Slant 5-9-2013

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. One explanation is the power of the pollster and strategist, Strategy Research Institute, of Fullerton, Calif., hired by Eugene, Springfield and Lane County to analyze the values of the citizenry and propose solutions to the very real budgetary problems. The attitudes we’re hearing at this point indicate the pollsters asked the wrong questions, and did not anticipate three money measures on the ballot. 

We endorsed the 4J school bonds measure and incumbent board member Beth Gerot in this election, but we do have reservations about the direction the board and superintendent are going. The district is charging ahead to implement the common 3X5 high school schedule next fall, despite objections by a large majority of teachers and a flock of concerned parents. Now formal bargaining with teachers is beginning. Their contract expires in June and major clashes are looming over the new schedule, curriculum revamping and teacher workload. Teachers understand numbers and Salem’s disfunction; what they don’t understand are excessive top-down management directives that interfere with the already intense demands of teaching. This is fertile ground for a teacher strike, and perhaps an organized effort to replace board members and even the superintendent.

• We’ve complained about Springfield City Councilor Dave Ralston in the past for his racist and ignorant comments and called him an embarrassment to the city, but he managed to get re-elected to a fourth term anyway in 2012, due mostly to name recognition. Now he’s back in the news, reportedly accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and being obnoxious and arrogant to police. Come on, Springfield, you are becoming a cool town and even surpassing Eugene in some respects, so get this jerk off your council. In the 2012 primary we endorsed his opponent, Cj Mann, saying “she might be new to the political arena but she’s got union leadership experience and is looking to improve schools, roads, parks, jobs and transportation in Springfield.” Mann lost by 684 votes and nearly a third (1,895) of the voters didn’t mark either candidate. Springfield, fix this problem.

• What’s going on behind the scenes in anticipation of 2014? Pete DeFazio has never been fond of campaigning, money-raising or being in the House minority, but we hear he has every intention of running again for Congress. He will retire eventually, and several Democrats and certainly a few Republicans (beyond Art Robinson) have their eyes on that seat. Commissioner Pete Sorenson is part of the gang who cut their political teeth on the staff of Jim Weaver, DeFazio’s predecessor. Looks like State Rep. Val Hoyle is being groomed for higher office. On the R side, Commissioner Sid Leiken’s name has come up. Meanwhile, what’s going on with local Dems and our lawmakers in Salem? They lined up lock-step against the very liberal Sorenson in 2012 and now they are on record en masse supporting a very regressive flat fee on the Eugene ballot. WTF — Why the Foolishness?

A photo of President Obama was vandalized last week at the Nobel Peace Walk Park under development in Alton Baker Park, surprising John Attig, the project chairman, who says he thought there might be some danger to the Henry Kissinger plaque instead. We’re not too surprised, knowing that Lane County has its share of equal-opportunity haters. We like this evolving park and we figure the controversies that will surround it for years to come will provide great fodder for debate and analysis about peace and how to pursue it. Even vandalism has a role in showing us how far we still have to go. The damaged Obama plaque is only temporary and will be replaced later with permanent markers. It costs $5,000 to sponsor a plaque and a few are still without sponsors. Email Attig at

• It’s the climate change, stupid. It’s only May, and we’ve already had forest fires and other fires near town — now open burning and backyard burning is prohibited. Warm weather is fun, and we love sunshine, but use this spate of hot weather as a reason to start riding your bike more, because global warming means more forest fires, less water and more problems for people, beasts and growing things. 

EW’s popular Next Big Thing music contest is back and local musicians and bands can submit songs free through May 16 at or bring in a CD and other materials to our offices at 1251 Lincoln St. The winner gets $500 cash, recording studio time, gigs, a feature story in EW and lots of other recognition and exposure. Seven songs and musician bios have already been posted.