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Slant 4-1-2013

• The city fee debate is taking some fascinating twists with Councilor George Brown changing sides as he delves more into the issues of city finances and budget priorities. Will other key supporters of the ballot measure also jump ship? Local Democrats lined up early in favor of the fee but without exploring the arguments in any depth. This debate is getting awkward as supporters discover the city has enough excess reserves from fiscal year 2013 to cover the anticipated deficit in 2014. As we get closer to the May election, it’s going to be hard to sell the idea of shutting down some basic city services in order to pump more money into our facilities reserve — which was depleted by the costly new police headquarters rammed through despite voter disapproval. It’s more complicated than that, of course, but red flags are popping up all over this fee proposal, and so far the arguments in favor of passing it are pretty superficial, all about how much we need the popular services that are threatened.

• Judges, retired, sitting, aspiring, came from all over Oregon April 5 to join with friends and family of the late Judge Helen J. Frye to pay tribute to her. Chief Judge Ann Aiken of the U.S. District Court, District of Oregon, presided over a luncheon in the UO School of Law, where a portrait was unveiled. One of three women in her class, Frye graduated from this law school in 1966, moving on to become the first woman appointed to the Oregon Circuit Court and the first woman in Oregon to serve as a federal judge, a Carter appointee. Her son, Eric Frye, who grew up in Eugene and is now a screenplay writer based in New York, spoke about his mother, who died in 2011. She was adamantly opposed to any memorial service for herself, but she probably would have liked this one.

• We tossed out names of a few prospective challengers for East Lane Commissioner Faye Stewart’s seat last week and more might be coming. Progressives huddled this past weekend at an invitation-only gathering to talk about fixing our broken county government and the three positions coming up in 2014. Looks like West Lane Commissioner Jay Bozievich and Springfield Commissioner Sid Leiken can also expect challengers, but the potential candidates are not yet willing to let their names go public. Commissioners Pat Farr and Pete Sorenson are safe until 2016. 

• Some good news for animal lovers from the Legislature — SB 835, the bill to ban horse tripping (roping galloping horses by the neck and leg for entertainment), made it out of committee. Beyond Toxics is also having a good session in Salem with HB 3364, which looks to cut pesticide use by state agencies, gaining some traction. Clean-water lovers take note: Willamette Riverkeeper had been fighting to require factories, mills and other industries that discharge their waste into Oregon rivers to post a sign at the outflow with a permit holder’s name and phone number and contact information for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Sadly, that proposal hasn’t surfaced on the legislative floor. Care about these things? Write or call your senator or state rep so he or she knows!

John Henry’s (JH) new owners, Traxler Inc. (Wetlands Brew Pub & Sports Bar), have reportedly fired several longtime staff members (like bartender and emcee of 10 years Jay Coburn Damon, aka Brooklyn J Liotta) who helped create Eugene classics like the burlesque show and G.L.A.M. nights — and the majority of the remaining “original” staff members, as well as burlesque dancers, have walked out in solidarity. The Broadway Revue Burlesque Show will no longer perform at JH. Opponents of JH’s new ownership and management have formed the Facebook group “John Henry’s Boycott,” which states “John Henry’s has completely gone off the fucking deep end and has been on a firing spree! Firing OUR bartenders and OUR friends!” The group is also calling for JH to change its name. At press time, the group had 772 members and counting, while the official JH Facebook page has been shut down. What will become of one of downtown’s hottest and most queer-friendly hubs, and its devoted following?

• Last week in the column we asked whether it helps for EW to carry on a debate about the Israelis and the Palestinians, and we’re getting some (mostly) thoughtful comments. We only have space online for now, but our website draws more than 12,000 unique visitors each week, and information there is searchable for anyone in the world with web access. Readers can also post comments quickly and easily on our website. Let’s keep the discussion going. This week online we have a column from Rich Forer, author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion — A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict.

Bottom-up politics at work? The people of Eugene last November passed a ballot measure resolution calling on Congress to send to the states a constitutional amendment reversing the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case and limit corporate campaign spending. Now, following suit, we see the Oregon Legislature taking up House Joint Memorial 6 supporting such an amendment. It’s good to see sponsors of HJM 6 include our local Reps. Phil Barnhart and Paul Holvey. Ordinary citizens tired of waiting for Congress to act can do something to pressure action from the bottom up. Fourteen states have now called on Congress to kill the crazy idea that corporations are people. If corporations were people we could send them to jail when they misbehave.