News Briefs: UO Prof Wins Bias Lawsuit | Tax on Poor for Police | City Can Help LCC Without Tax Diversion | Kids’ Book Intended to Dispell Old Ideas | Kutcher Campaigns for County Commission | PIELC, Loggers and Speakers | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Dottie Neil
Help LCC, Not URD
Urban renewal is a Byzantine scheme
Review board faults police Tasering
UO PROF WINS BIAS LAWSUIT
Paula Rogers just wants her job back (see cover story 3/19/09). On Feb. 10 a jury found the UO guilty of discrimination against her and subjecting her to a hostile work environment “due to her race or national origin.” While this is not the first time the UO has been sued for discrimination, it appears to be the first verdict against the UO for discrimination, says attorney Lauren Regan. The other cases were settled out of court.
The jury awarded Rogers more than $164,000 in damages from the UO, and the school has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the case. “I told the university that if they would only give me my job back, this lawsuit would be over,” she says. “This money could have been put to better use elsewhere.”
Rogers is half-Japanese. She filed grievances in 2005 alleging that she was experiencing discrimination within the East Asian Languages and Literatures (EALL) department for not being “pure Japanese.” She alleged that fellow faculty in her department gave her too many duties for a junior faculty member and applied some rules only to her and not to anyone else in the department.
Later that year, after learning about the grievances, EALL faculty members Maram Epstein and Noriko Fujii voted against giving Rogers the standard three-year tenure-track contract, according to Rogers’ Bureau of Labor and Industries complaint. She was given a one-year non-renewable contract, ending her career at the UO.
In paperwork filed for the case, UO denied each of Rogers’ allegations, argued that for several of the claims the UO and the professors named were not “proper defendants,” and argued that Rogers is not entitled for damages under Oregon’s Title VII anti-discrimination law. The UO had asked the case to be dismissed.
In addition to finding the university as whole discriminated against Rogers, the jury found that Fujii subjected Rogers to disparate treatment and a hostile work environment based on her race or national origin and retaliated against Rogers for exercising her legal right to file a grievance. The jury found that Epstein acted with retaliatory motive against Rogers but also found that her decision might have been motivated by a lawful reason.
Other professors and UO officials named in the case were not found to have discriminated or retaliated against Rogers.
Regan, who worked on the case with attorney Marianne Dugan, says the UO had spent $250,000 paying the Oregon Department of Justice to defend itself before the trial even began. She says the DOJ conducted email searches, examined computer hard drives and engaged in “inquisition-like depositions” that she says “seemed to be designed to punish Dr. Rogers for suing the university and to discourage others from doing the same.”
The case isn’t finished. There are state law claims still to be litigated in state court. Rogers says, “We’re still interested in broaching the subject of reinstatement in the state court.” — Camilla Mortensen
TAX ON POOR FOR POLICE
Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns is pushing a regressive flat tax that will hit poor renters to increase the budget of his police department.
In a memo to the City Council Feb. 3, Kerns wrote that the city’s “executive management team brainstormed options” for increasing police spending and “developed the following strategy” to “increase the rental housing code fee.”
The Rental Housing Code Fee is a flat $10 per unit annual city tax that landlords can pass through to renters. Advocates for renters supported the tax as a way to create a new habitability code enforcement program targeting slumlords.
But the police are now proposing to increase the tax as a way to generate revenue for themselves. Unlike property taxes or income taxes, the flat rental tax is regressive, with everyone charged the same amount regardless of ability to pay, home value or income.
A millionaire executive renting a luxury apartment would pay the same as a person on food stamps struggling to make her next rent payment while feeding her children. The flat tax would also largely target the poor who are often forced to rent because they cannot afford home down payments.
Renters already pay for the police through property taxes passed through by landlords in higher rents. The police already have a budget of $42 million a year but have pushed for huge spending increases for years. The police department has never been independently audited for inefficiency and waste.
Kerns argues in the memo that his flat tax on poor renters for police is justified because “renters engage in property crimes, often fueled by illegal drug use/sales and alcohol abuse.”—Alan Pittman
CITY CAN HELP LCC WITHOUT TAX DIVERSION
The city of Eugene doesn’t need urban renewal to help LCC build a new downtown center in the library pit, a review of city financial documents shows.
Critics have accused the city of using the popular LCC project to revive an urban renewal system that voters overwhelmingly rejected three years ago.
City Councilor George Brown said opponents will again gather signatures to refer urban renewal for a vote. “It will be referred,” he said. “We’ll get into another acrimonious political fight with LCC in the middle.”
City staff say that LCC wants about $8 million in city help to build its new downtown center. City documents indicate that, without urban renewal, the city has more than enough money to provide that financial assistance:
• “Should the Downtown Urban Renewal District cease to operate, the City would receive an additional $810,000 in FY11,” a staff memo states. If the city borrowed against that annual revenue boost from ending urban renewal, it could finance a 15-year loan of about $8 million, based on current interest rates.
• Other taxing jurisdictions would also receive more money if urban renewal ended, according to the city’s FY10 budget document. LCC would get about $77,000 a year. That revenue stream is enough to pay for a $1 million building loan over 15 years.
• Lane County would gain about $158,000 a year in revenue (enough for $2 million in loans) if the downtown district was canceled. The county could pitch in the money toward the community college project, or use it for other needs.
• State school revenue would increase by about $592,000 a year through 4J property taxes that would no longer be diverted to urban renewal. The city could ask the state to use the extra money to help with the LCC project. If not, 4J may be able to cut its property tax rate and Eugene increase its rate by an equal amount to boost funding for the project with no impact on local school funding or overall local tax rates.
• The average taxpayer would also see taxes drop about $4 a year if the downtown urban renewal district was ended, according to city budget numbers. At that rate reduction, the city could put a $4 million LCC bond measure on the ballot, and citizens could pass it with no net increase in taxes.
The city has also proposed using about $1 million in urban renewal to subsidize PeaceHealth renting space to a possible new VA clinic downtown. Another proposed use of urban renewal is $500,000 for improvements to the Farmer’s Market space downtown. Those improvements could also be funded by ceasing urban renewal. For example, a 20-year bond instead of a 15-year bond on the increased city revenue from canceling urban renewal would bring in about $2 million in additional funding.
Another option would be the city selling a downtown parking garage or garages to pay off some or all of its parking debt, freeing up to $740,000 in debt payments that the city could spend on anything. This money could help pay for more police downtown. The city has also identified $350,000 a year available from the EPD “repurposing existing budget” to better serve downtown, and $375,000 a year from increased fees on downtown property owners.
There is one thing, however, that the city couldn’t do without urban renewal. In the past the city has tried to use the tax diversion to protect $500,000 a year in administrative costs from getting cut to serve more pressing city needs. — Alan Pittman
KIDS’ BOOK INTENDED TO DISPELL OLD IDEAS
|Illustrator Maren Borecki and Author Mark Koenig
Eugene is fairly open to modern concepts of evolution, climate change and peak oil, but millions of children around the nation are still being indoctrinated with creationism and other 19th century ideas. Mark Koenig of Eugene wants to do something about what he calls “industrial religion and concrete dogma” and create some local jobs at the same time.
Koenig, aka QuestionMark, is a semi-retired computer programmer and a familiar face at Saturday Market where he sells board games he designs, such as “Lords & Ladies.” He’s also a big advocate for eco-villages.
Koenig says he tried finding meaningful employment in Eugene for two years and finally decided to create his own work by writing and publishing a unique children’s book, with the help of local talent. The book Tyrannosaurus Carus is due out in April. Koenig is going public with his project at a free multi-media event at 4 pm Sunday, Feb. 21, at the Eugene Public Library. “Adults must be accompanied by a responsible child,” says Koenig.
The event will involve a digital slideshow, sound effects and a “time machine” that will take the audience back 100 million years in the Willamette Valley, “a time when dinosaur families lived with a mechanical species call the Carus,” he says.
The artist hired to illustrate the book is Maren Borecki, a senior in graphic arts at UO, and the editor is Gavin Uprichard. Printing will be done in Roseburg and binding, marketing and distribution will be here in Lane County. He’s using a series of free public events and other low-cost marketing to help publicize the book.
How does a man in his late 60s write a book children will relate to? “I never left childhood,” Koenig says. “My wife waited 31 years for me to enter adulthood.” He’s now single.
Koenig says the book explores some personal themes for kids, such as “dealing with being different, bullying, and speaking your truth, learning to trust yourself, the purpose of life, and how we all got here.”
The themes are delivered within the context of a global transportation crisis, he says, “a catastrophic climate change event requiring the wholesale rethinking of our fundamental values and relationships — and not being able to score points in a soccer game.”
“Times of climactic change,” he says, “always favor the fleet-of-foot, sharp-of-wit, and those willing to evolve.”— Ted Taylor
KUTCHER CAMPAIGNS FOR COUNTY COMMISSION
Community activist Gary Kutcher will be running for East Lane County Com-missioner in the May 18 election against Faye Stewart.
“Public officials are not representing the needs of the majority of people here in Lane County,” he said in a recent interview. “I have known for a long time that the only way we will change things around is to elect people who represent our values.”
He said his campaign will primarily focus on greater community involvement, expansion of local control, more efficient use of natural resources and job creation.
Kutcher, 55, intends to implement a system of “budgetary democracy” where residents can directly decide how their tax dollars are spent. “In order for democracy to work, people need to be paying attention,” he said. “I want to let people know that they have a stake in what is going on here.”
He believes Lane County should have greater autonomy over its resources, citing Lane Transit District as an example. Because the directors of LTD are appointed by public officials in Salem, “They for the most part don’t have a clue about the needs of the people in this county.”
Linking environmentalism to job creation, Kutcher said he wants to support sustainable agriculture, organic farming, permaculture and the businesses that respond to those industries. “The primary idea is for our local economy to provide for the needs of people here,” he said. “Let’s keep our money in the community.”
Kutcher’s campaign is non-traditional: He aims to challenge other candidates to regular debates; he will not accept campaign donations more than $100; and, if elected, he wants to cut the commissioners’ salary by half, he said. “They should be paid no more than what the average person in Lane County makes,” he said. “It’s a novel idea, but what if the commissioner’s pay was directly connected to the mean salary of Lane County residents?”
A community organizer for the past 30 years, Kutcher is currently director of Sustainable Forestry Network, a nonprofit that works to protect Oregon’s forests from clear-cutting and use of toxic chemicals. In the past, he has worked on regulations to promote energy conservation, ban nuclear power and support the protection of old-growth forests. — Deborah Bloom
PIELC, LOGGERS AND SPEAKERS
Big trucks and bulldozers or treehuggers and Earth First!ers? Both the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) and the Oregon Logging Conference (OLC) come to town on Feb. 25, at UO and the Lane County Fairgrounds respectively.
PIELC attendees will participate in what conference organizer Davis N. Smith calls a record 150 panels on topics from factory farming to mining to biomass.
The logging-oriented folks at OLC will apparently be talking about biomass too. The theme of the three-day event is “Forest Biomass … Fuel of the future?” OLC will be keynoted by Nate Clark, director of public affairs for John Deere’s construction and forestry division and John Deere Power Systems. According to the OLC website, “Family Day” on Saturday, Feb. 27, will include kid-oriented events like simulated firefighting, forestry mascots and “millions of dollars in logging equipment to explore.”
The big machines don’t end there at this logging, construction, trucking and heavy equipment expo: In addition to all the large machinery parked around the show, there will be live-logging-action with a log-loader competition, chainsaw woodcarving and a high school forestry competition.
If your kid is a future tree lover rather than logger, then rest assured, PIELC isn’t leaving out the future environmentalists either. The conference kicks off on Feb. 25 with Robert and Bindi Irwin, the kids of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, talking about “Empowering the Next Generation of Wildlife Warriors.” Tickets are free to this kid-oriented event, but they need to be reserved in advance.
PIELC’s theme this year is “Recover, Renew, Reimagine,” and the conference promises its usual array of speakers from all over the U.S. and the world. Keynoters include Ramona Africa, Minister of Information for MOVE; Eugenean and conservationist Terri Irwin, widow of Steve Irwin and owner of the Australia Zoo; and Oregon’s AG John Kroger. Panelists include recently released ecowarrior Jeff “Free” Luers.
Every year PIELC has a new surprise. In the past we saw undercover FBI agents conducting surveillance, BLM employees covertly recording video and a 2008 student-organized march from the UO to the Federal Building that led to later Homeland Security surveillance of local enviros, the Pitchfork Rebellion and that whole unfortunate anti-pesticide rally Tasing incident.
But despite what federal agencies might think, this conference is on the up-and-up. There’s a reason PIELC is billing itself as “the world’s most important environmental law conference.” The law student-run gathering brings together the best and brightest conservationists, attorneys and environmental justice advocates in the world, from Ecuador to Africa, for a weekend of discussion, debate and a little socializing. Maybe the OLC foresters will drop by for a chat or pick-up game of basketball.
For a PIELC schedule and to register for the conference, which is free ($25 suggested donation) go to pielc.org and go to www.oregonloggingconference.com if you want to check out the OLC logging conference. — Camilla Mortensen
• Former governor Barbara Roberts will speak at the League of Women Voters 90th anniversary luncheon at 12:15 pm Thursday, Feb. 18, at the Mallard Banquet Hall, 725 West 1st Ave. in Eugene. The public is welcome, and there is no charge for Roberts’ speech. A buffet will be available for $10 at 11:45. Make reservations by emailing email@example.com or call 343-7917.
• A rally is planned urging Sen. Ron Wyden to support the TRADE Act at noon Thursday, Feb. 18, outside the new U.S. Courthouse on 8th Avenue. According to organizers, “Wyden has supported failed trade policies and institutions like NAFTA and the WTO, making it far easier for large corporations to shift jobs from the U.S. to countries with weaker labor and environmental standards. Oregon has lost an estimated 75,000 jobs under these policies. With Oregon’s official unemployment rate over 11 percent, we simply cannot afford to lose any more.”
• A fundraiser for County Commission candidate Jerry Rust will be from 5 to 7 pm Thursday, Feb. 18, at Tsunami Bookstore, 2585 Willamette St. Rust is expected to speak at 6 pm. See www.jerryrust.com or call (541) 997-1905.
• Architect Eden Brukman of the International Living Building Institute and Cascadia Region Green Building Council will talk about incorporating socially and environmentally responsible strategies into design and construction at 5:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 18, at Davis’ Restaurant & Bar, 94 W. Broadway. Free for Cascadia members, $5 for non-members.
• The speaking tour “Global Trends — Local Choices” returns to Eugene at 7 pm Thursday, Feb. 18, at Cozmic Pizza downtown. Local activist Jan Spencer will talk about his upcoming speaking tour to Washington state and California and show clips of his new DVD.
• Seattle teacher Jesse Hogpian will speak about his experiences in Haiti at 7 pm Friday, Feb. 19, at the EMU Ballroom on campus. Hogpian is being lauded as a hero for his volunteer efforts in setting up a makeshift clinic in the ruins of the hotel where he and his family were staying at the time of the earthquake. He had no medical training but ended up setting broken bones and treating life-threatening wounds side-by-side with an EMT. The free talk is sponsored by the International Socialist Organization. Donations for Haiti relief will be requested.
• Climate activists are organizing a “Take Back the Tap” bottled water educational event from 11 am to 3 pm Monday, Feb. 22, at the EMU Amphitheater on campus. Organized by UO Climate Justice League.
• Victor Hugo Lopez of the Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center in Chiapas, Mexico, will speak on the current human rights situation in southern Mexico at 5 pm Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the UO Living-Learning Center North, Room 125. Free event sponsored by the Latin America Solidarity Committee. Call 485-8633 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• A presentation on “Liquefied Natural Gas: Impacts and Opposition” is planned by the Sierra Club Many Rivers Group at 6:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 23, at Campbell Community Center, 155 High St. in Eugene. Speaker is Olivia Schmidt, anti-LNG community organizer, email@example.com
• Cascadia Wildlands’ annual Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival is 7 to 10 pm Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 180 PLC at the UO. Tickets are $5 for CW and UO Outdoor Program members and students, $7 for everyone else. Proceeds go to “protect imperiled species and landscapes” in the Northwest. Films include Finding Farley, Ascending the Giants, and a number of short films.
• The Lane Peace Symposium this year will be Friday, March 5, on the LCC campus. Speakers include activist Tom Hayden, Anita Weiss and Gwynn Kirk. Songwriter Jim Page is also on the schedule. See details at http://wkly.ws/ab
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,378 U.S. troops killed* (4,378)
• 31,648 U.S. troops injured** (31,648)
• 185 U.S. military suicides* (updates NA)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (updates NA)
• 104,005 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (103,988)
• $707.1 billion cost of war ($705.9 billion)
• $201.1 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($200.7 million)
• 969 U.S. troops killed* (969)
• 4,923 U.S. troops injured** (4,923)
• $253.9 billion cost of war ($252.5 billion)
• $72.2 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($71.8 million)
* through Feb. 15, 2010; 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 1.2 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
• Lane County Vegetation Management Advisory Committee vacancy: see http://wkly.ws/bm Deadline for submitting applications is 5 pm Monday, March 1.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
• We hear Tony McCown will withdraw this week as a candidate for West Lane County commissioner and endorse Jerry Rust. McCown is expected to appear at Rust’s fundraiser Thursday at Tsunami Bookstore (see Activist Alert). “After reviewing Jerry’s record and meeting with him personally, I have concluded that he will be an outstanding representative for West Lane County,” McCown says. Rust also praised the public service record of McCown who has served on the Lane County Budget Committee, the Lane County Human Rights Advisory Committee, Lane County Planning Commission and LCC Board of Education. Left in the crowded race with Rust are Jay Bozievich, David William Northey, Fred Starr and Anselmo Villenueva.
• Is the curiously vague citizen lawsuit against three Lane County commissioners just political theater? Former conservative commissioner Eleanor (Elli) Dumdi, along with Edward Anderson, has sued Commissioners Rob Handy, Pete Sorenson and Bill Fleenor for violating Oregon public meetings laws, without documenting any real evidence beyond email conversations between two commissioners at a time. Are they not supposed to talk to each other? Ironically, the current board is far more transparent in its decision-making and holds many more public meetings than when Dumdi was in office. Adding to the irony is the note at the bottom of a press release about the lawsuit: “To avoid politicizing this matter, plaintiffs do not wish to personally provide any further public comment.” Looks like the complainers don’t want anyone to ask them tough questions, such as “Where’s the evidence?”
• Give the homeless a garden? We did a cover story on guerilla gardening downtown back in our Nov. 5, 2009 issue and now we read in the Colorado Springs Independent (http://wkly.ws/bl) that Colorado Springs is organizing and fundraising to build and maintain an attractive community garden in a tough part of town. The garden, once it’s ready this spring, will be planted, maintained and harvested by “homeless people, poor folks and runaway teenagers.” The garden is expected to produce more than 2,000 pounds of food, taking some of the burden off local food banks and providing useful and therapeutic work for some people who might otherwise be wandering around downtown Dumpster diving and looking for handouts.
• It’s ironic that the Oregon mainstream press has come down so indignantly on the Legislature for declining Gov. Kulongoski’s request to put the kicker on the ballot in November. No brainer, the Portland daily says, the voters would flock to the polls to deprive themselves of that little kicker rebate because it makes such good fiscal sense. Editorial writers point to the passage of Measures 66 and 67 as evidence that Oregonians are willing to pass tax measures. Note that The Oregonian aggressively opposed passage of 66 and 67. Those measures passed because of an amazing grassroots effort in this state. At least 300,000 phone calls were made. The unions, education community, and other foot soldiers gave endless time and money for that effort. We’re doubtful that such energy could have been mobilized again so soon. The Legislature was right.
• Newspaper junkies will take some delight in the new interactive website http://wkly.ws/bv that provides a map of the U.S. and dots representing nearly every city that has a daily paper. Nine of Oregon’s 18 daily papers are on there so far. Click on the dot and that city paper’s front page will pop up. Zoom in to read stories. Some papers provide access to inside pages and websites as well.
“I’m Dorothy from the Land of Oz,” says Dottie Neil, who grew up in Potwin, Kan., population 350, during the Depression. “For 30 years now I’ve lived here, in the Emerald Empire.” After high school, Neil studied journalism at Kansas State College in Manhattan and went to work for the weekly Manhattan Tribune-News. “I did the local social news and obituaries,” she says. She got married and had five kids, then moved to Anaheim, Calif., to find a school for the oldest, Danny, who was mentally disabled. “I belonged to the League of Women Voters,” she says. “My kids grew up at the kitchen table, stuffing envelopes for the latest cause.” Her husband Bill suffered a stroke at age 47 and died two years later, in 1971. In 1978, when all the kids had finished school, she followed her son Rick to Eugene. She worked 10 years for a rain gutter company, went back to college at age 65, and was hired at 70 by The Pond, an Internet service provider. Since 2004, she has returned to journalism as copy editor and columnist for The Creswell Chronicle. “Injustice rattles my timbers,” she says. “I’ve always been for the little guy, the homeless, people who don’t have insurance.” Find an archive of her columns at thecreswellchronicle.com.