News Briefs:  Mutual Aid for Next Eugene Celebration | Local Housing Costs Keep Heading Higher | Herbicide Spraying OK as a 'Last Resort' | Can't Beat 'Em? | Free Souls | Flag Burners Out | On The Line | Corrections/Clarifications |

Crying Shame II
Continuing the convoluted tale of MLK and Centennial Boulevard.


Will the Eugene Celebration return to "brand name" sponsorship this year? You can bank on it.

Washington Mutual Bank has signed on as the Celebration's "presenting" sponsor for 2003. Those who have enjoyed the Celebration devoid of any corporate logo these past two years may feel concerned that the event is retreating toward a more commercial position. But the organizers at Downtown Events Management, Inc. (DEMI) don't see it that way.

Steve Remington, president of the DEMI board and managing director of The Eugene Celebration, says he's appalled by the myths and misconceptions that bubble up each time they get major funding. He says he's frustrated that certain individuals still equate sponsorship with some kind of sell-out. "First off, the citizens of this town are the owners of The Eugene Celebration — DEMI is a non-profit public entity," Remington emphasizes. "Every cent that comes in, whether from sponsors or button sales, gets put back into maintaining, expanding and improving the five festivals we produce every year. The goal is always to make them the best they can possibly be."

But what about the fact that after three years of "Centennial Bank Eugene Celebration" posters, the DEMI Board voted to permanently ban that kind of sponsor-first formula? "That is precisely why we are placing 'sponsored by' after The Eugene Celebration title," Remington says.

He points out that the two years the Celebration had no title sponsor also coincided with the U.S. economy bottoming out. DEMI had to let some staff members go, and other cutbacks occurred. Now things are looking up. Remington also emphasizes that the choice of Washington Mutual wasn't arbitrary. "I am not just giving them a plug," he says. "We really do see them as a business that goes beyond most in people-friendly services. That fits our 2003 theme of Heart of the City."

"The most important point," Remington asserts, "is that sponsors get absolutely no discretionary say over content or production. They don't call the shots. They know the Celebration can be provocative, but they sign on because they trust us to put on a relevant, interesting and fun cultural event." Joseph A. Lieberman



Is the inflated housing market in Eugene about to pop?

Eugene housing costs have outstripped earning power, according to Census data. In Eugene, the percentage of homeowners paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing increased from 18 percent in 1989 to 26 percent in 1999. Over the same decade, the percentage of renters spending more than 30 percent on housing increased from 49 to 51 percent.

In 1989, the average Eugene mortgage was $678 a month. Ten years later, that average payment had swelled to $1,129 a month. In the 1990s, the average rent increased from $425 a month to $621.

Census data for last year is not available, but local housing costs appear to remain high despite the state having one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

In the last decade, housing prices in Oregon shot up faster than any other state in the nation. Median home values increased 78 percent in Oregon from 1989 to 1999, according to the 2000 Census. At the start of the decade, the average Oregon home cost $67,100, 15 percent less than the national average. By 1999, Oregon homes cost an average of $152,100, 27 percent more than the national average.

In 1990, Californians could buy a house in Oregon for about a third of what they would pay at home. By 2000, Oregon homes were averaging almost three-fourths the cost of California homes. — Alan Pittman



After wrangling the last few months with the issue of herbicide use on county roads and byways, the Board of County Commissioners has drafted the Last Resort Herbicide Policy. It will, according to Commissioner Pete Sorenson, go to public hearing for consideration as an ordinance on July 16. The new policy will require Public Works to consider herbicide control of vegetation only as a last resort, after all "mechanical, manual, biological and cultural techniques" have been tried first.

Input on drafting the policy has come from Public Works, Vegetation Management Advisory Committee (VMAC), Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) and a subcommittee of the Health Advisory Committee (HAC).

Aimee Code of NCAP says the new policy will allow more feedback and consideration of the effects of herbicides before spraying occurs. It will, says Code, have "the check of the Board of Health and the Department of Public Health …" The current policy has only internal checks. The new one will allow the Board of Health/BCC to evaluate all chemicals Public Works is considering to control roadside vegetation.

Bev Hollander, of the HAC subcommittee, says that when they were assigned along with VMAC to look at how the policy could work, "We, as a subcommittee, took it literally. It could only work if the Board of County Commissioners made it an ordinance. … It needed to have teeth in it and be enforceable."

The issue of herbicide use and toxicity dangers has proven a point of contention for the BCC. In a May 22 R-G story, Commissioner Anna Morrison was quoted saying, "On the issue of toxic versus nontoxic, the scientific support for me as a policy-maker is just not there." In a Feb. 19 BCC meeting, Commissioner Green also expressed concern and disagreement with a last resort policy. Commissioners Dwyer, Lininger and Sorenson, however, felt that other technologies should be explored before resorting to chemical spraying.

An award-winning story by Judy Yablonski in EW April 18, 2002 (see archives at a $100,000 independent audit in 1997, paid for by the county, that recommended elimination of all roadside herbicide spraying due to inefficiency, environmental damage and lawsuits. Sorenson complained at the time that the recommendations were being ignored by county staff.— Bobbie Willis



School District 4-J has long chaffed at the money district officials say charter schools divert from its budget. But now, the district is getting in on charter schools itself. The district plans to submit a grant application to the state for $50,000 to start an in-district charter school at North Eugene Alternative High School. If the district gets the $50,000, it will be in line for another $150,000 implementation grant. According to a grant description, the money will "help the school staff move toward goals of improving test scores, developing a more rigorous math and science curriculum, develop transition planning for students, and develop learning experiences that promote social growth." — AP



The EPD has been cracking down on the Free Souls Motorcycle Club. Officers recently seized allegedly stolen Harley-Davidson motorcycles and motorcycle parts from members and associates of the group, according to a June 26 memo from Interim Police Chief Thad Buchanan to City Manager Dennis Taylor. Other investigations have focused on alleged methamphetamine use, selling and/or manufacturing by Free Souls. The investigations have led to threats of lawsuits and one threat against a detective's life. Investigations into the threats lead to one arrest.



Sam Bond's Garage, a pub on Fourth Avenue and Blair Street, will close on Independence Day, canceling "The Flag Burners Ball," a benefit for Eugene's Cascadia Media Collective.

The event, with anti-establishment performances planned, along with video footage from the recent San Francisco protests, "didn't end up being the show we bargained for when we booked it," says Sam Bond's part-owner Mark Jaeger.

Bond's has been "closed the last few Independence Days," says Jaeger, who adds he's been "having trouble finding enough staff members who were willing to work on the Fourth."

Marshall Kirkpatrick, one of the organizers of the Flag Burners Ball, says he's disappointed that the pub "pulled the plug" after six weeks of organizing and promotion. "We even had posters up on the wall at Sam Bond's," he says. The event was to help defray costs of sending four Eugene videographers to the San Francisco protests, and to send people to the next big protests in Miami.

"We'll be doing it (the event) at a later date," says Kirkpatrick.

Jaeger says the pub is open to future benefits and events with Cascadia Media Collective. — BF/TJT



Following the June 11 Eugene City Council decision reversal on renaming Centennial Boulevard, Commissioner Bill Dwyer received a heated phone call from Councilor Gary Papé, on what Dwyer calls, "Blame the Other Guy Friday." The phone call came after the Board of County Commissioners expressed support for the name change, going so far as to offer to pay for the new street signs.

"He [Papé] was pissed," Dwyer says matter-of-factly. "He said I was the one who started all of this," referring to the factors that led councilors to reverse their decision to wait on the name change. "He said it was me who asked Torrey to assign Bonny Bettman to the committee [proposing the name change]; that it was me who asked for the UO letter of support." Dwyer says renaming Centennial Boulevard is "a tremendous opportunity," and that Papé was "just upset that it didn't turn out the way he wanted. He wanted to blame someone else."

Dwyer adds, "He was really venting. I didn't exactly like the tone. Things might have been different if we'd been face to face." Councilor Pape did not respond to phone or e-mail requests for comment. BW



Last week's Slant item regarding the Oregon Country Fringe Festival July 10-12 listed the wrong day for the $25 entry ticket. The correct days and ticket prices are $3 for Thursday, $25 for Friday ($20 in advance) and $5 for Saturday. For updated info, including parking and shuttle services, visit

Last week's news item "What I did over Summer Break," neglected to mention the first name of the UO Registrar's Herb Chereck.

In last week's "Crying Shame" cover story, Jennifer Solomon's first name was incorrect on Page 12. In the same story on Page14, the quote from Langston Hughes should have read: "What happens to a dream deferred?" In the sidebar to the story Moon Lee Lane was described as being named for an African American, but Don Moon Lee was Asian American.



Tom Lininger goes off the County Commission Aug. 15 to take a law school job and about 20 appointee hopefuls from the East Lane District have been calling commissioners, hanging around and warming audience chairs in commish meetings. Some are seasoned public servants, some have political agendas and aspirations, and some are likely just after the $70,000 a year salary. The commissioners can't legally pick Lininger's replacement until after Lininger is gone, and the appointment will only be until the May 2004 elections. This is an important swing vote and we hear rumors of elaborate political strategizing behind the scenes. Sen. Tony Corcoran would make an excellent commissioner, but the timing's not right. He's up to his nose hairs in state funding battles and this legislative session could drag out all summer. Corcoran says this week he's not a candidate for appointment, but will he run in May when he's between sessions? Meanwhile, some names being kicked around for the appointment include Faye Stewart, Al King, Cedric Hayden, Cindy Weeldreyer and a couple of small town mayors in the district. Applications are now available and must be turned in by July 14.

If you're placing bets on when the legislative session ends, note that State Treasurer Edwards casually told the Eugene City Club last Friday that it could be the end of August. That's sooner than Phil Barnhart predicts. He says Labor Day or even into October — but he might be kidding. Already The Oregonian has run a front-page story about the daily cost of keeping the legislature in session, $22,000 excluding legislators' salaries. More such stories are sure to follow.

A colleague tells us that Bonny Bettman has decided to run for re-election to her City Council seat. That's good news for progressives, partly because of her electability. She fared unusually well in R-G coverage during the debate on re-naming Centennial boulevard for Martin Luther King Jr.

A Portland party last weekend celebrating Judge Ted Goodwin's 80th birthday paid lots of attention to his recent majority opinion that removed "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. He's a UO graduate who started his legal career in Eugene, eventually rising to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1971. Current UO Dean Laird Kirkpatrick called him probably the most famous graduate of the UO School of Law. That great line from Albert Camus, a Frenchman indeed, was the only quote on Judge Goodwin's 80th birthday program — "I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice."

A reader tells us she received an Orwellian letter of response June 10 from Sen. Gordon Smith regarding Iraq, saying, "We have no intention of imposing our form of government or our culture. The foundation for democracy is now being laid and our military forces will leave as soon as we've accomplished our mission ..."

President Bush's religious fervor is no secret, but it does explain some of his staggeringly ill-advised foreign policies and priorities. In the Israeli newspaper Haaretz June 26, Bush is quoted as saying, "God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me, I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

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,

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Crying Shame II
Continuing the convoluted tale of MLK and Centennial Boulevard.
By Alan Pittman

The Centennial renaming train collided with the Eugene City Council on June 9. Councilor Gary Papé moved to form a committee including the NAACP and other community members to study renaming Centennial and all other options and report back to the council this fall.

Papé said Springfield should have been more involved in the process and it should have included a broad citizen committee looking at all options.

Councilor Bonny Bettman said the council should vote now to rename Centennial because the "minimal" inconvenience and cost to business was superceded by the "best interests of the city." She quoted King stating how he was "greatly disappointed" with white moderates who could be worse than outright racists. Such a moderate "constantly advises the Negro to wait for a more convenient season" before pushing for change, King said. "Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection," Bettman quoted King to applause from renaming supporters.

Bettman said she was "flabbergasted" that the opposition of a few inconvenienced businesses would be enough to prevent the renaming. She said any street renaming would have some opposition. Streets like Beltline without addresses aren't as meaningful, she said. "There're lots of cars, but nobody lives there," Bettman said. "Where is the honor in naming a street that nobody cares about?"

Councilor Betty Taylor said the council should not dismiss the importance of the name "Centennial" in celebrating state history. "I don't think the street belongs to any particular group," she said. It should be renamed only after an inclusive process. "It may end up that [renaming] is what will happen, but it needs to include the whole community."

Councilor George Poling also faulted the renaming process for not including the broader community and said his constituents were "overwhelmingly" opposed.

Councilor David Kelly said the renaming would send an important message to people of color. The renaming "is not about concrete, it's about respect."

Councilor Scott Meisner said he had worked for civil rights but had problems with the renaming. "We need to do more than just name a street," he said. The city should create an effective memorial, "not just put up a street sign that people may or may not pay attention to."

Councilor Nancy Nathanson said the council shouldn't have a divisive vote to honor King. A split vote for renaming would be interpreted as "just as racist" as a "no" vote, she said. "This is such a complicated issue," she said. "It's heartbreaking for me as a councilor."

Councilor Jennifer Solomon said she and all the people she had talked to would like to see a better memorial to King than renaming Centennial. She said she was "baffled at how this has become a Centennial-or-nothing debate."

"I don't accept Eugene as being the most prejudiced" city, Mayor Jim Torrey said. But Torrey said the council should take the recommendation of the African-American community and rename the street now. "It is time to move forward."

Kelly said the city should not "draw out the agony" with a committee.

The committee proposal "is really a slap in the face to the African-American community," Bettman said.

The council voted 6-2 to delay the renaming until a broad committee could report back on Centennial and other options in September. Kelly and Bettman voted to rename Centennial now and Nathanson, Taylor, Papé, Poling, Meisner and Solomon voted to wait for the committee.

The crowd of supporters in the council chamber erupted in loud boos and chants of "shame, shame, shame!"

The next day, NAACP leaders announced that they were so angered by the council that they would refuse to serve on the proposed committee.

Some county commissioners also threatened to boycott the city renaming committee. "I found the council's action offensive and disheartening," Commissioner Dwyer said.

A Register-Guard editorial accused the "clueless" council of "a profound wounding and alienating of the black community."



Hearing of the backlash, Mayor Jim Torrey called a leading opponent, Bob Mylenek of the Mercedes dealership on Centennial to ask him to withdraw his opposition. Torrey urged Mylenek to contact councilors and tell them he had changed his mind, according to Councilor Papé. Torrey told Mylenek "his stance was going to hurt his business," Papé said. Torrey also warned Mylenek that "Nancy [Nathanson] had a lot to lose with regards to her potential candidacy for mayor," Papé said.

Torrey said he did contact Mylenek to talk about the impact of his opposition on the community, the UO and others. He said he also contacted Nathanson to urge her to reconsider her vote.

The next day, June 11, Nathanson moved to reconsider the vote against immediately renaming Centennial.

Meisner said he would vote for renaming Centennial. Meisner said he had hoped that the committee could build community understanding. But given the NAACP boycott, "That's clearly impossible and I don't think the committee can accomplish anything," he said. "There is no willingness to work toward building community."

Nathanson faulted the R-G and television news for incorrectly reporting that the council had voted against renaming Centennial rather than delaying the decision to study Centennial along with other options. "The media did not report it correctly. Some of the media were reporting Centennial was not going to be renamed but that [street] was going to be included as one of the options."

Nathanson said if the committee was not possible, she would vote to rename Centennial now as the best available option. "It's still important to recognize the legacy of Dr. King."

Meisner and Nathanson provided the key votes to bring the issue back before the council on a 5-3 vote with Poling, Papé and Taylor remaining in opposition.

Papé charged that proponents had somehow fooled him into thinking that there was a broad committee at the outset looking at other options. "We were misled to believe there was a committee process to be run by a county commissioner and that didn't happen," he said.

Papé said he "was really disappointed by some of the comments we had at the public hearing. I think we all in this room want to honor Dr. King," he said. "I think it's its own unique form of bigotry to say we know how to honor Dr. King better than you. I think that is what is happening here rather than what I think Dr. King would want, which is a communal recognition."

Solomon said, "I'm very upset that this has become a litmus test as to whether or not we're racist. I think it is a very cowardly strategy, and it has generated far more ill will than good will in our community. We have always wanted to do something for MLK around this table, it's just a question of what."

"Part of that community is unwilling to come to the table and be a part of what's in the best interests of the community," Solomon said. "If that's the best they can do, if that's what they want, if they think this is honorable, then I am willing to vote for renaming Centennial."

Bettman said no one said there was a committee looking at options at the outset. As for looking at more and more alternatives, Bettman said, "Dr. King has been dead for 35 years and until the NAACP put a proposal on the table, nobody had really talked about doing anything."

Bettman said the process had already included two public hearings and lots of media coverage with ample opportunity for comment. "This was one of the most widely publicized processes that we've ever endeavored to proceed with."

"Why are we doing this in such a hurry and why does one minority group have such power?" Taylor asked.

The council voted six to two (Poling and Taylor opposed) to change the name of Centennial to Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Bettman quoted Dr. King: "Amen."


Backlash Again

After the decision, the council got some backlash from opponents. "The people who insist on changing Centennial to MLK using threats and blackmail are most definitely the racists!" said one anonymous e-mail to councilors. "To truly get what they want, there would be white people lynched in the streets."

Clara Nistler of Eugene e-mailed, "I do not believe racism exists in Eugene anymore from the white side as it does from the black population. In fact, I'm really weary about hearing it raise its ugly head whenever someone of color feels offended and someone disagrees with their decision."

Lisa Hunter e-mailed that she supports a memorial for King but "Forcing the change of Centennial down our throats is making a lot of us gag." She wrote that "When [proponents] didn't get their way, they behaved childishly, yelling, screaming and calling names."

An anonymous e-mail from "a Springfield neighbor" was openly racist. "You folks are a real piece of work, a bunch of wimpy spineless back pedaling idiots. I propose you rename Centennial Loop, James Earl Ray Loop. I think the community would have been better served by having a MLK memorial urinal at City Hall. Or even better yet an MLK watermelon patch at Alton Baker Park."

Mayor Torrey responded, "You, sir or madam, are pitiful! Your comments are exactly why we needed to provide a memorial that the African-American community felt was the most appropriate from their perspective."

Munir Katul, a member of the Eugene Police Commission, e-mailed that "the original process was flawed, and not inclusive. Is there racism in Eugene? Yes. Should MLK be honored in a significant and visible fashion? Yes. Is one a racist for not supporting one specific proposal for achieving these goals? No."

"I am disappointed in the NAACP position of 'my way or no way,'" Katul wrote. "I understand the depth of their feelings, but what they have achieved in taking such a position is to allow real racists to cover up their racism by hiding under legitimate concerns regarding the renaming process. The zealotry of the NAACP leadership has not helped the causes of minorities and civil rights in Eugene."

Councilor Taylor e-mailed Councilor Bettman, a frequent political ally, "I hope we can leave this episode behind and continue to work for the interests of Eugene."

But Bettman e-mailed back, "I'll never be able to reconcile why you took such a position" against the renaming.

But the controversy was still not put to rest. On June 18, Councilor Papé threatened to use a council rule to bring the issue back to the table for another vote unless he and Councilor Poling were given five minutes to talk about the "foul stew" surrounding the vote to rename the street.

Kelly said the council should let the matter rest. "Every minute we spend going back over this decision is a minute that is bad for the community," he said. "Somebody told me today the first rule of holes which is when you're in a hole, stop digging."

The council tied 4-4 on whether to reopen the issue. Mayor Torrey joined Papé, Poling, Taylor, and Solomon to break the tie in favor of giving each councilor five minutes of time to discuss the renaming.

Papé complained that, unlike other councilors, he was not informed that the renaming decision would be reconsidered during the June 11 meeting. He said the "ambush" vote and the mayor contacting Mylenek to urge him to lobby councilors after the public record was closed was "rotten."

Nathanson said over the past two years she and the mayor have had continuing talks about her running for mayor. "This is something political people do," she said. She denied her possible candidacy had anything to do with the vote to rename Centennial.

Bettman said calls like the mayor's "happen all the time. There was nothing improper there."

"That's basically politics as usual," Bettman said. "The only difference I see here is Councilor Papé and Poling didn't get their way."

Kelly said it would have been better if Nathanson had notified all councilors about reconsidering the vote. The mayor's contact with Mylenek was "probably inappropriate" given the quasi-judicial decision, Kelly said. But he didn't see it as a big deal. "I don't understand what the problem is."

Taylor said the mayor was wrong to distribute a letter to councilors from Mylenek stating his change of mind. Other people had been told that their comments wouldn't be forwarded to the council because the record was closed, she pointed out. "The process was really rotten from beginning to end."

"The process was a foul process," Torrey agreed, but denied he did anything wrong.


Racial Politics

After the meeting, Papé said in an interview that he was "hoping it wasn't going to be politics as usual" when it came to the renaming decision.

Papé said he had talked to a half dozen African Americans who preferred the council rename something else. "The NAACP does not represent all the African Americans' in our community."

Papé said the "half a street" renaming was "half baked." He said, "If we can't have all of Centennial let's do something better."

Taylor agreed with Papé. "The African-American community is not just the NAACP," she said in an interview. She said she heard privately from African Americans who wanted other, more prominent options, such as a renamed Ferry Street Bridge with a statue, but none testified. "It became intimidating."

Many councilors gave in because they were "afraid of appearing to be racist," Taylor said. "I don't think anybody on the council is racist," she said. "I don't think it's insensitive" to not agree with the NAACP, she said.

Taylor said she worked for fair housing rights in Illinois and has an African-American biracial granddaughter and three bi-racial great-grandchildren.

Taylor said she got flack from liberal friends for her position. People told her, "You're committing political suicide."

But Taylor said she never decides what's right based on reelection and many people admire her independence. "I wouldn't want to pretend to be something I'm not."

Taylor and many other liberals in the community have clashed before with leaders of the NAACP on issues. County Commissioner Bobby Green and NAACP leader Henry Luvert condemned widespread opposition to Hynix wetland destruction permits and tax breaks as racist. In 1997 Green and Luvert called Taylor racist for saying that she doubted a light-skinned African-American candidate for the city Human Rights Committee had been discriminated against as much as she said because she looked white. In 1998, Taylor and other liberals supported former City Manager Vicki Elmer, a former Peace Corps volunteer who had pushed for affirmative action in Berkeley. NAACP members wanted Elmer fired for ousting African-American Police Chief Leonard Cooke.

Taylor says the earlier clashes didn't affect her position on the renaming. But "it's really unfortunate that people rush to call people racist instead of looking at the real issues."

Bettman said Taylor and other opponents erred in not recognizing that the renaming process was about more than just choosing the best street. "It was also very much about respecting and appreciating and recognizing our local African-American community and other minority communities," she said in an interview.

"Too many people in Eugene don't want to come to terms with the fact, and it is a fact, that Eugene is basically insensitive to people of color. They don't get it," Dennis Shine, an NAACP board member, said in an interview. Shine said Eugene handled the renaming worse than Springfield.

But Ed Coleman, a retired UO professor and leader in the African-American community, said Springfield is not better than Eugene on racial issues. It remains to be seen what Springfield will name, he said. So far, "Springfield hasn't done anything."

Coleman said he doesn't agree that Eugene is a lot worse than other places on race. He points out that many cities across the nation have struggled with which street to name for King. "This is not a Eugene issue. This is an American issue."

"People in Eugene are for the most part very good decent people," Coleman said. But after the "painful" renaming, "The whole notion of being a liberal community is sort of suspect."

Coleman said Papé and Taylor were "stubborn." But he said renaming opponents on the council were not racist. "They do things out of ignorance and not necessarily out of racism. It's insensitivity."

The renaming was not just a bunch of African Americans "playing the race card" to get what they wanted, Coleman said. Three-fourths of supporters at hearings were white, he said. In Eugene, "there are a lot of white people that are more adamant about racism than the people of color," Coleman said. "This was not just a racial victory. This was a community victory."

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