Rogue Valley News, Thursday 3/25 – Southern Oregon Residents Still Looking For Help to Rebuild After Fires, Medford Sets Study Session on Homeless and Housing Situation

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today- A 30 percent chance of showers, mainly before noon. Snow level 2700 feet rising to 3700 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53. West wind around 6 mph.

Friday- Sunny, with a high near 64. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Saturday- Sunny, with a high near 74. Calm wind.

Sunday- Sunny, with a high near 72.

Monday- A chance of rain and snow before noon, then a slight chance of rain. Snow level 2000 feet rising to 3300 feet in the afternoon. Partly sunny, with a high near 51.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Coronavirus-update-1-4.jpg

Oregon reports 379 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 1 new death

There is one new COVID-19 related death in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,368. The Oregon Health Authority reported 379 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 162,384.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (6), Benton (11), Clackamas (41), Clatsop (9), Columbia (8), Coos (12), Curry (1), Deschutes (23), Douglas (5), Grant (3), Hood River (1), Jackson (45), Jefferson (1), Josephine (16), Lane (26), Lincoln (5), Linn (9), Malheur (3), Marion (36), Multnomah (63), Polk (5), Tillamook (5), Umatilla (7), Union (3), Washington (30) and Yamhill (5).

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 28,655 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 17,914 doses were administered on March 23 and 10,741 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on March 23.

Oregon has now administered a total of 782,265 first and second doses of Pfizer, 760,231 first and second doses of Moderna and 34,165 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize because providers have 72 hours to report doses administered and technical challenges have caused many providers to lag in their reporting. OHA has been providing technical support to vaccination sites to improve the timeliness of their data entry into the state’s ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS).

To date, 1,007,955 doses of Pfizer, 989,100 doses of Moderna and 60,600 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to sites across Oregon.

These data are preliminary and subject to change. OHA’s dashboards provide regularly updated vaccination data, and Oregon’s dashboard has been updated today. To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine situation in Oregon, visit our webpage, which has a breakdown of distribution and other useful information.

OHA reports vaccine scheduling error

On March 22, OHA’s partners at All4Oregon sent an email invitation to schedule vaccination appointments at the Oregon Convention Center to approximately 11,000 people who won’t become eligible to receive a vaccine until April 19. This was based on erroneous information supplied by OHA.

We sincerely apologize for our mistake and the confusion it has caused.

Since February, the Get Vaccinated Oregon team at the Oregon Health Authority has given All4Oregon the contact information of eligible people in the Portland area to coordinate scheduling at the Oregon Convention Center. On March 21, OHA included the 11,000 additional people on an eligibility list shared with All4Oregon.

Our partners at All4Oregon have committed to honoring appointments offered and made as part of our error. We, at OHA, understand how stressful the last year has been, as well as how eager we all are to get vaccinated.

OHA will continue providing All4Oregon with the contact information of eligible people in the Portland area for scheduling at the Oregon Convention Center. People in the Portland area who become eligible for a vaccine over the coming weeks can expect to receive a scheduling link from All4Oregon if they have not already received one.

Additional counties approved for expanding vaccinations

Today, OHA announced that 21 Oregon counties have now submitted attestation letters signaling their intention to immediately offer COVID-19 vaccinations to expanded eligibility groups. Lane County is the  newly added county.

The counties are: Baker, Benton, Deschutes, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Polk, Sherman, Umatilla, Union and Yamhill.

By attesting, these counties can now begin vaccinating all individuals listed in Phase 1B, Group 6, ahead of the previously designated statewide start date of March 29.

The Oregon Health Authority has expanded who can administer FDA authorized
COVID-19 vaccines, as permitted under the federal Public Readiness and Emergency
Preparedness Act.

The federal PREP Act amended declaration, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and effective March 11, increases the pool of vaccinators who may not be currently authorized to vaccinate under state law, subject to certain training and supervision requirements.  Under the PREP Act declaration and this most recent amendment, OHA can further expand the list of who may administer authorized COVID-19 vaccines, which it did, adding, for example, traditional health workers. 

OHA Director Patrick Allen signed the authorization on March 22, making it immediately effective. “This is an all-hands-on-deck effort nationally and in Oregon to ensure we are safely vaccinating all eligible adults who wish to receive a vaccine,” said Allen. “The federal directive and my authorization greatly expand the number of professionals who can support this historic public health effort, as we continue to expand our efforts to schedule and vaccinate Oregonians throughout the state as quickly as we can with the supplies provided to us by the federal government and vaccine manufacturers.”

The Oregon Health Authority marked another positive milestone in the coronavirus
pandemic on Wednesday, reporting that one million Oregonians have released at least
one dose of the vaccine.

Earlier this month, state officials reported that one million total doses of vaccine had been administered. While fewer than one million people are now fully vaccinated — which requires two doses for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — Wednesday’s milestone means that more than a million people are at least on the path to full vaccination.

The state’s vaccination dashboard on Wednesday showed that more than 585,600 people are considered fully vaccinated, with a little more than 433,000 still awaiting a second dose. Nearly one in five Oregonians who are eligible have received at least one dose, OHA said.

The agency reported that more than 62 percent of Oregonians age 65 and older have now been vaccinated. OHA also said that the state is on track to vaccinate more than seven out of 10 Oregonians who are 65 and older by March 29, which is the next date that new groups become eligible statewide.

LOCAL HEADLINES:

Southern Oregon Residents Still Looking For Help to Rebuild

Six months after the catastrophic wildfires that destroyed over 2,500 homes in Southern Oregon, many are experiencing issues with their insurance claims and need expert guidance to navigate through negotiations and disputes.

Many residents are still looking for rebuilding answers.

Talent city council met Wednesday to discuss a resolution about building codes, that have kept some fire victims at a standstill and prevented them from rebuilding their properties.

Past restrictions did not allow any building along the FEMA-designated floodway boundary and a 35-foot buffer zone. Talent City Manager, Jamie McLeod Skinner says if the city moves forward with approval, it could raise insurance rates for residents.

“Staff is going to recommend that tonight is that we begin the conversation tonight, we’ve opened the public hearing, we keep it open and continue the conversation and not close it,” said McLeod-Skinner. The city council will meet on April 7th to discuss the matter again.

On Tuesday, March 23, the nonprofit consumer advocacy group, United Policyholders, and Rep. Pam Marsh, hosted free online workshop for wildfire-impacted households in Southern Oregon with legal issues and questions about insurance claims.

This event will provide guidance about documenting and valuing losses, strategizing claim negotiations, and resolving disputes regarding loss estimates and coverage. Legal Aid Services of Oregon and Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services will be on hand to answer questions and share information. Simultaneous Spanish translation will be available. Registration link: www.uphelp.org/mar23

On Wednesday, March 31, 2-5 PM, wildfire-impacted households in Southern Oregon with legal issues and questions about insurance claims can access a free, one-on-one online consultation with an insurance attorney volunteer.

Examples of insurance-related legal problems include under insurance, unfair claim handling, replacement cost disputes, unreasonable delays, and low estimates/offers. A limited number of appointment clinics are available. Registration link: www.uphelp.org/mar31

Medford Sets Study Session on Homeless and Housing Situation

Medford City Council has a proposed camping ordinance underway. If passed it would ban people from setting up tents in Medford, including along the Bear Creek Greenway.

“Because of the fires that ripped through our Greenway this past summer, it definitely exacerbated the issue and it’s created more homeless,” Matthew Vorderstrasse, the Development Director for Rogue Retreat said.

Deputy City Attorney Eric Mitton says one proposal is to limit lying, sleeping and tent camping on the city’s greenways from May 1st to September 30th – during fire season.

Vorderstrasse hopes that the conversation moves forward in adding more spaces for those who are not sheltered.

“As long as we can continue getting more spaces and beds for people to go to, then it is easier to enforce, not camping in certain zones and areas, “Vorderstrasse said.

April 1st there will be a regular session and the matter will be going to a vote.

Medford has proposed an ordinance that would tighten the city’s camping restrictions. Homeless advocates are advising the city to reject the proposal.

The National Homelessness Law Center and the Civil Liberties Defense Center both wrote to the city of Medford last week, advising its leaders to not pass a proposed ordinance to change camping laws. The groups said the new regulations would further criminalize homelessness and penalize people left without homes from wildfires.

Eric Mitton, the city attorney for, Medford, said his office is working to balance the needs of houseless people and keeping public space usable.

“What we’re trying to do is walk a line of balancing multiple competing important interests,” Mitton said. “We are trying to find a path where we do respect all of those competing issues and come up with a solution that we feel is both practical and lawfully defensible.”

If the ordinance passed, it would ban people from setting up tents in Medford, including along the Bear Creek Greenway where hundreds of people presently live. It would also prohibit people from sleeping or lying in public space for more than 24 hours. Violating these ordinances would result in criminal misdemeanor.

The city responded to the letters of criticism, maintaining that it’s lawful to regulate the time, location, and manner of sleeping or resting in a public space.

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

Oregon Credit Unions Contribute $2.8 Billion Economic Impact to State

Landmark study documents economic impact, volunteerism, charitable contributions, and extraordinary service by credit unions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tigard, Oregon (March 24, 2021) — Oregon’s credit unions have proved a critical role in supporting the state’s economy, consumers, businesses, and local communities, according to an analysis performed by ECONorthwest, one of the region’s leading economic firms. The analysis documented a positive impact of nearly $3 billion on the state’s economy.

How are Credit Unions Able to Drive Such an Impact?

Unlike profit-driven Wall Street banks under pressure to enrich stockholders, credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives, owned by their members. Credit unions reinvest their earnings in members through direct benefits such as fewer fees, dividends, lower interest rates on loans and credit cards and more. When those benefits are spent in local communities, the ripple effect helps the entire economy. ECONorthwest measured the impact of member benefits, credit union jobs and other factors in its analysis. Economists also documented credit unions’ significant community impact including volunteerism, financial education provided to adults and students and services such as first-time homebuyer loans. Cooperative credit unions put people before profits!

Doing Good in Difficult Times

In addition to documenting credit unions’ economic contribution to the state’s economy, ECONorthwest measured the extraordinary services delivered by credit unions during the COVID-19 pandemic. While other industries closed, reduced services or laid off the workforce, credit unions hired additional employees to serve their members. According to the analysis, credit unions also made a higher volume of loans available to members and served as safe havens for consumers who deposited stimulus and unemployment checks to save for emergency needs. During this difficult time, credit unions waived $4.4 million in fees. Oregon credit unions also stepped up to help the state distribute more than $30 million in emergency payments to 60,575 Oregonians. More than 80% of the funds the state set aside were distributed by credit unions. Oregon credit unions also assisted the state in distributing $2.8 million to 568 truly small businesses left behind by other government relief programs – lifeline loans they will not have to repay.

“Credit unions are in the people business,” said Troy Stang, President and CEO of the Northwest Credit Union Association. “They stood by their members throughout the pandemic and will help them get back on their feet and prosper into the future.”

Where it Started

Established during the Great Depression to help consumers who were unable to get financial services from the traditional banking system, today’s credit unions continue living their “people helping people” mission day in and day out.

Where it’s Going — More Consumers are Choosing Credit Unions

Growing numbers of Oregonians are choosing credit unions as their preferred financial services partners.

ECONorthwest documented strong credit union membership growth. In Oregon, 2.25 million consumers — 53% of the state’s population — are now members of credit unions, representing 8.5% growth since the last economic analysis in 2018.

Here for You Now, and Tomorrow

“All consumers can and should choose credit unions as their financial services partner,” Stang said. “If you join a credit union, you are part of something even bigger than financial transactions; you’re a member of a not-for-profit that is invested in your local community.”

Visit the NWCUA’s 2021 Economic and Community Impact Data website to view the ECONorthwest reports, and to find more infographic resources.

Everyone should open their eyes to a credit union. For more information, please visit https://yourmoneyfurther.com.

The Northwest Credit Union Association is the trade association representing more than 175 not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and their 8.1 million consumer members. As not-for-profit cooperatives, credit unions look out for their members’ financial well-being. — Northwest Credit Union Assn

Governor Brown’s 10 Point Economic Recovery Plan for Oregon

Governor Kate Brown released a 10 Point Economic Recovery Plan for Oregon. The 10 Point Plan, which was developed with input from the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors and Racial Justice Council (RJC), builds on the work of local economic development districts across the state to help Oregon families and businesses. It provides a framework for economic recovery related to COVID-19 and wildfires, with a specific focus on strategically supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities.

The Governor also outlined her principles for the use of federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) resources, to guide state agencies and local governments in making investments that will maximize immediate benefits for Oregonians in an equitable way.

“Thanks in part to the passage of the American Rescue Plan, Oregon’s outlook for a rapid economic recovery is strong, if we act quickly to get relief to Oregonians,” said Governor Brown. “We have the opportunity now to lift up Oregon families and businesses, by immediately investing state and federal resources to help them recover from the devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We must do so by creating a more just and equitable Oregon, helping the communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and wildfires. By rooting our recovery efforts in equity, we can support economic growth for Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and Tribal communities.

“My 10-Point Plan provides a roadmap for economic recovery, and will guide our state and local governments as we invest our shares of federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan. Aligning programs and activities funded through these dollars will help ensure we are coordinating, not duplicating efforts, and collaborating on what will make a difference in our economies.”

Between state and local governments, Oregon is slated to receive approximately $6.4 billion in federal funds from the ARP. The Governor also laid out her principles for making investment decisions with ARP dollars: investments should be made now in a way that maximizes economic recovery efforts for Oregonians this year, while also addressing the existing disparities that were exacerbated by the pandemic, particularly for women and BIPOC communities.

“Oregon businesses have worked throughout the pandemic to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. We are pleased with the direction Governor Brown is taking with this plan to immediately invest state and federal resources towards shared prosperity and a robust recovery,” said Joth Ricci, CEO and President of Dutch Bros and Chair of the Oregon Business Plan Steering Committee. “Oregon businesses need both short-term relief and long-term investments like those in the Governor’s plan to help get our state back on its feet and thriving.”

“Without prioritizing equity we can not have social and racial justice,” said Jan Mason, co-chair of the Community Chamber Coalition of Oregon. “I support the Governor Brown priority in grounding and leading with racial equity and justice. We simply cannot achieve economic justice and prosperity without these priorities.”

The Governor applies these principles for equitable and rapid economic recovery in her 10-Point Plan:

  • Action #1: Investing in Oregon’s hardest hit workers (those currently unemployed or underemployed)
  • Action #2: Reinvesting in innovative housing
  • Action #3: Supporting resilient rural communities
  • Action #4: Supporting Oregon’s workforce (those currently employed but struggling)
  • Action #5: Creating opportunities for Oregonians (workforce development)
  • Action #6: Getting small business back on its feet
  • Action #7: Investing in Oregon’s infrastructure
  • Action #8: Oregonians investing in Oregon
  • Action #9: Safely reopening Oregon’s economy
  • Action #10: Innovation in manufacturing

Additional details on Governor Brown’s 10-Point Plan are available here.

These principles and 10-Point Plan are a starting point for conversations with the legislature, community stakeholders, the RJC, and the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors to develop a process for funding decisions related to ARP dollars. More information will be provided as decisions are made.

Plan maximizes immediate impact for Oregonians, equitably invests resources to address disproportionate impact of COVID-19 pandemic on BIPOC communities action plan and investment principles to guide decisions related to American Rescue Plan funds – A breakdown of ARP allocations is available here.

Lawsuit Seeks To Preserve Protections for Northern Spotted Owl Habitat

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to preserve protections for 3.4 million acres of northern spotted owl habitat from the US-Canada border to northern California, the latest salvo in a legal battle over logging in federal old-growth forests that are key nesting grounds for the imperiled species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cut the amount of protected federal old-growth forest by one-third in the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration, a move that was cheered by the timber industry.

Northern spotted owls live in forests characterized by dense canopy closure of mature and old-growth trees, abundant logs, standing snags, and live trees with broken tops.

Democratic lawmakers called the reduction in logging protections “potential scientific meddling” and called for an investigation. President Joe Biden’s administration has since temporarily delayed putting those new rules into effect in order to review the decision. The 3.4 million acres at the heart of both lawsuits include all of Oregon’s O&C lands, which are big timber territory. The more than 2 million acres are spread in a checkerboard pattern over 18 counties in western Oregon.

11 People Arrested in Oregon Marijuana Money Laundering Case

More than $373,000 in US money was seized during a search of locations in Linn, Benton and Marion counties in a money laundering and racketeering investigation that ended with 11 arrests, March 24, 2021 (Albany PD)

A combined regional investigation that included the Oregon State Police and the FBI landed 11 people from Oregon, Washington and California in jail, each facing multiple charges including racketeering and money laundering.

The people were arrested March 17 after search warrants were served in Linn, Benton and Marion counties, the Albany Police Department said in a press release.

Investigators were looking into the illegal manufacture of marijuana which included money laundering through various restaurants in those 3 counties. The searches turned up cocaine, more than 1900 pot plants, 40 pounds of processed pot, guns, cars and more than $373,000 in US money.

Each person faces a variety of charges. The full list of charges includes racketeering, money laundering, criminal conspiracy and aid and abet unlawful manufacturing of marijuana, unlawful manufacturing of marijuana, and identity theft.

The 11 arrested are:

Yue “Michael” Chong Chen, 41, Yongkang Chen, 36 and Liang Huan Chen, 65, all of Salem; Enrong Zhou, 40, of Albany; Yaorun Li, 27, of Lebanon; Guiqua Chen, 33, of Renton, Washington; Pinzheng Zhao, 39, of Sweet Home; Jinhui Liu, 28, of Portland; and Jianwen Zhu, 52, Rongchu Mai, 52 and Weihong Gong, 56, all of San Francisco.

The LINE Taskforce is made up of investigators from the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, Albany Police Department, Lebanon Police Department, Sweet Home Police Department, Oregon State Police, Eugene office of Drug Enforcement Administration and Oregon National Guard Counterdrug Task Force.

Deadly Wrong-Way Crash Shuts Down I-84 Near I-205

A stretch of eastbound Interstate 84 is closed after a wrong-way crash resulted in the death of two people early Thursday.

Multiple people reported a wrong-way driver going down eastbound I-84 around 2:15 a.m. Shortly afterward, a crash near Interstate 205 occurred. Once officers arrived at the scene, they discovered a head-on collision between two vehicles.

Two people died in the crash. No further details about the collision or the victims are available at this time.

Eastbound I-84 is shut down at Northeast 68th Avenue in what will be a lengthy closure. Traffic is being diverted onto surface streets, avoid the area or expect delays. This is a developing story.

Oregon Senate Looks To End Concealed Weapon Carry Exemption

Oregon Senate to vote on bill that could limit concealed carry in public  buildings

Senate Bill 554 would disallow concealed carry weapons in public building.

In Oregon, guns are not allowed in public buildings — unless you have a concealed handgun license.

People with a concealed carry permit are exempt from the rule. “It’s called an affirmative defense,” said State Sen. Ginny Burdick. “But it functions as an exemption.”

Burdick said it’s time to do away with that exemption or at least give local authorities the option to do so. That’s why she’s a chief sponsor of Senate Bill 554.

If passed, the bill would do away with the concealed carry exemption in state buildings and the Capitol. But other local buildings and local governments will be able to make their own decisions.

Senate Bill 554 would allow local governments and school districts and other local entities to keep their public buildings gun free,” Burdick said. “You have a state like Oregon, where people in more rural parts of the state look at guns a little differently than we do in urban areas. They don’t have to exclude concealed handgun license holders. And it also allows people not to just ban them, but to limit them.”

Burdick believes people bringing guns into the public is intimidating and unsafe.

“There’s no training requirement to get a concealed handgun license,” she said. “All you have to do is take a gun safety class. You don’t even need to own a gun. You don’t need to know how to fire one.

But the Oregon chapter of the NRA said Senate Bill 554 is bad legislation that would force law-abiding citizens to stow their guns in vehicles to avoid becoming a felon.

The president of the Oregon State Shooting Association, Kerry Spurgin, declined an on-camera interview and referred KOIN 6 News to their website for their state opposition.

The Oregon Senate will hold a third hearing on SB 554 on Thursday.

Must Read

Rogue Valley News, Thursday, Jan. 9 – Hit n Run Vehicle Badly Injures Pedestrian

Brian Casey

Rogue Valley News, Wednesday, 7/22 – Oregon Reports 269 New Cases Overnight, Seven More Deaths In The State

Brian Casey

Tax Tips – Tax Day is Just Two Weeks Away

Renee Shaw