New police chief, March Madness and the city auditor race

• Eugene has chosen a new police chief. Chris Skinner, currently chief in Richland, Wash., will take over Eugene Police Department on April 30, replacing Pete Kerns. He’ll lead a department with 190 sworn officers and another 140 civilian employees, with a budget of some $50 million. Skinner has the support of the police union and, so far, says the right things about such acute local problems as homelessness. We wish him well in his new job.

• Former City Councilor George Brown tells us he is optimistic about the prospects for an elected independent auditor for Eugene after knocking on doors across the city. Residents understand the difference between the elected auditor Measure 20-283 and “auditor lite,” which says the council should choose the auditor, according to Brown. With the vote in May, 20-283 advocates are lining up supporters such as former council members David Kelly and Shawn Boles, former city manager Vicki Elmer and others who understand how city government works.

• Even if basketball bores you, take a look at the Oregon women’s team now in the Sweet 16 run for the national championship. They play Saturday afternoon, March 24, on ESPN2 and could go on to the Elite Eight. This collection of top athletes — they’re from Spain, Germany, Australia, even Fairbanks, Alaska — has so much fun that it’s contagious. Coach Kelly Graves is not yelling at his players, nor parading up and down the sidelines. It’s only a game, part of March Madness.

• As we head toward the next wildfire season, the City Club of Eugene meeting March 16 got an important heads-up from speakers Tracy Beck, supervisor of the Willamette National Forest; Randy Green, expert in fire suppression since 1977; and Craig Patterson, McKenzie Bridge resident who studies what to do about wildfires. Last year was the most expensive fire-fighting year on record in Oregon, and Beck says the current fiscal path is not sustainable. Oregon experienced 1,069 reported wildfires that burned a total of 451,863 acres. Green suggested landowners check out Firewise, the website (Google it) that tells you what to do. We suggest that we should also join the fight against extreme climate change and the role it plays in burning up our Oregon forests.

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