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Slant 3-5-2015

An amazing cross-section of this community has come together to buy “the dirt,” 10.2 acres in the center of Eugene. This is the first and most difficult step in building a fieldhouse for kids, restoring a historic wooden stadium and installing a playing field for soccer and fun, adding a pocket park and a walking/biking path. What a lift in a world that seems to be coming apart more than coming together! 

At the risk of leaving out important names, we want to tip our hat to some of the players who made this happen: Eugene Civic Alliance, Kidsports, Friends of Civic Stadium, Eugene City Council plus Mayor Kitty Piercy, Manager Jon Ruiz and legal counsel Glenn Klein, the 4J School Board, the Ausland Group, Skylab Architecture, Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architects and Planners, the Eugene Emeralds, Travel Lane County, Lane United Football Club, Friendly Area Neighbors and, of course, all the individuals and groups who contributed to the more than $4 million raised in the last year.

• Regarding the proposed $35 vehicle fee that will be on the May ballot, we’re seeing letters in the R-G and EW opposed to it, but we have yet to hear any better alternatives. We asked County Commissioner Pete Sorenson about it this week when he told us he will run again in 2015 (good news!). Sorenson doesn’t like flat taxes any better than we do. He says he looked at numerous other ways to boost our inadequate funding for county and city roads and streets, but the options either conflicted with local government funding rules or were costly and difficult to collect. Taxing emissions would be more fair, for example, but every vehicle in the county would have to be either tested or evaluated based on EPA estimates, leading to massive paperwork and clerical labor. Having the DMV collect the fees is relatively simple and cheap. And Sorenson says the more motor vehicles you have, the more you pay, and if you have no motor vehicles, you don’t pay. Concerns have been raised about the new revenues being used to build new roads and encourage sprawl, but Sorenson says the measure specifically requires the funds to be used only for maintenance and improving safety — for not only drivers, but also pedestrians and cyclists.

• Architect Otto Poticha might be accused of jousting at windmills, but his Viewpoint this week reinforces the idea that our old City Hall is structurally sound and architecturally significant and should not be reduced to rubble. The photo that Kevin Matthews took (standing precariously on a ladder outside the building) shows the impressive bones of the building. As we’ve said repeatedly: Not rebuilding on that still-solid framework is a huge waste of public resources and defies our city’s so-called commitment to sustainability. See more of Matthews’ photos on our website this week. 

As the destruction continues, we’ve heard dust has been seen blowing from the site on these windy days. That’s not supposed to happen. And does that dust contain asbestos that was commonly added to concrete mix 50 years ago?

• Oregon has the highest percentage of unvaccinated kindergarten kids in the nation, 7 percent, and Senate Bill 442 coming before the Legislature proposes to eliminate non-medical exemptions for vaccinations. Parents can still not vaccinate their kids; they just can’t send them to preschool or public school. We appreciate Oregonians’ traditionally fierce defense of freedom and choice. The problem is that unvaccinated kids are a public health hazard, not only to themselves and their classmates but also to babies who are too young to be vaccinated. And a lot of the resistance appears to be based on outdated and flawed research. Do we trust the internet and our social network, or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics? The legislation could be amended to give parents more control in the timing of vaccinations, but it’s time for Oregon to join the rest of the nation in recognizing the low risk and high benefits of childhood vaccination. We still remember the horrors of polio and smallpox.

• Some of us hang out along the Willamette, maybe too much, but we love the constantly changing river and its wildlife and other fascinations above and below the waterline. We’ve noticed some unusual traffic on the river now that the levels have dropped. We spotted a drift boat going by with a bicycle and a dog. The boater says he parks his pickup and boat trailer upriver in Springfield, drifts and fishes a mile or two, then leaves his dog to guard his boat while he bikes back to get his pickup. But it seems this activity can also be done without a car or truck shuttle. We’ve heard of bicyclists who put wheels on their canoes or inflatables and tow them up the riverfront bike path, then float down with their bikes onboard. Folding bikes supposedly work best. We’d like to see a video of that.