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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.

December 13, 2010 07:19 PM

Who is the leader of the Democrats in Washington, D.C.? At a caucus meeting last week, it wasn't President Barack Obama.

All but one of the Democrats at the packed meeting voted for a resolution by local Rep. Peter DeFazio to oppose the President's deal with Republicans to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to the super wealthy.

Since then, DeFazio has been a hot item on cable TV and national newspaper accounts of the tax break melt down. Before DeFazio ran off for a satellite uplink to MSNBC and a flight back to the tax cut smack down in the nation's capital, we caught up with the 12-term local Congressman at the shinny courthouse in Eugene and asked him just what's going on. The feisty populist didn't even need a question to start his outrage over the deal rolling.

DeFazio: First thing you got to keep in mind is the price tag for this package, with the Christmas tree ornaments being added by the Senate, is almost $900 billion dollars. That means we'll add about $450 billion dollars to what are already projected to be record deficits in the coming year-all borrowed money, a lot of it borrowed from China.

We must do what is absolutely necessary and prudent and the things that are the most effective at putting people back to work and helping those that are hurt by the bad economy like helping those who's unemployment is about to expire. But we can't afford the ornaments and some of the additional expenses that have been added, now by the Democrats in the Senate but previously by the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell when he dictated the terms of this agreement to President Obama. I'm pretty tired of being blackmailed by the minority in the Senate and having them do things that are not in the best interests of the American people and the American taxpayers.

There's a few fairly expensive additions from the Senate-$20 billion for income over $250,000 a year. Now remember, a lot of people got this wrong. If you earn $500,000, you're still getting a tax break on your first $250,000 under the original Obama proposal, what he has now abandoned. So everybody, no matter how high their income, would have been getting a tax break under the Obama proposal. It's just income over $250,000 would be taxed at the Clinton era rates.

If you think back to the Clinton era and the tax rates of the Clinton era-which a lot of people screamed bloody murder about and no single Republican voted for-we actually had a booming economy and people were investing and not sitting on piles of cash. So it's hard to make the case that somehow this would be destructive to capital formation and the creation of jobs.

Then the two additional provisions, the continued reduction in capital gains tax and dividend tax, another $15 billion, and then the really big ornament or perhaps the star on top of the Christmas tree is a huge reduction in estate taxes for estates over $10 million. Remember the whole fight over the estate tax over the years has been about small business. We don't want to destroy small business. I agree with that. The House passed a version of the estate tax which would have forgiven all estate taxes up to $7 million and then had a graduated rate after that. Under the Senate proposal there would be no estate tax up to $10 million per estate and then a lower rate on all estate taxes over and above that. That's another $30 billion.

So if you just look at those four provisions, some people can make an argument that the capital gains or the dividend might produce jobs. People have been trying to make an argument that taxing upper income people at the Clinton era rates would hurt jobs. But no one is saying that giving a tax break to estates over $10 million is going to create a single job. That is $65 billion borrowed, put on the tab, that we'll be paying off for the next 30 years. If they called this a stimulus bill instead of tax cuts, the Republicans would be screaming bloody murder, because we would be borrowing every penny. These things are excessive, unnecessary, help those who don't need help and are going to put ultimately the burden on the majority of American people.

The extension of unemployment benefits costs about half what the tax breaks cost for the upper income people. So if we wanted to not borrow money, we could extend unemployment benefits and we could just take the house version of the estate tax and part of the upper income taxes, and we would be revenue neutral. We wouldn't have borrowed the money and we would have helped those most in need.
I believe the Republicans are bluffing. I don't believe they would have gone home for Christmas fighting for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and told millions of Americans, who's unemployment has expired or is about to expire, tough luck. I don't think they could have withstood the hit they would have taken. So I don't think that was any concession on their part.

There was another proposal that I find very problematic, which was for the first time we're going to violate the sanctity of the Social Security trust fund for the first time since it was created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s. We're going to give a payroll tax holiday, all well and good-pretty expensive, about $67 billion dollars more to borrow next year. We give a payroll tax holiday which goes to all income levels, including members of Congress who will get over $2,000, millionaires, billionaires will get at least $2,000, if their spouse works they'll get $4,000. This is a very expensive tax break, having a payroll tax holiday. It raises concerns about the future of Social Security. So they said, ‘Oh, don't worry, we will borrow the money from China or somewhere else.'

I predict what will happen two years from now or a year from now is they'll say, ‘Oh my God, we can't afford to keep subsidizing Social Security and borrowing money to do it.' And if Obama proposes to reinstate the full tax, they'll say, ‘Oh, he's increasing taxes on working people.' This is a very elegant trap, I believe, set by the Republicans. They know it's fiscally irresponsible, and next year they are going to come back for the other half, which is massive reductions in programs which are important to a majority of the American people, and in all probability, box in President Obama coming up in the next election to make all these things permanent.

This is a bad deal, we could have had a better deal. That's why I offered my resolution in the House Democratic caucus. I've been in Congress 24 years. We have never ever before taken a caucus vote on an initiative of a President, particularly a president of our own party, and voted nearly unanimously in opposition. I heard one ‘no.' There may have been people that didn't vote, but the room was packed and most people shouted "aye" and supported my resolution. We in the House believe this is a bad deal for the taxpayers. It's not targeted in a way that is going to put people back to work or help those most in need, it's going to borrow a lot of money to help those who have already done very well and do not need additional assistance, particularly with borrowed money.

EW: So if the caucus supported you're resolution and in effect not the President's resolution, does that make you the top Democrat in Washington then?

DeFazio: Chuckles...Well, you know, I could see what was happening here, there's a lot of people, a lot of, first off we're still reeling from the election. It's a confusing situation because people who were lame ducks get to vote on this and the few new members we have, nine, don't get to vote on this so there's a lot of confusion and anxiety. But there was just a tremendous amount of chatter, this is not good, why are we going along with this. Why are we letting ourselves be rolled by the Senate, and this time just be rolled by the minority leader of the Senate who unilaterally negotiated with Vice President Biden. Vice President Biden came to the caucus, he cut the deal with Mitch McConnell while our negotiator was in another room. So this was really a dictate. We were hearing some things that, well we got some things that we really like and all these other things we really don't like, and I figure that what was going to happen was we were going to role over again. So I decided, for once, that I would force the caucus to stand up, to stand up to the President and to push our own leadership to opposing the President because they have facilitated him too much in the past, particularly when he has made massive concessions to the Republicans. So it doesn't make me anything other than someone who is willing to take the initiative and lead in the caucus for a vote in the caucus to take a stand.

EW: What was that caucus meeting like?

DeFazio: It was in the largest room available outside the floor of the House, and it was packed. It was a bit raucous. There was some like cursing over on one side, I couldn't hear that. It was a bit noisy. But when I stood to offer my resolution was when this chant of ‘just say no' broke out. Reporters down the hall even with the closed door could hear that. I asked for time to then speak to my resolution, and someone in the back yells, ‘Can't you hear, you've already got the votes, just move the question.' So I said okay, I just move the question, and there was a huge roar of "yes," and one valiant sole said "no," supporting what she said were her beliefs that we can't do better.

EW: If the Republicans argue that if you don't do this now, we can just do it in January, why would they want to do it now?

DeFazio: These are the new fiscal conservatives. So If they are fiscal conservatives, then I would assume that if they want to reduce revenues they are going to want to match that with reductions in spending. That would be $450 billion. We're part way through the budget year, so they would have to reduce spending over the coming months about 60 percent across the board, that includes the Pentagon. There are certainly places where we can cut and save money, but it would be an impossible task. So their first act would be to borrow an additional $400 billion or more as fiscal conservatives, and much of the money would be borrowed from China. I think they would be putting themselves in a very difficult spot. I can't believe that that is what they would do. I think they would have to minimize the costs and meet the most essential needs.

EW: So this way they get to blame the Democrats for the deficit spending?

DeFazio: Yup. Sure, look at the Obama deficit next year, $1.75 trillion dollars. That's what they'll talk about. They won't say, ‘Oh, by the way, $450 billion of it is something that we insisted on.' At least the new members can say we weren't even here and didn't vote on it. I think this is a very elegant trap that they are constructing and it's going to lead to massive cuts in programs that are very important to many American families and its probably going to lead to the permanent imposition of these tax cuts and make the tax code less progressive.

EW: Would it have been better, as a political strategist, to do this before the election?

DeFazio: Sure, absolutely, it should have happened before the election. The pundits in the White House are saying well, that was Congress's call. Well, not exactly, I don't remember the President standing up, pushing, giving a speech or hitting Congress, batting Congress around a little bit, and saying let's move on with these tax cuts now. The House had already acted substantially on this without the Social Security cuts, without the new estate tax give always, without the upper income. The House had already acted, it was the Senate that had failed to act, and I didn't see the President push the Senate.

EW: So you think in the future that these will be permanent, that as part of the 2012 election, they'll say you're raising taxes by cutting our tax break?

DeFazio: Vice President Joe Biden said that he could assure us that the President would not go forward. He would not approve the continuation of these tax cuts, particularly for the wealthy. If he can't do it in a non-Presidential election year-after he ran on it as a candidate, after he campaigned for it two years as President and then suddenly it's a done deal, and it can't be discussed, it's take it or leave it-who can believe that he'll be able to stand up to the pressure. You're looking at, ‘Mr. President you're talking about the largest tax [increase] in the history of America by restoring the Social Security tax, by increasing the tax on estates over $10 million, by having income over $250,000 taxed at Clinton-era rates. You sir, are a tax and spender, you are running the largest deficits in the history of the world in the United States of America.' And he's going to stand up to that?

EW: So they New York Times says you don't have much leverage here. Do you think that's true, that things could improve if it was voted down now, that you might be able to have more leverage in January?

DeFazio: Oh yeah. The leverage you have in January is that you have just elected what purports to be a fiscally responsible, new House of Representatives with fiscal conservatives in charge. Are they going to start by reducing the income by $450 billion for the government? They are going to be in kind of a tough spot because they can't find $450 billion in cuts.
The most radical vision for the United States of America is basically having just a Defense Department, a Justice Department, I would assume they would include Homeland Security and some other things. They can't get there with cuts, not in one year, not in two.

EW: Do you think Republicans really care about the deficit? They ran on that.

DeFazio: They're hypocritical. They want to reduce taxes and deal with the deficit. So we could at least point to their hypocrisy. Then it would be they who created the largest record deficit in the history of the United States and the world for a nation, not the Democrat majority still governing and the Democratic President.

EW: Is this going to pass by the end of the week? Some people have said its inevitable.

DeFazio: The greatest pressure that's always exerted is, ‘Well, do you want to go home for Christmas or not.' I would say, ‘Yeah, I do, but I'll stay.' But there are others who will just want to get out of town. The Senate may pass the bill and leave town. That's how they've done a bunch of these things previously. We'll see, but as one, one out of 435, I did the best I could by giving my leadership the tools to go back down to the Whitehouse and say look, this is unprecedented, the caucus has never spoken this way before, virtually unanimous, things got to change.

EW: So why did the Democrats get the shellacking?

DeFazio: The greatest reason is the dismal economy and the huge numbers of unemployment and declining incomes which go to a huge host of issues which we failed to address meaningfully. And it will go back, as I said, to the stimulus. If we had taken a fraction of the money we had spent on tax cuts and invested it instead on infrastructure, we could have put 5-6 million people to work, and you would have been providing a benefit to future generations and improving the productivity of the nation. We have not dealt meaningfully with the failures of our trade policy and unfair trade by China and others.

I think people kind of looked and they didn't see that we were offering them hope of better lives for themselves and their kids with the policies and the things we'd implemented so far, perhaps with the exception of healthcare. But that was four years down the road. As one guy said to me during the election, he said, ‘Congressman, it's really great next time I lose my job and my health insurance four or five years from now, I'll be able to keep my health insurance. But right now, it doesn't do me any good, does it.'

December 8, 2010 05:46 PM

Local Congressman Peter DeFazio today strongly opposed President Obama's proposed deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax breaks for the rich.

DeFazio released this statement:

"President Obama has announced a deal on tax cuts for millionaires with Senate Republicans that will cost average Americans dearly. The Republican demands to extend tax cuts on income above $250,000 a year and to lower taxes on estates over $10 million will add $250 billion over two years to the federal budget deficit. Just think what we could do with $250 billion - we could put it towards our burgeoning deficit, we could fully fund a COLA for seniors for 2 years, we could extend unemployment benefits for an additional 18 months, and still have $100 billion left over to defray the federal deficit or we could take that $100 billion and spend it on transportation and infrastructure investments and put millions of Americans back to work in the private sector in the construction, engineering, manufacturing and related industries. This is a bad deal for the American people. The President has allowed himself to be blackmailed by the Senate Republicans and I will not support it. Compromise requires give and take, but once, again, the middle class gave and the millionaires took."

December 7, 2010 01:21 PM

A local movement for a city income tax on upper incomes to help local schools has run into opposition from The Register-Guard and conservatives who argue that it is unlikely to pass.

But a very similar income tax passed in Eugene this year by a three-to-one margin. In January, the state Measure 66 income tax increase on those earning more than $250,000 passed with 73 percent support in Eugene.

In addition, local voters have repeatedly shown strong support for schools, repeatedly passing local tax increases by two-to-one margins. A web survey by School District 4J last month found three-fourths of the 1,999 respondents supported a city tax for local schools.

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy has announced a public forum on the possibility of a city tax for local schools on Tue., Dec. 14 from 7-9 pm in the council chamber at City Hall.

The forum will examine the possibility of a sales tax instead of an income tax (city property taxes for schools are legally prohibited). But sales taxes hit the poor harder than the wealthy and have failed over and over in Oregon and Eugene by wide margins.

Statewide sales tax measures have failed nine times in Oregon, often by huge margins. In the last attempt, a state sales tax targeted at school funding with reductions in property taxes, exemptions for groceries and tax credits for the poor failed by a three to one vote statewide in 1993 and by a two-to-one vote in Lane County.

In 1993 a Eugene sales tax on restaurants failed by a 20 percent margin with strong opposition from restaurant owners.

Sales taxes take a larger share of income from the poor than the wealthy as the poor tend to spend all their incomes, while wealthier people have the luxury of savings and investment, research has found.

There's also some discussion of a less progressive local income tax that would reduce rates on the wealthy by targeting the middle class. Saving upper income people money may win a few conservative supporters, but could lead to defeat at the polls, especially with lower-wage people struggling in the recession. In 1999 a flat income tax proposal from Lane County to fund the jail by targeting the poor and middle class failed by a wide margin.

A city income tax on incomes above $100,000 would raise roughly $14 million for each percentage point of tax, according to EW estimates based on state tax data.

While, there's some discussion on exactly what tax to propose, there appears to be broad support for the importance of saving local schools from draconian budget cuts.

A city press release on the City Hall forum next week states: "Good public schools keep a city vibrant and healthy. Businesses need them, both as an immediate source of workers and as a means to attract employees to Eugene. Professionals considering relocation here often focus as much on the quality of the schools as on salaries and benefits being offered. Good schools raise property values and help reduce crime."

November 2, 2010 08:34 PM

Right-wing Lane County Commission candidates appear to be leading in very early returns, but thousands of ballots remain uncounted.

Jay Bozievich leads Jerry Rust 55 to 45 percent in the west Lane County race . But about a third of the ballots appear to not yet have been counted, based on historic voting levels for commissioner races.

Sid Leiken leads Patt Riggs-Henson 56 to 44 in the Springfield commissioner race, but less than half the votes appear to have been counted so far.

In some past local elections, early election results have favored conservatives, but progressives have won when all the votes are counted.

October 18, 2010 02:28 PM

So who's behind all those mysterious attack ads against local Congressman Peter DeFazio?

The answer is a reclusive, conservative Wall Street mega-millionaire who installed a $2.7-million toy train set in his mansion and spent $28-million to buy up adjoining Manhattan apartments for his daughter and would get hit by taxes on large Wall Street speculators proposed by DeFazio, according to reports in the Oregonian, Washington Post and Willamette Week.

Just who was behind "Concerned Taxpayers of America," the group funding the attack ads, was a secret until Friday when the group was legally required to report its donors. The report listed just two "concerned taxpayers"— a Maryland concrete baron who has bankrolled opposition to a Maryland congressman and $200,000 in contributions from secretive hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, a major contributor to DeFazio's right-wing opponent Art Robinson.

The ads have helped Robinson—an irascible, fringe chemist who has called for the elimination of public schools, the EPA and social security and claimed global warming is a hoax and radioactive waste has health benefits—pull within six points of DeFazio in a recent Republican poll. The revelation of who funded the ads now comes after many may have already returned their ballots in Oregon's vote-by-mail election.

October 13, 2010 03:00 PM

Honestly, I'm still not sure what exactly spiced rum has to do with American tattoo icon Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins, but it's Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum that's presenting this evening's (21+) screening of the documentary Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry at the Bijou. The film centers on Collins, but is as much a story of a place and time in the way it looks at Hawaii during WWII. It's not all a pretty picture — and a few of the attitudes espoused by some of the old-school tattoo artists are downright cringeworthy — but director Erich Weiss keeps things moving at a steady clip, interviewing those who worked with and learned from Collins. Colorful characters narrate their experiences with Collins, who combined traditional American tattoo style with the influence of Japanese tattoo masters, and whose work was majorly influential both in terms of style and more technical aspects (the stories about Collins' purple ink are particularly entertaining). Rough-voiced and heavily inked, the men who came after Collins — the most charming of which is easily California tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy, though other guys provide more laughs — speak both reverentially and dryly about Collins' work, politics and gruff personality.

You don't have to be a tattoo junkie to find this story fascinating (says the inkless writer) as a vivid, historical look at a subculture and the way it has developed, expanded and — though this is less of Weiss' focus — become commercialized. The old-school dudes (yeah, it's a sausage fest; women mostly appear in old footage as prostitutes, or for decoration) have a hearty skepticism for the ranks of "black T-shirt" kids they see as taking over their art now, and the film ends with a suggestion that before long, it'll be establishment to have tattoos, and rebellious not to. Popularity comes in cycles; Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry traces one story from the upswing of tattoo culture.

Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry screens at 7 pm tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 13, at the Bijou. See here for more details.

October 12, 2010 05:42 PM

Some people use "cute" as a pejorative. I don't. So when I say that the new Ascetic Junkies video is the cutest goddamn thing EVER, what I mean is it's the cutest goddamn thing I've seen in some unspecified period of time. Just look at it! Look at the way the little animated Kali Giaritta goes all frowny and slightly evil when the song rocks out! Look at the way the music appears in squiggled lines! Look at the banjo player's fluffy white cloud of a beard! JUST LOOK AT IT!


Why Do Crows? from Ascetic Junkies on Vimeo.

If you were to click over to that Vimeo page, you'd find that the video was hand-drawn by Junkies bassist Cole Huiskamp, who sometimes has devil horns poking through his cap. In the video, I mean.

The Ascetic Junkies celebrate the release of their new CD, This Cage Has No Bottom, at 9:30 pm Saturday, Oct. 16, at Sam Bond's Garage (21+, $5). I wrote about the band back in January and found, when it came time to preview this week's show, that I basically wanted to say all the same things. It's all true. All of it. (But there'll still be a new preview in this Thursday's paper.)

October 5, 2010 04:36 PM

This coming weekend, Portland’s convention center once again hosts Wordstock, a weekend (and more!) of readings, signings, discussions and other literary events. All this week on EW! A Blog, we’ll review books by authors appearing at the festival, which is super-affordable, should you happen to be a book-nerd with weekend plans that involve PDX: $7 per day, or $10 for both festival days.

If memory serves — and it doesn’t always — my introduction to Throwing Muses was the video for “Bright Yellow Gun,” from the Boston band’s 1995 album University. In hindsight, the concept of a Throwing Muses video seems faintly absurd, but I’m glad it was out there. University was an eerie blessing of a record, resonant and cryptic in all the right ways, and it led me to singer-songwriter Kristin Hersh’s solo album, even more oblique and beautifully ungainly, and to a summer spent wearing out the Muses’ Red Heaven, which still sounds like the background noise to getting my feet under me as a sort-of adult.

I was 19 then. Hersh was just 18 when she had one hell of a year — a year that’s the subject of her fantastic memoir, Rat Girl (Penguin, $15). In a brief intro that comes across as if she’s a little suspicious of herself, Hersh explains that Rat Girl is based on a diary from that year. “That girl isn’t me anymore,” she writes. “Now it’s just a story.”

It’s a really good story. Hersh weaves together the narrative of her year with snippets of song lyrics and scenes from her childhood with the hippie parents she refers to as Crane and Dude. She’s telling a straightforward story about a young band that finds its first successes, but she’s also telling a complicated, emotional tale about a young woman grappling with mental illness and major change.

Rat Girl is never sentimental; Hersh might not be capable of sentimentality. She’s perpetually wary, certain that while she and her bandmates like her band, there’s no reason for anyone else to feel the same way about them. Ordinary things have unexpected outcomes: An apartment fuels the songs she hears with “an evil energy.” The songs, she explains, started to come after “a witch” hit Hersh with her car. In the hospital with a double concussion, she began to hear noise that later resolved into notes, melodies and words. “It’s not me,” Hersh writes. “I don’t talk that way because I’m not always ‘right now.’ A song lives across time as an overarching impression of sensory input, seeing it all happening at once, racing through stories like a fearless kid on a bicycle, narrating his own skin.”

Hersh’s observations about music scenes, music writers and the recording process are fascinating and specific, and all the more so for Muses fans. Her tone is never gossipy, though, and she leaves out identifying details, opting instead for impressions and entertaining descriptions (one music writer is referred to as the Newspaper).

Right in the middle of the book — which runs 1985-1986, roughly spring to spring — Hersh becomes manic. There's no build-up and no romanticization: "I'm falling into a hole in my head — been tripping over my brain not working, a mess." It's not long after she's diagnosed as manic-depressive (doctors use the term, then explain that it’s not called that anymore; she has bipolar disorder) that Hersh finds herself pregnant. The pages leading up to her hospitalization are frenzied, scary and beautiful, but there’s little context for the pregnancy. “Some boys like little rat girls,” she writes quietly in explanation. “Not many, but a few. I’ve always been grateful for the ones that did. Now I’m not so sure.”

Rat Girl is a book like a Throwing Muses song is a song; it starts in unexpected places, is full of peculiar and unforgettable images and has deceptive staying power once it gets under your skin. You might pick out pieces of the narrative and think it’s about a band, or a musician, or a mental illness, or being a teenage mother with a record deal, but it’s a book about the particular way a talented, sometimes troubled young woman walks through the world — a coming of age story, comforting, disconcerting, intense, unfamiliar and, amid all the vivid descriptions of sound and color and light, relatable. Hersh’s world doesn’t look or feel like everybody else’s — for better and for worse. Rat Girlisn’t tidy and inspirational, but chaotic and true.

Kristin Hersh reads at 3 pm Saturday, Oct. 9, at Wordstock’s Columbia Sportswear Stage.

Also at Wordstock and (semi) recently reviewed in EW: Eugene native Robin Romm reads at 11 am Saturday, Oct. 9, at the Powell’s Stage, and Portland writer Robin Cody reads at 1 pm Sunday, Oct. 10, at the Mountain Writers Series Stage #1.

All listed Wordstock events take place at the Oregon Convention Center, Portland.

September 28, 2010 02:57 PM

Here's a video from the Washington Post of local Congressman Peter DeFazio unsuccessfully trying to track down who's funding TV ads against him:

The Post story quotes DeFazio:

"Is this a corporation? Is it one very wealthy, right-wing individual? Is it a foreign interest? Is it a drug gang?" DeFazio said. "We don't know."