Slant 2-11-2016

• A discussion about Eugene’s Downtown Urban Renewal District (DTURD, to some) at the City Council work session Feb. 8 offered indications of some councilors’ disregard for the public trust. DTURD diverts a portion of property taxes away from city, county and schools for projects intended to improve Eugene’s urban center. In general, the council agrees that DTURD projects, such as upgrading the city’s internet infrastructure, merit further consideration, but only a few questioned the ethics of renewing a program they pledged five years ago not to renew. Councilor Alan Zelenka was first to raise concerns that re-upping DTURD would break a promise to the people of Eugene. “My major problem with the Downtown Urban Renewal District extension is a matter of integrity,” Zelenka said. “When I voted back in 2010 … the intent of the council was not to extend the Urban Renewal District. When I made that vote I meant it. The language could not have been clearer. The language is unambiguous.” Councilors George Brown and Betty Taylor expressed similar misgivings. “I won’t vote for anything that is even planning to think about extending urban renewal,” Taylor said. “We should let it die. We said we were going to.” Councilor George Poling, on the other hand, swept aside their concerns, saying: “To Alan’s comments about the public trust and our integrity and our word: I don’t want to bring up bad memories, but that ship sailed many years ago.” Counselor Chris Pryor says he remembers the vote to let DTURD die. But that was then, and this is now, he said, adding: “I don’t remember Bibles. I don’t remember crossing myself or killing chickens. I don’t remember making anything solemn.” City Council voted 6-2 in favor of keeping DTURD on the table. The two nay votes were Taylor’s and Brown’s.

• UO President Michael Schill’s message to the City Club of Eugene Feb. 5 was a familiar one from him: more emphasis on research, more tenure-track faculty, increase the current 5 percent of the UO budget now coming from the state. He called for more scholarships and assistance to students, especially those who need help to graduate in four years. He is seeking more private donations to the campaign to raise $2 billion. The new president also questioned what an increased minimum wage would do to student jobs on the campus. He strongly encouraged his audience to support the 2021 world track event in Eugene. And, incidentally, not once did he say “Go Ducks.” That was refreshing.

• Lots of positive energy bounced around Capitello Wine Bar Feb. 5 at the 15-year anniversary party for Beyond Toxics, formerly the Oregon Toxics Alliance. Lisa Arkin, the amazing director of Beyond Toxics, along with her staffers John Jordan-Cascade and Christine Cameron, put the sold-out event together. This was the first traditional fundraiser of auction, dinner, music, comedy and wine put on by the feisty environmental group. It brought in $15,000, which goes a long way when much of the work is done by volunteers. Beyond Toxics has been involved in numerous legislative and local campaigns for the protection of human and environmental health. Here’s to at least 15 more years!

Harney County is still in turmoil with a handful of militia continuing occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, and dozens of armed outsiders riling up nearby Burns and causing financial and emotional stress. Burns is not a very inviting place to visit or do business right now and the longer this goes on, the larger the impact will be on this troubled town. What can we do about it? The Eugene-Springfield chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is recommending two Harney County nonprofits that could use support. One is Tu-Wa-Kii Nobi, an after-school program for the Burns Paiute Tribe (send checks to 100 Pasigo Street, Burns 97720). Another is Communities Assisting Neighbors with Cancer (c/o Harney District Hospital, 557 W. Washington Street, Burns 97720). Promise Partner of SURJ says, “We encourage you to include a card expressing your support for the people of Harney County and the Burns Paiute Tribe.”

• We keep waiting for the FBI to release details beyond the aerial video about the shooting of LaVoy Finicum, if nothing else to counter the outrageous claims of Bundy Bunch supporters. If you believe the daily postings from the radicals, Finicum was shot somewhere between nine and 100 times and his truck was “riddled” with more than 100 bullets — even though nobody inside was seriously injured and the FBI reports only non-lethal rounds were fired at the vehicle. We need to see details, including body camera video with sound. It will help, even though some people will claim the evidence is manufactured and they will continue to believe whatever supports their fears and ideology.