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News Briefs

Volunteer surveyors in Elliott State Forest recently discovered nesting behavior by the marbled murrelet, a sea bird protected under the Endangered Species Act, on one of three parcels of land being assessed for sale by the State Land Board.

It was the smack heard ’round the YouTube. On Sunday, Aug. 4, Eugene police officers were attempting to enforce a court order transferring custody of a 10-year-old child from his mother to his father at Monroe Park when an officer struck the child. 

Joann Ernst has had a turbulent career; but turbulent or not, she has proven she can stand her ground. Now, she’s entering the fray for the East Lane County Commissioner race to change the perception of civic engagement in the county. “I think Lane County has lost the trust of the people because they don’t seem to have a voice. I’d like to bring that voice back,” Ernst says. Kevin Matthews and Jose Ortal have also indicated they will file for the May 2014 primary.

Alley Valkyrie said from the beginning that closing the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza was unconstitutional, and a recent ruling in Eugene Municipal Court has proven her right, she says. The arguments in court centered on poop, which makes for giggles, but Valkyrie’s attorney, Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, says it’s no laughing matter when someone’s free speech rights are being taken away.

“Whenever anybody’s constitutional rights are diminished, everybody’s rights are harmed,” Regan says.

Efforts in Oregon to protect small farmers and organic growers are coming from the ground up at the county and state level these days. An initiative to ban genetically modified (GM) crops in Lane County has been resubmitted to the county clerk, and small farmers came out ahead in the Oregon Legislature this session. 

Fill your stomach for the good cause on Saturday, Aug. 17: Dishcrawl introduces “Neighborfood,” an afternoon celebration of food, family and community in downtown Eugene. Dishcrawl will give a portion of the proceeds to Womenspace, a nonprofit organization providing support to women and children in situations of domestic abuse.

Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz won some high marks during his annual performance evaluation, but councilors also complained about the budget process that created a nearly $6 million deficit and poor relations with the public employee union. “A certain pattern has developed here, certain unhealthy trends,” says City Councilor George Brown. Brown says he hasn’t received answers to critical budget-related questions that he submitted in April. “Why it doesn’t bother the other councilors is beyond me,” he says.

Clean drinking water is a logging issue in Oregon, where so many of our watersheds are on forest lands. In the furor over the DeFazio forest bill — or more properly the O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act — river advocates say that the need to protect water for fish, wildlife and humans gets lost as people argue over county payments, timber jobs and board feet. 

The name may not be familiar, but the ideas might be refreshing in relatively conservative east Lane County. Jose Ortal is one of the challengers eyeing incumbent Faye Stewart’s East Lane County commissioner position in 2014. Also on the record planning to file are former EWEB commissioner Joann Ernst and longtime environmental land use activist Kevin Matthews.

Weyerhaeuser Co., 744-4600, plans to backpack spray 247 acres near Fish Creek in the Coast Range with Polaris AC, Polaris SP, Forestry Garlon XRT, Accord XRT II, Rodeo and/or Accord Concentrate with additives MSO and/or nonionic surfactant. See ODF, 935-2283, notification 2013-781-00649 for more information.

Warm up and get ready to roll! The renovation of the park under Washington-Jefferson Bridge has begun, and what will be the biggest covered and lighted skate park in the country will reach completion in March 2014. 

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sent a warning letter to Jeanne M. Burris of Springfield on July 29 for illegally operating a waste tire storage site at property owned by Burris at 29882 Kelso St. in Eugene. DEQ’s warning letter indicates that while more than 17 tons of tires from the site have already been disposed of at Delta Sand and Gravel, additional tires remain on the property and also that improper storage and accumulation of tires can be a fire hazard and attract mosquitoes, rats and mice.

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.