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Toxins are everywhere. In Portland, the discovery and subsequent cover-up of high levels of lead in the drinking water of public schools led to Portland Superintendent Carole Smith’s resignation July 18.

Here in Lane County, school districts are in the midst of testing drinking fountains and faucets for elevated levels of lead.

A month after the oil train fire in Mosier along the Columbia River, activist groups such as 350 Eugene are upset with the government’s lack of progress and accountability for oil train accidents. 

In 2008, Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act, which called for stricter railroad safety regulations to be implemented by the end of 2015. The new regulations have not been met and the deadline has been extended to 2018. 

Delegates from Lane County are preparing to head to the Democratic National Convention July 25-28 in Philadelphia, where the party will officially nominate its presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2016 election. It is also where the Democratic Party adopts its official platform.

A Harrisburg business owner is providing jet boat tours of the Willamette River from a perspective only a local could provide.

Mike Hurd is the owner of Scenic Jet Boat Tours and Hurd’s Hardware and Custom Machinery in Harrisburg, just 30 minutes north of Eugene.

Roughly 67,000 wild horses roam the public lands of the western United States, and around 4,000 of them are in Oregon. 

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) considers the current population to be more than double the healthy level for the land and has suppressed the population for decades. Many mustang advocacy groups strongly oppose the BLM’s methods and motives for population control and believe that the agency gives preferential treatment to livestock.

The McKenzie River is home to a diverse collection of wildlife and is also the source of Eugene’s drinking water. The 90-mile tributary of the Willamette is home to fish like rainbow trout, spring Chinook and mountain whitefish. Unfortunately, the wildlife, as well as anyone else drinking the water, shares the river with beer cans, mattresses and televisions among other waste that has been dumped into the McKenzie.

On June 28, the Lane County Board of Commissioners discussed giving themselves the power to block certain citizen-powered ballot measures the board deems not of  “county concern” before those measures are voted on.

While the furor over the proposed sale of Kesey Square has died down, those who love public spaces have not forgotten that the corner of Broadway and Willamette Street is not officially safe from future development. 

Roo Vandegrift studies fungi. He recently received his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon and, like hundreds of other scientists, he is in need of money to fund his research.

Crisis workers in Eugene say they are still seeing repeat cases of severely mentally ill people being discharged back to the community by the jail and PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center University District’s emergency room, despite a 2015 Oregon bill that changed the language describing how people can be committed to a state mental institution.

That’s because House Bill 3347 didn’t really usher in any new legislation, according to Andrea Williams, one of two civil commitment investigators for Lane County Behavioral Health Services.

“In my experience, it’s not really going to change anything for us as far as how we process holds that come through the hospital. That provision has always been there. They’ve just changed the language of it,” Williams says.

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Wendy Wheeler-Coltrane first had the idea to form a local philanthropy group five years ago. A busy schedule and lack of contacts held her back until last year, when Wheeler-Coltrane and Jean Lee began working to found the Eugene-Springfield chapter of 100+ Women Who Care (100+WWC), a group of women who donate to local charities that provide a service for the community. 

MRG Foundation, once known as the McKenzie River Gathering, began on the banks on the river for which the foundation was named, says the group’s communications manager Alison Wandschneider. 

Founders Leslie Brocklebank and her husband Charles Gray came into an inheritance of about $500,000, Wandschneider says, and brought a group of activists and philanthropists together to figure out how the money could have the deepest impact on the root causes of social inequity and environmental degradation.

When Kate Sullivan got the postcard last month notifying her of a proposal to place a cell phone tower at the church near her Jefferson Westside Neighborhood home, she was concerned. 

“It’s going to be in our backyard,” she remembers thinking.

The McKenzie River is more than just a line on the map. It is a living river, constantly shifting and forming the surrounding land, creating a dynamic habitat for hundreds of native species. Sitting atop this vibrant river is Green Island, home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the Willamette Valley.

The McKenzie River Trust is hosting its 8th annual Living River Celebration from 7 am to 5 pm Saturday, June 25, on Green Island.

McKenzie River Trust (MRT) is a nonprofit land trust that works to protect and conserve thousands of acres of land in Western Oregon.

In December of 2015, Eileen Chanti’s preschool program for unhoused children, First Place Kids, looked in danger of closing. The program had recently lost a staff member, and Chanti only had six months to find funding before she ran out of money.

Orlando has a welcoming LGBTQIA community, but so does Eugene. 

Local John O’Malley made this point while addressing a small crowd and TV crews Sunday, June 12, outside The Wayward Lamb — a dedicated queer space and bar in downtown Eugene.

There’s no question that the crisis of the unhoused, the homeless, people on the street — however we want to designate those in need — has reached a critical moment in Eugene and Lane County.

And when it comes to the unhoused, kids and teens are the most vulnerable.

A Junction City biogas plant that’s already received millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies is now more than $325,000 behind on its property tax bill and is fighting Lane County in court over making good on what it owes.

JC-Biomethane opened its plant in 2013 with the promise it would generate electricity to power homes by burning off gases from food wastes. The plant is the first in Oregon to use wastes from businesses and restaurants to generate power, according to records and interviews.

John Belcher has a simple dream: to walk down his street to a neighborhood natural foods market and buy cheese.

Belcher, co-chair of the River Road Community organization, is working with members of the River Road neighborhood and building owner Lutfi Thabet to bring a much-needed grocery store to an area of Eugene with few options in terms of healthy, fresh produce.

Back in 2013, EW did a public records request to find out how much oil was rolling through Eugene on railroad tanker cars. The request was swiftly denied by Oregon’s Attorney General’s office citing a post 9/11 security exemption. After all, if terrorists were to find out how much explosive Bakken crude was rolling through town, what would they do with that knowledge?

Councilors George Brown, Greg Evans and Chris Pryor do not recall the Eugene City Council ever voting to move into the “construction documents and bid the project” phase for a new City Hall. 

Yet buried in a June 1 Register-Guard article “Lane County eyes bigger chunk of Eugene’s City Hall block for new courthouse” was a comment from city spokeswoman Jan Bohman: The City Hall “project team is currently working with the direction we received from (the City) Council on April 27, which is to complete construction documents and bid the project so that we have firm costs to present for their consideration in July.”

As summer nears, people start heading for wineries like King Estate to sit on the patio, drink wine and admire the view of the hills out Lorane Highway. 

However, out in Oakridge, some residents worry their views and summer days will be spoiled if a gravel mine, an investment of Ed King’s Crown Properties LLC, begins to bite into 46 acres of a hillside known locally as TV Butte on the edge of town.

Initiative Petition 28 is either a savior for Oregon schools or a doomsday tax that will ruin Oregon’s economy, depending on what you’ve read. As it turns out, it’s not so simple.

IP 28 is a proposed “gross receipts” tax — a tax on a corporation’s sales without deducting costs and expenses — on businesses making $25 million or more in Oregon sales. It would generate $3 billion per year, and the petition to get it on the ballot asks that the money be used for education, health care and senior services.

According to a 2015 article in Business Insider, the median sale price for a home in Silicon Valley is $1.05 million, and you’d have to make $212,800 a year just to afford the mortgage. Nationwide, technology has been a double-sided coin for communities, but here in the “Silicon Shire” we haven’t yet seen those kinds of astronomical leaps in the cost of living.