Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
A local Asian American breaks it down.
On a formerly vacant lot on Cheshire Avenue and Lawrence Street, community volunteers have transformed a small mountain of dirt into a historical farm in Skinner Butte Park: Skinner City Farm (SCF).
|Volunteer Alfred Coutts works the compost pile at Skinner City Farm.|
The site is rich with history. In pre-colonial times, the area was a wet prairie containing camas, a food source for Native Americans. In 1847 — with advice from local Native Americans to build above the floodplain — Eugene and Mary Skinner constructed their cabin just one block from the present-day farm. The city included the site in its 1914 dedication of Skinner Butte Park, a 100-acre open space along the Willamette River.
In 1997, Chambers Construction used the two-acre site to dump backfill from the Broadway Place development. "It was one of the biggest piles of dirt you've ever seen," says SCF founder and Center for Appropriate Transport (CAT) director Jan VanderTuin.
VanderTuin pulled together a group of Whiteaker neighbors interested in turning the space into a community asset. They pressured the city to remove the backfill and brainstormed possible uses for the site. Revitalizing the site's historical value, providing food for local residents and creating an opportunity for youth education were high on their list. In 2002, the city accepted the SCF proposal as part of the Skinner Butte Master Plan.
The SCF board raised more than $35,000 in city and community funds to start the project. Students from the Northwest Youth Corps, the Lane Metro Youth Corps and CAT's alternative education program provided most of the volunteer labor. They built a "living" fence around the site, installing native plants on the outside and edible plants on the inside, and constructed an industrial-size worm composting system that processes food waste from local restaurants.
The farm contains two sections of community garden plots. Five local nonprofits sponsor organizational plots for low-income families and youth, and individual plots, at $60 each, are available through the city.
The Skinner City Farm will host a grand opening on Sunday, June 12, from 1-4 pm. The event is free to the public. Organizers will unveil the farm's four gates, which local artists designed and built. Native American, African American and European American community members will offer historical perspectives on the site, and local bands will provide live music. — Kera Abraham
MANAGER REJECTS COP REFORM
Eugene City Manager Dennis Taylor has come out against external, independent review of complaints against police.
Taylor wrote to the Eugene Police Commission May 17 opposing a police oversight model that would have the elected city council appoint and supervise an external auditor and citizen review board. Instead, Taylor wants to appoint an internal police auditor and review board himself.
The internal auditor "should be appointed by, and report to, the city manager," Taylor wrote. The board should also be "appointed by the city manager" and "essentially be acting as agents of the city as opposed to as a public board." The board and auditor would have no power other than advising the manager and police chief about complaint issues.
The system proposed by Taylor would differ little from the current system under which he appoints the police chief to manage complaints against police. The current system resulted in a crisis of public confidence in the police department after officer Roger Magaña was convicted last year of raping and/or sexually abusing a dozen women. Magaña trained officer Juan Lara, who was also convicted of sexual crimes. Sexual misconduct complaints about Magaña reached back almost a decade, but the EPD did nothing.
It's unclear how Taylor's system would inspire much public confidence in the police complaint system because much of it would remain secret. It's unclear even if the city would allow the citizen complainant to appeal a rejection of his or her complaint to the manager's review board. "This may require a change to the collective bargaining agreement, which could only be accomplished with the consent of the union," Taylor wrote.
Taylor claims his system would be fair and he would appoint a "diverse" board, perhaps allowing the council to recommend candidates for his consideration or rejection. Taylor opposes amending the city charter to allow the council to appoint a board/auditor to avoid unnecessary "expenses and bureaucratic layers."
The powerful city manager joins the powerful police union in opposing external, independent review of complaints against police. The police chief also balked last month at key reforms recommended by an external management review. The city council plans to take up the issue next month. —Alan Pittman
Eugene isn't the only city with cop problems. A federal jury in Eugene awarded $1.4 million to an Albany police officer who blew the whistle on police misconduct and sex discrimination, the Albany Democrat-Herald reported May 21. Officer Michael Hudgins filed a complaint with the FBI and district attorney saying that a police sergeant used excessive force against a teen and was not disciplined. Hudgins also spoke up for two female officers forced to do push ups, the Democrat-Herald reported. Albany police officials retaliated by denying Hudgins a promotion, transferring him and prosecuting him. Eugene attorney Martha Walters represented Hudgins.
Eugene hasn't had whistle blowers like Hudgins. Not blowing the whistle on wrongdoing is official policy with the EPD. The department's operations manual states: "While on duty or off duty and identifying yourself as a department employee, you may not publicly criticize or ridicule the department, its policies, or other employees by any expression, where what you say or write produces intolerable disharmony, inefficiency, dissension, chaos, or is without a factual basis." — Alan Pittman
LAW SCHOOL PEACE DEGREE
The UO law school is now offering an interdisciplinary master's degree in conflict and dispute resolution (CDR). Although more than 80 U.S. colleges and universities — including PSU — offer graduate degrees in conflict resolution studies, the UO is the second institution in the nation to house the program in a law school. The first was Pepperdine University in California.
"It's a big development for our community to have this," says Jane Gordon, Knight Law School associate dean of student and program affairs.
The CDR program evolved from the law school's Appropriate Dispute Resolution Program, founded in 2000. U.S. News and World Report ranked the UO ADR program as the nation's fourth best public conflict resolution program for 2006.
Gordon says that the CDR interdisciplinary master's program is unique because it will emphasize both theoretical and practical skills, including hands-on practice and classes in mediation and negotiation. "Though the world seems always to be full of conflict, there seems to be less focus on resolutions," Gordon says. "We recognize the need for people to learn what different disciplines can teach about it."
A master's degree in conflict and dispute resolution can lead to careers in education, government, health services and human resources, among others, Gordon says.
The first group of students will enter the CDR program in fall 2005, and the law school is still accepting applicants. For more information, visit www.law.uoregon.edu/org/adr — Kera Abraham
LRAPA STILL SHAKY
In recent months, internal fractures at the Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority (LRAPA) have provoked both public and industry watchdogs to examine the agency more closely (see "Up in the Air," EW 4/21/05).
Lack of confidence could mean death for the agency. Both the Springfield City Council and the Board of County Commissioners have threatened to pull their annual LRAPA contributions, which could prompt the EPA to rescind an annual grant contingent on local funding. Those losses could fold the agency.
It's a tough scenario to present to any potential director. The agency has been working for months to recruit a replacement for former director Brian Jennison, who was asked to resign in January. At a special public meeting on June 7, the board voted 7-1 to negotiate a job offer with a selected candidate, without publicly revealing the candidate's name.
Board member Gary Rayor later said of the candidate, "He's a guy from industry. But he said he's committed to protecting the environment."
Another volatile issue at LRAPA is the appointment of additional board members. The city of Eugene recently added a fourth board member due to a population increase. The board then created a second at-large position to maintain an odd number of members. LRAPA advertised the position and received two applications from Springfield residents who expressed interest in public health. On May 10, the board narrowly voted not to extend the application deadline.
On May 31, Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken sent a letter to LRAPA Interim Director Jim Johnson requesting that the board consider appointing Springfield Councilor John Woodrow to the at-large position.
On June 7, Johnson said that the board has the discretion to consider the late application. Board member Betty Taylor objected. "The mayor of Springfield was out of line in trying to influence the actions of the board," she said. "People are losing the respect of the agency every time we do something whimsical."
A motion to re-open the application window — which would allow the board to consider Woodrow for the position — narrowly failed. The board will interview the two original applicants at the next public meeting at 12:15 pm on June 14 at the LRAPA office, 1010 Main Street in Springfield. — Kera Abraham
JEWEL HAIRSTON BELL AWARDS
The 2004-05 Jewel Hairston Bell Award winners are (from left to right): Maceo Persson, Solana Sawyer, Andrea Griggs, Jeffrey Boyce, and Natalie Ball. The Jewel Bell Award was established to honor outstanding students of color whose presence and performance have furthered the cause of cultural and ethnic diversity at the University of Oregon. This award was established as a memorial to Jewel Bell, who was the Director of the Council of Minority Education, now known as the Office of Multicultural Academic Support, in the mid-1980s. She was instrumental in establishing student support programs that are still carried out by the program staff today.
Bell, who died from breast cancer, was married to Derrick Bell, former dean of the UO Law School.
The city of Eugene got sued on racial profiling last week, with Cortez Jordan filing a $1 million lawsuit for being stopped by police after leaving a dance club. The city has known for decades that it has a problem with cops racial profiling, but has done little to nothing about it. A decade ago a jury awarded $20,000 in a similar racial profiling case. But three years ago, the city released data showing that cops stop blacks at more than twice the rate as whites. We hope some serious changes come from this new lawsuit.
Citizens for Public Accountability has reached its 10-year anniversary. Together with Friends of Eugene, CPA has become a leading voice for environmental and taxpayer protection. But these groups have struggled for years with bare bones budgets. Meanwhile the city has heavily subsidized one of their leading opponents, the local pro-tax break and anti-environmental regulation Metro Partnership. Why do the pro-corporate and developer lobbyists get their salaries subsidized by taxpayers while the public interest non-profits are forced to rely on rummage sales?
Under a new mayor and council, Portland just became the first city in the country to offer taxpayer money for candidates in primary and runoff races. That means developers won't be able to buy local government and candidates won't have to squander their time and pride raising private donations. How about Eugene being the second city? Probably would be another 4-4 vote in our council with Mayor Kitty Piercy breaking the tie. That's good enough for us: 5-4 for big money out of local politics.
One of Eugene's more creative thinkers and doers, Terry McDonald, tossed out a challenge to the business community last Friday at the City Club. He said leaders of local businesses employing about 50 to 100 employees should "band together" to provide health care, perhaps under the umbrella of the Eugene Chamber of Commerce. If the chamber can't do this, McDonald suggested that interested business leaders meet with him at St. Vincent de Paul to seek what he calls short-term solutions to the health care crisis in Eugene. With 25,000 uninsured employees in Lane County, McDonald says "we don't have the freedom to wait for state or federal action." That's an invitation that should be accepted. If anybody can scrape together a solution for the thorniest problem in this town, it's Terry McDonald.
It's good to see Eugene's environmental majority has finally crawled out from under the thumb of the timber barons. The Eugene City Council voted 7-1 on May 23 to pass a resolution opposing old-growth logging in the McKenzie watershed.
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
A local Asian American breaks it down.
BY KERA ABRAHAM
Patricia Hall has been a director of various multicultural groups, many of them related to Asian American communities, for 15 years. Born in California, Hall lived in several states and countries before moving to Eugene. She has edited a book on bias crimes, written numerous articles and given more than 40 lectures on racial and gender bias. Hall is a visual artist, diversity consultant, event planner and educator.
What is the "perpetual foreigner syndrome"?
In spite of having an American accent and having a family that's lived in this country for more than five generations, I'm still asked what country I'm from, which makes me feel like a foreigner. Most European Americans can't tell that I'm an American, just like them. People first see my Asian features. This is the perpetual foreigner syndrome that Asian Americans talk about all the time.
Do you think there's a perception of what a "real American" looks like?
Yes, and the media is a real good example of that. White privilege is opening up a magazine and knowing you will see people of your race. It's going into a store and being pretty sure you won't be harassed by store security. White Americans might be unaware that they have these privileges, but that's not the reality for people of color.
Is it hard for people to acknowledge racism if they've never experienced it themselves?
Yes. If a person has never experienced racism, will they recognize it when they see it? There are a lot of different factors that contribute to this problem of not seeing. Sometimes there's denial, and of course there's guilt. There are better ways to deal with racism.
What are some of the better ways to deal with racism?
I've been focusing on ways for people to un-learn racism individually and on the institutional level. I'd like to see, for example, institutions incorporate a component of white privilege study into their orientation trainings for new employees at all levels of society, from schools to police stations, banks, factories and corporations. Universities could include an American cultures program similar to the one at UC Berkeley, which requires students to take one class on race issues before graduating.
Can diversity trainings equip a majority-white workforce to become culturally competent, or does it take a concerted effort to recruit more people of color?
I think you need a mixture of both. I just took Lee Mun Wah's mindfulness facilitation training workshop last weekend. He has these diversity flashcards that you can order from his website (www.stirfryseminars.com),and some of the questions are really good. For example, why are European Americans not taking the lead in reforming educational curricula and revising textbooks so that they reflect what really happened to different people of color?
Can we really expect white Americans to do that, and do it right?
I find hope with what the white privilege movement is doing. Paul Kivel, Peggy McIntosh and Allan Johnson are prominent scholars in this field of studies. People have been writing about white privilege for decades, and for some reason it didn't seem to catch on. But now it seems to be gaining momentum, and I find hope in that.
Do you observe a common assumption that people of color are experts in subjects related to their ethnicity?
I can only speak for myself. People might think that I'm an expert in Chinese cooking, tea ceremonies, flower arranging or computers. Some of these things I know nothing about at all. A lot of these stereotypes come from the media. Asian Americans are still being cast in Kung Fu or passive roles. It really annoys me to see that. I'd like to see more regular, everyday kind of jobs for Asian Americans on TV, like Ming Na Wen as a doctor in E.R. Stereotypes create a lot of the fear, hatred and anger in people.
It seems like 9-11 exploited that fear. How does the "war on terror" affect Asian Americans?
Hate crimes did go up after 9-11 — not just for people from the Middle East, but for other people of color as well. In Phoenix, for example, a Sikh American man was shot and killed. He was mistaken for a Muslim because of his turban. My concern is that if another terrorist attack occurs, this is going to happen again.
How do you make bias crimes a concern for people who are unlikely targets?
Over a month ago, Mayor Piercy said to me, "It's a matter of willing the people to change." I agree with her. I think racism is a big problem, for this community and nationally. Everyone is affected by it. It's a matter of finding people who want to do something about it.
I'm more curious about the people who don't want to do anything about it. How do you reach them?
The ignorance is so thick. So many people don't want to change. What have they got to gain by changing? Until people see that racism affects everybody, we're never going to change. We can have a lot of meetings, we can try to work on race issues, we can keep talking about this forever, or we can make up our minds that we want to make changes now — locally, nationally and globally.
How do you make an institution wake up to its entrenched racism?
We need to work with institutions to help them de-construct racism. I am part of the City Club's study circles on racism, and I had a friend who suggested that we go to the UO College of Education and the Eugene police department. Also, seminars like Lee Mun Wah's would change people overnight. Many of his clients are corporations.
How do you educate working-class Americans who don't have access to diversity seminars?
The racist attitudes that some people have date back to the days of slavery. They were learned and passed on from their parents and grandparents. We would like to figure out ways to reach people who do not go to diversity meetings, who are outside the choir, to help them un-learn racism. We need to unify as a community and as a nation for the sake of future generations.