Slant 10-24-2013

Wolves have endured a rocky reintroduction to Oregon, but with new legislation enacted this summer, wolves stand a better chance of surviving when they will disperse elsewhere into Oregon. OR-7, the famous Oregon wolf affectionately known as Journey for his 1,000-mile trek from the Wallowa Mountains to Northern California, was the first to do this, and more wolves could follow his example, eventually settling in the Crater Lake area or even the Willamette Valley. 

Predators are making progress here, but they still face adversaries: In July, Redmond residents shot and killed a cougar sitting in a tree with no provocation, and coyotes are freely hunted and trapped under Oregon law. If we can’t coexist with the predators we already have, it’s unlikely that wolves will be welcomed with open arms. The new legislation helps, but there’s a long way to go before we have our own Journey.

• An exciting announcement for the future of our city came out of a meeting Oct. 18 in the LCC downtown center. A town-gown partnership called “Making Great Cities, Democracy plus Design” has come together to work long-term for Eugene. The UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts, the City Club of Eugene, Lane Transit District and a volunteer group called Architects Building Community are going to work for a better built city. The AIA-SWO design excellence program is a principal driver. First event was a nuts-and-bolts speech by Maurice Cox, former city councilor and mayor of Charlottesville, Va., now director of the Tulane City Center Initiative.

 Here’s a takeaway or two from Cox’s talk in Eugene: Good design makes good fiscal sense. Charlottesville (comparable to Eugene) has 95 percent locally owned businesses in the downtown mall. They chose to keep their auto-free downtown mall. Mayors need to be urban designers. If you lead with public investment, private development will follow.

Charlottesville built a hotel, a market, a skating rink, an outdoor amphitheater, which offers free concerts every Friday after 5 pm, and more. Six- or seven-story buildings are the norm downtown. Two nine-story buildings are going up now. Different housing types go into one unit. There is major citizen involvement: 12 citizen committees over one 12-month period on urban planning issues.

• Speaking of our city center, can it be possible that two public bodies, School District 4J and the city of Eugene, are moving toward selling off roughly 10 acres in the middle of it all to the highest bidder? The conversation has narrowly focused on Civic Stadium, but it is a much broader issue. Think 10 public acres, part of it the new YMCA, part of it the restored historic stadium, part of it park. Think long-term thinking. 

• We liked the Ducks’ hot pink helmets helping breast cancer research, but let’s not stop there. How about yellow to alert fans to the plight of our pollinators? Red to raise the flag about the dangers of destroying our planet’s climate. A stealthy grey to signal NSA spying on American citizens? Black to lament the behavior of Republicans in the House of Representatives? Any other good ideas to plunk on football players’ heads? The possibilities are endless.

• The Iraq War is over, right? Not exactly. The U.S. Department of Labor just updated its statistics for U.S. contractor deaths in Iraq and over the last month it’s jumped from 1,599 to 1,604. Lost-time injuries to U.S. contractors now number 17,706. Confirmed civilian deaths in Iraq are up 130 in just one week, and now total 126,230. It’s still a bloody mess, and the U.S. cost of the war continues to grow and just surpassed $815 billion. It’s ironic that the Republicans who have complained loudest about U.S. debt are the same Republicans who voted to authorize the Iraq War and the Bush tax breaks, the biggest contributors to our unbalanced budget. Defense contractors are wearing that Texas grin all the way to the bank.

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