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News Briefs

More than 20 percent of Lane County residents are on food stamps — that’s 80,657 people in a county with a population of about 350,000 who need federal assistance to eat and to feed their children. Local mapper and retired government employee Joe Kosewic has been mapping food stamps and other social issues to graphically draw attention to the challenges faced by the poor and the homeless.

Is your bug spray getting into the Willamette River? According to sampling done by the Long Tom Watershed Council (LTWC) over the past two years, some of the most frequently found pesticides in Amazon Creek are DEET, a chemical used in insect repellent sprays like OFF!, and diuran, an herbicide that interferes with photosynthesis. At a LTWC public meeting on July 24, Kevin Masterson of the DEQ and Jason Schmidt of the LTWC presented the results of the sampling and discussed the potential and largely unstudied danger of mixing multiple chemicals in creek water.

Despite fears that the pattern of attacks on progressive Lane County commissioners from the right over the last several years would scare good people away from politics, possible progressive candidates are already starting to explore running for the West Lane (Jay Bozievich) and East Lane (Faye Stewart) commission seats. Dawn Lesley, a soon-to-be graduate of the 2013 class of Emerge Oregon, a training program for Democratic women, is exploring a run against Bozievich for 2014.

Recent allegations that County Administrator Liane Richardson was asking employees to alter how she added money to her paycheck in a way not authorized by her employment contract came to light thanks to a county employee whistleblower, backed by the AFSCME union. An “outside investigation” was launched into this incident, overseen by County Counsel Stephen Dingle, but county documents appear to indicate Richardson should have been aware that what she was doing was improper. 

The Eugene City Council has extended the suspension of the controversial Multiple-Unit Property Tax Exemption (MUPTE) for a second time, which means it might not grant more tax breaks for as long as a year. MUPTE allows City Council to grant 10-year property tax waivers to housing developers in the downtown area. It has come under increasing public scrutiny since granting large property tax waivers to student housing companies Capstone and Core Campus. Under the new suspension ordinance, MUPTE could remain dormant until July 31, 2014.

“What do people like to see in police policies?” asks Kaitlyn Lange, former Eugene Police Commission chair. She says this question, and trying to allow for more flexibility and greater efficiency, led to recent changes in the commission’s work plan, which alterations the commission’s focus from reviewing policy to examining issues it has determined the community is most interested in. City Council approved the plan July 22. “We’re trying to get away from wordsmithing policies and really get at the meat of what concerns people,” she says. 

Comments to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding industrial stormwater pollution control plans for two B & R Auto Wrecking facilities (one in Albany and one in Corvallis) are due by 5 pm on August 9. Visit goo.gl/ScwdH to see stormwater plans, and goo.gl/iMDQb to comment. It should be noted that while DEQ is required to respond in writing to comments on stormwater plans, it recently came to light that DEQ considers mere written acknowledgement of receipt of comments to fulfill this requirement, which appears to violate the intent of the law.

Sponsors’ women’s program has not only hired a new director, but it is also about to get a third house specifically designed for women with children. Sponsors aims at reducing recidivism by providing services to help men and women transition back into the community from jail and prison.

Kayaks and canoes blocking fossil fuel shipments going down the Columbia River, women and transgender activists climbing trees and studying decolonization: Summer is when activism heats up in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s just in time because Oregon is facing climate-affecting threats from all sides such as logging in native forests and shipments of oil and coal. Summer Heat: Columbia River Climate Action takes place July 27 in Vancouver, Wash., and the Trans and Womyn’s Action Camp is taking place July 24-28 in the forests outside Oakridge. 

Last week Eugene Jeans owner and local bluegrass musician Tim Long finally received some good news: Because of his Gleevec medication regimen, the gastrointestinal stromal tumor he was diagnosed with in April has shrunk about 40 percent, from the size of a large orange to the size of a tennis ball.

County Administrator Liane Richardson appears to be eroding the confidence of Lane County citizens again. Her efforts earlier this year to increase her pay from $152,345 to $175,656, an increase of more than 15 percent, caused public outcry at a time when the county is strapped for cash. Questions have arisen about whether Richardson may have finagled an increase in the money she was getting after all, despite the outcry and despite saying she would say no to an immediate raise.

The opening date of Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE), Eugene’s pilot project for a safe, sustainable community for homeless people, is fast approaching, and a series of fundraisers begins 6 pm Sunday, July 28, with “Keys for the Village,” a piano and keyboard concert featuring Grammy-nominated pianist Weber Iago.

Comments to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding industrial stormwater pollution control plans for the following Lane County facilities are due by 5 pm on July 29: Eugene Airport, Goshen Forest Products, Lane County Central Receiving Station, Pacific Rim Manufacturing (Jasper) Rosboro (Springfield), Short Mountain Landfill, Starfire Lumber (Cottage Grove), Sundance Lumber (Springfield) and Swanson Bros. Lumber (Noti). Visit goo.gl/ScwdH to see stormwater plans, and goo.gl/iMDQb to comment.

Activists have again pitched their tents to protest the lack of places homeless people can sleep, this time in the West Eugene Wetlands. In early July, the Bureau of Land Management began clearing camps of homeless people from the wetlands. SLEEPS (Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep) is camping at a site near Danebo and Pacific in solidarity with those who have nowhere else to go.

An Oregon Government Ethics Commission investigator recommended in a 32-page report that the commission dismiss an ethics complaint against former Lane County commissioner Rob Handy. After debate, the six members of the ethics commission present at the July 12 meeting did not reach the four votes needed to either move forward with or dismiss the complaint. As the Handy case statutorily expired July 17, this ends a chapter in what some see as a vendetta against Handy and other progressive politicians.

The local fight against genetically modified crops is on. Citizens’ group Support Local Food Rights (SLFR) submitted a local food system ordinance to the Lane County clerk. The initiative would ban the planting of genetically modified (GM) crops and establish the right to a local food system.

Opponents of GM crops are concerned with a host of issues: increased pesticide use, the lack of a long-term study of their safety for consumption and unwanted cross-pollination ruining local organic crops and causing unintentional patent infringement. 

Comments to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding industrial stormwater pollution control plans for the following Linn County facilities are due by 5 pm on July 25 (facilities are located in Albany unless otherwise noted): Absorbent Technologies (two Albany locations), Albany-Lebanon Sanitation, Bear Mountain Forest Products (Brownsville), Dave Hunter Manufacturing, Decorative Bark Products (Lyons), Eagle Veneer (Harrisburg), Entek International (Lebanon), Frank Lumber (Lyons), Freres Lumber (two locations in Lyons, one i

Two cases in Eugene Municipal Court this week revolved around protest, poop and constitutional free speech rights. Judge Karen Stenard heard testimony in a motion-to-dismiss hearing July 15 about two protests in the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza that involved the arrests of 21 people in one protest and activist Alley Valkyrie in another. Both were related to the group SLEEPS, which set up tents in the plaza to call attention to the plight of the homeless. The cases were heard on the same day as they subpoenaed the same witnesses.

Beekeepers have been saying for years that they see a link between neonicotinoid pesticides and bee die-offs, but the recent deaths of 50,000 bees near Portland are finally giving pesticide foes some traction: A federal bill, the “Save America’s Pollinators Act of 2013” was introduced on July 16. A “Nix the Neonics” rally is planned for noon July 20 at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza in downtown Eugene.

Eugene Sunday Streets, the annual street shutdown that celebrates walking, biking and community, is back for two more rounds. On Sunday, July 21, downtown stretches of 8th and 10th avenues and Broadway between Pearl and Almaden will be closed to automobiles while the residents use the public space to build community and try out walking and biking in a safe environment. A second event will be held in the Bethel area in September.

It’s not great, but it could have been worse. That’s the latest from the Eugene Education Association (EEA) regarding the education budget of $6.75 billion in school funding for the state of Oregon in the now-ended legislative session. For the 4J School District, which already suffers under the strain of financial woe, it means assessing what changes are in store for the upcoming school year. 

• Freres Lumber, Inc., (503) 859-2121, plans to hack and squirt 160 acres near Swartz Creek in the Coast Range with Imazapyr. See ODF 935-2283 notification 2013-781-00610 for more information.

• ODOT is spraying roadsides along state highways: call (888) 996-8080 for herbicide application information.

Willamette Street, one of Eugene’s most collision-prone roadways, will get a makeover in 2018. The city’s community meetings to consider reengineering the street to work better have been packed to the brim. When the Eugene City Council considers alternatives later this summer or in early fall, it will choose from three options: the four-lane street’s current configuration; three lanes, including a center turn lane, and bike lanes in both directions; and three lanes with wider sidewalks.