The Associated Press
The mail-bomb scare widened Thursday as law enforcement officials seized three more suspicious packages — two addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden and one to actor Robert De Niro — as part of a sprawling investigation into a plot that appears to be aimed at targets of conservative anger. The new devices were described as similar to crude pipe bombs sent to former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and CNN. They brought to at least 10 the number of suspicious packages intercepted by authorities this week. Each was addressed to a prominent critic of President Donald Trump.
Two weeks before national midterm elections, a series of suspicious and potentially explosive packages addressed to high-ranking Democrats were intercepted. And early Thursday morning, New York Police were responding to a “suspicious package” that was sent to the building that houses the Tribeca Grill, a restaurant started by Robert De Niro, and his Tribeca Film Center. Two similar packages addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden were intercepted in Delaware. At least seven bombs were sent to various locations and intercepted since Monday. The FBI said that number could grow, as they investigate other suspicious packages Thursday, including the one addressed to De Niro’s restaurant and two addressed to Biden.
Coos Bay World Link
Coming two weeks before midterm elections, the thwarted attacks Wednesday caused renewed soul-searching — and finger pointing — about whether President Donald Trump has fanned passions to dangerous levels. Democrats swiftly pointed to his remarks seeming to condone violence against reporters and belittling political opponents, including some apparently targeted by the devices. Trump decried all political violence and issued a broad call for unity. “It almost seems like we’re in the middle of a civil war without the shots being fired,” said Bobby Dietzel, a 45-year-old information technology worker from Kansas City who is registered with neither party. From a Denver coffee shop, he said he watched the political conflict with alarm. “It’s almost scary to talk politics with people.”
Gov. Kate Brown’s administration has until 5 p.m. Friday to release roughly 250 bill proposals for 2019, a Marion County judge ruled Wednesday. “I do know that this is time sensitive,” said Circuit Court Judge Audrey Broyles, referring to the fast-approaching Nov. 6 election. “There is a significant public interest in the documents being disclosed.” The case centers on whether Brown and the state agencies she oversees can keep bill proposals confidential while legislative lawyers are drafting legislation. With Brown in a tight reelection race against Republican Knute Buehler, she has avoided stating how she would pay for several of her policy proposals and whether she wants to raise taxes in 2019. The bill requests could shed light on that.
Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has accused the Oregon Department of Justice of trying to unduly influence a civil investigation into a political deal between Gov. Kate Brown, labor unions and Nike. An unsolicited letter of advice about the case from the deputy attorney general prompted Richardson to criticize the letter as inappropriate and “unprecedented” in a missive he sent Tuesday to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. Richardson, the only Republican in statewide office, criticized the “apparent eagerness to influence this case” by the Justice Department and reminded Rosenblum of their collective duties to “rise above the political fray” and look into election complaints “without favoritism.” “Your conduct appears inconsistent with our shared task of impartial investigation, and we respectfully request that it never be repeated,” Richardson wrote.
The Bend Bulletin
After initially deciding to postpone the release of Oregon school ratings until after Election Day, Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill abruptly released the school and school district report cards Wednesday afternoon. Gill, who was selected by Gov. Kate Brown, said Tuesday he’d delay the ratings’ release from Oct. 25 to Nov. 15, adding that he was “not comfortable” sharing the reports with the public until there was a “complete package of supports ready for both parents and for educators and districts,” according to The Oregonian newspaper. Department spokesman Marc Siegel also said the release was pushed back so the agency could launch a chronic absenteeism campaign Tuesday. The move created political backlash. Knute Buehler, the Republican challenger to Brown’s governor seat, tweeted Tuesday that hiding the scores “is another broken transparency promise.” Education is seen as an important campaign issue in the governor’s race. In an email sent to The Bulletin, Brown’s office sent a statement from the governor, confirming that she told the Department of Education to release the data. “We should all remember that at the end of the day, this data is not about an election or politics,” Brown said in the email. “It’s about improving our schools. My top priority as Governor is to give Oregon’s students the tools they need to succeed.”
“The governor has asked me to release these at-a-glance profiles and the accountability detail sheets today,” he said. “The governor has clearly seen from the community that people would like to see these reports now.” The data, released just a few minutes after the press conference, only allowed users to view details for a single school at a time and did not allow school-to-school comparisons, unlike previously. The information also did not reveal many new details, as graduation rates presented in the report were released in December and state test result data were made public last month, Gill said. And, data about chronic absenteeism was included in the report released Wednesday, but it lacked details that could provide context about what the numbers meant for each district compared with others.
A top Oregon official routinely and unlawfully destroyed public records, according to a new federal court filing that asks for the state to face heavy sanctions for the “intentional destruction of relevant evidence.” Lynne Saxton, who was the head of the Oregon Health Authority from early 2015 to August 2017, admitted in a recent deposition that she destroyed text messages on her state-issued cell phone on a routine basis, according to a motion filed by FamilyCare Inc. The Portland-area nonprofit is suing the state over what it says were unfair Oregon Health Plan reimbursement rates. And it has asked federal judge Michael Mosman to sanction the state over what it says are at least 78 missing texts, saying they could shed light on the rates as well as a state plan to secretly plant negative stories about FamilyCare.
The representative for District 57 spent an hour with the Hermiston City Council on Monday, answering their questions about the upcoming legislative session and how the League of Oregon Cities’ six legislative priorities might fare. While cities would like to see more money spent to address issues such as mental health care and homelessness, Smith said the state’s $22 billion obligation to PERS presents some challenges. The state has a bill due, he said, and it’s time to pay. Smith said he believes the best way is to issue pension bonds, which would stabilize the bill for government entities such as schools. He likened it to a family that gets in over its head in credit card debt and goes to the bank to refinance their debt into a single payment. The refinance may make it easier on the family to get a handle on their problem, but they still need to figure out a way to either increase their income or cut their expenses to free up money to start paying off their debt. In practical terms for the legislature, that means raising taxes or cutting spending. Voters won’t be happy about new taxes, but they also won’t be happy about cuts to public safety, health care or education. “It’s going to be hard,” Smith said. “The question is whether the Legislature has the fortitude to make those hard decisions.”
The state’s major newspapers disagree about who should be elected governor. Willamette Week believes incumbent Democrat Kate Brown is Oregon’s best bet at resisting the Trump presidency. The Oregonian’s editorial board says national issues shouldn’t factor into the race, and that GOP Rep. Knute Buehler deserves your vote. “I think it’s more dangerous for Oregonians that we have so many problems in our schools. We have, you know look, if we had kids graduating, more of our kids graduating; if we weren’t at the bottom of the heap when it comes to high school graduation rates; if we had PERS under control, the $22 billion unfunded liability; if we had programs in place that we knew, especially if we were facing a recession, that that was going to be under control; if we had fewer general fund dollars going out the door to pay for PERS, meaning that we won’t have money for addiction services, mental health services, affordable housing; if we had all these issues tied up better with a little red bow, sure. Great. Kate Brown, go out and deal with these. But we don’t. We need to focus on Oregon. We have congressional leaders who can do more at the federal level to address these problems. No I think that whoever is the leader of Oregon should be focused on our state. We have so many problems right now. We can’t afford to look outside.”
What is the most important issue facing the Legislature, and how would you address it? McKeown: Our highest priority must be funding our public schools so that our students can be successful. I’m looking forward to seeing the recommendations that are coming out of the Joint Committee on Student Success and will fight to improve the quality of our kids’ schools. I’m also deeply committed to continuing the work around the quality of care in long-term care and memory care facilities. Our seniors and loved ones deserve the best possible care we can give them. Grier: We must fix the Public Employees Retirement System. The financial chokehold it has on our state prevents us from implementing real solutions to the issues that plague our education and infrastructure problems. We must implement a defined contribution that can be matched to a certain percentage, cap the payout, and allow full bargaining for payment of employee PERS contributions and limiting agreements to negotiated periods.
Portland Business Journal
Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cell phone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well. But aides say the voluble president, who has been pressured into using his secure White House landline more often these days, has still refused to give up his iPhones. White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he is on them.
Oregon Rep. Greg Walden’s sweeping bill to combat the nation’s opioid crisis is now law. President Donald Trump signed the 660-page SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act at a ceremony Wednesday at the White House. “Seldom can you say that a piece of legislation will save lives,” Walden said. “This will save lives.” Walden said the law includes safeguards to ensure the funds do what the law intends. The act allows for reauthorization of the grants every two years, he said, providing time to determine whether programs are working. “We’ll be keeping a close eye on that as well,” he said. The crisis, to some degree, is a monster of our own making, he said. People for years obtained drugs to treat pain, even the kinds of aches that are part of normal human experience. “We went so far down that path of alleviating pain, so now we’re backing up and saying what else works here,” he said.
The Washington Post
In their recently updated “Emergency Response Guide,” Alphabet’s Waymo — which has hundreds of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans on the road in Phoenix — provides a protocol that may offer some glimpse of what is to come. “The Waymo vehicle uses its sensors to identify police or emergency vehicles by detecting their appearance, their sirens, and their emergency lights,” the guide says. “… If a Waymo fully self-driving vehicle detects that a police or emergency vehicle is behind it and flashing its lights, the Waymo vehicle is designed to pull over and stop when it finds a safe place to do so.” Once it has come to a stop, a Waymo vehicle can unlock its doors and roll down its windows, allowing someone from the company’s support team to communicate with law enforcement, according to the guide. If there are passengers in the vehicle, the guide states, Waymo’s “Rider Support specialists” can communicate with them via speakers, displays and “in-vehicle telecommunications.” If necessary, a Waymo employee may even be dispatched to the scene. The company says employees may be sent to the scenes of wrecks as well to interact with police and passengers.
Portland Business Journal
As the Oregon Health Authority embarks on the largest procurement process in state history — $5 billion to manage 1 million Medicaid recipients — the current contractors’ corporate structures are back in the spotlight. Two Oregon lawmakers recently expressed concern over the lack of transparency over how the state’s for-profit CCOs are distributing profits to their owners. Five for-profit CCOs and two tax-paying nonprofits paid out $166 million to shareholders and owners from 2014 to 2017, according to their financial statements. “When you’re for-profit, you’ve got shareholders and that’s money that needs to go to shareholders,” Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, a Gresham Democrat, said at the State of Reform health care conference last week. “Because of the transparency issue we’re having, I’m very concerned about where the money is going.” But leaders of those CCOs say that’s not the case. They contend that funds paid to shareholders aren’t pure profit-taking, but capital deployed for necessities like taxes and IT upgrades. The confusion, they argue, comes in a reporting system that doesn’t allow them to clarify how shareholder payments are disbursed.
Soon after the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, debris from across the ocean beagan washing up on Oregon shores. A large concrete dock floated ashore near Newport. A derelict fishing boat washed up north of Lincoln City. Other, smaller debris showed up all along the coast and much of it was coated in potentially invasive species of algae, seaweed and other microorganisms. But now, more than seven years after the quake, experts from Oregon State University say the Pacific Northwest dodged a bullet and none of the invasive species have gained a foothold in the waters off Oregon’s coast.
Though some of the longest individual cases have been resolved, Portland Public Schools is still paying for a lot of no-work days for its employees on paid administrative leave. In fact, according to an analysis of public records by the Portland Tribune, the district so far is seeing twice as many total paid administrative leave days this year than it had in 2017. For cases resolved or ongoing by Oct. 23, the district had made a total of 49 employees stay home for more than 5,300 days, combined. For cases resolved in 2017, it was a combined total of 2,385 days for 39 employees.
Walden, as the lone Republican in Oregon’s Congressional delegation, has been in a position to either curb or carry out President Donald Trump’s agenda. That has both helped and harmed the Oregonians he represents in a massive district that covers two-thirds of the state, including parts of 20 counties. McLeod-Skinner offers a compelling message matched with a respectful approach that has resonated with voters across this massive district with varied priorities. She has a political background, having served two terms on the Santa Clara, Calif., City Council, and has put in solid time getting to know the issues and the district. Hopefully, she will attempt to bring that that knowledge and skill to statewide office. But voters should stick with Walden for his experience and his valuable role on a powerful committee. Oregonians stand to benefit with at least one member of our congressional delegation in the other party. That’s true, at least, as long as Congressman Walden remembers that he comes home to Oregon.
Portland Business Journal
Oregon has long been a place where entrepreneurs from all walks of life can bring their dreams to reality. Our state’s welcoming reputation attracts diverse talent from across the globe. Oregon is a place where people are eager to live, raise families, work, start businesses and innovate. Measure 105 threatens this welcoming reputation. Measure 105 would throw out a three-decade-old anti-racial profiling law that was passed through the Oregon Legislature with near unanimous support from both Republicans and Democrats. When the law was passed, it wasn’t controversial; it was recognized as simply a good, common sense idea. The idea that people should be protected from racial profiling made sense to lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, which is why they came together to pass it. And the law has been working as intended ever since.
Albany Democrat Herald
Soda taxes have been enacted in just a handful of communities across the nation. The basic argument for them is that sweetened beverages like soda pop play a huge role in contributing to the nation’s obesity epidemic — and obesity, sooner or later, results in big costs in terms of health problems and medical bills. No one in Oregon appears to be talking right now about enacting a soda tax — although a group in Multnomah County (of course) last year indefinitely shelved its plans to push for one. (For the record, we think the idea of a soda tax isn’t a particularly good one, but we’ll leave it at that for now.) But grocers continue to worry about the possibility of a soda tax, and there’s a reason why: In a business with notoriously low profit margins, soda is a reliable money-maker. And studies have suggested that soda taxes can hammer grocery store revenue. Here’s why: Customers simply start to frequent stores in locales that don’t impose a soda tax — and then buy all their groceries, not just pop, in those stores. So you can see why grocers find the idea of a pre-emptive strike on potential soda taxes appealing: In some ways, it’s easier to rewrite the constitution once and take the idea off the table than it is to fight numerous local battles over soda taxes wherever they might arise.
The Bend Bulletin
There’s talk of limiting landlords’ ability to run criminal background checks on would-be tenants, capping the size of security deposits and ending no-fault evictions. Each of these has real downsides, however. So what’s a state to do? Lawmakers must take a good, hard look at what economists say about rent control. Though it may help some people some of the time, they say, in the long run controls not only reduce the number of rental units available but take a toll on surrounding neighborhoods. Those finding were reiterated recently in an article published on the Brookings Institution website. It’s also time lawmakers studied land use laws that make it difficult and expensive, at best, to expand city boundaries. Where land supply is limited, prices for everything from office space to apartments to owner-occupied homes go up. Surely the Legislature could find ways to increase land supply without creating urban sprawl from Portland to Pendleton or Bend to Burns. No one thing caused Oregon’s current housing problems, and no one cure will turn the situation around. But paying attention to research and re-examining our current laws could put the state on track to much-needed change.