Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Is Oversight Over?
Council balks at voters’ will on police review
Happening People: Hunter Spense, Ally Pawol & Ethen Perkins
HI-TECH ON HOLD
One of President-elect Obama’s strategies for pulling the country out of recession is to invest in new and “green” technologies and education that will put the U.S. back in a leadership role in the global economy. But will an infusion of capital into U.S. companies and universities happen quickly enough to keep ahead of the Chinese, Brits and Russians? With the downturn in the economy, a lot of advanced U.S. technology is currently on hold, awaiting capital.
“The Russians are making a massive financial commitment, not only in research but in financing potentially viable business initiatives,” said Oregon nanotechnology consultant Brian Lundquist this week in an interview with EW. “The Chinese are training thousands of new research scientists and engineers in nanotech. The month before last (October) we saw more nanotech patents applied for by a Chinese university than the whole University of California system.”
Whether Obama’s strategies will mean more money right away for the UO’s growing nanotechnology center remains to be seen. UO is considered to be on the forefront of “green nano” and chemical-related nano research. The Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) operates in collaboration with OSU, PSU and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on nanotech research. The patents from academic research often end up being sold (“transferred” is the industry term) to private firms or the government, but reaching the market with improved products and processes can be a long and expensive process.
Lundquist, president and CEO of Nanotechnology Now (www.nanotech-now.com), based in the Portland area, says in order for the U.S. to compete, the country needs to do more than just fund research. “We need financing to help new U.S. companies ramp up their technology and start producing marketable products.”
He said that “venture capitalists and IPO markets are cautious of putting money into emerging technology. The government can make a difference by filing this need for capital, owning a stake in these companies and speeding up the time from discovery to market.”
One of the funding problems, Lundquist said, is that the technology is changing so quickly that private venture capitalists are wary of funding a manufacturing plant that could be obsolete before it goes into production. Shortening time-frames is a key to being competitive, he added. And existing manufacturing companies also need access to the new technologies in order to stay up-to-date and competitive in the world market.
The U.K. website www.contractoruk.com says the British government is planning to make £1 billion of venture capital available to “help early-stage technies who have fallen victim to both the borrowing crisis and the retreat of seed investors from the sector.”
The British emergency fund will be targeted primarily at “innovative spin-off firms that set up on the back of university-funded research into high-value ideas” in the fields of nanotech, biotech, sustainability and information technology.
Information on Russia’s high-technology push can be found at en.rusnano.com — Ted Taylor
KULONGOSKI WEIGHS IN ON LOGGING
Conservationists and the timber industry have been waiting anxiously for Gov. Ted Kulongoski to reach a conclusion on the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR). Kulongoski weighed in on the second to last day before the end of his 60-day review period.
The governor announced Dec. 8 that the WOPR is “incomplete.” He asked the BLM to address his concerns about the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and then open the plan up yet again for another public comment period. This could push the final WOPR decision back far enough that it will be made under President-elect Obama, not under the Bush administration.
Kulongoski said the BLM’s plan to defer consultation with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service until after logging plans have been made is “the wrong approach.” To put off consulting on the ESA is “legally inconsistent with the requirements” and “sets a bad precedent,” according to the governor’s press release.
The governor also asked the BLM to recognize the potential designation of approximately 98 miles of the Rogue River and 60,000 acres of associated lands for federal Wild and Scenic River status within the WOPR plan. Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands Project has been working with other groups to preserve the Rogue River from logging that could potentially hurt salmon fishing and whitewater rafting.
Josh Laughlin of the CWP says that the governor’s response to the WOPR “should have been a ‘no-brainer.’ He says “the BLM’s logging plan violates many of the principles the state laid out early in the planning process including clean water, carbon storage and endangered species habitat.”
The CWP and other groups like Cascadia Rising Tide that have worked to stop the WOPR and encouraged Kulongoski to defend Oregon’s forests from the logging plan are now feeling a little more optimistic. Laughlin says, “The table is now set for us to drive nails into the WOPR’s coffin and put it to bed for good.” — Camilla Mortensen
OLD WALNUT THREATENED
A black walnut tree towers over the corner of 6th and Madison, but it may not be there much longer. The city says it’s a hazard and plans to cut it down after Dec. 15. But at least one local arborist says cutting the tree down is “a huge mistake.”
Doug Hornaday, founder and owner of Artistic Arborist, says that the tree has been there for 100 years and that “it’s in great shape.” He calls it a heritage tree.
Many of Eugene’s tree lovers say that too much of Eugene’s urban forest is cut too often, but others say the dangers posed by falling limbs and trees outweigh the benefits of the trees when they become hazardous.
The tree in question is 60 feet tall with a 65-inch diameter trunk. Its limbs stretch out over Gray’s Garden Center, and it drops its walnuts (and sometimes a branch) in the parking lot, sidewalk and street around it.
According to an evaluation done by the Eugene’s urban foresters, the walnut tree needs to come down due to “large branch failures,” displacement of the sidewalk by the tree’s roots, root rot, crown rot and cankers. The evaluation also says the falling branches may have been exacerbated by a heavy walnut crop this year. The branches may have been weaker too, due to an irrigation leak near the tree that saturated the soil. The report says it isn’t known when the tree was planted and that “calculations using the Heritage Tree formula determined that this tree is not a Heritage Tree.” When it is cut, the tree will be replaced by “a species suitable for the site and based on availability.”
Hornaday would rather see the majestic old tree stay where it is. He says he has checked out the tree and that it “could be maintained.” Cutting down the tree because the walnuts are inconveniencing people would be “absolutely wrong,” Hornaday says. He points out that if the walnuts are a problem, a sign could be put up to warn people not to park their cars where the walnuts could hit them.
For more information on the tree contact Eugene’s urban forester at 682-4819 or Doug Hornaday at Artistic Arborist at 510-7293 — Camilla Mortensen
FOOD DRIVE CONTINUES
The annual Letter Carriers Food Drive began last Saturday, and the second collection date is this Saturday, Dec. 13. In years past the carriers provided bags, but this year residents are asked to reuse their own plastic bags with handles. The decision keeps about 190,000 new plastic bags from going into the landfill.
The drive benefits FOOD for Lane County’s local hunger relief efforts. Canned or packaged foods are requested, and for a list of most wanted foods, visit www.foodforlanecounty.org
Nearly 70,000 pounds of food have been collected so far, according to the agency, but the total is about 5,000 pounds less than last year’s first week.
“These are challenging economic times for all of Lane County,” says Denise Briewisch, FLC’s executive director, “but they are especially difficult for families with limited financial resources.”
• Helios Resource Network is having its annual holiday party from 5 to 9 pm Friday, Dec. 12, at the Knights of Pythias lodge, 420 W. 12th Ave., across the street from the Helios office. The gathering replaces the usual Green Drinks event Friday. See www.heliosnetwork.org for more info.
• Lane County has scheduled a series of public budget hearings and work sessions to prioritize how federal Secure Rural Schools funding will be allocated. The third in the series will be at 5:30 pm Tuesday, Dec. 16, at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave.
• Copwatch Know Your Rights video free showing, featuring CLDC attorney Lauren Regan, at 6 pm Tuesday, Dec. 16, at Grower’s Market, 454 Willamette St.
• The deadline is Dec. 19 for applying for an appointment to the Vegetative Management Advisory Committee (VMAC). This panel advises county commissioners on county roadside matters including alternatives to herbicides and emerging research information. Application forms can be printed from the Lane County website or visit the county building at 8th and Oak.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,209 U.S. troops killed* (4,204)
• 30,852 U.S. troops injured* (30,832)
• 167 U.S. military suicides* (167)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 97,828 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (97,337)
• $577.8 billion cost of war ($573.9 billion)
• $164.3 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($163.2 million)
* through Dec. 8, 2008; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** sources: icasualties.org, defenselink.mil
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.1 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
In our News Brief item last week (12/4) on “Committee Forming on New Rules for Auditor,” committee member Joe Alsup’s name was misspelled.
• Another editorial flip-flop at the R-G Sunday, but this one makes sense.
Last month the R-G editorial board opposed quickly passing new rules to implement the police auditor charter amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters. But now the R-G is saying “Don’t delay” and backing Councilor Bonny Bettman’s call to nail down the rules in the next few weeks.
Bettman this week was turned down when she asked the council to hire an outside attorney to review this matter and provide a legal framework for the committee. Our own city attorney Glenn Klein has been dodging the issue and even refused to answer questions in a bizarre open council session last month.
What’s not being discussed in this lengthy process is the cost to taxpayers of a dragged-out, four-month committee process. An attorney from Harrang Long will be on the committee, charging maybe $250 an hour. The police chief’s time is worth more than $80 an hour, and the two police union reps will likely be on the clock, along with the auditor herself, and probably a city staffer to take notes. We figure it will cost at least $600 an hour to debate some basic, common-sense rules that could be vetted in a couple of public hearings.
• Notice the new writer on the editorial page of The Sunday Oregonian. For at least the last three Sundays, Jack Roberts has written the column succeeding long-time conservative Portland columnist David Reinhard, who recently retired. Maybe it’s just provincialism, because Roberts is director of the Lane Metro Partnership in Eugene and a leading local Republican, but we think he writes better than Reinhard, and there’s no way he can be as loftily conservative as Reinhard.
• Three little girls, age 9, and a mom went to a City Council meeting last week to beg the city of Eugene for safety. Sixteen months ago, Josefina Vaclav’s brother, age 10, died crossing Bailey Hill Road, a broad and busy street the city built next to a park and school. The devastated parents and neighborhood begged for a crosswalk. The city said it wouldn’t paint the lines without a $1.6 million repaving project. The city used the tragedy to help pass a tax increase for street repairs but didn’t paint the lines. So Josefina and her friends sold lemonade and cookies and gave the city, which has $30 million squirreled away for new offices, $160 towards a crosswalk. But the city says it will take at least two years before they provide a safe way to cross the street. A few concrete barriers, a blinking light and a bucket of paint could provide a temporary fix, but the city hasn’t done it. Maybe it will take another dead child?
Meanwhile, developers and sprawl projects get speedy attention from city staff. Brian Obie will get same-day permit service for his new hotel downtown. City staff slam-dunked the basketball arena. The Register-Guard got smooth Chad Drive repaved and connected to the Gateway interchange for its business park. Kids and other less influential people risk their lives daily on Bailey Hill, South Willamette, West 11th, Franklin Boulevard and the countless other mean streets of Eugene. Imagine if the developers had to beg and sell the lemonade.
• Doctor, doctor, give me the news! Last week in this column we asked if any local health care providers allow email with patients. One medical transcriptionist-editor tell us he knows one doctor who “gets so many emails that he doesn’t take any from patients because he is afraid that communication critical to patient safety will get lost in the shuffle.” Another reader, a patient, tells us she emails her doctor on occasion and is not charged.
Searching around, we’ve found doctor’s offices in other cities where the process is formal, structured and efficient. Patients go to a password-protected website where they fill out a form and post questions. A clerk checks the site several times a day, prints out messages and attaches them to patient files. Doctors then dictate a response. Tidy, efficient and well-documented. Some doctors charge extra for the service; others see it as simply part of their patient care protocols to optimize care.
The typical business model for medical offices is to cram in as many patients per day as possible, but with today’s soaring costs of medical care, providing email access to patients is a logical step toward cost-efficiency and improved patient care.
• Want to have a voice in the Obama transition to power? You don’t have to be a Democratic Party leader, elected mucky-muck or big donor to weigh in on potentially one of the biggest political transformations in generations. The Obama transition team has set up a website where anybody can contact the team and leave comments on a variety of topics, from the transition process to cabinet picks to jobs with the new administration. Check out change.gov/page/s/contact (or just get there from change.gov).
HUNTER SPENCE, ALLY PAWOL & ETHEN PERKINS
At 8:30 am on a recent Wednesday, Adams Elementary fourth-graders and trained peer mediators Hunter Spence and Ally Pawol got air time on the school intercom to offer fellow students a few tips on conflict resolution. They were coached by Ethen Perkins, an Adams parent who organized the district’s first parent-coordinated peer-mediation program in the fall of 2007. “It saves time for teachers,” he notes. “We get help from counselors and interns.” Raised on a homestead farm in South Dakota, Perkins went on to a Ph.D. in botany, college teaching in Texas and Colorado, and five years as director of the Malheur Field Station in Eastern Oregon. He is currently a freelance environmental consultant. “My proudest achievement is restoring the endangered Willamette Valley daisy on the Hynix property wetlands next to Willow Creek,” he says. For nearly 20 years, Perkins has been a facilitator with the Alternatives to Violence Project, giving workshops in the community and inside prisons. He also volunteers for one-on-one visits with kids detained in the county youth facility. “We have a lot of fun,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to give kids the problem-solving skills to see options in conflict situations.”