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Slant 10-23-2014

Lots of juicy stuff on the ballot that just arrived in our mailboxes and we encourage everyone, as we say on our cover, to “Drop everything and vote.” Check out our endorsements this week. Many of the races and measures will be decided not only on their merits but also on turnout. Statewide polling by the Lindholm Company indicates voters are paying the most attention to the pot legalization, GMO labeling and drivers license measures. 

• As we go to press we found out about  another write in campaign — Jeff Luers for  Upper Willamette Soil and Water Conservation District, Zone 1. Luers was active in the now-defunct Courthouse Garden, has been working on greening Eugene’s alleyways and has a BA from the UO in landscape architecture. Even if someone was was running (no candidate filed) we’d still say Luers is our pick.

• We’ve been writing in recent weeks about a rumored $1 billion gift coming to UO from the Phil Knight family, and we’re still not sure if it happened behind closed doors or not. Last Friday the UO announced a fundraising goal of $2 billion, but Knight’s specific contribution or pledge was not disclosed, if there was one. 

Knight didn’t drop in on the gala. We like to think Phil and Penny went Phishing at their Matt Knight arena a few blocks away. Setting a $2 billion goal is both a PR strategy and a projection based on reality. Uncle Phil’s $1 billion endowment has been anticipated for more than a decade. How will this $2 billion in new money be used, assuming it’s raised? Academics will get the biggest benefit, but looks like millions are also earmarked to go to the UO’s already bloated athletics programs. We do like the idea of a restored and expanded Hayward Field.

One aspect of this development campaign that hasn’t gotten much attention is the threat of the UO losing its membership in the prestigious 62-member Association of American Universities. The University of Nebraska got kicked out of the AAU recently. Membership is based on the ratio of tenured faculty to students, graduation rates, fundraising for applied research and other criteria. The UO has reportedly slipped to near the bottom and could be replaced, which would be a great source of embarrassment to the UO.

State Treasurer Ted Wheeler is always a big hit when he speaks to the City Club of Eugene and his Oct. 16 advocacy for Ballot Measure 86, the smart proposal to fund more student aid, was no exception. Interesting that at least two questioners asked Wheeler when he’s going to run for governor. He didn’t say “never.” He did say “I don’t know.”

• We used to run our “War Dead” column weekly in print when the U.S. was heavily involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we run it online and update it monthly, but something new has been added: the cost of military action against ISIS. And surprise, the cost is pushing $1 billion. What is Eugene’s share of that cost? Last time we checked, it was $375,760 and growing fast. We get war cost numbers from nationalpriorities.org.