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Posts tagged as “Oregon”

First take

Here's a sentence from the Associated Press article on the fire: "The fire blew across U.S. Highway 95 and moved a mile and a half in 8 minutes, said fire spokeswoman Carrie Bilbao of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management." A mile and a half in eight minutes . . . that's moving. And the fire, called the Soda Fire, is big, approaching 200 square miles (it's passed 200,000 acres) out in in the desert region of southwest Idaho and (the smaller part) in southeast Oregon. Evacuations have been ordered. This is the first really big wildfire so far this year in Idaho or Oregon, but it arrives on schedule at the time of year when the big ones normally hit. Little wonder senators from Idaho and Oregon are pushing hard for more federal effort in fighting wildfires. Get ready for more. - rs

First take

For 20 years, the top sector of the Oregon agricultural economy was nurseries - not something most people would have guessed, but there it is. This week, the state Department of Agriculture is reporting that order of finish has been upended, as cattle/livestock has moved into first place. This comes at a moment when a number of the state's larger cattle operations want to expand the head of cattle they can have. (The largest examples are in the Tillamook area, which is already is the state's biggest dairy center.) Here's some material from state Ag's statement on the economic order:

For the first time in 20 years, there’s a new leader among Oregon’s diverse agricultural commodities in terms of production value. Cattle and calves has regained the top spot with a record breaking year in 2014, overtaking greenhouse and nursery products. It was 1994 when greenhouse and nursery supplanted cattle and calves as number one.

Newly released statistics from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) provides a preliminary picture of last year’s crop and livestock value of production. The numbers indicate that Oregon agriculture continues to be a major economic contributor to the state. The overall estimate for total production value in 2014 is about $5.4 billion, which is roughly unchanged from the past couple of years. Some commodities have shown tremendous increases while others have declined. The successful ones rely on a formula of good production and high prices for what was sold.

With Oregon producing more than 220 commodities as part of its agriculture, there will always be some winners and some losers any given year. In general, the results of 2014 show more pluses than minuses. The value of agricultural production in Oregon last year includes a top ten list that reflects the new leader, but most of the names are familiar. ...

In addition to cattle and calves swapping places with greenhouse and nursery products from the previous year’s list, wine grapes cracked the top ten while onions dropped out. All top ten commodities showed an increase in production value from 2013 with the exception of wheat and potatoes. For the first time in history, Oregon had two commodities above the $800 million mark in production value and four commodities valued at more than a half billion dollars. Onions, Christmas trees, and blueberries just missed the top ten list yet still eclipsed $100 million in production value.

“It was generally a great year for Oregon’s farmers and ranchers,” says Kathryn Walker, special assistant to the director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “When you have so many commodities with a production value above $500 million, that’s impressive.”

By far, the most dramatic rise in production value in Oregon comes from cattle country– a nearly 38 percent increase from 2013 to 2014.

“That industry hasn’t been number one since the early 90s, so I’m sure it’s exciting to them to be a leader once again,” says Walker. “There have been some very strong cattle prices the last couple of years and that is reflected in the value of production for cattle and calves.”

The cattle and calves category is also approaching a status enjoyed only once by an Oregon agricultural commodity– the billion dollar club. Greenhouse and nursery products reached $1.039 billion in 2007. A year later, the economic recession took its toll specifically on nursery products and grass seed. Nonetheless, greenhouse and nursery is making its way back and recorded an increase of 11 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Commodities with other increases in production value in 2014 include milk (+23 percent), pears (+14 percent), hay (+11 percent), wine grapes (+10 percent), grass seed (+9 percent), and hazelnuts (+7 percent). Wheat (-22 percent) and potatoes (-3 percent) were the only commodities on the negative side of the ledger.

Some commodities outside the top ten recorded large increases in production value, including sweet corn (+29 percent) and blackberries (+18 percent). Blueberries, which occasionally reaches the top ten, saw a healthy increase (+8 percent) and continues to show strong gains each year.

Money hardball ahead

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GoLocalpdx.com is a startup online news site. Every Friday they publish a who’s hot and who’s not column by Douglas Fasching.

In todays column Senator Richard Devlin is skewered as a “not hot” because Devlin has signaled his intent to run for Secretary of State and:

“The speculation is that he is not giving up his Senate seat while he runs for higher office. He intends to hold onto his leadership role whilst campaigning. While it is not required to give up one’s seat, it is still poor form. Lastly, the rumor has him intending to dip into his campaign war chest to finance his campaign. A war chest that now stands at about 272k. Money he raked in by being the 3rd most powerful person in the Senate chairing the most powerful committee in the legislature. Money that should be going to help get other Dem Senators elected not financing your own aspirations. Using your position and a shit-ton of money to deter others from jumping in a race really isn’t fair. Nobody likes a bully”

Bam!

Who could have “speculated”? Who could whispered to Mr. Fasching the “rumor” that Devlin’s dipping into his campaign war chest to conduct his campaign? Who would have the motive to do that?

The Devlin spot ends with “Cheer up, Val, at least you don’t have a recall to deal with.” So apparently Someone named Val who was recently facing a recall was on Mr. Faschings mind when he wrote the article. For some reason.

This story could have been suggested to Mr. Fasching by someone partly as a response the Oregonian article about Hoyle’s announcement. That article tells the story of Hoyle starting well behind potential rivals for the SoS office Devlin and current Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian in the money race (Hoyle has only $30,000 on hand versus Devlin’s $272,000 and Avakian’s $133,000)

If there’s one thing you need to have in Oregon’s no holes barred campaign finance and spending anarchy, its a boatload of money. And money attracts money. Anyone starting with a real and significant deficit of money may quickly fall behind in a race. No one wants to be on the losing team. And while one way to compete is to raise money, the other way is to see if you can keep your opponent from raising – or using – money, by for instance shaming them into limiting the use of their campaign treasury.

So, while we don’t know who planted the seed for the GoLocalPDX story, we can draw reasonable inferences.

With the real meaningful political races in Oregon now being waged in the Primaries, we can expect some real hardball between Democrats. And some players are more willing to slide hard into second with their spikes up.

First take

Is Oregon really "allowing 15-year-olds to get state-subsidized sex-change operations”, as Fox news has it? And thereby unleashed an uproar among the gotta-have-something-new-to-be-angry-about-today crowd? It's one of those cases, one of those many cases, where there's a piece of truth surrounded by misinformation. You'd get this impression from the article that this is a new ruling by Oregon liberals gone wild. The medical age of consent in Oregon has been 15 since 1971 - a long time, and without significant debate - and, the Oregon Health Authority told KOIN-TV, "Patients should be able to demonstrate the capacity to make a fully informed decision and to give consent to treatment, regardless of age. However, nothing in Oregon law requires a health care provider to provide medical services to a minor or safeguard the confidentiality of a minor. In most cases, providers will encourage (and in some cases require) family engagement and supports unless it would endanger the patient.” Are gender-changing medical procedures included in procedures covered by the Oregon Health Plan? Yes. But stopping there ignores that the nearly 500 procedures are prioritized, meaning that in most cases procedures toward the bottom of the list won't make the cut - and this one is close to the bottom of the list. And so on. Such facts are more reflective of reality, but don't fit so easily on a bumper sticker. (photo/"PortlandTramCar3" by User:Cacophony - Own work.)

On the border

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Across the border from Idaho, people are buying, selling and consuming marijuana – legally under state law.

As of July 1, the rules changed in Oregon to more or less throw the doors open, at least within a tax-and-regulate system.

If you think about the way Idahoans interact with their liquor sales system, you could draw a rough comparison, factoring in private businesses (not state stores) that can sell pot and some limitations on how much of it a single person or household can possess, or grow. But balanced out, the sense of the rules is not far from the level of regulation Idaho has for liquor; the Oregon argument called for legalizing, regulating and taxing it. (The Oregon agency charged with overseeing it is its state liquor control agency.)

The activity is likely to be thinner in the areas near Idaho, east of the Cascades, because a new state law made it a little easier for local cities and counties to limit or ban pot-related businesses (though not pot possession or use) locally. The provision applies to counties which opposed legalization, all of which are east of the Cascades. You can expect to see some headlines about whether Ontario and other border communities, for example, will allow pot shops within city limits.

That may soften the borderline effect a little, but it won’t do away with it.

The changes in Oregon mean, adding in the similar system in Washington state, the whole west side of Idaho now faces states where under state law – if not fully federal – the marijuana marketplace is largely open. There’s also Alaska, for good measure. And, of course, one state over, Colorado is the fourth state to approve full legalization. In each of these states, businesses are developing, local societies are adjusting and legal marijuana is becoming a billion-dollar industry.

That’s the recreation pot picture, but bear in mind that most western states now allow for medical uses. West of Texas and the Dakotas, all but three states (Idaho, Utah, Wyoming) have at least partial legalization. Nevada and Montana allow for medical use, and there’s a good chance one or both will move toward full legalization in the next election or two.

Idaho, Utah or Wyoming, of course, seem no more likely today to legalize than they ever have. What’s happening – and the change in Oregon last week emphasized it again – is that those three are becoming an island in the West.

To be clear, of course, that’s not the same thing as being an island in the nation. Across the Great Plains, the old South and the mid-Atlantic states, the rules on marijuana are mostly still unchanged. But the West (and the Northeast, and part of the Great Lakes area) have moved into a new regime, and in sharp contrast to a decade ago, Idaho is becoming part of the aberration.

This is of course just one issue, and most directly it affects only a minority of people – the number of legal pot users in the “legal states” surely will be limited, and the number of illegal users in the prohibition states even smaller. But the effects could be broader, especially if people from the “legal states” – including non-users – start reporting persistent experiences of being stopped and searched across the border.

There’s been some of this already, and the fact that most of the enforcement activity in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming doesn’t seem to have changed in recent years may not matter a lot.

The gaps in laws and permissions between the states long have been significant, but the change in marijuana laws is ratcheting things up significantly.

First Take

The Los Angeles Times today runs a fine scene-setting story from inside the National Interagency Fire Center at Boise, as tension slowly rises and staff look closely at the development of wildfires around the west. It reports: "On this morning, the picture isn't pretty. It's ominous in a hold-on-to-your-seat way that casts a pall over two dozen fire analysts, meteorologists and forest experts. They see a growing scourge of fierce yellow and red dots, each representing a new fire, and they furrow their brows." At the moment, most of the fires are in Alaska and California. But that will change. (photo/BLM, as used in the LA Times)

Eugene has spent a long time working on a replacement for its old and somewhat revered Civic Stadium - it has routinely provided front page headlines for months. Now, yesterday, it burned down, a total loss. The stadium had been run by Eugene city and the local school district; a private local alliance planned to renovate it. Eugene is in shock.

First Take

When I moved to Oregon, some of my friends in Idaho said I'd soon get disgusted at the no-self-serve gas stations - the state law that bans self-serve. It's turned out not to be much of a nuisance at all. Never mind that it actually has been plenty popular in the state; voters repeatedly have rejected proposals to end the requirement, which Oregon shares only with New Jersey. Now, however, it will be eased back a bit, at least in rural areas at night. Here's a press release on it from Representative Cliff Bentz of Ontario, who as the legislator living furthest from Salem has surely had to deal with his share of nighttime fillups.

House Bill 3011, brought by Representative Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario), has passed the House, Senate, and was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown last week. The bill allows Oregonians to "self-serve" gasoline at rural gas stations between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

Rep. Bentz said: "This is a good day for those who find themselves low on gas in remote parts of Oregon late at night. No longer will they have to wait until the next day for a station to open. Instead, they will be able to serve themselves at those gas stations which choose to install self-serve pumps."

The bill addresses the all too common occurrence in Eastern Oregon, where hundreds of miles can separate gas stations, many of which do not stay open 24-hours per day. Travelers driving across the vast spaces of Eastern Oregon who are unfamiliar with long distances between stations and the fact that gas is not available 24/7 in many of Eastern Oregon's small towns, can become stranded, having to wait until a station opens in the morning.

"Gas station owners, and sometimes ranchers and farmers, are awakened by stranded travellers pounding on their doors in the middle of the night to come out and pump gas," said Rep. Bentz.

The bill applies to only those counties with a population of less than 40,000 people.

I doubt there'll be much blowback from the voters. - rs

First Take

That confederate battle flag debate now moves from South Carolina, where the battle seems to be mostly over (for now), to Mississippi, where the issue is not flying that old flag but the fact that its design is built into the state flag. The speaker of the House in Mississippi is calling for a redesign of the state flag, and it's not hard to understand why: Officials in states around the country are beginning to call for not flying that state's flag alongside the other 49 in official displays. California has already banned it. There's a display of state flags near the Oregon state capital, but the Mississippi flag may be taken down there. Same may happen at city hall in Boise, where Mayor David Bieter called for the change. This is significant why? Because it keeps the subject, and the reason for the debate, in news reports, and around the country, for some time to come.

First Take

Oregon doesn't allow for a procedure for impeaching a governor - a point that came to some note earlier this year - and the talk about setting one up, though constitutional amendment, has been growing. (Oregon is the only state without a means for impeachment. It seems to have skidded to a halt in the Senate, where President Peter Courtney has been opposed, noting (the Oregonian reported) "Oregon voters have the ultimate right of impeachment through the recall process and they aren't shy about using it. They successfully petitioned for that right in 1908. Two years later they voted to prohibit impeachment." Of course, that was some time ago. The Oregonian posted a reader poll on the question, and so far 63.1% say they're in favor of an avenue for impeachment.

Maybe not such a bad idea, as Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney proposes, to require governmental officials to adhere to the same lobbying rules - when they lobby the state legislature - as others who lobby. That would involve filing reports on lobbying efforts, and filing as lobbyists. This could complicate some cases and create some odd gray areas, such as state employees called in to testify before committees but not engaging in other lobbying. But if the lines are drawn in the right way, this may be reasonable. It's all in the details.

Superbugs

The Oregon State Public Interest Research Group on Tuesday sent out an email warning about the spread of superbugs - mutations resistant to most existing poisons or other efforts against them. From it:

We know the danger is real.

Raising livestock and poultry on routine antibiotics is helping grow and spread the superbugs -- antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- that could soon kill more people than cancer. [1]

Yet far too often, we don't know or can't trust whether the meat we buy has been raised with or without antibiotics. It's time to stop the overuse of antibiotics and the next big step is to put a label on it.

We have a right to know whether our food threatens our health. Join our call on the USDA to label meat raised with routine antibiotics.

There's no question that overusing antibiotics poses a danger to our health. We've known this for decades. Yet, for decades, the industry has fed huge amounts of antibiotics to factory farm animals -- even when the animals were healthy.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria already infect more than a million Americans each year, and more than 23,000 die. Now, according to a recent study, resistant bacteria are projected to kill 10 million people per year by 2050.

We deserve to know whether the food we buy is contributing to the rise in drug-resistant superbugs.

I'm not alone in wanting labels. A Consumer Reports poll found that 83% of Americans want such a label to inform whether beef, pork, turkey, chicken or other meats in a grocery store come from animals routinely given antibiotics.

The good news is that consumers are demanding change. Thanks to you, we helped organize consumers to convince McDonald's to end the routine use of antibiotics in the chicken they sell.

More good news: The USDA is considering a simple requirement that meat carry labels telling consumers whether it was raised on antibiotics.

But with big food companies pushing back, the USDA isn't about to hand us a victory on a silver platter. We have to demand it. Add your name to our call for action. It's time to stop the overuse of antibiotics, and the next big step is to put a label on it.

Chicago on the Willamette?

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The aftermath of former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s resignation in February was surprisingly quiet, and it has been business as usual at the state capitol in Salem ever since. It was almost as if that whole bizarre series of events had never transpired in the first place.

For his part, Kitzhaber had largely dropped out of the public eye, and understandably so. Kitzhaber sightings have become increasingly rare, though he was spotted at a Starbucks in Northwest Portland in early May and had his picture snapped. Aside from the photographer, all indications are that nobody else even recognized him.

Here’s the ultimate public figure, a longtime chief executive of the entire enormous state government apparatus, and now he’s just some random guy in a coffeeshop, wearing sweats and glasses and going over a pile of papers. In his case, it’s almost tempting to wonder what kind of papers they would be—legal documents of some sort or another, perhaps?

Kitzhaber wasn’t out of the spotlight just yet, however, as a series of recent articles has come as a reminder that the swirl of scandals that forced his resignation and tarnished his legacy and reputation are nowhere near finished playing themselves out yet.

One week after the relatively innocuous story about his trip to Starbucks, the Washington Times published a particularly damning story reminding a national audience why and how Kitzhaber got himself into so much trouble. Perhaps a reminder was necessary, as the screaming headlines about federal investigations had largely stopped when he resigned in disgrace weeks after being sworn in for an historic fourth term as governor.

These revelations had nothing to do with former so-called “first lady” Cylvia Hayes, her apparently sordid past or the allegations that she used that position to further her own private business interests. Rather, they were about the colossal $300 million blunder that was the state’s failed health care exchange website.

Kitzhaber, his staff and his party had been quick to point the finger at software developer Oracle for the catastrophe. But the article points out that the website could have been working in early 2014 with some additional training and testing. Instead, the decision was made to pull the plug on it and move over to the federal exchange. This turned out to be a decision made entirely for the sake of political expediency, and by staffers on his re-election campaign.

None of this went unnoticed by the members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. A letter was sent to Kitzhaber the same day he resigned stating that Congress was, indeed, investigating the misspending of federal funds on the exchange. The use of campaign staff to coach a witness who testified before the committee also didn’t go over too well, and neither did his administration’s attempt to delete emails from state servers days before he left office.

The former first couple did get some semblance of good news towards the end of May, as a judge ruled that Hayes could hold on to some of her e-mails. She had claimed, through her attorneys, that their release would violate her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, and the judge agreed. Of course, none of this is a great overall defense for anyone claiming to be innocent, but it was enough to serve the intended purpose of keeping their contents from the public.

A couple of days later, there were more bombshells. These took the form of A Willamette Week article by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nigel Jaquiss about the state official who leaked Kitzhaber’s emails to him instead of deleting them. He was rewarded for his efforts by a “perp walk” out of his office and the threat of 6,000 charges of official misconduct unless he resigned his position.

In stark contrast, the Kitzhaber crony who threw the whistleblower under the bus gets to start a new $185,000 position with the City of Portland on June 1, despite being among the many state officials subpoenaed as part of the ongoing investigations.

It became obvious a couple of days later why officials were so eager to threaten the whistleblower with so many criminal charges. It turned out to be a case of literal nepotism, as Willamette Week disclosed that Kitzhaber's nephew was and is working for the same district attorney’s office that had made those threats.

All of this may come as somewhat of a surprise to many Oregonians. We have long prided ourselves as being better than this. For decades, we’ve sought to hold our state up as an example of transparent, ethical, corruption-free government. We would see scandals take place in other states and thank the heavens that such things could never, ever happen here.

Thanks to the actions of John Kitzhaber, Cylvia Hayes and their friends and allies who are still very much in power, that myth has been completely shattered. The ultimate consequence is that this will change the way we think about ourselves and the state that we love so much.

Perhaps, in the annuls of history, 2015 will be known as the year that Oregon truly lost its innocence. Prior to now, it would have been unthinkable to many that our beloved state could be associated with such blatant and high-level corruption in our public institutions. But it turned out that we were only kidding ourselves.

We thought we were clean, innocent, pure Oregon. The truth was much more painful, as decades of one-party rule in our executive branch seem to have turned this beautiful, majestic place in Chicago on the Willamette.

The people of this state deserve so much better than this, and I hope they never stop hoping for a future in which a similar set of circumstances could never possibly repeat themselves. In the meantime, though, I get the feeling there will be plenty of stories and revelations that have yet to come out that will show us exactly how bad and widespread this corruption actually has been.

None of this should stop Oregonians from demanding more from their institutions and leaders. If anything, it should have the opposite effect, and perhaps we can someday reclaim the innocence that we once had. And maybe we’ll be smart enough to guard it with a newfound sense of vigilance to ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again.

On moving to Oregon . . .

This is "experimenting with new web media" weekend (especially since it turned out so much cooler and cloudier than expected). Yesterday, a new wiki on wikia.com about the Snake River Basin Adjudication. Today, a new lens on Squidoo about what to expect when moving to Oregon.

No explanation here about lenses and Squidoos (that's available via their main site). Here, just a note that the "lens" is just starting construction, and will be be substantially added to. Suggestions are welcome.