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"Guest Viewpoint"

There are signs everywhere that the modern dream of hyper-individualism, unlimited growth and consumption, is coming to an end. Its pathologies are overwhelming our future. To maintain this dream, we are told by our nation’s military leaders to expect perpetual war for at least three generations. To maintain this dream, our governments are increasingly controlled by corporations which are given constitutional rights at the same time that the rights of natural people are restricted and denied.

Parents want to trust the schools where they send their children. Teachers, like myself, want to trust the learning criteria set before us by the state. And I believe most of us want to trust our government to make the best decisions possible for the children of our nation. The problem in trusting the newly implemented Common Core Standards and Assessments is that there are too many unanswered questions for it to feel safe on any of these levels. By themselves, standards are great and teachers strive to reach them. Unfortunately, many problems are introduced when working with the standards and assessments contained in the Common Core. Here are three questions that come to mind about Common Core in our schools.

Friends of the late Janet Wentworth will gather from noon until 2 pm Sunday, April 6, at the Eugene Family YMCA, 2055 Patterson Street. All are welcome to that time of remembering Janet who died on March 6, 2014, a month shy of the 69th anniversary of her birth.

As Eugene looks for ways to avoid serious service cuts, the Revenue Committee struggles to identify timely, equitable and politically acceptable taxes to generate the necessary revenue. We have ample representation from the business community, but we lack vocal representation from disadvantaged segments of our community. This opens us to the risk that our recommendations will fall heavily on those least able to afford it. While business is the ox that pulls the cart of government, it is working families that keep that ox fed. Moving forward requires that we navigate a thicket of legal limits to give the City Council recommendations that put the interest of the community first.

Comments by EW in the Feb. 6 issue about the “new economy” criticize Lane County and local communities for spending time and money to lure large companies to create jobs and tax revenues. EW goes on to reinforce the commonly held myth that these companies are only here to get the cash and tax breaks and leave as soon as they are exhausted. Once again, Sony and Hynix are used as examples to perpetuate the myth. In neither case is it true. 

Part of my Eugene Experience is mentioning observances of famous birthdays, like Martin and Malcolm, and getting the response: “Martin who?” or “Malcolm who?” Even mentioning Angela’s work on the prison-industrial complex, and the school-to-prison pipeline, and people saying “Angela who?” Black History Month grew from Carter Woodson’s Negro History Week, which was situated to encompass two birthdays, Lincoln and Douglass, so we would always remember the contradictions of America, who actually freed us and wanted us free, and who took the credit for freeing us, but didn’t actually want us living free, alongside him: a sentiment Oregon’s founding fathers could well relate to. 

The International Energy Agency released its annual World Energy Outlook on Nov. 12, 2013. Annually each November, the agency provides a status report and offers its forecast of petroleum supplies over the next 20-25 years. The IEA forecast this year is pessimistic.

CAPE stands for Community Alliance for Public Education. CAPE’s goals are to build community around public education and to promote vibrant, honest dialogue that encourages students, families, teachers and community members to work together for a public education that benefits all. I got involved in CAPE last year because I believe my primary role as an educator is to ensure that what happens in the classroom is best for all children. In an education climate in which many teachers are fearful of speaking up, I found support in CAPE to begin using my voice to advocate for students.

On Nov. 27, EW’s Slant profiled the “Environmental Scorecard” of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. EW drew attention to “the relatively high scores racked up by state reps and senators in our part of the valley.” Unfortunately, OLCV was grading on a curve to make Democrats in Salem look better than they are.

Last week the Eugene/Springfield area held various events to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Students spent the days leading up to the celebration creating poems and artwork in their classrooms. They read stories and did assignments that described how Martin Luther King Jr. has influenced and inspired them.  In Springfield the MLK march made its way through downtown ending at Springfield High School. We gathered to see the student’s artwork, hear music and celebrate together as a community. The crowd walked together listening to the beautiful sounds of drumming and singing, by just one man at the march. He sang “Freedom” and other civil rights march music from the 1960s. Like many years before, it was a truly powerful and moving experience.

When I pointed out to EW that Sen. Ron Wyden’s recently released O&C forestlands bill (SB 1784) includes a “land exchange” loophole (Sec. 117) big enough to drive public wilderness and old-growth forests into private hands, Seneca Sawmill’s general manager Todd Payne objected. Payne says that Seneca “does not consume old-growth timber in any of its manufacturing facilities,” and my “implication” that it does “is just a continuation of the ‘fear-based’ messaging by environmental organizations as they know they can’t stand behind the truth.”

The fate of Civic Stadium is unlikely to be decided in 2014. Yes, the members of the 4J School Board are committed to “disposing” of the structure as soon as they possibly can — they consider it a distraction from their mission. But, whether they choose to accept the offer of Kroger (Fred Meyer), the Y or the city of Eugene, it will almost certainly be a year or more before we know how the site will be used. The reasons differ for each of the bidders.

Recently, a new transplant to Eugene asked me why people are so emotional about Civic Stadium. What follows is my note to my new friend, Austin. I don’t know when you moved to Eugene but my guess is that it was after Civic Stadium was wrapped in mothballs and allowed to decay.

I am a product of Oregon’s school funding crisis. I was in first grade when Oregon voters approved Measure 5, the constitutional amendment that shifted the financing of public education from local communities to the state by capping property taxes in Oregon. For the next 12 years I saw my education opportunities diminish as teachers and school programs were continuously cut because of inadequate funding from the state.

This year marks my 30th year in Oregon. To celebrate, I took in a double feature which exemplifies the two poles of my Oregonian experience. 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, both films helmed by directors of color. 12 Years served to ground me in reality, while Gravity took me to my favorite fantasy: a world without borders, floating free among the stars. The reality of space, though, is that it has no breathable atmosphere, extremes of hot and cold and is always trying to kill you, nothing personal. Same with Oregon; sometimes we don’t like your kind.

EW ran a feature on LCC’s “Creativity for Peace” program Oct. 17, including a photo of Israeli and Palestinian exchange students smiling happily in a semi-hug. It looked benign and hopeful. Until one looks more closely. The headline read, “Peacemakers: LCC Students from Israel and Palestine.” The story described how two young women from “opposite sides of a conflict” are being prepared “to pave the way for peace in their communities and across borders.” Unfortunately, this introduction seriously misrepresents the reality of the Israel/Palestine relationship. 

Saving energy and improving energy efficiency is vital to restoring the environment, reducing carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change and creating sustainable jobs. It’s being debated all over the world, but the debate over how to get there has left out something more meaningful to a lot of Lane County residents: saving them money.

Global warming is the most serious crisis that humanity has ever faced. The world is headed directly towards a cliff in the dark: We know the cliff is ahead of us, but we don’t know how soon we might reach it. Some people think that the countries of the world will not be able to do what is necessary to avoid millions of people suffering the death penalty as a result of global warming. When they express their defeatist attitude to others, they make things harder for those of us actively fighting global warming. Nobody can predict what the future will bring.

Local media is all abuzz about a proposal to reconfigure Willamette from 24th to 32nd. Writing in the Nov. 3 Register-Guard, Jack Billings clearly identified cyclists as the driver of efforts to alter South Willamette — efforts that would remove one car lane and add two bike lanes. Quoting Billings, “The discussion [about Willamette] is only about bicycles. Were it not for the small but organized bike lobby, there would be no debate about reconfiguration.” Billings doesn’t know the half of it.

When I ran for Congress in 1986 I campaigned against the unsustainable timber harvest levels in western Oregon. Back then the Bureau of Land Management was logging 1.6 billion board feet per year on the statutorily unique O&C lands. 

I advocated for a 30 to 40 percent reduction on the O&C lands. But today, O&C timber harvests have dropped by more than 85 percent. I didn’t think then, and I don’t think now, that an 85 percent reduction is necessary to protect old growth, rivers, streams and wildlife — particularly given its negative impact on county revenues and rural communities. 

It has become an a matter of widespread belief, as Giesen asserts, that economic contraction not economic growth is essential for an ecological future.  I would like to offer another prospective based on the pursuit of sustainability and making economic growth mean ecological improvement. It is a fundamental error to conflate all economic growth with ecological pillage.

The Eugene City Council has a decision to make about Civic Stadium and it will be made very soon. The question is: Will the city put in an offer, using the city parks bond funds, and allow Friends of Civic Stadium (FOCS) to refurbish and reopen it for use, or will it step back and allow Civic to be demolished? As a longtime citizen of Eugene, I consider demolition to be a mistake.

After I’d heard that a hedge fund manager was spending big bucks in 2012 to convince voters to toss out Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, I wrote a check for thousands of dollars to DeFazio for Congress. I was terrified that Republican candidate Art Robinson would pillage the public’s forests, waters and wildlife. It turns out I should have also feared the incumbent on that score.

There seems to be an excellent option for the 10-acre Civic Stadium property: Use it to help expand the city of Eugene’s park system.