Last Friday, the City was shaken by violence at WOW Hall where six people were shot. While there is no information about the possible motive for the shooting, the impact of this violence is traumatic not only for the victims, but the people who were attending the concert that night, and the many people in this community and beyond who treasure the WOW Hall. In a Board meeting on Wednesday, people tearfully described the venue as a family member.
There is good news in this awful event. True to their mission as a community center, the leadership of WOW Hall is focused on healing the trauma and developing resilience within their community and outward to Eugene as a whole. We can all join in that effort – stay tuned to activities and opportunities to support WOW Hall.
This was not the only body blow our community received in the past two weeks. Last week the results of DEQ testing in Trainsong and Bethel revealed unhealthy levels of dioxin contamination in the soil. The highest level was in Trainsong Park, which the City has now closed pending more DEQ testing and remediation. The contamination likely dates to earlier industrial uses of that land, long before the park was created.
In contrast, testing of residential yards across the street from the JH Baxter plant found unhealthy levels that are most likely attributed to emissions from that plant. Residents have complained for years and reached out to City Council recently about air that smells so strong that at times they don’t let their children play outside. Dioxin is airborne and responding to this on-going contamination falls to DEQ. It is an urgent health issue and we are pursuing more information and a timely response and protection for the neighborhood. I’m grateful to Active Bethel Citizens for sharing information at their meeting this week and to Beyond Toxics for providing information and support as we seek to understand the breadth and depth of the contamination and the options and timeline for addressing it.
Good things happen when citizens organize and come together. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I joined a crowd of people dressed for outdoor work who had come to plant trees at the new Andrea Ortiz Park in Bethel. Andrea was the City Council’s first Latina Councilor and a fierce advocate for fairness and equity. Planting trees in a park in a part of town that has a shortage of both – parks and trees – is a promise to do better; to enable everyone in this community to thrive. Dedicating a Saturday morning to do community service and showing up to organize in response to an environmental disaster is how we reaffirm that commitment to do better – by dispelling despair and reinforcing our determination to heal what is broken.