News Briefs: March on the Capitol | City Hall to Pop the Question | Petition to End the War | Equality Action | Consumer Protection | Lane County Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Critics call county tax unfair, unbalanced, unwise
Happenin’ Biz: Josh Proudfoot and Skovof Good Company
March on the Capitol
UO students join rally for education funding
STORY AND PHOTO BY DARRICK MENEKEN
If it wasn’t Bob Dylan playing the harmonica last Thursday morning, I have no idea who it was. Either way, it certainly should have been Dylan. I was, after all, about to depart for a political rally on Salem’s doorstep Feb. 22 when I noticed the sound escaping someone’s headphones. With that, I contorted myself into the tight confines of a school bus bench seat and readied for the drive north.
|Education supporters gather at the Capitol
Yes, Dylan and his followers from the tie-dyed ’60s would be proud of us, I thought, amazed that as a 30-year-old graduate student I’d never before marched on a capitol building, state or otherwise.
After loading up on the UO campus, our long yellow bus and a twin — each carrying about 25 university students — grumbled toward rain-spattered I-5. While a couple in front of me swapped stories about riding the bus as kids, a woman farther up used a pocket knife to slice open an avocado then carefully cut bite-size pieces into her mouth. Behind me, raspy harmonica music continued. I felt like I was back in the Blue Light Special, that old hulking van my church youth group used to take on road trips to Mount Lassen. Had someone given me a wet Willy, I’d have been right at home.
Unlike those teenage trips, however, this one wasn’t about downhill skiing and sneaking away for clove cigarettes. Instead, those of us on last week’s road trip were skipping school for a better cause. Last week’s rally wasn’t about ending the war — though it’s safe to say most in attendance would land on that side of such a debate — but instead was held to demand increased state funding for higher education. In Salem, we streamed off the buses as the chants began. Thankfully, the rain had stopped somewhere on the highway.
“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. High tuition has got to go.” A rally organizer in a bright red shirt led the call-and-answer from a podium atop the Capitol steps.
Inside, however, many lawmakers kept to their daily routines, ignoring the effort. Others showed support by exiting via the large spinning doors in front of the lobby.
The big fella himself was even on hand. Gov. Ted Kulongoski, spoke to more than 500 boisterous students huddled under the cold shadow of the Capitol’s imposing stone walls. The place felt more like a bullion depository than a source of open government.
“The opportunity to afford a higher education has slipped away from too many young people in Oregon,” the governor yelled from the Capitol steps, saying that his 2007-09 budget will reverse a downward spiral in post-secondary education. According to staffers, the governor hopes to start with a 17 percent funding increase for community colleges and a 15 percent boost for public universities. That money would fund better classrooms and residence halls and increase the number of professors.
The governor also wants to increase the Oregon Opportunity Grant through a new financial aid program called the Shared Responsibility Model. Funds would be raised by increasing the corporate minimum income tax, something that hasn’t happened since 1931, when annual tuition at the UO was less than $80. Today, full-time in-state tuition runs about $6,000 a year.
“If we enact this program, we can ensure everyone who wants to go to college, will go to college,” Kulongoski said. “In order to stay ahead, we need the best-educated, best trained, most-skilled workforce in the country. But, to accomplish this, we must again invest in Oregonians — and that begins with investing in their education.”
Dean Braa, a sociology professor at Western Oregon University and a former U.S. senatorial candidate, followed, saying, “We have got to get part-time and adjunct faculty pay way up.” He said professors can leave Oregon for better pay in just about any other state. Braa demanded that students take the next step and storm the building. He even gave directions — right for the House, left for the Senate — and said that by not going inside we would be leaving too soon.
As he finished, the crowd erupted, and a kid seated beneath the podium flipped over a metal garbage can and banged on the bottom like a bongo drum. I thought there might be a mass run for the halls behind those spinning front doors. Instead, a few minutes later the rally was over. Some went inside, but those of us from the UO were instructed to get back to our yellow submarines. We had a schedule to keep, afternoon classes to catch.
As I moved slowly down the steps, a woman with a dark mustache mumbled something on her way up. “Come down here more often,” she said. “Because you can make it on one side, but it’s the opposite side you’ve got to convince.”
As I got back on the bus, I wondered what a young Bob Dylan would do.
Darrick Meneken is a freelance writer living in Eugene. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
CITY HALL TO POP THE QUESTION
After spending $1 million on planning for a plan for a new City Hall building with another $1 million in the pipeline, the city of Eugene will finally ask citizens if they actually want to pay for the roughly $120 million building.
|A leading rough design for a new city hall north of the park blocks
In a 6-2 vote Feb. 14, the City Council directed staff to spend another million on City Hall planning and do a survey soon to find out if people want to pay for a new building.
Councilor Alan Zelenka made the successful motion to move the survey up rather than delay it to the end of the planning process as staff had proposed. “If we get data back that says only 17 percent of the people want to build another City Hall, I don’t want to spend another million dollars,” Zelenka said.
City facilities manager Mike Penwell objected to the survey idea. Without giving people details of the City Hall plan including its location, “most people are just going to say no” to the new building, he said.
Mayor Kitty Piercy also opposed the poll. “Don’t ask for what you don’t want to hear,” the mayor said. Passing a City Hall finance measure “is just by its nature a heavy lift,” she said. The poll should be about finding out what kind of new City Hall citizens want rather than whether they want one at all, according to Piercy. “I don’t think you need to go out and ask people, ‘Do you want a new City Hall?'”
Councilor Jennifer Solomon said the city shouldn’t stop the City Hall project. “If we stop now, we will have wasted a lot of money.”
A big part of the $1 million the city will spend in the next phase of City Hall planning will apparently go towards convincing voters to vote for it. City consultant Jonah Cohen said the city team will use the money for “detailed polling” and “bond strategy” work. “The intent with that is to determine what the public is interested in and what might motivate them to vote for this.” The consultants will also give tours of the current building, “so that people just understand the need.”
Using taxpayer money to campaign for more taxes is illegal in Oregon, but the law contains loopholes and is rarely enforced.
Councilor Chris Pryor claimed money to campaign for the new City Hall is “public information” and “not for any sort of advocacy.” He did, however, predict that the public will criticize the expenditure. “That seems like a lot of money.” — Alan Pittman
PETITION TO END THE WAR
Eugene PeaceWorks is circulating a petition to cut war funding and end the war in Iraq. The petition, addressed to Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, says: “We the undersigned demand that you vote and work actively to stop all future funding of the U.S occupation of Iraq and begin the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops.” It can be downloaded from eugenepeaceworks.org
In light of the current political deadlock on resolutions, cutting funding is “the only practical way of stopping the war,” says Phil Weaver of PeaceWorks. “In March a new $100 billion supplemental war funding bill will be coming up for a vote in Congress. If Congress simply votes it down, there will be no way the Senate can filibuster it or Bush can veto it.”
Two new bills have LGBT activists excited about the Democratic Legislature’s ability to make strides in state civil rights, something cut off last session by former Speaker of the House Karen Minnis (still a Republican rep, but out of power). The first bill is HB 2007, called “The Oregon Family Fairness Act,” which would allow same-sex couples some of the legal rights granted to married opposite-sex couples. Senate Bill 2, “The Oregon Equality Act,” would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, public accommodations, education and public services.
Not coincidentally, Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), the statewide LGBT advocacy group, hosts a lobbying “Day of Action” Wednesday, March 7 at the Capitol. BRO’s Melissa Cherniak says that she expects about 500 people at the noon rally and several hundred taking the day off work or school to lobby the lawmakers.
To sign up or for more information about the Day of Action, go to www.basicrights.orgor call (503) 222-6151. If you’ve already signed up and you need to talk carpool, call BRO’s Thom at the same number.
The Oregon House recently passed a series of consumer protection bills that will limit the fees charged by payday lenders, put a cap on the rates of interest on car title loans, close loopholes for out-of-state and Internet payday lenders and strengthen licensing requirements for check cashers and payday lenders, according to Rep. Phil Barnhart.
“Payday lending, check cashing or title loan companies will still be able to thrive in Oregon,” says Barnhart, “but this will ensure that Oregonians who are going through difficult financial times do not get caught in unending cycles of debt.”
Barnhart chairs the House Revenue panel, which passed out of committee the Healthy Kids Plan to provide health care for the more than 117,000 uninsured Oregon children, lowering health care costs throughout the state and ensuring that kids can get access to vital health care services. “I am hopeful that the bi-partisan support we saw in committee for Healthy Kids will help pass the bill on the floor,” he says. The bill raises tobacco taxes to pay for the program.
Lane County Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Weyerhaeuser (744-4632) will aerially spray 367 acres near Greenleaf (Wheeler and Chicken Creeks), and Low Pass (Jones Creek, and the Long Tom River) with 2,4-D (Hardball, LV6); Velpar; Atrazine (4L, 90WSP); OustXP; Accord; Westar; Garlon (3A, 4); Transline Herbicides starting March 1 (No. 781-50231).
• Near Twin Oaks Elementary School: Oregon Forest Management Services (896-3757) will ground spray 43 acres and 8 acres near Cassidy Lane with Oust and Accord herbicides for Seneca Jones Timber (689-1231) starting March 10 (No. 781-50241).
• OR Dept. of Forestry 935-2283.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
Regarding our news brief last week about a downtown Eugene cohousing project, Martin Henner says there are no cohousing units available for purchase as investments, but “If someone were to want to purchase a unit as a home, but needed to rent out their unit while they were on sabbatical, or until they moved here in a year, that would be different.” Also, local contractors who want to submit construction bids can contact Henner by email for bid packages at email@example.com
We’re unabashed cheerleaders for the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference that begins Thursday and runs through Sunday afternoon at UO (see story this week on page 14). The 25th annual gathering once again puts Eugene on the global map for leadership in the kind of practical activism that builds a framework of ecological sanity in a mad world. Lawyers, students and activists come here from all over to share knowledge and tactics for holding polluters and government agencies accountable. There’s not a lot of fuzzy talk about hugging trees and being one with nature; these folks talk about suing the bastards and winning. Registration is free for community members (donations are appreciated), and it’s also OK to just show up at the law school, browse the tables and sit in on some of the panels, workshops and keynote talks.
We got a letter last week from Jeff “Free” Luers, hand-written before the recent appeals court decision tossing out his 22-year sentence for arson. He’s sticking by his rhetorical guns. “I am unapologetically militant,” he writes. “In keeping with the history of social change, I believe that both nonviolence and militancy are contributing components of social change. A provocative act of sabotage — in this case arson — often brings publicity to an issue, creating debate and dialogue that would not otherwise have occurred.” Is he right? It’s a debate that will never be resolved. Eco-saboteurs have indeed raised awareness of issues, but they have also discredited and politicized the environmental movement. We’ve come a long way from the Boston Tea Party’s act of poliitcal vandalism. We have more sophisticated tools now for organizing and educating the public. We are evolving as a species, and it’s time to step above all forms of violence. Who has more impact when it comes to saving the environment? A hundred saboteurs with torches and monkey wrenches or Al Gore with his wonkish traveling slide show? We favor the latter.
Eugene used to be known as “Track Town USA,” but that label and image have faded over the years for a number of reasons, including our obsession with Duck football and men’s basketball. We’re pleased to see signs of a revival of running sports in town coming from both the community and the UO. It helps that Eugene has been picked for the 2008 Olympic track trials. Want to get involved in making Eugene a Track Town again? A series of town hall forums is coming up from 7 to 8 pm March 6, April 3 and May 1 in Heritage Hall in the Bowerman Building on campus, 15th and Agate. Contact Mike Black (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Michael Reilly, UO assistant athletic director, at 346-5243 for more info.
Most anonymous letters to us get tossed in the recycling bin. But one letter last week from a former Eugene resident provided a perspective on “Savage Love” that’s based on personal experience: Too many parents today are trying to shelter their kids from the darkness when they should be educating them so they can get information from a trustworthy source. I was never spoken to about sex nor drugs, and when I got to college I got heavily into drinking, drug use and unprotected sex. Now I’m 32, HIV positive and just getting out of rehab. I know if my parents had ever sat me down and really told me the truth about these issues, I probably would not be a heroin addict, and I’m certain I would have listened when they spoke about STDs. Parents, please realize hiding your kids from the world only increases the chance that they will try to figure it out for themselves, often ending in tragedy.
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
JOSH PROUDFOOT AND JOSH SKOVOF GOOD COMPANY
|Josh Proudfoot (left) and Josh Skov
Back in 2000, UO psychology grad and crew athlete Josh Proudfoot left a teaching job in Seattle to join his old rowing buddy Dag Hinrichs of L.A. and Hinrichs’ cousin Josh Skov, then a grad student at Berkeley, in Eugene. Together the three founded Good Company to do research and consulting in sustainability. (Hinrichs has since moved to Vestas Wind Power in Portland.) “We got into this to help businesses and consumers make sustainable decisions,” Skov explains. “Eugene has a legitimate shot at being a model sustainable community. We have the people and the political will to do it.” GC has consulted with 15 colleges and universities to develop measures of sustainability. It works with ODOT and engineering and construction firms to integrate large projects into local ecosystems and economies. “The best example is the McKenzie River bridge at Armitage,” says Proudfoot. “We’re working with the Watershed Council to find the best use of demo material. We’ve got biodiesel in the cranes and heavy equipment and compost-based erosion control.” Learn more at goodcompany.com — Paul Neevel