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.NEWS BRIEFS :  Ides of March Rally | Videographer Arrested | Pants on Fire | Corrections/Clarifications |

News: Mother Friendly Breastfeeding bill supports working moms.

Happening People: Gweneth van Frank Carlson



IDES OF MARCH RALLY
Another worldwide "No War On Iraq" peace rally is being organized for Saturday, March 15 and the local observance is scheduled to begin at noon at the EMU on the UO campus. Protesters are planning to march to the Federal Building at 7th and Pearl for a 1 pm gathering with speeches and music.

"We are not losers and victims," says Hope Marston, one of the organizers, in a message to activists. "We are powerful people. We can stop this war. It is up to each of us to try. ... Let's keep putting one foot in front of the other until we have accomplished all we deserve — and all our children for seven generations deserve."

Meanwhile, numerous organizations are planning protests if and when full-scale bombing of Iraq begins. Local groups plan to rally at the Federal Building to voice their opposition. And a San Francisco group is calling for a general strike on the morning of the next business day following the attack. Citizens are urged to not go to work or school, but rather go downtown for a massive protest.

"If the government and corporations won't stop the war, we'll shut down the warmakers," says a flier from Direct Action to Stop the War (www.actagainstwar.org)."We will impose real economic, social and political costs and stop business as usual until the war stops." — Ted Taylor

 

PARK PLAN POLITICS
A group of southeast Eugene neighbors opposes city plans to develop the Rexius Loop turnaround park area, located at the end of West Amazon Drive and Martin Street. Neighbor Ursula Lindqvist says, "I can't speak for the whole neighborhood, but I personally don't want the fundamental character of the park to change."

That fundamental character includes a natural woodsy area with a creek, cedar chip trails and meadows. The area, formally known as Frank Kinney Park, was slated for improvements in the 1989 parks and recreation master plan. It was later approved by a mayor's committee to be added to a list of park areas that would undergo development, which would be made using $200,000 from the 1998 Parks and Open Space bond measure.

Robin Hostick, landscape architect for the city of Eugene's Parks and Open Space Planning department, says the initial design process happens in three workshops, where community members participate in brainstorming and commenting on design ideas.

In workshops last fall and at the end of February, Hostick presented ideas for development, including the addition of concrete sidewalks and a small playground. Since this is a public space, the hope, according to Hostick, is to provide accessibility and "different kinds of uses for different kinds of people." But neighbors at the workshops reacted in strong opposition to proposed changes.

Neighbor Zane Cornett says, "We're not looking at the tradeoffs [of development]." Regarding accessibility, he says that while the intent is good, it brings into question the issue of parking, of which there is little in the Rexius Loop area. This could mean parking problems or further development to accommodate more cars.

Residents have suggested that rather than using the $200,000 to develop the park, the money could be used to maintain or improve existing elements, such as the cedar chip trails that tend to flood in fall and winter.

Hostick understands concerns for low or even no impact development, but also feels a responsibility to provide a service to as many citizens as possible. He says, "My feeling is that we've gone through an iteration of design that is one of the most ecologically sensitive designs we've ever done." Any actual construction wouldn't happen until 2004; discussion will continue in the final workshop, still to be scheduled. — Bobbie Willis

 

VIDEOGRAPHER ARRESTED
A politically active state employee in Ashland was arrested Friday, March 7 on a charge apparently related to his videotaping of a March 5 confrontation between Ashland police and protesters.

Wes Brain, who works for the Safety Department at Southern Oregon University, says the arrest for disorderly conduct was a complete surprise.

He was videotaping the "Books Not Bombs" high school and college student protest for the Rogue Valley Independent Media Center to be broadcast on local cable access TV. The footage he shot "shows some of the things not reported by the local mainstream media like the SWAT team that was called in from a neighboring county to square off against our peacefully protesting students," he says. "This footage looks like it is taken from another planet. I mean can you imagine riot cops squaring off against young kids?"

Brain says his videotape also shows "the tail-end of a scuffle in the street which shows the Ashland police throwing people to the ground. I did not capture the beginning of this incident but do have an interview of someone who says she saw it from the start and that the police instigated the scuffle."

He says he has no idea why he was arrested, "but I am fearful that the war on terrorism is more a war against anybody who speaks out against the war-mongering and foolish, corporate bought-and-paid-for leadership of this country."

His arraignment was set for Tuesday, March 11 in Municipal Court. As of press time, newspapers in Ashland and Medford had not reported on the arrest, and Ashland Municipal Judge Allen Drescher said he had not heard of the case. — TJT

 

PANTS ON FIRE
Fifth Street Public Market's Melange is finding that yoga pants are hot, hot, hot. The national yoga trend is showing up in fashion in the form of pants that are soft, comfortable and stylish, with legs fitted then flaring just a bit at the ankle. Martha Harvell, former Melange owner and current behind-the-scenes worker describes the pants as a "fitted, bellbottom leggings with a waist you can roll down."

Harvell says that Melange has been selling the stretchy cotton/Lycra Hard Tail designed pants online at www.melange4women.com with three styles ranging in price from $48 to $62. They've been doing well "for months now," according to Harvell. How well? Harvell says, "It's probably about 60 percent of our business."

"Yoga is sweeping the country," says Harvell. "These pants are good for working out, and good for just going around town." — BW

 

CORRECTIONS/CLARIFICATIONS
Regarding our story Feb. 27 about the hiring of Dennis Taylor as city manager, City Councilor David Kelly says there were two "significant errors of fact" in the seventh paragraph. Kelly says "the subcommittee had no role in selecting the dozen finalist candidates. That 'first cut' was made entirely by the recruiter, and the names and resumes of those individuals were given to the mayor and all councilors at the same time." Kelly also says the subcommittee did not "arrange" for a meeting of the advisory committee that met with the two finalists. "The advisory committee idea was proposed by staff, recommended by the subcommittee, but then OK'd by the full council. The full council also had the opportunity to suggest any 'interest groups' to be invited to the meeting. Every group that was suggested by even just one councilor was invited to attend the meeting."

 

SLANT

The U.N. Security Council is about to vote on another war resolution as we go to press, and regardless of "no" votes, abstentions and vetoes, we will likely attack Iraq. But will we win the war? Assaulting a destitute nation with little infrastructure and a dilapidated military should be a cakewalk, but history tells us warfare is full of surprises and we are vulnerable to retaliation both at home and abroad. And the costs associated with our aggression are likely to far outweigh anything we gain by deposing a distant dictator. The debt we are incurring just to prepare for war is staggering and will affect our economy for decades, and if the war does not progress quickly as planned, the costs could escalate to hundreds of billions. And what about the more hidden costs of large-scale environmental damage, and our loss of stature and respect around the world? If we are indeed willing to accrue massive debt for our "security," our billions would be much more effectively invested in education, eradicating hunger and disease worldwide, diplomacy, and environmentally friendly technologies. That would be true leadership.

Speaking of hidden costs, health care today is even more expensive than we think it is when we add in the costs of roads to provide access to health care. Case in point is the estimated $100 million of new and improved roads associated with PeaceHealth's plans to build a mega-medical center in north Springfield. Taxpayers will pick up most of that cost, money that could instead go to repair existing pavement. Tired of paying increasing fees and taxes for road repairs? Blame those among our elected officials who are literally paving the way for sprawling development.

Another great Public Interest Environmental Law Conference wrapped up at the UO this past weekend, without much of the drama and confrontation that marked earlier conferences. The perennial issues of nonviolence and anarchy in activism were raised in a workshop with ELF spokesman Craig Rosebraugh. Eugene activist Spruce Houser challenged Rosebraugh to return to Eugene for a verbal duel at 7 pm Sunday, March 16 at Growers Market. Rosebraugh accepted, but some local anarchists reportedly didn't think it was a good idea. Will he show up Sunday? Meanwhile, Al Sharpton canceled his scheduled Saturday gig at the last minute, but few people complained. The long-shot prez candidate has serious credibility issues and was an odd choice for a keynoter at an enviro conference. We didn't have much room for post-PIELC stories this week, so look for more coverage next week.


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 or e-mail editor@eugeneweekly.com

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Mother Friendly
Breastfeeding bill supports working moms.
BY ARIA SELIGMANN

Although the American Pediatrics Academy recommends a full year of breastfeeding for optimum child health, most American women wean well before then. The reason? Employment. In fact, most women return to work before their babies are three months old. Women with children below age 3 comprise the fastest growing segment of today's labor force, contributing to the fact that the U.S. has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.

Yet, a new bill before the Oregon State Legislature will make it legal for women to breastfeed or express milk on the job.

Not only does breastfeeding increase bonding, but it reduces the risk of illnesses from minor colds and ear infections to diabetes, childhood cancer, and SIDS, in addition to having many health benefits for the mother.

Even so, it wasn't until 1999 that Oregon made it legal for women to nurse in public. The new bill will make it mandatory for employers to allow women to nurse during unpaid breaks on the job, providing it will not cause the employer "undue hardship."

If passed, this bill, handed to the General Government Committee just last Friday, will bring Oregon into compliance with the International Labor Organization (ILO) Maternity Protection Convention, which states that employers should provide a clean, safe and private place to breastfeed or express milk, and time during the workday to do so.

The ILO statement is an international agreement that was first adopted in 1919. Three quarters of the world's nations have ratified it. The U.S. has not. But so far, nine states have adopted some sort of language into their constitutions that give women nursing rights in the workplace.

In 1999, when Oregon passed SB 744, allowing women to publicly nurse, the state also passed Executive Order 99-10, which made it a law that state employees could breastfeed or express milk at work. Now Senate Bill 783 would extend that right to all women workers. Oregon also offers a "mother-friendly workplace" designation to businesses that accommodate nursing mothers.

In addition to privacy and break time, the bill also calls on employers to allow a temporary change of job duties if that will make things easier for mother and boss. The bill also prohibits discrimination against nursing moms.

If employers balk too hard, the bill explicitly states that they don't have to go along with it if providing rest periods causes "undue hardship on the operation" of their business. The cost is minimal or nil; just an electrical outlet for an electrical breast pump, or a partition for privacy, so women don't have to nurse or express in a bathroom stall.

The bill was brought to the Legislature by the same women who brought the 1999 bill: nurses and lactation consultants in conjunction with breastfeeding advocates La Leche League and other groups.

Two of those lactation consultants are Martha Johnson and Dixie Whetsell. Johnson, who authored this bill, was recently honored with a Shining Light award from La Leche League for her work with women in and around Eugene. A longtime advocate for nursing moms, Johnson feels that this bill is important because it protects women on the job. In one case, she says, a woman worked in an office that was open to breastfeeding, "but when one co-worker complained, that affected the boss who said 'no' after that."

Whetsell points out that although lots of employers are making accommodations, "It all too often happens that those accommodations depend on who's in charge. But that can change. It shouldn't be that way," she says.

"Employers don't understand the great benefits they will reap from supporting breastfeeding mothers," says Whetsell. Studies show that women who nurse or express milk at work are more loyal to their employers and more productive, because the babies are healthier, which reduces absenteeism.

Maternity leave in the U.S. is still very short compared to other nations, and most often unpaid, which means many new mothers have to return to work sooner than they'd like. Although it is a growing trend for women who work in offices to bring their young infants with them, still many employers do not allow that.

Other women have jobs that make it impossible to bring children with them, and even expressing milk is extremely difficult to incorporate into their workdays.

"A firefighter or police officer must disrobe in order to express milk," says Whetsell. Therefore, she needs flexibility in her break times. Other occupations, such as teaching or providing health care, also allow little privacy.

"Wherever a woman can work is where she should be able to express or nurse," says Whetsell.

SB 783 Chief Sponsor Ginny Burdick says she signed onto the bill because "Study after study shows how much healthier nursed babies are."

Because the financial cost to the employer is little or nothing, and because they are protected by the "undue hardship" clause, there is great support in Salem for this bill. It already has a majority of signatures in both the House and Senate.

Tony Corcoran, who is a co-sponsor and also chairs the General Government Committee, says, "While there are many employers who make a work-friendly environment for nursing mothers, there are other employers whose bottom line doesn't include empathy toward nursing mothers and they need to be nudged."

But the real challenge this bill faces is that the sheer volume of bills before the House regarding all of the state budget cuts may mean it never gets voted on. "It's important to contact your legislator to let them know it matters," says Johnson.

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GWENETH VAN FRANK CARLSON
Since the defeat of Measure 28 in January, alter-abled activist Gweneth van Frank Carlson has found her way to Salem by car, bus or train three or four days a week to lobby the Legislature. "The state is pulling the plug on thousands of people — putting them on the street, taking away their meds," she notes. "I just said 'No! I'm not going to put up with it.'" Highly visible in her trademark red beret and red jacket, van Frank is even more audible as she leads her small army of "crips" in songs of protest. "It fills the whole building, gets a lot of attention," she says. "We've broken up a few meetings, insisting they let us testify." Born with congenital glaucoma, van Frank was myopic as a kid and lost her vision completely in her 20s. "I have great visual memories," she says. "I worked in the Tetons five summers, saw the sunset on the bicentennial birthday reflected in Jackson Lake." Van Frank became aware of disability issues at a blind school in Idaho in 1980. She has since been active in community groups, citizen panels, theater productions, and school assemblies. "Gweneth is really tireless," says friend Bedo Crafts. "She's not limited by obstacles she can't see."

— Paul Neevel


Know anyone whose good work deserves attention in this space? Call the editor at 484-0519 or editor@eugeneweekly.com


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