Slant 4-24-2014

• Big development plans are brewing for Glenwood and huge tax breaks and concessions have been demanded by developers. But why shortchange our schools, public services and infrastructure in order to entice for-profit developers? Glenwood has an attractive riverfront and central location. It will evolve and develop just fine without tax breaks and subsidies. National studies have shown that such incentives don’t pencil out for anyone — except the wily developers and speculators who are experts at manipulating governments and politicians eager to “create local jobs.” The New York Times analyzed 150,000 tax breaks, large and small, and wrote about billions of taxpayer dollars diverted with dubious long-term benefits. Springfield city officials, who plan to commit $2.5 million to the project, should read the 2012 study carefully before grabbing at a pie in the sky, as should Lane County, which is being asked to contribute $6 million. See

• We were reminded of Sally Sheklow’s column last week “Are We There Yet” at the investiture of U.S. District Judge Michael McShane April 21 in the U.S. Courthouse. As Sheklow wrote, “We’re not there yet, but victory is within sight. We’re getting closer and we’re going faster. Whee!” Openly gay, McShane and other speakers honored his partner, their family and the extended families that love and honor them. And this Wednesday, McShane heard the important same-sex marriage case in this courthouse. Why not? Sens. Wyden and Merkley and Congressman DeFazio, all speakers at the investiture, deserve great credit for McShane’s lifetime appointment. Wyden did remind the audience of a grim reality: 85 judicial vacancies and 48 pending nominations are awaiting action by his colleagues in the Senate.

• Three thought-provoking nuggets from the City Club of Eugene April 18: 1) UO Assistant VP for Student Affairs Paul Shang said the UO is “having discussions about building a new residence hall.” Is anybody having discussions about the upper limits of student housing in Eugene? 2) The UO Department of Philosophy is planning a conference on homelessness in the fall. Good to hear voices on this critical issue from that perspective. 3) The UO has hired a transportation and parking director and staff and is bringing in a national consultant. How about a free shuttle that runs across the river and around the campus?

• We broke the news last week about a $400,000 anonymous pledge to provide a sanctuary on private land for the unhoused. The burden of liability for this site would be removed from the city, but the city will still have a major role to play in whatever zoning, permitting and city services might be required. Will the city be a help or hindrance? We hope to see a high level of cooperation and collaboration from not only the city and nonprofit agencies, but also neighboring property owners. 

• The U.S. spends a staggering portion of its federal budget on defense and related expenses and debts, but is that what the American people want? Last week was the Community Alliance of Lane County annual Tax Day Penny Poll. Activists gathered outside the Eugene downtown post office and asked passers by to prioritize federal spending by allocating 10 pennies to six jars representing different categories. Once again this year the people gave priority to human and environmental services and infrastructure and only allocated 1 percent to military spending. Organizer Michael Carrigan of CALC tells us, “If Eugeneans were in charge in Washington, D.C., things would be radically different — our tax dollars would be fighting climate change and not endless war.” We can shrug at this disparity or we can educate ourselves and organize, starting at the local level.

• Noted fisheries biologist and author Jim Lichatowitch spoke at a McKenzie Flyfishers meeting this week and compared how government agencies have approached major wildlife challenges over the decades. When ducks and geese were dwindling in numbers, the agencies worked to create waterfowl habitat along flyways. But when it came to dwindling salmon and steelhead numbers, the agencies ignored huge habitat problems and instead built extensive hatcheries. “Salmon recovery plans are not working,” he says. “We can’t afford to make the same mistakes over and over again.” Smart young biologists go to work for agencies and are frustrated by outdated policies and practices. If they speak out too loudly, he says, “They get sent to Burns.”