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Slant 8-25-2016

• Thumbs up for President Obama’s Justice Department’s decision to end the management of federal prisons by private groups. How did we ever start that in the first place? The drive for profit was certain to fuel the drive for more prisoners serving more time. We understand that Oregon has no privately run prisons. Thumbs up for that, too.

• Lane County’s great bakery gene has shown up in Stanley, a central Idaho mountain town of 63 permanent residents. Becky Kerns Cron, who grew up in Goshen, runs the Stanley Baking Company, a famous bakery and café, with her husband Tim. Tell her you are from Eugene and the terrific classic breakfast will land in front of you even faster. Her sister Kelli Kerns now runs the Sawtooth Hotel serving good food and lodging with an amazing view of the Sawtooth Mountains. It’s a long drive over there, about 14 hours, but worth it for backpacking, rafting, fishing and super scones.

Only 2 percent of full professors in higher education are women who are black, Hispanic or Native American, according to the research of Duchess Harris, a lawyer and doctorate who teaches in the American Studies Department at Macalester College in Minnesota. Seventy-two percent are white men, 17 percent white women and 8 percent men of color. Data from 2011 for the University of Oregon’s accreditation study shows that 4.6 percent of the UO’s total faculty were underrepresented people of color — black, Pacific Islander, Native American and Hispanic. The number goes up to 10.2 percent if you factor in Asian faculty. As the UO debates renaming buildings that were named after people with racist histories, we hope the UO is also debating how to recruit and train graduate students of color and recruit and retain diverse faculty. 

• Count the angles from now until November that Oregon’s mainstream media will use to fight Ballot Measure 97, the value-added tax that would finally change education, among other things, in this state. Clearly, the opposition strategy is to convince Oregon voters that this is just another sneaky sales tax that must be defeated as the sales tax always has been. Another strategy is to characterize it as a tax driven only by labor unions. Neither is true. The Oregonian in Portland has had either a news story or an editorial comment nearly every day for weeks attacking this measure. But we need to remember that Gov. Kate Brown, leading legislators we respect, such as House revenue chair Phil Barnhart, and the think tank Oregon Center for Public Policy in Portland, are as firmly in favor of this pro-education measure as the media drumbeat is against.

• This week in lawsuits: Two significant cases are hitting the Lane County Circuit courtrooms this week. Eugene’s excellent Toxics Right-to-Know law is under fire from local businesses — Childers Meat, Co-Motion Cycles, Mid-Valley Metals, Skopil Cleaners and Gibson Steel — who have all been invoiced for fees under city code as a “hazardous substance user.” The businesses argue that Eugene’s program for tracking toxics violates Oregon law. Interestingly enough, the anti-Right-to-Know attorney is William H. (Liam) Sherlock, better known for defending the climate with Our Children’s Trust. Our Right-to-Know law keeps hazardous substances in the light where we can see them, and we hope it gets stronger, not weaker. Also in court is our local daily The Register-Guard. Former reporter and well-known entertainment writer Serena Markstrom alleges she was fired by the R-G after getting pregnant. We hear Bob Keefer of Eugene Art Talk, also a former R-G arts writer, has been subpoenaed in the case. Keefer freelanced for the daily after he retired but his services were suddenly no longer needed after he helped organize a protest/going-away party outside the R-G’s Chad Drive location for a very pregnant Markstrom the day she came to collect her belongings from her former job. 

• What’s going on in Kesey Square? The Eugene Police Department’s Community Outreach Response Team (CORT) says it seeks to “identify the people who most frequently end up with citations or arrests, assess the factors that may contribute the most strongly to this and then find the people and offer them services to address their most critical needs.” But EW has received messages from people concerned or threatened by the increased presence of law enforcement. Last Thursday, Aug. 18, Eugene’s Civil Liberty Defense Center came to Kesey with a Know Your Rights training booth and water and Gatorade for the hot weather. Knowledge is power.