Slant 5-21-2015

• Predictable results in the May Special Election. Disappointing turnout of only 35 percent. We didn’t expect the vehicle registration fee to pass, but we did expect the results to be closer. Lane County voters haven’t figured out that we are undertaxed compared to counties that haven’t relied heavily on federal timber payments. Measure 5 and other tax limits put us in a bind when timber payments dried up. How are we going to catch up now? Nobody loves new taxes and fees, especially ones that affect low-income residents, but the options are very limited. Will Lane County government be perpetually underfunded?

The 4J School Board will get some new blood with Eileen Nittler replacing longtime board member Craig Smith who chose not to run again. We expect Nittler to be an effective addition to the board. Kevin Cronin lost in his energetic campaign against Jim Torrey, but we hope to see Cronin charging to reform Oregon’s flawed system for funding education.

• Anybody want to buy a steam plant and 17 acres of riverfront land near the center of Eugene? The UO Foundation’s winning proposal to buy the prime EWEB land died this week. Here’s some pure speculation: The city is deeply involved in this project and rumblings around the UO Foundation deal hint at disagreement over how much public money vs. private money should go into redevelopment. It needs to pencil out for a private developer. It will be in interesting to see how other developers approach this puzzle. Or is it too early for such a project? Maybe downtown needs to fill in a bit more first and issues of railroad noise and access need to be addressed.

• If you are a fan of VICE, the hot investigative reporting series on HBO, look for a Eugene Weekly cover from June 12, 2014, featured on an upcoming VICE episode on sexual assault on college campuses. The cover is a photo illustration of a basketball with the headline “Win, Drink, RAPE.” The story inside that issue is “Rape U” by Camilla Mortensen, and the cover was designed by Trask Bedortha in our Art Department. No date was announced for the showing of the episode, and no guarantee that our cover will be shown or our content discussed. But it’s nice to be noticed by this Emmy Award-winning show’s producers. 

The Register-Guard has been reporting on the UO’s $20 million public image campaign that is intended to build the academic side of the university. Duck athletics are top rated, but UO academic program ratings are embarrassingly low. Will millions spent on branding academics draw better professors and higher-achieving students? Maybe not. The problem is not so much UO’s image as Oregon’s archaic and flawed tax structure. Unfair, unbalanced taxation means public education is underfunded at all levels, from kindergarten to universities. Professors with families will hesitate to relocate to a town where academic salaries are low, public school classes have 40 students and high school graduation rates are low. That $20 million would be better  invested in a statewide campaign to better fund all education in the state.