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Slant 12-27-2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our local teachers who wore yellow and blue, the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary School, on the Monday after the tragic Friday. America’s teachers have joined cops and firemen as first responders, and we need to better support them.

Happy New Year to all those who seek knowledge through higher education and training, the hard work of learning and refining of skills, and to all who teach and mentor them. Our future depends on critical thinking and our ability to adapt and evolve.

Happy New Year to Occupy Eugene and all the other Occupies. They were the first to frame the Obama campaign with big media coverage of the “99 percent and the 1 percent.” Greetings, too, to Mother Jones magazine for exposing Romney’s “47 percent” speech to help defeat him. Occupy Eugene has continued to fight effectively for the homeless, those in need of medical care, families facing foreclosure and many more. 

Happy New Year to our local political activists, standing up for human and civil rights, and defending our forests, rivers and wildlife from those intent on destruction of resources for short-term gain.

Happy New Year to all the nonprofits and charitable organizations in Eugene and around the region. See our Give Guide in this paper for tips on how to grow our reputation as a city and county that cares.

Happy New Year to all the for-profit business people, large and small, who create employment, train their people, and provide useful goods and services.

Happy New Year to all the visionary artists who are drawn to Lane County, from the mountains to the coast. One example: A Dec. 22 benefit concert for the Egan Warming Centers featured 14 singer-songwriters from the Eugene Caldera Songwriters Group, showcasing remarkable talent while filling Tsunami Books to standing room only and generating a truckload of winter clothing for the homeless. Let’s make this an annual event.

Happy New Year to organized labor in Lane County, all over Oregon, and in the U.S. May you grow bigger and stronger in 2013.

Happy New Year to all the good people involved in local government who are not always appreciated by the citizenry. We’re talking city staffers, county workers, agency employees, elected officials, board and committee members, volunteers — all the folks who hold our civilization together.

Happy New Year to the middle class, whoever that is. May you, too, grow bigger and stronger in 2013.

 • A lot of people suffer through the holidays and could use some love and attention. Someone who’s having a particularly rough time is David Oaks, founder and executive director of MindFreedom International with its headquarters right here in Eugene. Oaks has been a passionate human rights advocate working on mental health issues for some 30 years. He fell off a ladder earlier in December and is laid up with a broken neck, a lot of medical bills and the frustration of not being able to do his life’s work. See mindfreedom.org for updates on his recovery and learn how to help.

Is Oregon ready for a sales tax after nine failed attempts, none even close to passing? Some veteran Democratic lawmakers think voters are fed up with underfunded schools, social services and public safety, and they are planning a referendum on tax reform, probably in 2014, that would include a 5 percent sales tax on everything but groceries, utilities and prescription drugs. Oregon has a huge underground economy that goes untaxed. We like the idea of drug dealers paying taxes when they buy their giant SUVs, arsenals and cabin cruisers. And our millions of out-of-state tourists benefit from our services with little taxation. But sales taxes, no matter how they are written, always have the biggest impact on low-income folks who can’t even afford toilet paper and toothpaste. We certainly need tax reform, but let’s start with eliminating the dozens, if not hundreds, of exceptions and rebates that business and industry have managed to shove down our collective throats over the last few decades. One example is a tax break for installing pollution-reducing equipment that is already required by law. Huh? Where’s the incentive?