Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 1/25 – Puck’s Donuts Reopens in Phoenix, Ashland Mayor Resigns Abruptly; Now Ashland City Councilor Shaun Moran Resigns

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 

Rogue Valley Weather

AIR STAGNATION ADVISORY
ISSUED: 1:49 PM JAN. 24, 2023 – NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
…AIR STAGNATION ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON PST FRIDAY… * WHAT…Stagnant air is expected which will lead to deteriorating air quality. * WHERE…Valleys of Douglas, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, and Lake counties in Oregon, and Siskiyou and Modoc counties in California. * WHEN…Until noon PST Friday. * IMPACTS…Air stagnation is likely to result in diminishing air quality with time, especially in and near areas with significant sources of air pollution. Diminished air quality is likely to cause health issues for people with respiratory problems if precautions are not taken. * View the hazard area in detail at https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/map/?wfo=mfr

Puck’s Donuts Reopens in Phoenix

Puck’s Donuts in Phoenix held a soft opening Tuesday to satisfy the cravings of their loyal customers and donut fans are celebrating the return of this local favorite!

The Pucks Donuts sign survived the 2020 Ameda fire, but the building did not.

The donut shop created a post on Facebook on January 21, expressing to the community their plans on relaunching. The post stated: “We would like to confirm fantastic news to our Facebook fans, followers, and families near and far. After two-plus years of rebuilding our donut shop due to the Almeda Fire, we are ready for a soft opening. Come and celebrate with us!” (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057596403652)

The shop opened at 6am on January 24. The Phoenix and Talent community lined up to get a chance to taste the donuts they have missed.

A line of customers stretched out the door, down the sidewalk on Main, all the way to First street. The frost still sticking to the iconic Puck’s Donut sign showed the willingness of residents to brave the cold to support their favorite morning stop.The donut shop was destroyed in the 2020 Almeda fire, but the sign remained, giving hope to people seeing it.

By the afternoon, the shop was sold out of doughnuts, making a Facebook post stating: “Wow, you guys! Thank you so much for your outpouring of love and support.  You guys did it! We’re sold out, for now. We’ll have more donuts in about an hour. See you then!”

The doughnut shop is rebuilt at the same location where it burned in September 2020 at 109 South Main Street in Phoenix.

Ashland Mayor Resigns Abruptly, Now Ashland City Councilor Shaun Moran Resigns

An Ashland city council member is resigning, “effective immediately.”

“Fellow Citizens of Ashland, City Council and City Manager Lessard, I’ve spent the last 7 years as a member of the Budget Committee and 2 years as a City Councilor trying to draw attention to the unfettered spending and the inevitable fiscal crisis which needed to be addressed for Ashlanders. Yet, even with a new City Manager there continues to be no interest or sense of urgency in addressing and solving these critical issues. 

As a result, and in light of Mayor Akins recent resignation notice, effective immediately I am resigning from my position on the Ashland city council.  If I felt my continuing service on the council could benefit the community and somehow change the direction of our town, I would have remained on the council, but I think that would be ineffectual and frankly hopeless. I want to thank the citizens of Ashland for their votes and support and wish them all the very best in the future.  

Sincerely,

Shaun J. Moran

Shaun Moran, Councilor ” 

As Moran noted in his resignation notification, Ashland Mayor Julie Akins also is leaving the City’s leadership.  She announced yesterday she is resigning from the mayor position effective Friday, January 27, 2023.

Ashland Mayor Announces Her Resignation

Ashland’s Mayor Julie Akins announced her resignation, effective Friday, January 27th. After serving two years as Mayor and two years as a city councilor, Akins says “it’s time.”

In a letter Akins sent out she stated how proud she is of everything she accomplished as Mayor. “Creating the Social Equity and Racial Justice Committee, changing the focus to housing, funding emergency shelter for vulnerable populations, moving our community through the pandemic and the Almeda fire.” As well as working towards a sustainable budget and setting an agenda of transparency.

“I’ve been honored to serve the people of Ashland as your elected mayor, an honor afforded few, and I have appreciated the support of the people. But it’s important to admit when it’s time and for me it’s time,” says Akins.

She goes on to say that she’s looking forward to spending more time with her family. She thanks her husband, Leo, for sacrificing so much for her to do this kind of volunteerism in the Ashland Community.

She ended her statement by saying “To the people of Ashland: You will see me around and my heart remains open to you.”

According to Ashland’s City Manager, Joseph Lessard the council has 60 days to fill this position. During the next city council meeting they will discuss how they would like to move forward. Generally, the city will do an application process and submit those names who applied to the city council for consideration.

“Until the position is filled, we have a position called the chair of the city council and they step-in in the absence of the mayor. Council member Tonya Graham will step up into that role until the election takes place by the council,” says Lessard.

Akins last day in office is Friday, January 27th, 2023 at the close of business.

Marijuana Search Warrant 01/23/23

On January 23, 2023, the Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team (JMET) with the assistance of Josephine County Code Enforcement, executed a search warrant in the 2000 block of Caves Highway in Cave Junction, regarding an illegal indoor marijuana manufacturing site.

During the execution of the warrant, more than 190 pounds of processed marijuana and 500 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes were seized.

The property also had multiple electrical, water and solid waste code violations. These violations could result in the civil forfeiture of the property. 

Lauren Siegel was taken into custody and lodged at the Josephine County Jail for Unlawful Possession of Marijuana and Unlawful Manufacturing of Marijuana.

At the time of this press release the investigation is ongoing and no further details are being released.

ODOT is Hosting a Project Open House on Thursday, January 26th for Scenic Avenue at Hwy 99 Improvements

The intersection of Scenic Avenue and Highway 99 is going to be improved this summer season.  The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is hosting a Project Open House on Thursday, January 26, 2023 from 4:30-6:00PM at the Fire District #3 Scenic Avenue Fire Station (1909 Scenic Avenue in Central Point).  The public is invited to attend.

The planned project for summer 2023 construction includes new traffic signals, ADA curb ramps and an upgraded railroad crossing.

Once construction begins in the spring, be sure to use caution in the work area and find alternate routes if possible to avoid any delays.  Safety is a priority, even during construction, so minimizing traffic in the project area is a real win-win.

More information can be found at ODOT’s project website.

OHCS and ODHS Partner to Support Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) recently completed a $9 million interagency funds transfer to the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) Self-Sufficiency Programs, Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program to support the housing needs of young people across Oregon.

The ODHS Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program is tasked with coordinating statewide planning for delivery of services to youth experiencing homelessness under the age of 25. It partners with impacted youth, community organizations and other state agencies to support and fund initiatives and programs within the youth homelessness system.

ODHS will use the $9 million to support local programs across the state, as well as newer initiatives and supports for youth experiencing homelessness across Oregon by investing in: 

  • Prevention
  • Crisis and long-term interventions
  • Youth specific housing initiatives
  • Direct cash implementation support
  • Job and life skills training
  • Wrap around supports
  • Host home programs that provide temporary housing for youth

The investment will also support College Housing Northwest’s Affordable Rents for College Students program (ARCS), which pays rent for up to one year for 25 college students experiencing homelessness. In addition to housing, each student in the program will receive case management services through New Avenues for Youth and Native American Youth Association that will support them and help them connect with other services they need to thrive and reach their full potential. It also solidifies an agreement between ODHS and ARCS that holds up to 21 housing units specifically for youth at an affordable rate for 25 years. 

This type of innovative housing partnership is possible thanks to the interagency funds transfer. 

“In Oregon, we do not accept homelessness as a fact of life and the reality is far too many of our youth are living outside as well as in unstable or undesirable situations,” said OHCS Director Andrea Bell. “The magnitude of this issue requires our state agencies and local community leaders to bring solutions to the table—it is our collective responsibility to come together and solve the issues facing youth in Oregon. Our investment in supporting young people who are experiencing homelessness is just a small way we can assist in this critical work.”

“We all have an interest in a community in which young people have access to stable and safe housing so that they can pursue their life’s goals and reach their full potential,” said ODHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht. “A young person’s experience with homelessness does not always follow a linear path and the supports available to them need to be flexible to meet and support them where they are. It is our responsibility as a community to come together to support young people and provide housing opportunities. When we do this, we will give them the stability and safety they need to learn and grow and help our community thrive. Intentional partnership between state agencies can go a long way when used creatively and this investment will do just that.”

In 2021, ODHS completed the state’s first needs assessment focused on youth experiencing homelessness. The assessment estimated that there are over 8,200 unhoused individuals under 25 who are likely to need safe, affordable housing and services to maintain stability. Long-term housing was identified as one of the greatest needs, and based on the assessment, an estimated system cost to meet the need would total approximately $154 million. https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/CHILDREN/Homeless-Youth/Documents/csh-yh-needs.pdf

About the Oregon Department of Human Services

The mission of the Oregon Department of Human Services is to help Oregonians in their own communities achieve wellbeing and independence through opportunities that protect, empower, respect choice and preserve dignity.  

About Oregon Housing and Community Services

Oregon Housing and Community Services provides resources for Oregonians to reduce poverty and increase access to stable housing. Our intentional focus on both housing and community services allows us to serve Oregonians holistically across the housing continuum, including preventing and ending homelessness, assisting with utilities, providing housing stability support, financing multifamily affordable housing and encouraging homeownership.

Former Beaverton Mayor Sentenced to Federal Prison for Possessing Child Pornography

PORTLAND, Ore.—Dennis “Denny” Doyle, the former mayor of Beaverton, Oregon, was sentenced to federal prison today for illegally possessing child pornography.

Doyle, 74, a Beaverton resident, was sentenced to six months in federal prison and five years’ supervised release. Doyle was also ordered to pay $22,000 in restitution to his victims.

According to court documents, in late January 2022, the Beaverton Police Department was notified by a local business that a USB thumb drive containing possible child pornography had been found. The business provided the thumb drive to law enforcement, and it was determined that did indeed contain child pornography. Additionally, the drive contained personal photographs that appeared to belong to Doyle. Law enforcement also determined the images of child pornography were downloaded onto the thumb drive between November 2014 and December 2015, while Doyle was serving as the Beaverton mayor.

After the Beaverton Police Department referred the case to the FBI, special agents from FBI Portland’s Child Exploitation Task Force (CETF) contacted Doyle at his home. Doyle was immediately truthful with the agents, admitting the drive was his and that he had personally downloaded child pornography from his home computer. No further evidence of child pornography was located on Doyle’s digital devices.

On March 3, 2022, Doyle was charged by criminal information with one count of possession of child pornography and, on October 11, 2022, pleaded guilty to the single charge.

This case was investigated by FBI Portland’s CETF with assistance from the Beaverton Police Department. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon. 

Anyone who has information about the physical or online exploitation of children are encouraged to call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.

Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor. Child sexual abuse material depicts actual crimes being committed against children. Not only do these images and videos document victims’ exploitation and abuse, but when shared across the internet, child victims suffer re-victimization each time the image of their abuse is viewed. To learn more, please visit the NCMEC’s website at www.missingkids.org.

FBI Portland’s CETF conducts sexual exploitation investigations, many of them undercover, in coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. CETF is committed to locating and arresting those who prey on children as well as recovering and assisting victims of sex trafficking and child exploitation.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Justice Department to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

Oregon House Bill 2316 Would Expand State’s Intoxicated Driving Law 

A proposal in the Legislature would expand Oregon’s intoxicated driving law to cover all drugs, including legal medications that can be abused and impair drivers. 

Oregon is one of four states that fails to cover all drugs in its law that dictates when a driver can be charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants. House Bill 2316, heard Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee, would close a loophole that allows motorists on drugs to evade these criminal charges. People convicted of driving under the influence of intoxicants, DUII, can have a felony on their record and get their license revoked or suspended.

The bill would expand the law’s definition of “intoxicant” to include all drugs, a move Oregon prosecutors say is necessary so the law is clear and holds drivers accountable regardless of the type of drugs that impair them.  

Under current state law, a driver can be charged for being under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, cannabis, psilocybin or a federally controlled substance. The federal government defines controlled substances, which encompass a range of illegal drugs that include cocaine, heroin and tranquilizers.

However, this means impaired motorists cannot be charged if they are impaired by medications or herbal and designer drugs like kratom, which is legal but used as a stimulant.

Kimberly McCullough, legislative director of the Oregon Department of Justice, said the change is necessary, especially as new drugs are hitting the streets. 

“It closes a problematic loophole in our DUII statute that currently allows an impaired driver to avoid a DUII conviction by arguing that, although the person is impaired, the impairment is caused by the non-controlled substance in their system and not the controlled substance that is also present,” McCullough said in submitted testimony.

The department gave examples:

  • In 2018, a driver in Tigard was impaired and hit two vehicles. The driver had excessive Nyquil and other substances in a urinalysis, but couldn’t file charges because they aren’t controlled substances.
  • In 2019, a driver in Deschutes County was speeding at more than 80 miles per hour on a highway, tailgating and driving into oncoming traffic.  The driver had watery, glazed over eyes, slurred speech and would close her eyes frequently as if asleep. The woman told police she took Metaxalone, a strong muscle relaxer, and she was not charged.

The Oregon District Attorneys Association and law enforcement groups – the Oregon State Sheriffs Association and the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police – support the measure. The legislative committee is sponsoring the bill at the request of district attorneys.

The police and sheriff organizations, in a joint letter, urged lawmakers to support the bills. Impaired motorists who abuse legal medications are as dangerous as those impaired by alcohol or other illegal drugs, the letter said.

Besides Oregon, the other three states that have a drug loophole are Alaska, Florida and Nevada.

Oregon lawmakers considering legislation this session aimed at preventing opioid overdoses that kill hundreds of Oregonians each year and account for a growing part of the state’s addiction epidemic.

Opioid overdoses killed 280 Oregonians in 2019, a figure that more than doubled in 2021 with 745 deaths, according to Oregon Health Authority data. National studies show that Oregon has the second-highest overall drug addiction rate in the nation and the state ranks last in access to treatment.

Rep. Maxine Dexter, D-Portland, is advancing changes aimed at making naloxone kits — which reverse overdoses — more available throughout Oregon, including schools, public buildings and for emergency personnel to give to people for future use. Now, mostly emergency personnel and health care workers have them for immediate use.

A critical care physician at Kaiser Permanente, Dexter said the state needs to address the epidemic head-on and provide the public with tools to reduce the risks and treat overdoses.

“These are lives that could have been saved with some pretty simple public health interventions for at least a good portion of them,” Dexter said in an interview with the Capital Chronicle. “We don’t have control over the drug supply and we’re not going to control the influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl. … We need to do all that we can to make sure that the public’s aware of the risk, has tools to mitigate the risk, and has access to treatment.”

Pharmacists in Oregon can prescribe naloxone, often sold under the brand name Narcan. It only works against opioids.

Opioids come in different forms, including synthetic heroin, prescription painkillers and illegally manufactured fentanyl that has entered Oregon’s illicit drug market and is often mixed with other drugs. It is up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Besides making naloxone more available, Dexter’s legislation would address the fentanyl threat:

• House Bill 2880 would remove pipes and fentanyl test strips from the state’s drug paraphernalia law, which currently criminalizes them except for providers. By making fentanyl test strips more available, the idea is that people could use them to test other substances, including street drugs, to ensure they don’t have fentanyl. Pipes would decrease the risk of overdose and other health risks from injecting drugs, HIV and hepatitis C.

• House Bill 2885 helps the owners of publicly accessible buildings — like stores, bars and other facilities — to obtain naloxone kits through the Oregon Health Authority. The authority would issue a standing order, which eliminates the need for business owners to get naloxone kits through prescriptions.

• House Bill 2887 would allow police, firefighters and other emergency responders to distribute naloxone kits to people for future use. First responders already administer naloxone to people suffering an opioid overdose.

• House Bill 2883 would shield public school staff from lawsuits and criminal charges if they administer naloxone to a minor student suffering an overdose without a parent’s permission. The law presently is unclear on this point.

• Another proposal would allow minors under 15 to get access to addiction treatment without parental consent if the provider believes disclosure would put the youth at risk of harm. This is intended to address cases when addiction affects parents and children.

Dexter said that the fentanyl test strips and pipe initiative is aimed at reducing the impact of opioids, or preventing more harm, though they currently are classified as drug paraphernalia. She said she expects to hear lots of questions about it.

“That’s probably one that people are going to have questions about: ‘What are you trying? You’re trying to increase the use of drugs?’” Dexter said. “The answer is absolutely not. What we’re trying to do is acknowledge that people have drug addiction, that they need help. And when you have tools that are available to them to keep them safe, people want to be safe. They don’t want to die.”

The legislation doesn’t predict how many lives would be saved. But Dexter says the changes would equip Oregonians with tools to save lives. Her proposal also would require a public health campaign in the state.

Measure 110, which voters passed in 2020, decriminalized low-level drug possession and dedicated about $100 million a year towards addiction services. But drug paraphernalia is still banned in Oregon law.

Advocates for people with addiction say the state needs to provide life-saving tools and reduce the stigma of addiction, which is medically recognized as a disease.

Haven Wheelock is the harm reduction manager for Outside In, a Portland center that helps people with addiction treatment, housing, food, health care and other needs. The center serves about 4,000 clients a year with drug addictions.

Wheelock said a range of proposals are needed to increase the public’s access to prevention and treatment tools in businesses, schools and other places. Wheelock, who has worked 20 years in the field, said the opioid crisis is worse than any drug crisis she’s seen.

“The heartbreaking numbers of losses and the grief in the community that we are experiencing today is nothing like I’ve ever experienced,” Wheelock said. “The level of just heartbreak and loss is more than I have seen in other points in my career.”

Tera Hurst, executive director of Health Justice Recovery Alliance, a statewide advocacy group, said it’s key for Oregonians to have tools they need.

“With fentanyl on the street, I think it’s really important that we have the testing strips,” Hurst said. Test strips can help people who are taking a drug know it’s not something completely different — like fentanyl — that is lethal, Hurst said.

“You can’t get somebody the support and help they need if they die,” Hurst said.

National Environmental Group Asks Federal Agency To Expedite Reintroducing Sea Otters To Oregon Coast

The Center for Biological Diversity wants the federal government to get moving on a plan to reintroduce sea otters on the Oregon coast.

The national environmental group submitted a petition Thursday, under the Endangered Species Act, to reintroduce the sea otter to their native habitat from San Francisco through Oregon. (https://biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/sea_otter/pdfs/2023-01-19-Center-for-Biological-Diversity-Sea-Otter-Reintroduction-Petition.pdf)

The idea of returning otters to the coast picked up momentum following a study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that said reintroduction was “feasible” and “would benefit the near-shore marine ecosystem and have an overall socioeconomic benefit to coastal communities.”

But the agency stopped short of recommending reintroduction and has said any action on getting otters in the water was still “4 to 5 years off at best.” The Center for Biological Diversity wants to speed things along.

“Bringing the sea otter back to the broader West Coast would be an unparalleled conservation success story,” said Kristin Carden, a senior scientist at the center. “Not only would the sea otters thrive, but they would also help restore vital kelp forest and sea grass ecosystems.”

The petition, among other things, requires Fish and Wildlife Service to grant or deny the request and compels a scientifically defensible answer in a reasonable time, Carden said.

“Optimistically, that would be within a year and we could see otters in the water within a couple of years,” she said. “That said, it will take time for the government to engage with stakeholders and do all required outreach. In the meantime, the agency could immediately start laying groundwork for the reintroduction.”

The case for sea otters in Oregon has been pushed for years by the Elakha Alliance of Siletz, which published economic and feasibility studies on reintroduction. That laid the groundwork for the Fish and Wildlife Service study that highlighted substantial benefits otters could bring.

In response to the petition, agency spokeswoman Jodie Delavan said the Fish and Wildlife Service was taking the next steps toward considering “any potential reintroduction effort.”

“Our next step is to engage with stakeholders, including ocean users and coastal communities, on the potential impacts of reintroduction,” Delavan said. “The service aims to be inclusive, thoughtful, and scientifically sound as we consider actions to support sea otter recovery now and in the future.”

Otters, native to the Oregon Coast, were wiped out by widespread hunting in the 1700s and 1800s. The last known wild sea otter was killed in Oregon in 1906 south of Depoe Bay.

Today, wild sea otters occasionally visit Oregon from populations mainly in Washington, but none have stayed permanently, leaving a 900-mile gap of Pacific Coast with no populations from Half Moon Bay in California to central Washington.

Studies have found that sea otters play a fundamental role in the ecological health of near-shore ecosystems. They eat sea urchins, whose numbers have exploded on the Oregon coast, which helps keep seagrass and kelp forests in balance, the Fish and Wildlife Service study said.

Oregon attempted reintroduction, along with a collection of other sites on the West Coast, from 1969 to 1972. Otters were released in Oregon at Cape Arago and Port Orford. They persisted for about a decade before the population “petered out,” Michele Zwartjes, field supervisor at the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Oregon coast field office in Newport, told the Statesman Journal last year.

But improvements in the way reintroductions happen could make a big difference the second time around.

If officials did try again in Oregon, they could use a combination of wild sub-adult otters from populations that have reached carrying capacity, along with others who have been raised by surrogate parents in aquariums and raised with a minimum of contact, Zwartjes said. That might improve the number that stayed.

Even with the study leaning positive, the Fish and Wildlife Service study expressly said it wasn’t making a recommendation as to whether sea otter reintroduction should take place. That would take another four to five years of community outreach and regulatory hurdles.

Carden believes it could go more swiftly.

“We would like to keep the momentum of the feasibility assessment going and, hopefully, lead to a commitment to act,” she said.

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