News Briefs: Ag-Ops Law Unconstitutional | Does Solar Make Sense in Eugene? | County Votes to Fund Timber Group | Swastika Censure | Activist Alert | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Gender Equality in Africa
Yes we can or maybe we will?
AG-OPS LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL
The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that the state’s controversial “Earth First! law” is unconstitutional.
The appeals court ruled Oct. 28 in favor of the Eugene-based Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), finding that the “Interference with Agricultural Operations” statute (ORS 164.887) violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.
The “ag-ops” statute is derisively called the “Earth First! law” by opponents who say it unfairly targets protesters and activists in violation of the First Amendment. The 2003 law has been used almost exclusively against protestors, the CLDC attorneys charged. Working on the case were CLDC director Lauren Reagan, Misha Dunlap English and Kenneth Kreushner.
CLDC board member and local attorney Marianne Dugan said, “Virtually all of the prosecutions under the Ag-Ops statute were against forest protesters — notably the Biscuit Timber Sale protesters — and it was a very thinly veiled attack on such protesters due to the nature of their ‘speech’ expressed during those protests.”
The ag-ops charge was also used recently against 27 activists who were arrested this summer while protesting logging in the Elliot State Forest.
This case began in 2005 when Regan represented environmentalists arrested for protesting the Biscuit timber sale in southern Oregon. Regan argued that that the agricultural operations law violated the constitution. The judges agreed, ruling that an exception in the statute “makes it inapplicable to an individual involved in a labor dispute. What that exception has done is make the determination of what is illegal conduct based on the content of what the individual has to say when disrupting an agricultural operation." The judges ruled that "this violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution.”
The state then appealed the decision, and the CLDC won that appeal when the Appellate Court upheld the decision. The judges also found that Oregon’s ag-ops law “does raise serious constitutional questions.” They wrote in their opinion that the law applies to conduct that occurs “on the property of another person who is engaged in agricultural operations,” and has no exception for people who are guests or invited on that property.
Under the wording of the law, an attorney for an environmental group who went to a company’s headquarters to participate in legal proceedings could be “guilty of attempting to obstruct an agricultural practice — even if the attorney is invited to the headquarters.” The judges add, “Other examples are limited only by a creative litigant’s imagination.”
“This is a major victory for activists and the CLDC alike and has been many years in the making,” said Dugan. — Camilla Mortensen
DOES SOLAR MAKE SENSE IN EUGENE?
Prospects of a green local solar industry have gotten a lot of media hype lately. But do solar panels even make sense in cloudy, hydropowered Eugene?
Solar panels take energy to produce, generating carbon pollution that contributes to global warming. A widely cited recent study showed the panels take up to about three years to recoup that initial carbon cost in carbon savings.
But that was in sunny Spain. Eugene averages about a third less sunshine per year, according to solar radiation maps. Less sunshine in Eugene could lengthen the solar carbon payback in Eugene to about five years.
Even that number may be conservative. Most energy use here is in the dark and colder winter months when the sun rarely shines. In the winter there’s up to five times less sunshine in Eugene than in Spain.
The Spain study also assumes the solar panel is replacing mostly electricity generated with fossil fuels. In Eugene about 80 percent of electricity is hydropower. That’s bad for fish, but it doesn’t contribute to global warming. Factor in the hydro, and you get a possible solar carbon payback of almost 20 years in Eugene.
In terms of carbon reduction, a far better option than solar panels here may be simply walking, biking or taking the bus to work, according to carbon calculations. Never mind the expensive solar array; skip driving for a day in Eugene, and you’ll save the rough carbon dioxide equivalent of turning out all the lights in your house for two months. — Alan Pittman
COUNTY VOTES TO FUND TIMBER GROUP
Lane County Commissioners voted last week to rejoin the Association of O&C Counties, a group that has been harshly criticized by conservationists for holding closed, secretive meetings, and for advocating for logging Oregon’s old-growth forests.
The vote to pay the AOCC almost $37,000 of county funds in dues reverses a decision made last spring, to stop funding the group in order to pressure the AOCC to switch its focus from clearcut and old-growth logging to sustainable forest practices.
Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild, who served on the county’s Timber and Wood Products Advocacy Task Force said, taking into account back dues, “That’s about $75,000 of public money to fund what amounts to the Flat Earth Society of Western Oregon.” The AOCC has also been referred to by environmentalists as the “Association of Old-growth ClearCuts.”
“Many thanks to Commissioners Pete Sorenson and Rob Handy for trying to save county money by keeping us out of the AOCC and for their efforts to find new and better ways to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools legislation,” Heiken said.
“We’re enablers. We’re not going to get them to change their minds if we give them their money,” Handy said. “They’re still looking at cutting old growth as a way to regenerate the economy even though that analysis has been refuted,” he said.
Handy said he would like to see Lane County go the direction of the Siuslaw National Forest, which he said focuses on sustainable projects like selective thinning of second growth trees. The Siuslaw is “actually getting projects on the ground, employing people on resource lands, keeping money local,” he said.
Commissioner Fleenor was the swing vote on the recent AOCC vote, which passed 3-2. He had voted against funding the AOCC during the previous vote last May. Commissioners Bill Dwyer and Faye Stewart voted in favor of AOCC membership each time. Despite Lane County’s lack of dues, Faye Stewart continued to serve as a member of the AOCC board while Lane County was not paying to support the organization. “They haven’t kicked me out,” Stewart said at last week’s commissioners’ meeting.
Fleenor says his vote “was based upon the principle that we should at least let an organization know we’re unhappy and make suggestions for positives changes before pulling our support.”
Oregon Wild and other groups have expressed concern over the AOCC’s lack of transparency in decision making. The historically timber-lobbying association has made decisions that could affect public lands in closed meetings. In response to AOCC president and Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson’s question in the R-G this week: “Would I be welcome at an Oregon Wild meeting addressing their legal issues?” Sean Stevens of Oregon Wild said, “We don’t accept taxpayer dollars and then not disclose how we use that money.” He added, “Taxpayers generally don’t like it when you take their money and then don’t tell them what you’re doing with it.”
Earlier this year the commissioners also voted not to fund the Lane Metro Partnership, a group, which had received $100,000 in membership fees from Lane County. Handy said, “It’s been remarkable that there’s very little public interest,” in de-funding the LMP. “Silence has spoken volumes,” said Handy. He said the funds were instead put into Lane County’s own Community and Economic Development Program, which is working on proposals to build renewable energy parks in Junction City and Goshen.
Handy also said that in efforts to solve Lane County’s funding woes as well as investigate sustainable solutions, all five of the commissioners have been working to implement a plan to use Lane County forests for carbon sequestration that they hope to have included in an upcoming federal energy bill. — Camilla Mortensen
Inspired by a large flag bearing a swastika on Highway 36 as well as other local incidents of hate speech, the Lane County commissioners voted unanimously Oct. 20 to issue a proclamation against hate speech in Lane County that also attempts to give a nod to the right to free speech.
Commissioner Rob Handy said of the proclamation, “Hateful speech is protected by the First Amendment,” but so, he said, is condemning the images, such as the swastika that was hung on private land near Hwy 36 and Lawrence Road, that “often precede hate activities and violence.”
With Veterans Day around the corner, the proclamation states that the commissioners remember and understand the sacrifices made by veterans to protect American’s free speech, but it notes that hate speech “is hurtful to the community as whole.”
Handy said, “constructive responses to hate activity make Lane County safer for everyone.” — Camilla Mortensen
• The city of Eugene and the Energy Trust of Oregon are sponsoring a free workshop on “Small Home Design” from 9 to 11 am Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Eugene Public Library. More information at www.energytrust.org
• A hearing on plans for a large new UO dorm on parking lots near Moss St. will be held from 1-2 pm, Nov. 10 at the UO Longhouse behind the law school.
• Local Dems are preparing for their annual Democratic Party of Lane County Gala Auction set for 5 to 8 pm Saturday, Nov. 7, at Mallard Hall, 725 W. 1st Ave., in Eugene. Gourmet food, entertainment, and DNC consultant Dan Carol will be keynote speaker. Only 200 seats are available. See www.dplc.org
• A Year of the Book event: Harvard librarian and former New York Times journalist, Robert Darnton, will discuss Google, libraries and the future of books in his talk “Digitize, Democratize: Google, Libraries, and the Future of Books,” on Thursday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m. in 175 Knight Law Center, UO.
• The Singing Revolution is a documentary film about Estonia’s successful nonviolent struggle for independence. It will be shown twice in Eugene in conjunction with a Nov. 16 Estonian music concert conducted by visiting music professor Hirvo Surva, who is prominent in the film. Free public screenings will be held at 7 pm Tuesday, Nov. 10, at the UO’s Lillis Building, room 111, and 7 pm Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Eugene Hotel, 222 E. Broadway. Discussion with Surva will follow the Nov. 10, screening. Surva is preparing his Revalia Men’s Chorus for a West Coast tour starting at 8 pm Nov. 16 at UO’s Beall Concert Hall. The concert of music from Estonia is titled “New Bridges of Song” and will also feature the UO Chamber Choir and Women’s Choir. Tickets will be at the door for $10 and $8 with discounts for students and seniors.
• Get dressed to the nines — that is equine, canine and feline— and support a cluster of local nonprofit animal organizations. “An Event for the !Nines!” happens 7pm to 1am Saturday, Nov. 7, at the U.S. SportsPlex, with proceeds going towards Emerald Valley Equine Assistance, Coffee for Canines and Greenhill Humane Society.
The $7 event will feature free blues and Argentine tango dance lessons from 8-9 pm, with two different dance floors going all night. In addition, there will be games, food, animal information and a silent auction.
LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
Massive Herbicide Spray Program proposed by the Bureau of Land Management: 12 different herbicides on 10,000 acres of land in Western Oregon; 16 herbicides on 35,100 acres of land in Eastern Oregon proposed by the Bureau of Land Management.
December 1st Deadline for Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Vegetation Treatments Using Herbicides on BLM lands in Oregon. Call BLM, Ken Denton, EIS Team Leader at: (503) 808-6443 or call the BLM Eugene District Office at 683-6600. View documents at: http://www.blm.gov/or/plans/vegtreatmentseis/
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
• In the Best of Eugene, someone clearly off her head on caffeine wrote that Soromundi: Lesbian Chorus of Eugene, was 11 years old. Yes, plus 10: Our winner (in a tie) for Best Performing Arts Group is now able to drink legally and has been charming the pants off a select group of Eugeneans for 21 years.
• In last week’s story on hunting ghosts at the Bijou, the name of the manager was misspelled. Louise Thomas is the manager.
• Two letters to the editor last week were incomplete and another repeated itself. We regret the error.
• Whoa Betsy! Gov. Ted Kulongoski let a corporate tax break give a huge mule kick to state school funding. The Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program was supposed to be about green energy and jobs. But as recent investigations by the Oregonian and Register-Guard demonstrate, it’s more about giving away a quarter-billion-dollars of much needed school funds to Walmart and other corporations. At a time of packed classrooms and furloughed teachers, this is outrageous. It’s so deliberate and absurd that we can only wonder if people in Oregon government are on the take. The attorney general and FBI should launch an investigation and the Legislature investigative hearings. But don’t hold your breath: These kinds of blue light specials for corporations have been going on for decades in the name of jobs with only one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates to show for it. Now the jobwashing is sloshing with greenwashing. Hydropowered Oregon’s carbon footprint is mostly about freeways, and Kulongoski has never seen one that didn’t make him drool.
• Lane County’s political divide makes for contentious elections and dramatic showdowns in public meetings, all part of a healthy democracy. But are there issues where we need to come together? We expect to hear soon from a local citizens’ group that wants to step above the political fray and do something positive about public safety in the county. Is this even possible? Maybe. Trust in politicians, left and right, is extremely low right now, but a citizen-led group would have more credibility, particularly if a major focus is on supporting crime prevention, rehabilitation, education and community policing — and not just more jail beds and squad cars.
• Is Bill Fleenor going to campaign to keep his West Lane County Commissioner seat after all? He announced in September that he did not intend to run again, but supporters have been asking him to change his mind, and rumors are afloat that he might. In recent email to EW, when asked if he had decided to reverse his decision, he responded, “Stay tuned!”…
• The threat of football concussions could give new meaning to the “lights out” slogan of Duck boosters. The stars of today shouldn’t be left as doddering dim-wits in middle age. Young people should come to the UO to enrich their minds, not have them battered stupid. New rules against head contact are needed and will save future lawsuits. Will that spoil the violence that fans crave? Some of it. But the leatherheads of yore still had lots of fun while not using their more vulnerable noggins as battering rams.
• In Afghanistan, we’re there because we’re there. There are more Al Qaeda now in Afghanistan than before the war began eight years ago. They’re there because we’re there because they’re there because ... It’s a circular argument of endless war. In Afghanistan we are fighting ourselves. The more we bomb, the more they fight. The more money we give to the Pakistani military, the more the Pakistani people resent us and the more the Pakistani secret service supports our enemies. We’ve been there eight years but have learned nothing. Like ugly American tourists, our soldiers only scream louder in English when Afghanis can’t understand us. The more we yell, the more hearts and minds we lose. Fighting ourselves, we cannot win. Mr. Obama, tear down this war.
• We’re usually ranting about the disproportionate money and attention showered on athletics at our favorite institution of higher learning, but we admit to getting caught in the updraft with this Duck football team, ranked 7th in the country, and Chip Kelly, their out-of-the-box coach. Traditional coaches don’t bring their teams to the Saturday Market, send a personal check to refund a disgruntled fan or hide under the Duck mascot head. His players clearly believe in this guy, and for this moment, so do the Oregon fans. Stanford’s brand of power football will be a tough test Saturday.