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Slant 9-25-2014

A decision on Eugene City Hall is expected by the City Council after we go to press this week, and it could go either way (see our story last week). City staff and Rowell Brokaw Architects have the advantage of the final word. Rowell Brokaw has a vested interest in making the old City Hall look bad and making the proposed new City Hall look wonderful. But design and environmental issues aside, the elephant in the room is Phase II of a new City Hall. How much will it really cost years from now to build a large city office building next door to an itty-bitty City Hall so that city services can be centralized once more? How will it be funded, and more importantly, will voters approve a bond measure to build it after the City Council wasted millions of dollars by destroying an entire city block of usable structure? Could be a tough sell politically, and the cost of energy-intensive concrete and steel is likely to rise dramatically in the future. 

Shelley Berman nailed it when he told the City Club of Eugene on Sept. 19 that “the system is broken … it is unacceptable.” That’s public education in Oregon described by the superintendent of 4J in the beginning of his last year here. He also talked about the many great strengths of the public schools in 4J and the improvements after the infusion of a little extra money from the last Legislature. But what will move education forward in Oregon? Money, mostly. Isn’t it time for all levels of education, parents and grandparents, business and labor leaders, politicians to bring Oregon public schools back to the top where they once were?

Art Robinson was in town this week for a short-notice “town hall” about reforming our education system. By the time we and other local media heard about it, the meeting was over. Robinson is the perennial Republican challenger to Peter DeFazio for Congress in the Fourth District. It’s ironic that the man who sells an outdated curriculum for home schooling thinks he would have any useful ideas about reforming public education policy. His campaign website has only 60 very general words on the topic of education.

Not fretting climate change? Well, it’s already affecting us daily. Air conditioning costs are up this summer and even if you don’t have AC at home, you’re paying for it because business and industry are passing along the cost. Food prices are up because of drought in California. And we just heard this week that the big wildfires in Oregon and around the West are increasing the risk of flooding. Why? Trees and other vegetation retain water and stabilize soils and hillsides. State and federal agencies are urging property owners and renters downstream of wildfires to buy flood insurance. Climate change affects us in countless ways, most of them negative.

• “No compromise … we defend Seavey Loop,” is how “Pisgah Antiphony” kicks off. The anthem will be spoken and sung in chorus at Sing Unto Pisgah: Voices Save Seavey Loop at 3 pm Sunday, Sept. 28 in the Mount Pisgah north parking lot to ask Springfield to abandon a plan to place an industrial zone in the farming area near the popular recreation area. For more info go to noindustrialpisgah.org. Get out there and sing the developers away!