Klamath Basin News, Thursday, Aug 10 – Hagelstein Park May Become Day-Use Only; Hot Weekend Weather On The Way

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Thursday, August 10, 2023

Klamath Basin Weather

Today
Sunny, with a high near 90. Light winds west 5 to 8 mph in the afternoon. Overnight, mostly clear, low of 57 with lights winds 7-10 mph.
Friday
Sunny, with a high near 92. Calm wind becoming west northwest 5 to 8 mph in the afternoon. Overnight clear and near 57 degrees.
Saturday
Sunny, with a high near 95.
Sunday
Sunny and hot, with a high near 97.
Monday
Sunny and hot, with a high near 97.
Tuesday
Sunny and hot, with a high near 98.
 

Today’s Headlines

Following their work session, Klamath Fall city council reconvened at City Hall for the regular meeting, addressing and approving actions including the installation of a new cooling system at the wastewater treatment plant as well as new windows for City Hall.

Utilities were also on the agenda Monday night, with a public hearing held on behalf of a contract renewal with Avista Utilities.

City residents can expect to see a slight increase in the price of gas utilities on their bills come November after city council approved another 10-year franchise agreement with Avista Utilities which included a 1% rate increase from 5% to 6%.

Steve Vincent, a representative for Avista, said a notice to citizens will be sent out at the beginning of November. Vincent said that, as it stands, citizens’ bills show the line item as 2% which will increase to 3% in November. (herald and news)

 

Better policing of the rural communities in the Klamath Basin may get a new approach with ongoing discussions between the county and city government about merging the two police forces.

During a work session between the Klamath Falls City Council and Klamath County Board of Commissioners Monday evening, the two governmental modalities discussed the pros and cons of a potential merger for county and city police.

City Councilor Kelsey Mueller Wendt said the idea “just makes sense.”

Commissioner Dave Henslee expressed his strong support and longstanding efforts to combine the two forces. Henslee says the biggest thing … is that this will allow the sheriff to provide twenty-four-seven law enforcement coverage to the entire county by eliminating the burden of the response within the Urban Growth Boundary.

City Police Chief Rob Dentinger agreed that merging the forces would provide the best service for the entire community.

Both county and city officials said the idea of unifying local law enforcement agencies is a step in the right direction for the greater Klamath community. Stay tuned. (herald and news)

 

Negasi Zuberi (aka Sakima, Justin Hyche and Justin Kouassi)
Negasi Zuberi has made national headlines after the FBI alleged, he kidnapped a woman in Seattle on July 15th, sexually assaulted her, drove her to Klamath Falls, and imprisoned her in a makeshift cinder-block cell.

The FBI’s lead supervisor on the case, Agent Stephanie Shark said Zuberi is believed to be connected to at least three other assaults and believes that there may be more victims out there.

Authorities are looking at the time frame of July 2014 to the present starting in Orlando Florida. Shark said he is thought to have been in at least 10 other states in that time, changing his name over the years. According to Agent Shark, Zuberi also went by the names Sakima Justin, Hi Chi, and Justin Quassi in that time frame.

Shark said Zuberi started in Orlando in 2014, before moving to Ecorse Michigan, Denver, Colorado, Portland, Oregon, Vancouver, Washington, Las Vegas, Nevada, Chicago, Illinois, Bronx New York, Washington County, Utah, New Jersey, Tuscaloosa, and Northport Alabama, as well as Antioch, Oakland, Azusa, and Granada Hills in California.

Shark said he targeted sex workers and roommates or other people he felt didn’t have connections to anyone else.

“If you look backward, you can see that pathway to escalating violence,” said Shark. “That intent to continue to engage in this type of behavior and to escalate it to even more detrimental prisons and makeshift cells that he was looking at is what made us especially concerned,” said Shark.

“He had a tendency to target people who wouldn’t come forward and he exercised fear to keep people silent and now that he is in custody, we’re trying to help these victims rewrite their stories and come forward and be truthful about their statements without fear,” said Shark.

Agent Shark said they have been receiving tips including potential other victims, other leads in the case, and missing person cases that could be connected. She said there is no current evidence that Zuberi’s actions ever escalated to murder.

If you know anything connected to this case, you can call 1- 800-FBI tips. (local sources/FBI-Oregon)

 

During a public hearing Tuesday on proposed changes to the park’s public usage from a campground to a day-use only park, community members shared their opinions on the future access of Hagelstein Park.

Kathleen Buchanan told the Board of Klamath County Commissioners at a recent meeting that “What used to be a paradise, an oasis, has turned into a garbage dump and place of criminal activity.” Buchanan is  the wife of Bob Buchanan whose great uncle, Bill Hagelstein, donated the property to Klamath County for use as a park.

Ecologically, the park is the only place in the entire world where the endangered Shortnose and Lost River sucker fish can safely complete their life cycle from hatchlings to the age of reproduction.

Dr. Alex Gonyaw, the senior fish biologist for the Klamath Tribes, told the board that 700 Shortnose and Lost River suckers currently live in the pond at Hagelstein Park, and that their ecosystem is being threatened by campers.

After hearing from many more constituents as to the mistreatment of Hagelstein Park, Commissioners Derrick DeGroot and Dave Henlsee said that they are prepared to do what is necessary to preserve the park and that a final decision will be made during an administrative meeting to be held next Tuesday, Aug. 15. (herald and news)

 

Megabus, one of the largest bus companies in North America, is pleased to announce a new partnership with Pacific Crest Bus Lines, the most reliable bus service in the Northwest, Klamath Falls included.

This partnership will allow for expanded service options for 24 cities across Oregon and California including daily trips to Portland, OR, Salem, OR, Bend, OR and Eugene, OR.

With their expanded route map, we anticipate an extraordinary journey ahead, as they introduce new routes and continue daily scheduled services across the diverse expanse of Oregon and parts of California. From the bustling urban hubs of Portland, Salem, Bend, Medford, and Eugene, to the serene beauty of Brookings, Crescent City and Klamath Falls, services now span an extensive network of destinations, catering to the diverse needs of travelers.

Megabus offers city to city express bus service across North America.  Since launching in 2006, Megabus has served more than 50 million customers throughout more than 500 cities. 

The safety of customers is their top priority while also offering convenient, cost-effective service. Megabus is committed to providing eco-friendly travel and reducing our carbon footprint whenever possible.  Buses emit the least carbon dioxide per mile when compared to other vehicles and are seven times more energy and fuel-efficient than single-occupancy automobiles.   

Megabus is a double-decker full service transportation vehicle. Three different drop off and pick up points in Klamath Falls and one near the Klamath County Fairgrounds in Altamont will be used by the company. (press release)

 

During the regularly scheduled business meeting, the Klamath County Commissions board decided to enforce a new speed limit on Booth and Vale Road in response to multiple complaints of excessive speeding from residents.

Klamath County Public Works conducted a speed study and found the average speed of safely traveling vehicles to be 43 miles per hour and recommended to the board the approved speed limit of 45.

The board approved Klamath County Public Works performing chip sealing services on behalf of the City of Klamath Falls on California Avenue and Shasta Way.

A state of emergency was declared for the coming Annular Solar Eclipse happening on Oct. 14, 2023.

According to the declaration, local resources are likely to be exhausted due to a rapid influx of visitors from outside Klamath County to see the eclipse’s path of totality, which is located near Fort Klamath.

The county estimates the movement through the county will likely make major roads impassable and may exceed the local capacity to handle health and safety emergencies, infrastructure and fuel consumption.

(herald and news)

 

Major Tyler Clark selected to join the Thunderbirds
The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, known as the “Thunderbirds”, recently announced the latest addition to their team for the 2024-2025 season, and at the top of the list was Maj. Tyler Clark, a 173rd Fighter Wing Instructor Pilot and Chief of Scheduling from Klamath Falls.

Clark is the first Air National Guard fighter pilot selected to be a Thunderbird demonstration pilot. He started his career in the Air Force Academy, graduating in 2009. He went on to flight school, ending up at Kingsley Field as a student pilot where he learned to be an Eagle Driver. His time in Active Duty took him all over the world, serving in multiple leadership roles. In 2022 he decided to leave Active Duty and join the Air National Guard returning to Kingsley Field as Instructor Pilot.

Clark is not the first Team Kingsley member to be a part of the Thunderbirds. In 1999, Tech. Sgt. Kim Long, a 173rd Fighter Wing F-16 crew chief, was selected to be a member of the maintenance team for the Thunderbirds, serving with them until 2002. (173rd FW press release)

 

If you believe you have been a victim or have any information concerning Zuberi (aka Sakima) visit the website: fbi.gov/SakimaVictims or call 1-800-CALL-FBI. You can also contact the FBI Portland Field Office at (503) 224-4181, your local FBI office, the nearest American Embassy or Consulate, or you can submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. (FBI/KPTV/Herald and News and other media sources)

 

Coming to The Ragland Theater on Saturday… Disney’s THE LION KING!

An Ashland-based puppetry and musical troupe is coming to Klamath Falls as part of a West Coast tour, bringing its unique, hilarious, and somewhat disturbing blend of live music, comedy, and horror to the Linkville Playhouse stage on Saturday, Aug. 12th.

Puppeteers For Fears is the brainchild of musician and artist Josh Gross – a collective of like-minded artists with a twisted sense of humor coming together to present “Cthulu: The Musical.”

The show is a ridiculous, zany showcase of puppetry and music. This one-of-a-kind show incorporates elements of a live band matched with a musical puppetry show all set in the H.P. Lovecraft demonic world established in the 1929 fantasy-sci-fi literary classic, “The Call of Cthulu.” While not as popular as horror icons like Edgar Allan Poe or Stephen King, Lovecraft’s story is considered the blueprint of gothic horror. Recently HBO made a TV series loosely based on the Cthulu story, and even Cthulu-themed board games have in recent years popularized the Cthulu mythology.

According to Gross, as a joke he often adds “The Musical” to random statements, and several years ago during a conversation in public when “Cthulu: the Musical” was uttered just to be funny, several people immediately stopped him to ask where they could see it? Thus, the original concept was formed, and following a lengthy hiatus due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show has returned to venues across the West Coast.

The show is approximately two hours with an intermission. Tickets to “Puppeteers For Fears presents: Cthulu: The Musical” are available in advance for $15-$25 online at www.puppeteersforfears.com. (kurt liedke/linkville playhouse)

 

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon lawmakers quietly approve $90 million cost overrun for a Capitol renovation project this year.

SALEM — What’s happening in Salem with the Oregon Legislature is always a mystery and spending money on the wrong projects seems a constant. 

Instead of directly tackling Oregon’s housing issues, jobs, education, the economy in Oregon, the homeless issue, drug addiction, crime rates soaring and protecting and managing our Oregon forestland, Oregon lawmakers are quietly approved a $90 million cost overrun for a Capitol renovation project, ratcheting up spending by nearly 25% without public notice.

The new expenses found in budget bills passed late in the legislative session, were not mentioned in committee hearings or outlined in written testimony, according to insiders.

The measures, expecting taxpayers to pay nearly $465 million for a $375 million job, were approved and voted on without discussion. An official webpage describing the project was only changed to reflect the updated cost after OPB asked about it.

The state’s top two lawmakers said explaining the cost overruns in public hearings wasn’t warranted. House Speaker Dan Rayfield’s office said the Capitol renovation received attention when it was OK’d last session and that even an increase approaching $100 million didn’t necessarily merit mention.

“Capital projects typically incur normal shifts in cost estimates, and so updates to the initial estimate were anticipated,” a spokesperson for Rayfield, D-Corvallis, said in an email.

Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, in a statement said the increased spending followed their regular review procedure.

The two Democrats who control the budget-writing committee, along with two lawmakers who chair a subcommittee that approved the expenditure, didn’t respond to messages from the media outlet seeking comment.

Some Republicans, long wary about spending big on the Capitol, say the renovation project has been hard to track.

“We’ve been very frustrated with the lack of transparency,” said Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, a member of the budget committee. “Any tax dollar needs to have a conversation about why it’s being spent and how it’s being spent.”

Since 2016, lawmakers have sought to update the aging statehouse, paid for with tax revenues that have exceeded economist’s expectations.

The first two phases reworked outdated building systems, made entrances more accessible and took steps to seismically retrofit the building’s office wings.

Last year, lawmakers approved the third phase that updates the 1938 building that contains the House and Senate chambers and offices for the governor, state treasurer and secretary of state.

Beyond seismic and safety upgrades, including sprinkler systems, the third phase is slated to add four hearing rooms, offer a new café, and revamp work areas for journalists and lobbyists.

”We have a duty to complete it so that the result is a strong, sustainable building that maintains historical features, is safe for occupants, and allows regular legislative work to continue,” said Brett Hanes, the state’s legislative administrator charged with managing the Capitol.

Project managers say the reasons for the jump in costs are many. Documents submitted to state budget writers show inflation is more than $27 million of the $90 million increase.

The project has also grown in scope, Hanes said, with work to strengthen the Capitol’s distinct Art Deco dome, upgrade sound systems and replace elevator equipment.

Taxpayers also paid around $20 million so this year’s legislative session in the Capitol could be held with minimal interruption from the noisiest construction work.

Whether or not the noise abatement was worth $20 million is up for debate.

“If they were charging us not to make noise during hearings, that was an epic fail,” said Knopp. “People’s teeth were rattling. … While we were on the floor you literally had to scream into the microphone at times.”

Knopp also balked at holding this year’s session in a hearing room rather than the Senate chamber so work on the chamber could move forward more efficiently. That delayed the project by six months, project managers said.

”They obviously were working around us for most of the session,” said Knopp, who led his party on a six-week boycott this year for other reasons.

The lack of transparency appears to be built into a process for funding state construction projects that doesn’t demand that officials account for escalating costs. Budget writers knew about the hikes, and it wasn’t made part of the public record because no member of the budget committee asked for public explanation, staffers said.

“(Informational hearings) were held during the earlier phases of the project and the public is aware of its ongoing nature,” Hazel Tylinski, a spokesperson for Rayfield, said in an email. She added that top lawmakers and budget staffers “reviewed the cost estimate materials provided to ensure the project could complete construction.”

Benjamin Clark, a public policy professor at the University of Oregon who is an expert in public budgeting, said ideally these things would be put forward more transparently. But Clark also said he could make a case for Rayfield’s point.

”From the most generous of view … the people who put it there would say, ‘We’ve already approved it, we’re just trying to get it done,’” he said, adding: “There’s a normal operating procedure, and then there’s a more opaque version of that.”

The Legislature’s budget process, in which lawmakers make spending decisions, has drawn criticism in the past. Then-Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, complained last year that the budget was “a document entirely developed outside of the public view.”

“The Oregon Constitution requires the public’s business to be conducted publicly,” Wilde said at the time, “however inconvenient that might be.”

 

CAMPFIRE NOW PROHIBITED ON ALL BLM LANDS IN NORTHWEST OREGON
EUGENE, Ore. – Due to high fire danger, campfires will be prohibited on all Bureau of Land Management lands in northwest Oregon starting Aug. 11 at 12:01 a.m. This restriction includes developed campgrounds. BLM officials are putting these public use restrictions in place due to forecasted hot and dry weather.

“Doing what we can to prevent human-caused fires is very important, especially as we enter the peak of summer when fires can spread quickly,” said Dennis Teitzel, Northwest Oregon District Manager. 

Visitors can use portable cooking stoves that use liquified or bottled fuels and propane firepits with a shut off valve. Otherwise, campfires or any other type of open fire, including the use of charcoal briquettes, is prohibited.

During fire season, visitors can operate motorcycles and off-highway vehicles on designated trails in the Shotgun and Upper Nestucca Off-Highway Vehicle Areas when fire danger is low (green) or moderate (blue). When fire danger is high (yellow), the BLM only allows motorcycle and off-highway vehicle riding in these areas between the hours of 8 p.m. and 1 p.m. Otherwise, operating a motorized vehicle is only allowed on roadways clear of flammable vegetation.

The following activities are also restricted:

  • Smoking is only allowed while in vehicles on improved roads, in boats on the water, or at designated areas.
  • Using fireworks, exploding targets or tracer ammunition is prohibited. 
  • Operating a chainsaw is prohibited. 

Visitors to BLM-managed lands are also required to carry with them tools to ensure small fires can be put out quickly. These tools include a shovel, axe, and at least one gallon of water or a 2.5 pound fire extinguisher. 

Violation of these restrictions can result in a fine up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.

For information on fire prevention orders, please visit blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation/regional-info/oregon-washington/fire-restrictionsVisit the Oregon Department of Forestry for fire danger levels across Oregon.

 

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) SWAT Team responded to a domestic dispute turned hostage situation in White City early Wednesday morning. After a nearly two-hour standoff, the suspect surrendered peacefully to JCSO deputies on scene. 

At 12:24 a.m., Dispatch received a call for a domestic violence victim in distress. The victim gave their address, and the line quickly disconnected. JCSO deputies responded to the house in the 2400 block of Agate Meadows in White City. Dispatch received information that the suspect had a gun to the victim’s head. Around 12:30 a.m. JCSO deputies arrived on scene and the victim and a child were able to escape out of a bedroom window. JCSO SWAT and Crisis Negotiators Team arrived on scene, surrounded the house, and attempted to communicate with the armed suspect. Oregon State Police and Eagle Point Police Department responded to assist.

 At 2:05 a.m., the suspect still had not responded to communications. SWAT deployed an explosive noise diversionary device, also known as a flashbang. Ten minutes later the suspect put down his rifle and surrendered peacefully to awaiting law enforcement.  

The suspect, Jordan David Johnson, 33, of Medford, was booked and lodged in the Jackson County Jail on charges of domestic abuse menacing, two counts of reckless endangering, unlawful use of a weapon, interfering with making a report, and two counts of unlawful possession of prohibited firearms.  Johnson also had three active warrants for his arrest from Medford Police Department for unlawful use of a weapon, and two counts of reckless endangering.

JCSO detectives applied for a search warrant of the residence and seized 24 firearms, including two illegal short barreled AR-style rifles, and over 10,000 rounds of ammunition. This case is open and ongoing with investigators following additional leads. (jcso press release)

 

The American Red Cross says a blood donation shortfall at the start of the summer is making it difficult to keep the national blood supply from falling to shortage levels.

Right now, the Red Cross says it especially needs type O negative, type O positive, type B negative, and type A negative blood donors.

For those who do not know their blood type, the Red Cross says it will notify new donors of their blood type soon after giving blood. Contact your local Red Cross to help. (red cross press release)

 

Firefighters are busy after 191 lightning strikes hit the Umpqua National Forest last Thursday and Friday and started eleven fires.

Most of the lightning strikes hit near Diamond Lake. Firefighters were sent to all of the fires, and they have been contained or controlled. There are currently no closures in place because of the fires. Fire danger remains very high in the area and they’re asking people using the forests to take all precautions to avoid starting human caused fires.  (oregon news)

 

Flat Fire at 50,000 Acres As First Responders Battle Multiple Blazes

There are still 37 active fires taking place in the state of Oregon

Multiple active fires in Oregon have scorched thousands of acres of land as firefighters continue to push efforts to contain the blaze. As of Monday morning, 48,837 acres of land were burned across the state according to Oregon Wildfire Response & Recovery, a local agency tracking the fires.

The Flat Fire begins its third week in Curry County near Agness.

Crews are securing and improving existing containment lines to keep the fire within the current footprint. Firefighters are conducting mop-up to secure lines and are performing constant visual assessments in all divisions. Structure protection resources remain in place around Agness, actively surveying and evaluating structures.

With increased fire traffic, all motorists are asked to use caution – slow down and use headlights, especially on Bear Camp Road.  (usda forest service press release)

 

Firefighters push Priceboro Fire containment to 65%

HARRISBURG, Ore. – Firefighting crews on the 309.5-acre Priceboro Fire reached 65% containment today. Suppression efforts are being managed by a Type-3 incident management team and the Oregon Department of Forestry’s South Cascade District. In total, there are 175 firefighters with crews from ODF, local fire districts, protective associations, forest landowners and private contractors. 

The Priceboro Fire is located eight miles northeast of Eugene outside of Harrisburg. The fire started around 4:00 p.m. on Friday, August 4, 2023. Residents should expect to see light smoke from the fire as hot spots cool.  The cause is under investigation. 

Mop up defined: Mop-up operations consist of firefighters pushing into the burned areas to remove unburnt vegetation and extinguish hot spots. Areas of the fire perimeter that are extinguished and mopped up are considered contained, which is a term used to describe firefighter confidence that the fire won’t reheat and escape. 

 

The Wiley Fire was reported about 6:30 Monday evening, as a smoke column on the Sweet Home Ranger District near Buck Mountain in the Little Wiley Creek drainage.

It was 2.5 acres at first report, however this morning, it is reported at 15-20 acres. A fixed wing air attack platform, similar to air traffic control in the sky, is on site coordinating air resources delivering water to the fire.

The fire originated on Forest Service land but cooperators including Oregon Department of Forestry-South Cascade, Cascade Timber Consulting, Giustina Resources, and Sweet Home Fire District, along with the USFS provided initial attack response. According to Sweet Home District Ranger Nikki Swanson, “This is a full suppression fire. Given the proximity of industrial private timberlands and residences, we are using all the tools at our disposal to get this under control as quickly as possible.”

As is typical of Pacific Northwest fires, it is in very steep, difficult terrain, in old growth forest. This morning, three Type 2 hand crews are working the fire along with four fallers with chainsaws, two water tenders and multiple aircraft including a full complement of helicopters and scooper planes.

Please watch for a closure order that will likely be forthcoming for Green Peter Reservoir as the scooper planes will be using that to scoop water. Linn County Sheriff’s deputies will be enforcing the closure. Please respect all closures so that firefighters can focus on the containment of this fire and continue to check emergency notifications from the Linn County Sheriff’s office.

Late Tuesday afternoon, an Oregon Department of Forestry Type 3 team in-briefed in Sweet Home to take over management of the Wiley Fire. The Wiley Fire began yesterday as a smoke column on the Sweet Home Ranger District near Buck Mountain in the Little Wiley Creek drainage. Today, its estimated at about 50 acres.https://www.linnsheriff.org/

 

The Salmon Fire
An emergency closure order has been issued for the Salmon Fire on the Willamette National Forest for public and firefighter safety. The closure order will be in effect on Aug. 8, 2023, unless rescinded or modified sooner. Follow Bedrock Fire 2023 for latest information.

Map of fire closure area for salmon fire.

⛔ CLOSED Campgrounds∎ Salmon Creek Falls Campground and Day Use Area⛔ CLOSED Trails∎ Dead Mountain Trail #3566∎ Salmon Creek Trail #4365∎ Cross-Country River Trail #4365⛔ CLOSED Trailheads∎ Flat Creek Trailhead∎ Salmon Creek Trailheadℹ

Read full closure: https://www.fs.usda.gov/…/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd1129453.pdfThe Willamette National Forest is currently in Level 1 Fire Restrictions, IFPL III and “very high” danger rating. More information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/willamette/fire.

Lookout Fire

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If you’ve always wanted to purchase a home in the Bend and Redmond area, be forewarned- it isn’t cheap.

You might say that record-breaking home sales prices in Bend are getting to be … a broken record. Not every month, but often enough to fuel its symbolic marker for the conversation over how to keep housing in the area from getting farther out of reach for so many.

The July report from Redmond’s Beacon Appraisal group said Bend’s single-family home median sales price in July rose by $15,000 to a record $800,000, a milestone that’s nearly $40,000 more than the peak a year ago.

Appraiser Donnie Montagner noted that nearly a third of last month’s 141 Bend home sales were for $1 million or higher.

The number of sales, however, is down to 141 for July, off 31 from a month earlier and 34 fewer than July of last year. Days on market for sold properties dropped to just nine days, about the same as a year ago. There’s still a two-month supply of homes on the market overall, but Montagner noted an increase in some price ranges – as the $1.6 million to $1.8 million category is nearly a five-month supply and above $1.8 million is nearly a six-month supply.

Redmond also rose to a milestone, with a median home sales price of $500,000, though that’s still $42,000 lower than last summer’s record level. Redmond home sales dropped a bit, to 66 in July. Sold properties are on the market for about two weeks on average, and Redmond also has two months of housing inventory. (oregon news)

 

Secretary Of State Will Disqualify Legislators With 10 Unexcused Absences From Running In 2024

Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023 he will sue over the secretary of state’s decision to exclude most Republican state senators from running for a new term. (Ben Botkin/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

The Oregon secretary of state said Tuesday that Republican state senators who had at least 10 unexcused absences during this year’s session will not be eligible to run in 2024.

LaVonne Griffin-Valade, who was recently appointed secretary, said in a statement she has directed her office to implement an administrative rule making it clear to legislators that Measure 113 will prevent them from running for a subsequent term. The measure was passed by voters in 2022 intending to end the walkouts by minority parties that have dogged the Legislature for years.

“It is clear voters intended Measure 113 to disqualify legislators from running for reelection if they had 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session,” said Griffin-Valade. “My decision honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our state constitution.”

Almost all of the 12 Republican senators and one Independent joined the walkout over controversial bills, nearly stymying the session as it dragged on for six weeks. Ten accumulated at least 10 absences: Sens. Tim Knopp, R-Bend; Lynn Findley, R-Vale; Bill Hansell, R-Athena; Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer; Art Robinson, R-Cave Junction; Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook; Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles; Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek; Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls; and Brian Boquist, I-Dallas.

The Republicans ended their protest after Democrats agreed to water down bills on gender-affirming care and guns and refer a measure to the ballot to allow the Legislature to impeach statewide elected officials.

If those whose terms are ending are excluded from running next year, it would likely shift the makeup at least in the state Senate, potentially bringing in neophytes without much experience writing and negotiating bills and maneuvering in the Legislature.

It also could widen the majority of Democrats, who fell short in both chambers this year of having a supermajority that would allow them to pass new taxes without Republican support.

The 10 senators who are potentially barred from running represent one-third of the 30-member Senate.

Several Republican senators, including Knopp and Sen. Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles, have called the measure poorly worded and threatened to sue.

The measure states that 10 or more unexcused absences “shall disqualify the member from holding office as a senator or representative for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.”

Republicans have quibbled with the timeline on when they would be disqualified. They say they’d be excluded from running the term after the next one. That interpretation would mean that those up for a new term in 2024 could run next year but not in 2028.

But Griffin-Valade said the explanatory statement in the voters guide on Measure 113, court documents and even news stories back her interpretation. When interpreting ballot measures, the courts have looked at the intent, she said.

“Voters universally understood Measure 113 would prohibit legislators who accumulate 10 or more unexcused absences during a legislative session from holding office in the immediate next term,” the release said.

A secretary of state lawyer, who advised Griffin-Valade on the measure’s language, said in a memo obtained by the Capital Chronicle that “once a chamber has determined that a member has the requisite number of unexcused absences during a legislative session, the provision operates to disqualify that member from the following term of office. Accordingly, the secretary may use her preexisting statutory authority to reject candidacy filings from those persons.”

But Knopp disagreed. In a statement Tuesday, he attacked Griffin-Valade’s decision, saying she was quashing “the free speech of the minority.”

“We believe the plain language of Measure 113 allows for members to run again in 2024 elections,” Knopp said. We disagree with the secretary of state’s determination and will challenge it in court.”

Knopp also lashed out at Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, saying his response to the walkout was “unlawful and unconstitutional” and that Wagner retaliated against Republicans by refusing to accept excuses for absences. The Senate president decides whether an excuse is legitimate.

“Wagner was quick to impose unexcused absences on members who challenged his failed leadership,” Knopp said.

A spokesman for Wagner declined to comment on Knopp’s statement and referred a reporter to the party’s Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, saying it’s an election matter.

That organization also declined to comment.

Wagner denied requests by Sen. Cedric Hayden, R-Fall City, asking to be excused from Senate floor sessions for religious services and to take care of his disabled daughter. He has filed complaints with the Bureau of Labor and Industries and the Legislative Equity Office against Wagner, saying his denials violated his religious freedom .

Hayden has asked the Oregon Government Ethics Commission for advice on how to legally solicit funds to cover attorney costs without violating ethics laws for a potential lawsuit. (SOURCE)

 

As Oregon faces a mental health crisis, state leaders ask for patience as they tackle problems

Gov. Tina Kotek, who signed six bills on behavioral health that were passed by the Legislature, says more work needs to be done

State leaders, from Gov. Tina Kotek to prosecutors to public school educators, are waging a war.

Hundreds of Oregonians are dying every year from fentanyl and opioid overdoses, from teenagers to elderly Oregonians. Others wait in jail cells with pending charges before they can go to Oregon State Hospital for court-ordered mental health treatment. And still others need treatment for an addiction or behavioral health conditions and cannot find a residential facility with room to serve them.

Some of the foot soldiers in the war – legislators, advocates and others – gathered with Kotek on Tuesday for a ceremonial signing of six bills. At the core of the bills is a goal to save lives. The legislation will make opioid overdose reversal medication more available, expand fentanyl drug education in public schools and start a 40-cent phone line tax for the 988 state hotline and mobile crisis response teams that help people in crises.

Yet the state’s work remains unfinished and leaders recognize that Oregon needs to do more as deaths pile up. In 2021, 745 Oregonians died from opioid overdoses, nearly triple the number in 2019, according to Oregon Health Authority data.

“I also want to take a moment to speak directly to Oregonians who are struggling with substance abuse, a mental health challenge, or in a lot of cases both,” Kotek said. “I want Oregonians to know that your state – my office – wants to help. We are here. We are trying to make sense of how we can best help you no matter where you live, no matter what you can afford. And we want to make sure that those services are going to be there when you need help.”

 

Oceans around the world are hotter than ever before in the record-keeping era – and those high temps have now reached the Pacific Northwest.

Colin McCarthy, an atmospheric scientist and extreme weather influencer tweeted that “[o]ne of the most intense marine heatwaves on Earth has developed off the West Coast of the US, with water temperatures peaking nearly 5°C (9°F) above normal.”

The marine heatwave off the coasts of Oregon and Washington has reached “extreme” levels, an event that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranks a Category 4 on a scale of 5.

In the Pacific Northwest, those immediate impacts include higher temperatures on land, algal blooms off the coast, and warmer rivers. The water temperature in Astoria where the Columbia River meets the Pacific was 72.5 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday — nearly 2.5 degrees higher than average, according to NOAA.

(oregon news)

 

Avid astronomers and casual summer stargazers alike can appreciate the mesmerizing Perseid meteor shower, one of the best astronomical events of the year, which will be reaching its peak this weekend.

Conditions look particularly good this year, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration currently forecasting clear or mostly clear skies over Oregon for the meteor shower’s peak nights on Aug. 12 and 13. And while wildfires are actively burning, there is not much heavy smoke across the state – though that could obviously change.

In this area, there are a couple of  parks having parties for those wishing to view.

Dexter Reservoir outside Eugene will also hold a Perseid watch party on Saturday night, Aug. 12. The event is free, but advance registration is recommended. Register online or at 541-912-2047.

In Bend, the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory will not be hosting a Perseid-specific event, but will be holding its regular In-Depth Observatory Nighttime Visit. The event, which runs from 9 to 11 pm., includes an educational presentation and the chance to gaze through powerful telescopes. Tickets are $35 a person. (oregon news)

 

Oregon’s 197 school districts will have record funding this year to improve literacy and to pay for school operations.

Gov. Tina Kotek on Wednesday signed into law seven new education initiatives, including the largest state school fund budget ever allocated, $140 million to improve student reading and writing and a host of other bills aimed at growing the teacher workforce, improving access to child care and enhancing student equity.

Kotek signed the bills flanked by teachers, school staff, politicians and education advocates from across the state.

She was also joined by the new director of the Oregon Department of Education, Charlene Williams, as well as Williams’ predecessor Colt Gill. Several lawmakers spoke at the signing, including the chairs of the Senate and House education committees, Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, and Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville.

Dembrow applauded lawmakers for getting key education legislation passed after being stalled for six-weeks during the Republican-led Senate walkout over bills on gun control, abortion rights and gender-affirming care.

This Friday, August 11, is National Safe Digging Day – also known as National 811 Day.

The annual observance exists to raise awareness about contacting 811 before beginning a digging or excavation project. The Oregon Utility Notification Center, which oversees the statewide call or click before you dig program, and the Oregon Public Utility Commission are reminding Oregonians that using the free service can save money and lives.

“Everyone knows to call 911 in case of emergency, but not everyone knows to contact 811 before digging so they won’t have to call 911 later,” said Josh Thomas, Executive Director of the Oregon Utility Notification Center. “By planning ahead and requesting a utility locate, you can prevent service interruptions, costly repairs, environmental damage, injuries, and worse.”

According to the Common Ground Alliance, nearly two out of five U.S. homeowners dig without requesting the free 811 locate service beforehand, and the estimated annual cost of damages to underground utilities nationally is $30 billion. To protect critical infrastructure and ensure public safety, the Oregon Legislature created the Oregon Utility Notification Center back in 1995.

Today, Oregon’s statewide notification center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and free of charge for homeowners, contractors, and professional excavators. Requests for utility locates must be made two business days before a project but not more than 10 days in advance. Dig sites are then marked with color-coded spray paint to avoid hitting underground pipes and wires.

“It’s the next best thing to having x-ray vision,” said Thomas. “When it comes to construction and home improvement projects, whether the job is large or small, it always pays to know what’s below.”

For more information about the Oregon Utility Notification Center or the statewide Oregon 811 system, go to Oregon811.com.

 

Smith Rock State Park is slated to get a new, wider pedestrian bridge this summer and fall, which means there will be no bridge access for up to six weeks starting Aug. 14.

Visitors can also expect intermittent delays through September due to the construction, which starts this week. Parking at the overflow parking lot might also be impacted. Check the Oregon State Park website for updates.

The footbridge at Smith Rock spans the Crooked River in Central Oregon near Bend and connects the front of the park with many but not all of its hiking trails and climbing destinations. There will be no temporary bridge, and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department discourages wading across the river due to sensitive habitat and safety concerns. 

The old bridge was built nearly 50 years ago and reconstructed about 30 years ago and has significant wear and needs replacing. The new bridge will measure 8 feet wide and better accommodate visitors and first responders during the park’s frequent rescue operations. 

Crews will begin the work this week and continue through September, but the biggest impact to visitors is the six-week bridge closure. The goal is to complete as much of the bridge construction as possible between Aug. 14 and Sept. 22.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department will update information on the footbridge closure dates and times on the Smith Rock webpage and through smithrock.com/ as information becomes available. If you have any questions or concerns, please call the park at 541-548-7501 or email the park manager at Matthew.DAVEY@oprd.oregon.gov.

Police are warning residents about fake bills of money being littered near Multnomah Falls. The U.S. Forest Service says there have been instances of hikers risking their lives going off-trail near the falls to recover what looked like 100-dollar bills on a dangerous hillside.

On Saturday, Portland Mountain Rescue rappelled down the cliff to recover the cash that turned out to be money used as a prop in a movie. There were 15 bills about 30 feet over the edge of the falls. They don’t know whether it’s connected to social media posts where influencers stash money in dangerous outdoor places where people can find it.(Oregon News)

 

The United States Postal Service may stop processing mail in Medford and Eugene

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is considering moving mail processing for nearly all of Oregon to its new processing center near the Portland International Airport.

The move would change how mail and packages are handled, and some postal union members say it would lead to job losses and slower delivery. Workers in Eugene and Medford would be most affected, they say.

Caitlin Cusimano, president of American Postal Workers Union Local 679 in Eugene, said the union has been told the change will lead to the layoff of 12 postal support employees in four Eugene postal stations, but they’ll be offered the opportunity to transfer to Bend, Bozeman, or Billings.

The changes are part of a nationwide plan to consolidate mail and package processing at 60 massive facilities that USPS is calling Regional Processing and Distribution Centers.

The way the system works now, mail and packages that are intended for destinations within the same three-digit ZIP code area, like 974, are processed locally, at the nearest mail processing center. Oregon currently has processing centers in Portland, Eugene, and Medford.

If the proposed changes are approved, items would be first trucked to Portland, then trucked back. In the case of a letter or parcel mailed in Medford to a Medford address, they’d have to be trucked more than four hours each way to and from Portland. That could add up to an additional day to delivery time.

USPS will hold public meetings to explain the proposed changes:

  • Eugene: 3-5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8 at the Holiday Inn Express, 919 Kruse Way, Springfield
  • Medford: 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1000 Garden Way, Medford

The Eugene and Medford mail processing centers were slated for closure in 2015, but that plan was scrapped after Oregon’s entire Congressional delegation called on the USPS to keep them open.

 

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