The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting and RogueValleyMagazine.com
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Rogue Valley Weather
Today- Patchy fog between 10am and 1pm. Areas of freezing fog before 10am. Otherwise, cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 47. Calm wind.
Thursday- Areas of freezing fog before 10am. Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 48. Light southeast wind.
Christmas Day – Rain likely, mainly after 10am. Snow level 4000 feet rising to 5700 feet in the afternoon. Cloudy, with a high near 47. South southeast wind 11 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.
Saturday- Rain likely, mainly before 10am. Snow level 3800 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 45. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Sunday- Mostly cloudy, with a high near 44.
Oregon reports 1,282 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 35 new deaths
PORTLAND, Ore. — COVID-19 has claimed 35 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,382, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported at 12:01 a.m. today.
OHA reported 1,282 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 105,073.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (9), Benton (10), Clackamas (168), Clatsop (2), Columbia (11), Coos (12), Crook (7), Curry (4), Deschutes (52), Douglas (6), Grant (1), Hood River (20), Jackson (63), Jefferson (20), Josephine (4), Klamath (23), Lake (2), Lane (85), Lincoln (6), Linn (32), Malheur (17), Marion (161), Morrow (4), Multnomah (258), Polk (34), Tillamook (12), Umatilla (49), Union (10), Wasco (5), Washington (153), Wheeler (1) and Yamhill (41).
Vaccinations in Oregon
OHA will be providing daily updates on administered doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Oregon on its vaccination data dashboard.
Yesterday, 2,573 doses of vaccine were administered, raising the state’s total number of first vaccine doses to 7,203. All vaccinations occurred at Oregon hospitals and long-term care facilities.
The dashboard will provide updates on the number of people partially and fully vaccinated, along with key demographic information showing race, ethnicity, sex and age of everyone who has been vaccinated.
The dashboard also shows information by county.
Stay home for the holidays
People in Oregon love having a reason to gather, and there’s no better time of year to spend with loved ones than the winter holidays. We want to remind you that this year the safest activity is to stay home. If you are thinking of traveling, please consider the risk. The type of travel that is the lowest risk is traveling by car with only the people you live with.
If you do have to travel, here are some tips for increasing your safety:
- If you can, travel alone by car, or only with people you live with.
- Limit stops and wear a face covering when you do have to stop.
- If you have to travel by airplane, train, ship, ferry, subway, taxi or ride share wear a face covering.
- Keep six feet of physical distance between yourself and anyone you don’t live with whenever possible.
- Wash your hands often. Bring hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in case there is no place to wash hands.
- Stay in a separate room from others when you arrive at your destination.
Anyone who returns to Oregon or enters the state because of non-essential travel is urged to quarantine for 14 days after arrival and limit their interactions to the people they live with.
More information on traveling safely is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, and you can find Governor Brown’s travel advisory here.
Stay informed about COVID-19:
Oregon response: The Oregon Health Authority leads the state response.
United States response: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leads the U.S. response.
Global response: The World Health Organization guides the global response.
Oregon officials say person went to work with COVID-19 symptoms and sparked two outbreaks
A southern Oregon resident who knowingly went to work with coronavirus symptoms is connected to two separate outbreaks in the area, county officials said.© Getty Images Oregon officials say person went to work with COVID-19 symptoms and sparked two outbreaks
The unidentified person later tested positive for the virus, with officials saying they were responsible for “super spreader actions.”
“One of those outbreaks has resulted in seven deaths, and the other recent outbreak has placed over 300people/families in quarantine,” Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer said in a statement last Thursday, according to The Washington Post. “We can’t even imagine the tremendous remorse these people are feeling right now, and we sympathize with them.”
“In addition to the super spreader events, we also have super spreader actions. This is the one of the most concerning issues we are facing right now,” he added. “The top of the list for super spreader actions are people who are unwittingly and unconsciously choosing to go to work when they are sick.”
Thirty-seven people have died in the county since the pandemic began, while the state has seen 1,347 deaths. Douglas County is one of 29 jurisdictions state officials deemed at “extreme risk” due to the virus, and the seven-person death toll for one of the outbreaks comprises nearly 20 percent of all reported coronavirus deaths in the county.
Gov. Kate Brown (D) has placed Oregon under a state of emergency through at least March 3, 2021, while a separate order requires residents to wear masks in public.
Although numerous white-collar workers have worked from home during the pandemic, other workplaces where that is not an option, including grocery stores and meatpacking plants, have seen numerous outbreaks. Douglas County officials did not disclose where the person at the center of the outbreak worked or the nature of their job.
SOREDI Seeks Applications from Rural Entrepreneurs and Companies for its 2020 Southern Oregon Rural Startup Challenge
Medford, Oregon – SOREDI is pleased to announce it is now accepting applications for its inaugural Southern Oregon Rural Startup Challenge, providing up to $60,000 in capital investments to rural startups and companies seeking expansion capital. The challenge was previously planned for December and had to be postponed.
SOREDI, which has facilitated the Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network for numerous years, has created a seed fund for the Southern Oregon Startup Challenge, at which rural high- potential startups will compete for potentially three $20,000 investments. Prospective applicants based in Jackson or Josephine Counties may go here for additional information and to apply: https://soredi.org/launch/m2m/
This investment opportunity is made possible thanks to the agency’s relationship with the Oregon Technology Business Center (OTBC), a partnership that was solidified in March 2020 just prior to the pandemic. OTBC is a non-profit incubator based in Beaverton that centers around supporting and championing entrepreneurship. Together, SOREDI and OTBC are implementing this Rural Oregon Startup Challenge endeavor for 3 years, through December 2022. The initiative is made possible with further support from the Oregon Community Foundation, Ford Family Foundation, and the Economic Development Administration.
Mind to Market (M2M) is the platform for accepting applications from commercial, viable and scalable business ventures. The M2M platform has been a successful venture of Startup Spokane, a pre-seed investment fund for early stage startups with high growth potential based in the Inland Northwest.
Applicants who submit business plans up until January 31, 2021 may be invited to present at a virtual event on Wednesday, February 17. Investors will then choose up to three companies from among those competing at the event for investments to be made shortly thereafter. Additional Rural Oregon Startup Challenges are planned to occur later in 2021 and again in early 2022.
According to Colleen Padilla, Executive Director, the agency has had to push the dates for this initiative and inaugural event out several times. Padilla states that “even with the short and immediate timeline, we are confident that there are great projects in the making! Startups and existing businesses should absolutely seize the opportunity now and apply.”
This new seed fund is in direct response to the recently updated One Rogue Valley Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and specific to innovation. The Southern Oregon Startup challenge will support innovation within existing companies (Strategy 2.2) and expand the availability of startup capital by building on the Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network (Strategy 2.5).
Steve Vincent, SOREDI past president and founder of the Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network, states that he is confident that the initiative will likely yield three $20,000 equity investments for the top 3 companies.
The agency notes that the actual investments in the inaugural Southern Oregon Startup Challenge may be slightly more or less than $20,000 each, depending on the number of investors participating. The Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network’s most recent investment in an Ashland startup was $1.5 million. Four earlier investments averaged approximately $255,000 each.
As part of this Southern Oregon Startup Challenge, all submitting companies will have access to a Virtual Incubation program (VIP), an interactive education program developed by the Oregon Technology Business Center (OTBC). VIP is an eight-week program tailor-made for start-up businesses. In additions, collaboration with the OTBC will provide additional connections for local entrepreneurs to statewide support resources.
Prospective applicants based in Jackson or Josephine Counties may go here for additional information and to apply: https://soredi.org/launch/m2m/
AROUND the STATE of OREGON
State and local leaders condemned assaults on journalists by protesters attempting to break into the Capitol building on Monday. Police have made arrests and are seeking another individual. Legislative leaders said there is an investigation into a breach at the building.By Jake Thomas – Salem ReporterDecember 23, 2020 at 7:31am
Oregon State Police have arrested four individuals and are seeking a fifth involved with Monday’s violent demonstration at the Capitol, which has drawn strong condemnation from state and local officials. Legislative leaders said the breach of a locked door at the Capitol is being investigated and there could be stricter security at the building.
On Monday, a mostly peaceful crowd gathered outside the Capitol building as lawmakers met for the third special session of the year to consider legislation related to the pandemic and historic wildfires.
The event was organized online with the help of right-wing group, including Patriot Prayer. At the event, many protesters aired frustrations with how pandemic restrictions have imperiled the livelihoods of Oregonians, kept kids from school and upended daily life. Others took a more confrontational approach, attempting to storm the building.
According to a statement from the Oregon State Police, troopers had checked and secured the doors to the Capitol in anticipation of the session. The Capitol has been closed to the public since March because of the pandemic.
But at around 8:30 a.m., a door on the northwest corner of the building was opened by a person exiting the building and several protesters entered the vestibule area, police said. Troopers asked the protesters to leave. But protesters instead kept trying to push their way into the building and one man sprayed officers with bear mace, police said. Troopers shot pepper balls, less-than-lethal munitions, into the crowd to keep them from advancing into the building.
Troopers and Salem police told those in the vestibule to leave or be arrested for trespassing. According to state police, at about 10:30 a.m. a protester again sprayed officers with a “chemical irritant.” Protesters also deployed a device that emitted smoke, police said.Food, housing, childcare utilities, healthcare211info.org
Police arrested Ryan Lyles, 41, for felon in possession of body armor and unlawful use of mace. Two people who remained in the vestibule were also arrested including Ronald Vanvlack, 75, and Jerry Dyerson, 53, who were charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. All three are being held in the Marion County Jail and charges have been referred to the Marion County District Attorney’s Office.
At about 1:30 p.m., a group broke off from the rest of the protesters and smashed a window on the west side of the building in an attempt to gain access to the building. After failing to gain access, the group attacked journalists.
Police arrested Jeremiah Pruitt, 35, for criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.
Police said that Jeremy Roberts, 40, was also attempting to gain access through the west door and attacked two reporters. Troopers are attempting to locate him at this time and he is not currently in custody, according to police.
The damage to the building as well as the attacks on police and journalists drew strong reactions from city and state leaders.
Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett acknowledged in a statement that Oregon’s capital city takes seriously its responsibility to accommodate groups wanting to exercise their free speech rights. He called the attempt to disrupt the Legislature “appalling.” “Our democratic process must be protected,” he said.
Gov. Kate Brown said during a press call that “we’re all a bit horrified” by the violence at the Capitol and added that “it solves nothing.” “The violence yesterday at the Capitol is absolutely unacceptable,” she said.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said in a statement that the destructive actions by some protesters were “simply unacceptable.”
“This session will always be one that I remember, but for sad reasons,” said Sen. President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, in a press briefing Monday evening.
Republican legislative leaders did not respond to emails seeking comment as of Tuesday afternoon.
Kotek said during the briefing that some of the spray got into the building’s system and legislators and staff could feel it in the back of their throats. She said that there were not enough police at the Capitol and the situation could have escalated and become dangerous very quickly.
Courtney and Kotek confirmed that there is an open investigation into how the protesters got in and if someone intentionally let them in. The investigation is being conducted by the Oregon State Police, Courtney’s office said in a follow-up email.
In the coming weeks, legislative leaders will be crafting security and health protocols for the upcoming 2021 session that begins in January. The public’s access to the building is expected to remain restricted in the upcoming session because of the pandemic.
Courtney, the state’s longest-serving Senate president, said he takes pride in the openness of the Legislature and how citizens can freely visit legislators’ offices. But he said Monday’s incident reminded him how vulnerable legislators and staff are.
“That makes me sad,” he said.
Courtney said he wants to maintain the Capitol’s accessibility but the Legislature will likely reexamine its security protocols.
Lt. Treven Upkes, Salem police spokesman, said the attack on the Capitol was unusual and hopefully an anomaly.
He said that Salem police try to work with protest leaders to keep demonstrations orderly and will accommodate marches, speeches, or flag-waving events.
“Yesterday didn’t provide much of an opportunity for that,” he said.
He said that protests in 2020 have been trickier to manage because there often hasn’t been a leader or organization heading the events. Instead, demonstrations are triggered by a call to action on Facebook, drawing multiple groups with different aims, he said.
“With large groups of people, without someone organizing or leading it, it can be co-opted,” he said. That makes managing protests more difficult, he said.
Salem has seen multiple protests against Covid restrictions. Oregon Women for Trump have planned a march on New Year’s Day in Salem to protest Covid restrictions, according to a Facebook event.
For the upcoming March, Upkes said Salem police will be working with the Oregon State Police to monitor the event and will be following the same playbook for managing demonstrations.
Oregon Legislators pass COVID relief packages in a third special session
The Oregon Legislature reconvened Monday in a third special session to provide relief to Oregonians. Lawmakers came together amidst protests outside the capitol to pass $800 million in COVID and wildfire relief packages.
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In a one-day session called to address several pandemic and wildfire related crises, lawmakers were also able to pass protections for schools and to bolster bars and restaurants’ abilities to make money during the current COVID-19 guidelines.
“For the Oregonians who are worried about whether or not they will have a safe place to call home, for the independent restaurant owners who are working to keep their doors open, for the individuals in desperate need of support during the multitude of crises we face, today’s special session will hopefully provide some measure of relief,” said House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner.
Lawmakers funneled $600 million from the state’s general fund to the state’s emergency fund with Senate Bill (SB) 5731. This will allow emergency fund money to be dispensed by a special legislative committee when the legislature is not in session.
Lawmakers dedicated $400 million to the state’s COVID-19 related costs, like contact tracing and vaccine distribution efforts. They gave another $100 million to funding wildfire relief efforts and wildfire-prevention measures. The last $100 million will be reserved for any unseen needs.
Senate Bill 5731 comes the same day as the federal government passes a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package.
“I’m grateful that another federal relief bill may be coming, but there is no doubt that further support will be necessary,” said Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner. “I remain hopeful our new presidential administration will make it a priority to support state and local governments.”
Lawmakers also passed House Bill (HB) 4401, which is an extension of the current eviction moratorium that was scheduled to expire on Jan. 1. The new moratorium will now expire on July 1, a 7-month extension.
House Bill 4401 also creates a $150 million fund to help landlords whose tenants have been unable to pay rent since the start of the pandemic. The measure would allow landlords to seek up to 80 percent of owed rent, but would have to forgive the remaining 20 percent. The bill also allocates $50 million to tenants to help them pay their rent.
“I appreciate the careful crafting of HB 4401 to keep our neighbors housed and offer some immediate relief to landlords who need it most,” said Sen. Lee Beyer. “Taking away housing right now would be wrong, and it would make our existing crises worse.”
Also passed by legislators was SB 1801, which will make two temporary changes to state laws to help independent restaurants. The first change allows restaurants to sell up to two alcoholic drinks or single servings of wine to-go. The second places a 15 percent cap on deliveries and a 5 percent cap on pick-up order fees that third-party delivery apps, like UberEats and DoorDash, can charge restaurants.
Since March, more than two dozen states have enacted similar policies as a lifeline for restaurants, which traditionally receive most of their profits from alcoholic beverages like cocktails and wine.
“I believe that setting reasonable rates for food delivery and allowing restaurants to serve cocktails to go is a way that we can give much needed help to businesses in our hospitality sector that are struggling and frankly save an industry that is an iconic part of the Oregon brand,” Rep. Rob Nosse said.
Lawmakers offered liability protections for schools with HB 4402. This bill will protect schools from COVID-related lawsuits. School officials say that many school districts do not have liability insurance that would cover the risk of the virus. They also added that one lawsuit could financially devastate the district and further prevent the reopening of schools.
“This bill is a needed first step to get schools reopened,” Senate Republican leader Fred Girod said in a statement. “The next steps should be bumping educators further ahead in line for COVID-19 vaccinations to get Oregon kids back in the classroom even sooner.”
Lawmakers however failed to pass COVID-19 liability protections for physicians and a tax-credit for landlords who have had to forego rent. Both of these measures failed to gain adequate support from Democrats. An extension of the foreclosure moratorium also failed to pass.
“I am proud that Oregon’s leaders came together today to pass urgently needed policies to support individuals and families across Oregon,” Wagner said.
Sheriff Hanlin Awards Canyonville Man with Sheriff’s Citizen Medal of Valor
ROSEBURG, Ore. – A Canyonville man was recognized by Sheriff Hanlin on Monday for actions he took in earlier this year at the scene of a vehicle crash in a small COVID compliant ceremony.
On February 19, 2020, at approximately 7:00 PM, Scott Pettibone was traveling in the 2500 block of Canyonville Riddle Road when he observed the glow of a small fire off the side of the road. As he got closer, he realized the fire was the result of a vehicle which had caught fire after crashing head-on into a tree.
Pettibone stopped his vehicle to investigate and observed the shadow of a person inside the crashed car. The driver of the crashed car was trapped in the vehicle and was pounding on the window screaming for help as the cab filled up with smoke. Despite the engine compartment and a portion of the cab being on fire; Pettibone was able to get the driver’s side door open, remove the victim and carry him to safety on the other side of the road. Pettibone then returned to the car to check for additional victims before calling 911 at which time the vehicle became fully engulfed in flames.
On Monday, December 21, 2020, Sheriff Hanlin presented Pettibone with the Sheriff’s Citizen Medal of Valor for his actions.
“Scott Pettibone demonstrated, in great degree, the qualities of selflessness and personal courage on that day,” Sheriff Hanlin remarked. “There are no doubts that the victim would have perished in the vehicle fire if it weren’t for the decisive actions of Mr. Pettibone”.
Pettibone, age 49, received a medal and a pin for his actions. The Sheriff’s Medal of Valor is is the most distinguished award presented to a civilian.
Commissioners Tim Freeman, Chris Boice, Tom Kress and District Attorney Rick Wesenberg were in attendance at the presentation ceremony.
Defazio Calls Legislative Passage A Major Win For Oregon Coast
Congressman Peter DeFazio called the passage of his bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020, a major win for Oregon’s coastal communities.
DeFazio, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the legislation includes a provision to ensure that Harbor Maintenance funds are actually used for harbor maintenance. The measure now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
DeFazio said for decades, he as fought to unlock the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and ensure that funds already collected for harbor maintenance are fully utilized to keep local ports dredged and jetties maintained. He said finally the newly approved legislation fulfills that goal.
DeFazio said, “With this fix, our ports and harbors will have the resources they so desperately need, all without raising taxes or adding a penny to the deficit”. He said his bill will create and sustain jobs on the coast, make conditions safer for Oregon’s commercial fishing and recreation industries, and boost the economic competitiveness of both the state and the nation.
DeFazio said by unlocking the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, the legislation will ultimately provide up to $3 billion annually for port maintenance around the country, including in Oregon.
For more information about the legislation, go to: https://transportation.house.gov/imo/media/doc/2020-12-21%20WRDA%202020%20Conference%20Agreement_Omnibus%20Fact%20Sheet%20FINAL.pdf
The power has been out at Oregon’s Two Rivers prisons for nearly 1 week, amid surge in COVID-19
One of Oregon’s largest prisons, already hard hit by COVID-19 cases, had been grappling with a major power outage for the last week.
The outage at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla began on Dec. 16 and has affected six housing units and about 600 inmates, or a third of the prison’s total population. Staff and outside contractors have been on site trying to determine the cause of the outage and how best to resolve it, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections. Prisons officials don’t yet have a firm timeframe for when power will be restored.
The outage comes as the state’s prison system has been rocked by COVID-19. So far, more than 1900 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus and 20 have died. As of Monday, 85 inmates at the Two Rivers prison were being treated for COVID-19. “They’re going through a power outage of unknown length and pandemic conditions,” said Tara Herivel, an attorney with clients at Two Rivers. “This is severe. One or the other would be terrible.” Like the power outage, it’s not totally clear how COVID-19 re-surfaced inside the prison.
On Dec. 10, two inmates at the Two Rivers prison tested positive for COVID-19. The next day, five more tested positive. By the end of last week, there were 40 additional inmates and four more staff at the prison who had tested positive for COVID-19. “There should be no comings and goings from a tier-four institution,” Herivel said. That’s the highest level of quarantine based on cases at an individual prison.
As for the power outage, the prison had five back-up generators on-site that staff turned on when the power first went off on Dec. 16, Black said. On Dec. 19, prison officials brought in additional generators, she said. “We understand that this is a terribly difficult time for the employees and [adults in custody] at TRCI, and we are working hard to resolve the issue,” Black said in an email.
Back up generators run during the night, she said, and are off during the day so crews can work. The inmates “have small battery-powered lights in each cell on the affected units,” Black said. “Showers and legal calls are being facilitated by staff.”
Inmates have received a hot breakfast and bagged lunches and dinners. A portable kitchen was expected to arrive Tuesday and begin serving additional hot meals. Herivel said she hasn’t heard of anyone receiving lights or hot meals. “In the last few days they were offered meat in their sandwiches and it was expired,” she said.
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department seeks public feedback on proposed Vietnam War Memorial at State Capitol State Park
SALEM, Oregon – The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is seeking public feedback on a proposal from a nonprofit, the Vietnam War Memorial Fund, to construct a memorial in the southwest corner of the State Capitol State Park in Salem. The site is just south of the World War II memorial and west of the Capitol building in an area called Willson Park. The deadline for public feedback is January 22, 2021.
The project proposes to install sculptures, plaques, benches, and walkways to memorialize different aspects of the war and military service. It would be just south of the World War II memorial, the Parade of Animals play structure, and a gazebo. Nearly all the trees in this area would be incorporated into the proposed design. Three trees would be removed (details online).
One part of the memorial honors Gold Star Families using a standard design, and the nonprofit has identified three possible locations in the park for its installation. One option would require moving the Parade of Animals to a different part of Willson Park. A Gold Star Family is one that has lost an immediate family member in the line of duty of military service.
A draft plan of the memorial is online as is a video walkthrough.
OPRD is collecting feedback through January 22, 2021. You can comment by email, or attend a virtual open house at 6 p.m. on January 20, 2021 (free registration required). After collecting public feedback, a committee will submit a report to OPRD Director Lisa Sumption with recommendations. After the Director’s review, the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission could act on the proposal at its February 25, 2021 meeting.
Landlords sue State of Oregon, Governor Over ban on Evictions
Oregon landlords are suing Gov. Kate Brown to free themselves from a statewide eviction moratorium they call an unlawful seizure of private property hours after state lawmakers extended it.
The lawsuit, filed late Monday in U.S. District Court,names Brown in her official capacity, the state of Oregon, the city of Portland, and Multnomah County as defendants. It alleges that the eviction moratorium enacted by the defendants invalidated private contracts between landlords and tenants, amounting to the government taking their properties without due compensation.
The plaintiffs—Portland landlords Moe Farhoud and Tyler and Crystal Sherman—are seeking injunctive relief from a federal judge allowing landlords like them to evict tenants for nonpayment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Tenants living in Portland and Multnomah County have six months from July 2, 2021 to pay all rent due under the region’s extended eviction moratorium.
Brown signed the state’s eviction moratorium on April 1 and the state legislature has since extended the moratorium through June 30.
The extension, passed on Monday, creates a $150 million landlord bailout fund which puts landlords on the hook for forgiving 20% of back rent out of pocket should they apply for the program. Proponents of the plan say these conditions will help stretch the fund’s dollars in light of the $325 million in back rent that may be owed statewide, according to estimates from Brown’s office earlier this month.
“At the very heart of this bill is protecting people who right now are completely freaked out at the possibility of being evicted,” said Oregon Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland. State health officials have also said more evictions will increase homelessness and further contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Still, state lawmaker Rep. Mark Meek, D-Oregon City, said on Monday that the plan holds landlords in “ill esteem.” A bill introduced by Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, would have had the state cover all back rent and reimburse landlords through tax credits. It failed to gain traction Monday, but may resurface when lawmakers reconvene on January 19.
Representatives of the Oregon Rental Housing Association have decried the plan as well as housing advocates who say it may result in more costly legal battles for tenants like the lawsuit filed on Monday.
“Plaintiffs are being legally compelled to provide, for some indeterminate amount of time that has already stretched beyond 18 months, housing, utilities, and other services associated with habitability for large numbers of this state’s population — and Plaintiffs will likely bear the cost of this state-run public benefit program entirely on their own,” the lawsuit states.
It is unclear what 18-month period the lawsuit referred to given that the state’s eviction moratorium will have lasted just under 16 months if allowed to expire by June 30.
Farhoud’s company, Portland Stark Firs Property Management, owns about 1,200 apartment units around Portland which he rents out to “tenants who have had prior criminal records, bankruptcies, credit problems, and who have otherwise encountered circumstances which would limit their ability to rent dwelling units.”
According to court documents, Farhoud’s tenants owe him more than $246,000 in back rent. The Shermans own 22 housing units “throughout Oregon” and are owed $8,000 in back rent in 2020, court documents state. The lawsuit also claims the state’s eviction moratorium violates the Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit does not mention the federal eviction moratorium which is expected to be extended from January 1 to January 31 with President Trump’s signature.
“The practical reality is that the tenants who cannot afford to pay one month’s rent now will be highly unlikely to afford the total past-due rent that will continue to accumulate each month until the State declares the ‘end’ of the statewide emergency,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs’ ‘right’ to unpaid rent is little more than an illusion.”
Bill passes to allow Oregon bars and restaurants to serve to-go cocktails
Oregon restaurants and bars have been among the hardest hit by COVID restrictions since February.
“What we are doing now is unsustainable,” said Jeff Parshall, owner of Longboard Louie’s in Bend.
But lawmakers in Salem might have thrown them a lifeline after legalizing cocktails to go on Monday.
“It’s like an early Christmas gift,” Parshall said. “Merry Christmas.”
The law would limit cocktails to two per “substantial” food order. It expires 60 days after the governor’s emergency declaration expires.
Parshall says his restaurant has struggled with the COVID rules.
“As we went into the winter and lost outdoor sitting due to the cold and indoor seating due to the new mandate, business has slowed down quite a bit,” he said.
He also says the new liquor rules will help businesses hoping to stay alive until the state fully reopens.
“It will increase some of our sales,” Parshall said. “The bottom line is, we sell more food than alcohol sales, but every little bit helps. It might enable us to hire on another employee or two.”
The law limits the sale of two servings of alcohol per substantial food item ordered.
“Some of my questions would be a liability on my part as far as if someone else is delivering how are they checking ID, confirming the person is of age and we’re not overserving,” Parshall asked.
Restaurants and bars now wait for more specific rules and guidelines — such as exactly when the new rules go into effect — which the OLCC will release soon.