News Briefs: Downtown Together II | Council Rejects Tax Breaks | Jet Boats Move to Klamath | Military Center for Nonprofits? | UO Prof Granted Guggenheim | LGBT Town Hall | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Are Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
UO land, downtown, EWEB, Glenwood still on the table
Minding the Climate
OSU scientists share global warming findings
Happening Person: Tom Lively and Megas MacDonald
DOWNTOWN TOGETHER II
Downtown Eugene projects large and small, some well defined and others still in the visionary stages, were touted at the second in a series of “Downtown Together!” public meetings sponsored by Citizens for Public Accountability.
The first public forum was April 1 and provided an opportunity for citizens to toss out ideas and issues regarding downtown revitalization. The second half of the first meeting involved the forming of groups around ideas that might be worth pursuing.
The second meeting, April 9 at the WOW Hall, was moderated by Mayor Kitty Piercy and had reports from groups formed at the first meeting along with short talks by people with some expertise in downtown development. Among the speakers were city planner Mike Sullivan, developer Jean Tate, Beam Development’s Pete Eggspuehler, architect Mark Gillem, Davis’ Restaurant co-owner Tom Kamis, Kiva owner and City Council candidate George Brown, DAC owner Rob Bennett, County Commission candidate Rob Handy and St. Vincent de Paul’s Celia Walker, standing in for Executive Director Terry McDonald.
Walker talked about the success of the five-story Aurora Building built by St. Vincent de Paul downtown. She said the 54 residential units, 14 reserved for LCC students, have been a big success, but the 7,000 sq. ft. commercial ground floor is still not leased.
Tate talked about the economics of commercial development and used a flip chart to outline the relationship between building costs, net income and profits. “It’s not easy to get a return on investment,” she said. “You need public subsidies for it to work.”
Gillem talked about how building city parks downtown can serve as a catalyst for adjacent housing development, which in turn stimulates commercial development. “Portland and Savannah [Ga.] are tearing down parking garages to build parks with parking underground,” he said.
Eggspuehler described Beam’s plans for the Centre Court and Washburne buildings downtown and the hole known as Aster’s Pit. Beam is still not fully committed to the redevelopment project, but Eggspuehler said he is optimistic the plans will go forward even if Oregon Research Institute decides not to lease a renovated Centre Court building. He also said financing for residential projects is difficult at this time, but he hopes Beam will follow-up with residential buildings later. If Beam goes through with its project, it will create 24,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 80,000 sq. ft. of office space, creating 500 jobs downtown, said Eggspuehler.
Brown talked about the importance of focusing on one project at a time, and said he hopes property owners Connor & Woolley can be persuaded to either develop or sell their vacant properties downtown.
Kamis said he’s skeptical of building more city parks but would like to see a small hotel downtown.
Bennett urged people to look at the successful Oakway Mall on Coburg Road and “see why it’s so successful.” He described himself as a “staunch advocate for urban renewal,” and also said rehabilitation of old buildings can cost more than new construction.
Sullivan said the city has several tools to assist in downtown revitalization, such as urban renewal funds, business loans and “the ability to assemble properties and sites for future development.”
Handy talked about the importance of public participation in the development process.
Several groups that formed at the first meeting reported on their projects, including a cultural center at 10th and Olive; a new home for the Network Charter School; a West Broadway arts center in the old Public Market building which currently houses The Tango Center, New Zone and ShawMed; an indoor Farmers Market; a larger Teen Center and a park across from the library.
The next forum is from noon to 5 pm Saturday, April 26, at The Tango Center, 194 W. Broadway, and includes walking tours, entertainment and “celebrity appearances.” The final forum is 7 pm Tuesday, April 29 at the WOW Hall. Visit www.DowntownEugene.org for more information. — Ted Taylor
COUNCIL REJECTS TAX BREAKS
The Eugene City Council voted 4-3 April 14 to reject tax breaks for two apartment developers in the West University neighborhood, and a majority of counselors said they would like to reevaluate the entire tax break program for the area.
The developers applied for the tax breaks under the city’s controversial Multiple-Unit Property Tax Exemption (MUPTE) program, which gives 10-year tax exemptions for new apartment buildings downtown and near the university.
Developer Dean Hansen applied for about $142,000 in tax breaks for a project to tear down a house and replace it with a six-unit apartment near 14th and Ferry streets. Developer David Corey applied for a $90,000 tax break for a project to demolish two houses and build a seven-unit apartment at the corner of 16th and Hilyard.
Councilor Alan Zelenka said many of the MUPTE projects in the area would be built anyway and are “indistinguishable” from apartment projects in the area that didn’t get tax breaks.
Zelenka said city data show that almost 80 percent of the multiple-unit projects recently built in the area were built without tax breaks. Comparing MUPTE with non-MUPTE projects, “you can’t really tell me what we’re getting is substantially better” with the tax breaks.
Councilor Bonny Bettman said the MUPTE applicants should be on the tax rolls “just like everybody else.” She said with the city and county facing budget deficits, “everybody should pay their fair share.”
Councilors Zelenka, Bettman, Andrea Ortiz and Betty Taylor voted against the tax breaks. Council Chris Pryor, Mike Clark and Jennifer Solomon voted for giving the money to the developers.
The council conservatives argued that the city would recoup the tax losses after the higher-value projects would go on to the tax roles in 10 years. But Bettman said that assumes incorrectly that the city doesn’t need the money now and that nothing new will ever be built without the tax breaks. “That housing is profitable; it’s going to get built anyway.”
With Councilor George Poling on a 10-week leave, there was no tie vote for Mayor Kitty Piercy to break. But Piercy did say she thought denying the developers’ applications “sets an unfair situation for those people who thought they were playing by the rules.”
Zelenka and other councilors pointed out that the city made it clear that it would not approve every tax break application automatically. “There is no certainty,” he said. “It’s our discretion.” — Alan Pittman
JET BOATS MOVE TO KLAMATH
After a proposal to run a leg of the 2008 World Jet Boat Marathon through Eugene on the Willamette River on Memorial Day weekend met with outcry from environmentalists and river users alike, organizers have apparently decided to move that portion of the race to Oregon’s Klamath Lake.
Environmental concerns about the high-speed race ranged from issues with bird nesting habitat that could be damaged by wakes from the boats to the effects on spring Chinook migration.
The race would have shut down river use in and around Eugene for all other uses on Memorial Day Weekend. This would have meant no other users would have been able to fish, swim or boat on a section of the river during the popular holiday weekend.
The first leg of the four-stage race will be run on the lower Rogue River, near Gold Beach; the second on the Trinity River in California and the third leg is back on the Rogue near Grants Pass. The final leg, which was to have been on the Willamette and Santiam Rivers, is now on Klamath Lake.
The Rogue River is home to the second largest run of salmon and steelhead in Oregon after the Columbia. The Rogue is also habitat for threatened bald eagles and marbled murrelets.
Running the race on Klamath Lake is not without its own environmental concerns. Although peak migration for waterfowl will have ended by the time the race takes place on the lake, May is the middle of breeding season for birds in the Klamath Basin. May is also the peak time to observe the mating dance of the Western and Clark’s grebes. Birders say the grebes appear to dance across the waters of Klamath Lake. — Camilla Mortensen
MILITARY CENTER FOR NONPROFITS?
A group of local nonprofits is interested in moving into buildings that the Marines and Navy plan to vacate on 13th Avenue in Eugene.
Committed Partners for Youth (CPY), the HIV Alliance and Lane Shelter Care have met to discuss the possibility, according to CPY Director Susie Walsh.
The central site on a bus line near Chambers Street and César Chávez Elementary could be “the ideal place for a consortium of nonprofits to call home,” Walsh told the Eugene City Council at an April 14 public forum.
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy responded at the meeting that she hoped “there will be a way for the reserve site to be used by nonprofits.”
“We are truly in just the genesis of exploring the idea” which a couple other non-profits have also expressed interest in, Walsh said in an interview. “We thought we might as well get the ball rolling.”
Walsh requested that the council involve the nonprofits in a process for planning for the site’s use. She said she understands that the city owns the land and that the Navy and Marines may be vacating about 32,000 sq. ft. of buildings at the site in coming months.
Rather than using federal money to tear the buildings down, the money could go into remodeling them for the nonprofits, Walsh said. She said she hopes the city will “have a thoughtful process around what they’re doing with it.” — Alan Pittman
UO PROF GRANTED GUGGENHEIM
Late one night, UO anthropology and folklore professor Philip Scher went to his office to check his email. “I was floored,” Scher says. He had been awarded a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship. “It felt like a long shot,” says Scher. “It was a complete surprise.”
|Philip Scher. Photo Cali Bagby
Scher was chosen from a pool of more 2,600 applicants and plans to conduct research in the Caribbean. The average award is about $43,150, though amounts vary for each project.
Scher will use the Guggenheim to study a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site. World Heritage sites protect and preserve cultural and natural heritage areas around the world. Scher will explore the site in Bridgetown, Barbados. Bridgetown is the capitol of this easternmost island in the Caribbean.
“I’m interested in how people use cultural identity for economic gains,” says Scher, who is also a Fulbright scholar. “There is a large global economy of cultural tourists who want to consume difference within its own features: food or festivals or village life.” Tourists are attracted to places that celebrate culture through vibrant costumes or exotic cuisine. For example, Scher says that if tourists went to Jamaica and there were no Rastafarians, they would be disappointed.
The Guggenheim allows Scher time do hands-on, archival, interview and fieldwork. Scher will also be teaching at the University of the West Indies, and he hopes to see a relationship sprout between the UO and the Caribbean. Scher has worked in the Caribbean since the early ’90s but may expand his research to the Pacific Islands in the future. For now he looks forward to spending a year in Barbados. — Cali Bagby
LGBT TOWN HALL
An LGBT town hall meeting on Sunday, April 13, attracted many more lesbians than gay men, but the men had something to brag about. One of the male couples had been together for 28 years — and they were eclipsed by another male couple’s 33-year relationship.
The crowd of more than 100 queer, trans, bisexual, gay and lesbian Eugene-area people (and their straight allies, including Lane County Commissioner Bobby Green and County Commission candidate Rob Handy) roundly applauded.
That sound echoed through the South Eugene High School cafeteria more than a few times during the two-hour meeting and discussion facilitated by Julie Weisman.
Weisman and three others started the town hall meeting process in 2007. Based on comments from the community members who attended last year’s discussion, the committee invited members of various LGBTQ organizations to present their groups’ missions and opportunities after everyone took part in icebreaker community building exercises.
The groups ranged from the Equity Foundation to the GLBT Caucus of Lane’s Democratic Party and from PFLAG to the Q Center, with many other organizations represented. Questions from the audience began with a plea for help to stop harassment. When Becky Flynn of Basic Rights Oregon suggested that the person being harassed go to the city’s Human Rights Committee, the victim explained that the HRC had said to go to the police, who had said they couldn’t do anything. Sally Sheklow, EW columnist who was representing CALC’s Back 2 Back: Allies for Human Dignity program, stepped in and offered to help get a better answer.
One resource that resulted from last year’s event is Weisman’s web portal, Queer Eugene (www.queereugene.com),and over the course of the Q&A session, Weisman referred to it often — to the apparent frustration of one man who wanted a piece of paper with various local LGBT resources listed on it rather than only a web page. Several people brought up the costs of health care and asked for ideas about trans-friendly medical professionals. Others talked about spaces for queer youth and for those who don’t want to meet at bars. Organizers called for volunteers to help plan the next town hall. Email email@example.com to volunteer. — Suzi Steffen
• Eugene Public Works will hold a community workshop from 6 to 7:30 pm Thursday, April 17, to explore bicycle and pedestrian path improvements in Westmoreland Park. The workshop will be held in the Arts and Technology Academy Library, 1650 West 22nd Ave. (the old Jefferson School). A brief presentation will be followed by a walk-about to look at potential locations for the new paths. The proposed path improvements were first identified in the 1974 Eugene Bikeways Master Plan and are also included in the adopted TransPlan. The new paths would be designed to improve safety, reduce out of direction travel, and connect to the existing path in Westmoreland Park. For information call 682-5471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• As part of UO’s Earthweek, Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is organizing Vegan Challenge Week April 14-18, asking people to consume plant-based foods for a week, instead of meat, milk products or eggs. A meat-based diet has been linked to global warming, animal abuse, water shortages and numerous health problems. For more info, visit www.uoregon.edu/~seta
• The Ecological Design Center is organizing the 2008 HOPES Conference April 17-20 at the UO School of Architecture & Allied Arts. The theme this year is “Drawing on Difference,” and the conference will address the many ways in which sustainability can be manifest today. Dozens of panel discussions and hands-on workshops related to sustainable design are planned, and keynote speakers are architect Randolph Hester, artist and engineer Natalie Jeremijenko, scientist and activist Eric Corey Freed, author John Abrams and landscape architect Nate Cormier. For more information, visit hopes.uoregon.edu
• The U.S Army Corps of Engineers is seeking public comments (Public Notice NWP-1998-882) on a proposal by Portland-based developers the Piculell Group to fill 0.4 acre and excavate 0.21 acre of wetland on the east side of Hawkins Lane north of Randy Lane in South Eugene near Videra Creek in order to build a residential development as part of “the Village at Braewood.” Go to nwp.usace.army.mil/op/g/public.asp for a copy of the proposal and where to send comments.
• Comments on the design of Eugene’s new I-5 bridge are being accepted by ODOT from April 15 to May 14 at www.WillametteBridge.org
• Submissions for workshop proposals are being accepted through April 25 for a four-day conference on “Nonviolence as a Way of Life” at the UO Sept. 11-14. The conference is being organized by The Coalition for Nonviolent Living, a consortium of groups and individuals dedicated to creating lasting peace and social change through nonviolent means. Confirmed keynote presenters so far include Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D., and C.T. Vivian. See nonviolentliving.org for further details or call 343-2734.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began onMarch 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,035 U.S. troops killed*(4,023)
• 29,320 U.S. troops injured* (29,320)
• 145 U.S. militarysuicides*(145)
• 309 coalition troops killed** (309)
• 1,123 contractors killed(accurate updates NA)
• 90,304 to one million Iraqi civilians killed*** (90,115)
• $511.1 billion cost of war ($509.2 billion)
• $145.3 million cost toEugene taxpayers($144.8 million)
* through April 8, 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
• ODOT: The approximate schedule of nighttime spraying is: April 14-17, finish Metro ramps, Hwy. 58, and 126 East; April 21-24, Cloverdale, Hwy. 99 South, 126 West to Austa, and Territorial Highway. Call (888) 996-8080 or Dennis Joll, IVM Coordinator at 686-7526.
• Near Triangle Lake School: Dan Klemp (927-6181) will ground spray Garlon 4 on 20 areas starting April 21 (#50274).
• Giustina has elected not to use Atrazine for spraying on Notice #50202 (ground) and #50208 (aerial).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, forestlanddwellers.org
• Last week in this column we wrote about the new petition that would force the $85.5 million EWEB bond sale to go before voters. Now people are asking, “Should we sign the petition?” We recognize the need for EWEB to upgrade and expand its facilities for its 250 operations workers and all their vehicles and equipment, and we appreciate EWEB’s efforts to create an environmentally sound facility at Roosevelt and Beltline. But we think this bond sale should have gone to the voters when the City Council had its chance back in February. The bond sale will have a big impact on ratepayers for decades to come, and that alone calls for the higher level of public scrutiny that comes with putting funding before voters.
EWEB needs more public scrutiny. The revelation two years ago that EWEB had subsidized Hynix’s power bill with untold millions of ratepayer subsidies elicited only a shrug from the board and management. EWEB’s rate structure for industrial power encourages waste while shifting costs to homes.
The utility’s plans for its prime riverfront property have so far ignored the public interest in a park at the site. And this week the EWEB commissioners did something outrageous and politically foolish. Out of a pool of 45 applicants, they picked five like-minded people to serve on the nine-member Community Advisory Team to guide redevelopment of the EWEB riverfront acreage. EWEB has stacked the panel with construction and development people, with the exception of business attorney Tom Hoyt. Not one person with expertise in landscape architecture, riparian habitat or urban design was chosen, leaving the four remaining positions to be filled by a split City Council.
EWEB wants to maximize the value of its surplus property in order to help pay for its new facilities, but EWEB is a public utility and the public has a right to a balanced decision-making process. A ballot measure on the bonds would hopefully stir a lively public debate about EWEB’s priorities.
• We’ve been talking in this column about the Iraq invasion costing trillions of dollars before it’s done, and we see Barack Obama is tossing out the $3 trillion price tag. Where does this number come from? A new book, The Three Trillion Dollar War, by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, concludes that the Bush administration drastically underestimated the economic consequences of the Iraq invasion and occupation. Blimes is a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a former CFO with the U.S. Department of Commerce. Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor at Columbia University. The two authors went beyond White House numbers to include the hidden costs of the invasion and occupation, such as the large-scale contracting of mercenaries and support services, rebuilding our military, reconstruction in Iraq, rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, corruption and waste. On an NPR interview, Stiglitz said siphoning away $3 trillion over the next decade or two will not wreck our $13 trillion annual economy, but he considers it to be a really poor investment compared to spending at home on education, health care and our nation’s infrastructure.
• Tough call for the City Council this week in turning down a proposal for uphill bike lanes in the south hills near Wayne Morse Park. We tend to favor bike lanes everywhere, but it’s a steep route, and residents fronting the streets have been fighting for years to give up as little space and vegetation as possible. Narrower streets, traffic calming and, we hope, “Bikes in Road” signs may slow cars. But cars going 10 mph are still deadly when squeezed over a cyclist or pedestrian. We hope this doesn’t set a no-bicyclists-in-my-front-yard precedent for other needed improvements. For safety, livability and global warming, we hope the council and city staff are serious about looking for other bike lane opportunities in the south hills.
• Last fall and winter downtown redevelopment was a hot topic, culminating in a battle over the city’s plans to expand and extend urban development funding to subsidize large-scale redevelopment of the core of downtown. The decisive vote in November crushed the plan. The city went on to work with Beam Development on a smaller project involving the Centre Court and Washburne buildings, and a request for proposals went out on the pit across from the library. We figured the public would turn its attention elsewhere, but thanks to Citizens for Public Accountability and its April forum series, the public discussion is back on track. Some very bright and insightful people are showing up for these meetings, and bringing ideas that could find traction as the City Council debates the future of downtown. Join the discussion in person or online (www.downtowneugene.org).
• How many Americans have died in Iraq since our invasion March 20, 2003? If you say 4,000, you are off by more than 1,100. Often overlooked are the 1,123 U.S. civilians who have been killed, or abducted and assumed dead. Many of the contractors who have died are in some ways indistinguishable from U.S. military personnel. The civilians often have military training, wear uniforms and carry weapons. They are much better paid, of course. An Army sergeant in charge of convoy security might make $50,000 a year while a Blackwater mercenary with similar responsibilities can reportedly make $500,000 a year. Regardless of pay and status, the real U.S. death toll exceeds 5,100, and our total casualties (killed and seriously injured) are approaching 85,000.
• Look for more news and views at our redesigned blogs.eugeneweekly.com this week, including more information and links about water use and conservation, a new Signal:Noise podcast and a new See/Hear Q&A, this one with Eugene Symphony Executive Director Paul Winberg.
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
TOM LIVELY AND MEGAS MACDONALD
As kids in Glendale, Ariz., Tom Lively and his brother Dave grew up around produce farms. “Our grandparents rented 20 acres to a Japanese family who raised flowers, melons, and tomatoes,” says Lively, who discovered Eugene in 1974 when his buddy’s VW threw a rod in Coburg. By the early ’80s, after Dave had joined him, the brothers were raising 20 acres of organic veggies for local natural food stores on their Thistle-Brook farm, and were involved in starting the Organically Grown Company, now the largest wholesaler of organic produce in the Pacific Northwest. Currently in his 20th year as “intergalactic sales rep” for OGC, Tom Lively spends weekends with his wife, Megas MacDonald, tending the fruit trees and row crops on their Lively Organic Farm in Santa Clara. “I do the sales at the Farmers Market on Tuesdays,” says MacDonald, who also maintains her art-glass studio, Southpaw Sandblasting, at the farm. “Our farm stand is open for seven weekends, from the third week in July through Labor Day. People flock here for the peaches, nectarines, and melons.”