News Briefs: Hiking the Amazon | Logging Near Blue Pool | Police Auditor in the Zone | What’s Killing the Bees? | Baroque Obama | Housing Bust | Free Tix for Director Search | Activist Alert | Early Deadlines | War Dead | Corrections/Clarifications
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
City gave UO basketball arena big subsidy
HIKING THE AMAZON
|Photo courtesy Lisa Warnes|
Eugeneans are taking advantage of the late summer weather and the city’s new ownership of 40 acres in the Amazon headwaters forest to take a walk in the woods. The trail through the last pristine area inside Eugene’s urban growth boundary has been attracting hikers and bikers
The city agreed earlier this month to purchase the parcel owned by developer Joe Green, paying $1.6 million for the property, a huge drop from the $3.4 million that Green was asking for the land earlier this year. The city could have purchased the property four years ago for much less, but the city, under then-City Manager Dennis Taylor, and then-Mayor Jim Torrey, refused to counter Green’s offer of $325,000.
Lisa Warnes, a headwaters neighbor and strong proponent of the city’s purchase of the parcel to preserve its natural resources, says, “It wasn’t until Kitty Piercy and the more liberal City Council” that the city moved to purchase the land. “By that time, it was too late” to get the much cheaper price, she says.
There is no word yet on whether the city is making a deal on the nearby 26-acre Beverly parcel.
Warnes and other southeast Eugene neighbors are now working on ways to preserve and enhance the 40 acres of forest that has been protected from development. Warnes says, “We need to get the main trail out of the stream corridor, take studies and determine sensitive areas, do some mapping and monitor invasive species.” — Camilla Mortensen
LOGGING NEAR BLUE POOL
|Photo Chandra LeGue|
The trail to Tamolitch Pool is back open to hikers after a recent closure for a Forest Service salvage project, and not everyone is pleased with the results.
Tamolitch Pool, also known as Blue Pool or Blue Hole, is a quiet pool of deep blue water at the base of a mostly dry waterfall; the McKenzie river rushes out of the pool at its base. A scenic trail to the pool starts near Trail Bridge Reservoir and winds along next to the river through old-growth Douglas fir and over lava flows for about two miles. That trail was closed to hikers for several weeks during weekdays earlier this summer while the Forest Service salvage logged downed and damaged trees.
The original logging plan called for the project to take place in April to control a bark beetle infestation. Instead it occurred in late summer, which affected recreation.
Oregon Wild’s Chandra LeGue says she is “disappointed” in the aftermath of the logging. On a recent trip to the popular hiking area along the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail, Oregon Wild’s staff found the stump of a logged old-growth tree, damage to nearby trees, torn up trees and soil and exposed mineral soils.
Forest Service told LeGue that “they are not done with mitigation and rehab post-logging.” The USFS plans to re-seed the area with native vegetation and remove residual paint from trees that were marked during the logging.
LeGue says, “While I’m certainly not opposed to all logging and understand that it can look bad for a while, I was never OK with this project and am pretty disappointed.” — Camilla Mortensen
POLICE AUDITOR IN THE ZONE
In casting the deciding vote in favor of a downtown exclusion zone ordinance, City Councilor Andrea Ortiz said the independent police auditor was an important factor.
“We had an exclusion zone before, and it didn’t work,” Ortiz said at a council meeting Aug. 11. Part of that was “the way that complaints were handled” by internal police investigations. But with Eugene’s new independent police auditor, Ortiz said, “there’s a different way of doing business now.”
“I have faith in the external auditor’s office,” Ortiz said. If people subject to the exclusion ordinance have a problem, Ortiz said, “they can always go to the auditor’s office and file a complaint.”
Actually, they can’t. The auditor’s office at 8th and Olive is well inside the exclusion zone. The ordinance passed by the council over the objections of the ACLU and human rights activists makes no exception for filing a complaint with the auditor over being excluded from downtown. — Alan Pittman
WHAT’S KILLING THE BEES?
Bees in Eugene may not currently fear extinction, but some beekeepers are concerned that it is only a matter of time. Bees pollinate about one third of the human diet, and their pollination makes possible 40 percent of Häagen-Dazs’ ice cream flavors.
Philip Smith, a self-proclaimed “small-fry beekeeper,” lost more than half of his colony last winter due to the nosema ceranae fungus. This fungus is of growing concern for local beekeepers with bigger colonies, but it is speculated that colony collapse disorder, stress from over working and long transportation are also leading to the destruction of the bees all over the world. Yet there could be more to the problem. “Stress from moving bees around has been done for over 100 years, so that’s not new,” Smith says. “The bees could deal with all these things but can’t deal with farmers and growers with the imadacloprid.”
Imadacloprid, a pesticide found in the neonicotinoid family, is used on various fruits, vegetables, forestry and even turf. Germany recently put a temporary ban on neonicotinoid pesticides after a misuse of the product was deemed responsible for the death of millions of honeybees. The ban may make other countries think twice about their use of pesticides.
A recent lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council claims that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is refusing to disclose records about neonicotinoids. The EPA has not responded to multiple records requests for studies done on the chemicals since neonicotinoids were given conditional registration in 2003.
Congress gave the USDA emergency funds to study honeybee losses in 2007, and if you’re worried about your ice cream, rest assured that Häagen-Dazs gave a $250,000 research grant to UC Davis and Pennsylvania State University to research honeybees.
“We should most definitely follow our European beekeeping friends’ lead,” says Smith of the German ban, “until the manufacturers of neonicotinoids can prove conclusively that these chemicals aren’t lethal to bees and other beneficial organisms, including animals and humans.” Smith adds, “In the meanwhile there are good, safe, organic alternative pest controls.”
Smith urges people to not purchase anything with imadacloprid. Brand names of this pesticide to look for are Confidor, Merit Admire, Legend, Pravado, Encore Gaucho and Premise. For more on the bees and pesticide issue, go to www.vanishingbees.com —Cali Bagby
The imagination and technical skills of local graphic designer Taft Chatham have turned to the presidential race this year. Chatham’s Barack Obama T-shirts, cards and posters are showing up around town, including his “Baroque Obama,” reportedly a very popular shirt with musicians associated with the Oregon Bach Festival.
Chatham is a substitute teacher and also known in the community as the former owner of The Comic News (before Don Kahle) and the Bijou movie theater (before Robert McNeely, aka Michael Lamont).
He says he sold about 400 “Baroque Obama” shirts for $15 each at the Olympic Trials and continues to market them and three other designs, including a Star Trek Vulcan-inspired “Barok,” at Prince Pückler’s, House of Records and the UO Street Fair. Triangle Graphics does the printing.
Chatham says his profits on the shirts are minimal, and he donates $1 to the Obama campaign for each shirt sold. — TJT
While developers have complained that they need more urban sprawl to build on, the demand for home building has declined sharply.
Residential building permits in the city of Eugene dropped 39 percent from 2006 to 2008, according to a comparison of year-to-date numbers. In 2006 through Aug. 26, builders had received 1,074 construction permits. For the same period this year, the city gave out 652 permits.
The decline in building follows a decline in demand for new homes. The Regional Multiple Listing Service reported this summer that the local unsold housing supply has nearly doubled to about 8 months and that prices are down 8 percent, compared to last year. The number of closed sales were off 20 to 30 percent this summer.
While developers and Realtors may hate it, falling home prices may not be such a bad thing. Some economists consider any home that costs more than three times household income to be unaffordable. According to the U.S. Census, Eugene’s median home price in 2006 was $224,900, more than five times the local average household income of $40,499. — Alan Pittman
FREE TIX FOR DIRECTOR SEARCH
Want to hear some great music for free? Get over to the Hult, where the Eugene Symphony offers up three nights of orchestral tryouts for the community.
The three finalists for the Symphony’s music director position head into town beginning next week for days of rehearsals, meetings and interviews, which culminate for each of them in a concert with the orchestra. Each will conduct the first movement of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony (Symphony No. 8 in B Minor) and one movement of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, with Alexandre Dossin as the soloist. The candidates round out the evenings with some choices of their own.
First to the plate on Friday, Sept. 5 is Nir Kabaretti, currently the music director of the Santa Barbara Symphony. Kabaretti has worked extensively with choral music and has international experience ranging from Austria to Spain, Italy and Israel, where he serves as principal conductor of the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra. His program includes Mozart’s Impresario Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol.
A week later on Sept. 12, Bulgarian conductor Danail Rachev steps to the podium. Rachev is currently assistant conductor at the Philadelphia Orchestra after three years as assistant conductor at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, where he wowed critics and audiences with his performances. He added Schubert’s Overture to Rosamunde and Borodin’s Symphony No. 2 in B Minor to his program with the Symphony.
Finally, on Thursday, Sept. 25, Tito Muñoz will show his skills with a program including Bernstein’s Candide Overture and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. The young American conductor currently serves as assistant conductor to the Cleveland Orchestra.
Free tickets for the first performance are available at the Hult Center or, for the Hult’s processing fee, at www.hultcenter.org or 682-5000. Tickets for the next two concerts will be available Sept. 2.
• Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention Thursday can be seen at various home parties around the county and also for free at the McDonald Theater downtown. The viewing is sponsored by Oregon for Change. The time of Obama’s speech has not been announced, but is expected to be around 7 or 8 pm.
• A public hearing on ODOT’s federal Earmark priorities for state highway modernization projects in Lane County will be at 1:30 pm Wednesday, Sept. 3, at the County Commission conference room, 125 E. 8th Ave. in Eugene. More info at lanecounty.org or call 682-6935.
• The Ralph Nader campaign announced this week that the Oregon secretary of state has recognized the creation of a new party in Oregon, the Peace Party. Party activists announced the nomination of Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez for president and vice-president. Those interested in the campaign can contact the law office of Kafoury and McDougal at (503) 224-2647, or visit VoteNader.org
• Local blind and visually impaired residents are gathering to initiate a new chapter of the American Council of the Blind of Oregon, beginning at 11 am Saturday, Aug. 30 at Hilyard Center, 2580 Hilyard St., in Eugene. For more info, call Rob
Cook at 741-4367 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
EW offices will be closed for Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 1. Early deadline for reserving display ad space in our Sept. 4 issue will be Thursday, Aug. 28. Classified deadline will be Friday, Aug. 29. For more information, call 484-0519.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,146 U.S. troops killed* (4,145)
• 30,561 U.S. troops injured* (30,509)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 94,560 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (94,553)
• $548.4 billion cost of war ($546.4 billion)
• $155.9 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($155.4 million)
* through August25, 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 1.1 million.
• In last week’s Slant column the last dozen words were cut off in the last item on the S.L.U.G. Queens and contender Constance Van Flandern. It should have read, “The S.L.U.G. Queens traditionally use their ‘rain’ to raise money for causes like homeless pets, not big out-of-town developers.”
• The Free Shakespeare in the Park play, Merry Wives of Windsor, closed on Aug. 24 and will not run this weekend.
• It’s been a quiet week here in Lane County with the Eugene City Council on break, people gone to the coast or into the mountains and gardens needing harvesting. We have bleary eyes from staying up too late to watch the Olympics, and now the Democrats in Denver are keeping us up at night as we watch their speeches and listen to the talking heads. The convention is highly scripted but still inspiring for Democrats, particularly the words and demeanor of Teddy Kennedy and Michelle Obama Monday. Barack Obama’s speech this week can be seen free on a big screen downtown at the McDonald Theater (see Thursday Calendar).
Adding to the distractions from local politics is Duck sports. UO football madness is about to kick off, literally, with a home game against Washington Saturday evening at Autzen. Go Ducks! But maybe the distractions are OK. We can all use a little break from the sometimes tedious struggle to maintain some semblance of democracy and justice in our little piece of the world. Let’s relax for now and then hit it hard in September when the days get cooler and the politics hotter.
• Bobbywatch.com is the place to go if you are not on vacation from local politics. The new website documents the “behavior and voting record” of Lane County Commissioner Bobby Green. The site provides voters with lots of reminders of Green’s poor environmental record and support for big tax breaks for polluters. In Green’s defense, he does have a good record on gay rights and other social issues. His opponent, Rob Handy, is also a social progressive, leaving LGBT civil rights group Basic Rights Oregon in a quandary and endorsing both candidates. BRO is advising their members to look at other issues in deciding who gets their votes. Unfortunately for Green, the vast majority of decisions made by the County Commission are on land use and other environmental issues, not on social concerns such as gay rights.
• Eugene’s once-active Copwatch is making a comeback, inspired by general misgivings about the way the EPD is being run — from the lack of power given to the police auditor and citizen review board to the recent Tasering of a UO student and allegations of police brutality. Copwatch programs worldwide are grassroots organizations that monitor the police, often through videotaping police activity. Eugene’s group says it’s not just the EPD they’ll be monitoring; they’ll be keeping an eye on private security firms as well as Homeland Security officers.
Organizers aren’t ready to go public yet, but here at EW we’re happy to take donations of good used video cameras and editing equipment and pass them along to Copwatch.
• Aug. 27 is the one year anniversary of the death of 10-year-old Vaclav Hajek, killed by a car while walking his bicycle from the skate park across a busy four-lane Bailey Hill Road. A community effort is afoot to create a permanent memorial for the boy near the skate park. A makeshift memorial with flowers and candles is still in place beside the road, and city staff have been good in working with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to reconfigure Bailey Hill Road to make it safer. Young Vaclav’s death was followed by the death this year of bicyclist David Minor at 13th and Willamette, and a temporary memorial marks that site as well. Neither will last forever. The Hajek family and friends are wanting to create permanent memorials for those who have lost their lives in pedestrian or bicycle accidents. The city has a Memorial Bench Program already in place, but perhaps something more than a bench could be erected to honor the victims and also remind everyone passing by to be more careful. A water fountain has been suggested. Want to help? SELCO Credit Union branches now have a “Safe Passages Memorial Fund” set up, account number 453949.
• We wrote about Eugene’s Weekday Market at the Tango Center as it was opening back in July, but the new indoor marketplace is not generating enough foot traffic to make it grow and thrive. Come on, people, get on down to 194
• Eugene and UO missed out on two prestigious lists. Outside magazine’s August issue picked its “20 best towns in America,” placing Corvallis fifth after Oakland, Crested Butte, Seattle, and Chattanooga. Here’s why: “In recent years the city has picked up verve from a new promenade on the Willamette River and a steady transition to renewable energy. The new riverfront park, completed in 2002 as part of the vision statement, has helped attract more than a dozen new cafes, restaurants and spas, proving that being farsighted isn’t so bad after all.”
Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club, chose the “10 Coolest Schools: Our Annual Green College Guide.” Middlebury College in Vermont tops the list, followed by the University of Colorado, Arizona State University, University of Vermont, University of Florida, Warren Wilson College, Oberlin College, University of Washington, Evergreen State College and Tufts University. Maybe next year.