• Lane County Administrator Liane Richardson has gotten herself into more than just a public relations pickle this time with a self-serving financial maneuver that appears to be a violation of her contract and the public trust. It’s best that she repay any excess remuneration, if so determined by an investigation, if there is one, and resign if she’s not fired. She’s probably a decent lawyer in the private sector; she’s just not a competent administrator in the high-profile public sector. Her time in Lane County administration has been awkward at best, and we’ve been writing about her string of bad personnel and legal decisions since she was county attorney, acting administrator and then promoted outright to the top job in May 2011. Commissioners Pete Sorensen and Rob Handy objected to her final promotion, wanting a regional search to find the best candidate, but Commissioners Jay Bozievich, Sid Leiken and Faye Stewart prevailed and deserve some of the blame for the chaos that has followed. Dozens of potential administrator candidates are out there with solid management track records. We don’t have a lot of faith in the right-wing majority on the board to select the most forward-thinking candidate to be our next administrator, but maybe they’ve learned their lesson. It’s vitally important that we properly advertise and scrutinize a broad field of candidates in a public process next time around.
• The recent Supreme Court decision supporting gay marriage has fueled the ongoing effort to get marriage equality passed in Oregon. We were phone surveyed over the weekend about whether or not we support gay marriage, and how strongly. Signature gathering all around Oregon began July 20 for the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative. Basic Rights Oregon is targeting to exceed the required 116,284 valid signatures to get the initiative on the November 2014 ballot. It’s Oregon’s turn, but it won’t be easy. Polling last year showed only a slight favorability to the idea of gay marriage in Oregon. The campaign will need to not only sway those who are undecided but also get out the vote. Gay marriage and legal pot on the ballot will mobilize a lot of conservatives. Thousands of face-to-face conversations need to happen on our streets, in our neighborhoods and across kitchen tables. See basicrights.org to get involved.
• Are tiny spy drones invading Eugene residential areas? We heard from a reader (who prefers to remain anonymous) that she has observed “an insect drone spying on me and my husband in our backyard.” She tells us it looked like a dragonfly, but on closer look, “It was definitely not organic, but mechanical.” She has fuzzy photos. “A friend of mine said that is was a DARPA A.I. [artificial intelligence] drone. He also said that [Mayor] Kitty Piercy helped bring the feds and FEMA into Eugene, which leads me to believe that she is one of the people behind this?” We checked in with the mayor and she tells us she will be carefully examining the dragonflies in her own backyard.
• EPUD Board member Katherine Schacht is quoted in a web statement from the Northwest Energy Coalition July 16, saying “investing in conservation really pays off for our customers.” Coalition Executive Director Sara Patton wrote about a Bonneville Power Administration study showing that its “energy efficiency investments have saved the agency at least $750 million and likely more than $1.3 billion over the last 10 years.” Patton goes on to say this is “great news for utilities, energy consumers, the climate and our environment. Energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest and quickest means of meeting new power needs.” Schacht also notes that conservation creates good-paying jobs in engineering, design, facilities management and related industries and skilled trades.
Ironically, BPA is hiking its wholesale power and transmission rates to compensate for reduced demand for surplus power (thanks to cheap natural gas and a poor economy more than conservation), and maintaining its aging infrastructure. EWEB buys power from BPA and we pay more for our kilowatts. This new BPA report underscores the need for conservation, but what’s the reality as our economy starts to grow again? EWEB is cutting back on its energy efficiency programs locally and our nation is turning toward dirty shale gas, pipelines and coal and oil trains instead of reducing consumption and investing in solar energy. Round and round we go without a real national energy policy. See the NW Energy Coalition statement at http://wkly.ws/1im.