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Slant 9-10-2015

Mayor Kitty Piercy is concerned about the dozens of unkempt “travelers” sprawling on our sidewalks downtown with their dogs, guitars and harmonicas. We prefer to call them low-budget tourists, but regardless, they can be intimidating and offensive to some, and an irritation to storefront business owners who wish they would go away. Most will go away when the rain and cold returns; Eugene will be left with its regular population of 2,000 or so houseless folks. Ashland, our image-conscious neighbor to the south, came up with a partial solution to the challenge of loitering some years ago. The city recruited and trained a few dozen good-natured volunteers who engaged face-to-face with the homeless and transients, asking them about their situation, talking to them about the community and its history and providing information about food banks, shelters, medical services and nearby campgrounds. The program tried to break down the “us vs. them” mentality. The so-called street people became a bit more respectful; the downtown merchants (and their customers) became a bit more tolerant. The volunteers went home with remarkable stories to tell around the dinner table. 

Lucy who? That’s the biggest hurdle for Lucy Vinis in her campaign to succeed Kitty Piercy as mayor of Eugene. When you meet her and listen to her, it’s easy to imagine Vinis in that important elective job. Bob Cassidy still seems to be running from the left (but he doesn’t plan a traditional campaign) and Councilor Mike Clark sounds like a candidate from the right. We hear the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce is casting about for its perfect electable candidate. We don’t vote until May, so the field is sure to shift. Meanwhile, grab a chance to venture out and listen to Lucy Vinis.

• Last week in Slant we wrote about Springfield Councilor Dave Ralston parroting Donald Trump in racial remarks and suggested he resign for the good of his community. Now, a letter to Ralston from the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is also calling for his resignation. The letter, signed by Silver Mogart, Emilio Hernandez, Craig Peck, Juan Carlos Valle, Summer Jelinek, Kathleen Caprario Ulrich, Sue Taylor, Rob Dow and Patricia Toledo, says, “There is a market for some of the vile hate-filled speech given by the likes of Rush or Beck. But you are not a radio host. You are an elected official. And as such, you are supposed to be professional in your remarks and decisions.” The letter goes on to say, “You do not represent a majority of the people that make up your wonderful city,” and “it is time for you to step down.” Agreed. 

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian dropped by EW’s offices this week to chat about some of the work that the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) does around the state from bringing shop classes back into high schools to investigating wage claims and helping companies navigate complex labor laws. Avakian tells us that it’s the responsibility of elected officials at all levels to work on issues such as climate change. Speaking of elected officials, Avakian is exploring a run for secretary of state. Actively in the race is Sid Leiken, who in 2009 dropped out of a congressional contest against Peter DeFazio when questions arose about whether he unlawfully converted $2,000 of campaign funds to his personal use — the state levied a fine of $2,250. That’s a bit ironic to have in your elections history when you’re running for a job that involves supervising elections. Locally, Rep. Val Hoyle has also said she is exploring a run for the secretary’s office, which not only deals with elections, but also corporations and public spending. The winner will sit on the State Land Board, making decisions on state forests and on Oregon’s waterways. The election isn’t until 2016 but it’s never to early to make the climate a player in the race.