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Slant 3-15-2012

Envision Eugene’s two-year process will wrap up over the next couple of months and City Manager Jon Ruiz will present his recommendations to the City Council after we go to press this week, drawing criticism from community members who are concerned that the manager’s secret analysis will short-circuit the public process. Adding to the concern is the manager’s canceling of a Tuesday morning meeting with the 70-member Community Resource Group (CRG) to preview his recommendations before they go to the council.

We appreciate all the work that has gone into Envision Eugene, but the process was flawed at the start so we predict an unsatisfactory outcome. It was clear from the beginning that the city staff and council expected our urban growth boundary (UGB) would need to expand to meet projected growth. The only question was where and how. We wrote in our cover story June 17, 2010, that this process is rife with false assumptions and questionable projections, the CRG panel is overloaded with pro-sprawl members, and planning for expansion defies the wishes of the community. A $400,000 Growth Management Study with extensive public polling in 1995 called for holding the UGB against sprawl. Eugene’s population density since 1950 has already declined 29 percent due to urban expansion. Vibrant, livable Portland has a much higher population density than Eugene. So what’s driving expansion locally? A lot of pressure from land speculators and developers, and an ill-informed, California-style attitude that growth is not only inevitable, but necessary for our economic health.

Do we find a compromise once again between pro-growth and no-growth interests? We editorialized in this column two years ago that true leadership at the city level would recognize that we have already compromised our valuable adjoining farm and forest lands and it’s time to focus on better utilizing the abundant land resources we already have available. Stopping sprawl is what the people want; it’s what true sustainability in land use planning demands.

• The Oregon women’s basketball team seems to be stuck in neutral, so it may be time to think about a new coach. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a coach who has proven she can recruit top players to Eugene, can attract big crowds, can win Pac-12 titles, can lead the team to eight straight NCAA tournament appearances? Jody Runge is still up in Portland. Would she come back?

• Former UO football coach Mike Bellotti collects almost half a million bucks a year in UO retirement benefits, according to PERS data released recently to The Oregonian and the Salem Statesman Journal. But sources at the UO tell us the millions in benefits paid each year to retired coaches, athletic directors and others on staff are ignored when the UO administration claims the $78 million athletics budget is fully covered by ticket sales, broadcast fees, donations and other athletics-based sources of income. It’s time for the UO to come clean, document all the hidden costs, and admit that tuition is higher and academic salaries are lower because of excessive spending on athletics.

• We see the R-G has joined The Oregonian in pulling the Doonesbury comic strip this week. This leaves us puzzled. So Texas can legislate that a doctor must put a “transvaginal wand” (or as the comic calls it, the “shaming wand”) into a woman before she can have an abortion, but illustrating conversations about that attack on a woman’s body is too controversial? We get it that the topic of a woman’s right to choose might be too controversial for the comics page because kids might see it (as though they would even be interested). So run the strip on the editorial page. The censored strip can be seen at gocomics.com/doonesbury

• The disturbing thing about Rush Limbaugh is not what he says, but rather that millions of Americans listen to him every day and nod their heads in agreement — those millions of mostly older, white, male Americans who are racist and misogynistic at their core. They vote, which is why no Republican presidential candidate has yet to disavow Limbaugh and his idiotic rhetoric. How do we deal with the intractable bigots among us? We can box them in with facts and contrary opinions, but they are not likely to change; so let’s invest in educating the next generations, and wish the old farts well in the afterlife. 

• Recruiters will tell you that military service brings out the best in young people and builds discipline, leadership, responsibility, maturity, courage, physical fitness. Be All That You Can Be. What the recruiters won’t tell you is that war creates countless veterans who are physically and psychologically damaged. It should be no surprise when some of them in their pain and paranoia turn to drugs and alcohol, kill themselves, or load their weapons and go berserk on imagined enemies. Our military presence in Afghanistan has proven to be counterproductive. What have we really achieved with 1,900 American lives and $509 billion in debt?

SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor@eugeneweekly.com