Slant 9-19-2013

Winter is approaching and the homeless among us are in increasing danger. The city of Eugene has spent millions over the years on programs to assist the homeless, the City Council has wrestled with many less-than-perfect proposals, local churches and nonprofits have struggled to provide life-saving services and facilities, human rights activists have protested and been arrested. It’s not enough. Thousands in our community still have no warm place to sleep, no place to prepare meals, no place to try to rebuild their lives. Homelessness has no single cause so there is no single solution. But we do need to think bigger, much bigger. Other cities and counties have legalized large, permanent tent camps on public land or have allocated unused buildings or parking garages for temporary shelter. Other local governments have decriminalized being homeless. Lane County has the brainpower and creativity to come up with solutions. The will? Not so much.

• We’re still waiting for the investigative report that led to Lane County firing its administrator Liane Richardson. We are also still waiting for the results of the criminal investigation by the Marion County District Attorney’s Office. The county gets points for not making any payouts to Richardson, and it’s a good idea to have an agreement that precludes lawsuits — after all, Richardson’s tenure at the county has led to a lot of layoffs, lawsuits, payouts and, ironically given how her position ended, outside investigations. But let’s put an end to secrecy and distrust at the county, shall we? Release the documents, stop the snark and sniping between commissioners and start, if not fresh, then at least clean.

• “Left-leaning Eugene Weekly”? That’s what Scott Nelson called us in a Sept. 13 letter in the R-G blasting “self-styled economist” Ernie Niemi and Art Johnson (part-owner of the left-leaner) for their op-ed piece Aug. 27 opposing the wild forest bill swirling around Oregon and Congress. In his letter, Nelson didn’t bother to disclose who’s buttering his toast. He’s identified by LinkedIn as the senior vice-president of finance and administration and CFO of Rosboro paper and forest products company. Guess how he’s leaning? Nelson apparently didn’t check Niemi’s Harvard credentials or his decades of professional experience in economic analysis.

Rep. Sara Gelser of Corvallis has announced she’s running for Oregon State Senate. Gelser, an advisory board member of Emerge Oregon, which trains strong Democratic women candidates, made a good showing in the Legislature this year with the passage of HB 2427, barring the planting of commercial quantities of canola in the Willamette Valley for five years while funding an OSU study on the crop. She also shepherded through bills on seclusion rooms and restraint in public schools and is known for speaking up for women and the disabled. If Gelser wins in 2014 it gives the Dems in the Senate a stronger majority. The seat is currently held by Republican Betsy Close, who was appointed after then-senator Frank Morse retired. 

• How best to respond to bigotry and hatred? Last week we wrote about the racist banner that was hung on an I-5 footbridge, and we’ve seen strong, thoughtful statements in response from community leaders and organizations. Early Friday morning, Sept. 13, a group called Emerald Valley Anti-Racists dropped a banner over the side of the parking garage at Olive and 7th in Eugene, reading “Fight the racists, hunt them down, kick the Nazis out of town.” We appreciate the passion behind this protest banner, but taken literally, the message seeks to deny people their constitutional rights. The idea of kicking some Nazi butts is appealing, but it’s more effective to fight injustice with justice, bigotry with education, intolerance with tolerance, hatred with compassion. A photo of the banner along with comments by the group can be found at the Portland Independent Media Center website,

• You might have seen our Art Director Todd Cooper taking photos around town of musicians and everyday people that we run in our paper and he posts to our blog. One of his shots, taken of Diarrhea Planet performing at Tiny Tavern Sept. 15, got picked up by Rolling Stone’s “Hottest Live Photos of 2013” online. See the photo at 

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