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Slant 2-16-2012

• We’re sad to hear of the passing of Svitlana Kravchenko, the much-lauded director of the UO’s masters program in environmental and natural resources law. She died Feb. 10 in Eugene at the too-young age of 62. She was known worldwide for her strong advocacy for reforming public policy on environmental matters. She traveled and lectured in dozens of countries and authored 12 books and hundreds of academic articles. Despite the overwhelming challenges to the environment, she once said, “We face a world that contains great beauty and is populated by humans capable of great acts of generosity.” Our condolences go out to her family, friends and colleagues. 

• Should Eugene taxpayers subsidize private developers? We’ve been doing it for a long time and while the cost to taxpayers runs into millions of dollars each year, the benefits to our city are dubious. The latest proposal, using the city’s Multiple Unit Property Tax Exemption (MUPTE) for a higher-end student housing complex at the site of the old Eugene Clinic, would give downtown one more welcome boost. But MUPTE was not needed for other successful private student housing projects in Eugene, and this project will end up competing for renters with hundreds of other private landlords who do not have the economic advantage of 10 years of zero property taxes. It’s time to level the playing field and repeal MUPTE in Eugene ordinances. 

Our public records request regarding the total cost of fighting the excessive-force and right-to-videotape case that ecosystem advocate Josh Schlossberg won against the city has been delayed until “litigation is completely over,” the city tells us. ORS 192.501(1) states that “Litigation has not been concluded until there is a final judgment and all appeal rights have been exhausted.” We hope that this is only related to the ongoing negotiation of attorneys’ fees, and not a sign that the city plans to spend even more taxpayer money appealing an open-and-shut excessive force case. We’ll be curious to see if the total cost reflects the hundreds of hours that city staffers spent holding meetings about the case and observing the proceedings.

• Makes us proud that our Congressman Peter DeFazio voted against the Federal Aviation Administration bill with its anti-union provision and other serious problems. Makes us wonder why Sen. Ron Wyden voted for it, while Sen. Jeff Merkley and the rest of the Oregon Democratic delegation voted against it. The loyalty oath provision alone should have brought out a loud “Nay”: “It is the patriotic duty of the people of the United States to support the members of the Armed Forces who are defending the Nation’s interests around the world at great personal sacrifice.” This irrelevant language serves no purpose other than cynically identifying opponents of the bill as not supporting our men and women in uniform.

Eugene was jumping last weekend with an infusion of folks from all over Lane County, flashing signs that the recession continues to recede. Country music sold out Matt Court Friday night, at the same time that Cozmic Pizza packed in an SRO crowd to hear outrageously bad date tales, some told by two EW story-tellers, Camilla Mortensen and Dante Zuñiga-West, to benefit Planned Parenthood. Marché restaurant served one of its biggest all-time crowds Saturday night, brought out by the new Inn at the Fifth and the splendid show at the Hult Center by the Eugene Ballet Company. KLCC’s Microbrew Fest is always a big draw at the Fairgrounds, as is the Eugene Record Convention at the Hilton. We’ve probably missed some other recession-busters drawing big crowds lately. Let us know.

• On Valentine’s Day Lane County Hearings Official Gary Darnielle ruled that Greg Demers and the McDougal Bros.’ Lost Creek Rock Products can go ahead and mine Parvin Butte. This means that unless the developers have a heart and leave the butte alone, the mine with all its dust, noise and environmental devastation can operate in the middle of a community, with no input from the neighbors, and tear up the earth near a salmon stream. Even the hearings official didn’t sound thrilled about his own ruling and was critical of the flawed code and would like to see it rewritten. We hope Lane County appeals this controversial decision and also changes its code so communities can protect themselves and the environment from devastating and unnecessary destruction.