We hear it all the time: People pick up Eugene Weekly for the letters. That’s great news. A local paper with readers who are engaged enough to write in and read what others have to say is healthy for democracy, even if it’s one more conspiracy letter about the chemtrail dragons spraying wrath upon our fair, naïve valley.
This year we wanted to thank our engaged readership by collecting our favorite letters (and online feedback) of 2016 so far, whether they be poignant, inspirational, irreverent, angry, hilarious, compassionate, conspiratorial, offensive or insightful, because they are, after all, a reflection of our community, for better or worse. It’s also a swell and, at times, jarring way to take one last stroll through 2016, an unprecedented year in many ways. Hindsight is 2020.
A massive earthquake, a toxic chemical spill, a huge forest fire. If a disaster strikes the McKenzie River, it strikes Eugene’s sole source of drinking water. There is also the possibility of a “malevolent attack on the water system,” EWEB says.
In these worst-case scenarios the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) has only one or two days of drinking water in its 94 million gallons of storage during the summer months.
On a hot July afternoon, 23-year-old Nicholas Kaasa travels down Broadway in his power wheelchair. The chair is a machine to behold, tank-like, with three gray wheels on each side. It’s outfitted with headlights and red circular taillights, along with orange hazard lights that flash when needed.
With the push of a button, Kaasa can go vertical: A hydraulic seat lift raises him half a foot from the chair’s base. On the left side is attached a black leather, metal-studded saddlebag of the kind more often found on a Harley; it has a Seattle Seahawks logo and silver letters that spell "ICK." “I should probably find that ‘N,’” Kaasa says.
Kaasa — who has cerebral palsy and vision impairment — cannot walk and uses the wheelchair to get around. When I ask him how fast it can go, he responds: “You want to check that?” And then he’s gone, shooting down the sidewalk at warp speed. His answer when I catch up: “Fast.”
Every other year, University of Oregon professor Marc Schlossberg takes his students to the Netherlands or Denmark — Copenhagen is a bicycling utopia, where 45 percent of people commute by bike. It’s a cyclist’s dream come true.
Students from Eugene explore the European streets by bike, opening their eyes to a world where people take cycling seriously.
“My mind was blown by the things I saw in Copenhagen,” writes student Holly Hixon in a 2015 compilation of the students’ reflections on the class. “The cycle track system is so complete, comfortable, heavily used by every type of person you can imagine and is ingrained in their way of life as a major form of transportation.”
Filching a page from one of the most baffling political campaigns of the modern era, we asked you to help us Make Eugene Great Again by voting in our annual Best of Eugene readers’ poll. The trouble with governing Eugene by consensus is getting a city of punks, losers, college kids, transients, misfits, strays, normals, hillbillies, skippers, artists, techies and hippies to agree on one definition of greatness. Maybe you prefer Eugene to be a dingy crater with reasonable rents. Could be you’d like to see Eugene clean up its act once and for all. Rather than doing much research or studying trends or even lifting a finger to determine the will of the people, we printed (again for the 20th time, or so) a ballot in the pages of our newspaper and waited. And a few thousand of you responded. Some of you maybe even voted your consciences.
On a misty October afternoon, six of us — adults ages 27 to 45 — stand in a strip mall parking lot, high-fiving, wiping sweat from our brows and giggling, rowdy from the silliness and mental acrobatics of the past few hours. We stroll over to nearby Dizzy Dean’s Donuts to reward and replenish ourselves with sticky treats for unraveling an ancient Egyptian mystery and surviving a bloodthirsty zombie attack.
I mean, come on folks, how much do you accomplish in a workday?
Police in August responded to calls from a South Carolina school saying that scary clowns tried luring some kids into the nearby woods. Around the same time and not far away, goofballs in face paint and fright wigs taunted a little boy outside the apartment complex where he lives.
Law enforcement agencies from Eugene to Florida, and beyond, are fielding panicked calls from traumatized parents who say demented jokers are harassing their little ones.
Local writer and filmmaker Henry Weintraub suspects that the horror genre has come to a dead end.
“Modern horror movies don’t really capture me too much,” Weintraub says. “It’s so formulaic. I don’t love a horror movie that’s come out in the last 20 years.”
This, coming from an independent filmmaker whose first full-length feature movie was a zombie flick (Melvin, 2009) followed by a gritty noir thriller (The Darkest Side of Paradise, 2010) and a dark comedy about a wanna-be serial killer (Killing Me, 2012). With these films, promising as they are for such a young talent, Weintraub feels that he’s gone about as far as he can go in a genre that is now dominated by big-budget rehash, like the Saw franchise.
This election year feels toxic. The current rhetoric and anger of the presidential race seems to be permeating everything. How did we wind up with a reality TV star, who admits to grabbing at the vaginas of women he finds attractive, running for our highest office? Where did all the starry-eyed Berners go? Where are we going, and how did we get in this handbasket?
As former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’̓Neil once said, “all politics is local,” and if we want better politicians at the top, we need to start getting involved in politics at the local level. But jumping into politics can be intimidating — just understanding how our Eugene City Council operates can be confusing.
So we present you with this brief guide to local politics, how to get involved and how to watchdog your government.
Don’t let this election get you down. Instead, let it be the spark to make positive change. — Camilla Mortensen
The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has allowed the public to request documents from any federal agency since 1967. In 1973, Oregon enacted its own Public Records and Public Meetings Laws, modeling it on the FOIA. These laws allow the media and the public to act as “watchdogs” over government, though Oregon’s law has weakened over the years.
The workings of a school district can appear mysterious to the uninitiated. School boards most often appear in the public eye when they make a controversial decision or take a position on something of a political nature, like a ballot measure or federal mandate.
In its most rudimentary function, a school board sets a school district’s budget, chooses its superintendent and sets policy, but local school board members say there’s a lot more to it than that.
With elections just around the corner, it’s time to examine how Eugene’s city government works, and what we’re electing these folks to do.
Eugene has a city manager form of government, meaning that the City Council and mayor decide legislative goals and ordinances, and then hire a city manager (Eugene’s is John Ruiz) to see those goals through and run the day-to-day bureaucracy of government. The city manager is one of only three direct employees to the council and mayor, and he is in charge of the city staff in all departments. Councilors and the mayor go through the city manager to work within departments.
While a couple local positions were hard-fought races in the primary election in May — the Eugene mayor’s race and the Ward 1 City Council seat, for example — there were also a lot of candidates running unopposed here in Lane County. Eugene City Council Seats 1, 7 and 8 had no opposition, and neither did Ward 6 in Springfield. The South Eugene Lane County Commission seat was unopposed.
Sometimes a candidate is unopposed because he or she is just that good, and constituents are happy. Other times it’s hard to say if it’s apathy in the community, lack of funds to run or simply because the average voter doesn’t know how to run. Many voters in the county don’t realize that under Oregon law, for both nonpartisan county and city elections, if a candidate gets 50 percent of the vote plus one — a majority — then that candidate essentially wins because only that name goes on the ballot in the November election. Write-ins are allowed, but basically, if you want to run for the City Council in November, you needed to have started planning and campaigning for the May primary.
In a dark corner of Cordley Hall on the edge of Oregon State University campus, an unsorted knot of dead ants floats preserved in a clear solution. For all anyone knows, the thumb-sized vial could hold an undiscovered species or a clue to some future entomological breakthrough.
As curator of OSU’s arthropod collection, Chris Marshall is in charge of almost three million dead bugs, as well as some spiders and mollusks.
Unless you solely rely on your dusty elementary school education to shape your worldview, or you live beneath a social-media rock, you ought to have a broadened understanding of colonization (just in time for Thanksgiving, y’all). European colonizers came, they saw and then stole the land we now recognize as the United States from its indigenous people.
The University of Oregon has opened its gates to the world, and as you read this, freshmen with guitars and amps are swapping numbers, meeting up and starting their musical journeys. It’s hard to say what the music scene around campus will look like by graduation, but right now, there are still plenty of students and recent graduates kicking around the scene. Here are a few bands not to miss when they inevitably play around the campus area this year.
Once upon a time in the way back when, the role of higher education was not to prepare you for the treadmill by clipping you into a human coupon but, rather, to help you seek your better self through a spirit of open inquiry into the civilization in which fate had somehow plunked you. Sure, it’s an ideal, and that’s the point. College is supposed to be formative, not formulaic — revelatory, not rote. It’s supposed to make you a better person instead of a better cog.
The University of Oregon hosts a number of traditional campus critters — crows, squirrels and freshmen, to name a few.
But hidden away in neuroscientist Terry Takahashi’s lab is a parliament of 10 barn owls that helps Takahashi and his team of researchers understand the complexity of hearing in both birds and mammals. The owls have even led the scientist’s team to discoveries that could improve the lives of human beings.
“La Source” is part of a series of paintings Wiley did called The World Stage: Haiti — the New York-based artist has also done World Stage series in Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Brazil, Lagos and Dakar, France, China and Israel.
In the United States we are taught at a young age to desire impractical shiny things under the premise that more luxury equals a life lived successfully.
But if our desire for an upper-class aesthetic is a social construct, what part of the goods we consume is real?
Artist Anya Kivarkis ponders this question of the space between consumption and reality by recreating jewelry as sculpture. Since completing her M.F.A. in 2004 at the State University of New York (SUNY), Kivarkis — who is head of the University of Oregon’s jewelry and metalsmithing program in the School of Architecture and Allied Arts — has been cranking out more elaborate pieces in ever larger shows.