Destined to fail: Oregon officials missed taxpayer-backed mill project’s red flags
When state and federal officials approved $8 million in taxpayer financing for a Southern Oregon sawmill project, they did so on the premise the investment would bring back jobs. But officials greenlighted the project despite warning signs the plan to retool the mothballed mill was likely doomed to fail. Sure enough, even with the expensive taxpayer-provided upgrades, the reopened Rough & Ready mill operated for less than 20 months before shutting down for good. Its equipment has been auctioned off, the land sold and the promised jobs only briefly delivered. The failed project was overseen by Portland environmental nonprofit Ecotrust.
Boshart Davis makes run for state House seat
She added that while she has never run for office, she is no stranger to campaigns, having been involved in campaigns to defeat Measure 92, the GMO-labeling measure that voters rejected in 2014, and Measure 97, the gross-receipts tax measure that voters rejected in 2016. Davis also is no stranger to the Capitol. “I have probably testified on anywhere from 20 to 25 different issues over the past few years, from diesel to emissions to labor, manufacturing, pesticides — all of these multiple issues that have hit us (in agriculture) over the past few years. And I am very involved in the Oregon Seed Council, Oregon Aglink, Oregon Women for Agriculture and Farm Bureau.”
Atkinson, Schreffler file for Esquivel’s seat
The race for the Oregon House seat now held by Sal Esquivel has heated up, with Democrats Michelle Blum Atkinson and Rick Schreffler becoming candidates Tuesday, the last day of the filing deadline. Schreffler, who was on the Rogue Valley Transportation District board from 2007-2011, will vie with Atkinson, who ran unsuccessfully for Medford City Council in 2016, in the May primary. The victor will likely take on Kim Wallan, a Medford city councilor who is the only Republican to register, and Al Densmore, former Medford mayor and legislator, who is running as an independent.
Q&A: Oregon’s new public records advocate talks transparency
Oregonians have the right to know what their government is up to, but public agencies’ notions of transparency don’t always match those of citizens or the media. That’s why the Oregon Legislature created the role of public records advocate. The idea is that the advocate will mediate disputes between those who want records and the state agencies who have them. Gov. Kate Brown picked Ginger McCall for the job. As an attorney, McCall has represented records requesters as well as government agencies.
Oregon Recovers $3.4 Million From Insurance Companies In 2017
Oregon Public Broadcasting
The state recovered about $3.4 million in unpaid insurance money for Oregonians last year. The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation says it investigated more than 4,000 insurance complaints last year. They came from people who said their claims were underpaid or who disputed the settlement their insurance offered. Claim denials and delays topped the list of reasons people filed complaints with the state.
In Oregon, pushing to give patients with degenerative diseases the right to die
The Washington Post
Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D), chair of Oregon’s House Committee on Health Care, began looking into expanding the state’s Death with Dignity law a few years ago, when a well-known 78-year-old lobbyist in Salem, Ore., fatally shot himself in the head after learning that he had Alzheimer’s. “That really shook me up,” said Greenlick, a retired director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. “I started thinking, people with Alzheimer’s should be able to have some control over how they die, rather than having to shoot themselves.” His 2015 attempt to expand the terminally ill window from six months to a year failed. Next year he plans to float another bill that would open up the state’s Death with Dignity law to dementia patients by doing away with all stipulations about terminal time limits.
Smith is vice co-chair of student success panel
State Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner) is serving as co-vice chairman of a panel of senators and representatives put together to explore ways the Oregon Legislature can work to ensure all students have an equal chance at succeeding. The panel basically revamps the education committees in the Legislature. Smith is the only committee member from Eastern Oregon. Its members include seven senators and seven representatives. Six of the members are Republicans.
AGRICULTURE & NATURAL RESOURCES
Klamath Tribal Chief: Natural Gas Pipeline to Coos Bay Would Create the “Next Standing Rock”
“As far as the Klamath people are concerned, this pipeline is a bad idea even if the price of gas were predicted to skyrocket,” Gentry writes. “The Klamath people oppose this project because it puts at risk their watersheds, forests, bays, culture, spiritual places, homes, climate and future.” The Jordan Cove project appeared dead under the Obama administration but President Donald J. Trump is much friendlier to fossil fuel projects.
Gov. Brown likely to sign drought declaration for Klamath County this week
Herald and News
Klamath County Commissioner Donnie Boyd and Scott White, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, met in Salem recently with Gov. Kate Brown about drought conditions, where Brown committed to Boyd and White that she would sign a declaration of drought for Klamath County sometime this coming week.
Walden ‘optimistic’ on emergency funds, talks to solve water crisis
Herald and News
As the Bureau of Reclamation meeting ended just miles away, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., spoke to several farmers and local leaders about his own thoughts on the continued Klamath Basin water crisis. At least a dozen farmers, city and county officials stopped into the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce offices to hear Walden address this year’s water crisis, which continues to interfere with the day-to-day operations of ranchers, irrigators and Klamath Tribe members.
Jeff Kruse interview: Not the ending he had in mind
Kruse resigned from the Legislature this month after 22 years in office. It was two years earlier than he planned, and he was under fire for allegations he had inappropriately touched women he worked with in Salem. He continues to deny that he did anything wrong. And he hopes the controversy isn’t what he’s remembered for.
Ousted Oregon State Senator Calls Sexual Harassment Claims ‘Scripted’
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Kruse hasn’t spoken publicly, or responded to reporter inquiries, since he left the Legislature in February — and his resignation became irreversible soon after — following allegations that he groped and sexually harassed female legislators and other staffers.
Resigning Oregon senator hits back on ‘scripted’ sex misconduct claims
But on Friday, he said he resigned without the extent of his due process so as not to distract from the legislative session’s business. He also made a plea for his legacy to be remembered aside from his swift downfall, which he called a scripted “soap opera” designed for political gain. The independent investigator in response urged the public to read the report detailing years of inappropriate behavior.
POLICE & PUBLIC SAFETY
Oregon House OK’s funding for Eagle Creek Fire recovery
The Oregon House approved funding last weekend to support the Eagle Creek Fire recovery efforts. House Bill 4152, which was approved via vote on Saturday, March 3, provides grants through the Oregon Office of Emergency Management to support the Multnomah County and Hood River County sheriff’s offices as their crews work to make burn areas safe to the public. The chief sponsors of the bill were Rep. Jeff Helfrich, R-Hood River, and Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River.
Money to boost public safety included in Oregon Legislature’s end-of-session funding
Law and order agencies across the state were among dozens of organizations to receive a financial boost from the Oregon Legislature as the session came to a close March 3, receiving requested funds to support current staffing or to forestall declining services.
Woodburn works against immigration rhetoric to build trust in police
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Advocates say this is Oregon’s sanctuary law at work. The state’s 30-year-old policy limits police from cooperating with federal immigration efforts. A number of cities and counties, including Portland, have their own policies promising immigrants protection. And that, supporters of such policies say, means immigrants with no criminal record feel comfortable calling law enforcement — even if they’re calling to ask local police to protect them from federal agents.
Board seeks proposals on reload center
Ontario Argus Observer
The center would be a centralized location for commodities to be delivered by truck to then be reloaded on to railcars for transport to domestic markets and to ports for shipments overseas. The project was included in the transportation package approved by the 2017 Oregon Legislature and funded at about $26 million. Board members for the corporation were appointed by the Malheur County Court. The board’s first order of business was to select a site for the reload center.
America’s Gun Background Check System Riddled With Flaws
Oregon Public Broadcasting
The problem with the legislation, experts say, is that it only works if federal agencies, the military, states, courts and local law enforcement do a better job of sharing information with the background check system — and they have a poor track record in doing so. Some of the nation’s most horrific mass shootings have revealed major holes in the database reporting system, including massacres at Virginia Tech in 2007 and at a Texas church last year.
Lawmakers to consider bills that protect gun retailers
Under state and federal law, Oregonians 18 and older can buy rifles and shotguns, and the ammunition for those firearms. You must be at least 21 to buy a handgun and handgun ammunition. Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian has concluded gun retailers that have stopped selling to customers younger than 21 in the wake of recent mass shootings could be violating the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The decision could be challenged at the Bureau of Labor and Industries or in a civil court complaint.
Editorial: Good governance is frequently bland
Most bills that passed did so on a bipartisan basis, many on unanimous or near-unanimous votes. Among the exceptions were the Democratic majority’s bills to partially disconnect Oregon income tax regulations from the federal tax reforms that became law in December. The wisdom of the state legislation, or lack thereof, likely won’t be known for some time. And despite legislators’ sometimes heated public rhetoric on taxes, immigration and a few other issues, this was a legislative session that largely worked well behind the scenes. Republicans and Democrats collaborated to make an early adjournment possible. Oregon history books may pay little heed to the 2018 Legislature, and that’s OK. Good governance is frequently bland, often tedious … and supremely important.
Editorial: The tedious nature of legislation
Most legislation is tedious — making fixes in laws and regulations, adjusting the state budget, correcting spellings such as for the Central Oregon community of Terrebonne, and the like. Such legislation rarely makes headlines. But it comprises the nuts and bolts of governance, and it was the essence of the 2018 Legislature. Legislative sessions in even-numbered years are short — limited to 35 days — because they’re designed for fix-it and budget balancing bills, not grand visionary legislation. And the 2018 Legislature, which adjourned after only 27 days, largely succeeded in that mission.
Editorial: Retailers move a step in right direction
Oregonians are all too familiar with the lethal force of the AR-15. It was the weapon used by the gunman in the 2012 Clackamas Town Center shooting, the 2014 Reynold High School shooting, and was in the arsenal of weapons the shooter brought onto the Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg in 2015.
Editorial: Public’s help needed to get clean-energy bill passed in 2019
“It’s a pretty firm commitment to getting it done next year,” said Brad Reed, a spokesman for Renew Oregon, a nonprofit that believes that clean energy and a prosperous state are not mutually exclusive. But supporters say it won’t be easy if the groundswell of grassroots advocacy dries up during the interim. So when lawmakers are on the campaign trail this year, Oregonians should show up at town halls and other stump stops, and speak up. Showing up and engaging is how state officials know Oregonians are paying attention to their futures.
Editorial: In housing puzzle, tracking rentals is critical piece
The Oregonian Editorial Board
While Mayor Ted Wheeler campaigned on the need for a rental registry, there remains a disturbing lack of urgency in the work to get it up and going. Interim Portland Housing Bureau Director Shannon Callahan confirms the registry is a relatively simple set-up, as far as city tech projects go. That being said, a “beta” version with basic information – units and addresses – won’t be ready to test in-house until June.