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Slant 2-12-2015

• A $35 annual vehicle registration fee is heading for the May ballot as Lane County struggles to provide basic services. We’re not fond of flat taxes since they exacerbate the gap between rich and poor, but this fee is a bit more progressive than some we’ve seen. Very poor (or green) households don’t even own a car, low-income households might have one car and wealthier households are likely to have several vehicles plus boats and trailers. The challenge for the county is how to pay for road and bridge maintenance at a time when federal timber funds are tenuous at best. Gas taxes are shrinking since today’s cars are more efficient, the price of gas is down and people are driving less. We will likely endorse this measure on the May ballot unless we hear of a better way to support our underfunded county and city roads. Road maintenance is a lot cheaper than road repair and replacement.

•  It make sense for Gov. John Kitzhaber to ask Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to ferret out the facts in the charges against Cylvia Hayes, his “first lady” (we always winced at that title) and to a lesser extent, him. Note that reporters continue to ask him if she is a member of his household and he continues to answer that he doesn’t know if she fits that legal definition. That’s a crux question. We wonder if the Portland press, especially The Oregonian, would be pursuing Cylvia and John with such zeal if environmental issues were not so high on the couple’s agenda. The Oregonian editorial board doesn’t consider climate change important enough to include it in its agenda for 2015. Good that our powerful Lane County delegation and the Democratic Legislature are charging ahead with enviro and climate change issues, no matter what the slant of the Portland press.

Speaking of The Oregonian, we’ve heard the paper’s staff reporters are quick to distance themselves from their paper’s conservative and sometimes nonsensical editorials. The Oregonian is in trouble and has lost 62 percent of its circulation since the 1990s, a much steeper decline than other Oregon dailies. The Oregonian’s red-state editorials clash with our blue-state sensibilities and have likely contributed to the paper’s dwindling readership and political clout.  

• We were pleased to see a packed Wildish Theater for the Tranformational Personal Theatre performance Feb. 7. This production was featured on our cover Jan. 22 and the event exceeded our expectations. It’s not often we see so many audience members in tears, reflecting the huge impact addiction has on families, friends and coworkers. The performers’ personal stories about alcohol, drugs, sexual abuse and overeating were difficult to witness, but messages of hope and redemption carried the night. Artistic Director Judith Voss put together a challenging event that illustrates the power of artistic expression in assisting addiction recovery. We would love to see this happen in every community.

• The old Lane County animal shelter (now known as First Avenue Shelter) that is also used by the city of Eugene was built in the 1970s and you can tell. Despite the best efforts of caregivers the kennels are sadly out-of-date, or as one local animal advocate recently called them, inhumane. The Eugene Budget Committee met Feb. 11 as we went to press to discuss the Draft Capital Improvement Program for fiscal years 2016 through 2021. We hear local animal advocates are speaking up for a new shelter, something that is long overdue. Public comments can also be made at eugene-or.gov/budget.

• Eugene social worker Eileen Nittler is the first candidate to announce intentions to run for the 4J School Board seat that will become vacant June 30. Board member Craig Smith will not be seeking re-election. Other board members with expiring terms are Jim Torrey, Alicia Hays and Mary Walston. March 19 is the filing deadline. It’s good to see early and enthusiastic interest in serving on this important board. The district faces big and sometimes contentious issues surrounding funding, class sizes, testing, equity, facilities and administration. Nittler has served on the 4J Equity Committee for three years.