• The South Willamette Street Improvement Plan’s six design concepts for the street, which will be repaved in 2014, were presented last week to a big crowd. Willamette between 24th and 32nd avenues has needed an overhaul for a long time — its four-lane configuration and redundant driveways that act like tiny intersections have led to an accident rate almost twice the state average for similar roads. Bikers must choose between sharing the lane with impatient drivers or risk riding on the sidewalk. Six proposed designs use variations of motor vehicle lanes, bike lanes and sidewalks to revamp the 60-foot right of way, and we hope Option 3 makes it to the final three. It has a center turn lane (instead of two inner lanes often used as turn lanes), bike lanes and consistent 9-foot sidewalks. See all the options at http://wkly.ws/1fn. Public comments are due by March 13.
• It’s great that a new VA outpatient clinic is finally coming together to serve local vets, but as we reported in our June 2, 2011 issue, the VA might be violating federal law in picking a new clinic site that promotes urban sprawl rather than downtown redevelopment. Federal Executive Order 12072 requires that “the process for meeting federal space needs in urban areas shall give first consideration to a centralized community business area.” The order says “federal facilities and federal use of space in urban areas shall serve to strengthen the nation’s cities and to make them attractive places to live and work.” The order requires “serious consideration” of social and environmental impacts of siting decisions. Building a spread-out facility on agricultural land on the outskirts appears to fly in the face of this federal order. Few wounded warriors will be walking or biking to Chad Drive.
• Big turnout at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference this past weekend and we will be running PIELC stories for the next few weeks. We’ve started blogging videos of the conference, including the Saturday keynote talk by attorney Thomas Linzey that generated such a big buzz at the conference. Congrats to UO Law School students Zachariah Baker, Lauren Ice, Chris MacMillan, Robin Meacher and Margaret Townsend, who were co-directors of this year’s excellent conference.
We hear law school applications at UO and around the country are down due to the scarcity of jobs for new lawyers and high student debt. But the need for public interest lawyers is greater than ever, not only to hold corporations accountable but also to make sure regulations are enforced. One international lawyer at PIELC, professor Jolene Lin of the University of Hong Kong, says the word “law” can be a misnomer. She prefers to talk about “governance” since on-the-books laws are so easily manipulated for political and economic gain. We’ve seen this happen right here in Lane County where land-use laws and other environmental regulations are politicized, money rules and people who protest illegal and destructive practices are subject to intimidation, physical violence and prosecution. Fighting for better governance is a noble cause.
• What’s happening with the UO’s Sustainable Cities Initiative (SCI) and its Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP)? We did a cover story on it Feb. 10, 2012, and noted that, for the first time in three years, no major ($250,000-plus) city contract was in place for the 2012-13 academic year. But we now hear from one of the founders, Marc Schlossberg, that replication of the program is happening across the country and “We will be announcing our city partner for 2013-14 in a few weeks.” The UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts is planning a big national conference April 9-12 in Eugene and Portland to show other universities and cities how they can duplicate the SCYP. It’s not too late for the city of Eugene to buy into this remarkable collaboration between city staff and UO students, professors and community professionals. Eugene, despite all its green talk and green intentions, has a long way to go to becoming anything close to a true “sustainable city.”
• EW’s Camilla Mortensen is the host of Occupy TV. Join the Occupy Eugene Media Group for a season premiere party from 6 to 8 pm Tuesday, March 12, at Growers Market, 454 Willamette. Watch Occupy TV on the big screen, online or on cable Channel 29. More fun than The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Light refreshments will be available.