The Oregon Legislature earned a 39 percent score on environmental voting in the last session, marking a decade of retreat from Oregon's legacy of environmental leadership, according to the 2003 Environmental Scorecard for the Oregon Legislature released by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV) this week.
"Oregon's legislators put corporate polluters and developers ahead of the people of Oregon," says Jonathan Poisner, executive director of OLCV. "OLCV is appalled that so many legislators voted lock-step to sacrifice the quality of our water, air and land."
Local lawmakers scoring well were Sen. Vicki Walker and Rep. Floyd Prozanski (100 percent), Rep. Phil Barnhart (96 percent) and Sen. Bill Morrisette (89 percent).
Getting mediocre reviews were Rep. Bob Ackerman (68 percent), Rep. Terry Beyer (52 percent) and Sen. Tony Corcoran (44 percent). Corcoran's score was down from 83 percent in 2001, but OLCV's Scorecard session summary credits Corcoran with helping stop many anti-environment bills from ever reaching the floor. At the bottom of the barrel for local lawmakers was Rep. Pat Farr (20 percent).
"Many legislators claim they had to make tough choices. In reality, it was about corporate special interests getting what they want," says Poisner. "Clean water, healthy air, and farmland are basic values, not trading cards."
Poisner says the 2003 session "left the environment battered" and Gov. Kulongoski "did many good things," but "failed to make good on campaign promises to veto bills that threaten Oregon's environment."
The 2003 Scorecard was based on 26 selected House votes and nine Senate votes. For details, visit www.olcv.org/scorecard.
Oregonians in Action (www.oia.org)is fielding paid petitioners to get a new version of Measure 7 on the ballot in 2004. Initiative #36 is a statutory measure that, if passed, would require state and local governments to pay property owners whenever a "land use regulation" reduces a property's value.
"The end result would be to gut Oregon's nationally acclaimed land use planning program, state farm and forest practices laws, local land use and zoning ordinances, and many other critical public protections," says a statement in response from 1000 Friends of Oregon (www.friends.org).
Nearly 750,000 voters in 2000 thought Measure 7 was a good idea and passed it, despite warnings from economists, land use advocates and government officials. The measure was invalidated by the Supreme Court on a technicality.
If Initiative #36 qualifies for the ballot and is passed by voters, local elected officials, already facing serious budget pressures, will face an impossible choice, says Evan Manvel of 1000 Friends. "Either pay landowners millions or billions of dollars to comply with numerous existing laws that protect our neighborhoods, farmland, and environment; waive, or explicitly repeal, those laws; or fight costly compensation claims in court."
Manvel says the measure provides no funding sources, so that claims against taxpayers and associated legal costs would add to Oregon's budget woes. "Moreover, its many legal uncertainties would certainly lead to extensive litigation."
The Voter Education Project (VEP) has received reports from the field that the paid petitioners are up to their "old tricks" again, distorting the truth when collecting signatures for both the "Son of 7" initiative and the initiative to refer the Legislature's tax increase to the voters. Citizens are being asked to read all petitions carefully before signing, and report any fraudulent activities to VEP at www.votereducationproject.org
Petitions are also being circulated for two initiatives that would reinstate term limits for legislative seats in Oregon. Term limits were approved by voters in 1992, but were tossed out by the Oregon Supreme Court in 2002 for violating the "one subject" rule for ballot measures. — TJT
A community workshop on creativity as a driving economic force is planned for noon Friday, Oct. 24, at 249 Lawrence Hall at UO. The open public session will "solicit vision statements from participants on what a 'creative Oregon' looks like or would require in order to maximize the creative potential of her citizens," says presenter Tom Tresser of Passionate Strategies, with headquarters in Chicago.
Tresser has an academic background in urban development, sociology and business and is in residence at UO with the Institute for Community Arts Studies..
"A number of writers have made the case that America's current socio-political status as well as its continued economic success are both closely tied to how well we foster and nourish creative thinking and creative people," says Tresser. "Is there such a thing as the "Creative Class"? If there is a new social order stirring, what might its civic calling be?"
Tresser says the Friday presentation will combine elements of performance and lecture to "examine the role creative workers might play in shaping the American civic agenda going forward."
Eugene police policy allows officers to use a drug detection dog to sniff the outside of a vehicle during a routine traffic stop even without probable cause or reasonable suspicion that the vehicle may contain drugs.
The Eugene city attorney expressed "some reservation" around the policy according to a staff report to the Police Commission. The legality of such a use of a drug dog without reasonable suspicion is "debatable," the attorney noted. But the attorney knew of no cases establishing precedents around the use of drug dogs in such a manner, and the EPD did not want use of the dog in traffic stops restricted.
A city study of traffic stops by EPD last year shows that Eugene police stop and search blacks and Latinos at much higher rates. Police searched Latino drivers at a rate 2.6 times higher than whites and searched blacks at a one-third times higher rate.
Police policy also allows the drug dog to be sent to community events for "public relations purposes." If the dog smells drug residue while at the community event, EPD policy specifies that the police handler will follow up as if the purpose of the dog's visit had been to find drugs.
The policy also allows the dog to sniff bags on an airport conveyor belt or other such luggage area in random checks for drugs without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
Eugene police got the drug dog for free from Gresham this summer after that city decided its limited money was better spent on police officer patrols. — Alan Pittman
Europeans are working the equivalent of nine weeks less per year than Americans and are taking six-week vacations. How did we get ourselves into this insanity, and how do we get out?
A community symposium "Overwork and Time Poverty in America" is plannd from 7 to 9 pm Thursday, Oct. 23 at the UO Baker Center, 325 E. 10th Ave. The event is sponsored by the UO Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) and is a component of the national Take Back Your Time Day initiative.
Associate professor Marcus Widenor of LERC says the symposium is an opportunity to hear scholars and activists from different perspectives examine our relationship with leisure time. It examines the options we face in attempting to solve the problem through public policy alternatives, through workplace policies and in the individual choices we make about using our time, he says.
"Workers in the U.S. are time-impoverished," says local community activist Hope Marston. "Many work 60-hour work weeks out of fear they'll be fired if they don't, and they're exhausted, not refreshed after their one to two week vacation. So, all the time you might have spent volunteering in your community, or relaxing with your family vanishes. It's time we take back our time!"
The symposium topics include "Time Scarcity: Myth or Reality?" with Gaylene Carpenter, UO Arts and Administration; "Are Americans Really Overworked?" with UO economist Bill Harbaugh; "Consequences of Overwork" with Jean Stockard, UO Planning, Public Policy & Management; "From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: A Labor Perspective" with Barbara Kellogg of SEIU 503; and "Your Leisure Assertive Rights" with Forrest McDowell of the Cortesia Institute.
For more information, visit www.timeday.com
Students from around the country will be participating in protests this weekend, speaking out against the USA PATRIOT Act, the war in Iraq, and other public policy agendas.
In San Francisco and in Washington, DC on Saturday, Oct. 25, students from the Campus Anti-war Network (CAN) will join with other national student groups to speak out. For the San Francisco protest, West Coast CAN Representative and San Francisco State University student Katrina Yeaw says, "This will be a great opportunity for students from all over the West Coast to meet up and march together. We need to show the whole world that there are loud and enthusiastic students against the occupation in Iraq."
The march begins at 11 am at the corner of Fulton and Larkin streets at the edge of the Civic Center in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, CAN is gearing up for its second national conference, Nov. 1-2 at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Members hope to align with as many other peaceful organizations as possible to discuss change. For more information, see www.antiwarnetwork.org — Aria Seligmann
Molly Ivins, syndicated columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, good ol' Texas girl, witty political pundit, former co-editor of the Texas Observer, three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of the bestselling Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? and with Lou Dubose, Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, has a new book out, Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America, also written with Dubose. Bushwhacked outlines the underreported goings-on of the Bush administration, ultimately drawing the connections between public policy and people's lives.
On a sweeping book tour to promote Bushwhacked, Ivins will appear in Eugene on Oct. 25 as part of the Peace, Justice and Media conference presented by the Justice Not War Coalition. Eugene Weekly caught up with her earlier this week during a quick hotel respite in Seattle. Despite a grueling schedule, Ivins remains positive and full of humor, and always an inspiration.
EW: What's been the response to your tour for Bushwhacked?
MI: Every single venue has been absolutely jammed. People are really hungry to hear someone more or less stand up and say, 'This emperor isn't wearing any clothes.'
EW: You say in your intro that if only people had read Shrub, released before the 2000 presidential election, all this — this current political situation — never would have happened. Is Jean Dixon's job threatened by your ability to predict the future?
MI: No. (laughing.) A great question. I think she's safe.
EW: You've often said that Texas is a laboratory for bad government. In your book, you note that Bush left Texas with tax cuts for the rich that left the state unable to provide basic services, writing, "Those of us who knew the president when he was governor of a low tax, low service, no regulation state are very seriously not amazed by what he has done in Washington" Welcome to USA 2003. What would you expect next?
MI: I think a lot of political commentators were surprised Bush started governing so far to the right. We felt that was not implied by the 2000 campaign. He's been coming down hard ever since. It does seem clear that they are out to fundamentally alter the course we've been on, rolling it back to what I suspect is beyond the New Deal — to before that. They seem to be quite serious about ultimately getting rid of the progressive income tax entirely, and also Social Security. It's not a hidden right wing agenda, it's all out there.
EW: U.S. economics are also far to the right. Looking at corporate pandering, you write that during the Eisenhower era, corporations paid an average of 25 percent of the federal tax bill. In 2000, only 10 percent and by 2001, it was down to 7 percent. What do you predict it will be by 2003?
MI: Again, I'm not in the Jean Dixon business. It's not so much that we need to increase taxes but to collect those already on the books. What's extraordinary and astonishing is the exodus of corporations to offshore banks, to the Bahamas and Caymans, using post office addresses that are just maildrops to avoid taxes. And this administration doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with giving corporations that pay no taxes government contracts. Last week, the New York Times reported that the Senate Finance Committee is now considering a $100 billion — that's more than needed for the Iraq War, right? — tax recess for corporations who make money abroad — they can bring it back without paying taxes. You might think that would encourage corporations to keep exporting jobs and operations abroad.
EW: You point out that in 1995, 17 percent of the roughly 7,500 corporations with assets of over $250 million filed returns claiming they owed no income tax. Then a Republican Congress slowly starved the IRS so it had no power, and since then, it has focused on the "working poor," turning its auditing lens toward those claiming earned income credit, and this past spring, announced further audits of EIC filers. But let's go back to '95. Did Clinton argue much with the backing off of corporate audits?
MI: Part of the Gingrich Revolution was to depict the IRS as out of control, that was since '95, but the roots go back much further to the Reagan years, when the idea was to deregulate everything. During the Clinton years, the House held hearings depicting the IRS as dreadful.
EW: Corporations making good isn't anything new. The AP reported last week that Houston-based Halleburton has been charging the U.S. Army between $1.62 and $1.70 per gallon for gas when Iraqis pay between 4 and 15 cents. Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.) and John Dingell (Mich.) said the U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing more than 90 percent of the cost of gasoline sold in Iraq, covering the purchase and transportation of the petroleum from Kuwait and other countries. How long before they're told to stop it, and how much money will they continue to rake in until they do?
MI: The technical term for that is goldplating. One irony is that there are already enormous complaints from Iraqis themselves, saying, 'We could have fixed this place up for much cheaper; why didn't you ask us?' We're also importing workers from Southeast Asia because they are cheaper labor than the Iraqis.
EW: Let's turn our attention back to exploited workers on our own turf. In your book, you chronicle how between 1979 and 1997 the income of those in the middle quintile rose from $41 ,400 to $45,100. Adjusting for inflation, an increase of 9 percent, while the income of families in the top 1 percent rose from $420,000 to $1.016 million, a 140 percent increase. That trend has continued since. With so many folks suffering in the current economy and services being slashed, those numbers seem fuel for rebellion to me. So, where's the protest?
MI: Where's Bob Dole when you need him? Where's the outrage? I'm not sure we haven't already watched it start in California. The result was odd, alright. I mean Arnold, well, why the hell not?
EW: You're coming here for the Peace, Justice and Media Conference. So let's talk shop for a minute. How can journalists do a better job?
MI: Some things are so old they're new again. Let's write a book showing policy really matters to people. It used to be understood when I was a political reporter you looked at 'Here's what the government is going to do and here's how it's going to affect you.' That last part has gotten lost. Even people affected to the point of crisis are not making the connections. They are not interested in politics, they think 'There's nothing I can do.'
EW: What hope do you see for people fixing things by making those connections, connections that will raise the power of the masses?
MI: One thing that's quite striking is when you look at the Democratic candidate who's consistently striking a chord. That's Howard Dean. He's genuinely angry.
EW: How do we use that anger in a positive way, to beat back the big money, which this time will be bigger than ever? How do we use people power to beat money power?
MI: Like most people in my business, I look closely at money in politics. That's quite often the deciding factor. Bush's contributions will go over $200 million. When we realized that, we kind of rolled our eyes and thought, 'Well there goes that one.' But that judgment was probably premature. Bush is beatable. I think we all pretty well know the drill: Tell people anywhere on the political spectrum that the system has been corrupted by money, which is quite obvious now that big business is influencing politics, and when people get stirred up and respond, the system responds to them. I'm always optimistic to the point of idiocy myself.
EW: What you write about in Bushwhacked is what the mainstream media ignore. How else can the message get out to the red states?
MI: I think there is a real stirring of genuine unease edging over into anger as people realize we're not headed in the right direction here. The red states have been hollowed out with job loss. But not just that. Health insurance is being lost and the cost has tripled. People are losing pensions, losing overtimes across the board. It's obvious the health care system is falling apart.
EW: Do you think getting online and sending mass e-mails is enough? Has the Internet diluted people's passion for direct action? The armchair activist can send one e-mail and think, 'I participated in democracy.' And that's that. No protest in the streets.
MI: I'm a great believer in raising hell. Anyway, the oldest piece of advise is: Write your elected representatives. It works. Everybody always thinks, 'What can I do? Well, I sent an e-mail.' It's a beginning.
EW: What's your biggest glimmer of hope for the future of our country?
MI: I'm always optimistic. I think it can all be fixed. I know we tend to get sold on simple solutions. We think term limits will fix everything. What really needs to be fixed is money. Campaign finance. When people get elected that way they got no one to dance with but the people. People can't afford to ignore what's being done to our country. There's no way to have a life in this nation and not be involved with what's going on.
EW: What's the one message you'd like to leave people with?
MI: Raise hell. It's fun and it should be fun. I try to convince people you can actually have a whale of a good time trying to make the world a better place.
Ivins will give two lectures on Saturday, Oct. 25: at 3 pm and 7:30 pm (this one sold out) at the McDonald Theatre. Her book will be available for sale. Following the evening a lecture, a dinner/reception and booksigning will follow at Cozmic Pizza's new location at 8th and Charnelton. Tickets for the 3 pm Saturday lecture are $10 adv., for dinner: $25 adv., $30 at the door. Tix available at Tsunami, Black Sun, Foolscap, Mother Kali's, Star Gate and Book Mine book stores, the UO ticket office and the Justice Not War office at 454 Willamette, 343-8548.
In prison, being an artist is a status symbol. In a social structure that creates a pecking order based on crime committed and physical stature, an artistic bent, an imaginative talent, garners respect. Because that's not usually the case on the outside, "where artists are expected to pay their dues, to starve," says Ron Chase, director of Sponsors, a non-profit that works transitioning ex-offenders back into the community, that respect is even more poignant.
On Oct. 24, the exhibit Art Behind Bars, original artwork created by inmates and ex-offenders, will open at Maude Kerns Art Gallery, paying homage to incarcerated women and men who've found an outlet for imaginative release. A benefit for Sponsors, the show is more an offering of those who've been in the system, to show there's an aspect of spirit and beauty in everyone.
Nearly 30 years ago, Sister Margaret Graziano, this year awarded the E.R Cass award — corrections highest honor — entered the women's dorm in Lane County Jail and asked the women what they needed. They told her, "Anything to relieve our boredom."
Art was at the top of her suggestion list, and the class was eagerly accepted by Graziano's students.
"When the men heard about it, they wanted one, too," she says. In addition to her art classes, Graziano created a library, with furniture donations from St. Vincent's, books donated by Smith Family Books and others in the community, and volunteer librarians. "So many people in jail are thirsting for knowledge and education," she says.
But the art classes were her first project. "People get really isolated in jails and kind of hopeless and often lie in beds all day and this is a nice break. Motivation, for one, is a big thing."
Graziano saw inmates change during the classes. "Art is a way of expressing what is within them," she says, adding that inmates will often draw angry animals or angry faces at first, then, "As they accept the fact they're going to be there long term, there's a greater peace within their hearts. You see their art change." Graziano adds that the release of emotions often results in art depicting what they miss: for men: beautiful women, for all: scenes of nature.
At first, some feel they're not artists, not good enough or the art is too hard, says Graziano. "I let them know that everyone is an artist and has it in them. In our jail we can only use one inch-long pencil to do drawings." In the education dorm, however, other art supplies are brought in and work can be done in various media. Graziano adds, "I believe in art and music and drama and dance and all those things that lift the spirit. Men and women in jail are looking for more spirituality now, too."
Psychologically, art has a profound impact on the lives of inmates, according to art therapist Susan St. Pierre, who volunteers with Graziano. "The benefit of creative art therapies in general is that they bypass the verbal process. We have a lot of skill there but also a lot of resistance. We manage that really well so it's hard to get through to someone." Yet with art, St. Pierre says, "different parts of the brain become accessed and people get clarity in certain issues." Seeing, feeling or dancing it is a different experience from talking about it.
Specifically for fine art, St. Pierre will often set up a still life, so that inmates must focus on it for long periods of time while they sketch. This takes their attention off their problems, she says. After, the group can discuss the work they've done. "Warmth is being created while they talk about their work, and they become more connected with others," she says, adding, "Maybe they'll find a passion in there."
Ron Chase, who oversees Sponsors, says the show is not meant merely as a fundraiser, but "to show people there's another side to the ex-offender population." With a show that features work in woodcarvings, computer graphics, paintings, sketches and more, Chase says, "Hopefully people will look at these folks as human beings, and with some encouragement and opportunity, we can cultivate the other side."
Art Behind Bars opens Oct. 24 with an opening reception from 4-6 pm, Sunday, Oct. 26 at Maude Kerns. The reception will feature speakers and artists. The show runs through Nov. 14.