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VOLUME III ISSUE III

A Haunting Past, Part III

The EPA’s Record of Decision

p. 14

www.thefineprintUF.org

FEBRUARY 2011


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in

this issue Greener Pastures, p. 18 (right) Triton the cat stands at the entrance to his home, Greener Pastures— a sanctuary where a few lucky farm animals receive compassion and regular veterinary care. Accompanied by a video online at thefineprintuf.org/ greenerpastures.

Published with support from Campus Progress/ Center for American Progress (online at CampusProgress.org). Editorial Board

Chelsea Hetelson Henry Taksier Jeremiah Tattersall Kelley Coggins-Anton Travis Epes

Photo Editor

Henry Taksier

Design Director

Kelley Coggins-Anton

Page designers

Chelsea Hetelson, Kelley Coggins-Anton, Caitlyn Finnegan

Cover artist

Susan Bijan

MISSION STATEMENT Our mission is to serve the community of Gainesville by providing an independent outlet for political, social and arts coverage through local, in-depth reporting. GETTING INVOLVED A lot goes into each issue of The Fine Print— reporting, writing, photography, illustration, page design and more. We also have a website, thefineprintuf.org. If you’re interested in getting involved, whatever that means, e-mail editors@thefineprintuf.org. FREELANCE SUBMISSIONS The Fine Print accepts freelance writing, photography and illustrations. Submissions should be sent to editors@thefineprintuf.org.

The Reality of War (above) Reaganera veteran Paul Ortiz gathers the personal stories of Florida’s veterans as part of UF’s Veterans History Project, including servicemen who kept quiet for over 60 years.

p. 21

Open Access, p. 4

Should the public pay to access the research funded by their tax dollars? UF’s Open-Access Publishing Fund Pilot Project addresses the question with a defiant “no.”

BS Science: Creationism, p. 5

Creationist April Griffin joins the Alachua County school board, riding a dinosaur, bent on obliterating the First Amendment. Can anyone stop her?

Bags & Barrels p. 8

A year after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, thousands remain homeless with no access to clean water. Local non-profit Barrels of Hope is equipping the Haitian people to change that with bags, barrels and a drop of innovation.

The Superfund Art Project, p. 23

Protect Gainesville’s Citizens assembles a task force of artists to capture the science and emotions associated with a toxic Superfund site and to document the struggle of those who live in its shadow.

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ADVERTISING The Fine Print distributes 5,000 copies of each issue and is currently looking for advertisers. For more information, email editors@ thefineprintuf.org. LETTERS The Fine Print accepts letters from readers. Letters are generally 150 to 200 words in length. Submit letters via email to editors@ thefineprintuf.org with “Letter to the Editors” in the subject. The editorial board will decide which letters are published, and writers will not be notified before publication. DISCLAIMER The Fine Print reserves the right to deny or accept the publication of articles or advertisements according to the decisions of its editorial board. The views expressed in our columns do not necessarily express those of The Fine Print.


LETTERS, ETC. from the fine print’s

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EDITORIAL DESK

thefineprintuf.org

by Henry Taksier and Jeremiah Tattersall

Multimedia, more stories, blogs and a community events calendar. PLUS! Comment on stories, see photos from the printed issue (and more!) in color, flip through a digital version of the printed issue and much, much more, all updated throughout the month.

It’s been a cold winter but The Fine Print is back from hibernation. First of all, we’d like to congratulate the University of Florida Police Department (UFPD) for being chosen by the Council of State Governments Justice Center to act as a mentor for other law enforcement agencies in responding to mental illness. According to Justice Center Director Michael Thompson, “The UFPD has proven to be a leader in innovative law enforcement responses to people with mental illnesses.” Right, because breaking into a mentally ill grad student’s apartment and shooting him in the face is real fuckin’ innovative. Two months later, as Kofi Adu-Brempong was getting his face reconstructed, the UFPD was applying for national recognition. If you’re still enraged about the Kofi incident, keep in mind that student government elections are Feb. 23. Some of the leading student activists in the Justice for Kofi movement are running under the Progress Party’s ticket. Their platform calls for a Campus Police Review Board, as well as continued opposition to the administration’s block tuition policy (see page 10). In the meantime, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has crafted a plan for cleaning up Gainesville’s notorious toxic wasteland, also known as the Cabot/Koppers Superfund site. Have we reached the end of the road, or is the EPA trying to cut corners? Sounds like perfect timing for the third chapter of “A Haunting Past,” our multi-part investigative series (see page 14). That won’t be our only investigation, though. To be honest, we’ve been overwhelmed with leads on investigative stories. We want to dig to the bottom of everything, but sadly, we can only stay awake for 56 hours at a time. To make matters worse, sometimes we run out of cigarettes. That’s where you come in. If you think something important is getting overlooked by the mainstream media, send us an email at editors@thefineprintuf.org. If you have an interest in writing, let us know -- we’re always looking for new reporters. Amidst the confusion, one thing is certain -- change is on the horizon. Hopefully, we can keep you up-to-date on Gainesville’s underground culture and kill your mood by exposing injustice behind closed doors. We have a sense of humor, though, so don’t be too offended.

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Daily grind by Susie Bijan Want to see your art in The Fine Print? Send it to editors@thefineprintuf.org. 300dpi, please.

Notes t h e i g u a n a r e t u r n s Less than two years after printing its last issue, the Gainesville Iguana is back by popular demand. The Iguana announced an indefinite hiatus in the fall of 2009 when co-founder and editor Jenny Brown moved to New York to pursue a graduate degree. She now writes for Labor Notes, a labor movement monthly. Iguana co-founder Joe Courter was content with taking a break from publishing, but “heard from enough people that they missed the Iguana.” “It finally came to a head in December, and I just decided that we

needed to get it going again,” Courter said. Founded in Oct. 1986, the Iguana provides an outlet for activists, organizations and community members to share their perspective on local, national, and international issues. Courter has assembled a new editorial board, including Fine Print founder and former editor Jessica Newman. They are aiming to print a March issue at the end of February. The Fine Print is glad to have the Iguana rejoin the ranks of Gainesville’s independent media. -Ellen McHugh February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 03


OPEN access by Jeremiah Tattersall

The concept of Open Access is simple but revolutionary: Anyone with Internet access can immediately read any article published. With the majority of research done at the University of Florida being paid for by tax dollars, why should the tax payers have to pay again in subscription fees for access to their results? Dr. Isabel Silver, head of Academic and Scholarly Outreach at UF, believes open access is the future of scholarly publishing. “Traditional publishing is an unsustainable economic model,” she said. “The public pays for the research, and then the researcher turns around and gives it to private sector proprietary journal publishers that the public has to pay to read.” Making information freely and readily available is at the heart of UF’s new Open-Access Publishing Fund Pilot Project (UFOAP). The project is providing up to $3,000 a year per author to publish in open access journals in the hope that more will adopt this system. “The public wins by having access to the information and the authors win because they want more people to read their work,” Silver said. “The only potential losers are the pay-forsubscription journals.” And they have a lot to lose. Currently, UF has an $11 million budget for acquisitions with $9 million of that going to electronic resources, which include pay-for-access traditional journals. “They have a chokehold on publishing and they’re getting big profits through their monopolies,” Silver said. UF has no plans of phasing out their subscriptions to these costly journals anytime soon. It’s still part of

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the prevailing mentality that scholars should strive to get their work in big-name journals like Nature and Science. This is how they can charge upwards of $50,000 for a yearly subscription. Nature’s journal package alone costs UF $100,000 annually. This is changing rapidly. There’s been a rise over the past decade in authors publishing their work in open access journals, which now represent roughly 20% of all publications in the US.

“The public pays for the research, and then the researcher turns around and gives it to private sector proprietary journal publishers that the public has to pay to read.” Under the premise of “publish or perish,” scientists must publish their research or risk having a harder time finding future funding. However, not all journals are equal. The most widely-used source to determine the quality of a journal is its “impact factor” which calculates how often a journal is cited as a source. Authors that choose to publish in OA journals are cited more often then those in traditional ones. Open access has the added benefit of allowing access to smaller institutions and poorer counties who cannot afford the fees of traditional journals. Medical patients and science enthusiasts also see the benefit as they are able to read the latest research without having to rely on the often erroneous and sensationalized news from the media. A recent grant from UFOAP went to help publish an article about the

environmental toxicology of Queen Conch in the Caribbean Sea. This is a very niche subject that very few people in a handful of small countries are interested in. By publishing in PLoS ONE, an open access journal, the information became available to everyone who holds a vested interest in these sea snails or the health of the Caribbean Sea. “If this wasn’t published in open access it would have been the powers that be that would have controlled the information on a species in these people’s own waters,” Silver said. There is something profound about having access to information. The information on the current state of Queen Conchs may seem trivial, but it is vital to the creation of a compressive public policy that includes their well being. Without access to this information, any environmental policy on the Caribbean Sea will either be faulty or would have to come from the outside of these countries where it is available. The last and most important step of the scientific method is communication. Without an open interchange of ideas, research would stagnate. Open access increases this interchange, but it also redefines who this information is meant for. Public knowledge of science has gone down as the rise of anti-science has increased (see climate change denial, creationism, community water fluoridation online at thefineprintuf. org). Will this help the general public grasp these scientific concepts? No one can be certain, but opening up the gates to scientific knowledge is the first step. UF will be hosting an open access week at the end of October. Students, faculty and staff are all encouraged to attend.


B.S. Science Creationism

“In the beginning...”

by Jeremiah Tattersall Illustration by Diana Moreno Creationism is not science. I wish I could leave it at that, but this antiscience has reared its head again, this time in the recent election of creationist April Griffin to the Alachua County school board. The problem with creationism comes from a deep-seated misunderstanding of evolution and its relationship with religion. Evolution is the glue that holds biology together. Without it, the life sciences make no sense. The basis of evolution is simple: Genetic variations with selective pressures given long periods of time will produce speciation. Put more plainly, if there is a trait that helps you survive and reproduce, you will have an advantage over your competition. Given enough time, the prevalence of that trait will grow until it becomes common. There are numerous claims that creationists make against science. The majority are based on pointing out holes in current scientific understanding, a kind of “God in the gaps” approach. As science progresses and fills in the gaps, creationists have to continuously step up their anti-science (see Kirk Cameron trying to explain how a banana fitting into a human hand disproves evolution) -- a sort of who-canclose-their-eyes-the-hardest contest. Here are some of the most common talking points creationists use. #1. No one has seen evolution in action. This theory is based on speculation. As a microbiologist, I find this offensive. I

witness evolution all the time when bacteria gain antibiotic resistance. This is small but very easy to see if you look at Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bug that arose due to evolution and the overuse of antibiotics selecting for specific traits. #2. There are no transitional fossils (intermedeary fossils that show evolutionary transition). There are. A lot of them actually. My favorites are whales. The Fossils we have have put their evolution as so: the land mammal Indohyus, returns to the water and transitions into Ambulocetus, then after two more known transitions (Protocetid and Basilosaurus), finally ends as Cetaceans - modern whales. Besides, evolution itself is a fluid transitional process. All living species are currently in a state of “transition”. #3. Evolution can’t explain how life started. Well, it’s not supposed to. The process in which life started that so many creationists talk about is something else all together called “abiogenesis.” This branch of science has many theories (I’m particular to the RNA world hypothesis) but has nothing to do with evolution. Evolution explains how species change over time through natural selection. Having creationism (or its dressed-up inbred cousin, “intelligent design”) taught in any science class is detrimental to children’s cognitive development. If we teach kids that the earth is 6,000 years old, we’re teaching them that it’s okay to ignore empirical evidence. Being able to shape your beliefs on things that are testable and falsifiable is one of the most important skills anyone can learn.

The majority of creationist B.S. science comes from an unfounded fear of empiricalism, as a challenging of God. This false dichotomy has done nothing but embarrass religion by demonizing science. The danger of Griffin’s recent election is that she is in a position of authority. A position in which she can push for a religious agenda over a scientific one. A recent study published in Science found that only 28% of high school biology teachers teach evolution, 13% teach creationism, and around 60% either skip the subject altogether or teach both. The most disturbing part of this statistic is the 60% that choose to mention creationism despite every major court case coming down against its teaching in public schools. While the vanguards of science were fighting the creationist in the classroom, these crafty bunch launched the “teach the controversy” campaign -- a brilliant strategy that has led to the majority of high school biology teachers being too scared to do their jobs. Despite what the Tea Party claims, this country was founded on secularism. The founding fathers felt so strongly that religion should be separate from public policy that they mentioned it in the First Amendment. Teaching creationism in public schools would give affirmation to a specific branch of fundamentalist Christianity -- a direct contradiction to the Constitution. Believe what you want, but remember: Reality is what exists in spite of your personal beliefs. And reality is what we need to teach our kids in school. February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 05


M ONT H LY MA NIFES TO

The Icarus Project by Rusty Poulette The Gainesville Icarus Project is a “radical mental health” group that acts as a safe space for folks to talk about what’s on their minds, free from the limiting and often damaging stereotypes of the psychiatric industry. The group meets once a month with the shortterm aim of supporting each other, and with the long-term vision of fostering a new worldview in which “issues” aren’t synonymous with “illnesses,” and where psychosis is seen as a societal problem and not a personal one. Folks in the group see the greed of capitalism, the exclusivity of gender-roles, and the moral stigmas of religiosity— to name a few things— as true madness. The Gainesville Icarus Project is a much-needed sidestream offering hope to those struggling against the current of the mainstream. The Icarus Project is a wide-spread network that was conceived of and born in 2002 near California’s Bay Area, where it is still based. The original project was the formation of a website intended to unite those who are living with and/or affected by depression, anxiety, anger, mutiple-personalities or other experiences that are commonly labeled as psychiatric conditions, yet who want to approach such experiences from a different angle. It didn’t take long for this small project to turn into a nation-wide movement. Local groups

have been popping up all around the country independently, without any sort of push from the Bay Area. The Icarus Project website, and the original Bay Area group, now act as a resource and toolbox for the various groups around the country. Though these groups share the uniquenvision

a workshop on radical mental health. The conversation made it clear that our community could greatly benefit from an Icarus-style group. So far the turnout has averaged 6-10 people, and the group has done well to create a safe and welcoming space for support and encouragement.

“What we have in common is a desire to support each other as friends, and a deep suspicion of this pathological society that has enough disregard to label us the crazy ones.” of shifting the paradigm of mental health, they remain autonomous and each exhibit unique identities. The Gainesville Icarus Project is still in the process of forging its own identity. The group was formed in Oct. 2010 in the wake of Free University’s DIY Fest during

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There are no leaders. Interested folks have simply come together with the common goal of supporting each other. I’ve watched folks who don’t know each other openly share their struggles and offer advice, all with a spirit of compassion and understanding. The Icarus Project

acknowledges that issues are serious and can be extremely difficult to navigate, and that professional care is sometimes necessary. We encourage individuals to make their own decisions about the care they receive. Some of us pay a professional counselor, and some of us don’t trust authority, or lack the funds for “professional advice.” Some of us are on meds, and some of us are adamantly opposed to them. What we have in common is a desire to support each other as friends, and a deep suspicion of this pathological society that has enough disregard to label us the crazy ones. We hold meetings on the third Thursday of each month at 7pm in the back courtyard of the Civic Media Center (433 S. Main Street). All are welcome. We sit around a bonfire, sharing snacks and stories, conspiring the creation of a new world where friends are our counselors, community is our hospital, and conversation is our medicine. As we venture down the sidestreams, and as our wings of imperfection fly us dangerously close to the sun, we discover things only seen by a crazy few. *Editor’s note: The Monthly Manifesto is a podium for local organizations to tell the Gainesville community what they’re about. Submissions and inquiries for more information should be sent to editors@thefineprintuf.org


WikiLeaks: Taking back the Fourth Estate We here at The Fine Print have just received the latest batch of unedited cables leaked by the rogue site known only as WikiLeaks. This information is yet to be condemned by the current administration, but much of it concerns a certain government-sponsored facility in Iran. Below you’ll find a description of said facility, which for the sake of clarity, we’ve edited down to the core transcription. Specific names have also been removed for legal reasons, as well as to protect the lives of Americans abroad. (M) In a September 27 meeting, Ambassador xxxxxxxxx congratulated Tehran on completion of their Doomsday Base. The product of 50 years of research and development, the Doomsday Base represents the culmination of the nation’s nuclear ambitions. Ambassador xxxxxxxxx applauded the highly advanced security equipment, powered by a 2 000 MW reactor within the facility (located approximately 300 km beneath the Zargos Mountain range). Most notably, Ambassador xxxxxxxxx was visibly taken aback by the 54 000 kg nuclear warhead situated within the core of the base. There was no mention of potential targets.

Washington can rest easy – looks like this leak actually supports a few things they’ve said. If the outrageous numbers were not enough, the above was an attempt at some poor humor. Unfortunately, the same sense of humor has no place around the actual cables. Say what you will about treason or Julian Assange’s sex life, I’m constantly amazed at how we can turn away from the unreported (and in most cases actively concealed) cases of torture, corruption and murder. Instead of asking ourselves why a government deceives its citizens, we

recovery was when Sarah Palin visited, and then the discussion suddenly shifted to why FOX News was granted exclusive coverage. In late January, Julian Assange said in an interview that the “manipulation of information by media is more dangerous than manipulation by governments.” We’ve reached a point in which the mainstream media itself, and not just the government, is an institution that needs to be held accountable. In Dec. 2009, a managing editor of FOX News sent an email to his reporters and staff, ordering

Instead of asking ourselves why a government deceives its citizens, we waste our best arguments deciding whether this knowledge deserves to be public. waste our best arguments deciding whether this knowledge deserves to be public. I don’t understand how this is even a question. Shouldn’t we be a little more preoccupied with the information they contain? I’ve tried to take lessons from how the mainstream media has handled the recent flood of WikiLeaks. There are many examples where writers incorporate the leaked information into a quality article, but there are far more who exclude some of the much needed context. I wasn’t too surprised. I think the last time we got an update on Haiti’s

them to immediately present the objections of “critics” anytime they report on climate change data. That same managing editor, Bill Sammons, also ordered his reporters not to use the term “public option” when discussing health care reform, and instead to use a variation of the term “government option.” When did major news outlets turn into public relations agencies? With raw information readily available worldwide, it’s time for independent journalists -- and ordinary citizens -- to take back the fourth estate. - Travis Epes and Henry Taksier

February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 07


BAGS & BARRELS

An earthbag demo shelter in Gainesville, Florida under construction. Photo courtesy of Barrels of Hope.

Local organizations bring water and housing to Haiti by Rain Araneda On Jan. 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, highlighting the population’s vulnerability after years of political corruption and ineffective or nonexistent building codes and water treatment facilities. 1.5 million people were left homeless. Thousands are still living in “tent cities,” where 30 to 40 percent have no access to toilets or drinkable water. In Oct. 2010, overcrowding and a lack of sanitation led to an irrepressible outbreak of cholera in the camps. The Pan-American Health Organization estimates the outbreak could kill up to 10,000 people and infect almost 200,000 in the upcoming year. To date, over 171,000 people have been infected and over 3,600 have lost their lives. Barrels of Hope (BOH), a local nonprofit, is directly addressing housing and sanitation issues by training workers in Haiti and mobilizing volunteers in Gainesville to construct earthbag houses for victims of the earthquake. Ryan Scott, Director of Operations for BOH, spent a month of his summer clearing rubble in Haiti. He quit his full-time engineering job so he could join the reconstruction efforts. “I feel that my time is better spent delivering solutions to those in need,” he said. Earthbag houses are cost-effective,

easy to build, energy efficient and sustainable; an entire house can be built by a small group of people within a week. The foundation and walls are made from bags filled with soil, which are stacked and compacted, one on top of another. Water is not required in the mixture, thus conserving the island’s scarce resource. Last December, Scott led the construction of a demo earthbag house in Gainesville in order to train team leaders. A typical 10-person home consists

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tion units, the water they collect will be cleaner than the island’s surface waters and can be used for drinking, as well as in the home and garden. Providing Haiti’s people with a new skill empowers and prepares them to address housing issues in the future. BOH is working with the Reinforced Earth Bag (REB) Project group of UF’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders to test the strength of their construction techniques. “We are addressing the question,

Providing Haiti’s people with a new skill empowers and prepares them to address housing issues in the future.

of two 10-by-10-foot rooms, a living room area and a bedroom. Additional rooms can be added cheaply. So far, the group has built two earthbag homes in Haiti. They carried unfilled earthbags in their luggage and purchased the remaining supplies upon arrival. BOH is also working to address the issue of water access. The group plans to send its first shipment of rain barrels, filled with enough supplies to build an earthbag home, in the next few months. Since many homes in Haiti do not have indoor plumbing, it’s a common practice to get water from wells and streams. Even though the rain barrels lack filtra-

‘Will it stand up?’” said Brandon Ross, founder of the REB group. Prior to the REB group, researchers have tested other earthbag structures, like Superadobe, which are able to withstand earthquakes with a factor of up to 8.0 in the Richter scale. The REB group’s results are encouraging. They have already surpassed some of the Florida Building Codes in a recent test of a small-scale earthbag wall. The “Sun House,” home of resident Father Marc Boisvert, exemplifies the durability of earthbags. After the Continued on p. 23


the realities of War U F ’s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m g a t h e r s s t o r i e s f r o m l o c a l v e t e r a n s by Ellen McHugh Paul Ortiz won’t turn on the TV or the radio on Veteran’s or Memorial Day. He doesn’t want to hear it. “You’ll see it on Veterans’ day. Some politician will get up and speak about the meaning of military service,” Ortiz said. “Then you’ll look at his or her record, and they haven’t even been in the military. They have no idea what they’re talking about.” A veteran who served in Central America in the Reagan era and a member of the Gainesville chapter of Veterans for Peace, Ortiz also directs the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at UF. As part of his work with the program, Ortiz is gathering a collection of stories from Florida’s veterans, ranging from WWII to the present. His purpose is to shed light on the reality of war. “With every veterans project that we’ve embarked on, we’ve emphasized the costs of war and the ways in which people do not normally think about those costs,” Oritz said. “These costs continue to resonate beyond the time that the war takes place.” The project is part of a research collaboration with the US Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, created in Oct. 2000. The accounts Ortiz gathers will be available via the archives of the George A. Smathers Libraries at UF and presented amongst hundreds of others on the Veterans History Proj-

ect website, http://www.loc.gov/vets/ The national collection includes video interviews, photo memoirs and documents from service men and women like Frank Buckles, 109, the last known surviving American veteran of WWI. “It's best for anyone who's been in the military service if he's had some disagreeable experiences [...] to talk about it and get it out of his system and then forget it,” Buckles says in an audio interview.

“You’ll see it on Veterans’ day. Some politician will get up and speak about the meaning of military service. [...] They have no idea what they’re talking about.” However, it is unlikely that Vietnam veteran and local activist Scott Camil will forget. “We would come into a village, and all the people would have fearful looks in their eyes,” Camil said. “They would bow their heads. They would put their hands in front of their faces in that praying position. Sometimes we would kill them and sometimes we wouldn’t.” Camil threw away his war medals in 1971 during Dewey Canon 3, a protest by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in Washington D.C. “I would never want to see that look on

the faces of my friends, my loved ones or my neighbors.” Camil testified during the Winter Solider Investigation of ‘71, exposing US atrocities in Vietnam. At the 1971 UF homecoming parade, he was one of the “Gainesville Eight” who marched, rifles in hand, carrying coffins draped with American flags and waving signs calling for no more war. Camil now serves as president of the Gainesville chapter of Veterans for Peace. As Ortiz continues to interview local veterans, he hopes that the project will serve as a microphone for those not as outspoken as Camil. Ortiz is interviewing WWII veterans who kept quiet for 60 or 65 years because they wanted to protect their loved ones from the horrors of war. “When they returned home in 1945 no one wanted to talk to them,” Ortiz said. “The media wanted to focus on the positive stories.” Ortiz criticizes Hollywood for doing the same. “It tends to glorify and to sanitize the experience that people have, both as soldiers and civilians, in wartime,” Ortiz said. By interviewing those whose stories are less told, Ortiz hopes that the project’s underlying goal will speak for itself. “This is something that as historians we can work to correct.” Photo courtesy of Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, July 1944. February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 09


PAYIN G FOR TH E P RI V I L EG E by Cristina Rabaza

To judge a student by his or her class schedule would be to peg nearly half of UF students as slackers. Their 12- and 13-credit semesters seem all too light and airy, and many seniors like them will soon be running victory laps around campus as they take rain checks on graduation. But what these students’ transcripts don’t show are 25- to 30-hour work weeks at studentdriven workplaces all over Gainesville. Transcripts don’t show club meetings, internship duties and team practices in which students involve themselves. They all study, too. But only as much as time permits. And with UF’s Board of Trustees proposing to implement block tuition at a fixed rate equivalent to 15 credits per semester, working students say they will find themselves paying extra for classes they don’t have time to take. “It violates the basic principles of consumerism,” Student Body President Ashton Charles said during a Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 9. “They would be paying for a product that they’re not receiving.” Fellow Trustee Carlos Alfonso, one of 12 board members who voted to delay the block tuition policy until at least the fall of 2012, said he doesn’t see it that way. Alfonso said there’s no reason UF’s tuition prices shouldn’t match those of other nationally-ranked public universities. “UF is one of the least expensive of all 63 institutions that are part of the American Association of Universities,” he said. “Why should we not be able to compete in that marketplace?” The Board of Governers will meet Feb. 10

to approve or disapprove the trustees’ decision to go ahead with block tuition. As the meeting approaches, Students for a Democratic Society has been organizing rallies to protest block tuition. About 100 protesters marched to Tigert Hall Nov. 17 with signs, chants, 750 petition signatures and personal accounts of what block tuition means to them. About 30 protesters sat in on the Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 9, which Alfonso said more than likely swayed the board to delay the policy’s implementation.

The university isn’t forcing anyone to take more credits. They can still take less [...], but they’re going to have to pay more for that privilege. Still, SDS members and other protesting students are planning more rallies in the coming months to challenge what they say is the university’s attempt at making more money on the tuition front. UF spokesman Steve Orlando, however, said it’s less about the money and more about the AAU’s rankings; a higher graduation rate, one of the ranking criteria, is indeed a goal for the university. “The amount of money we’d be gaining out of this is $4 million to $5 million, which is not that substantial compared to our total revenue,” Orlando said. “The driving force is getting stu-

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dents done as quickly as possible to provide accessibility for incoming students.” He said to think of it like a restaurant. “You only have ‘x’ number of seats at a restaurant, and you can only serve ‘x’ number of people until those people leave to free up some seats,” he said. “It’s only fair for the applicants working hard to get into UF.” But SDS activist Diana Moreno said she doesn’t see how a public institution can run itself like a private business. “The restaurant theory is dangerous,” she said. “They talk about incentivizing students, but this is just punishing them. People come here because they have a unique chance to get a valuable education at one of the most affordable rates in the country. I didn’t go into this school expecting price spikes.” Charles mentioned during the Board of Trustees meeting that block tuition doesn’t necessarily promise higher graduation rates, citing Texas A&M University’s inability to raise graduation rates through its own block tuition policy. Still, Jaime Gresley, director of New Student and Family Programs, said earning a seat at a selective university like UF means students are intellectually capable of the 15-credit load, a load around which most of the university’s critical tracking systems are built. Gresley said four years is a reasonable amount of time to graduate, but Orlando said it’s still not a requirement. “The university isn’t forcing anyone to take more credits,” Orlando said. “They can still take less than 15, but they’re going to have to pay more for that privilege.” “It’s ironic because the people taking fewer credits, the people who can barely afford this,


Students march toward Tigert Hall on Nov. 17 to show their opposition to UF’s block tuition proposal. “When education is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” chanted the students. Photo by Erik Knudsen.

aren’t the ones taking too long to graduate because they’re wasting their days partying,” Moreno said. “They’re taking longer because they’ve got a job to worry about or a kid at home or other pressing circumstances.” Dave Schneider, a SDS rally organizer, said intellectual capacity isn’t the only asset students need to shoulder the 15-credit load. “You need to consider time, too,” he said. “When you put this kind of strain on students who have other legitimate obligations besides studying, you’re probably going to see a dip in their performance. This is either going to be a GPA killer or a bank buster.” But after UF’s most recent population survey — which 70 percent of students answered in order to be eligible for the fall 2009 football ticket lottery — Gresley said the university isn’t so convinced students are being strained. According to the 2009 SERU survey, 58 percent of students do not work, and more then half of students spend 10 hours or less studying for their classes. Dr. Jeanna Mastrodicasa, assistant vice president of student affairs, said that’s not enough. “For every hour in class, students should study or prepare two hours outside of class,” Mastrodicasa wrote in an e-mail. “Accordingly, for a 15-hour schedule, 30 hours of studying should be taking place. And you can see where UF students are on that spectrum.” Students also fell short of the 15-hour, fouryear graduation plan of study, with the mean load being 14.1 hours. “If you’re taking 12 to 15 credits, the difference in price you would be experiencing with block tuition is about $500,” Orlando said. “We don’t think the burden is that large.” But that’s more than a month’s rent for Moreno It’s the cash she barely managed to gather for the fall semester’s textbooks — even

after scouring discount websites. An increase of $500 still represents hours of minimum wage or internship pay for the 42 percent of students who work. And while the average workload for students working on campus ranges from 12 to 13 hours per week, the university has no data on students working off campus. What it does know, however, is that some portion of tuition costs will be covered for the majority of undergraduate students. Director of Student Financial Aid Karen Fooks said during the Dec. 9 meeting that 88 percent of undergraduates are already receiving financial aid.

“The people taking fewer credits [...] aren’t the ones taking too long to graduate because they’re wasting their days partying [...] They’re taking longer because they’ve got a job to worry about or a kid at home or other pressing circumstances.” When several board members brought up the question of identifying and dealing with special cases of hardship issues — as well as the lack of ample time for those students to financially adjust to the situation — Fooks said students can walk into the financial aid office at any moment if their circumstances change. In addition, she said tuition accounts for only 29 percent of a student’s cost of attendance. “An even bigger chunk of the cost is living expenses like room, food, books, supplies, and

health insurance,” Fooks said. And an even bigger chunk, Alfonso said, is a different tuition increase already in place. “They’re missing a big elephant in the room, which is the yearly tuition increase of 15 percent that students are now experiencing,” he said. “This block tuition pales in comparison to that. The trend is for higher education prices to go up much faster than the cost of living and inflation. We are trying to combat that.” Both Orlando and Alfonso said they know what long days — equal parts work and library — felt like as a student. They said it’s still manageable to work, study and enjoy a rich college experience. But Schneider said the university is forgetting the importance of a college experience beyond the classroom, especially in a 21st century job environment. “How the administration views education comes in stark contrast to how students view it,” he said. “Degrees don’t go as far as they used to, and staying in school while gaining professional experience is preferable to entering the really soft job market that exists right now. This added pressure will impede on our ability to put our best foot forward post-graduation.” For now, Students for a Democratic Society is gathering student support and planning a rally for the Board of Governors’ Feb. 10 meeting, at which they will approve of disapprove the Board of Trustees’ decision to implement block tuition at UF as early as the fall of 2012. “I’d like to be part of the conversation,” Moreno said. “We’re not these spoiled kids, kicking and screaming because we don’t get something we want. I earned my spot here, and I never promised I’d be out in four years.”

February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 11


OC

FEBRUARY Monday

Sunday

Tuesday

LAST D AY TO REGISTER TO VOTE FOR CITY ELECTIONS! (FILM SCREENING)

Florida Experimental

(FLEX) Film/Vid Fest 2011 The annual juried competition will screen 60 films from around the globe plus featured work from jurors Vanessa Renwick and Mark Toscano. From Feb. 17-20 at venues throughout Gainesville. See flexfest.org/events for event listings or check out FLEXfest on Facebook at facebook.com/ flexfest

{feb}17-20 27 Crooked Fingers, Chris Wollard & Addison Burns, Christina Wagner

(+ FREE BBQ w/ ADMISSION) From 4-7pm at Common Grounds (210 SW 2nd Ave.); $10 cover

Genghis Blues Film screening at 8pm at the Civic Media Center (433 S. Main St.). The film follows blind bluesman/throatsinger Paul Pena. See genghisblues.com for more about the film. A $3-$5 donation is requested.

14 21

Gainesville SDS

Meets at 6:30pm every Monday in Anderson 32 (on the UF campus). SDS is a multi-tendency progressive activist group.

28

K AR AOKE

Every Monday at Common Grounds (210 SW 2nd Ave.). Free beer from 9-10pm. $2 21+, $2 under.

06

{feb}8

UF Student Senate At 7:30pm every Tuesday in Reitz Union room 282 (on the UF campus). All students are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Nos Conversamos

en Espa単ol

From 7-9pm on second and fourth Tuesday of the month at the Civic Media Center (433 S. Main St.). An informal gathering for anyone interested in practicing their Spanish speaking skills. All levels are welcome- from beginner to native speaker. The structure of the meetings ranges from one-on-one conversations to reading aloud as a group, or anything in between.

15

22

( reading

Anarchadem

From 8:30-10:30 Media Center (43 A monthly readin aims to explore an temporary and his that have stimulat promoted critical supported social j tion is free and op perspectives.

{feb

UF Stude

Spring El

Tues. and Weds. fr the UF campus).

{mar}1 STAND UP COMEDY Featuring local pros at 9pm every Tuesday at 1982 (919 W. Univ. Ave.). Free for the first 20 over 21, $2 after. Cheap drinks all night.

08 Workers for a Democratic Society Meeting

Every other Tuesday at 6:30pm at IBEW LOCAL 1205 (2510 NW 6th St.). A progressive activist organization of young workers whose mission is to fight for economic justice throughout the community and the country. WDS is an affiliate of the North Central Florida Central Labor Council and the Florida AFL-CIO. 12 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | www.thefineprintUF.org

Wedn

Union

FARM

MAR

Every Wednesday Bo Diddley Com For a full listing o area farmers mark hogtownhomegro Farmers_Market


(AND SOME OF)

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MARCH

Thursday

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0pm at the Civic 33 S. Main St.). ng group that nd analyze constorical writings ted revolution, thinking and justice. Participapen to all political

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Fl. Senate President

Haridopolos on the upcoming

Fl. Legislative Session At 6pm at the Ocora at Pugh Hall (on the UF campus); will include a Q&A portion.

MERS

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y at 4pm at the mmunity Plaza. of Gainesvillekets, check out own.com/ t

09

11

Exit through the Gift Shop

An Oscar-nominated documentary following British stencil/street artist Banksy. Film screening at 7pm at the Civic Media Center (433 S. Main St.). A $3-$5 donation is requested.

18 FICK, Dear Mr. Anderson & Da Lunatic at The Lab At 9:30pm at The Lab (818 W. Univ. Ave.). Also featuring Young Hookers and Holy Umbrellas. $5 cover; all ages welcome.

25 2011 Florida Renewable Energy Tour

An all-day event hosted by the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy (FARE), including a town hall-style forum from 5-7pm at the Ocora at Pugh Hall (on the UF campus). For a full listing of scheduled events and to register (the event is free but space is limited), visit floridaallianceforrenewableenergy.org/Gainesville_Tour_Stop

03

Street

Friday

04

Saturday

12

V-Fest 2011 feat. Evan Greer, Lizzy Pitch, The Ones to Blame and the Gainesville Liberation Orchestra At 8pm at the Civic Media Center (433 S. Main St.). $5 donation will benefit Peaceful Paths and the Civic Media Center. V-Fest is a benefit concert series, held February 9-13 throughout various venus in Gainesville, in solidarity with V-Day, an antiviolence and women’s liberation movement. See vaginafest. blogspot.com for full listings.

26 Tim Barry, Grabass Charlestons

+ Greenland is Melting Doors at 9pm, music at 10pm at The Atlantic (15 N. Main St.). $10 cover (+2-21).

05

Weekly Poetry Jam

At 9pm every Thursday at the Civic Media Center (433 S. Main St.). All styles of poetry, acoustic music and a cappella singing, spoken word, performance art and more.

10

CMC Weekly Volunteer Mtg. From 5:30-6:30pm every Thursday at the Civic Media Center (433 S. Main St.). Those interested in getting involved are welcome and encouraged to attend. See civicmediacenter.org for more info.

LOTS More events online at

t h e f i n e p r i n t U F. o r g + S u bmit E v ents T O c a l e n d a r @ t h e f i n e p r i n t UF. o r g

February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 13


A Haunting

Past, Part III The EPA’s Record of Decision on Gainesville’s Superfund site, by Henry Taksier

The Stephen Foster neighborhood in northwest Gainesville is no ordinary stretch of suburbia. Just before night falls, sunlight passes through a canopy of leaves, illuminating the walls of not-so-perfectly aligned houses. Backyards reveal forests and creeks, invisible to those who drive by on the street. There’s a sense of community here, rather than socially constructed conformity. The residents can’t be defined by any specific age, race, lifestyle or socioeconomic class. One thing they all have in common is that they’re directly affected by a dirty secret, which publicly emerges every decade or so to make local headlines. At the core of the neighborhood, there’s a 90-acre toxic wasteland, concealed by bushes and barbed-wire fences, known as the Cabot/Koppers Superfund site. “Superfund site” is a legal term used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to define areas polluted so severely that they pose a risk to human health and local ecosystems. Koppers Inc. operated a wood treatment facility in Gainesville since 1916, releasing a wide range of toxins into Gainesville’s air, water and soil. They sold their property in 1988 to Beazer East, a private developer that follows Koppers around the country, absorbing environmental liabilities and allowing them to operate behind closed doors. The area was granted Superfund status 28 years ago. Due to conflicts of interest between the EPA, Beazer East and neighborhood residents, the site has not been cleaned up yet. No one agrees on the extent of the pollution or what needs to be done about it. The EPA finally released their Record of Decision, which details their plans to clean the site, on Feb. 2. 14 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | www.thefineprintUF.org

Will the EPA’s Record of Decision adequately address the needs of the community? Is their plan enough to heal the damage, grief and fear caused by almost a century of highly toxic pollution, or are they trying to cut corners and save money? Local toxicology experts, such as Joe Prager and Patricia Cline, have expressed skepticism. They’ll surely analyze the Record of Decision – all 703 pages of it – and look for answers between the lines. Public officials and environmental engineers are doing the same. Prager contends that the EPA has a “cozy relationship with industry as a rule.” The tax on corporate polluters that supplied the EPA’s “Superfund” was eliminated by Congress in 1995. Now, the EPA has no choice but to rely on the cooperation of responsible parties like Beazer. Prager served on the Alachua County Environmental Advisory Board from 2005 to 2008. His struggle with chemical treatment companies is a personal one. His wife was unknowingly exposed during her pregnancy to wood products treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA). Soon after, their daughter was born with a cleft lip and a cleft palette. Prager now spends his time researching the effects of industrial toxins and sifting through public documents. He works with Cline, the Stephen Foster neighborhood’s technical advisor, to hold politicians and company representatives accountable for their actions. Cline said on Feb. 3 that she wasn’t ready to make any official comments on the Record of Decision. Based on what she’s seen so far, she’s glad the EPA is planning to remedy off-site soil contamination in accordance with state residential standards, which are more strict than national standards, despite resistance from Beazer East. This may be a source of relief for Continued on p. 22


{

A wooden fence in the Stephen Foster neighborhood displays the mark of Koppers Inc., Gainesville’s most notorious industrial polluter. February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 15


homeless healthcare without

Photos and story by Juliana Jimenez Everyone calls her “T,” short for Tammy. Her blonde hair is held up in a ponytail and her tongue piercing sparkles when she talks. The radiation treatment for her lung cancer has left small burns on her legs, hands and on the tip of her nose. It feels like being in a microwave, she says, you’re slowly cooking from the inside out. For 20 minutes the machine goes click, click, click, and she doesn’t feel a thing, just the pressure of the metallic fishnet on her chest. But an hour later everything tastes like metal. She feels the heat waves inside of her, coming out, drenching her in sweat. If she could, she would do this twice a day, like the doctors recommend. But each treatment costs $80, money she cannot afford. So she goes once a day, some days.

Tammy Weasenforth is 52 and unemployed. Since she doesn’t have health insurance, she applied for Medicaid a year ago but hasn’t been approved yet. For now, she has a place to stay, but that could change any moment. She’s been homeless before.

also contribute to making them homeless in the first place. “Say you are a construction guy and you have a stroke or you develop severe arthritis, then you’re not able to do day labor any more – but you are still not eligible for Medicaid,” says Randy Stacey,

“If they took care of you in the beginning, they would save money in the long run.” Tammy’s situation is not rare. Most people who are unemployed and homeless or have been homeless in the past are also uninsured. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), 55 percent of the homeless population have no medical insurance. Healthcare is not just a challenge for homeless people – it can

16 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | www.thefineprintUF.org

director of the Helping Hands Clinic in Gainesville, a clinic that provides free medical and psychiatric care to the poor and destitute. In such a case, emergency rooms across the country are required by law to see patients in need of immediate medical care, but there is never a follow-up, making it very likely the condition

will return, Stacey says. This happened to a woman Stacey knows, who is 56 and has terminal cancer. Last year she had a 13-hour surgery to remove a tumor from the roof of her mouth, removing part of her tongue and jaw as well, all while living in the woods. The hospital was obligated to do the surgery, but back in the woods her chances of infection were very high, making effective recuperation much less likely. “You can’t get care until you are urgently ill, so it really isn’t a good system,” he says. “If they took care of you in the beginning, they would save money in the long run.” The majority of the most common diseases homeless people suffer can be prevented, like heart disease and diabetes, or respiratory infections like bronchitis and emphysema. These are very common because of smoking, sleeping outside and cold nights. Frequent


falls, cuts and scrapes also get easily out of hand. One man, for example, had an infection from a cut he sewed up himself with needle and thread. With Medicaid, homeless people can get a prescription at a hospital, but they won’t have money to pay for medicines. Seroquel, for example, a drug that treats depression, PTSD and schizophrenia, costs $400 for 30 pills. Tammy knows how hard it is to manage a disease without money, and not just from her lung cancer. In the seven years she has been living in Gainesville, Fla., she has broken her back two times. The last time was three years ago on Nov. 1st around noon. She was riding a brand new orange-andblue bike a minister had given to her. Then a car hit her from behind, and the driver quickly disappeared. Tammy filed a report with the police. A hit-and-run accident is considered a third-degree felony under state law. If the police don’t find the person responsible, the victim is entitled to $14,000 in compensation, but only if he or she is employed. But since Tammy didn’t have a job, she didn’t qualify for it. Her voice fills with frustration, but it doesn’t crack; it grows stronger. “The system is supposed to be about rehabilitation,” she says, “but it really is designed to keep you in.” She broke two ribs and had to spend three days in the hospital. Afterwards, she got a prescription for a $1,500 brace. She couldn’t afford it though, so she had to lie still for six weeks. Luckily, she had

roommates who helped her with food and basic necessities. Laws that criminalize homelessness abound in Gainesville. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and the NCH, named Gainesville the fifth meanest city towards homeless people in 2010. The list is compiled taking in consideration the city’s laws that criminalize homelessness; laws that, for example, make it illegal to sit, sleep or place personal belongings in a public space. Three of the top five meanest cities are in Florida. In 2007, the Homeless Access to Recovery through Treatment Act, or HART, was introduced in Congress, but it stalled after it was referred to a House subcommittee. The bill would have strengthened and expanded substance abuse and mental health services to indigent people and also ensure people discharged from rehabilitation facilities went into stable housing, a key step in eradicating homelessness at the root. Over the years, there has been conservative opposition to such legislation. Why should working taxpayers pay for services for people who are not working or paying taxes? “It’s actually an investment because these permanent housing support programs reduce costs in the long term,” said Sabrina Edgington, program and policy specialist at the National Health Care for the Homeless Council in Washington, D.C. If homeless people don’t have to return to the street after a car accident or chemotherapy then they can recuperate, she argues. They

won’t use costly emergency support systems like ERs and emergency shelters as much, reducing public costs and reducing hospital use by 50 percent, according to the Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community. Many days Tammy is in so much pain from the radiation that she cannot leave her Section 8 apartment. This makes it harder to find a job. But she tries because she knows that as long as she is unemployed she won’t have enough money for the required radiation treatments to recuperate – so that she can get a job. This cycle is her life, but the pain doesn’t show. She still smiles. She jokes, she laughs. She remembers a time before her problems started 14 years ago.

depression. She was prescribed Xanax, a drug that treats anxiety, depression and panic attacks. By breakfast she would take six Xanax pills, and by the end of the day she would finish a 12-pack of beer. Everything started to deteriorate: her savings, her relationship with her kids, her sanity. She was taking the prescribed antidepressant, but something wasn’t right. She was more and more depressed. She felt the pills had something to do with it, so she stopped taking them. Tammy admits her lung cancer may be self-inflicted since she smoked crack and cigarettes for a long time. Now, she is over drugs and depression. But she is not over being unemployed. She’s not used to it; she doesn’t like it. Since she was 14 years old she had had a job,

“You can’t get care until you are urgently ill, so it really isn’t a good system.” She and her husband owned Apple Mountain Engineers in Linden, Va., where they worked installing and repairing sewage pipes. Back then she earned $850 a week. But then at 33, her husband Jim died from an aneurysm. She was left alone with their 8-yearold daughter and 12-year-old twin boys. Everyone kept saying, “If Jim were here, things would be different.” She couldn’t live with that, so she sold her share of the company. Problems began and so did her (left) Tammy Weasenforth, 52, stands at St. Francis House after eating her Thanksgiving meal. Tammy has lung cancer and must get treatment twice a day, but she cannot afford it, so she goes when she can. (opposite page) Bruce Clark gets acupuncture at the Helping Hands Clinic on Nov. 29, 2010. On Monday nights the clinic offers free healthcare for the homeless. Bruce has been coming to get acupuncture for six months now because he says it relieves pain and stress and has helped him stop using alcohol and drugs. “This is my drug now,” Bruce said.

until now. In the past few weeks she has worked cleaning houses and taking care of people with disabilities. She also worked tending horses during the night, but the man who hired her never paid her and left her stranded in Ocala. Recently, however, life has been getting a little better for her. Her cancer is now 27 percent in remission. “That’s got to be good, right?” she says. “I don’t know what it means but I’ll take it over 0 percent.” When her radiation begins at 3:30 p.m., at the University of Florida Shands Davis Cancer Center, she feels like she’s in a tanning bed – except she’s secured down and her skin is cooking. They offer pain medication, but she doesn’t want any of it, she has taken enough medications and drugs in her life. By now, she has had IV with stabilizing fluids injected in her left forearm so many times, the tattoo she has there in memory of her husband is ruined. But she doesn’t mind today. She is feeling strong. “I’m going to beat this,” she says. “I’m confident I’m going to make it.”

February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 17


Greener

Pastures More online

at thefineprintuf.org/ greenerpastures, including more photos and a video feature by Laura Landry Photos and text by Henry Taksier.

When Kathy Pennega, 27, pursued her undergrad in animal biology at UF, part of her coursework involved dissecting a chicken. Her professor pulled a live hen out of a plastic bag and broke its neck in front of the class. Some of her classmates cried. Kathy thought they were wimps. “That’s the mentality you gotta have as a vet student,” she said. Her attitude toward animals changed when she met John Friary, 40, a biostatistician at UF. On their first date, John asked Kathy a simple question -- “Why do you eat meat?” Kathy thought for a minute -- she didn’t want to say anything cliché or stupid. She couldn’t think of an answer. John had strong beliefs about animal rights, but he wasn’t preachy. Kathy gave the issue some thought, did her research and decided to become a vegan. She did it secretly at first -- she didn’t want anyone to think she was doing it for John, which she wasn’t. Kathy and John now run their own farm sanctuary called Greener Pastures, located off Archer and Tower Road. The animals there -which include horses, pigs, cows, donkeys, as well as dogs and cats -are all treated equally as pets rather than commercial commodities. Some of these animals came from conventional farms, where

18 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | www.thefineprintUF.org

they would have been packed into pens, fattened up, injected with hormones, slaughtered early and sold by the pound. There’s a misconception, John said, that commercial farmers have an incentive to treat animals properly in order to produce highquality meat. This is true from a veterinary perspective, but it doesn’t reflect the economic reality. The vast majority of meat in grocery stores comes from “concentrated animal feeding operations” -- or factory farms -- where the incentive is to produce massive quantities of meat that can be sold cheaply. John made the point that our society has created laws restricting pollution and labor abuse, even if they raise the prices of products, but is yet to pass laws defending the rights of animals. Kathy and John periodically host bonfires at Greener Pastures. It’s a chance for them to get drunk with their friends and have fun, but it also spreads awareness of the cause they’ve undertaken. The purpose of a farm sanctuary, John says, is not just to save a few animals. Millions more will be treated like dirt in factory farms and slaughtered every year. Farm sanctuaries, which exist around the country, are a symbolic form of resistance.


(right) Kathy scratches Darsana’s chin. Darsana was initially raised on UF’s cattle farm, where a lack of veterinary care led to her blindness. “She couldn’t blink all the crud out of her eyes, so they became ulcerated and infected. Now she’s blind,” Kathy said. UF had no use for a blind cow, so they handed her over to Kathy, who was willing to take care of her.

(above) Koko the donkey was born a few months ago. A bonfire was held on Greener Pastures to celebrate her birth. She lives on Greener Pastures with Karma, her natural mother, and Kurly, her adoptive father. (left) Kathy spends some quality time with Penny the pig and Little Miss Sunshine the cat. In a factory farm, Penny would have spent her life in a warehouse with no room to turn around and no exposure to natural sunlight. At Greener Pastures, Penny receives compassion and regular veterinary care. Each year in the U.S., 100 million other pigs won’t be so fortunate.

February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 19


Over the ramp

Carlos Jarimillo, 22, clears the deck on Dec. 11, 2007 with a boosted ollie in Larson’s backyard. ‘The Jungle’ was a hotspot for skateboarders in Gainesville before the ramps decayed. Photo by Scott Kramer.


and through the woods by Erik Knudsen Wearing a yellow Independent long-sleeve shirt and a pair of black Vans, Robb Bjorklund lounges on his couch with Oliver, a Catahoula dog, and pops another cherry-flavored nicotine lozenge to help him fight the urge to dip tobacco. He buys the 4mg pills and meticulously cuts them into quarters to save money. For Bjorklund, however, nicotine is secondary to an altogether different addiction. Skateboarding has taken a hold of his life and won’t let go anytime soon. “I fell straight to the flat and separated two of my ribs,” Bjorklund said about a recent skate accident. This injury, like all the others, will probably not be his last. During the 60s, when skateboarding made its way to the east coast, the liberal City of Gainesville became known for something other than the University of Florida. Shortly after its arrival, skateboarding buried itself deep within this southern college town – bringing with it creativity, brotherhood and sometimes trouble. “We’d eat, we’d skate, and then we’d get drunk,” Bjorklund reminisced. “Then we’d skate again.” As he talks, he pushes aside power tools to make room on the coffee table for a stack of scrapbooks. He’s been keeping track of his most prized skate memories since the year he started. “Too many,” was his response when I asked him how many scrapbooks he owned. Flipping through distant memories, Bjorklund explains each picture so intensely that even the dog is tuned in. He chuckles and points to a picture of a curly-haired brunette in a red cheerleading outfit. “Here’s the first girl I boinked,” he said. Bjorklund explained that before FreeRide Surf and Skate existed, there was Inland Surf Shop, a tiny hangout that helped push the skate scene in Gainesville during the ‘80s. It served as a meeting point for skateboarders and held contests in the parking lot every so often. Being homemade, the ramps were often splintered and sketchy. The parking lot concrete was worn and cracked, and cops drove by with menacing glares. Still, the con-

tests continued and the culture thrived. The backwoods of Jonesville, a small town bordering Gainesville, were home to the most hardcore half-pipe scene in Florida during the early ‘90s. “That’s the only place they’ll let us have ‘em [half-pipes]...In the woods, or the ghetto, or some gulch,” Bjorklund said, laughing. The Jonesville ramp was rumored at the time to be the largest half-pipe on the east coast. Skaters from as far as Miami gathered here to shred the legendary ramp. Not everyone had the balls to actually do it, though. “You’d either drop in or sit your ass down and watch,” Bjorklund recalled. The caliber of skating that took place in the woods of Jonesville during that era caught the attention of amateurs and professionals. Enthusiasts moved from all over the South to Gainesville. Thirty-three-year-old wood-pusher Tony Pessina, with his razorshaved head and bulky frame looks more like a body builder than a skateboarder. Almost always wearing some type of hat, usually a backwards baseball cap, he works hard to keep the ‘street’ scene going in Gainesville. Skating often takes place on private property, so those who participate need to find ways to stay out of trouble. To solve this dilemma, Pessina spent years building hidden spots. He went as far as dropping $500 on plywood one day to construct ramps collectively known as ‘The Jungle’ in skateboarder Shawn Larson’s back yard, which became a favorite night-time location for skaters - thanks to extension chords and floodlights. The artificial lighting enabled skaters to practice their craft at times when it wasn’t otherwise possible. Like the Jonesville half pipe and other spots before it, The Jungle didn’t last for more than five years. The metal got rusty and dangerous. It was another spot, come and gone. Another refuge existed in the woods of Northwest Gainesville on an abandoned building foundation. Dubbed ‘Toxic’ for its close proximity

“That’s the only place they’ll let us have ‘em...In the woods, or the ghetto, or some gulch.”

Continued on p. 22 February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 21


A Haunting Past, Pt. 3, cont’d from p. 14 Gainesville residents, especially families living near the site, who are often scared to let their kids play outside. What this means for residents is that Beazer East will hire contractors to remove two feet of contaminated soil from their yards via heavy machinery and replace it with clean fill. Residents must agree to let the contractors onto their property. The Record of Decision doesn’t account for the concentration of dioxins inside people’s houses, which can build up over time and surpass the levels outside. It certainly doesn’t account for bioaccumulation, the process in which dioxins can bind to fatty tissue and accumulate in the human body. Dioxin — one of the major pollutants released by Koppers — has historically been used in chemical weapons like Agent Orange. According to the World Health Organization, chronic exposure can lead to reproductive problems, immune damage and cancer. In January 2010, a private consulting firm sampled fine dust particles from nine random houses within a two-mile radius of the Superfund site, revealing an average indoor dioxin concentration of 400 parts per trillion — over 50 times what the state considers to be safe for soil outdoors. Mary Ann Jones lives in one of those houses with her extended family, which includes three grandchildren. The youngest ones — Aaron, 3, and Carlos, 6 — play outside each day without understanding the situation. She tells them to wash their hands after playing outside, and if they drop something on the ground, she tells them not to pick it up. The Jones family’s house, next door to the Superfund site, had an indoor dioxin concentration of 1.2 parts per billion -- that’s 150 times higher than Florida’s outdoor residential standard. Mary Ann was not warned of the pollution before she bought her property. She said she likes to garden, but now her plants are dead because she’s scared to touch them. For the Jones family, moving away is not an option — they spent all their money on the house, and now their property is worthless. “The more I think about it, the angrier I get,” Mary Ann said months ago. “You can’t put

a price on my life or my family. Why would you try to cover up something that you know is so deadly? Why do you think money is more important than the lives of my grandkids?” Prager suggests relocation may be the safest solution for residents living near Koppers. Relocation is not considered in the EPA’s Record of Decision, but they’ve done it before. In 1996, the EPA relocated 358 families in Pensacola, home to the notorious Escambia Superfund site. The relocation was a result of additional soil testing, which only occurred due to overwhelming pressure from Citizens Against Toxic Exposure (CATE), a group similar to Protect Gainesville’s Citizens. The relocated families had been living under the shadow of what they referred to as “Mount Dioxin.” The EPA had decided to remedy the site by gathering an estimated 344,520 tons of contaminated soil and compressing it into 40 acres, resulting in a mound that was 60 feet tall. They protected the mound with a plastic seal, which was meant to last for ten years. It only took a few years before wind and rain caused damage to the seal. Seeds got in the soil and trees began to emerge, wearing and tearing it further. Contaminated soil escaped and spread through the neighborhood. The story of Escambia is neatly spelled out in the second chapter of Sacrifice Zones, a work of investigative journalism by Steve Lerner. The EPA’s Record of Decision calls for a similar approach in Gainesville, involving a mound of toxic soil, vertical walls and an engineered cap. Prager saw the similarity and sent an editorial to the Gainesville Sun, warning residents that Gainesville may soon be home to a new Mount Dioxin. In their Record of Decision, the EPA analyzed Prager’s assertions and denied them. According to the ROD, “Many of the points raised by the commenter [Prager] related to the Escambia site are factually inaccurate. The HDPE temporary cover alluded to in the comment performed as expected and was replaced by an engineered cap.” According to Sacrifice Zones, “Residents were first told the plastic cover would last for five years but the EPA subsequently claimed it had a ten-year lifespan. In 1996, the contrac-

tor who installed the cover reported to the EPA that it was damaged and had a two-foot hole and a two-foot tear in it along with other smaller holes.” In a phone call, Francine Ishmael, executive director of CATE, directly testified: “It was a plastic tarp that they put on a mound of dirt. They said it would last for 10 years. It did not.” In Gainesville, the EPA’s Record of Decision calls for an engineered cap, which they claim will have “an indefinite life expectancy with minimal maintenance.” Its dimensions and design are yet to be determined. Prager hopes, as many Gainesville residents do, that the EPA won’t repeat its mistakes in Gainesville. Cline said the Record of Decision doesn’t explicitly spell out everything. It’s the role of concerned citizens, she says, to constantly make sure the EPA is up-to-date on relevant data and community input that they might otherwise overlook. She expressed concern that the Record of Decision doesn’t adequately address the issue of contaminants leaching downward from the soil into the groundwater. There are many polluted areas, she said, where the EPA intends to scrape up contaminated soil and replace it without conducting further investigations on what’s underneath. The true extent of pollution from Koppers may never be fully defined. It’s underground and above ground. It’s in the air, soil, groundwater, creeks and forests. Creosote threatens to permanently damage the Floridan aquifer. Dioxins are building up in yards and houses. The Stephen Foster Neighborhood Protection Group claims that animals, pets and even people have died as a result of Koppers. Scott Miller of the EPA dismissed their claims as “anecdotal.” The Florida Health Department concluded that yards in the Stephen Foster neighborhood were safe but warned residents not to let their kids play in a narrow easement bordering Koppers. Any officer of Protect Gainesville’s Citizens, an organization that aims to spread awareness, would stress the idea that the Superfund process requires relentless grassroots involvement. Otherwise, residents living in the shadow of Superfund sites are likely to be overlooked.

Over the ramp and through the woods, cont’d from p. 20 to the notorious Cabot/Koppers Superfund site, this seemingly forgotten concrete was a haven for local skaters - despite reports of itchy skin from those who skated there too long or too often. “We used to get headaches out there,” said Pessina. Regardless, the spot remained a hometown favorite. The foundation began in 1999 with a small pyramid-shaped ramp, built by Robb Bjorklund and a handful of others. It grew for years before it became one of

Gainesville’s most treasured secrets. “There was a bunch of woods and you could just see a little path through the brush,” said Steve Cockrell, who often skated there. Only the occasional rumble of a distant engine reminded them that civilization was just on the other side of the trees. “There’s not 40 little 8-yearolds riding around on scooters,” said Cockrell. Skaters were able to practice for as long as they could last and often stayed until daylight

22 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | www.thefineprintUF.org

faded. “People would bring beer out there and chill for the whole afternoon until the sunset.” Pessina and Cockrell built a skate perfect ledge that enabled them to grind and slide where they once could not. The ledge added a much needed obstacle to the thriving spot and arguably became the most skated terrain there. Unfortunately for skateboarders, Toxic was bulldozed and remains only a memory for those who were fortunate enough to see its peak. Its destruction, however,

has not put a damper on Tony Pessina’s will to create. Currently, he is working on another concrete project on the Northwest edge of town. Not surprisingly, this spot is also out of sight and located in the woods. “I’m only pouring ‘crete for any of my projects – no wood,” Pessina said. “I have a concrete mixer now. Fuck mixing by hand. I can do some serious shit now.”


Gainesville’s Superfund Art Project by Henry Taksier In 2010, UF Professor Anthony Castronovo taught an interdisclass called Art and Ecology. His class organized a Koppers-themed art show last Spring, hosted by Wild Iris Books, where Protect Gainesville’s Citizens (PGC) held bi-monthly meetings. Kim Popejoy, one of the organization’s founders, noticed a lot more people were coming to their meetings after the show. PGC decided to create a task force to engage artists around town. They called it the Superfund Art Project (SAP), headed by Popejoy. “When I went to Wild Iris and saw the first Koppers art show, I felt we were finally getting somewhere,” said Tia Ma, one of the project’s directors. “There are artists everywhere and Superfund sites everywhere. If we can connect the two, there will be more money, media and inspiration. We want to document everything we’re doing so it could be used as a template in other areas.” Ma said the project’s mission is to use all forms of art – video, photography, poetry, music, public

speaking and theater – to express the science and emotions associated with a toxic Superfund site. The project also aims to create and distribute educational materials, document the history and personal stories associated with the site and collaborate with other communities that struggle with similar situations. Ma, a local massage therapist and street artist, knows what it’s like to live in the shadow of a Superfund site. She lived in the Stephen Foster neighborhood for two years. The more she learned about Koppers, the less comfortable she felt treating clients at her house, eating vegetables from her garden and letting her cat roll around in the soil. Ma moved away in July when the lease on her house expired. Before leaving, she filled her yard with ferns and sunflowers, known for their ability to cleanse the earth by absorbing industrial toxins. Her struggle with Koppers is far from over. She knows most people can’t just move away. Many of the residents living near Koppers, including low-income families, bought their houses without being warned

Bags and Barrels, cont’d from p. 8 2010 earthquake, it was one of the few structures left standing. Following the earthquake, attention was focused on reconstruction efforts, but the recent cholera epidemic has refocused attention on Haiti’s continued lack of water treatment. In 1997, the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) declared that only 46 percent of Haitians had access to potable (drinkable) water and that Haiti’s water systems are vulnerable. About $54 million in loans were then approved by IDB for potable water and sanitation projects. However, according to numerous reports from Partners in Health and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU, continued political manipulation by the U.S. has resulted in many of the promised loans being only partially dispersed or withheld altogether. Since then, $1.15 billion in aid relief promised in March 2001 has been tied up in Congress by stipulations for Haiti to first prove its commitment to fighting corruption. While politics are debated, thousands of people are left in tent cities, vulnerable to cholera. Many don’t have the luxury of turning on the tap and accessing clean water. There is no viable sanitation system to treat water contamination. Clean water is a right. The politicking of governments should not supercede access to clean and healthy water or interfere with international loans. While the people in charge of dispersing financial aid struggle through red tape, you can help make a difference now. If you would like to put words into action, there will be a spring break building trip to Haiti. You can find out more about the trip and other ways to help by visiting barrelsofhope.org and fromgainesvillewithlove.org

of the implications. Their properties are worthless now. “I went around with a video camera and found that not many people were willing to be interviewed about the subject,” Ma said. “That’s why we want to mobilize actors, comedians and storytellers so there can be more open talk about this.” Recently, SAP teamed up with Go Green Nation and Cinema Verde, Gainesville’s environmental film and arts festival, to spread awareness and organize creative projects, including a Hazmat fashion show at the festival in March. In collaboration with the Thomas Center, the Superfund Art Project plans to send out a call for local artists interested in creating relevant artwork for an exhibition in 2012, which will hopefully travel across the country. “At the Downtown Arts Festival, we talked to artists about the Koppers situation,” Ma said. “A handful lived here for a long time but knew nothing about it. Others fought for thirty years but couldn’t keep it up. When we mentioned we had puppeteers, photographers and musicians that wanted to address this, they lit up.

Portrait by Kelly Sims, displayed at Wild Iris Books during the first exhibition that ultimately triggered the Superfund Art Project.

Published with support from

Campus Progress provides support, advice, and materials to students engaged in public education/advocacy campaigns on issues like Sudan, the Iraq war, living wage, poverty and the death penalty. We also engage students in national issue campaigns on critical issues from global warming to civil rights, student debt to academic freedom. Visit CampusProgress.org/issues for more. February 2011 | T H E F I N E P R I N T | 23


V

Block Tuition “Paying for the Privilege”

p. 8

Over the Ramp, through the Woods Gainesville’s Underground Skate Scene

p. 20

The Fine Print Vol. III, Issue III  

The February 2011 issue of The Fine Print. We're an independent publication in Gainesville, FL.

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