Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Discretion or Obligation?
How should government view a looming catastrophe?
Feds seek to ‘enhance’ sentences for eco-saboteurs
BATTLING OVER CANS, BOTTLES
There is a reason those big redemption machines at the grocery store spit back many of the bottles Eugeneans try to recycle for store credit. Current bottle legislation only requires Oregon grocery stores to accept the brands of beer and carbonated beverage containers they sell in the store.
A bill before the Oregon House Committee on Energy and the Environment would require beverage distributors to include a 5-cent deposit on all “water and flavored water” containers in addition to beer and soft drinks. This means all those bottles of Evian and Aquafina drunk in Eugene would require a redeemable nickel deposit. It would also demand that stores redeem brands of beverages they don’t sell.
The number of beverages such as bottled water, smoothies, teas and juices have risen dramatically since the original “Oregon Bottle Bill” was passed. The 1971 bill was the first of its kind in the country. Since it passed, the rate of bottle return has been about 90 percent according to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
On the other hand, the DEQ also says the tonnage of rigid plastic containers that was collected through curbside between 1993 and 2005 has increased by more than 250 percent. Oregonians are recycling less than 25 percent of the plastic containers we use.
The update to Oregon’s 1971 bottle bill faces opposition from two sides. The strongest opposition comes from the Northwest Grocery Association — which has also lobbied against enviro-friendly legislation such as the proposed grocery bag tax. It has also successfully lobbied against previous changes to the bottle bll. And some environmentalists feel the 5-cent return is not enough of an incentive to recycle.
The proposed bill has passed in the Senate. If it passes in the House, grocers will have to accept nearly all beverage containers that customers return. The original bill caused drastic improvements in recycling and litter reduction in Oregon, and supporters hope this bill will do the same. — Camilla Mortensen
WUERTHNER ON WILDFIRES
Fire season may start early this year. According to a report released by the National Interagency Fire Center, there is “significant fire potential” across the West. But not everyone sees wildfire as something to fear.
Fire season in Oregon will be affected by below- average rain and snowfall during the past winter and spring. This sort of news worries many in the Northwest. Last year a record 9.8 million acres burned in the U.S. and over $1 billion was spent trying to put out those fires.
Author, photographer and conservationist George Wuerthner doesn’t see putting out fires as the best thing for the environment. His upcoming talk — titled for the book he recently edited and photographed, Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy — will argue that fire suppression and control is a result of mismanagement and misunderstanding of wildfires.
Fires are a monetary issue and a land use issue, according to Wuerthner.
Last week five former Forest Service chiefs sent a statement to Congress that read, “We wish to express in the strongest way that the Forest Service has been put into an untenable financial situation due to the way fire suppression funding is being handled in the federal budget.”
Last year the agency spent almost 50 percent of its budget on fire suppression.
Wuerthner said the Forest Service proposes to treat firefighting as if it were an emergency and fund it out of a separate emergency fund.
According to Wuerthner, this drive to suppress wildfires can be reduced. “Most fires would burn out without burning very much,” he said, but the Forest Service is compelled to try to control fires that threaten houses. The increase in the numbers of houses in remote areas means the Forest Service feels the need to protect those houses.
“Global warming,” Wuerthner said, “may increase the drought conditions and wind speeds that drive fires.” His talk will discuss the need to minimize the potential conflicts with nature that he says will occur if people continue to build houses in remote places.
“Historically Oregon’s land use laws have made Oregon better than other Western states,” Wuerthner said. “But if Measure 37 is allowed to stand, the monetary cost and cost of firefighters’ lives will increase.”
Wuerthner said, “People should live in closer, compact communities and let fires burn in the backcountry.”
Wuerthner will be speaking and giving a slideshow at 7 pm Tuesday, May 15 in 180 PLC on the UO campus. The event is free. – Camilla Mortensen
GUNS, MOMS AND PEACE
Mother’s Day weekend is inspiring at least two events in Lane County with a theme of world peace.
A big turnout is expected for the Million Mom March for Family Gun Safety & World Peace. The event begins at 2:30 pm Sunday at EWEB Plaza and includes short speeches, music, a one-mile walk along the bike path to Owen Rose Gardens and pie sharing. A free shuttle bus will run back to EWEB.
The march this year includes a book drive. Organizers are gathering used children’s books in English and Spanish to send to Nicaragua.
Advocates for a U.S. Department of Peace are organzing the third annual Mother’s Day National Action Day “on behalf of mothers everywhere” at noon Friday at the new U.S. Courthouse.
The theme of the gathering is “Peace Wants a Piece of the Pie!” referring to the huge federal budget for warfare. The event is being organized by The Peace Alliance (ThePeaceAlliance.org), a national organization supporting legislation to establish a Department of Peace. The new agency would “research, articulate and facilitate nonviolent solutions to both domestic and interntional conflicts,” according to Diane Moen, 4th District team leader for The Peace Alliance.
CALCULATE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy is inviting everyone in Lane County to participate in the Mayor’s Climate Challenge, and anyone with access to the Internet can have some fun calculating his or her “carbon foootprint.”
The website is www.sustaineugene.com (click on Mayor Piercy’s Climate Challenge), and the site has an interactive form where individuals can see their personal impact on global heating.
“I decided to issue this challenge because all during the Sustainable Business Initiative, people asked us what they could do as individuals,” says Piercy.
Once people have calculated their greenhouse gas emissions, they are asked to pledge to reduce that amount and select some actions to get started.
Piercy says the national average personal greenhouse emissions are about 20 metric tons of CO2. The Oregon average is about 17 tons. The Eugene average is about 13.6 tons, she says, and most of that is related to transportation, consumption of material goods, food consumption and space heating.
|COURTESY OF FUNK/LEVIS & ASSOCIATES|
Lane County Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Gov. Kulungoski declared May to be Toxic Injury Awareness and Education Month. See forestlanddwellers.org/news
• Concerned Citizens for Clean Air has won a reprieve from ODOT spraying on Hwy. 101 from the Lane County line to Newport this year with a pilot project. See forestlanddwellers.org/News
• ODOT will spray Hwy. 126 W., Territorial, Hwy. 36, and 101 at night during next two weeks, and finish any missed sections. Call Dennis Joll at 686-7526. For complaints about ODOT spraying, call (503) 986-4366.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
MAY ELECTION ENDORSEMENTS
Lane County Measure 20-129: NO
We value highly the services provided by social service agencies that are backing the county imcome tax measure, but philosophically we just can’t get behind a permanent flat tax that guarantees support for public safety while social services and crime prevention get the leftovers. This measure would only increase the growing gap between rich and poor. We can do better with a completely new measure before the voters in September or November. Delaying funding will eat up county reserves, but we’ll have a clearer sense by then regarding the status of federal payments. What would a better tax look like? See our cover story this week.
Lane County Measure 20-130: NO
This companion measure to 20-129 would cap the income tax at 2 percent. No on the tax; no on the cap.
LCC Board At-Large Position: ROGER HALL
Roger Hall has served on the board for 16 years and has earned the respect of his peers and the broader community. We need his experience, dedication and wisdom in facing LCC’s challenges. His opponent is Rob Spooner, an outspoken critic of the board and administration. We like people who have the guts to shake up our local institutions, but LCC at this time needs support more than reinvention.
LCC Board Zone 2: STEFAN OSTRACH
Stefen Ostrach has built a strong reputation as a tough and dedicated advocate for working people and their families. And as a member of LCC’s Budget Committee, he has a clear understanding of the financial challenges facing LCC. His opponent is Tony McCown, an impressive young LCC graduate and former student body president who has lots of good ideas. But he does not have Ostrach’s experience on the ground.
We might be surprised, but based on the mood of the voters, we don’t expect approval for the Lane County income tax measure May 15. So what will happen next? Speculation abounds that the county commissioners will go ahead and impose the tax anyway, but that seems highly unlikely. Commissioners Green, Dwyer and Stewart are still reeling from response to their earlier decision to impose the tax. We expect them to let things cool down and try again. These commissioners have always had the public interest in mind and do not deserve wrath upon their heads.
Will the city options for acquiring property downtown expire without a deal with developers? Looking at the big profit margins downtown property owners have negotiated (see news story last week), it’s probably best that the options expire and be renegotiated when a development plan is finally nailed down. Also, last week’s story on the options included a graph listing properties, their true market value and their option price. Most of the properties are identified by the businesses that occupy them, not their owners. John Henry’s, for example, is in a building owned by the Davis family.
In response to last week’s story on the four LCC Board candidates we heard from Rob Spooner who said he was quoted accurately about Mary Spilde’s “Neverland list of budget adjustments,” but not in full context. “There is nothing Neverland about the cuts themselves,” he said. “When they happen, they will be real. The Neverland aspect is supposing that all this slashing and burning will encourage more students to attend. The official plan is to cut sections, cut support staff, cut supplies, defer computer replacements, defer maintenance and raise tuition by 5 percent. All of this is expected to lead to 1 percent more students attending classes. This is unlikely.”
We’re hearing from local “bridgeophiles” that the first round of open houses on the I-5 Willamette Bridge project in early May was disappointing. Back in 2003 when the temporary I-5 bridge was being built, ODOT’s Dean Fuller talked to a local citizens’ group about ODOT building a permanent “signature bridge” at the entry to Eugene. But the designs being rolled out at open houses are “uninspiring and resemble freeway overpasses,” according to one observer. Another ODOT open house is planned for July and a public hearing in December or January. Construction is due to begin in 2009. Want to comment on the project or suggest a bridge name? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org To read a public comment log on the project, Google “Willamette River Bridge” to find the ODOT site.
Boycott all gas stations May 15? Emails are circulating claiming this grassroots action will send a powerful message to the oil industry that Americans are fed up with high gas prices and aren’t going to take it anymore. Well, the intention is good, but the oil industry will just laugh it off. The industry tracks sales each week and month, and those numbers are not going to drop until people change their consumption habits. Want to really scare the crap out of the oil giants? Get a few million people to carpool or ride bicycles for a month. Fight for urban infill. Elect candidates whose careers are not lubricated by the oil cartels.
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
“During the war, my job was to interrogate enemy soldiers,” says Brooklyn native Martin Acker, who served in military intelligence in Europe in WWII. “When I came back, I got a job as a veterans’ counselor, talking to American soldiers.” Taking classes part-time at NYU, Acker earned a doctorate in counseling psychology and moved west to work at the Stanford Medical School. In 1961 he came to the UO to train counselors for work with disabled people. He retired as a professor in 1986 but taught part-time until 1995. Always politically engaged, he chaired a UO committee against the war in Vietnam and started a Congress of Racial Equality chapter in Eugene. “During elections I’m out ringing doorbells,” he says. Currently, at age 85, Acker volunteers as a counselor in PeaceHealth’s Volunteers in Medicine program and teaches classes in communication for men at OASIS. “I’ve organized five different men’s groups,” he says. “Four of them are still going on.” Acker is one of six inspirational older Americans to be honored in a public reception at 4 pm Thursday, May 17 at the Willamalane Adult Activity Center in Springfield.