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Slant 4-30-2015

Kathmandu has been a sister city to Eugene since 1975 and many Eugeneans, including Councilor Betty Taylor, have visited there. The earthquake death toll in Nepal grows by the hour. The best way to help Kathmandu right now is through financial donations. The website kathmandurelief.org has been recommended by the Eugene/Katmandu Sister City Association, but the organization does not currently have 501(c)(3) status, so donations are not tax deductible. See eugeneweekly.com/blogs for updates. Charity Navigator has posted a list of highly rated organizations that provide food, clothing, hygiene items, medicine and temporary housing. They include, in alphabetical order, AmeriCare, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Direct Relief, GlobalGiving, Save the Children and the Seva Foundation. Find links to these organizations at wkly.ws/20i.

Should the city of Eugene send a few thousand dollars from its contingency fund? It’s the least we can do, particularly in light of our longstanding sister city program and our many connections to the people of Nepal.

• Redevelopment of the EWEB riverfront property is moving ahead slowly. We joined the City Council tour this week and liked the potential we saw at this very large and valuable property. The railroad tracks remain a challenge, but not insurmountable. A “quiet zone” will be imposed, which means the businesses and residents (400 to 600 condos and rental apartments) will hear the rumble of the trains, but not train horns. Street and pedestrian access to the riverfront has always been a challenge, but the master plan calls for extending 5th Avenue onto the property and relocating a railroad crossing to allow 8th Avenue direct access to the riverfront. These changes will help connect downtown to the riverfront since it will be easy to walk or bike from Willamette Street to the Willamette River. Two big, interesting old EWEB buildings will hopefully remain standing and be renovated, but it will take millions of dollars to make them earthquake safe. All things considered, the partnership between the UO Foundation, the city and EWEB appears to be going ahead. But we don’t always get what we are promised in Eugene’s planning process. We hope to see stringent design standards and generous open space and parkland along the river for public use.

Here’s a positive step that either Scott Coltrane, interim UO president soon to be back at provost, or Michael Schill, soon to be UO president, should take to lift the lagging spirits of this academy. Reinstate James Fox. He was the head of UO Special Collections and UO Archives until Coltrane and, presumably, his lawyers let him go because of a massive records release. More than 100 faculty members have called for reinstatement. Famous authors like Ursula K. Le Guin and others, such as WOW Hall, who have worked with Fox on special collections, have written letters praising him. Maybe he’s not a great manager or has not been given the resources to manage, but isn’t that the kind of problem administrators are paid to solve? Bringing Fox back to do what he does so well would be a smart beginning to a new presidency at the UO.

• Swirling around the second session on the Common Core at City Club of Eugene April 24 was the root question: How do we provide more teacher time for our kids in Oregon public schools, whether in math or English or shop or PE or music, etc.? New Gov. Kate Brown inherits that puzzle from past Gov. John Kitzhaber. While she grapples with that, we hope she finds a way to lift the status of teachers. The constant focus on Common Core, Smarter Balanced, testing, testing and more testing diverts us all from where we need to go — more teacher time for our kids in Oregon public schools.

 • Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor canceled her planned visit to Eugene earlier this spring, but now we hear she will appear in a video message May 1 at City Club of Eugene. The special program Friday will focus on civic education — and it’s a timely topic. Several bills in the Oregon Legislature deal with boosting civic engagement, particularly with young Oregonians, and a panel of students will talk about them Friday. O’Connor is the founder of iCivics, a national nonprofit that promotes education about local, state and federal government, including our courts system.

• David and Anne Hall of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action were in town in mid-April scaring the pants off us with talk about poorly managed nuclear weapons systems worldwide and the absurd billions of dollars being spent to upgrade U.S. nuclear weapons that are questionable deterrents. Nukes, even if used on a relatively small scale between nations, would alter or destroy civilization on the planet. With all the talk of climate chaos, are we overlooking the huge threat of nuclear weapons in our trigger-happy world? The Halls quote Martin Luther King Jr. saying, “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.” Kudos to the dedicated folks in Lane County who year after year serve as watchdogs and protesters of our wasteful and misguided military priorities. Community Alliance of Lane County, Eugene PeaceWorks, Lane Peace Center, Veterans for Peace, Beyond War and others are doing this important work. 

The new Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges is out, and Lewis & Clark College, Portland State University and Willamette University made the top 15 list, but OSU was rated 38th and UO didn’t even make the ratings. The listings are somewhat arbitrary, an attempt to quantify complex issues. One criteria Princeton looks at is “percent of school energy from renewable resources.” Lewis & Clark reports 100 percent, OSU reports 3 percent, UO less than 1 percent. When it comes to “percent of food budget spent on local/organic food,” Lewis & Clark claims 75 percent, OSU 17 percent, UO just 7 percent. But top-ranked Lewis & Clark is tiny with only 1,984 undergrads while OSU has 22,353 and UO has 20,473. Annual in-state tuition at Lewis & Clark is a whopping $43,022 while OSU is $6,804 and UO is $8,220 (at 12 hours a term). So we’re comparing apples and a grape, but the numbers do raise eyebrows concerning some indicators of sustainability.