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June 12, 2017 10:05 AM

PUBLIC TRUST

Only a dozen residents attended the May 22 Department of Environmental Quality Meeting regarding groundwater contamination of the Trainsong and River Road neighborhoods. This clearly is a message of either poor public notification or the apathy of residents whose private water wells have been tainted for 25 years. 

Since 1990, DEQ has been investigating groundwater and soil contamination from the Union Pacific Railroad rail yard in the Trainsong and River Road neighborhoods. DEQ's plan is to monitor 15 test water wells for five years and to manage risks to site workers through on site controls and deed restrictions.

The Public Trust Doctrine, in existence since the Roman Empire, states governments have a sovereign duty to protect the assets of the public. The natural resource contamination of groundwater and soils by Union Pacific Railroad violates this trust, and the DEQ has a fiduciary responsibility to protect the trust from substantial impairment and restore these assets to their original state.

The natural resources of Eugene are part of the reason we live here, and they should be protected for present and future generations. From herbicidal aerial spraying to polluting industrial practices, residents have a responsibility to demand protection of air, groundwater, soils, shores, waterways and watersheds.

Contact DEQ at Hanson.don@deq.state.or.us before June 15 to submit questions and comments.

 Jim Neu

Eugene

June 1, 2017 12:00 PM

President Donald Trump today announced his intention to pull out of the Paris Accords. According to the United Nations, the Paris Agreement "for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort."

Trump intends to leave that course.

Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, released a statement saying: “This decision may be a win for Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt and those who share their extremist views, but it’s a loss for everyone else. If completed, Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement will put the United States in the company of only two other nations on earth that do not belong to the pact: Nicaragua, which believes the agreement doesn’t go far enough, and Syria, which is in the midst of a horrific civil war."

The Western Environmental Law Center weighed in with, ""History will not look kindly on Trump," said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. "His reckless decision cedes U.S. leadership and credibility on the world stage. But it's worse than that. Trump's decision is morally reprehensible, risking great suffering to all, but in particular to our most vulnerable wildlands, wildlife, and communities."

May 31, 2017 03:34 PM

A May 30 press release from the Oregon Territory Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists warns that a bill that would affect government transparency is stuck in the House Rules Committee as the end of the Legislative session draws near. See the full release below.

SALEM -- The Oregon Territory Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is alarmed that lawmakers could miss a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create lasting change for open government.

House Bill 2101, which would provide for extra analysis and notice of bills that affect government transparency, is still stuck in the House Rules Committee, with the July 10 end of the legislative session looming. The -18 amendment that would provide the guts of the bill has broad stakeholder support and would would set up a balanced, nonpartisan committee to update and simplify Oregon’s confusing thicket of more than 550 records-law exemptions.

“The overwhelming majority of Oregonians want their government to be open and accountable. There has been very little opposition to this bill, but it has not received a hearing,” said Shasta Kearns Moore, SPJ Oregon’s sunshine chair.

SPJ Oregon spearheaded the concept — supported by Gov. Kate Brown and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson — to add the creation of an Oregon Sunshine Committee to the bill. The concept is also supported by former Deputy Attorney General Pete Shepherd, the statewide transparency group Open Oregon, the ACLU of Oregon, Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG), the Oregon Environmental Council, the Portland NAACP and about 10 other nonprofit public interest groups.

The Sunshine Committee would give the public a seat at the table during exemption review as already happens in Washington, Virginia, New York, Maine and Tennessee.

House Bill 2101 would also create Open Government Impact Statements for bills moving through the legislature. This means, every bill that has the potential to close off public access to information would get a statement on the arguments for and against creating more secrecy.

“Oregon has an opportunity with this bill to make a huge leap forward for transparency in the state at negligible cost. We hope the legislature takes it,” Kearns Moore said.

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 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!

April 11, 2017 04:27 PM

On April 11, Rep. Peter DeFazion, ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Rick Larsen of Washington, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen sent a letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Elaine Chao, requesting any findings from DOT’s review of the April 9 incident that occurred on United Airlines Flight 3411. A copy of the letter was sent to United CEO Oscar Munoz.

 

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary Chao:

We write to express our serious concerns regarding an April 9, 2017, incident aboard United Airlines Flight 3411 from Chicago, Illinois, to Louisville, Kentucky. Countless news reports depict a passenger being forcibly removed from the United Airlines aircraft before departure allegedly due to the airline’s overbooking of the flight and need to accommodate its own airline staff. If news reports are accurate, the treatment of this passenger by United Airlines is not only outrageous, but is unacceptable.

Overbooking is too common of a practice among many commercial airlines like United Airlines. While overbooking is not illegal, we are deeply disturbed by the actions taken aboard Flight 3411 to deal with the situation. As you know, Federal regulations require airlines to take certain steps if they bump passengers involuntarily. Beyond these baseline requirements, however, we believe United Airlines had a number of options to rectify its own scheduling error, while treating its customers with the respect they deserve. For example, United Airlines could have offered increased monetary incentives to encourage other passengers to give up their seats voluntarily or even chartered a plane for United Airlines staff if it was that critical for them to reach Louisville.

We understand the Department of Transportation (DOT) is looking into the incident, and would like to know what DOT finds, including whether Federal law or regulations were violated during the April 9 incident aboard Flight 3411, as well as whether United Airlines’ contract of carriage or overbooking policy meets all applicable Federal standards.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

  Sincerely,

PETER DeFAZIO                                                                  RICK LARSEN

Ranking Member                                                                    Ranking Member

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure                   Subcommittee on Aviation

 

 

 

 

April 6, 2017 01:47 PM

Nothing says "public lands" like coal, right?

The Bureau of Land Management featured a lovely photo of hikers from sometime in November through at least April 2, according to a seach on the Wayback Machine. 

But nothing says American values the outdoors and public lands like a shot of a coal seam at the Peabody North Antelope Rochelle Mine in Wyoming. With the photo itself supplied by Peabody. The mine is the "world's largest coal mine in the world by reserve," according to MiningTechnology.com

Is the BLM under Ryan Zinke celebrating Peabody Energy emerging from bankruptcy?  Or did the public lands agency suddenly get super-down with the "joys of climate change? See more over at the Huffington Post

For some reason this gives me flashbacks to the "Clean Coal Carolers" campaign.

 

March 21, 2017 08:55 AM

Longtime County Commissioner Faye Stewart announced he is stepping down from the Lane County Board of Commissioners. He will be taking a position in the Cottage Grove, according to a press release sent out March 21.

The release says:

Commissioner Faye Stewart announced today that he is stepping down from his elected office in order to take a position with the City of Cottage Grove as the director of Public Works and Development.

“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Stewart. “Cottage Grove has been home to my family for generations and the success of its community is incredibly important to me. I am grateful to be able to continue serving this community in a new role.”

Stewart  has been a conservative vote on the conservative learning board since 2004. He will leave in April and the release says that Stewart’s current term ends in 2019. The Board of Commissioners will discuss the application process and timeline for appointing someone to complete Stewart’s term during the April 4 meeting.

Stewart's challenger in the last election, Kevin Matthews, had already announced plans to run for Stewart's seat in the 2019 election.

Matthews tells EW via email:

I wish Faye well in his new position. Given the nine-votes-out-of-15,000 ballots scare we gave them the last time around, I imagine the old-school majority of the Lane County Board will be looking to appoint someone they think will run well against me in the upcoming May, 2018 election.

Whoever they choose to stand for the Republican side, I'll keep fighting with the people for our local communities, including jobs and education, to restore integrity to Lane County government, including transparency, accountability, and public safety, and to build real prosperity from the ground upward, including protection of our clean water & old growth forest.

 
March 15, 2017 04:27 PM

The city of Eugene announced in a press release today (see below) that City Councilor George Poling has resigned from his Ward 4 seat and suggested former Ward 6 City Councilor Jennifer Solomon be appointed in his place.

City Councilor George Poling Announces His Resignation After More Than 14 Years of Service

At today’s City Council meeting, Councilor George Poling, Ward 4, announced his resignation effective April 10, 2017. Councilor Poling was elected four times to four-year terms. He took office in 2003 was in his fifteenth year of service. Prior to being a City Councilor, Poling was a law enforcement officer for approximately 30 years.

Councilor Poling made the announcement at the beginning of today’s meeting, stating that “after 45 years of public service, it’s time to fully enjoy my retirement. At my age now, I want to take advantage of that while I still have reasonably good health.”

Poling said it has been a pleasure working with his “fellow councilors, past and present, and Eugene’s dedicated and professional staff. I’m very proud of the staff we have.” He continued, “To my constituents of Ward 4, I want to express my thanks and sincere appreciation for the privilege you have afforded me to represent you for these many years. You are the best.” He also thanked his wife, Glenda, and family for their support.

Other City Councilors at the meeting as well as Mayor Vinis each offered their appreciation and admiration for Poling’s contributions to the council and his example. Several noted that when they began, they looked to Councilor Poling as a model of how to behave as a member of the City Council. Councilor Mike Clark said, “I hope that the people of our community truly understand the amount that you’ve given over many more than 15 years to serve our community and to serve the public. What an honor it’s been to serve with you and we’re going to miss you at this table, but you’ve earned the opportunity to rest a bit.”

Poling’s term runs until January of 2019. The City Charter states that within 90 days of the resignation, Council will appoint someone to fill the remainder of the term. The process for filling a vacancy on the City Council may include publicizing the opportunity, taking applications, conducting interviews and then making an appointment.

As has been done when there were previous vacancies, Councilor Poling made a recommendation regarding someone he thinks would be good to fill the position. Poling recommended former City Councilor Jennifer Solomon, who served two terms as councilor for Ward 6 from 2003 – 2011.

March 13, 2017 02:38 PM

Irony noted please: Downtown Eugene, Inc., of the DWN TWN EUG promotion fame, has a list of downtown businesses it's promoting on its website, including Voodoo Doughnut. Voodoo features a "Happy National Dog Day" doughnut against its customary hot pink background.

But thanks to the city's new downtown dog ban, you can't walk your dog downtown to Voodoo Doughnut, at least until November. 

The ban takes effect 30 days from the March 8 Eugene City Council meeting it was voted on.

March 7, 2017 06:29 PM

Eugene Weekly — an award-winning alternative newspaper in the beautiful Pacific Northwest — seeks a calendar editor with a writer’s sensibility to edit EW’s “What’s Happening” calendar. Our calendar fills in Lane County on the area’s vibrant arts, music, political, entertainment and everything-in-between scene. 

EW is looking for a person who can handle the doldrums of data entry and information management (the bulk of the job) but is hoping to move up to a career in feature writing and news or news reporting.

The calendar editor should be excited to highlight both highbrow and grassroots events in the community in short, fun blurbs each week in addition to the data entry.

The ideal candidate will be highly interested in news or arts reporting and current events, as well as be organized, detail-oriented, determined and versatile. Infinite amounts of patience, good office communication skills and the ability to deal with the public are key.

Copyediting abilities are a plus. Must not be married to the Oxford comma. The position starts as soon as it’s filled.

We’re a small feisty office with a fierce dedication to covering community issues with an alternative flare. 

This opportunity comes with a $15 an hour salary, excellent non-financial perks (mainly free food, kombucha and endless coffee).

The job is a full-time position with benefits, including health insurance. Send résumé, cover letter and three writing clips by March 13 to editor@eugeneweekly.com.EW is an equal opportunity employer. 

March 6, 2017 03:49 PM

The newly formed group: Intersectional People’s Network of Eugene/Springfield, Disrupt! Eugene and So Just Collective present "A Rally for International Women and Women Aligned Day" 6 pm, Wednesday, March 8, at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza to celebrate “International Women’s Day."

Full press release is below. More info at http://disrupteugene.com/

 

 

Eugene, Ore., March 4, 2017 - Intersectional People’s Network of Eugene/Springfield (a newly forming community organizing group), Disrupt! Eugene, and So Just Collective present A Rally for International Women and Women Aligned Day at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza this coming Wednesday, March 8th at 6:00 p.m., to celebrate “International Women’s Day,” as the groups take time to honor women and transfeminine people across all intersectionalities, as a community.

They will gather to celebrate and center the lives and experiences of women of color, transgender, queer, disabled, indigenous, and immigrant women, and nonbinary people who are woman aligned. The three groups support and recognize the intersectionality of "womanhood" and that many identify more with an adjective that precedes the word “woman.” This event will have an anti-racist framework to give voice to those who have been underrepresented or misrepresented.

Ashanti Gilbert, one of the event’s organizers, says, “As an African American woman living in Eugene, I felt there was a need for marginalized groups of women’s voices to be heard and celebrated from our own perspectives, whether immigrant, women of color, Muslim, disabled, or woman-aligned. Much of the organizing that happens here in Eugene usually is centered on the voices of white women. While I appreciate their efforts, many of us are not afforded the freedom to identify as just ‘woman.’ We are mostly identified by the adjective before woman, that is, Black woman, Muslim woman, disabled woman, et cetera. In conjunction with International Women's Day, we celebrate those intersections."

February 23, 2017 05:06 PM

Actual press release from the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association posted without comment.

OREGON DAIRY FARMERS CONVENTION FOCUSES ON THE CONTRIBUTION OF DAIRY WIVES

Oregon Dairy Farmers Association Convention Focus on Issues Including Dairy Wives who bring so much to their Dairy Farm Operations 

The Oregon Dairy Farmers Association hosted a two day convention at the Salem Convention Center on February 20-21

A panel of well-informed women spoke candidly about the joys and struggles of dairy farming during a convention workshop Monday afternoon.

Attendees heard four farm wives share their experiences of working in the dairy industry. It can be trying when frictions in the barns hit home, they said.

"It's super hard to see my son get yelled at by his dad," said Susan Pierson, a fourth-generation farmer. As both mother and wife, she is often a sounding board when things get overheated. "I have to do a lot of listening and not a lot of talking. But later I might say something to my husband like, 'You know, you were a little hard on him..."

"I feel like I'm in the middle a lot," said Julie Lourenzo, who shares the workload with her husband and other family members. When conflict arises, "I talk to both sides and try to work it out."

"I brought a husband into the job," said panel moderator Bobbi Frost, who is familiar with that uncomfortable space between the spouse you love and the parents who raised you. The audience responded to a frank discussion about whether the panelists encouraged their children to pursue farming.

Sarah Rocha, mother of four boys, said she chose to allow her children to find their path. "The more you push, the more they push back," she said.

Rocha runs the calf operation on a farm with 600-650 cows and 150 goats.

"I pushed my sons away from the dairy," said Pierson, an organic farmer for 12 years. But as it was with other panelists, some children decide to join the family business after a time. Of one son she said, "All of a sudden he came to us and said he wanted to come back."

In response to a question about when how to draw the line between work and family time, Lourenzo said she knows she has reached her limit when she begins to voice complaints. "If you are going to complain, it's a sign you are doing too much," she said.

A highlight of the breakout session was when moderator Frost, who brought along her 11-month-old daughter, Max, to the convention, said she "felt like Superman" on a day when she completed her work while toting an infant around the farm.

Then she provided the quote of the afternoon with an observation about childbirth.

"One day my husband said to me that getting hit in the nuts is worse than having a baby. " How so, she wondered?

"You want another baby, right?" he said. "But you don't hear me saying I want someone to hit me in the nuts again."

The Oregon Dairy Farmers Association is located in Salem. The Association has been proudly serving Oregon's Dairy farmers since 1892.

 

February 22, 2017 03:29 PM

In an update sent to Lane Community College faculty and staff today, LCC president Mary Spilde reminds that that a sanctuary policy was passed by the LCC board in February and says, "In the unlikely event that anyone from any federal agency shows up in a classroom or office they should be directed to the President's Office."

The portions of the president's message that relate to immigration are below.

Resolution on the Protection, Safety and Sanctuary of All Students

You may be aware that the board of education passed a resolution on the Protection, Safety and Sanctuary of All Students at the February meeting. The resolution is attached. We are now working on developing board policy that embeds some of the elements of the resolution. We plan to have first readings in March.

In the meantime, I'd like to provide some guidance. In the unlikely event that anyone from any federal agency shows up in a classroom or office they should be directed to the President's Office. Our staff is developing a protocol to review credentials and warrants or subpoenas.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently updated its FAQs on the "Sensitive Locations Policy." In the past colleges and universities were listed as places to avoid for enforcement activities. The update does not appear to change this practice. Please remember also that FERPA protects student information and representatives of the college are not to provide any information about our students’ schedules, attendance, grades, etc. to anyone not authorized to receive it. If something happens after hours, please send the individual(s) to Public Safety.

At this time this scenario is highly unlikely. DHS guidance released on Tuesday does not appear to target “Dreamers” or DACA students but, of course, their families will likely be impacted as these enforcement actions ramp up. In addition, we expect a new Executive Order regarding banning individuals from certain countries. As the situation evolves we will be monitoring things and re-grouping as events change.