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Slant 12-24-2015

• Longtime Quaker activist Peg Morton died Dec. 19 and we were honored to have some one-on-one time with her before she began the dry fast to end her life at the age of 85. In an early January issue, we will be examining her fascinating life, her personal struggles and her controversial death. We will include stories and images from our files and our two interviews, and we invite her family and friends to also contribute memories, photos and letters to the editor.

Morton was an iconic and eloquent figure in Lane County and also on the national and international front, particularly in Latin America. She spent three months in federal prison for protesting the School of the Americas, a notorious U.S. training facility for brutal dictators. Her strong convictions and her bold, nonviolent actions serve as a challenge to us all, and her purposeful death by fasting opens up an important discussion about the often-conflicted choices we all face at the end of life. Numerous testimonials can be found under her name on the Caring Bridge website, and a short interview with her by Rachael McDonald can now be found on klcc.org. Find our 2012 review of her autobiography by searching for Feeling Light Within, I Walk on our website. A memorial is being planned in January.

• Editor and Publisher N. Christian Anderson III has suddenly and silently departed The Register-Guard and no one’s been saying why (see our story this week). We’ve heard some theories bandied about: A lack of understanding between Anderson and Tony Baker about exactly who was in charge, since the R-G has always been a Baker family enterprise? A simple clash of personalities? Then there’s the possibility of Anderson’s desire to move faster to electronic media and away from print as he did at The Oregonian. One speculation is there was not enough improvement in bottom line — but his June to December tenure was too short to assess that. And why the delay in telling readers why the editor and publisher has left the building? We broke the story, and it’s been reported on by Willamette Week and public radio, but nothing out of The O and R-G. Are they waiting on Anderson and the R-G to negotiate the terms of his departure? When the head of a major news outlet leaves the building, a little transparency goes a long way to keeping the public trust.

• Oregon businesses taxes and fees are way too high and are stifling our economy, right? This thinking is so prevalent that local governments go out of their way to incentivize business and industry with tax breaks. But do the facts support the contention? Turns out Oregon has one of the lowest overall tax burdens on corporations in the nation. Oregon is tied with Connecticut at the bottom of the list, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy. State and local taxes constitute about 2.5 percent of the cost of doing business in Oregon (the national average is 4.6 percent). And despite the rhetoric, low tax rates are not the primary driver of a strong business climate. Quality of life, a trained workforce, good public schools, transportation and parks and other public amenities are what strengthen and grow our economy. 

This information is particularly relevant as petitions are now circulating to put a measure on the ballot next November that would increase the state minimum tax for C-corporations with in-state sales above $25 million. The measure would raise state revenues by an estimated $5.3 billion in the FY 2017-19 budget. Public investment, particularly in education and infrastructure, supports private prosperity. But it’s going to take some educating to get this basic idea into the heads of voters. 

• If you have time over the holidays, Google Congress Square Park in Portland, Maine. Congress Square is an awkward public space similar to Kesey Square, and it was mentioned by landscape architect David Dougherty at City Club of Eugene Dec. 18. Portlanders reversed their City Council, which voted to sell and develop the public space. Citizens pursued several major grants and have totally revived and enlivened Congress Square. It’s an inspiring story, and if the energy at our City Club is an indicator, something similar could happen here in Eugene.

The fearmongers, both internal and external, appear to be winning in America. A Weekly staffer took his son to an opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at a local theater, but about three-quarters of the way through the blockbuster film, the entire theater complex was evacuated. Why? We don’t know the nature of the threat, but weird rumblings against the theater scared the management enough to clear the seats and call the police. Who would blame them? Not us.

Holiday Market at the Fairgrounds has been a lot of fun this year and while we’re sad to see it close at 4 pm Christmas Eve, we’re sure most of the vendors are eager to be somewhere else. In fact, some of the vendors sold out early or left early, leaving space for other artists and craftspeople to jump in. So if you show up Thursday for some last-minute shopping, you are likely to see some new vendors and some great prices on unique items you won’t find in the big box stores.