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Bus tours generally take you fun places; they take you sightseeing. But a recent bus tour took Lane County participants on a trip into environmental justice — or the lack of it. Small houses cringed in front of smokestack plumes and neighborhood residents told of days the smell of chemicals have them hiding in their houses, their children stricken with asthma attacks. This isn’t happening in some big dirty city in some other state. It’s in west Eugene.

As the May primary lurks closer and closer, campaign money and endorsements are piling up in the county commissioner race for South Eugene. The Pete Sorenson vs. Andy Stahl contest seems a bit of a liberal against liberal, green against green match-up, but race-watchers say it’s more clearcut than that. 

Earth Day was first observed in 1970. Forty-two years later it’s still going strong and the Earth still needs saving. Here in Eugene and the surrounding area, a lot’s going on to commemorate the occasion. How do you decide what to do? It won’t be easy, but here’s a roundup of some local happenings going on for Earth Day 2012. For more events, see our Calendar.

Unions. They brought you the 40-hour, five-day workweek; they fight for health care and they’re a font of music you can sing along to. “Solidarity forever/ solidarity forever/ the union makes us strong.”

George Mann will be bringing his labor and folk music to Eugene at 8 pm Friday, April 20, at the Whiteaker’s Reality Kitchen. The show is sponsored by Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network/Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Local 3214 and the Lane branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

The UO neither supports nor opposes the efforts of its faculty to unionize, a spokesperson says. It just objects to the all-encompassing and overlapping categories of tenured professors, tenure-track professors, adjunct instructors, faculty of graduate and professional degree programs, emeritus faculty, postdoctoral scholars, research associates and fellows, visiting faculty and supervisory employees as parts of the same union.

The Hayward Historic District is a new nonprofit business association involving owners of Eugene City Bakery, Prince Puckler’s, Studio One Café, Tom’s Market, Beppe and Gianni’s, Ume Grill, Bare Body Waxing and Sun Automotive. The mission is to promote the area’s dining and business services as the neighborhood near campus gears up for the 2012 Olympic Track and Field Trials. “Many of us felt overlooked at the 2008 Olympic Trials,” says Chris Hogle of Studio One.

• Finalists for the executive director of Lane Council of Government will speak and take questions from 5 to 7 pm Thursday, April 19, at the Hilton Vista Room. A final decision is expected at the LCOG board meeting April 26 in Veneta. 

• A candidates forum for North Eugene’s County Commission race, sponsored by Harlow Neighbors, will be from 6 to 8 pm Thursday, April 19, at North Park Community Church, 3484 Harlow Road.

Not only do Lane County residents know who most of their county commissioners are, they like the ones they know, according to a survey done by the Lindholm Company. Commissioners Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson, who are up for re-election, both scored well in the survey. 

Sid Leiken, a former Springfield mayor and now county commissioner for Springfield, topped the list both in name recognition, 70 percent, and in favorability ratings, 36 percent favorable, 12 percent unfavorable. Leiken is not up for re-election this cycle and is the current chair of the board.

“If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a speculum — it sucks,” Breeze Harper said to a predominantly twenty-something audience at the UO on April 7. “But the speculum is this commodity that came out of the suffering of African American slavery.”

Former prostitute and porn star Annie Sprinkle has come out of the closet as an ecosexual. Sprinkle, a leader in the sex-positive feminist movement, will be coming to Eugene and leading an “ecosexy walking tour” from 3 to 4:30 pm Thursday, April 12, outside the EMU at UO. 

Animal advocates almost didn’t get a chance to tell the Board of Lane County Commissioners what they think of the plans to make major changes to the way the county deals with its stray pets. The public was allowed to comment April 5 at a commissioners’ meeting, but only after Commissioners Rob Handy and Pete Sorenson made repeated requests to have the animal control issue added to the agenda.

In last week’s Chow! story “Angels in the Rye,” the location of the restaurant called Rye was incorrect. Co-owner Kiyallah Heatherstone tells us the restaurant is at 444 E. 3rd Ave., just off the Ferry Street Bridge. The phone number at Rye is 953-3473.

A coalition of peace, justice and labor activists are organizing a series of actions on Tax Day April 17 demanding that Congress redirect war dollars and increase taxes on the top 1 percent to fund education, job creation, universal health care and other vital services.

At 11 am Tuesday, people at Eugene’s downtown post office at 5th and Willamette will be invited to participate in a “penny poll.” Participants will be given 10 pennies to put in jars representing a six-category breakdown of the federal budget.

• Weyerhaeuser Springfield, (541) 988-7502 or 974-2062, plans to ground spray Velpar DF, Accord Concentrate, Transline, Garlon 4 Ultra on 5 acres near Parsons Creek, T16S, R02W, S09. See ODF notice 2012-771-00280.

• Lane Electric plans to spray Finale in and around the Fox Hollow substation

Matthew Robinson says, “The main reason I’m running is to promote more honesty in politics,” but that seems disingenuous to those who question his last-minute entry into the May Democratic congressional primary against Rep. Peter DeFazio.

His father, Tea Party darling and Republican congressional candidate Art Robinson, is running again this year against DeFazio, and according to an email he sent to supporters, he did not ask his son to engage in a head-to-head with DeFazio for the Democratic primary.

GloryBee Foods will host its annual Bee Weekend April 13-14 at its new location, 29548 B. Airport Road. This community event is “packed with beekeeping education, distribution of pre-ordered packages of live bees, honey sampling and additional activities.” Dick Turanski, founder and beekeeper, will demonstrate bees installation into hives. Friday demo times are 9:30 and 11 am, 12:30, 2, 3:30 and 5 pm, and Saturday at 8:30, 10 and 11 am. The store will be open until 12:30 pm Saturday.

• Local organizations are hosting community meetings to share current information and science on marine debris left by the Japanese tsunami in 2011 from federal, state, and local experts. Lane County events will be at 6 pm Thursday, April 12, at Newport City Hall, 169 SW Coast Hwy; at 10 am Friday, April 13, at the Florence Fire Station, 2625 Hwy. 101; and at 3 pm Saturday, April 14, at the EWEB Training Center, 500 E. 4th Ave. in Eugene. Contact rachael@solv.org

The political season is upon us, and for many of us the task at hand is to insist that President Obama find his voice.

Luminare Press is a new business that provides affordable services for authors who are interested in indie (or self) publishing, including book editing and design, e-publishing, printing, distribution and marketing. “We bridge the gap between writing a manuscript and making a book,” says owner Patricia Marshall, who has a background in magazine publishing, editing and creative nonfiction. See www.luminarepress.com or call 554-7574.

Eugene City Council and mayoral candidates, both opposed and unopposed, will appear at City Club of Eugene at 11:50 am Friday, April 6, at the Hilton Vistas Ballroom, 12th floor. 

Invited are Mayor Kitty Piercy and her two opponents in the May 15 primary, Kevin Prociw and Jon Walrod. Ward 1 Councilor George Brown is unchallenged. Ward 2 Councilor Betty Taylor is invited, along with her opponents Jim Ray and Juan Carlos Valle. Ward 3 Councilor Andrea Ortiz and Ward 8 Councilor Chris Pryor are both unopposed.

While Eugene braces itself for possible coal trains and their choking dust, citizens of other states are already well aware of the high costs of coal to the environment and to human health. 

The Port of Coos Bay’s coal export proposal that would require open-car coal trains over a mile long chugging through Lane County may have hit a snag. It will cost millions of dollars to repair the Coos Bay Rail Link, the railroad track that goes from Eugene to Coos Bay, enough to carry the loads of coal.

Eugene’s environmental groups are not necessarily known for reaching out into the Latino community, but Beyond Toxics is looking to change that. The group is organizing a series of forums, panels and discussions on how toxic pollution affects the West Eugene community that runs April 11-13. Lisa Arkin of Beyond Toxics says events will include the academic and the experiential. “It will be a trip into environmental justice from all different angles,” Arkin says.

Fallen trees and branches are splattered all over Lane County thanks to the March snowstorm and rains, but more trees are on the way, via bicycle. Friends of Trees is planning on putting nearly 100 trees in the ground this Arbor Day, April 7.

The Friends of Trees event is a collaboration with the city of Eugene and Jefferson Westside neighbors as well as EWEB and Northwest Natural. After meeting at Jefferson Park, teams will be sent out to plant at the park and around the nearby neighborhood. There will also be some going into the ground near the Lane County Fairgrounds. 

Near Creswell, Gabrielson Logging, (541) 514-8353, has been hired by Rolland Richards, (541) 895-4470, to spray Garlon 4, Triclopyr Ester on 20 acres in Section 19 of Township 19 South, Range 03 West, in a site prep operation. See ODF notice 2012-781-00219.