The latest news stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from the digital home of Southern Oregon, Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com
Thursday, January 19, 2023
Rogue Valley Weather
Marijuana Search Warrant and Arrests in Grants Pass
On January 18, 2023, the Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team (JMET) executed a search warrant in the 5000 block of Tunnel Loop Road in Grants Pass, regarding an illegal indoor marijuana grow site.
During the execution of the warrant, more than 700 marijuana plants were seized and destroyed.
The property also had multiple electrical, water and solid waste code violations. These violations could result in the civil forfeiture of the property.
Roy Kuang and Guo Xian Chen were taken into custody and lodged at the Josephine County Jail for Unlawful Manufacturing of Marijuana and Unlawful Appropriation of Water.
At the time of this press release the investigation is ongoing and no further details are being released.
Britt Festival Announces More Performers For 2023 Season
The Britt Festival is advancing its 2023 musical performances lineup.
Today the annual music festival announced that the Good Vibes Summer Tour 2023 with California reggae band Rebelution will perform on the Britt stage August 27. The Britt Music & Arts Festival (Britt) says that show also includes Britt favorite, Iration, plus The Expendables, Passafire, and DJ Mackle.
Britt says the 2023 performance will be Rebelution’s eighth appearance at Britt.
Britt notes that since its founding in Isla Vista, CA, “Rebelution has followed their instincts since the release of their breakout 2007 debut, Courage To Grow. In 2009, the band topped the Billboard Reggae Chart for the first of what would be five consecutive #1 records; in 2017, they garnered a GRAMMY nomination for Best Reggae Album. Rebelution’s transcendent live performances, meanwhile, have earned the group sell-out headline shows everywhere from Red Rocks to The Greek Theatre, along with festival slots at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, ACL, Glastonbury, and more.”
- Eric Rachmany – Vocals / Guitar
- Rory Carey – Keyboards
- Marley D. Williams – Bass
- Wesley Finley – Drums
Britt says, “Iration has a natural affinity for reggae and island sounds. Their love and appreciation for music spans across a wide range of styles and genres including rock, pop, R&B, and funk. Over the past 15 years, the celebrated five-piece – Micah Pueschel [Lead Vocals / Guitar], Adam Taylor [Bass], Joe Dickens [Drums], Cayson Peterson [Keyboard / Synth], and Micah Brown [Guitar / Vocals] – have perfected their distinct hybrid style of music, blending all influences together as evidenced on their seventh, and most recent, full-length album Coastin’.”
It says, “The Expendables have proven anything but in their nearly 25-year career since starting out as a spirited party band in high school covering surf-rock nuggets such as Dick Dale’s ‘Miserloo’ and ‘Wipe Out’ for birthdays and family gatherings. A quarter-century later, elementary school buddies Raul Bianchi, Adam Peterson, and Geoff Weers, along with bassist Ryan DeMars, who joined in 2000, have forged a unique original sound born in the laid-back beach life of their Santa Cruz, CA. hometown.”
Britt says, “Passafire’s single, Keepin’ On, serves as a mission statement for the veteran rock-reggae outfit as they continue to forge ahead through their second decade of reimagining the boundaries of the current rock-reggae landscape.”
It says DJ Mackle is a versatile disc jockey and music producer with a passion for delivering music and energy to the masses.
The Britt Music & Arts Festival uses its scenic hillside venue in Jacksonville, Oregon, for diverse live performances, a classical music festival and education programs for a sense of discovery and community. Since its grassroots beginnings in 1963, the non-profit organization has grown from a two-week chamber music festival to a summer-long series of concerts in a variety of genres, including a three-week orchestra season and year-round education and engagement programs. The full 2023 Britt Presents concert season will be announced March 3rd and April 6th. Information on programs, membership and more is available at brittfest.org.
Jackson County Man Gets Life-In-Prison Sentence For The Death Of His Wife
A Jackson County Circuit Court jury convicted 56-year-old Kevin Dean Hicks Sr. last Thursday of second degree murder for the death of his wife in 2018.
The court sentenced him Wednesday for criminal charges of Murder in the Second Degree, Arson and Abuse of a Corpse. Judge Timothy Barnack sentenced Hicks to life in prison with the possibility of parole after twenty-five years for his murder conviction.
Barnack sentenced Hicks to thirty-six months in the Oregon Department of Corrections to be served consecutively for the arson conviction, and the corpse abuse conviction received a sentence of 20 days in the Jackson County jail. The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office (JCDA) says additionally, Hicks is subject to lifetime post-prison supervision if he is ever released.
JCDA says, “Hicks was convicted for his role in the murder of his estranged wife, Tammy Hicks. The two had been living apart due to a prior domestic violence incident in October of 2017 wherein Mr. Hicks was convicted of Felony Assault in the Fourth Degree against Ms. Hicks. On June 30, 2018, Ms. Hicks went to discuss an ongoing tax issue with the defendant. While at their RV (located at 3150 McMartin Lane in Central Point) the Defendant strangled her to death and then lit the RV on fire, abusing her corpse in the process. The fire quickly spread to adjacent trailers, sheds, and land before being knocked down and put out by local fire personnel.”
JCDA says two of the victim’s surviving children and her adult brother spoke at sentencing and both children discussed how the murder of their mother has impacted them on a daily basis, noting, “The children told the Court that Tammy was a devoted mother who went out of her way to show the kids she loved them on a daily basis. ‘She gave the best hugs in the world…She would have done anything for us. She lost her life to free us from (Defendant’s) grasp.'”
Following the request of the family and prosecutors, Judge Barnack ran Hicks’ sentences consecutively. The victims requested that media not release their names for the purpose of maintaining privacy.
Hicks was indicted by a Jackson County Grand Jury on July 5, 2018. He has remained lodged in the Jackson County jail since June 30, 2018.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorneys Zori Cook and Ben Lull.
Ashland Needs Volunteers For Wildfire Assessment Backlogs
Ashland Fire and Rescue is in need of more volunteers to help with a backlog of home evaluations for wildfire risk.
Ashland’s Wildfire Risk Assessment Program, in partnership with Ashland Fire & Rescue and Fire Adapted Ashland, helps residents identify how to reduce wildfire risk at home. The city is seeking around 20-30 new volunteers to join its Volunteer Wildfire Risk Assessment Program. In the program, homeowners can get help figuring out how to make their homes and yards more resistant to wildfire.
“Especially since [the Almeda Fire], so many more people wanted to try to find more answers to what they could do around their house, to better protect themselves,” said Program Coordinator Brian Hendrix at Ashland Fire & Rescue. “And so that’s really where it exploded, once we got this program up and running.”
Hendrix said they’ve had a backlog of assessments since the volunteer program began in 2021. Right now they have a three to four-month-long waiting list for home evaluations.
Hendrix said the six volunteers they have now can’t meet the needs of Ashland residents.
“The bigger pool we have of volunteers who are certified and able to go out, the less obligation it is per volunteer,” he said. “To where scheduling, having to leave for vacations or anything else, if we have a big enough pool, we still have those requested assessments covered by somebody.”
Volunteers receive around 30-40 hours of training, after which they visit Ashland homes and evaluate them for wildfire risks, and provide solutions, like trimming vegetation and covering house vents to prevent airborne embers from getting in. After training, Hendrix said volunteers should only expect to do around two assessments per month.
Hendrix said they’re looking for a diverse group of people to reach vulnerable communities. He said there are resiliency grants available for low-income homeowners that could be identified through doing home assessments.
The city is accepting applications until the introductory meeting on March 1. An application for the program is available on the City of Ashland’s website.
Study Ranks Oregon In Top 10 States Spending The Most On Rent
Oregonians are spending more of their income on rent than most other renters in the U.S., a study conducted by moving experts with Forbes Home shows.
Oregon is one of the many states across the United States where residents spend an increasingly large portion of their income on rent. According to a study conducted by moving experts with Forbes Home, Oregon ranks 9th in states where residents spend the largest percentage of their income on rent.
Forbes Home’s complete top 10 list:
Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Forbes Home determined that Oregon ranked 9th in the U.S. for states where residents spend the largest percentage of their income on rent.
On average, Oregonians spend about $1,284 per month on rent, which is equal to more than 25% of their monthly income. This amount is higher than many other states in the U.S., and it has only been rising over time as rents continue to increase while incomes remain stagnant.
What makes this situation even worse is that high rental costs are not just a problem in Oregon; they are pervasive throughout the entire country. In fact, according to the same study, Hawaii had the highest disparity between rent and income, with 42% of monthly earnings going toward rent. California and New Jersey were not far behind at 28.47% and 27.50%, respectively. Clearly, this is a problem transcending state lines, but why does Oregon have it worse than most?
The answer lies in a combination of factors: rising housing costs and increasing demand for rental properties due to population growth and economical migration from other parts of the country.
According to data from Zillow, median rents for single-family homes have steadily increased since 2011—from about $1,200 per month to nearly $1,400 today—while wages have remained largely stagnant over that same period (after adjusting for inflation). This means that despite earning more money over time, renters are paying a larger portion of their income toward rent year after year.
At the same time that housing prices are skyrocketing and wages remain stagnant, Oregon’s population is proliferating due to people migrating from other parts of the country seeking better job opportunities or a lower cost of living (which can sometimes be offset by higher rental costs).
As more people move into the state looking for affordable housing options, competition increases significantly—driving up prices even further as landlords take advantage of increased demand—and leaving those who already live here fighting for limited space in an ever-shrinking market.
TSA Breaks Another Record Nationally In Oregon For Guns Found At Checkpoints In 2022
Transportation Security Administration officers in Oregon detected 108 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage in 2022, with the majority of the firearms discovered at Portland International Airport’s security checkpoints.
Every one of these firearms was discovered during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on property. Nationwide last year, TSA officers found 6,542 firearms at 262 different airports.
Below is a summary of TSA firearm discoveries at Oregon airports and nationally for the past five years:
Note: no firearms have been discovered since 2018 at Southwest Oregon Regional Airport
* Record number of firearm discoveries.
The five U.S. airports with the most TSA firearm discoveries are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which topped the list with 448 firearm finds. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport came in second with 385 followed by Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport with 298; Nashville International Airport with 213 and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with 196. Orlando International Airport; Denver International Airport; Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Tampa International Airport round out the Top 10.
In 2022, TSA screened approximately 761 million passengers and crew at airports nationwide. TSA officers across the country discovered firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate of 8.6 firearms per million passengers screened. Stated another way, TSA detected one firearm for every 116,394 travelers screened.
The busiest airport in Oregon is PDX, where TSA officers screened approximately 7.7 million departing passengers and crew. Statistics show that travelers flying out of PDX brought firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate of around 10 firearms per million travelers screened, exceeding the national average. That equates to a firearm discovered for 99,219 travelers screened.
Here is a table summarizing number of travelers screened for every firearm discovery at the security checkpoint last year.
|Number of travelers screened in 2022||Number of travelers screened per TSA firearm find|
|Portland International Airport||7,700,000||99,219|
|Rogue Valley International – Medford Airport||570,000||71,225|
|Redmond International Airport||603,000||75,440|
“It is my hope that these statistics serve as a wake-up call for those who choose to travel with a firearm. This is not a new problem, but it is one that must be addressed since we have reached an unacceptable level firearms coming through our security checkpoints.” said TSA Federal Security Director for Oregon Kathleen McDonald.
“We are pleading with the traveling public to double-check the contents of your carry-on luggage and follow the proper procedures for traveling with firearms. Fortunately, we have a dedicated corps of TSA officers across the country who will continue to screen for weapons and other potential security threats to ensure these items do not make it into the cabin of an aircraft – for your security when you travel by air.”
When a TSA officers sees the image of a firearm on the X-ray screen, TSA immediately notifies the local airport law enforcement agency, which responds to the security checkpoint. A law enforcement officer removes the firearm from the X-ray tunnel and makes contact with the traveler. What happens to the firearm and the traveler is up to the discretion of the airport law enforcement agency.
In addition to potential criminal citations for bringing a firearm in carry-on luggage, TSA can levy a civil penalty again the traveler. Among the factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount include whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are not permitted in carry-on luggage.
Individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck® expedited screening benefits revoked for a period of time. The duration of the disqualification will depend upon the seriousness of the offense and if there is a repeated history of violations.
Firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage. Any type of replica firearm is also prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.
At the airport during the check-in process, a passenger needs to go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition and any firearm parts. Prior to traveling, passengers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements.
TSA reminds passengers to be aware of the contents of their carry-on bag prior to coming to the security checkpoint. TSA has multiple resources available to passengers to help them determine whether an item is permitted in carry-on baggage, checked baggage or not at all.
Travelers can use the “Can I Bring” feature on the TSA website or on the TSA mobile app, myTSA. Travelers can also Tweet or Message “@AskTSA” if they have a travel question or are unsure if an item is allowed through security in a carry-on bag. Just snap a picture or send a question and get real-time assistance daily from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST.
Oregon Agencies Fail To Complete Internal Audits
Oregon’s state agencies that handle a lot of money are required to do internal audits. The audits look for problems and risks within the agency.
Every year the state puts out a report tracking which agencies did it and did not. And again this year, some did not perform audits as required.
Maybe we have missed it, but nobody in the Legislature or in the governor’s office ever seems to get terribly excited that agencies don’t meet the requirement. If agencies did the audits as required, perhaps more problems with state government would be found sooner, rather than later.
Internal audits look at complying with laws and regulations and delivering efficient service. For instance, last year the Department of Environmental Quality looked at its labs. The Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority looked at their IT security. ODOT looked at how it evaluates pavement. Agencies are supposed to look at risks and do one risk-based audit a year.
We would hope the state would take that very seriously. But look at all the agencies that didn’t live up to the requirement of completing a risk-based audit in the past year:
• Business Oregon.
• The Department of Justice.
• The Oregon Department of Energy.
• The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
• The Oregon Military Department.
• The Oregon State Police.
• The Oregon State Treasury.
• The Oregon Youth Authority.
Those aren’t tiny agencies with insignificant responsibility, small budgets and just a few staff members. Agencies that have to meet the requirement are the ones that hit two or more of four characteristics. Three of those have to do with money, such as having more than $200 million in expenditures over two years. The fourth is having more than 400 full-time equivalent employees.
Governor Tina Kotek and so many legislators who ran for office this past year talked about how they want Oregon government to deliver and not flounder. Internal audits are another way in which Oregon fails to deliver. The internal auditing requirement exists as a check to ensure Oregon agencies do deliver and some Oregon agencies don’t deliver on internal audits. Kotek has told the Department of Administrative Services she wants progress reports every quarter starting in June.
ODOT Begins Work On New EV Fast Charging Stations – Seeks Public Opinion
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced that they’re partnering up with private companies to begin work on new EV fast charging stations along Interstate 5, U.S. Highway 97, and Interstate 205.
The new charging stations are funded thanks to the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program. $7.5-billion in funds has been secured for EV charging infrastructure across the U.S., with more than $7-billion going towards ‘critical minerals supply chains that are necessary for batteries, components, materials, and recycling.
NEVI will provide $5-billion in funding to states in order to build charging stations along highway corridors.
ODOT says that the stations will be no farther than 50 miles apart from each other, and, if possible, within one mile of an exit.
ODOT is asking residents who live along those corridors to check out their online open house and take a survey so they can gather data on local factors to consider.