Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
ODOT says it won't punish city for opposing wetland freeway.
Happening Person: Ross Leavitt
If you're an omnivorous Oregonian, you probably know that wild salmon is delicious and healthy. You may know that salmon counts are so low this summer that the government has closed the West Coast to almost all commercial salmon fishing until 2007 — which is both economically devastating and a bummer for summer barbecues.
But if you're like 85 percent of Oregonians surveyed in a recent poll, you don't know that the pesticides you put on your lawn flow into storm drains, which discharge directly into rivers, often poisoning salmon and other creatures.
That may change. Environmentalists recently won a legal battle to educate people about the links between lawn care and salmon survival. As a result, West Coast home and garden stores will now post "Salmon Hazard" signs next to products that contain any of seven pesticides that harm salmon.
In 2001, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) and the Washington Toxics Alliance sued the EPA, charging that the agency should have consulted with the National Marine Fisheries Service before approving 54 pesticide ingredients that may harm endangered and threatened salmon.
The environmentalists won the suit, and in 2004 a federal district judge ordered the EPA to establish restrictions on the chemicals and create no-spray buffers for 38 pesticides along salmon-bearing streams. He also directed the EPA to instruct retailers to post warning signs near products that contain any of seven pesticide ingredients that are harmful to salmon: malathion, carbaryl, 2,4-D, diazinon, diuron, triclopyr and trifluralin.
The warning, to be posted by products such as Brush-B-Gone and Gordon's Weed Preventer Granules, reads: "SALMON HAZARD. This product contains pesticides that may harm salmon or steelhead. Use of this product in urban areas can pollute salmon streams."
Originally the EPA left the job of notifying retailers about the new warnings to the pesticide industry itself, with predictably shoddy results. But with legal prodding from Earthjustice, the firm representing the environmental plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the EPA agreed to distribute "Salmon Hazard" signs to the stores.
"There's a lot of disinformation out there, and consumer warning signs are one piece of good information in the effort to make careful decisions about lawn maintenance," said Aimee Code of NCAP. "These signs are really a stop-gap measure to make sure consumers can step up where the government has failed. Here we are putting human carcinogens into our lawns, which are being washed off into waterways. Even if salmon aren't your primary concern, these chemicals are harmful to all of us." — Kera Abraham
Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) Director George Kloeppel pulls in an annual salary package of $164,000. That's more than the $152,000 the Eugene city manager makes; the $159,000 for the Springfield city manager or the $134,000 for the Lane County administrator.
Kloeppel makes a larger salary while managing a much smaller organization. Eugene's manager and Lane County's administrator both run budgets almost 20 times the size of LCOG's, with nearly ten times as many employees.
LCOG's $27 million budget is mostly funded by local government fees (Eugene paid $850,000 last year) and by capturing federal grant money ($10 million) intended to help local people with planning and other services. Last year, LCOG spent about $204,000 of its budget on travel. LCOG has never had to competitively bid for its many contracts with local government.
LCOG staff have less direct accountability to taxpayers than other local government officials. LCOG is an association of 27 local government entities ranging in size from the Siuslaw Library District to the City of Eugene. LCOG board meetings happen only every other month and are often sparsely attended. At an April meeting, half the members were absent. Board members who do show up often follow staff directions. Last month, LCOG staff recommended that LCOG threaten to seize control of the required local approval of the West Eugene Parkway. — Alan Pittman
While humans acknowledge climate change by arguing over first steps like the Kyoto Protocol, other members of the animal kingdom are making evolutionary shifts.
University of Oregon evolutionary geneticists William E. Bradshaw and Christina M. Holzapfel recently published a paper in Science describing genetic changes that some species have made in response to changes in the timing of seasons brought about by global warming. This paper moves beyond the team's previous research that showed mosquitoes' genetic responses to climate change (see EW 3/9/06).
Winters are becoming warmer and shorter in northern latitudes, where climate change is occurring the fastest. For some animals, that tweaks the timing of their food and reproduction cycles. For example, spruce cones are producing earlier, so Canadian red squirrels are likewise reproducing earlier in the spring to take advantage of the bounty. Likewise, only those European great tits (birds) that can change the date they lay eggs to sooner in the season can feed their babies caterpillars that are maturing earlier in the spring, giving them a better chance at survival.
The research team found that all known adaptational changes relate to changes in the timing of seasons rather than increases in temperature.
A 2004 study in Nature told us that climate change may cause 15 to 37 percent of species to go extinct by 2050. Bradshaw and Holzapfel believe that small animals with large populations and short life cycles, such as blackcaps, are better equipped to adapt to climate change than large animals with long life cycles and smaller populations, such as polar bears. Those large animals are likely to go extinct or to be replaced by southern species.
However, the amount of variation that natural selection can act upon has a limit. Bradshaw and Holzapfel write that unless climate change is acknowledged and effectively acted upon, "natural communities with which we are familiar will cease to exist." — Sarah Mazze
ECOTAGE TOP EPD PRIORITY
The Eugene Police Department regularly complains that it doesn't have enough officers to adequately respond to domestic violence, car thefts and stolen bikes and burglaries. But the EPD apparently made the investigation of environmentally motivated arson and sabotage, the top domestic "terrorism" priority of the Bush administration, a top priority of the city of Eugene as well.
The EPD dedicated six officers — three detectives, a sergeant, a lieutenant and a captain — plus a civilian assistant to work on the "Operation Backfire" investigation in conjunction with six personnel from the federal FBI, ATF and U.S. attorney's office, according to a department newsletter.
The operation investigated environmentally motivated arsons and vandalism in Eugene and throughout the West from 1996 to 2001 and resulted in the indictment of 11 suspects in January. Bush administration officials have trumpeted the arrests of the "ecoterrorists" while environmental activists have condemned the round-up as an overblown "green scare."
The EPD gave all of its officers and the local federal agents involved awards and commendations at a May ceremony. — Alan Pittman
Supporters of Suzanne Swift, the Iraq veteran arrested in Eugene on June 11 for refusing to return to the war, have planned protests in Eugene and Ft. Lewis, Washington for Saturday, July 15, Swift's 22nd birthday.
The protests starting at noon will call for an honorable discharge for Swift, who has accused her military police superiors of assaulting and sexually harassing her during her first tour in Iraq. Swift's mother Sara Rich said in a statement that two out of every three women in the military suffer abuse similar to that which her daughter endured. "Young women and men are being subjected to sexual harassment, intimidation and assault every day, and this is a national call to action," Rich said. www.SuzanneSwift.org has more information and a petition.
EWEB'S BIG EXEC CHECK
About a third of EWEB's workers are out on strike, apparently for what may be as little as $1,000 each in additional annual compensation (mostly health care). That may be a lot for a blue collar worker, but it's pocket change for EWEB's Executive Director Randy Berggren. Berggren is the highest paid local government official in the area, taking in a total compensation package worth $219,000 a year. By comparison, that's almost 50 percent more than the Eugene city manager makes running an organization with three times as many employees. Berggren's package includes $21,000 a year toward his retirement and a $4,800 car allowance on top of a $193,000 salary. — Alan Pittman
RALLY FOR WORKPLACE DEMOCRACY
If the Bush-appointed members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have their way, millions of people could lose their rights to form unions in their workplace. On Tuesday, July 11, the Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network sponsored a rally at the Federal Building to protest and inspire action.
The NLRB, with four out of five members appointed by Bush, may take an "extreme position" in the Kentucky River cases, says UO Labor Education and Research Center professor Gordon Lafer. Union members could be stripped of workplace rights that have been in place since 1935, Lafer says. The Economic Policy Institute recently issued a statement saying that at least 1.4 million current union members would be affected directly by the pending NLRB decision and that in the future, the decision could affect up to 8 million workers.
Basically, the cases concern a definition of who is defined as a manager or supervisor. They're called the Kentucky River cases after the first case, which came up because of a challenge to registered nurses' rights to be part of the bargaining unit in a union at the Kentucky River Community Care Center. Lafer notes that "You can't be in a union if you're a manager, and from the beginning, the line of who's a manager and who's not has always been in dispute."
Workers like nurses, electricians and others say they are not managers. "Managers," Lafer says, "are assumed under law to have interests that coincide 100 percent with those of the employers," and that's why managers can't be in a union. The Kentucky River employers claim that because nurses occasionally direct others to perform tasks, they are managers.
The nurses organized with the Oregon Nurses Association dispute that idea. Debbie Lund, an RN at Sacred Heart, says, "Staff nurses and charge nurses make critical patient care decisions every day. This does not make us supervisors; this makes us skilled, licensed professionals."
Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, says there are over 60 cases waiting in the NLRB's pipeline that deal with the definition of a supervisory employee for dock workers, workers in the building trades and many others. "Am I a supervisor if I train someone to do my job when I'm on sick leave?" he asks.
The rally drew around 150 people, who walked the picket line with striking EWEB workers before marching to the Federal Building, where Lund, Chamberlain and representatives from Congressman Peter DeFazio's office spoke. Stewart Acuff, national AFL-CIO organizing director, gave what Chamberlain described as a rousing "come to labor" speech, saying that workers have been pushed enough.
National labor leaders are rallying across the country and in Washington, D.C. on Thursday to demand that the NLRB hear oral arguments. A decision is expected from the NLRB soon. — Suzi Steffen
Sacred Heart hospital has come a long way in the last 70 years, but somewhere along the way, it lost its soul. The hospital, founded by nuns with a mission to provide health care to the needy, now appears to be more about the greedy. Sacred Heart and its PeaceHealth corporation were excused from taxes for their supposedly nonprofit charity purpose but now make higher profits and offer less charity care than many for-profit hospitals. The lavish new RiverBend hospital on the edge of town will be paid for on the backs of local people already struggling with spiraling health care costs and will do nothing to improve the lot of the growing numbers of local uninsured people.
With childhood obesity rates expanding as fast as little Billy's belly, it's well and good for Eugene 4J to be proud of its long-overdue decision to ban the soda and snack machines crumming up our public school halls. But lest we pat our own backs too hard, we should remember: Oregon school districts recently got a failing grade for their nutrition policies, and it's not just because of the vending machines. Largely to blame is the fact that so many districts, like Eugene and now Springfield, have stopped feeding kids the old-fashioned way: with fresh foods made from scratch by real, live cafeteria workers. Instead, we let corporations serve our kids microwaved starches and hormone-filled government meats, even inviting fast food giants like Pizza Hut and Wendy's into our public school cafeterias. The Springfield School Board took a wrong turn last month when it voted to privatize school lunches, and sadly, the Eugene School Board made that turn long ago. It's high time now for local districts to cancel their contracts with Sodexho and Chartwells and to steer our school food services into local farms and gardens.
Are Measure 37 claims actually being implemented illegally? Under the rules of M37, property owners making a claim must demonstrate three things: that they acquired the property before a regulation was applied, that the regulation restricts the use of the property and that the regulation results in a reduction in the value of the property. But it seems the state in granting waivers is only assuming a loss in value from zoning and other regulations, and not bothering to document loss in value. Seems like a dangerous assumption, particularly since one of the purposes of zoning is to protect the value of land by segregating incompatible uses. The agricultural value of a parcel of farm land, for example, is diminished if it's intruded upon by housing or industry. Ideally, of course, we should be quantifying the true value of undeveloped land, including its value as wildlife habitat, watershed and airshed, recreation, aesthetics, food and wood production and buffer from noise and other pollution. Then we would see that downzoning and developing can actually decrease the value of undeveloped land, making moot M37. Instead, under our current mind set, we value land only by how easily it can be bulldozed for short-term gain. And we ignore the costs of environmental damage, not to mention the burden taxpayers pick up for infrastructure and public services. Future generations will look back at us and say, "What the hell were they thinking?"
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, email@example.com
Though he was homeschooled through high school, Springfield native Ross Leavitt also took advanced math, PE, and band at the Logos Academy, plus classes at LCC during his senior year. He started piano lessons at age six, and then picked up the saxophone in sixth grade at the academy. "The band program is amazing. Mrs. Norland demands a lot from the kids," he says. "She encouraged me to take private lessons." Leavitt concentrated on solo saxophone performance during his junior and senior years, giving recitals and sending tapes to competitions. His efforts were rewarded with a trip to China on a cultural exchange and a full scholarship to the University of Michigan. "My teacher, Donald Sinta, is a living legend," says Leavitt, home for the summer after his first year in Michigan and offering lessons to a few young saxophone students. Last month Leavitt was named as one of eight winners in the 2006 Yamaha Young Performing Artists competition. Hear Leavitt in a full recital at 7 pm on August 22nd at the Central Lutheran Church in Eugene. Learn more at rossleavitt.com