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Slant 4-18-2013

• Eugene City Councilor Betty Taylor spent countless hours studying the West Eugene EmX Extension before deciding to support it, and it looks like a similar thoughtful process has gone into her decision to not support the city service fee on the May ballot. Taylor was in the undecided column until this week. Now five out of eight councilors are on record opposing the fee, and if the ballot measure fails it looks like the council will try to find other sources of funding for the threatened services. We heard one local pundit predicting the measure will fail by a 20-point margin, but it could be close. The Eugene Cares campaign is charging ahead with a good-intentioned emotional appeal that’s sometimes a bit over the top. One supporter reportedly claimed in a neighborhood meeting that “children will die” if Sheldon Pool is closed and swimming lessons are unavailable. Meanwhile, we heard a rumor that City Manager Jon Ruiz is a candidate for a management job with Multnomah County, but his office tells us he hasn’t applied for any other jobs. Ruiz may or may not be the brains behind this predictably contentious flat fee proposal but it has his name all over it.

• “Just don’t quit” is Peggy Morretti’s suggestion to Civic Stadium backers who asked her advice at the City Club of Eugene meeting April 12. Executive director of the Historic Preservation League of Oregon, Morretti was one of the speakers on a topic that asked the right question: “Is There a Future for Historic Preservation in Eugene?” She said the old wooden stadium is on the annual list of Oregon’s most endangered places. The post office building on lower Willamette Street also came up. Eugene has one of the weakest historic preservation ordinances in the state, Morretti said. Let’s change that.

• Power struggles are part of politics, but are power problems at Lane County starting to affect other groups? Jack Roberts, former Oregon Commissioner of Labor and Industries and former Lane County commissioner, wrote a letter alleging that he was forced out of his leadership of the Lane Metro Partnership after a meeting with Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz, County Administrator Liane Richardson and Springfield City Manager Gino Grimaldi. He quotes Richardson as saying, “The commissioners won’t approve funding for Lane Metro unless there is a change in leadership.” Why does Lane Metro matter? It’s the official source of economic development and business information for Eugene, Springfield and Lane County. Roberts writes that Glenda Poling, who currently works in Lane County’s Community and Economic Development division, would be stepping in as the interim director for the Metro Partnership. She’s married to Eugene City Councilor George Poling.

• Looks like local KVAL and KMTR TV stations will be getting new right-wing owners if and when Fisher Communications sells out for $373.3 million to the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the big Maryland-based broadcast conglomerate. The Seattle-based Fisher also owns TV stations KCBY, KPIC and KTCW in our region. What does this mean for Lane County? It appears Sinclair doesn’t bother messing with local news content, but the national programming it pushes might be a shock for local audiences. Sinclair stations aired the John Kerry Swiftboat attack videos during the 2004 presidential election and that same year banned seven of its ABC-affiliated stations from airing an episode of Nightline that paid tribute to the U.S. troops killed in Iraq. In 2010 Sinclair stations played a 25-minute infomercial in swing states that blasted Obama as an extremist and falsely claimed he was funded by Hamas. 

KOMO-TV in Seattle is also part of the Fisher group and Seattle Times reporter Emily Heffter wrote April 11 that “If Sinclair’s past is any indicator, they may also bring their conservative political leanings, even to one of the most liberal cities in the country.” She continues, “Seattle is about to get a Fox News equivalent in a local television channel.” UO journalism professor Peter Laufer is quoted in the Times article saying, “The trend in our news media nationally is to move from proving a public service  ...  and instead engage in what can easily be identified as political propaganda.” We queried KVAL management but got no comment as we went to press this week.

The purpose of terrorism, of course, is to instill fear in a population, and it’s curious that the Boston Marathon bombing is labeled terrorism but the even more deadly Sandy Hook massacre is not. The terrorism label doesn’t mean much when we try to understand human nature and measure our response to it. A better label for such violence is criminal behavior by psychopathic individuals. So-called terrorist groups are just organized crime disguised as political activity. We learned in the Bush/Cheney administration (and since) that invading foreign countries is counterproductive in quashing organized crime. Last week in Afghanistan eight Americans died and 44 were wounded in action. Nobody noticed except their families and friends.