Riverfront and ORI

11/11/2010: My personal preferences are for more riverfront development, not less. But they are also for more transparency, not less. And the Connecting Eugene people have just demonstrated, very convincingly, that UO and ORI would have been *much* better off with more transparency from the start. Now ORI faces long and expensive delays, and UO’s general credibility is once again in the toilet.

Fortunately, UO has a new Public Records Officer in Liz Denecke, with the job of trying to restore some trust in UO’s commitment to transparency. Here’s the link with information for how she can help interested people get public records from UO. Her email address is edenecke at uoregon.edu. Under Oregon law Ms Denecke, a member of the Oregon Bar, is required

… to provide “proper and reasonable opportunities for inspection and examination of the records in the office of the custodian” during usual business hours to persons seeking access to public records. … The public is entitled to inspect non-exempt records as promptly as a public body reasonably can make them available.

The Connecting Eugene press release is here. It shows very convincingly that UO has known about the requirement for public consultation, open bids, etc., for a long time, and has just ignored it. We’ve already used up one scapegoat – who is next? Doug Park?

Senate unanimously opposes ORI building, update below

11/10/2010: From Dan Corcoran of KEZI. The most purely rhetorical question I’ve heard in a while is from Paul Cziko of Connecting Eugene:

“Should the University follow the law and uphold its contracts? That’s the question. Do we do it all the time, or do we do it when it’s convenient?” 

UO’s position on the law under Frohnmayer and Grier was the latter. Lariviere talked about real reform, but we haven’t heard much on that lately – just the hiring of Grier’s deputy Randy Geller as UO’s new head lawyer. Meanwhile, someone with a lot of UO experience writes this:

The discovery of the 1986 agreement about the research park is important, and should not be dismissed.

This is a matter of the rule of law. The city and university should not just declare that there shall be a board, and then forget about it. I suspect that there was opposition to the research park back in 1986 also, and the board was a compromise they arrived at which satisfied the opponents. To ignore that now would be inappropriate, and illegal.

The real question is: did someone at the university or the city remember this agreement, and chose to keep it secret?

ORI can build its building….somewhere else.  I know of several available plots downtown.

So how did Connecting Eugene find out about this document? If someone at UO was sitting on it, big trouble. Any mention of the contracts in Geller’s resume? Just a line on the Riverfront Research cleanup. But we already know he omitted other stuff from his job application, so this isn’t worth much.

Update: “hitch” comments: The co-author of the intergovernmental agreement is the current Director of the Riverfront Research Park, Diane Wiley. Maybe she can tell you where her 1986 memo has been. 

As always, Google knows more than all us humans combined:


Wed Senate meeting

11/9/2010: The Senate has an unusually full agenda for tomorrow – everything from the ORI building to a report by Frances Dyke on parking.

The opposition to the ORI project has dug up some documents that apparently show the decisions to approve the building were made without the necessary community input. I suspect they are correct. But I think they are turning the perfect into the enemy of the good. Let’s just build it.

Regarding parking, who knows. Ms Dyke’s normal approach is throw out a few semi-relevant numbers her staff has put together, and then get pissy if anyone challenges her. That or she pours on the saccharin, and says she doesn’t have the numbers but she will get back to you. She won’t. If you call her on this, she will act like you are the one being rude. Right. Remember the furlough Town Hall? Or the Senate meeting on financial transparency?

This is a case of the bad being the enemy of the good. UO needs a new VPFA. It’s past time for Provost Bean to decide who will fill her job while he leads a national search. The longer this goes on the more embarrassing for UO and the people who run it.

Senate Meeting Agenda – November 10, 2010
Law School 175, 3:00‐5:00 pm

3:00 pm 1. Call to order
       1.1 Approval of the Minutes of the 13 October 2010 Meeting
3:05 pm 2. State of the University
2.1 Remarks by President Lariviere and/or Provost Bean
3:20 pm 3. New Business
3.1 Motion US10/11-02: Motion to adopt Research Misconduct Policy, Lynette Schenkel & Rob Horner
3.2 Resolution US10/11-04: Resolution requesting the University to comply with the existing Intergovernmental agreement on the Riverfront Research Park, Zach Stark-MacMillan, Frank Stahl, Ron Lovinger, Bitty Roy and others
3.3 Discussion of updated Retired and Emeritus Faculty Policy, Frank Stahl and Russ Tomlin
3.4 Senate letter to Eugene Congressional delegation about the loss of the UO Post Office
3.5 Senate Budget Committee Report on New Partnership Proposal, John Chalmers
4:10 pm 4. Open Discussion: New Partnership Proposal, President Lariviere & John Chalmers, Senate Budget Committee
4:40 pm 5. Reports
5.1 Update on Smoke Free Campus resolution US08/09-06, Amelie Rousseau, ASUO President
5.2 Update on Parking, Frances Dyke, Vice President for Finance and Administration
4:55 pm 6. Announcements and Communications from the Floor
6.1 Notice of Motion(s)
5:00 pm 7. Adjournment

ORI appeal dropped

8/21/2010: From Greg Bolt in the RG:

A group opposed to the construction of a new building in the University of Oregon’s Riverfront Research Park has dropped its appeal of the project. The group, Connecting Eugene, on Friday said that rather than pursue the case with the Oregon Court of Appeals, it will concentrate on ensuring that the riverfront building project complies with local land use laws….

The website for Connecting Eugene is here.

Op-Ed opposes ORI building, despite solar cells

7/20/2010: Op-Ed in the RG by 2 UO alumni and the ASUO president against the ORI Riverfront research building:

… Despite decades of overwhelming opposition by students, faculty and community members to development north of the railroad tracks, the university hasn’t held a single public meeting related to the placement or design of the ORI building.

It should have been no surprise that intense opposition would emerge when the university unilaterally announced in 2008 that it had entered into a contract with Trammell Crow, a Texas-based developer, to construct the first of many proposed suburban-style office buildings on the riverfront. …

Had there been an opportunity for meaningful public dialogue at an early stage, the university would have heard loud and clear that the people of Eugene want ORI to have a new home, but not if it means paving the riverfront for a parking lot and erecting a building that looks like it could be part of any suburban office complex in America.
Personally I like the idea of more development closer to the river, it makes for a more interesting city. Just my preferences. I don’t know enough about the details to say anything more specific. But I hate how the ORI people have argued we should support the project because it will include “green building” features like solar cells. It is hard to imagine a more useless place to put these than Oregon. Contrast this with what these Oregon Institute for Technology students are doing in Tanzania:

The OIT students will install 25 solar photovoltaic panels donated by a German company, TUV Rheinland, from its Arizona testing laboratory. The panels convert sunlight to electricity that will light schools and clinics, charge batteries, power computers and charge cell phones. The students will design the systems and work with local technicians to install and test them.

Schools are the first priority, with the requirement that they are least 10 kilometers from the electrical connection, have at least 200 students and demonstrate they can maintain the systems and protect them from thieves.

Worthy sites are not hard to find, says Petrovic, because about 80 percent of the people have no electricity.

I’m no economist, but I’ll guess that the ratio of the marginal utility from a solar panel in Tanzania to one in Oregon is say, 1000 to 1? Putting solar cells on a building in Oregon makes the world worse off.

ORI building

1/20/2010: I really don’t know anything about local land use decisions. I wish someone who does would start a blog. From the outside, the local decision process seems to involve a few passionate citizens obstructing OK projects because they are not perfect, combined with secrecy, brinksmanship and apocalyptic warnings from developers claiming they will leave town if they don’t get their way. Next iteration everyone takes it up a notch. It’s a broken process that is slowly destroying Eugene. My own ignorant sentiment is that the ORI building should have gone downtown. I still haven’t heard a good explanation for why they can’t use their $5 million in NIH stimulus funding for that, and today’s RG editorial ignores the issue. But now that we are at the brink – if that’s really where we are at – of course good is better than a perfect nothing. UO and Eugene should do everything possible to encourage employers like ORI. Otherwise we hear Sid Leiken has a nice spot available in Springfield. But I do wish the ORI people would stop claiming that we should support this because they will build a bike rack, throw up a few solar cells, and get LEED certification.

more on ORI building

1/17/2010: Anthony Biglan of ORI calls out the AAA professors opposing their new building:

This year Oregon Research Institute will celebrate its 50th anniversary of doing research in the behavioral sciences. Much of our work focuses on the prevention and treatment of the major psychological and behavioral problems that jeopardize health and well-being. To continue and expand this work, we’ve planned a new building in the University of Oregon’s Riverfront Research Park — a project whose timely completion is threatened by unwarranted delays.

… But our ability to do this work is threatened by efforts of UO professors Mark Gillem and Ron Lovinger and some of their students to prevent the building’s construction (Commentary, Jan. 3). The NIH grant comes from federal stimulus money that must be spent within a two-year time limit, and the clock is ticking. As we indicated to Gillem in early December, a delay in construction could result in our losing the funds entirely and/or the building not being built.

Tough questions for the opposition! I’m not impressed by this though:

The building plan includes photovoltaic cells to offset energy usage; …

We should be long past the point where you can paste a few solar cells on a building in Oregon and use that to brag that it’s green – whatever the LEED rules say. Both sides should take this off the table and send the photovoltaics to Haiti.

Don’t build it and they will leave

11/13/2009: There is a certain theme to these 2 stories in the ODE today:

Alex Zielinski on the Research Park expansion:

A group of University students and faculty is attempting to interrupt the University’s plan to add 4.2 acres of new buildings to the south bank of the Willamette River. The proposed buildings would be part of the University’s Riverfront Research Park, housing numerous scientific research facilities independent from the University. Those against the construction of these buildings say it poses problems for the riverside environment and general connectivity of the area.

CJ Ciaramella on the new dorm:

A chorus of complaints from Native American community members and Fairmount neighborhood residents has temporarily stalled the planning process of a new residence hall on the east side of campus. … The dispute is now moving to the nine federated Native American tribes of Oregon and the University president’s office to be resolved. … “We have to have confidence that the president will work with all due diligence,” Gregg Lobisser, chairman of the committee, said. However, Bettles and many of the other committee members disagreed. “If you approve the motion, you subordinate the nine tribes,” Bettles said. He said even conditionally approving it would be a back-door way to get the project done without addressing the concerns.

Welcome to Eugene, Mr. President. One commenter writes:

Ah, the joys of diversity! I sympathize with the desire to preserve the view. But then, where will the dorm go? Somewhere else, I presume. But that is sprawl! Unsustainable! The greatest academic minds in the world will not be able to solve this. Better call in the Eugene City Council!

On the other hand, this new project has no opposition. 3 to 1 this ends with some student getting tazed. paypal uomatters@gmail.com to give me your money.