Slant 9-26-2013

• EWEB will be looking at smart meters at its next board meeting at 5:30 pm Tuesday, Oct. 1, and the topic is likely to draw a large and vociferous crowd. It’s on the agenda as “AMI Project” for Advanced Metering Infrastructure. We hear three options are being considered: shelving AMI, continuing existing plans to do pilot programs over the next three years with the idea of deploying the meters later or doing an opt-in approach based on customer demand. We recognize the environmental and health concerns we’ve heard from smart meter skeptics in the community, but we also appreciate that EWEB is being very cautious in its approach and doing its due diligence to make sure installing smart meters will not be a bad decision in the long run. Let’s tone down the speculation based on outdated information and look at the facts. 

• The Great Recession started in 2007 and ended in 2009 (if the stock market is your prime indicator of economic health). Wall Street is 2,471 miles away, but it might as well be on the far side of the moon if you are among Lane County’s unemployed or underemployed or just broke. Some rat bastards in Congress, cynically citing an “improving economy,” are trying to whack food stamps and other assistance to the poor. Meanwhile, the federal poverty rate in Oregon has grown from 14.3 percent at the “end” of the recession to 17.2 percent in 2012. About one in four Oregon kids live below the poverty line, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy. For a family of four, that line is $23,550 a year or  $11.32 an hour full-time. Check the graphs and numbers at or just look around at people you know struggling to get by and going in debt.

What’s ironic about House conservatives calling for $39 billion in cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is that many of these Republicans represent districts and states that rely heavily on food stamps. In Kentucky, for example, 875,000 people get food stamps and local charity food banks can’t keep up with demand. About 15 percent of all Americans get some SNAP benefits. Will voters pay attention when their representatives take bread from their children’s mouths? Alas, too many Americans get suckered by the rhetoric of ideology and vote against their own best interests.

• The Eugene Symphony is opening its 48th season on Sept. 26 and we got a heads-up from Executive Director Scott Freck about the 50th season celebration ahead. Freck spoke to City Club Sept. 20 and tossed out a few ideas: maybe three commissioned pieces, return of previous star conductors like Marin Alsop, maybe even a history of Oregon music patterned from a history of North Carolina music, which Freck coordinated in that state before he came to Eugene. Any more ideas? Fifty years of a fine symphony is a big deal.

• Heads up if you get contacted by a seemingly affable man named Greg or get a friendly postcard from Oregon Land Company offering to look at your forest land to buy or to thin. EW has been contacted on a number of occasions by people from Creswell to Benton County who all tell a similar story: They were approached by a person offering to thin their timber or to buy their land. The sellers say they were verbally assured the land would not be clearcut, but soon there was nothing left but stumps. It’s all perfectly legal because the agreement not to clearcut was not in writing. Neighbors of the clearcuts say they have been contacted after the cuts happened and were told their trees ought to come down, too, or they will blow down. We also heard that one seller was told her forest land would only be developed for a single “vacation home,” but it was quickly subdivided and resold for huge profits. It might be legal, but it’s not ethical to take advantage of trusting and often cash-strapped landowners. 

• Kind of funny that Republican Rep. Dennis Richardson of Central Point, who is running for governor, told a Tea Party group Sept. 18 that Oregon needs to write laws that “make it easier for young people to find jobs.” He is, of course, implying we need to eliminate those pesky environmental regulations. He said four of his children moved out of state to find jobs. We imagine there are lots of reasons for kids growing up in Central Point to want to be somewhere far away.

• College students are returning and property crimes are expected to rise all over town, particularly in areas with high student populations. WTF? Why are higher ed students, our best and brightest young people, out snatching anything that’s not nailed down? Part of it is immaturity — frosh brains haven’t developed all the connections that are related to rational, responsible thought. But the bigger problem is that students are easy targets for bad guys in our community. The areas around campus are like a candy store for thieves. Expensive bikes, laptops, cell phones, stereos, credit cards, cameras, even drugs are all there under minimal watch. We hate to say it, but student areas are also a candy store for sexual predators. It’s not exactly a jungle out there, but still, be careful. Watch out for yourself and your neighbors. 

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