News Briefs: Nuclear Waste Through Eugene? | Urban Renewal Unsolved Mysteries | PIELC Tackles Big Brother | Symposium for Peace at LCC Friday | Comment on Fate of Stadium | Activist Alert |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Kate Sutton
Bike Funding Detoured
Cycling safety money goes to repaving roads
NUCLEAR WASTE THROUGH EUGENE?
A panel at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) and a meeting in Eugene on March 1 addressed a proposal that could lead to nuclear waste coming through Eugene in trucks on I-5 on its way to Hanford, Wash.
The Hanford site was the plutonium-production facility for the Manhattan Project that led to the first atomic bomb. It is in southern Washington, across the border from Oregon and sits near the Columbia riverbank. The site houses 53 million gallons of hazardous waste from nine decommissioned Cold War nuclear plants. Among the 177 existing tanks, 149 have only single-shelled protection, and of those, 67 have reportedly leaked at least a million gallons of nuclear waste into soil and groundwater, according to Heart of America Northwest (HOANW), a group that advocates for the clean-up of the Hanford site. Mid-20th century engineers also directly deposited billions of gallons of radioactive waste into unlined ditches in the land, according to HOANW.
The U.S. Department of Energy and the state of Washington are currently reviewing strategies to officially close “adverse operations” and begin storing even more nuclear byproducts at the Hanford site as a redeveloped waste treatment plant. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on this plan is taking public comments and was the topic of discussion at the March 1 public hearing at the Eugene Hilton.
“The Energy Department has plans that will just make you cry,” said Gary Pollet at PIELC. Pollet, executive director and counsel for HOANW, declared Hanford the most contaminated place in the western hemisphere.
“It’s unparallel to most of the environmental problems we deal with,” said Brent Foster, special counsel to Oregon’s AG John Kroger, at the conference. “It’s going to affect so many generations down the line.”
According to the PIELC panel, Plutonium contamination entering the Columbia River will grow to over 300 times the drinking water standards over the next thousand years. The river is the largest in the Northwest and flows for more than 50 miles through Hanford. Among the chemicals of concern are chromium, uranium, iodine and carbon tetrachloride, each fairly mobile with a half-life of millions of years.
But not everyone thinks that waste is that big a deal. “In that big of a system, a lot is diluted,” said Jeff Lyon from the Washington State Department of Ecology, which supports most of the proposed EIS.
In the latest draft of the Hanford EIS, the USDOE listed 19 alternative plans with an emphasis on the agency’s preference for concentrating storage at the central plateau area of the plant. Proponents of the USDOE plan advocate for landfill closure made of dirt caps rather than a complete clean closure because, according to Mary Beth Burandt from the USDOE Office of River Protection, “It would be the largest soil cleanup ever in the United States.”
A settlement agreement signed in 2006 restricts quantities of nuclear waste shipped to Hanford until 2022, with some exceptions. Saturday’s PIELC panel mentioned concerns for radiation emitted through trucks transporting the waste. The USDOE even estimated 816 fatal cancers in adults along truck routes through routine exposure.
The state of Washington reportedly receives $2 billion a year in cleanup funds. Not surprisingly, Oregon has a different perspective than its northern neighbor. Ken Niles, the assistant director for Oregon’s Department of Energy, pitched an alternative proposal Monday that included initiating the new waste management at Hanford but with stricter rules.
“This is the not the future we want to have,” Niles said. “And I don’t think this is the future that anybody wants to leave.”
Activists against the Hanford initiatives claim that the USDOE omitted essential information from its environmental impact statement, including the use of greater than class C nuclear waste. “It’s a cover-up, not a cleanup,” said Pollet.
“Clean-up is a misnomer; you don’t clean up nuclear waste” said Brett Vandenheuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “If there’s no way to clean it up, it’s insane to keep producing it.”
With the Obama administration closing down facilities like the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository while simultaneously commencing more nuclear energy projects, the space for radioactive cleanup sites is limited. South Carolina’s Aiken County filed a lawsuit against the federal government last week for breaching an agreement to redirect their nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. Similarly, Hanford had previously planned to transport some of its waste to Yucca.
The public commenting period for the Hanford site environmental impact statement ends March 19. For more information or to make a comment, go to Heart of America’s citizens’ guide at www.hoanw.org — Sachie Yorck
Urban Renewal Unsolved Mysteries
How much of the tax money that the city wants to divert for urban renewal downtown will go for administrative overhead? Weeks into council discussion of a plan to extend the Downtown Urban Renewal District (URD), that question remains a mystery.
Late last year the city budgeted $972,000 for urban renewal “administration” costs. But City Manager Jon Ruiz emailed to EW that total included about $390,000 in subsidies for the WG Sears pit project that was canceled by the developer.
The unspent money would appear to stay in urban renewal reserve funds. The URD has about $6 million in unspent reserves, according to City Attorney Glenn Klein.
If the district were canceled, that money would return to the taxing districts that it was diverted from. Based on city budget document numbers, state school funding would get about $1.9 million, LCC $244,000, the city of Eugene $2.8 million and Lane County $504,000. Local property taxes would also be reduced by about $511,000 by using the urban renewal reserve funds to pay off bonded debt instead of taxes.
Although city staff have not provided clear budget numbers, the city appears to be contemplating extending urban renewal for about 20 years to divert about $25 million in taxes. That would mean taking about $8 million in revenue from schools, $1 million from LCC, $12 million Eugene, $2 million from Lane County and increasing bond taxes about $2 million.
Mayor Kitty Piercy says in an email that taxes would not be increased, but the city’s budget document contradicts that claim.
Piercy also claims that the city’s plan is for only $17 million in diverted taxes. But that figure does not appear to include any money for administration beyond the first year. A city urban renewal measure defeated 2-1 by voters three years ago included $500,000 a year for a total of $10 million in administration costs over 20 years. Piercy claims the new proposed URD plan will include only $150,000 a year in administrative costs, although that figure has not appeared in city documents for the plan.
Piercy claims the city plan will last only “several” years. City documents indicate a much longer period is contemplated and it’s unclear how the district could generate $17 million in “several” years.
In defense of the city’s URD proposal, Piercy says “helping LCC fill the vacant lot across from the Downtown Library with an innovative energy and job training center is a tremendous opportunity. Urban renewal is a tool that can make this opportunity a reality without raising taxes. The projects in the proposed downtown urban renewal plan, exculding interest on debt, are estimated at about $17 million (not $25 million). It would not extend the use of urban renewal for 20 years. In fact, the proposal would terminate the district once the proposed projects are paid off over the next several years.”
In addition to administrative costs, Piercy says the URD proposal would include $8 million to help LCC, $5 million to improve public safety downtown, “adding police officers paid for by paying off the debt on the Broadway Place parking garages.” About $2.5 million “would help a Veterans clinic relocate to the PeaceHealth building on Willamette, and $500,000 would go toward improving the Park Blocks for the Farmers’ Market.”
Piercy’s full response can be found in our web-only letters this week. — Alan Pittman & Ted Taylor
PIELC TACKLES BIG BROTHER
We are living in a police state, and we should make the necessary accommodations.
This is according to Ben Rosenfeld, a civil rights attorney speaking at a Feb. 27 panel at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.
The “Government Attempts at Repression Against Environmental Activism” panel focused on what panelists called the government’s overzealous history of eliminating dissidence, and included legal advice and personal accounts of criminalization.
Lauren Regan, executive director of Eugene-based Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), explained how the government engages itself in disrupting and dismantling activist organizations. “The take-home message here is that it’s not just people who are burning shit down or being harassed by the government. More often than not, it’s those people above ground, the press or support crews or even sometimes the lawyers who are being the targets of these types of government repression.”
According to Regan, the FBI’s long history of tactics, such as intimidation, harassment, blackmailing, illegal searches, false arrests, smear campaigning, media infiltration or — now more than ever, she says — crying terrorism are attempts to dissolve political dissidence, manifested in movements that advocate anti-capitalism, environmentalism, animal rights, anarchism or “really any activism at all.”
“They have more agents to monitor vegan potlucks then they have sent out to infiltrate the anti-abortion movement that has caused more than 13,000 injuries or deaths since it began,” said Regan. “We are the number one ‘domestic terrorist threat’ in the country.”
Recalling activism of the ’60s and ’70s such as the Black Panthers, American Indian Movement (AIM), and contemporary student protests, Regan called these movements “textbook examples of the extent to which the FBI has engaged itself in attempting to silence the message that it fears the most.”
Jeff Luers, recently released after serving almost 10 years of what was originally a 23-year sentence for the politically motivated arson of SUVs at a dealership in Eugene, spoke about imprisonment. According to Luers, labeling activism as terrorism is a tactic used by the government “to instill fear in activists” and “draw energy away from our collective struggle.”
Rosenfeld, the final panelist and board member of the CLDC, listed some tips for counteracting these tactics, including knowing your rights, communicating with other activists, always seeking counsel and being cognizant. “Don’t mourn. Organize.” he said. “Find what sparked you and ignite it in someone else.” — Deborah Bloom
SYMPOSIUM FOR PEACE AT LCC FRIDAY
Political and social activist Tom Hayden will be giving a keynote speech at the third annual Lane Peace Symposium, “Confronting Militarism: Democracy vs. Empire,” on Friday, March 5. The event will begin at 6 pm at the Center for Meeting and Learning at the LCC main campus.
Hayden is known for helping to found the student activist group Students for a Democratic Society and being one of the defendants in the Chicago Seven case surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. He will speak on “Mass Movements vs. Machiavellianism.” The aim of his talk will be about forming social movements during times of war, he said in an interview.
According to Hayden, one approach to structuring these movements is what is called an outside/inside model. In the peace movement of the 1960s, Hayden said, “There was a status of being on the outside for nearly a decade. In the course of that, it stimulated some rethinking on the inside.”
Hayden gave as an example Daniel Ellsberg and his release of the Pentagon Papers. Actions like Ellsberg’s caused a blurring of the line between the peace movement on the fringe of society and the majority. “I would say that today we have an anti-war movement on the inside, but we need an anti-war movement on the outside. And that’s the question: How to do that?” Hayden said.
Speeches will also be given by Anita Weiss, head of the UO Department of International Studies, whose research and travels focus on Pakistan. She will speak about the current situation in Pakistan in the midst of the U.S. war on terror. Gwyn Kirk, a scholar-activist concerned with gender, racial and environmental justice, will address women and militarization. Northwest singer/ songwriter Jim Page will perform.
Stan Taylor, chair of the LCC Peace Center Steering Committee, described the need to branch out with a movement for peace through events like the symposium. “If you look at the amount of money that is spent on the military industrial complex, and then you look at the cuts to social spending and education, there is a clear need to reverse priorities,” he said (see Viewpoint this week).
All speakers and performers will meet for a reception at 2 pm March 5 at Cozmic Pizza. Suggested donation for the reception and symposium is $10. — Shaun O’Dell
COMMENT ON FATE OF STADIUM
School District 4J held a public meeting last week to gather comments on the fate of Civic Stadium, and the district now has an input form at http://wkly.ws/dt online through March 5. Information gathered at the meeting and through the survey will be considered as the district looks at its options regarding the historic ballpark. A decision has been delayed to give time for the group Save Civic Stadium to have a feasibility study done.
The 4J form asks questions such as, “What would you advise the board to do with the Civic Stadium property?” and “What do you consider to be uses that benefit the community?” The form also asks participants to rate the importance of various criteria that could be used in evaluating purchase proposals; and provides space for additional suggestions and other individual comments.
Civic Stadium has been owned by the school district since its construction in 1938, and it was officially designated as surplus property in 2002. The departure of the Eugene Emeralds baseball franchise leaves the district with maintenance costs on the deteriorating structures and playing field. Only South Eugene High School’s baseball team now uses the field.
The Jefferson Westside Neighbors (www.jwneugene.org) are expected to talk about the stadium at their March 9 general meeting. The stadium is on the School Board agenda March 17. Save Civic Stadium’s feasibility study is expected to go the board by May 18. District staff will present their findings of fact to the board May 19. A public hearing is planned for June 2. A decision is expected June 16 on selling the property. Find more information at www.4j.lane.edu/civicstadium and to donate to the feasibility study, visit http://savecivicstadium.org — Ted Taylor
• Filmmaker Patti Duncan screens her feature-length film Finding Face, about an acid attack on a young woman singer in Cambodia, at 3 pm Thursday, March 4, at the EMU Ballroom on the UO campus. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women in Society’s Women of Color Project, this free event will include a discussion session with the filmmaker.
• Eugene’s Climate and Energy Action Plan discussions continue with a look at natural resources March 4. The meetings are held from 6 to 9 pm at the EWEB community meeting room, 500 E. 4th Ave. More information at http://wkly.ws/du
• Bonny Bettman McCornack, Jack Roberts and Abe Farkas are the speakers at City Club of Eugene at 11:50 am Friday, March 5, at the Hilton lobby area. Topic is “Tracking the Public Interest: Local Economic Development.” See www.cityclubofeugene.org
• Ali Abunimah, founder of the Electronic Intifada website and author of One Country — A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse will speak at 1 pm Friday, March 5, at Lawrence Hall, Room 115, on campus. Abunimah calls for a single, integrated state with equality for all its citizens as the only viable, democratic answer. The presentation is sponsored by the UO Arab Student Union and the Al-Nakba Awareness Project
• International Women’s Day is being celebrated at 7 pm Friday, March 5, at Agate Hall at UO. The event is sponsored by the ASUO Women’s Center on campus. Students and community members are invited to join a night of music, dance, poetry and dessert. Doors open at 6:30 pm. This year the theme of the event is “The power of Women in the 21st Century.” International Women’s Day is also inspiring a demonstration against war on the Ferry Street Bridge from 1 to 3 pm Sunday, March 7. A gathering before the event will be at Alton Baker Park. See www.womenforwomen.org or email email@example.com
• A benefit for the Bumi Sehat foundation featuring the music of Alice DiMicele will begin at 8 pm Friday, March 5, at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette. Waterproof tents will be collected and the suggested donation is “$10 to $10 million.” Bumi Sehat has sent a team of medics, including midwives, to Jacmel, Haiti. See blog and photos at http://wkly.ws/dv
• Professor James Nafziger of Willamette University Law School will speak on “The Great Game Goes into Overtime: What Should Be Our Strategy in Afghanistan.” The free talk is from 7 to 9 pm Monday, March 8, at the Law School, room 110. Sponsored by CALC and UO Law School.
• A public hearing before the LTD Board of Directors regarding route reductions and price hikes will be at 5:30 pm Monday, March 8, at the Eugene Public Library. See www.ltd.org for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with comments.
• Unnatural Causes is the title of a free film and forum at 6 pm Tuesday, March 9, at the Eugene Public Library. The event is part of a series “What the Health?!” exploring how media, place and policy affect health. More info at www.lchay.org or call 682-4306. This documentary seeks to explain “why your bank account, race, and zip code are more predictors of healthiness than your medical coverage, habits and genes.”
• A summit on high speed rail in the Northwest will be held from 8:30 am to 5 pm Tuesday, March 9, at the Center for Meeting and Learning at LCC. Lunch is included with the $25 registration ($15 for students). Mayor Kitty Piercy will facilitate and Congressman Peter DeFazio has been invited. See http://wkly.ws/dy
• A forum on ACT (Area Commission on Transportation) is planned for 5:30 to 8 pm Wednesday, March 10, at the ODOT offices, 644 N. A St. in Springfield. ACTs are advisory bodies to the Oregon Transportation Commission. ACTs can look at all aspects of the local transportation system. Local ACT project manager is Rob Zako, 343-5201. Current by-laws can be found at http://wkly.ws/dw
• Leonard Weinglass will speak at at 6:30 pm Wednesday, March 10 at the UO Law School on “The Case of the Cuban Five after Five Decades of Defending Political Trials.” Weinglass he has been involved in some of our nation’s most prominent criminal and civil cases involving issues of civil and human rights.
• A panel of experts will address “Saving the Planet for Future Generations: Intergenerational Equity” at 4:30 pm Thursday, March 11, in the UO Law School, room 175. Panelists include Tim Ream (moderator), Elizabeth Brown Weiss, Brent Newell, Mary Wood, John Davidson, and student activist Jeremy Blanchard.
• Do you recognize this wasteland as prime property that we citizens of Eugene own a few blocks from the Willamette River and the center of the city? It’s a “before” picture. You might go over to 8th and Ferry this week to see the unfolding “after” picture. Stay tuned for a terrific public-private, can-do, win-win story.
• The debate over urban renewal is growing louder as people, organizations and even government agencies begin joining choruses on one side or the other in typical Eugene fashion. Looks like another showdown at the ballot box with LCC uncomfortably in the middle — unless another source of money can be found to bridge the anticipated funding gap in LCC’s downtown campus project. We’re open to all options, but we’re not convinced that the best choice is extending the problematic Downtown Urban Renewal District. Let’s take a deep breath and look closely at local government reserves and re-examine how they should be spent. This important development supporting both education and downtown housing needs to be at the top of the list.
• Is Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken dropping out of the race for Congress to jump into the crowded contest for the Springfield Lane County commissioner position? Leiken’s campaign — and donations to it — never recovered from the setback it got after that whole paying his mother for a poll that has no records to prove it existed thing. Retiring Sen. Bill Morrisette has pulled out of the race citing health reasons, giving a break to lesser-known candidates. Rumors are afloat that if Leiken throws in his hat, some of the other conservative competitors for the position will drop out to clear the way. One of the most formidable of the six candidates in the race right now is Pat Riggs-Henson (see http://wkly.ws/e1), a labor activist. Deadline for filing is March 9.
• It’s hard to see how any policy change or voter mandate short of an outright ban could reform the EPD’s abusive use of Tasers. The self-policing department has amply demonstrated that it’s willing to twist and ignore any policy language to allow wanton use of Tasers. According to the Civilian Review Board, the officer who Tasered a terrified, unarmed Chinese student felt he would have been justified in shooting the student with his firearm. Most of the EPD officer’s superiors saw no problem in using deadly force against the kid, according to the CRB. With such police leadership, it’s hard to see how any use of force would be held accountable. What’s needed is not so much a new policy but a new police chief who will clean house. Under Eugene’s unusual form of government, only City Manager Jon Ruiz can fire Chief Pete Kerns. If Ruiz won’t do it, the Eugene City Council should fire Ruiz. If the council won’t do it, voters should elect candidates who actually believe in human rights.
• Some of the good news that came out of the Public Interest Environmental Law conference last weekend at the UO came from Congressman Peter DeFazio, not always a gleeful guy these days. Noting that the press probably won’t even pick it up, he reported that a whopping majority of the House passed a measure last week to rescind the anti-trust exemption the health insurance industry now holds. This also passed the House in the first health care bill and was removed in the Senate largely due to Sen. Ben Nelson, but it has a better chance of staying in this time, Sen. Patrick Leahy told Peter. Kudos to our congressman. He has led this important fight for a long time.
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, editor at eugeneweekly dot com
Growing up on a two-acre lot in Oakbrook, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, Kate Sutton started riding at age nine and saved up to buy her first horse at 13. “A couple years later, I started teaching children in the area,” she says. “Some of them were special-needs kids.” When Sutton came west to study psychology and special ed at UC Santa Cruz, she volunteered for a therapeutic riding program. In seven years as a special-ed teacher in Santa Cruz schools, she made riding part of the curriculum. “I found it more effective with the children than work in the classroom,” says Sutton, who left the schools in 1991 to found the Soaring Spirit Therapeutic Equestrian Center. “Kids don’t realize they’re doing strenuous physical therapy or speech therapy because they’re having so much fun.” Sutton moved Soaring Spirit from California to 53 acres of pasture and woodland east of Creswell in 2007 and resumed operation in 2009. In addition to its therapeutic program for kids and adults with physical and developmental disabilities, the center offers natural horsemanship instruction for all children and adults. A non-profit organization, it thrives on volunteer help and donations. Learn more at www.soaringspiritcenter.org