GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
House Republicans took a shot across the governor’s bow Wednesday, issuing a news release castigating her “smash and grab” plan to tap a surplus in the state accident insurance fund to hold down spiraling pension costs for K-12 schools. Gov. Kate Brown has yet to specifically detail her plans to backstop Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement Fund, where a $26 billion deficit is driving precipitous and repeated cost increases for schools, government agencies and municipalities around the state. But records released to The Oregonian/OregonLive show that Brown, her chief of staff, legislative director and the state’s chief financial officer have met with industry experts and an investment banker to discuss the SAIF Corp. option, which was first raised by a task force she appointed in 2017 to look for ways to reduce the pension system’s growing deficit. “The Governor’s proposed indiscreet confiscation of SAIF’s reserves is a smash and grab, endangering hardworking Oregon wage earners,” House Republican Leader Rep. Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, was quoted in a news release.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon elections officials are considering dropping much of a nearly $100,000 fine levied against a progressive political group that mishandled ballots in last year’s election. Under the agreement, obtained by OPB, the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office would suspend more than $70,000 of a $94,750 penalty assessed last month against Defend Oregon, a powerful political action committee in the state. The fines were the result of an error last November when the PAC collected ballots from voters on Election Day with a promise to turn them in by the time polls closed. That’s a legal practice under state law, but Defend Oregon got into trouble the day after the election when it discovered a box of 97 ballots had not been turned in.
SOS DENNIS RICHARDSON
Former Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who died in office last month following a battle with brain cancer, was honored Wednesday at a state funeral with stories about his devotion to his faith, family and the state. Richardson, 69, was Oregon’s top elections official and held the second-highest office in the state after the governor. He was the highest-ranking Republican in state government and was the first Republican elected to statewide office in years. Lawmakers and colleagues paid their respects during a state funeral on the floor of the Oregon House of Representatives, where Richardson served for 12 years.
The body of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson lay in state in the Capitol rotunda Wednesday morning, March 6, hours before his public funeral. Richardson died Feb. 26 at his Central Point home after a months-long fight with brain cancer. The 69-year-old former U.S. Army warrant officer and combat helicopter pilot served six terms in Oregon’s House of Representatives before becoming elected secretary of state in 2016. He is survived by his wife, Cathy, his eight daughters and one son.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
It was in the same House chamber that Richardson was remembered Wednesday, by a bipartisan array of dignitaries who’d gathered to honor the life of Oregon’s 26th secretary of state. Gov. Kate Brown said Richardson “embodied what it means to be a dedicated public servant.” Former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling called him “someone for whom the notion of public service was stitched strong and lasting in the warp and woof of his soul.”
It was a muted and at times somber scene in the Oregon Capitol Wednesday, as hundreds of people came to pay their respects to Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. He was described during his funeral in the House of Representatives chamber as a decent, kind and hardworking man of deep faith who put his family before anything else. The quintessential public servant, who loved serving Oregon.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Grape growers in southern Oregon thought they had already weathered one of the biggest challenges of the 2018 season — the Klondike Fire, which burned over 175,000 acres in July. But on Sept. 22, they faced even more devastating news: Copper Cane Wines and Provisions, a California-based winery that contracts with numerous growers in the region, canceled grape orders mere days before harvest was supposed to start, citing smoke taint.
Deschutes County’s district attorney says he will stop prosecuting certain misdemeanors if county commissioners don’t staff a dozen more positions in his office. John Hummel held a press conference Wednesday to announce he will press Deschutes County’s three commissioners during the upcoming budget season for an additional $1.1 million to fund new staff, or else he would “significantly reduce” services offered by his office. Hummel released a 79-page report at the press conference to bolster his case.
A former surgeon general of the United States held a free public talk in Eugene on Wednesday, urging a broader public discussion about health and also weighing in on the vaccination debate roiling the region. The surgeon general is the federal government’s leading spokesperson on matters of public health.
The Pendleton City Council unanimously voted to raise dozens of fees at a meeting Tuesday. The fee increases — which cover things like the Pendleton Convention Center, the Pendleton Aquatic Center, the planning department, and parking tickets — are mostly minimal in amount. Most fees were increased between 3 percent and 15 percent based on how long they had gone without an update.
The Daily Astorian
The Port of Astoria may get more help from the state to fix its crumbling infrastructure, but only with close state oversight, according to the agency’s strategic planner. The state has loaned the Port nearly $19.7 million through Business Oregon’s Infrastructure Finance Authority since 2001. The Port began updating its 2010 strategic business plan nearly two years ago after hearing the state was unlikely to loan any more money without an update.
First openly gay justice on any state high court in the nation retires from the Oregon Supreme Court after 15 years. When Rives Kistler was elevated to the Oregon Supreme Court in 2003, the announcement by Gov. Ted Kulongoski drew only routine notice — for a single day. Then news accounts reported Kistler’s sexual orientation and focused on him as the first gay man in the nation to sit on any state high court.
A growing number of developers, business owners are exploring TOD projects, with TriMet on the case. Since construction of Portland’s first MAX line began in 1982, transit-oriented development (TOD) has evolved to include higher densities, a mix of uses, and robust opportunities for developers and business owners in communities along the light rail lines.