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An amazing cross-section of this community has come together to buy “the dirt,” 10.2 acres in the center of Eugene. This is the first and most difficult step in building a fieldhouse for kids, restoring a historic wooden stadium and installing a playing field for soccer and fun, adding a pocket park and a walking/biking path. What a lift in a world that seems to be coming apart more than coming together! 

Springfield is in mourning, as are we all, for the pedestrian tragedy on Main Street that killed three children and seriously injured their mother Feb. 22. As we go to press we haven’t heard why the pickup driver hit the family, but regardless, the long and busy Main Street corridor has long been hazardous for walkers, bicyclists, pets and wildlife. Reducing the speed limit on this state highway would be an obvious first step. More pedestrian refuge islands are needed.

John Kitzhaber grew up in Eugene. His father taught at the UO. His mother was state president of the League of Women Voters. We have never doubted his integrity and still don’t until proven otherwise through full due process of the law. We do have doubts about his judgment with the role of his “first lady,” fiancé Cylvia Hayes. As one of our readers quipped this week: “At a minimum, Kitzhaber needs a pre-nup.”

• A $35 annual vehicle registration fee is heading for the May ballot as Lane County struggles to provide basic services. We’re not fond of flat taxes since they exacerbate the gap between rich and poor, but this fee is a bit more progressive than some we’ve seen. Very poor (or green) households don’t even own a car, low-income households might have one car and wealthier households are likely to have several vehicles plus boats and trailers.

• We would like to assure parents and their children that Mickey Mouse lives. 

• The Eugene City Council is expected to take the next step this week in expanding our urban growth boundary to provide more space for industrial land. It appears the controversial 300-acre expansion for housing is not needed, thanks to a math error being discovered. Puzzling. But the plan to expand 924 acres to create industrial land near the airport is also flawed. Strong arguments against UGB industrial expansion can be found in the Envision Eugene online survey done in December and January.

EW lost a trusted friend and critic when Arnold Ismach died on Jan. 16 at age 84. Ismach was dean of the UO School of Journalism and Communication from 1985 to 1994 and has criticized us for “too much entertainment — not enough news.” But his most recent observation, maybe two weeks before his death, was “I read the Weekly Thursday nights and it makes me feel good.” Ismach was a lifelong journalist, one whose curiosity and passion for the world around him lasted long past his retirement from the UO.

• It was a great season for the 13-2 Ducks, but you could feel the wheels on the wagon starting to come off even a few days before the Jan. 12 national title game against Ohio State. A drug-related suspension of the team’s second-leading receiver was followed by ESPN analysts warning that, despite a high-powered offense, the Ducks are a scheme-driven squad capable of being exposed as a one-trick pony. And exposed they were.

• We’ve ranted against sprawl for decades and we will likely continue to do so ad nauseam. We are not against growth, per se. People have to live somewhere, and our population is growing for a number of reasons, mostly sex. But we see no reason to encourage growth (or sex) to line the pockets of land speculators and shoddy developers. As City Councilor Betty Taylor asks, “Who profits from these plans?” We’d rather see quality of life be our community priority instead of taxpayer-subsidized growth.

Oregon’s minimum wage goes up 15 cents an hour to $9.25 in January, thanks to a ballot measure in 2002 that tied the minimum wage to inflation. But of course an extra $26 a month in pay won’t bring Oregon’s estimated 72,000 working-poor households out of poverty. Seven out of 10 poverty-level families have at least one parent who is employed, often full-time at minimum wage or above. The Oregon Legislature in 2015 is expected to try to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and Republican die-hards will object, saying thousands of jobs will be lost.

Our Give Guide has expanded from less than a page in years past to the multiple pages you see this week. Eugene is home to hundreds of nonprofits doing exceptional work locally and around the world, so our list is far from complete. Why are we such a thriving center for nonprofits, much more so than other communities our size?

• Parting is such sweet sorrow: Since Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman last week — and won it decisively — he ceased to be just another great UO athlete. If he wasn’t already, Mariota is now a national celebrity, evidenced by his immediate appearance on network television  Dec. 15 when he read the Top Ten list on “Late Night with David Letterman.” Letterman introduced Mariota as “a good-looking kid” from “your University of Oregon Ducks,” and he wasn’t talking to us, Eugene.

• Congrats to all players for ending the GTFF strike on the UO campus. We’re even pleased that we can stop honking our horns in solidarity with the picketing graduate teaching fellows marching for hours on end. Hopefully, this conflict will not be a forerunner for broader labor disputes at the university, now that the faculty is unionized. It should not be. The UO has a long history of working peacefully with unions, the SEIU, for instance, and the GTFF until this fall.

• The Graduate Teaching Fellows’ strike on the UO campus is still on as we go to press this week. Our sympathies have been with the GTF Federation since negotiations began, and we are baffled by the UO administration’s response, considering interim President Scott Coltrane’s background. Coltrane is described in a recent New York Times article as a sociologist who has done extensive research on issues central to these negotiations. He should have led the way in giving the GTFs two weeks of paid sick  and parental leave and a pay raise.

• As Tom Wolf once wrote, “a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.” But apparently a grand jury won’t indict a cop. On Nov. 24, a grand jury in Missouri did not indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man. As riots erupt in Ferguson again and across the country, we support both the anger of the protesters and the calls for peace.

• The fundraising effort to save historic Civic Stadium as a community center for kids’ sports, soccer and other activities is close to a Dec. 1 deadline and we urge everyone to contribute financially or volunteer to help raise money. USL Pro and W-League soccer at Civic would be a big economic boost for Eugene and Lane County. Soccer is popular across the economic divide, filling stadiums in the Northwest, and Eugene could be next.

What happens if the kicker kicks next year? Our news brief this week talks about how the Constitution-mandated tax rebate could be a big problem for the state budget. What we hear through the English ivy vine (Eugene’s equivalent to the grapevine) is that Phil Knight might be holding back on giving the UO big challenge bucks this year because it could trigger the kicker and the state could lose up to $300 million in the next biennium, hurting education. Crazy scenario.

It was ugly out there across America Tuesday night, but let’s give a cheer for Oregon, Washington and California, the left bank. Our state voted for legalized marijuana, for equal rights for women and against top-two primaries. We made some mistakes such as voting against increased student financial aid and denying legal driving to immigrants. We held the Democratic Legislature and supported reasonable people like Phil Barnhart, Peter DeFazio, Jeff Merkley and John Kitzhaber.

Time to get those ballots filled out and in the mail by Thursday, Oct. 30. Ballots also can be dropped off at Lane County Elections at 10th and Lincoln, or in one of the white ballot boxes downtown or on campus. Deadline is 8 pm Tuesday, Nov. 4, and postmarks don’t count. See our endorsements round-up in this issue and for more information, dig out last week’s EW from the recycling bin or go to eugeneweekly.com.

Lots of juicy stuff on the ballot that just arrived in our mailboxes and we encourage everyone, as we say on our cover, to “Drop everything and vote.” Check out our endorsements this week. Many of the races and measures will be decided not only on their merits but also on turnout. Statewide polling by the Lindholm Company indicates voters are paying the most attention to the pot legalization, GMO labeling and drivers license measures. 

• We expect a public announcement about Phil Knight’s big gift to UO will be made at a breakfast meeting Friday, Oct. 17, somewhere on campus, and to which 300 are invited. We broke the story last week about the Knight family preparing to make a rumored $1 billion gift, with strings attached, but the amount could be more or less, according to UOmatters.com. The gift could be the largest ever made to a university anywhere, and if it goes to academic programs and scholarships, as anticipated, it would give UO a tremendous boost where it’s really needed.

• National sportscasters were speculating about Phil Knight’s giant gift to the UO during the losing Duck football game, so it must be time for a local announcement. The rumor we’ve heard is that $1 billion from the Knights will go the UO this month with some kind of match requirement. If true, that could help attract a superman or superwoman president, or maybe not.

What’s next for City Hall? We may see some buyer’s remorse from city councilors when they eventually confront the real costs of their decision to tear down our full-block City Hall and built a little City Hall on the rubble. The final price tag of a “light-filled” and truly energy-efficient building could be a lot more than the estimated $11 million for the Phase I construction.

A decision on Eugene City Hall is expected by the City Council after we go to press this week, and it could go either way (see our story last week). City staff and Rowell Brokaw Architects have the advantage of the final word. Rowell Brokaw has a vested interest in making the old City Hall look bad and making the proposed new City Hall look wonderful. But design and environmental issues aside, the elephant in the room is Phase II of a new City Hall.