News Briefs: Kesey Read-Along | WEP Gets Hearing | Council Work | Library Preview
News: Prof Tackles Ducks -- UO Senate prez warns of arms race in sports spending.
News: Night Moves -- Barbara Walters told me to fear the Scene. Part I in a series.
News: War Wounds -- Undercovered #16: More civilians killed in Afghanistan.
Happening People: Alison Luthmers.
A reading initiative kicked off this week in Eugene designed to encourage the community to read the same book during the same time span of time.
The project, entitled Readin' in the Rain, will ask Eugene and Springfield residents to read Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion from Feb. 12 to April 1. The movie based on the book will be shown at the McDonald Theatre April 1-2, with guest speakers, live music and The Merry Band of Pranksters part of the program.
Backroom maneuvering appears to have derailed Oregon's pesticide right-to-know program. This much-needed program was instituted in an 88-2 vote by the 1999 Legislature, but initial funding runs out this week and last weekend's special session of the Legislature ignored it. Was it a lack of money in the state budget that kept funding away from this program? More likely it was business and industry lobbying, and the budget crisis is just an excuse. In 2001, the Legislature allocated $2.7 million to develop and implement the program over the current biennium, but directed that $1.4 million be held by the Emergency Board for the program. The E-Board has met twice, but is still sitting on the rest of the money, in effect killing the program without any direction from the governor or lawmakers. This is no way to do the public's business in Oregon, particularly when our safety is at stake. Controlling pesticides is vital to salmon recovery, clean drinking water, and other public health issues. Cleaning up pesticides in the future will be much more expensive than tracking pesticides today.
Eugene pundit Mark Robinowitz has suggested in a letter to the mayor and council that if the Gang of 9's idea for citywide council elections is a good idea, then the city should recommend that it be carried further. "I'm sure that (County Commissioner) Anna Morrison would enjoy having all of Lane County consider her re-election," he writes. "State senators for Eugene could be picked by the entire state. Our congressional representative would be selected by the entire country. And the U.S. president would be picked by the entire planet (he is the ruler of the world, after all)."
One of our readers reports that she was called recently by a polling company asking blatantly biased questions, such as "Given the following choices, what would you choose? Preserving farm land or saving 200 jobs?" Is there a connection with all the finely crafted letters to the editor in the R-G in recent months supporting Eugene Sand & Gravel? One question the pollsters will never ask is, "If one gravel company goes out of business, won't other gravel companies hire more people to take up the slack?"
SLANT includes short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, email@example.com
A portion of the proceeds from the film showing and many other associated events will be donated to Eugene Neighbors, Inc. and the Eugene Public Library, according to Joyce Berman, communications director for eugene.com
Local booksellers have stocked additional copies of the book in their stores, and extra copies have been donated to the library.
Participants that borrow the book from the library or purchase the book at area bookstores will receive a button that says "Readin' in the Rain, Readin' Kesey." The button will be a tool to promote discussion between readers and to encourage citywide support for the project, says Berman. Information about the entire event, plus contact forms, message boards and daily updates, can be found at www.eugene.com
WEP GETS HEARING
The West Eugene Parkway (WEP) concept squeaked by voters in the November election, but will it ever be built? Pro-WEP and anti-WEP interests are preparing for the next chapter of the WEP saga: a combined Eugene, Springfield and Lane County Planning Commission and Lane County Roads Advisory Committee joint public hearing at 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 20 at Eugene City Hall, 777 Pearl St. The hearing will discuss changes to the regional TransPlan (the highway wish-list), the Metro Plan, the Lane County Rural Comprehensive Plan (the WEP would puncture the Urban Growth Boundary), and the West Eugene Wetlands Plan.
The hearing notice claims that the TransPlan revisions would include all segments of the WEP in the 20-year "fiscally constrained" list (see EW's Jan. 3 story, "WEP Between the Ears"). However, the pending rewrite of TransPlan would effectively cancel the already funded and approved widening of Beltline from Roosevelt to West 11th, which is a WEP tributary project.
The 1997 Supplemental Draft Environ-mental Impact Statement stated that this Beltline widening would be required for proper traffic flow if the WEP is built, and a September 2001 ODOT memo of the Parkway's "system cost" included this as part of the WEP. Last June, a meeting of local, county, state and federal government officials concluded that ODOT would select "no build" for the WEP and finish widening Beltline (and widen West 11th west of Beltline) instead of the Parkway -- the exact opposite of the proposal now advocated by local government officials.
One reason the WEP has not been built is that the money is not there. ODOT has a huge backlog of unfunded road maintenance projects, particularly bridge repairs. Oregon schools and health care programs are threatened with budget cuts due to our fiscal crisis -- which makes the WEP even less likely. Part of the WEP's hidden costs would be the pricetag to subsidize sprawl between Eugene and Veneta if the highway is built -- new schools, sewers, police, fire, etc. In addition, Bush's new federal budget proposes a $9 billion cut in federal highway spending because less gas tax revenues are available due to the recession.
The West Eugene Wetlands Plan, a policy to "mitigate" the permitting of more shopping malls and factories in wetlands, does not yet include the WEP. Over the past decade, the Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Eugene have spent about $20 million to preserve and restore extremely rare native wet prairie habitat that is home to endangered animals and plants. It is one of the few places where one can appreciate what the Willamette Valley looked like two centuries ago.
The WEP route through the heart of West Eugene Wetlands Park would require 1.17 million cubic yards of sand and gravel, much of it for a massive elevated crossing of the train tracks near Amazon Creek. A double trailer gravel truck can hold about 22 yards of fill and is about 40 feet long. Therefore, it would take about 53,000 truckloads of sand and gravel to build the highway, and if those trucks were placed end-to-end, they would stretch for more than 400 miles, nearly the distance from Eugene to Seattle and back.
A meeting to prepare for the hearing is planned from 3 to 6 pm Sunday, Feb. 17, at the 1000 Friends of Oregon office, 120 W. Broadway. For more information, call 686-6761. -- Mark Robinowitz
Changing the Climate
WebSitings is a list of useful and sometimes quirky web sites. Care to contribute to the list? Send suggested sites and a short description to firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's a rundown on the number of committees each councilor and the mayor serves on:
Scott Meisner: 10; Mayor Jim Torrey: 8; Nancy Nathanson: 8; Bonny Bettman: 7; Betty Taylor: 6; David Kelly: 6; Gary Rayor: 5; Gary Pape: 4; Pat Farr: 4. -- AP
Eugene's $34 million new library is on budget and on schedule for completion by sometime next winter, says project manager Brad Black.
Workers are installing brick veneer and insulation on the cement and metal structure. Late next month the city expects the building's huge windows to go in and work to focus on completing the interior.
"It's just been a joy" says Black of the work of John Hyland Construction and its 86 subcontractors. "This has been such a well-run project."
Last week city councilors and the mayor went on a hard hat tour inside the building. Inside, past a few puddles of water and rising metal framing, the lobby opens into a vast children's area.
The children's area of the new library alone is three-quarters the size of the old library's main floor, says Black.
The main children's' room is walled by windows on one side and has a fenced-in porch out the back.
To one side of the children's room, a children's craft and story-telling area will have heated floors for kids to sit on. To the other side, a public meeting area has seating for 175.
Upstairs, a reading room will surprise visitors with a soaring 28 ft. ceiling decorated with undulating poplar wood. Tall stained glass windows adorn one wall.
The best view from the new library, across town to the Three Sisters, is from an area the public won't be allowed in. The building's fourth floor will be used for city finance and information services offices. When the library eventually needs the space, it will expand into the area.
The barrel roof on the building's exterior will be largely tiled over and lost on the interior. When the library expands again, the city could spend the money to open a vaulted ceiling on the fourth floor.
To save money, the city also decided not to include an outside balcony for library users to enjoy the view. An underground garage, however, is included. -- AP
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UO Senate prez warns of arms race in sports spending.
By Alan Pittman
When it comes to warning about the dangers of runaway athletic spending, UO Faculty Senate President James Earl says he feels like Don Quixote tilting at windmills.
"Athletic spending is way out of control at universities and we can't keep up with it," the English professor said at a City Club speech Feb. 8. But when he issued that warning in the UO alumni magazine, Duck fans wrote back calling him a "pointy headed elitist." One person wrote a letter to The Register-Guard calling for him to be fired for insubordination.
Earl says he watches Duck games and is a fan himself. But he asks, "What does a university have to do with games?" He adds, "A lot of my friends in the academic community feel like I do."
College sports are a "big business" with most of the huge profits going to advertisers, TV networks and the sports industry, according to Earl. The student athletes play for free and "none of the income from athletics goes into academics," he says. "Our athletic programs are growing like gangbusters these days while the universities that own them and run them are limping along on three legs."
The NCAA just negotiated a $6 billion TV contract for airing the college basketball finals, but "in the college sports industry, academics is at the bottom of the food chain."
The state Legislature is looking at deep cuts in higher education. "I'm just quaking in my shoes," says Earl. "But don't you worry, athletics won't suffer, believe me."
The Ducks made it to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl this year. Advertisers and the media "made a fortune from it and the university barely breaks even," Earl says.
Earl says UO administrators have told him that "football is now the university's primary way of marketing its academic programs to students and donors." But he says football seems a "funny way" to market Shakespeare and other academic pursuits. Earl points to national research showing that "the more universities invest in sports, the more academics suffer."
Earl says athletic money is like a roller coaster. Universities may do well when their teams are at the top, but when the winning cycle inevitably ends, the money goes away. At the UO, "I don't even think it's a roller coaster we have hitched our wagon to, I think it's a rocket ship and we have no hope in controlling it at all."
In the past, college sports were small and modest. But now "the tail is wagging the dog," Earl says. "College sports & are an openly commercial enterprise who's chief reason for being is the making of money."
Earl says when he first heard of UO plans to build sky boxes and expand Autzen Stadium, he wrote an e-mail to UO Administrator Dan Williams. "I think the idea of the university borrowing $50 million to expand athletics while scrimping and stretching to meet basic needs like salaries is a gargantuan error -- a reversal of priorities, a failure of mission on a scale so huge that people seem not to be able to see it."
A hospital with peeling paint, overworked doctors and patients lined up on gurneys wouldn't decide to spend $50 million on a country club on the theory it would encourage more donations to the hospital, Earl says. "The logic is preposterous."
"There's nothing rational or necessary in the relationship of football to higher education," says Earl. "Why not casinos? They'd be just as profitable."
Earl says it breaks his heart to see that "Oregonians will dig so deep into their pockets to build a bigger and better coliseum and leave our wonderful art museum boarded up right in the center of campus for lack of funds." He called on university donors to "give where it's needed, give where it will do the most good, give to academics first. I think the Ducks can take care of themselves."
Earl says he supports the idea used at other universities of requiring athletic donors to also contribute a percentage (e.g., 20 percent) of their contribution to academics.
"The faculty are not going to try to cut athletics at the UO. Nobody has to worry about that. We're not that unrealistic. We just don't want it to grow any bigger. And right now its out of control, because there is a siren song of big money out there. We want to keep that siren song from poisoning the ideals of the higher education in America, which is a genuine threat."
"I want to build a firewall between the entertainment world north of the river, with its skyboxes and its tailgaters, and the impoverished and idealistic real university south of the river," Earl says.
UO Journalism Prof. Arnold Ismach questioned whether Earl wasn't "demonizing the athletic department" as a "scapegoat" for the failure of the Legislature to adequately fund academics. "Aren't you just lashing out wildly and picking on this poor little victim?"
Earl and the audience laughed at the suggestion the Duck athletic department, which pays its football coach $1 million a year, was a "poor little victim." Until the faculty complained last year about athletic subsidies, "We took $2 million a year from our educational budget and we gave it over there to the athletic department. The reason that is changing is because the faculty spoke up."
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Barbara Walters told me to fear the Scene. Part I in a series.
By Nate Puckett
|Eugene's unique techno
scene includes Vanessa Harerty (center). At left is Jasmine Crump, at right are Russell
Techno music thumps throughout the building and out onto the sidewalk. High schoolers cluster around the entrance to the Robert Canaga Art Gallery at 760 Willamette St. Tonight, the gallery has been transformed into a dance party. Tonight, Walt Hunt is in his element.
The kids love Walt. Most people, it seems, love Walt -- Robert Canaga, who owns the gallery, gladly agreed to let him throw a party there. If you live or work downtown, chances are good that you know Walt Hunt. He promotes art shows and dance parties with no profit motive, mentors at-risk teenagers, doles out smoothies at the New Odyssey Juice Bar, and generally leads a more interesting life than you or I.
The Eugene Police Department knows Walt. On Jan. 11, they arrested him during one of the "Friday Night Techno" events the juice bar used to sponsor. A search of his office above the juice bar yielded a small amount of psychedelic mushrooms. The landlord (who called the police that night) banned him from the building, which, not surprisingly, has stopped the dance parties.
The downtown community, however, has not stopped loving Walt. Dozens of people have risen to his defense since he was arrested. The kids still dance with him -- in fact, they passed the hat on Jan. 11 to raise money for his legal expenses, which have been substantial.
"Walt's been completely instrumental to the techno scene around here," says Pete Hinson, a local 17 year-old DJ. "He's done so much good stuff for minors, people who don't have very much to do around here. He's amazing."
Hunt's efforts to further Eugene's techno scene are illustrative of the subculture's uphill battle for mainstream acceptance. A lot of people view techno, and especially "raves" -- populous, late-night gatherings set to dance music -- as undesirable, even dangerous. Entire cities have passed anti-rave ordinances that make it almost impossible to throw one. Police departments nationwide view Ecstasy, a drug especially popular in techno circles, as an emerging epidemic -- and raves as the 21st-century equivalent to the crackhouse.
So the entire techno scene, like Hunt himself, is either a Threat to Our Children or a Positive Alternative for Eugene's Youth, depending on who you ask.
And if you ask me?
A Pause for Full Disclosure ...
Techno music and its disciples tend to piss me off. In my experience, raves are filled with people who have more money and free time than is probably good for them. A big-city rave can cost $20, easily, with each tab of Ecstasy costing another $20. Some people take two or three.
Kids die at raves. Usually in big cities, and usually from drug overdoses. Some raves are dangerously overcrowded; I've been to a few that charge money for water, which is outrageous if you're packed in with a bunch of dancing, sweating bodies -- and potentially deadly if you have enough MDMA, the active ingredient in Ecstasy, running through your veins.
|DJ Pete Hinson.
A lot of people don't do any drugs at raves; they're just there to dance. While I believe that any rave will bring a certain amount of drug use, I could say the same about Grateful Dead shows -- and this town is full of people who would remove my left testicle if I suggested Jerry and the gang brought anything but positive vibrations.
Don't make the mistake of thinking you're reading an objective account from an objective journalist, if there is such a thing. I generally don't like techno -- the music, the people, and the entire culture have always struck me as synthetic and artificial.
As is usually the case, however, Eugene has proven to be a unique setting, with its own rules and tendencies. The techno scene here is different than what I've come across before. This article, and future ones, will focus on techno in Eugene, which thus far has defied my preconceptions and largely avoided Petty Journalistic Wrath.
Now Back to Business ...
"Youth culture is under attack in Eugene, and the goal is to shut it down," says Walt Hunt. He is 52 years old but looks younger, and -- in a coincidence that gets funnier the more you talk with him -- slightly resembles Attorney General John Ashcroft. "I want to break down the barriers between age groups, but there are plenty of people who don't want that to happen."
Hunt is the anti-Ashcroft: a left-wing, nurturing sort who loves Eugene and dance music. He can handle a pair of glowsticks like nobody's business, and his high-school buddies cheer him on as he whirls the sticks to the beat.
At first, this sort of scene can be unsettling; Hunt looks out of place among so many young people. But upon closer examination, there is nothing creepy or pitiful about his actions -- he's just dancing, having a good time, and even though most of the crowd is roughly one-third his age, they seem thrilled to have him there.
To the Eugene Police, that's exactly the problem. While EPD declined to comment on Hunt's case specifically, a report filed by Sgt. Kris Martes reads: During the late nights hours, Walt has been observed allowing juvenile females who loiter on the mall to spend the night with him at the location.
This is a hell of a thing to put in someone's file, especially when you consider the third-hand source: EPD says Jeff Geiger, the landlord, told them someone -- "one tenant" in the report -- had told him this. (Geiger declined to comment on Hunt or his arrest.)
Tara Brooks, a 14-year-old who was with Walt the night of his arrest, calls the allegations "disgusting."
"They totally assumed sick sexual stuff," she says. "Everything the police said was rude ... they treated everyone badly, but they were especially mean to Walt."
Audra Erickson, who helped Hunt clean up after every Friday night techno event at the juice bar, says he is being persecuted for "trying to bring everyone together."
"He's just a really caring person, and I guess some people can't understand that," she says. "One of the cops actually assumed that because we (Brooks and Erickson) help out for free, Walt 'pays us with sexual favors.' It was really bad. After they talked to me I was crying."
Indeed. There is never any shortage of concerned citizens in this town, no matter what the issue is. Just add techno music to the pile and let the voices start trying to drown each other out: Let the kids dance! But what about Dangerous Drugs?! Just come out and see for yourself! But Barbara Walters told me to fear the Scene! It's spiritual! It's a drug-orgy! It's wonderful! It's awful! The beat just goes on and on ...
So far, in Eugene, I have yet to observe any of the bigger-city problems people tend to associate with techno culture. I haven't found anyone passed out in a back room, or raves in dangerously overcrowded warehouses with padlocked fire exits, or drug deals in dance circles. All I've found is a bunch of kids who really, really like techno music and dancing to it. While it wouldn't surprise me to learn that some of them take drugs, I don't think drug use is viewed as integral to their scene -- and I think we as a city should feel grateful for that.
Techno music -- lappears to be a victim of its own national reputation here in Eugene. While it's hard to be angry at police for being vigilant toward a culture they've heard so many dark things about, it's also frustrating to see so much smoke being blown when there's so little fire.
Case in point: at the art gallery, after Hunt was dancing with the glowsticks but before the event shut down 45 minutes early, EPD bike officers made a stop outside. Robert Canaga, the venue owner, went outside to have the following discussion:
Canaga: How are you doing?
Cop: Fine. How are you doing?
Cop: All right.
Canaga: All right. (Stares, nods, glaring.)
This was a genuinely silly little scene, but when I started taking pictures, you would've thought EPD was beating up a nun for kicks. The officer Canaga was talking to -- who refused to identify himself -- held out his palm and told me not to take pictures.
When I kept going, he threatened to take my film. When I took another picture, he advanced toward me, but didn't follow me inside, where a few dozen people were ... dancing. And smiling. And looking at the art on the walls.
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Undercovered #16: More civilians killed in Afghanistan.
By Kate Rogers Gessert
-- According to military analysts, the Feb. 4 killing of suspected Al-Qaeda members in Zhawar, Khost province, by a missile fired from an unmanned spy plane was "tactical innovation of the highest order" (New York Daily News). On Feb. 6, an unmanned spy plane fired more missiles nearby, killing three civilians and damaging homes. Khost people are scared and angry and want the Afghan government to make the bombing stop. They marched through the streets chanting slogans against their recently appointed governor (Jang).
-- Demining experts are hard at work in Afghanistan. Denar Kheil, a village of 300 homes near Kabul, was hit by 10 cluster bombs last fall, scattering 2,020 bomblets. The U.S. claims 10 percent of bomblets do not explode on impact, but deminers observe 20 percent. Bomblets explode in response to touch, radios, and changes in temperature. Refugee families who have returned to Denar Kheil are waiting inside their houses while deminers work. It may take three weeks to clear one cluster bomb (Boston Globe).
-- Digging a 2,000-pound bomb out of a Herat neighborhood recently took two weeks. Cluster bombs and other unexploded U.S. bombs have delayed the removal of mines, set in Afghanistan since 1979. Herat demining chief Haji Siddiqui used to send his workers to outlying regions, but "now we are too busy here in Herat." "We've found munitions on roofs, in gardens, all over," says Sean Moorhouse, a former stock broker who works for the U.N. World Food Program. "I've taken things off houses, and then sat with the family to have tea while they moved their belongings back in. There's an immediate sense of satisfaction" (Washington Post).
-- Air Force Master Sgt. Mike Smith, clearing cluster bomblets around the Kandahar airfield, agrees. "It's hard not to get motivated when you see the kids running around. It makes me think of my own kids." Villagers led Smith and his demining team to a nearby field. "Here you go," said one man, politely handing over five bomblets (AP).
-- The Pentagon says it now has no responsibility for Shebargan jail, where 3,300 prisoners are crammed together in dirty cells with little food and medicine and no heat or running water. Pneumonia and dysentery are epidemic, and many prisoners have died. Until mid-January, the U.S. maintained the jail with General Dostum (Independent).
-- Interim President Karzai is popular among Afghans because he is not a warlord. But he does not have a private army, and this makes him dependent on foreign peacekeepers (Independent). He even shares the presidential residence with Burhanuddi Rabbani, Afghanistan's president under the Northern Alliance from 1992 to 1996. Rabbani will not leave, and meets with delegations who come to see Karzai. Northern Alliance soldiers guard the presidential gates (Times, U.K.)
-- Outside of Kabul, power struggles continue. Warlords levy taxes on the Kabul-Jalalabad road. The Kandahar-Herat road is unsecured because of trouble between rival governors (IRINnews). Ismail Khan, self-appointed Tadjik governor of Herat, is angry because he wants more power in the central government. People complain that he has imprisoned many innocent Pashtuns, but Karzai must accept him as governor. Near Mazar-i-Sharif, fighting between Dostum's soldiers and rival Atta's soldiers has claimed several lives, and Dostum's forces hold a fortress inside the city. Padsha Khan, appointed governor of Gardez by President Karzai, has been driven out of the city by local people who say he is a killer and a smuggler. But Khan's brother, a minister in the Afghan government, promises a bloody fight if the appointment is withdrawn (Times, U.K.)
-- Karzai has asked the British, Americans, and the U.N. for a larger peacekeeping force. Few countries want to commit more troops, although foreign commanders working in Kabul have said a force of 30,000 is necessary to secure the country (AFP), and some U.N. and British leaders seem interested in this idea. President Bush has stressed that U.S. troops are in Afghanistan only to hunt Al-Qaeda. Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, proposed Feb. 4 that the U.S. should join the peacekeeping forces. "Security is the basic issue in Afghanistan. Whatever it takes, we should do it. History will judge us harshly if we allow hope of a liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we failed to stay the course" (Asia Times).
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When she was 5 years old and living in Chicago, Alison Luthmers heard an aspiring violinist play "Happy Birthday" at a party. "I'd like to do that," she thought, and soon she was taking lessons at the Music Center of the North Shore. "I took Suzuki Method -- had the same teacher the entire time in Chicago," says Luthmers, who moved to Eugene with her family three years later. Now 12 and a seventh-grader at Roosevelt, she will be the youngest member of the Portland Youth Philharmonic when they perform Bruckner's Eighth Symphony in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on March 2. "It's an awesome piece -- 80 minutes long," she notes. "I've really enjoyed learning it." Luthmers spent seven weeks last summer in Paris for study with concert violinist Devi Erlih. In addition to her two weekly trips to Portland for PYP rehersals, she plays in her school's string ensemble and dances with The Edge performance group. "Ali's such a sparkler -- she dances," observes her current violin teacher, UO music Prof. Katherine Lucktenberg. "The music dances when she plays it. She feels it in every fiber."
-- Photo by Paul Neevel
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