Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Terror in the Court
Can bunny huggers coerce the government?
BEAM KEEPS LOCAL FOCUS
In redeveloping downtown, Beam Development will keep its independence from KWG Development Partners and its focus on providing affordable, historic space for a diverse, local mix of businesses and nonprofits, according to Beam principal Brad Malsin.
Malsin said such a local, diverse, community-oriented project was what originally attracted his firm to Eugene. “We think Eugene is one of those cities that has not sold out their heart and soul,” he said. “We’re just not going to roll over.”
The Eugene City Council voted last month to reject calls for a public process before committing to Portland developers Beam and KWG’s plans for a massive redevelopment downtown. Beam had proposed a historic restoration of the Centre Court and Washburne buildings with affordable rents while KWG had proposed a much larger project, tearing down several blocks to build a mall-like, upscale shopping area.
After the vote City Manager Dennis Taylor said Beam had agreed to work together with KWG on its redevelopment plan for downtown. “It may be that they’ll form a limited partnership.”
But Malsin said a KWG-Beam merger won’t happen. “We’re two distinct, separate firms,” he said. “We’re in control of our blocks.”
Malsin said Beam has focused on community-oriented historic rehabs in Portland. “We have a different way of seeing the world,” he said. “We don’t do the shopping mall kind of deals.”
Beam has rehabbed more challenging warehouse buildings in Portland, converting buildings that many said should be torn down into highly valued attractions, according to Malsin. He said he’d “be surprised” if the Washburne Building couldn’t be similarly rehabbed.
Malsin said his firm remains interested in possibly putting housing units in the Centre Court building and set-back, live/work units on top of the Washburne Building. He said it’s not decided yet whether Beam or KWG will develop the adjacent pit known as Aster’s hole.
But Malsin said much depends on what the community wants in the upcoming public planning process for downtown. “We’re totally committed to the public process.” — Alan Pittman
NO ANSWERS TO HIGHER CANCER RATE
Contamination in the soil, groundwater and air from industrial pollution has long been a problem in the Bethel, River Road and Trainsong neighborhoods.
Last month the Superfund Health Investigation and Education Program (SHINE) division of the Oregon Department of Human Services completed a health investigation to reevaluate the public health risks of exposure to hazardous air emissions from the J.H. Baxter creosote plant.
Despite detecting elevated levels of naphthalene, a polycyclic carbon compound that the EPA classifies as a possible human carcinogen, SHINE concluded that exposure to emissions from J.H. Baxter poses a low risk for developing long-term health problems. Eugene residents and workers continue to express concern about nose and eye irritation and elevated cancer rates.
To address community concerns, SHINE collaborated with the Oregon State Cancer Registry (OSCaR) to monitor incidences of cancer. Their report, released two weeks ago, indicated there are increased incidences of acute mylegenous leukemia (AML) and lung cancer in certain areas in the neighborhoods.
Medical histories indicate, however, that the majority of people in the cases for both types of cancer had a history of smoking. The report concluded further research was needed in the AML cases to determine if the cancer was affected by environmental exposure or other factors. There was no significant elevation in cases of nasal and brain cancer. OSCaR will continue to monitor incidences of brain cancer at the community’s request.
In the same neighborhoods adjacent to J.H. Baxter, many years of railroad operations at the Union Pacific Railyard have caused environmental contamination in the soil and groundwater. This contamination may also have had a negative impact on the health of nearby residents and workers.
SHINE is hosting a meeting to discuss this environmental contamination in the River Road and Trainsong neighborhoods. Epidemiologist Jae Douglas will review findings from the public health assessment report completed earlier this month. The meeting is at 6:30 pm Thursday, May 31 at the Red Cross, 862 Bethel Dr. For more information see http://oregon.gov/DHS/ph/shine/uprsite.shtmlTo read the cancer report and comment on the investigation in neighborhoods surrounding J.H. Baxter and other industrial sites visit www.healthoregon.org/superfundSHINE invites comments through June 30 — Erin Rokita
PALAST EXPLAINS ‘CAGING’
Monica Goodling dropped a bombshell in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week, according to journalist Greg Palast, and hardly anyone in the U.S. media blinked.
|Greg Palast. PORTLAND INDYMEDIA.|
Goodling, a staffer for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and liaison to the White House, testified that Gonzales’ Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson perjured himself, lying to the committee in earlier testimony. The lie: Sampson denied Monica had told him about Tim Griffin’s “involvement in ‘caging’ voters” in 2004,” writes Palast at www.gregpalast.com
“The perplexed committee members hadn’t a clue — and asked no substantive questions about it thereafter,” says Palast. “Karl Rove is still smiling.” So what is “caging”?
“The Bush-Cheney operatives sent hundreds of thousands of letters marked ‘Do not forward’ to voters’ homes. Letters returned (‘caged’) were used as evidence to block these voters’ right to cast a ballot on grounds they were registered at phony addresses,” says Palast. “Who were the evil fakers? Homeless men, students on vacation and — you got to love this — American soldiers. Oh yeah: most of them are black voters.”
Palast says caging is a felony offense and Griffin, Rove’s right-hand man, was directing the illegal purge. Griffin was then named U.S. attorney for Arkansas, at Rove’s insistence.
U.S. media are are “missing the real story behind the firing of the U.S. attorneys,” says Palast. “It’s not about removing prosecutors disloyal to Bush; it’s about replacing those who refused to aid the theft of the vote in 2004 with those prepared to burgle it again in 2008.”
“How do I know?” he asks. “I have the caging lists … I have them because they are attached to the emails Rove insists can’t be found.”
PEPPER SPRAY ANNIVERSARY
On Friday, June 1, it will be exactly 10 years since the 1997 spraying incident in which 11 activists climbed trees to delay the cutting of 40 of the largest trees in downtown Eugene.
The Eugene Police Department sprayed every can of pepper spray they had on the protestors and borrowed more cans from Springfield and Lane County.
The protestors were attempting to delay the cutting of the trees for one day, until a public hearing could be held. The trees were cut, and Broadway Place, an apartment complex with retail stores and parking garages was built.
The police cut open the pants of one of the treesitters, Jim Flynn, and sprayed his anus and genitals, an act Amnesty International called “torture.” Tear gas and pepper spray were also used against the surrounding crowd.
Flynn said in an email message, “It made me realize that the EPD does not protect public safety, they protect the interests of the developers.” He said, “They just wanted me out of that tree by any means necessary with no concern for my life.”
Flynn and two other protestors sued the city. The resulting settlement required the city to pay the defendants $30,000.
Also as a result, the city changed its pepper spray policy. The policy forbids the use of chemical weapons on “nonviolent protesters,” but police may use deadly force if their chemical spray has been turned back on them.
When asked if the recent rulings on eco-sabotage might stop future actions such as the Broadway treesit, Flynn said, “The Earth is being killed by greedy corporations. Until that changes, people will take action to stop it regardless of the consequences.”
To commemorate the protest and focus attention on civil rights and the environmental movement, there will be a “Green is the New Red” event June 1 at Wandering Goat Coffee Company. Speakers will include Flynn, local civil rights attorney Lauren Regan and journalist Will Potter. The event is free and starts at 7 pm at at 268 Madison. – Camilla Mortensen
Lane County Herbicide Spray Schedule
Near Triangle Lake School: Weyerhaeuser (744-4600) will log 51 acres starting June 12 which is usually followed by burning of slash and spraying with herbicides (No. 781-50579). Call Tom McClellan to request that burning and herbicide spraying not be conducted near the school.
Reforestation Services (503-362-8322) will aerially spray 220 acres with 2,4-D, Garlon 4 and other herbicides for Seneca Jones Timber (689-1231) near Fish, Lake, Jackson, Hawley, Douglas and Barlow creeks and tributaries (781-50581).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
Eugene City Manager Dennis Taylor announced last week that he’s leaving. We’re not surprised. Taylor has been absent for several key meetings in recent weeks, was rejected for a city manager job last year in a smaller town in Kansas and has clashed with progressive councilors during his tenure. Criticisms include: opposition to the vote for independent police review; withholding information from elected officials; putting the city bureaucracy’s interests over the community’s; and setting policy instead of following council direction on policy. Perhaps Taylor’s greatest failure was not fully investigating the police department’s failure to stop a long sex crime spree by officers against women. When EPD desperately needed a shakeup, the police instead got the message that ignoring officer misconduct will be tolerated.
But enough about Taylor; what about Eugene? Eugene needs a better manager: one who supports democracy above bureaucracy or developers; one who supports independent police review and is open to other democratic reforms of the manager’s excessive, unbalanced powers. Eugene also needs an independent city performance auditor and an independent, in-house city attorney hired by the City Council to save money and increase accountability. These are reforms that a string of previous city managers have actively opposed. Our next city manager must be open to having his or her job description change to reflect our growing city. The council should move quickly in an open process to find this ideal manager.
The Iraq War will continue for years and will escalate until it engulfs the Middle East and perhaps beyond while we twiddle our collective thumbs. Compromise and capitulation are the operative words as Congress and the White House pussyfoot around war funding. The solution seems simple: No funding, no war. Bush can’t veto a funding bill that never makes it to his desk. But of course things are never simple, and we only get glimpses of the politics going on behind the headlines. We heard from Peter DeFazio last week saying, “It seems that only the president, his allies in Congress, and the leaders of Iran want the U.S. to remain mired in the civil war in Iraq, which is sapping our military and diplomatic strength.”
Meanwhile, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported May 22 that Bush’s “second surge” of troops in Iraq is on track to quietly add nearly 100,000 more combat troops by the end of the year.
Despite the confusion and speculation, we do know a few things for certain: Our occupation of Iraq has destabilized an already volatile Middle East, emboldened our enemies and created new enemies, squandered our human and financial resources in vain, seriously damaged our reputation and credibility as a world power and shaken the fundamentals of our democracy at home.
Why are we as a society not outraged and demanding decisive action from our congressional lawmakers? Our sacrifices to date are too subtle. Unless we personally know someone damaged by this war, we remain comfortably numb at home, watching the war on TV but not seeing and smelling the rotting bodies. We have no gas or food rationing, no higher taxes, no draft. News media focus not on the brutality and futility of this war but rather on celebrity gossip and consumerism.
Where are our leaders? Democrats in Congress are still trying on their newly acquired powers and remain timid under Republican threats. Stopping this atrocity needs to come from the bottom up. So far the public’s roar is just a rumble. It’s time to take to the streets.
Has anybody read the latest National Security Presidential Directives to come out of the White House? They pop up in a Google search. One of the latest directives involves Homeland Security and appears to give Bush dictatorial powers in the event of a “national emergency,” which is not defined. The section on “Enduring Constitutional Government” states that in an emergency the president will “coordinate” a “cooperative effort among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government.” The language goes on to talk about the separation of powers among the branches of government, but in the end, “The Decider” could become “The Coordinator,” with the final say on huge decisions, such as bombing Iran or canceling elections. Why would the neo-cons want this executive power if they don’t plan to use it?
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
Voted “best girl artist” at her school in West Chicago (a small town in Illinois), Natalie Whitson won a scholarship to study art at UCLA. “I ran for student body president as a member of the Perfect Students Union,” she says. “We did performance art to get people involved.” Married a week after graduation, she and her husband, Mark, lived for three years in Holland. “We liked the rain,” she says, so they moved to Oregon on their return in 1989. “I picked up the Oregon Peaceworker and thought, ‘It could use my help.'” Since December of 1989, every issue of the magazine (10 per year) has featured her drawings. She earned a UO MFA in painting in 1993. Her day job since 1998 is development director for Northwest Youth Corps, a nonprofit job-training and outdoor education program. “Fencing is my art now,” she says. “I showed up at the Eugene Fencers Club in February 2000 and I’ve never left.” Whitson teaches a fencing class at NYC in the spring and trains in the summer at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. “I’m certified in level one foil and epée,” she says. “This summer I’m going for saber.”