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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 4.21.11




The Real Score on Civic

A winning game plan buys time

By Dan Carol

So does your head hurt trying to follow all the different players and the curveballs being thrown about as 4J decides the fate of the Civic Stadium property? Well, then this column is for you ã unless you hate corny sports analogies.

Who am I rooting for?

Nobody yet. 4J is currently choosing between three very imperfect proposals. Ideally though, some all-star heroics by the City Council and the city manager will turn our frowns upside down.

Who am I rooting against?

4J. Two years ago the School Board simply wanted $70,000 a year in expenses removed from its books when the Ems and their lease payments left for PK Park. Now they are seeking millions from the sale of the Civic property, and from the sale of Willard School property at 29th and Lincoln, and they are seeking $70 million plus for school construction on the ballot May 17. Honestly, its time for the School Board to get off the field; we need a new manager on the field named Jon Ruiz.

Are we really in the bottom of the 9th?

At its last work session, some councilors expressed concern that its too late for the city to get involved. Thats just off-base. The notion that there is a fast track for this project if 4J chooses the Y or Fred Meyer, when the next stage is clearly messy zoning battles and demolition permit wars, needs to be dispelled. Lets remember we are in Eugene, the town that turned away a downtown Whole Foods! Theres plenty of time to get this right, so long as the School Board doesnt get it wrong.

As one of the school board members pointed out at the recent meeting, 4Js "process” doesnt require them to choose any of these three proposals if they dont suffice. So dont.

We could have a Y, keep the sports fields and figure out the stadiums future without a bums rush led by the School Board, and have local housing developers get the work and develop the site in concert with the neighborhood, not against it. But only the city is in the position to steer the community to such a great result.

The city? Is this a fantasy league?

I know many of us are inclined to think that the city and the council will swing and miss whenever they step up to the plate. But the fact is the council is on a roll, filling two pits and creating buzz by getting things done downtown. We now need the city to buy this property outright and appoint a new public-private commission to figure out how to utilize this great open space for family recreation, rather than let a cash-hungry School Board take land it got in trust for $1 and sell it to the highest bidder. Councilor Alan Zelenkas proposal to relieve the old Save Civic Stadium crew who has kept the idea alive, and bring in a new dream team of community leaders better able to develop the site and welcome the Y, is a major league idea.

The secret weapon: Weve got a loaded bat (and money in the bank)

Remember 2006 when we all voted for a major parks and recreation bond? Well, guess what, it passed ã and theres more than $9 million sitting in the bank that could be used for acquiring Civic from 4J. Sound too good to be true? Well, it wasnt for John Musumeci, Suzanne Arlie and their creditors. Just last November, the council in a moment of unanimous kumbaya voted 8-0 to spend almost $2 million to acquire more than 500 acres from Arlie & Co. south of LCC. This remote property, if it is ever used, will be used by the public far less than a family recreation center and sports fields will be at the Civic property.

A winning game plan

A smart fix on Civic is doable, if the city steps in and simply uses funds that the voters have already approved for community and family recreation. This also happens to be the only option that would put money back in 4Js bank account anytime soon and actually save a couple of teachers this fall; all the other options will involve contingencies and delays of one kind or another. (A quick fix on Civic is not going to fix our schools; voting for the school ballot measures on May 17 will.)

To reach this goal, city councilors (especially Andrea Ortiz, Mike Clark, Pat Farr and Chris Pryor) and the city manager (Jon Ruiz) need to hear from everyone (baseball fans, soccer rooters, Kidsports field users, history buffs, 4th of July grass sitters, beer garden alumni, Y supporters and other open space fans) with an unusual message: we like what you are doing downtown ã do more!

Dan Carol served on the Mayors Committee on the Civic Stadium site. He urges that citizens who love Civic and the Y should call on the City Council to step up and just buy the property at the next council meeting and write the School Board to make that their goal, too.