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Eugene Weekly : News : 02.23.06

News Briefs: Income Tax Could Save Schools | Neighbors Remembered | WOW Hall Eyes Back Lot Deal | Kiesling's Primary | De-Pave Thyself | PIELC Runs March 2-5 | Guantanamo Performed | Closing for Cold | Corrections/Clarifications |

Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes


Design for Living

Vancouver, B.C., shows how to make a downtown work.


Trees for Teens

Volunteers break dirt to fund a downtown teen center.



LRAPA evaluates J.H. Baxter's emission-control measures.

Happening Person: Nancy Zimmermann



The Oregon Tax Court overturned the city's property tax for schools last week, but the city could legally replace the revenue with an income tax and business tax.

The Tax Court ruled that the city's school levy of $8 million a year violated property tax caps imposed by Measure 5. But Measure 5 does not restrict income and business taxes and Multnomah County and Portland have legally used such taxes to fund their schools for years.

A package of non-property taxes could generate the $8 million a year to fund schools, according to city tax studies. For example, a surcharge on state income taxes for those earning more than $100,000 a year (beginning at 2 percent and increasing to 4 percent for incomes over $500,000) would generate roughly $5 million per year. A 0.014 percent tax on gross business receipts would raise about another $1.5 million per year. A 10 percent surcharge on state corporate excise taxes could raise the remaining $1.5 million per year.

Besides being free from Measure 5, such a tax package would have the advantages of being more progressive and fair and more focused on academics.

In Oregon, property taxes hit the poor about three times harder than the rich, according to studies of taxes as a percent of income by the Center for Tax Justice (CTJ). In contrast, income taxes in Oregon hit the wealthy about twice as hard as the poor, according to CTJ. Oregon's business taxes are among the lowest in the nation, according to studies by the Oregon Public Employees Union.

About 23 percent of the current city levy goes to students from outside Eugene. A local income tax could address that inequity by including income earned in Eugene by non-city residents.

In an unsuccessful effort to avoid Measure 5, the current city levy was structured to fund athletics, music and other non-academic student needs. An income/business tax could directly fund reduced class sizes and core academics.

To make up for lost revenue in the interim, before the new income/business taxes go into effect, the city could legally tap into the $30 million it has set aside for new city offices. Much of the money in the fund is from non-property tax sources.

Four years ago, levy supporters balked at an income/business tax, arguing it would be more difficult to pass. But Eugene voters have a long history of strongly supporting taxes for schools, passing them repeatedly by two-thirds votes.

But getting the mayor and council behind an income/business tax for schools will require strong lobbying from school supporters. Council conservatives are likely to oppose taxes on the wealthy and businesses and the council and city staff are focused more now on giving subsidies for developers downtown and building a huge new City Hall. — Alan Pittman



It was Friday night and the place was packed. Ballads and dance hits from the one and only Cher blared from the stage. The drag performance group SHEBANG performed the last of six years' worth of performances at their favorite venue. Sorority girls and buzzed-cut older women chatted about the music in line for the bathroom. This kind of night was what made Neighbors Bar and Bistro an institution in Eugene, and not just for the gay community.

First and foremost, Neighbors was a hate-free zone, as anyone associated with the nightspot will tell you. It was a place where a frat boy and a drag queen could rub elbows, enjoying the effervescent beauty that was 50-cent Pabst night. But as of last Saturday, Neighbors is no more, and many Eugeneans have lost more than just a place to grab a drink.

"Neighbors (was) a community centerpiece," says Alan Brown, president of the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Emerald Empire, a nonprofit fraternal organization that hosted fund-raisers at Neighbors. "We don't have a gay and lesbian newspaper. It (was) a place you could go and get community information."

Besides being an informal forum for the GLBTQ community, Neighbors served as a spot where heterosexuals, especially students, could feel comfortable while being exposed to a different culture.

"I have seen so many barriers knocked down there," says Karen Luna, a regular customer and a manager at Mother Kali's Bookstore. "People go there for the novelty and realize it is a whole new community. It is the kindest bar I've been to in Eugene."

As of now, there are no plans to reopen Neighbors at another location, only rumors upon rumors. But this could change. Owner Cindy Hill hasn't had much time to get her business in order after the property owner's 30-day notice to vacate the premises. — Tim O'Rourke



The WOW Hall gets a steady stream of big acts coming through Eugene week in and week out, but with no backstage area these performers either have to hang out in their vans or buses or squeeze into the closet-sized Green Room across from the stage. That could change if WOW Hall supporters raise enough money to purchase the parking lot behind the building.

A group calling itself the Backlot Committee, which includes past and present WOW Hall board members, started a fund-raising drive called More WOW Now, whose present goal is to raise enough money to purchase the lot for $55,000. In 1977 a community group bought the WOW Hall itself for only $75,000.

More WOW Now has a goal of $100,000 that would go to the purchase and improvement of the lot and start the ball rolling on a backstage addition. So far, $17,000 has been raised, with more than $7,000 coming from contributions and $10,000 from a TicketWeb.com pledge.

The Backlot Committee sent out a direct-mail solicitation asking present and former WOW Hall members to contribute funds, and in the next few weeks will begin appealing to local businesses. If the committee can't raise enough money the Country Fair has offered to loan the WOW up to $30,000, and they could also borrow from the WOW's own reserve fund.

"We'd rather not do this," said Denny Guehler, a member of the Backlot Committee. "Raising the funds from the local community will enhance our progress greatly."

Regardless of how the funds are gathered, the WOW Hall will buy the lot from the city in April or May. The city's offer is reasonable, says Guehler, and Metropolitan Affordable Housing Corporation, the non-profit group in charge of redeveloping the property of the former Ridenour building next door to the WOW, could foot the bill for repaving the WOW parking lot and constructing a new drainage system.

After the parking lot is bought, paid for and renovated, the Backlot Committee will continue its plans to add on to the hall itself. The plans call for extra storage space in the basement area and a lift so the beer garden is wheelchair accessible. An L-shaped addition would add a backstage area jutting out into what is now the back lot, which would include a green room, dressing rooms and bathrooms for performers. — Tim O'Rourke



Former Secretary of State Phil Kiesling was in town last week at City Club calling for another shake-up in the way we elect candidates. Kiesling was a key force in pushing through Oregon's vote-by-mail system.

Kiesling is joining another former secretary of state, Norma Paulus, in championing a ballot initiative for the 2006 elections that would create open primaries in Oregon. How does it work? In short, every voter in primaries would get the same ballot and could vote for any candidate. The top two vote-getters would go on to compete in the general elections, regardless of party affiliation. Presidential primaries would require separate ballots since we actually vote for party electors and not the candidates themselves.

Kiesling said that Oregon has major problems to overcome, such as lack of access to health care, but headway is bogged down by partisan politics. "The closed primary has become an obstacle to progress," he said, noting that 80 percent of races are decided in the primaries (Democrats usually win in urban areas and Republicans usually win in rural areas) and Oregon's growing percentage of non-affiliated or third-party voters are left out. Only 25 percent of non-aligned registered voters even bother to vote in primaries.

An open primary similar to Washington state's, he said, would reduce the power of parties but empower voters. Every candidate would need to campaign for every potential voter, and not just their party members, leading to more moderate candidates on the ballot.

City Club members gave Kiesling's proposal mixed reviews in the discussion that followed his presentation. Several members asked about unintended consequences, and whether open primaries would actually make a difference. Kiesling admitted that an element of unpredictability goes with the proposal, but he also said he wants to see a lively statewide conversation on how we elect our leaders.

The initiative needs 100,000 signatures by July and has about 20,000 so far. For more information, visit www.OneBallot.com TJT



Eugeneans have shown a remarkable interest in peak oil, the idea that diminishing global oil supplies will have far-reaching effects on global commerce and life as we know it. Previous presentations by peak oil experts Michael Ruppert and Richard Heinberg drew standing-room-only crowds in Eugene venues.

Now another peak oil expert is coming to town: oil-analyst-turned- environmental-activist Jan Lundberg, who coined the term "petrocollapse" before anyone was talking about peak oil. Lundberg's father started The Lundberg Survey, a "bible" for oil analysts, which predicted the 1979 oil shock. Lundberg himself went green in the late 1980s, ditching his car and publishing Auto-Free Times magazine. He went on to found Culture Change (www.culturechange.org),a Berkeley-based nonprofit that aims to educate the public about petrocollapse, de-pave the American landscape and wean people from their fuelish ways.

"People are a little nervous about the topic. They see it as scary, or all doom and gloom," Lundberg said. "And there is a gigantic basket of threats that is falling on our heads. But we also need to discuss the more positive aspects of life, like beauty and music. We need to change people's minds, bodies and spirits — a culture change," Lundberg said.

Lundberg will present "Petrocollapse and Culture Change" at 7 pm Feb. 28 at 180 PLC on the UO campus. Following his presentation will be the screening of two films: Our Synthetic Sea (about plastic pollution) and The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil. A sliding scale donation is requested.

For more information, visit www.petrocollapse.orgKera Abraham



The UO's annual worldwide gathering of environmental lawyers and activists is coming up March 2-5 and is expecting 4,000 people this year from more than 50 countries.

The Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) is the oldest and largest of its kind, and this will be its 23rd year. The conference, open to the public, is organized by the volunteers of Land Air Water, a student environmental law society, and is sponsored by the non-profit Friends of Land Air Water.

The four-day conference includes more than 125 panels, workshops, and multi-media presentations addressing the entire spectrum of environmental law and advocacy. Topics include: forest protection and ecological restoration, grazing and mining reform, labor and human rights, air and water pollution, Native American treaty rights, globalization and "free" trade, environmental justice, corporate responsibility, marine wilderness, international environmental law, water rights and dam removal, oil and gas litigation, genetic engineering, and urban growth.

Keynote speakers this year are still being finalized, but so far include Dinah Bear, Alfred Brownell, Margie Eugene-Richard, M.C. Mehta, Evon Peter, David Orr, Antonio Oposa, Zygmunt Plater and James Woolsey. Short biographies of the speakers and a full program will be available soon at www.pielc.org



A broad coalition of local peace and social justice groups is sponsoring a dramatic reading of the play, Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, at 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 25 at the First Christian Church 1166 Oak St. in Eugene. Doors open at 6:40 pm. The event is free, but donations will be accepted. A moderated discussion with the audience will follow the reading.

The reading is part of a nationwide effort to highlight the Bush administration's unlawful treatment of detainees, while linking it to losses of our own domestic civil liberties. Award-winning director Carol Horne and a group of 20 local citizens will present the reading of the play by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo. Personal narratives of detainees and their families follow the lives of four men who were imprisoned while never formally charged or permitted to defend themselves in a court of law.

For more information, visit www.bordc.orgor call 343-7858.



Fairweather skiers and boarders beware. As we're hit with record-breaking lows, high winds and the brutal cold, ski areas across Oregon have either shut down or severely curtailed operations for short periods of time.

Mount Bachelor halted all operations Feb. 4 when winds reached speeds upwards of 70 mph. This past weekend, Bachelor's morning update reported temperatures of 3 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit in the 9:15 a.m. snow report with a promise to update at 9:45 to advise callers of "warming temperatures." Normally Bachelor updates the snow phone at around 7, 9 and 11 am and 1 pm so the 9:45 update was extra.

And on Feb. 17 Hoodoo shut down at approximately 1 pm citing "severe weather conditions," with temperatures dipping below zero and winds up to 68 mph. Hoodoo's owner Matthew McFarland said it's the first time the area has had to close during regular operation in three years.

And up at Mount Hood, two of the main high-speed quads shut down Feb. 17 and skier visits were about a third of the normal crowd. But Marketing and Sales Director Mark Tragethon said they're still having a great season, thanks to all the snow. Hood currently has about a 12-foot base.

President's Day Weekend is statistically one of the busiest weekends of the season and ski areas count on high numbers of visitors for revenue. But this year, the number of skiers and boarders to hit the slopes plummeted with the temperature. "On Friday, we did a tenth of the business we normally do," McFarland said. Saturday wasn't much better. But on Sunday, with clear skies and slightly warmer temperatures, he said Hoodoo had more people show up than normal. "I think people just waited and skied when it was a little warmer," he said. — MB




In our Dec. 22, 2005 news brief, "LTD's Legal Legacy," regarding LTD General Manager Ken Hamm, the second paragraph needs clarification. It should read: "In October 2002, Former LTD Human Resources Manager David Dickman filed a complaint against Hamm with the Government Standards and Practices Commission (GSPC), alleging, among other things, that Hamm had used public resources for personal use, in violation of state law. The staff preliminary reviewer recommended that the GSPC proceed with a formal investigation, but in a January 2003 meeting, the commission voted to dismiss the case."




It's been a year since 4-J school staff studied the district's alternative schools and found that they had left neighborhood schools "browner and poorer" by creaming off the wealthiest and whitest kids, a problem known for decades. In response, the School Board allocated a small budget increase for the hardest-hit neighborhood schools, but largely protected the unfair advantages of the alternative schools. Now the reluctant board is edging slowly towards ending co-location of alternative and neighborhood schools and removing class-size caps. While worthwhile, it's hard to see how that will have a major impact on local school segregation. Ending co-location could reduce friction, but will largely serve to hide the obvious inequities between schools. Unlike neighborhood schools, alternative schools will still be allowed to use school-size caps to keep classes small. Real reform will come from eliminating all caps for alternative schools, allowing high-mobility kids to attend alternative schools, creating magnet schools in poor neighborhoods, controlling choice to promote integration, requiring fund-raised dollars to go to all schools and providing transportation for poor kids.

Al Franken at LCC last week drew a live crowd of 500 and an on-air audience of perhaps millions at 63 Air America radio stations across the country. Kitty Piercy was relaxed and eloquent, talking about Eugene's new direction and about the triple bottom line of sustainability: social equity, protecting the environment and growing the economy. "You're my kind of mayor," Franken quipped. Guest after guest portrayed our city and state as caring, active and involved in the big issues, from genocide in Darfur to campaign finance reform to assisted suicide. Eugene got its three hours in the national spotlight. Now let's live up to the great image we projected. Just talking, hooting and hollering isn't enough.

After our cover story two weeks ago on the prosecution of Perry Patterson, Assistant City Manager Jim Carlson was quoted in local media saying that the case is not politically motivated. Politics permeate everything we do, and this case, by its very nature and context, is highly political. We predict the case will never go to trial, due to its lack of merit. Meanwhile, Carlson and whoever else is behind this silly persecution have given Eugene another black eye. What were they thinking? In addition to the shaky legal ground and wasted taxpayer resources pursuing this case, Eugene is once again labeled as a city that seeks to quash political dissent through selective prosecution.

Rumors that Finn John departed last Friday as editor at Springfield News were confirmed this week by Publisher Theresa Willmann. Should be an announcement in Friday's SN that the interim editor is now staff reporter Stacy Stumbo.

Longtime EW contributor and poet David Johnson died Tuesday, Feb. 21 at his home in Portland. The family has not yet set a gathering time and place for friends in Eugene or for a service in Portland, but information will be forthcoming. EW will carry a longer story next week. Below is a short poem DJ sent a friend the morning of his death. The title is "Wolfgang Turned 250."

Near the end

of this year's wearisome downpour,

I was able to lift my

with fleeting glimpses of billowing

cumulus nimbus, the casual valence

of crows schmoozing in the hemlocks,

sparrows elbow-to-elbow on the power lines,

patches of smoky fog in the west hills,

and Mozart one morning lofting me,

lofting me.

Interesting that guv candidates Pete Sorenson and Jim Hill were both endorsed by the largest Dem group in the state last week, but Kulongoski was not. The Multnomah County Democratic Party broke ranks with the incumbent, which could inspire other county groups to follow. The news is sure to give a big morale boost to Sorenson, Hill and even Ben Westlund, the new independent candidate who won't be on the primary. And what about Westlund? His sketchy environmental record is an easy target, but we get hints that he might "green up" when he expands his potential constituency beyond his relatively conservative Senate District 27.

Another scary statistic regarding Oregon newspaper readership came out this week. Total paid subscriptions dropped 1.35 percent last year, according to the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. More than 12,000 Oregonians no longer subscribe to newspapers. The bigger dailies such as the R-G , Oregonian and Statesman Journal have either lost circulation or are staying even. Weeklies are doing better. EW, for example, now prints more than 40,000 papers, up from 31,000 in 2002, and our total audited readership is pushing 90,000, up from 73,000 in 2002. Where are Oregonians getting their news, besides EW? A lot of folks are turning to websites, talk radio and TV comedy such as "The Daily Show" and "Real Time With Bill Maher."

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@eugeneweekly.com


Nancy Zimmermann

As a child growing up in suburban Westchester County north of New York City, Nancy Zimmermann was an obsessive artist. "My mother recalls that I would sit and draw for five or six hours," she says. Zimmermann also remembers the small amphibians that lived in ponds near her home, and the dawning of environmental awareness. "I was angry when yuppies moved in and used herbicides," she says. "Before long the frogs were gone." Zimmermann met her partner, Simon Strange, when both were students at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and returned with him after graduation to his home town of Eugene. Now the mother of two young children, she volunteers 20 hours a week as director of MECCA, the Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts. "It combines my interests in art and in environmental sustainability," she notes. Founded in 2002, MECCA accepts donations of surplus plastic, paper, textiles, and other materials, sells these art supplies for low prices, and offers workshops for kids and adults in its studio at 43 W. Broadway. Learn about hours, donations, volunteer opportunities, and special events at www.materials-exchange.org