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Slant 5-28-2015

• We wonder if the High Line elevated park in Manhattan gives us some clues for using the EWEB property by the Willamette River now that the chosen developer, the UO Foundation, has left it in limbo. We know, Eugene is not New York City, but a private-public partnership shaped a mile-and-a-half abandoned elevated railway in the meat-packing district into the most amazing public park, attracting millions of visitors all seasons. Special events and attractions are scheduled, but mostly visitors just come to walk the High Line and see the view. Apartments, condos, restaurants, all kinds of commerce has sprung up because of the High Line. A major museum was just completed at the end-point. Could that happen if we did a public promenade from Willamette Street to the Willamette River? It’s worth considering.

 • Long waits at hospital emergency departments (EDs) are nothing new and we wrote about those reportedly long waits at PeaceHealth at Riverbend in this column April 9. Now we see actual numbers provided in the Oregon Hospital Guide (orehospitalguide.org). The website is new and doesn’t have much information yet, but it does document wait times in EDs in 2014. No surprise that the wait time to see a health care professional at the busiest ED at RiverBend is 50 minutes, Sacred Heart University District is 45 minutes, PeaceHealth Cottage Grove is 30 minutes and McKenzie-Willamette is the winner at 18 minutes. State average is 29 minutes and national average is 24 minutes.

• A surprising list of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. puts Eugene at #14, better than Portland at #19 and Seattle at #45. Bike Score based the ratings on bike lanes, hills, bike commuting rates, how often bikers have to desaddle along their routes, plus other factors. Top cities are Cambridge, Massachusetts; Davis, Berkeley and Santa Cruz, California; and Boulder, Colorado. Even if these lists are worthless, maybe this one is worth examining to help us figure out how to improve. Grist gave us the numbers.

• Incremental payroll tax increases to support Lane Transit District are likely coming for downtown Eugene businesses. There will be grumbles, no doubt, but the increased revenue will help LTD in its long-range planning and investments, both in EmX bus rapid transit and other transit corridors. It’s taken 10 years from start to finish for each section of EmX, and LTD is currently looking at how to meet the metro area’s needs for bus transit as well as pedestrian and bike traffic. Eugene and Springfield can expect rapid growth in the next 20 years, and transportation planning will have a big impact on how and where we grow. Meanwhile, strong economic recovery locally means most downtown businesses can better afford the payroll tax increase over 10 years from .07 percent to .08 percent. The boost is expected to begin next year or the year after. As for corridor studies, there are opportunities for the public to weigh in through movingahead.org. Send suggestions and feedback to questions@movingahead.org or call 682-3240. 

• Speaking of LTD, General Manager Roger Kilcoyne is retiring and we hear the process to find a new manager is well under way. A professional recruiter will be picked no later than June 17, and the position will be posted nationwide July 1. Candidate screening will begin in August, onsite interviews will be in September and selection will be made in October.

• Good to see Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley joining New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and other progressive leaders from around the country laying out a an agenda to create opportunity and prosperity for ordinary Americans. The agenda includes raising the federal minimum wage and indexing it to inflation, passing national paid sick leave, making college free or affordable, reforming our federal tax system that currently favors the wealthiest individuals and corporations, and more. Go Jeff! It is peculiar to see the “progressive agenda” being touted as radical and far-left, when it actually aligns with what Americans favor in national polling. Why the disconnect?

Photo by Alex V. Cipolle

The rugged coastline in Yachats is where two South Eugene High School students drowned in the winter of 2011. A memorial to Jack Harnsongkram and Connor Gregory Ausland is at the site and we see visitors are creating their own simple memorials, carefully balanced stone sculptures that in time will be swept away by the pounding surf.