News Briefs: Was Cow Video Terrorism? | City Splits on Manager Selection | School Segregation Gets Worse | Ducking Parking Requirements | No Sonar for the Whales | Carbon Free Christians | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Correction/Clarification |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Losers by a Landslide
Could Oregon have prevented landslide danger?
Bettman Won’t Run
Eugene councilor endorses George Brown
Emerald City Roller Girls
All the sights & sounds of roller derby.
WAS COW VIDEO ‘TERRORISM?’
Last week an undercover video spurred condemnation in Congress and massive product recalls when it revealed the abuse and misuse of sick cattle in a slaughterhouse. But are such undercover videos acts of illegal “terrorism?”
The video from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) made national headlines when it showed that California dairy cows are not happy cows after all, despite the perky cheese commercials.
The video shows workers at a Chino, Calif., slaughterhouse dragging and rolling downed dairy cows with a forklift, spraying them in the face with a high pressure hose (cow “waterboarding,” says the HSUS) and shocking them repeatedly, among other abuses, in an effort to get them to stand up in order to be slaughtered. These practices are illegal under federal law, as is slaughtering “downer” cows that can’t walk and may have a higher risk of disease, according to the USDA.
The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) was signed into law by President Bush in November 2006. It targets actions that damage “animal enterprises” with long prison sentences, including life in prison. Since these damages include economic damages, Eugene attorney Lauren Regan says the law could make whistleblower recordings, such as the one that exposed the Westland Meat Co. in California, illegal. Westland temporarily suspended operations after the video made headlines.
“One of the primary targets the pharmaceutical corporations were attempting to silence and destroy by purchasing votes for the AETA were undercover individuals or watchdogs who acquired access into labs and secured video footage of horrific, illegal animal testing and torture which they provided to the government agencies,” Regan says. Regan is the executive director of the Eugene-based Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC).
The Humane Society video has caused outcry across the country. Westland Meat Co. slaughters cattle for Hallmark Meat Packing Co., which is a major supplier of meat for the National School Lunch Program. Congressman Peter DeFazio issued a statement not only deploring the abuses but also saying, “Frankly, I am stunned that beef from downed animals may have been fed to Oregon schoolchildren.”
Although Eugene 4J officials say they did not get any of the beef, Springfield and twelve other Lane County school districts did get meat from Hallmark. There have been no reports of children sickened by the beef, but politicians and others have reacted not only to the abuse, but to the idea of feeding weak and “culled” cattle to the nation’s schoolchildren.
Regan says CLDC attorneys and others “would step up immediately to represent any videographer pro bono who documents animal torture and is charged with violating the AETA.”
To see the video, which the Humane Society warns is “graphic,” go to http://video.hsus.org/or the EW blog. — Camilla Mortensen
CITY SPLITS ON MANAGER SELECTION
A sharply divided Eugene City Council voted 5-3 Saturday night, Feb. 2, to select Jon Ruiz as the powerful city manager. The vote marks the first time in Eugene history where the city’s top official was chosen on such a divided vote.
Council conservatives refused to support another candidate who might have won unanimous support and instead voted as a block for Ruiz.
Ruiz is a retired Army colonel and an assistant city manager of Fresno who was criticized in a Fresno Bee editorial for being too “cozy” with developers. At Fresno Ruiz also hired Peter Calthorpe, a progressive planning pioneer, to help control sprawl and increase sustainability.
Councilor Alan Zelenka provided the swing vote to back the conservatives’ candidate. Progressive Councilors Betty Taylor, Bonny Bettman and Andrea Ortiz voted against hiring Ruiz. Zelenka and council conservatives Mike Clark, Jennifer Solomon, Chris Pryor and George Poling voted to hire Ruiz.
The council majority made the job offer contingent on Ruiz passing more formal background and reference checks and agreeing to a salary offer.
Councilors Bettman and Taylor said they favored Joe Lessard for the manager job. Lessard has worked as a consultant with an interest in progressive planning since leaving an assistant manager job with the city of Austin, Texas.
“I thought we had an outstanding candidate in Lessard, and I’m very disappointed that we didn’t choose him,” Councilor Taylor said. Taylor and Bettman praised Lessard’s intelligence, honesty and experience.
Lessard has environmental planning and conflict resolution experience in a large city with similar issues and politics to Eugene, according to Bettman. Fresno “is nothing like Eugene,” she said.
Council conservative Mike Clark declined to comment on his vote.
Bettman said that while Ruiz came across as personable, Lessard offered experience and intellect that Ruiz couldn’t match.
Bettman said she expects Ruiz to make few of the reforms in city accountability, transparency and planning that she says are needed.
“Ruiz to me represents more of the same,” Bettman said. “The majority of councilors defended the status quo into the future.” — Alan Pittman
SCHOOL SEGREGATION GETS WORSE
In 2005 Eugene schools Superintendent George Russell reported that “elitist” alternative schools had concentrated well off and white kids, leaving neighborhood schools “poorer and browner.”
Eastside Alternative Elementary school was criticized as one of the chief cherry pickers of the white and wealthy kids and told that it must increase its diversity.
But the opposite has happened.
“Each year your number of Free/Reduced Lunch has decreased. Your percentage of minorities has decreased,” said school board member Beth Gerot to Eastside officials at a Jan. 30 meeting.
Over the past three years, Eastside reported that its percentage of Free/Reduced Lunch (FRL is a common measure of poorer children) had dropped in half, from 8 percent to 4 percent. The percentage of minority children had dropped from 17 percent to 16 percent.
“It is true,” said Eastside Principal Scott Marsh of the declining diversity numbers. Marsh and other Eastside teachers and parents blamed the lack of diversity on the surrounding south Eugene neighborhoods from which Eastside draws.
But school board member Charles Martinez did not buy that argument. Martinez doubted that the surrounding neighborhood had a parallel trend of growing that much less diverse in the same time period. Martinez said that while he had “hope” that the school was committed to increasing its diversity, he was “dissatisfied” with the results.
State data also call into question the claim that Eastside simply reflects the diversity of its location. Eastside shares its site with the Parker Neighborhood Elementary, which has 36 percent FRL according to state data from 2006.
Eastside is the least economically diverse school in the 4J district, which averages 30 percent FRL according to the state data. Compared to schools state wide, Eastside ranks in the top 3 percent of the least economically diverse public schools in Oregon.
Marsh and other Eastside representatives said they had worked hard on a diversity plan for the school. But school board members questioned why the school had kept the process internal and not invited more diverse members of the community to participate. “Where was the community outside the community of the school?” asked school board member Alicia Hays.
At the same meeting, a majority of school board members told Superintendent Russell that he should consider closing neighborhood schools as well as charter schools to keep Eastside in south Eugene. Friction with Parker had previously caused the board to agree to move the school. The board has earlier ruled out the possibility of closing Eastside, but not of closing neighborhood schools.
Board member Craig Smith argued that a neighborhood school might have to be closed anyway and that it wasn’t just to give the building to Eastside. But Russell cautioned that “it could clearly be perceived” that way in the community.
Russell noted the three hours of testimony from the more than one hundred Village charter school parents that showed up to testify for three hours against moving their diverse school to make room for Eastside. He said threatened neighborhood school parents could show up in even greater numbers.
“You think the crowd tonight was heavy,” Russell said. “I’m suggesting we may want to go to the Hult Center.” — Alan Pittman
DUCKING PARKING REQUIREMENTS
The UO has long claimed that it must use city park land for desperately needed parking around Autzen Stadium. But with the announcement of a new baseball stadium in the Autzen parking lot, the UO itself plans to eliminate 1,100 parking spaces around the stadium.
In 2000 the city gave the UO the use of park parking lots and land near the Science Factory for a shuttle bus station. The UO said it didn’t want bus stops on its land because they “will result in displacement of parking now used for high level donors to the university.”
In addition, the city has for decades given the UO the right to park about 450 cars in gravel parking lots along the canoe canal that park advocates have called for planting with trees and grass. The city charges the UO Athletic Department only about 66 cents per space per game, less than one-fortieth of their market value.
The use of the parkland for parking has continued as the UO itself has made parking more difficult around the stadium. In 1997 the UO wiped out more than 1,000 spaces by building new indoor and outdoor practice fields. In 2000, the UO added 12,000 seats to the football stadium without adding a single new parking space.
The UO said it would mitigate parking demand with shuttle busses. But the UO’s current bus transportation agreement with the city lacks enforcement teeth and strong measures to reduce driving. Here are some examples:
• To allow the UO to make more money from donor parking, the bus station was placed farther away from the stadium on city park land. LTD warned that the longer walking distance “will have a negative impact on ridership” and will create problems for “mobility impaired passengers.”
• The UO gives employees free parking at the stadium, giving them little incentive not to drive.
• The city did not require the UO to offer free bus rides to the stadium.
• The parking plan allows the continued use of scarce parking space for RVs and tailgate parties for big donors.
• The city did not require any objective monitoring or enforcement of the UO’s claims that it would have 21 percent of game goers riding the bus.
Autzen isn’t the only place where the UO is adding huge parking demand without additional parking. The Athletic Department also plans to build a new basketball arena in the Fairmount neighborhood with no new parking. — Alan Pittman
NO SONAR FOR THE WHALES
George Bush’s decision to allow the Navy to use sonar suspected of endangering and killing whales was overruled by a California judge on Wednesday.
The whales potentially affected by the sonar include threatened gray whales which migrate south past the coast of Oregon in late December and head back north in March.
Last month Bush exempted the Navy from an order that banned the use of submarine-hunting sonar in areas off the coast of California frequented by whales. Whales are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the high-intensity mid-frequency sonar system “has killed marine mammals in numerous incidents around the world.”
Bush’s White House memo on granting the “emergency” waiver argued that the Navy’s use of sonar in military preparedness exercises was in the “paramount interest of theUnited States” and “essential to national security.”
But U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper said, “The Navy’s current ’emergency’ is simply a creature of its own making.”
The judge’s order requires the Navy to create a 12-nautical-mile, no-sonar zone along the California coast. It also says the Navy must post trained lookouts to watch for marine mammals before and during exercises. The order requires sonar to be shut down when mammals are spotted within 2,200 yards. — Camilla Mortensen
CARBON FREE CHRISTIANS
Last week students and staff on the UO campus gave up carbon for 15 minutes during Focus the Nation, an event that included a Climate Change Summit, a rally, a Sustainable Living Fair and evening talks during the Lane County Energy Round Up.
This week, which kicked off Mardi Gras with Fat Tuesday on Feb. 5, some British Christians are giving up carbon for Lent, which began on Wednesday, Feb. 6. Many Christians traditionally give up chocolate, alcohol or favorite foods or activities during the 40 day period.
Those who participate in the Carbon Fast called by the Bishops of Liverpool and London will avoid plastic bags and remove a light bulb from a light fixture and not replace it for the 40 days. After Lent ends they are to replace the bulb with a low-energy bulb. The participants will also avoid using their dishwashers, check their houses for drafts and insulate their hot water tanks. — Camilla Mortensen
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 3,945 U.S. troops killed* (3,931)
• 28,870 U.S. troops injured* (28,870)
• 135 U.S. military suicides* (135)
• 307 coalition troops killed** (307)
• 933 contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 88,466 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (88,048)
• $491.9 billion cost of war ($487.7 billion)
• $139.9 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($138.9 million)
* through Jan. 30, 2008; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to one million
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
Near Lorane Elementary School: Reforestation Services (503-362-8322) will aerially spray 37 acres with Triclopyr ester, and Weedone LV-6 (2,4-D ester) herbicides plus Terrain adjuvant near Crow Creek for Seneca Jones Timber (689-1231) starting March 15th (#50080). Ole Buch, ODF 935-2283.
Near Mohawk Junior and High Schools: Weyerhaeuser Company (741-5211) will aerially spray 113 acres with Atrazine, Sulfometuron Methyl, Hexazinone, Clopyralid, and Glyphosate herbicides near Cartwright Creek starting Feb. 15 (#55105). Tim Meehan, ODF 726-3588.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
In the CHOW story, “Go Ga Ga Over Ga Ya” (1-31), co-owner Kyung Hee Childers operated her previous restaurant, Red Pepper, in Springfield’s Gateway Inn for only a few months in 2001. She worked at Hynix from 2005-2007.
• The puffs of smoke from the cardinals in City Hall have wafted away and Eugene has a new pope, er, city manager. What a crazy process. The unelected Eugene city manager is given near-totalitarian political power. But astoundingly, in this selection no one was permitted to openly ask pointed, specific questions of the candidates’ backgrounds. All the interviews were behind closed doors. Almost all the questions were the same canned generic questions asked of each candidate. Little or no follow-up was allowed. No private business would hire a professional this way.
• Oregon is faced with two huge needs for new buildings. One is a decrepit house of horrors for the helpless victims of mental illness that the state is entrusted to care for but has neglected since before One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The other is an old basketball arena. Guess which one the state Legislature has prioritized for $200 million in public bonds? They should be committed
• Why would people in Eugene want to pay to fix potholes through an $80 million tax increase on their homes rather than higher gas taxes? At least some of the gas tax would be paid by commuters, tourists and others who use the roads but don’t pay local taxes. Should a shut-in retiree on a fixed income pay more for her housing because a SUV driver wanted to save a few pennies at the pump? The council also decided to pursue the large pothole property tax rather than have shopping malls and big box stores pay for the heavy road demand they cause. Great, so the city is going after Grandma’s social security to get Wal-Mart off the hook?
• Speaking of taxes, when is Eugene going to get tax reform? A progressive, steeply graduated income tax with exemptions for the poor would be based fairly on the ability to pay. It also would neatly avoid all the property tax limitation measures and grow with the economy. Put it on the ballot as a dollar-for-dollar replacement of the local property tax, and it’s sure to pass.
• It seems like every day there’s another tragic tale of yet another child getting run over or some other awful car accident. What if government put the same money it’s putting into the War on Drugs (which actually kill comparatively few people) into a traffic enforcement and anti-reckless driving education campaign? Such a War on Road Killing could save tens of thousands of lives and families destroyed by the tons of metal hurtling through our communities.
• Makes us proud that a young man from Eugene has won the prestigious Oakes prize, magazine division, for environmental journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He’s McKenzie Funk, grad of South Eugene high school, son of Dwayne and David Funk. It’s well worth your time to check out the September ’07 issue of Harper’s magazine and read Funk’s cover story “Cold Rush: The Coming Fight for the Melting North.” It’s a remarkable job of both reporting and writing. He’s now writing a book on the subject. He’ll receive $5,000 and a trip to New York from his home in Seattle for the Oakes prize at award ceremonies this month.
• If you’re still mourning John Edwards’ exit from the presidential circus, take heart. Latest rumor has him as attorney general in an Obama administration. Wouldn’t that be a switch!
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