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Slant 10-3-2013

• Lane County released the redacted investigation into Liane Richardson last week, and you can find the whole thing, for what it’s worth, on our blog. We appreciate that the county seems pretty pissed about what went on — the press release says several times that Richardson was “untruthful.” But what we don’t appreciate are the pages and pages of redactions — 30 or so pages are blacked out. It’s one thing to hide the names of employees to protect them, but blacking out entire emails and summaries of interviews just makes the county look like it has something or someone to hide. Who suggested to Richardson that she play around with her time management money? Commissioner Pete Sorenson tells us that he can’t think of a single conversation he’s had with her, outside of exchanges in board meetings, in the three years since she filed the harassment complaint against him that was later dismissed. Sorenson is the only current commissioner who consistently questioned the hiring of Richardson and her management. So who gave her the bad advice that got her fired? It’s probably in the redacted documents, along with other information that the voters have a right to know. 

As we go to press this week we see that former Lane County commissioner Bill Fleenor has called on the Oregon attorney general to look into the county’s redacted report on the Richardson investigation. The AG may or may not have jurisdiction in this matter. Fleenor is an astute observer of the inner workings of county government and he believes the public has a right to know what’s in these blacked-out pages, for better or worse. He’s right. The county’s big excuse for the secrecy is protecting a whistleblower, but why does that person need to be protected? Did he or she do something illegal or unethical? Is there a threat of retaliation? If so, we need to know about that as well.  

Dave Frohnmayer, former Oregon attorney general and former UO School of Law dean and UO president for 15 years, provided paid testimony for Big Tobacco against the state of Oregon. In a recent article entitled “Reputation For Rent” Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week (wkly.ws/1kj) writes about the paid testimony. Frohnmayer “declined to say how much tobacco companies paid him to testify,” but according to the article he bills as much as $550 an hour in addition to his $257,000 annual pension from PERS, and $101,000 a year as a part-time law professor at UO. Local blog UO Matters says Frohnmayer is also getting $50,000 to teach a course in the UO Honors College. It’s nice to be able to make big money, but not when it’s at the expense of the health of the Oregonians he once served. Thank you for not smoking. 

Most of the time government functions OK. That’s the hope we took away from the City Club of Eugene panel on Civic Stadium Sept. 27. It’s up to the 4J School Board and the Eugene City Council, plus their staffs, to keep that 10-acre piece of land with its historic stadium working for the public. Eugeneans sacrificed to build the stadium during the Great Depression and the big timbers are still solid, a tribute to Oregon’s once-abundant old-growth forests. The city deeded the property to the school district, which used it for everything from high school football to graduation ceremonies to minor league baseball. Now, a group of smart business people and sports fans want to restore Civic for soccer, the Northwest’s growing hot sport, and other sports for kids and adults, and for entertainment. We don’t need a commercial center there on public land and it’s certainly not zoned for it. The Eugene Y wants 5 or 6 acres for a new building and parking, and we haven’t heard a good reason yet why the Y and stadium can’t share the property. This is a historic opportunity for collaboration. 

• The convoluted budget battle going on in Congress reminds us a bit of the drama Eugene went through last year in dealing with a projected $6 million deficit. We fought over values, represented by, yep, money. Reserves helped the city get through the year when voters nixed a flat fee, but we can’t keep shaking the piggy bank. The city is beginning its budget process again and will need to look at cuts and/or new sources of revenue. We hear a series of six public meetings will be held starting at 6 pm Tuesday, Oct. 15, at South Eugene High School, asking citizens what they want to see, and that’s good. But city finances are so complex and opaque that even Budget Committee members are often scratching their heads. Our budget is audited for best financial practices, but it’s not audited for departmental efficiency or community values and priorities. We need to ask better questions this time around when it comes to city expenses and how we can generate fair and acceptable new sources of revenue.

• Interesting that The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal continue to be dropped on our Eugene doorsteps everyday and The Oregonian can come from Portland only four days a week, as of Oct. 1. Probably has to do with content. Our state’s newspaper of record is not only thin on news but also has a right-wing editorial bias that clashes with Oregon values. 

Best of Eugene balloting ends this Friday, Oct. 4, and we’re happy to report voting this year is at an all-time high. It’s easy to tell us what you think is great about Eugene in lots of categories, from best brew pub to best vet clinic. At the end you can also say what’s best (and worst) about Eugene Weekly. Surprise us! Vote with this week’s printed ballot or go online to bestofeugene.com. Winners will be announced in our Nov. 7 Best of Eugene issue, our biggest and most popular issue of the year.