Alan Pittman's blog

UO big wigs have been taking a lot of hits in the media recently for kowtowing to the almighty swoosh.

On April 16 the Oregonian reported that the UO had evaded state anti-corruption laws to hand the contract for the basketball arena—the most expensive public building in state history—to a Nike subsidiary and Nike related contractor and architect without a competitive or public bidding process.

On April 20, Oregonian columnist Steve Duin wrote that under President Dave Frohnmayer, "This public university has, on any and all questions about the arena, suddenly adopted a code of secrecy worthy of the KGB."

On April 23, Willamette Week awarded Frohnmayer its "Rogue of the Week" award for "hiding the ball" when it comes to Nike, the arena and the state's public records law.

Who's making all these decisions at the UO? Frohnmayer is helped by three "retired" UO vice-presidents who recently got a big pay increase by converting their full time jobs to half time, according to numbers in an Oregonian story last month.

The paper reported that John Moseley, Lorraine Davis and Dan Williams all recently retired but were hired back as half time contractors. According to numbers in the story, Williams earned $162,800 before he retired. After retirement he earned PERS at about 83 percent of salary or, by our estimate, about $135,000. Frohnmayer then hired him back to work at the UO half time for $100,000 a year, according to the Oregonian. So in retirement working half time Williams earns a total of about $235,000 a year, a 44 percent raise over what he earned working full time.

For Moseley the raise works out to 35 percent or a total of $285,000 in post "retirement" salary, by EW's calculations. Davis got an estimated 33 percent raise for going half time, a total of $222,000 a year in post retirement pay.

These three Frohnmayer cronies working half as much for almost half more pay are now among the highest paid public officials in the state. By comparison, the Governor's salary is $93,600.

Wow, no wonder the UO has a hard time getting funding from the Legislature. Of course Frohnmayer or his princely paid assistants won't pay the price for the public esteem swooshing out of the institution. It will be some kid busing tables for tuition.

If you enjoyed the cover story this week about Eugene's new City Manager Jon Ruiz, you'll love listening to the hour and a half of interview audio here .

Here's Ruiz at his public swearing in and speech on April 14:

Well, now Ruiz is on the record in print, audio and video with a lot of good-sounding promises of what he'll do as Eugene City Manager. Let's see if he sticks to them.

Here's an old Herblock cartoon from 1970 when tricky Dick Nixon was escalating the Vietnam war despite campaign promises to end it.

Herblock

Déjà vu?

So what would the caption be now? How about:

"You see the reason we’re dying in vain here in Iraq is so dying in Iraq will have some purpose."

Any other suggestions?

green house


The Oregonian
has a front page story today about a couple of Portland brothers tearing down a little old house to build an "ultrasustainable" home. The article and website for the house sound great.

But is it really "ultrasustainable" to demolish a serviceable old house to build a more energy-efficient design? Consider the issue of embodied energy—that is how much energy does it take to build the house and manufacture and ship the materials used to build it? Here's a widely cited City of Philadelphia web page stating:

"The materials in an average home contain 892 million Btu's of embodied energy, an amount of energy equal to 7,826 gallons of gasoline, or enough to drive an SUV 5 ½ times around the earth."

The average home consumes about 101 million Btu's a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. So even if a new ultrasustainable house uses zero Btu a year, it could still take it about nine years to break even with the old house.

The well-meaning Portland brothers appear to have considered the issue, recycling a lot of the wood in the old house and using other materials in the new house with low embodied energy. But not everything can be reused or recycled and the question remains, how sustainable is it to tear down an old house to build a new, greener house?

There's also a broader question here. What about the embodied energy of solar panels? A Prius? According to some reports, it would take about 20,000 miles of driving a Prius to recoup the embodied energy in the car's manufacture. It can take about three to seven years to recoup the embodied energy of a solar panel.

These are important questions to consider. The ethanol and bottled water once favored by some greens haven't turned out so green. Maybe the green revolution isn't about building or buying something new. Maybe the most sustainable home is a renovated little old house, or an old high-rise apartment. Maybe the greenest vehicle won't be a high-tech car that runs on hydrogen, but an old-bike that runs on donuts.

With the Olympic trials coming to Eugene and all the attention on protests of the Chinese torch run, it's worth it to ask, who came up with this Olympic torch thing anyway? The ancient Greeks? Wrong. Here's a hint:

Notice the swastikas and the sieg heil salutes? That's right, it was the Nazis who first came up with the idea of an Olympic torch run, as shown in this infamous propaganda film.

No way you say? Well it's right here in the New York Times and here on the "official website of the BEIJING 2008 Olympic Games."

A story in the Wall Street Journal March 19 featured an interview with UO Professor Nathan Tublitz and the headline: "Has Serious Academic Reform Of College Athletics Arrived?"

The article describes Tublitz as a neurobiology professor who is co-chairman of the faculty driven Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics.

The WSJ describes theoretically tough new standards on academic progress by the NCAA, but raises the question about whether they will actually be enforced.

Article author Mark Yost writes that the idea that players are "supposed to be students first and athletes second" is "a quaint notion in an era when CBS is paying $6.1 billion for the broadcast rights to the college basketball tournament that will draw far bigger ratings than any of the presidential debates."

Tublitz describes the royal treatment the UO gives recruitment targets with "female chaperones" and "fancy hotels." Tublitz told WSJ that only 3 percent of division 1 players get an NBA career. If the other 97 percent lack an education giving them other job skills, "They're lost."

The City of Springfield is conducting an anonymous online survey to determine support for the city's plans to expand its urban growth boundary (UGB) creating more urban sprawl.

Developers and land speculators have lobbied hard for the UGB expansion, which could increase the value of their property by ten fold or more . But numerous studies have shown that urban sprawl can lead to more pollution, global warming, habitat loss, traffic congestion, obesity and urban ugliness and less livability and higher taxes.

ww

Willamette Week's Nigel Jaquiss has a cover story on the state attorney general race between former federal prosecutor John Kroger and state legislator Greg Macpherson.

Here's some highlights:

• "'I prosecuted Enron, and Greg’s firm represented them,' says Kroger."

• Eugene city attorney and Philip Morris tobacco lawyer Bill Gary boosts Macpherson for his work in cutting the cost of PERS: '“He’s shown exactly the kind of political courage that it takes to be AG,' Gary says."

• "Macpherson differs with Kroger on Measure 11, the law that provides mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes. Simply put, Macpherson says he’s more willing to consider reducing sentences. 'We’ve gone on a prison-building boom and underinvested in other services,' he says."

• Consumer advocate Dan Meek criticises Macpherson for voting against a bill to close a loophole that allowed Enron to overcharge customers $1 billion: "'Macpherson was one of only two D’s in the legislature who voted against 408,' says utility lawyer Dan Meek."

Both Kroger and Macpherson are Democrats and there is no Republican challenger, so voters will decide the race in May.

Here's an earlier EW cover story on the race:


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