News Briefs: 'Free' Parking Costs $220,000 | Trapper Timber Sale a Keeper? | Big Cats in Gun Sights | Unreal Call for Sprawl | Poison Oak on the Rise? | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Lighten Up | Early Deadlines |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening People: Small Farmers Project
‘FREE’ PARKING COSTS $220,000
A free parking test program downtown flopped last year, but the Eugene City Council ignored the results, voting 6-2 this month to in effect spend $220,000 a year to subsidize free parking downtown.
The expenditure for a dozen blocks of free on-street parking comes at a time the city is cutting services and raising fees to cover increasing budget deficits.
“People or services, I really want to know what were going to cut here,” Councilor Andrea Ortiz asked about the parking expenditure.
But City Manager Jon Ruiz declined to provide the information at the council’s Aug. 11 meeting. “I couldn’t really tell you right now,” he said. Ruiz said the money could come from city reserves with possible cuts or revenue offsets later. That lack of budget specificity contrasts with the city’s normal budget process.
The city recently completed a tight annual budget process where any new spending proposals had to include identified sources of revenue or offsetting cuts. During the process the city manager did not mention that the city had hidden extra reserves available for city needs.
“This free parking program has a high cost,” said Councilor Alan Zelenka. “I don’t get where this money is going to come from.”
But Ruiz’s vague response to the budget question appeared to sway at least one councilor to support the expenditure. “You don’t want to do it at the expense of something else,” said Councilor Chris Pryor.
Supporters of the subsidized parking argued that it will help bring people downtown. “Free parking is an integral part of that,” said Councilor Mike Clark.
But a pilot program by the city last year on West Broadway increased parking space usage by only 7 percent. Much of the small increase appeared to be employees, not customers, city parking staff found.
The pilot was a “failure,” Zelenka said. Businesses could be hurt if downtown workers take up the customer spaces in front of their stores and restaurants, according to Zelenka. “I’m really concerned this is just going to be an employee free-parking program,” he said.
That’s what happened in Lynchburg, Va. The city recently decided to put parking meters back into its downtown after businesses suffered due to employees taking customer parking.
UCLA professor Donald Shoup, a national expert on parking, found that Pasadena downtown merchants increased their revenues six-fold after parking meters were added and the revenues used to provide services and improvements downtown.
Shoup estimates that free parking costs cities at least $100 a month per space in real estate and infrastructure costs. Free street parking also causes large increases in traffic congestion and global warming pollution as drivers waste gas circling around and around for a free space rather than paying to park in a garage, Shoup found.
Conservatives have long blamed inadequate parking for downtown’s troubles. But the area only deteriorated further after the city spent tens of millions of dollars on big parking garages that have stood half empty. It deteriorated still more after the city spent another $5 million tearing out the downtown pedestrian mall for car lanes and parking spaces.
Mayor Kitty Piercy said downtown’s problems resulted not so much because of a lack of easy parking but because big suburban shopping centers “sucked the big stores out of downtown.”
“I pretty continually see parking spaces empty” downtown, Piercy said. “It is a perception issue as much as anything.” — Alan Pittman
TRAPPER TIMBER SALE A KEEPER?
The discovery of an endangered northern spotted owl pair has stalled the the logging of the Trapper timber sale, a controversial project that would involve clear-cutting in an area with stands of old-growth trees.
Trapper has been under contract with Seneca Jones Timber Company since 2003. Seneca got a five-year contract to cut the never-before logged forest in 2003, which was extended in 2008.
Mature forest and stands of owl-friendly old growth inhabit the 149-acre Trapper area, located in the McKenzie watershed, a popular recreation destination 42 miles east of Eugene. In addition to water quality and carbon storage issues, Trapper is home to a noteworthy population of red tree voles, the spotted owl’s primary food source.
Josh Laughlin, campaign director of Cascadia Wildlands, says that cooperation on the part of the Forest Service, Seneca, and conservation groups could still save Trapper while still honoring the obligation of the contract. By finding a plantation forest — an area clear-cut decades ago and packed dense with Douglas fir — to log, concerns about water quality and spotted owl habitat could be alleviated.
“As the Willamette National Forest supervisor, I care an awful lot about threatened and endangered species, so that is why I reissued the exculpation,” Meg Mitchell told EW. The Forest Service is consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service, which will render a biological opinion on the effects of the proposed logging on the spotted owl.
Safeguarding forest areas such as Trapper affects both Eugene and the rest of the world, according to Samantha Chirillo, co-director of activist group Cascadia’s Ecosystem Advocates. “At the local level, we need to preserve forests like Trapper that are biodiverse, that keep us having a stable local climate and give us clean drinking water,” Chirillo says.
“We would support locating timber volume from plantation forests to replace the mature and old-growth forests that are threatened at Trapper,” Laughlin says. “There’s a lot of science that supports restoration thinning in these 40- to 50-year-old tree farms. Now they’re unnaturally dense, unnaturally even age and same-species, so there’s a lot of science that encourages careful restorative thinning of those plantations. A lot of this type of forestry occurs in the McKenzie Ranger District.”
Restorative thinning allows the former tree farms to develop uneven age canopies, which stimulates the forest floor with sunlight and adds to the general biodiversity of the area.
Chirillo doesn’t agree that replacement would be an adequate alternative. “If it’s an old plantation where the trees are storing a significant amount of carbon or it’s a biodiverse native forest, we would not support that,” she says.
Calls to the Seneca Jones Timber Company were not returned. — Shannon Finnell
BIG CATS IN GUN SIGHTS
Six cougars were killed on a farm in Brownswille during the last two months by Linn County trapper Jim Schacht. Predator advocates say that killing cougars actually exacerbates the predation problem.
Rep. Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio) called a meeting to discuss the cougar issue and more than 100 residents of Lebanon and surrounding areas met at the Lebanon Public Library Aug. 19. Representatives of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Police Wildlife Division and USDA also attended.
According to resident Carrie Cook, attendees gave few direct accounts of cougar predation. “It seemed like most of their information was second-hand, person to person, which was not the most reliable,” Cook says. “I wish there was more of a work-together mentality and use of proven predator-friendly practices.”
Brooks Fahy, executive director of Eugene-based Predator Defense, says one of the causes of a cougar influx is the when an area’s dominant male cougar, which would normally fight intruders to the death, is killed. As a result, juvenile cougars, which are new to hunting on their own and so more likely to bother livestock and humans, move into an area. “I believe the ODFW has created a situation where their policies are encouraging predation on livestock and potentially raising the risk of a cougar attacking a person,” Fahy says.
The bundling of hunting tags in the popular $130 sports pac license has caused the number of cougar tags issued to increase from about 500 in 1994 to 44,000 in 2009.
Fahy cites California, which has banned cougar hunting completely since 1990, as an example of successful population management. The California Department of Fish and Game reports on its website that fewer than 3 percent of sightings are deemed public safety threats, and only 14 cougars were killed as a result in 2004. That same year, the ODFW reports that 423 Oregon cougars were killed. “California has 10 times the human population of Oregon,” Fahy says. “It’s extraordinary that California is ranked 12 of 14 states in terms of cougar problems.” — Shannon Finnell
UNREAL CALL FOR SPRAWL
A Register-Guard editorial April 23 argued that there’s such little supply and such high demand for land for development in Eugene that the city needs almost 1,800 additional acres and that “the urban growth boundary should be expanded.”
But just out the window from the R-G offices on Chad Drive, where the newspaper has been unsuccessfully trying to sell vacant land for urban sprawl for a decade, there’s the real world.
“There’s no way around it, there just isn’t much demand for developable land,” the R-G quoted Daniel Tucci, the developer for the R-G’s vacant 20-acres last week.
The statement from the R-G’s developer tracks with building permit numbers from the city of Eugene. In 2005 the city had issued 505 single family building permits through August. For the same period this year, the city had issued only 109, a drop of almost 80 percent.
With a year’s supply of housing sitting vacant, there’s evidence that Eugene may never return to the earlier level of single family home construction. More and more cities are looking at higher density apartments, row houses and other rental opportunities to accommodate their populations, rather than suburban sprawl. Owning a single family home, Time magazine noted in a cover story this week, “may no longer make economic sense.” — Alan Pittman
POISON OAK ON THE RISE?
The rising atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide irritating your conscience could also contribute to irritating your skin. Or in other words, the rising CO2 that’s a factor in global warming may also be making your next hike out on Mount Pisgah a little itchier. Data from the USDA Agricultural Research Service shows that poison ivy increases in toxicity with greater concentrations of carbon dioxide, and it’s likely that poison oak does the same.
Because carbon dioxide is the air that plants breathe, increased concentrations of the gas makes poison oak and poison ivy grow larger and survive in places where they couldn’t previously live. At the same time, the allergen is becoming more potent.
Both poison oak and poison ivy produce urushiol, an allergen that causes the persistent weeping rash familiar to many Eugeneans. The stronger plants, nourished by carbon dioxide, create urushiol differently from plants at lower carbon dioxide concentrations.
“What we’re seeing with carbon dioxide is not necessarily a change in the concentration of urushiol, but a change in the form of the chemical,” says Dr. Lewis Ziska, a researcher in plant physiology at the USDA. “The change that we see is that it’s more virulent, and more likely to induce a rash if a person comes into contact with it.”
Ziska proved this in experiments with poison ivy, and he says that while the same outcome hasn’t been proven in the poison oak so prevalent in the Northwest, it’s a probable extrapolation. — Shannon Finnell
• The campaign to elect Pat Riggs-Henson to the Lane County Commission is continuing with house parties, along with canvassing with the candidate every Wednesday evening and other events. Phone banking is planned for 5 to 8 pm Thursday, Sept. 2, at the IWA Hall in Springfield. To help with the campaign, call Matt at 515-3819 or email email@example.com
• The third annual Whiteaker Sustainability Bike Ride will be from 11 am to 1 pm Saturday, Sept. 4, beginning at the Owen Memorial Rose Garden next to the Greenway Bike Path. Sponsored by the Whiteaker Community Council Sustainability Committee in coordination with the Neighborhood Leaders Council Committee on Sustainability. Informational stops are planned at Arcimoto, and at gardens and alternative energy sites in the neighborhood. For more information call 343-3017, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.therattler.org
• Basic Rights Oregon has a new Eugene office next door to DIVA on Broadway downtown and is looking for a desk, file cabinets, dry erase boards, a cork board, rugs, chairs and other office supplies. BRO is currently organizing canvassing to follow up a series of TV ads promoting marriage equality.
• Following a summer break, Oregon Coast Democrats, Independents and progressives are resuming their first Tuesday meetings at 6 pm Tuesday, Sept. 7, at Bedrock’s Pizzeria, 2165 Winchester Ave. in Reedsport. Political discussion, current events, guest speakers and more. Contact Richard Davison at (541) 271-9512.
• The UO chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy is joining the effort to pass Measure 74, the marijuana dispensary initiative on the November ballot. To help out, call Sam at (503) 396-9062.
• The BLM is extending the public comment period on its Wild Horse and Burro Program Strategy Development Document to Sept. 3. The extension will provide an additional 30 days of public comment on management actions under consideration. See http://wkly.ws/qi for more information.
• A full house is expected at the debate between Rep. Peter DeFazio and Art Robinson at the City Club of Eugene luncheon Friday, Sept. 10, at the Hilton. Robinson apparently doesn’t like the form of the City Club debate and has challenged DeFazio to a “real debate” at the Hilton either before or after the City Club program. No word yet from DaFaz.
• 4,421 U.S. troops killed* (4,419)
• 31,926 U.S. troops injured** (31,911)
• 185 U.S. military suicides*
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (updates NA)
• 106,348 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (106,245)
• $743.8 billion cost of war
• $211.5 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($211.3 million)
• 1,235 U.S. troops killed* (1,221)
• 7,644 U.S. troops injured** (7,529)
• $327.8 billion cost of war
• $93.2 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($92.8 million)
* through Aug. 27, 2010; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** sources: icasualties.org, defenselink.mil
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.2 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
• Eastern Lane aerial spraying: Western Helicopter Services ((503-538-9469) will aerially spray 366 acres with herbicides for Giustina Land & Timber (345-2301) near Solomon, Carr, E. Gossage creeks, and Mohawk River Tributary starting Sept. 1 (ODF No. 771-00723).
• Near Greenleaf: DeAngelo Brothers, Inc. (503) 542-0906 will spray Oregon Department of Forestry lands districtwide including near Greenleaf and a tributary to Nelson Creek in Section 16 of Township 17 South, Range 8 West with herbicides starting immediately (No. 781-00717). Call Ole Buch, stewardship forester for state lands, at 935-2283.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
If Oregonians keep voting for mandatory sentencing initiatives, one day half of us will be behind bars. But then the other half will be able to find parking.
— Rafael Aldave, Eugene
EW offices will be closed Monday for Labor Day. The early deadline for reserving display advertising space is 5 pm Thursday, Sept. 2. Questions? Call 484-0519.
• Congrats to Ken De Bevoise, who appears to have gotten his job back as a political science instructor at UO. We heard from reliable sources over the weekend that the celebrated teacher’s contract has been revised and renewed as a “career appointment.” Deborah Bloom of the Keep Ken Coalition (and former EW intern now interning with Al Jazeera English) posted a message on Facebook Aug. 28 that “he is guaranteed full-time for the upcoming year,” and after that he is assured of a half-time teaching load, with other courses likely. Bloom credits the strong support from fans of the teacher for restoring De Bevoise’s contract. “Not only did we change the course of the Department of Political Science,” she writes, “we stood up to a bureaucracy — and won. It’s a huge achievement.”
De Bevoise confirmed the new contract this week and praised the work of the coalition, saying “I am just in awe of their intelligence, common sense, persistence, dedication, determination, restraint and maturity.” De Bevoise said many students, former students and others lobbied on his behalf, including Bloom, Jondwyln Thomas, Heather St. Clair, Caitlin Robertson, Edward Oser and David Delmar (see EW Viewpoint, 6/13). Updates, comments and a more complete list of his supporters can be found at the Keep Ken Coalition page on Facebook.
• Our new junior senator from Oregon Jeff Merkley was a low-key grand marshal for the Eugene Celebration Parade, probably not recognized by that many sidewalk sitters. After the Saturday parade, he and staff came by the Eugene Weekly building on Lincoln Street a little early for an interview and waited patiently on the front bench, not exactly a pompous guy. Friday night he was raising money in Eugene to help Democrats hold the Oregon House where he served so well. Merkley’s easing into the U.S. senator role more gracefully and skillfully than most. Maybe that’s why The New Yorker magazine has mentioned him in three major articles in the last few months: One story was about Paul Volcker’s Wall Street reforms, including the Merkley-Levin bill; another was on the dysfunction of the Senate, which is a prime concern to Merkley; and a third was a piece on Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who saw Merkley’s potential and helped him defeat Gordon Smith.
• OUCH! Kicked in the Duck-butt by The New York Times again! The Aug. 29 Sunday sports section pictures Jeremiah Masoli, calling him a “bona fide Heisman contender at Oregon, and the Ducks would probably be a preseason top-five team if he were still wearing one of their horrendous uniforms.” In another article, they talk about “Oregon’s stars popping up on the police blotter.” The Times does predict Oregon vs. Iowa in the Rose Bowl Jan. l, 2011, saying “The game will match Oregon’s stylish offense and Iowa’s meat-and-potatoes running game.” It’s all national publicity. The Ducks marketing team probably loves it.
• We hear lots of grumbles about street repairs inconveniencing Eugene motorists, cyclists and even pedestrians all summer; but hey, if it were not for paving projects we’d all be getting around on dirt streets, slipping in mud in winter and hacking on dust in the summer. Let’s wave and grin at those sweaty road workers out there inhaling hot asphalt fumes while they provide us with a smooth ride.
• With the recall of hundreds of millions of salmonella tainted eggs last month and the nationwide recall of 380,000 pounds of deli meats sold at Walmart, possibly tainted by the Listeria bacteria, not to mention the Umpqua dairy recall, it’s been a good summer to be vegan and shop hyper-local. And for those of you particularly healthy folks who have been troubled by the recent disappearance of your yummy kombucha from local grocery shelves, never fear, your mushroom tea isn’t causing cases of food poisoning. There’s a reason some of us think the stuff smells like old beer — there seems to be a little issue of the healthy live bacteria and yeast fermenting in the jar and pushing the alcohol content of the tea past the 0.5 percent alcohol legal limit for a drink not to be considered alcoholic. Some companies have voluntarily pulled the product while they work out a fix.
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
SMALL FARMERS PROJECT
Margarito Palacios, Basilio Sandoval, and Juan and Jacqueline Hernandez are members of the Small Farmers Project (SPF), a cooperative venture among eight low-income Latino families. They currently raise organic strawberries and heritage-variety black cap raspberries on six leased acres along East Beacon Drive north of Eugene. The SFP was organized two years ago by Sarah Cantril, founder of the local nonprofit Huerto de la Familia (the Family Garden) and funded by a grant from Heifer International. Participating families come from various parts of Mexico, as well as El Salvador and Peru. “I love farming and gardening,” says Sandoval, a native of Nayarit state in Mexico, who picked pears as a teenager in orchards near Medford where his dad was a foreman, and who now works as a drug and alcohol counselor at Centro LatinoAmericano. “This is part-time work for us. All of the families contribute.” The season for black cap raspberries is finished, but strawberries should be available until mid-September, picked or u-pick, 9 to 5 daily at the SFP fruit stand on East Beacon Drive. (Call to verify at 232-2510.) More crops will be added in future years. Learn more at www.huertodelafamilia.org