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"Guest Viewpoint"

Earlier this year, Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill affirming the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision to remove wolves from the state Endangered Species Act and essentially block judicial review. Although the delisting decision and subsequent passage and signing of HB 4040 dealt wolf recovery a blow, the wolf conservation and management plan ultimately determines the fate of this keystone species. 

Citizens of Lane County, take pride in your roadsides! Unique in the nation, the county hasn’t poisoned them since 2003, with unexpected benefits. Green, living roadsides and the well-crafted policies that achieve them are among the many gifts left by Jan Wroncy of Blachly, whose body returned to the soil April 16.

May was National Preservation Month. I’m a little late writing this, as I’ve been so distracted with the elections and gardening. I’m also still peeved by that hatchet job on Springfield EW recently published, so writing this got sidetracked. 

On April 10, Eugene First Christian Church celebrated its 150th anniversary. You’ve probably seen the church building — white columns under a massive dome, bronze-capped bell tower, stained glass windows everywhere you look. 

And maybe you’ve even heard about some of the work this congregation does: the Helping Hands Room, the Interfaith Shelter and Egan Warming Center (side by side with other outstanding local congregations) and, most recently, its sponsorship of Opportunity Village. 

Sometimes extremely revealing insights pop up in places where you least expect them. Such was the case of a recent Fairmount Neighborhood Association meeting. City Councilor Alan Zelenka gave a report on a variety of current topics facing the Eugene City Council, and in the process revealed some very dark and disturbing insights into the dysfunctions in our local government, particularly regarding the controversy surrounding the newly revealed information that there were $7 million of previously unaccounted-for overruns in the construction of the new Eugene City Hall.

With heated discussions about rezoning in South Eugene, disputes about Kesey Square, confusion about what offices should be in the proposed City Hall and questions about the placing of an expanded farmers market, it has become obvious that planning in Eugene is not functioning well. 

I’m writing this letter because I feel I need to talk about what is going on at the University of Oregon right now, perhaps echoing other people’s concerns. 

With the city’s most recent proposal for a new Downtown Urban Renewal District (DTURD) Plan Amendment, councilors are on the verge of destroying any lingering hope that they serve the public rather than the economic elite. That hope will be replaced with profound distrust if they resurrect the DTURD after vowing to end it.

“To Bern, or not to Bern?” asked Matthew Keating, a Sanders campaign organizer, eloquently introducing Sen. Sanders before an adoring crowd of thousands in Springfield on Thursday, April 28. “To vote, to Bern. To Bern, perchance to dream. Ay, there is the rub.”

I’ve been the president of Oregon Roads, a leasing and finance company in Eugene, for 26 years. I’m married, have a son, daughter, daughter-in-law and a grandson. I have board-member and board-chair experience with corporations, nonprofits and municipal entities. I’ve been appointed to Eugene City Council committees and served on Lane Transit District’s steering committee. I volunteer my time as a habit. I believe that I have the qualifications to govern, so I humbly ask for your vote.

I have lived in Israel for more than seven months now and I struggle to reconcile many residents’ opinions with current events and accounts of history. Eager to find opposing viewpoints — and not apt to withhold my own — I’m familiar with the proverbial “you’ll understand when you’re older.” Perhaps. Or perhaps one man’s naiveté is another’s objectivity. I keep wrestling with these arguments, nonetheless.

It’s mid-October and I’m on The Nature Conservancy’s 9,000-acre Staten Island, part of the 46,000 acre Cosumnes River Preserve, in California’s Sacramento River Delta. Owned by the Conservancy, the island is all farmland, farmed for the benefit of migrating birds. I’m looking over fields of harvested wheat, corn and potatoes as hundreds of 5-foot-tall greater sandhill cranes jump and dance in the fields. As I watch, hundreds more arrive with their haunting, gurgling call.

I’m not one to usually complain. I typically see both sides of the equation. But this nonsense of raising the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour! How come I didn’t get a vote on this? 

It was one of those moments when I felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. I had entered the Growler Underground in anticipation of meeting several friends and hearing lots of great music at the weekly open mic on Main Street in Springfield. As soon as I walked in, someone handed me the latest issue of Eugene Weekly and said, “Look what they did to Springfield.”

In the beginning, “downtown renewal” in Eugene was really about greasing the skids for the controversial Valley River shopping center. The development community embraced this “tool,” and a chorus of the optimistic and the self-interested promised an attractive, renewed downtown and a gigantic mall.   

I am sorry to hear that the small square at Broadway and Willamette will possibly be replaced by a commercial building. Since this square is, I believe, the only hard-surfaced square in Eugene’s downtown, it would seem a very unfortunate decision. Most cities value and preserve their public places. 

Negro History Week started as an internal Negro Community Celebration, remembering the birthday and the difference between Frederick Douglass (my personal favorite Republican) and Lincoln (my least favorite Republican who edges out Ben Carson and Donald Trump). Douglass was part of a pre-Civil War meeting in which Lincoln suggested the solution to slavery was to ship all four million black people to Costa Rica. 

Maybe it’s that my children and I twice spent spring vacations at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the early 1980s, when water was unusually plentiful and the birds at dawn were a cacophony. Or that we hiked near the refuge to see pre-dawn sage grouse males burbling like coffee percolators with inflated chests while the females feigned disinterest.

And then, in 1983, there was the memorably titled book, Sacred Cows at the Public Trough, written by former Malheur Wildlife Refuge naturalists Denzel and Nancy Ferguson. It was a ground-breaking book about, well, breaking of the ground.

The brand of basketball in Israel reflects a survivor’s mentality: tough and proud, impulsive and defensive. 

In practices and games, in the painted area or beyond the three-point line, physicality is relentless. Body checks, sharp elbows and swiping hands — the referees let it go. Without the ball, the body is a weapon; with the ball, it’s protection. Everyone competes. They play to win.

This community lost a truly stellar human being Dec. 19. Peg Morton, one of the best that the human race had to offer, sailed off into the great mystery surrounded by loved  ones, on a courageous journey that started only 13 days before with an intentional fast to end her life.

One of the few useful insights I got from college sociology is that societies are complex organisms with their own history and internal dynamics, not simply collections of individuals. Societies shape the lives of the individuals within them.

The U.S. is a migrant society, settled by ambitious risk-takers, producing a highly individualistic culture that tends to see everything as personal rather than social. That has a lot to do with our economic history.

“I think if you’re going to be working on environmental issues, you need to have a cursory understanding of every region of the world.” This is the ambition of Nick Clarke, a Luce Scholar working at a biogas startup in Kunming, Southwest China. When I meet him in late September, the confident, clean-cut 26 year old was in his third month of Chinese language study and his second week of contract meetings with local suppliers and clients. The drive behind the project is an American organization called RIPE energy (see fuelcity.org). The startup is using the project as a pilot to establish and test their model of community-oriented biogas commercialization, which they say will "reduce emissions while generating ... organic fertilizer, energy and capital."

A number of letters and comments have appeared recently regarding local developers’ proposal to solve the traveler/transient problem in downtown by filling Kesey Square with a five-story apartment building. Downtown Eugene Inc. and the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce have both come out in favor of this closing of the commons and privatizing of our public land. 

“They didn’t just kill Rabin, they didn’t just shoot the messenger. They killed the concept of peace,” my friend proclaims over Shabbat dinner in Tel Aviv. “The sad part is that they succeeded — the right wing. They killed Rabin and got what they wanted. Look at Israel now.”