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Slant 10-22-2015

• We’ve pondered the arguments for and against the Five-Year Library Local Option Levy on the Nov. 3 ballot and we appreciate the informed perspective of former city councilor Bonny Bettman McCornack — see her Viewpoint last week. We also have serious concerns about our city’s financial policies and practices, but all things considered, we are urging a “yes” vote on Ballot Measure 20-235. This is not the time to hold hostage the public library services that we have so heavily invested in over recent decades. We could elaborate on the many benefits of our library system, but that information is easily found in our letters and in the Voters’ Pamphlet.

So where do we go from here to make sure future library services are paid out of the General Fund? This levy reminds us that we need to repair elements of our city government that are hindering progress. The bath water is murky, but we don’t need to throw out all the babies. We have some good people in city government, but we need more progressives on the City Council and more imagination and transparency in administration. We need reforms: no more tax giveaways to millionaires, real design standards for development, more enlightened urban planning, an independent performance auditor to evaluate spending in all city departments (including administration), more inclusive policies regarding our homeless residents, etc. It’s a big list that will likely require evolving our opaque council/manager form of government through charter amendments.

• Other local measures we endorse are the Springfield Fire levy and the South Lane County Fire and Rescue District bond measure. In Springfield, the current levy supports staffing and equipment to maintain quick response time to fire and other emergencies. The levy expires next summer, and the city is wise to ask voters to renew it at its current rate, rather than ask for a higher rate. The South Lane measure would upgrade and replace existing equipment and purchase additional fire engines, which are expected to be even more in demand as drought conditions continue. The mostly rural district includes Cottage Grove and Creswell.  

• After hearing Tom Bowerman and Julia Olson talk about climate change at the City Club of Eugene Oct. 16, we had the desperate feeling that we are not doing enough to save life on our planet. What can we do? In the question period, Eugene City Councilor Alan Zelenka blasted the ludicrous argument that climate deniers are making, essentially, “It’s not cost effective to save ourselves.” Going into election season, we can push every candidate for his or her positions on climate change: What will they support? How much money will they take from the fossil fuel industry? Are they ready to risk their political careers to do the right thing? That’s a start.

• We remember the old Hyundai/Hynix semiconductor plant that was allowed to be built on west Eugene wetlands in the late 1990s with zero public input, stirring angry protests from advocates of transparent and accountable government. This polluting plant required massive amounts of clean water and energy and was ushered in through secret meetings with local officials, including EWEB. The high-tech Korean plant, even with all its tax breaks, was eventually deemed unprofitable and shut down in 2008, putting more than 1,100 people out of work and exacerbating our region’s recession. The property was bought at auction this month and will qualify for tax breaks on improvements. We like the idea of more living wage jobs in the valley, but will we see more sweetheart deals on water, electricity and pollution negotiated behind closed doors?