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May 19, 2017 01:55 PM

Local climate change activists received a major endorsement in their campaign to divest Eugene from fossil fuels.

Eugene Humans Rights Commission members voted Tuesday to support an ordinance advising the city against renewing its current contract with U.S. Bank, which ends in October 2018. 350 Eugene, the local group that wrote the proposed ordinance, will present it to Eugene City Council at 7:30 pm Monday, May 22, in Harris Hall for a decision.

350 Eugene will have a rally at 6:30 pm that same day at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza in support of the ordinance.

Members of the Human Rights Commission hope their endorsement of the ordinance, which is based on a similar one passed in Seattle, gives the City Council a compelling reason to adopt it. 

Though the ordinance would not be binding — ultimately is the unelectedcity manager’s decision to award city contracts, not City Council’s — it would further underscore Eugene’s commitment to opposing the construction of oil pipelines that would counter efforts to combat climate change. U.S. Bank is heavily invested in such pipelines, including the Dakota Access and Keystone XL, which would put the safety of indigenous people and their land at risk in the event of a spill.

“We have done a great deal to try to bring real application to our support for the people who are indigenous, and this is reality,” Human Rights Commission vice-chair Jennifer Frenzer said at the meeting. “When you get down to brass tacks, if you just have an indigenous rights day and don’t really back it up with actions, then that doesn’t change much. This is a way for us to move forward under that banner of Indigenous Rights Day and really create applications of what it looks like having the backs of people.”

Emily Semple, the City Council’s liaison to the Human Rights Commission, says there are many reasons to divest from all large banks, U.S. Bank included. She says she’d prefer to see the city do its money management with local credit unions instead. Eugene Municipal Code requires that city contracts give preference to goods and services produced in state.

In addition to potentially endangering indigenous people, U.S. Bank has a history of deceptive business practices. It paid the U.S. government $200 million in 2014 to resolve allegations that it knowingly underwrote mortgage loans that did not meet federal requirements, contributing to mass foreclosure throughout the country during the financial crisis of 2008. It paid $55 million to settle a class action suit involving allegations of collecting high overdraft fees on debit card transactions and $57 million to resolve allegations it charged 420,000 customers for identity protection services they never received.

In 2016 the City Council passed a resolution proclaiming the city’s support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which it said ran contrary to the city’s values regarding social equity and environmental health.

Human Rights Commissioner Aria Seligmann said the ordinance “really goes to the mission of the commission, and I support it for that reason.”

May 17, 2017 10:43 PM

Controversial budget process moves ahead despite requests of faculty union, students

The Lane Community College Budget Committee approved the 2017-2018 administrative budget after hearing hours of public comment opposing the budgets cuts to instructional programs and faculty members.

After hearing two rounds of public testimony — all opposing the proposed budget — the LCC Board of Education ultimately adopted the budget with a 6 to 1 vote. Board member Matt Keating opposed adopting the budget.

At the budget meeting, a majority proposal calculated by the faculty union, student union and classified union came up with a budget that spared cuts to faculty and proposed other cost saving measures to address the budget deficit.

However, though LCC board members echoed that no one wanted to make program cuts, they unanimously voted on the administration’s proposal that raises tuition and increases student fees after the 6-1 vote to adopt the budget.

Requests, public comments and countless emails proposing alternatives to program and faculty cuts were acknowledged by the board, but the board moved ahead with the controversial budget decision.

During the previous May 10 meeting, the budget committee asked the administration to address “gray areas” of the budget, however, the administration’s budget did not reflect lost tuition revenue that would result in cuts made to religion, philosophy, respiratory therapy and the geographic information systems programs. The faculty union has been requesting the college administration calculate these numbers be calculated for several weeks.

Full-time philosophy instructor Jeffrey Borrowdale, testified twice at the meeting to ask for the religion and philosophy programs to be considered as a separate line item in the proposed budget. He said there’s a high demand and a high fill rate for philosophy and religion classes, which was 95 percent in 2016.

At the end of the meeting, board chair Rosie Pryor told the crowd of 50 or more in attendance that she was against raising tuition after having voted for it. She said the board is the only group that makes the final budget decision, “whether you like it or not.” She added that policy direction for the budget is given to the president and that people should tell the board if they don’t like the direction.

Then Pryor directly addressed public comments heard during public comments saying, “to characterize us as coming from a place of privilege is unfair and insulting,” she said.

After the meeting Pryor spoke to Eugene Weekly, saying, “I’m concerned about raising tuition another $7 per credit hour.” But when asked what could have been done to avoid a tuition hike she said the administration would have had to look at deeper cuts, and, those alternatives were never calculated. “If faculty had helped us retain the students that we enrolled fall term to winter term we would have more than a million more dollars in our budget,” Pryor said. “Everybody touches students. Enrollment is everybody’s job. I don’t think anybody is to blame, and I’m tired of talking about blame.”

Lane Community College’s Facebook page has dozens of comments and complaints about the lack of services and limited hours in the enrollment department.

“It’s like saying somebody in your family lost their job, but nobody wants to give up Netflix and getting nails done and getting fancy hair cuts,” Pryor said. “Nobody wants to change their lifestyle we don’t have enough money to support our lifestyle.”

May 12, 2017 01:49 PM

University of Oregon President Michael Schill sent an email to the UO community in response to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s decision yesterday to reject the University of Oregon’s tuition plan. In his letter, Schill argues the rejection could lead to deeper cuts that could affect "student services, academic programs and jobs."

He concludes the letter asserting that, "We will continue to work with students, faculty, staff, and alumni to make the case in Salem that cutting higher-education funding and usurping campus independence will lead to untenable outcomes for the UO and all of higher education in Oregon."

The full letter is below.

 

Dear University of Oregon community members,

The Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s decision yesterday to reject the University of Oregon’s tuition plan is disappointing and creates uncertainty on our campus. If it stands, we will be forced to make even deeper cuts at the UO than are already anticipated, including cuts that will likely affect student support services, academic programs, and jobs. While we would like the HECC to reconsider its vote, we are already evaluating additional budget reduction steps that can be taken if this decision holds and the state does not provide additional support for public higher education.

No one wants to increase tuition, but the university is left with little choice given that tuition is the UO’s main source of revenue after decades of declining state support. Prior to the HECC’s vote, the UO’s tuition plan would have required more than $8 million in budget reductions next year, which would come on top of more than $6 million in cuts made in the previous fiscal year. I have steadfastly expressed my view that we will try to shield the academic part of our university from the impact of this year’s budget cuts, but if we are forced to limit our tuition increase to less than 5 percent, then that aspiration will likely be impossible.

In the face of cost-drivers that institutions do not control—including retirement and health benefit costs—Oregon’s public universities have been clear that significant additional state support for higher education is necessary to keep tuition increases low and to maintain critical student support services. State legislators still have the opportunity this session to approve a higher-education budget that prioritizes Oregon students and their families and makes the proposed tuition increase at the UO and other institutions unnecessary.

 The state of Oregon deserves a world-class research institution like the UO. The HECC’s decision to overturn a tuition plan that was reached through months of inclusive campus engagement and careful deliberation by our institutional Board of Trustees, however, threatens our ability to deliver on that promise for all Oregonians. We will continue to work with students, faculty, staff, and alumni to make the case in Salem that cutting higher-education funding and usurping campus independence will lead to untenable outcomes for the UO and all of higher education in Oregon.

As we have said repeatedly, the UO stands ready and willing to provide HECC commissioners with the information they need to reconsider their decision about tuition on our campus. This situation is very fluid and time is of the essence, given that the fiscal year starts on July 1, but you have my commitment that we will communicate with the campus community as we hear more. I appreciate your patience and understanding.

May 10, 2017 09:19 PM

During its May 10 meeting, the Lane Community College Budget Committee postponed a vote on the administration’s proposed 2017-2018 budget.

Approximately a dozen speakers gave testimony during the 20 minute public comment portion of the meeting. All of the speakers asked members of the committee, which consists of the Board of Education members and appointed volunteer members, not to cut programs like philosophy and the early childhood education program.

Faculty member Adrienne Mitchell said the alternative budget, calculated by the faculty union, “is not a proposal to lay off management.” (See EW’s earlier story on the budget here).

Another speaker asked the committee to consider looking at the number of the six-figure management salaries before cutting parts of the early childhood education program.

Brian Kelly, vice president of college services, presented the proposed budget; he told the budget committee that the “decision is on whose numbers you want to believe.” Kelly did not provide projected lost tuition revenue from proposed program cuts — which faculty has asked to see reflected in the proposed budget.

Members of the committee said there were “gray areas” of the budget that needed more attention. Board Chair Rosie Pryor said, “Revenue is a code word for crystal ball.” Students lined the walls of the room with signs protesting program cuts. A motion to delay the budget vote was approved and is now scheduled for Wednesday, May 17.

Students cheered after the budget vote was delayed.

Student Ashley Kim is an animal sciences major and is considering changing to a social science major. “To be honest, I didn’t care about this until I started an internship at OSA [Oregon Student Association], and then I started taking ethics studies and other social science classes, and I really value those classes.”

Evan Young is a student and hasn’t decided on a major yet, but said all of the programs are important. “There are just so many things wrong with the budget already,” he said. “Cutting these really important programs and then the whole thing about the management.”

May 9, 2017 03:57 PM

Philosophy instructor Jeffrey Borrowdale has taught at Lane Community College for 17 years. In one month, though, his position as the sole full-time philosophy instructor may be terminated to save money. The cuts have created turmoil at the community college.

LCC has a $10.6 million budget deficit for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

Despite a decline in enrollment from 40,099 students in 2001 to 28,219 in 2016, management positions have steadily increased while the number of full-time instructors has decreased.

As the college president, board, faculty and union struggle to find a solution to the crisis, outgoing LCC President Mary Spilde has been holding private meetings with board members — bringing into question what is allowed under Oregon’s public meetings law — to discuss the budget shortfall.

An overwhelming amount of public testimony has been heard during the budget meetings, calling for additional meeting times to accommodate the number of comments. Adrienne Mitchell, a member of the school’s Budget and Finance Subcommittee, says 145 signed up to speak during the budget committee’s April 19 meeting.

While cuts are being considered across the spectrum in LCC’s 2017-2018 proposed budget  — ranging from expense reductions in part-time classified staff to reducing non-mandatory items like travel — the biggest proposed layoffs will hit instructors the hardest.

The proposed reductions reduce philosophy course offerings and eliminate religion, respiratory therapy and the honors programs. The projected savings from those cuts total $1.63 million, according to the 2018 Administrative Budget Balancing Options Summary.

Although financial cuts are necessary to balance the budget, members of the LCC Education Association, the faculty union, have asked the budget office to calculate lost revenue from the proposed program cuts and include those figures in the proposed budget.

LCCEA members insist the proposed budget is misleading because it does not account for the tuition revenue that will be lost by the instructional programs on the chopping block. “In many cases, the proposed savings, the numbers that the administration has presented to the board and to the budget committee and the community are simply false,” according to LCCEA President Jim Salt.

Issues pertaining to the budget don’t stop at conflicting calculations from the Budget Office and the LCCEA.

Before the Budget Committee’s public meetings, Spilde held individual meetings with each member of the LCC Board of Education.

Board Chair Rosie Pryor says LCC’s budget was discussed during her meeting with Spilde. “It’s her job to work with each and everyone of the board members individually so that she can provide full information in a public meeting session,” Pryor says.

Oregon’s public meetings law states that decisions of governing bodies “must be made in public,” anytime “a quorum is required to make or deliberate toward a decision on any matter, or to do information gathering.”

Duane A. Bosworth, a Portland-based First Amendment lawyer who frequently litigates public records and public meetings matters, says the area of law on serial meetings has not been decided. Bosworth says oral arguments for Handy v. Lane County, a case that was heard by the Oregon Supreme Court in 2016, brought up “by several members of the Supreme Court noted that this would be a huge hole in the public meetings requirement if you could evade those requirements by meeting a few at a time.”

“There’s no question that doing it one or a few at a time avoids the requirements of transparency in Oregon public meetings law. It’s an end run around the statutory requirements,” Bosworth says.

Spilde says if board members desire to meet prior to a board meeting then she will meet with them “to prep on a whole variety of issues both things that are on the agenda,” and things that they are dealing with. She adds, “That’s the practice that we have done for the last 16 years — nothing unusual about that.”

Overall, the administrative balancing options document proposes that nine faculty positions, four staff positions and two managerial positions be cut in order to reduce expenses. Significant cuts will be made to early childhood education, and the geography information systems program will be put on hold for a year — although these programs were initially slated to be cut entirely.

Despite class fill rates of 94 percent for the 2017 spring term and a demand to teach Chinese religions, religion and some philosophy courses are still on the chopping block.

Pryor says, “The programs that have been placed before the budget committee for consideration, those numbers have been declining.”

Cutting religion, a core academic discipline, is a travesty, says religious studies instructor Jonathan Seidel.

Seidel, an adjunct instructor who teaches approximately eight classes per year and has 35 years teaching of teaching experience, would lose his job completely.

“I think it’s a bad signal to give to Eugene and Lane County to cancel religion,” he says. “We are critical of religion here, we interrogate religion, but we’re also a safe place for conservatives that want to be here not be harassed in the classroom, I try to create a safe place for the atheist, the humanists and conservatives. So I feel it’s a huge loss, and it’s a black eye to the college.”

The administration’s proposed budget — goes before the LCC board on Wednesday, May 10, after EW goes to press  — accounts only for the immediate savings resulting from the cuts and fails to account for the loss of the tuition revenue. The board will officially adopt the budget June 14.

The faculty union ran its own numbers, compared them to the administration’s budget, and created a balanced budget that retains all instructional programs. The union’s data show that philosophy and religion bring in approximately $337,000 each year, according to faculty member Adrienne Mitchell.

“So there’s no accounting in the administrator’s budget for the lost revenue,” Mitchell says.  

Salt says, “The primary problem with [the numbers] is that they have only calculated the expense cuts and are claiming that those are savings — without calculating the net impact of the change by estimating the impact upon revenue and subtracting the revenue losses from the expense cuts.”

Both Spilde and Pryor say lost tuition revenue calculations are included in the budget. They couldn’t, though, point to the figures in the budget and referred Eugene Weekly to Brian Kelly, LCC’s vice president of student services.

Kelly did not provide specific lost tuition revenue figures. He forwarded an unsigned email from the budget office that reads: “The college is projecting a net zero change to enrollment in 2017-2018. Any lost enrollment from program reductions will be offset by increased enrollment in career technical, transfer, and online courses through intentional program growth in these areas.”

Board chair Pryor says she has seen the data from the faculty union but says she is not convinced of the faculty union’s budget.

“I’m not persuaded. I’m simply not persuaded,” she says. “That’s my opinion as volunteer member of Board of Education I evaluate all the information that is presented to me and I have to make a choice.”

She adds, “I have internalized that some revenue will be lost.”

Spilde says the faculty union’s budget cut 40 percent of managers, and neither she nor the board sees that as a “reasonable approach” to balancing the budget. Primarily because “the daily rate for managers is lower than the daily rate for faculty,” she Spilde says. “Why? Because faculty work 170 days and managers work 260 days.”

She explains, “What I would say is that there is no program at Lane that makes money. Every program is subsidized by either property tax or income tax through our state allocation.”

Administrative bloat at Lane has increased over the last decade. Beginning with the recession in 2008, the college had 55 managers compared to 235 contracted faculty and 168 part-time faculty. In 2016, the number of managers increased to 63 managers compared to a decline of contracted faculty to 212. The number of part-time positions increased to 189.

Borrowdale says the budget does not include any real cuts in management. “Managers went up during the boom times and have stayed steady despite a big drop in enrollment — so you’ve got few students, fewer full-time faculty, but for some reason you need more managers?”

LCC is not alone in its budget crisis. The University of Oregon Board voted to raise in-state tuition by 10.6 percent in March. A tuition hike is also up for vote in front of the LCC board.

The community college is facing scrutiny for its restructuring methods of contracted faculty — raising concerns regarding potential contract violations.

“In this case they are actually laying someone off so they can hire more part time faculty because of the cheaper rate,” Borrowdale says. “And that to me is an incredibly immoral act, and I use that word because it’s one of the subjects that philosophers teach of course is morality and ethics. I think the college needs to take a philosophy class in ethics.”

In reference to faculty contracts, Spilde says, “If we’re not offering enough classes to be more than half time, it’s not a violation of the contract.”

LCC faculty members aren’t optimistic those programs will be saved or that the budget committee will update its calculations to reflect the total cost and revenue lost by the budget cuts.

In an email to the board and the budget committee, the faculty union has asked the administration to the provide the college and the budget committee with “the net financial impact of the proposed program and service cuts at the program level…”

Salt says, “I believe they intentionally decided not to do those calculations because they know what the outcome will be in many cases; it won’t save them any money.”

May 9, 2017 09:54 AM

Ty Segall returns to Pickathon this year. Photo by Todd Cooper

Pickathon 2017 is looking as good as ever with a lineup that includes Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires, Drive-By Truckers, Black Milk & Nat Turner, Tank & The Bangas, Deer Tick, Dungen, KING, Ry X, Big Thief, Xenia Rubinos and more.

The festival posted the daily schedule today along with new additions to include Ghost-Note & Quiet Life.

Highlights outside the music includes local late night game show Who's The Ross? in the Lucky Barn on Friday Night, a return of Comedy in the Lucky Barn on Saturday Night, Story Telling on the Woods Stage Sunday morning, and Spoken Word on the Treeline Stage on Sunday afternoon.

Highlights for kids includes shows & workshops with School of Rock, Trackers Earth, Red Yarn, Cedarwood Waldorf School, Circus Cascadia plus many others.

Black Milk will play Pickathon 2017 with Nat Turner. Photo by Todd Cooper

May 9, 2017 03:19 PM

Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is calling for the immediate testimony of FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, May 9.

Wyden said in an email, “Comey should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of Russia/Trump investigation at the time he was fired.”

The stated reason for Comey’s firing was the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the handling of investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails, according to Buzzfeed news. However, the online news site points out that “Comey's FBI was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential ties between Trump's campaign and Russia.”

Wyden is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian intelligence interference in the U.S. election.

Wyden’s full statement is below:

“I have been long been a critic of Director Comey, for his views about surveillance and torture, his stance on secret law and his conduct during the investigation into Secretary Clinton. But Donald Trump’s decision to fire him now, in the midst of an investigation into Trump associates and their ties to Russia, is outrageous. Director Comey should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of the investigation into Russia and Trump associates at the time he was fired.

“There can be no question that a fully independent special counsel must be appointed to lead this investigation. At this point, no one in Trump’s chain of command can be trusted to carry out an impartial investigation.

“The president would do well to remember that in America, the truth always comes out.”

May 6, 2017 06:50 PM

Servando Lomeli, photo courtesy Damyhana Lomeli
 

Damyhana Lomeli lives in an average looking home in an average looking subdivision in Creswell, Oregon. The walls have classic motivational stencils: “live, laugh, love” and “home, memories, laughter.” Pictures around the house show a happy family. The family’s rambunctious pitbull and regal cat greet visitors sweetly.

Damyhana Lomeli and her family are distraught and desperate. Her husband Servando Lomeli Ramirez, who originally came to the U.S. illegally as a 16-year-old, is being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Tacoma, Washington.

 

ICE has indicated to his wife that Servando Lomeli’s deportation is imminent. She worries that it will happen as soon as May 9, and she has no idea what she’ll do without her husband and the household's sole breadwinner.

 

Servando Lomeli is facing deportation for illegal reentry after he was deported for a crime he says he didn't commit, one that has since been vacated from his record. According to Damyhana Lomeli, he reentered to take care of his son whose mother neglected their child and struggled with drug abuse. Servando Lomeli has held the same job at a local manufacturing company for over 20 years and has received support from the community who call him a loyal father and trustworthy worker.

 

The couple has been married since 2013. Today, Damyhana is on the phone with Servando, who makes expensive collect calls every day from the ICE’s detention center in Tacoma. He speaks mostly Spanish in a hushed voice. “I am fighting for my family,” Servando Lomeli says, “my kids, my wife and my pets are all I have.”

 

He provides the sole income for his household, which includes his wife and two sons ages 15 and 17. Servando Lomeli is 43 years old. Both of his sons have struggled with developmental and behavioral disabilities. He has sole custody of both of his children, who are estranged from their respective mothers.

 

Lomeli’s initial deportation in 2002

Servando Lomeli was deported by ICE in 2002 for a crime that was vacated and removed from his record in 2015 by the Lane County Circuit Court. He was previously held by ICE in 2013 and 2016 and received temporary relief from removal each time because of the circumstances of his case and the importance of his presence to his family.

 

Servando Lomeli is from Tecoman in the Colima state of Mexico. The U.S. State Department restricts the travel of government personnel in the area and advises that “U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to this border region, including the city of Tecoman.” In 1991 Servando fled the area, which is infamous for cartel violence and methamphetamine production.

 

In 2001, the mother of Servando’s eldest son, who was just an infant then, called police and said that he had physically abused her. Servando Lomeli was arrested and charged with two counts of felony assault.

 

The accuser and a friend who was present have somewhat divergent versions of what happened though each say he struck her as she defended herself with a knife. Each also allege that there was a history of abuse, though no previous charges had been filed.

 

Servando Lomeli says that he slapped his ex once after she slashed at him twice with the knife. He says that the argument ensued after he came home from work to find his child neglected and the mother on drugs. Both he and his current wife say that he is not abusive.

 

Though Servando has maintained his innocence, he took the advice of his court appointed lawyer and pled guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. After serving time in jail he was deported by ICE to Mexico in 2002. After one failed border crossing attempt, he reentered the United States illegally in 2003.

 

'A sympathetic case'

Eugene-based immigration attorney Raquel Hecht provided legal assistance to Servando Lomeli in 2013 and later in 2016 when ICE took him into custody based on his illegal reentry. Servando was granted stays of deportation each time because of the hardships that would be incurred on his family and his child’s status as a victim of a crime. Since his release in 2013, Servando Lomeli has had to do monthly check-ins with ICE.

 

Hecht took issue with the latest statement ICE provided to the family that said that Servando’s file had been reviewed, that there was nothing wrong with his 2002 deportation order and that they will continue with deportation proceedings for Servando. Hecht says, “I don’t agree that there’s no defect, he is eligible for relief that he didn’t get.”

 

“It’s a sympathetic case because he’s a good man and doesn’t deserve anything that happened to him,” Hecht says. She says that he should be able to contest his deportation because the cause for him being deported in the first place has now been dismissed. “He should have the chance to argue his case to a judge.”

 

“Servando is somebody they should be leaving alone,” Hecht says. “He has no actual crimes, in fact his kids have been victims.”

 

An attorney at ICE said that she was unable to speak about the case and referred Eugene Weekly to the public affairs office. ICE's public affairs office did not answer or return a call and message during stated business hours before this story was uploaded.

 

Neglect of Lomeli’s son

Servando Lomeli reentered the United States in 2003. Since his re-entry Servando has not had any run-ins with law enforcement and returned to his job at a local manufacturing company. He came back to the U.S. because he worried for the safety of his son. These fears proved to be founded when the mother was charged with neglect later that year. Lomeli has two sons with different mothers, his current wife, Damyhana Lomeli, is not the biological mother of either one.

 

In 2003, police responded to a call that Servando Lomeli’s son, who was 3 at the time and living with his ex, was wandering around the neighborhood wearing only a diaper. Neighbors said that seeing him outside unsupervised was not uncommon and that they had called because he was close to traffic, and they were afraid he might get hurt.

 

When police arrived on the scene they saw the 3-year-old boy standing by the back door of the home. Upon entering the house through an unlocked door the police made contact with the boy’s mom.

 

According to the officer’s report, upon entering the house they observed “clothes, shoes, beer bottles, cigarettes, dirt, old food, and bugs” on the floor. As they were speaking with the mother the officers saw the child, “walk to the kitchen and start to eat old, rotten food off of the floor.” The officers had to stop the child several times from eating the rotten food.

 

Upon further inspection of the house, officers found a plastic bottle that the mother admitted was used for smoking methamphetamine and said she smokes methamphetamine when the child is in the house and that another man had smoked meth in the house on that same day. She said she had last used methamphetamine the day before.

 

After this incident the child, Lomeli’s eldest son, entered state custody.

 

Prior charges against Lomeli dismissed

The domestic violence charges against Servando Lomeli were vacated by a Lane County Circuit Court Judge in 2016. Court documents state that the charges were dismissed because: “The state of the evidence is such that the material element of the crime cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

 

The attorney who helped Servando get the charges dismissed is Richard Brissenden. Brissenden is currently a Florence Municipal Court Judge, and for nearly 30 years he has worked on cases of domestic violence. Brissenden has served on the Lane County Domestic Violence Council for seventeen years.

 

Brissenden says the conviction was vacated because Servando Lomeli was not properly represented and made aware of his rights and because “the evidence was not very strong in this case.” He also sees Servando’s returning to the United States as an act of compassion for his developmentally disabled son who was living with a mother struggling with drug addiction. “It says a lot to his credit that he came back to take care of his family,” Brissenden says.

 

After a few years working and staying out of trouble, Servando Lomeli was able to reunite with his sons.

 

Servando got full legal custody of his eldest son in 2009 and of his younger son in 2011. The only time he has not been their caretaker since is when he was detained by ICE. In both of these instances the family struggled to get by in his absence.

 

When he was detained for two months last summer his wife and children were left homeless without his income which they depend on. Servando’s wife has several disabilities that prevent her from working according to documents from physicians included in his immigration case file.

 

Support from school, church community and family

While the claims made by his accuser in the 2001 assault case paint Servando Lomeli in a negative light, statements from school officials, community members, his sons and his longtime employer depict Servando as a dedicated father and upstanding citizen. Statements from his immigration case file also describe Servando as a dedicated father, man of faith and reliable worker.

 

When Servando was detained by ICE in 2013, the special education teacher for his younger son at Douglas Gardens Elementary in Springfield wrote a letter describing Servando as an engaged dad who attended all of his son’s meetings and conferences and actively engaged to help his son overcome his behavioral obstacles.

 

In the statement Rachelle Depner points out the growth of Lomeli’s younger son since he had been in Servando Lomeli’s care. She also states her concern that “the absence of his father is likely going to cause a great emotional hardship” for the son. She writes, “Servando’s support has been an asset in helping [his son] make progress in behavior and academics.”

 

As part of Lomeli’s 2016 application for a U-nonimmigrant visa, the pastor of Lomeli’s church had high praise for Servando Lomeli’s character. He describes Servando as a “good man, devoted husband, and father,.” He also describes Servando as a “selfless, humble and a man of strong faith.” In the statement the pastor of his Eugene church says Servando, “is a man of good moral character and does not deserve to be torn from his family.”

 

In a letter handwritten in 2013 that starts with “Dear United States,” Servando Lomeli’s eldest son, who was 13 at the time and has been diagnosed as autistic, pleads for his dad to be released from ICE custody. In the letter his son writes about how he misses his dad and needs him to take of their family. He writes, “For the first time since I was a little kid my life finally seemed normal like everybody elses.”

 

In the letter he asks, “Why does a piece of paper got to ruin my life! I am very scared and confused and want my dad. He is the only one who takes care of me and I need him here. Please, he is the best and I love him.”

 

During the same detention Lomeli’s younger son wrote, “I miss my dad very much. I cry for him every night. I am scared.”

 

Longtime employer supports Lomeli

While his kids obviously love their dad, his employers, who have known him since he was a teenager, respect him and value the role he plays in their company.

 

“Servando has worked for us for more than 20 years” says his employer, who prefers to only give her last name, Parmenter, to protect her company. “We would like to see hard-working people like him have a clear pathway to citizenship,” she says, “it’s inhumane to take him away from his kids and family that depend on him.”

 

The company says that they do not knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and also states that all of their employees pay income taxes. Eugene Weekly has seen a copy of a 1040 form showing that Servando Lomeli has paid income taxes.

 

“I’m 100 percent for people who are doing bad things like hurting people and selling drugs being deported,” Parmenter says. She says that many of the immigrants who work for the company, “are just hard working people that contribute to our society.”

 

She says that over the two decades she has known Servando Lomeli she has known him to be a reliable no-nonsense guy who is dedicated to his family and an asset to her company.

 

“It needs to be out there how much immigrants contribute,” Parmenter says. She adds that many of her Latino employees are hard-working and honest and more reliably pass the drug tests that her company requires.                 

 

An uncertain future

Damyhana Lomeli is at or near the point of tears whenever she talks about her husband and her fears of him being deported. She has had a checkered past and struggled with legal problems, health issues and addiction. Damyhana admits, “I’m no angel.”

 

But for her and for Servando’s children, he has been the one stable and reliable thing in their life. “He saved me,” she says, “he’s always tried to get me to do the right thing.”

 

“I am so scared right now,” Damyhana Lomeli says, “I have no idea what we will do without him.”

 

Update: Damyhana Lomeli tells EW that Servando is coming home today, May 12. For an updated version of this story go here.

May 2, 2017 09:57 AM

 

About 50 people gathered in downtown Eugene today for a May Day rally in support of workers and immigrants.

 

Phil Carrasco, a local Latino community and labor organizer, says the rally “was to celebrate our workers.”

 

“We want to make sure that we are talking about the least fortunate among us,” Carrasco says. “The one’s that get the types of jobs that everyone says — American’s don’t want to do those jobs.”

 

The rally featured speakers from the Latino community, who highlighted the problems faced by immigrant workers.

 

“This is not so much a time to focus on Donald Trump,” Johanis Tadeo says. “This is the stuff that we have been facing before Donald Trump, this is a time to focus on ourselves and grow within ourselves as a community.”

 

Tadeo is the organizer of Springfield/Eugene’s City Wide MEChA and a community organizer at Community Alliance of Lane County.

 

Ali Doerr says that it is important for her to support this cause and the activists fighting for immigrant and labor rights. She attended the demonstration to show her support for the immigrant community. Doerr says, “because I have white privilege I feel like I need to stand up and show my support.” Doerr is a senior studying Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon.

 

While the rally did garner some friendly honks and thumbs-ups, there was one man in a gray SUV who heckled the demonstrators yelling “build the wall” as he drove by. No one responded to the taunt.

 

Unlike May Day rallies in Portland, Paris and around the world, Eugene's rally stayed peaceful.

 

Alex Aguilar, a Springfield high school student and youth coordinator for City Wide MECha, emphasized the importance of raising a voice for those who cannot. “We’ve been sleeping too much,” Aguilar says. “We need to speak for people who can’t because they might be scared to speak up.”

 

Carrasco says he was happy with the turnout and is looking forward to seeing the May Day event grow in the future.

 

“It would have been nice to have 7,000 people, that would have been awesome,” Carrasco says. “But as long as we are getting the message out to people that is what’s important.”

 

May 1, 2017 03:22 PM

The Lane County Board majority plans to vote on Tuesday, May 2,  to "join a group of development industries, from gravel mining onward, in suing FEMA to stop hard-won environmental gains in floodplain habitat protections," according to an email from Kevin Matthews, a former and, he says, future for the East Lane County commissioner seat.

The email, and call to action, that Matthews sent it below.

In their Tuesday morning meeting, the Lane County Board majority plans to vote to join a group of development industries, from gravel mining onward, in suing FEMA to stop hard-won environmental gains in floodplain habitat protections.

Please come if you can to Harris Hall at 9am on Tuesday, May 2, 2017 to tell the county commissioners:

   "PLEASE STOP WASTING COUNTY STAFF TIME AND DOLLARS TO HURT
    WILD SALMON.  LET THE HOMEBUILDERS AND GRAVEL MINERS PAY
    FOR THEIR OWN ANTI-ENVIRONMENTAL LAWSUIT."

That's the bottom line.

The details get complicated ― not by accident ― so here's a bit of summary.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), run by FEMA, subsidizes risky and damaging floodplain development by providing public insurance for development in flood-prone areas.

You mean, regular folks can't get government insurance against cancer, even at cost, but developers can get subsidized public insurance for building where it's too dangerous otherwise?

Yup. But I digress .. .sort of.

Anyway, "in 2010 FEMA entered into a settlement agreement with Audubon Society of Portland, North West Environmental Defense Center, the National Wildlife Federation, and Association of Northwest Steelheaders. FEMA accepted the concerns raised by the environmental groups and agreed to initiate consultation with the NMFS" on floodplain development changes to protect fish and orcas.

Finally, "in April of 2016, NMFS released a final Biological Opinion regarding FEMA’s implementation of the NFIP in Oregon (the Oregon BiOp). ...NOAA Fisheries outlined a 6 separate Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPAs) to ensure FEMA’s implementation of the NFIP avoids further harm to listed species."

In response to FEMA moving forward toward implementing the "Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives," a group of industry associations is now planning to sue FEMA.  Their grounds for suing appear to mostly be the standard laundry list of process complaints that get used over and over to delay environmental protections.

If Lane County signs on to hurt salmon, their local government participation will give the industry groups political cover and improved standing for their delay tactics.

Come and speak up on Tuesday morning, if you can, and let the commissioners know you're watching!

Let them know you agree with Portland Audubon that we care about our salmon, plus, "this issue is not just about salmon habitat. It's also about getting people out of harm's way, reducing taxpayer expenses due to flood  damage, and preparing for increased stormwater due to climate change.”

One of the most dangerous things about the Trump agenda is that it's really just the standard GOP big shots agenda, with a flashy presentation.  Resistance starts at home.

Speak up for Lane County!

May 1, 2017 09:02 PM

Amid charges from Native Americans of cultural appropriation, the Oregon Country Fair board of directors changed course and voted Monday night to cancel the planned raising of a “story pole” done in Native style on the fair’s property in Veneta.

The unanimous vote from the 12-member board followed a tense and sometimes contentious hour-long hearing at which Natives from a variety of Northwest tribes denounced the planned pole – an 8,000-pound, 36-foot cedar pole that was to be topped by a carved flamingo and would feature LED lights – as “cultural genocide.”

“Custer died for your sins!” shouted one Native woman from the back of the room, which was filled to bursting with about 80 people.

The Fair board approved the project in 2016 but had apparently not consulted local tribes about the story pole. It was to have been erected at Ritz Sauna and Showers, a popular station at the Fair for four decades that has been run by a group calling itself the Flamingo Clan.

The pole, which was shipped here from British Columbia, is being carved by Brad Bolton, who has used the widely popular iconography of Northwest tribes for more than two decades in his work. “A lot of people have come by and said they enjoyed it, Natives and Anglos alike,” he told the hearing. “We’re not claiming that we’re Natives. We’re not saying this is a Native pole.”

Instead, speakers explained, the contemporary pole adapts the Native story-pole medium to tell the story of Ritz Sauna and to memorialize four Fair members – two from Ritz Sauna – who were killed in an airplane crash in 2012.

An Indiegogo fundraising page says the project has raised more than $20,000 towards a goal of $46,000.

Native speakers at the hearing were not persuaded that the pole's mission outweighed its cultural appropriation.

“I would not go to my sister’s tribe and make whatever I wanted of theirs,” said Rowena Jackson, who identified herself as affiliated with the Klamath, Modoc and Paiute tribes. “That is the last thing I could ever do to my sister.”

Jackson addressed Bolton sympathetically. “I’m really glad to meet you,” she said. “I’m sure you’re one of the most artistic people in this community.”

Shaken and looking chastised, Bolton said after the board’s vote he had no idea what was going to happen now with the story pole.

EW will follow this post with a more in-depth story in our print edition. Read an earlier story in Willamette Week here.

April 25, 2017 09:36 AM

First up, on  Saturday, April 29, it’s the Lane County Master Gardener Association Plant Sale from 9 am to 3 pm, next to the ice rink at the Lane County Fairgrounds. This is typically a huge sale offering all kinds trees, shrubs, flowers and veggie starts.

Then 9 am to 1 pm, Saturday, May 6, it’s Friends of Buford Park and Mount Pisgah Native Plant Sale at the Buford Park Nursery (the printed version of my recent column about this nursery gave the wrong date). This sale offers natives only, lovingly grown at the nursery from seed gathered in the greater Mount Pisgah area: some shrubs, lots of forbs, grasses.

The two sales on Saturday, May 13, are timed so you can visit both. The Hardy Plant Sale, sponsored by the Willamette Valley Hardy Plant Group, is 9 am to 2 pm at the Lane County Fairgrounds. More than 20 vendors, a mix of nonprofits and commercial nurseries from all over Oregon, offer a rich selection of ornamental trees, shrubs and perennials, some natives and a smattering of annuals and veggie starts.

And the same day, 10 am to 5 pm, Food for Lane County’s Summer Plant Sale is  at the Urban Youth Farm, 705 Flamingo Avenue, Springfield. Veggie, flower and herb starts in small sizes include 65 varieties of tomato, 25 sunflowers, 35 peppers, etc. And music!

Tree peony

April 20, 2017 03:44 PM

A pair of self-proclaimed white nationalist Springfield men caused a brief uproar on University of Oregon campus the morning of Thursday, April 20, as they celebrated what they called the “birthday party for Adolf Hitler.” Today is the Nazi leader’s birthday. The duo spread white supremacy ideologies in front of students.

 

Jimmy Marr, a well-known racist and anti-Semite who goes by @GenocideJimmy on Twitter, was accompanied by a man identified as “Chad.” The demonstration, which happened in front of the Erb Memorial Union, quickly attracted around 60 to 80 students, according to UO police estimates.  

 

Marr drives a swastika-emblazoned truck with controversial messages on its tailgate. His truck has been spotted various places in Oregon with sayings such as “Jews Lies Matter” and “Trump: Do The White Thing.”

 

This time, his tailgate reads: “No more terror. No more war. America, stop being Israel’s whore.”

 

While Marr playing the bagpipes in the back of his truck, Chad interacted with students, spreading anti-Semitic messages that were met with much opposition from students.

 

UO student and president of The Young Democratic Socialists group on campus, Xander Berenstein, says he felt strongly against the demonstration as a Jewish person.

 

“From a cultural and political standpoint, direct opposition is an understatement,” Berenstein says.

 

As a Eugene native, Berenstein has seen Marr around and thinks that Marr’s action today is a tactic to create chaos.

 

“It is their day job — they go from campus to campus to provoke people to cross the line and use violence, so that they could paint the picture that they are being attacked.”

 

In the midst of argument between Marr and Chad and students, Rabbi Jack Melul, who runs the Jewish educational and social group Akiva on campus, started to sing “The Jewish people are still alive” in Hebrew. Several students joined Melul.

 

UO police responded immediately to the scene to prevent any possible escalation, Sgt. Scott Geeting says, but they took no action against Marr and Chad. The pair left voluntarily after about 45 minutes on campus.

 

“They know exactly what they were doing, because they had run into law enforcement before,” Geeting says referring to Marr’s arrest last September for blasting offensive speech with an amplifier on the roof of his house in Springfield during a Stop Hate! Rally.

 

Marr also used to be a guest speaker of Pacifica Forum at UO, a group that was removed from campus after it became a hate group.  

 

Geeting says the UO Police Department is always on the lookout for hate crime, but he hasn’t noticed any unusual uptick within the campus area. — Tran Nguyen

 

Screenshot of Marr on campus from his Twitter feed

April 14, 2017 03:26 PM

Sometimes a bad crowd can ruin a live performance. Luckily, Whitney is too talented of a band to let that happen.

The Chicago-based indie-rock group played an April 13 show at WOW Hall and, unfortunately, the crowd was pretty damn bad. From constant loud talking during the quiet opening set to shouting drunken obscenities at the main act throughout the entirety of their performance, it seemed as though we were transported out of the dark corridor of WOW Hall to a rowdy, crowded campus bar.

It was clear most of the audience, at least those people near the front of the stage, had never been in a concert setting like this before — or, if they had, at least had never practiced basic, respectful concert etiquette.

Both acts held their on-stage composure though. New York-based singer and guitarist Julie Byrne played a serene opening set, acoustic and solo for the first part of it, and eventually joined by accompanying band members on violin and synth. Although beautiful, Byrne’s full and warm vocals were continuously crowded out by audience conversations, with some people even turning their backs to the stage in order to better address their groups of friends.

Luckily, the audience was much more engaged for Whitney, although not much quieter.

Though at times irritating, the crowd response was not surprising. Whitney produces the type of music that is inevitably likeable — by all types of people. No matter the content, from heart-wrenching love songs to nostalgic ballads about loneliness, the band’s material is always accompanied by an underlying sense of hopefulness and light, floating upon upbeat trumpet, keys and lead singer-drummer Julien Ehrlich’s flowery vocals. The first comparable instance of a live show experience that came to mind — sharply, in the moment when I saw a yelling drunk guy perched upon his friend’s shoulders — was Mac DeMarco’s show at Cozmic Pizza two years ago. Although the crowd was nowhere as bad as DeMarco’s sold-out show, which included people carelessly dropping pint glasses on the ground and drunken patrons yelling at the band to come to their frat parties, the experiences were definitely parallel.

DeMarco’s music is equally well-liked by both indie music-aficionados, who probably own all of his releases on first-press vinyl, and frat bros, who like to blast his tunes whilst playing beer pong on a sunny day — which can be said for Whitney as well. But this is in no way a bad thing.

Maybe I’m just cynical and jaded for disliking parts of the crowd on Thursday night, but, although disrespectful, it was clear those audience members were having a ton of fun. Whitney, inarguably, makes the type of music that brings people together. From college-aged ladies dancing to “No Woman” like they were on a table outside of Taylor’s in the summertime, to dudes bumping into their buddies and yelling the “na-na-na” part of “Golden Days” at their top of their lungs, Whitney is the type of band whose live performance has the power to make you forget about all your worries, at least until the night’s over. All photos by Todd Cooper