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Slant 2-9-2012

Despite all the scary crime news in the daily rag and on local TV news, Lane County remains a remarkably safe place to live, work, play and raise a family. But a local political action committee, Citizens for a Safer Lane County, is asking our county commissioners this week to put a charter amendment on the May 15 ballot that would guarantee revenue for public safety to support the Sheriff’s Office, DA and Youth Services. The measure would not raise taxes and the money would come from discretionary general funds, so what county services would suffer? You guessed it: the multiple social services, such as drug and alcohol treatment, that are vital to reducing the need for the Sheriff’s Office, DA and Youth Services. The proposal goes to the commissioners after we go to press this week. We predict another 3-2 vote with our Tea Party majority on the commission favoring their conservative buddies who see guns, handcuffs and jail beds as the simple solution to every complex social problem.

It’s still safe to tweet your protests in Oregon. The Oregon Legislature killed the “flash mob” bill at its Feb. 6 hearing. The proposal, SB 1534, would have made it a felony called “aggravated solicitation” to call for people by Twitter or email to “engage in specific conduct constituting a crime” at a designated place. Sen. Floyd Prozanski chaired the committee that rendered the bill dead in the water. 

• Now we will see what happens with Prozanski’s SB 1526 that would essentially reverse the controversial ruling in the Lane County commissioners’ open meetings case. The bill would make it legal for elected officials of a public body to confer through email or sequential one-on-one meetings to discuss upcoming votes in public meetings. This type of discussion is what the commissioners got nailed for, but such communication was not considered a violation when the Oregon Board of Higher Education engaged in a similar process in the controversial firing of former UO president Richard Lariviere. Judge Michael Gillespie’s quirky and impractical ruling against the commissioners has been mostly ignored around the state. It’s time to clarify and update Oregon’s open meeting rules to allow our elected officials to actually talk to each other.

• What will be the impact of the West Eugene EmX on businesses along the route? A lot of credible research has gone into this issue and we hear LTD will be making a report at the 7:30 pm Monday, Feb. 13, City Council meeting. Should be interesting. We expect the anti-EmX folks won’t like what they hear.

Words to watch in 2012. “Authentic” is a key political word in this campaign year. That doesn’t bode well for Romney or Gingrich or Santorum. “Resilience” and “adaptation,” unfortunately, jump out of climate change conversation. Too bad that we appear to be past “prevention” or even “slowing” extreme climate change. Meanwhile, so many Americans continue to be deceived into denying it’s happening, let alone identifying the contributing human causes. 

Congrats to Greg Evans, LCC ethnic studies instructor, who will be presented the 2012 Trailblazer Award from the Oregon Northwest Black Pioneers at its annual celebration in Salem Feb. 11. The award recognizes contributions to furthering the advancement of African Americans in Oregon and paving the way for others to follow. Evans is a well-known civil rights activist and former regional official with the NAACP. He is also on the adjunct faculty of Northwest Christian University, serves on both the LTD Board and American Public Transportation Association national board, and has his own education consulting business.

• Acting UO President Bob Berdahl forcefully made the case for an “independent” governing board for the UO Feb. 3 at the City Club of Eugene while Chancellor George Pernsteiner suggested that “governance by itself is not a silver bullet.” The Oregon Legislature is expected to name a committee to examine independent governance for the 2013 session. That’s what the UO faculty leadership wants following the ugly uprising over the firing of Richard Lariviere. But who would appoint an “independent” board of a public university? The governor, with approval of the state Senate, so maybe governance by itself is not a silver bullet.