News Briefs: Choosing to Close Schools for the Poor | From School to Strip Mall | OLCV Rates Councilors, Commissioners | Slumlord Code to Expand | Eco-Arson Trial in Tacoma | Ready for Roundup Ready Sugar? | Loving Your Lunchbox | Health Care Reform on the Agenda | Gathering on Culture Change | Kerwood Gets Volvo Grant | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Cops v. Auditor
Dismissal of criminal complaint leaves unanswered questions about EPD
Peace Conference Growing
Hundreds expected at LCC gathering
Happening People: Happening People at the Hult
CHOOSING TO CLOSE SCHOOLS FOR THE POOR
The 4J School Board gave little indication last week, Feb. 13, that they would alter the recommendation of Superintendent George Russell to force the poor, largely Latino children out of a neighborhood elementary school in South Eugene to give the building to whiter and wealthier alternative school children.
Russell recommended last week to close Harris, a neighborhood elementary, and give its building to the Eastside and Charlemagne alternative schools. Harris is 67 percent free and reduced lunch while Eastside is 5 percent and the Charlemagne French Immersion school is 10 percent. Harris is 25 percent Latino while Eastside and Charlemagne are both 1 percent Latino.
Kristen Larson, a parent of three Harris children, told the board that the decision to close Harris for the alternative schools was “basic discrimination against the lower income families.” Larsen said, “If you support these recommendations, shame on you.”
But not a single board member gave clear indication that they did not support the recommendation.
School Board Member Charles Martinez did question how it was decided that the alternative schools would have an “immunization from closure” during the district’s “Schools of the Future” process, intended to consolidate schools due to declining enrollment and supposedly to reduce inequities. “I don’t think that’s consistent with board direction.”
Russell admitted that school board minutes clearly show that closing an alternative school should be “open for consideration.”
So why didn’t Russell recommend closing alternative schools to boost enrollment at neighborhood schools?
Russell said if the board directed him to close the alternative schools, “I’m happy to do that.” But he said it was his impression that the board had eliminated that option. “I felt that was not really on the table in light of the decisions that had been made previously.”
Russell said that he was also recommending that unlike every other school, Charlemagne French Immersion students would be immune from his recommendation to limit transfers to Roosevelt Middle School and South Eugene High School. The French immersion students would be given automatic places at the two popular schools even if they did not reside in the appropriate school boundary. Charlemagne students would take French immersion slots at the school, bumping out other students who may want to attend the schools for the other popular programs they offer.
An Eastside parent testified to the board reading a statement from her school’s parent group thanking the superintendent for giving the Harris building to them. “Our community appreciates and supports George Russell’s recommendation.”
James Riggs, a single father of three children at Harris, told the board his son Wyatt has attention deficit disorder and depends on the helpful relationships he’s established with staff at Harris. “If he gets moved to a new school, he will be lost. There will be no future for him.” — Alan Pittman
FROM SCHOOL TO STRIP MALL
The former Santa Clara Elementary School site may be converted into about 85,000 sq. ft. of shops, banks and restaurants and 250 parking spaces under a proposal before the Eugene City Council.
Santa Clara is the first of several sites School District 4J has proposed closing and rezoning to maximize a selling price. Other sites include Fox Hollow Elementary, Coburg Elementary, Willard Elementary and Civic Stadium.
The proposal by Oregon West Management includes a 15,000 sq. ft. pharmacy, a bank, coffee shop and small plaza and small area for an open air market. The proposal near Hunsaker and River Road also includes 43 adjacent residential units.
Neighborhood leaders expressed concern over the prospect of a large commercial project in testimony before the Eugene Planning Commission last October. Kate Perle said River Road should not be turned into another West 11th Avenue and that the project failed to actually mix sufficient residential units in with the commercial development.
Catherine Lesiak wrote to the commission that it should not allow “huge strip mall” congestion at the important site of the school that served as the center of the neighborhood. “The proposed development is business as usual corporate commercial,” she wrote.
The Planning Commission voted 4-2 on Nov. 19 to approve the proposal. The City Council is scheduled March 10 to make the final decision on the zoning and plan amendments needed for the development. — Alan Pittman
OLCV RATES COUNCILORS, COMMISSIONERS
An analysis of selected environmental votes released this week by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV) points to a distinctly polarized Eugene City Council. However, Mayor Kitty Piercy’s role as a tie-breaker swung the council to an overall 61 percent approval rating for the past two years, about the same as 2004-2005, and much improved over 2002-2003 when Jim Torrey was mayor.
Councilors Poling, Solomon and Clark all got zero marks on the OLCV’s environmental scorecard and Pryor got a 27 percent rating. Earning 100 percent ratings were Bettman, Taylor, Kelly (while in office), Zelenka (while in office) and Ortiz. Piercy got an 89 percent rating on the issues she voted on.
“We’re lucky to have a mayor who understands the importance of leaving a great environmental legacy for our children,” said Jan Wilson of the OLCV.
At the County Commission, the numbers have improved, due in large part to the replacement of zero-rated Anna Morrison with 100 percent-rated Bill Fleenor. Commissioner Bobby Green earned a 47 percent rating, Faye Stewart 53 percent, Bill Dwyer 93 percent and Pete Sorenson 100 percent.
To come up with the ratings, the OLCV Lane County chapter looked at key votes on disputed issues with environmental impacts. At the city level, the issues dealt with stormwater pre-treatment, wetlands protection, creating and funding the Sustainability Commission, supporting the Endangered Species Act, limiting sprawl, supporting regional planning, increasing park funding, protecting farmland, protecting the Amazon Headwaters and approving pedestrian-oriented development.
At the county level, multiple votes each concerned protecting farmland, limiting sprawl and improving air quality. Other issues included pesticide exposure and protecting Oregon’s coastline from development.
Visit www.olcv.org/lanefor more detailed information.
SLUMLORD CODE TO EXPAND
During the first two years of the city’s rental housing code program, tenants called the city 815 times. But 410 of those calls were related to bad rental issues not covered by the code.
So now city staff are recommending that the City Council add mold, security and smoke detector problems to the code. The current code addresses only structural integrity, plumbing, heating and weatherproofing.
The city has found 106 legitimate complaints of violations of the housing code in the past two years. On five occasions, the city fined landlords for lack of response to orders to fix problems.
The city funds enforcement by collecting an annual $10 fee for each rental unit from the 27,000 rentals in the city. Last year the program had a $76,000 budget surplus, but the city expects higher enforcement costs from extending the program to the other problem areas. — Alan Pittman
ECO-ARSON TRIAL IN TACOMA
The only accused arsonist in the FBI’s Operation Backfire arrests to go to trial is in court in Tacoma, Wash.
Briana Waters is accused of being a lookout in the arson that destroyed the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture. She is also accused of assisting in building “firebombs” with timing devices. Testimony in the case started Feb. 11, and the trial is expected to last a month.
Waters, a violin teacher and mother of a 3-year-old daughter, currently lives in Berkeley, Calif., and she maintains her innocence. If she is convicted, she faces up to 35 years in prison. Eugene’s Civil Liberties Defense Center (www.cldc.org/waters.html)is providing updates on the trial on its webpage. — Camilla Mortensen
READY FOR ROUNDUP READY SUGAR?
The Sierra Club, food safety advocates and organic farmers sued the USDA last month over a decision to allow sugar beet farmers to start planting Roundup Ready sugar beet seeds.
While Oregon ranks sixth in nationwide production of sugar beets, the Willamette Valley produces almost all the seeds for sugar beets grown in the U.S. These days the sugar you put in your coffee has just as good a chance of being from sugar beets as it does from sugar cane, since a little more than half of the sugar grown in the U.S. is from the beets. In 2008 the sugar you eat has an excellent chance of having grown from genetically modified seeds.
In 2005, the USDA approved a Roundup Ready sugar beet seed. Like Roundup Ready corn, alfalfa and soy the seeds are resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. Opponents to the decision argue that the environmental impacts of the seed, including cross-pollination, were not adequately assessed.
Sugar beets can cross-pollinate with Swiss chard and ordinary table beets. Roundup Ready sugar beet pollen could conceivably make its way into another farmer’s organic beet crop. This has repercussions for Oregon’s organic farmers who cannot use genetically modified seeds. Other Roundup Ready crops such as corn and wheat have alledgedly accidentally cross-pollinated with the crops of farmers using non-genetically modified seeds.
Critics point out that the long-term affects of these genetically modified seeds are unknown. Data from American Crystal shows the company has already begun planting the biotech seeds in trial sites and plans to plant the genetically modified seeds to use in sugar in 2008. — Camilla Mortensen
LOVING YOUR LUNCH BOX
Local Eugene business owner Nancy Owen Myers has partnered up with a fellow lunch-packing moms to tackle the issue of soggy sandwiches in a reusable, washable and durable lunch box. Kids are going bananas for the roll out packs that keep their food contained, calm and collected.
The lunchboxes come in a variety of colors and hold four small plastic containers for food, a drink bottle and a salad dressing container. The packs unfold and can be used to sit on when not holding food items.
Myers and her friends got fed up with putting lunches together for their children in bags that fell apart. “The lunches would get squished, and the kids wouldn’t eat the food. When they’d come home, there would be food left over in the lunches I packed for them,” said Myers.
This led Myers and friends to create LunchSense, a company that launched this year that sells lunch boxes designed by Myers.
Word of mouth about the lunch boxes got out when kids around Myers’s kids and their friends began taking the lunch boxes to school. “Kids are telling kids about them. They go ape for it, and they like the look of them,” said Myers.
Myers hopes to launch the lunch boxes in the Pacific Northwest and on the web in the next year. She also hopes to have them made out of reusable and eco-friendly materials abroad. “Most of the materials used are made overseas. It is cheaper to have it done over there,” said Myers.
She has plans for a set of lunch boxes to be used for picnics and a series of bicycle-friendly packs. She will exhibit the lunch boxes at the Better Living Home Show in Portland in March. Call 541-515-0089 to find out more about the lunch boxes. — Mark Arellano
HEALTH CARE REFORM ON THE AGENDA
The Democratic presidential race is stirring a debate on who has the best health care plan, but few details are being discussed in the media. Meanwhile, the practical points of comprehensive health care reform are being examined in Oregon, and the public is invited to join in.
There will be a series of public meetings sponsored by the Eugene-Springfield chapter of the Archimedes Movement and Health Care for All-Oregon. The next meeting will be at 7 pm Wednesday, Feb. 27, in the EWEB Board Room, 500 E. 4th Ave. in Eugene.
On the agenda will be a presentation on the Oregon Health Fund Board’s plans for the Oregon Health Plan for low-income Oregonians. Many low-income Oregonians, including many children, are not covered by the existing plan, due to lack of funding, federal restrictions on the use of federal dollars and bureaucratic obstacles. Rhonda Busek, vice-president of Lane Independent Practice Association, which is responsible for the performance of the Oregon Health Plan in Lane County, will be the speaker.
More meetings are planned March 26 and April 30 at the same time and place. Those agendas will include the insurance exchange concept, and delivery system reform.
The Oregon Health Fund Board itself will be sponsoring a series of public presentations this spring and summer. The board is expected to wrap up its recommendations by Oct. 1 and submit them to the 2009 Legislature.
GATHERING ON CULTURE CHANGE
The Whiteaker Community Council (WCC) and the Eugene Permaculture Guild are sponsoring a free community gathering at 7 pm Wednesday, Feb. 27, at Harris Hall, 8th and Oak, to talk about global trends in climate change, economics, resources, international relations and the environment.
These trends are “certain to increasingly affect the way we work and live in important and unpredictable ways,” says WCC Board member Marcella Monroe. “What can individuals, families and neighborhoods do to adapt for a very uncertain future?”
The presentations and discussions will look at local examples of people making eco-logical changes in their lives and properties: turning lawns into gardens, reclaiming automobile spaces, looking closer to home to meet their needs, and building community, she says.
For more information, visit www.suburbanpermaculture.orgor call 686-6761.
KERWOOD GETS VOLVO GRANT
Lorraine Kerwood was picked this week as one of three people nationwide to receive $100,000 for her work to improve the environment (see EW story 12/3/07). The Volvo For Life Award goes to Kerwood for her exemplary work through NextStep Recycling, a Eugene non-profit that supports both the environment and a broad spectrum of underserved communities worldwide.
NextStep Recycling has helped keep about 3,000 tons of electronic and other equipment from going into landfills, while distributing more than 13,500 computers to disadvantaged people, families, communities and organizations worldwide.
She will be flown by Volvo to New York City March 19 to be honored at the Volvo for Life Awards ceremony. She intends to donate the award to NextStep to help “open some significant new doors, and expand our work in current and new areas.”
Kerwood was a “Happening Person” in EW‘s Sept. 8, 2005 issue.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began onMarch 20, 2003(last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 3,963 U.S. troops killed*(3,960)
• 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)
• 88,784 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (88,479)
• $495.5 billion cost of war ($483.5 billion)
* through Jan. 21, 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
LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
• Near Marcola Elementary School: Weyerhaeuser (741-5211) will backpack spray 12 acres with 2,4-D LV6, atrazine L/WSP, Velpar DF, Oust XP/SFM, Transline, Clean Slate, and Accord herbicides starting March 1 (#55128). Call Tim Meehan, Oregon Department of Forestry stewardship forester, at 726-3588. Express concerns for children’s health to Bonnie Covell at Weyerhaeuser.
• Let’s see if we have this right. A Eugene police sergeant appears to seek to intimidate the independent police auditor questioning his performance by using his official position to file a criminal complaint against her. The police chief, who never wanted an auditor to begin with, immediately refers the frivolous complaint to the district attorney. The DA, who works closely with police and has a clear conflict of interest, immediately launches a full-bore criminal investigation. City staff withhold information from the City Council on the complaint for more than a week. Sounds like official misconduct to us.
• Some news in city elections. Mayor Kitty Piercy has three challengers so far in May: Ian Goldfarb, Jim Ray and Nick Urhausen. The City Council Ward 1 open seat currently held by the retiring Bonny Bettman has George Brown and Shimeon Greenwood on the ballot, and we’ve heard rumors of a possible third candidate, Jason Blair, a project director at Oregon Research Institute who campaigned for the downtown urban renewal measure that Brown opposed. Blair, who also writes film reviews for EW, is still undecided. “I’ve been considering it,” he tells us this week. “I think it’s a huge opportunity to improve relations at the council level. My only hesitation is whether I’d have the time to do the job properly.” Andrea Ortiz (Ward 7) now has a challenger, John R. Crane, a local businessman and former CEO of Kidsports. Betty Taylor (Ward 2) and Chris Pryor (Ward 8) are still running unopposed. March 6 is the filing deadline for the May primary.
• What’s Jim Torrey up to? The former mayor wrote a letter to the editor of the Oregon Daily Emerald last week talking about being politically “independent” and nonpartisan and urging Democrats to vote for Barack Obama in May. OK, you can lower those eyebrows now. The longtime Bush supporter did NOT say he’d be voting for Obama in November, just supporting him in the primary. Torrey’s maintaining a high profile. He’s on the 4J School Board and was a guest at the conservative Rubicon Society recently, and his name pops up in phone surveys asking people how they rate local politicians. Is Torrey contemplating a last-minute filing for the mayor’s race? He might be polling better than Pat Farr, and let’s not forget the attempt to write in Torrey when Nancy Nathanson lost the mayoral primary to Kitty Piercy in 2004. What would Torrey’s campaign slogan be? How about “A Mayor for Sprawl of Eugene”?
• Dave Hauser, president of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to the mayor and councilors this week complaining about the lack of geographical balance on city boards, committees and commissions. This sounds more like a political wedge issue than a real and substantive concern. A lot of thought, consideration and recommendations go into the appointment process by the mayor and council. The Chamber didn’t make a peep when Mayor Torrey stacked city panels with pro-sprawl conservatives, many of whom are still serving. Piercy and the council are actually bringing more diversity of thought and attitude to city government.
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
HAPPENING PEOPLE AT THE HULT
Twelve years ago, in February of 1996, “Happening People” made its debut as a column in Eugene Weekly. This photograph of artist Kari Johnson, along with her sculpture The Revolutionary Oracle, appeared a few months later, in June of 1996. The Oracle was one of seven pieces included in that summer’s Outside Art exhibit in downtown Eugene. As of February 2008, 670 individuals and groups, each of them nominated by readers of the Weekly, have been featured as Happening People. Beginning this Friday, Feb. 22, and continuing through March 29, a selection of portraits from the HP archives will be on display in the Jacobs Gallery at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. The exhibit, titled Telling Stories, also includes large-format photographs of the disappearing traces of man in the wild areas of Oregon, from tidewaters to high desert, by Corvallis photographer Rich Bergeman. An opening reception is scheduled for 5:30 to 8:30 pm Friday, Feb. 22. All past, present and future Happening People are cordially invited to attend.