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Slant 3-14-2013

• A PAC has been formed to oppose the flat fee measure that will be on the May ballot in Eugene (see our news story this week). This could prove to be a fascinating debate, raising all sorts of wonkish issues that are normally ignored by the public, and alas, even by the media. It’s good to see former councilors Bonny Bettman McCornack and Paul Nicholson back in the fight and asking tough questions. And it’s not too early to ask: What will happen if this measure fails and somehow money is found or reallocated to maintain CAHOOTS or Sheldon Pool or branch libraries? Will the city make those promised cuts anyway July 1, just to save face and maintain credibility? We hope not. The May election is our local version of the sequester, particularly with three money measures on the ballot, all with potential boys crying wolf. Meanwhile, job growth is picking up along with the housing market, indicators that the city and county might see better times ahead.

 • Lots of whining both nationally and from the recent Oregon Republican Dorchester conference about the technology gap that gave Democrats big wins in November. May we introduce two UO graduates who trained on The Oregon Commentator, a UO conservative alternative newspaper? Brent Jacobson and Ian Spencer have founded Red Edge, a media consulting firm out of D.C. where “digital advocacy is done right.” Their client list includes the Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Need we say more?

What can local governments really do about climate change and other big issues? We’ve heard over the years from conservative members of the County Commission and Eugene City Council that weighing in on national issues is “outside our jurisdiction” and “a waste of time.” Several speakers at the recent Public Interest Environmental Law Conference would beg to differ, saying change must come from the bottom up, particularly with Congress paralyzed and the White House unable to broker reforms. Cities and counties are in a position to not only lobby state and national government, but also charge ahead with enlightened urban planning. Successful green redevelopment, such as Portland’s Pearl District, can have a huge impact on how other cities evolve. California got tired of waiting for better national vehicle fuel mileage standards and enforced their own, spurring national change. Let’s encourage our local governments to fill in the leadership void on the big issues of our time. 

• Members of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association (ONPA) reported their circulation statistics last fall and the numbers are now out for the world to see, for better or worse. The Oregonian reported to ONPA an uncharacteristic jump in weekday subscriptions and single-copy sales, from 222,782 to 247,832, but Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) reported only 228,599 weekday sales for The Oregonian, almost 20,000 fewer papers sold. Something screwy going on? We hear of Portlanders who canceled their daily subscriptions but are still getting the paper nine months later.

The Register-Guard and the Corvallis Gazette-Times did not report fresh numbers in 2012, and ONPA tells us those papers were reminded several times. We checked the public numbers posted by ABC and it looks like the R-G is only shrinking a bit, slipping from 51,889 to 51,040 on weekday sales. The G-T is holding steady at 9,815. How about Eugene Weekly? Last week we printed 40,650 papers, a near record. Our paper’s not quite as thick as it was in 2008, but our print readership has never been higher.

• Wondering who reads EW’s letters to the editor? Congressman Peter DeFazio and his staff read EW letters and the congressman’s own mail, too. It just takes a while to get through it all. In response to a letter we ran from Jan Nelson about guns, D’Faz wrote earlier this month, “I endeavor to answer all of the thousands of email, snail mail and phone in questions that come to my office. My office responded to Jan Nelson’s December 18 email on gun control on January 1. I regret that we did not yet answer her January 22 inquiry on the issue. I am not a member of the NRA nor have I been at any point during my 27 years in Congress.”

• We keep pondering The Big One, and noticed the new state inundation maps that show how far the water could rise along the Oregon Coast in case of a super tsunami. We valley-dwellers could have our own tsunami if a big quake causes dam failures up the Willamette or McKenzie. Any suggestions from our readers on how we can maintain essential city services? Portland has its Aerial Tram to the hospital. Both Sacred Heart at RiverBend and our new police station are along rivers. How about zip lines across the river between the cop shop and downtown? Or a fleet of police kayaks strapped to the side of the police station, like lifeboats on the Titanic? Here’s another tongue-twister: amphibious ambulances for incidents of inundation.