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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Smith vs. Merkley: Punch and Counterpunch

Over in Portland and the Valley, Gordon Smith's TV ads portray him as a friendly, mild-mannered, bipartisan sort with a strong tinge of green. On

Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2008 at 2:11 PM

Over in Portland and the Valley, Gordon Smith's TV ads portray him as a friendly, mild-mannered, bipartisan sort with a strong tinge of green. On the other side of the Cascades, the spin is a little different.


In a new video spot designed for the Bend and Medford markets only, a shirt-sleeved, hard-hatted Gordon is shown talking with loggers and farmers and taking a swipe at those gol-durn environmentalists who want to "lock up" the land.

"I'm Gordon Smith and I believe no part of our state should ever be left behind," Smith says in voiceover. "Some say lock the land up and the people out. No way. Because no one loves the land more than the farmers, loggers and ranchers who care for it. I approved this message because what some call 'the rest of Oregon' we simply call 'home.'"

The Jeff Merkley campaign went right after Smith with a counter-video interspersing the original footage with shots of Smith cozying up to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and accusing him of selling out rural Oregonians to the oil industry.

"Smith opposed tax relief for farmers, loggers and ranchers and supported billions in giveaways for big oil companies," the Merkley video charges. "Smith failed to convince a single Republican colleague to reauthorize timber payments for Oregon. Smith locked out farmers and ranchers by opposing country of origin labeling on the food they produce."

Then comes the cruelest cut: The screen shows an aerial view of Smith's home on Country Club Drive (no, we did not make that address up) in the spendy Washington suburb of Bethesda, MD - a home worth an estimated $4.2 million.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Things Smell Different Here?

Oregon, our clean, green state, is actually a leading importer of other places' garbage - and there could be a lot more of it on

Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 12:48 PM

Oregon, our clean, green state, is actually a leading importer of other places' garbage - and there could be a lot more of it on the way.


"The city of Honolulu, which is fast running out of space at its main landfill, has hatched a plan to send container ships full of garbage across the Pacific to the U.S. mainland," according to a Portland Tribune editorial. "One option is to send garbage up the Columbia River to Rainer, where the contents would be transferred onto trucks or trains bound for the Columbia Ridge Landfill near Arlington in Eastern Oregon.

"As imports go, garbage isn't exactly a high-value commodity that states are lining up to pursue. In fact, most states are more interested in getting rid of their municipal solid waste than in bringing it in. Oregon, on the other hand, has tapped into demand for landfill space and is now the fifth largest importer of garbage in the country. Oregon owes its leadership in the garbage industry primarily to Seattle, which sends more than 2 million tons of trash a year to Columbia Ridge by rail on what is affectionately referred to as 'the perfume train.'"

Hawaii lags far behind Oregon - and most other states - in recycling efforts; according to the Honolulu Advertiser, the city of Honolulu just completed its first pilot curbside recycling project this month, and curbside recycling isn't slated to go into effect island-wide until 2010.

"It is ironic," the Portland Tribune editorial continues, "that a state that prides itself on environmental consciousness and sustainability has gotten into the garbage business in such a big way."

"Ironic" doesn't begin to describe it. But, hey, a buck is a buck, right?

And now that the real estate boom has gone bust and the City of Bend is cash-strapped, maybe we should consider getting on board the garbage gravy train. After all, we have 1,500 acres of mostly empty space called "Juniper Ridge."

(A tip of the hat to Jake at utterlyboring.com, where The Eye first spotted this tidbit.)

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cascade Festival of Music Cancels Season

After a run of 26 years, the Cascade Festival of Music has folded.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2008 at 7:02 PM

After a run of 26 years, the Cascade Festival of Music has folded.


The festival's board of directors announced today that "it will suspend all operations, effective immediately" because of crippling debts. The 2008 concert series, scheduled to have taken place in late August, has been canceled and all administrative staff has been laid off, the board announced.

The festival revealed in September 2007 that it had outstanding debts of about $190,000 and launched a fundraising campaign "in an attempt to resolve the situation," the board's announcement said, but the effort fell short because of "the downturn in the local economy and its negative effect on securing corporate sponsorships and major individual contributions."

In an attempt to save money, the festival announced in March that it would hold the 2008 concert series indoors at Bend High School instead of in the giant tent in Drake Park where concerts had taken place since 1987 - a move that would have saved about $90,000. But apparently it wasn't enough.

The CFM board voted June 21 "to suspend operations to avoid incurring further debt," the announcement said. There was no immediate word on whether advance ticket purchasers for this season would have their money refunded.

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Honoring Eight Years of Solid Waste

As the George W. Bush presidency lurches and staggers to its conclusion, the good people of San Francisco have come up with an ingenious idea

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2008 at 9:35 AM

As the George W. Bush presidency lurches and staggers to its conclusion, the good people of San Francisco have come up with an ingenious idea for paying tribute to Bush's ... uh, special achievements.


As reported in the New York Times, a group of citizens calling themselves the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco are "planning to ask voters here to change the name of a prize-winning water treatment plant on the shoreline to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.

"The plan, naturally hatched in a bar, would place a vote on the November ballot to provide 'an appropriate honor for a truly unique president.'

"Supporters say that they have plenty of signatures to qualify the initiative and that the renaming would fit in a long and proud American tradition of poking political figures in the eye."

If the initiative wins, the renaming ceremony would take place on Jan. 20, 2009, the day Bush officially leaves office.

San Francisco Republicans - a downtrodden minority if ever there was one - are understandably not happy. "You got a bunch of guys drunk who came up with an idea and want to put on the ballot as a big joke without regard to the city's governance or cost," grumbled Howard Epstein, chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party.

The news inspired Carla Axtman on BlueOregon to suggest that Oregon communities could follow San Francisco's example: "Perhaps change the name of the Hillsboro Landfill to the George W. Bush Garbage Dump? Or the Ashland Wastewater Treatment Plant could adopt the name the folks in San Francisco are using - but complete it with the Dick Cheney Oxidation Ditches?"

Anything Hillsboro and Ashland can do Bend surely can do better, and it's high time to start thinking about an appropriate local landmark to commemorate the George W. Bush presidency. One that immediately came to mind is the $42 million sewage treatment plant that several big landowners have proposed building on the city's northwest side. Or if that idea doesn't fly, there's always the George W. Bush (formerly Knott) Landfill Recycling & Transfer Station.

If you have any other proposals, better come forward with them now - there's less than seven months remaining in George II's reign.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Yes I Can Too!" Smith Says

The Eye doesn't want to appear to be picking on Gordon Smith, but he just seems to be presenting a lot of targets of opportunity

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2008 at 5:33 PM

The Eye doesn't want to appear to be picking on Gordon Smith, but he just seems to be presenting a lot of targets of opportunity this week. The latest: He's come out with a video touting how he's cooperated in the Senate with - get ready for it - Barack Obama.


"Who says Gordon Smith helped lead the fight for better gas mileage and a cleaner environment?" the ad asks. "Barack Obama! He joined with Gordon and broke through a 20-year deadlock to pass new laws which increase gas mileage for automobiles."

"The ad is ... further proof of just how far Smith will run away from the Republican brand in this blue state," Talking Points Memo comments.

The Obama campaign responded with an e-mail to reporters setting the record straight: "Barack Obama has a long record of bipartisan accomplishment and we appreciate that it is respected by his Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Senate. But in this race, Oregonians should know that Barack Obama supports Jeff Merkley for Senate. Merkley will help Obama bring about the fundamental change we need in Washington."

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Smith Cancels His Golf Date

Gordon Smith - perhaps stung by Democratic criticism of his penchant for buying ultra-expensive golf clubs and hanging out with fat-cat lobbyists - has canceled

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2008 at 11:43 AM

Gordon Smith - perhaps stung by Democratic criticism of his penchant for buying ultra-expensive golf clubs and hanging out with fat-cat lobbyists - has canceled his big fundraising golf party planned for next weekend at Bandon Dunes.


"For seven years, according to the invite, Smith has hosted a tournament at the golfing Mecca for his political action committee, Impact America," Jeff Mapes blogs on The Oregonian site.

"The PAC, which Smith has used to help his fellow Republican senators, does seem to attract a who's who of contributions from the Washington lobby, [from] America's Health Insurance Plans PAC to the Walt Disney Productions Employees PAC.

"But, apparently, the private jets won't be flocking to the nearby North Bend Airport next weekend, at least not for the Smith event. Smith's spokeswoman, Lindsay Gilbride, said by e-mail that the event was cancelled because of scheduling conflicts."

Hello? "Scheduling conflicts"? Smith has been having this wingding for seven years, it's the biggest fundraising event on his calendar, and all of a sudden he discovers he's got "scheduling conflicts"?

Kari Chisholm on BlueOregon offers a few alternative explanations:

"He didn't want to be photographed hanging out with a bunch of special interest lobbyists."

"It was a flop, and not enough big-money lobbyists RSVP'd."

"The lobbyists were cool - but his fellow senators ... let it be known that THEY didn't want any money from Smith."

"Smith just didn't want to endure more questions about his million-dollar putter. After all, rule number one of damage control is - when you're in a hole, stop digging."

"This is all just a giant head-fake. Like the security team at a mega-celebrity wedding, the Smith team is waving off the press and the paparazzi. Anybody near Bandon want to visit the golf course to check it out? Don't forget your video camera ... "

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Smith Gets Country-Clubbed

It's an old story, but Oregon Democrats are still hoping to score political points with it: Gordon Smith once paid more than a million dollars

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 10:00 AM

It's an old story, but Oregon Democrats are still hoping to score political points with it: Gordon Smith once paid more than a million dollars for four golf clubs.


Smith, who is a very wealthy man thanks to his family's frozen food processing business in Pendleton, paid $1.25 million for the four antique clubs, including a 16th century putter once owned by King James IV.

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has put out a video in which working Oregonians are asked what they'd do with $1.25 million. (None of them think it would be a good idea to spend it on golf clubs.)

Then, for comparison, the video points out that $1.25 million would buy more than 350,000 gallons of milk, fill up your gas tank (at $4 a gallon) for 625 years or pay for 50 students to get educated at the University of Oregon.

"Why does Gordon Smith pay $1.25 million for four golf clubs and think $5,000 for a round of golf is a good deal?" the Stop Gordon Smith website asks. "Because he spends his time with well heeled donors and lobbyists who shape his values and priorities. ...

"Smith will spend the cost of four upscale homes on golf antiques, vote to freeze the minimum wage and raise tax breaks for corporations because the country club atmosphere he lives in is far removed from the needs of Oregon's working families. The latest example of his country club world view is Smith's $5,000 per person fundraiser at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort next weekend.

"Smith, who hits the links with lobbyists more often than he holds Ron Wyden style town halls with Oregonians, can't relate to Oregon's working families."

Ah, good old-fashioned class warfare. We love it.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Taking the Ax to Walden on Timber Payments

The Democratic Party of Oregon has unleashed a brutal video attacking the 2nd District's own Greg Walden for voting against the federal timber payments bill

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2008 at 1:51 PM

The Democratic Party of Oregon has unleashed a brutal video attacking the 2nd District's own Greg Walden for voting against the federal timber payments bill earlier this month.


The measure would have provided $250 million to rural Oregon school districts and counties. Walden - who got THE BOOT from the Source last week for his vote - opposed the measure because he objected to the funding mechanism, which involved closing a loophole that allowed energy companies to dodge some of the payments due on federal oil and natural gas leases.

As end-of-the-world music plays in the background, the video displays stark white letters against a black background: "33 of Oregon's 36 counties rely on federal timber payments. But on June 5, Greg Walden sided with Big Oil to cut those payments to rural counties. ...

"Greg Walden's priorities? Big Oil profits before funding for teachers, sheriffs and libraries. ... At a time of record oil profits, Walden should stop favoring Big Oil over rural Oregon."

It's a powerful attack, but it probably would take nothing short of a political tsunami to knock Walden out of one of the safest Republican seats in the country. And the Democrats aren't helped by the fact that the guy running against him isn't exactly a household name. (Can you identify Walden's opponent? Hint: He lives in Bend. If you can't guess, click here to find out.)

As one visitor to the BlueOregon blog commented: "Too bad we couldn't get better than token opposition to Walden in this 'wave' election year, when he's most vulnerable, and at the very least make him sweat and deplete his war chest for the 2010 gubernatorial race. Chuck Butcher, where are you? (sigh)"

Chuck Butcher, one of the aspirants for the Democratic nomination to take on Walden two years ago, is alive and well and blogging in Baker City.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

BBR Story Causes Mt. Bachelor Eruption

Mt. Bachelor management has gotten into a major urinating contest with Bend Business Review over a story in the current issue that charges the resort

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 2:30 PM

Headlined "Hanging in the Balance," the story by BBR Editor Kevin Max quotes former lift maintenance manager as saying she quit in disgust in January because management wouldn't let her do her job right and "she didn't want the responsibility of the potential disaster unfolding at Mt. Bachelor."

"I can't work for a company that won't take their guests and employees' safety seriously," the manager is quoted as saying. "Not only that, they have been breaking the law on a regular basis -bypassing safety that shouldn't have been while operating to the public, not doing the proper maintenance - but they've been doing it knowingly. Any time I brought it up, they would just point the finger at me and tell me that I was just trying to cause trouble."

According to the story, the manager kept daily logs of "safety bypasses" on every lift, and the logs "show that the Northwest and Summit lifts, in particular, were running more on hope than health."

BBR says Matt Janney, Mt. B's former manager - who was fired in May - did not return phone calls and e-mails asking for comment on the story, and neither did Powdr Corp, the owner of the resort, or MountainGuard, its insurance company. "Mt. Bachelor insisted it needed more time than the six days given to answer the author's questions, yet Mt. Bachelor did not answer them after more than three weeks," Max writes.

Mt. Bachelor has plenty to say on its website, though.

In its "letter of response" it rips the story's "unfair and unsubstantiated accusations," claims that it "contains a plethora of blanket statements, assumptions, hyperbole, misleading and even incorrect statements" and accuses Max of practicing "tabloid journalism."

Bachelor claims it "provided answers to [Max's] pertinent questions, despite unrealistic and artificial deadlines" and goes on to allege that "throughout his investigation there have been numerous examples of unprofessional, often profane behavior directed toward the current and former employees of Mt Bachelor, POWDR, and our business partners and colleagues."

After going through a rebuttal of some of the points in the BBR story, Bachelor asserts that "the mountain is committed to a proactive and aggressive position with regard to lift maintenance, and ... guest safety is the resort's top priority," concluding: "It is our hope that readers of Bend Business Review will take this story for what it is - a sensationalized story from a journalist with a personal agenda and nothing more."

HOOOO-ah!

The Eye has a strong suspicion we haven't heard the last of this from either side.

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Reaction to Smith on Gay Marriage: WTF???

Bloggers, pundits and just ordinary folks are still scratching their heads trying to make some sense out of remarks Gordon Smith made last week during

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 11:08 AM

Bloggers, pundits and just ordinary folks are still scratching their heads trying to make some sense out of remarks Gordon Smith made last week during a panel discussion in Washington on partnership rights.


In the discussion, which you can see on video here, a questioner identifying himself as an Oregonian asked Smith whether he supports "the recent domestic partnership bill that has passed" in this state and "how do you reconcile your position on partnership benefits with your support of the [anti-gay marriage] federal marriage amendment and the federal Marriage Protection Act?"

Smith's response is such a classic that it deserves to be presented in its entirety; The Eye would no more think of abridging it than we would presume to boil Moby-Dick down to a paragraph:

"Yeah, I'm fine with what the legislature did. I think that it is a good accommodation of very legitimate demands by gays and lesbians. Um, I don't want to bring this up but I guess I'll have to. Um, I voted for the marriage amendment because I didn't want federal judges to impose it on other states who are voting differently. If states want to democratically go about it, that's what they should do, but I did not want a federal judge imposing it on other parts of the jurisdiction."

Then, after a long pause, Smith veered over the cliff into real weirdness:

"My campaign people will kill me for saying this, but (another pause) I am a devout Mormon. I have been married to Sharon for 33 years. She's the only woman I have ever been married to - I want to make that very clear. (Laughter.) Part of what I fear is you start defining marriage - we have a long history of doing that in this country, and my Mormon pioneer ancestors were the victims of that. They were literally driven from the United States in the dead of winter, following their religious beliefs. I don't want that coming back.

"When you - not that my church would, but there are some on the front pages of your newspaper that are trying to now. When you start tinkering with the definition of one man, one woman, with the definition of marriage - it's really defined by religion, but accommodated by the state. The implications are much broader than just the gay and lesbian community. So what I'm telling you from the bottom of my heart is I'm trying to do all I can without creating a much bigger problem. And I hope you understand."

No, Senator, we do not understand. We don't even come close. Were you giving a sort of half-assed endorsement to polygamy on the grounds of religious freedom? Were you equating gay marriage with polygamy?

Today Smith issued a "clarification" that didn't really clarify much. "My remarks referenced a point in time when a few of my ancestors were persecuted for not adhering to [the] belief" that marriage is between one man and one woman, he told The Oregonian. "It was an unfortunate reference, and I apologize for making it. ... If you'd grown up a Mormon, and spent your life trying to get out from the shadow of that legacy - it's an emotional scar that you carry. I meant no offense by sharing that part of my history."

Frankly, The Eye doesn't see why everybody is making a big deal out of Smith's remarks. He was just trying to do what politicians have been doing since the Old Stone Age - answer a question about a touchy topic without actually saying anything.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Face Behind "Union Facts"

The Eye became curious about those anti-union ads that have been showing up on local TV lately, so we Googled around a bit to find

Posted By on Sun, Jun 15, 2008 at 2:03 PM

The Eye became curious about those anti-union ads that have been showing up on local TV lately, so we Googled around a bit to find out who or what was behind them.


Viewers of the ads are told to go to unionfacts.com for more information. Unionfacts.com is the creation of the Center for Union Facts. And the executive director of the Center for Union Facts is a guy named Rick Berman, a Washington lawyer/lobbyist who has represented the tobacco industry, the liquor industry and the pesticide industry, among other clients.

Basically, Berman is a highly paid hit man for corporate interests, allowing them to strike at their enemies without getting their own hands dirty. According to SourceWatch, Berman's lobbying firm, Berman & Co., "sponsors many front groups that defend his corporate clients' interests by attacking their critics, allowing his paying clients to remain out of public view."

In April 2007, CBS 60 Minutes did a piece on Berman that reported he has "come up with a clever system of non-profit educational entities. Companies can make charitable donations to these groups, which have names like Center for Consumer Freedom and Center for Union Facts. They are neutral sounding but 'educating' with a particular point of view, all perfectly legal."

Dr. Michael Jacobson, head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, was interviewed for the 60 Minutes piece and didn't have any kind words for Berman. "He's a one-man goon squad for any company that's willing to hire him," Jacobson said. "Berman is against every single measure, no matter how sensible. He'd have no restrictions on tobacco advertising, junk foods galore in schools. No minimum wage. He wants to leave corporate America unfettered of any regulations that protect the public's health."

The anti-union ads are funny, clever, skillfully produced and obviously cost quite a few bucks, but the public probably will never know who paid for them. In keeping with Berman's standard policy, the Center for Union Facts refused to tell SourceWatch who it gets its money from.

However, according to the 60 Minutes story, "a partial list of Berman's clients was leaked to the media some years back. Names included Coca-Cola, Tyson Chicken, Outback Steakhouse and Wendy's."

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Ruling Puts Skids to Skyline Development

Central Oregon LandWatch has won a legal victory that it says weakens the case for allowing development in part of Skyline Forest in exchange for

Posted By on Fri, Jun 13, 2008 at 3:08 PM

Central Oregon LandWatch has won a legal victory that it says weakens the case for allowing development in part of Skyline Forest in exchange for protecting the rest of it.


The back story: Skyline Forest - also known as the Bull Springs Tree Farm - is a 33,000-acre wooded tract lying northwest of the Bend city limits. Owned by Crown Pacific before that company went bankrupt, it now belongs to Fidelity National Timber Resources, a subsidiary of the Fidelity National insurance company.

All 33,000 acres is zoned for Exclusive Forest Use, which means houses can't be built on it. In the summer of 2007 Fidelity National offered a deal: Allow it to put hundreds of ultra-upscale homes and a golf course on 5,000 acres of Skyline Forest and it would give the other 28,000 to the Deschutes Basin Land Trust for protection.

Critics of the deal, including the Source, said it would set a bad precedent for carving up forest lands piecemeal, and that it probably wasn't necessary because it seemed unlikely Fidelity or anyone else would legally be able to develop Skyline Forest anyway. Now CO LandWatch has won a ruling that seems to bolster that argument.

The gist of the case is that the owner of a piece of former national forest land adjacent to Skyline Forest wanted to designate it as a "lot of record," a first step toward being able to develop it. But a county hearings officer ruled that the landowner couldn't do that without complying with the requirements under the county code.

"This ruling could significantly lessen the potential for development in and around the Skyline Forest by limiting the number of recognizable lots of record on which any development could occur," LandWatch Executive Director Erik Kancler wrote. "At the very least, this is another example of the ways in which current law offers strong protection for the Skyline Forest, and that subdivision and piecemeal development of this forest is exceedingly difficult."

The decision, Kancler continued, "makes it difficult to see why there's any reason to allow up to 1,000 homes (and perhaps a golf course), as Fidelity has proposed, to save the rest of" the forest.

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