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, March 15, 2023
Rogue Valley Weather
FREEZING FOG ADVISORY ISSUED: 7:22 AM MAR. 15, 2023 – NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
...FREEZING FOG ADVISORY IN EFFECT UNTIL 10 AM PDT THIS MORNING... * WHAT...Visibility as low as one quarter mile in freezing fog. * WHERE...The Rogue and Illinois Valleys in Josephine and Jackson Counties. This includes Medford, Cave Junction, Grants Pass, Gold Hill, Central Point and Selma. This also includes portions of Interstate 5 and Highway 199 as well as the passes north of Grants Pass and Hayes Hill Summit. * WHEN...Until 10 AM PDT this morning. * IMPACTS...Hazardous driving conditions from low visibility and slippery conditions due to frost on bridges and area roadways. * View the hazard area in detail at https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/map/?wfo=mfr
Lawsuit Over The Death Of Man Who Was Killed By Oregon State Police Outside His Home In Southern Oregon Settled For $1.6 Million
A lawsuit over the death of a man who was killed by Oregon State Police outside his home in southern Oregon in 2015 has been settled for $1.6 million after a lengthy legal odyssey, the Grants Pass Daily Courier reported.
The settlement includes an apology from state police Superintendent Casey Codding, according to lawyers for Robert Box, who was 55 when he was killed by two state troopers investigating a domestic disturbance at his home near Wilderville, Oregon, the newspaper reported.
Lawyers for the Box family complained of roadblocks in the long-running case, including an unusual procedural history on appeal caused by the sealing of records in the case by the trial judge.
On Friday, attorney Richard Adams and co-counsel David Park released a statement they said Box’s widow, Bernadette, wrote in response to an apology letter from Codding.
“I truly hope you take all this to heart and learn from it,” she wrote. “Training needs to be taken to heart. No other family should have to go through what my family has gone through.”
On the night of May 29, 2015, Box’s adult daughter Kelsey, who is partially paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, reported she had been assaulted by her father during an argument at the family’s rural home.
Prosecutors subsequently absolved troopers Gregor Smyth and Heather West of any wrongdoing, saying Box pointed a loaded .44 Magnum at them despite their demands that he not touch the gun.
Smyth fired seven rounds, while West fired four. Box was hit and fatally wounded.
Lawyers for the family argued that Box, who had been carrying a loaded gun, had every right to be armed on his own rural property late at night. They also accused the troopers of essentially ambushing him even though they had been notified by dispatchers that his daughter had fled the home and was not in danger.
After 18 months of pretrial wrangling, Circuit Court Judge Wolke dismissed the case in 2017. In the process, Wolke sealed records in the case after a motion by the plaintiffs to amend the lawsuit based on new evidence. Wolke’s decision to seal everything in the case was unusual and caused unnecessary procedural problems throughout the appeal process that followed, lawyers for the family said.
Last year the Oregon Court of Appeals reinstated the case and remanded it back to Josephine County for a jury trial. The court said the troopers were trespassing when they encountered Box and made several tactical errors in the process.
The ruling on appeal put the case in a settlement posture, leading to the agreement last week.
According to the family’s lawyers, Smyth was terminated from the state police’s SWAT team three months before the Box shooting for a problem known in tactical training as “tunnel vision.”
They said the commander of the SWAT team at the time filed a report concluding that Smyth’s “decision making and overreaction have the potential to lead to someone being seriously injured, or killed, on a real-world operation.”
Grants Pass Police Activity Causes Schools to “Secure” on Two Consecutive Days
Grants Pass, Ore. – Tuesday at 11:54 AM, the Grants Pass Police Department requested to have North Middle School and Highland Elementary go into “Secure” status as we tracked a wanted fugitive who had fled in the area. While in “Secure” status, which is used when schools aren’t believed to be in immediate danger, the schools move the children indoors, lock all exterior doors, and go about business as usual.
At 1:45 PM, the “secure” status was lifted after police located and arrested Shawn Timothy Oleary, who had been hiding in a shed on NW Blossom Drive. Oleary was lodged at the Josephine County Jail for multiple felony warrants, possession of a gun, and possession of a felony quantity of Fentanyl.
Monday, in a similar manner, Grants Pass High School, North Middle, and South Middle were placed into a “secure” status due to a potential threat regarding a subject bringing a gun to campus. For the safety of the students, the “secure” protocol was used until the subject suspected of the threat was located and the threat determined to be unfounded. The securing of the campuses, since it was near the end of the school day, caused a delay for parents picking up children and buses leaving campus.
The Grants Pass Police Department always places the protection of innocent life as the highest priority for our officers. Though the securing of these campuses over the last two days may have caused some inconvenience and confusion, the Grants Pass Police Department thanks the community for their patience and understanding as we ensure the safety of our children.
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office K9 Ruger has Received Donation of Body Armor
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office K9 Ruger has received a bullet and stab protective vest thanks to a charitable donation from non-profit organization Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. K9 Ruger’s vest was sponsored by The Peery Family of Cumming, GA and embroidered with the sentiment “This gift of protection provided by the Peery Family”.
Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., established in 2009, is a 501(c)(3) charity whose mission is to provide bullet and stab protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the United States. This potentially lifesaving body armor for four-legged K9 officers is U.S. made, custom fitted, and NIJ certified. Since its inception, Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. has provided over 4,970 vests to K9s in all 50 states at a value of $6.9 million, made possible by both private and corporate donations.
The program is open to U.S. dogs that are at least 20 months old and actively employed and certified with law enforcement or related agencies. K9s with expired vests are also eligible to participate. There are an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s throughout the United States.
Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. accepts tax-deductible contributions in any amount, while a single donation of $985 will sponsor one vest. Each vest has a value of $1,744-$2,283, weighs an average of 4-5 lb., and comes with a five-year warranty. For more information, or to learn about volunteer opportunities, please call 508-824-6978. Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. provides information, lists events, and accepts donations at www.vik9s.org, or you may mail your contribution to P.O. Box 9, East Taunton, MA 02718.
Rogue Valley Indoor Golf Opens Today!
The Screenskeeper (Rogue Valley Indoor Golf) will open its doors on Wednesday, March 15th, finally bringing a public indoor golf facility to the Rogue Valley!
Golfers of all levels are invited to book a tee time and experience golf in the new indoor simulators firsthand, with prize raffles and giveaways taking place each day during our Grand Opening week (3/15-3/19).
The facility will open at 12pm on weekdays and 10am on weekends (closed Mondays/Tuesdays), just below the Four Corners on Table Rock Rd in Medford/Central Point. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100089121476415
House Bill 2915 Prohibiting Retail Pet Stores From Selling Dogs Or Cats Approved For Consideration
A bill in the Oregon House of Representatives would prohibit retail pet stores from selling dogs or cats.
The new rules would not apply to pet shops open prior to the legislation. It would apply to new stores that open after the effective date of the bill upon passage.
It also would not apply to stores that partner with animal recues or animal shelters.
House Bill 2915 was approved Wednesday by the House Committee on Business and Labor and will now to head to the full House for consideration.
“The core of this measure is that we want to prohibit retail pet shops in Oregon from bringing product in from out of state that they would not otherwise be able to acquire in state,” said Rep. David Gomberg, D-District 10, during a public hearing on the bill in February.
The concern is over puppy mills and that the animals that come from them often have behavioral and physiological problems.
Gomberg also said the purpose of the bill is to encourage pet adoptions from rescues and shelters as well supporting Oregon breeders. Opponents raised concerns that the bill takes business away from private businesses.
Governor Kotek Urges State Lawmakers To Back Literacy Initiative
Gov. Tina Kotek and others are pushing an early childhood literacy package in the Legislature. (U.S. Department of Education/Flickr/Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 )
Gov. Tina Kotek kicked off her first term this year with an especially big goal – to revamp the way Oregon teaches children to read and write.
Less than half of Oregon students can read and write at their grade level. This has a substantial impact on the students individually and on society.
Kotek is urging lawmakers to approve plans to change Oregon’s approach to literacy education.
House Bill 3454 would award grants to improve early literacy in schools and communities across the state, and House Bill 3198 would establish the Early Literacy Success Initiative. The initiative would primarily provide coaching, materials and training to educators to improve literacy education before third grade and create literacy-focused tutoring and summer school programs.
Kotek and Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, who spoke to the state House education committee Monday for an informational hearing, want the proposals merged into one cohesive package .
The package would launch a multi-year effort aimed at helping parents, teachers and community groups better serve students. They want to increase early literacy for students in prekindergarten through third grade so students can read at grade level by the end of third grade, or for students who are English language learners, by the end of the fourth grade.
They also want to reduce literacy and graduation disparities and increase the state’s overall graduation rate through these efforts. Oregon’s four-year high school graduation rate for the 2021-22 school year was 81.3%.
“It’s clear we have a problem in Oregon,” Kotek told the committee. “This problem didn’t arrive overnight, and we are not going to solve it overnight.”
The ability to read and write proficiently is vital, but Oregon is failing significantly.
Less than 40% of Oregon third-graders in 2021-22 met the state standards when tested in English Language Arts. That number is even lower for historically marginalized students, dropping, for example, to 23% for students in foster care, 21% for Black or Latino students, 20% for students with disabilities and 8% for English language learners.
As children learn to read, they build on skills and strategies. They learn “phonemic awareness,” which the Oregon Department of Education described as the ability to manipulate individual sounds in spoken words, as well as “phonics,” which is when we correspond sounds and spellings with syllable patterns to read written words.
They learn fluency and decoding, vocabulary and reading comprehension, and more.
“Teaching reading is very complex,” said Sarah Pope, executive director of the nonprofit STAND for Children , in her testimony to the committee. “Some have even likened it to neurosurgery.”
Though reading and writing skills are measured throughout K-12 education, results in third grade – the first time students are tested by the state – are an important indicator of future success.
Not only is it the time when students stop “learning to read” and start “reading to learn,” as previously explained by Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Abel Ortiz, but also researchers have also found that students who can’t read at grade level by third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma.
This makes them less likely to be gainfully employed, and more likely to rely on public welfare or become incarcerated.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services , full-time workers with a high school degree earn about 24% more than those without one, and research shows students who do not complete high school are more likely to experience poor health and premature death.
Pope said the proposal could “quite honestly change people’s lives.”
Kotek and Kropf, along with agency officials and advocates who also supported the early learning plan in testimony, want to focus on helping teachers, families and community organizations in addition to the students themselves.
“We are often quick to identify and label individual kids as ‘struggling.’ But the incredibly high number of kids not reading at grade level tells us we need to take a more critical look at how we are teaching literacy,” Kropf said in his testimony.
“Our educators do amazing work, oftentimes under very difficult circumstances,” he added. “This legislation is about giving our educators the training, support and resources they need and want to best help our kids learn to read.”
Part of Kotek’s plan is to support parents as their children’s first teachers. Knowing children develop communication skills from birth, Gabriela Hernandez-Peden, program director of the Spanish-language preschool program Juntos Aprendemos in Central Oregon, told lawmakers, “Education starts five years before they actually end up in the school system.”
Kotek also wants to train educators across the state to use “evidence-based” instruction once the students enter school. This typically refers to a large body of research known as “the science of reading,” which is about how the brain learns to read and write, and what instruction is most effective. Literacy advocates have argued before that school curricula don’t always come from a scientific foundation or that educators are not always properly trained to teach them.
Kotek said it’s important the state provides teachers with ongoing, high-quality, culturally relevant coaching to help them improve, and so they can create school-wide systems to sustain those changes.
“We owe it to educators to prepare and support them for all of what we ask of them,” she said.
The other aspect of the proposal would lead the state to create summer programs that focus on early reading and writing skills in ways that relate to students’ interests and minimize the perception of summer school as punishment. Kotek said “high-dosage tutoring” should also be available for students who need extra support.
Though the education committee members generally indicated their support for improving the state’s literacy education, Rep. Emily McIntire, R-Eagle Point, expressed concerns over regulating the initiative and the cost. Rep. Tracy Cramer, R-Woodburn, questioned whether the proposal could change teaching in schools that are performing well. And the committee’s vice chair Rep. Boomer Wright, R-Coos Bay, said he wanted to ensure there was enough money to pay for it. The state, he said, has a history of requiring more from schools but underfunding them.
Kotek’s staff told the Capital Chronicle her goal is to have a public hearing in the next few weeks when the package is finalized. Bills need to have a work session for a vote scheduled by March 17 to move ahead in the legislative process, but budget bills and rules’ proposals are exempt from that deadline.
“As we learn from other states about what works,” Kotek told the committee, “we must recognize that building and implementing an intentional, thoughtfully designed and comprehensive strategy will take more than one bill, budget line or legislative session.”
The post Gov. Kotek urges state lawmakers to back literacy initiative appeared first on Oregon Capital Chronicle .
Oregon Marijuana Prices Hit Record Lows
Oregon marijuana prices are at an all-time low. Median retail prices fell to $4 a gram at the start of 2023, according to state regulators, off 16% from a year earlier. Last year’s decline continues a long downward trajectory that has reduced prices by more than half in the seven years since recreational marijuana became legal in Oregon.
“The Oregon recreational marijuana market is in arguably the weakest economic position it has been in since the inception of the program in 2016,” the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission wrote in its annual report to the state Legislature last month.
Falling prices are great for consumers who weary of inflation’s effects on most other products, but abysmal for Oregon retailers and growers. State economists warned last month that tax collections are below forecasts. That’s not just because falling prices have reduced the state’s cut — amid the steep decline, struggling cannabis businesses are “unable to pay all their bills.”
Oregon collects a little more than $150 million in marijuana tax revenue annually.
The industry’s deepening troubles are a notable development, given that Oregon’s cannabis market has grown into a $1 billion market.
“We have a record amount of overdue accounts receivable, retailers that owe us money,” said Mason Walker, CEO of East Fork Cultivars, which farms cannabis in Josephine County. “That’s happening across the market. It’s causing pain up and down the supply chain.”
The reason prices keep falling is Economics 101: Supply is much higher than demand.
Marijuana grows abundantly in Oregon. But cannabis remains prohibited under federal law and can’t be sold, legally, across state lines. And while cannabis has proven increasingly popular, the state’s 4.2 million residents consume only a fraction of the marijuana the state’s farmers grow.
The OLCC estimates Oregon cannabis demand was just 63% of supply last year.
Sales in 2022 fell by more than 17% to $994 million, the Oregon industry’s first-ever annual decline. Production is dropping, too, as farmers respond to falling prices. But supply and demand are far from balanced.
Farmers produced less cannabis last year, as it became clear the surge in demand that accompanied the pandemic wouldn’t continue. But state regulators say there’s another problem for retailers and growers – large stocks of inventory left over from prior years. That could hold prices down indefinitely.
“These low consumer prices force businesses to operate under low margins and extreme pressure,” the OLCC wrote in last month’s report.
Some major cannabis companies have left Oregon altogether, among them Curaleaf, one of the nation’s largest marijuana businesses.
“Those (exits) are very notable, and they leave a vacuum for the survivors to fill,” Walker said.
Still, Walker said he doesn’t see any quick fix for his industry.
Oregon stopped issuing new cannabis licenses last year in reaction to the supply issues, but Walker said that has had very little effect because so many licenses had been issued already.
And while marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, more individual states have legalized it. Walker said that reduces spending by people who travel to Oregon to buy cannabis, some of whom used to buy enough to quietly take some home when they left.
Oregon’s cannabis businesses have weathered hard times before, Walker said, most notably during a sharp decline in prices at the start of 2018. But he said the industry is coping with “fatigue” from the prolonged downturn, with a growing number of businesses giving up and selling their licenses for a fraction of what they had hoped.
“It’s not a completely screwed up market,” Walker said, “but it’s challenging.” (SOURCE)
Respect nesting areas to protect threatened snowy plover March 15 – Sept. 15
Corvallis, OR – The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and federal U.S. Forest Service remind visitors to the Oregon coast that it is plover nesting season — visitors can help recovery efforts for the threatened western snowy plover by sharing the beaches March 15 to Sept. 15.
Sensitive plover nesting areas will be roped off or identified by signs with rules and limits, such as staying on the wet sand, to help protect the small shorebirds and their exposed nests during this crucial period.
Plover beaches remain open to foot and equestrian traffic below the high-tide line on wet, packed sand throughout the nesting season. This ensures that plover nests, eggs and chicks are kept safe. All other recreation on plover beaches is prohibited on both wet and dry sand, including walking a dog (even on a leash), driving a vehicle, riding a bicycle, camping, burning wood and flying kites or operating drones.
These small birds nest on open sand along Oregon’s beaches. Nests, and especially chicks, are well-camouflaged. During the nesting season, human disturbances can flush adult plovers away from their nests as they attempt to defend their young. Left alone too long, or too often, eggs or chicks can die from exposure, predators or people.
“We’re making great strides in reversing the decline of this species,” said Cindy Burns, Siuslaw National Forest wildlife biologist. “But it takes all of us, so we urge people to do their part to understand nesting season rules and to share the beach this spring and summer.”
Recreation restrictions occur in designated plover management areas: small stretches of beach along the coastline where plovers nest or might nest. These areas combined make up about 40 miles of Oregon’s 362 miles of shoreline.
“Visitors have access to hundreds of miles of beaches that have no seasonal restrictions,” said Laurel Hillmann, ocean shore specialist for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. “By planning your trip, you can enjoy the coast and help protect these special birds.”
More information on the snowy plover, including detailed maps of nesting sites, can be found on the Oregon State Parks website (oregon.gov/plovers) and on the Siuslaw National Forest website. Visitors to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area can review maps at its website to identify unrestricted recreation areas and information on riding motor vehicles on the sand.
New plover activity — The increase in plover numbers may result in nesting occurring in new or historical nesting sites. For example, visitors to Sand Lake Recreation Area may see small roped off areas near the lake’s inlet to protect active nests, and may encounter plovers on the beach. Beachgoers are encouraged to protect these birds by restricting recreation activities to wet sand areas, avoiding roped off nesting areas, packing all trash out and keeping dogs on leash.
Background on plover protections — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed western snowy plovers as a threatened species in 1993, when officials counted only 55 breeding adults. The numbers of breeding adults have steadily increased since then, from 107 in 2003 to 604 in 2021.
Several land managers oversee beach activity for plover protection, primarily the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).
Habitat loss from invasive plants — as well as human disturbances, including litter and discarded food scraps that attract predators — have contributed to the birds’ decline. The Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative, saveoregondunes.org, is working with land managers on a restoration strategy and to raise public awareness about the need to restore the dunes ecosystem for western snowy plovers, rare plants and animals, and the unique recreation
Local Red Cross Volunteers Deploy During Red Cross Month
10 volunteers are in CA & more could be on the way as another atmospheric river hits the Golden State
Portland, OR The American Red Cross is responding in California where millions of people face flood watches and warnings today as the 11th atmospheric river this winter threatens to drop as much as another eight inches of rain on the state over the next few days. This, after a weekend storm caused flooding, thousands of evacuation orders, levee breaches and numerous water rescues.
Currently, as many as 325 trained Red Cross disaster workers are assisting local and state officials to ensure people get the help they need. Ten volunteers from Oregon and Washington have deployed to California and an additional 20 have been asked to.
So far, the Red Cross and our partners in California have provided:
- 1,988 overnight stays for more than 474 residents in 45 emergency shelters
- 8,000 meals and snacks
- 980 relief items including comfort kits and other supplies
Trained Red Cross volunteers are helping families cope during this challenging time and replacing prescription medications, eyeglasses or critical medical equipment like canes and wheelchairs.
This March, the Cascades Region is honoring those who make its mission possible during the 80th annual American Red Cross Month celebration — a national tradition thatbegan in 1943 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first Red Cross Month proclamation.
Locally, more than two dozen municipalities across the Cascades Region have declared March as Red Cross Month.
“When help can’t wait during emergencies, people in the Cascades Region rally together to provide relief and hope for neighbors in need,” said Priscilla Fuentes, CEO, Red Cross Cascades Region. “This humanitarian spirit is at the heart of our community, and we are proud to honor all those who make our mission possible during this year’s Red Cross Month celebration. You can join in their commitment by donating, volunteering, giving blood or platelets, or taking a lifesaving skills course.”
Participate in Red Cross Month by visiting redcross.org to make a financial donation, give blood or platelets, become a volunteer, or take a class in lifesaving skills, such as first aid, CPR and how to use an AED. On March 22, you can also join our annual Red Cross Giving Day campaign by donating at redcross.org/givingday to help provide shelter, food, relief items, emotional support and other assistance for people affected by disasters big and small.
CONTINUING CLARA BARTON’S LIFESAVING LEGACY Today’s Red Cross volunteers, blood and platelet donors and supporters are advancing the lifesaving legacy of Clara Barton — one of the most honored women in U.S. history — who founded the American Red Cross more than 140 years ago. Her vision to prevent and alleviate human suffering has never wavered: Generation after generation, people have come together to adapt this timeless mission for their communities’ most urgent needs.
PREVENT A BLOOD SHORTAGE When volunteer blood and platelet donors lend an arm this March, they’ll help keep the blood supply from dropping this spring. All who come to give blood, platelets or plasma March 1-31, 2023, will receive a $10 Visa® Prepaid Card by email. Plus, they’ll be automatically entered for a chance to win a $3,000 Visa Prepaid Card – which could help toward expenses like gas or groceries. There will be five lucky winners.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross. — American Red Cross – Cascades Region
# # # Terms for both offers apply. Visit rcblood.org/help for details.