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Slant 12-31-2014

Oregon’s minimum wage goes up 15 cents an hour to $9.25 in January, thanks to a ballot measure in 2002 that tied the minimum wage to inflation. But of course an extra $26 a month in pay won’t bring Oregon’s estimated 72,000 working-poor households out of poverty. Seven out of 10 poverty-level families have at least one parent who is employed, often full-time at minimum wage or above. The Oregon Legislature in 2015 is expected to try to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and Republican die-hards will object, saying thousands of jobs will be lost. We remember the Oregon restaurant industry adamantly making such dire claims years ago, but restaurant jobs have steadily increased along with the minimum wage. Put more money in people’s pockets and they go out to eat more, and disposable income feeds our entire economy. Employers also benefit from higher wages through happier, more productive workers who stay on the job longer. 

• Here’s a fun diversion for a fidgety family over the long winter holidays. First, we walked through Elijah Bristow State Park near Pleasant Hill and then we nearly overwhelmed Killer Smoke BBQ and Bakery, a mobile food cart in the parking lot of the Pleasant Hill Feed & Farm Supply off Hwy. 58. Pulled pork, baked beans, sweet tea, all the fixings. Killer Smoke will cater, but while it’s parked there, enjoy a good walk followed by good food. A Mexican food cart can also be found there occasionally.

We all come into the world messy, covered in bloody goo. Some of us grow up to be tidy and others remain messy for life. Who do we blame for the trash left by the homeless along the riverbanks? The homeless, the city, the county, the railroad? All of the above? The disadvantaged among us include some who clean up after themselves, some who do not. Some mansions are filled with trash. Fishing holes in paradise, way up the gorgeous McKenzie River, are often littered with beer cans, food wrappers, cigarette butts and plastic worm containers. Some conscientious fisher-folks leave the trout to bite another day, and bring home a bag of gooey trash instead.

• We looked back at our top five news stories this year (see News Briefs) and were gratified to see that our readers care about the media, elections and education. It’s fun to see what readers click on, but EW isn’t driven to write clickbait; we strive to call attention to what goes un- and under-covered and what other media misses. As we look ahead to 2015 we will continue our coverage on the environment, climate change, local politics, education, the unhoused and more. What else should we delve into?

The power of if? The UO’s newly revamped homepage (uoregon.edu) is touting “We believe in the power of ‘if,’” and the possibilities are endless. What if the UO paid its faculty better? What if the UO put its efforts into academics instead of football? What if the UO fixed its sexual assault process and actually protected its students? 

• It’s jolly that Saturday U.S. mail delivery will continue in 2015, but with Republicans browbeating both chambers of Congress, the outlook is not so rosy. The U.S. Postal Service is one of the greatest public-service institutions in America, dating back to Benjamin Franklin in 1775, but to many conservatives it smacks of damned socialism and should be replaced by private-sector carriers — regardless of cost or quality of service to rural areas. Meanwhile, the Postal Service is on track to close 80 more mail processing plants in 2015. Centralizing distribution is not very green or efficient. At this rate, you will someday mail a Christmas card to your neighbor across the street and it will go to the North Pole and back, arriving sometime in January.

• We were exceptionally tickled and delighted to find out that “Just Wear It: How the UO-Nike partnership set the pace for uniforms in college sports,” an October cover story written by Bryan Kalbrosky while he was interning for Eugene Weekly, made the “Best of 2014: 100 writers select their own favorite piece of writing” list by Alex Wong (aka @Steven_LeBron) — a contributor to Rolling Stone, Grantland, GQ and VICE and host of the podcast Steven Lebron Radio. Tickled and delighted because, as a small newspaper, we usually opt out of Ducks fever and leave the sports coverage to our neighbors in print. Kalbrosky’s piece rubs shoulders with stories from The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, Deadspin and The Atlantic. To see the full list, visit http://wkly.ws/1vg.