• Eugene’s Finance Investigative Team (FIT) is a new addition to the city budget process, adding a group of invited community members to join some Budget Committee members to talk about how to balance the FY 2015 budget. The meetings are supposedly open to the public, but they have been held in a third-floor room of the Eugene Public Library that does not have public access, and no public notice was given. Is this a violation of Oregon’s Open Meetings Law? FIT’s stated purpose is to “provide a report to the Budget Committee with their evaluation.” If FIT has any influence on the budget, the public has a right to notice and a right to easily attend the meetings. We hear these changes are in the works following a query from EW.
FIT members are hearing about options to eliminate vacant positions, recruit more volunteers at the library, increase fees for recreation, increase the hotel tax, reduce staff pay, decrease the manager-to-line-staff ratio and create special districts to increase property taxes.
The FIT community members are John Barofsky, Jenn Bell, Barb Bellamy, Rob Bennett, Ruth Duemler, Marilyn Milne, Ken Neubeck, Eric Richardson and Evangelina Sundgrenz, but the FIT is only meeting four times and we’ve heard from one member who doubts the community members will really gain an understanding of city finances in order to make informed evaluations to the full Budget Committee Oct. 28.
• In order to run for Lane County Commission you must be a citizen of the U.S., a legal voter of the state, a resident of the county who has resided within the district for a period of no less than two months prior to any primary or general election in which the person is a candidate and, finally, have resided in the county two years immediately preceding the beginning of the term of office. We’d like to also suggest the candidate be honest, ethical and able to think, but these days that’s asking a lot out of politicians. The silver lining to all the county brouhaha is that a lot of candidates are entering into the races for East and West Lane and Springfield; the latest listed on the Lane County website is Jack A. Schoolcraft in the race against incumbent Faye Stewart for East Lane.
Another candidate in that race, Kevin Matthews, has been facing “birther” allegations on whether he can claim bragging rights to having lived in East Lane for more than 20 years. Matthews says while the county maps of his previous home might be confusing to some, he’s got the documents to prove how long he lived there. Either way, Matthews’ current Dexter area home is firmly in East Lane almost a year before the primary, and he’s been involved in issues affecting the community for years. Let’s focus on the issues in this election — gravel mines, government dishonesty and logging to name a few — and try not to get distracted by mud-slinging just yet.
• Folks who object to investment in LTD’s EmX bus rapid transit (BRT) system probably don’t recognize the positive business and economic implications of efficient mass transit in our metro area. A Sept. 19 story in Forbes (wkly.ws/1ks) says “bus rapid transit can not only spur development, but can do so far more efficiently than light rail and streetcars.” Eugene’s EmX is listed by Forbes as one of seven “authentic” BRT lines, along with lines in Cleveland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.
The first leg of EmX between downtown Eugene and downtown Springfield has proven to be highly successful, and an EmX stop in Glenwood has inspired plans to develop a major housing project there. The need for more student housing is questionable, but regardless, that development will create jobs and spawn coffee shops, restaurants and other small businesses nearby, and it all raises the tax base. The third leg of EmX out to west Eugene is scheduled for completion in early 2017, and we predict it will be good for businesses along the route. Meanwhile, a feasibility study is under way for a new EmX leg from Springfield to Thurston and/or LCC, and $2 million in state funding was just earmarked to study a route from northwest Eugene to downtown to LCC, hooking into the 6th and 7th avenue west Eugene route.
• The Mule Deer Foundation this week is lobbying Congress to end the shutdown because Forest Service campgrounds heavily used by hunters this fall are closed, and the shutdown is also interfering with wildlife habitat restoration programs that improve hunting. Unexpected consequences are starting to pile up, and it’s possible some folks in the anti-government crowd will gain a new appreciation for the role of public servants and agencies in business, industry, finance, travel, veterans’ services and, yes, even our access to gun down Bambi.
• Columnist and author Dan Savage is coming to UO to give a free talk at 7:30 pm Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Alumni Center, and the tickets are all taken, but his talk will be live-streamed to the Global Scholars Hall Ballroom. We remember when Savage first came to speak in March 2007 on our behalf — EW was under heavy attack and boycott threats for publishing his “Savage Love” advice column. We’ve all come a long way. His visit this time is sponsored by the UO Health Center, the Cultural Forum, the Department of Human Physiology and others.