Alan's Blog

Alan Pittman is the News Editor for Eugene Weekly.

Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns today officially absolved fellow officers of any wrongdoing in tasering protester Ian Van Ornum last May.

The EPD's decision to not hold themselves accountable was widely expected. At a 3 pm press conference, Kerns largely repeated police justifications for the Tasering made by former Chief Robert Lehner three days after the incident.

Police officer Judd Warden Tasered Van Ornum in the back twice while Van Ornum lay face down with one or both arms behind his back. Here's police video from the Taser gun of Van Ornum writhing in pain:

After the Tasering Warden was given the "Officer of the Year" award by the Eugene Police Department.

Kerns is now reviewing another controversial Taser use by Warden against a Chinese student wrongly thought to be trespassing in his own home last month. Kerns said Warden deserved the Officer of the Year Award and stood by his public praise of Warden as "noble and hard-working" after the Tasering of the student. He denied that his praise indicated that he had already also prejudged whether that use of the 50,000-volt weapon was justified.

The Iraq war has reached new levels of absurd corruption.

The New York Times reports that the U.S. funded Iraqi government spent $85 million on plastic-coated cardboard divining rods to Ouija bombs and guns at checkpoints:

"The Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the
devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each.
Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints,
have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of
physical inspections of vehicles."

The paper reports that top Iraqi officials claim "the operator must walk in place a few moments to 'charge' the device, since it has no battery or other power source."

Is this what we wasted so many lives and so much money for?

UO football coach Chip Kelly announced today that he may allow a player who punched an opponent and threw an embarrassing violent fit on national TV to play for the UO after all.

Sports columnists are all abuzz about with speculation on exactly why Kelly suddenly changed his mind about kicking LeGarrette Blount off the team. But in the past, such dramatic flips in UO decisions haven't been made by the football coach, the athletic director or the UO president, they've been made by Phil Knight.

ESPN has reported how UO officials "genuflect at his Nikes" and "coddle and fawn over their rich uncle at every turn." The story noted how pressure from the UO megadonor forced the UO out of an anti-sweatshop group and forced out a track coach.

There's no direct evidence Knight made the decision. He may make decisions at the UO, but he doesn't do press conferences about them. But does anyone believe Blount could be reinstated if Knight objected?

LEED certification for supposed leading work on green buildings, a focus of the city of Eugene, is facing criticism.

Las Vegas Weekly reports on LEED Gold certification by the private U.S. Green Building Council for two new Las Vegas Casinos. The paper writes:

"Giant buildings that welcome and encourage the extravagant, wasteful behavior of thousands of guests at the same time hardly seem like a recipe for saving Mother Earth."

The article also notes use of LEED certification for parking garages and for building a new school in Texas on the edge of town to replace one requiring less driving to get to. "Sure, it features a bioswale to capture storm-water runoff from the parking lot-but the old school didn't have a parking lot."

In Eugene some dubious LEED buildings include the UO's Lillis business school (which put solar sells not on the roof where the sun shines, but on the front windows where they could be seen for the PR value) and the Royal Caribbean call center which chose to locate not downtown but next to a freeway exit on the edge of Springfield where employees drive to acres of parking lots.

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The City of Eugene has claimed a leadership role on green building, but its biggest building project involves moving 250 police employees out of downtown to a building next to a freeway in north Eugene with ample parking lots.

Here's a gory example of what can happen with texting while driving:

Wow. Who could be so irresponsible, so unsafe, such a danger to society?

Police, including Eugene police, have had full-sized in car computers conveniently tilted to driving officers for years. Catching cops who type while driving would be easy with GPS or other cheap technology, but then police would have to police police. Eugene police keep accidents involving officers secret.

Even more scary—given their huge, too often explosive loads and long stopping distances—are texting truckers . Texting truckers are 10 to 23 times more likely to crash studies have shown, but the powerful lobbying group is having success opposing proposed anti-texting rules that would apply to them.

Is the state freedom of information law free?

No, the Oregon Attorney General's office charges $25 a pop for the public's document and has refused to put a free download online.

UO Economics Professor Bill Harbaugh—a longtime critic of UO athletic and administrative spending and affirmative action—didn't like that. So he scanned the whole AG manual on the law and put it on his blog.

Harbaugh says the AG office claimed it, not the public, owned the public document on how to get public documents.

So will the AG go after Harbaugh for alleged copyright infringement? The professor doubts it. And the records may be virtually out of the AG's barn. Harbaugh says hundreds have downloaded the document and several sites have now also posted it (here's one mirror.)

Harbaugh's action has called big attention to the failure of Oregon's public records law to actually deliver public records. The public record liberation drew hundreds of outraged comments on the widely read The Oregonian also blogged the freedom of infromation action.

Journalists and other reformers have been trying to push new Oregon Attorney General John Kroger to follow up on campaign promises and address long delays, exorbitant charges and legal maneuvering that bureaucrats have for decades used to keep the public in the dark. So far Kroger hasn't acted.

Locally, the city of Eugene has a long history of blocking freedom of information with outrageous fees. In a digital age when video, audio, images and text are searchable in a blink and whisk over the internet in seconds, the city still charges $10 for a two page police report and $10 for a one minute recording of a 911 call. The city even wants the public to pay inflated wages for city employee or private attorney time spent trying to hide public records or make them harder to get. Of course, the city will ream citizens with all the PR spin they can bear for free.

The city of Eugene charges appear to violate state law requiring governments only charge their actual cost of providing records, but the attorney general doesn't enforce the law.

At the county level, the Lane Council of Governments shadow government used taxpayer money to create an extensive mapable database (RLID) of home values, sales, taxes, liens, deeds, demographic, zoning and other data. But if taxpayers want access to the public records, they have to pay $200 plus $1,080 a year for a subscription to the public information they ostensibly already own.

As founding father James Madison wrote:

"A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both."

As Harbaugh pointed out, Oregon's freedom of information law is a farce.

Two UO students have won prizes in a short video contest for college students.

Rebecca Purice won a $3,000 first prize for a video about the First Place Family Center in Eugene and a homeless single dad. Here's the video:

Lorie Anne Acio of the UO won third for a video about a Special Olympics coach and also an honorable mention for another film about a ministry for homeless kids.

The Christophers is a non-profit that "uses the mass media to encourage individuals to use their God-given abilities to change the world for the better."

Here's a slideshow of the Eugene Celebration parade:

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