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Slant 3-27-2014

• The death toll is still rising in the massive landslide in Snohomish County, Wash., that has killed an estimated 24 at last count with more than 100 people still unaccounted for. As the search for bodies continues, so does the search for answers — what triggered the massive slide that crumpled homes and blocked a river? And for Oregonians, we wonder, could it happen here on such a scale? The area in Washington had unstable soils and a history of slides, had been logged in the past and experienced heavy rains recently. Those heavy rains are going to be more common as we start feeling the effects of climate change in the Northwest. And we’ve seen the erosion that follows clearcutting on steep slopes.  

• Will Sexual Assault Support Services get a campus coordinator position funded at the UO? We wrote about this last week and the issue appears unresolved as we go to press. The contract in question is still being reviewed. A letter claiming the position was “terminated” was sent to the UO president and provost, but we hear from SASS that the letter was misleading and came not from SASS but from a group supporting SASS, the UO Coalition to End Sexual Violence. Some confusion has ensued. Meanwhile, we heard from Rita Radostitz at UO this week that the university has “recently added new positions addressing sexual assault prevention and support, and will continue to work to improve the services we provide.” Sexual assault and harassment on and around campus has been going on for generations, much of it unreported, and real solutions will require a higher level of commitment, education and collaboration than we’ve seen in recent years. This latest misunderstanding is an opportunity for the UO and community to move forward together.

•  A Feb. 23 R-G article, “Foreign College Students Bring the Bling to Eugene,” focusing on a small number of wealthy Chinese students at the UO was seen by many as racist and did a disservice to the many foreign students who struggle to pay for their education. Now we hear that some on campus are wondering if that story also made Asian students a new target for robberies and car-jacking. One rumor going around is that the students who were forced into the trunk of their expensive car at gunpoint by the alleged murderer of retired UO prof George Wasson were Chinese students. Try to use your journalistic powers for good, R-G!

• As long as we are needling the R-G, the daily paper just noticed, thanks to a story in The Oregonian, that potentially explosive oil trains are going through town. We reported on that last year, with the help of PictureEugene’s Micah Griffin who videotaped the trains and the placards on them that document what they carry. Our story got national attention and more importantly, it called attention to something that still needs fixing — the state won’t tell the public just how much oil and toxics are going through our neighborhoods on trains. 

The McKenzie River is one of our greatest treasures. It’s the source of our drinking water, a huge draw for boating and fishing and a big part of our local history. But the McKenzie is also threatened by watershed logging, riparian degradation, pollution, privatization of water, mismanagement of fish and wildlife and other dangers. Last year the McKenzie River Trust held a “McKenzie Memories” fundraiser at Cozmic that far exceeded expectations. Dozens were turned away and finding a parking space on the streets downtown was near impossible. Dave Helfrich talked about his family’s drift boat adventures on the McKenzie over several generations and showed old photos of a time when wild fish were plentiful. The event is coming back at 6:30 pm Friday, April 4, at Cozmic and is expected to sell out again. Let’s get educated, support the work of MRT and enjoy the show. Get tickets early at mckenzieriver.org.

• The old phrase “preaching to the choir” assumes your audience is limited and your message isn’t going far. But what if your choir includes many of the most influential people in your community, people who will carry your message to a larger audience? So it is with newspapers. Our choir is educated, informed and active in the community and beyond. And our choir is growing. For those who like numbers, we’re happy to report EW is now printing 41,800 papers a week, distributed to 835 boxes and racks all over Lane County and the Corvallis area. Those 41,800 papers get passed around so our actual print readership is 86,160 in Lane County, according to the independent Media Audit. We have about 5,600 print readers in Corvallis/Albany and another 25,000 online readers. Let’s hear it for our very vocal, sometimes noisy choir!