News Briefs: $65 Million for Franklin, But No Bike Lanes Planned | Saturday Market Trapper Tree Sit | Trade Pact a Threat to Oregon | Music Contest Nears 100 Songs | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lighten Up |
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Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
$65 Million For Franklin, But No Bike Lanes Planned
A multi-way design for Franklin Boulevard.
Eugene and Springfield city managers have applied for $2.9 million in federal stimulus grants to plan a $62 million overhaul of Franklin Boulevard with wider sidewalks and street parking but no bike lanes.
The plan would remove about 1,000 feet of existing bike lane along the south side of Franklin Boulevard near the new basketball arena under construction. Instead, bikes would supposedly “share” lanes with cars in local access lanes on both sides of the boulevard with cars backing into parallel street parking.
The “multi-way boulevard” design, perhaps including two lanes of dedicated EmX lanes, would stretch from the UO through Glenwood, where Springfield has planning jurisdiction.
Both state law and Eugene policies require the inclusion of bike facilities in major reconstruction of arterials. It’s unclear if the city could get around those requirements with the shared lane concept instead of dedicated bike lanes.
The area around the UO has heavy bicycle use and bike supporters have called for bike lanes on Franklin for decades. To increase environmentally friendly cycling, many cities are moving toward dedicated, separated cycletracks along arterials.
But it doesn’t appear the city of Eugene ever seriously considered such a bike-friendly path for Franklin. The $2.9 million in federal grant funding will pay for a federal Environmental Assessment (EA) for the multi-way boulevard concept. Such EAs supposedly must include alternatives analysis, but its unclear if the city will actually reconsider its no bike lanes or cycletrack approach.
The grant application argues that a boulevard that dedicates most of its right of way to cars and car storage will increase pedestrian, bike and transit use and spark redevelopment.
Earlier versions of Springfield’s design concept for the Glenwood portion of Franklin also include traffic circles or roundabouts. Pedestrians and cyclists have complained in the past that such designs with high speed turns across crosswalks and bike lanes while drivers look over their shoulders for cars are dangerous.
The plan includes about $1.8 million to acquire land for two 50-unit affordable housing complexes along Franklin in Eugene and Glenwood.
The cities anticipate that the EA and planning for the boulevard will begin this fall and take about a year. The application is vague on how they’ll find the estimated $62 million to actually build the project other than continuing to pursue congressional earmarks.
The design work also includes about $1 million from Eugene and Springfield urban renewal districts, a controversial source of money that diverts money from state school funding. — Alan Pittman
A version of this story first appeared at Eugenecycles.com
Saturday Market Trapper Tree Sit
Eugeneans who hung out at the Saturday Market on Sept. 4 instead of tailgating at the Ducks game saw the return of a market tradition: a tree sit. Cascadia Forest Defenders (CFD) and Cascadia Rising Tide put a platform and banner high in a Douglas fir at the Eugene Saturday Market to protest the Trapper timber sale in the Willamette National Forest.
“We really wanted to bring public attention to it. It’s a public issue because it affects our drinking water,” says Sarah Farmer of Cascadia Forest Defenders.
She says, “We had a really a positive response, with some vendors reminiscing about past tree sits in the market.”
The Trapper timber sale is in the McKenzie District of the Willamette National Forest and consists of mature and old-growth native forest. It includes critical habitat for the northern spotted owl. It is within the watershed that provides Eugene with our drinking water, Farmer says.
Trapper is slated to be logged by Seneca, the same timber company that is building the controversial biomass burning plant in west Eugene and whose attorney currently is involved with a lawsuit against some of the more liberal Lane County commissioners, a suit that some say is politically motivated.
In addition to the tree sit, the groups led a march through Saturday Market through to Congressman Peter DeFazio’s political campaign office where they left a note asking DeFazio “to reconsider legislation around this sale and do whatever he can to stop it,” Farmer says.
A marcher who Farmer says was not affiliated with the organizers of the rally, left an effigy on the steps of the office. Farmer says she thinks the doll was meant to represent a timber baron and not DeFazio. She says CFD left only a friendly letter.
According to Farmer and CFD, the contract held by Seneca Jones to log Trapper would have expired “if not for legislation passed by DeFazio which extended it to 2013 and reduced the price by almost a million dollars.”
DeFazio introduced legislation in 2009, HR 3759, which would allow for contract extensions due to market conditions on certain, non-salvage, BLM timber sales that were purchased during 2005-2008. Jeff Merkley has sponsored a companion bill in the Senate called the Forest Harvest Opportunity Act. Farmer says she thinks these bills developed out of positive reaction a subsection of the 2008 Farm Bill that allowed for the type of contact extension and price reductions the Trapper sale is proposed to be logged under. DeFazio and the majority of Democrats in the House (216 out of 236) voted to pass the Farm Bill.
Farmer says CFD and Rising Tide will continue to draw attention to the issue. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org — Camilla Mortensen
Trade Pact A Threat to Oregon
A George W. Bush-negotiated trade pact with South Korea “poses a real threat to Oregon’s environment and land use laws, as well as to basic principles of democracy,” according to Arthur Stamoulis, director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. South Korean firms own property and do extensive business in Oregon, including the Eugene area.
Free trade agreements (FTAs) are increasingly being criticized through the lens of state’s rights and the American tradition of participatory democracy. FTAs conflict with the tradition that the governing body physically closest to the issue is best suited to make legislative decisions.
The South Korean FTA includes what is called an “investor-state enforcement,” clause. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, defines this clause as “when a foreign corporation is empowered to directly challenge U.S. laws as trade pact violations before foreign tribunals to demand compensation.”
States never play a role in this process, according to Jennifer Gerbasi and Mildred Warner in their article, Why Should Local and State Governments Pay Attention to the New International Treaties? published by Cornell University. In the past this has not been a large issue for the U.S. because “investor-state enforcement” rights have not been given to a developed nation. (The notable exception is Canada in NAFTA — a body that has yet to settle billions of dollars in suits that have been brought against both Canada and the U.S. by their respective multinational corporations.)
South Korea could become a very real issue for state and local governments since South Korea has 80 corporations with around 270 establishments currently operating in the U.S. According to The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, those business currently or recently operating in Oregon include, “a semiconductor plant, an animal feed processor and several shipping companies.”
Public Citizen has argued that the South Korean FTA “would violate Congress’ requirement that FTAs provide foreign firms, ‘no greater rights.’”
Some voices in the debate go even further then Public Citizen: “These new investor rights may exceed the rights given to citizens under the Constitution,” stated Gerbasi and Warner.
Eugene has had a troubled history with one South Korean firm. Until just a couple of years ago Hynix was the largest private employer in the Eugene area. Hynix came under criticism for violating Oregon law by price fixing (the case was brought by nearly three dozen states in 2006), employee discrimination in 1999, and tripling its emissions of hydrogen fluoride, a toxic air pollutant and acid rain contributor.
On the charge of price fixing, Hynix claimed the Eugene plant “is immune to all issues related to price fixing because its Korean parent company is a legally separate entity.” At stake were $57 million in tax breaks given to Hynix. The corporation closed the Eugene plant in 2008 and plans to sell it; but if Hynix were to reopen the plant under the proposed South Korean FTA, Hynix would gain a large advantage over the local Eugene and Lane County governments in decision-making.
There is enough concern by local legislators that a bipartisan letter was sent from members of the Oregon Senate and House to Sen. Ron Wyden asking him to defend Oregon’s sovereignty. They asked him to use his position as chair of the Senate Subcommittee on International Trade and strip the agreement of the investor-state enforcement clause.
President Obama is pushing forward and hopes to have an agreement signed by November. This is an agreement that Obama stated he was against as a candidate. — Philip Shackleton
Music Contest Nears 100 Songs
Eugene Weekly’s Next Big Thing music contest now has 99 songs posted online, way outpacing last year at the same time. The contest is intended to give local bands and musicians who are not already under contract an opportunity to showcase their best original single songs.
The songs are posted at http://nextbigthingeugene.com along with photos and blurbs about the musicians. Readers can listen to the songs, comment and vote. The cost of entering the contest is $20 per song. A CD, digital photo and blurb about the band or musicians can be dropped off at the EW offices, 1251 Lincoln. St.
The contest wraps up Sept. 15 when the top 40 vote-getters are submitted to a panel of judges. The judges are made up of people in the local music industry with a few EW readers tossed in. For more information, call 484-0519.
• Art Robinson and Congressman Peter DeFazio will meet in their first public debate at the City Club of Eugene noon luncheon Friday, Sept. 10, at the Eugene Hilton. The Robinson campaign is reportedly telling Republicans to come early and pack the room.
• Advocates for basic fairness and basic rights will be canvassing for marriage equality from 10 am to 2 pm Saturday, Sept. 11, at Basic Rights Oregon’s new Eugene Office. 120 W. Broadway next door to DIVA. BRO’s field organizer is Jett T. Johnson. Email Jett@basicrights.org to get on BRO’s mailing list. The door-to-door effort follows BRO’s TV ads advocating marriage equality.
• A bike tour of sustainable projects in the Fairmount Neighborhood will meet at 1:45 pm Saturday, Sept. 11, at the corner of 19th and Orchard. The tour will include the first-in-Eugene certified passive house on Orchard Street. Other neighborhood homes with sustainable projects will be visited: heat recovery from greenhouses, photo voltaic solar electricity systems, solar hot water systems, vegetable gardens, compost etc. For more information, call 515-6485 or 485-6846.
• The Lane County Oregon League of Conservation Voters is holding a party at its new office space from 3 to 6 pm Sunday, Sept. 12, at 120 W. Broadway in Eugene. For more information and to see who’s coming, visit the Facebook page at http://wkly.ws/qs or call 968-8269 or email email@example.com
• The local United Coalition of Color will be meeting the third Thursday of each month to “address disproportionate minority contact in Lane County.” The next meeting will be from 5 to 6:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 16, at the ORI building, 1715 Franklin Blvd. For more information or to get on a mailing list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
• 1,261 U.S. troops killed* (1,235)
• 7,820 U.S. troops injured** (7,644)
• $330.9 billion cost of war ($327.8 billion)
• $94.1 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($93.2 million)
• 4,421 U.S. troops killed* (4,421)
• 31,929 U.S. troops injured** (31,926)
• 185 U.S. military suicides* (updates NA)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (updates NA)
• 106,600 to 1.2 million civilians killed*** (106,348)
• $745.7 billion cost of war ($743.8 billion)
• $212.1 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($211.5 million
* through September 7, 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)
While it’s scary to watch Glenn Beck’s rising influence on right-wing politics, I’m just glad that he doesn’t work with subatomic particles.
— Rafael Aldave, Eugene
• Former conservative Lane County commissioner Ellie Dumdi’s case against commissioners Pete Sorenson, Rob Handy and outgoing Bill Fleenor is becoming more blatantly political. Seneca Sawmill attorney Dale Riddle is assisting Dumdi and Ed Anderson’s attorney in the case, which alleges, thanks to a questionable May 2009 R-G story, that the commissioners held “secret meetings.” But behind the lawsuit is the fact that the commissioners in question tend to form a progressive majority and vote to save the environment and preserve the health of Lane County citizens. And of course Aaron Jones, owner of Seneca, is still angry at the three commissioners for temporarily pulling out of the ultra-conservative Association of O&C Counties. It’s ironic that the commissioners pulled their dues demanding the AOCC end its “secret meetings.”
The R-G is reporting on this lawsuit this week and not bothering to mention that Dumdi and her attorneys have admitted that they have no direct witnesses or other evidence of secret meetings. Don’t be surprised if the case is thrown out of court with prejudice, but strategic damage to the commissioners’ reputations will be done.
• Labor Day has come and gone with traditional gatherings around the state, including a local picnic with speeches and community service awards at Jasper Park Monday. For most Americans, Labor Day meant a three-day weekend and a last chance to go to the beach or go camping before the kids go back to school. But the day represents much more than that. We owe a lot to working folks and labor leaders who have fought to create better and safer jobs, better benefits, a more dignified retirement, and a stronger voice for our shrinking middle class.
We lost one of those labor heroes recently. George Hitchcock lived out his final years in Eugene and died Aug. 27 at age 96, according to The Oregonian, The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Hitchcock was a writer, Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor, artist, labor organizer, and unabashed member of the Socialist Party. He was a UO grad (1935) and lived a colorful and inspiring life. He was perhaps best known as founder of the literary journal kayak in 1963. He was editor for 20 years.
Labor Day also serves as an unofficial kick-off for state and local election campaigns. The Labor Day gathering at Jasper Park included speechifying by candidates on the Democrat ticket. All the candidates have websites. Google their names to get involved.
• New school year! With, as The Oregonian points out in Tuesday’s article on arts education (http://wkly.ws/rd), little to no time for visual arts and music education — those classes that keep kids engaged, stimulate the brain and help them feel happy about learning. Ugh. Ironically, we’ve come to National Arts Education week, which runs Sept. 12-18 (see more info and get involved at http://wkly.ws/re). The arts are important to learning all year long. To quote former Oregonian arts editor Barry Johnson, “The arts remind us that we are in this together … that things can be made right and whole, if just for a moment.” We’d sure like to see Oregon education, including arts education, made right and whole. Got some workable arts ed ideas you can express with crayon, viola, calligraphy or beat? Send ’em our way (email@example.com), and we’ll feature ’em on the blog.
• The war in Iraq drags on, despite the announcement by President Obama last week that combat operations led by U.S. troops are officially over. In the past week no American soldiers were killed and only three were wounded, but at least 250 Iraqis died in sectarian violence. We don’t hear about fatalities and injuries among American contractors, aka mercenaries. This past week we’ve blown another $1.9 billion in Iraq. Some of that goes to paychecks for American soldiers and civilians (a terrible jobs program), but much of our national treasure is lost down the rabbit hole forever, or fills the pockets of corrupt war profiteers (a terrible stimulus program).
Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan claimed 26 American lives last week, and 176 soldiers were injured. That war cost us $3.1 billion last week. It’s odd how conservatives complaining about our growing deficits never mention our huge war costs. $5 billion a week for unending wars? It adds up.
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