News Briefs: Dems Party in the Park | War Games in Oregon | Neighborhood Initiative Sabotaged? | DEQ to Put a Cap on Baxter Dirt | GM Alfalfa in Lane Co. | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Half a World Away
A Q&A with a Laotian environmentalist
Does Islamic outreach make an Oregon man a terrorist?
Committee requires little for $50 million subsidy
Happening Person: Ron Burley
DEMS PARTY IN THE PARK
|Rebecca Gladstone, secretary of the DPLC, serves her organic, vegetarian chili at the cook-off Sunday. PHOTO: KATHRYN SCHUESSLER
Lane County Democrats added some spice to their politics with their annual chili cook-off in Alton Baker Park Sunday, Aug. 26. The gathering drew a crowd of about 100 under cool but sunny skies.
Surprise guests included U.S. Senate candidate Steve Novick, who is running in the May 2008 primary for the U.S. Senate, hoping to unseat Republican Gordon Smith. Novick is a Portland attorney with Eugene roots. He graduated from the UO at age 18 and graduated from Harvard Law School when he was 21.
Elected officials attending included Kitty Piercy, Pete Sorenson, Vicki Walker, Phil Barnhart, Paul Holvey, Terry Beyer, Chris Edwards and Nancy Nathanson.
The cook-off’s favorites included first place honors for a spicy batch brewed by the LGBTQ caucus, the Gay Habaneros. Second place went to Rebecca Gladstone and her vegetarian chili from the “Bill and Phil’s Beans and Bribery Bistro” booth. Betsy Steffenson of the Peace Caucus took third place with her “Impeachment Pies.” Fourth place went to House District 14’s “pulled pork” sandwiches.
WAR GAMES IN OREGON
Oregon did not experience any major large-scale emergencies last week; however, the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) simulated a nuclear disaster involving Portland in order “to enhance homeland defense measures and military support to civil agencies during natural or man-made disasters.”
The simulation was part of “Operation Noble Resolve” which worked with Homeland Security and FEMA to prepare the U.S. for terrorist attacks and other emergencies.
USJFCOM was able to save “time and money” by using “intricate computer-based models and high-speed, long distance virtual connections,” according to their website. No actual troops or emergency personnel were deployed. This sort of simulation is known as wargaming.
The Noble Resolve scenario also involved Hawaii, Guam and Virginia. Oregon participants included the National Guard, Portland and Salem FBI, Immigration and Customs and other law enforcement agencies. According to USJFCOM’s website, something called the “Twaltan” Valley Fire Department was also involved. EW assumes the U.S. military meant Tualatin.
Conspiracy theorists on websites like portland.indymedia.org are not happy with these war games. They argue that these military exercises have a history of coinciding with real world disasters.
The exercises wrapped up Friday, Aug. 24, with only a few “glitches,” but Oregon is not done with war games yet. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Oregon will host “Top Officials 4” (TOPOFF 4) Oct. 15-24. TOPOFF 4 is another emergency management exercise involving weapons of mass destruction. In this one a “dirty bomb” releases radioactive materials in Portland. For more information on TOPOFF 4 (and to view the video promoting private sector participation) go to www.dhs.gov/xprepresp/training/gc_1179430526487.shtm — Camilla Mortensen
NEIGHBORHOOD INITIATIVE SABOTAGED?
Two and a half years ago, the Eugene City Council set a neighborhood initiative as a major city goal, but now the city’s neighborhood program has no staff.
It’s not for a lack of money: The council increased the city’s neighborhood budget to $540,000 and authorized two full-time staff.
But one staff position was left vacant for months after city managers decided not to open it to external applicants and no internal applicants applied. The city never offered the full-time position, which requires many night meetings but includes the city’s lucrative retirement and health-care package, to outside applicants from Eugene’s generally highly educated but underemployed workforce.
That apparently led to the remaining staffer resigning in frustration. In an Aug. 21 letter of resignation copied to neighborhood leaders, city neighborhood manager Beth Bridges alleged that Planning and Development Executive Director Susan Muir was “undermining” the neighborhood program in a way that “contravened Budget Committee and Council policy direction.”
In the past, the city’s Planning Department has clashed with neighborhoods over development issues.
Asked about the neighborhood program problem, Muir referred to an Aug. 15 memo sent to the mayor and council. The memo acknowledged “staffing issues” with the unstaffed program and said the city has tried to assign a Public Works staffer to work on neighborhood issues part time. “We realize there is very important and critical work that needs to be done while we face this temporary situation,” she said.
Kevin Matthews, president of the Southeast Neighbors, commented on the resignation in an email to neighborhood leaders, saying that the situation was a “terrible botch by the city administration.”
Neighborhood Leaders Council Co-chair David Hinkley emailed the mayor and council alleging “a clandestine effort to phase out the neighborhood program.” Hinkley pointed out that the council allocated ample funds but that staff did not spend them on neighborhoods. “The money was there; what seems to be lacking is a commitment to the neighborhood program,” Hinkley wrote. “It is time for the City Council to get out of the mushroom shed and take a long hard look at how the Neighborhood Association Initiative and other City Council goals and policies are being advanced (or not) by city staff.”
Mayor Kitty Piercy responded to Hinkley by email that she’s “heard nothing that indicates” staff oppose the neighborhood program. “They are working hard,” the mayor wrote. “Part of the problem is too many things on the burner at the same time.”
But Piercy agreed that the unspent budget was a “point well taken” and said, “I know there is much that can and should be done better.”
Meanwhile, a call to the city’s neighborhood program was answered only by an anonymous taped message. —Alan Pittman
DEQ TO PUT A CAP ON BAXTER DIRT
In the latest effort to clean up contaminants in west Eugene near Roosevelt Boulevard, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has announced a “soil cap” will be placed over 11 acres of ground that is tainted with arsenic at the J.H. Baxter facility. The cap is an interim measure, the DEQ says.
The area had been used by the creosoting plant to store telephone poles, but is no longer needed for that purpose.
Creosote is a mixture of chemicals formed by heating coal tar to a high temperature, according to the EPA. It has no residential uses and is a fungicide, insecticide, miticide and sporicide. It is used to protect wood, primarily utility poles and railroad ties. Creosote is a possible human carcinogen, the EPA’s draft risk assessment says.
Other products used in wood treatment are pentachlorophenol (toxic if inhaled, absorbed or ingested) and inorganic arsenic compounds (possible carcinogens).
The J.H. Baxter plant has a had a problem with pentachlorophenol contaminating groundwater in a plume reaching out to residential neighborhoods north and west of the area. Thus far, nearby wells are not affected, but residents are told not to drink the groundwater.
The soil cap will not address the groundwater issue but will protect workers at the plant and prevent arsenic contaminated soil from blowing off the property.
The soil capping process involves laying a strong fabric over the contaminated soil, then placing 6 inches of compacted soil and 6 inches of crushed rock on top of that. The area would then be fenced off and would require regular inspections.
The DEQ says that there will most likely be addition cleanup needed for the rest of the site, including groundwater treatment. Other final remedial actions for the entire site will “likely include” capping contaminated soils, soil excavation and “other technologies and institutional controls,” according to the DEQ.
The site has been part of a Superfund Health Investigation and Education Program (SHINE) looking into community concerns of heightened levels of cancer in the Bethel, River Road and Trainsong neighborhoods.
The Eugene J.H. Baxter plant is not the company’s only problematic site. The J.H. Baxter plant in Weed, Calif., has been under investigation and clean-up by the EPA since the 1980s.
The DEQ seeks public comment on the Eugene J.H. Baxter plan. Send written comments or ask questions through Sept. 26 to: Geoff Brown, DEQ, 1102 Lincoln St., Suite 210, Eugene 97401. For more information, call 686-7819 or go to www.deq.state.or.us/wr/LocalProjects/BaxterIRAMFactSheet.pdf — Camilla Mortensen
GM ALFALFA IN LANE CO.
Lane County is one of 18 counties in Oregon in which Roundup Ready alfalfa was planted. Last week Monsanto appealed a ban on the sale of the genetically modified crop placed by the U.S. District Court in Northern California.
The bright green hay is used as forage for horses, dairy cows and goats and as a food for companion animals. It is also eaten by humans in the form of alfalfa sprouts and as a dietary supplement.
Roundup Ready alfalfa is produced by Monsanto. It has a bacterium inserted into the seed that makes it resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The plant was developed in conjunction with Forage Genetics, which specializes in alfalfa breeding and biotechnology.
The judge ordered the injunction on Roundup Ready alfalfa until the USDA completes an environmental impact statement on the effects of the plant. The judge also ordered that the exact field locations of over 200,000 acres of Roundup Ready alfalfa be identified. The ruling placed restrictions on the production, harvesting and marketing of the crop. Concerned farmers can call (866) 724-6408 to get exact locations of the genetically modified crop.
The Center for Food Safety, which sued the USDA over the crop, contends it has as potentially dangerous effects on human health and animal health and that it could contaminate other alfalfa plants through cross-pollination by bees.
The case will move to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but no date has been set. — Camilla Mortensen
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 3,707 U.S. troops killed* (3,707)
• 27,279 U.S. troops injured* (27,279)
• 118 U.S. military suicides* (118)
• 297 Coalition troops killed* (292)
• 417 contractors killed** (417)
• 77,272 Iraqi civilians killed*** (76,623)
• $455.7 billion cost of war ($453.7 billion)
• $129.5 million cost to Eugene taxpayers($129 Million)
* through Aug. 20, 2007; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to one million
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
Near Fox Hollow area: Transition Management Inc. (484-6706) will ground spray roadsides with Triclopyr ester and amine, Imazapyr, Sulfometuron, and Glyphosate herbicides plus Crop Oil throughout 227 acres near Fox Hollow and Preacher creeks starting Aug. 29 (#50941). Call Curt McKinney at Transition, or Robert Johnson at Oregon Department of Forestry (935-2282).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
In our Aug. 16 news story “Alien Species,” the day of the week for the Science Pub presentations was incorrect. The interactive presentations at Luna take place at 7 pm on the second Thursday of each month. On Sept. 13, UO physics professor Jim Brau will talk on “Particles, Energy and Our Mysterious Universe.”
• Is it just a coincidence that the KWG plans for Broadway redevelopment include a 58,000 sq. ft. food store, and last year’s failed Giustina plans for a Whole Foods store was nearly the same at 55,000 sq. ft.? One thing we’ve learned over the years is that urban developers on the West Coast all know each other, and most have strong personal connections with building contractors, sand and gravel companies, big retailers, PR firms, even city staffers. These friendly, back-scratching relationships are something to keep an eye on, particularly when lots of public money is involved.
• Speaking of downtowns, a few weeks ago in this column (8/2) we talked about the Portland Business Alliance and the Street Access for Everyone (SAFE) collaboration that’s “cleaning up” downtown Portland. PBA’s Mike Kuykendall praised the program during his visit to Eugene July 27. But it seems Portland’s city government is just as political and contentious as Eugene’s. We see the Portland Mercury blog has been shredding the collaboration, criticizing the armed “rent-a-cops” as “chomping at the bit to get out and clobber downtown’s homeless with it.” The blog is claiming the alliance is wanting to implement the program before providing the promised benches, bathrooms, etc. Bitching is part of the democratic process. We’re happy to see people paying attention to their downtowns, whether it’s Portland, Eugene or any town that tries to have a vital city center.
• Most media attention is on big plans for downtown, but some smaller projects downtown are also in the works. We heard from Eugene attorney Martin Henner that a co-housing project we have been following is getting closer to reality. Henner says building permits could be filed soon, and groundbreaking is tentatively set for Sept. 21. The complex will be built at 11th and Lincoln, and old buildings on the site are already being moved or demolished. The contractor is Gale M. Roberts Inc. Some units are still available, and the prices should be fixed in September when financing and construction contracts have been signed, says Henner. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit eugenecohousing.com Members of the group will also have a booth at the Eugene Celebration.
• Nike’s CEO became a billionaire on the backs of millions of third–world sweatshop workers. Then he gave the UO $100 million for a basketball arena. At the current wage of about 40 cents an hour at Nike factories in Asia, that $100 million represents about 250 million hours of sweatshop labor. That’s one year of work for about 130,000 poor people to build the UO another sports palace to play in.
• Last week in Slant we looked ahead to the 2008 elections for Eugene City Council and Lane County Commission. The county races usually draw experienced candidates with solid backgrounds, and it’s always a good, lively contest, but it’s a different dynamic at the city level. For example, no one stood up against Mike Clark in Ward 5 last year when Gary Papé decided not to run again. Now we’re stuck with a pro-sprawl, anti-environment conservative on the council until 2011. Maybe that’s what Ward 5 wants, but we never had the public discussion. Why the dearth of qualified city candidates? It’s simple. We ask our councilors to work nearly full-time, but we pay them $13,000 a year. Commissioners make $72,800 with bennies. Eugene is evolving from a town to a real city, and looking ahead we need to update our city government to give our councilors and mayor more responsibility, more power and, yep, a salary they can live on. Until then, we will have a small pool of retired or wealthy candidates, or people who will need to work day jobs in addition to their expanding council workload.
• Hey readers! Let’s get those Best of Eugene ballots turned in so we can start counting. OK, so the deadline isn’t until Sept. 10, but there’s no harm in voting early. In fact, we rather like it. Look for the full-page ballot in our issue this week, or better yet, go to www.eugeneweekly.comand do it online. No cheating!
• In case you’ve been backpacking in the Cascades and missed it, a remarkable 1994 video interview with Dick Cheney is making its way around the Internet, including YouTube. At the end of the Gulf War, Cheney was asked on camera if the U.S. should have gone on into Baghdad and taken out Saddam Hussein. Cheney’s response: Overthrowing Saddam and his government would be a bad idea since it would destabilize the region and lead to a “quagmire” of U.S. occupation and a large loss of American lives. “The question for the president,” he said, “was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.” The video is easy to find. Just Google “Cheney video 1994.”
• Our neighbors on the other side of the Snake River might be a little more open to moderate or even progressive leadership right now. Idaho wasn’t always the “reddist” state in the country. Cecil Andrus, a progressive Democrat who grew up in Eugene, was governor from 1971 to ’77 and again from ’86 to ’95 with a tour as Jimmy Carter’s secretary of interior sandwiched inbetween. Remember Sen. Frank Church, a classy Idaho Dem who made the state proud until Idahoans were persuaded that he was too involved in foreign affairs. The line that beat him: “There ain’t no foreign countries in Idaho.” Larry LaRocco, former Idaho Dem congressman who lost to Larry Craig in ’92, already has announced that he’s running for the Senate in ’08 against Craig —or his successor.
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
A Californian with family roots in Grant’s Pass, Ron Burley began his broadcast career at age 16 with a summer job at a radio station in Redding. He worked at KIOI radio as a student at San Francisco State and joined CNN as an intern in its first month on air in 1981 and again as a reporter in Hawaii. “I was writing on consumer issues,” he says. Using software he had written as an amateur programmer, Burley and a partner launched the Hawaii News Network to bring island news to 17 affiliate stations. “We had two reporters to avoid duplication on competing stations,” he notes. After selling HNN, Burley moved his software business to Eugene in 1997. He also began traveling to bring his seminar series, The Unscrewed Solution, to consumer groups and companies. When his book Unscrewed: The Consumer’s Guide to Getting What You Paid For, came out a year ago, AARP Magazine took notice and asked him to do a regular consumer-advice column: “On Your Side.” The first column appeared in July. “The response was tremendous,” Burley says. “More than 100 per week.” Learn more at unscrewed.biz.