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West Eugene EmX Update!
Lunch with Lane Transit District

Dateline: February 10th, 2012

Duncan and Brown, real estate appraisers of Eugene Oregon gave a rather less than rousing presentation today, to the board members of the Lane Transit District. It concerned their ongoing efforts  to assess the costs of acquiring the legal right of way for the proposed  EmX  in West Eugene.  The public was invited to attend, but not to participate.  The lone member of the audience who dared to attempt to speak at the meeting was promptly cutoff at the knees and informed that he was not going to be heard from.  The audience was not a part of the actual discussion going on. We were just permitted to be there to witness that it was going on!  Now I figured that was going to be the case, if any one of us sitting in the bleacher seats even dared to register a peep.  So I didn’t even bother to try.  I just reminded myself that I was only there at someone else’s request in order to eyeball the event.  But there was something very discomfiting and disconcerting in the air from the moment that I stepped into the room.   Let’s just say that I didn’t feel very welcome.  I’m beginning to feel more and more like that wherever I go these days.

If I would have had an opportunity to talk, there were probably a few questions that I would have liked to ask, or possibly some comments that I might have made.  For instance, when the opening speaker from LTD got up and called the meeting to order.  Someone turned on a projector and asked whether everyone in the room could see the chart on the wall.  I felt like saying,  “No, I can’t!”  I tried squinting with both eyes open, to see if I could make out any of the details.  “Did you actually want me to see it?  I can’t make out anything up there, If you actually wanted me to see it, then why am I sitting all the way back here,” I thought to myself.  “Maybe all of us back here could just trade places with all of you up there.  We could exchange seats.  You LTD Board members already know what you are planning on doing.  How about letting us get close enough to see exactly how you intend to use the government to fund your plan to steal our property rights, confiscate our land, and deny us the opportunity to even vote on this important issue? ” But I just held my tongue, and my nose too!

Duncan and Brown has offices at 260 W 12th Eugene Oregon.  The firm has no advertising in the Yellow Pages, and just a free one line listing in the White Pages.  The question begs to be asked, “Where do they get all of their business?  Perhaps they don’t need any clients because they are so tightly joined at the hip with the members of “the Eugene Establishment” that they don’t need to advertise.  I didn’t have to wait long for my answer.

The opening speaker finished his presentation by informing everyone about the chain of events that would soon lead to the final approval of the west Eugene EmX .  He sounds pretty confident, I thought to myself.  Perhaps they know something that I don’t know yet, and maybe they think they are in the last stretch of the race, but they haven’t crossed the finish line yet, and there are a lot of things that could happen before then.  He also mentioned that before they could actually begin to implement any of their plans to acquire the land along the route, the all-powerful EPA first has to do an environmental impact study, in order to “milk some more of the taxpayer’s money”.

God knows that is much more important than all of this nonsense about a Bill of Rights.  What Bill of Rights?  Cormorants and spotted owls come before property rights in Oregon, as you well know!  After the EPA completes their environmental impact analysis, and assuming that it passes, (none of us will have to worry about holding our breath) that initiates a public comment period when the public will actually be permitted to speak, not like here at this meeting!  This will just be for the purposes of show of course.  Your opinion won’t actually count for anything.  That is,.. not at least if they get to have their way.  That’s what he didn’t tell us. The public comment period will begin sometime in March.  That’s what he did tell us!

Then they will have to return to the Eugene City Council for another vote after the environmental analysis is done.  That will occur sometime in June, assuming that the environmental impact study passes, which is virtually guaranteed.  But what is not guaranteed is the election for Mayor, and for the Eugene City Council on May 15th.  On that day Eugene will elect a new Mayor and four new Eugene City Councilors.

The four City Council seats that are up for grabs this year are:
District 1          George Brown
District 2          Betty Taylor
District 7          Andrea Ortiz
District 8          Chris Pryor

The matter of the West Eugene EmX should be the subject of this year’s election campaign for Eugene City Council seats, and for Mayor.  Either the City Council should agree to allow a public vote on the EmX, or they should each stake out their political positions on this important issue during their campaigns. Then the only question left, if we are dumb enough to elect another pro EmX Eugene City Council is whether or not the Metropolitan Policy Committee will get another chance to weigh in on this subject.  And will the politically ambitious Sid Lieken have any second thoughts about backing this unpopular project.  Commissioner “Yes he already did vote for the EmX once”Lieken, might already be eyeballing a future run for C D 4 when Peter DeFazio hangs up his spurs.  Let’s just hope that Art Robinson is successful at returning DeFazio to private life, and that Art saves us from the likes of both Peter DeFazio and his nearly as bad Republican counterpart Sid Lieken!.

But maybe Sid “I like the EmX” Lieken  is reconsidering his yes vote the last time around, and recalculating the consequences of that vote on any future political aspirations that he may have to run for  higher office.  I don’t think it matters which office.  Just any higher office would do. You know, I really wouldn’t mind having to eat a little crow if Sid Lieken actually did the right thing this time and voted no on the EmX.  But as of right now I don’t think that anybody even really knows whether the Metro Policy Committee will get another chance to vote on the West Eugene EmX.  It seems that the Planners, L.T.D., the Eugene City Council, and the M.P.C. just keep making the rules up as they go along.  I say away with all of them!  This issue is so important that the people of Eugene have a right to vote on it themselves.

After the speaker from Lane Transit District was finished, he turned the meeting over to the representative from Duncan and Brown.  But to call Rick Duncan just a mere representative isn’t quite descriptive enough.  He is actually one of the principals and co-owners of the firm.  What I find troubling about Rick Duncan is that when he is not busy plotting to confiscate private property along the bus route, he is also one of the members of the Eugene Planning Commission.  Did I say that right or did I just get it backwards?  When he is not busy planning to confiscate private property along the bus route, he is also a member of the Lane “Plotting” Commission.  It just rolls off the tongue rather easily either way.  Plotting, planning, scheming, and conniving are all the same sometimes.  It’s six of one and half a dozen of another if you ask me.

If we were actually governed by any real principles anymore in this country besides pure greed, then guys like Rick Duncan would not be doing what he is doing now, while he is sitting on the Eugene Planning Commission.  Do you think it might be just a little bit of a conflict of interest for a sitting member of the Planning Commission to be hired to do the real estate appraisal study for this big project?

Anyway, back to the meeting today. It was mostly just a lot of boring details about a few feet here, and a few feet there, a few feet from one property and a few feet from another, and minute details about codes, setbacks, and retaining walls that bored me.  But buried in these boring details was one word of caution. That was a warning that compensating property owners due to the loss of income from removing and replacing a billboard along the route can be very expensive, a lot more expensive than just confiscating the land that it stands on.  Now that makes perfect sense doesn’t it ?

We all know that a billboard is worth a lot more than the actual land that it stands on. Right?  And your right to own property referred to in the Constitution is primarily referring to billboards across America isn’t it? Do you know why this special consideration for billboards exists?  It is because of the influence that big business has exerted on local government, as in CBS outdoor advertising, the same CBS that owns the national television network with the same name. Big Business always trumps small businesses, and even smaller individual property owners.  And government always responds to big business before it listens to the genuine concerns of small businesses and property owners.

Moving right along to the bottom line, which is all anybody really cares about anymore in America unfortunately, Mr. Duncan from Duncan and Brown said that out of 477 properties along the proposed route, only 118 of them were  actually “affected by the acquisition”, whatever that means.  And they could dispose of the whole matter for less than $4 million dollars.  As if that were too much, one member of the LTD Board wanted to know what was the least amount that it would cost them, “if everything went well.”  The representative refused to answer that question. He probably preferred not to tip off his opposition nor encourage unreasonable expectations from his clients. Meanwhile I was wondering whether that $4 million would be coming out of the $80 million slush fund of free Federal money that the taxpayers would be providing to build their pet project.

All that wondering was starting to make me hungry, and just like starving LTD board members have to eat in order to keep their strength up so they can continue plotting to take away your land, and your property rights,.. this humble correspondent has to eat too in order to fight back.  So I moseyed on over to the buffet table and I helped myself to a generous portion of chicken enchiladas and black beans, and a tossed green salad, all provided I’m quite sure at the taxpayer’s expense.  After all, LTD has never been a profitable enterprise, has it?  And in between clanging the utensils around in the pans loud enough that I hoped they could hear me, I managed to take down a few notes and partake of some pretty good food.

I left before the meeting was over, but all I could think was that, “they are sure putting the cart before the horse”, and they are all just wasting their time because this un-wanted EmX is not going to pass the next Eugene City Council vote.  If the Eugene City Council doesn’t give the people of Eugene a chance to vote on this important matter, then it will be the subject of the May Election, and by the time that a new City Council takes their seats in June, the people will have already decided the matter for themselves.  If you won’t give them the opportunity to vote on this important project than they will throw you all out of office in May!  But thanks for the lunch!

"The truth, the political truth, and nothing but the political truth.
A journalist has no better friend than the truth."
- Scott Rohter

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