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Slant 10-17-2013

• The Eugene Budget Committee began a series of public outreach meetings this week, and we weren’t satisfied with the overly broad and simplistic exercise the city provided the audience. Most attendees wanted better information, clearer details and a more creative discussion. A city staffer says the city planned to repeat the exercise at the rest of its public outreach meetings, but changes are possible. Following the exercise, the audience moved to a more in-depth discussion. Eugeneans need to hear more about capital reserves, annexing “island” properties in the River Road area, terminating urban renewal districts and tax breaks for housing, reducing police overtime, cutting management staff and salaries and implementing a restaurant tax. How about our longtime favorite, hiring an independent performance auditor to better inform our budget decisions? We hear a revenue-raising committee is in the works, but we don’t know details yet. Meanwhile, we are happy to report that the Financial Investigative Team working on budget issues is now in a public place and on the city meetings list (see Activist Alert).

• Is Civic Stadium just a money pit? City of Eugene staffers are busy trying to knock out a proposal to purchase and preserve the stadium site as a public park, soccer field and performance venue. The idea is already taking heat from folks who think it makes no sense to invest in this property when the city is facing deficits. YMCA Executive Director Dave Perez has called it “irresponsible.” But we think the city proposal will be worth a close look for its long-term implications. Park funds are available, the stadium may qualify for historic preservation grants, and we think a fundraising campaign would raise big bucks. Having a soccer stadium in Eugene could prove to be a valuable community asset and economic driver for decades to come. If it doesn’t happen here, it will happen in Springfield. There are other places a new Y can go, such as the Roosevelt Middle School site when that school is rebuilt nearby. Everything the Y wants to do in support of education and after-school programs can happen there.

• Our junior senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley, is keeping good company these days, as far as we progressive lefties are concerned.  He’s often mentioned with Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and other great Americans working for the reforms we the people need in D.C. Hopefully, this will help with his re-election run in Oregon in 2014. He has several Republican opponents, including Bend businessman and philanthropist Sam Carpenter, who sent out a press release this week misspelling Merkley’s name.

• From our pithy jock shop: Tired of watching the Duck footballers run past outmatched opponents? Turn your attention to Duck men’s basketball, where Coach Dana Altman faces another huge rebuilding project. Last year’s team won the Pac-12 tourney and scored two big upsets in the NCAAs before falling to national champion Louisville. Most of the big players from last year have moved on, so Altman has to weave together a new team in a hurry. Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Johnathan Loyd should provide great guard play, and Portland’s own Mike Moser comes home to anchor the front court. Altman has proven that he can build teams that play exciting, winning basketball, but this might be his toughest challenge yet. The Ducks open at home against Northwest Christian on Oct. 27. If this Duck team can start strong, it might roll well into the NCAA tourney in March. 

The government shutdown has been more disruptive than we might imagine. Jake Klonoski, our columnist in Afghanistan, writes this week about some of the shutdown-related problems he’s seeing in Kabul. We don’t hear much about how the shutdown is disrupting federal science programs, including research affecting public health and safety. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports delays in diagnosing plant diseases for farmers since USDA labs have closed. Identifying carcinogenic toxins is delayed. NASA work delays on the James Webb Space Telescope may cost the agency millions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is held up in its preparations for the flu season. The National Priorities Project figures the shutdown costs taxpayers about $6.6 million an hour, and we’re up to $2.7 billion this week. Tea Party politicians will have some explaining to do in 2014.

• Eugene made liveability.com’s list of America’s Most Livable Cities, coming in at number eight (see livability.com). Some of the subjective criteria used are questionable, but the survey does indicate people are paying attention to livability and trying to quantify it. Business and industry are drawn to cities where people want to live and raise families. Retirees are looking for culture, scenery and low crime rates. Eugene does a decent job when it comes to livability, but we can do much better. We lag behind many other cities in downtown parks, architecture, our connection to our waterways, constraining sprawl, etc. And our city is missing opportunities to tap the intellectual resources at the UO, particularly in urban design, planning and sustainability.