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April 7, 2007

Jackson County taxpayers taken hostage

Libraries were closed yesterday by county commissioners after Congress failed to renew federal timber subsidies last September, causing a $23 million shortfall in the budget. Sheriff's patrols and road maintenance are also being cut. Supporters have placed an $8.3 million annual levy on the May 15 ballot that would reopen the libraries.

Carl Cintron, 56, of Medford, who originally hails from New York City, brought back some books he had checked out. Cintron figures the shutdown was the result of poor planning by county leaders.


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April 6, 2007

SEIU's out-of-state organizing scheme

A nationwide campaign accusing large hospitals of "cherry picking" locations for new health centers is being used to go after Providence's proposed 80,000-square-foot health center in Tualatin.

Service Employees International Union Local 49 believes that the construction of the Providence Bridgeport Health Center will "likely increase health care costs for all in the region" and strip away revenue from Legacy Meridian Park Hospital by carefully choosing to offer only the most profitable services like diagnostic imaging. SEIU has cited permitting issues as the reason why the project should not be approved by the city.

The union's stance against the Providence project is attributed to SEIU's participation in a nationwide Make Health Care Work Campaign. But Dave Underriner, chief executive for Providence Health System's Portland service area, called the opposition by SEIU Local 49 a "corporate campaign" designed to force Providence to have employees who do not belong to a union be represented by SEIU.

Attorney Michael C. Robinson, of Perkins Cole in Portland, represented Providence during a Jan. 10 Architectural Review Board meeting. According to the meeting minutes, Robinson referred to SEIU's opposition as "a canned campaign" that had no relevance to the ARB's function or approval criteria.

The Tualatin City Council will hold a public hearing on the board's recommendation Monday during the regular council meeting.


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Economy indicates Oregon decline

The University of Oregon Index of Economic Indicators declined 0.4 percent to 106.3, based on a 1996 benchmark of 100.

Four indicators - Oregon residential building permits, help-wanted advertising in The Oregonian, Oregon nonfarm payrolls, and the interest rate spread - improved.

The remaining four variables - Oregon initial jobless claims, the Oregon weight-distance tax, U.S. consumer confidence and inflation-adjusted new manufacturing orders - deteriorated.


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OSPIRG view opposes The Oregonian's

OSPIRG supports efforts to reduce and eliminate fraud in the ballot measure qualification process. However, Oregon's initiative and referendum process is a cornerstone of our democratic government and OSPIRG cannot support policies that erode Oregonians' right to participate in this process, particularly in ways that will have disproportionate effects on grassroots volunteer-based measures. We also cannot support subjecting citizen-sponsored policy efforts to a higher degree of scrutiny than other electoral campaigns or contract-based lobbying in the Legislature.

For these reasons, we urge a "No" vote on HB 2082.

Source memo:

To: Members of the House Committee on Elections, Ethic & Rules
From: Jeremiah Baumann, OSPIRGDate: April 5, 2007
Re: OSPIRG Urges a “NO” Vote on HB 2082 and the -4 amendments


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April 5, 2007

An Oregon icon - out of business

Genesis Juice made its final deliveries last week. Co-owners Claudia Sepp and Dale Hart and an unnamed investor resurrected Genesis in 2005, a year after it had removed its juice from store shelves and ceased production. "It was a very popular juice," said Eric Resener, the owner of Friendly Street Market in south Eugene.

The new Genesis stopped using returnable bottles, which disappointed some customers, said Sundance's grocery buyer, Ron Leppert. "Everyone's stunned," said Hanna Achepohl of The Kiva. "We're all very saddened by this. Genesis was around 30-some years, and it was a great product."

Genesis Juice made its debut in Eugene's natural food stores in 1973. The company was purchased by its employees in 1977 and operated as a co-op until 2004. It returned to private ownership when it re-entered the retail marketplace in 2005.


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Blazers deal union leader to Castparts

Darnell Valentine had been a regional representative to the NBA Players Association, is a former Blazer player who relished the opportunity to connect with players and help guide them through situations that arise in daily life. Then - poof! - he was out of work. He says, "It was really cool I finally got there. I was getting closer and closer to the players. When you're with the Players Association, you're kind of like Uncle Joe coming by. When you're part of the family, you know all the secrets, all the goings-on, and you can have more of an impact."

"Darnell had experience dealing with the players and the Players Association, understanding the change that was needed not only in this organization but the entire league," Coach Nate McMillan says. "He was well-connected to the (union). I thought he did a really good job for us." Valentine says he will probably accept an offer from Precision Castparts Corp. assisting supervisors in boosting the production of its work force. "It's a great opportunity for me to get involved in that corporation," he says.


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Salem officials in church controversy

Salem City Council member Brent DeHart is part of a committee at Our Savior's Lutheran Church working to build a new community hall. Salem Mayor Janet Taylor and Councilor T.J. Sullivan have declared their support for the project in a church brochure.

At this week's council meeting, all three proclaimed their involvement with the project. Then they voted on a related church matter. In a 5-to-3 vote, the council approved Our Savior's plan to put up a lighted, 40-square-foot sign at 1770 Baxter Road SE in South Salem. The council action reversed a hearings officer's decision, and went against staff recommendations.

"I am very concerned that the mayor and two city councilmen have not recused themselves from this situation," said Megan Strahon, a neighbor whose house would have a view of the sign. Strahon said that the sign would be "extremely detrimental" to the area and would reduce the value of her home. Bryan Sater, another neighbor whose house would have a view of the proposed sign, called it "an enormous eyesore" that amounted to an advertising billboard in a residential area. Before casting their votes, the councilors and the mayor said they could make a fair and impartial decision.


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April 4, 2007

PERS raid by gov't unions revealed

A bill in the Oregon House would let 9-1-1 operators in Oregon retire and begin collecting their pensions as soon as they reach 25 years of service, which theoretically could apply to retirees in their mid-40s. Backers of that bill, HB 2401, say it's needed because of the job stress.

But a larger impact could come if 1,100 Portland police and firefighters , who can't retire until age 50, demand the same right. The city's top finance man, Ken Rust, says as long as retirement benefits are reduced proportionally, the only cost to the city would be slightly higher insurance premiums. But the PR cost of 45-year-old pensioners? Rust says that's not his department. A House vote is expected next week.


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Portlander ranked #1 steps up

It's not quite David vs. Goliath, but it could be considered a mismatch on paper. Fortunately for Matt "The Law" Lindland, the No. 1-ranked middleweight mixed martial arts fighter in the world, he'll be live in living color when he steps into the ring - and up two weight classes - to take on the top-ranked heavyweight on the planet, Fedor Emelianenko.

"I think I am a bad match up for anybody in the world," says Lindland, who plans to come out with guns blazing when he meets the 230-pound Russian Red Devil at the ICE Palace in St. Petersburg on April 14th. With a MMA record of 20-4-0 and wins over names like Baroni, Lutter, Miletich and Horn, the Portland, Oregon native has very good reasons to be confident.

But just how does this 4X4 truck driving, tobacco chewing, country music listening, baseball cap wearing, All-American middleweight plan to handle a heavyweight like Fedor, who is 25-1-0 and outweighs him by almost forty pounds?


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Police union official put on leave

The Portland Police employee whose sexual harassment accusations led to the demotion of past Police Chief Derrick Foxworth has been put on administrative leave during a probe into her own actions.

Angela Oswalt is a desk clerk with the Portland Police Bureau and also serves as vice president of the union that represents civilian workers at the police bureau, AFSCME Local 189. According to union officials, Oswalt was under investigation for three complaints - two from citizens that involve her off-duty conduct, and one based on her conduct at work.

Union representative James Hester said the move was likely in retaliation for the Foxworth scandal, and that any other employee would not have been subject to such actions. Hester said the case dates back at least six weeks, when Oswalt was called to testify in an internal affairs investigation and offer advice on how a union member should handle a union situation. She refused to comment, saying the information was privileged.


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April 3, 2007

Prison union threatening AFSCME

An independent Salem corrections-officers union is trying to go statewide by getting workers at prisons throughout the state to change their union ties. The Association of Oregon Corrections Employees filed paperwork Monday with the state Employment Relations Board, requesting a union election among 1,669 corrections workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"We want to put the Department of Corrections under one association," said Ron Lawson, the association's executive vice president. The association presented cards signed by 585 corrections workers that AFSCME represents, requesting an election to change their bargaining agent, Lawson said. If valid cards were submitted by at least 30 percent of the bargaining unit, workers will vote between the association, AFSCME or no union representation, probably in two to three months, said Sandra Elliott, the elections coordinator for the Employment Relations Board.

The Association of Oregon Corrections Employees represents about 720 corrections officers, primarily at Oregon State Penitentiary, Oregon State Correctional Institution and Mill Creek Correctional Facility, all in Salem. AFSCME represents workers at all the other state prisons, including Santiam Correctional Institution in Salem.


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County income tax leader in recall

An effort to recall Lane County Commissioner Bobby Green began Monday, as opponents of the board's recent enactment of an income tax targeted one of the three commissioners who voted for it.

Paperwork for a recall signature-gathering effort was submitted to Lane County Elections, said Ben Pooler, a chief petitioner with the "We Said No" political action committee. The group gathered enough signatures in a single Saturday last month to force a vote May 15 on the income tax.

Green voted for the county's first-ever income tax in February with Commissioners Faye Stewart and Bill Dwyer to avoid cutting a range of services plus 250 county jobs if the federal government fails to renew $47 million in annual timber payments.


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An honest look at Oregon's economy

Of late, Oregonians have been inundated by stories from the mainstream media describing Oregon's booming economy, robust job growth and otherwise sterling economic performance. To read these stories, you would believe that Oregon has returned to the days of the high tech boom and that we again live in a land of milk and honey.

I noted in last week's column that The Oregonian had described Oregon's feeble 1.7% job growth as "unusually robust." What The Oregonian withheld from readers was the comparative analysis of Oregon's job growth versus the rest of the nation, and particularly the Western states with whom Oregon competes directly for jobs and business location and growth. That comparative analysis showed Oregon firmly mired at the bottom of the heap with all but seven states showing growth rates in excess of Oregon's.


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April 2, 2007

Katrina fraud stretches to Oregon

While many people filed bogus claims, the growing roster of the accused goes beyond the usual con artists. It includes employees of FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, other public officials, business owners, even temporary workers for the Red Cross.

The Oregon case offers a textbook example: Ten people have pleaded guilty to applying for disaster checks. In their scheme, a few ringleaders recruited friends, neighbors and relatives, then split the proceeds. They collected about $324,000. None had any connection to Katrina.

"The folks who originally thought this up (discovered) ... this is kind of easy and said, 'Let's use some others to make applications,'" says Lance Caldwell, an Oregon prosecutor who won punishments ranging from probation to several years in prison.


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Senate votes for emergency shortages

Friday, the Oregon State Senate overwhelmingly approved Senate Bill 118, commonly referred to as the "anti-price gouging bill." The actual consequence of the law would be to insure shortages of essential goods and services during emergencies, according to most economists. Sponsored by Attorney General Hardy Myers, the bill prohibits retailers and contractors from setting state-determined "high prices" for certain state-determined "essential goods and services" in times of an emergency or abnormal market disruption.


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Portland Police dumbing down

Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer says she may lower educational requirements for new officers from two years of college to a high school diploma or General Educational Development certificate. Sizer cites higher cost of college and says education requirements may block qualified people from jobs with the police bureau. The bureau has about 45 vacancies and faces waves of upcoming retirements.


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April 1, 2007

Hillary Clinton sets fundraising record

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton has raised a record amount of funds for her campaign to become the president of the United States, her aides say. Her campaign manager said Mrs. Clinton had raised more than $26 million in the first quarter of 2007. The figure dwarfs the $8.9 million raised by the former Vice President, Al Gore, at the same stage of the 2000 US election. Mrs. Clinton is considered a frontrunner to become the Democratic Party's candidate for the 2008 elections. She also transferred an additional $10 million from her Senate fundraising account to her presidential bid.


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Tokito removed from Blazers beat

Tonight's game (along with the game story and all the bits I did for the Sunday Blazers page) will conclude my stint on this beat. Like Steve Patterson, Art Sasse and Zach Randolph, I'm shutting it down before the season is over. Actually, I'm changing beats as part of the boss' restructuring of the department. If you have any interest in golf, check for my new weekly column that begins Wednesday in The O. In summary, I should quote Rasheed Wallace and say, "CTC" ... nah, not really. Truthfully, it's been a fun gig. See ya.


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Violent escapee was misidentified

Prison officials and state police are continuing to investigate how an inmate, who was in a minimum-security prison despite having a long history of felony convictions, escaped and held a man hostage last week. Preliminary inmate reviews of Arturo Amezcua Salinas, 53, showed he was initially screened appropriately, officials said, despite having been convicted of rape and murder.


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