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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.

“Are my children safe?” 

It’s a thought that crosses the mind of Eugene School District 4J parent Constance Van Flandern when she drops her kids off at school. 

“Nobody wants to talk about children dying,” Van Flandern notes, but with a massive earthquake predicted to hit Oregon, she says the time has come to have a community conversation about the earthquake resilience of Eugene’s schools.

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. 

The five member Lane County Commission administers the approximately $450 million that federal, state and local taxpayers provide to Lane County, South Lane Commissioner Pete Sorenson tells EW

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.

As a kid, Eugene-based stand-up comedian Seth Milstein watched Saturday Night Live religiously. “I thought it was the greatest,” Milstein recalls of NBC’s long-running sketch comedy show.

Then one night Milstein, who grew up in New York, stayed up late enough to catch Comic Strip Live, a late night TV stand-up comedy showcase popular in the ’80s and ’90s. “It was just a guy and a microphone,” Milstein describes. “That was amazing to me.”

Next spring, Eugene Ballet Company will stage the biggest project the outfit has undertaken in its 38-year history — a brand new, quarter-million-dollar envisioning of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, with all original music, choreography, sets and costumes.

From screwball comedies to hardboiled gumshoes to fantasy, science fiction and holiday fare, Radio Redux brings the past into the present.  

“We’re exploring great stories, great literature, and we want to expose that to our audience” says Radio Redux artistic director Fred Crafts. “It’s our mission to preserve and advance radio theater.” 

• A curious line of reasoning is leading some Oregon editorial writers to say we need to elect some Oregon Republicans on Nov. 8 to check and balance one-party rule. The Oregon Republican Party no longer reflects Oregon values like Tom McCall and Mark Hatfield did. Art Robinson, recent chair of the Oregon GOP running for the fourth time against Peter DeFazio, does not reflect Oregon values. If you listened to the City Club of Eugene forum Oct. 14 between Republican Kathy Lamberg and Democrat Julie Fahey, you must have been shocked, as we were, at the gap between the two women.

Ah, October: Corn mazes, jack-o-lanterns, kids in costumes and … undead ballet! 

• Ward 1 Eugene City Council candidate Emily Semple’s campaign has GOTV (get out the vote) activities planned for the next two weeks. Learn more about Semple’s grassroots movement and how to help her maintain the progressive seat that has been held by George Brown. Contact Campaign Manager Kristen Brandt at 541-515-2102 or emilysemple.com for locations and further information.

In the last week of September, we passed right by 400 ppm (parts per million) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a major milestone on our way to climate disruption. It’s alarming given all that’s at stake, but we have available to us now all the solutions that we need to dramatically reduce emissions and secure a livable future for us, our children and our grandchildren. 

As we approach Election Day, we are being faced with historic decisions. The results of the presidential race will have consequences beyond the next four years. Here in Oregon, voters will have a chance to influence the future of generations of children, the elderly and people with health needs. Measure 97, which would tax the largest corporations doing more than $25 million in business in Oregon, could reverse the trend of the last 25 years of disinvestment in schools, seniors and health care programs in our state.

As Benton County prepares to vote on whether to adopt ranked-choice voting for county elections, Oregonians are presented an opportunity to explore different voting systems. Ranked-choice voting has the most political traction right now, but it's only one of several alternatives.

Significant rain in early October is a boon to gardeners who value the fall gardening season. This goes in spades for those of us who don’t irrigate heavily in summer. Some years we can be well into winter before the soil is fully workable, and that’s frustrating because we count on a long rainy season to get new plants established. 

Pop-punk played a big role in a majority of millennials’ childhoods. From moshing at the Vans Warped Tour to staying dedicated to the fact that being “scene” or “emo” (or whatever else you want to call it) as a teenager was not a phase — bands like Blink-182, Fall Out Boy or New Found Glory probably filled some space in your life.

Many of us played in bands as teenagers. Far fewer collaborated with The Dead Milkmen, got noticed by Dr. Demento or opened for Tommy Stinson of The Replacements. 

The alt-country duo HoneyHoney may seem like a basic pair of guitar-wieldin’ country youngins, but after a decade of jamming together, the two have cultivated a dark dynamic that keeps you hooked on their gritty yet graceful sound. 

Music writers constantly pester bands with the very question many musicians struggle to answer: “Tell me, in words, what your band sounds like.” 

Nevertheless, King Mike, bassist with New Jersey trio Screaming Females, has one of the best responses to this inquiry this music writer has heard: “Doo doo doo doo bum bum bum bum,” Mike writes via email. 

In the midst of an election, despicable disenfranchisement reigns supreme. It is tempting to give up altogether, pack our bags and move to an island so remote that silence becomes the new governing body. For many Americans, casting a vote on Nov. 8 will feel pointless, like screaming into a fucking vacuum. 

Thankfully, legendary punk-rock powerhouse Bad Religion is coming to town, and wants to remind you that your voice matters.

Back in my CD-slinging days (remember CDs?) a new release would arrive pre-stickered “For fans of,” a bald-faced marketing ploy to hitch a new artist to the sound or musician du jour. 

I can imagine California songwriter Margaret Glaspy’s latest release, Emotions And Math, arriving affixed with: “For fans of Norah Jones” or “As heard on NPR.” Perhaps you know Glaspy from her recent Tiny Desk Concert. 

The brilliant banter between Beatrice and Benedict in Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, one of theater’s most entertaining duets, seems ideal for a musical setting. Sure enough, French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz, who created the trailblazing Fantastic Symphony and other colorful orchestral works, wrote one (including the libretto, which adds some characters and subplots and jettisons others) in 1862.