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From Homelessness To Midterms To Toga Parties, 2018 Was A Newsworthy Year

Brian Bull/inciweb

The approach of a New Year often makes us reflect on the past one. In the case of KLCC news, there were many major stories, touching on politics to disasters to the arts.  We revisit some of the sounds and voices from just some of the top local stories for 2018.

Homelessness was perhaps the most recurring local issue for 2018. From curfews to relocations to protests, the City of Eugene and Lane County worked to accommodate people seeking shelter…including putting in Camp 99 in Eugene’s north side.

A resident called “Papa Bear” has been homeless for three years and just moved into the site. 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Entrance to Camp 99.

“And I hope it continues," he told KLCC in October.  "There are a lot of needs, but it’s not always about a bowl of cereal…or a pair of socks.  Most of the time it’s just a hug…somebody to listen to. Sometimes it’s just a place to rest.”

City and county leaders are trying to find long term-solutions to homelessness.

The midterms were the big news nationally and in Oregon.  Democrats dominated most Oregon offices and reclaimed the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Peter DeFazio - having thwarted Republican Art Robinson’s fifth bid to unseat him – spoke of the power shift on Capitol Hill.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Peter DeFazio speaking before an enthusiastic crowd on Election Night, 2018.

“This is different, things are gonna change, and they just…did…change.”

Oregon re-elected Governor Kate Brown, who defeated Republican challenger Knute Buehler.  It’s been declared the second highest voter turnout in Oregon history.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
"March for Our Lives" activists take to the streets of downtown Eugene in March, to demand safer schools.

Activists didn’t stay on the sidelines either in 2018. After a bloody shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, students and their supporters rallied nationwide – including outside Eugene’s federal courthouse – calling for safer schools and tougher gun laws.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Candlelight vigil on 20th anniversary of Thurston School Shooting.

[AMBI OF RALLY] “Not safe schools some day, not safe schools maybe, but safe schools now!” (CHEERS, FADE)

The event was particularly hard-hitting for Springfield, which observed the 20th anniversary of the Thurston High School Shooting this March. A candlelight vigil was held at dusk to remember the victims.

[SINGER AT VIGIL:] “Our children shall be safe…some day…”

This year convicted school shooter Kip Kinkel petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit his 112-year sentence.  His attorneys say it violates his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Constitution is at the heart of a lawsuit against the Trump Administration called Juliana vs. the United States. 21 youths are still waiting for a trial date, to argue that climate change threatens their pursuit of life, liberty, and property. Attorney Julia Olson.

Credit Rachael McDonald
Youth plaintiffs in the case, Juliana v. The United States.

There’s so much at stake in this case.  Our democracy is at stake. The rights of children…the legacy we leave.”

Climate change is blamed for creating hotter, drier conditions across the globe, increasing the risk of wildfires…including Terwilliger and Silver Creek, locally.

Disaster or growth? That’s up to how you felt about the University of Oregon’s East Grandstand’s demolition. After 93 years, the sports facility was torn down as part of a $200 million renovation of Hayward Field.

Protesters decried the action, but some locals – like Doug Seinmann - said it was about time.

“You know, I hate to see the old go sometimes myself, but it’s providing jobs, it’ll be for the future track meets, and be real nice. It’s the way it is.”

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
The East Grandstand gets battered and crushed, in a demolition that took less than a day.

Oregon State University had its own development plans fall through, literally. At its new School of Forestry building,  a subflooring structure made of cross-laminated timber collapsed in March. Construction has since resumed, with officials saying a manufacturing defect – not the product itself – was to blame. Administrator Geoff Huntington:

“There’s no concerns, no questions about it in our mind.  Everything in that building is squared up, and to spec.”

OSU also saw one of its student representatives removed from office, after being caught on video putting racist stickers on activists’ cars.  Graduate student Andrew Oswalt was convicted of first-degree intimidation and criminal mischief.

There was no sentencing for Mike Fisher. The Academy of Arts and Academics principal killed himself as police investigators learned of a lengthy history of sexual abuse against a student.  A3 went on to lose its charter status, and is now under the auspices of the Springfield School District.  And the incident has sparked two lawsuits…by a former vice principal and Fisher’s victim.  Attorney Barbara Long:

“The school and school district knew everything that they needed to know to stop the abuse by Mr. Fisher and they didn’t do anything.”

Credit Margaret Bull
The cast of "Be More Chill" at South Eugene High, 2018.

Meanwhile, the axe came down on South Eugene High’s mascot, “The Axemen.”  Now just called “The Axe”, the school is focusing on less controversial ventures…which includes putting on one of just two West Coast productions of the hit musical “Be More Chill” ahead of its Broadway premiere.

[AMBI CLIP OF MUSICAL] “Find them, bad guy, push them aside, then move on forward with your friend at your side.  It’s a two player game, so when they make an attack…you’ve know you’ve a brother gonna have your back…”

2018 said goodbye to several prominent Oregon artists.  Sci-fi giant Ursula K. Le Guin died in Portland at the age of 88. She won many prominent awards, including a Hugo and Nebula Award for The Left Hand of Darkness.  Author Kate Wilhelm died in Eugene at the age of 89. She wrote the Hugo Award-winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.


And David Ogden Stiers, perhaps best known for playing the snobbish Major Charles Winchester the Third on TV’s MASH, bowed out as well.

[MAJOR CHARLES WINCHESTER CLIP] “You may not realize this…but you have a pool ball lodged in your mouth.” (MUFFLED GASPING) “No sweat. There is an alternative.  I’ll just take your temperature the other way.” (PANICKED GASPING)

Stiers died in Newport this year.  He was 75.  He was an alum of the Very Little Theater in Eugene…which kicked off its 90th season with the gothic horror classic, “Dracula.”

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Dress rehearsal for VLT's "Dracula" which opened its 90th season this year.

HARKER: “No, let me go!”

DRACULA: "How dare you touch him! He’s mine!"

You can still rent any number of Dracula movies, but if you want to make it a “Blockbuster night”, you now have to head over to Bend…which officially became home to the LAST Blockbuster Video store in America.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Sandi Harding, manager of America's last Blockbuster Video.

AD CLIP:  “Hey, if it’s on video, Blockbuster probably has it! I mean, we have over 10,000 videos…” “Wow!”

Business and economy-wise, 2018 was good to Oregon. A $75 million venture to expand the 5th Street Market Area was unveiled, and Uber and Lyft got the green light to start in Eugene.  And the state’s unemployment rate even hit a record low.  

[JOHN BELUSHI: “Toga! Toga!”]

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Travis Palmer of the Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce, wears a "Deathmobile" hat and shows off a "Toga! Toga! Toga!" t-shirt in his office.

And while reclaiming the record for World’s Biggest Toga Party was a near-miss for the City of Cottage Grove, the 40th anniversary of “Animal House” showed many locals still revere the raunchy comedy that helped put them on the map.

And hopefully that map’s on recyclable paper. Eugene set out restrictions on what types of recyclables are – and aren’t – acceptable anymore, causing locals to rethink packaging…or at least not to put Christmas lights and diapers in the recycling bin.

After years of tolerating the practice, China finally said “NO” to what many people call “wishful recycling” this year…things that folks wish could be recyclable, but aren’t.

WOMAN: “It was devastating, ‘cause so much of what we buy is plastic, and I didn’t realize that.”

A little wishful thinking – along with voter approval – got the 4J School District its biggest school bond ever come Election Night: $319 million.  Springfield also got the votes to fix its streets through a five-year, $10 million bond.

That’s just a few of the many stories we covered in 2018.  Looking towards 2019, we only hope the New Year brings happiness and good surprises for you.

Copyright 2018, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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