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Slant 2-28-2013

Brian Obie

• Fifth Street Public Market owner Brian Obie is bullish on Eugene and has apartments and other big plans for county-owned land at 6th and Oak. We think more housing downtown is generally a good thing, but buried deep in the paperwork is mention of moving the Lane County Farmers Market: “Momentum has already begun with the inclusion of the workforce housing development of HACSA and the eminent potential of including the Lane County Farmer’s Market as a center piece of the development.” Sure, the Farmers Market desperately needs to expand, but what about other options that would keep it downtown (south of busy 6th Avenue) and attached to Saturday Market? Expanding onto the county’s “butterfly” parking lot or temporarily closing 8th Avenue to make more space strike us as better options, and objectors haven’t come up with any good reason to shoot them down.

This week county commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of leasing the land for 99 years for this development after receiving only one proposal and over Commissioner Pete Sorenson’s objection that there was no public hearing planned on the matter.

• Hold your horses! We’re reserving judgment on the proposed city fee that will be on the May ballot until we have more facts. We know city services, particularly those affecting the poor and middle class, will be in bad shape without it. We know the fee per dwelling unit is $10 per month, and that there will be an exclusion for low-income folks. But we don’t know how poor is too poor to pay. Lots of other issues to look at as well. We’re not saying “yea” or “neigh” until we have more numbers.

Some eyebrows were raised when the Springfield Chamber of Commerce gave The Register-Guard a Heritage Award Feb. 5 for its “continued coverage of the business news in Springfield in Eugene.” In making the announcement, Chamber Executive Director Dan Egan said the daily paper has been a “friend of the chamber and the business community at large.” We hear that Egan meets regularly with Bridget Baker, the daily’s PR director, but what’s odd is that the R-G has been working for decades to put Springfield’s own community newspapers out of business, starting with the Springfield News and continuing on with The Springfield Beacon and now the hyper-local Springfield Times, which looks like it might make it despite the intense competition. The R-G distributes its Springfield Extra around town each week and hands out free daily papers Thursdays in front of the Springfield Post Office. Here’s a tongue-twister for ya: Blatant buttering up of Bridget Baker burns bridges.

• Our story last week on the proposed shutting down of access to Lane County’s traditionally nude beach, Glassbar Island, for 10 years has been racking up online comments. Surely there is a way that The Nature Conservancy and its allies in restoration can save the environment and let longtime clothing-optional nature lovers have access — after all, the nudies have long participated in cleaning up the area. Our favorite online comment comes from Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich who weighed in and said that he supports public access to public property as “the default policy,” and “I do not care about the folks using Glassbar au natural. Remember, I am a small ‘l’ libertarian. If someone wants to get skin cancer in weird places, it’s not my concern.” We hear the issue might come up before the commission again.

• Forget Eugene as a “sustainable city.” The Wall Street Journal says Eugene is a logging town on the rebound. In a Feb. 24 article that reads a little like a pro-timber opinion piece, the WSJ interviewed Swanson lumber, Seneca timber and Glenda Poling, the manager of the Lane County Community and Economic Development Division, as well as other timber industry resources who all said logging is on the rebound and credit the housing boom and log exports to China. The WSJ quotes Poling as saying “I don’t think anything will ever take the place of the timber industry.” Ouch. Maybe Lane County should start thinking outside the timber box because tying ourselves to logging sure hasn’t helped cash-strapped schools, public safety or needed county and city services.

• Congrats to Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, the only member of Congress to earn a 100 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters. The new National Environmental Scorecard cites Merkley for his leadership in Oregon and the nation on issues of climate change, green jobs and protecting the public health from environmental hazards. Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Ron Wyden have lifetime scores of 89 percent. By comparison, Rep. Greg Walden has a score of 13 percent. See all the scores at http://wkly.ws/f