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Slant 1-29-2015

• The Eugene City Council is expected to take the next step this week in expanding our urban growth boundary to provide more space for industrial land. It appears the controversial 300-acre expansion for housing is not needed, thanks to a math error being discovered. Puzzling. But the plan to expand 924 acres to create industrial land near the airport is also flawed. Strong arguments against UGB industrial expansion can be found in the Envision Eugene online survey done in December and January. Survey responses raise issues of paving over “some of the best soils in the nation,” adding air pollution to an area “already identified as an environmental justice community” and “our economy should not be based on continued growth.” The survey itself was blasted for being biased — the question on industrial land was all about land for jobs, a park and school; no mention was made of destroying prime farmland or Eugene’s existing vacant industrial land. One critic raised an interesting point: “I’m not sure that it’s even possible to have this expansion get through both 1000 Friends and DLCD” (Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development). Will the city’s ill-advised expansion plans withstand dragged-out and expensive legal challenges? Download the survey results at wkly.ws/1wx.

• If you’ve been following The Register-Guard, The Oregonian and the Chronicle of Higher Education about “Docugate,” you must be wondering, as we are, how the University of Oregon continues to clumsily portray itself as a keeper of dark secrets. Granted, the press filter is tricky, but the UO prides itself on public relations, which is supposed to filter the filter. The university should be the bastion of open-minded inquiry. Government agencies and universities should conduct themselves in such a way that they have no fear that something should be exposed — like the memo calling to dissolve faculty power EW wrote about thanks to UO Matters, which put it out for all to see. Public records are for the public and archivists should not be punished for doing what archivists do — making archives open to the public. The next chapter will appear in The New York Times. Josh Hunt from the Times has been in Eugene this month digging through redacted documents, interviewing the players and weaving his story on the UO in Eugene.

• As we go to press, rumours are flying that Bill Harbaugh of UO Matters and the UO have reached a settlement over the 22,000 documents. Harbaugh gave us this statement: “My understanding is that there will be a press release presumably from Tobin Klinger [UO’s senior public affairs director]. All I can say at this time is that the archives should contain legal opinions about university governance and other matters and so far Interim President Coltrane has refused to waive that privilege. I’m not sure if the documents really are privileged but in any case it certainly would be helpful for trust and transparency if he would agree to show them to the faculty.” 

• What’s with all this early polling and chatter about candidates for mayor of Eugene when Kitty Piercy holds that office until 2016? Probably the same bottom line that’s under the horserace for presidential candidates. Money, raising lots of it. That’s ironic in Eugene where the mayor earns only about $20,000 a year, can work full-time as Piercy has done and shares power strangely in this city manager form of government. Nearly two years out, we predict and hope that more well-qualified candidates for mayor will step up, no matter the money.  

 • Vandalism plagues the Nobel Peace Laureate Park in Alton Baker Park near the Peter DeFazio Bridge. The plaque that honors Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama has been repeatedly damaged by some local wingnut or group (yes, we have hateful bigots among us) and has been removed. A temporary plaque is taking its place. Does this mean victory for the late-night vandals? Not in Eugene. Our best response to hate actions at the park is positive actions at the park. There is more work to be done there, more money to be raised. The Nobel Peace Laureate Park’s volunteer board is planning a kiosk with signage explaining the purpose of the park, more landscaping and new donor pavers. The project, unique in the nation, honors the 24 Americans who have so far won the Nobel Peace Prize. The park serves to remind us of the peace-making efforts that have gone before us. The vandalism reminds us that the work must continue. 

• We’ve been following the EPUD soap opera for years and in our Nov. 20 Slant we urged the board to rehire General Manager Scott Coe. We’re happy to see Coe back at work and we expect to see a little less drama from the new board going forward. Petty politics have been a distraction for this otherwise excellent and progressive public utility that serves 20,000 meters outside our urban utility districts.