• Eugene Weekly Loves You!
Share |

Slant

• The Eugene Celebration showed off a revitalized downtown this year, and we heard lots of positive comments from people walking along Broadway who hadn’t been to our city center for a while. In between dancing, snacking and socializing, we also heard some grumbles about the LCC Downtown Center’s interior courtyard walled off from easy public access (“It could have been a mini-park,” said one observer) and we heard lots of complaints about the nearby concrete parking garage wall on the Capstone project along Olive.

The biggest, wildest weekend of the year is about to hit with the Eugene Celebration starting at 5 pm Friday, the big parade Saturday morning, all the activities and music downtown and more. Our Next Big Thing music contest finalists will perform for the judges at 1 pm Saturday at the Eugene Weekly/KRVM Broadway Stage. The Eugene Women’s Half Marathon will be Sunday, along with the ever-popular Pet Parade.

Phil Knight and Nike are hot topics following revelations about the absurd opulence of the new football facilities at UO. Letters are pouring in to local papers, but we don’t hear much about where Knight’s billions came from. Nike’s business model is quite simple, and Uncle Phil has been brilliant at monetizing it: Contract with factories in the poorest parts of Southeast Asia to manufacture high-end shoes and other apparel and threaten or cajole governments to allow those factories to pay workers less than minimum wages.

•  About the UO’s new football temple: To quote a young woman who worked with the serving crew for the celebratory dinners opening, “It’s disgusting.” We have neither space nor time to properly expand on her observation, but here are a couple of important questions for our public university:

Police Chief Pete Kerns has likely sprouted a few new gray hairs from the recent sexual harassment and abuse conviction of officer Stefan Zeltvay and, not long ago, a scandal involving gross mismanagement of EPD’s evidence lockers. Kerns has been proactive in damage control in both cases, much more so than any of his predecessors in the chief job. But we are left wondering what other bad behavior has been going on for years in the cop shop?

• Lane County Administrator Liane Richardson has gotten herself into more than just a public relations pickle this time with a self-serving financial maneuver that appears to be a violation of her contract and the public trust. It’s best that she repay any excess remuneration, if so determined by an investigation, if there is one, and resign if she’s not fired. She’s probably a decent lawyer in the private sector; she’s just not a competent administrator in the high-profile public sector.

• Those of us who are skeptical of biomass burning plants such as Seneca’s wood incinerator in west Eugene can celebrate, just a little, even as Seneca applies for a permit from LRAPA to emit a couple tons more of particulate matter. A U.S.

• On July 17 LRAPA is holding an informational meeting about Seneca Sustainable Energy biomass plant’s permit application to emit tons more particulate matter into west Eugene air. That’s more small particles that kids breathe into their lungs and more pollution into our airshed. Buying carbon credits  Emission Reduction Credits (ERCs or offsets) for PM10 from International Paper in Springfield doesn’t help the two elementary schools that are within two miles of the biomass burning. Go to the meeting; find out more.

• Eugene’s City Council will vote Monday, July 8, on suspending the enforcement of a 5-cent charge for paper bags. To change the ordinance before people have a chance to adapt is ludicrous. Without the incentive, people who don’t care about the consequences of their own actions on the planet and our descendants won’t change their behavior.

• The Incredible Shrinking Oregonian in Portland is cutting home delivery to four days a week, moving from its iconic building, letting more than 90 people go from all floors and levels, already advertising for cheaper, less experienced staff, becoming a “truly digitally focused media company,” as Publisher N. Christian Anderson III puts it in an op-ed piece. The paper will continue to print seven days a week, but parent company Advance Publications Inc. of New Jersey has cut back print days in other cities, often with bad results.

• Props to the three city councilors who objected to the rushed vote on the Core Campus tax exemption (see News this week). Councilors George Brown, Betty Taylor and Alan Zelenka held their own in the debate. The majority of councilors seem to doubt Eugene’s ability to attract less extravagant housing projects — ones that could be built without a multi-million dollar tax break. Didn’t Eugeneans just vote down a city fee measure, based in part on their objections to such tax breaks?

Envision Eugene, the community process that gathered public input on how Eugene should grow over the next 20 years, won a planning award from the Oregon chapter of the American Planning Association May 30. That’s great but we’ve been skeptical about this process that has gobbled up thousands of hours and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the past, citizen-involved plans have gathered dust on shelves while developers do whatever they want.

• Eugene’s Budget Committee has advised the City Council to adopt a plan that will use various reserves and anticipated PERS savings to prevent cuts to services for a year in spite of a projected $5.3 million budget gap. Now it’s time to focus on the future. Interesting concepts emerged from budget discussions — the need for an independent performance auditor to examine city finances, questioning what services the city should be providing and how we finance big capital projects like rebuilding City Hall.

• The debate over the city services fee has generated a renewed awareness and interest in how our fair city is managed, and that’s a good thing. Letters to the editor this week offer suggestions on how budget priorities can be adjusted. Our city Budget Committee members are getting public input and have ideas on how funds can be reallocated.

No big surprise in the defeat of the Eugene city services fee on this week’s ballot. What are the lessons to be learned here? For starters, the opinion polling that encouraged this measure did not include any of the objections that were easily anticipated.

It’s almost too late to mail those ballots buried among the bills on your kitchen table, but white ballot boxes can be found around town. Democracy relies on an informed public, and if you’re reading this you are probably more informed than most of your neighbors, so flaunt that knowledge and put it to work for a noble cause!

How could this happen? Four prominent Eugene progressives standing at the City Club podium May 3 arguing about Ballot Measure 20-211, the Eugene city services fee. Alan Zelenka and Steve Johnson support it, Bonny Bettman McCornack and George Brown oppose it. Five of eight city councilors oppose it. Conservatives must be chuckling. We wonder how City Manager Jon Ruiz, his staff and Mayor Kitty Piercy put out this seriously flawed measure.

Ballots should be arriving in local mailboxes this weekend or early next week, and we are concerned that voter turnout might not be very high, even with three money measures on the ballot. That’s a lot of money to ask for in a recession, so it’s time to think hard about what you want to fund. For us, it’s schools. This is an off-year election and the campaigns are pretty low-key compared to the presidential year overload that made small children cry, and even some adults.

• One week after the Boston Marathon, more than 35,000 athletes ran the London Marathon. Some 8,500 are expected in the Eugene Marathon races April 27-28, and hundreds of thousands more are running in cities around the world, many with tributes to Boston and renewed determination to carry on to the finish line. In our frustrating search for meaning in all the insanity that’s happening in the world, we are brought back to ponder the lines painted large on the Hayward Field east grandstand: “Believe in the power of the run.”

• Eugene City Councilor Betty Taylor spent countless hours studying the West Eugene EmX Extension before deciding to support it, and it looks like a similar thoughtful process has gone into her decision to not support the city service fee on the May ballot. Taylor was in the undecided column until this week. Now five out of eight councilors are on record opposing the fee, and if the ballot measure fails it looks like the council will try to find other sources of funding for the threatened services.

• The city fee debate is taking some fascinating twists with Councilor George Brown changing sides as he delves more into the issues of city finances and budget priorities. Will other key supporters of the ballot measure also jump ship? Local Democrats lined up early in favor of the fee but without exploring the arguments in any depth. This debate is getting awkward as supporters discover the city has enough excess reserves from fiscal year 2013 to cover the anticipated deficit in 2014.

• Eugene is moving ahead on renovating City Hall, or at least finding an architect, and we hear from reliable sources that longtime City Hall renovation proponent Otto Poticha and his team of architects were rated near the bottom of the list of seven architecture firms that have applied. Poticha won’t even be interviewed for the job.

• The report on the audit of the Eugene Police Department’s Property Control Unit (PCU), which revealed 1,116 missing items including guns, drugs and jewelry, was quite an eyebrow raiser. We met with Police Chief Pete Kerns and the civilian employee who requested the audit, and they said some policies and procedures have been ignored for years, leading to disorganization. Further investigations will hopefully determine whether the missing items are really gone from “The Vault” at EPD or just misplaced, and whether any criminal activity has taken place.

• Lane County Commissioner Faye Stewart’s convoluted attempt to get all of Lane County residents and businesses to pay for his ill-advised industrial development plans in Goshen is raising eyebrows even among the pro-growth crowd. As regional economic development veteran Bob Warren points out in his Viewpoint this week, “It’s time for a reality check.” Looks like the garbage fee idea, Senate Bill 248, died this week, at least in its present form.