News Briefs: PDX vs Eugene’s Form of Government | Busting the BLM | Poisonous Pop | Strife in Darfur | 2,296 Local Homeless | Hiroshima-Nagasaki Peace Walk | Correction/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
‘Recipe for Disaster’
How EPD failings lead to cop scandal
O.U.R. On a Roll
Little credit union gets a big boost
Happening Person: Lara Howe
PDX VS. EUGENE’S FORM OF GOVERNMENT
Portland has a national reputation as the “city that works” with a booming economy, a thriving downtown, green livability, trolleys, light rail and even a cable car.
Eugene has a pitted, dead downtown, sprawl, freeways and police officers who sexually assaulted women for years.
What accounts for Portland’s success? While Eugene vests much city power in an unelected and, critics say, unresponsive city manager, Portland has a commission form of government where elected officials are responsible and accountable for getting things done. “It’s pretty causal as to why Portland is kind of unique,” said Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten.
With elected officials assigned to head city departments, “there’s a lot of attention to second-tier issues,” Sten said June 14 at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies national conference in Portland. For example, Sten said Portland’s much-admired trolley system is due to the focus of one commissioner, Charlie Hales, who pushed it through.
Other examples of how empowered elected commissioners get things done include the city’s green building boom, getting 1,000 of the city’s chronic homeless off the street, unique public financing of elections to fight corruption and nation-leading efforts to cut global warming, according to Sten.
Portland has cut its emissions of global warming gases 13 percent since 1990 and is the only city in the nation to show a decrease. Part of the city’s efforts includes promoting bicycle transportation. To protest for more biking recently, “800 people rode naked through downtown Portland. We’re proud of that,” Sten said.
In Eugene, a debate about reforming the city’s weak-council/strong-manager form of government is percolating. On July 6, former north Eugene City Councilor Ken Tollenaar spoke to City Club calling for a club committee to study the issue. Tollenaar said he’s a strong supporter of the council/manager form but, there’s a “legitimate concern” that under the city’s current form of government the city “can’t build consensus so we can move forward” on some issues like downtown redevelopment. Tollenaar said he’d like to see the manager share more information and a better salary for the mayor to “strengthen political leadership.”
After the speech, Councilor Bonny Bettman said she supports the council/manager form but would like to see reforms to “balance the power.”
“In Eugene, it’s the manage the council form of government,” Bettman said. The system “is completely dominated by the Chamber of Commerce, The [Register-]Guard and the organization, the city bureaucracy.” — Alan Pittman
BUSTING THE BLM
Local activists have created a film and interactive DVD called Boom, Bust and the BLM to deal with Oregon’s latest eco-crisis.
The current controversial move under Bush and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR and pronounced “whopper”) to the Northwest Forest Plan.
The acronym WOPR is the same that was used in the 1983 hit film War Games for the War Operation Plan Response computer that Mathew Broderick’s character unwittingly triggers into planning a disastrous nuclear war.
Oregon environmentalists say the BLM’s WOPR is a disaster waiting to happen as well. It will remove protections that were created under the Northwest Forest Plan for native old-growth forests and fish-bearing streams in forests from Eugene to Klamath Falls.
The DVD and film is a project by local filmmaker Tim Lewis, Trip Jennings of Epicocity Productions and Eugene-based Cascadia’s Ecosystem Advocates.
The film addresses the WOPR and what the filmmakers call the “dubious political wrangling behind it.” It also contains sections on community and citizen interaction with the BLM from vole survey teams to rural landowners.
The film is available on a DVD that also contains a citizen-action toolkit, showing viewers how to get involved with forest protection issues.
It seems the BLM is a little nervous about the film and its goal to stop the WOPR. Lewis alleges a BLM employee heading the WOPR team attended a preview of the film and pirated the documentary via a cell phone camera. The pirated clips were then shown to other BLM employees in violation of the film’s copyright, according to Lewis.
“Mr. Lewis spent countless hours filming, editing and producing the film” said attorney Ralph Bloemers, “only to have Dick Prather and Alan Hoffmeister of the BLM pirate his work and show it without his permission.”
Lewis has demanded BLM return the pirated film clips, delete all illegal copies from BLM’s servers and issue an apology.
The BLM has agreed to return the clips, but has not addressed Lewis’ other concerns.
Boom, Bust and the BLM will be showing legally and free to the public Monday, July 16, at 6 pm at the Eugene Public Library and again Thursday, July 19, at 7 pm at Cozmic Pizza. Lewis and others involved in the project will be there to speak about the film and the WOPR. — Camilla Mortensen
That soda you’re drinking may be giving you a lot more than a caffeine and sugar high; it may be causing serious cell damage, according to a recent study by a British scientist.
Current research revealed that the preservative sodium benzoate, commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria, may accelerate the process of aging and contribute to a number of diseases associated with old age.
Sodium benzoate is found in a variety of soft drinks including Mountain Dew, Fanta, Dr. Pepper and Sprite. It’s also frequently used as a preservative in sauces and pickles.
Molecular biologist Peter Piper of Sheffield University reported in May that sodium benzoate inactivates mitochondrial DNA, the part of cells that provide energy.
“These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it: they knock it out altogether,” Piper said in the British paper The Independent. He added that damage to the DNA can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.
According to Piper, the safety of sodium benzoate needs to be reevaluated, given the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s out of date research on the preservative.
Controversy over sodium benzoate erupted last year due to its production of benzene, a known carcinogen, when mixed with vitamin C. Several soft drink manufacturers, including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, faced benzene lawsuits as a result. Coca Cola settled earlier this year, agreeing to reformulate two of its soft drinks, Fanta Pineapple and Vault Zero. PepsiCo still faces litigation for producing beverages containing benzene.
Studies have shown that sodium benzoate consumption, along with other preservatives, presents an added risk for children who experience behavioral problems when drinking large quantities. Many soft drinks also contain high fructose corn syrup, which some research has linked to increased obesity and type II diabetes among children.
Eugene’s 4J school district is trying to protect Eugene’s youth from the consumption of soft drinks and other unhealthy snacks. Last year the district initiated a wellness policy that stipulates vending machines accessible to students may only contain nutritious beverages such as water and fruit and vegetable juices that don’t contain additional sweeteners — Erin Rokita
STRIFE IN DARFUR
Nearly half a million people have died, and about two and a half million people have been displaced from their homes due to civil war in Sudan. The strife in the Darfur region of western Sudan is particularly intense. One local person who knows the country well is Paul Barker, country director for CARE International in Sudan. He will be talking and showing slides in a presentation at 7 pm Sunday, July 15, at the Eugene Friends Meeting House, 2274 Onyx. The event is co-sponsored by the Eugene Friends Meeting, the Lane County Darfur Coalition and CALC. The title of his talk is “Darfur: Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back.”
Barker grew up in Newport, attended Lewis and Clark College, became a conscientious objector and Quaker during the Vietnam War, joined the Peace Corps and earned a masters degree in Islamic studies. He has been working with CARE International since 1984 in Ethiopia, the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt and Afghanistan. For the past year, he has been CARE’s country director in Sudan and has traveled several times to Darfur
CARE has its central office in Khartoum, Sudan, and runs programs distributing food, water, sanitation and emergency supplies to people in need. CARE also works on health and nutrition programs and supports efforts to reduce violence against women in Darfur and neighboring Chad.
In an interview at www.care.orgBarker says, “Most of the signs that we see from our end are not encouraging. The government seems intent on achieving a military victory in Darfur, and rebel groups seem determined to use their weapons to achieve their ends. Guns are not going to solve this crisis.”
For more information on the Lane County Darfur Coalition, call 342-8189.
2,296 LOCAL HOMELESS
With warmer weather, the homeless are becoming more visible in Eugene.
About 95 percent of the local homeless households that receive services are from the local community, according to a City of Eugene fact sheet. On January 25, Lane County counted 2,296 local homeless people, and 594 of these were unsheltered.
The actual number of local homeless could be significantly higher. The Veteran’s Administration reported last year that 12 percent of local vets, 4,560 people, were homeless. Every year, about 2,000 homeless children enroll in Lane County schools, about 1,000 in Eugene, according to the city.
About half of Eugene renters pay more than a third of their income for housing. About 20,000 local poor households are eligible for subsidized housing, but only about 4,000 units are available.
The inadequate supply of affordable housing has many hidden costs, a city fact sheet lists. Those costs include: $362 for the average emergency room visit, $858 per day for a psychiatric hospital bed, $189 a day for detoxification and $359 per day for the Lane County Jail. In contrast, subsidizing the construction of local affordable housing costs an estimated 67 cents per day per person, according to the city.
About 16 percent of the homeless are considered “chronic.” Some of these people have multiple problems including physical or mental disabilities, post traumatic stress and/or self-medicating addictions. Other homeless people are young runaways with a history of abuse at home, women fleeing domestic violence, financially stressed families with children or those pushed over the edge by big healthcare bills, according to a city of Eugene profile.
The Eugene City Council has launched an initiative to help the homeless. But so far, local governments have not committed major increases in funding to combat the problem.
In contrast, Portland recently got 1,000 of its 2,500 chronically homeless people off the street by spending $7 million to subsidize 18 months of rent. Additional funding comes from dedicating a third of urban renewal funds to affordable housing. The rent subsidy is a “pretty big gamble,” Portland Commissioner Erik Sten said, but, “it’s actually cheaper for us to house these folks than running them through the jail.” — Alan Pittman
HIROSHIMA-NAGASAKI PEACE WALK
Buddhist monks plan to lead a walk from Eugene to the nuclear submarine base at Bangor, Washington, to commemorate the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed at least 154,000 people.
The walk begins July 16 with a 9 am ceremony welcoming the monks from the Nipponzan Myohoji Temple on Bainbridge Island at the Japanese American Art Memorial at the Hult Center.
The ceremony will be followed by a day-long walk through Eugene and end with a 6 pm community potluck at St. Mary’s Episcopal on 13th and Pearl. At 7 pm a film about nuclear victims, Hibakusha — At the End of the World, will be shown. Organizers include CALC, WAND and Taxes for Peace Not War. Call 543-0112 for information.
Regarding a letter to the editor last week, “Don’t Buy Bud,” writer Jean Schauerman tried to send a corrected version, but it arrived too late. She says Hansen’s sodas are not distributed by Western Beverage.
Argh. Local businesses are going under. We mourn the loss of both Flicks & Pics, the most marvelous movie place ever, and Musique Gourmet. We always liked trying to predict which New Yorker cartoons Musique Gourmet owner Don Lambdin would choose to feature each week. Though we wouldn’t say Lambdin was known for his warm and friendly customer service, unlike the geeky-but-kind employees of Flicks & Pics, we enjoyed chatting with him about which version to buy of, say, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. What’s the world coming to with the closing of these treasured, established businesses? If people value local businesses, they need to shop locally. We heart the Internet, but come on, people: Community gathering spots like Flicks & Pics can never be replaced, no matter how much we enjoy the “convenience” of Netflix. And as great as classical music blogs may be, they’ll never give us the same experience as talking to Lambdin. What can replace either institution? Maybe J. Michael’s can start carrying Lambdin’s stock? Maybe the Friendly Street neighborhood can band together, buy out Flicks & Pics and keep it running? Next thing you know, some damn corporation will take over downtown and bring in big box stores. Um … yeah. Again, argh.
Eugene has hired a Portland firm to design its new city hall, two Portland developers to rebuild its downtown and now a Portland facilitator to involve Eugeneans in the rebuild. Hey, here’s a great idea for local economic development: Hire local people for these multiple millions in contracts! Why do all our tax dollars have to go to pay consultants/contractors to drive or fly to Eugene to tell us what to do?
A familiar watering hole made an appearance in the June issue of Esquire, which drew up a fascinating list of the Best Bars in America. Oregon’s only selected bar? Sam Bond’s Garage, about which Tom Colligan wrote, “You slowly realize you’re in the family room of one of the weirdest neighborhoods in America — a shady, overgrown co-op of artists, ecoanarchists, spirit healers, drug dealers, and permanently circling vagabonds.” A gorgeous picture of SB’s shows it at its crowded, cozy best. Turning up on the same list as NYC’s tiny, intimate Angel’s Share and Seattle’s Zig Zag Café is nothing to scoff at — so we’ll raise our Mason jars of local beer in a toast to that.
One of the highlights of Sicko, Michael Moore’s new film, is his interview with former British Parliament member Tony Benn. Moore asks: “When did this whole idea [start] that every British citizen should have a right to health care?” Benn answers: “It all began with democracy. Before we had the vote, all the power was in the hands of rich people. If you had money, you could get health care, education, look after yourself when you were old. And what democracy did was to give the poor the vote, and it moved power from the marketplace to the polling station, from the wallet to the ballot. And what people said was very simple. They said in the 1930s — we had mass unemployment, but we don’t have unemployment during the war. If you could have full employment by killing Germans, why can’t you have full employment by building hospitals, building schools, recruiting nurses, recruiting teachers? If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people.”
PETA hates fat people. A recent open letter from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) president Ingrid Newkirk to Sicko director Michael Moore targets not America’s inadequate health care system but Moore’s weight. “There’s an elephant in the room,” she writes to Moore, “and it’s you.” Newkirk snidely suggests PETA can help him with his “weighty health issue” and claims he can show others how to be “less reliant” on the health care system by going vegetarian. Maybe this body image issue explains PETA’s incessant use of naked supermodels in their campaigns? Either Newkirk doesn’t think those of us who are a little less than svelte can be healthy animal lovers or PETA hasn’t forgiven Moore for that unfortunate rabbit killing scene in Roger & Me.
The responses to our 7/5 cover story (“It’s Our Country”) and slant are coming in, and you can read them online at www.eugeneweekly.com (and contribute your own answers to the questions — What do you admire about the U.S.? What are you hopeful about? What are you doing to make the country a better place?— by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org). It’s great to read about local people doing good work! We hope your stories help inspire each other as we all work to create a sane, humane community.
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
Roseburg native Lara Howe recalls her first visit to the Oregon Country Fair, when she and the fair were 5 years old. “My brother said the rides would make me puke,” says Howe, who was disappointed to find no rides but delighted to get a Monster Cookie. “That’s what turned me on to the fair.” In her teens, she hitched rides to the fair with a neighbor and hung out at the main stage for music and dancing. At age 18, she met her husband Kenny Howe. The following year, they moved to Eugene with their three-month-old son Dylan. For 14 years, she has sold home-sewn purses and done hair-wraps at the Saturday Market. In 1995, Kenny volunteered for the OCF recycling crew. “It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done,” says Lara, who likes the work well enough to have co-coordinated the recycling crew since 2002. “I’ve never been so happy to be so filthy.” Howe’s pet project has been the use of washable cutlery by all food booths. “Last year, we rented a trailer with three triple sinks,” she says. “It took forever. This year we’ll pay to use the conveyor-belt dishwasher at Elmira High School.”