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February 23, 2016 05:11 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 12:10 PM

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 12:04 PM

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 02:07 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 06:39 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 06:37 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.