Slant 6-20-2013

• 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? We wonder what voters will think of this decision if Paul Conte is successful in his plan to put MUPTE on the ballot. The city needs to acknowledge the growing body of research that indicates such subsidies do not live up to their promised benefits and unfairly compete with existing local housing providers. 

Looking ahead we predict the looming higher ed bubble will combine with our aging population and this glut of student apartments will convert to senior housing. Wheelchairs will cram the elevators and coffin-dodgers will fight over shared bathrooms, but the High Street signs will be safe at last.

Civic Stadium is back in the news now that the Eugene Y is proposing to buy the site from School District 4J and possibly bulldoze the historic stadium to build a new Y and sell or lease part of the property for commercial and/or residential uses. Eugene has a terrible history when it comes to preserving historic buildings and this one is still in good shape structurally. We’ve long advocated saving Civic Stadium, and it makes even more sense now with growing pro and amateur soccer needing a home. Why can’t we have a new Y and a refurbished Civic Stadium on the site and still have room for a parking structure and some income-generating development? It will take some visionary collaboration by the Y, 4J, city planners and private developers to save this unique piece of Eugene’s heritage. Civic Stadium itself is a shining example of what can be accomplished to benefit the community during tough economic times.

Meanwhile, who is behind the scenes wanting to partner with the Y in developing the property? We asked Master Capital if they are back in the game, but no answer as of press time. Developer Steve Master was involved in an earlier proposal for the property before 4J shelved the sale proposal. And we’re curious to see what will happen with the old Y facilities on Patterson Street. A great location with an obsolete building.

Lots of turmoil in local media, but we’re happy to report EW is printing fat papers lately and our revenues are up significantly year-to-date over last year. We heard last week that EW made the top 10 nationally in “penetration” of adults over 18 in our market (which inspired a string of tasteless jokes). An independent analysis by Media Audit of the nation’s top 100 alternative weeklies looked at both print circulation and website unique visitors, and eliminated duplication. We have consistently ranked in the top five or six in print penetration (the number of print readers in the county compared to the county population), but the new study shows we also have a healthy and growing web presence. We are the only alternative paper in Oregon to make the top-10 list. Thanks for turning to us for your news, views and arts information, whether you read us on paper or on screen.

• Big turnout for Dr. Eben Alexander III’s talk about his near-death experience at the new Unitarian Universalist Church June 16. Fascinating talk about the compatibility of science and spirituality from a Harvard neurosurgeon. The spacious new UU meeting hall was packed to capacity and dozens were turned away. Alexander and his book Proof of Heaven have gotten a lot of national attention but organizers credited Bob Welch’s column in the R-G June 9 for the sell-out crowd. Ah, the power of the printed word. Did Alexander convince us that heaven exists? He’s not a preacher and he spoke mainly about his remarkable personal experience, and he noted that the title of his book came not from him, but from his publisher. Ah, the power of marketing.