Slant 6-26-2014

• We wrote about longtime medical marijuana activist Jim Greig in this column May 8 when we heard he was not long for this world, and we enjoyed a final, upbeat conversation with him a short time before he died at home June 16. He expressed to us his gratitude for his 63 years on this planet, his family, his work and his many supporters. Greig suffered from debilitating arthritis, lung cancer and blindness in one eye. He found relief from his pain and other symptoms with medical pot, reducing his need for opiates. Despite his disabilities, he was an activist and mentor for 10 years, organizing local events, working on state ballot measures and getting involved in political campaigns. We remember him as a kind and passionate person and a high-impact advocate. A memorial is being planned for Aug. 2 at the Church of the Resurrection in Eugene, with details to be announced. Find a video interview with Greig and links to obituaries on the EW blog. 

What does it cost to be homeless? We got an anonymous letter last week from a woman living in an RV and complaining about getting warning tickets for parking overnight on the streets of Eugene. “We go from place to place getting ticket after ticket,” she writes. “I know people who have been fined over a thousand dollars. This is bananas. How can someone who can’t even afford a safe, legal place afford to pay huge fines? It’s criminal to be homeless.” She says she goes to sleep at night not knowing when she will be “harassed, arrested or have my home taken away.” St. Vinnie’s has a car camping program but it can’t come close to meeting the demand. See our news story this week on how a federal court ruling could change the car camping rules in Eugene and Springfield.

• Lane County now has 32,000 newly health- insured residents. That’s the good news out of City Club of Eugene June 20. How to meet their needs was not such good news from speakers from PeaceHealth, Community Health Centers and Trillium Community Health Plans. Trillium is overwhelmed with 10,000 applicants unassigned to primary care physicians in Lane County. The shortage of doctors is partly because medical students leave school with about $250,000 in loans, understandably eager to earn the higher incomes that come from specialties. Twelve new primary care physicians are coming in the next four months to PeaceHealth Medical Group. The problems, even the solutions, affirmed our support for single-payer health insurance in America. Hopefully, that’s next.

• Some nonprofits do mass advertising and we noticed an envelope inserted in the R-G a few days ago. A photo of a Marine with an artificial leg was on the outside and inside was an appeal from the USO to “Please help our wounded warriors and their families.” The flyer claims 86 percent of USO’s expenses are program related, but the independent Charity Navigator says it’s only 65.5 percent. Big difference. Turns out 23 percent of USO’s $100 million budget gets spent on advertising (such as newspaper inserts) and another 11 percent on administration. The CEO makes $511,000 a year. 

We’re big supporters of charitable giving, but it’s good to visit to see how our donations are being managed. The National Veterans Services Fund, for example, only spends 18.4 percent of its $9 million budget on actual services for vets; but FOOD for Lane County spends 94.1 percent of its $14.6 million budget on — you guessed it — feeding the hungry.