News Briefs: Biking McKenzie Pass | Summer Food Program Starts | Meeting Eyes Behavior Downtown | City Hall: Demo or Renovate | Happy WOW Trees Now | ELF in the Courts | Activist Alert | Lane County Spray Schedule | War Dead | Lighten Up | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Q & A:
Nation Building at Home
A Q&A with Sen. Jeff Merkley on Afghanistan
BIKING MCKENZIE PASS
The widest, most scenic bike path in Oregon and perhaps the world just opened up for a very limited time only.
ODOT announced last week that it had opened one lane through the snow on the Old McKenzie Pass Highway (OR 242) to bicyclists and pedestrians only. No motorized vehicles. The bare pavement path across the lava plateau beneath the Three Sisters will be car-free until all the snow melts off the other highway lane, according to ODOT.
With a 15-foot snowdrift near the pass, gates are likely to stay closed at least through this weekend. ODOT states, “There is no firm date for reopening, but its anticipated it will be in July.” Check ODOT at tripcheck.com or dial 511 for the latest information.
The car-free road starts 11 miles up Hwy 242 at Alder Springs Campground, tucked into towering Douglas fir trees (about a 90-minute drive from Eugene). A sign says a Forest Service pass is required for parking, but theres no pay kiosk and no rangers were checking last Sunday.
Boost your bike around the snow gate and start climbing. At four mph its three hours to the top 12 miles away. That speed is doable enough for a reasonably fit 12-year-old or reasonably unfit 45-year-old with a granny gear, but youll be passed by many people in Lycra and shoes clicked into racing bikes.
The road avoids very steep grades by using many hairpin switchbacks. About 3 miles in, you may start to see patches of snow in the forest before you hit “Dead Horse Grade.” Here the road snakes back on itself several times to work up a near cliff.
Two full bike water bottles and a couple of granola bars should fuel you up and over to where the road levels mostly out with cooling, 4-foot snow banks on both sides. At the roadside tomb of a pioneer who died on the pass trying to deliver the Christmas mail, a guy in a T-shirt and flip flops walked by with his girlfriend and a Chihuahua. Better equipment is advised.
Two miles before the basalt tower of the Dee Wright Observatory, theres a great view of the snowy Sisters. Its also a great place to lie in the middle of the normally busy highway. The intimate ride up the quiet pass may make 242 never look the same to you.
From the tower atop the 5,325-foot pass, theres a panorama of mountain peaks all the way up to Mount Hood on a clear day. Check out the biggest 15-foot snowdrift on the other side of the pass before hitting the bathrooms, putting on a jacket and checking your brakes. The 50-minute trip back down is a screamer. ã Alan Pittman
(A version of this story first appeared at EugeneCycles.com)
SUMMER FOOD PROGRAM STARTS
Hungry children can get a healthy meal during the summer when schools are closed. The Summer Food Service Program is a federally funded nutrition program in neighborhoods around the state. Meals are served in locations where kids congregate such as playgrounds, summer schools and community centers.
Visit www.summerfoodoregon.org or call (800) SAFENET to find a location. Eugene and Springfield have about 30 locations and days and hours vary. Most sites serve lunch, but some offer breakfast and even afternoon snacks and dinner.
MEETING EYES BEHAVIOR DOWNTOWN
Different sorts of people gather in downtown Eugene during the summer: buskers and panhandlers looking to make a buck or two, agonizingly slow groups of tourists mobbing the sidewalks, hitchhikers and travelers just hanging out, retired hippies staring at clouds, and perhaps even a few residents doing their best to ignore everybody else and go about their daily business.
So what happens when people dont get along? Usually the odd drunken rant or a stern warning from one of those bike cops. Sometimes, however, things get out of hand, and somebody ends up with a hefty fine, exclusion from downtown or even jail time.
In an attempt to find a more constructive solution to the issue, the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) will sponsor a meeting July 27 to address behavior issues, homelessness in downtown Eugene and resources available to downtown residents and the homeless community.
“The objective of this meeting is to inform the community of the options out there and make us all feel more comfortable during the summer,” said Sherrill Necessary, DNA member.
Called “Summertime Demographics Downtown: Impacts And Actions,” a panel of eight organizations ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Eugene Police Department will field questions from the audience about increasing understanding and minimizing conflict between downtown residents and homeless individuals.
“Were dealing with the rights of community members, were dealing with limited resources, and were dealing with behavioral issues downtown,” said David Mandelblatt, DNA chair.
“Weve all got rights,” he said, “but what are we going to do when those rights conflict with each other? Its not illegal to be obnoxious; its not illegal to ask people for money on the street.”
Many downtown residents have expressed their frustration with the homeless population, saying they are disrespectful and unhygienic and that they intimidate local residents. Necessary talked about having to clean up human feces in her backyard, an experience she said shes in no hurry to repeat.
One option the DNA considered was asking the Dining Room to charge 25 cents per meal in an effort to make the downtown area less attractive to homeless individuals. The Dining Room is an organization that prepares and distributes food to Eugenes homeless population.
“Thats the bird feed for the pigeons,” said Necessary. “If not every pigeon can get in, then maybe theyll go to another town.”
“One problem with Eugene specifically is that theres this reputation that its an easy city,” said Dennis Westfall, DNA member. “(People) can come down here, score whatever kind of drug they want and just hang out.”
Others were more sympathetic towards the homeless population.
“We see people out there on the street who are hurt,” said Mandelblatt. “What do we do? It doesnt make Eugene a better community by ignoring those people.”
“The goal is to increase recognition and respect by each group,” he commented later via email. “One way or another, we all have a stake in our community ã in this case, downtown Eugene.”
The meeting will be from 5:30 to 7:30 pm Wednesday, July 27, in the Bascom-Tykeson room of the Eugene Public Library. DNA encourages everyone to attend, regardless of whether they live in downtown.ã Nils Holst
CITY HALL: DEMO OR RENOVATE
The city of Eugene plans to move out of City Hall completely in 11 months and rent space for an indefinite number of years while trying to figure out how to remodel the old building or tear it down and build a new building, and how to pay for it all.
City staff told the City Council last week that they will spend $65,000 to hire two architects, one to look at remodeling and another to look at demolition. The architects work will be reviewed by a committee reporting to city staff and the results will be presented in displays at the Eugene Celebration.
The cost of a new building approached $200 million in previous design work that the city spent $2 million to get and promote before deciding the building was too expensive. The city has only about $9 million in reserves for the project, meaning a tax increase vote could be likely.
City staff said they will compare the tear down vs. renovate options “equally and impartially.” But in previous debates, both the city staff and a council majority have clearly favored tearing down the 40-year-old building. Some councilors and citizen critics have charged that a tear-down would waste money, resources and a historic building.
Councilor Alan Zelenka argued that it would be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to tear down City Hall and lease a new net-zero, highly energy efficient building from a for-profit developer.
“The remodel would be so much like a new building, it might not even be close to cost-effective,” Zelenka argued.
But Councilor Betty Taylor said, “When you talk about sustainability, you have to talk about the cost of destroying something and tearing it down.”
Taylor said that the rushed process appeared biased towards demolition. “There are big differences of opinion about what we should do with City Hall,” she said. “Were moving out with no idea of whats going to happen here.” ã Alan Pittman
HAPPY WOW TREES NOW
The two bigleaf maples outside of the WOW Hall arent going anywhere. They will still rustle their leaves in Eugenes warm summer breeze, provide concertgoers and musicians with shelter from the sun and rain, and shade the historic venue, keeping energy costs at a minimum and preserving the areas curb appeal.
After a back and forth between the city and the WOW Hall concerning the health of these trees and the hazards they could pose, the maples prevailed.
Eugene Parks and Open Space Division Director Johnny Medlin emailed his final decision to WOW Hall Facilities Committee member Jon Pincus June 23. Medlin said that after the trees were pruned and inspected, he felt that the trees could be kept standing with annual inspections.
“I think it was a very good decision on the part of the city and will give us the opportunity to keep these trees for a while longer while we develop new growth, and will allow us to continue the benefits that these trees give us,” Pincus said.
Pincus said the trees owe their happy ending to their association with a building with a historic designation and to an organizations willingness to step forward and lobby for them and pay for their proper analysis and treatment.
“This has been a gratifying collaboration between the city and WOW,” Mayor Kitty Piercy told EW in an email. She added, “I think everyone involved was pleased with the result.”
According to Pincus, at some point or another the trees will “end up being removed ã but we anticipate that will be somewhere between seven and 12 years. That gives us time to get new development happening and make some new growth.”
WOW Hall is working with the city to plant new trees to transition the area.
Pincus said a key part of saving the trees was not only the cooperation between the city and the WOW Hall, but the fact WOW Hall used an arborist with access to sonic tomography. Pincus said this “cutting edge technology” provided a much more “comprehensive view of the interior of the tree than the city of Eugenes normal selection of resources.”
He said, “I believe that sonic tomography should be a standard tool for the cityfor assessing mature street trees. If the city staff had this technology on hand, there might be many more happy endings and greater public understanding when a tree finally had to be removed.”
Pincus advises anyone looking to save street trees in Eugene to “insist on or acquire the best scientific information available” and, he said, “be persistent.”ã Kendall Fields
ELF IN THE COURTS
As the Sundance Film Festival award-winning film If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front hits theaters across the country this month, including Eugenes Bijou Cinemas, some of the subjects of the documentary have been hitting the courts.
Jake Ferguson, who is listed in court documents as having participated in at least 14 arsons and acts of destruction around the Northwest in the name of the ELF, was originally not sentenced to federal prison for his crimes. Fergusons cooperation with federal agents, including wearing a body wire while talking to fellow participants in ELF activities, led to the arrest of many of his fellow ecosaboteurs. Under his plea agreement at the time, Ferguson pleaded guilty to only one count of arson and one count of attempted arson.
On June 27 Ferguson was sentenced to nearly five years in prison by Lane County Circuit Judge Charles Zennaché. Ferguson pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine; manufacturing, possessing and selling heroin; and neglecting and endangering a 4-year-old child, who according to court records was present in the home when drugs were being manufactured and sold. At the time of his original sentencing in 2007, Ferguson said he was on methadone and had been for the past three and half years. Methadone is a common treatment drug for heroin addiction.
Ferguson faces federal charges for the drug crimes as well, and is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ã who sentenced all of the Oregon ELF cases ã for a probation revocation hearing at 9:30 am July 14. He was to avoid criminal conductas part of his plea agreement.
In Washington, ELF defendant Briana Waters has pleaded guilty to participating in the $6 million arson at the University of Washingtons Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001. She originally argued that she was innocent, but after a trial she was convicted and given a six-year sentence in 2008. The conviction was overturned due to judicial misconduct last year, and Waters was released from prison after serving 37 months pending a new trial. She pleaded guilty to arson, conspiracy to use a destructive device, possessing an unregistered destructive device and the use of an explosive device in a crime of violence.
Justin Solondz, Waters former boyfriend and another defendant in the ELF arson cases, is expected to be returned later this summer to the U.S. from China where he has been serving a three-year sentence for drug charges. According to the plea documents, Waters has agreed to testify against him. Her sentencing was set for Sept. 23, but that is subject to change. Three other alleged ELF ecosaboteurs have never been caught by the FBI: Joseph Dibee, Rebecca Rubin and Josephine Sunshine Overaker. ã Camilla Mortensen
« Classified UO workers are hosting a march through campus to mark the expiration of their contract. The Workers March for Fairness will beginat noon Thursday, June 30,at Oregon Hall on the east side of campus and will end at the Johnson Hall Administration Building. Speakers include Melissa Unger of SEIU and Local 085 President Gary Malone. “At a time when the Oregon University System is flush with cash because of record enrollment and increased tuition, they continue to ask their lowest-paid workers to make increasing sacrifices in the form of wage and benefit cuts,” says Brett Moser, SEIU organizer.
« The next Civic Stadium clean-up party is from 10 am to noon Saturday, July 2. Bring hand tools, gloves, sunscreen and water. Forecast is partly cloudy and 75 degrees ã perfect for weeding.
« Local artist Jerry Ross and friends are seeking $5,000 in donations to create a movement and capital campaign to establish a historic and arts center downtown, and the group is eyeing the old downtown post office on lower Willamette as an anchor. To get involved, visit www.indiegogo.com/poem
LANE COUNTY SPRAY SCHEDULE
« Western Lane County: Rosboro LLC plans to do aerial spraying of Sulfomet Extra, Accord XRT and Chopper near the headwaters of Swartz Creek and Ferguson Creek. See notice 2011-781-00405.
« ODOT will be spraying noxious weeds, grasses and brush on shoulders, around structures, curves and intersections on Highway 36 beginning June 26.
« If you have suffered any ill effects from ODOT spraying, please let Forestland Dwellers know. We are encouraging ODOT to mow or manually manage vegetation in lieu of spraying.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
« 1,627 U.S. troops killed* (1,605)
« 12,137 U.S. troops wounded in action (11,864)
« 763 U.S. contractors killed (763)
« $427.9 billion cost of war ($423.2 billion)
« $121.7 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($120.3 million)
« 4,422 U.S. troops killed (4,421)
« 31,922 U.S. troops wounded in action (31,922)
« 185 U.S. military suicides (updates NA)
« 1,537 U.S. contractors killed (1,537)
« 110,811 to 1.2 million civilians killed* (110,719)
« $784.9 billion cost of war ($783.1 billion)
« $223.2 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($222.7 million)
Through June 27, 2011; sources: icasualties.org; defense.gov, U.S. Dept. of Labor
* highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate Iraqi civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.2 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
City Councilor Mike Clark wants the council to open its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance to “celebrate something that unites us.” This is Eugene, man. If you’re into unity, pass around a joint.
« In Slant last week we wrote that Lane County is facing a $3.8 million shortfall, but we heard from Lane County government that the correct number is $7.8 million.
« Two tough and splendid Oregon women, both with UO degrees, died this spring, leaving the state legal profession forever indebted to them. Helen Frye, 80, died April 22 after a career that started with an English degree from the UO and ended with her serving as Oregons first female federal judge. Betty Roberts, 88, passed June 25 after a remarkable record as the only woman in the 1968 Oregon Senate, serving in the Court of Appeals,and finally accepting an appointment from Republican Gov. Vic Atiyeh to sit as the first woman on the Oregon Supreme Court. Not all the male judgesjoyfully accepted either Judge Frye or Judge Roberts into their club. These women were way ahead of their time. Now the presiding judge of the U.S. District Court is Ann Aiken of Eugene. Two women, one of them Martha Walters of Eugene, sit on the Oregon Supreme Court. Judge Mary Ann Bearden presides over Lane County courts, which are nearly equal male-female. We want to send bouquets to the families of Helen Frye and Betty Roberts ã they helped their matriarchs blaze hard-earned history.
« The Fourth of July for most people these days is all about a long weekend of beer, barbecue and fireworks, and we are admonished to “have a safe holiday” and “keep your pets safe.” We tend to forget that this date honors a very unsafe time in our history, an era of uprising against a powerful ruling elite who were out of touch with the people. The Fourth of July should revive the spirit of revolution (this time without the muskets, cannon balls and flying body parts, please) to bring our government and society into the 21st century. War is old-fashioned and counterproductive. Corporate domination of elections is obsolete and undemocratic. Ignoring environmental devastation is so 20th century. Oppressing immigrants and the disadvantaged among us is not only outdated but damned expensive in the long haul. The best way to celebrate our freedom is to actively ensure our freedom doesnt slip away in these unsafe times. Beer, barbecue, fireworks, revolution!
« Musical chairs on campus? Weve heard complaints about community groups getting booted out of Agate Hall by July 1 to make room for the School of Journalism and Communication during Allen Halls renovation. The UO tells us displaced community groups are being offered other places on campus, but last we heard the Eugene Swing Dance Club is having trouble finding a suitable new location to rent after 15 years at Agate Hall, and club members are petitioning UO President Lariviere to stop the eviction. Work has already started on the J-school and wont be done until late 2012. Its great that the UO shares its facilities, and we hope everyone finds a home during the unsettling construction. Have some unused space to lend or rent? Contact the UO facilities folks or send a note to the Swing Dance Club prez at email@example.com
« If you missed the premiere of Hot Coffee on HBO June 27, you can still catch itin the next few weeks on HBO and on-demand cable. Susan Saladoff, a respected Ashland trial lawyer, left her practice to put together this documentary starting with the famous case against McDonalds by the 79-year-old woman scalded by coffee and including other personal injury stories. You probably already have an opinion on this case, but take a look at the documentary and you might share Saladoffs rage at how we have been duped by corporate America.
« We hear Bach Festival attendance is starting out great in Eugene and Portland with a bunch of sold-out performances. If you snooze you lose, whether you’re nodding off in the audience (unlikely this season) or waiting too long to get tickets. Find ticket updates at http://wkly.ws/12r
« Run, Amelie, run! Admittedly, we have heard Amelie Rousseau speak only once, at the City Club of Eugene June 24, but that was enough to persuade us she should stay in politics in Oregon. As ASUO student body president in 2010-11, she was responsible for a budget of $13 million in student fees. She helped organize the registration of 6,000 students to vote. She was part of the effort to start a sustainability center in the UO. She told her much older audience that we should educate students to know more about what goes on around them in their community. She was articulate about the big issues facing higher ed and the UO in this state. She comes from Portland. Sounds like one of those super young Oregonians we need to help move us along.
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