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You think you know a state — and Oregon, with its crunchy granola public-access beaches and the fewest abortion restrictions in the nation, should be known for protecting its gay and lesbian residents as well, right? Not so much. According to Sasha Buchert, formerly of Basic Rights Oregon and now a staff attorney at the Transgender Law Center, Oregon holds the record as the state with the most anti-gay ballot measures in its history. The Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest put that number at 35. And Springfield, that sweet little city to Eugene’s east, was the first place in the U.S. to put anti-gay language in its city charter back in May 1992.

Despite the cold and rain that enrobes Eugene for many months of the year, outdoor weddings are growing in popularity here. And there’s one venue that is more popular than nearly all others — Mount Pisgah Arboretum. Peg Douthit-Jackson, the arboretum’s education and special events coordinator, says they have been “swamped” with interest in recent years and that it consistently fills its wedding schedule. Part of that growing interest is the arboretum’s response to the desire for more sustainable weddings. 

Of all the things to appreciate about the new Coen brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis, I’m hung up on the color and the light. These days, it’s easy to give your photos a retro feel; just open Instagram and let the magic happen. It’s not so easy to make your entire film evoke the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, right down to the cars, the streets and the color of Dylan’s jacket, which is echoed by the bag schlepped around by Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac). 

It’s not unusual to see history or engineering majors in a college program catalog, and English or biology students are pretty easy to come by, but when was the last time you met someone with a degree in comics or hiking? These are just a couple of the unique majors and minors offered at local colleges and universities.

The Comics and Cartoon Studies program at the University of Oregon made national headlines in December 2013 after an anonymous $200,000 donation was bestowed on the program. According to Program Director Benjamin Saunders, the 15-month-old program now has more than 30 students enrolled in the minor program that spans six courses. “The idea of a [comics] minor is appealing because it makes any major that anybody takes more interesting,” he says. “You can be an economics major.”

When Macey France’s second-grade son brought home his math homework, France couldn’t believe that he was already working with fractions. “The sad thing is, my eight-year-old doesn’t know what a fraction is yet,” she says, “and he’s reading it out loud, saying, ‘one and then a line and then a four,’ and I realized, oh my goodness, they’re asking for a quarter of something.”

France, chief operating officer of Parent Led Reform Oregon, is drawing attention to a set of new achievement standards that are coming to Oregon schools, including Lane County, as well as across the nation. Teachers around the state are modifying their classroom strategies to meet these new standards — sudden adjustments that parents are surprised to see. “People have compared it to the Affordable Care Act,” she says. “It hit, and it’s too much, too fast.” 

Sniffing out what you shouldn't miss in the arts this week

Technology in the classroom can help students collaborate in real time, learn at their own pace and use innovative tools and techniques. Technology can transform the ability of students with learning disabilities such as autism to communicate.

But whether students in local school districts have access to state-of-the-art technology depends on whether district voters are willing to invest in digitizing the classroom. Eugene’s 4J and Springfield school districts present a contrasting picture of what happens when residents vote for or against filling the funding gap created by shrinking state and federal education budgets.

The city of Eugene is proposing new rules for the residential R-1 single-family areas of Eugene that would lift the ban on building alley-access houses and add some controls over secondary dwelling units. Both of these changes are intended to address some of the grievous developments that have been occurring in residential neighborhoods all over town, inflicting pain and suffering on surrounding neighbors. The city’s stated goal is to allow “compatible infill” in existing neighborhoods and to provide more housing options. But are the rules adequate to protect neighbors and neighborhoods?

Casey Wright was an equestrian and a dancer. She grew up in Eugene, graduated Sheldon High School and worked downtown at the Pita Pit for several years before taking a job at a Springfield metal fabrication plant to support her goals of riding, training and showing the horses she loved. Early on the morning of Nov. 2, Wright’s ex-boyfriend, Robert Cromwell, confessed to beating 26-year-old Wright to death with an aluminum baseball bat as she lay sleeping in the house they once shared.

Last month the east Delta Ponds froze and then seven inches of snow fell, making for a rare and beautiful scene. When the snow melted on a single warm day, the ponds revealed dozens of patches of tapering, branching, clear lines radiating outwards from one point. These patterns were evenly spread across the ponds, three to 10 feet in diameter, over inch-thick ice. The mechanism behind the formation of these patterns is a topic of debate among my geophysical friends.

It’s standard for Oregon high schools to offer physical education and English classes, but in 2005 the two subjects fused into one course at South Eugene High School. That’s when teachers Jeff Hess and Peter Hoffmeister conjured an idea and called it the Integrated Outdoor Program (IOP), allowing students to read Edward Abbey one day and go on a bike ride the next as part of a two-period-long class. And, despite having to deal with the recent change from semesters to trimesters, it manages to flourish largely due to its uniqueness and the avenues of education and exercise. 

The Sierra Club, Columbia Riverkeeper and several other conservation groups sued BNSF Railway Company last summer after finding what they call “substantial amounts of coal in and along several Washington waterways near BNSF rail lines.” On Jan. 3 the groups celebrated the most recent development in the Clean Water Act case when the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington denied a motion to dismiss, allowing it to go forward.

Karen Litfin, a University of Washington professor of political science, spent a year traveling and researching her book, Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community. Litfin, along with Deni Ruggeri of the UO’s landscape architecture program and Anita Van Asperdt, a local landscape architect, will be discussing “Ecovillages and Ecodistricts: Solutions for Climate Change” at the UO Jan. 13.

Tom Bowerman of PolicyInteractive is hoping that research from the 2013 Oregon Values and Beliefs Survey will help stir a cultural conversation. Bowerman founded PolicyInteractive in order to understand general public opinions about global climate change and how it may influence our future, but the OVB survey also addressed education, conservation, health, crime, public transportation, economic development and taxes. Bowerman, along with Adam Davis of DHM Research, will be discussing the survey and its findings at the Jan. 10 City Club of Eugene meeting. 

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sent Pacific Recycling, Inc. a pre-enforcement notice on Nov. 27 for multiple hazardous waste law violations at its facility on Cross Street in Eugene (off Roosevelt Boulevard). According to DEQ documents, Pacific Recycling recently acquired land on which J.H.

Students: If you think homework and tests are the albatross around your neck, just wait for student loans to come due. To make that as painless as possible, LCC is holding its 15th annual “How to Pay for College ... In One Day!” Saturday, Jan. 11. The event is free and open to all.

While Whovillians say their informal survey showed business support for the homeless protest camp, some nearby business owners say that since the camp moved in, disturbances are up. Angie Rush, a manager at The Mission Mexican Restaurant, says that since Whoville set up, it has lost a significant portion of its college student business, one of its main customer bases.

• No shock that Fred Meyer came in first in a revenue analysis of three proposals for the Civic Stadium site, up for sale or lease by Eugene School District 4J. The analysis got a big headline in the daily rag (slow news day), but it was pretty predictable. Yes, Fred Meyer has more money to spend, but the question is what will give the most long-term  benefits to the community — we’re going to say a place for people to exercise rather than another big corporate store to shop in.

Scams inspired by our popular Best of Eugene Awards are evolving. Not only are businesses and groups being offered fake Best of Eugene plaques for $150 (the real ones are free), but local businesses are now getting pitched for “Dental Office of the Year” or “Salon of the Year” and other fake accolades. These so-called awards are touted as “free” but the scammers charge big bucks for making the plaques and shipping them, if in fact they ever make and ship them at all after they take your Visa number. 

• Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg’s fourth State of the City address will be at 5:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 9, at City Hall, 225 Fifth St. The event is free and open to the public.

• A gathering to “Save the Bees” involving the Pacific Green Party and others will be from 6 to 8 pm Thursday, Jan. 9, at Growers Market, 454 Willamette. The group is gathering to plan a March event with Oregon Sustainable Bee Keepers. See heliosnetwork.org for more information on this and other events. 

I am a product of Oregon’s school funding crisis. I was in first grade when Oregon voters approved Measure 5, the constitutional amendment that shifted the financing of public education from local communities to the state by capping property taxes in Oregon. For the next 12 years I saw my education opportunities diminish as teachers and school programs were continuously cut because of inadequate funding from the state.

It could have been worse. December’s sudden deep freeze did quite a bit of damage to gardens in our area, and probably more out of town than in. But the relatively short duration of sub-zero temperatures, combined with an insulating blanket of snow, meant that the soil didn’t freeze deeply, which limited the damage. 

“I’m on my ninth life,” says Jimmy Jennett, who grew up amid drugs and dysfunction at home in Sacramento. “I got addicted to hard drugs at 16.” Jennett was an all-city basketball player, but needed a second senior year at Cottage Grove High School in Oregon to get his diploma. After one year of school and hoops at Sierra College, he dropped out and into a life of drug dealing and aggressive behavior that landed him in Folsom Prison at 27.

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley