Your Weekend Reader for Feb. 10-11

by | Feb 10, 2024 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

The Oregon Legislature’s so-called “short session” got underway on Monday — these are the 35-day sessions lawmakers hold in even-numbered years to tie up loose ends from the previous session and deal with urgent emerging issues. The expectation is the session will be dominated by work to reshape Measure 110, the drug decriminalization and addiction treatment initiative voters passed in 2020, and Gov. Tina Kotek’s $500 million proposal to boost housing production.

But that doesn’t mean that other issues might surface, especially since legislators can offer up to two bills of their own during the session. For instance, three Democrats from the metro area are pushing a measure, House Bill 4125, which would mandate a study of the governing system at Oregon’s public universities. As Alex Baumhardt notes in this story for Oregon Capital Chronicle, in 2011, the Legislature created the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to unite what had been a hodgepodge of state education agencies. Two years later, the Legislature approved Senate Bill 270, which shifted governance at each of Oregon’s seven public universities to independent boards.

To my eyes, the performance of those independent boards since then has decidedly been a mixed bag, as demonstrated in the boards’ efforts to hire new presidents. (Remember F. King Alexander?) But, to be fair, many of the issues cited by proponents of House Bill 4125 — steadily rising tuition, faculty and staff working conditions — were issues even before the boards were formed. Still, a study of how the system actually has worked over the last decade strikes me as a worthwhile exercise.

In the meantime, one of those legislative loose ends involves funding for arts organizations. The 2023 Legislature approved funding for a number of arts groups around the state, many of which (OK, all of them) are still suffering from a pandemic hangover, The catch, as Lizzy Acker explains in this story from The Oregonian/OregonLive: Many of the organizations missed out on the expected funding. House Bill 4124 aims to fill some of those gaps.

The Super Bowl, featuring the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs against the San Francisco 49ers, is Sunday, and the nation will breathlessly wait as one to learn the answer to this burning question: Will Taylor Swift be able to get to Las Vegas from Japan in time to watch her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, play in the game? (As I write this, The Associated Press is reporting that she’s on her way.)

This morning, though, another Super Bowl question came to me unbidden: Have former Oregon State University football players won a Super Bowl? The answer, of course, is “yes,” and this story from The Oregonian lists 10, dating all the way back to Super Bowl IV.

If you’re asking how it is that the Kansas City Chiefs have still managed to hang onto that team name, the AP reports that you’re not alone. (The team, by the way, says it was named after Kansas City Mayor H. Roe Bartle, who was nicknamed “The Chief” and helped lure the franchise from Dallas in 1963.)

And if you’re one of those people who watch the Super Bowl only for the ads, Variety reports you’re in for a bunch of ads that play it safe, for fear of offending , well, anyone. (Stephen Colbert had fun with this during a “Late Show” episode this week.)

The New York Times has a new story by Peter Baker addressing an uncomfortable question that voters will have to confront all this year: How old is too old to be president? As Baker reports, it’s a question that has faced other presidents as well.

As you know, this wasn’t a great week for Joe Biden in terms of verbal gaffes, but here’s a piece from The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg which makes the point that Biden, at any age, always has been prone to these miscues and argues that his campaign will make a mistake if it attempts to shield him from scrutiny. The more people see him, Rosenberg writes, the more they’re likely to gain confidence in his overall acuity, even if it means an occasional gaffe — especially when compared with his primary competition.

Here are words I simply never expected to write: Sunday’s Grammy Awards show actually was pretty good — and I include in this Jay Z’s ripping into the Academy for its treatment of Black artists, including Beyonce, who has won more Grammys than anybody but has yet to collect an album of the year award, (This on an evening when Swift earned her record-breaking fourth award in that category). I loved Annie Lennox’s cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a fitting memorial to Sinead O’Connor. But for me, the high point was watching Tracy Chapman perform “Fast Car” with Luke Combs, the country star who had a bit hit with the song last year; Chapman was great, but it was moving to see Combs’ sheer delight in the moment, performing one of his favorite songs with the person who wrote it. The Times followed up with a story outlining what Chapman has been doing since the moment she deliberately walked away from the spotlight. (The story notes, for example, that many San Franciscans were surprised to learn that she lives in San Francisco.)

One journalism-related item caught my eye this week, this New Yorker piece headlined “Is the Media Prepared for an Extinction-Level Event?” The piece is more nuanced than the headline suggests. Somewhat.

That’s it for this weekend. Let’s gather back here next weekend, unless that extinction-level event prompts a change in our schedules.

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