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Slant 3-8-2012

• Big question marks and plenty of politics are ahead for the judiciary in Eugene. Presiding Judge Mary Ann Bearden announced March 6 that she’s resigning effective April 1 after 14 years in the Lane County Circuit Court. That means Gov. Kitzhaber will pick a new circuit judge right away and the powerful presiding position will change this spring. Over at the U.S. Courthouse, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan is going on senior status, to be succeeded by one of five nominees from Sens. Wyden and Merkley. President Obama gets to choose the final nominee to throw to the surly senators for approval on their political clock. The two nominees from Eugene are Suzanne Chanti, a Lane County Circuit Court judge, and Bryan Lessley, assistant federal public defender. Either Chanti or Lessley should be named for this judgeship in Eugene.

• The city of Eugene is appealing the use of excessive force verdict against the EPD’s Sgt. Bill Solesbee based on a technicality in the jury instructions. With the city’s budget in dire straits, is it really time to double-down on an appeal when none of the evidence has changed? Now we’re looking at direct and indirect expenses that could potentially cost the city nearly half a million dollars when this could have been settled years ago for less than $10,000 in medical bills and an apology. We doubt this appeal will go anywhere; it’s the same arguments EPD lost on before.

Three impressive women urged an audience of women and a couple of men at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference to encourage more Oregon women to run for public office in 2012. Mayor Kitty Piercy and Cynthia Wooten, both with long histories of elective office in Eugene and beyond, told their stories. Mary Hughes, co-founder of The 2012 Project out of Rutgers University, laid out this country’s miserable record in electing women and why 2012, a presidential year following a census, is key to boosting women in public office. We cheer the effort, of course, but raise that niggling question: Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona? What if the woman is a lousy candidate? The 2012 Project doesn’t endorse, Hughes said, adding “it does women a disservice if you don’t endorse the best candidate.” 

Not a lot of competition for elected office at the Eugene City Council and EWEB levels this time around. The deadline for filing was March 1 and Mayor Kitty Piercy has just two challengers, Councilor Betty Taylor has two opponents, and only EWEB Wards 1 & 8 has a contested race. What keeps more good people from running? Elected office is a big commitment of time and labor, the pay is either minimal or not at all, and local politics brings out the best and worst in the local citizenry. But the rewards can be great. Why does Piercy go to all those meetings and events? She loves learning and being connected. 

There is a way to plug into local government in significant ways without the pressures of elected office. The city of Eugene is now recruiting for various boards, commissions and committees until March 30. The vacancies are many: Budget Committee, Civilian Review Board, Planning Commission, Toxics Board, LRAPA Board, Police Commission, Sustainability Commission, etc. The City Council makes the appointments June 11. Apply on the city website, stop by the city manager’s office or call 682-5010.

The economic models we live with today have created massive wealth and development worldwide, along with gross inequities, but they have only been with us for a tiny fraction of our species’ time on the planet. Is there anything we can learn from how homo sapiens lived for most of the last 200,000 years? A lot of folks are excited about Charles Eisenstein’s Oregon tour and his upcoming talks in Corvallis and Eugene (see Activist Alert). He’s the author of Sacred Economics with its focus on sustainable, community-based exchanges of goods and services. Giving and receiving is how humanity survived and that might be how we get through tough times ahead, or at least build resilience into our economy. An interesting twist on this is a new Eugene-based smart phone app called Kindista, designed to create a “mass participatory gifting network.” Find out about Kindista at unifyingcascadia.net or at Eisenstein’s talks and workshops.

• Rock guitarist Ronnie Montrose, who played with Van Morrison, Sammy Hagar, Herbie Hancock and many others, showed us his mad guitar skills at WOW Hall back in September and he donated one of the guitars he played that memorable night to be raffled as a fundraiser for the local Musicians Emergency Medical Association. Sadly, Montrose died March 3 at the age of 64 following a battle with prostate cancer. He was probably quite ill when he came through town. We appreciate the rocker’s generosity and courage. The raffle raised $900 for MEMA, and longtime MEMA supporter Mathew Beveridge ended up taking home the signed guitar. Once again we are reminded that many of the most creative artists among us are self-employed and without health insurance. 

SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, editor@eugeneweekly.com