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March 2, 2016 05:51 AM

Jersey has taken over the Hult, and audiences are happy.

            Long-running Broadway hit “Jersey Boys” opened last night, and with its familiar tunes and Cinderella story – of four charming guys who make their way from singing under a streetlamp, to selling out shows across the country – how could it not appeal? People love this stuff.

            Aaron De Jesus has some big shoes to fill as Fankie Valli. How often does a voice like his come along? Still, De Jesus is game, with a rich falsetto and tons of energy.

            Matthew Dailey brings a wise guy charm to his role as Tommy DeVito, really nailing the Newark accent. (This reviewer lived in Staten Island for seven years, which might as well be New Jersey…)

            Keith Hines as Nick Massi possesses a thuggish charisma, and as the “baby” of the group – teen wonder Bob Gaudio – Drew Seeley has an ‘aw shucks’ sensibility that draws the audience in.

            All singers are first rate.

            Under direction by Des McAnuff, the production chugs along. One can see why it’s done so well – it asks little of the audience, with a cheery biographical story laid out through short vignettes, but mostly, it’s about the songs. There are just so many great songs. Even if you’re not of the generation that heard these songs on the radio when they aired for the first time, you can probably still appreciate the otherworldly hooks built into every single hit after hit. It’s quite a canon.

            “Jersey Boys” touches on the group’s burgeoning appeal, by relating to the many popular groups at the time, and their penchant for imitation. The Coasters, the Four Tops, the Temptations… In a sense, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons owe a debt of gratitude to groups that pioneered a music and movement brand.  

            Choreographer Sergio Trujillo borrows a generous helping of the subtle unison movements that defined the era, but at times, there’s something almost too perfect, too strong, in their execution. Part of what made dance an integral part of these sixties quartets was its approachability – adding a little razzle-dazzle, but mostly, inviting audiences in. The quartet here executes their moves with polish and precision, but sometimes could have dialed back the crispness to find a little more sex appeal.

            The story of the meteoric rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons continues in Eugene for another week.

            Now if this reviewer could just get those darn songs out of her head… 

February 29, 2016 11:35 AM

[EW will be updating this post as new information becomes available. Last update at 5:40 pm Monday, Feb. 29.]

Did the city of Eugene truly forget or were city officials just hoping the public wouldn't remember?

The city of Eugene was aware of the 1971 deed restriction on Kesey Square well before City Manager Jon Ruiz brought to the City Council a private offer to purchase the public parcel, which is "forever dedicated to the use of the public," in October 2015.

One of Eugene Weekly's observant readers pointed out the obvious in an email this morning. In the Register-Guard article "Revival on the Ropes" dated Dec. 1, 2013, Sherri Buri McDonald writes:

"Because Kesey Square is designated by the city as a public space not a park, it is not subject to the more restrictive park rules," [Sgt. Larry] Crompton said.

The area’s designation as public space dates back at least to the early 1970s when the downtown pedestrian mall was built, said Laura Hammond, spokeswoman for the city’s planning and development department. In 1971, Eugene’s Urban Renewal Agency officially transferred ownership of the site to the city. The site was 'forever dedicated to the use of the public,' according to the deed."

The full article can be found here. Hammond, however, tells EW the following:

"The first sentence of the second paragraph is attributed to me - which sounds right. To my knowledge, the following sentence regarding the deed was not provided by me. Sherri must have found that information on her own. While I probably read the article back in 2013, I didn't remember the deed information from that time. It came to my attention most recently when the Register-Guard asked about it."

In the past few weeks, many councilors did not respond to requests of whether they knew the deed existed. In a Feb. 16 email to EW, Mayor Kitty Piercy responded to the question of whether she was aware of the deed:

“It would have been good if we had received a memo on this prior to it being discovered by the R-G and actually prior to council deciding to take a look at the merits of the application for development.” (See full story, "Kesey Square: Forever dedicated to public space?" here)

Piercy was quoted in the R-G with a similar statement Feb. 16:

“It certainly adds a new twist to the discussion,” she said. “It would have been helpful to have had that information earlier, and I am glad we have it before any council deliberation occurs.”

So what exactly is going on here?

This morning, Feb. 29, EW asked for the mayor's comment once more on this "revelation" that the city actually was well aware of the deed.

Mayor Piercy responded:

"Yes I was unaware or did not remember any council discussion of the deed, but of course we had not even begun discussion where it would have been brought up. I do remember the park discussion although council never moved forward with the park idea."

It should be noted that EW asked the mayor if she was aware of the deed prior to Feb. 16, not if there there had been any City Council discussion on the deed. When EW asked for clarification on this point, the mayor responded:

"Sometimes I think I must be speaking another language. I will try again.
1. I did not know about the deed.
2. It is likely that when we had a work session, staff would have shared the information about the deed and it is likely that council would have asked.
3. I stated I would have liked to have known this before it broke in the RG.
4. I think the deed restrictions change the discussion.

I cannot think how I could be clearer. " 

Yet EW found a public Facebook post Piercy made on Dec. 1, 2013, sharing the R-G article that discusses the deed restriction on Kesey Square. See screenshot below. Piercy responded to EW about this Facebook post saying: "That's interesting. I don't recall it but as you see the information was out there."

Did City Manager Jon Ruiz know of the 1971 deed restriction when he recommended City Council look at a proposal to privatize Kesey Square and put a building in its place and not inform the council?  Did the City Council know? It's clear that city employee Laura Hammond — a communications and policy analyst for the city and spokesperson for city planner Nan Laurence — knew of some of the history of Kesey Square since 1970. 

Additionally, if the city knew about the deed as early as 2013, why did the city issue a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEIs) in late November  including the option of "sale or lease for private development"? Three separate, private groups submitted proposals, investing time and money, for a piece of public land that had a deed restriction that it seems they were not informed about.

[Above: City Council, Mayor Kitty Piercy and Denny Braud, the city's community development division manager, discuss Kesey Square publicly for the first time during a work session Feb. 22.]

As the deed states that Kesey Square is forever dedicated to the use of the public, the public has a right to know who knew what when about the 1971 deed restriction and why the city of Eugene would consider private proposals for the space when at least some of its staff were aware of the restrictions in place.

If you have any tips, please contact alex@eugeneweekly.com.

February 23, 2016 11:47 AM

The Oregon State Legislature is considering a bill this week that, according to Congressman Peter DeFazio, would "would ratify the flawed decision by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission to remove the gray wolf from Oregon’s endangered species list and block judicial review of their decision."

DeFazio send a letter to the Oregon State Senate Democrats "blasting" the bill, HB 4040 according to a Feb. 22 press release. He writes that "the actions that Oregon has taken, particularly the consideration of HB 4040, directly undermine my efforts at the federal level."

He writes, "I am currently fighting to maintain protections for the gray wolf at the federal level in response to increased political attacks and pressure to remove the wolf from the federal ES [endangered species list]."

The congressman is concerned with a lack of judical review that the bill is calling for. "In addition to having concems with legislation that would ratify the Oregon Department of Fish and wildlife's (Department) flawed recommendation to remove the gray wolf from the state ESA, HB 4040 also preempts judicial review of the decision, an extreme precedent-setting measure that should not be taken lightly."

DeFazio takes issue with the lack of an independent peer review process:

"The Department’s recommendation to delist the gray wolf was premature and not subject to an independent peer-review process as required by state law. Through my extensive experience with federal wolf delisting efforts, I know it is critically important that wildlife management, especially management of an iconic predator species like the gray wolf, is based upon sound scientific findings and analysis. The Department’s decision not to open their findings to a rigorous scientific review is both alarming and telling, especially since the pending federal proposal to delist the gray wolf has been mired in a near identical controversy over the science used to justify the delisting in addition to concerns over the improper influence by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the composition of the independent peer-review panel."

DeFazio is not the only one concerned about the way the bill and the wolf delisting has come to pass. Rob Klavins of conservation group Oregon Wild writes of the bill, "We're concerned about the merits of the bill as well as the clear intent/effect to sidestep the public's right to independent review of the decision."

Oregon Wild is one of three environmental organizations that "have requested a review of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s controversial 4-2 decision to delist wolves in November, 2015." The basis of the challenge is that the decision did not follow Oregon state law.

In a memo alleging disinformation on the bill in the Legislature, Oregon Wild writes, "HB 4040-A would be to sidestep the public’s right to hold a government agency (ODFW) accountable to its own laws."

DeFazio is also concerned with the public input that could be lost. In his letter to the Legislature he says, "The extensive stakeholder outreach and collaborative approach used by the state to develop Oregon's Wolf Management Plan, which is currently up for review this year, have made Oregon the model for wolf conservation in the nation." 

The congressman concludes, “Decisions on whether to remove a species from the state ESA should not be taken lightly or used as a political bargaining chip. At the very least you should be sure that the Department’s recommendation to delist the wolf is legally and scientifically sound.”

According to Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands, another conservation group working on wolf issues, a Senate committee will vote on the bill today after which it would pass to the full Oregon Senate.

February 23, 2016 06:12 PM

Ninkasi brewery's fine for a stormwater violation made the news in the RG and on KVAL this week, but Nikos Ridge, the popular beer maker's CEO is looking to turn that fine into a way to support clean water work in the community.

Ninkasi has long supported clean water efforts with special brews supporting clean water efforts in the watershed. Its 2014 Conservationale supported the work of the conservation group McKenzie River Trust.  

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued a $6,777 civil penalty to Ninkasi Holding Company for stormwater discharge monitoring violations. The DEQ sent a letter to the brewery Feb. 9 and then announced it in a press release Feb. 22. 

Under Oregon law, 80 percent of that fine can be used for environmental work, so rather than appeal the fine, Ridge says the brewery is filling out an application to "support the low impact development stormwater interception (bio swales, rain gardens) work that the Long Tom Watershed Council is doing."

The DEQ letter said the fine was for "for failing to monitor your stormwater discharge for benchmark levels of acidity (pH levels), total suspended solids, oil and grease, copper, lead and zinc, as well as impairment pollutant levels (including arsenic and iron)."

The violations took place between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015 at a Whiteaker-area property Ridge told the RG the company uses for storage, not brewing.

According to KVAL Ridge said of the violations:

"We forgot to submit the paperwork for a year," he said. "Now we have a third-party company to monitor that for us so it shouldn't be an issue going forward."

Ridge said the penalty is administrative. The company neglected to file reports on time, but nothing harmful is in the stormwater leaving the property.

"The issue is we didn't submit the paperwork that we are required to under the permit because we forgot about it," he said.

Ridge tells EW "We have to fill out an application to have the project accepted, but we are excited that the money can go to an organization that we have had a great relationship with here in the area."

Ninkasi has donated money in the past to the Long Tom Watershed Council's conservation efforts and also donated through it's Pints for a Cause evenings that give a percentage of a night's beer sales to nonprofit groups.

February 23, 2016 04:11 PM

Oregon is spending less on transportation maintenance and other infrastructure as a percent of GDP than it has in past, despite the threat of earthquakes, tsunamis and other hazards, says the Oregon Center for Public Policy in a study released today.

February 19, 2016 11:10 AM

Democratic Party of Lane County Chair Chris Wig (who is also running for City Council) has informed EW that on Thursday evening, Feb. 18, the DPLC voted to pass two resolutions:

1) The city should support a downtown visual arts center

2)Kesey Square should remain public, but improved

Read the full resolution language at the bottome of this blog post.

"The Jacobs Gallery vote was unanimous," Wig tells EW. "The Kesey Square vote wasn't unanimous, but it was an overwhelming majority."

As for Kesey Square, Wig says from what he hears in the community, people want to try to exhaust all other options to make Kesey Square a pro-social place before considering anything drastic and permanent like a building. Wig also says the 1971 deed uncovered by the R-G that stated the square was "forever dedicated to the use of the public” nudged people who had been on the fence about keeping the square.

"The potential for a protracted legal battle is not something they want to spend resources on," Wig says.

Wig continues: "If we can accomplish the goal of having a vibrant pro-social space in the center of our city for the cost of tables, chairs," and other amenities, then that would cost much less than a building.

The City Council is hosting its first-ever work session and public forum on Kesey Square Monday, Feb. 22. The work session is at 5:30 pm and this is where citizens can listen to (but not participate in) the City Council and City Manager discussing the agenda items. Then at 7:30 pm is the public forum, when any citizen can sign up to speak to the City Council. Each citizen gets a three minute time limit. This public forum is likely going to be a packed house so show up early to sign up if you want to speak.

Read the full resolutions below:

Resolution regarding Jacobs Gallery
Whereas, Eugene is “a great city for the arts and outdoors”; and
Whereas, the Jacobs Gallery is a significant gallery that provided anchoring functions to the art district downtown; and
Whereas, citizens have recently spoken out in support of a downtown visual arts center;
Therefore, the Democratic Party of Lane County urges the City of Eugene to collaborate with other public and private entities to maintain or create a publicly accessible indoor space for the display of visual arts downtown.

Resolution regarding Kesey Square
Whereas, the DPLC platform says we should “work for more public meeting places in Lane County, both indoors and outdoors;” and
Whereas, Broadway Plaza (Kesey Square) is the central point of our city and celebrates our famous author;
Therefore, the Democratic Party of Lane County urges that Kesey Square be maintained and improved as an open public space.


February 17, 2016 11:04 AM

An alert has gone out to members of 1000 Friends of Oregon concerning a bill working its way through the Legislature that would extend urban growth boundaries "using affordable housing as the ruse." Click below to go to the website and its links.

February 17, 2016 01:07 PM

Event producer Krysta Albert says she's gearing up for another year of celebrating all things Eugene, despite a lack of sufficient volunteers and wildfire smoke descending on the Festival of Eugene last year.

The Festival of Eugene, created in response to the surprise cancellation of the Eugene Celebration in 2014, will take place Aug. 20-21 this year in Skinner Butte Park. 

Last year, the event coincided with wildfire smoke permeating the Willamette Valley, causing a distinctly smokey smell and lack of visibility. Despite this, the festival had around 10,000 vistors. This time, Albert says, she hopes for better weather.

"There's a significant amount of changes this year," Albert says, noting that the event will make room for 150 vehicles for its popular car show, instead of 100 slots. 

The big change, Albert says, is that the Festival of Eugene will offer monetary compensation to its musicians. Funds from the car show will help pay for music, as well as raffled gift certificates and products donated by vendors. 

"There is a focus this year on the bands getting paid," she emphasizes.

Other changes include preferred vendor parking, preferred artist parking and handicapped or elderly parking. Last year, some festival attendees had a difficult time finding parking and had to walk significant distances from their parking spot.

Albert is planning two music stages and two beer gardens, along with the return of the poetry stage and an art show. She's also envisioning a hackysack tournament and a 20-foot swimming pool in which people can walk around inside plastic balls floating on the surface of the water.

A parade is also in the works, starting at The Campbell Center and ending at Skinner Butte.

Albert says volunteer time or monetary donations are sorely needed — she's received feedback from the community that the Festival of Eugene is important, but assistance is lacking. Last year, she says, she took a loss of a few thousand dollars and paid for it out of her own pocket. She says if half the people in Eugene donated $1, the festival would be fully funded.

Photo by David Putzier.

Photo by David Putzier

February 17, 2016 05:39 PM

(Above left to right: Jeff Geiger, Tommy Castro and Norma Fraser at Kesey Square)

It didn’t take much to create a magical moment in Kesey Square last night.

In a crapshoot, writer and No Shame Eugene co-founder Jeff Geiger (see EW's "The Birth of Wild Man") reached out to blues legend Tommy Castro Tuesday, Feb. 17, asking him to do an impromptu performance at Kesey Square before his official show at The Shedd — he said yes, right away.

“I emailed him and then I got the number for his booking agent,” Geiger tells EW. “Then I called his booking agent and he told me to send him the message. I did that. An hour later Tommy called me from his cell phone on the road.”

Geiger explains that he sent Castro links to articles by EW and the Register Guard and a summary of the issue at hand of Kesey Square being under the threat of development.

“He was on it. He was immediately hooked,” Geiger says, who went to meet him at The Shedd and walk him down to the square Tuesday evening. “On our walk from The Shedd, he was just telling me how important it is to have community spaces, the sacred nature of having a public space.”

(Above from left to right: Tommy Castro, Jeff Geiger and Norma Fraser)

Geiger set up sound with a car battery in the middle of the square. Castro sat down on a stool with his guitar and spoke into the mic: “I’m here to help save Kesey Square.” He then went on to sing “Common Ground." 

Jamaican-born, Eugene-based reggae legend Norma Fraser happened to be at The Barn Light at the same time (located across the street from Kesey Square). She had just learned that Kesey Square was under the threat of development into apartment buildings. On hearing this news, she strode over to Kesey Square.

“No,” she told the small crowd, shaking her head. “This is for the people.”

Then Fraser, who used to perform with Bob Marley, and Castro performed Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” for the small crowd. See video below:

Now, Fraser and Save Kesey Square activist Gwendolyn Iris are planning an even bigger event at Kesey Square — TBA.

So why did Jeff Geiger set this up? He says finding out about the 1971 deed for Kesey Square that the space should “forever dedicated to the use of the public” pushed him over the line to speak out in favor of keeping the square public.

“That to me was the tipping point,” Geiger says. “Learning about the deed was a shock to my system. OK, this has gone from business as usual into this new territory of just ridiculousness — I was feeling that. It just feels like, what can I do? How can I make a difference? How can I creatively speak out on this issue? And then of course, that’s what public space is for. The irony is the space we’re trying to protect is the best place to speak out about these issues.”

Geiger explains that perhaps he, and others like him, would speak out more if they weren’t already loaded down with other responsibilities.

“The reality is there’s a lot of people who care deeply about these issues but they’re busy,” Geiger says. “And the reality is, that’s why stuff like this happens. That’s why we lose our public spaces. That activist that lives in each one gets beat down by other responsibilities.”

Geiger says he believes more people would speak up to keep Kesey Square a public space if they didn’t already think it was a foregone conclusion to sell it, that the city had already agreed with the 2E Broadway development group to put moderate-income apartments on the square.

“It’s so disingenuous,” Geiger says of the city’s process. “If you have already made your decision, public input is going to be a waste of time. You’ve already made up your mind. That perpetuates people throwing their hands up — ‘What can we do?’”

He adds, “People are cynical about this. When the city shows a lack of genuine engagement people feel like it’s a done deal. They want authentic public engagement. You reap what you sow.”

Geiger pointed out how little it took to create a moment where two renowned musicians could spontaneously play in a city square.

“It’s the lack of creativity — that’s what kills me,” Geiger says of the city. “If we could pull that together with a car battery, two phone calls and five hours notice, imagine what the city could do with a little imagination and planning.”

Geiger adds: “Imagine if there was an open invitation that any act coming through Eugene, that that was an option — a band could play a preshow or post show at Kesey Square.”

He says he will be attending the City Council public forum to speak up about Kesey Square at 7:30 pm Monday, Feb. 22, at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave.

“With a little bit of care, with a little bit of programming, with a little bit of attention, the square could do all these great things.”

February 15, 2016 05:37 PM

Alternative Radio founder David Barsamian talks to KBOO radio about the role of AR and KLCC's decision to drop the free program after 30 years.