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Slant 6-4-2015

• This week marks a changing of the guard at The Register-Guard, and outgoing Editor and Publisher Tony Baker wrote a farewell column in the daily’s Sunday Commentary section May 31. The column was clearly intended to diminish fears that new Editor and Publisher N. Christian Anderson III will oversee the kinds of changes at the R-G that he and the Advance Publications chain implemented at The Oregonian, taking the venerable Oregon daily and turning it into a pitiful tabloid. Baker’s column ominously cited “difficult cultural and operational change” in the works. He did commit to “strong local reporting and editorial commentary” and said a daily printed version of the R-G will “be around for years to come.” But how many years? Tony Baker suggested that Anderson is really only a bridge until another Baker is in charge. Does that mean he has been brought here to cut staff, bust the union, restore profits? We shall see.

Overworked reporters at the Corvallis Gazette-Times counted more empty newsroom desks when they returned to work this week. Last Friday, G-T parent company Lee Enterprises announced major staff cuts at the Corvallis daily that cut awfully close to the bone. Lee management eliminated City Editor Theresa Novak, as well as Entertainment Editor Sarah Payne. Until Friday, Novak and Payne were two of the paper’s few full-time editors. Sources at the G-T say the burden of Novak’s and Payne’s editorial responsibilities will be spread around the newsroom to the remaining survivors — who aren’t likely to see any additional pay. Lee also laid off reporters, editors and photographers at the Albany Democrat-Herald and the Lebanon Express. “Regardless of any staffing changes, we remain committed to serving our readers in the Mid-Valley,” G-T Publisher Jeff Precourt says. Serving them what, we wonder.

Commissioner Jay Bozievich is trying to shore up his right-wing credentials with a resolution before the Lane County Board of Commissioners backing Second Amendment rights. It’s a reaction to Sen. Floyd Prozanski’s Senate Bill 941, signed into law earlier this month, requiring background checks on private gun sales between a buyer and seller. The county resolution, which passed, 4-1, has no teeth but opposes SB 941, saying the county can’t pay for it.

In February, Boz got called out for flip-flopping by the rabidly pro-gun rights Oregon Firearms Federation for bringing up a pro-gun resolution, then dropping it. 

In April, he flip-flopped again, writing a letter to the Legislature’s Senate Judiciary Committee saying he opposed the background check measure unless it was amended to destroy records from background checks, comparing the system to Nazi Germany. 

Weirdly, we do agree with one thing the Firearms Federation had to say about Boz — “Lane County needs commissioners who are not so disconnected from reality.”

• “The numbers are bad here.” That sums up juvenile Judge Valeri Love’s talk to the City Club of Eugene on May 29 about juvenile justice problems in Lane County. Kids in foster care, abused kids, sex-trafficked kids, no local shelter, neglected older kids. Really bad numbers. Some vital help comes from Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), volunteers who step up to help these kids, as described by Megan Shultz, director, and Terry Brodkorb, caseworker for the Oregon Department of Human Services. If you dare to put our local situation into a national context, read Robert Putnam’s new book Our Kids. Best known for Bowling Alone, Putnam documents the widening class-based opportunity gap among young people. Subtitled The American Dream in Crisis, this important book should activate us all, at the very least sending us to volunteer for CASA, see casa-lane.org or call 984-3132.

• A public forum on Eugene’s Multi-Unit Property Tax Exemption (MUPTE) is Monday, June 8 (see Activist Alert), and the forum panel appears heavily weighted toward maintaining the status quo. It’s not an official city forum or hearing. The event notice sent out by Downtown Eugene Economic Development (DEED) quotes and disputes the statement EW made in Slant Jan. 22 that “MUPTE should be written off as a failed experiment in urban planning.” DEED instead claims the 10-year property tax breaks have “played an important role in contributing to downtown’s recent revitalization.” Well, maybe to a small degree, but advocates for MUPTE don’t mention diverting millions in tax revenues away from public schools and city services to boost the profits of millionaire developers. They don’t mention all the housing projects built without MUPTE, nor do they point out the concrete atrocity of Capstone’s 13th and Olive student housing project that qualified for MUPTE with obviously minimal design requirements. MUPTE has outlived whatever usefulness it had as a planning tool, but it looks like it will continue. Will the new MUPTE include meaningful restrictions, or will developers simply continue to build whatever suits their bottom line?