• Eugene Weekly Loves You!
Share |

EW! A Blog.

October 11, 2013 04:47 PM

Apparently coal company execs and public relations flacks crack up over climate change. Posting on the desmogblog, Mike Stark of FossilAgenda writes of an interaction he recorded at a September coal conference in Pittsburgh. Lauri Hennessey does PR for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports (which Stark calls "a front group for coal mining and rail corporations that would profit from the export of Powder River Basin coal").

Hennessy was on a panel called "Moving Coal from Coast to Coast — Domestic Infrastructure Challenges for Rail, River, and Ports" in which Stark says she "repeatedly called the citizens of Oregon and Washington 'weird' and 'strange.'" Stark approached  Matthew Ferguson, Arch Coal's senior vice president for thermal coal marketing for an interview. But before the interview, Ferguson chatted with Hennessey. Stark recorded the conversation. You can read the transcript here or listing below, but here's what Hennessy and Ferguson said:

Matt Ferguson: Your comment on the civil unrest was quite funny.

Lauri Hennessey: Oh wasn’t it? Yeah, I got, I got hassled.

Matt Ferguson: Yeah, it’s like, let’s be adults here.

Lauri Hennessey: That was a project like a year ago, and, I think it was my second week on the job. So, I grew up in the Northwest, and I don’t know if you saw, I used to work for EPA a long time ago?

Matt Ferguson: Did you? [laughter]

Lauri Hennessey: Yeah. [inaudible]  So I have - and I also worked for Bob Packwood on the Hill - so I have both sides. But we’re connected.

I worked with EPA, and I pull that out in the right crowds, because in the Northwest, that's a good thing, right? But it's funny because I never really went out of my way to mention it to our Alliance board before. And one day I was quoted in the paper, because again I was speaking to the audience in Seattle, and I was like, "Well of course we're concerned about climate change. Everyone's concerned about climate change. But what we're saying is this is not going to contribute to climate change."

But someone from Peabody got on a call, it was my second week on the job, and said, "You were quoted saying coal’s worried about climate change? We don't believe in climate change!”  And I remember I was on the phone and I was like, "I can't say that..ha. I can't say that in Seattle!"

[laughter]

Matt Ferguson: Not worried about it!

Arch Coal rep 2: You can say that in St. Louis, but you can't say that in Seattle.

Matt Ferguson: Yeah. It’s not gonna happen.

Lauri Hennessey: Yeah, I can’t say it in Seattle, and I remember she just goes, "Wow, we really have different regions, do we?!" 

Matt Ferguson: I think what you do is say, you're trying to help people out of poverty in the Far East. Yeah.

Lauri Hennessey: Exactly! And I did that.

Matt Ferguson: Do they not deserve to enjoy prosperity? Like we have? Don't be so selfish, you jerks! [laughter]

According to Hennesey's old bio on her former Hennessey PR webpage (courtsey of the Wayback Machine) before she worked for Big Coal, Hennessey "began her career in the newsroom at KIRO radio twenty years ago. In the years after that, she worked as a press secretary in Washington, D.C. for two Northwest Members of Congress, ran a large public affairs office for a Northwest federal land management agency, and worked as a special assistant for the regional head of the Environmental Protection Agency." 

One of the Northwest members of Congress was Bob Packwood, who stepped down after a sexual harrassment scandal. Her bio goes on to say ""Director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Oregon and Washington, Lauri worked closely on issues involving forestry, salmon, growth management, tourism, and much more. She supervised a large staff, and was directly responsible for Congressional relations, and was the lead spokesperson for the agency in the Northwest. She was also loaned to the office that implemented the Northwest Forest Plan, then President Clinton's attempt to end long-running debates over Northwest forests, and worked with the White House on message development, organized press conferences, and worked with local governments. At the EPA, Lauri worked with the Regional Administrator, and worked closely with the public on his behalf."

Stark writes of the conversation he recorded, "They also seemed to talk as if they are a separate species from the people who happen to live in the path of their planned rail and port terminal expansions, mocking those who are asking reasonable questions about the impacts of exporting America's coal to Asia. They clearly regard with contempt the majority of Americans concerned about climate change."

September 27, 2013 05:36 PM

In a recent article entitled "Reputation For Rent" Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week writes about how Dave Frohnmayer, former Oregon attorney general and former UO School of Law Dean and UO president for 15 years, provided paid testimony for Big Tobacco against the state of Oregon.

… major tobacco companies challenged the state of Oregon’s right to continue receiving payments under a massive tobacco industry settlement.

And the star witness and paid expert for Big Tobacco against the state of Oregon: Dave Frohnmayer.

In April, Frohnmayer appeared as an expert witness on behalf of the tobacco companies in front of a closed-door arbitration panel in Chicago. The Oregon Department of Justice released Frohnmayer’s testimony to WW in response to a public records request.

In an interview, Frohnmayer tells WW he simply provided what he says was unbiased, objective testimony. And he says he would have provided the same testimony had he instead been hired by the state of Oregon or called by the three-judge panel as an independent witness.

But neither of those things happened; instead, Frohnmayer appeared as a paid witness for tobacco firms trying to get out of making payments to the state of Oregon under the tobacco settlement reached more than a decade ago.

Frohnmayer’s testimony reinforced the tobacco companies’ claims against the state.

Frohnmayer says his testimony for the tobacco companies was squarely in the public’s interest, because his contention was that the state could have enforced the settlement more aggressively against smaller tobacco companies.

“I testified that the powers of the Oregon attorney general are expansive,” Frohnmayer says. “That’s totally consistent with my public service from the day I entered the Legislature.” 

The article, which can and should be be read in full here, goes on to say that "Frohnmayer now works for the Eugene law firm of Harrang Long Gary Rudnick, which has represented Philip Morris in the past. He bills as much as $550 an hour (but declined to say how much tobacco companies paid him to testify). In addition, he gets a $257,000 annual pension from the Public Employees Retirement System and $101,000 a year as a part-time law professor at UO. (Harrang Long is also UO’s law firm, billing $647,000 since March 2012.)"

UO Matters reports that Frohnmayer is being paid $50,000 to teach a course in the UO Honors College. 

Frohnmayer's law firm represents the UO in negotiations with the United Academics union on campus. UO Matters also looked into how much that was costing the school, writing, "It looks like the administration is paying about $100K a month to outside lawyers and consultants to do the bargaining with the faculty union."

September 26, 2013 03:07 PM

Lane County has released a redacted version of the the report prepared by USO Investigations of former Lane County Administrator Liane Richardson. 

Initially public records request by EW and others were denied while the Marion County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the issue and considered potential criminal charges. No charges were filed. Lane County signed an agreement with Richardson saying no lawsuits would be filed, by either side, or charges filed by the county.

The report is below. According to Lane County, was redacted "by county counsel to ensure the confidentiality of employees interviewed." 

The county said in a press release that the "key findings of the report" are:

- Richardson was sold amounts of TM in excess of the policy for non-represented employees. The July 26th, 2013 pay stub shows she was paid for 225.17 hours of TM so far this year that amounts to $16493.67. The amount she was entitled to was 80 hours under the APM Chapter 3

- Richardson was untruthful in the email to Lane County Commissioners that she just became aware she had exceeded the limit on July 22nd, 2013. She was aware of it June 20th, 2013 in an email where she was asked if she wanted to keep selling her TM since she had increased the 200 hour limit. Her response to that email was “Go ahead and keep doing the sales. Thanks!”

- Richardson used her position to go beyond the APM limits to sell her time management to help her increase her salary and was planning to do the same in the 2013-14 budget with an increased amount. During this investigation, she made untruthful statements about this.

Before you download it, note that when the county says "redacted" it means large swaths of the report are blacked out. It looks like this for many pages:

September 25, 2013 04:29 PM

So there might be a strike of the UO classified staff starting Sept. 30 — the classified staff at Oregon's seven universities has voted in favor of a strike.

According to an email from the UO's union for teaching staff — United Academics of the University of Oregon (UAUO):

For several years, a group of more than 1,500 workers at the UO--including office staff, librarians, computer techs, custodians, housing employees, engineers, nurses, maintenance workers and many others--have been forced to make tremendous economic sacrifices. The UO could not function without these employees--they feed our students, keep our IT system up and our libraries running; they pay our bills, run our offices, and ensure our workplaces are safe, clean and functional. Yet a large number barely make enough to pay their monthly bills.

They've had to accept pay freezes, unpaid furlough days, and shell out even more for their health insurance in order to help the seven campus Oregon University System (OUS) balance its budget. During the recent budget crisis, they were the only campus workers forced to take sizable pay cuts. They have fallen so far behind that more than one quarter of full-time classified workers at the UO meet the threshold for food stamp eligibility for a family of four.

Now, the OUS is demanding further concessions--drastic changes to the basic system of pay increases, limited cost of living increases, refusing to provide insurance equity for domestic partners, and rejecting proposals for controlling administrative waste.

Full disclosure, I'm an adjunct instructor at the UO, so I started wondering what that means for teaching courses. The United Academics have anticipated that worry and send out some information for instructors and faculty in the event of a strike. 

The UAUO says that while students can honor the strike, faculty cannot, under Oregon law.

CAN FACULTY REFUSE TO WORK DURING A STRIKE?

NO. “Sympathy strikes” are forbidden by state law.  According to Oregon state law, public employees who are not in the bargaining unit on strike and who refuse to cross the picket line are engaging in a "prohibited strike." (ORS 243.732 & ORS 243.726). That is, it is against the law to refuse to work if your bargaining unit is not on strike. If faculty or GTFs went on strike, this same prohibition would apply to classified workers. This prohibition would apply regardless of whether faculty had elected to form a union or were covered by a contract.

UAUO suggests faculty can discuss the strike with classes if it pertains to the subject matter of the course, join picket lines and support the strike fund, among other things. The unions says faculty are not required to sanction students who refuse to cross the picket line.

ARE FACULTY MEMBERS REQUIRED TO SANCTION STUDENTS WHO REFUSE TO CROSS THE PICKET LINE? 

NO. The president of the ASUO, Sam Dotters-Katz, has called for a student walkout on September 30 and has urged fellow students to avoid crossing the picket line as possible. Many students may not show up to class, or will request alternative assignments from faculty so that they do not have to cross the picket line. Faculty retain the same discretion as always to respond to students requesting accommodations for missing class. For example, when the UO football team participated in the national championship game during the first week of classes in the winter term in 2011, the Provost emailed all faculty requesting that they make accommodations for students who would miss class because they were attending the game. Faculty have the same discretion during this time.

Get the full document from UAUO here.

Strike (or lack of one) update:

OUS student services workers settle agreement, averting strike

After a long and often contentious eight-month bargaining period, students services workers (non-teaching campus workers like librarians, lab techs, administrative assistants and custodians) and Oregon University System bargaining teams reached a tentative agreement at 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 26. 

In light of the agreement, workers have stepped down from a strike that would have taken place system-wide on the first day of classes.

According to Marc Nisenfeld, a development engineer at Portland State University and chair of the SEIU 503 bargaining team, student services workers were simply looking for a fair deal after five years of wage freezes. "The economy has turned around, and people are moving forward. Administrators are moving forward. Goodness knows the Duck’s locker room is moving forward. All we ask is that we don’t fall further behind,” said Nisenfeld.

At the center of negotiations had been the issue of the "step system." Classified student services workers are hired at an artificially low rate of pay, and put on a “step system” that they follow for the first nine years of their career, at which point they reach the market rate for their work.

Management had proposed doubling the period of time to reach the top of the scale to eighteen years. This agreement maintains the system at nine years.

The agreement also allows for very modest cost-of-living adjustments--1.5% and 2%--to take place toward the end of 2013 and 2014, respectively.

According to Nisenfeld, "Our goal throughout this process hasn't been to strike--no one wants to strike. Our goal has been to achieve a settlement that moves our members toward economic security and improves our campus communities. We believe this agreement achieves that."

The tentative agreement will now move to the 4,332 student services workers represented by SEIU 503 for a vote. 

September 23, 2013 01:29 PM

In an interesting letter from the Marion County District Attorney's office, the DA writes that no criminal charges will be filed in the issue of fired county administrator Liane Richardson's paycheck changes. One of the conclusions appears to be that because the Lane County Commission signed an agreement with Richardson not to file charges, then charges will not be filed. The investigation also found that it would be difficult to prove beyond a reseasonable doubt that this was a "knowing" performance of an act of violation of a statue or unauthorized exercise of official duties. You can see the full ruling here

The letter to Lane County DA Alex Gardner concludes:

Update: See comment below from Commissioner Bozievich.

September 19, 2013 01:46 PM

"On Sept. 1, Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor who had taught French at Duquesne University for 25 years, passed away at the age of 83." That is how attorney Daniel Kovalik begins his story of the death of an adjunct professor in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The editorial has been making the rounds with academics as Vojtko's life, teaching career and death highlight the way higher education treats — or mistreats — its staff. 

Kovalik writes:

As amazing as it sounds, Margaret Mary, a 25-year professor, was not making ends meet. Even during the best of times, when she was teaching three classes a semester and two during the summer, she was not even clearing $25,000 a year, and she received absolutely no health care benefits. Compare this to the salary of Duquesne's president, who makes more than $700,000 with full benefits.

Meanwhile, in the past year, her teaching load had been reduced by the university to one class a semester, which meant she was making well below $10,000 a year. With huge out-of-pocket bills from UPMC Mercy for her cancer treatment, Margaret Mary was left in abject penury. She could no longer keep her electricity on in her home, which became uninhabitable during the winter. She therefore took to working at an Eat 'n Park at night and then trying to catch some sleep during the day at her office at Duquesne. When this was discovered by the university, the police were called in to eject her from her office. Still, despite her cancer and her poverty, she never missed a day of class.

The whole story is worth a read

Here in Oregon United Academics of the University of Oregon — a union that represents adjuncts and full-time professors — excitedly announced yesterday that "Following months of negotiations, United Academics and the University of Oregon have reached tentative agreement on a historic first collective bargaining agreement!" For more information, go to the UAUO website.

Meanwhile, the classified staff (who don't teach but whose work on everything from landscaping to computer programming to course scheduling are key to the university's ability to run) is contemplating a Sept. 23 strike.

September 19, 2013 02:04 PM

The Cascadia Forest Defenders are normally spotted in old-growth trees, but today they decicided to scale the Capitol building in Salem. 

Here is CFD's press release:

Cascadia Forest Defenders Scale Golden Pioneer Proclaiming “KITZHABER'S LEGACY: PRIVATIZING THE ELLIOTT – CLEARCUTTING FOR PROFIT”

 Salem, Oregon- This morning, two members of Cascadia Forest Defenders (CFD) climbed off the side of the “Oregon Pioneer” statue atop the state capitol with a banner proclaiming “KITZHABER'S LEGACY: PRIVATIZING THE ELLIOTT FOREST – CLEARCUTTING FOR PROFIT.”  The State Land Board—Governor John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler— will decide on a proposal to sell 2,714 acres of the Elliott State Forest at their December 10th meeting.

 The proposal comes after years of public protest and litigation over mismanagement of State Forest Lands as well as a sweeping lawsuit by conservation groups that has effectively halted most logging of sensitive habitat in the Elliott. With no guarantee that private owners would retain public values of conservation, CFD opposes the sale of public forest land.

 “We are protesting because we think Oregonians deserve to know that their public land is being sold to private industry.  If it is privatized, we will never be able to have a say on what happens to it again. This is our public comment,” says Erin Grady of Cascadia Forest Defenders.

 The plans for privatization include three parcels in the Western side of the Elliott State Forest. All three parcels contain sections of mature, never-before-logged forest  — suitable habitat for the marbled murrelet, an endangered sea bird that nests in old growth. This summer, a group of volunteer marbled murrelet surveyors with the Coos County-based conservation group Coast Range Forest Watch, documented murrelet nesting behavior in one of these parcels, making it a candidate for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Department of State Lands (DSL) says that the land sale is necessary in light of a pending lawsuit--filed last year by several conservation groups on behalf of the marbled murrelet — that has made the Elliott "unproductive." Cascadia Forest Defenders are concerned that the parcels will be sold to the highest bidder — most likely to private timber companies. Much of the private land that surrounds the Elliott State Forest is already managed by the Washington-based Weyerhaeuser Corporation, one of the largest landowners in North America. Under private ownership, raw logs from the 2,700 acres could be exported overseas, rather than processed in local mills, furthering hurting the economies of Douglas and Coos County.

 Even under public management, sensitive habitat in the Elliott is threatened by destructive logging practices. The Oregon Department of Forestry will resume clearcutting of ancient forest within the Elliott this fall. Salander Between, a 32-acre timber sale of mature, never before logged forest in the Loon Lake watershed— a popular recreation spot for Coos and Douglas County residents— is up for auction in October.

“Considering what a small percentage of the Common School Fund is actually made up by logging the Elliott, it is a travesty to permanently destroy this ecosystem and further destroy the watershed of Coos and Douglas County Citizens,” says Ben Jones of Cascadia Forest Defenders.

 DSL's proposal comes at a time when public officials at the state and federal level are also pushing for more aggressive management, and potentially privatization, of our O&C forest lands--millions of acres of low elevation forest currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

“Whether it's Defazio and Wyden on federal forests or Kitzhaber on state lands, Oregon democrats seems to be leading the charge on turning our remaining forests into dollars for private timber, at the expense of Oregon's people, watersheds and ecosystems,” says Jones.

 No to privatization of the Elliott!

 -Cascadia Forest Defenders

September 18, 2013 01:34 PM

Carl Sciortino Jr. is running for Congress and his dad is proud. Mostly.

The openly gay Democratic House candidate Sciortino comes out to his tea party father in this awesome political ad.

Election season is on us. Let the ads begin. Step it up Oregon!

September 12, 2013 05:14 PM

The Lane County Commissioners will be getting an update on the now-canceled contract with Kaleidoscope Music Festival at Emerald Meadows. The will also be discusing another controversial outdoor venue, Prindel Creek Farm.

Want to weigh in? Public comments are at 9 am on Tuesday, Sept. 17 or Kaleidoscope has a page for its supporters to give comments here.

September 6, 2013 07:13 PM

Update: Comments are now working!

If you spend much time on either EW or the R-G's website, sooner or later you will run into some comments by MikeWrites. The R-G reported today that MikeWrites, aka Michael Patrick McFadden was one of the people arrested for protesting the closure of the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza. (Ironically for some reason I can't get the comments to work on this blog post).

McFadden has clarified his position and that he is not affiliated with SLEEPS in his comments on articles in the R-G.  The image he is currently using for his MikeWrites discussion account is of Sen. Wayne Morse. For more on Morse, known for having said, "as long as I serve on this job I am going to serve my own master under obligation to no one" go here.

McFaddden explains why he was arrested and not cited and released as the three SLEEPS protester were

 

I exercised my fifth amendment right to not answer questions.

They sent me to jail to punish me for noncompliance.

At the jail I was threatened to be stripped naked and thrown in isolation if I remained silent to intake questioning.

So I assured them that I was not suicidal and was on no drugs and that I had no medical conditions.

mikewrites • a day ago

Well here it is folks. I am Michael Patrick McFadden, age 26.

I stood up for Wayne Morse yesterday and got arrested. I stood up for the Bill of Rights for every citizen and was treated like an animal. I was taken to jail because I exercised my fifth amendment right and that angered the police. I don't have to answer their questions.

I expected this to happen to me. But let me say that I am not and never have been involved with SLEEPS. I am not a SLEEPS protester. I work two jobs and live in a house with my wonderful wife who supports my stance. I have never been arrested before yesterday. I am a civil libertarian.

I don't agree with all of SLEEPS tactics, but I also don't agree with the corrupt Commission limiting me from lawful behavior because of SLEEPS. Their closure is unfair and unneccesary, the plaza is empty and not a health hazard. The police should address illegal behavior and not infringe on law abiding people. I walked unobtrusively off to the side of the empty plaza and sat underneath the Wayne Morse statue. I did not speak or make a scene or bother anyone.

It was a sad day for Oregon yesterday. There are better ways to solve the problem than this... I may return to go sit under Wayne Morse again today, after my arraignment at 1:00.

September 6, 2013 06:04 PM

Words defeat me. I am Scandinavian. These are my people. We have a strange sense of humor, but I can't tell if these nice Norwegian men singing "What does the fox say?" and rhyming Morse and horse and making odd "fox" noises are being ironic.