News Briefs: Broadway Public Bucks Coming Up | Prosecutors Object to Support | Cheney Kills Salmon for Smith | Springer is Finalist in Contest | I (Don’t) Brake for Fish | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Sabotaging summer reading
Trucks pound pavement but won’t pay for potholes
Happening Person: David Paul
BROADWAY PUBLIC BUCKS COMING UP
Eugene residents recently received in the mail a half-page postcard titled “Downtown Urban Renewal Plan Amendments” announcing a public hearing at 7:30 pm July 16 at City Hall. What’s it all about?
The hearing regards a proposal to double the millions of dollars the city of Eugene diverts from schools and other government services to subsidize development downtown.
The Eugene City Council has proposed increasing the spending cap on its downtown urban renewal district to $73 million from the current $33 million cap. Most of the current urban renewal money went to build the downtown library. The $40 million in additional money will help fund about $50 million in planned subsidies for a proposal by Portland developers KWG and Beam to redevelop about three blocks along Broadway.
City staff had initially proposed nearly quadrupling the urban renewal cap to $128 million at a May 29 meeting, but the council balked.
“Wow, what are these people smoking at City Hall?” said Councilor Bonny Bettman in reaction to the “drastic” increase. Bettman said she didn’t know anyone who would think it was justifiable to transfer that much money away from school, county and city services.
Councilor Alan Zelenka also said he was “surprised” at the big increase and said it could “kill the momentum” supporters of the KWG/Beam redevelopment “carefully” put together. Zelenka’s motion to change the cap to $73 million passed 6-2 with Bettman and Councilor Betty Taylor opposed.
Taylor questioned whether the council wasn’t circumventing the public process in pushing ahead with the funding. The council plans to vote Aug. 13 for the urban renewal expansion. That’s two weeks before a citizen advisory committee is supposedly to report to the council on what the KWG/Beam project should be. “What’s the purpose of the committee if it’s all been decided?” she asked.
Taylor said she supports an earlier KWG proposal to refill the Sears pit across from the library with condos, “but I’m not willing to turn over to them the fate of our existing businesses, the fate of our downtown and huge amounts of taxpayer money.”
In addition to the urban renewal funds, the council also plans to use roughly $10 million in federal money to subsidize the KWG/Beam projects, which may include some affordable housing. The federal money (BEDI/HUD) was given to the city for brownfield redevelopment and housing and other programs to help the poor
The $73 million urban renewal plan includes $300,000 a year in administrative costs.
Citizens for Public Accountability (CPA) has planned a public meeting in advance of the hearing to try to educate the public about the complicated and high-priced proposals. The CPA meeting, titled “Pulbic Benefit vs. Public Subsidies,” will be at 7 pm Monday, July 9 at EWEB.
Rob Handy of CPA is on the 11-member Citizens Advisory Committee that the mayor has named to advise the council about the downtown development. At the meeting, Handy will talk about what the newly formed committee has done so far and how it intends to involve the public as the design process moves forward.
More information about the draft ordinance and West Broadway redevelopment can be found at www.eugene-or.gov/downtown — Alan Pittman
PROSECUTORS OBJECT TO SUPPORT
Operation Backfire defendant Daniel McGowan reported to federal prison Monday, July 2 to serve his seven-year sentence for arson. His sentence was subject to the government’s “terrorism enhancement.”
McGowan filed a motion to push back his report date until the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) informed him where he will be incarcerated, but Judge Ann Aiken denied the request on June 27. McGowan will report to a holding facility to await his prison designation.
So far none of the Backfire defendants has been given an official prison designation. It is not yet known at what security level – maximum, medium, or minimum – the eco-saboteurs will be held.
In their opposition to McGowan’s motion, “the prosecutors cited Daniel’s interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now a few days after he was sentenced, as well as the fact that the website we run for him, is still operational,” McGowan’s wife, Jenny Synan, wrote in an email update.
Aiken had expressed displeasure with McGowan’s support site during his sentencing but did not request it be taken down. Many of the Operation Backfire defendants, as well as other people in prison for politically motivated crimes, maintain such sites. The sites fundraise for legal defense and often ask for books and letters of support to be sent to prisoners.
McGowan, in his interview with radio and television-based Democracy Now, expressed regret over his use of “arson as a tactic” and discussed his intention to get a master’s degree in environmental sociology while in prison. The prosecutors cited a passage from McGowan’s interview in which he said, “We have to stop pretending this is all about crime and punishment and start with dealing with real issues, like global climate change.”
McGowan will not appeal the terrorism enhancement because “it may open up sentencing again,” he said, and result in an even longer sentence.
“I’m going to move for full restoration of my civil rights” when released from prison, he said.
Operation Backfire support pages and email addresses include:
• Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Chelsea Gerlach: www.supportchelsea.org
• Jonathan Paul: email@example.com
• Lacey Phillabaum www.laceyalice.org
• Darren Thurston: www.freedarren.org
• Kevin Tubbs www.supportkevintubbs.org
• Briana Waters www.supportbriana.org
No public support sites are yet available for Stanislas Meyerhoff, Suzanne Savoie or Kendall Tankersley. – Camilla Mortensen
CHENEY KILLS SALMON FOR SMITH
It’s been long known that Karl Rove orchestrated the diversion of water in the Klamath River basin to Oregon farmers in 2002. But according to a recent series of articles in the Washington Post, it was Vice President Dick Cheney who was really pulling the strings. The move killed thousands of endangered salmon but ensured farmers’ support for the reelection of Republican Sen. Gordon Smith.
Such political maneuverings are a possible violation of the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act (once known as “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities”) prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political action while on the job.
The Klamath incident was only one of many anti-environmental misdeeds Cheney surreptitiously directed, from easing air pollution controls to reopening the national forests to logging, mining and other development.
Rove, senior political advisor to George W. Bush, gave a PowerPoint presentation to 50 Department of the Interior managers at a retreat in West Virginia in 2002. The presentation discussed polling data, and emphasized the importance of getting Smith reelected that year.
The water diversion resulted in low water flow in the Klamath, killing as many as 60,000 fish, a report from the California Department of Fish and Game said. The fish killed included naturally raised Chinook and endangered Coho salmon. The Oregon fishing industry relies heavily on Chinook salmon.
Michael Kelly, a lead biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service objected to the plan to divert the water, but his objections were overruled.
A federal judge later ruled that the Bush administration violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing the water to be diverted.
It is only recently the extent of Cheney’s involvement in incidents such as the Klamath water release has become known. According to the Post, “he generally has preferred to operate with stealth.” – Camilla Mortensen
SPRINGER IS FINALIST IN CONTEST
Longtime Eugene cartoonist Jesse Springer has been named a finalist in a national political cartoon contest sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The focus of the UCS contest is on government interference in science as it affects public policy. Springer entered five cartoons, and three of his made the top dozen out of 400 entries. Judges included Doonsebury creator Garry Trudeau and Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles.
Springer says his personal favorite is titled “Political Science,” and he’s hoping that one gets the most public votes. People can vote for their favorites at ucsaction.org and the contest can also be accessed through Springer’s site, www.springercreative.com
The voting runs through July 23. Votes are limited to one per email address.
All 12 finalist cartoons will be featured in a calendar the UCS publishes and distributes to help raise awareness about the issues. The grand prize winner receives 50 calendars, $500 cash and a trip to Washington, D.C., for a tour of the UCS offices and lunch with Tom Toles.
Springer is an illustrator by profession and has drawn hundreds of cartoons and cover illustrations for EW since 1995. He also does political cartoons for The Register-Guard and other publications. Books of his cartoons are available at local book stores.
I (DON’T) BRAKE FOR FISH
Hitting your brakes kills salmon, according to a recent study by OSU researchers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Fisheries Service.
Copper from the wearing of brake pads is deposited on roads when drivers slow down or stop. The copper is then transported into rivers and streams through runoff after rains.
Copper affects the salmon’s sense of smell, the study said. When a predator attacks a salmon, the fish releases a chemical cue from the skin that signals danger to nearby fish. The other fish smell the “predation cue” and try to avoid being eaten too.
The study focused on juvenile Coho salmon, but the scientists say the results apply to fish species worldwide.
Studies show higher levels of copper contamination in streams close to roads and highways. Other sources of contamination in California and the Pacific Northwest include certain pesticide formulations and building materials.
The levels of copper used in the study were at or below current federal guidelines for heavy metals. The results raise the question of whether current water quality standards are adequate, according to Jeff Jenkins, an OSU environmental toxicologist.
“It’s just like they were poisoned,” he said. – Camilla Mortensen
Since the U.S. invasion began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 3,583 U.S. troops killed* (3,562)
• 25,349 U.S. troops injured*
• 281 Coalition troops killed* (278)
• 404 contractors killed** (403)
• 73,120 Iraqi civilians killed*** (72,608)
• $439.7 billion cost of war ($435.7 billion)
* through July 2, 2007; source: icasualties.org
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org
In a New York Times column June 24, Frank Rich reported that the Iraq civilian casualty rate is at an all-time high, and the April-May American death toll is a new two-month record. He also said overall violence in Iraq is up, only 146 out of 457 Baghdad neighborhoods are secure and the number of internally displaced Iraqis has quadrupled since January. “Last week Iraq rose to No. 2 in Foreign Policy magazine’s Failed State Index, barely nosing out Sudan,” he wrote. “It might have made No. 1 if the Iraqi health ministry had not stopped providing a count of civilian casualties. Or if the Pentagon were not withholding statistics on the increase of attacks on the Green Zone.”
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
Weyerhaeuser Company — South Valley (744-4600) will ground spray 500 acres (roadside) with Garlon 3A and Accord herbicides plus Methylated Seed Oil and Induce adjuvants in Western Lane County near Lorane and various tributaries of the Siuslaw River starting July 15th (781-50728). Call Jack Spinder at Weyerhaeuser or Paul Clements, stewardship forester, at Oregon Department of Forestry, Western Lane District Office, 935-2283.
Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
Moving the Lane County Fairgrounds? Somebody responsible should do some number crunching before they get too excited. With construction prices now what they are, we doubt that selling the existing fairgrounds could come close to the cost of buying land and building all new buildings at a different site. Prospects for a bond measure to make up the difference also don’t look good, given the county’s long losing streak. There may be a way for the county to get some money from the city by trading/selling the butterfly lot, but don’t count on city taxpayers wanting to give the county fairgrounds a big subsidy.
What are you doing to improve the good old U.S.A.? Unfortunately, we couldn’t get everyone we asked to respond to our cover story’s questions (in some cases because despair about U.S. government ran too deep). But we’d love to hear more about what area residents do to improve our quality of life and to improve the country. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) with answers to the questions in the cover story, and we’ll get you up on the website.
Tickets are already near sold out and/or costing hundreds of dollars, so next summer’s Olympic trials could be heading for a public backlash. John Q. Public may not be so happy about the millions of dollars in state and local subsidies and traffic congestion if the trials become only something for Phil Knight and similar out of town elite to enjoy. How about a few free/low priced family events for us poor locals?
The Eugene police union’s recent rages against democracy and public accountability in The Register-Guard provide clear evidence of why independent oversight is sorely needed, and soon. What do they have to hide?
Check out the washingtonpost.com recent exposé on how Dick Cheney was behind the massive salmon kill on the Klamath River in 2002, “the largest fish kill the West had ever seen” (see News Briefs this week). The article notes how ranchers “took saws and blowtorches to dam gates” to protest against Endangered Species Act limits on irrigation before Cheney intervened in their favor. Hmmm. That sounds familiar. Didn’t the federal government just convict a bunch of people for “terrorism” for using sabotage to “commit criminal acts with the intent of changing the policies of our government,” as the FBI said? Maybe Republicans are exempt.
We hope the whole country sees Sicko, the new Michael Moore film. We hope the film will have a similar impact as Al Gore’s global warming movie. But standing firmly in the way is a multi-billion dollar health care/insurance industry that’s devouring an ever greater share of the nation’s economy. Take a look at the lavish new RiverBend and Triad’s hospital plans. Just imagine of all the suffering that half billion dollars in local health care money could have alleviated if it had instead gone to help the tens of thousands of local uninsured and underinsured people here.
The Democratic State Legislature made big strides on funding education this session. But Eugeneans may remember it more for poking a stick in their eye by passing a bill that may require more local urban sprawl and by refusing to even consider a ban on field burning. Another glaring failure is the Legislature’s failure to even consider plans for universal health care.
Should the Eugene council use eminent domain to purchase and preserve two parcels of pristine forest in the Amazon Headwaters? Lots of indignation being expressed. But if eminent domain is such a big deal, why wasn’t there any fuss over the council vote to proceed with eminent domain on two parcels in Santa Clara for a city park? The vote took place only 10 days before the controversial Headwaters vote. Springfield is playing the domain game as well. The Springfield School Board voted June 25 to condemn about 18 undeveloped acres in southeast Springfield. The reason? Development and sprawl. The board expects to soon build a school in this area where a lot of growth is expected.
Doctors on the move? Medical offices tend to follow new hospitals, and both PeaceHealth and McKenzie-Willamette are bound for the distant suburbs. We heard from one of our readers this week who describes herself as “financially challenged” and who relies on public transportation to get around. She received a letter from her doctor who used to have a small office just two blocks from the downtown Eugene bus station. “New convenient location and plenty of parking!” the letter said. The new office is in the area of Beltline and Delta Highway. “This just about sums up how doctors feel about their financially challenged patients and how everyone feels about downtown,” she says. “It’s time to go ‘doctor shopping’ again.”
Who’s going to take charge of the pups and kitties at Greenhill? Word is that Executive Director Johnni Prince is getting married and moving to Kansas City. Prince plans to leave at the end of September. Insiders think the next leader of the pack will be former local Fox TV anchor Katie Dyer. Dyer is currently Greenhill’s director of marketing and development.
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
Growing up in the Bronx, David Paul got his start in theater as an usher at the aged Academy of Music in Manhattan, in its return to glory as a rock palace in the 1970s. “I worked my way onto the stage as a cable puller and broom sweeper,” he says. Paul migrated west with a friend who was moving to L.A., but finding it “just like New York except for the palm trees,” he hitchhiked on to Eugene. “I had read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” he notes. After earning a degree in radio broadcast production from LCC, Paul produced a live music show for KLCC from the WOW Hall and George’s Garage. “I got to know the local acts,” he says. “It was a springboard to what I do now, booking festivals and working as a stage hand at the Hult Center.” From his vantage point in the KLCC booth at the Oregon Country Fair in 1977, Paul could see that the main stage needed some help. “At that time, anyone who wanted a little responsibility at the fair got a lot of responsibility,” he says. “Being a good-hearted hippie, I went on to coordinate the main stage for 30 years now.” The Oregon Country Fair this year runs July 13-15.