News Briefs: Income Tax Lesson: Tax the Rich | Cutting Trees No Solution to Slump | City to Remove Bike Lane Near UO | State Bank on Agenda at City Club | Oregon Wolves Killed | Change Afoot in Farmers Markets | Activist Alert | Lane County Herbicide Spray Schedule | Lighten Up |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Police auditor rarely critical, despite many complaints
Happening Person: Ong Kar Walen
INCOME TAX LESSON: TAX THE RICH
The vote on an income tax for schools last month and a vote on an income tax for the county jail four years ago had a very similar outcome, and perhaps similar lesson for future income tax measures.
The school measure failed in Eugene with 38 percent voting “yes” and the jail measure failed with 37 percent in Eugene voting “yes.” The similar outcomes for income taxes dedicated to two very different purposes appear to indicate that, no matter what, income taxes with a broad impact on the middle class will fail in Eugene.
The jails and schools measures were both similar income taxes with a broad impact on the middle class. Both taxes exempted the poor. The jail tax had an average estimated impact of $224 per household, the school tax had an average impact of about $120.
The jail tax enjoyed a $100,000 campaign in support of its passage with another $250,000 in an “informational” campaign by the county plus dozens of supportive news articles and editorials in The Register-Guard. The schools measure faced a $109,000 campaign in opposition plus articles and editorials in The Register-Guard in opposition.
Both the schools and jail measures had their strongest support in south Eugene and their strongest opposition in north Eugene (see chart). But the difference with the schools measure was more pronounced in about half the city. In east Eugene (Council Ward 3) near the UO and in central Eugene (Ward 1) the school measure had 14 percent more support than the jail measure. In conservative north Eugene (Wards 4 and 5), the jail measure had 7 to 10 percent more support than the school measure.
But the defeat of broad income taxes in Eugene doesnt mean that voters in the city wouldnt pass a populist income tax on the rich. State Measure 66, an income tax increase on households above $250,000, passed by a 72 percent vote in Eugene last year. The measure showed a similar pattern of having its greatest support in south Eugene and weakest support in north Eugene. But still, it passed with more than 60 percent “yes” in every ward and more than 80 percent support in south Eugene. The measure passed despite a $5 million opposition campaign.
State tax data show a strong concentration of taxable wealth in local upper income brackets. If the Eugene City Council had chosen to refer a tax increase limited to households above $100,000, the school tax could have generated roughly three-fourths of the revenue while only impacting one-sixth as many voters. ã Alan Pittman
CUTTING TREES NO SOLUTION TO SLUMP
County funds might be in a slump and the economy is hurting, but its not because the Pacific Northwest isnt logging its forests. Conservationists say that logging is not the answer to the Northwests economic woes.
The Pacific Northwest Research Station announced May 21 that for the first quarter of 2011, West Coast softwood timber exports were up 50.5 percent from the first quarter of 2010, according to Debra Warren, a research economist with the station.
The data from the Pacific Northwest Research Station shows that log exports from Oregon and Washington totaled 379.5 million board feet. Logs and lumber went primarily to China and Japan as well as to Taiwan, Indonesia and South Korea.
The Bureau of Land Management exceeded its volume of trees offered for sale in Oregon and California in 2010. According to agency data, the BLM was congressionally financed to offer 184 million board feet of wood, and it offered for sale 192 million board feet.
Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild says for perspective that 1 million board feet is equal to 200 log truck loads of wood, and 192 million board feet is equal to 400 miles of log trucks parked end-to-end. Heiken says the connection that many politicians make between increasing logging and putting money in county coffers is incorrect. “Nothing the BLM is doing puts money into the countys coffers,” he says.
Heiken says, “If timber payments did fund the counties, even modest increases in the possible money they could get from timber sales is very small.” He adds, “The county funding does not come from timber sales; it hasnt for 20 years.”
“Theres no way,” Heiken says, “were going back to the clearcutting of the late 80s, driving salmon to extinction and making the public upset.”
He says, “If the goal of increased logging is seen as a way to create jobs, I would advise them to look elsewhere for the best economic development opportunities.”
Heiken says that the housing market is in a depression with recovery expected to be slow, and that the timber industry is a shrinking fraction of Oregons economy, because for 20 years other sectors of its economy have been growing relatively faster. In terms of job creation, the logging industry has replaced workers with machines, he says.
For the full report on log and lumber exports, go to http://wkly.ws/12i ã Camilla Mortensen
CITY TO REMOVE BIKE LANE NEAR UO
The city plans to begin a project next week near the UO that will remove a heavily used bike lane and cycletrack on 13th but add a two-way bike lane and crossing north on Alder Street.
The addition of the two-way bike lane on Alder north from 13th with a new traffic light at Franklin Boulevard has been long sought by cyclists seeking a connection to the riverfront path system. But the removal of the existing cycletrack on 13th has been controversial.
UO bike coordinator Ted Sweeney wrote on the GEARs Google Group last year that he was concerned that the design would force traffic into head-on collisions. “I am having visions of students shooting suddenly into the westbound bike lane and causing accidents,” Sweeney wrote.
The citys design for 13th prioritizes parking cars in the crowded area over dedicated space to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The plan would remove a line of parked cars separating the cycletrack on 13th from traffic and remove a bike lane going the other way on the other side of the street. Instead, the city would move all parking to the south side of the street in back-in diagonal stalls, eliminate the eastbound bike lane and instead paint “sharrow” markings on the street to encourage drivers to share the traffic lane with people on bikes.
City bike planner David Roth, who left the city recently for another job, bristled at criticism of his plan and argued that the pedestrian-dominated area shouldnt lose any car parking and that a shared lane with cars would be safer than the existing bike lane. “With low speeds, it is safe for bicyclists and drivers to share the road,” he emailed to the bike group list.
“Ill be interested to see how it works,” said Sweeney of the 13th plan at the UOs Bike Silver award ceremony last month. “The jurys out on that for me,” he said. “I cant visualize how its going to work.”
But Sweeney said he has “trust” that Roth knew what he was doing with the shared lane and back-in parking design and appeared resigned to the city prioritizing car parking over cyclist safety. “They had to find a place for the parking,” he said. “Thats something that we deal with.” In the future, if the parking isnt needed, Sweeney said, “that will be a great day.” ã Alan Pittman
STATE BANK ON AGENDA AT CITY CLUB
City Club of Eugene will host Oregons state Treasurer Ted Wheeler talking about “Investing In Oregon, Not Wall Street” at 11:45 am Friday, June 10, at the Hilton downtown.
Wheeler is advocating for a state bank and the Oregon Legislature is considering HB 3452 and SB 889, which would consolidate and streamline many of the states economic development funds. These funds ã our tax dollars ã would then be used to extend lending to community banks, acting as a bankers bank.
“One of the frequently cited reasons for Oregons sluggish recovery has been a shortage of bank financing,” wrote Wheeler in a recent Oregonian op-ed. “We also frequently hear that our tools for economic development need sharpening. If this effort succeeds, we will put more Oregon public funds to work for Oregon families, businesses and communities.”
Wheeler cites the success of the state bank in North Dakota but says Oregon needs its own “Oregon solution.” “There are elements of North Dakotas approach that are not workable here,” he says. “Chiefly, we do not need a new bricks-and-mortar institution in your hometown ã or anywhere else in Oregon ã to accomplish the goals that are driving this conversation.” He also does not want the state to compete with established community banks and credit unions. He does want to offer an alternative to Wall Street banks.
“We can build upon our existing financial institutions and strengthen our economic development efforts,” he says. “A virtual Oregon state bank will be a wise investment in Oregon communities, and in our future.” ã Ted Taylor
OREGON WOLVES KILLED
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife killed two members of Oregons fledgling wolf population in May and has plans to kill one more. Wolf advocates say such heavy-handed lethal means of control are endangering wolf recovery in Oregon.
Oregon has only 20 wolves, and the predators are listed on the state endangered species list. As of May 5 wolves in the eastern third of Oregon are no longer on the federal endangered species list. Local conservation group Cascadia Wildlands is legally challenging the federal delisting of the wolves. In April, Democratic Sen. John Tester of Montana inserted language into the already controversial budget bill that delisted wolves from federal Endangered Species Act protections.
The rider overrode a federal judges decision forbidding this same delisting, and it blocked judicial review of the decision to withdraw the federal protections. The fact that the delisting was a congressional decision superseding the Endangered Species Act is a constitutional issue, says Dan Kruse, attorney for Cascadia Wildlands. “By Congress saying this is what the law will be they have violated the separation of powers doctrine,” he says.
Josh Laughlin, also of Cascadia Wildlands, says on the state level, the group has “ongoing concerns with the way theyre handling wolf recovery in Oregon.” Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and a coalition of other wolf advocates wrote a letter to ODFW asking the agency to suspend wolf killing and prioritize the animals recovery.
Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild says, “ODFW seems more concerned with local political pressure than following its obligations under the state Endangered Species Act.”
Klavins and Laughlin agree that they thought the original wolf plan was weak, but they recognized the need to compromise. But Klavins says, “We never contemplated a time when 20 percent of the population would be slated for removal in a two week period.”
In addition to the two wolves killed by the state and the third member of the Imnaha pack slated for “lethal removal” for livestock predation, ODFW has issued 24 private landowner permits to kill wolves. With only 20 wolves in Oregon, Laughlin points out that “there are more kill permits than there are wolves.”
He says, “If wolves are going to genuinely recover, then ODFW must exercise utmost caution when it comes to lethal control.” ã Camilla Mortensen
CHANGE AFOOT IN FARMERS MARKETS
The fresh produce at Southtowne Market will not be happening this summer, according to Erica Trappe, manager of Sweetwater Farm.
“Sadly, there will be no market at the Southtowne Shoppes this summer,” says Trappe in response to a story in EWs Summer Guide June 2 about the impending opening of the market in the plaza at 28th and Oak. “Apparently (writer) Andy Valentine got his information from an outdated sign from last year ã our bad for leaving it up too long, his bad for not contacting us for current information,” she says.
Trappe says local residents interested in getting produce from Sweetwater Farm can still do so through the farms community supported agriculture (CSA) program (see www.goodfoodeasy.com or www.localfoodmarketplace.com/eugene).
The Lane County Farmers Market with nearly 160 growers and producers is now in full operation from 9 am to 4 pm Saturdays at 8th and Oak downtown next to Saturday Market; and from 10 am to 3 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays at the same location. Satellite markets are also held from 9 am to 2 pm Saturdays at 11th and Alder and at Hideaway Bakery at Mazzis in south Eugene.
The Friendly Street Farmers Market is open from noon to 5 pm Tuesdays at 28th and Friendly. Winter Green Farmers Market is from 2 to 6 pm Wednesdays at Emmaus Lutheran Church, 1250 W. 18th Ave. The Corner Market operates from noon to 6 pm Wednesdays at 295 River Road.
Creswells Farmers Market starts June 14 and runs from 4 to 6 pm each Tuesday at Heidi Tunnell Catering Company and Café. Dexters Farmers Market is now open from noon to 3 pm Sundays and Tuesdays at Dexter State Recreation Site. The Cottage Grove Growers Market is from 4 to 8 pm Wednesdays and from 9 am to 6 pm Saturdays at Coiner Park, 14th and Main. Venetas Downtown Farmers Market is from 2 to 6 pm Fridays at the corner of Luter and Territorial Road.
Corvallis Farmers Market runs from 9 am to 1 pm Saturdays and Wednesdays at the corner of 1st and Jackson. The Florence Local Organic Farmers Market is from 10 am to 2 pm Saturdays at the corner of Quince and Highway 126.
Markets come and go and change hours and this is not a complete list. See updates and more information including phone numbers for the markets at the Willamette Farm & Food Coalition website at http://wkly.ws/12h ã Ted Taylor
« Lane County Commissioner Rob Handy is hosting three community outreach gatherings Saturday, June 11, in the Bethel/Danebo, River Road, and Whiteaker neighborhoods. The first is from 9 to 10:30 am at Starbucks inside Albertons at 4740 Royal Ave. Next is from 11 am to 12:30 pm at Countryside Pizza at 645 River Road. The last is from 1:30 to 3 pm at New Day Bakery at 449 Blair Blvd.
« World Naked Bike Ride Day is Saturday, June 11, and Eugene cyclists will join thousands of other cyclists around the world to celebrate the human body and the bicycle. Participants will meet near Skinner Butte Park at the corner of Cheshire and Lawrence at 4 pm. The route will be determined at that point and will begin at 4:30 pm. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.worldnakedbikeride.org
« National spokesman David Cobb of the Move to Amend coalition will be in Eugene at 10 am Sunday, June 12, at the LCC Longhouse to give a training on “Opposing Corporate Rule.” A prerequisite of the training is watching eight half-hour videos produced by the Community Environmental Law Defense Funds Democracy School. Find links to the CELDF at www.wethepeopleeugene.org or call 225-2946. See EW story March 10 about David Cobb at http://wkly.ws/12g and for a copy of the Move to Amend petition, email email@example.com or visit http://movetoamend.org
« Oregon Wild will host “Conservation Through Exploration” with Trip Jennings of EP Films from 6 to 7:30 pm Wednesday, June 15, at Davis Restaurant, 94 W. Broadway in downtown Eugene. Rob Klavins will also to talk about Oregon Wilds outdoor program, which encourages exploration of Oregons forests, streams and wild lands. See www.OregonWild.org
« Public comment on the proposed 2011 Management Plan for the Elliott State Forest began June 1 and ends Aug. 29. The draft maps and plans are online at http://wkly.ws/12j and comments may be addressed to the State Forests Planning Specialist, ODF, 2600 State St., Salem 97310, or emailed to ODFStateForestsComments@odf.state.or.us
LANE COUNTY SPRAY SCHEDULE
« Western Lane County: Nicks Timber Service (503-910-1120) will ground spray 100 miles of noxious weeds for the Oregon Department of Forestry with Element 3a and 4, Oust XP and Foresters starting June 13 (No. 2011-781-00413).
« ODOT still spraying highways. Call Tony Kilmer at ODOT District 5 (Lane County area) at 744-8080 or call (888) 996-8080 for herbicide application information.
« 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
The Best Long-Shot Career Move Of The Year Award goes to Liane Richardson. While serving as the legal advisor to the Lane Board of County Commissioners, the winner publicly expressed her concern that several of its members were violating the law. A resulting lawsuit cost two board members $20,000 each and enough embarrassment to make them consider a move to McDermitt. After making other allegations of improprieties against the two commissioners for good measure, the winner applied to the board to become its chief administrative official ã and got the job. Without a search. Way to go, Liane!
« Whats going on with EWEB board member Rich Cunningham and his issue with fellow commissioner Joann Ernst? Ernst made headlines in 2009 for a misdemeanor marijuana violation, then suing the city for what she calls a “bungled” military-style, early morning SWAT raid on her house, complete with percussion grenades. She more recently protested Senecas Trapper sale outside the dedication of Senecas new biomass incinerator. All this has offended Cunningham and he tells us Ernst “continues to use her office to pursue her own agenda,” her “antics are taking away from the discussion that needs to happen,” elected officials should be “held to a high set of standards as children look up to us.” He calls her an embarrassment to EWEB, and says maybe all EWEB board members should be drug-tested before serving.
All Ernst is able to say for herself at this point is, “I try and show respect for my fellow commissioners, listen to their concerns and questions and stay focused on EWEB issues.” Well take her side in this little dispute, and were happy to hear Cunninghams attempt to publicly censure Ernst went nowhere this week. She has a perfect right to be politically active in any area that does not conflict with her EWEB responsibilities, and the clear-cutting of old-growth trees in our citys watershed is not an EWEB decision (maybe it should be). We applaud anyone who has the guts to stand up to the Eugene Police Departments infamous gung-ho excesses, whether guilty of possessing medicinal house plants or not. And if having inhaled pot makes people unfit for elected office, well, that would eliminate many of the best and brightest people in government today.
Cunninghams playing a politically risky game here poking at a competent and dedicated progressive public servant. Makes him look petty. Once again the left eats is own while the right stands back and chuckles.
« Thumbs up to 4J School Board members Jim Torrey, Jennifer Gellings, Mary Walston and Craig Smith for voting to give our community a chance to put together a better proposal for 10.2 acres in the middle of town. More thumbs up to all the volunteers for the YMCA and Save Civic who have worked endless hours and spent plenty to further their community causes, and, of course, to Rick Wright who is willing to step up. Next, hold on to your seatbelts and hope that this often dysfunctional town can put together a public-private plan to build the Ys community center and extend its reach, renovate an historic stadium built during a recession worse than this one, bring pro soccer, both men and women, here part of the year and provide playing fields the rest. What other benefits can be derived?The possibilities are many as we look ahead.
« Eugene Councilor Mike Clark wants the council to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings? The pledge is hardly a unifying ritual; instead the pledge is a reminder for many of us of the idiocy of blind patriotism throughout U.S. history. As schoolchildren we were compelled to stand and salute an inanimate object and chant reverently about “one nation under God,” regardless of our personal beliefs. True patriots dont need a quaint religious ceremony to remind them of their civic duty to pursue liberty and justice for all. What does Clark want next, and why? Loyalty oaths? Mandatory flag pins for councilors? A cross on top of City Hall?
« Forty percent of the energy used by Oregonians is from fossil fuels, much if it from out of state. The worlds largest wind farm is being built in Eastern Oregon, but all of that renewable energy is going to California. In fact (according to OPBs environment website Ecotrope), thanks to Oregons renewable energy incentives Oregon is positioned to attract new renewable energy developments like wind farms, but less than a quarter of the wind energy already produced in the state gets used here. Thirty percent of that renewable wind energy is sold to California. Despite Oregons glut of hydropower and wind energy ã so much water was going through the Columbia River this spring that wind farms were told to shut down their turbines ã and despite plans to shut down Oregons Boardman coal-fired power plant by 2020, Oregon is still using coal power brought in from Wyoming and Montana.
Oregons giving up millions in tax credits for wind power and other energy facilities such as Senecas west Eugene biomass burning plant, but just what benefit are we getting from that investment? As consumers we need to use less power and make sure our energy is truly green. When you flip on that light switch, think about where that energy is coming from and at what cost to the environment.
« School districts throughout Lane County are facing cutbacks in teachers, programs and instruction days, but residents who want to help and perhaps even voted unsuccessfully to tax themselves have options. As we continue to fight for a permanent solution, the Eugene Education Fund (www.eeflane.org) makes it easy to make donations online, and the Lane Education Foundation (LaneEducationFoundation.org) is raising money to help fill the gaps in smaller school districts. Want to support Springfield schools? Visit www.SpringfieldEducationFoundation.org
« Why are we still waging war in Afghanistan? Getting less attention is the question of why the Afghans are still fighting us. Insurgency leaders and ordinary fighters have been interviewed and they consistently say they fight, kill and die because Americans are there to steal their oil, support their corrupt leaders and protect the Afghan drug trade. We are trespassers and they want us out, just as they wanted the British and the Soviets out. Its more complicated than that, of course, but this bloody mess has little to do with suppressing a terrorist threat against our nation ã other than the fact that our continued occupation incites more Afghans to plot against us.
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
ONG KAR WALEN
Back when he was known as Ken, Ong Kar Walen grew up with eight siblings on his familys commercial orchard outside of Salem. He got his start in tree work as a teen, went into business for himself at 21, and still climbs trees 40 years on. As a Sikh in the 1970s, he took the name Ong Kar (“in tune with creation”), taught yoga, practiced martial arts and helped start ashrams in Salem and Coos Bay. “In 79 I took the turban off,” says Walen, who left the ashram life, got into reggae music and big parties, and onto the security crew at the Oregon Country Fair. In 1986, he first heard marimba music by Zimbabwean Dumi Maraire. “I had to learn to play,” he says. “This music is the closest thing there is to meditating.” Walen took lessons from members of the band Shumba, who had studied with Dumi. A year later, he launched his own band, Kudana. “I taught lessons and built all the instruments,” he says. “And I overcame extreme stage fright.” Over 24 years, 90-plus people have been members of the band. Kudana has four appearances scheduled for this years OCF. Check your Peach Pit guide to the fair. Walen retired last as coordinator of security for the fair, but will return this season to help with the transition.