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Slant 11-7-2013

• Welcome to our annual Best of Eugene issue, sometimes affectionately called the “Beast of Eugene” since it is our biggest honking issue of the year and demands brain-numbing weeks of labor by our writers and photogs, and thousands of ballots submitted by our readers. This is our fattest Beast issue ever at 76 pages with near-record ad revenue, so we have to thank our loyal advertisers as well. They recognize that EW print ads provide the most bang for the buck. You simply have to be in EW to build a crowd for your business or event.

We often hear, “Wow, you have a lot of ads; you must be making a big profit,” but the truth is we break even most years. The cost of producing, printing and distributing up to 40,000 free papers 52 times a year is about $1.4 million. On good years we match that, 2013 is turning out to be one of those years and we’re grateful. To borrow from Woody Allen, love is too weak a word for how we feel about our readers and advertisers. We lurve you as we charge ahead in our 31st year.

• We came away from the City Club of Eugene debate on Nov. 1 unpersuaded that this city should continue MUPTE, the multiple-unit property tax exemption that is disliked by citizens who care where our taxes go. Even if you do want to extend MUPTE, ostensibly to increase downtown density, the central questions should be, “Would the project be built without tax breaks?” and, “If not, would it matter?” Add to that the issue of design standards: Eugene has none and MUPTE hasn’t helped.

Disturbing numbers have come to our attention concerning homeless students in Lane County. Local statistician Joe Kosewic has collected data from the Oregon Department of Education for the 2011-12 school year. Lane County had 2,262 homeless school-age kids (pre-K-12), Benton County 276 and Linn County 1,040. What’s surprising is that Multnomah County has 2.1 times Lane County’s population but only 1.7 times our homeless kids. This local crisis is serious and getting worse and should stir real action from local governments, agencies and community groups. Thousands of young children are going to school hungry, dirty and sleep-deprived; in addition, hundreds of college students are couch-surfing or sleeping in cars and tents because they can’t afford both housing and tuition. 

Many ideas have come out of recent community meetings: using LCC’s vacant downtown building as housing for homeless students, getting homeless issues on the agenda of the Lane Council of Governments, establishing a car or tent camp just for homeless UO students, additional training for teachers in the special needs of homeless students, using Civic Stadium or City Hall as a homeless camp, creating “wet bed” facilities for homeless alcoholics and using crowd-sourcing to fund more Conestoga huts and more public bathrooms. There’s no shortage of good, practical ideas, just a shortage of will to match the scale of the crisis.

• Rep. Peter DeFazio’s O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs Act has made it through the House, and timber companies and enviros alike are waiting to see what Sen. Ron Wyden will do in the Senate. Actually, they are not waiting: Facebook ads have popped up, along with a sign at the Eugene airport and now a billboard in Glenwood, all in opposition to plans to split the O&C lands into a timber trust and a conservation trust and increase logging on the federal lands. According to Shannon Wilson of Eco Advocates NW who put up the billboard: “We need bold vision and leadership from Oregon’s senators and congressmen that will not only protect threatened species but in doing so quickly transition Oregon’s economy away from destructive and irreversible extraction processes towards a recreation and ecosystem sustaining based economic system.” 

• The Duck men basketballers play their first game against Georgetown this Friday. Georgetown has a strong team and it should be a great game, but why are they playing at Camp Humphreys, a U.S. military base outside Seoul, South Korea? Even in the wacky world of big-time college sports, it seems odd to fly college students to Korea to play a basketball game. It may be good for the soldiers on the base, but what about school? The Ducks reportedly left town on Tuesday to travel to Seoul, which is roughly 5,000 miles from here. What about the carbon footprint? One person flying round trip from Eugene to Seoul pumps about 4,600 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere, more than the average American car generates in six months! If we’re ever going to get serious about protecting our climate, we might start by asking if we really need to send college students halfway around the globe to play a basketball game.