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October 9, 2017 05:23 PM

The nine-member ad hoc naming committee recommending a name to the Eugene City Council voted 7-2 on Oct. 9 in favor of officially renaming Broadway Plaza to Kesey Square. While the committee failed to reach a consensus on the name, it agreed that the city needs to invest in the heart of downtown in more ways than renaming it.

Vinis asked each of the city councilors to recommend someone to sit on the committee. One appointee, Tim Mueller, was not recommended but volunteered himself. City Councilor Mike Clark is the only councilor to sit on the committee himself, and he voted against the name change.

The committee is recommending that the City Council rename Broadway Plaza to Kesey Square, but other names could still be considered. Their job was not to come up with other options and the city council could still decide to name it something else. “I think calling it Kesey Square is what everybody I know [calls it],” Mueller says in a phone interview with EW. “I think it’s an organic name adoption. The community has adopted that name for the space and I think the community should be honored by having the politicians agree with them and call it what everyone wants to call it already.”

While the official name of the downtown space at the intersection of Broadway and Willamette Street is Broadway Plaza, even the city of Eugene website refers to it as Kesey Square.

Brittany Quick-Warner of the Eugene Chamber of Commerce says she was concerned that the committee wasn’t addressing the possibility of choosing a name besides Kesey Square. “If all we do is rename it we aren’t doing anything to make the space what we imagine it to be,” she said at the meeting on Monday. “Changing the name is not going to get us to where it will be inviting and inclusive to people.”

The discussion was limited to Broadway Plaza versus Kesey Square because of time constraints, Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis says. “We could go to another stage, we had 45 days and nobody floated an alternative suggestion,” she says, “so there was nothing else to choose from.”

The space downtown is familiar to Eugeneans as is the debate over what it is called. Kesey was a renowned author, University of Oregon alumnus and drug user. Proponents of renaming the plaza after Kesey emphasize his role as an author and suggest that detractors should forgive him his illicit narcotic discretions.

Others in the community say they don’t think that honoring a notorious drug user is appropriate, regardless of his other accolades.

Mueller, who believes that he can bridge the divide between most of the committee members, pointed out that Kesey’s drug use isn’t a clearcut issue. In Kesey’s time, LSD wasn’t illegal Mueller says, and marijuana — the cause of jail time for Kesey — is no longer illegal in the state of Oregon.

Jeff Geiger, a local author and committee member, pointed out that one of the largest concerns of the public is not what the space is called but whether the city will spend any more time trying to determine a name before they start acting.

With a recommendation for renaming Broadway Plaza in hand, the City Council will vote Oct. 18. Following that vote the council will begin deliberating further investment in the space.

“It’s an oversimplification to say that a name is going to change what happens downtown but it gives us a start,” Geiger says. “It’s going to take more than good vibes to get the square where we want it to be.”

Friends of Kesey Square advocated for the name change

October 9, 2017 04:38 PM

An unconfirmed report from a reliable source says the dean of the University of Oregon's School of Music and Dance has named a seven-person committee to help craft a new artistic vision for the beleaguered Oregon Bach Festival.

Dean Brad Foley has previously said he would appoint a seven-member group — composed of two board members, two OBF staffers, two musicians and a community member — to help OBF executive director Janelle McCoy plan the 2018 festival.

That announcement that the dean would appoint a committee followed the sudden and still-unexplained firing on Aug. 24 of Matthew Halls, the popular Brit who had been the 47-year-old festival's artistic director since 2013.

Foley did not corroborate the names but said in an email this afternoon (Oct. 9) that he was "hoping for board approval tonight and provost OK soon."

According to the unconfirmed report, the committee members will be:

  • Brad Foley, Dean of the School of Music and Dance and OBF Board Member
  • Royce Saltzman, Director Emeritus and OBF Board Member
  • Michael Anderson, OBF Director of Artistic Administration
  • Josh Gren, OBF Director of Marketing and Communications
  • Steve Vacchi, Professor of Bassoon, OBF Orchestra member, and OBF Board member
  • Sharon Paul, Professor of Choral Activities, Director of the University of Oregon Chamber Choir, an OBF ensemble
  • Peter Van de Graaff, Music Director KWAX Classical Radio, Program Director of the Beethoven Satellite Network, bass-baritone soloist
October 6, 2017 11:40 AM

Protesters chanting "Nothing about us, without us" shut down University of Oregon Michael Schill's State of the University address Friday, Oct. 6.

The "State of Reality Protest" wrote on its Facebook event:

Due to the recent acceptance of fascism and neo nazis, victim blaming language, the insurmountable increases to students tuition, the blatant disregard of the students requests and the ignorantly happy go lucky attitude being shown by President Schill towards this institution that works to suppress its students and to create a wage/class gap between the haves and havenots, the students have decided that this will not stand. In an alliance of all walks of university life, we will show President Schill that we will not sit ideally by as he cherry picks the positive condition of the university, while this sorry attempt to mask the truth is not the reality for the average student.

Radical change requires radical action.

In order to properly show President Schill that his actions are not welcome at this university, we will, as a collective unit, take the stage at his “State of the University” Address.

Eugene Weekly filmed the event on Facebook live. Watch below.

Schill later gave his address via video.

Below is the press release from the UO Student Collective:


At 11:00 AM, Friday October 6th, a large group of students took the stage in the EMU Ballroom during the University of Oregon President Michael Schill’s “State of the University” address. Led by students of color, LGBTQA3 students, and low-income students, the they issued a set of demands of the administration. These demands are not new to the president and the rest of the university administration. Students have repeatedly sought to work with the administration through more sanctioned means, but have been met with neglect, disregard, and outright opposition. Desperate, the students resorted to using this platform to put pressure on the administration to meet the students’ needs.

As students spoke about their grievances, Schill left along with donors and other administration. A large group remained in the ballroom to demonstrate their support for those on stage and hear out the students.

The listed demands were:

1.         Ban Immigration Customs Agency (ICE) agent presence on campus and condemn the agencies’ repeated violations to human rights.

2.         Establish a competent response to remove both ICE and neo-Nazi presence as the responsibility of University of Oregon Police Department.

3.         Prioritize accessibility for undocumented and DACAmented students.

4.         Establish regulations on hate-speech and neo-Nazi groups that come to campus.

5.         The Office of International Affairs, should publicity advertise the bias collect team as a tool for Muslim Students and community members to share their experience of racism, discrimination and any other form of hate through the online site. The bias collect team should be advertised throughout University of Oregon’s social media accounts and flyers should be posted all over campus from the Erb Memorial Union to residence halls.

6.         Alongside the bias collect team, the Office of International Affairs and the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence should work together to hire a Muslim advisor to serve the Muslim students.

7.         In the Erb Memorial Union (preferably first floor by the foot wash area), a prayer room should be created so that Muslim students can peaceful fulfill their five daily prayers without fear of being kicked out of the space.

8.         A year to year improvement to faculty to student ratio particularly for introductory classes

9.         End the layoffs of UO faculty

10.       Have a graduate employee on the board of trustees

11.       Freeze tuition, develop a plan to decrease tuition over the next 5 years

12.       Schill, other high ranked leaders and faculty shall explicitly say the names of white supremacy and label white nationalism as hate speech and explicitly condemn it on campus.

13.       University Housing shall reverse their decision to stop offering student employees free shift meal since many employees rely on them. In addition, the University Housing shall reimburse its employees the shift meals they have been charged for in the form of back wages.

14.       University Housing shall rescind its decision of requiring first-year college students to live on campus since it is a financial burden to low income and first-generation students.

15.       Start to cut carbon emissions NOW, not 30 years from now

16.       Increased University Investment in LGBT Programs like the LGBTESS, LGBT Friendly Housing, and the Trans Care Team.

17.       Expand the Gender Equity Hall to Accommodate the Mandatory Freshmen Housing.

18.       Increase Pay and Benefits for Stipended Student Positions

19.       Increase Access to Counseling and Mental Health Services

20.       Implement an Intersectional and Mandatory Cultural Fluency Program and Shift Training Responsibilities to Human Resources

21.       Reconstitute the Bias Response Team

22.       Allot University Funds to the Student Identity Spaces to Hire an Independent Historian to Research the History of Marginalized Students and Student Organizing at the UO.

In response to the action, the president issued an email to all students, faculty, and staff condescending the students who took the stage. He claimed that there were a “small” number of protesters, despite the fact the protesters hardly fit the stage and disregarding the group that remained in the ballroom. 

In his email, the president frames himself as a victim to “disruptive” protesters who do not understand the “value of free speech.” He disregards the obvious power imbalance at play here. These students do not have access to the same platform as the administration. We cannot email every student, faculty member, staff person, and alumn our grievances. The very email in which he condemns students for taking his platform demonstrates the fact that his platform was not taken at all. The president and administration left students no choice but to take the platform afforded to Schill for themselves.

Schill claimed he values free speech on campus. This contradicts his frequent condemnation and neglect of the voices of the most marginalized students here. Further he has failed to publicly condemn the increasing white supremacist propaganda and organizing occurring on and near campus. So we ask, whose free speech do you support President Schill? Free speech is the right of individuals and communities to express themselves without repression from the state. The students are not the state nor the repressors. Taking to the stage and using this platform was an act of free speech - not a violation of it. Considering the power imbalances at play, it is clear that the president and administration are in the role of the repressors and the state - not the students.

His announcement of a lecture and panel series teaching students about the “value of free speech.”  This is not only condescending and paternalistic, but also demonstrates that the president does not understand free speech. Schill proposed to the University Senate last year a new policy restricting the time, place, and manner of student protest. After revoking it due to press coverage and pushback from students and faculty, he has once again indicated he will pursue this repressive policy once again. Schill is not a champion of free speech; he is a demonstrated enemy to it.

Instead of condemning these students, the president should be thanking for them to courage to speak and passion for making the University of Oregon a better place. The University of Oregon Student Collective - a broad coalition of student groups and individual students who seek to take back the university for the students and workers - will be organizing a teach-in and panel series about free speech and the importance of student protest to inform students and affiliates of the University about the importance of free speech, valuing the voice of marginalized people, and the positive role of protest on campus. We encourage Schill and the administration to better inform themselves about free speech and student organizing.

Nothing about us without us. Expect resistance.


October 5, 2017 12:28 PM

Sen. Ron Wyden sent out a press release Oct 5 citing the mass shootings in Las Vegas, Orlando and Umpqua Community College and saying, "These tragedies require more than ‘thoughts and prayers.’ They demand common-sense action and that’s what each of these three bills would provide.” 

The bills include one that would close a background check loophole; another that would repeal liability protections for the firearms industry that protect gun makers, distributors, sellers or trade associations; and a third that lose a loophole that "allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the rate of automatic weapons."

The full press release is below. 


Wyden, Colleagues Introduce Three Bills to Check Gun Violence

Legislation would close background-check loopholes, end industry liability protections and ban bump-stock devices

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., this week joined his Senate colleagues in introducing three bills that would close a firearm background check loophole, end liability protections for gun manufacturers and ban bump-stock devices that can convert rifles into machine guns.

“The mass shooting in Las Vegas takes its place in a tragic litany of massacres that include Orlando, Umpqua Community College and far too many others,” Wyden said. “These tragedies require more than ‘thoughts and prayers.’ They demand common-sense action and that’s what each of these three bills would provide.”

The Background Check Completion Act would require a completed background check for every gun buyer who buys a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer. When a criminal background check indicates a firearm purchaser may have a criminal record, the FBI tries to determine whether the purchaser can legally buy a gun. If this process takes longer than 72 hours, gun dealers can complete the sale even though there is a heightened risk that the buyer is legally disqualified from purchasing a gun.

The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act would repeal existing legislation that offers liability protections for the firearm industry. In 2005, Congress passed legislation that provides immunity in state and federal court from civil liability for manufacturers, distributors, and dealers of firearms, as well as their trade associations, in most negligence and products liability actions. This immunity from liability under well-established common law principles that apply to everyone else in society is unique to the gun industry.

The Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act would close a loophole that allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the rate of automatic weapons, which have been illegal for more than 30 years.

 “Americans are voicing their warranted frustrations on the urgent need to take steps like these three pieces of legislation to close dangerous loopholes, make every reasonable effort to provide background checks and hold the gun industry accountable for its continued failure to prevent senseless acts of gun violence,” Wyden said.

September 27, 2017 05:00 PM

A month after the controversial firing of Oregon Bach Festival artistic director Matthew Halls, the University of Oregon is giving control of the troubled festival back to its School of Music and Dance, whose dean says he will name a local "artistic advisory group" to pull together next summer's festival.

"That's the No. 1 goal, to get it up and running," Brad Foley, the music school dean, said in an interview late today, Sept. 27, after the surprise annnouncement of the administrative shift was made in a news release from the UO. "I hope to get it sorted out by the end of October."

Once the 2018 festival is set, Foley said, longer-term planning can begin about how the five-decade-old festival might look in the future.

Foley said he plans to name an advisory group of seven, with two representatives each from OBF staff and board, two from UO faculty and one person from the larger community.

The music school ran OBF from its founding in 1970 until 2002, he said. It was most recently managed by the university's provost, Jayanth Banavar,, who signed off on the still-unexplained termination on Aug. 24 of Halls, a popular and well respected musician.

The release quoted Brad Stangeland, president of the festival's advisory board of trustees, as approving the plan. “Members of the Friends of the Oregon Bach Festival board are very supportive of this move,” he said in the release. “We view it as an important step to examine festival operations and ensure a bright and sustainable future. Collectively, the board is impressed by the commitment of university leadership to perpetuate the artistry that we — as audiences, musicians and donors — have long cherished.”

Neither Stangeland nor the Bach board was consulted before Halls was let go on Aug. 24, Stangeland said at the time.

Absent from much of the public discussion on Wednesday was OBF executive director Janelle McCoy, who is believed to have recommended Halls' firing. She was not quoted in the release. Foley said she will work under his direction to administer the 2018 festival.

The release says neither the UO nor OBF intends to revisit Halls' firing, which caused shock and widespread scorn in the classical music community here and abroad. Halls, an Oxford-educated Brit, has been a popular replacement for founding artistic director Helmuth Rilling, who retired from OBF in 2013.

Since the firing, the UO has clamped down hard on information about Halls' departure, and it remains publicly unexplained. Halls and the UO signed an agreement that gave him $90,000 and in which both he and UO officials agreed not to disparage each other.

September 22, 2017 12:08 PM

Oodles of music fans around the world recognize the voice of Eugene musician Halie Loren — that smooth, rich, pitch-perfect instrument that’s graced nine album’s worth of pop and jazz. Fewer, it would seem, are aware that Loren is also a crackerjack songwriter, but one listen to “Butterfly” from her most recent album, Butterfly Blue, reveals a sophisticated composer and lyricist who seems poised to soar solely on the strength of her own originals.

For years, fans, friends and fellow musicians have been urging Loren to take the leap and release an album devoted exclusively to her original work. That time appears to have arrived. The songwriter is currently in pre-production work with producer Troy Miller — who’s worked with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter and Laura Mvula — and is crowd-funding the new album through a Kickstarter campaign.

Eugene Weeklycaught up with Loren this week to talk about her latest project.


Tell us about the new project?

I'm about to go into the studio to create a new album; it’ll be my tenth album, but this time the spotlight is going to be on my original music. So it connects my identity as a recording artist, singer and songwriter, giving equal attention to all three of those roles that I get to play. I’ve been waiting a really long time to create an album that highlights my songs as the primary focus. And so, as a result, this album feels like an intensely personal and artistically important undertaking for me. I wanted to do something entirely different, approach-wise, in order to completely step into a new realm. And so I'm going to be working with a producer rather than self-producing, for the first time in my career, and working in the context of other studios instead of my own. And essentially stepping outside all my comfort zones in hopes of making something that surprises my fans and me in new way.

In order to embark on this pretty big step outside the ordinary for me, I’ve taken on something else new for me, which is a crowd-funding campaign through Kickstarter to help fuel this project, and give it possibilities that it wouldn’t otherwise have, and by that, I mean the music. The kickstarter campaign also has opened up this entirely new door for me to be able to interact with my fans and the listeners of my music in a totally different way, as kind of partners in the process, as opposed to being more of a lone wolf about it. I get to engage with people about it while I’m doing it. It's also kind of scary for me; it’s more akin to the live experience in a way. It's about engagement.


Was it a tough decision, to ask people for money for a record?

Absolutely. It’s hard to ask no matter what you do — whether you’re an artist or not. It’s challenging for humans to ask each other for help, or for time, for effort. But I had to work up to this for a really long time. I read prospectives on it. I watched other people’s interviews on it, got all these angles on what crowdfunding is all about. I really had to change my thinking about what it all really means.

And my sheepishness has sort of morphed into less of an asking for a favor and more of an invitation for people who are already interested to have access. It feels more like an exchange of energies, and a fun collaboration. It’s always hard to ask. It never stops being hard to ask; at least it hasn’t yet for me. Because you’re putting yourself out there, you're making yourself vulnerable. There’s always that small part of yourself that you feel responding with that independent streak — putting so much value on being able to do it all yourself, and that pressure to keep going that direction even when it's self limiting and even harming what you're trying to do, just for the sake of knowing you can go it alone. Being totally a one-man army for your art. That doesn’t always serve the art. So I'm trying something new.


Why an album of originals right now?

For a lot of different reasons. One, I've had a dream of doing a project like this for years, but I kept sort of putting it off and saying, ‘Oh, the next time.’ And now here I am with nine albums, and I felt like maybe waiting until the moment where it felt safe to step out in a new direction, I would just be waiting forever. Because I’ve made all these albums that have mostly been focused on known songs, by the jazz greats and by some of music’s most notable songwriters, I’ve sort of put my identity as a songwriter as a peripheral identity. But, in truth, I’ve been writing songs as long as I’ve been a professional musician, and they're just as much a part of my internal identity as being a vocalist is. I've sort of underplayed it my entire career.

I have gotten so much feedback for so many years from so many people who listen to albums and who have seen me live that they would really love to know when I’m going to create an album of original music, because they really have felt a connection with the songs that are mine, and fully my voice. There’s a different kind of connection that they have to those songs. After enough times hearing that, it stirred my own courage on being able to take this step ... I’ve heard a lot of encouragement from a lot of people, and that has definitely helped me in making the decision in making this artistic move. Artists are sensitive; we're scared to reveal ourselves to the world when it’s really personal. So hearing that feedback, it means something.

Thirdly, I’ve written some songs in the last year or two that I feel more compelled to put out into the world than anything I’ve written in the past. I really need for these songs to live. And I have a strong feeling that someone else out there might really gain something soul-food wise from these same songs, that I’ve gained a lot of personal strength from, hopefully.


What’s the status of the campaign right now?

As of right now, it’s at 80 percent of the goal, which is really an amazing thing to see so much outpouring of support, with still nine days to go. I’m super grateful for the contributions that everybody’s who’s participated has made so far. It’s really been an extremely humbling experience in many ways, to see how many people are willing to get behind this. It’s an amazing trust that they're putting in me, and in turn I’m really trusting my fans to help lift this project up. We’re making it happen together. One of the most fun things of doing this Kickstarter campaign is seeing which rewards people choose, because I’ve created so many different options. Original art created by me was one of the most popular packages. So many people have responded to the packages that are nature oriented. There's a calendar where I'm going to Photoshop the fan’s cat and me. I love that. It tickles me.


Tell me about the album itself?

We’re going to be recording my original songs, myself and the producer Troy Miller, who has worked with so many artists that I deeply admire, including Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter, Laura Mvula, Amy Winehouse … and I really admire his artistry, and I’m super excited that we are going to be collaborating. I think it’s going to blow my mind what he comes up with, and what we come up with together as a result. We are going to be working both in London and New York. What we’ll ultimately be working on is somewhere between ten and 12 songs for the album — some that I cannot leave off of this project, and a few that I absolutely love, but I'll see when we put our heads together what one of these songs will really steer the album together in a cohesive direction that we can really get excited about. A big part of the excitement for me of working with Troy and working outside the zone I've been working in for so long is that I will get to focus almost entirely on the creative aspects as opposed to technical studio aspects of the recording process, and I don’t know what that feels like. My entire career I've spent having to wear so many hats at the same time recording an album.


For further information or to donate to Halie Loren’s new album, visit her Facebook page or go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/halieloren/halie-loren-is-making-a-new-album

September 22, 2017 10:12 AM


Thomas W. Morris, artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival in California, has urged Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis to help the beleaguered Oregon Bach Festival secede from the University of Oregon and become an independent non-profit organization.

In a letter emailed today (Sept. 22), Morris wrote that the sudden and unexplained firing of OBF artistic director Matthew Halls on Aug. 24 harms not only the Oregon Bach Festival but hurts the image of Eugene itself.

"What we now have is a venerable and beloved institution the object of ridicule and derision in the national and international press, a situation that reflects badly not only on the Festival but on the city of Eugene," he wrote.

Morris suggested that OBF may not survive the scandal in the music world here and abroad. "This has been an extremely important international music festival that is clearly in danger for its very existence due entirely to self-inflicted wounds," he said.

He called on Mayor Vinis to "convene a group of community leaders to assess the situation and form a plan to save the Oregon Bach Festival."

Morris became involved in the situation when, shortly after Eugene Weekly broke the story of Halls' firing, the UO put out a release suggesting that OBF and Halls were "parting ways" as part of a strategic move toward a  festival model that uses no permanent artistic director. The UO announcement said that the 70-year-old Ojai festival operated that way.

Not so, says Morris, who has been artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival since 2004. The Ojai fest does hire different music directors each year, but has a single artistic director to give it a coherent vision.

We've asked Mayor Vinis and the UO for comment.

The complete text of the letter follows:


Dear Mayor Vinis:

This is an open letter to you from a music lover and long-time arts administrator (running the Boston Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra for seventeen years each and as artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival for fifteen years) who is deeply concerned about the recent meltdown of the venerable Oregon Bach Festival.  I am sure you and Eugene music lovers must be upset as well. This has been an extremely important international music festival that is clearly in danger for its very existence due entirely to self-inflicted wounds.

The challenge of any founder-led organization trying to get beyond its founder is daunting under the best of circumstances. Recent events complicate this task:

·      Confidence of its supporters and artists is deteriorating;

·      Confidence in the University of Oregon’s stewardship of the Festival is compromised;

·      Understanding of and support for the Festival’s future is clouded by obfuscation, lack of transparency and inane pronouncements; and

·      The abrupt firing of artistic director Matthew Halls, while uncertain as to its rationale, has been appallingly handled publicly.

What we now have is a venerable and beloved institution the object of ridicule and derision in the national and international press, a situation that reflects badly not only on the Festival but on the city of Eugene.

At the root cause of the situation is the simple fact that no one owns this institution: there is no “Oregon Bach Festival, Inc.” with full fiduciary responsibility for the organization. As it exists, the Festival is a presentation by the huge University of Oregon that also employees festival personnel. Recent events demonstrate clearly this is not the best fiduciary structure for the future of the Festival.

What is to be done? I can imagine a very exciting and energizing scenario in which:

·      You, the Mayor, convene a group of community leaders to assess the situation and form a plan to save the Oregon Bach Festival, demonstrating this venerable institution is indeed essential to the community;

·      A group of community leaders and supporters of the Oregon Bach Festival make plans to form a new 501c(3) organization to take over the Festival, pledging to join its new board;

·      All the current players and parties acknowledge publicly that the current situation and how it happened are untenable, committing to putting the past behind and facing the future in a fresh start;

·      The University of Oregon commits in words and deeds to facilitate this metamorphosis to this new organization by pledging bridge support over a reasonable transition period, providing future venues, and providing for the orderly transfer of any Festival assets to the new entity;

·      The new organization hires both artistic and executive and directors who will galvanize support and confidence of the community;

·      The Festival family of artists rallies around the new organization to assist in this essential transition; and

·      All of the above is done with energy, efficiency, and urgency, creating a new public narrative of positive energy, positive action, and positive results.

Artistic organizations succeed if, in addition to possessing a compelling vision and strong effective leaders, they have a strong and effective fiduciary board that feels deep commitment to the institution’s mission and responsible for its future on behalf of the community that in essence owns it. The Oregon Bach Festival deserves no less, but without a new approach, I fear for its future. What it now needs is someone to lead the charge – urgently!

Yours sincerely,

Thomas W. Morris  









September 19, 2017 01:59 PM

Former Lane County Commissioner Rob Handy announced in a press release today that he has settled two lawsuits against Lane County. Attorney Marianne Dugan says the settlement was for $89,000.

The lawsuits, in state and federal courts, addressed an emergency meeting of the Lane County Commission and a decision that was made to "lock Mr. Handy out of his office, email system, and other county systems during his last year in office."

The full press release is below, folowed by comment from the county.

On Monday, September 18th, former Commissioner Rob Handy and his constituent Brian McCall settled all lawsuits pending against Lane County, former County Administrator Liane Richardson and Commissioners Faye Stewart, Sid Leiken, and Jay Bozievich. The parties agreed to a global settlement of both federal and state lawsuits that were pending.

Mr. Handy’s and Mr. McCall’s federal civil rights case challenged the decision to lock Mr. Handy out of his office, email system, and other county systems during his last year in office. The state case challenged the county’s misuse of the Board of Commissioners’ “emergency meeting” provisions.

According to Rob Handy, “We originally filed these suits to bring attention to the politicization of the offices of the Lane County Commissioners and how those in power misused that power to further a political agenda. The three commissioners named in the lawsuit, while not all still in office, set a precedent of abusing their power and the concerns will always remain valid. We have been seeking access to justice and have now settled the cases because we believe we received the measure of justice that is possible through this process.”

Former Commissioner Rob Handy settled the lawsuits (which were filed against Lane County about five years ago) “Because I feel I met the goals I had for filing these suits and because Lane County is now under some different leadership that, with the changes in policies that they have made, seem to have learned from their mistakes and bad decisions of that time.

“When an elected Board of Commissioners turns into a political body where the majority acts with impunity and from a political agenda, it can leave no recourse to those who don’t have the votes to have a say or even the ability to place an item on an agenda or to speak out when not included in the work that the Commissioner was elected to do.

“In my last 18-months or so as an elected Lane County Commissioner, I was locked out of my office, locked out of the building, had my email removed as well as all my work product denied to me because a solid bloc of conservative commissioners saw that it moved their agenda forward.

“I worked within channels within Lane County government to redress these actions and got nowhere. This is why the courts exist – as a place of recourse when all other recourse is denied.

“I filed a state lawsuit to object to emergency meetings held where the conservative then- commissioners Stewart, Bozoveich, and Leiken, in collusion with then-County Administrator Liane Richardson held an emergency meeting where myself and Commissioner Sorenson received notice too late to attend and where there was actually no emergency at hand.

“I objected then and now to Lane County cherry-picking Commissioners for an emergency meeting in order to act quietly and with no scrutiny. Since I filed this lawsuit, Lane County has passed a new policy that requires all commissioners to receive all notices, equally and in a timely manner, using any and all means available to the County to contact and locate them before such a meeting convenes. I believe this policy regarding emergency meetings will ensure a similar inequitable treatment of commissioners won't occur in the future.

“Secondly, I filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, now also settled, to shine a light on politically-motivated behavior of the board majority, in collusion with the County Administrator at that time, and other staff. Again, there was no recourse to address these issues within the County. As a sitting commissioner, I was unable to place an item on a Board agenda, and each action was blocked by the majority. Even my good fiscal ideas, policy ideas, any ideas were summarily denied the light of day.”

Handy states, “The federal lawsuit was filed because I wanted to make sure that the County and its Commissioners knew that if those in a majority took action to interfere with a Commissioner’s ability to do his or her job, there would be consequences. This was vital to stand up for the commissioners to come who might also find themselves on the wrong side of a majority in this ‘bipartisan’ Board of Commissioners. I wanted to show that there is no impunity, there is no immunity – the County is not a kingdom where might makes right. We have the courts to help address abuse of power and assist in righting those wrongs. I am pleased to have finally resolved these two legal matters. We felt confident we would prevail in the end, but in the interest of moving forward after more than five years of waiting, we felt a settlement of these claims was the proper way to resolve them.

“We believe that by filing and resolving these lawsuits, no commissioner will again be locked out of an office and deprived of email and other connections to constituents. Elected officials must be able to carry out their work in an environment that is fair and includes due process and where decisions are transparent.” Handy states, “I believe my lawsuits met the goals I set out to achieve and that because of the light shed on these issues Lane County has already made some key policy changes and will not be discriminating against commissioners of the future simply because a transient board majority can. I am pleased with the results and also happy to be moving on.”

Constituent Brian McCall adds his comment: "This whole sorry incident of interfering with my commissioner’s ability to do his job by locking him out of his office and denying him access to his own work diminished what trust I once had in our county government and has exposed the partisan leanings of our supposedly unbiased local news media. I sincerely hope that the settlement of this conflict finally leads to healing, and to a restoration of at least some of that trust."

Local attorney Marianne Dugan represented former commissioner Handy in both the state and federal cases (and Mr. McCall in the federal case), and in the appeals to higher courts which reversed dismissals and required that these cases be heard and proceed to trial.

Lane County's response (bold in the orginal).

Mr. Handy brought a number of lawsuits dating back to 2012. The first was a public records lawsuit which the County won at trial. Mr. Handy brought a second lawsuit alleging a violation of public meetings law in State court. The County prevailed at the trial court level. Mr. Handy appealed and the case went before the Oregon State Court of Appeals and again Lane County prevailed.

Finally, Mr. Handy filed a third lawsuit in federal court. The case was initially dismissed. The case then moved between the Court of Appeals and the District Court. The County chose to settle this final lawsuit in order to save future litigation costs. The settlement agreement does not admit liability.

September 14, 2017 02:25 PM

“Meet me at Kesey Square.”

Say that to most Eugeneans, and they will know to find you at that little open space at the corner of Broadway and Willamette where local artist Pete Helzer’s statue of famed author Ken Kesey sits reading to his grandchildren.

Google “Kesey Square” and the first hit you get is Eugene’s own Kesey Square via the city of Eugene’s website, which lets you know it’s also called Broadway Plaza.

Google “Broadway Plaza” and the first hit you get is a hotel in New York City. You will get hits for Broadway Plaza (Kesey Square) in Eugene, but you will also get hits for Broadway Plazas in Tucson, Minnesota, Denver and more.

Kesey Square is the unofficial name, according to the city, for the open space downtown. But it’s the name most people in the area call it. The Eugene City Council will be discussing Sept. 20 whether or not to change the name officially from Broadway Plaza to Kesey Square and the public comment period on the proposal ends Sept. 15.

In its press release the city awkwardly says that the reason for the comment period is “to ensure that the proposed name is acceptable to the community,” apparently not noting that this is the name the community actually uses.

Jerry Diethelm, a University of Oregon professor emeritus of Landscape Architecture and Community Service and a member of Friends of Kesey Square, recently sent a comment on the Kesey Square issue to the mayor, City Council and city manager outlining both why the name should be changed and why some might oppose the change.

Diethelm writes, “It’s become common knowledge that you are now being asked once again to delay your decision to rename Broadway Plaza, Kesey Square.”

Diethlem points to objections that the city may want to use the name Kesey elsewhere, like at the Park Blocks and says, “Not very likely. That’s Skinner and Mulligan land. The proposed square there is far more appropriately, and in keeping with the donor’s wishes, a Skinner Market Square, or something of the sort.”

He also reminds the politicians that the very consultants the city hired to tell them what do about downtown recommended “identifying it as the heart of downtown’s commercial and entertainment district and installing a cafe and beer garden concept that wraps around the tall walls that border the plaza to the east and south.”

Why, then, might anyone object to the idea of renaming Kesey Square? The original debate was not over whether to rename the square but actually arose over an attempt by developers to take over that open space and turn it into a building.

“Changing the name doesn’t really interfere with any plans or planning,” he writes. “Those urging delay are mainly worried about losing the opportunity to build there.”

That then is the crux of the renaming debate. It’s not about what to call Kesey Square but what it is — public, open space — and what it should remain.

The public has through Sept. 15 to submit comments in writing about whether to rename Kesey Square.

Comments may be submitted in writing to:
Mayor Vinis and City Council
125 East 8th Avenue, 2nd Floor
Eugene, Oregon  97401

To read Diethelm’s full comments go to his Facebook post here.

September 12, 2017 11:55 AM

Three olive ridley turtles rescued from the Oregon Coast have been released back to the Pacific Ocean after being rehabilitated by animal caretakers at SeaWorld San Diego, according to a press release from the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Solstice, a female olive ridley turtle was rescued and taken to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in December 2014. The Coast Guard later transported her to SeaWorld in February 2015.

Solstice’s caretakers estimated that she would be released by the end of the summer in 2015, but the turtle battled with buoyancy problems — which prevented her from diving down to hunt for food.

Two other olive ridley turtles, a male and female, were rescued in December of 2015. Strong El Niño storms and a warm water current scientists refer to as “the blob” can confuse turtles causing them to follow currents into water that is normally cold, according to the Oregon Coast Aquarium press release.

The turtles were returned to the ocean 15 miles from San Diego with satellite transmitters. See Eugene Weekly's previous reporting on Solstice and “the blob.”

September 6, 2017 05:42 PM

As Eugene’s skies have been smoky and the air hazardous to breathe over the last two days, one thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of industrial pollution, air traffic and car traffic entering the air.

Lane Regional Air Protection Agency Executive Director Merlyn Hough explains that as bad as the air has been, it didn’t reach the level that would require people to stop driving, planes to stop flying and industries to stop polluting.

Industries, airplanes and motor vehicles all pollute to some degree, however the amount of pollution they are allowed to release is regulated at the federal and other government levels.

Under Title 51 of LRAPA’s rules and regulations, it lays out exactly when a shut down would be triggered. This regional policy is governed by the federal Clean Air Act, Hough says, specifically, 40 CFR part 51 subpart H. CFR is Code of Federal Regulations. Coincidentally, both policies use the number 51 for their section names.

“The purpose of that program is to keep air pollution from approaching levels of significant harm,” he says. “But those are a very high threshold before affecting traffic, industry or airport operations.”

Industrial polluters, Hough says, are designed to operate in a “steady state.” This is different, he says from when in the winter people with wood burning stoves are told to stop burning due to adverse air quality, because winter wood stoves follow a cycle of starting up and shutting down. He says that asking industry to start up and shut down can actually exacerbate the pollution versus an ideal of steady state emissions in a well-controlled facility.

According to Hough, industrial emissions were more of a factor during the “normal delightful” air quality of 22 that we had on Aug. 30, than the Sept. 5 air quality of 250, which was caused by wildfire smoke. For example, an emergency plan triggered on the day the area had an air quality rating of 22 would have had more affect on the air than triggering it on the day it reached 250 (very unhealthy). 

To monitor the air quality in Eugene/Springfield, Cottage Grove and Oakridge, go to LRAPA's webpage. The agency has been updating residents on the air quality situation regularly on social media and you can find the Facebook page here.  LRAPA has an opening on its board of directors, for more info go here

September 5, 2017 12:02 PM

Following the Trump administartion's announcement this morning that it will end "DACA -- a program that had protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation," Lane Community College President Margaret Hamilton sent a statement to LCC employess addressing the move on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, saying, "We must do everything we can to prevent harm to our students if this happens."

The full email is below.

It is with dismay and determination that I write to you regarding today’s news that the White House plans to phase out the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We must do everything we can to prevent harm to our students if this happens.

As you no doubt know from your own experience, DACA is critically important to community college students throughout the United States, including at Lane. DACA affects more than 750,000 young people nationally and an estimated 21,000 in Oregon. We’re not sure exactly how many students are affected at Lane because at LCC, we do not record immigration status. We do know they are here and part of our Lane family.

Lane Community College is proud to be an open-access institution. Our mission is to serve and educate all members of our community. It is our commitment to inclusiveness that makes LCC a safe haven for all our students.

In June, the board adopted a policy, Protection of Immigrant Students, to clarify our intent to provide “access to higher education for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, immigration status, age, disability, gender or gender identity.” The college also issued a statement on August 31 reaffirming our position, as news began to emerge about the White House position. The statement is on our home page.

In anticipation of today’s DACA decision, I reached out to my executive team and others over the weekend to be clear that it is our priority to work with you to determine how changes to DACA will affect our students and what we need to do to support them. I also directed my staff to identify an office on campus to coordinate information and services for undocumented students and publish updated information to the college website.

The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing new applications for DACA as of today. It will continue to renew permits for anyone whose status expires in the next six months—meaning Congress does have time to act before any currently protected individuals lose their ability to work, study and live without fear of deportation. Our leadership team will continue to call on Congress to act responsibly and humanely and protect students.

I have great faith in all of you. Though I haven’t been here long, I have found a dedication to students in each and every one of you whom I’ve met. That is so affirming!

Thank you for your partnership and rest assured that it is an additional priority for our leadership team to do whatever we can to help those impacted by today’s news.

August 31, 2017 01:04 PM

After Eugene Weekly broke the news Sunday (Aug. 27) that the Oregon Bach Festival had fired artistic director Matthew Halls, the festival sent out a press release calling his departure a strategic move toward implementing a trendy model being used by California’s venerable Ojai Music Festival.

Under that vision, OBF, the release says, would use “guest curators” brought in each year to select programming instead of having a single artistic director in charge.

“More and more organizations around the country, such as Ojai Music Festival, are using this model to expand the choices available to their audiences and participants,” OBF executive director Janelle McCoy says in the release. 

Not so fast on that, says Ojai Music Festival’s artistic director Thomas Morris.

In a letter emailed today (Aug. 31) to McCoy and copied to UO President Michael Schill, to OBF board chair Brad Stangeland and to EW, Morris says the Ojai festival uses guest curators, and always has — but only under the direction of an artistic director who gives the festival a coherent vision.

“This is not an ‘emerging trend’ at Ojai but one that was baked into the very founding culture of the organization 72 years ago,” Morris writes. “While I wish I could say the model is increasingly followed elsewhere, I find little evidence that this is so.”

The Ojai model requires a strong artistic director at the helm, Morris says.

“What concerns me greatly is your willingness to embrace the variability of annual curators without at the same time insisting on the need for strong, visionary and accountable artistic continuity at the same time,” he writes.

“How tragic if your distinguished festival morphed into a mere series of concerts without continuity, focus or profile.”

Here is the complete text of his letter:

Dear Ms. McCoy:

As the artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival for the past 14 years, I read of your recent decision to terminate your artistic director with an idea of engaging guest curators each year. I take the strongest issue with your comments about this structure as an “emerging trend” and your description of how the Ojai Music Festival is the model you want to emulate. Both comments are without any understanding of the facts or merit.

The Ojai Music Festival was established in 1946 and upon its founding, established what was a very unique structure. The board hired both an executive director and an artistic director, both of whom reported to the board, not unlike what has become standard in many orchestras between the executive director and the music director. What was really unique in Ojai was defining the artistic director as a non-performer. The artistic director’s sole jobs were to fashion a long-term artistic vision for the festival, to hire each year a different “music director” or chief curator for the annual festival, and to partner with the music director to create a festival. That structure has endured successfully for seventy-two years. I am honored to be only the fifth artistic director. Having a strong multi-year artistic director to hire the different music director each year assures variety, vitality, accountability and innovation in the context of continuity and consistency.

This is not an “emerging trend” at Ojai but one that was baked into the very founding culture of the organization seventy-two years ago. While I wish I could say the model is increasingly followed elsewhere, I find little evidence that this is so.

Most importantly, the key to this model is in fact having both changing curators each year AND a multi-year strong artistic director to choose those different curators each year, and then to work in partnership with them to fashion a festival that is both consistent with the artistic ideals and standards of the festival but also reflects the widely divergent artistic personalities of the different music directors. Your proposed model apparently does not anticipate having that central role so in no way are you following the Ojai model.

Our model has proven itself successful artistically and I would be delighted if the Oregon Bach Festival were interested in emulating it. However, if so, please understand how it works, how it doesn't, and how to make it successful. What concerns me greatly is your willingness to embrace the variability of annual curators without at the same time insisting on the need for strong, visionary and accountable artistic continuity at the same time. With all due respect, that is not something that can be provided by “administrative leadership or the University of Oregon”.  How tragic if your distinguished festival morphed into a mere series of concerts without continuity, focus or profile.

I am happy to enlighten you if you want. We know how this works.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas W. Morris

Artistic Director
Ojai Music Festival

August 27, 2017 10:46 AM


Matthew Halls, the popular artistic director of the Oregon Bach Festival, has been unexpectedly fired from his job at OBF.

“I have been let go by the University of Oregon,” he told Eugene Weekly in a phone call Sunday (Aug. 27) morning from his home in Toronto. “And, as yet, I’m not sure why. It has not been revealed to me yet.”

Halls was mid way through an initial four-year contract as artistic director. He was hired to replace founding artistic director Helmuth Rilling, a German choral conductor known for a big, lush, Romantic approach to Bach’s music.

An Oxford-educated Brit, Halls took the festival in a new direction musically, with more of an emphasis on historically informed performance – that is, playing the music of Bach as scholars believe it was performed in Bach’s day, with smaller ensembles in smaller halls.

Partly as a result of Halls’ approach, and partly because of declining attendance and resulting budget challenges, much of this summer’s festival took place at the UO’s more-intimate Beall Concert Hall instead of the Hult Center for the Performing Arts downtown.

Halls said he learned of his termination Thursday afternoon in a phone call and subsequent written notification from a UO official whom he declined to identify. He was unclear what his next step would be. "We're still absorbing the news," he said. Halls said he was not well versed in the specifics of his contract, which was to have expired in 2020.

“I can’t begin to communicate the personal sadness I’m feeling,” he said.

UPDATE 4 p.m. Sunday 8/27: Bach Festival spokesman Josh Gren sent a statement Sunday afternoon that said OBF has decided to rely on "guest curators" to shape its musical programming beginning next year. "As part of the transition, OBF is parting ways with artistic director Matthew Halls," the statement said. "The transition is a strategic decision, made by OBF administrative leadership and the University of Oregon, and will keep the festival relevant in the ever-changing classical music industry."

The full text of the statement is copied below:

August 27, 2017 – [Eugene, OR] – Oregon Bach Festival (OBF) is moving forward in an exciting direction that will bring new voices, points of views and artists with more diverse backgrounds to festival audiences. Starting in summer 2018, guest curators will work with OBF staff to build a season of dynamic and engaging musical selections led by world-renowned conductors. 
As part of the transition, OBF is parting ways with artistic director Matthew Halls. Halls leaves the Festival with a legacy that includes the establishment of the Organ Institute, the Vocal Fellows program, and the Berwick Academy for Historically Informed Performance. During his tenure, Halls conducted many of Bach’s masterworks, including his own reconstruction of the composer's lost St. Mark Passion, as well the world premiere of A European Requiem from Sir James MacMillan.
The transition is a strategic decision, made by OBF administrative leadership and the University of Oregon, and will keep the festival relevant in the ever-changing classical music industry.
“There’s an emerging trend,” explains OBF executive director Janelle McCoy, “to plan a season from the perspective of a guest curator from a different field or genre and then invite conductors to participate, rather than programming from a single artistic voice. More and more organizations around the country, such as Ojai Music Festival, are using this model to expand the choices available to their audiences and participants. These choices may include disparate visions from a choreographer, stage director, or jazz musician, for example. We are eager to bring this approach to university students and faculty, as well as our patrons, musicians, and education program participants.” 
The change also comes as part of the ongoing process to integrate OBF more deeply into the UO community and align itself more strategically with the university's goals. “We look forward to a wider range of programmatic choices, community events, and cross-departmental relationships with UO faculty, staff, and students – from the UNESCO Crossings Institute, the Department of Equity and Inclusion, and the UO museums, to traditional academic units such as the School of Music and Dance, food studies, classics, humanities, history, and planning, public policy and management. These partnerships,” says McCoy, “might include lectures, public seminars, classes, publications, interactive programming, and so on.” This is especially relevant as OBF will spend October celebrating the opening of its first permanent home on the UO campus – the new Berwick Hall - built immediately adjacent to the School of Music and Dance.
OBF has already publicized plans to include the world premiere of The Passion of Yeshua by Richard Danielpour and Philip Glass’ Piano Concerto No. 3 featuring Simone Dinnerstein in their 2018 Season. The full schedule of events and artists will be announced in January.