Rogue Valley News, Friday 3/15 – Grants Pass Homeless Case Will Be Heard By Supreme Court April 22nd, Lithia Artisans Market Opens Saturday & Other Local and Statewide News…

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

Friday,  March 15, 2024

Rogue Valley Weather
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Grants Pass Homeless Case Will Be Heard By Supreme Court April 22nd

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case out of Grants Pass regarding criminalizing sleeping in public spaces next month. The ruling ordered the City of Grants Pass to cease enforcing its ban on homeless people sleeping on public property. Now the Supreme Court will hear the case on April 22nd.

Grants Pass, like many cities, is also dealing with a housing shortage. Over the past two decades, as more people moved in, housing costs went up, forcing a growing number of people onto the streets. Grants Pass, like other cities, is dealing with a housing shortage. Over the past two decades, as more people moved in, housing costs went up, forcing a growing number of people onto the streets.

The Supreme Court agreed to take up City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson in January and is set to hold oral arguments. The case is being led by the local government of Grants Pass, which was barred by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from enforcing its broad anti-camping ordinance when homeless people have no other place to go.

Martin v. Boise and Grants Pass v. Johnson have prevented cities from punishing people for sleeping in public spaces when they have nowhere else to go. The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals denied a re-hearing of the case last year. This comes after the court ruled against the City of Grants Pass in 2022.

The Grants Pass case came to the Supreme Court after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the city’s homeless residents. The appeals court ruled 2-1 that the city, which is about 250 miles south of Portland, can’t “enforce its anti-camping ordinances against homeless persons for the mere act of sleeping outside with rudimentary protection from the elements, or for sleeping in their car at night, when there is no other place in the city for them to go.” The decision applies only in situations in which homeless people “are engaging in conduct necessary to protect themselves from the elements when there is no shelter space available,” the court added.

The City of Grants Pass hopes the supreme court will issue a ruling in the summer of 2024. The City of San Diego has joined Grants Pass in the lawsuit.

Ed Johnson, the lead counsel for the respondents in the case, said it hinges on whether cities should be able to prioritize criminalization over solutions. Johnson said, “criminalization of our neighbors that have been forced to live outside, is not a solution. It’s very expensive, it wastes limited resources.”

Johnson said every court that has heard the case has ruled against Grants Pass so far. “Grants Pass wants to make it illegal on every inch of property, 24 hours a day,” Johnson said. “The problem is if that’s allowed, many cities will simply try to run all of the homeless people out of their community, and they have to go somewhere, so they’re going to go somewhere else, and they’re still going to have to live outside because of the affordable housing shortage.”

Johnson said that people are being punished for “simply existing” and that if more cities enact strict anti-camping ordinances like Grants Pass’, it could make the homelessness crisis worse.  “If we go down this line of spending money on criminalization and banishing people from their hometowns, we’re going to wake up in a year or two years or five years and we’re going to have twice as many of our neighbors living outside,” he said.

Klamath Falls Man Requests To Represent Himself Against Federal Criminal Kidnapping Charges

A Klamath Falls man facing federal kidnapping charges said he wants to represent himself in his criminal trial.  He also requested to be referred to as “Sukima Zuberi” in court.

30-year-old Negasi Zuberi had a late afternoon arraignment when federal prosecutors requested maximum sentences on all eight criminal counts against Zuberi. He has another hearing April 1, 2024, before Zuberi decides to represent himself in court fully.

Zuberi has two counts of kidnapping, one count of transportation for criminal sexual activity, two counts of felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, two counts of a felon in possession of ammunition and one count of attempted escape from custody.

Zuberi received a new federal court indictment last month, charging him with kidnapping a second victim and with weapons charges from a prior conviction of assault with a deadly weapon.

Zuberi’s original kidnapping charge filed last summer accuses him of taking a woman from Seattle, WA to his Klamath Falls home and holding her captive in an in-home cinder-block cell that she escaped.

He’s accused of trying to escape from Jackson County Jail last August while held there for federal court. A review of jail records show Zuberi is at Jackson County Jail today, held since his return there Feb. 15, 2024.

Zuberi’s original two charges included kidnapping and transportation for criminal sexual activity. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Oregon (USAO) filed the charges, saying Zuberi kidnapped a woman by pretending he was a law enforcement officer.

USAO said a federal grand jury initially indicted Zuberi, also known as Sakima, Justin Hyche, and Justin Kouassi, for kidnapping the woman using handcuffs, and forced her into his vehicle to take her approximately 450 miles to his Klamath Falls home, “stopping along the way to sexually assault her and cover her face with a sweatshirt.”

Interstate kidnapping is punishable by up to life in federal prison and transporting an individual across state lines with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity is punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison.

USAO reminds that an indictment is an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

It said Zuberi has lived in 10 different states during the last 10 years including Oregon, California, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Alabama and Nevada, and federal law enforcement has reason to believe he may have victimized additional women.

It insists, “If you or someone you know have information about possible crimes committed by Zuberi, please visit fbi.gov/sakimavictims or call 1-800-Call-FBI.”   (SOURCE)

 

Rogue Community College Joins League for Innovation in the Community College Board

Jackson and Josephine counties (March 11, 2024) – Rogue Community College (RCC) has been accepted as a member of the League for Innovation in the Community College board. The League is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to cultivate innovation in the community college environment. Their initiatives focus on essential topics for community colleges, including diversity, equity and inclusion, information technology, leadership development and workforce development, among others.

When the League board reviewed the dynamics of its current membership, they identified RCC as a potential board member due to its historical commitment to innovation and RCC President Randy Weber’s history with the League. The institution where he worked previously to RCC was a League board school.

“The League CEO, Dr. Rufus Glasper, reached out to me and expressed the board’s interest in RCC joining,” said Weber. “RCC was an attractive candidate because of the communities it serves, including people in rural and remote settings.”

The affirmation process included the completion of an innovation report submitted by RCC last fall, followed by a vote from current League board members made up of college chief executive officers (CEOs).

RCC will benefit in many ways from joining the League for Innovation in the Community College board. Membership elevates RCC’s reputation as a leader in innovation, helps the college become eligible for grant opportunities funded by national organizations and offers increased professional development for college employees looking to bring innovative strategies to RCC.

According to Weber, being a board member solidifies the college’s commitment to fostering a culture of innovation and requires them to remain invested in that commitment. The membership also allows RCC to learn from other board colleges about systems and implementations that could help the college provide new opportunities for its faculty, students and the community.

Additionally, obtaining board membership shows that RCC is seen as a national leader in innovation.

“Other board colleges are very forward-thinking institutions in this space. We will learn from their efforts, as well as those from other non-educational organizations that choose to partner with the League on workforce development initiatives,” said Weber.

RCC has been a pioneer in innovation through its past efforts, including developing a proprietary legacy information system (Rogue Net), program delivery strategies in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and other student success initiatives. Now they will have a platform to share their work and receive feedback on how to grow.

“A culture of innovation is critical in the foreseeable future for higher education. We must innovate to remain relevant in today’s educational landscape. This opportunity provides us access to other innovative and like-minded institutions to keep us sharp in that way,” said Weber.

About The League for Innovation in the Community College: Founded in 1968 by B. Lamar Johnson and a dozen U.S. community and technical college presidents, the League has served community college institutions for more than 50 years. They have sponsored more than 200 conferences, institutes, seminars and workshops; published more than 200 reports, monographs, periodicals and books; led more than 175 research and demonstration projects; and provided numerous other resources and services.

CEOs from 18 of the most influential, resourceful and dynamic community colleges and districts in the world comprise the League’s board of directors and provide strategic direction for its activities.

Did you know Grants Pass Parking tickets can now be paid online!

 

 

Jackson County Sheriff Conducting Speed Awareness Campaign

One-Third of All Traffic Crash Deaths Speed Related; Local Law Enforcement Conducting Awareness Campaign

JACKSON COUNTY, OR – For more than two decades, speeding has been involved in approximately one-third of all nationwide motor vehicle fatalities according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2021, NHTSA reported speeding killed 12,330 people nationwide.
March is Speed Awareness Month
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) and other local agencies are teaming up to remind drivers to stop speeding and to help put an end to this deadly driving behavior. We are participating in this statewide speed awareness campaign for the entire month of March. The funding for this campaign is provided by NHTSA and Oregon Department of Transportation.

Grab ‘N Go Pizza Party At The Sloan Cup!

Mt. Ashland Ski Area

Mt. Ashland Racing Association

Join us for our annual Sloan Cup family fun race this weekend, March 16th & 17th! Pizza will be available for all 2024 MARA skiers and their families from 11-11:45 at the race hut.
All skiers ages 7+ are invited to race! Helmets required. Click the link below to register and learn more!

 

Lithia Artisans Market

We are opening our season this Saturday on March 16. Join us as we kick off our 40th year as a market!  https://www.facebook.com/LithiaArtisansMarket

We are opening our season this Saturday on March 16. Join us as we kick off our 40th year as a market!

Ashland New Plays Festival: New Plays, New Playwrights, and New Opportunities in 2024

Featuring a Community Playwriting Retreat, a new take on Hamlet, and our annual Fall Festival.

Ashland, Oregon––Ashland New Plays Festival is expanding its offerings in 2024 with a new Community Playwriting Retreat, designed to give writers of any level a chance to develop their craft among fellow artists. The retreat will take place April 26-28 in beautiful downtown Ashland, Oregon.

Join host playwright and teacher E. M. Lewis for a long weekend of writing and community building. “We’ll cover everything,” Lewis shares, “from the fundamentals of playwriting to strategies for delving deep into your own experience to craft your stories and add magic to your plays. Come with an idea, or just an open mind — and leave with the first pages of your new play!”

Lewis, ANPF’s former Fall Festival Host Playwright, is the Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, and her award winning plays include Song of Extinction, The Gun Show, and Magellanica.

Beyond the classroom, retreat participants will also enjoy a playwrights’ tea and Q&A with renowned playwright Octavio Solis (at Lovejoy’s Tea Room), a wine reception and Q&A with another of our regional playwright luminaries, Lisa Loomer, and will see Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s  Born with Teeth and Macbeth (tickets included in retreat admission). The retreat weekend experience is open to just 16 writers and priced at $195 general admission per person, or $175 for Rogue Valley residents. See our website for tickets and more information.

“Every year, I am approached by people eager to learn more about playwriting,” says ANPF Artistic Director Jackie Apodaca. “They ask how ANPF can help them develop their own writing skills. I’m gratified that our focus on playwrights has sparked local interest in the art, and looking forward to bringing E.M. Lewis to Ashland to shepherd the workshops. Major thanks to Oregon Shakespeare Festival for welcoming participants into two of their productions over the weekend, to further spark creative fires. The retreat playwrights are going to have a wonderful time creating and connecting in our beautiful town. ”

Next up in June, ANPF will partner with Play On Shakespeare to present a developmental reading of UNIVERSES’ translation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Play On Shakespeare commissions playwrights from around the world to tackle Shakespeare’s work through a contemporary lens. UNIVERSES, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s former Ensemble in Residence, is a New York-based company of multidisciplinary writers and performers who create their own unique brand of theater-based performances. This will be the second partnership between ANPF and Play On, which have previously joined forces to develop Octavio Solis’ translation of Edward III. ANPF will present readings of Hamlet, still in development, in early June at the Southern Oregon University Main Stage Theater.

“We’re excited to work with ANPF again,”  says Play On Shakespeare President Lue Douthit. “The process to create these translations incorporates all the elements of new play development, and we know that UNIVERSES will benefit from ANPF’s stewardship.”

Finally, ANPF’s centerpiece, the annual Fall Festival, will take place from October 16-20, also on SOU’s Main Stage. This year’s festival will feature the four winners of this international new plays competition. The reader process leading toward the selection of winners is currently underway—with more than 60 reader volunteers reading 350 scripts, ultimately selecting 12 finalists. Artistic Director Apodaca will then choose the four winning playwrights and invite them to town for the event.

“ANPF exposes me to theatre as it is evolving,” commented a 2023 Fall Festival attendee. “The plays are taking leaps in new directions through topics addressed, approaches to storytelling, or validations of social changes.”

Named by Oregon Arts Watch writer Brett Campbell as his “most memorable theatre experience of 2023,” the festival is a longstanding Rogue Valley tradition, bringing new works to the stage through dramatic readings. Each year, the winning playwrights come to Ashland and work with world-class directors and actors to develop their scripts and share them with the community in evening and matinee readings, followed by audience talkbacks.

Another 2023 audience member summed up the company’s work this way, “ANPF is consistently moving theatre forward.”   Learn more at ashlandnewplays.org

 

.BODYCAM VIDEO: Sheriff’s Deputies Rescue Infant and Toddler Abandoned in Woods by Suspect On-the-Run; Grand Jury Indicts Today on All Charges

BODYCAM Available for Download Here: https://vimeo.com/915796109?share=copy

JCSO Case 24-0935  —-   MEDFORD, Ore. – A Jackson County Grand Jury indicted a man today wanted on charges stemming from multiple incidents involving domestic violence and child endangerment. The suspect, Justin Ryan Trompeter, 24, of Trail is wanted for two counts of second-degree child neglect, felony fourth-degree domestic violence assault, third-degree robbery, first-degree theft, harassment, and two counts of reckless endangerment.

The suspect remains on-the-run with Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies continuing their investigation. If you know of the suspect’s whereabouts, call ECSO Dispatch at (541) 776-7206. Trompeter is known to frequent Jacksonville, Shady Cove, Eagle Point, and Trail.

JCSO deputies were originally searching for Trompeter in connection with a February 7 domestic violence assault call where he fled the scene at a high rate of speed with the children. On Friday, February 16, JCSO deputies received information that Trompeter was hiding with the children, ages 6 months and 1.5 years, deep in the surrounding Jacksonville woods.

Deputies quickly located a vehicle at the top of Wagon Trail Drive around 1:30 p.m on Friday, February 16. JCSO deputies approached the car with caution, but Trompeter had fled the scene before deputies’ arrival. Deputies found the two young children abandoned and alone in the car. Deputies believe the children may have been left alone in the vehicle for up to two hours. Further investigations revealed suspected fentanyl and meth in the car with the children.

Mercy Flights medics checked the children on scene then turned them over to Department of Human Services (DHS) personnel. After the incident, the children were treated at a local hospital and remain in DHS care. This case is open and ongoing with deputies following additional leads. If you know of the suspect’s whereabouts, call ECSO Dispatch at (541) 776-7206.

 

Hearts with a Mission, a program to help local seniors who need assistance, is seeking volunteers.

The volunteer-based program — which started in January 2023 — has 90 volunteers ready to help, but more than 100 seniors who need assistance.

Stephanie Miller, the Hearts For Seniors Program Manager, said that it’s a heartwarming job and fulfilling volunteer work.  Residents can apply here.

David Grubbs’ Murder Investigation Remains Active

Community still looking for answers in violent 2011 murder of David Grubbs on Ashland, Oregon bike path

The Ashland Police Department’s investigation into the murder of David Grubbs on November 19, 2011 remains open and active. Recently two new detectives have been assigned to look into new leads that have come in.

This case remains important to David’s family, the community, and the Ashland Police Department. As detectives continue to pursue these new leads, anyone with additional information is encouraged to reach out to the Ashland Police Department at 541-488-2211.

The reward for information leading to an arrest on this case remains at over $21,000.

 

Fauna Frey, 45, disappeared in Oregon on a road trip, June 29, 2020, following her brother’s death  —

https://original.newsbreak.com/@ada-e-1668135/3304227455096-fauna-frey-45-disappeared-in-oregon-on-a-road-trip-june-29-2020-following-her-brother-s-death

PART 2 – Newsweek Podcast Focusing on The Disappearance of Fauna Frey From Lane County

Here One Minute, Gone the Next —– PART 2 – Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel joins investigative journalist Alex Rogue to speak with Here One Minute, Gone the Next about the disappearance of Fauna Frey, the growing friction between citizen investigators and law enforcement, and the lack of resources in missing persons cases. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-disappearance-of-fauna-frey-pt2-feat-sheriff/id1707094441?i=1000630100040

PART 1 – John Frey joins Newsweek to discuss exclusive details about the case of his missing daughter that until now have been unavailable to the general public.

READ MORE HERE: https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-what-happened-fauna-frey-new-clues-uncovered-1827197?fbclid=IwAR3Z3Glru5lIgqiYXbs_nA1Fj8JuCIzM11OHSVHfwIucfq2f_G5y9y5bnmQ

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Fauna Frey, call the anonymous tip line at 541-539-5638 or email FindFaunaFrey@gmail.com.

Help Find Fauna Frey #FindFaunaFrey FACEBOOK GROUP

Kicker claims top $1.6 billion with a month to go before tax deadline

Salem, OR—Oregon taxpayers have already claimed nearly $1.6 billion of the record $5.61 billion surplus revenue kicker tax credit being returned to taxpayers in 2024, the Oregon Department of Revenue announced.

The department also reported that it has received more than 950,000 tax returns thus far this year. Another 1.2 million returns are expected to be filed in 2024 and more than $4 billion in kicker surplus remains to be claimed. The tax filing deadline is April 15.

“More than 1 million taxpayers still need to file and we are urging Oregonians not to wait until the last minute,” said Megan Denison, administrator of the agency’s Personal Tax and Compliance Division. “We also urge anyone who is owed a kicker to file and claim it.”

The kicker—the largest in state history—is being returned to taxpayers through a credit on their 2023 state personal income tax returns filed in 2024. The credit is based on tax liability for the 2022 tax year. Taxpayers who have not yet filed a 2022 tax return, should file now so they can claim their kicker credit when they file their 2023 tax return.

Who is eligible?
Taxpayers are eligible to claim the kicker if they filed a 2022 tax return and Oregon state income tax due before credits. Even taxpayers who don’t have a filing obligation for 2023, still must file a 2023 tax return to claim their credit. The kicker is based on Oregon income tax paid in 2022, not federal income tax paid.

Who is not eligible?
Taxpayers who have not filed a 2022 Oregon income tax return or did not have income tax due for 2022 are not eligible to receive a kicker. The same is true for filers who didn’t complete the filing process last year because they failed to respond to letters from the department seeking more information.

How is the kicker calculated?
To calculate the amount of their credit, taxpayers can multiply their 2022 tax liability before any credits—line 22 on the 2022 Form OR-40—by 44.28 percent. This percentage is determined and certified by Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. Taxpayers who claimed a credit for tax paid to another state would need to subtract the credit amount from their liability before calculating the credit.

Taxpayers whose 2022 Oregon income tax owed was adjusted by the department when they filed last year, should use the adjusted amount of tax when calculating their kicker.

Taxpayers should not guess at their kicker amount. They can determine the amount of their kicker using the What’s My Kicker? Tool available on Revenue Online. To use the tool, taxpayers will need to enter their name, Social Security Number, and filing status for 2022 and 2023.

What form should taxpayers use?
Residency status determines what form taxpayers should use. More information is available on the What form do I use page of the agency’s website.

The 2023 Oregon personal income tax return instructions include detailed information on how to claim the credit on Form OR-40 for full-year Oregon residents, Form OR-40-P for part-year residents, and Form OR-40-N for nonresidents. Composite and fiduciary-income tax return filers are also eligible.

Taxpayers should keep in mind that the state may use all or part of their kicker to pay any state debt they owe, such as tax due for other years, child support, court fines, or school loans.

Taxpayers can donate their kicker with a checkbox on their tax return to the Oregon State School Fund for K-12 public education, but they must donate the entire amount. The donation is permanent and cannot be taken back.

Taxpayers also have the option of donating part or all of their refund to any or all of the 29 charities approved by the Charitable Checkoff Commission. Taxpayers use Form OR-DONATE to designate any amount or all of their refund to donate to charity.

Free tax preparation services are available for both federal and Oregon tax returns. Some software companies offer free software use and e-filing for eligible taxpayers. Visit the Department of Revenue website to take advantage of the software and free offers and get more information about free tax preparation services .

For more information, go to the Oregon surplus “kicker” credit page of the Department of Revenue website.

Visit www.oregon.gov/dor to get tax forms, check the status of your refund, or make tax payments; call 800-356-4222 toll-free from an Oregon prefix (English or Spanish); 503-378-4988 in Salem and outside Oregon; or email questions.dor@oregon.gov.

Oregon’s Final Presidential Primary List Released by Secretary Griffin-Valade

Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade released the final list of candidates to appear on the 2024 Democratic and Republican Presidential Primary today for Oregon’s primary election on May 21st.

Democratic Candidates:
Joseph Biden
Marianne Williamson

Republican Candidates:
Donald Trump

ORS 249.078 (1)(a) states that a Secretary of State may place the name of a candidate on a major party Presidential primary ballot if the Secretary, in their “sole discretion, has determined that the candidate’s candidacy is generally advocated or is recognized in national news media.” Candidates may also access the ballot by nominating petition as provided in ORS 249.078 (1)(b).

Oregon law allows major parties to decide whether to hold “open” or “closed” primaries. In this year’s May Primary, both the Democratic and Republican parties will hold “closed” primaries — meaning that a voter must be registered with that party by April 30th to participate in its primary election. Oregonians can register to vote or change their party registration at OregonVotes.gov.

“Oregonians are voters,” said Secretary Griffin-Valade. “In 2022 we had the highest voter turnout in the county. We have been trailblazers in creating modern and secure elections through our vote-by-mail system, which we’ve operated for more than 20 years without a single instance of widespread voter fraud. We are taking every precaution to ensure the 2024 elections will be no different.”

OHCS to launch first phase of the Homeowner Assistance and Reconstruction Program on March 25th

Call center and local partners will be available to help 2020 Labor Day Disaster survivors with application process

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) is going to launch the intake phase of the Homeowner Assistance and Reconstruction Program (HARP) for survivors of the 2020 Labor Day wildfires and straight-line winds on March 25. Phase 1 of HARP will help low- and moderate-income homeowners who still need assistance to repair, rebuild, or replace their homes.

Beginning on March 25, applicants can fill out an Eligibility Questionnaire on the re.oregon.gov website where eligibility requirements are listed. OHCS will notify applicants who are eligible to apply for the first phase of HARP. Those who may not be eligible during this first phase may qualify in later phases if there are still funds available.

“We are excited to announce this first step in the process to get survivors the help they need to fix existing homes or get new ones,” said Alex Campbell, chief external affairs officer of the Disaster Recovery and Resilience Division at OHCS. “We have been working with local partners to make resources available that we hope will make the application process easier for survivors.”

OHCS opened a call center, which is ready to take questions. Applicants can call or text 1-877-510-6800 or 541-250-0938. They can also email t@oregon.org“>housingsupport@oregon.org. Additionally, OHCS is partnering with community-based organizations to provide in-person support. A full list of these partners is on the re.oregon.gov website.

Survivors can help make the process as smooth as possible by making sure they have the correct documents on hand when they are invited to apply. No documents are needed to complete the Eligibility Questionnaire.

HARP applicants need the following:

  • Personal identification such as a photo ID or driver’s license (U.S. citizenship is not required.)
  • Proof applicant is the homeowner, and the damaged home was their primary residence
  • Records of damages from the 2020 Labor Day Disasters
  • Proof of the applicant’s current income
  • Receipts of recovery expenses for repair, replacement, or construction
  • Property tax and mortgage information, if applicable
  • Record of any disaster assistance payments, loans, or insurance benefits received
  • Power of attorney, if applicable

HARP is part of ReOregon, which is funded by a $422 million Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). To stay up to date on ReOregon programs in various stages of development, survivors can sign up for email updates and visit re.oregon.gov.

About Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS)  – OHCS is Oregon’s housing finance agency. The state agency provides financial and program support to create and preserve opportunities for quality, affordable housing for Oregonians of low and moderate income. OHCS administers programs that provide housing stabilization. OHCS delivers these programs primarily through grants, contracts, and loan agreements with local partners and community-based providers. For more information, please visit: oregon.gov/ohcs.

Cherry blossoms illuminated at State Capitol State Park March 16-April 6

Salem, OR—Oregon Parks and Recreation Department will host “Yozakura,” night viewing of the Akebono cherry blossoms, March 16 through April 6 in the North Mall at State Capitol State Park.

Parks staff will illuminate the cherry blossoms with Japanese lanterns and lights nightly 6-9 p.m. Visitors may bring blankets, camping chairs or an evening picnic to enjoy under the canopy of the illuminated trees.
The lanterns and lights create a striking and beautiful scene inside the park at night.

The Focal Point Photography Club of Dallas will be in the park March 23 at 7 p.m. to help photographers capture the perfect shot of the illuminated blossoms. SamaZama, a koto and cello duo, will perform in the park March 30 at 7 p.m. The duo will also perform March 16 as part of the Cherry Blossom Day, https://oregoncapitol.com/event/cherry-blossom-day… , sponsored by the Oregon State Capitol Foundation and the City of Salem.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department will livestream the cherry blossoms on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@OregonParks beginning March 16 during the day and evening through April 6.

Park staff ask that tree limbs and blossoms are left as is so everyone can view them throughout the bloom. Alcohol is not allowed in State Capitol State Park (without permits) and the park closes at 10 p.m.

For more information on events at the Capitol, call Visitor Services at 503-986-1388 or visit the events page, https://oregoncapitol.com/events/ .

Spring Whale Watch Week returns to the Oregon coast for spring break 2024

OREGON COAST, Oregon— Oregon State Parks will host Spring Whale Watch Week along the Oregon Coast Saturday, March 23 through Sunday, March 31.

Trained Oregon State Park volunteers will be stationed at 15 sites along the Oregon Coast to help visitors spot whales and their calves and answer questions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily March 23-31. The sites are some of the best places to watch for whales on the Oregon Coast.

The spring event is three days longer than last year and might include better odds of seeing gray whales on their journey home from the calving lagoons in Mexico in light of today’s announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA announced the end of an Unusual Mortality Event, a significant die-off of the gray whale population, that had affected the marine mammals since 2019.

“The latest counts indicate that the gray whale population has likely turned the corner and is beginning to recover. It’s a perfect time for people to see them as they swim north with new calves to feed,” said Michael Milstein, public affairs officer with NOAA Fisheries.

Researchers counted about 412 calves last year, which was almost double the number from the year before. That helped signal an end to the Unusual Mortality Event and a likely turnaround in numbers as the species begins to rebound.

An estimated 14,500 gray whales are expected to swim past Oregon’s shores from late winter through June as part of their annual migration back to Alaska.

“Spring is a great time for whale watching because the gray whales are usually closer to shore on their return trip, typically around a mile or so out, and the weather can be better for viewing. But don’t forget your rain gear just in case,” said Park Ranger Peter McBride.

A map of volunteer-staffed sites is available online on the official event webpage: https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=thingstodo.dsp_whaleWatching

The Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay will be open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 23-31. Visitors to the center can enjoy interactive whale exhibits and take in the panoramic ocean views. Binoculars are provided. Rangers from Oregon State Parks will also be on hand to answer questions about the whales.

All Whale Watch Week visitors are encouraged to dress for the weather, to bring binoculars and to follow beach safety guidelines such as remaining out of fenced areas, knowing the tide schedule and keeping an eye on the surf at all times. Go to https://visittheoregoncoast.com/beach-safety/ for a list of safety tips.

For more information about coast parks and campgrounds, visit oregonstateparks.org.

Visitors are encouraged to share their photos and videos from Spring Whale Watch on social media using #OregonStateParks and #ORWhaleWatch24.

Respect nesting areas to protect threatened snowy plover March 15 – Sept. 15

OREGON COAST, OR – The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and Siuslaw National Forest remind visitors that it is plover nesting season on the Oregon coast March 15 to Sept. 15 ­— visitors can help recovery efforts for the threatened western snowy plover by observing recreation restrictions in designated plover areas.

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.
Recreation restrictions occur in designated plover management areas: 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.

Seasonal recreation restrictions have helped protect these small birds that nest on open sand. 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.

Reminders for recreation on designated plover beaches March 15-Sept. 15:

*The following are not permitted: dogs (even on a leash), driving a vehicle, riding a bicycle, camping, burning wood, flying kites or operating drones.

*Foot and equestrian traffic is permitted below the high-tide line on wet, packed sand.

*Respect signs and barriers to protect nesting habitat.

“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.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed western snowy plovers as a threatened species in 1993, when officials counted only 45 breeding adults. The numbers of breeding adults have steadily increased since then due to ongoing efforts. Officials counted 433 during the breeding season survey in 2023.

“We appreciate visitors’ support in keeping these shorebirds safe in the combined 40 miles of protected area along the coast. We invite visitors to enjoy permitted recreation in those areas or to recreate without seasonal restrictions on the hundreds of miles of beaches not designated as plover nesting areas,” said Laurel Hillmann, ocean shore specialist for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

More information on the snowy plover, including detailed maps of nesting sites, can be found on the Oregon State Parks website https://www.oregon.gov/oprd/pcb/pages/pcb-plovers…. and on the Siuslaw National Forest website https://t.ly/AKPAN

Visitors to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area can review Off-highway Vehicle (OHV) maps at its website to identify unrestricted recreation areas and information on riding motor vehicles on the sand: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/siuslaw/recreation…

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 — 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, http://www.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 opportunities offered here.

Nationwide Cyberattack Keeping Some Oregon Healthcare Workers From Being Paid

A national cyberattack targeting the healthcare industry is impacting medical staff in Oregon. For almost a month, providers haven’t been able to collect insurance payments through a third-party, Change Healthcare.

The company pays out claims to doctors’ offices and other service providers. Those claims make up a large portion of payments for many providers.

“Some businesses have to shut down temporarily in order to sort of save their business, basically,” said Athena Phillips, the founder of Integrative Trauma Treatment Center.

Change Healthcare works with some of the biggest healthcare companies in the Portland metro area, such as Providence and Kaiser Permanente, a medical worker said.

Since many clinics or treatment centers are not receiving insurance payments, some medical workers may not be getting paid. Workers at other centers told KGW that they are relying on savings in order to pay staff until the problem is fixed.

“It’s really scary,” Phillips said. “We basically cannot even submit our claims.” Since Feb. 21, Phillips, like many medical workers around the country, haven’t received payments from Change Healthcare. Instead, she’s been forced to pay her staff through company savings.

“This is not something I could have foreseen,” Phillips said. “And I suspect there’s going to be ripple effects that we can’t anticipate.”

Others are facing similar issues.

“About 60% of our clients that we see every week are Medicaid funded,” Megan Geary, the CEO of Cascade Counseling and Consulting, said.

Between 60% to 75% of patient payments are affected by the cyberattack. Geary is also turning to company savings to pay staff.

“We’ve also had to apply for a business line of credit so that we can make payroll,” Geary said.

Along with Providence and Kaiser Permanente, Change Healthcare provides service for Care Oregon and the Oregon Health Plan, Geary said.

“Those are some big names,” she added.

Pharmacies are also dealing with repercussions of the cyberattack. KGW spoke with a pharmacist who didn’t want to go on camera, but said they were temporarily unable to search for prescription insurance claims. The pharmacy also was unable to utilize copay cards, which drug manufacturers use to provide discounts on medication. Those problems have since been resolved.

In a press release, UnitedHealth Group, which owns Change Healthcare, said it is working to mitigate impact to consumers and care providers. They expect to re-establish connection to its insurance claims network by Monday.

Still, some aren’t convinced the problem will be fixed quickly. “I’m not holding my breath,” Geary said. “It’s not proper for one company to have that much power,” Phillips added. (SOURCE)

OFSM launches incentive program for defensible space projects

SALEM, Ore. – To help those living in communities more likely to be impacted by a wildfire, the Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is launching an incentive program to help Oregonians pay for defensible space projects. Defensible space is one of the most effective ways to better protect a home during a wildfire. The OSFM understands that money may be a barrier for some to do these projects.

As part of the program, those who meet eligibility requirements will receive a $250 one-time payment. Homeowners, renters, and property owners must live in select areas of the state and request and receive a free defensible space assessment.

The free assessments are given by a local fire service agency member or an OSFM representative. An expert will walk the participants’ property with them and provide valuable one-on-one time to discuss how to build and increase their fire resiliency.

After the assessment, those who qualify will receive the payment in the mail for their participation. This incentive is designed to encourage people to implement the recommendations received during their assessment.

For a list of eligible communities, please read the program guidelines here. These communities were chosen based on their vulnerability to wildfire to get money to those who need it the most.

The OSFM’s defensible space program is a crucial step toward building more resilient communities in the face of increasing wildfire risks. By empowering Oregonians to take proactive measures, we will reduce the impact of wildfires on lives, property, and the environment.

For more details about the OSFM’s defensible space program, visit their website.

Oregon to Honor Fallen Law Enforcement Officers May 7th, 2024

Every year, the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony honors the state’s law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. This year’s ceremony will be held Tuesday, May 7 at 1 p.m. at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem.

The annual event commemorates the more than 190 fallen officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the state of Oregon since the 1860s. This includes law enforcement, corrections, and parole and probation officers from city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training is proud to host the ceremony in partnership with the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, Oregon Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation, and various statewide law enforcement associations.

SOLVE invites volunteers to register for their annual Earth Day celebration: The Oregon Spring Cleanup

SOLVE Oregon Spring Cleanup at Cannon Beach 2023

Portland, Ore., March 12, 2024 – From April 13 to April 22, families, community members, neighborhood associations, and environmental enthusiasts are invited to engage in a signature event in SOLVE’s annual calendar: The Oregon Spring Cleanup, presented by Portland General ElectricRegistration for this environmentally conscious event series is now open.

Participants are invited to join SOLVE, event leaders, and partners from across the Pacific Northwest in a collective celebration of Earth Day. The SOLVE calendar showcases a variety of events throughout Oregon and SW Washington between April 13 and April 22, with the majority of events culminating on April 20. Diverse initiatives address specific environmental needs with opportunities ranging from beach cleanups to neighborhood and city litter pickups. Further activities include restoring natural habitats through native tree and shrub plantings, weed pulls, and mulching projects. Each project contributes to the enhancement of our shared surroundings.

With a variety of projects already online, the Oregon Spring Cleanup invites enthusiastic volunteers to contribute to a cleaner, greener, and brighter planet. Interested individuals can browse the map of projects to find events near them, learn about each opportunityand sign up for a meaningful contribution to the environment. Participating in the Oregon Spring Cleanup provides an excellent opportunity to bond with family members, coworkers, and neighbors, while collectively contributing to preserving some of Oregon’s most stunning locations.

As SOLVE anticipates another successful event, valued partner Portland General Electric, shares their commitment to the cause: ” PGE proudly supports SOLVE’s efforts to make our communities cleaner and greener. In 2023, our employees and their families volunteered with SOLVE for more than 220 hours. We’re excited to join community members again this Earth Day to help improve our beautiful state.” said Kristen Sheeran, Senior Director of Policy Planning and Sustainability, Portland General Electric.

For those inspired to host an event, SOLVE is still accepting new volunteer-led projects. The sooner projects are submitted, the faster SOLVE can care for the rest. Event leaders receive full support, including free supplies, access to project funding, disposal assistance, and help with volunteer recruitment.

For more information, please visit solveoregon.org/oregon-spring and be part of the collective effort to create a cleaner, greener planet.

Along with Portland General Electric, other event sponsors include Clean Water Services, AAA Oregon/Idaho, Fred Meyer, Metro, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, KOIN, The Standard, Swire Coca-Cola, Holman, Demarini-Wilson, Trimet, and PepsiCo.

About SOLVE – SOLVE is a statewide non-profit organization that brings people together to improve our environment and build a legacy of stewardship. Since 1969, the organization has grown from a small, grassroots group to a national model for volunteer action. Today, SOLVE mobilizes and trains tens of thousands of volunteers of all ages across Oregon and Southwest Washington to clean and restore our neighborhoods and natural areas and to build a legacy of stewardship for our state. Visit solveoregon.org for more information.

 

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