Baker City hosting community open house on TSPMay 24, 2013 3:17pm
BAKER CITY, OREGON – May 2013. The City of Baker City will host a community open house on May 29th as part of the City’s efforts to update its Transportation System Plan (TSP). The open house will be held at the Baker City Hall, Council Chambers from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
The purpose of the open house is to give the general public an opportunity to review the DRAFT Transportation System Plan and the DRAFT Comprehensive Plan/Development Code changes. The plan will guide transportation infrastructure decision making for the City over the next 20 years. Specific elements of the plan include Active Transportation (Bicycle and Pedestrian), Intersection and Roadway Plan, Transit Plan, and Funding/Implementation Plan.
For more information on the May 29th open house or the Transportation System Plan Update, visit the project website at:http://sites.kittelson.com/Baker_City_TSP
Orcontact Michelle Owen, Director of Public Works at 524-2031 or at email@example.com.
Warner says Bennets transistion going wellMay 24, 2013 3:16pm
Baker County Commissioner Fred Warner Jr. says the process of bringing new commissioner Mark Bennett up to speed has been relatively smooth so far. Warner says they have been helped by the work Bennett has done in the county prior to being appointed. Bennett was selected by the commissioners after Dr. Carl Stiff resigned due to health issues.
Greg Walden listens to local thoughts on ObamaCareMay 24, 2013 3:15pm
Congressman Greg Walden met with medical professionals from the La Grande area to hear their thoughts on Obamacare - and what he heard wasn’t good. Providers say the new law will have unintended consequences that will have an impact on all of us- things like increased premiums, fewer options and even rationing of services. We will talk more in depth on those concerns starting Tuesday morning.
ODOT working on projects in Union CountyMay 24, 2013 3:14pm
ODOT is working on several projects in Union County coming up in the next month. On highway 203, they will be replacing the culvert at mile post 8.8. On highway 237 they will excavating the rock wall at mile post 18 to reduce snow drifts in Pyles Canyon. Finally between Enterprise and Joseph, they will be rebuilding and widening Hurricane Creek Road starting in the next few weeks.
Oregon public universities looking at 5 percent hikeMay 24, 2013 3:13pm
Oregon public university presidents on Friday will ask permission to raise tuition by about 5 percent next year, the smallest increase they have sought in six years.
If the state's higher education board agrees, students would pay from $288 (Portland State University) to $542 (University of Oregon) more per year to attend the state's three biggest universities.
Students at the smaller regional universities would face increases of $150 (Western Oregon) to $409 (Oregon Tech) as full-time, in-state undergraduates next year.
Student leaders say the proposed increases are too big and will keep some Oregonians from getting a college education.
Although the percentage increases are smaller than in recent years, they come on top of years of sharply rising prices and will require students at the University of Oregon to pay more than $9,000 for a year's tuition and fees, students say. In 2009 alone, tuition shot up 11 percent.
The average proposed increase of about $400 is "my rent for a month, and that makes a huge difference in my ability to come to school," said Tiffany Dollar of Portland, student body president at Portland State. She will graduate next month, but is fighting the increase on behalf of other students.
"That's a pretty big number, especially when our financial aid support is not going up per student," Dollar said. "So the choice for a lot of students is basically to work more hours, which can compromise their grades, or not to come back to school. Especially for someone who is a student parent, they are really counting every single dollar in their budget."
Jay Kenton, vice chancellor for finance and administration, defends the increases as the smallest the universities can survive on, given that state funding will increase just 7 percent for the coming two years, barely keeping pace with enrollment gains.
But he agrees with Dollar that they may be too hefty for some young people with the drive and talent to go to college. "We are beginning to preclude people from being able to afford an education, which is a travesty."
Oregon pays for undergraduate education at its seven public universities two ways: with state funding and with tuition, paid mainly by students and their parents and by federal financial aid, Kenton said.
If costs go up, and state funding does not, raising tuition is the only option, he said.
And costs will go up next year, primarily for three reasons, Kenton said. Employee health premiums will rise about 5 percent, state retirement system costs will rise at least that much, and employees will get raises, he said.
"We are asking our faculty to serve more students, to do more things," he said. "We are bargaining right now with all of (our employee unions.) They're not going to settle for nothing. They want an increase," he said.
Students including Alexandra Flores-Quilty of Hillsboro, a junior at the University of Oregon, say university officials should cut costs, including "administrative bloat," rather than squeeze more from students.
But Kenton said Oregon public university operations, as measured by the well-regarded Delta Cost Project, are among the leanest in the nation.
"I don't believe we have administrative bloat," Kenton said. "I don't think it's borne out by data."
The state higher ed board's Finance and Administration Committee will hear presentations Friday morning from the presidents in support of the proposed tuition increases as well as testimony from students and others concerned about the increases. The panel will then vote on whether to recommend the requests to the full board for a June vote or to require some universities to revise their plans.
Higher ed board members have endorsed all of the presidents' proposals since 2004, when they told universities to ratchet down proposals to raise tuition by as much as 22 percent. That year, Western Oregon was restricted to raising tuition by $27 because it had so much money in savings, something that is no longer the case.
-- Betsy Hammond
I-5 bridge collapse could help Columbia River Crossing dealMay 24, 2013 3:12pm
Oregon legislatures are feeling that the collapse of the I-5 Bridge in Washington last night could help bring the state’s closer to agreeing on the proposed Columbia River Crossing project. The bridge that is currently between Oregon and Washington has the same functionally obsolete classification that the collapsed bridge had. Governor Kitzhaber says he is hoping for a middle ground to be found soon.
ReverBend awards Volunteer of the YearMay 24, 2013 3:10pm
The RiverBend Youth Transition Facility (YTF) in La Grande has named Linda Elegant its volunteer of the year for 2013.
Elegant is former English instructor at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. Facility Superintendent Brian Blisard praised her for "faithfully and generously investing her time and enthusiasm each week as a volunteer provider of services for the youth at RiverBend. Her selfless giving encourages these young men as they seek to mature and develop as productive members of society."
The facility honored Elegant at a ceremony where she was presented with a certificate and an OYA coin award, a silver dollar-sized medal bearing the state seal.
RiverBend YTF is one of 10 youth correctional and transitional facilities operated statewide by the Oregon Youth Authority.
Personnel costs key issue in Baker County budgetMay 24, 2013 5:26am
The Baker County budget is done and finalized after the Commission met with the budget committee and passed it on a 5 to 1 vote. Among several issues, personnel costs was one of the bigger topics as always on the list to discuss. County Commissioner Fred Warner says they didn’t have to do to much to the budget because of the way they have handled it leading up to now: "When people leave Baker County, retire, move, we take a hard look at it and we don’t fill those positions and we spread that out."
Warner says there may come a time when they don’t have enough employees to split every job, but they will cross that bridge when they get there. Warner also praised county employees for continuing to provide great service: "We have got great employees and we’re, you know, just working on, our main goals are public safety, road, and public health, and then just providing essential services."
'Y' Avenue park playground in La Grande to be removedMay 24, 2013 5:22am
The La Grande parks department will be removing the playground equipment at the ‘Y’ Avenue park after its latest inspection showed it was a safety hazard. The equipment has been there since the 1980’s and is made out of wood, which has deteriorated to where it needs to be removed. The plan is to take out the equipment this week or in the early part of next week. Parks director Mark Touhey says there is no plan yet for replacing the equipment after it is removed.
La Grande schools budget avoids layoffs, cut daysMay 24, 2013 5:17am
The La Grande school district begins their budget process next Wednesday, and for the first time in years district officials are starting the process with a projected increase according to superintendent Larry Glaze: "The budget is coming in at a higher rate than it has in the past. We’re budgeting for the biennium at $6.55 billion."
That translates to an extra $800,000 to start with, though PERS costs will eat up half of that amount. Glaze says they would like to give cost of living raises to district employees who haven’t seen a raise in five years: "We have a 1% pay trigger for employees which would be a raise of $114,000 budgeted."
OTEC looking for Baker County candidates for boardMay 24, 2013 5:14am
Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (OTEC) is seeking candidates for the Baker County Board Position formerly held by Ralph Ward. Candidates must fill out a Candidate Profile Form available on the OTEC website (www.otecc.com) or at the Baker Office (4005 23rd St.). Candidate forms must be returned to Joan Macy at the Baker Office (4005 23rd St.) by 5:00pm on June 21st to be considered. The board has appointed a sub-committee, made up of Gary Miller, Chuck Hofmann, and Charlene Chase to interview qualified candidates.
ODF&W busy with wolves in Northeast OregonMay 24, 2013 5:11am
Officials with the ODF&W have been busy dealing with wolves in Northeast Oregon this month. Biologists managed to trap and collar a female wolf from the Minam Pack last week- the first member of that pack to wear a collar. Also, a wolf collared in the Sled Springs unit was found dead two days later of unknown causes. Officials say wolves have also killed six sheep in Umatilla County and a cow in Wallowa County.
Congressman Walden urging early wildfire preparationMay 24, 2013 5:09am
Congressman Greg Walden expressed his concern for the coming fire season to Forest Service and BLM officials, urging them to start planning now for what experts say will be a busy fire season. In a letter to forest officials, the Congressman is urging them to be more aggressive in managing forests in Eastern and Southern Oregon. Congressman Walden will be in Baker City at 9:30 this morning and in La Grande at 11:45.
EOU students, staff preparing for tobacco free campusMay 24, 2013 5:07am
Students and staff at Eastern Oregon University are getting a little advanced education on new tobacco free rules that go in effect September 15th. That’s when all forms of tobacco, including electronic cigarettes, will become illegal on campus. Students are being urged to cut their habits now to avoid the last minute deadline. The Governor has ordered that all state owned properties must be tobacco free by 2014.
Baker City general fund sees small changesMay 23, 2013 3:17pm
The Baker City budget has been moved through the budget committee with relatively little being changed from its original form. The public works portion was left untouched other than a 36,256 dollar inter-fund loan to help pay off the airport loan, a move that will save money in the long run for the city. Also, the general fund will retain 64,000 dollars that was meant to go to the street fund as well as reducing the contingency from 120,000 to 69,000. The general funds final amount goes to just over 859,000.
Baker Budget Committee asks council to look into closuresMay 23, 2013 3:16pm
After deciding that cutting a position was out of the question, the Baker City budget committee began to look into other ways to possibly cut administration costs for the city. A few ideas put forward were closing the non-essential city buildings on Friday afternoons as well as the possibility for furlough days. The ideas were put to the city council members for further discussion.
Federal timber lands dominate local forestryMay 23, 2013 3:15pm
Boise Cascade made a presentation to the La Grande Chamber of Commerce at their board meeting this morning on the state of affairs for the local industry. One of the major issues presented was the lack of forests the company is able to go into and log. Currently 75 percent of forests in Eastern Oregon are federally owned and harder to gain access to. This means 24 percent of the forest land is producing 77 percent of the product.
Boise Cascade says forest health decliningMay 23, 2013 3:14pm
Healthy forests have been a scary topic this year, with the possibility for a bad fire season becoming a harsh reality. Boise Cascade says in just local forests, 50 percent of the trees are dying while another 38 percent are re-growing. This is creating congested forests and a high fire danger. Boise Cascade says by just going in to manage the forests and keep them healthy, the timber company could bring in enough lumber to easily maintain production.
Invasive mussels found on boat in OntarioMay 23, 2013 3:12pm
ONTARIO, Ore. — An eastern Oregon checkpoint aimed at keeping invasive species from hitchhiking into Oregon on boats has opened for the spring, and it found an infested boat the next day.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says about 50 small quagga mussels were on the outboard motor of a boat being returned last week from Lake Mead.
The Ontario Argus Observer reports the boat was decontaminated with a high-pressure, hot water cleaning.
The state operates checkpoints at Ashland, Lakeview and Ontario. Last year, it reported disinfecting 51 boats.
Quagga mussels are a prime target of the inspections. Brought to the United States on cargo ships, they have spread widely, but not yet to the Northwest. They damage infrastructure and outcompete native species.
Nampa schools hoping home raffle will raise fundsMay 23, 2013 3:11pm
MIDDLETON -- A Middleton man has a plan to get the Nampa School District's budget shortfall paid off in a short period of time.
The plan is to raffle off homes in Nampa and raise enough money to erase the district’s financial problems.
Faith and hope - those were the two words used today when talking about the likelihood of this plan to raffle off homes to pay off the district’s debt.
Faith in people wanting to help, and hoping they'll buy a ticket.
Phil Allaire moved to Middleton about three years ago.
Like the rest of us, he began hearing and reading about the financial problems in the Nampa School District.
"Being retired I spent a lot of time watching the news, reading newspapers, but I also comment about it to my wife. And after two to three weeks of listening to me complain she finally said either do something about it or shut up. So here we are," he said.
That was about six months ago.
Since then Phil started a non-profit called Enriching Endowments, with the specific goal of helping aid school districts with budget shortfalls.
His goal could be called noble.
"I've done well. I retired young, and it's time to pay back a little bit," said Allaire.
But to pay back, he first needs to pay out.
Using his own money, he has either bought, or is in the process of buying, 40 new and used homes to raffle off.
A home built in 2001 is the first to be raffled off.
"We went right through the home. We took it as though it was a blank slate and brought it up to today's building codes," said Allaire.
That means new carpet, paint, heating, air conditioning and a new water heater.
The home now looks brand new.
"This house basically needs nothing for the next 10 years," said Allaire.
For each home there are only 2,500 tickets. Each will be sold for $100.
After recouping the cost of buying and fixing the home, the rest is a donation to the district. Allaire doesn't keep any of it.
Outgoing Nampa Superintendent Tom Michaelson calls this a wonderful concept and hopes the community jumps in to help.
"This is for real. Phil is for real. His intentions are proper and in the right place, and they're admirable and I support him," said Michaelson.
Allaire has no ties to Nampa, he just believes in education.
After he helps the Nampa School District, Allaire plans to help other districts in the state, as well as nationwide.
If you want to buy a raffle ticket, go to: www.enrichedraffle.org
Idaho nuclear power plant no longer projecting start dateMay 23, 2013 3:10pm
French nuclear services giant Areva SA no longer projects a date for building its proposed Idaho uranium enrichment plant, aiming to avoid dashing expectations while its hunt for financing lingers on.
Work on the $3 billion Eagle Rock enrichment plant was originally to start in 2011. That was delayed to 2012, then 2013 and 2014.
Now, Areva says only the facility remains a priority but that it would be imprudent to give a ground-breaking date amid unresolved talks over money.
Not to be overlooked is dimmed optimism for nuclear power.
Areva announced interest in the Idaho project in 2008, long before the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011 and the emergence of plentiful U.S. natural gas supplies.
What's more, a rival nuclear fuel producer in New Mexico is expanding.
State changes school common core requirementsMay 23, 2013 5:18am
The state Board of Education has decided that Oregon schools will be changing the way they test the common core subjects of English and math from the current Oregon Assesment of Knowledge Skills test to Smarter Balanced. The new test will keep some of the elements of the OAKS test but will add some new features. Baker schools superintendent Walt Wegener says they are adding tasks and scenarios: "Where they will define a situation and then they will ask a whole bunch of questions about it that kids can either answer in either short answer or extended response form."
The new test will take effect in the 2014-15 school year.
Baker City budet cuts costs, but not city staffMay 23, 2013 5:15am
After three nights of meetings, the Baker City budget committee has come away with a new budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The committee originally set out to cut the amount spent on personnel costs by the city, but by the end of the day, the only changes to the budget came from keeping money in the general fund that was going to be sent out. Committee Vice Chair Beverly Calder says there are changes made in staffing by the city that have reduced some costs: "We have some less expensive employees. We're headed in the right direction. I think everyone is really aware we didn’t need to remove any positions."
The budget will now head to the City Council for approval in June.
Baker City budget keeps resource officer in schoolsMay 23, 2013 5:12am
After plenty of discussion was put forward in regards to the possibility of cutting the school resource and code enforcement officer from the police force in order to save money in the general fund, the decision was made to leave the position after Chief Wyn Lohner spoke on the positions behalf. Lohner said there was no way they could dedicate on person to the position and keep the staff at fourteen full time officers. He also stated the importance of allowing the officer in the position to build a repitore with the kids at the schools.
Union City Council asks for more info on budgetMay 23, 2013 5:09am
Work on the City of Union budget will continue until at least next week as Councilors asked to have more time to look into two issues. The first is future plans for the Carnegie Library and second was a proposal to move municiple court from monthly sessions to three times per year. City Administrator Sandra Patterson says the Council will meet again on the 28th where the budget is expected to pass.
Wallowa Whitman cleanup nets 1,100 pounds of trashMay 23, 2013 5:07am
A Baker City off road group led a cleanup day in the Elk Creek and Dry Gulch areas of the Wallowa Whitman National Forest last weekend and collected more than 1,100 pounds of trash. The group also collected six bags of recyclable bottles and cans that were donated to the Relay for Life. Organizers say the most common item found was disposable coffee cups.
City of La Grande renegotiating franchise feesMay 23, 2013 5:05am
The City of La Grande is in the process of renegotiating its franchise fees with several utilities. Franchise fees are what utilities pay cities for the use of city rights of way. During last weeks budget meetings, City Manager Robert Strope told committee members that franchise fees are currently flat due to the number of households turning off their land lines in favor of cell phones and switching from cable to satellite television.
Beware of scams when it comes to tornado charitiesMay 23, 2013 5:03am
In the wake of this weeks devestating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, the Oregon Attorney General’s office is warning people to be carefull when they donate money to help the victims. Several scams have already popped up soliciting money, but many are just trying to take advantage of the situation. Officials say to do a little research into any charity before you donate and see how much actually gets to the intended people. Also, don’t give cash and always get a receipt.
Baker School budget committee approves budgetMay 22, 2013 3:11pm
The Baker School District budget committee has approved the 1013-14 budget plan for next year for just over 24.8 million dollars. The plan doesn’t include possible 2 to 2.5 percent of extra income for PERS legislation that is currently sitting on the governor’s desk. The district is still in conversations with the BEA on cost of living adjustments for teachers, with any PERS savings going towards COLA costs.
Baker City looking to cut personnel costsMay 22, 2013 3:09pm
The Baker City Budget meeting wrapped up its second night last night. Several topics were discussed, but one of the more volatile issues was cutting personnel costs. One way that was offered to do that was cutting one position from both the police department and the fire department. The budget committee came out strongly against saving money in the budget by cutting public safety positions.
Baker City FD dropped response time in past yearMay 22, 2013 3:08pm
The Baker City Fire Department is looking at several increases to their department this year, with equipment maintenance, a new ambulance and several other items on the list of needs. The station is also looking to bring the money budgeted for overtime back to where it was two years ago after cutting down in last year’s budget. Fire Chief Jim Price said they have a drop from 81 percent of responses in under 5 minutes to 71 percent mostly related to the loss of overtime.
Baker City looking to change how they purchase vehiclesMay 22, 2013 3:06pm
Baker City is looking at changing the way they go about replacing vehicles to give local companies a better chance to get the contracts over the state. The city is looking to change the system from a bid form to a proposal form, which would allow local companies to include trade in values of the vehicle being replaced to help make them more competitive with the states rates.
Pine Eagle Budget Committee approves 13-14 budgetMay 22, 2013 3:04pm
The Pine Eagle School District budget committee has approved their initial budget to be sent to the school board on their June 10th meeting. The budget didn’t see many changes, other than a small increase in certified staff and instructional staff costs as well as money that budgeted for the PERS increases. There was also some money set aside for a few capital improvement projects. This final general fund budget came out to just over 2.7 (2,713,898) million dollars for the year.
Merkley and Wyden push for payments of SRS moneyMay 22, 2013 3:02pm
Washington DC- Today, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill that would require the Department of the Interior to pay 18 Oregon timber counties nearly $2 million in overdue Secure Rural Schools payments within seven days of passage of the Farm Bill.
“The people who live in Oregon’s rural timber counties are already looking at open jail cell doors and closed library doors," said Merkley. "This accounting problem at the BLM couldn’t have come at a worse time. They have to get the overdue funding to our counties immediately so a bad situation doesn't get worse."
“This isn’t exactly rocket science. BLM knows how much money it owes Oregon counties and it’s long past time for the agency to settle up,” Wyden said. “Oregon’s rural communities are deciding how many sheriff’s deputies are on the road and how many teachers are in the classroom. They need to know they can count on the federal government to honor its commitments.”
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Land Management reduced the Secure Rural Schools funding paid to counties by 10% in anticipation of automatic spending cuts, called sequestration. However, the sequester was only a 5.1% cut, and counties have been waiting for months for the Department of the Interior to pay out the remainder that counties are owed. This amendment by Senators Merkley and Wyden would require the Department of the Interior to release the remaining funding to Oregon counties within seven days of passage so that cash-strapped counties can provide crucial public safety and public service resources to their communities.
In March 2013, Senator Merkley sent a letter to the Department of the Interior asking them to distribute full funding to the 18 O&C counties. This amendment would require the Department of the Interior to release the approximate $2 million in funding immediately.
Washington licence plate fees going to wolf reimbursmentMay 22, 2013 3:01pm
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee adds $10 to the cost of a personalized Washington license plate with the money going to help compensate livestock owners for wolf kills.
The legislation was requested by the state Fish and Wildlife Department to reimburse farmers and ranchers who lose animals to the recovering wolf population.
State wildlife managers say the wolf population doubled in Washington last year and they now estimate there are 50 to 100 gray wolves in at least 10 packs. Most of the wolves are in the northeast corner of the state in Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.
Union County school board election resultsMay 22, 2013 5:19am
Yesterday was the special election for school boards. In La Grande, Dayneen Koopman beat out Mike Gekas 59% to 40% and Chris Woodworth beat incumbent Robin Maille 54% to 45%. In the Cove school district Scott Spears beat Monica Hill 64% to 36%, and Brett Moore beat Vernon Rush 72% to 28%. In the contested Elgin race, Twila Ivins beat Dee Mackie 79% to 20%. In the Union school district, Phillip O’Reilly won a three way race with 49% of the vote. For position 1 in the Elgin Health District, Al Smolkowski won with 56% of the vote.
Baker County school board election resultsMay 22, 2013 5:17am
In the race for the Baker 5J school board, Kevin Cassidy took position 3 over Mike Ogan and for position 4 Richard McKim won the four way race. For Haines Fire Protection District position 1, Mary Neske beat Teri Brown-Johnson.
State lawmakers have two stark choices on PERSMay 22, 2013 5:14am
The topic of the Public Employee Retirement System has been the dominant subject in the Oregon state legislature this year. While both Republicans and Democrats agree there need to be cuts made, neither side has been able to agree on where the line should be drawn. Representative Cliff Bentz says there are two choices lying in front of the legislative groups: "Whether we are going to reform and make that system work for the long run, or whether we take the short term solution."
The Governor is looking at the Democratic sponsored Senate Bill 822, but is waiting for budget talks to finalize be fore signing the bill.
Work begins on Gangloff Park facility additionMay 22, 2013 5:11am
Gangloff Park in La Grande is about to get a facelift. A group of local volunteers has spent two years raising funds and planning a structure to provide shade to park users. La Grande community developer Charlie Mitchell says the group has raised about $15,000 and work began last week and will last until mid June.
Congressman Walden to visit Baker and La GrandeMay 22, 2013 5:08am
LA GRANDE — U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will hold public events in Malheur, Baker, Union, and Umatilla counties on Friday, May 24. He will hold a town hall meeting in Nyssa, followed by a tour of a data center in Baker City that employs over 30 people. Rep. Walden will then discuss implementation of the health law with providers in La Grande, and meet with small business owners in Pendleton.
From Pendleton, Rep. Walden will travel to southern Oregon for Memorial Day events before heading to central Oregon for public meetings next week. Details on those events will be announced shortly.
Friday, May 24
What: Town Hall Meeting with Nyssa Chamber of Commerce
When: 7:30 a.m. MDT
Where: Josh Brennan Memorial Hall, 110 N. 3rd Street, Nyssa
Details: Rep. Walden will hold a town hall meeting—his 22nd since January—hosted by the Nyssa Chamber of Commerce. He will give an update on his work in Oregon and Washington, D.C. and take questions from attendees.
What: Synergy Data Center Tour
When: 9:30 a.m. PDT
Where: 1703 Main Street, Baker City
Details: Rep. Walden will tour this data center, which has created over 30 jobs in Baker. As Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Rep. Walden has worked to unleash innovation and create jobs in rural Oregon.
What: Meeting with La Grande Health Care Providers
When: 11:45 a.m. PDT
Where: McMahan Family Dentistry, 504 Fourth Street, La Grande
Details: Rep. Walden will meet with local health care providers to discuss the looming implementation of the new federal health care law, changes in care currently happening in Oregon, and other issues important to rural providers and patients.
What: Small Business Roundtable with Pendleton Chamber of Commerce
When: 2:30 p.m. PDT
Where: Pendleton Center for the Arts, 214 North Main Street, Pendleton
Details: Rep. Walden will meet with small business owners from the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce. They’ll discuss ways to create jobs in Umatilla County, including accessing our natural resources, reducing burdensome federal regulations, lowering health care costs, and reducing the tax burden on small businesses.
Plan ahead for Memorial Day camping- some facilities not openMay 22, 2013 5:07am
If you’re planning on heading into the outdoors for the Memorial Day holiday, forest officials are warning campers that not all roads are snow free yet, and some campgrounds aren’t open for business. Crews are still working to get the campgrounds ready- removing downed trees and addressing other safety issues. If you have questions about a particular campground, call the ranger office in that area.
Oregon ranks high among states for boating fatalitiesMay 22, 2013 5:04am
This is National Safe Boating week, and Oregon officials say that’s especially important in Oregon which consistantly ranks in the top ten among states in the U.S. for boating fatalities. Officials say the best way to avoid problems while boating is to wear a life vest. 85% of boating fatalities involve someone not using a life jacket. You should also make sure you’re using one that is the proper size, especially for children.
Spring voting ends at 8 tonightMay 21, 2013 3:06pm
Today is the final day you can cast your ballots in the spring elections. Most of the voting in Union and Baker Counties involve school board races. It’s too late to mail your ballots back, but you can drop your ballot off at county clerks offices until 8:00 tonight. We will have full results from the elections tomorrow morning.
Baker School District names replacement for Troy FisherMay 21, 2013 3:05pm
The Baker School Districts have made their decision on the replacement for Troy Fisher as the Principal at Brooklyn Elementary. Gundala O’Neal will be leaving the position as Assistant Principal for Baker High School to become the new Principal at Brooklyn. Two teachers are also retiring from the district, as the high school’s language arts teacher Maure Albert and South Baker’s special education teacher Debbie Chamberlin are stepping down.
BCPD working with Masons Lodge on Child ID KitsMay 21, 2013 3:04pm
The Baker City Police Department and the Masons Lodge are teaming up this summer to help get parents child ID kits. The kits will include software identification as well as DNA kits for the parents to have in the event their child goes missing. The kits will be free to all parents who want one. There will be a booth during National Night Out this year where parents can get information about it and the BCPD says they are hoping to get out to three events next year to get the word out about the kits.
ODOT replacing guardrails on OR 86May 21, 2013 3:00pm
The Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) contractor, Columbia River Contractors, Inc., has started work this week replacing and upgrading several sections of guardrail along the Baker – Copperfield Highway (OR 86) between mile points 51.33 and 63.71, in Baker County, east of Richland. This project is the first phase of guardrail replacement along the route, with other phases taking place in later years as funding allows. Travelers along the route can expect lane closures, flaggers, possible pilot cars and delays of up to 20 minutes as crews remove, replace and extend old guardrail sections along the route. Motorists are advised to slow down and drive with extra caution through this and all highway work zones. Construction activities are expected to continue over the next couple months.
“This section of highway is remote and the guardrail has not been updated since the 1950’s,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Tom Strandberg. “This phase-one project will create a safer, more efficient roadway for this important highway in Baker County.”
The OR 86 Guardrail Upgrade Project is just one of several dozen highway projects currently under construction or scheduled to begin this summer in the eastern Oregon Area. More project information will be posted on the ODOT Region 5 Web at http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/REGION5/Pages/index.aspx . For Current highway conditions, check www.TripCheck.com or call 511 / 800-977-6368. Outside of Oregon call 503-588-2941.
Baker City Local Alcohol and Drug Planning meetingMay 21, 2013 2:58pm
The Baker City Local Alcohol and Drug Planning Committee will be meeting on May 30th at noon in the Community Connection meeting room at 2810 Cedar Street in Baker City. The topics will include a discussion of the bylaws and an update on their programs.
June first is State Parks Day in OregonMay 21, 2013 2:57pm
On June 1, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) will celebrate the 15th annual State Parks Day by offering free tent, RV, and horse camp sites and free day-use parking at state parks throughout Oregon. State Parks Day is held on the first Saturday in June each year. It was established in 1998 by a joint resolution of the Oregon State Legislative Assembly.
"It's a great way to thank Oregonians and visitors for their support of our state parks," said OPRD Director Tim Wood. "A day of free parking and a night of free camping---it gives everyone a chance to enjoy the experience of being outdoors during the summer."
State Parks Day will kick off Oregon Outdoors Week (June 1-9), a new initiative that links other statewide and national events promoting outdoor recreation, including the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Free Fishing Weekend, National Fishing and Boating Week, National Marina Day, National Trails Day, and National Get Outdoors Day.
The theme of State Parks Day this year is "Let's Go," in honor of the Let's Go program, which was started by The Friends of Tryon Creek 15 years ago to offer low-cost introductory family camping in the Portland area. OPRD adopted the program and took it statewide in 2009. This year, it has expanded the program to include four new activities in addition to camping: Let's Go Birding, Let's Go Disc Golfing, Let's Go Hiking, and Let's Go Paddling.
Three Let's Go events will be offered on State Parks Day. Rangers will lead the activities and provide the necessary gear so that families can try new outdoor activities with confidence. The events are open to ages 8 and up; youth under 14 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Some activities require preregistration--you must be 18 to sign up. The events are:
* Let's Go Disc Golfing at L.L. "Stub" Stewart State Park, noon to 2 p.m. Meet at Dairy Creek Camp West and wear sturdy shoes. Registration fee $10 per person. Limited to 12 participants.
* Let's Go Paddling (kayaking) at Milo McIver State Park, 9 to 11 a.m. Meet at Estacada Lake and wear shoes that can get wet. Bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and water. Registration fee $15 per person. Limited to 11 participants. Youth ages 8-14 need to have an adult with them in the kayak.
* Lets Go Birding at Tryon Creek State Natural Area, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Meet at the Nature Center and wear shoes for hiking. Binoculars will be available. Free. First-come, first-served---no registration required.
Many other parks will also host special events on State Parks Day; check www.oregonstateparks.org for the full schedule of events and a list of future dates and locations for Let's Go camping and day programs throughout the summer. To register for a Let's Go program, call 1-888-953-7677.
Those planning to camp at a reservable site on State Parks Day should make their reservation early: sites can be booked two days or more in advance by visiting www.oregonstateparks.org or calling Reservations Northwest at 1-800-452-5687 before 5 p.m. on May 30th. Yurts, cabins, tepees, and group sites will be available at regular rates. It costs $8 to make a reservation, even for sites that are free for the night.
Unemployment down in Baker and Union Co.May 21, 2013 2:56pm
Unemployment numbers across the state of Oregon have been on a steady decline over the last year, showing the economy is slowly back on the mend. Areas here in Eastern Oregon have especially seen moves in the right direction. In Baker County, unemployment has dropped from 10 percent last year to 9 percent this year at the same time. Union County saw a similar drop falling from 9.4 percent down to 8.4 percent. Wallowa and Umatilla Counties did see slight drops in their numbers as well, with both going down .6 and .4 percent respectively. In the state, unemployment has gone down to 8 percent.
Western Oregon timber counties looking to raise taxesMay 21, 2013 3:02pm
Three Oregon timber counties are asking voters to raise taxes to restore deep cuts to law enforcement forced by the expiration of a longstanding federal subsidy.
The votes tallied Tuesday evening will determine if Lane, Josephine and Curry counties will continue to live with the consequences of the cuts: few deputies to send on 911 calls, jails releasing inmates only to see them return charged with new crimes and no one to prosecute some crimes.
The voters pay some of the lowest property tax rates in the state and have consistently refused to raise taxes.
The cuts were forced by the expiration of a federal subsidy that paid timber counties millions of dollars to make up for revenues they lost when logging was cut on national forests to protect fish and wildlife.
Josephine County is seeking a three-year levy starting at $9.1 million a year, Curry County a five-year levy starting at $4 million a year, and Lane County a five-year levy starting at $14.5 million.
The Lane County levy would be dedicated to increasing capacity at the jail, where inmates have routinely been released only to be sent back charged with new crimes.
The levies are widely viewed as a temporary solution to the funding gap left by the expiration of the Secure Rural Schools Act, which provided $105 million to Oregon in 2012.
Many in timber country still hope for a long-term solution that depends on increased logging on federal forests, especially the patchwork of federal timber in Western Oregon known as the O&C lands.
However, legislative efforts to boost logging and to restore the subsidies have failed to gain traction in Congress.
Curry County, the smallest of the three, is on the brink of bankruptcy, and Sheriff John Bishop has said his office would effectively have to close if the levy fails.
The Legislature is considering a variety of bills to allow the state to step in and take over, even levying taxes, if counties go broke.
Today is the final day to cast your ballots in board racesMay 21, 2013 5:20am
Today is the final day you can cast your ballots in the spring elections. Most of the voting in Union and Baker Counties involve school board races. It’s too late to mail your ballots back, but you can drop your ballot off at county clerks offices until 8:00 tonight. We will have full results from the elections tomorrow morning.
EOU reviewing class loads and schedules as part of cutsMay 21, 2013 5:18am
As part of the proposed changes at Eastern Oregon University, school officials are reviewing the classes they offer to see which ones are underperforming according to President Bob Davies: "A lot of our courses that we teach here at Eastern are courses that are ten students or under. We just cannot financially support classes at that level."
President Davies says 30% of classes on campus fall under that category. He says they will try and merge some classes together, but some may be eliminated during the review process.
Local school kids to plant trees at the Powder RiverMay 21, 2013 5:16am
The Powder River will be receiving a visit from 6th graders on May 29th as part of an outreach program put on by the Powder Basin Watershed Council. 6th graders from all over Baker County will be given a tree and be shown how to plant their trees between H Street and Hughes Lane. Karen Spencer with Baker County Parks says it is hopefully a way to get kids interested in their parks: "What we’re looking to do is get the kids involved in natural resources and have some buy in to what’s happening out in the waterways."
There will also be educational sessions on several topics relating to taking care of the watershed.
3,340 letters against Travel Management Plan received May 21, 2013 5:12am
Officials with the Wallowa Whitman National Forest say they received 3,340 appeal and comment letters on the proposed Travel Management Plan between March 16, 2012 and June 14, 2012. They say there were two things they heard from the public- that they wanted to be involved in the process and they need to start with an accurate map of the area and its roads. Officials say they are working on getting those maps, and will begin the Travel Management Plan again soon.
Work crews will shut down part of 'Z' Avenue todayMay 21, 2013 5:10am
Work crews will be closing part of ‘Z’ Avenue through 4:00 this afternoon. Work will be done on the railroad crossing at ‘Z’ and Cedar Streets. A detour around the work will be marked.
Wallowa Mountain Loop Road reopens for the summerMay 21, 2013 5:08am
Forest Road 39, better known as the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road, is now open according to officials with the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. The road, which connects Joseph and Halfway, is part of the Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway. Officials warn that motorists can still encounter bad weather and rocks on the road, so drive carefully.
Group pushes legalized marijuana, will try ballot measureMay 21, 2013 5:06am
A group of people backing the legalization of marijuana say they will begin their push to get the issue on the 2014 ballot tomorrow. New Approach Oregon wants marijuana to be taxed by the state but legal for adult consumption along with the legalization of hemp as a crop. The group is also pushing lawmakers to pass House Bill 3371 which would legalize it, but officials say that has little chance of passing.
OSP troopers taser wanted felon near La GrandeMay 20, 2013 1:11pm
A man wanted on numerous warrants was arrested by Oregon State Police (OSP) early Sunday near La Grande after troopers used a Taser on the aggressively resisting man to take him into custody during a traffic stop.
Shortly after midnight, May 19, 2013, two OSP troopers stopped a vehicle in Island City near La Grande on suspicion the driver was wanted on numerous warrants. The vehicle was seen earlier by one of the troopers who ran a check using the Mobile Data Terminal computer in the patrol car on the registered owner, DARYL S. FREDERICKSON, age 35, from Umatilla, and learned he was wanted on four outstanding warrants and was known to be an officer safety concern.
The trooper lost sight of the vehicle but located it later and stopped it. The driver, FREDERICKSON, was positively identified at that time as the wanted felon. When troopers initiated a felony stop at gunpoint, FREDERICKSON exited the vehicle and refused to obey their commands and orders. A Taser was deployed twice against FREDERICKSON who verbally threatened and challenged the troopers. After the second Taser deployment, he was taken into custody following a short struggle.
In addition to local charges of Resisting Arrest, Interfering with a Police Officer, and misdemeanor Attempt to Elude on Foot, FREDERICKSON was lodged in the Union County Jail on the following warrants:
* Contempt of Court - Fail to appear on Felon in Possession of a Firearm (Hermiston Municipal Court)
* Three warrants out of Union County charging Unlawful Possession & Delivery of a Controlled Substance - Methamphetamine, and two separate counts of Fail to Appear - Theft in the Second Degree
Elgin Ambulance Service receives grantMay 20, 2013 3:08pm
The Elgin Ambulance Service were the recipients of a 2,500 dollar grant from the Randy Carpenter Memorial Foundation. The money will go to helping support their EMT Training Classes. The Randy Carpenter Memorial Foundation was started after he and two other firefighters died in Coos Bay in 2002. Its goal is to help give every emergency responder the resources to properly prepare for the dangers of their job.
Animal rights activist arrested at Big Loop RodeoMay 20, 2013 3:07pm
The fight over Senate Bill 835, a bill targeted at making “horse tripping” illegal, has been the subject of controversy in Eastern Oregon. The latest hit for both supporters and opponents of the bill came this weekend at the Big Loop Rodeo in Jordan Valley. An animal rights activist Steve Hindi with Showing Animals Respect and Kindness was arrested for videotaping the event even though the rodeo has banned all video cameras.
Minor damage in Imbler crashMay 20, 2013 3:06pm
Only minor damage and no injuries were reported when a young driver accidently ran his vehicle into the Imbler Market. The accident happened just before 6:30 last night. Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen said this morning no charges would be filed against the driver.
Baker City Council re-organizing goalsMay 20, 2013 3:06pm
The Baker City Council is going back over the goals they set earlier this month and looking to figure out which ones should be their top priorities. Goals on the list included labor cost reduction over the next five years, supporting parks, selling the property on Salmon Creek, preparing cost analysis on contracted services and the consolidation of public works.
Vocational Rehab plan seeks public inputMay 20, 2013 3:05pm
Public input is being sought on the proposed 2014 update to the state plan for Oregon's Vocational Rehabilitation program. The plan can be viewed online at www.oregon.gov/DHS/vr. The public comment period ends at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 31, 2013.
The Vocational Rehabilitation program helps people with disabilities get and keep jobs that match their skills and interests. Staff works with local communities and businesses to develop employment opportunities for its clients.
"Our state plan describes how we provide services, the progress we made over the last year to meet our goals, and our priorities for the year ahead. This public input period is part of our process for updating the plan for the 2014 federal fiscal year which starts October 1," said Stephaine Parrish Taylor, administrator of the Vocational Rehabilitation program.
There are two ways to submit public comments after reviewing the state plan:
* By sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* By sending written comments by U.S. Mail. Written comments should be sent to the following:
Travis Wall, Policy and Program Manager
Oregon Department of Human Services
500 Summer Street NE, E-87
Salem, Oregon 97310-1018
"The public feedback we receive during this process is important. It is taken into serious consideration as we set goals and identify improvements to be made in how we deliver our services and activities. We hope many will take this opportunity to review our plan and share their comments," Wall said.
For more information about Vocational Rehabilitation services, visit www.oregon.gov/dhs/vr.
Oregon House approves Hatfield statue in DCMay 20, 2013 3:04pm
The late Sen. Mark Hatfield, Oregon's most powerful elected leader of the late 20th Century, was a consummate politician who would have appreciated Monday's debate in the Oregon House of Representatives.
In the chamber where the Republican lawmaker began his political career, representatives spent their entire morning session discussing whether Hatfield should be one of the two Oregonians enshrined in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall -- and whether the bust of one of Oregon's founding fathers, the Rev. Jason Lee, should be sent back to the state.
In the end, lawmakers voted 36-22 to allow private fundraising to begin to pay for placing Hatfield's statue in the Capitol. House Bill 2387 now moves to the Senate.
Hatfield served two terms as governor and, starting in 1966, was in the Senate for 30 years, longer than anyone else in Oregon history. He became nationally famous as an early opponent of the war in Vietnam and then as a consistent champion of promoting peaceful alternatives to armed conflict.
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee in the 1980s and 1990s, Hatfield brought home hundreds of millions of dollars in federal spending to the state -- and his name is memorialized on buildings ranging from the high-rise federal courthouse in downtown Portland to research facilities at Oregon Health & Science University and on the Oregon coast.
As was evident from the vote, the move to add another honor to Hatfield's legacy was not without controversy. Several lawmakers did not want to diminish Lee's prominence given his central role in the state's early history. He came here as a Methodist missionary in 1834, helped found Salem and encouraged settlers to come to the Oregon territory.
Lee was key to the "beginnings of this state and that ought to be recognized," said Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, one of the bill's opponents.
Rep. Vic Gilliam, R-Silverton, argued that it was time to bring Lee's statue home to Oregon and put the spotlight on a "modern pioneer." He noted that groups in both Salem and Lincoln City are vying to display Lee's statue.
As befits Hatfield's unusual legacy, some of his strongest support came from Democrats. Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, told of working for him shortly after she graduated from the University of Oregon. At the time, she said, she sported dyed pink hair, a nose ring and wore combat boots, a definite contrast to the immaculately attired senator.
House Majority Leader Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, said Hatfield's willingness to work across party lines makes him a particularly apt figure to highlight in the Capitol.
"If we could have that in Washington, D.C. right now...we would be in a better place," she said.
In the end, the vote crossed party lines, with 25 Democrats and 11 Republicans favoring the measure.
EOU draft plan restructures finances for future successMay 20, 2013 5:16am
As we first told you Friday morning, Eastern Oregon University officials have released their draft plan for dealing with a more than $1 million budget shortfall. Eastern president Bob Davies says with an ever changing state budget model, they have to adapt as well: "We’re cutting expenditures tremendously in some key areas, and we’re also, again, changing some paradigms- just the way we approach things."
Five non-faculty positions will be eliminated- some by attrition, and several faculty positions will be cut as well: "We are decreasing some positions. Five positions in what we call non-instructional have been eliminated." The final draft of the plan will be ready in June.
Baker City budget meetings start tonight May 20, 2013 5:13am
The Baker City Council will be starting their annual budget meetings tonight in the council chambers. There are a few big topics on the table this year, including how personel costs are going to work out since they are still working through union negotiations. Jeanie Dexter says they are also looking to take a step and eliminate the cities only debt: "We have proposed to pay of the cities only debt which is about $58,000. We’re proposing a $61,000 payment which includes interest."
The proposed payment could save the city $13,000 over the next nine years. Dexter says the overall goal of the budget is to preserve services at their current level: "Right now we are trying to maintain the same level of service while controlling costs and council has asked us to concentrate on controlling personnel costs."
The budget meeting will continue nightly until they're finished.
Baker City nominated for 'Bark for your Park' contestMay 20, 2013 5:08am
Baker City has been nominated for the ‘Bark for your Park’ contest sponsored by PetSafe. People can vote online for the winning community. The city that’s chosen gets a $100,000 grant to build a dog- friendly park. The four runners-up each get $25,000. You can vote twice per day at petsafe.net. The winners will be announced May 31st.
Lawsuit against La Grande, Union County to go to trialMay 20, 2013 5:07am
A lawsuit against the City of La Grande and Union County over alleged misconduct by police officers and a sheriff’s deputy will go to court. A La Grande couple says two 2006 drug raids on their home were malicious. The couple had a license to grow medical marijuana. They refused attempts to come to an agreement on the case according to reports. The trial will start August 27th in federal court in Portland.
Baker County moves forward with Mason Dam projectMay 20, 2013 5:05am
Baker County is moving ahead with plans to turn Mason Dam into a hydroelectric producer. County officials signed a contract with EcoWest Consulting to prepare the necessary documentation to build a 3.4 megawatt system. The county will then sell the electricty produced to Idaho Power. It’s expected to take about a year before all the studies are completed.
La Grande budget includes money for City Hall upgradesMay 20, 2013 5:03am
City Hall in La Grande will soon be having some major work done. The budget passed last week includes $15,000 for maintenance- that will include fixing the stairs in the front and rear of the building, elevator maintenance and the replacement of the spindles on the roof of the building which are deteriorating. Crews will also put a snow guard on the roof that will prevent snow from falling from the roof in front of the doors which poses a potential hazard for people.
Baker City named Tree city U.S.A. for 28th yearMay 20, 2013 5:01am
For the 28th straight year, Baker City has been named a Tree City U.S.A. of the 57 Tree Cities in Oregon, only seven have reached that milestone, and Baker City is the only one in Eastern Oregon. Being named a Tree City involves having a tree board, a tree ordinance, a community forestry program and an arbor day observence. The Baker City arbor board will hold a tree planting Wednesday with students at Brooklyn elementary along 1st Street by the VFW hall.
Baker City budget meetings start on MondayMay 17, 2013 3:04pm
The Baker City budget meetings are starting Monday night, and this year they are taking personnel costs very seriously. The committee is trying to keep the level of service they are giving out as high as possible while also keeping costs to a minimum. Several issues have hurt their cost estimates, including the fact they are still in negotiations with all three unions involved as well as Senate Bill 822 not having been officially approved.
31 sheep killed by wolf in IdahoMay 17, 2013 3:03pm
Idaho State wildlife officials have confirmed that a ranch in near Ketchum, Idaho saw 31 sheep killed over the weekend by wolves. The total count listed 13 ewes killed and 18 lambs. Idaho Wildlife Services has a kill order on at least two wolves in the area. The advocacy group Living With Wolves is saying the rancher has no reason to argue since he practices “range lambing”.
Oregon house looks to help Buddy Herron's familyMay 17, 2013 3:02pm
The Oregon House is looking at a bill that would give the family of Buddy Herron, an Oregon Corrections Officer who was stabbed to death near Pendleton in 2011, a 1,500 dollar payout from the Oregon PERS system to aid his family. Herron died 10 days away from serving the five years need to vest in the system. The bill will give his family the amount that had been paid into his account by his employer.
Oregon changing high school testingMay 17, 2013 3:01pm
(Salem, Ore.) – Today, the State Board of Education unanimously voted to select Smarter Balanced to test students’ mastery of the new Common Core State Standards in English and math starting in the 2014-15 school year. The Common Core are common learning expectations which have been adopted by 45 states over the past several years. These standards were developed by the states for the states to prepare students to be nationally and internationally competitive and to ensure they graduate high school prepared for college and career. The Oregon State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards in October of 2010. Today’s vote selected the test that will be used in Oregon schools to assess these new standards. Smarter Balanced will replace Oregon’s current state-wide test – the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills – for English Language Arts and math starting in the 2014-15 school year.
“I believe that the Common Core will play a vital role in preparing our students to be globally competitive,” said State Board Chair Artemio Paz, Jr. “As a Board, we felt that Smarter Balanced best fit the assessment needs of Oregon’s students and schools. This adoption will allow our schools and classrooms to move forward with implementing this new, more rigorous system.”
With states’ adoption of the Common Core, several groups began development of common assessments to test these new standards. Two state consortiums, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), received Race to the Top funding to develop Common Core tests. Oregon, along with many other western states, chose to join the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as a Governing state. This has allowed our state to have a seat at the decision-making table and help ensure that the new assessment would provide our students with the high quality, online, adaptive test we have come to expect through our current system. Oregon is one of 25 states affiliated with the Smarter Balanced Consortium.
However, Oregon’s affiliation with Smarter Balanced did not bind our state to adopting their assessment. In order to ensure our state was selecting the test that would truly be best for our students and schools, the Oregon Department of Education pulled together a workgroup of 18 education stakeholders to review all of the assessment options and make a recommendation to the State Board of Education. This workgroup, which included teachers, administrators, higher education representatives, members of the State Board, a Legislator, a parent, and a representative from Stand For Children, reviewed information on the available assessment options including assessments offered by PARCC, NWEA, ACT, College Board, and Renaissance Learning in addition to Smarter Balanced. To ensure an impartial review process, the majority of the panel members came from randomly selected districts from around the state. After two half-day meetings, their unanimous recommendation was for Oregon to adopt Smarter Balanced. The State Board considered the panelists’ recommendation today in making their final decision.
“Oregon has long been a national leader in online, adaptive testing and our early involvement with Smarter allowed us to help guide and inform this work,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “But Smarter is only one of several Common Core assessment options open to states and we really wanted to make sure that it was the best possible choice. The process we conducted over the past month has confirmed to us that Smarter Balanced will provide our students with the highest quality assessment and will provide our teachers with the best information about student learning so that they can adapt instruction to better met student needs. I want to thank everyone involved in this process for their thoughtful review and consideration of the available options.”
The Smarter Balanced assessment can provide Oregon with more than end-of-year, or summative, tests. The new assessment offers a suite of tools and resources that will allow teachers to track student learning and growth throughout the year through customizable formative and interim assessments that can help teachers target, adjust, and improve their instruction. These resources provide built-in professional development for teachers and timely feedback on student learning that can help inform instructional decisions. This suite of resources, including formative and interim assessments and professional development for classroom teachers, was a major factor considered by the assessment review panel. These resources could help teachers more seamlessly integrate assessment into classroom instruction, allowing teachers to catch gaps in student understanding earlier in the school year.
The tests will also go beyond multiple-choice to include tasks that allow students to demonstrate more authentic research, writing, and analytical skills. Like Oregon’s current system, this test will be online and adaptive meaning that teachers and students will get results quickly and that the test will adjust to provide each student with an appropriate level of difficulty. Students will demonstrate their knowledge and skills through a range of activities including multiple choice items, short answer, technology enhanced items, and performance tasks. Performance tasks will ask students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems and will capture information on students’ depth of understanding as well as their research, problem solving, and analytical skills. This will provide much richer information than can be captured through a multiple choice test. The assessment also includes accommodations to ensure it is accessible to our students with disabilities and our English Language Learners.
This more integrated, comprehensive, and authentic system will cost more than our current summative system due to the range of features listed above, but the panel felt these resources and offerings would be of incredible value in Oregon schools. Oregon’s adoption of the full suite of resources is dependent on legislative funding.
Selected schools around Oregon have already begun piloting elements of the Smarter Balanced assessments and a practice test will be available online later this month. To learn more about Smarter Balanced visit http://www.smarterbalanced.org or http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=3298. To learn more about the Common Core visit http://www.ode.state.or.us/go/commoncore.
County officials against automatic registration billMay 17, 2013 2:59pm
Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski is among a slew of statewide county officials opposing a bill that would automatically register an estimated 500,000 potential Oregon voters.
Secretary of State Kate Brown's proposal to use DMV data to put people on the voter registration rolls is heavy-handed and convoluted, Malinowski and other officials at an Association of Oregon Counties meeting this week said.
For the most part, commissioners took issue not with the sentiment of the bill but the execution.
"Don't use a two-by-four if you can use a matchstick to fix a problem," Malinowski said at a Washington County work session in Hillsboro the next day.
Brown came before the AOC's legislative committee seeking the group's neutrality, if not support, and instead faced a growing tide of frustration. Aside from three abstentions, the remaining 31 officials voted to oppose the current version of the bill.
Chief among the group's complaints is sending ballots to essentially all eligible Oregonians -- including those who don't want to vote -- with little guarantee on the return.
Brown has altered language in the bill, offering what she said is a "robust" two-week opt-out period for those who don't wish to be registered. Brown also said the new approach will alleviate surges in paperwork before elections and during voter registration drives.
The state will spend at least $3 million to upgrade the counties' election technology, Brown said.
"Registration was not designed to be a barrier to voting," Brown said.
James Morales, head of Oregon's Association of County Clerks, said estimates put the initial cost to counties at about $1 million.
But cost was more of an issue for smaller counties. Other commissioners, including Malinowski, said the problem was that it seemed like a complicated bill that didn't solve the real problem -- the 20-day cutoff to register before elections.
The Oregon Association of County Clerks has responded with its own informal counter proposal that would list drivers as inactive voters, Morales said.
In order to vote, a person would need to change their status -- something they can do even after the 20-day registration cutoff.
"The concern with (Brown's) proposal is you're paying to send out ballots to people who so far have showed no real interest in participating," Morales said.
But concerns about practicality inevitably turned political among county commissioners, echoing debate from a recent hearing on the legislation, House Bill 3521.
"I don't think we should take a position that forces anyone to do anything," Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith said of automatically registering uninterested residents.
Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen was one of the few commissioners to voice any support: He said the county was behind the initiative and thanked Brown for her work to find a "sweet spot" between controlling administrative costs and increasing voter participation.
Among Washington County commissioners the next morning, the politics of the conversation continued. Chair Andy Duyck acknowledged the practical issues but also said he thinks there is a larger question: "Whether or not voting is such a right that people should be able to vote no matter what," he said.
Duyck went on to reframe the question.
"Do you want voters that vote emotionally at the last minute?" Duyck said. "Or do we want thoughtful voters that have taken the time to register?"
Commissioner Dick Schouten questioned whether that should really be a question. Schouten called the idea "slippery" and said voting is a "fundamental right."
Malinowski said he'd like to shorten the 20-day time frame and find a simpler way to encourage voter participation. He's not necessarily a fan of the clerks' proposal, either -- that also seems too complicated, he said.
"We need to find a compromise rather than having some convoluted system," he said.
-- Katherine Driessen
7 years added to Zoo Boise monkey killers sentenceMay 17, 2013 2:58pm
BOISE — Michael J. Watkins may only have to serve a year in prison for killing a Zoo Boise Patas monkey.
Watkins was sentenced Thursday to serve up to 7 years in prison for attempted grand theft. But Judge Lynn Norton placed him on retained jurisdiction, meaning he will first serve a nine- to 12-month treatment program that could make him eligible for release afterward.
If Watkins served the full sentence, he would be eligible for parole after two years. He also faces a possible six-month jail sentence for animal cruelty; it wasn't clear Thursday how that would combine with the prison time.
"I know my actions were selfish, and they impacted Zoo Boise and the public and Boise itself," he said as he apologized to the court for the killing.
Defense attorneys had asked for Watkins to simply serve probation, while prosecutors had sought 7 1/2 years with no eligibility for parole.
Zoo staff found the animal, a Patas monkey named Cratey, early on the morning of Nov. 17 while investigating a break-in. Watkins has given several accounts over time regarding the circumstances of the monkey's death.
Prosecutor Shawna Dunn refuted Watkins’ claim that the killing was a drunken prank by using a map to illustrate the distance Watkins covered and the time between releasing Cratey and the monkey’s death.
“It was not a momentary or short-lived event,” she said. “It seems like a little voice would tell you that this isn’t fun anymore.”
Watkins and a friend broke into the zoo in November and broke a lock to release Cratey. As Watkins attempted to steal the animal, it bit him. Watkins then kicked the monkey several times before chasing it down, spraying it with a fire extinguisher, beating it with a stick, and attempting to fling it over an barbed wire fence on the perimeter of the zoo.
Watkins continued to beat the monkey after it was no longer moving, according to a witness.
In a necropsy, Cratey was determined to have massive amounts of bruising on his head, throat and body, as well as bleeding between his brain and skull, Dunn said. Dunn added that the monkey was clearly struck more than the few times Watkins originally asserted.
“He drug himself down the fence line and lay there moaning until zookeepers found him,” she said. “That’s the condition that Mr. Watkins leaves him in.”
Dunn also read excerpts from a victim impact letter from Zoo Boise Director Steve Burns that described the impact Cratey’s death had on the community.
In the letter, Burns questioned how zoo employees would explain to visiting children what had happened. It would be a difficult subject to explain to the youngest zoo visitors, he asserted.
“There are people who lack regard for life itself,” he wrote. “The zoo may feel less safe to [children] now, and if it does, their world may feel less safe.”
Dunn argued that it was important for Watkins’ case to act as a deterrent to others.
“This was senseless conduct with violence towards an animal,” she said. The prosecution asked Norton to impose the maximum sentence for both charges.
The defense asked the judge for lenience, and argued that Watkins should receive probation. Defense attorney Brian Marks spoke about Watkins’ background and ongoing health and family issues. Watkins' grandmother had fallen ill shortly before the break-in, and died while he was in jail.
Watkins also has a 7-month-old son, Marks said. Marks argued that his client had been punished enough by missing his grandmother's final days and the first days with his son. In addition, the international media attention the case has received has created a stigma that would be difficult to escape, Marks said.
“(Watkins) will forever be known as the man who killed a monkey at Zoo Boise,” Marks said. “He will now have a felony conviction that will follow him for life.”
Marks pointed to Watkins’ history with depression and alcohol dependency as contributing to his errors in judgment, and said the man was working to overcome his addiction.
“He understands now more than ever that alcohol cannot be the way he handles stressors in his life,” he said.
But Norton was not swayed.
“When you learn time is limited with other people, the proper response is not to go out drinking,” she said.
She also noted that Watkins had completed outpatient rehabilitation for alcohol five months before the attack and had repeated misconduct violations while in jail.
“There were a number of places you could have made different decisions,” she told Watkins. “You kept engaging until you killed this animal.”
In addition to the prison time, Norton ordered Watkins to pay restitution and have no contact with Zoo Boise.
Lightning strikes in Oregon up over the last 22 yearsMay 17, 2013 2:57pm
The beauty of the photo is used to highlight research in Oregon that verifies an increase of lightning strikes between 1990 and 2012. The data was collected across eastern Oregon and counted by Fire Weather Program Manager John Saltenberger with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
Data shows an average number of lightning strikes near 29,000 in 1990 and an upward curve of strikes, peaking near 70,000 in 2003-2004 and near 48,000 strikes in 2012. An upward trend in lightning is of concern as we head into this summer's fire season.
At this time, the science of meteorology does not have a forecast model or technique to predict if this summer will see an active lightning season or not. The past 22 years have seen calm seasons in between high lightning strike years.
Fire weather meteorologists say the biggest concern is thunderstorm clusters that produce dozens of fire starts at once, making it impossible for crews to monitor and react to each blaze. The delay in action caused by the number of fires can allow large fires to develop quickly.
Western Oregon lightning data has not been counted by the agency. However, my personal records for the Portland metro also show an increase in lightning detection since 1999.
Another prescribed burn starts today near ElginMay 17, 2013 8:46am
Officials with the Wallowa Whitman National Forest announced another prescribed burn ten miles Northwest of Elgin that will start this morning. The Loon 38 burn will be lit about 10 am. Prescribed burns are used to remove undergrowth and dead wood to improve forest health. Smoke from the prescribed burn may be visible.
Identity of Ontario crash victim releasedMay 17, 2013 5:19am
A woman died Thursday morning in a collision between her vehicle and a commercial truck at the intersection of Highway 20 and Highway 201N south of Ontario in Malheur County. Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers from the Ontario Command office are continuing the investigation into the cause of the crash. The victim's name is released in this update.
According to Lieutenant Mark Duncan, on May 16, 2013 at approximately 9:35 a.m., a 2006 Pontiac G6 four-door driven by VENEZA RODRIGUEZ, age 20, from Ontario, was stopped at the stop sign on Highway 20 at the intersection with Highway 201N. As a 2006 Kenworth truck driven by GUADALUPE RIOS, age 53, from Nyssa, approached southbound on Highway 201N, the Pontiac pulled out to turn left and into the path of the commercial truck when it was struck.
After impact, both vehicles traveled together nearly 200 yards to the south of the intersection before separating. The Pontiac came to rest in a bordering irrigation ditch. The truck and trailer came to a stop in the northbound lanes.
RODRIGUEZ was pronounced deceased at the scene. She was using safety restraints.
RIOS was not injured and was also using safety restraints.
OSP was assisted at the scene by Malheur County Sheriff's Office, Bureau of Land Management, Ontario Fire & Rescue, and ODOT. The highway was closed six hours with a detour in place.
EOU releases their plan to deal with budget shortfallMay 17, 2013 5:16am
Eastern Oregon University President Bob Davies unveiled the draft plan for dealing with deep cuts necessary to fill a gap in the budget. In the plan, President Davies said they also need to ensure they’re prepared for a leaner future, so the plan avoids quick fixes. Five positions will be cut- some of which are currently vacant, and administrators will be taking furlough days. Classes with fewer than eleven students will be cancelled. The plan also calls for a review of academic programs to ensure they’re tailored to what the students need. The final plan will be released next month.
Mosquitoes starting to emerge in Union CountyMay 17, 2013 5:14am
The hot weather we had earlier this month means mosquito season is here. Union County vector control agent Kelly Beehler says they’re starting to see the larvae become adults in a few areas: "And we saw mosquitoes really kind of coming out in the outskirts of Imbler, Island City and then parts of La Grande."
Beehler says his group has already been battling the pests for months: "We’ve been going hot and heavy for a couple of months trying to do larval control. That’s the best way is when you can focus on those water sites before they can get up and start spraying around."
If you notice large numbers of mosquitoes around your property you’re asked to call vector control at 963-2974.
U.S. reservoirs could lose in a battle with CanadaMay 17, 2013 5:11am
Yesterday we heard Representative Cliff Bentz talk about the importance of the Columbia River treaty to Northeast Oregon. The affects of removing the treaty will be huge on some already taxed reservoirs in the area. Baker County parks director Karen Spencer says lower dams would be hit harder in years with more snowpack: "If they’re not allowing storage and release opportunities in the reservoirs in Canada, then we have to draw down further in the American reservoirs."
Brownlee reservoir is one that would be effected, despite already dealing with low water levels.
Saturday bus service could soon be restored in La GrandeMay 17, 2013 5:08am
The City of La Grande is one step closer to having Saturday bus service again. Community Connection public transportation manager Frank Thomas addressed the budget committee this week to ask the city to match $4,400 over two years to hopefully restore the Saturday service. Thomas said 21% of riders are heading to the downtown core area with the highest number of requests for people heading to the farmers market. Restoration of the route is contingent on receiving an ODOT grant.
Search for new LG building inspector to force changesMay 17, 2013 5:06am
With building official David Klass leaving next week for a state job, the City of La Grande is beginning the search for a new official. In the interim, the department will be short staffed which means a shift in the inspection schedule. Inspections will be done Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s. An inspector from Pendleton will be helping out as needed.
State revenues up, but kicker refunds may be necessaryMay 17, 2013 5:03am
The latest state revenue forecast was released yesterday morning, and Oregon lawmakers will have a little more to spend according to economists. Tax collections are $271 million ahead of what was projected so far this year. But, there was a little bad new to go along with the good. The high amount will likely also trigger the state’s corporate kicker law which will reduce that amount by $20 million. And, economists say personal income tax revenue is close to triggering the kicker for individuals which would cost the state another $86 million.
Two car accident south of Ontario results in deathMay 16, 2013 3:07pm
A woman died Thursday morning in a collision between her vehicle and a commercial truck at the intersection of Highway 20 and Highway 201N south of Ontario in Malheur County. Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers from the Ontario Command office are continuing the investigation into the cause of the crash. The victim's name will be released later this evening to allow next of kin more time for any necessary notifications.
According to Lieutenant Mark Duncan, on May 16, 2013 at approximately 9:35 a.m., a 2006 Pontiac G6 four-door driven by a 20-year old female was stopped at the stop sign on Highway 20 at the intersection with Highway 201N. As a 2006 Kenworth truck driven by GUADALUPE RIOS, age 53, from Nyssa, approached southbound on Highway 201N, the Pontiac pulled out to turn left and into the path of the commercial truck when it was struck.
After impact, both vehicles traveled together nearly 200 yards to the south of the intersection before separating. The Pontiac came to rest in a bordering irrigation ditch. The truck and trailer came to a stop in the northbound lanes.
The Pontiac's driver was pronounced deceased at the scene. She was using safety restraints.
RIOS was not injured and was also using safety restraints.
OSP was assisted at the scene by Malheur County Sheriff's Office, Bureau of Land Management, Ontario Fire & Rescue, and ODOT. The highway was closed several hours with a detour in place.
Delays on ammunition hitting Baker City PD tooMay 16, 2013 3:11pm
Ammunition issues aren’t just hitting the La Grande Police Department. The Baker City Police Department was left waiting 5 months for rifle ammunition they ordered in January that didn’t arrive until recently. Police Chief Wyn Lohner says they are still waiting on hand gun ammunition that was ordered at the same time.
La Grande sewer and water prices rising againMay 16, 2013 3:10pm
Area residents who use La Grande’s sewer and water systems will soon be paying more for those services- again. The budget passed by the committee Wednesday contains a 7% raise in water rates and a 5% increase in sewer rates. The budget now goes to the city council on June 12th where it is expected to pass.
NE Oregon lawenforcement still pushing to keep Porter in jailMay 16, 2013 3:09pm
Law enforcement officials across northeast Oregon are still working to keep Sydney Dean Porter in jail. Porter was arrested for killing a police officer in 1992 and has recently been recommended for parole despite being listed as likely to recommit the crime. Law enforcement in the area have been reaching out to several lobbying groups that work to keep cop killers behind bars. They are also working on getting a legislative hearing in front of the parole board.
Pendleton Weather Center holding open houseMay 16, 2013 3:08pm
The National Weather Service Center in Pendleton is inviting the public to their open house on June 1st where they will be holding tours of the weather office. There will also be exhibits, awards, and demonstrations including rocket and weather balloon launches.
Boise Zoo's monkey killer sentenced to on yearMay 16, 2013 3:06pm
BOISE — An Idaho man convicted of breaking into a Boise zoo and brutally beating to death a Patas monkey will spend up to a year in state prison, where he'll take part in a treatment program.
A state judge sentenced 22-year-old Michael Watkins on Thursday for his role in the Nov. 17 crime that caused shock and outrage in Idaho's capitol city and beyond.
Watkins gave a brief statement before sentencing, apologizing for his actions.
Fourth District Judge Lynn G. Norton rejected defense attorney requests for probation. Instead, Norton said she wanted to impose a punishment fitting the crime that still enables Watkins to turn his life around.
Watkins was convicted of felony grand theft and animal cruelty, a misdemeanor in Idaho.
The judge will revisit sentencing after Watkins completes treatment.
-- The Associated Press
List of most popular baby names in Oregon comes outMay 16, 2013 3:05pm
The Social Security Administration today announced the most popular baby names in Oregon for 2012. Sophia and Liam topped the list. The top five boys and girls names for 2012 in Oregon were:
1) Liam 1) Sophia
2) Mason 2) Emma
3) Alexander 3) Olivia
4) William 4) Isabella
5) Henry 5) Abigail
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, announced last week that Sophia and Jacob were the most popular baby names in the U.S. How does Oregon compare to the rest of the country? Check out Social Security's website - http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/babynames -- to see the top baby names for 2012. While having fun with baby names on http://www.socialsecurity.gov, people may create a my Social Security account. Social Security's website has the top-rated online services in the U.S., including the services available with a my Social Security account, a personalized online account that people can use beginning in their working years and continuing throughout the time they receive Social Security benefits.
More than 60 million Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients can now access their benefit verification letter, payment history, and earnings record instantly using their online account.
Social Security beneficiaries also can change their address and start or change direct deposit information online. People age 18 and older who are not receiving benefits can sign up for a my Social Security account to get a personalized online Social Security Statement. In addition to each state's top baby names, Social Security's website has a list of the 1,000 most popular boys' and girls' names for 2012 and offers lists of baby names for each year since 1880. To read about this year's winner for the biggest jump in popularity and to see how pop culture affects baby names, go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/pr/babynames2012-pr.html.
Forest officials plan controlled burn North of ElginMay 16, 2013 9:57am
Officials with the Wallowa Whitman National Forest are conducting a prescribed burn in the Walla Walla district about ten miles Northwest of Elgin. The burn will begin about 10 am and is expected to treat about 58 acres of land. Smoke may be visible during the burn. For more information, call 541-963-7186.
La Grande City budget passes, goes back to City CouncilMay 16, 2013 5:26am
The La Grande budget committee pushed through their appointed end time and passed the general fund and enterprise fund budgets for the city without having to spend a fourth night meeting. Now the budget goes back to the City Council according to Mayor Dan Pokorney: "What’s next is at the regular council meeting on June 12th, we take the motion that was voted for tonight and then the council passes the budget at that point."
The Mayor said the input of budget committee members was important: "We heard some direction from our budget committee. It’s great having those citizens come and join us and give us a different perspective."
Columbia River treaty will impact Northeast OregonMay 16, 2013 5:23am
The Columbia River treaty has been in place between the U.S. and Canada in order to help control the flood waters of the river for the last fifty years. At the end of this year, the U.S. and Canada have the option of announcing they want out of the treaty, and while it may not seem like it would have an effect on local reservoirs, Representative Cliff Bentz says if the lower Columbia can’t rely on Canadian water to keep flows up, it could be here they turn to for the vital water: "If you need more water to carry fish, in the main stem of the Columbia, then you might call for that water out of the Grande Ronde or out of the Snake."
The call for water could put more stress on reservoirs like Brownlee that already struggle to maintain levels.
La Grande Police Department can't get ammo, eitherMay 16, 2013 5:20am
If you’re having a hard time finding ammunition for your guns, you’re not alone. La Grande Police Chief Brian Harvey told budget committee members this week they were told when they made their last ammunition order that it would likely be eight months before the order arrived, and the ammo is going to cost about 300% more than last year.
Baker City Council wants more info on spay/neuter programMay 16, 2013 5:19am
After presenting a proposal at the last Baker City Council meeting for the creation of a fund to help with the spay and neutering of pets, the Molly Atwater and Friends group gave a second presentation last night that received positive feedback from the council members. There were a few changes to the original proposal, including creating a new $4 a year fee per family that would go to helping family’s with pets. The fee would bring in around $16,000 a year, which could help fix around 320 pets. The council is requesting more information on what other cities and counties are doing as well as looking to the county for a joint effort on the proposal.
Union County distributes transient room fundsMay 16, 2013 5:16am
Four groups represented by two entities met with Union County Commissioners yesterday to ask for a share of the transient room tax money. That’s money collected by motels as a tax that is used to help economic development at more. The Union County Chamber of Commerce, Blue Mountian Conference Center, tourism and the Union County Economic Development Corporation we collectively given just over $141,000 to continue their efforts.
Senator Merkley sponsors bill lowering student loan ratesMay 16, 2013 5:14am
U.S. Senator from Oregon Jeff Merkley is co-sponsoring a bill that would allow students to pay the same interest rate on their federal student loans as banks get when they borrow money from the federal reserve. Student loan interest rates are set to increase July 1st to 6.8% while banks can borrow at three-quarters of a percent.
Governor gives lawmakers deadline for budget dealMay 16, 2013 5:12am
Governor Kitzhaber yesterday told state lawmakers that if they don’t come to an agreement today on taxes and a PERS fix, then they will have to settle for a budget that contains cuts to schools and services. Democrats want to raise taxes to increase school funding by more than a billion dollars in the next two years while Republicans favor more PERS cuts. Without a deal today, it’s unlikely lawmakers will finish their session on time.