News Briefs: Pollution Stimulus | Wolves Under Fire in NW | Dirty Fighting in Oil Case | Kim Leval is NCAP’s New ED | More Fed Funds Available for Home Buyers | Activist Alert | Lane Area Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
New electric car could give Eugene a boost
While Portland and other cities are putting forward innovative ideas for green transportation to apply for a $1.5 billion pot of eco-oriented stimulus funds, Eugene is just asking for more polluting roads.
Portland’s Metro planning agency selected $76 million in active, bike, walking and transit projects to apply for federal TIGER funding, according to the bikeportland.org blog.
One $38 million project in Portland would saturate the city with bike lanes and separated trails to serve as a national model of green transportation to fight global warming and increase livability. Another $17 million grant application would build a bike trail from Portland to the foothills of Mount Hood, allowing city-dwellers non-motorized access to the scenic area. The rest of the money would fund improved pedestrian and bike access to light rail stations.
Other cities have also put together innovative green transportation proposals for the rare pot of non-freeway centered federal transportation money. For example, Kansas City wants a new trolley and Washington, D.C., a bike sharing program.
But in Eugene/Springfield, the focus is on more road construction, according to a memo from the local LCOG planning agency. The city of Eugene wants to reconstruct Highway 99 with another turn lane at Roosevelt and added driveways, and resurface 5th Avenue and add a roundabout to accommodate industrial truck traffic in west Eugene. Springfield wants to widen Franklin into a boulevard concept that will include EmX transit lanes but not lined bike lanes.
LCOG argues that projects to increase road capacity decrease pollution because they “in turn reduce greenhouse gas emissions from otherwise idling vehicles.” But widely accepted studies show that’s not the case. The added capacity just induces more traffic and soon fills with more cars. L.A. has spent hundreds of billions on freeway capacity with more and more gridlock and pollution.
Portland Metro spent the summer soliciting ideas in a public process to come up with its green list. But LCOG’s stimulus ideas apparently came solely from secret meetings within the unelected agency.
Long-dreamed-of local green transportation projects that didn’t make LCOG’s list include:
• A river bike path and bridge all the way to Mount Pisgah.
• A trolley down Willamette Street.
• Bike lanes, wide sidewalks, trees and pedestrian crossings on south Willamette Street.
• Extending the riverfront bike path through Glenwood.
• A bike bridge over Beltline to Chad Drive.
• A separated cycle track (bike path) down High Street connecting the Amazon Trail to the riverfront trail.
• A dramatic expansion of Eugene’s bike lane system.
• Funding to accelerate the build out of the EmX system into west and north Eugene.
By pursuing the same type of road projects, LCOG could cost the area not only more pollution but much needed construction jobs. A key listed criteria for the federal government awarding the TIGER funding will be environmental sustainability and innovation. — Alan Pittman
WOLVES UNDER FIRE IN NW
While fighting Ducks have made headlines in Oregon, it’s the fate of wolves that has local conservation groups concerned. Idaho recently opened hunting season on wolves, the first such hunt in the Northwest since gray wolves lost Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection earlier this year, and Oregon wildlife officials killed two wolves that were attacking livestock in Eastern Oregon Sept. 5. The young wolves were one of only three pairs currently known in Oregon. Two wolves were shot in Idaho on opening day of that state’s hunt.
Local group Cascadia Wildlands is among 20 conservation groups represented by Earthjustice that filed for a preliminary injunction to halt the immediate slaughter of up to 220 gray wolves in Idaho and 75 wolves in Montana.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled Sept. 9 that the hunt could continue, but he also added that the USFWS seems to have violated the ESA and protections to the wolves in the end may be restored.
Oregon has a state wolf recovery plan that is based on wolves re-entering Oregon — where they were historically present before being wiped out by humans — from neighboring states.
Killing of wolves in Oregon is allowed under the state plan if nonlethal methods have been exhausted. ODFW says it exhausted nonlethal methods for the two that ODFW killed, including hazing the wolves from the air and using electrified fences.
Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands says of Oregon’s wolf killings, “This is a sobering reminder that livestock interests continue to trump native wildlife recovery. It is especially tragic because these two wolves represent approximately 20 percent of the known gray wolves in Oregon, and their existence would’ve likely assisted in the makeup of a new pack.”
Research in Yellowstone National Park has shown that the presence of wolves benefits the elk herds, which are thinned by the wolves, and also helps aspen stands and streamside vegetation in the park. — Camilla Mortensen
DIRTY FIGHTING IN OIL CASE
Pablo Fajardo and the people of Lago Agrio’s case against Texaco Chevron (see EW cover story, 8/13) took another twist last week when the oil company accused the judge in the case, Juan Núñez, and Ecuadorian officials, including the wife of President Rafael Correa, of taking bribes in the $27 billion dollar case. Fajardo and the other attorneys in the case say no bribery has occurred and that the tapes have “not even a scintilla of evidence” that the judge was involved in bribes. They are calling for the U.S. Department of Justice and the government of Ecuador to investigate Chevron for its apparent role in working with those who tried to bribe government officials in Ecuador.
Fajardo, who spent 10 weeks in Eugene with the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide on a fellowship to learn English, is the lead attorney in the case, which holds Texaco Chevron responsible for the massive environmental damage, as well as damage to local indigenous cultures, done by oil extraction in a remote area of the Amazon.
Chevron claims in a news release that they released information to the Ecuadorian government of “video recordings … that show discussions of a prejudged verdict against the company by the judge and details of how the bribe would work.” The company has copies of the letters, emails and videos obtained through secret use of watches and pens implanted with micro cameras, on its website and on YouTube.
The videos, which are in Spanish, show two men repeatedly attempting to get Judge Nuñez to say he has already decided to rule against Chevron. According to the Amazon Defense Coalition, at one point as Nuñez is leaving a meeting one of the men repeats that Chevron is guilty, and Nuñez replies, “Yes, sir.” But the judge is off camera, says the Coalition, and it is unclear on the video if the judge is responding to the questions, or if he is simply ending the meeting.
American attorney Steven Donziger who is working on the case with Fajardo said in a press statement: “Nothing Chevron has presented in these videos changes these underlying facts one bit,” he added. The legal case will go on. This is a desperate attempt by Chevron to delay the judgment.”
Judge Nuñez, who denies any impropriety has occurred, has recused himself from the case at the request of Ecuador’s attorney general in order to prevent Chevron from creating a delay or de-legitimize a ruling. A ruling is expected in late 2009 or early 2010, and the Amazon Defense Coalition, which sends out press information on behalf of Fajardo and the other plaintiffs, says it does not expect a change in judges to delay a ruling. — Camilla Mortensen
KIM LEVAL IS NCAP’S NEW ED
A party to welcome Kim Leval as Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticide’s new executive director will be held from 5 to 7 pm Thursday, Sept. 17 at the home of Leval and her husband, Pete Sorenson.
Leval brings to NCAP 20 years of nonprofit experience including advocacy, policy development, grassroots organizing, fundraising and program development. She was the senior policy analyst for 10 years at the Center for Rural Affairs, where she advocated for stronger support of sustainable and organic agriculture both at the federal level and in the western region.
One of Leval’s focus areas was getting federal and land grant college research institutions to fund and conduct research for alternatives to pesticides. Most recently, she held the position of fund development director with Rural Development Initiatives.
“Leading NCAP is a great journey to be on,” says Leval. “This is important work.” To RSVP and get directions to the welcome party, contact Katie Schuessler by Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 344-5044, ext. 22.
MORE FED FUNDS AVAILABLE FOR HOME BUYERS
A fresh batch of federal stimulus money is making its way to Lane County with the purpose of getting bank-owned foreclosures back into private ownership. The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) will provide no-interest federal loans of up to $50,000 to help individuals and families with down payments and closing costs, according to Eugene mortgage planner Casey Lown of Alpine Mortgage Planning.
About 20 percent of the homes on the market nationwide are owned by banks, says Lown, and they are a drag on the real estate market.
Lown says the program is evolving weekly and “There have been several changes made by the state of Oregon to enhance the program’s ability to help consumers, but also protect it from being abused by investors and those that don’t need the assistance because of their financial situation.”
The program is not just for first-time home buyers. Buyers can qualify so long as they do not make over 120 percent of the HUD median income; and buyers are required to put out at least 1 percent in down payment. And buyers may not have more than $15,000 in liquid funds after closing, not counting retirement funds.
“This program is not for flippers,” says Lown. “If the buyers were to sell in the first five years after purchase, they would be subject to paying the NSP some of the net equity remaining after sale.” Otherwise, the loan is at zero interest and no payments are required until the home is refinanced or sold. Lown can be reached for more information at 743-2970 — Ted Taylor
• Science Pub this month is on “The Science of Restoring Rivers: Floodplain Restoration on the Willamette” with Chris Orsinger, 7 to 9 pm Thursday, Sept. 10 at Cozmic Pizza, 199 W 8th Ave. Orsinger will speak about how to apply knowledge from the sciences of hydrology, the geology and shape of rivers, climate predictions and native plants to restore healthy rivers.
• City Manager Jon Ruiz will speak to City Club of Eugene on “Eugene’s Three-Pronged Approach” (to current economic downturn), 11:50 am Friday, Sept. 11, at the Hilton. www.cityclubofeugene or 485-7433. $5 for non members.
• Oregon Wild hike is Saturday, Sept. 19. Climb through the Black Creek Canyon on the west side of the Waldo Lake Wilderness past Lillian Falls, through spectacular ancient forest and high elevation huckleberry thickets to reach the shores of Waldo Lake in Klovdahl Bay. Learn about the history, trials and tribulations of this pristine lake and witness its spectacular beauty on this free hike. Pre-registration required. Call 344-0675 or sign up online at www.oregonwild.org
• Huerto de la Familia is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a benefit from 7 to 9 pm Saturday, Sept. 19 at Cozmic Pizza, with music by Uandinos and a showing of the documentary film The Garden, about a 14-acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles. Huerto is a local non-profit that offers low-income Latino families the opportunity to grow their own food.
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Near Gillespie Corners: Avel Salgado of Oregon Forest Management Services (520-5941; 896-3757) will backpack spray 9 acres with Garlon 4 plus surfactant to target blackberries for Michael Atkinson, representing Morris Family Partnership of California (925-837-8734) starting Sept. 15th (ODF Notice #2009-781-50520).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org
• So after a fiasco that was a national embarrassment to the UO in Boise last week the UO has come down hard — and punished the unpaid kid. Of course LeGarrette Blount bears responsibility for his sucker punch on national television. But what about the UO’s army of overpaid football coaches? Shouldn’t a $7 million contract plus bonuses require Chip Kelly to make sure his players don’t become a national spectacle? Other coaches seem to be able to teach their players not to assault other players once the whistle blows. Why can’t the UO’s?
• A marvelous Eugene Celebration weekend, despite the weather or maybe because of it. Rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of folks in the parade Saturday, and a good crowd bundled up to watch and cheer. The sunny Pet Parade (or “Stroll”) Sunday was one of the best yet. The predictions of scattered rain might have kept more people in town on a final summer weekend that normally overloads mountain campgrounds and trails.
Capping off the long weekend Labor Day was a packed-to-capacity Cuthbert Amphitheatre concert with Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal that even included a Space Shuttle flyover. You can’t blame people for getting up to dance when the bands are rocking, but the lack of a dance space down in front meant the aisles became the dance floor, interfering with foot traffic and blocking the view of the stage for hundreds of fans.
• Paid petition gatherers seeking to derail the Legislature’s tax fairness plan were out in force for the Eugene Celebration. Last week in this column we wrote about the clueless clipboard gang and said they appear to be “mostly hungry Republicans.” But apparently not all. Reader Greg Norman tells us he had a long conversation with one of the pests who told him “he was aware that he was gathering signatures for a ballot measure he doesn’t support and that if it passes it affects him negatively.” But this was his first job in six months and if he didn’t collect enough signatures, he would lose his apartment. The conversation ended “with him needing time to shake his emotions before continuing,” says Norman. “It’s sad that our democracy has become a commodity to be bought and sold. Watching our politics is like pornography where the disenfranchised prostitute themselves to the satisfaction of the gluttonous. Is this really democracy?”
Meanwhile, the Oregon Tea Party Coalition is making outrageous statements predicting disaster if the tax changes go into effect. These statements that have no evidence to support them, such as: “When combined with the federal income tax, the total marginal income tax rates [in Oregon] will be the highest in the world, and Cascade Policy Institute estimates that the income tax and corporate tax increases will lead to 79,000 further job losses.” Point in fact: Oregon is ranked 26th in the nation for overall state and local tax burden. We would need to double all of our state and local taxes to beat New Jersey and become number one in just the U.S. And the jobless projection is just a baseless number tossed out to inflame the anti-taxers.
• We hear a new gay bar will be opening soon in Eugene, the first since Neighbors closed in early 2006. Yippee! Stay tuned for details on location and opening date.
• Crossing into Canada for a holiday late this summer, we were so surprised to see such healthy, happy people NOT standing in endless lines ranting about the government control of their medical system. To the contrary. Canadian friends complained in their civil Canadian way about the level of misrepresentation coming out of the States about their government-run plan which has covered everybody for nearly 50 years. In the 1950s, Saskatchewan adopted health care for all under the strong leadership of Premier Tommy Douglas and the model spread to the entire country within 10 years. So, why, we were asked, do Americans consider themselves so exceptional when their health care is more expensive, has higher administrative costs, contributes to lower life expectancy, and is unavailable to 50 million people? Because of money buying misrepresentation and lies that flood the media.
• Many of us know Edgar Peara, the Unitarian peace worker and World War II vet who often shows up in uniform at peace rallies. His computer was hacked, and if you are one of the hundreds of people in his email files, you have probably gotten a message that he was robbed in Nigeria and needs money wired to him. It’s just another Internet scam, but this one comes from his familiar email address. He says he’s trying to get Yahoo to shut down his account, but it’s taking way too long.