News Briefs: Tax Cut Will Bite Schools | Peace Pedalers | Bike Hybrid | Green City Buildings | UO Housing Questions Still Linger | Chabarek to Trial | Logging Delayed | Recycling Phonebooks | Lane County Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening Person: Rose Wilde
TAX CUT WILL BITE SCHOOLS
A broad coalition of Oregon parent, senior, teacher, business, union and good government groups have joined to get an early jump on defeating a tax cut measure that they say could decimate the state.
The Defend Oregon Coalition expects the "Tax Payer Bill of Rights" (TABOR) constitutional amendment to have enough signatures to quality for the November ballot. If passed, the measure would limit tax increases to inflation plus population growth.
The simple formula could appear reasonable to tax opponents, but the coalition argues that it will force deep cuts to schools, public safety and other government services. The formula is "bad math" that fails to account for the fact that the government's huge health care costs are rising faster than inflation, as are the demands of the growing prison and senior populations, the coalition says. If TABOR had been in effect since 1990, it would have cut state funding for schools and other public services by 25 percent, according to a state analysis.
A similar measure in Colorado resulted in that state dropping in rank to near last for K-12 and higher education spending and high school graduation rates, according to a study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. After 13 years, Colorado voters voted last year to suspend the tax limit. — Alan Pittman
|Veteran Brian Willson on his three-wheeled handcycle. Photo by Mark Dubrow.|
They are veterans from five wars, ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s, and they're fed up with America's oil addiction, which they feel is driving the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They say that we need to make personal and community choices — like shifting away from cars and toward bikes, and localizing our economies — to reduce our dependence on oil and contribute to world peace. And they plan to do something fun about it.
On July 25, about 20 veterans will begin a two-week, 350-mile bicycle journey from Eugene to Seattle, where they will attend the National Veterans for Peace Convention Aug. 10-13.
Local veteran Gordon Sturrock, 48, says that the ride is buoyed by a spirit of cooperation that veterans share. "In the military, you're taught to depend on your partners," he said. "We are very determined to do this, and we work together and support each other. We're trying to change the world."
Disabled Vietnam War veterans Brian Willson and Lane Anderson, both California peace activists, initiated the idea for the ride. Willson, a double-amputee, will power a three-wheeled handcycle; Anderson, who has arthritic knees, will ride a bicycle that provides extra bursts of hand-generated power. Several bio-fueled vehicles will accompany the ride.
The vets will participate in community events at 15 stops along the way. The kick-off will be a peace conference at the mini-amphitheater at the end of North Adams Street in Eugene at 6 pm July 24. Guest speakers will include World War II veteran Edgar Peara, local environmental activist Josh Schlossberg, Pfc. Suzanne Swift's mother Sara Rich, Vietnam veteran Dr. Jack Dresser, Willson and Sturrock.
For more information, visit www.vfp56.org/seattle.html — Kera Abraham
Seen the Al Gore PowerPoint movie and want a vehicle that gets even better mileage than a Prius?
How about a hybrid electric/human powered recumbent bike? Last week at the Oregon Country Fair, EcoSpeed, a small Portland company, was showing off light-weight kits to transform a Burley or other recumbent into a high performance human/electric hybrid that gets the energy equivalent of about 1,500 to 3,000 miles per gallon.
The kits add about 20 pounds and $2,000 to the weight and cost of a recumbent. The electric motor, powered by a small but powerful lithium ion battery, takes advantage of the bike's full range of gearing and can power uphill with minimal pedaling for 16 miles before recharging. Use the electric power assist just for shorter hills and acceleration and the battery has a 60 mile range, according to the company's website, ecospeed.net.
Of course, you could just pedal and burn more doughnuts while taking advantage of Eugene's extensive off-road system of bike trails, where such powered vehicles are banned. But EcoSpeed does offer a cool, practical option for those who have a longer road commute and could lure a few people out of their spewing gas guzzlers. — Alan Pittman
GREEN CITY BUILDINGS
On July 10, the Eugene City Council unanimously adopted a "green building" policy. Effective immediately, all city-owned and occupied buildings must be constructed and maintained in environmentally and economically sustainable ways, in compliance with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Eugene now joins the cities of Chicago, Portland and Seattle, as well as the state of Washington, in making the green building commitment.
Under the resolution, all new city buildings 10,000 sq. ft. or bigger must earn a "silver" certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and aim for a higher rating — gold or platinum — when funding is available. "We're looking at this as a developmental stage where we implement this, learn about it, and hopefully upgrade later," said Facilities Division Manager Glen Svendsen.
For smaller new buildings and maintenance of existing buildings, LEED standards will serve as a guideline. "We keep trying to stress the importance of the existing buildings as having the most environmental benefits," Svendsen said. "The challenge will be to get them into compliance. We may build a new building every five years, but the existing buildings are there, giving off greenhouse gases and not being fun to work in, all the time."
The resolution won't compel private and state builders to comply with LEED standards, but some have chosen to do just that. The Lillis Business Complex on the UO campus has a silver certificate, the Royal Caribbean building in Springfield earned a gold, and the new Slocum Orthopedic Center is going for silver. The Green Building Advisory Group, which makes recommendations to the council, is mulling over the idea of offering incentives to private builders for getting LEED certified, said city planner Keli Osborn.
Under the LEED criteria, builders get points for buying locally, siting in dense areas, reducing waste water, maximizing energy efficiency and using non-toxic materials, among other factors. But a silver certification only requires compliance with 40 to 47 of the 85 criteria, so the city won't be under much pressured to, say, build in a high density area — which only earns one point.
The green building resolution will immediately apply to two city projects, the publicly funded Whole Foods parking lot and the renovation or reconstruction of City Hall. Svendsen admitted that the parking lot may not be LEED certifiable "for technical reasons," and may need a waiver which, thanks to an amendment from Councilor David Kelly, the council — rather than the city manager — would have to approve. — Kera Abraham
UO HOUSING QUESTIONS STILL LINGER
The Oregon State Board of Higher Education, in a 10-1 vote, approved the UO's sale of Westmoreland Family Housing to private developer Michael O'Connell on July 14. Board members also asked the university to create a housing plan to accommodate more students, including non-traditional students, and report back to the board on that effort in early 2007.
But some questions about the UO's motives, the state board's process and city zoning laws remain, and at least one nonprofit plans to challenge the sale in court.
Eugeneans for Affordable Housing's David Zupan argues that the state board didn't properly involve the public in the process, as required by state law. "There's a breakdown in the democratic process here," he said, noting that hundreds of UO students and alumni, the UO Senate, members of four Eugene neighborhood associations and a half-dozen local politicians opposed the sale. "It's pretty ironic, given the amount of feedback to the board, that they would basically ignore it."
Another legal battleground is zoning. Because the Westmoreland property is currently zoned for nonprofit use, its conversion to a for-profit use will be subject to a City Council vote. "We intend to lobby the city to oppose this rezoning, particularly in regards to the adverse impact that this will have on the city's low-cost housing stock," Zupan said.
Last November, UO administrators announced that two local affordable housing nonprofits, the Metropolitan Affordable Housing Corp. and St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, were interested in buying Westmoreland. That never happened, said St. Vincent Director Terry McDonald, because the UO held firm to a selling price of at least $18 million — which virtually guaranteed that rents would not remain affordable. "It was sticker shock," McDonald said. "The university wasn't willing to accept anything lower than $18 million. They made it clear from the get-go that their primary interest was in getting the money … The concern I have is that we will have more pressure on the bottom for affordable housing."
On July 18, Gov. Ted Kulongoski visited the UO to promote affordable education for every Oregonian. "A great way to do that would be to stop the sale of Westmoreland," Zupan said. "You couldn't ask for a better example of diversity and affordability." — Kera Abraham
CHABAREK TO TRIAL
Municipal Court Judge Alan Leiman denied a motion to dismiss the trespassing charge against anti-war activist Peter Chabarek, who was arrested after he refused to stop handing out anti-war leaflets in the Eugene Hilton during Sen. Gordon Smith's speech to the Rotary Club on Feb. 21. The ruling hinged on the question of whether the public had been invited to use the Hilton lobby for non-commercial purposes during the political event.
Chabarek's attorney, Brian Michaels, filed a motion to dismiss the charge on May 12, suggesting that the arrest had violated Chabarek's free speech rights. Michaels argued that Smith's presence had made the lobby a public forum, and Chabarek's leafletting was protected free speech under the Oregon Constitution. In early July the Hilton manager agreed to drop the charge against Chabarek, but the city refused, Michaels said.
Assistant City Prosecutor C. Michael Arnold, in a written response, argued that the Hilton lobby was not, in fact, serving as a public forum during Sen. Smith's event because the Rotary had leased the adjoining ballroom.
Judge Leiman agreed with Arnold's ruling on July 13 that neither the Hilton nor the Rotary Club invited the general public to use the hotel lobby during the senator's visit. The case will advance to trial, and the outcome will likely set a precedent for future scenarios in which protesters show up at political functions held on private property. — Kera Abraham
Much to the relief of plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service, the timber company that bought the rights to clearcut a roadless forest burned in the 2002 Biscuit Fire has agreed to hold off on logging for a few more weeks. That will give a federal judge in San Francisco time to consider a multi-state case challenging the Bush administration's repeal of the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule.
In a letter to the Oregon Attorney General's Office and a federal attorney, a lawyer for Silver Creek Timber Co. agreed to delay logging in the Mike's Gulch roadless area until Aug. 4. The company had previously indicated that it would start cutting as early as July 4, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte hears arguments challenging the Bush administration's new roadless policy on Aug. 1.
"We're certainly happy to have that respite, and we're glad that Judge Laporte will be able to more fully hear this challenge on Aug. 1," said Rolf Skar of the Siskiyou Project, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "We eagerly await the outcome of that."
Silver Creek's attorney maintains that the delay was in no way a concession to opponents of the logging — from tree-sitting protesters to a dozen environmental groups to the governor of Oregon, who balk at the idea of logging in previously protected designated roadless areas in national forests.
But Gov. Ted Kulongoski takes some credit for the delay. He had filed a request for a temporary restraining order on July 6, in an attempt to compel the court to hear the case before Silver Creek started logging. The court immediately scheduled a hearing for the morning of July 7. Silver Creek then agreed to delay logging, and the governor withdrew the TRO request.
"I am pleased that our legal strategy has led to an agreement by the Silver Creek Timber Company to stop — for now — this unwise and unnecessary timber sale in Mike's Gulch," Kulongoski stated in a press release.
The states of Oregon, Washington, California and New Mexico, along with a half-dozen conservation groups, are challenging the Bush administration's decision to scrap the Clinton-era roadless rule, which was crafted with input from about two million Americans, and replace it with a much more industry-friendly policy. They argue that new policy was illegally adopted without involving the public, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Clinton's rule made roadless areas in national forests off-limits to logging. Bush's rule essentially gives the Forest Service carte blanche to log in roadless areas, which comprise about 60 million acres in national forests. — Kera Abraham
RECYCLING PHONE BOOKS
Looking for a simple way to help the environment? Recycle your old Dex phone book between 1 and 4 pm Saturday, July 22 at the Valley River Center, in Gottschalks Court near Euphoria Chocolate.
Dex, KKNU radio and BRING Recycling have partnered to recycle outdated phone books and raise money for BRING. Dex will donate $1 per phone book, up to a maximum of $1,000, to fund BRING Recycling's new Planet Improvement Center.
Those unable to attend Saturday's recycling event can still recycle outdated phone books. The simplest way is to put outdated directories into curbside recycling bins.
LANE COUNTY HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
Weyerhaeuser (744-4600) aerial spraying of 2,4-D LV6; Garlon 4 and 3A; Accord; Arsenal; Escort; Transline; Oust XP and Extra, and Chopper herbicides around the S. Fork of the Alsea and Congdon Creek near Horton-Triangle Lake area, and Lake Creek tributary near Low Pass. Ground spraying on 608 acres with 2,4-D LV6; Garlon 4 and 3A; Arsenal; Accord; Chopper; and Escort herbicides near Triangle Lake, Blachly, Horton and Low Pass starting Aug. 1. For more information, contact the Oregon Department of Forestry's West Lane office at 935-2283; reference #50833 (aerial) and #50832 (ground).
Oregon community journalism lost one of its stalwarts recently with the death of Anne Thomas of Creswell. Her career spanned 50 years of writing, editing, teaching, and mentoring of young journalists. She died July 6 at the age of 73 from complications of lung cancer, and her memorial gathering last week in Cottage Grove packed the First Presbyterian Church with friends, family, congregation members and former co-workers. The "small but mighty" scribe wrote for daily papers in California and Oregon earlier in her career but was best known locally as staff writer and editor of the Cottage Grove Sentinel and Springfield News (a story on her life and career can be found at www.cgsentinel.com).She earned a master's in journalism from UO and wrote award-winning stories about the arts, entertainment, politics, crime and the environment. She will be missed by all of us who knew her, not only for her dedication, knowledge and professionalism, but also for her kind and playful nature. She was a seeker of truth and beauty who found it wherever she looked, whether it was in local politics, live theater and galleries, the music of Pink Floyd, her pet cats, or the wit of Jon Stewart.
County Commissioner Bobby Green is grumbling that the West Eugene Parkway should be a regional transportation decision, and not just a Eugene decision. Let's get real. Residents of Springfield, Glenwood, Coburg and Creswell who drive to Veneta or the coast can just catch Belt Line at I-5 and zip right over to West 11th, bypassing most of the congestion. It's Eugene's baby for the most part. And ODOT appears open to highway improvement projects that will ease the traffic trouble spots in west Eugene, along with David Cox of the FHA, according to the R-G. Everyone wins when the WEP dies. Let's give credit to Mayor Piercy and the city councilors and ODOT staffers who recognized that the WEP is an expensive, destructive, unnecessary and explicitly illegal boondoggle that should have been scrapped from transportation planning 30 years ago. The voters were not given the whole story either time they voted on the WEP. And the most important votes of recent years have been those for council and mayoral candidates who stated loud and often that they opposed the proposed freeway through the wetlands. Most recently was Alan Zelenka, overwhelmingly elected in May to succeed David Kelly. Both he and Kelly told the voters they opposed the WEP, as did Betty Taylor, Bonny Bettman, Andrea Ortiz and Kitty Piercy. Now community leaders on both sides of this issue finally can move past the flawed WEP to real solutions for transportation
Good of the Lane County commissioners to finally agree to turn on the power at Morse Plaza, where members of the Wayne Morse Youth Program have been valiantly trying to make their voices heard on Saturdays. But the commishes ought to be ashamed that, following the advice of County Management Services Director David Suchart, they had cut it off for more than three months — under the ridiculous assumption that young adults reciting poetry was somehow responsible for people selling drugs, peeing and littering in the plaza. Especially ironic that this happened under the statuesque watch of Morse himself, a passionate protector of free speech. Now, the county wants to charge the youth $10 per use and a $100 deposit, which they'll lose if people deal drugs or litter while the kids are free-speakin'. What twisted logic.
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
She was born in Cottage Grove, but after her parents split up, Rose Wilde lived with her mother and went to school in Maryland. She returned to Oregon for summers on her father's garlic farm in Horton. Wilde studied anthropology at Rice and spent a year with Americorps in Washington, D.C. "I was providing support for families where a parent had HIV," she notes. She moved to Eugene in 1999 and worked for four years at Womenspace. "My job was education, working with youth around domestic violence," she says. "I went to every high school, every year." Wilde returned to school in 2004, commuting to OSU for a masters in the Public Health program. There she taught a class on HIV and also became an activist in the statewide union for graduate student employees. At her graduation in June, Wilde was honored with an Award for Excellence in Service. She'll be looking for work at a non-profit or a research operation following an August wedding. "Rose is extra bright, she can execute, and she is really fun," says Margo Schaefer of Womenspace. "Whoever gets her is one lucky organization."