News Briefs: City Council WOPR Vote | Bike and Walk the Gut | Ban on Winter Burning | Pesticide Linked to Autism | Slaying Sea Lions for Salmon? | Cougars go to Court | Climate Change a Security Threat? | War Dead |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Nanotech lab to open soon on campus
Q & A:
Can Faculty Members Take a Stand?
A Q&A with Frank Stahl
Happening Biz: David Doucet Violins
CITY COUNCIL WOPR VOTE
On Monday Feb. 11 Eugene’s City Council plans to weigh in on the controversial Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR). The public comment on the plan ended earlier this month, but the BLM is still in the decision-making process.
Councilor Betty Taylor will bring forward a resolution opposing the Bureau of Land Management’s WOPR. The BLM plan would cut down old-growth forests in areas around Eugene and triple the timber output in the area.
The resolution calls for the BLM to reject the alternatives offered in the WOPR and asks the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that “provides stable county payments based on ecosystem services such as clean water and air, recreational opportunities, carbon storage, and habitat conservation.” The resolution also asks Congress to protect Oregon’s mature and old-growth forests and advance restoration-driven forestry projects.
“The Cascadia Wildlands Project has been working to educate the council and mayor on the implications of WOPR for Eugeneans,” says CWP’s Josh Laughlin. CWP is calling for concerned Eugeneans to weigh on the issue, either at the Feb. 11 meeting or via an email to Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy. Contact Josh Laughlin at email@example.com or call 434-1463 for more information. — Camilla Mortensen
BIKE AND WALK THE GUT
Imagine Willamette Street closed to cars on a summer Sunday morning from 29th Street to the train station. Kids in strollers, on bikes, neighbors chatting, stopping for coffee, food booths, costumes, music, dancing in the streets — all this could happen monthly in a quiet, safe and sustainable open space through the heart of South Eugene.
That was the vision of about 30 bike and pedestrian advocates who gathered in a work session at a City of Eugene Walking and Biking Summit on Jan. 26th.
Longtime local cycling advocate Paul Moore said the fun event would promote green transportation and personal and community health. Instead of “cruising the gut” in cars, Moore said, Eugene could “walk and bike the gut.”
“And lose your gut,” piped in another cyclist.
Hundreds of cities throughout the U.S. and the world regularly or annually close busy thoroughfares for such walking and biking festivals. Portland’s annual Bridge Pedal closes lanes on ten central bridges, including the towering I-5 bridge, and attracts 20,000 people a year. “It’s just such a hoot,” said city transportation planner Cindy Clarke.
“It could have an impact like Bridge Pedal,” said Moore. Closing the street for the event would help promote cycling and walking as healthier, greener transportation, he said. “You give people the experience,” said Moore. “This shows them how to do it.”
In Portland the cycling rate has almost doubled in the last decade. Eugene still has a higher rate, but bike commuting here dropped from 8 percent in 1990 to 5.5 percent now, according to Census figures.
The event will also help build support for bike lanes and safe sidewalks on the busy Willamette Street while promoting alternative transportation, Moore said. “This moves them in that direction faster than anything else I know.”
One participant questioned whether closing Willamette to traffic would be feasible. “I love the idea of Willamette,” he said but, “to do that would be an incredibly major political battle.” The man instead suggested closing a low traffic neighborhood street. “It’s much easier to accomplish.”
But other participants said closing a side street would not attract the people needed to make the event a success. A major draw of the event in Portland and other cities is the ability to bike or walk quietly on a thoroughfare that usually roars with dangerous traffic.
On a Sunday morning there’s little traffic, and Willamette has many parallel, alternative streets that could be used, one man pointed out. “I don’t see it dramatically affecting people.”
Meeting participants pointed out that in other cities the crowds attracted by such road closures have been a major boost to local businesses along the route.
Moore said the event would allow cross car traffic at signalized intersections with volunteers helping with safety. A similar model has worked in other cities.
Clark said the city would legally be required to use police officers to control the signaled intersections. But, she said, “we have the support of the EPD and the city” to do a new walking and biking event.
Clark said the city will plan and facilitate another meeting next month about the walk and bike the gut event. She cautioned that “it does take a lot, a lot, to plan and pull off a major event.” But, she said, “we’ve got a lot of great energy, a lot of great ideas.” — Alan Pittman
BAN ON WINTER BURNING
On Jan. 24, Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) issued its first red advisory since 1991. Eugene residents were asked not to use wood burning that day to heat their homes in order to help reduce air pollution in the form of particulate matter. Local businesses were not asked to curtail their emission of particulates or other pollutants during the ban.
Wood burning creates the same particulate matter (PM 2.5) that causes breathing problems for many Oregonians during field burning season. In the winter, air can stagnate over the valley in what is called an inversion, trapping the smoke and raising particulate levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards.
This was the first red advisory for Eugene since the pollution program began in 1991. “Air quality has improved” over the past several years, says LRAPA’s Merlyn Hough, but the EPA reviews its standards every five years and tightened them in 2006.
Springfield, Goshen, Pleasant Hill and other nearby areas were not affected by the ban though they were affected by the smoky air. This is because Eugene’s city ordinances call for a ban to be in effect when particulates become unhealthy, but Springfield isn’t due to vote on its ordinance until Feb. 4. Lane County will vote on the ordinance in February as well. Until then LRAPA, the agency that monitors PM 2.5 emissions, hopes homeowners in those areas will choose not to burn during red advisories even if they are not faced with the $500 fine.
Industries in and around Eugene that emit PM 2.5 and other pollutants are not affected by the ban. Hough says this is because they have “tighter control requirements all of the time.” The Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know database doesn’t track PM 2.5 emissions. But according to the National Climactic Date Center Air Stagnation index, the same stagnant air that traps particulate matter also traps gaseous toxic pollution. — Camilla Mortensen
PESTICIDE LINKED TO AUTISM
What is behind the increasing frequency of autism? Twenty years ago, autism was diagnosed in about one in 5,000 U.S. children. By 2002, that frequency had risen to one in 250 and is now at roughly one in 150. In some states (and in the U.K.) it is as high as one in 100. Is this alarming increase in diagnosis due simply to a broader definition of autism or a greater awareness of the disorder? Several studies say no to both theories.
Because changes in the standards for diagnosing autism occurred in the early ’90s, one would expect to see a rapid increase in diagnosis followed by some tapering off. In fact the pattern of increase shows a steady rise over the entire period up to the present.
Over the past decade a number of ideas have emerged to explain the increase in autism. Mercury preservatives in childhood vaccines are still suspected by some people, although a recently published study (plotting number of diagnoses against time since such preservatives were, theoretically, phased out in California) fails to support this notion. A genetic link has been discovered but apparently cannot explain the entire increase. A genetically determined predisposition to other triggers may be involved, however.
In its winter 2008 newsletter, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) reports on a new study that shows a link between autism and maternal exposure to organochlorine pesticides during the critical first weeks of pregnancy. The researchers identified children diagnosed with autism and matched their mothers’ addresses to application records for the pesticides difocol and endosulfan in California’s Central Valley.
According to the study in the Oct. 2007 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, children were six times more likely to have been diagnosed with autism if their mothers lived within 500 meters of fields with the highest levels of pesticide use.
The finding is particularly interesting in light of a previous study which found elevated rates of autism correlated with distribution of air pollution by heavy metals (including mercury) and organochlorines (chlorinated solvents). Diagnoses of autism in California increased by about 10 between 1993 and 2004, close to average for the U.S. as a whole. In some states (including Oregon), autism has increased more than 100 fold in the same period. — Rachel Foster
SLAYING SEA LIONS FOR SALMON?
The public has until Feb. 19 to comment on a federal plan to shoot sea lions at the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service has recommended that up to 85 sea lions a year be shot in order to protect wild salmon. The California sea lions are intelligent and are often used as entertainment in marine parks or trained by the Navy for military operations. California sea lions are native to the Pacific Coast from as far north as British Columbia and as far south as the Galápagos Islands.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act protects sea lions, but they are not listed as a threatened species. States can get permission to kill identifiable sea lions or seals that have “a significant negative impact” on endangered salmon and steelhead. Oregon, Washington and Idaho made the request to kill the animals in 2006.
There are four possible alternatives, including “no action” and nonlethal deterrence, but NOAA recommended lethal action.
Opponents to the plan say the real problem is not the sea lions but problems with the habitat and the dam itself, which blocks the fishes’ migratory routes. The dam’s fish ladders, which are intended to help salmon get through the dam, concentrate the salmon in a small area, making them easier for the sea lions to prey upon them.
It is unclear if killing the sea lions will fix the problem. Some think that the killing of problematic animals will scare off other sea lions, and others say more sea lions will come and replace the ones killed. For more information or to comment on the plan, go to www.nwr.noaa.gov and click on “what’s new.” — Camilla Mortensen
COUGARS GO TO COURT
A lawsuit to stop the hunting of 2,000 cougars in Oregon by federal officials has been filed by local and state wildlife advocates in conjunction with Goat Ranchers of Oregon and Ranchers for Rural Responsibility.
The suit charges officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services with violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not examining all the environmental impacts of their decision to kill cougars on behalf of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
Plaintiffs include Big Wildlife, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Mountain Lion Foundation and Umpqua Watersheds, in addition to the ranchers.
When established adult cougars are killed by government officials, it skews the population towards younger cats “more often implicated in conflict with domestic animals,” said goat rancher Michael Moss, one of the plaintiffs.
It is illegal to kill spotted cougar kittens or to kill nursing female cougars, but it is difficult to tell if a cougar has kittens once she has been treed, say cougar advocates.
ODFW estimates the cougar population in Oregon to be at 5,100 and wants to bring the number down to 3,000. A 2006 study in the Journal of Wildlife Management says cougar populations in the Pacific Northwest are already declining.
The cougar quota for the 2007 hunting season was set at 777 kills, according to ODFW. As of Dec. 31, 509 cougars have been killed, but news reports indicate the number has gone up since then. — Camilla Mortensen
CLIMATE CHANGE A SECURITY THREAT?
A new report called, “An Uncertain Future: Law Enforcement, National Security and Climate Change,” warns that climate change could lead to societal breakdown and civil unrest in the world’s wealthiest countries, including the United States.
The report comes from the Oxford Research Group, an independent English organization working for “a sustainable approach to security for the UK and the world.” The research group reports, “Climate change can no longer be considered solely as an environmental issue” and warns that the physical affects of climate change will lead to “civil unrest, intercommunal violence, and international instability.”
The report claims that while governments are focusing on international threats, the actual “threats” may come from within. It says, “If responses to the aftermath of natural disasters are inadequate, then people may begin to lose confidence in the government’s ability to protect them.”
The report calls for “Western governments to overhaul their approach to security and disaster planning” and calls for a focus on preventative rather than reactive strategies.
The report predicts that people will increase their protests against polluting companies and perceived government inaction. It specifically cites the testimony of James F. Jarboe, the FBI’s domestic terrorism section chief on “ecoterrorism” and arsons by the Earth and Animal Liberation Fronts. However, report author Chris Abbot told the Toronto Star, “The term ecoterrorism is applied very loosely, and it is a dangerous game.” — Camilla Mortensen
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 3,941 U.S. troops killed* (3,923)
• 28,870 U.S. troops injured* (28,870)
• 135 U.S. military suicides* (135)
• 307 coalition troops killed** (307)
• 933 contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 88,044 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (88,004)
• $487.7 billion cost of war ($485.7 billion)
• $138.7 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($138.1 million)
* through Jan. 30, 2008; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to one million
• Closing Willamette Street to cars for monthly “Walk and Bike the Gut and Lose Your Gut” events on Sunday mornings this summer sounds like a great idea that everyone should get behind. The idea from this year’s Walking and Biking Summit (see news brief) would promote a healthy community and environment and is just the fun prescription Eugene needs to fight against obesity and global warming.
• First, it was “Love’s a faggot.” Then it changed to “Love’s a pussy” — among other things. And there were signs. At Jan. 24’s UCLA vs. Oregon men’s basketball game, things were ugly everywhere except on the court, where UCLA freshman Kevin Love (whose father Stan played for the Ducks back in the day), his teammates and the Oregon team didn’t respond to the Pit Crew’s nasty taunting. What would make the students think these chants were appropriate? University officials didn’t take control of the situation though Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny later told the R-G he should have told the students to stop. But the crux of the issue remains unaddressed: The fans didn’t use those words to “question Love’s sexual orientation” (as newspapers and ESPN have put it) or, as R-G columnist George Schroeder wrote, to “call him soft in an especially demeaning way.” No, what they did was use sexual orientation and gender as insults, as if it were inferior to be gay or female. Dear Pit Crew: What’s your problem with gay people? And you think it’s demeaning to have female genitalia? Hm. We wonder: If heterosexual, male leaders at the UO would do a bit more to show they’re against sexism and homophobia — like supporting women’s sports in the same manner as men’s sports, for instance — would the young fans follow suit?
• Given the choice between a McKenzie-Willamette hospital site on the far sprawling edge of Eugene or a centrally located Glenwood or Springfield site, we’d choose the latter. The Eugene-at-any-cost school of hospital siting argues that Eugene shouldn’t give up the estimated $3 million a year in property taxes the hospital might provide. But the costs of extending roads, sewers, water and other services to a sprawl site for such a massive development would far exceed any likely tax revenue. That’s exactly why the Delta site on the edge of town was such a dumb idea and eventually collapsed. The hospital shouldn’t repeat the error. There are plenty of centrally located redevelopment sites in Eugene and Springfield that would work far better and on balance save taxpayers millions while saving lives with a close, full-service emergency room.
• One central hospital site that would be a huge mistake is the UO Riverfront Research Park’s land north of the railroad tracks. Siting a big building and parking lots in a green, natural area along the river would result in an explosion of opposition from local environmentalists and the UO community. A majority of the UO and Eugene community has long wanted to preserve the area as a park.
• Eastside Alternative Elementary School must move. But the choice of the old Willard elementary site for Eastside makes little sense in terms of the district’s stated goal of increasing diversity in alternative schools. Willard is on the shoulder of one of the wealthiest, most educated neighborhoods in Eugene, College Hill, and centrally located in white, well-off south Eugene. If the district is serious about integration, a better choice would be to set up the popular Eastside as a magnet school in a more diverse neighborhood. Moving Eastside to Willard will also displace the slightly larger and far more diverse Village School. Why did the district choose to prioritize the Eastside kids over the Village School kids? Eastside has about 4 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch while the Village School has about 40 percent. So moving the Village School looks bad.
• We, like many in Eugene, were appalled by the Police Union’s Jan. 17 guest viewpoint in The R-G savaging Mayor Kitty Piercy, library funding, sustainability, believers in global warming, young people, diversity and progressives, a list that makes up a majority of the people in Eugene. Thoughts of banana republic military juntas come to mind. Why do we continue to pay enormous sums to employ and heavily arm a bunch of people who hate us? Maybe they don’t all hate us. But as usual, we’ve seen no cracks in the blue wall. Unless they want to be tarnished by the same brush, individual police officers need to write letters to the editor separating their personal views from the bile of their elected leadership.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Doucet Violins
“I grew up working with wood,” says David Doucet. “My dad was a great carpenter.” Doucet also grew up with music, beginning with accordian at age six, then rock guitar in his teens (he played the club circuit in LA) and eventually the violin as a music major at UCSD. “I never went back,” says Doucet, who continued to play violin in small ensembles while he worked at remodeling and bike repair along the “hippie circuit” north to Santa Cruz, to Nevada City and to Eugene in 1976. After two years learning violin repair as an apprentice in Seattle in the late ’80s, he had a violin shop inside the Pacific Winds music store through the ’90s. “There’s no substitute for working next to talented people,” says Doucet, who went back to Seattle for six years in the violin shop of Rafael Carraba. But tiring of big-city life (“I love the outdoors”), he returned to Eugene in ’05. In October of ’07, he opened David Doucet Violins at 21 E 28th (also at www.doucetviolins.com).“I’m into it because of love of music,” he says. “I like to work with people who make music. My latest passion is Celtic music on the violin.”