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The Register-Guard is reporting that LTD is trying to avoid major cuts in the new fiscal year. Matt Cooper reports:

After the second-largest cut to service in its history this year, Lane Transit District plans to tap federal money and delay major projects to avoid another big cut in 2012, officials said.

Buffeted by stagnant payroll-tax revenue and rising personnel costs, the district in April cut $3 million from the current fiscal year, which ends next June, in part by eliminating six public bus routes and four school routes. The district said then that it planned to cut $3.5 million more — about 8.5 percent of this year’s $41 million general fund — in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

But the district’s financial outlook has improved considerably thanks to federal grants that have been awarded at higher levels than expected, spokesman Andy Vobora said.

This is good news, really. Whether the good fortune will last or not remains to be seen, but at least someone is looking out for the multitudes of UO students who use the bus to get to school.

The ASUO certainly isn’t.

The ASUO Senate passed an (illegal) 4.31% benchmark for the Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee at its November 17 meeting, reflecting full funding for the currently-defunded Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group and zero percent growth for the LTD contract, which allows students to ride the bus by flashing their student IDs.

First of all, zero percent growth for the LTD contract is a pipe dream. The ASUO negotiates its contract with the bus service based on projected enrollment numbers and a group rate — currently set around $15.69 per person. The contract was recently changed, however, to account for existing enrollment instead of projected enrollment. (Editorial: by projecting our own enrollment, we could get a better deal by low-balling the number. No longer, said LTD.) The 2011-12 numbers will be based on student enrollment in the 2010-11 school year. Every year the group rate goes up a little reflecting a huge increase when that number is multiplied by the number of enrolled students (currently over 23,300).

With this benchmark, the ASUO professed that it doesn’t care if students can get to school, so long as their “greater needs” (?) are being met by paying a statewide lobbying organization for lobbyists time — specifically while they’re NOT lobbying, as per OSPIRG’s 501(c)(3) tax designation.

But really, benchmarks are non-binding. And that’s the beauty of all this. When the LTD contract is done and negotiated — well over the zero percent the Senate assumed — there won’t even be room for OSPIRG in the budget while still growing by less than the legal cap of seven percent. Last year, the ASUO Senate gave the ACFC a zero percent total benchmark, and they hit seven percent anyway.

Why, you ask? LTD.

LTD is going to keep needing more money from students. The ASUO’s is the largest contract LTD works with, and without that money, they would be in real trouble and students and Eugene residents would have a significantly more difficult time getting around.

Additionally, LTD is one of the most visible and highly used services that the incidental fee funds. The only other service that is more visible is the contract with the Athletic Department.

The ASUO is divided on how these types of services should be handled. Last year’s ACFC chair Alex McCafferty saw the demand for student football tickets and created a shared responsibility model where some season tickets would be up for sale at the beginning of football season while a smaller amount would be up for grabs before each game.

Some senators think that LTD should be handled the same way. Obviously, none of these students use the bus. The ASUO’s contract with LTD helps students gain access to the university. When there are big pushes to take away what little student parking remains on campus, the bus is invaluable to students who live too far to bike (or who, indeed, cannot afford a bike).

The most unfortunate thing about this benchmark business is how many people voted for a zero percent LTD increase in order to “send a message that we need to take LTD off the incidental fee.” I think sending messages is fine, but not with your vote, playing with student money. If LTD is voted off the ACFC’s budget but doesn’t get picked up by the administration, as some senators are hoping, there will be many students who can’t get to school. Literally.

Granted, I could be totally wrong. The UO administration could pick up the contract during the year and the burden could be taken off the incidental fee. According to some, UO VP for Student Affairs Robin Holmes has expressed interest, but without a definite yes or no, it’s hard to say.

The only thing that is certain is that students need the bus. The ACFC would do well to remember that during the budget process.

  1. nike urbanized duk says:

    yes LTD is a bunch of Nazis…… other news the “new partnership” faerie tale just hit a wall……..future story idea (sorry not booze or cigarette related)….interview the current ASUO exec. She was very clear early on that the UO new partnership was a non starter….now it is sinking…..ask her why and print the details….then ask the UO prez Larivwhateverthehellhisname is to defend the proposal

  2. Senator Evan P. Thomas says:

    Without question, 120,000 dollars makes it easier for the PIRG to continue being successful. Ease, however, is not moral justification for a mandatory fee on students.

  3. Miles Rost says:

    “The Oregon State PIRG is one of the most successful public interest groups in the country.”

    And they can/should/WILL do it without UO support or UO money.

  4. Senator Evan P. Thomas says:

    As for OSPIRG, any slander about what a PIRG doesn’t accomplish is just retarded. The Oregon State PIRG is one of the most successful public interest groups in the country. So anyone claiming PIRGs don’t do anything is just uninformed.

    The disconnect has to do with the funding rubric. This is the reason that student pirgs nationwide are such a controversial issue (yes, this exists beyond our little microcosm). The reason it is so controversial is because student pirgs don’t utilize the funding rubric based on canvassing and donation and grants (often called “the fund,” a funding rubric that EVERY state pirg uses: and instead implement mandatory fee to fund their programs. This is effectively a different form of taxation on students for a public interest group, which is wrong; many programs that are already funded by the state pirg are on the student pirg’s agenda (and state pirgs receive federal grants, so tax paying students are already paying for many of these advocacy services).

    Should OSPIRG (or any other student pirgs) be allowed to canvas and phone bank on our campus for donations, using the same funding rubric used by every State PIRG? Yes. But this is not a reason for a mandatory fee to be paying it, this is not a reason for student money to be going off campus (ps: for everyone who makes the argument against OSPIRG that it sends money off campus… EVERY ACFC contract sends student money off campus… that is not the issue).

    The issue is not an issue of content, it is an issue of funding. OSPIRG shouldn’t be funded with mandatory fee (I’d frankly be okay with an opt-in fee), but fighting the student pirg based on content is pretty pointless.

  5. Senator Evan P. Thomas says:

    That’s kind of a giant bastardization of the meeting, but whatever.

    First of all, we voted for a 0% increase as a message to renegotiate the contract– something I am highly in favor of. If we wanted to vote to take it off the I-Fee we would have voted for 0% funding, not 0% change.

    Second, I use the bus nearly every day and I am completely in favor of a [more influential] free market decision with the LTD contract. There are currently zero senators who want to remove LTD as a University service, so implying this is rather poor journalism. There are, however, many of us that feel that the people who use LTD should be paying more than the people who don’t use it at all– including those of us that ride it. By implementing a subsidy program that uses LTD’s current rate of $130 per term, the ASUO can still fund 100 out of 130 dollars of a bus pass per term for students who need it (only a 15 dollar increase compared to what the entirety of campus pays currently), cut 40% of its LTD contract, and LTD still benefits from the free market. It’s a win-win-win (the only loss is that bus riders have to pay 15 dollars more per term, to which I reply to whiners with: welcome to the real world).

    It’s important to note that LTD is not ripping us off, they are projecting their contract the same way they project every other group contract, but due to the size of our contract, there is quite a bit more inflation.

    And yes, I’m well aware that many programs or departments don’t benefit all of students and are still paid for by the I-Fee. However, it is my fundamental belief that contracts with the ACFC, because they use outside services, should utilize a system in which students who use the service pay more.

    A request to utilize the free market is really a minor request. We will still provide a heavy subsidy for students who need this service, but we also ask they they pay a little more as well. This is not unlike most contracts involving students (“student discounts”), and it is the same way that most successful contracts are created: a marriage of socialist economics and capitalism. Right now, the LTD contract (and Athletics Department) is negotiated 100% with socialist economics, and I’m sorry, I just don’t agree with that. I will never, ever agree with a majority 100% supplementing a minority.

    Any questions, email me.

  6. Thorn says:

    “The most unfortunate thing about this benchmark business is how many people voted for a zero percent LTD increase in order to “send a message that we need to take LTD off the incidental fee.” I think sending messages is fine, but not with your vote, playing with student money.”

    Sending a message with your vote is appropriate, particularly when it is a benchmark vote – which you admit is non-binding. That being said, the message that the ASUO Senate sent in their benchmark (defunding LTD while funding OSPIRG) is an excellent example of ridiculously misplaced priorities.

    I still don’t get how they could include OSPIRG in the benchmark. The exclusion of them in the benchmark wouldn’t have prevented public hearings for funding. The inclusion is simply a political ploy by supporters of OSPIRG . . . the very people who advocated their inclusion in the benchmark (who say benchmarks don’t matter) will now use that benchmark to pressure ACFC members for full funding, and, when that fails, guilt trip the Senate for failing to follow a benchmark.

    The Senate doesn’t understand the complexity of their votes or understand the political maneuvers being utilized.

    “If you want to accuse someone of racketeering and money laundering, find some evidence and take it to a court. Anything else is just slander.”

    I think you do launder money (whether you see it as such or not), and I don’t want to take it to court.

    Slander, slander, slander
    ; )

  7. I think it should be noted that, whereas a 0% increase for LTD would jeopardize an important service for students, a 0% overall benchmark would jeopardize funding to a non-service which is important to half the Senate, the Exec, Charles Denson, and pretty much no one else.

    Transportation is important. I’ll support money being spent on the OSPIRG Contract instead of LTD if Dave Rosenfeld agrees to drive me to school everyday. He probably owns a Volvo or something way more stylish than an LTD bus.

    Or, while he’s walking/biking, Senator Stark-MacMillan can tow my car. It’ll save gas and help the environment!

  8. Miles Rost says:

    Melissa, you were talking to me while you were posting that. Next time, no Skittles Vodka for you.

    As for OSPIRG…my personal opinion is that they don’t do any good. They’re a money pit. They “tried” to lower textbook prices, and failed. They wasted money on solar panels and getting our energy from unreliable wind turbines. Not to mention that they break many of the rules that are on campus. And, finally, the people that are out there bothering the rest of the students with “save the whales” crap are annoying as hell and deserve to be punched in the face repeatedly and without fail.

    OSPIRG is a waste of time and money. And I would hope that students would riot against the ASUO if they fund them.

  9. Melissa Haskin says:

    HAHAHA, sorry Steve, I was being a good college student and drinking while typing, in addition to being a good woman and multi-tasking. That’s meant to read “Steve, Steve, you have it wrong”……either way, students can do a good job of protecting students, just not the ones on ASUO…..

  10. zstarmac says:

    If you want to accuse someone of racketeering and money laundering, find some evidence and take it to a court. Anything else is just slander.

    Also, I do walk to school. Sometimes I bike. 🙂

  11. Melissa Haskin says:

    Miles, Miles, you have it wrong. If the university is going to dissolve the ASUO, then the power should be given to the OC, silly Miles.

  12. Steve Toyota says:

    Zach, it would be better if those students walked. Including you. Y’know, the whole controlling obesity thing that Mrs. “Klingon” Robinson-Obama keeps talking about.

    However, the fact that you and your little minions are lobbying to fully fund an organization that is engaging in racketeering and money laundering (OSPIRG) should be reason enough for us to come down there and toss you out on your pathetic asses.

    I think it would be greatly appreciated if the university dissolved the ASUO and started taking things over. Because, as we can plainly see, students are unable and inable to do even the basic job of protecting the students’ interest.

  13. zstarmac says:

    And who made the motion for the 0% ACFC Benchmark last year? Senator Lyzi Diamond.
    Did that mean you didn’t want students to be able to get to school? 😉

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