with Councilor Bonny Bettman (that's right) and other local powerhouses for positive change.
County Commissioner Anna Morrison gets roasted a lot in this column. It's nothing personal. She just keeps doing absurd things. The latest is her hit list in late December in response to the need to cut an additional $4 million in county expenses. Rather than suggest across-the-board cuts in programs — cuts that can be restored when the economy and county revenues pick up — she called for the complete elimination of funding for 18 programs. Here's a partial list: teen pregnancy/family planning, high-risk pregnancy and infant care, victim services, HIV prevention, animal control enforcement, Lane County Extension Service, county archives, Boundary Commission, Document Resource Center, Metro Television, electronic supervision of offenders, treatment of adult sex offenders, and the public information officer position. Budget cutting is a difficult and painful process, but other commissioners made more reasonable suggestions, such as asking department heads to come back with information on how an 8 percent cut will affect their operations. If Measure 30 fails, the county will face even bigger cuts in the future.
We were sorry to hear this week that Rich Cunningham will not be challenging Bobby Green in the 2004 County Commission races. Rich has been battling coronary heart disease and is facing major surgery. He says he might run for the LCC Board after he recovers.
The new year brings some internal changes at EW. John Herron of the management team is leaving EW to pursue other opportunities and his responsibilities have been divided between Editor Ted Taylor and Director of Sales and Marketing Bill Shreve. News Editor Aria Seligmann will be taking on additional duties, including coordinating letters and guest commentaries. Staff Writer Bobbie Willis will also be editing special publications and food columns. Some of these changes will affect phone extension numbers. Questions? Call 484-0519 or see an updated staff list with job titles and e-mail addresses at www.eugeneweekly.comunder "Contacts."
SLANT includes short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, email@example.com
Funding extended for Oregon's Family Planning Expansion Project.
BY MELINDA YOUNG
For thousands of UO students, there is one incomparably good reason to brave the student Health Center even on its busiest days — free birth control.
The UO Health Center is one of more than 120 statewide providers that offers free birth control and family planning resources to women and men who otherwise couldn't afford it, thanks to Oregon's Family Planning Expansion Project (FPEP), which reimburses the providers for these services.
Despite its importance, funding for FPEP, a five-year "demonstration project," was originally slated to end this December. But last month, the federal government renewed FPEP through October 2006. Even an administration that's presently waging war against family planning programs cannot dispute FPEP's benefits: The savings are substantial, the social impacts far-reaching.
At sites where FPEP is offered, the UO Health Center, LCC, Planned Parenthood or the Public Health Department, clients go through the same process: After scheduling an appointment, they merely fill out an eligibility form, go through a height/weight/blood pressure check, and have an informative conversation with a typically pleasant nurse practitioner.
Eligibility requirements include being a U.S. citizens and for Oregon residents, having an income within 185 percent of the federal poverty level (a single person with an annual income less than $16,613 or a family of four with less than $34,040).
As long as they meet eligibility requirements, clients receive the kind of birth control they prefer, such as pills, diaphragms and condoms (including expensive methods like Depo-Provera) at no cost. In most cases, they can walk out with a supply of contraceptives that day.
On-the-spot allocation of contraception is a cornerstone of FPEP. Jeanne Atkins, FPEP program manager, emphasizes the importance of not making clients apply for contraceptives only to make them wait several weeks to receive them. "Because," she says, "people don't necessarily wait until they can get birth control to have sex."
In addition to birth control and family planning resources, eligible women receive free annual exams and pregnancy tests through FPEP and eligible men may also receive family planning counseling and services.
Because FPEP is a program specifically geared toward preventing unintended pregnancies, resources are allotted on the premise that clients want to avoid this particular situation (safer sex, though, is an added benefit).
The vision for FPEP was born seven years ago when the Oregon Legislature joined forces with several public health departments and family planning programs to reduce the high rates of teen pregnancies in the state. The visionaries knew the cost of providing free birth control would be less than the short-term and long-term costs of Medicaid-funded births.
The people involved — then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, Bill Sheppard, CEO of the regional Planned Parenthood, and Atkins — began drafting the proposal to the federal Medicaid office. FPEP was proposed as a waiver project similar to the Oregon Health Plan. Like the OHP, it would reach economically disadvantaged people who may not qualify for Medicaid. The goals cited in the proposal were to decrease unintended pregnancies among teenagers and women of all ages, to expand family planning services, and to save significant dollars.
"It was an exciting opportunity," says Atkins. "But meeting all of the requirements of the federal Medicaid office for this kind of waiver was a bureaucratic challenge."
So challenging, in fact, that it took almost two years to write. The work put into the complicated and lengthy waiver application would ultimately pay off though. In late 1998, the approval from the federal Medicaid office came through.
"We were celebrating in the clinic hallways the minute approval from the feds was received in the fall of 1998," says Marilyn Helton, patient services co-director of Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon.
Since that time, Helton says, "We have seen nearly 400 percent growth since FPEP began in early 1999. We have built new clinics in the Bethel/Danebo neighborhood and on Q Street in Springfield, purchased larger buildings, expanded hours of operation, and hired many additional staff."
Family planning clinics and health centers across the state cite similar expansion of their services and programs. Thus the "expansion" in Family Planning Expansion Project.
MILLIONS IN SAVINGS
More than 10,000 unintended pregnancies among Medicaid subscribers were averted during FPEP's first two years alone. (This was measured by comparing the number of actual unplanned pregnancies to the number of expected unplanned pregnancies.) With the typical cost of a Medicaid birth estimated at $4,875, that's an estimated gross of $64.9 million in savings.
Over the past five years, thousands of women and men have come to rely on FPEP's services to help prevent unplanned pregnancies. Arwen Ungar, a UO senior, has used FPEP through Eugene's Planned Parenthood since she was 16. Ungar received free birth control based on her own income, not that of her parents. Through the inherent privacy FPEP offers, Ungar was given the freedom to make decisions on her own.
Understanding the needs of clients is of utmost importance to FPEP staff. They know that many people have been misinformed or have had bad experiences with birth control in the past and that many welfare recipients have been treated with judgment and condescension in the past.
"The ultimate goal is to make sure that every FPEP-qualified person receives the information and care that they deserve," says Leslie Uebel, FPEP social marketing coordinator.
In constantly soliciting feedback through surveys and focus groups, FPEP employees like Uebel have tailored the program to fulfill clients' requests. Some changes seen over the past five years include shortening waiting times at clinics; providing educational materials directed toward male partners, especially in the Latino communities; and providing additional cultural competency training to service providers.
Renewal of FPEP through October 2006 is cause for celebration for employees, providers and clients alike. "In the face of such a conservative administration and political climate, it is no small accomplishment that Oregon received this renewal," says Helton.
Until now, many providers were waiting in the wings, unsure if they would be able to continue offering services beyond December. The UO Health Center was urging clients to take care of their birth control needs by the end of the year. Now they can rest easy — at least for another three years.
LOOKING FOR PERMANENCE
FPEP employees and providers intend to continue their quest to constantly improve the program. At a statewide level, the primary focus will be on reaching out to clients who may not have had access up to this point. (Though, unfortunately because of citizenship requirements, this does exclude some populations that could greatly benefit from FPEP.) At the provider level, programs like Planned Parenthood and the UO Health Center are looking for more ways to expand their services.
The greater hope is that FPEP may some day obtain permanent status. Clinics throughout the state are keenly aware of Marilyn Helton's observation — that until such a program becomes permanent and no longer deemed a "demonstration project," it could disappear.
After all, as long as people continue to be sexually active, the need for this program will exist. Says Jeanne Atkins, "We are just beginning to see the impact on unintended pregnancies that such an effort [as FPEP] can produce."
For more information about FPEP (including county programs), visit www.dhs.state.or.us/publichealth/fp/about.cfm