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The city is closing a $2 million budget gap by shutting a pool and reducing library, planning and parks maintenance budgets, among other cuts in services to citizens. But city firefighters and police officers are sitting pretty.
Over the past eight years firefighters have received raises of 17.5 percent more than inflation. The city gave police raises of 7.7 percent over inflation.
During the same period, the city gave most other city union employees (AFSCME) raises that only just kept pace with inflation.
A system of binding arbitration for police and fire employees accounts for their higher pay raises, according to a memo from city budget manager Kitty Murdoch. Cops and firefighters can't strike, instead their pay disputes are settled through binding arbitration by state mediators. Arbitration "generously awards" police and firefighters raises comparable to other fire and police agencies around the state, according to Murdoch. The arbitration system doesn't compare police and fire raises with other city of Eugene employees.
Of course, the city's top bosses have also made sure they get their raises. This year city managers and executives got a 3 percent cost of living raise. Next year, they'll get another 2 percent.
By comparison, Gresham city managers got no raise last year. Corvallis city executives got only a 1.5 percent raise last year with another 1.5 percent this year. In Salem, no city worker got a raise last year. Next year, Salem AFSCME workers will get a 1 percent raise with managers getting nothing.
While city councilors are spending hours in meetings arguing over how to find a few thousand more dollars to prevent damaging cuts, city worker raises aren't on the table. Labor costs make up about 80 percent of the city's budget. Just a 1 percent cut in overall pay would save about $2 million, enough to solve all the city's budget problems.
— Alan Pittman
The Union Pacific Railroad will be spraying herbicide along the tracks running through the Eugene area from May 19 to June 3. The chemical they will use, commonly known as glyphosate, is better known by its commercial name, Roundup.
Neighbors and local anti-toxics organizations are protesting both the health risks associated with Roundup and the lack of notification about the spraying to railroad residents. The railroad runs through the Whiteaker, River Road, Trainsong, Bethel and west Eugene neighborhoods.
The EPA rates glyphosate at toxicity level III, with I being most toxic and IV being least toxic. Independent studies, however, have repeatedly found harmful side effects from the chemical to both humans and animals. According to the Journal of Pesticide Reform, glyphosate-containing products can cause eye and skin irritation, headache, nausea, numbness, elevated blood pressure and heart palpitations. The inert ingredient that helps Roundup attach to weeds is more toxic than glyphosate itself, and the combination of the two is yet more toxic, the journal reports. A 1997 Princeton study found that an ingredient in Roundup caused death to half of the animals in the experiment.
"I think that anyone within a couple of blocks of the track should be concerned, especially if they have children or are pregnant women," says David Monk, executive director of the Oregon Toxics Alliance.
Neighbors say that UP refuses to sign a written agreement promising to notify residents of upcoming sprayings, relying instead on a verbal agreement that neighbors says is not always followed. UP could not be reached for comment.
"We end up with no way to protect ourselves," says Majeska Seese-Greene, president of the Whiteaker Community Council and member of the Railroad Pollution Coalition.
Activist organization Communities Against Railroad Pollution will be handing out information about Roundup May 17 and 18 at the Van Buren crossing between 1st and 2nd Avenues. — Nika Carlson
University student, employee and east campus housing resident John Boosinger is growing on borrowed time. His 25-by-40 foot front yard garden is scheduled to be the first victim of the new east campus maintenance policy.
The policy, part of the East Campus Development Plan, was adopted just over a month ago. It says that the university will do regular landscaping in the area to maintain a "graceful edge" to university property. All yards must be returned to grass, which will be mowed by the university on a regular basis. No more lawn art and no more gardens.
"It's a little ridiculous," says Boosinger. "You can be out (in the yard), but you can't do anything to it."
Boosinger and his wife will be allowed to finish the growing season, but will have to remove the garden at the end of the summer. New leases will have more specific language about lawns and yards.
Five weeks ago, University Housing officials demanded that Boosinger remove the 2-1/2-year-old patch. They rescinded their demand after Boosinger, legally permitted the garden according to his lease, threatened legal action.
"I am using water and land in a responsible, healthy, efficient, and beautiful way, and I believe the university should support my efforts instead of literally trying to destroy them," Boosinger wrote in an e-mail to the university.
The new plan, in development for more than six months, took into account the concerns of neighborhood, said Mike Eyster, director of housing for the university.
"The policy was designed to maintain the yards better than we have in the past and make it look more like a residential neighborhood," he said. "We had complaints about the grass being too long or that there's a garden in the front yard."
Boosinger says he's had nothing but positive feedback about the yard, and expressed frustration that he will no longer be able to grow the vegetables that provide nearly 70 percent of the food he, his wife and his child eat in the growing months.
"We know that the food is better for us than anything we could get at the store, and it tastes better too," he said. "There are no negatives to it other than that in the university eyes it doesn't meet the standards of appearance for the east campus area."
— Nika Carlson
Wayne Morse, Oregon's maverick U.S. senator for 24 years in the mid-20th century, was not the dramatic type. But much of what he said in challenging every U.S. administration he encountered took on the aura of high drama.
Portland playwright Charles Deemer decided to string together a series of Morse's memorable statements into a one-man show of high volatility. What gives them explosive character is the startling way they become contemporary if viewed as responses to the current U.S. administration.
Premiere performance of the 40-minute show will be at 1:30 and 3 pm Sunday, May 18 as part of the annual Wayne Morse Open House at the Morse Home, 595 Crest Dr. The occasion will once again feature free ice cream, tours of the Morse Home and pony rides for the kids.
Morse may be best remembered for his prophetic challenge to the Vietnam War, when he was one of only two senators to vote against the illegal Gulf of Tonkin resolution of President Lyndon Johnson. That dissent is but one of several expressed in the play that suggest parallels with the current administration of George Bush.
Directing will be Sparky Roberts. Claude Offenbacher will perform as Morse. Karl Nestvold is the narrator. Admission is free.
Starhawk, author of many books, including The Spiral Dance, Walking to Mercury, and The Fifth Sacred Thing, will be in the Eugene area from May 20-25. She will be promoting her most recent book Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising, as well as training local activists who want to pass along their skills and experience to others through role-play and interactive exercises.
A workshop for teaching the tools and skills to help participants be effective agents for change and to free their imaginations will be followed by a ritual of healing and empowerment culminating in a spiral dance.
Starhawk may be best known for Spiral Dance, a spiritual guidebook on the practices and philosophy of Wiccan witchcraft. She has taught magic, workshops, ritual and Wicca.
Starhawk's study and practice of Earth-based spirituality led to her concern for the environment and to activism. Her life changed when she went to the WTO protest in Seattle in 1999.
She writes in Webs of Power, "I went to Seattle reluctantly. I went with somewhat the same attitude with which I used to go to synagogue as a child — thinking I would fulfill a somewhat unpleasant duty, feel absolved of my guilt for a little while, come home and resume my life. Instead I found myself galvanized into a new level of political activity."
Since Seattle, Starhawk has focused on global justice. She trains activists through role-play: acting out dangerous situations and trying different responses and tactics stressing flexibility and centeredness. Training also includes planning techniques for pre-action, survival techniques in jail and post-action support (debriefing, trauma counseling, etc). In 2000 Starhawk trained activists in Washington, D.C., Prague, Brazil and Argentina. She participated in the April 2000 IMF/World Bank blockade, the 2000 World Social Forum in Porte Alegre, the Quebec April 2001 action, and was in Genoa in July 2001 as a witness to the brutality there.
Starhawk organizes, facilitates, and builds alliances between groups such as labor, churches, and NGOs that are striving for justice. She writes eyewitness accounts of these experiences and inspirational fables, clarifying and sharing issues that are otherwise clouded with propaganda and brutality.
Starhawk will conduct workshops at Lost Valley, Dorris Ranch, Grower's Market and the WOW Hall. She will speak at the EMU and hold a booksigning at Mother Kali's. She will also lead a Ritual for the Earth at Dorris Ranch. For more information, visit www.lostvalley.org/starhawk.htmlor www.starhawk.org/— Paula Hoemann
The brewing battle over Biscuit fire "salvage" logging is about more than trees. Four people made history when they sat down on the Bald Mountain road in southwestern Oregon 20 years ago. Arms linked, they blocked a bulldozer and heavy equipment that were building an illegal Forest Service road into the rugged, roadless backcountry of the Siskiyou National Forest. A series of blockades ensued, bringing 44 arrests and national attention. A federal judge halted the road-building and the Bald Mountain Blockades quickly became for forest activism what the Rosa Parks incident was for the civil rights movement.
Twenty years after Bald Mountain, events in the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area are again making history. Eugene area residents have a chance to learn more about the longest sustained forest protection campaign in Oregon at 7:30 pm Monday, May 19 in the UO EMU Fir Room. Lou Gold, nationally-known storyteller and "Sage of the Siskiyous" will share his first-hand accounts as well as a new retrospective video. — Rolf Skar
The city of Eugene projects that at least 14 of its firefighters will retire this coming year due to the threat of cutbacks in the state PERS pension system.
Although replacing senior workers at the top of the pay scale with new workers making starting wages often saves employers money, the city is projecting a big initial financial hit. The firefighter retirements will cost $300,000 next year, the city estimates. That includes $100,000 in required payoffs to retiring employees; $55,000 in hiring and promotion costs for replacements; $150,000 in pay for a dozen new hires to attend a 12-week training course; $20,000 in new uniforms/equipment and $50,000 in firefighter overtime to cover shifts until new staff are hired and trained. — AP
Regarding our story last week on "Livestock with Fins," the owner of Fisherman's Market on 7th Avenue tells us he has never sold farmed Atlantic salmon, "and never will."
Memorial at Last
What began in tragedy, languished in neglect and was embroiled in discord, has finally ended in harmony. Five years after the events that stunned Lane County and sent shock waves across the nation, the victims of the shooting at Thurston High are getting a permanent memorial. Everyone is invited to attend the dedication at 4 pm May 21 in a landscaped area on the southwest corner of the school property on 58th Street in Springfield.
Volunteers have been laying out donated plants at the site since May 3. The Thurston Memorial itself consists of a remembrance wall layered with color-coded tiles that represent all of the nearly 1,500 students and staff who were present at school during 15-year-old Kip Kinkel's shooting rampage on May 21, 1998. Black represents the two slain students, Mikael Nickolauson and Ben Walker, red is for the 25 wounded students, and white is for the seven heroes who brought Kip down. The tiles are arranged in the approximate locations where these students stood or sat in the cafeteria just before 8 am when Kip opened fire with his Ruger semiautomatic rifle.
Near the wall stands a six-foot tall roughly cut basalt memorial stone with a plaque that dedicated to Nickolauson and Walker. No other names appear anywhere in the memorial, and there is no reference made at all to Kip's parents, Bill and Faith. Bill Kinkel taught at Thurston High for 30 years before his retirement, and Faith was still teaching at Springfield High when Kip shot them at their home in the suburb known as Shangri-La. Another plaque tells the story of the school shooting and how it affected the entire community.
The promised memorial, first proposed a few weeks after the shooting, was continually delayed due to conflicts between parents, teachers and the school district administration. Apparently, many of those problems went away when Superintendent Jamon Kent was dismissed and his assistant Len Arney resigned in July and August last year. For the three years immediately following the assault, Kent worked strenuously to keep the name of Thurston out of the public eye. Even local TV coverage of a benign event such as a bubble gum blowing contest at the high school on National No-Smoking Day was forbidden by Kent a few years back.
From the beginning, some teachers objected to any kind of memorial because they felt that seeing it when they came to work each day would be painful. They, and many students, wanted to get on with their lives without any reminders of a tragic and painful past. For parents of the dead and wounded, it was as if the community wished to erase the event and deny the trauma that they and their kids had gone through. The struggle to erect a memorial became an emotionally draining task for many of them.
An impromptu memorial was anonymously set up one night in a traffic circle down the street from Thurston just before the anniversary date in 2002. Then there was talk about a memorial hallway at the entrance to the new football stadium. This upset many parents because, while none of the murdered or wounded students had been a football player, Kip himself had been on the football team.
The committee originally set up to work on the student memorial included no shooting victims and, according to inside sources, no one who was even a witness to the event. The one parent representative was a school employee.
The three options originally allotted for the public and victims alike all involved massive (i.e., expensive) reconstruction for the parking lot and bus drive-through, which many parents felt was not an appropriate use of donated memorial funds. The preferences and/or ideas expressed by the victims (students and families) were given no more weight than those ideas expressed by any other person answering the questionnaire on paper or by Internet.
Community members and people across the nation have asked to be involved in the memorial process. Many people offered to pay for a bench, a tree or a plaque. Some even designed memorials on paper, submitted them to the school and offered to pay for them. All offers were rejected.
Only last month, on April 25, it was announced that the final outstanding lawsuit against the Kinkel estate, by shooting victim Teresa Miltonberger and her family, had finally been settled. Teresa, who was permanently injured after being shot in the forehead by Kinkel, asked for $14.5 million. The final agreement includes the filing of a $5 million judgment against Kip's future income, if any.
Kinkel turns 21 in August and is still incarcerated in MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility. He was sentenced to 112 years in prison after pleading guilty in September 1999, and Oregon's highest court recently upheld that ruling.
Market, To Market
It would be a huge mistake to discount Eugene's Saturday Market and Farmers' Market as simply a counter-cultural phenomenon.
If you were at market two weekends ago, you would have counted four pointy-toed pairs of mainstream Western boots — a pair of snakeskin among them; seven very stylish leather jackets, at least a dozen carefully coiffed and frosted hairdo's; and more than 50 fleece jacket, vests and/or Gore-Tex raincoats. You would have counted two cowboy hats, five mullets and three sweatshirts with flower or cuddly animal appliques. You would have lost count of UO students and card-carrying, upper-middle class members of the local Go Ducks! culture.
You would have been struck not by patchouli and pot, but by the warm, nutty smell of baked sweets and the sharp, smoky aroma of ethnic cuisine in the food court. You would have been swaying and humming along with the clear, pretty harmonies of Sweet River on stage. You would have bobbed your head to the tunes of street musicians on every corner. You would have found ceramics, textiles, paintings, photographs, jewelry, handbags, hats and other artwork available only through these artisans who live right here in the Eugene area. You might have fallen in love with a delicate teal teapot, or a string of fabric origami cranes.
You might have met Holly Sobela, an unassuming undergraduate studying Spanish at the UO. She would tell you, "I bought radishes, basil and bee pollen Chapstick at the farmers' booths." She would smile a little shyly and indicate she had a visitor — a woman, also smiling shyly, from Boring, Ore. You would all laugh about the name Boring. Holly would say, "I always bring visitors here… It's definitely a slice of Eugene life."
You might have chatted with Dixie Davis, an RN who comes to market 20 miles from Cottage Grove for "the unique crafts by skillful artisans." Davis, in her white jeans and Hard Rock Café denim jacket would not strike you as either a hippie or a "freak," but she loves those aspects about the gathering. "The atmosphere here is fresh. You look that word up in the dictionary, and that's exactly what this is."
You would have loved meeting retirees Bea and Marty Nissel, who moved here from Virginia in 1986. They would tell you proudly that their son runs J. Michaels Books. Bea would tell you, "We come every Saturday. We enjoy the produce and the flowers." They would smile, describing bookcases one of the artisan vendors made special for them. Bea would describe the market, after some thought, as "friendly and helpful."
You might have run into Dan Anderson, a banker, and Joy Strand, a telecommunications specialist, in town from Portland for a wedding. Anderson would emphasize the importance of patronizing local growers and artisans. Strand would explain, "These markets support local producers, and it's a way of staying connected with the community." They would be off to buy onions and leeks, saying, "We have no idea what we'll do with them. That's the market — you pick and choose and make something fabulous with what you find."
It would surprise you to discover Eugene's Saturday Market is the oldest weekly open air crafts festival in the U.S., having started on a rainy Saturday in May 1970 with 29 vendors. Saturday Market General Manager Beth Little would tell you, "The market allows people to understand that keeping their money close to the community [by buying at market] helps build community." She would say with pride, "The vendors are not people who sit and wait for someone to give them something. They go to their shops, to their studios, to their kitchens and create things to sell in the tradition of the public market." Many vendors have discovered great success — Toby's Tofu, Burley Design Cooperative, Jody Coyote. Little would crunch some numbers and inform you that Saturday Market generates about $35,000 a weekend, and pulls in $1.5 million over the course of the market season.
Thousands of people visit the Eugene Saturday Market on average every week, and yes, some of them wear dreadlocks and piercings and tie-dye. Some of the them whoop and dance in the drum circle, and the market embraces them. But to write the whole thing off as simply a counter-cultural sideshow denies the truth: that Saturday Market is a main event for many kinds of people in this town — community and culture all rolled into one.
Bobbie Willis is a staff writer at EW and adjunct professor of journalism at UO.