Marin AlsopPhoto by Adriane White


RG sold, OBF, auditor and other editorial opinions

  We heard Oregon House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson talk to a gathering of Eugene Democrats last summer after the 2017 legislative session. Williamson said the accomplishments of Oregon progressives are known all over the country, but hardly known at all in Oregon. So isn’t that what the media should do, tell Oregonians what their elected representatives did? EW asked Diane Dietz, a highly respected journalist who covered the session for the Statesman-Journal last summer after a long career at the Register-Guard, to give us her take on the success or failure of the progressive agenda, plus a forecast for the 35-day 2018 session starting in February. Read the story of government working in our little democracy, the state of Oregon, in our legislative package this issue.

• As of March 1, Eugene Weekly will be Eugene’s only locally owned independent major newspaper. That’s the day when GateHouse Media out of New York state, one of this country’s largest chains, officially owns The Register-Guard. After 90 years of family ownership, the Bakers sold it for an undisclosed amount. We have poked at the RG and they have poked back, although their editors mostly tried to ignore this free upstart on the streets for the past 37 years. But we are sad to see the Baker family giving up the institution they worked so hard to establish and maintain. As their masthead says, their daily paper has been a good “citizen of its community” and the Bakers have been good citizens as well. What happens next? Logan Molen, present publisher of the RG, already has written that the paper will shrink. The crucial number is GateHouse’s debt of more than $300 million and what they must do to service it.

• We left the City Club of Eugene meeting Jan. 26 even more convinced that we need single payer health care in this country. Ryan Kounovsky, a staffer to Rep. Phil Barnhart during the 2017 legislative session, talked about what’s next for the Oregon Health Plan. Certainly, Oregon is trying hard to take care of the medical needs of its residents, but a “Medicare for all” plan from the national level makes the most sense. It seems unlikely with the present control in D.C., but that will change.

• The Eugene City Council is looking to refer a competing city auditor measure to the May ballot, but it will be drafted by the anti-auditor city manager and city attorney, so expect it to have an inadequate budget at best, and correspondingly little impact. Citizens for Sensible Oversight, who kick-started this effort, complain that Measure 20-283 already on the ballot is too expensive and would cost taxpayers “nearly $700,000 every year,” but Eugene Police Auditor Mark Gissiner notes in a recent Register-Guard op-ed that his budget is $530,000 “or less than 1 cent per capita per day.” The Measure 20-283 auditor and his or her staff would have vastly more responsibility and impact than the police auditor. Eugene is becoming a real city and we need well-funded and substantial independent auditing of all city departments. Police auditors cost money; city auditors with the right resources can save taxpayers millions. City Accountability has a fundraiser, Blues for Ballot Measure 20-283, planned for 7 pm Friday, Feb. 2, at Tsunami Books.

• Eugene Symphony’s former conductor and music director Marin Alsop has long been a superstar on the international stage. Since leaving here she’s become the first woman music director at a major U.S. symphony orchestra — the Baltimore Symphony — and the first woman to conduct the BBC’s prestigious Last Night of the Proms in London. Now Alsop has been named artistic director of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in Austria — and yes, that’s another musical first for women. Brava!

Oregon Bach Festival is mum on why it invited a guest conductor who had been previously fired for using a racial slur at a rehearsal to perform at this summer’s festival, just months after OBF sacked its artistic director, Matthew Halls, amid vague suggestions of racism and sexism. Cellist and conductor Jaap ter Linden was to conduct OBF’s Berwick Academy July 3; he was let go from a guest slot by the Oberlin Conservatory in 2015 after students complained he had used the slur, according to news reports confirmed by a conservatory official. Ter Linden’s name disappeared from the OBF website the day after Eugene Weekly posted a story online Jan. 26 about the incident; requests for comment to the festival and the University of Oregon drew no response by press time. Ter Linden has reached out to EW on the topic, and we’ll post an interview with him on our website.