Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
PIT TO PIT DRAWS BIG TURNOUT
An estimated 150 to 200 people gathered downtown June 15 for Citizens for Public Accountability's (CPA) "Pit to Pit Walk," and many of them expressed strong opinions about development on West Broadway. For the walk, CPA invited the public to join local officials, architects and others to view the area encompassing West Broadway and the two excavated pits known locally as "Lake Sears" and "Aster's Hole."
City staffers Susan Muir and Nan Laurence spoke to the crowd, along with architects Art Paz and Jerry Diethelm. Other voices included City Councilor Betty Taylor, George Brown of the Kiva, Realtors Sue and Hugh Prichard, Greg Bryant of the Tango Center, Mary Unruh of DIVA, Noa O'Hare of the Farmers' Market, builder Rob Bolman, River Road activist Jan Spencer, David Monk of CPA and numerous citizens and students.
Among other ideas, they discussed the need for small parks and open spaces in the redevelopment; the removal of parking meters; maintaining the alleyway view and pedestrian traffic between Broadway Plaza and the library; maintaining downtown's art and artists; and concerns about a Whole Foods-type market affecting local grocery stores.
The group also discussed ideas about rehabilitating older buildings, including one-story structures, rather than bulldozing them. Other suggestions included bringing back the vendor carts and subsidizing the higher rents existing businesses face in moving into new buildings.
"Many participants expressed opposition to the current large redevelopment plan being considered by City Council," said Lynn Reichman of CPA, "and voiced concerns for the viability of downtown businesses that would be dislocated or otherwise harmed by such a large construction project."
"The public space across from the library is the most important urban space the city can design at this point," said architect Paz. "It's 'the' space. It is [like] what transformed Portland. It can be elevated [above the street] with formality and informality. It's an urban landscape — look at the continuity of the space."
'TERRORISM' POLITICAL, SAYS IGLESIAS
Is the recent prosecution of environmentally motivated arson and property damage as "terrorism" political?
A famous former Bush administration prosecutor says so. "Is that a political label? It sure sounds like one," said David Iglesias, the New Mexico federal prosecutor who recently touched off a firestorm when he accused Republicans of politicizing the U.S. Justice Department. Iglesias spoke June 16 at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies annual convention in Portland.
After 9/11 the focus was international criminals who caused thousands of deaths, Iglesias said, not environmentally motivated property damage that injured no one. "It seems to me what happened here should not fit my traditional definition of what terrorism is," he said.
Charging the environmental saboteurs in Eugene with terrorism "just seems like overreaching," Iglesias said. "Maybe that's an issue that Congress should revisit." — Alan Pittman
RALLY FOR RIGHTS
Eugene civil rights organizations are joining a nationwide movement this month to pressure congressional representatives to restore habeas corpus.
"Habeas corpus is a basic principle of due process that says the government cannot imprison you without allowing you to defend yourself before a judge," says Claire Syrett, southern district field organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union. "It is a fundamental human right that should not be abridged."
Local sponsors of the Eugene "Day of Action" rally will present Sen. Gordon Smith's office with a petition to repeal the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006.
The MCA allows the U.S. government to deny prisoners access to the courts and thereby indefinitely detain them. It also authorizes the U.S. president to declare individuals unlawful enemy combatants.
"The main thrust of this campaign is to restore our rights," Syrett says. "We hope to reverse the unconstitutional provisions of the MCA that deny basic due process to any individuals the president deems enemy combatants."
According to Hope Marston of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the MCA's wording makes it possible to deny U.S. citizens the right to due process. If the presidential administration deems a U.S. citizen an unlawful enemy combatant, then he or she could be denied habeas corpus under current law and be subject to indefinite detention.
"Every human being deserves the right to challenge their detention," Marston said. "Habeas corpus has been a pillar of Western law since the Magna Carta was signed in 1215."
The Eugene rally hopes to draw interested citizens who want to help stop torture and prevent the misuse of power by the executive branch. "If we raise our voice together, then Congress hears," says Marston. The Eugene rally begins at noon Tuesday, June 26, in front of the new U.S. Courthouse.
More information about habeas corpus, the MCA and sponsors can be found at www.bordc.org/threats/mca.phpAnd more information about June 26 actions can be found at http://juneaction.comand http://bordc.org/involved/junejuly2007.php — Erin Rokita
TESTING FOR TRAIN TOXICS
Union Pacific will voluntarily test for toxic vapors in some houses in Eugene's Trainsong neighborhood near the railyard. But not all houses exposed to contamination will be included in the study.
Many residents in the low- to moderate- income northwest Eugene neighborhood above the plume cannot afford to test their own houses or install vapor barriers if UP will not help them. Moving is also not an option, they say.
Previous testing led the Oregon Public Health Division to declare the vapors a public health hazard.
At a meeting last month, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) planned to conclude testing and move into the cleanup phase. But Eugene residents urged further testing to determine the public health impact and extent of contamination.
In response to community concern, DEQ compelled UP to voluntarily test 30 additional homes. Greg Aitken, DEQ's cleanup program manager, said those are the homes closest to the contaminated groundwater plume.
But Lisa Arkin, executive director of the Oregon Toxics Alliance (OTA), says, "All homes in the risk zone should be tested. That would be the safe thing to do."
Arkin says there are two problems to the study's approach. First, "We have no idea how they are choosing these homes," she says. And second, "We have questions about their methodology."
According to David Monk, president of OTA, Union Pacific "should pay to test crawlspaces of any residents above the plume." And "rolling out some plastic in the crawlspaces is inexpensive and should be done immediately to prevent further contamination."
One concern is that since the cleanup program is voluntary DEQ has less leverage on UP, says Monk. "If DEQ is too forceful," he says, the railroad "can quit the voluntary cleanup." Monk says this means the program has limitations.
DEQ's Aitken said voluntary cleanup is preferable to enforcement by court order. "When you do enforcement, what ends up happening is you just have lawyers against lawyers," he said. "Voluntary cleanup is much more efficient and financially focused on solving the problem."
UP maintains that crawlspace contamination may come from sources other than the contaminated groundwater. Common household items such as paint thinners and furniture products contain volatile organic compounds (VOC), the potentially hazardous chemicals found in the crawlspaces of many Trainsong homes.
However, as Arkin points out, UP fails to indicate how it is possible that so many homes in one small area have VOC contamination.
According to Monk, decades of repair and maintenance work hold the railroad legally liable."It's disingenuous to imply that crawlspace solvent contamination is due to anything other than groundwater contamination," says Monk. — Erin Rokita
DEATH BY CELL PHONE
Your cell phone may be killing you, but Oregon hopes to stop your teenage children from dying in cell phone-induced car accidents.
A European network of studies of cell phone users called INTERPHONE recently showed a statistically significant increase in brain tumors among people who use cell phones.
The fact that tumor increase was not a factor in those who had used cell phones for less than 10 years has been widely reported.
But INTERPHONE results on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website show those who use cell phones for 10 years or longer are indeed at risk.
Two of the studies found correlations between the location of the tumors and the side of the head people reported they held their phone to most often. One kind of tumor, called glioma, is often fatal. Another non-cancerous brain tumor called acoustic neuroma is also linked to cell phone use.
The Oregon state Legislature is trying to save Oregon's youth from death by cell phone while driving. The Senate passed a bill last week that fines drivers under age 18 $90 if they use cell phones or other mobile communication devices while driving.
The only exception is if the driver is calling for medical or emergency help, and no one else in the car can make the call.
Drivers over the age of 18 will still be allowed to talk or send text messages while driving. Thirty percent of all car crashes in the U.S. are due to driver distraction, according to the federal government. .
Texting may cause fewer brain tumors, but legislators believe it increases your chances of crashing. Washington became the first state to ban driving while texting for all ages after a driver checking his e-mail caused a five-car pileup on I-5 outside of Seattle. According to the Allstate Foundation, 13 percent of teens admit to texting while driving.
The Oregon bill banning teen cell phone use while driving now goes back to the House for action on amendments. – Camilla Mortensen
EXHIBIT ON COST OF WAR
A new exhibit on the human and economic cost of the Iraq war to Oregon, "Eyes Wide Open," will be on display June 22-224 at Ken Kesey Plaza, Willamette and Broadway.
The exhibit consists of a memorial to those who have lost their lives in the Iraq war, including boots to honor the fallen soldiers from Oregon, and a display that recognizes the estimted 655,000 Iraqis who have died in Iraq of war-related causes since coalition forces arrived in March 2003.
The public will have the opportunity to view the exhibit and participate in readings of the names of the fallen. The exhibit will run from 10 am to 6 pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a closing ceremony at 3:30 pm Sunday.
The traveling exhibit needs more civilian shoes, especially children's shoes. Shoes can be brought to the exhibit or dropped off at CALC, 458 Blair Blvd. To volunteer at the exhibit, contact Carol Melia at firstname.lastname@example.org or 556-8241.
MADNESS & SPIRITUALITY
Are the mental states involved in what we call "mental illness" completely separate from the mental states involved in spiritual or creative states, or is there an understandable connection? If there is a connection, how can we understand what it is, and how can we help people shift from problematic states to something more positive? These questions and others will be addressed in a free presentation and discussion from 6:30 to 9 pm Tuesday, June 26 at First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St., Eugene.
Speakers include Ron Unger, LCSW, who practices an innovative psychological approach for people labeled "psychotic," and is a leading advocate for mental health system reform. Angel is an RN and a trauma survivor who connects her life story and journey of recovery with her vision of "what we all need to recover from the crippling separations and violence present in ourselves and in our culture today."
The event is sponsored by MindFreedom Lane County and the Center for Family Development.
WAR DEAD AND OTHER VIOLATIONS
• Iraq War statistics as of June 18 include 3,527 U.S. military deaths, 151 U.K. military deaths, 111 U.S. military suicides, 25,830 U.S. military wounded, 400 military contractor deaths and 65,411 to 71,665 Iraqi civilian deaths due to warfare. Cost of the war is calculated this week at $435.7 billion. Sources are IraqBodyCount.org and icasualties.org and CostOfWar.com
• Reuters reported June 18 that "Iraq has emerged as the world's second most unstable country, behind Sudan, more than four years after President Bush ordered the U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein." The story is based on a survey by Foreign Policy magazine.
• The Global Policy Forum last week released a 117-page report titled "War and Occupation in Iraq." GPF Executive Director James Paul, quoted in accuracy.org, said: "While most people focus on the sectarian bloodshed, our report highlights the enormous violence of the occupation forces. There is an increasing air war that results in heavy casualties as well as the daily killing of civilians at checkpoints, during house searches, by snipers and by ground bombardment. Nearly a million Iraqis have died due to the effects of the occupation and four million have fled from their homes. A dozen cities have been destroyed by U.S. attacks.
"Our report includes a map of the major prisons and U.S. bases. The five biggest bases are gigantic and built for decades of use. Their airfields can launch air strikes around the clock. The new U.S. embassy complex is the biggest U.S. diplomatic facility in the world.
"Under the control or influence of U.S. authorities, public funds in Iraq have been drained by massive corruption and stolen oil, leaving the country unable to provide basic services and incapable of rebuilding. The U.S. government has repeatedly violated many international laws, but top officials reject any accountability."
Lane County Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Near Mohawk High School: Weyerhaeuser (741-5211) will aerially spray 113 acres with Garlon XRT and 4 Ultra, MSM & SFM E-Pro, Accord, Chopper, and Transline herbicides near Cartwright Creek starting July 15 (#771-55629).
• Near Twin Oaks School: Strata Forestry (726-0845) replaced Oregon Forest Management Service for ground spraying of 700 acres with Garlon 4 herbicide plus Herbimax and Moract adjuvants for Seneca Jones Timber (689-1231) starting June 14 (#781-5090).
Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org