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EW! A Blog.

March 16, 2011 04:40 PM

How to Die in Oregon isn’t an easy film to watch. Peter D. Richardson’s documentary focuses not on the legal or philosophical issues and ramifications of Oregon’s Death with Dignity act, but on the personal stories of people who have chosen to use the option the act gives them. Or, to be more specific, they’ve chosen the possibility, the measure of control afforded by having in hand a prescription for life-ending medication. The result isn’t a balanced, political film, but it isn’t trying to be. It’s an incredibly affecting look at the realities of fatal illness, failing bodies and the question of how much power we have over our own fates.

Much of Richardson’s film follows Cody Curtis, a Portland woman with liver cancer. Curtis is an attractive, energetic 54-year-old; she hardly seems sick as she cracks jokes and works to put everyone around her at ease. Curtis wants to live, but she wants to live on her own terms, and her struggle with her illness weaves around the film’s other stories, including that of Nancy Niedzielski, who fought to get a similar law passed in Washington after watching her husband suffer from brain cancer.

How to Die in Oregon doesn’t flinch. It opens with home video footage of Roger Sagner as he ends his life — a video Richardson later explained was shot by Sagner’s granddaughter. It was a conscious choice, the director said, to put this scene at the beginning of the film, so that Oregon wouldn’t build to a will-she-or-won’t-she dramatic peak or force you to wonder whether you’ll see anyone take the lethal prescription dose. It’s right there at the front, but gently. Richardson’s approach to the film’s close is as gentle. He doesn’t back away from the realities of Curtis’ illness, whether it’s filming as fluid is drained from her abdomen or keeping the camera running when she finally breaks down in tears. But Oregon never feels manipulative or pushy; instead, it’s respectful and cautious, painstakingly careful to avoid an exploitative or sensationalized tone. Even the sentimental score, which at first feels slightly intrusive and insistent, begins to feel comforting by the end. You need an iota of comfort in a film like this.

Richardson has little time for those who are opposed to the Death with Dignity act, though he does interview Randy Stroup, a man angered by the Oregon Health Plan’s decision to cover a prescription for a drug that would end his life, but deny him coverage for cancer treatment. (The decision was later reversed.) This isn’t a measured consideration of what the law allows and why people are opposed to or in favor of that, but an exploration of what "Death with Dignity" really means to those who choose it. It’s clear that many people are still working out exactly what it means to allow people to take their own lives. The lines aren’t clear, the emotions unpracticed: What is sad, tragic, relieving, freeing, kind, honest, horrible, difficult, understandable in these situations? How does anyone come to terms with the reality of an illness that would make a person rather exit their life?

Richardson's film, which airs on HBO later this spring, won the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Documentary Competition at Sundance. At SXSW, it provoked more audience questions than any other film I’ve seen at the festival, and inspired SXSW Film producer Janet Pierson to speak about how strongly she felt about showing the film. It leaves an audience a little shell-shocked and is likely to anger those who are opposed to the act, but Oregon doesn’t present its subjects’ stories in a manner meant to convince. The stories are true, and the honesty is an argument in itself. It's also an inspiration. For a film about death, How to Die in Oregon is awfully life-affirming.

March 14, 2011 10:50 AM

Maybe EmX advocates here need to get out their Legos:

March 14, 2011 05:21 PM

Greetings from Austin, earthlings. I have been here for four days (five? four? five) and have lost all sense of time and perspective. It’s what happens at South By Southwest — enjoyably (for the most part). You get lost in a sea of free drinks, companies trying to convince you that their apps are going to save the world, inspiring speakers, swooning geeklets bringing Felicia Day cupcakes because she said she likes them, drunk guys on Sixth Street trying not to barf in the gutter, amusing movie screenings filled with nerds who chortle at every reference to their beloved nerd culture (guilty as charged), presentations that might actually help with your personal productivity issues, insight on everything from adapting comics for the big screen to the consistent need for authenticity from creators — and the discovery that Fireball Whiskey makes a whiskey and ginger ale taste like liquid Red Hots (with apologies to my elegant-cocktail-mixing bartender friends: this shit is kind of delicious).

If you see a theme there involving drinks, well, SXSW does this thing where we all pack into the convention center by day, learning and listening and, say, developing elaborate arguments about why the gamification (gameification? It’s a made-up word either way) of the world is just another way to keep the people down — and then 6 pm rolls around and the panels wind down and the parties start. And by 10 pm you wonder how anyone is functional the next day. Foursquare calls you a panel nerd for going to three panels and suggests you go to bars to avoid being thrown in a locker. You can get a Guinness milkshake at your arty movie screening. (You can also fall asleep at your arty movie screening. Perhaps the couches at the Ritz are not the best idea for a tired festivalgoer.)

It’s debauchery and inspiration in nearly equal parts, with a side order of aggravation. And I love it. In the next week or so, I’ll be posting film reviews, music round-ups and more. Possibly a rant or two (I’ve got a few issues with the notion that, to quote Christopher Poole, “Anonymity is authenticity”). So far, the theme of this year’s SXSW (as I’ve experienced it) is twofold:

1. Everybody has an iPad. EVERYBODY. (Not me.)
2. The game layer is coming.

According to the nerds in the know, we’re moving from the decade of communication to the decade of games, the game layer, gamification, game mechanics, etc. More on this later. Short version: I’m wary of the notion of shifting from a culture of communication (as evidenced by Facebook and other social networks) to a culture of competition and think we need a good old Jaron Lanier-style hard look at what exactly this means. Maybe that’ll happen next year.

Meanwhile, is there something you’d do if you were in Austin? A show or a film you wouldn’t miss? I’m happily taking suggestions for how to spend the rest of my time here. Leave ‘em in the comments, or email molly at eugeneweekly dot com.

(Lest you think it's all fun and games and booze while the world ends, there's also SXSW4Japan.org.)

March 3, 2011 04:22 PM

Construction begins this month on some of the greenest housing digs ever built in Eugene-LCC's downtown apartment building for 250 students.

"Sustainability is one of the college's core values," said Lane Community College spokesman Brett Rowlett. The LCC housing is part of its $53-million downtown campus project in the Sears pit across from the library.

Instead of sticking spades into some green farm field on the sprawling edge of town served by an expensive freeway, officials plan to "break ground" tomorrow at 10:30 am by slinging dirt into the pit. The LCC project will recycle the enduring eyesore into model green density offering car-free, low carbon, low-cost living and a much-needed redevelopment spark to the heart of the city.

The five-story, 87,000 square-feet apartment building will include serve students with a mix of single, double and quadruple apartments and studios. The building's ground floor will have a campus store and meeting rooms.

The building's carbon footprint per resident will likely be far less than even the greenest low energy homes built in Eugene. Apartments, with their shared walls and floors, share heating and cooling. They also share infrastructure, greatly reducing the embodied energy carbon impact of building materials. In addition, LCC plans a LEED Gold certified building with some of the latest insulation, appliance and lighting techniques for reducing power.

But, since most Eugene electricity to run buildings is from hydropower, the building's greatest carbon reduction benefit may be simply it's downtown location.

Students going to classes downtown or to LCC's business services office will have to walk just steps to the adjacent 90,000 square-foot LEED Platinum academic center. To get to LCC's main campus, students can cross the street to LTD's main transit hub, for frequent buses running to the campus in just 17 minutes. The LTD bus station also offers express EmX routes to the UO, downtown Springfield, RiverBend hospital and Gateway Mall, a future EmX route planned for West Eugene and other direct bus connections to destinations all over town.

Just a few more steps away is downtown Eugene-offering one of the nation's best city libraries, restaurants, bars, music clubs, Kiva groceries, the Hult Center, coffee shops and bakeries and the largest concentration of jobs in the region.

The student housing will also include significant bike parking. City code for bike parking requires one bike parking space for each two residents in a dormitory.

In perhaps its greenest element, the apartment building will not include a parking garage for cars. Not including car parking in a building can save up to $50,000 per space in construction costs, substantially reducing rents.

More parking isn't needed in the area. The city's six downtown parking garages with more than 2,500 total spaces stand half empty, according to past city parking studies. The LCC housing is across the street from two city garages at Broadway Place (almost 800 spaces 80 percent empty) and under the Library. The city's massive Overpark and Parcade city garages are just a two block walk.

Counting private lots, downtown has more than 15,000 parking spaces-four times more parking than Gateway Mall. Downtown parking is so underused, that the city recently removed hundreds of meters to provide free on-street parking.

LCC's Rowlett doesn't expect LCC will have trouble filling the green housing. He said a housing market study found high demand for student apartments downtown. "There was a definite need," he said.
Rowlett said the housing will go first to LCC students and then to UO students if space is available. Rowlett said he expects residents will reflect LCC's diverse group of students, including many older, returning students and some international students.

The community college creatively cobbled together financing for the building from a variety of sources including $9 million in voter approved LCC bonds, $8 million in urban renewal funding from the city and $5 million in tax credits with the remainder coming from a combination of other federal tax credits, energy tax credits, bond sales and grants.

LCC plans to fast-track construction on the green downtown housing with completion by fall 2012 and doors opening January 2013.

Here's a look at LCC's two minute promotional video for the downtown campus project:

February 24, 2011 02:56 PM

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Hundreds of Eugeneans gathered Feb. 23 the protest the Republican-led House vote to de-fund Title X, the federal government’s grant program devoted to family planning and health services. The loss of Title X funds could force the 23,783 women who received Title-X funded health care through Planned Parenthood to do without STI screening, annual exams and contraception.

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Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and Congressman Peter DeFazio spoke at the rally. Piercy, who served on the board of Planned Parenthood, urged the protesters to find ways to support the program in the wake of legislative attacks. “Planned Parenthood serves us all but they also serve those who have the least access to services,” Piercy said.

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DeFazio criticized cuts to health services while agricultural subsidies and tax credits to large corporations continued untouched. “It isn’t just an attack on the health of women, it’s an attack on the health of America,” DeFazio said. “I do not believe that the majority of the American people support the attack on women’s rights and women’s health.”

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January 24, 2011 11:52 PM

The Eugene City Council voted 8-0 tonight to continue discussion of a May ballot measure on an income tax for schools.

The council plans to discuss details of the measure on Feb. 14 and take a final vote. The 4J school board may vote on whether to support the additional city funding and how much on Feb. 9.

Several councilors appeared to indicate they may ultimately oppose referring a school funding measure to a May ballot vote, but a majority of four councilors and the Mayor spoke in favor of a May ballot measure.

Details remain undecided, but school supporters have discussed a graduated income tax that would raise at least $10 million for 4J and $4 million for Bethel schools per year. The income tax discussed would exempt lower income people and sunset in six years.

January 13, 2011 01:23 AM

At the Eugene 4J School Board Meeting tonight:

—Superintendent George Russell revised his $22 million estimated budget cut to $28 million, due to new numbers from Gov. elect John Kitzhaber.

—District staff argued for a May school construction bond measure because it would leverage $15 million in federal construction funding and they could claim that the district wasn't raising taxes because of an expiring previous school construction levy. But a May bond vote to build new schools could cause the district to lose $10 million dollars or more in operating funding from a proposed city tax to keep the schools the district already has open. But two board members and Russell spoke favorably of the city tax effort for schools.

—A majority of 4J board members appeared to oppose closing Adams elementary, one of the brownest and poorest schools in the district, to give the building to the Charlemagne French immersion elementary, one of the whitest and richest schools in the district. But the board opposed officially taking the option of closing Adams off the table, forcing Adams parents to go to more late night meetings to defend their school. Fox Hollow parents apparently won’t have to plea for their school. The school board, which includes one French immersion parent, has not applied the same closure tests and criteria to Fox Hollow as it has applied to neighborhood schools. The board now appears to be targeting Parker to make room for Fox Hollow. The board rejected the least disruptive option of simply leaving the French school where it is pending a proposed reevaluation of 4J alternative schools next year. Moving Fox Hollow to Parker may apparently save almost no money as it would require a new large parking lot and drop off area because almost all the French school parents drive their kids to school, according to 4J staff.

January 13, 2011 06:19 PM

"When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim," Arizona State Rep. Jack Harper told the Arizona Republic in the wake of the mass shooting of a congresswoman, 9 year-old girl, judge and others in his state.

Here's a look at what happens when "everyone is carrying a firearm":

An armed man at the Arizona shooting almost mistakenly shot another man who had already disarmed the real shooter, the Arizona Republic and other media reported.

Slate notes :

"That's what happens when you run with a firearm to a scene of bloody havoc. In the chaos and pressure of the moment, you can shoot the wrong person. Or, by drawing your weapon, you can become the wrong person—a hero mistaken for a second gunman by another would-be hero with a gun. Bang, you're dead. Or worse, bang bang bang bang bang: a firefight among several armed, confused, and innocent people in a crowd. It happens even among trained soldiers. Among civilians, the risk is that much greater. "

January 12, 2011 12:03 AM

The Eugene City Council voted unanimously tonight to have a committee bring back more information on possibly referring a progressive city income tax to save local schools for the May ballot.

The council didn’t take a formal vote clarifying exactly where they stand. But about half the council or more appeared to favor the income tax over a restaurant tax, after several restaurant owners testified that a restaurant tax would unfairly target businesses already struggling to stay afloat in the recession. About half the council or more also appeared to favor attempting to meet a mid February deadline for referring a measure to the May ballot.

The 4J and Bethel school superintendents said they would discuss with their elected boards whether they should delay possible school construction bond measures for May to avoid competing with the city effort to fund actual teaching.

4J Superintendent George Russell said he hoped the city tax could raise $10 million a year for his district, which is facing huge classes and a four-day school week due to dramatic cuts. Bethel also faces proportionally big deficits.

A progressive, graduated city income tax with rates set at 0.5 percent for income (AGI) $50,000 to $99,999, 1 percent for $100,000 to $249,999, and 1.5 percent for incomes more than $249,999 would generate roughly $40 million per year. That's based on an EW analysis of state tax data that assumes Eugene has a similar income distribution to Lane County and generates about 63 percent of the Adjusted Gross Income in the county.

If the graduated tax were limited to incomes above $70,000, the tax would impact roughly 20 percent of taxpayers and generate roughly $22 million a year. A graduated tax above $100,000 would impact roughly 10 percent and generate roughly $19 million a year.

January 11, 2011 11:47 AM

The way I feel about running can be summed up in one tiny word: No. No, no, no; no to being sweaty and uncomfortable and having aching knees and feeling like I can't breathe. (I blame high school gym class for all of this, by the by.)

The way I feel about running doesn't, apparently, extend to movies about running, especially not the sweet and straightforward Hood to Coast, a documentary about Oregon's ginormous annual relay race, which someone describes, early in the film, as a 197-mile-long party. The film backs this slightly outlandish claim right up: There are runners in tutus, in superhero costumes, in wildly decorated vans and very small shorts. Runners sport lightning-decorated headbands, top their support vehicles with coffins and come back year after year after year.

The Hood to Coast race starts, somewhat obviously, at Mount Hood, traveling across the state and through Portland to end in Seaside. Teams of 12 runners take three legs apiece; the race goes on through the night, the runners sleepless and cheerfully discombobulated, as the film shows. Filmmakers Christoph Baaden and Marcie Hume smartly chose four teams to follow, focusing on certain personalities within those teams: The veterans are represented by Dead Jocks in a Box, a bunch of long-time Hood to Coast runners who are half endearing and half patronizing as they form "power arches" for fellow runners (always women) and track other teams' fashion statements.

On the heartstring-tugging side, Baaden and Hume found two teams with emotional stories: Heart and Sole, who had a teammate collapse the previous year, and R. Bowe, a team formed of the friends and family of a man who passed away unexpectedly a year before. These runners' stories are emotional and heartfelt, and Hume and Baaden let them spill out naturally, as the Bowe family toasts their missing member, and as Kathy Ryan, who’s run countless marathons and won’t be slowed down by her near-death experience, greets the women who revived her on the route last year.

The fourth team is the one this non-runner found the most amusing: A team of animators from Laika, the Portland studio that made Coraline, decides to do the race with no training. Beer-drinking right up until the race is the plan, says Rachel, whose tousled hair and permanent bandanna make her a camera favorite. The Laika team is goofy and ragged, but they're not just there for laughs; they make the point that Hood to Coast, while a serious race for some (the film stops to chat with the race favorites at a few points), is fairly accessible; kids and seniors run it right along with terrifyingly fit athletes.

Lovingly pieced together from a patchwork of stories, Hood to Coast is gorgeously shot — swooping through Oregon's mountains and forests, following runners so closely you hear every footfall and tired breath — and cheerfully sincere. It's not out to convince anyone to race, or to delve too deeply into the backstories of those runners it follows, but to get, a little bit, at what makes people do things like Hood to Coast. Rachel, exhausted, can't stop saying that her difficult leg was awesome. The Dead Jocks come back year after year, clearly in it for the camaraderie and the competition. The sense of accomplishment, when each team crosses the finish line in Seaside, is palpable: For two days, these runners are outside their ordinary life, doing something extraordinary with just their bodies, their teammates and their willpower. As one runner says, the race is epic, and you can't do epic by yourself.

Hood to Coast shows at 8:30 and 8:31 pm tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 11, at Cinemark.

January 6, 2011 11:08 AM

Fun fact: When I was 13, Skid Row was, like, my totally favorite band. So forgive me if I haven't quite got words for the truly bizarre thing that is Skid Row's Sebastian Bach singing a power ballad about the Ducks:

It's a tiny bit curious that the only truly Eugene-specific reference in the entire song is to "Steelhead on Pearl." Conspiracy theories, anyone?

(We'll just ignore, for now, the fact that the song? It ain't Bach's finest moment...)

January 4, 2011 04:04 PM

Knight (left) and Lowder

Forget the millionaire coaches and all those superstar athletes running around, look up to the executive skyboxes. Don't be naive, the big championship game between the UO and Auburn Jan. 10 is really a showdown of the two schools' top boosters: Phil Knight vs. Bobby Lowder.

Here's a matchup of the two public universities' septuagenarian top power players:

POWER

Knight- The Oregonian last month gave front page credit to the secretive Nike billionaire's "lavish donations" for putting the Ducks in the bowl championship. The year before, the paper's sport's columnist John Canzano credited the team's rise to the deep pockets of "Uncle Phil": "The Ducks could not sustain what they've done over the past decade in conference play without Knight."

Lowder- In 2006, ESPN dubbed the secretive bank tycoon "the Most Powerful Booster of college sports." Lowder "is arguably the most powerful person in the state of Alabama, let alone on the Auburn campus." His "fingerprints have lingered for three decades in the hiring and firing of coaches and athletic directors alike - even university presidents."

CONTROL

Knight- Knight and top UO officials have denied that the sneaker tycoon controls the UO, but in the past two decades, Knight has allegedly used the threat of cutting off contributions to control human rights stands, personnel decisions and building construction at the UO, according to press reports.

In 2000, Knight threatened to not give $35 million to expand Autzen Stadium because he was angered that student protests had lead the university to join a worker's rights group critical of Nike sweatshops in Asia. The next year, the UO withdrew from the human rights group and Knight's millions flowed again to UO athletics.

In 2001 Knight cut off donations to the UO track team to protest the coach's perceived de-emphasis of distance running. The coach soon resigned.

In 2006, Knight criticized the UO athletic director for decisions regarding track and for not retaining a staff member Knight favored. Knight said the director's perceived failings made him reluctant to contribute to a new basketball arena. Four months later, the athletic director resigned with a $1.8 million severance package requiring his silence.

The AD was replaced by a booster friend of Knight's who quickly rehired Knight's favored staffer.

Knight has made his private control of building projects a condition of his donations, evading state open bidding and transparency laws designed to avoid waste, fraud and abuse. Construction of the $250 million basketball arena, $42 million "jock in the box" center and a planned, perhaps $100 million new athletic office building, the most expensive and lavish buildings in the state's history, were all under Knight's private control without open bids or records.

Knight successfully made a $100 million endowment contribution for the athletic department contingent on his demand that the state legislature quickly vote to approve $200 million in state-backed bonds for the new arena.

UO President Richard Lariviere recently warned the State Board of Higher Education that the "negative consequences" to fundraising would be "really, really profound" if it did not immediately approve Knight's private control of construction of the new athletic office building, the Oregonian reported. After the "some of the starkest ever" warnings about Knight's power, the state board quickly voted yes, according to the paper.

Noting the "KGB" secrecy around Knight's arena deal, Oregonian columnist Steve Duin called the UO administration "100 percent servile" to Knight. Oregonian sports columnist Canzano wrote of the UO President, "He's got the title, but Knight has the keys."

Lowder- Lowder and top Auburn officials have denied that the banking tycoon controls the public university, but Fortune magazine reported, "Lowder has been accused of making backroom deals with governors and treating the Auburn football program like a private fiefdom."

Lowder's estimated $20 million in contribution's to Auburn pales compared to Knight's estimated $300 million, but Lowder's power comes less from raw cash than political gamesmanship, ESPN reported. Lowder is Auburn's longest serving trustee, 28 years, and chairs the board's powerful finance committee. When a governor tried to remove him from the position in 1995, he contributed $25,000 to a replacement governor who reappointed Lowder and allegedly gave him power over other Auburn trustee appointments, ESPN reported.

In 2003 Lowder secretly flew the Auburn president and other top officials on his private jet in a failed "attempted coup" to recruit a replacement football coach, ESPN reported. The ensuing scandal toppled the Auburn president and athletic director and put the university on probation with its accrediting agency. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) expressed concern that Lowder controlled the board of trustees through the appointment of his personal and business associates and that the university president did not have "ultimate control over the athletics program," ESPN reported.

When a fellow trustee angered him, Lowder allegedly threatened to have him killed and cancelled funding for an economics program he favored, Fortune reported. After the campus newspaper angered Lowder, he allegedly retaliated by moving the journalism department into the communications school, according to the business magazine.

One of the football coaches that Lowder ousted has alleged that Lowder was involved in a pay-for-play recruiting scheme in the past, ESPN reported. Last month, Auburn star Cam Newton was suspended for pay-for-play violations but quickly reinstated after the NCAA blamed his father for the scheme.

FUTURE

Knight- Knight's power at the UO and in Oregon only appears to be growing. He told the Oregonian last month that he backs a UO plan to create a board of trustees similar to Auburn's with the power to raise tuition. But he hasn't given the Legislature an explicit threat that he'll cut UO contributions unless the plan is approved, yet. Last year, Knight became one of the state's top political power brokers with more than $600,000 in contributions to Republicans and to oppose taxes on the rich. While the nation suffers record unemployment, Nike's third world sweatshops are humming with the corporation's stock up 40 percent in the last three years. Knight's age, 73 next month, has apparently made him only more powerful as UO officials "whisper" about the prospect of getting a large part of his $11 billion estate when the Nike tycoon dies, according to the Oregonian.

Lowder- Lowder's power at Auburn appears to be on the wane, giving Knight the edge in this booster bowl matchup. Lowder recently stepped down from control of Colonial bank just before federal regulators seized the $26-billion institution in one of the largest bank failures in U.S. history, Fortune reported. The bank and Lowder speculated heavily in the real estate bubble, and Lowder now faces civil and perhaps criminal lawsuits alleging that he mislead investors and regulators, the magazine reported. Lowder lost a personal fortune and $2.8 billion in federal deposit insurance money, but the booster still chair's the Auburn trustee finance committee.

January 4, 2011 01:13 PM

The Eugene City Council is considering a variety of city tax options to help local schools facing severe budget cuts.

The mayor and a city councilor have reportedly asked city staff for information on several tax options including a graduated income tax, a flat income tax and a restaurant tax.

A progressive, graduated city income tax with rates set at 0.5 percent for income (AGI) $50,000 to $99,999, 1 percent for $100,000 to $249,999, and 1.5 percent for incomes more than $249,999 would generate roughly $40 million per year. That's based on an EW analysis of state tax data that assumes Eugene has a similar income distribution to Lane County and generates about 63 percent of the Adjusted Gross Income in the county.

A flat 1 percent income tax would generate roughly $44 million a year for local schools, according to the EW analysis.

A 5 percent Eugene restaurant tax would generate about $4 million a year, based on adjusting a previous city staff estimate of restaurant tax revenue to account for growth. The 4J school district may cut scores of teachers and effectively limit school to four days a week to close a $22 million budget deficit. Bethel also faces millions of dollars in cuts.

Based on local voting experience, a graduated, progressive income tax could be the easiest to pass.

Last year a state income tax increase on income over $250,000 passed three to one in Eugene.

The proposed graduated tax on incomes above $50,000 in Eugene would impact roughly a third of local taxpayers, according to EW's analysis. The proposed 1 percent flat tax on all incomes would impact all voters, but would generate only 10 percent more revenue than the graduated tax on incomes above $50,000.

If the graduated tax were limited to incomes above $70,000, the tax would impact roughly 20 percent of taxpayers and generate roughly $22 million a year. A graduated tax above $100,000 would impact roughly 10 percent and generate roughly $19 million a year.

A proposed flat county income tax to fund the jail failed two to one in Eugene in 1999 amid criticism that it was unfair to the poor and emphasized prisons over crime prevention and treatment.

A proposed 5 percent Eugene tax on restaurants in 1993 to help with a city budget deficit, failed by a 20 percent margin. Restaurants organized to oppose the tax which they argued could send business outside city limits and citizens expressed concern it could unfairly impact the poor, who spend about a third of their limited income on fast food.

To refer a city tax measure to save local schools to the May ballot, the Eugene City Council will have to vote for the referral by the middle of next month.

December 14, 2010 01:19 PM

So what does the UO's complicated restructuring plan really mean?

Nike billionaire Phil Knight, the UO mega donor who some critics have said has too much power over the public university, told the Oregonian Dec. 5 that it's about going private and raising tuition.

Knight told the paper that he supports and was consulted on the restructuring plan the UO is lobbying for in the state legislature. "It's to take a step - I hate to use the word because it's an oversimplification - but to take a step toward becoming more of a private university."

As more of a private university the UO president "can set his own tuition. He's hamstrung in the sense he can't charge more tuition than the Legislature will let him do for in-state kids."

The UO had a plan for privatizing the university and raising tuition in response to dramatic budget cuts in the early 1990s, but the plan failed in the state legislature. The Register-Guard reported in 1993 on a study of UO privatization in a story headlined: "Making UO private would save little money; A legislative report says that higher tuition would drive away students and force cuts in faculty."

The legislative report found that the plan would about quadruple in-state tuition. Such a dramatic increase would out-price about 60 percent of students causing a big reduction in enrollment, according to the study. The loss of students would force the UO to lay off large numbers of faculty and staff who would take their federal grants with them, the RG reported.

Privatization "would not only sharply reduce access to Oregonians but also have wrenching consequences for the economy of Lane County," the RG quoted the report.

The UO has not said how much tuition would increase under its new restructuring plan. The UO has also changed significantly since 1993 with higher out of state tuition increasingly making up for reductions in state funding. Knight told the Oregonian: "It's become the University of California at Eugene. That's the result of the current Legislature's policies."

The state university of New York (SUNY) chancellor has proposed an autonomy/restructuring plan similar to the UO's proposal. A hedge fund billionaire raised "hackles" this year when he made a big donation conditional to approval of the plan, the New York Times reported. But recent press reports have the SUNY plan failing in the legislature due to concerns from unions and fears that tuition increases will reduce access to higher education.

This week, the Oregonian reported that the Oregon State Board of Higher Education opposes the UO autonomy plan, instead favoring an autonomy plan of their own.