Slant 1-17-2013

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is upon us once again and we are reminded of how far we have come as a nation, and, alas, how very far we still have to go. Our nation takes an entire day each year to honor King’s dreams and quote his speeches, but are we really listening to his message? If so, why the growing disparity between rich and poor? Why are unions constantly under attack and shrinking? Why are women, blacks, Latinos and Native Americans still earning less than white men? Why do we still invest extravagantly in wars and weaponry, sucking money from life-saving safety net programs? Why are our prisons overcrowded, our schools underfunded and paranoid people packing guns? Why do our mentally ill go untreated? Why do our homeless, shivering in the night, get harassed by our police? Is MLK’s true legacy really just a three-day weekend in January?

• With accusations of free speech suppression and other wrongdoings, Lane County’s administration has some testy issues these days. As we go to press we hear former county attorney Marc Kardell, who has filed  plans to file a whistleblower, retaliation and wrongful termination suit against the county, will have a “name clearing” hearing at 11 am Jan. 18  at the county offices. Kardell’s suit says he was fired after he raised concerns about misuse of county funds and the actions of County Administrator Liane Richardson that were causing “a multitude of problems” within the county.

• Former Eugene Mayor Jim Torrey tossed the loaded issue to Rudy Crew, Oregon’s chief education officer, when Crew spoke to the City Club of Eugene Jan. 11. A current member of the 4J School Board, Torrey has a record as a sincere advocate of public education in Oregon, but he told the new education czar that Torrey and most of his acquaintances strongly believe you “have to find efficiencies” in the school systems, implying that further revenue support hinges on that happening. We’ve been shrinking Oregon schools at all levels in the chase for efficiencies for too long. What is efficient enough? It’s clear that some Oregonians will never be satisfied. Fortunately, Crew and Kitzhaber and our legislators are heading toward more money for school kids in Oregon. Sooner, rather than later, please. We need more revenue, not more “efficiency.”

• In response to the Viewpoint column last week on military sexual violence (MST), we heard from a Eugene woman who told us she was a victim of MST when she served in the Army more than 30 years ago. “It stays with you and affects everything in your life,” she says, but there is hope and help. She notes the Eugene VA Mental Health Clinic has a counselor to help victims. The VA nationwide is underfunded and has a long way to go to meet the growing medical/mental health needs of vets, but the local clinic goes out of its way to help vets under its care, way beyond the big posters on the wall talking about sexual harassment and abuse. 

Intransigent Republicans in the U.S. House are always talking about how they are merely living up to their campaign promises and representing their districts. But they never admit that their districts have been gerrymandered to such a degree that they really don’t represent the people of their states, only their ridiculously contrived districts. And because their district lines have eliminated most Democratic voters, the Republicans are fighting mostly among themselves. Without the moderating influence of Democrats at the polls, reasonable Republicans are vulnerable to radical right-wing challengers. As we’ve seen in Lane County, redistricting for political purposes has been held up in the courts as long as it doesn’t have a racial or ethnic impact, which is difficult to document. Redistricting is one big reason why we have such polarized politics today, and why Congress is held is such low esteem. Our courts could conceivably fix this problem some day.

• A remarkable film about climate change, Chasing Ice, is packing the Bijou this week and we are pleased to hear it will continue next week. This stunning film is based on photographer James Balog’s efforts to visually document global warming, based on the world’s shrinking glaciers, using time-lapse photography over several years. Balog’s team also captures on HD video the collapse of a section of glacier the size of Manhattan. Unforgettable. Find a trailer and show times at

One of our readers pointed out to us this weekend that Bolivia and some other South American countries have managed to decriminalize thousands of years of chewing coca leaves but “we cannot even decriminalize jaywalking.” We’re not sure eliminating jaywalking laws serves the public good (other than stopping cops from using such laws to harass the “undesirables” downtown), but where do you get those coca leaves? The raw leaves are illegal in this country even though this mild stimulant appears to be less harmful and addictive than caffeine and other alkaloids. Our idiotic War on Drugs continues while our economy, and some of us individually, could use a mild stimulant with minimal side effects.

• So Chip Kelly isn’t going to swim in Eugene’s Duck pond any longer; he’s gone to soar with the Eagles. If Philly’s new head coach decides to keep quarterback Michael Vick on the roster, we’re hoping some of Eugene’s hippie animal love rubbed off on Chip and he has all his players be nice to pit bulls and other beasts.

• There’s a whole lotta sax appeal in this city: Tomo Tsurumi, saxophonist for Volifonix, announced that with a little help from his friends and the community (Cozmic, Cornucopia, The Granary, Alder Street All Stars, Jesse Meade, Garin Reese and more) he has reached his fundraising goal of $1,000 and can now fix his alto saxophone that was smashed by an unknown drunk while Tsurumi was busking downtown (see our story and photo last week). Vive la epic sax solo!