Slant 12-18-2014

• Parting is such sweet sorrow: Since Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman last week — and won it decisively — he ceased to be just another great UO athlete. If he wasn’t already, Mariota is now a national celebrity, evidenced by his immediate appearance on network television  Dec. 15 when he read the Top Ten list on “Late Night with David Letterman.” Letterman introduced Mariota as “a good-looking kid” from “your University of Oregon Ducks,” and he wasn’t talking to us, Eugene. Reading the cues, Mariota joked, “To heck with the NFL, I’m going on Dancing with the Stars.” Not likely.

• Eugene is looking at expanding its urban growth boundary (UGB) again and every time we do, we lose density, and developers and land speculators grin all the way to the bank while taxpayers pick up the tab for infrastructure costs that are never covered by system development charges. Sprawl increases driving and reduces walkability. Some perks can be found in the city staff recommendations following the 5-year Envision Eugene process: a couple of new parks and land for Bethel schools. But more residential land? More industrial land? Why sprawl when we have abundant residential infill opportunities plus vacant industrial land within the UGB? It was just a few years ago that the Eugene Comprehensive Lands Analysis found that “Eugene has about 434 acres of industrial land on 39 sites in excess of the demands for industrial land.” Manufacturing is actually barely growing in Oregon and the old Hynix plant stands empty. City meetings and a public forum on UGB expansion are coming up in mid-January. Time to ask some tough questions: What are other options to meet state planning guidelines? How real is the population projection of 34,000 new residents over 20 years? Why do we encourage population growth? And how do we pay for sprawl?

• We spotted another illegal homeless camp deep in the woods near the river. No need to wonder where Whoville residents and other homeless folks with nowhere to go or who use alcohol and drugs end up. Out of sight but still members of our community.

Salem’s daily paper is in trouble for littering sidewalks and driveways with pesky free newspapers in unrecyclable plastic bags, even when residents call repeatedly and demand they stop. The ad-heavy papers also build up at vacant homes and apartments, a potential invitation to burglars and vandals. The Salem City Council is threatening to fine the Salem Statesman Journal $250 for every violation — unless the SJ only delivers to doorsteps and stops unwanted deliveries. Give The Register-Guard credit for briefly running a short blurb about the Salem paper’s quandary on its website Dec. 8 under “Northwest Now,” but the story did not show up in print. Maybe it’s in the R-G’s free paper this week, stuffed into an unrecyclable green plastic bag. Check your driveway or bushes. 

• The coastal old growth of the Elliott State Forest is a little closer to being protected after a Dec. 10 meeting of the State Land Board in which it was decided to try to sell the forest to a public buyer or public-private partnership. The board (Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler) and the Department of State Lands took into account a wellspring of public comment that called for the public forest to be protected, not logged. The rub, of course, is that the timber is ostensibly logged to pay for public schools, but logging was actually losing money, which led to a previous much-criticized plan to sell the land to private timber companies. Selling the 92,000-acre forest to keep it in public hands hopefully keeps two threatened marbled murrelets alive with one stone — it stays open and unlogged and the state is no longer mandated to use it as a revenue-generator for schools, or as conservation group Cascadia Wildlands likes to call it, “clearcuts for kids.”

• Here’s another tip for a last-minute gift that benefits our friends at the Farmers Market. It’s a CD from the owners of the excellent Locomotive restaurant, which closed a few years ago. The $10 CD includes hundreds of recipes, tips and instructions for making those memorable vegetarian meals. Buy at the Farmers Market at the Fairgrounds from 10 am to 5 pm Saturday, Dec. 20, and from 11 am to 5 pm Sunday, Dec. 21.

No prosecutions for torture? Dick Cheney has publicly confessed to approving interrogation techniques that violate international law, but will he and his fellow criminals ever see a courtroom? Not likely. And no prosecutions for excessive police force? We detect a pattern here. Our institutions protect themselves at the expense of human rights, and until we establish an independent process for accountability, justice will go unserved.