News Briefs: State of the City | Wildish Grinch Award | Resentencing for Luers Changed | Kick-Start an Indoor Market? | Sierra Club for Kroger | Rally Against Driver ID | Corrections/Clarifications | Early Deadlines |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Iowa’s peculiar contribution to democracy
Is the BLM’s WOPR just a distraction?
Happening Person: Jim Dupre
STATE OF THE CITY
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy celebrated Eugene and outlined her goals for 2008 at her State of the City speech Jan. 8 to several hundred applauding people in the Hult Center lobby.
|‘Cities are where it all happens, ‘ says Piercy
“I believe absolutely in the power we have individually and collectively to make change,” Piercy said. “Cities are where it all happens; where people live, work, raise families, and establish roots.”
In 2008 Piercy called for the city to work on: sustainability, climate protection, west Eugene transportation, homelessness, downtown, potholes, the Olympic trials, considering an independent performance auditor, locating McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Eugene, hiring a new city manager, creating a youth advisory board, protecting the Amazon headwaters and basin, and becoming an official Human Rights City.
Piercy played a public role in ending the “decades-long, acrimonious debate over the West Eugene Parkway” in favor of saving money, pollution, sprawl and wetlands. But she said the freeway was unlikely to be built anyway. “It was clear that the funding for this project was simply not there and that federal approval was likely never to occur.”
The mayor called for “common ground” on downtown. She noted that “much of it is already doing well,” including: Fifth Street Public Market, East Broadway, the proposed Beam redevelopment and the new Enterprise call center, WestTown affordable housing and KLCC offices. Piercy said to fix the rest, the city should “focus public safety efforts on our problem blocks, address rundown storefronts, tweak codes, increase cultural and recreational activities in the area, and look at parking restrictions.”
Piercy said McKenzie-Willamette should be in Eugene where it can effectively provide health care for our community, support our tax base, and where, if needed, we can have some influence on significant health care policies.”
The mayor called for “large reductions in building and transportation emissions” to address climate change. She said she hopes that with new state requirements that ODOT reduce carbon the state freeway agency “will respond to climate change and finite resources, allowing it to be more creative and energy-conscious, rather than simply laying more roads.”
Piercy allowed city councilors to speak at the event if they chose. Councilor Bonny Bettman gave a “minority report” calling for an independent auditor, in-house city attorney, hiring a reform-minded city manager and terminating the city’s urban renewal districts.
Bettman said an auditor is needed to provide the council unbiased information for policy making. She said citizens will have to be “vigilant” that the position is not “co-opted” to minimize its power, similar to what the councilor said happened with the new police auditor.
To avoid conflicts of interest with other clients, the city should hire an in-house city attorney like those employed by most cities its size, Bettman said. The council could direct the new city manager to do this, she said.
Bettman said the council should hire a manager who “confidently embraces reform” and is “not just another figurehead to assume the position at the helm of an entrenched organizational power structure.”
Urban renewal diverts money from schools and government services and attracts speculators that neglect property while holding out for public subsidies, according to Bettman. “It is like having a hole in your pocket.”
Councilor Betty Taylor also spoke briefly. She called for a living wage ordinance and a youth center downtown as well as a performance auditor and in-house attorney. See more on Piercy’s State of the City speech, including a slideshow, at blogs.eugeneweekly.com — Alan Pittman
See Alan Pittman’s blog for photos and the full text of the Mayor’s speech.
WILDISH GRINCH AWARD
Wildish Sand and Gravel will be presented the 2007 “Grinch of the Year Award” this week for the company’s “attempts to take good union benefits away from local workers and for attempted union-busting,” according to the Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network/Jobs with Justice (ESSN).
ESSN members, local elected officials, and community members plan to present the award to the Wildishes at 2:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 10 at the Wildish offices at 3600 Wildish Lane, off Coburg Road in Eugene.
Wildish truck drivers, plant operators and mechanics are represented by Teamsters Local 206. The collective bargaining agreement between the union and Wildish expired April 1, 2007.
“Earlier generations of the Wildish family worked hard to earn a good name and have been rightly honored in our community,” reads a statement from the union. “But the third generation now running the companies is engaged in a serious attack on Teamster employees! Steve and Mike Wildish have hired a notorious union buster from Portland (Jim Frazer) to lead the recent negotiations.”
The union says Wildish management has not budged from proposals to cut back on existing health insurance, pension benefits and security provisions. “Management continues to insist on taking away employees’ good union health insurance and pension benefits and substituting inferior company plans,” says Teamsters representative Stefan Ostrach. “Employees, whose average age is 47, would lose the opportunity to retire early.”
Teamsters have voted to authorize a strike and a federal mediator is involved in negotiations. As EW goes to press, Mike Wildish and Steve Wildish of the Wildish management team have declined a request for comment.
RESENTENCING FOR LUERS CHANGED
The resentencing date for Eugene eco-arsonist Jeffrey “Free” Luers has been rescheduled for Jan. 15, from the original date of Jan. 8, according to Lane County Circuit Court.
Luers has been in prison since 2001 for setting fire to three SUVs. He is currently awaiting his hearing in Lane County Jail. His original sentence of 22 years and eight months was reversed in February 2007 by the Oregon Court of Appeals. He will get a new sentence with a possible reduction of 10-12 years.
According to the web page maintained by his supporters (www.freefreenow.org), the arson at Romania Chevrolet “caused only $40,000 in damages and the cars were later resold.” Luers was also convicted of attempted arson at the Tyree Oil depot. The purpose of setting the fires, the webpage says, “was to raise awareness about global warming and the role that SUVs play in that process.”
In an email announcement about the original hearing date, Luers’ supporters asked that only family and close friends attend the hearing, due to limited space in the courtroom. They also wrote that “protest or similar activity would be acting against the wishes of Jeff and his family.” — Camilla Mortensen
KICK-START AN INDOOR MARKET?
Eugene community activist and fundraiser Erin Ely is known for her involvement in Billionaires for Bush, the Village School and the Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center, and now she’s turning her attention to raising seed money for an indoor farmers market in Eugene. Ely has entered a national contest to win $10,000 to kick-start the market.
“I know I am not the first person to have this idea,” she says. “I’m just trying to increase the potential for making it happen. I was in New Mexico in November, and while I was there I went to Santa Fe. They are in the process of creating an indoor farmers market there and we could easily do something similar.”
Ely submitted an idea to www.ideablob.com and is one of the finalists in voting that ends Jan. 14. A link to her proposal can be found on the website’s home page, and visitors can vote after free registration.
“My thought is if I can win the $10,000, then we can start to bring the stakeholders together and get moving on this project,” she says. “I am willing to work to make it happen with fundraising, etc.”
Ely was profiled as a “Happening Person” in EW Aug. 3, 2006. She figures she has raised about $150,000 as a “professional” volunteer fundraiser over the past 12 years.
“Now’s the time to make this happen,” she says, “especially with the focus on local food systems coming to the forefront in everyone’s minds.”
SIERRA CLUB FOR KROGER
The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed John Kroger for attorney general.
Oregon has a green reputation, but suffers from chronic violations of environmental laws, according to the Sierra Club. The environmental group noted a recent Business Week report that ranked Portland as the third most contaminated city in the nation.
“We need an attorney general who will protect our land, air and water by enforcing the laws we already have,” said the Oregon Sierra Club’s Bill Parker. “John Kroger will do that, and that’s why we’re endorsing him to be Oregon’s next attorney general.”
Kroger’s Democratic primary opponent state Rep. Greg Macpherson has the endorsement of Gov. Ted Kulongoski. Kroger was endorsed by former Gov. John Kitzhaber. — Alan Pittman
RALLY AGAINST DRIVER ID
CAUSA, Oregon’s Immigrant’s Rights Coalition is asking supporters to appear at a Friday hearing in Salem on an executive order that makes it impossible for undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses.
New Oregon drivers license rules are scheduled to go into effect Feb. 4 as a result of an executive order by Gov. Ted Kulongoski. The order requires people to prove they’re in the U.S. legally before they can get a driver’s license. This eliminates documents commonly available to immigrants such as the Matricula card and foreign birth certificates, according to the CAUSA website.
Oregon Latino leaders asked the Department of Motor Vehicles to delay implementation of the order on Dec. 31, citing safety concerns and the need to inform the immigrant community about the order, but Kulongoski rejected the delay.
CAUSA is organizing a rally at noon on Friday, Jan. 11, at the Oregon State Capitol, 900 Court St NE, Salem, according to the group’s action alert. The joint hearing of the Senate and House Interim Transportation Committees discussing the issue will be at 1 pm in Hearing Room A. For more information go to www.causaoregon.org — Camilla Mortensen
In EW‘s Winter BRAVO issue last week, the long-lived Very Little Theatre did not receive the attention it deserved. Please see this week’s Arts Shorts (p. 24) for a preview of the VLT’s winter and spring seasons.
The EW offices will be closed Monday, Jan. 21 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For our Jan. 24 issue, the early deadline to reserve display advertising space will be 5 pm Thursday, Jan. 17. For more information call 484-0519.
• Wildish Sand and Gravel is seeking to excavate up to a million cubic yards of sand and gravel over five years from a gravel bar the company supposedly owns about a mile downstream from Armitage Park on the McKenzie River, a popular section for boating and fishing. In earlier times, gravel mining would happen even in flowing rivers, causing havoc for migrating and spawning fish for miles downstream. Today we know better, and we recognize the importance of sand and gravel to healthy rivers and protecting endangered species. This 11-acre site is at times under water, and therefore part of the river ecosystem — and perhaps not even technically owned by Wildish.
Let’s look very carefully at the renewal of this old mining permit. The Wildish plan is already getting the attention of Oregon’s Department of State Lands, the McKenzie Watershed Council, the Army Corp of Engineers, various conservationists and at least one fly-fishing group. The public also has an opportunity to weigh in. Locally, Michele Hanson of the Army Corp is taking comments until Jan. 18 at 465-6878 or firstname.lastname@example.org
• Mike Eyster talked about a “renaissance” in UO student housing at the Eugene City Club last week, but he deftly dodged a couple of the toughest questions following his prepared talk. What about parking for all those student wheels? Where will new residence halls be built under the plan to replace two/thirds and remove one/third of the present dorms? Are you considering building on the west side of the campus, plugging into the city’s effort to boost downtown housing? Is UO housing “unfair competition” to local developers? The UO currently houses about 22 percent of the student body; the new plan will boost that to 25 percent. Four times more students than could be accommodated applied to live in the new living-learning residence hall in 2007. Students will pay $7,849 per year for the standard double room and standard meal plan.
• Watching the debates in Iowa and New Hampshire is leading some of us political junkies to scream at our TVs. Blogging can be therapeutic. Our own Suzi Steffen has been on vacation in Iowa and writing about her experiences as a caucus observer. See blogs.eugeneweekly.com/blog/3 for eyewitness views.
And if some of the candidates’ statements don’t seem quite right, a good website to check out is www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter This site, produced by the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly, is an attempt to determine the truth in presidential candidates’ statements at the podium. Statements are judged as true, mostly true, half true, false, barely true, etc.; and some statements get the “Pants on Fire” treatment, such as Romney saying his advertising doesn’t accuse McCain of supporting amnesty for undocumented aliens. “Perhaps Romney should watch his own ads or read his own press releases,” say the website editors.
• How is Eugene doing in avoiding urban sprawl? Not so well if we compare the physical size of our city to our population. The Home Builders Association in Lane County (in cahoots with the Chamber of Commerce) is constantly lobbying city officials to expand our urban growth boundaries. “We need more land,” is the constant refrain. The truth is Oregon’s cities are among the least compact cities in the world. Eugene has 1,263 people per square kilometer, according to figures compiled by the Goal One Coalition. Portland has 1,503, Seattle 2,563. Boston 4,697. Even sprawling Las Vegas has 1,775, and Los Angeles has 3,078. San Francisco packs 6,349 people into each kilometer, New York City 10,173. The most dense city? Mumbai (formerly Bombay) teems with 29,650 people per sq. km., yet includes a national park within its city limits.
Few of us would want to live in a tiny apartment in a 50-story building, but Eugene (and Springfield) can certainly accommodate more population growth within our existing boundaries. And if it’s done right, our quality of life can actually improve with density: less driving, more walking, more convenience, more affordable housing, greener construction and renovation, rooftop gardens, nicer and safer parks, less blight, stronger neighborhoods, profitable local businesses, thriving nonprofits, better schools. A compact city can be alive with enterprise music, art, food, recreation, romance and conversation.
• Over and over we hear global warming skeptics complaining that Al Gore is a hypocrite and has no credibility because he flies to conferences, contributing to global warming. Following this logic, we should ignore any author who writes about sustainable forest practices because printing that author’s book or article destroys trees. Looking at our so-called carbon footprint is just one small way of examining our personal impact on our world.
SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, email@example.com
“Other than being a hard-core voter, this is my first political involvement,” says Eugene native Jim Dupre, indicating the sign in his yard, across Royal from Fairfield School, that displays the “Bush Death Count,” updated daily from the web. “My mission is to let people know how many are being killed.” Dupre’s first sign, made of cardboard, lasted two weeks last summer before it was trashed by vandals. The second, made of fiberboard, withstood abuse for four months. The current sign, a full sheet of three-quarter-inch plywood, is securely anchored and protected by motion-sensor lights. A graduate of North Eugene High, Dupre served with the Army in Germany, then studied at the UO on the GI Bill. His 19-year-old son Josh is in the Air Force. A drummer since junior high, Dupre toured with several bands in the 1980s. He currently plays in the West Side Blues Band every Thursday at the Overtime Tavern. Now semi-retired and afflicted with a mild form of Parkinson’s, Dupre has time to devote to his antiwar mission. “I print up fliers almost every night,” he says. “I pass them out door-to-door.”