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Slant 8-7-2014

Does anybody remember Rudy Crew? He was the nationally known education expert hired by Gov. John Kitzhaber to figure out how to finance and fix Oregon’s public education system. He was a bust. It was soon apparent that he wasn’t that interested in Oregon kids and he was off to the next bigger job. The governor then wisely persuaded Nancy Golden, recently retired and much loved superintendent of Springfield schools, to become his education czar. Nobody doubts her competence or her dedication to Oregon kids. So, this is a cautionary tale. Board members of School District 4J won’t confirm their hiring process to replace Superintendent Shelley Berman, who is leaving next spring, but good sources tell us the board is hiring a Portland head-hunting firm to look nationally. Maybe the leader we need already works in the neighborhood, another Nancy Golden, perhaps.

• We continue to hear about VA Clinic issues from sources who are critical but fear retaliation if they are named. Most criticism is leveled not at the Eugene clinic but rather the Roseburg VA Medical Center, and its management in particular. One source told us the sprawling old hospital complex in Roseburg is where “problem administrators are sent until they retire.” Low morale and poor working conditions lead to good doctors and nurses going elsewhere. One Roseburg VA doctor did speak out on the record recently in an interview on KVAL-TV. Dr. Steven Blum told KVAL reporter Nia Wong that management is the real issue and internal criticism is met with retaliation. We hope Blum’s courage is contagious. See the interview and transcript at wkly.ws/1sl.

Roseburg VA Director Carol Bogedain has worked for the VA in various posts since 1976. Yep, 38 years. Associate Director Steven Broskey has been on the VA payroll since 1987. Time to retire? The VA has closed old, problematic hospitals in the past, but what would happen if the Roseburg facility is shuttered after the new Eugene VA clinic is completed in 2015? “That would be the end of Roseburg,” one source tells us, citing the fact that the VA is a major employer in the mostly rural and depressed area. 

• We wrote about the measure to legalize pot for adult use last week in our news section and now we’re seeing the opposition coming forward. A pro-hemp group called Raising Awareness (raising-awareness.net) is putting out information that directly contradicts what’s actually in the measure. The opponents claim the Oregon measure is “the same bill that recently passed in Washington,” “It completely dissolves Oregon’s already existing Oregon Medical Marijuana Program,” and “It doesn’t legalize industrial hemp.” All these statements are false, of course, but this might be the kind of information we’ll be seeing as we get closer to November. We can expect opposition from pharmaceutical companies, the timber industry, drug dealers, religious groups and some public safety officials. Educating voters about what’s actually in the measure will be a big challenge.

• This weekend (Aug. 10) marks the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 that carried us into the disastrous Vietnam War. Let’s not forget that our own Wayne Morse of Oregon and fellow senator Ernest Gruening of Alaska were the only “no” votes in the Senate against the war. Several events have happened or are going to happen in Lane County this week (see Activist Alert) that remind us of the impact of that war on veterans, their families, society and our foreign policy. 

The rats are coming! Check out our news brief this week on unintended victims of rat poison. Rats are becoming an increasing problem in Eugene neighborhoods. Exterminators tell us backyard chicken flocks and tasty compost bins might be to blame. We haven’t heard of rats attacking chickens, but we do know rats like to gobble chicken feed and they get fat while they pee and poop in the feed bins. No manners at all. Rats are smart and sneaky little bastards and will chew through wood to get into chicken houses at night, and sometimes even make daylight raids. Any suggestions from our readers? Maybe training videos for timid hens on “How to Tap Your Inner Velociraptor”? Those smaller Havahart live traps can work — and one bait that sophisticated Eugene rats can’t seem to resist is garlic-dill cheese curds from Market of Choice. Maybe MoC should run an ad for that. Meanwhile, take a baseball bat when you check on your chicks after dark.