Rogue Valley News, Monday 6/24 – Oakdale Street Minute Market Explosion and Fire Under Investigation, Upper Applegate Fire Monday Morning Update & 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

Monday,  June 24, 2024

Rogue Valley Weather

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Oakdale Street Minute Market Explosion and Fire Under Investigation

Crews responded to a structure fire at the Minute Market at 401 S. Oakdale Ave in Medford that was reported at around 7:38 p.m. on Sunday night, with a report of flames and smoke and the sound of an explosion.

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(Photo courtesy of Brandie Travor)

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(photo courtesy oDavid E Vincent

Six units with Medford Fire Department were on scene along with Medford Police. According to police, everyone in the building was able to evacuate, and no injuries have been reported. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.



Upper Applegate Fire Monday Morning Update

This morning’s update from ODF shows significant progress due to favorable overnight conditions.

High overnight humidity moderated fire behavior, allowing the night shift to make significant progress plumbing the fire. Crews have now plumbed approximately 80% of the fire, including direct and indirect lines. There are direct and indirect lines around 100% of the fire. Steep slopes and falling trees and rocks are continuing to challenge resources. The fire remains GPS mapped at 756 acres. An infrared (IR) flight is scheduled for today.

Upper Applegate Fire

Overnight, firefighters were not able to complete firing operations due to the high relative humidity. Four portable water tanks were installed in strategic locations to help address spot fires on the top of the ridge in division foxtrot. Additionally, resources also worked to mop up portions of fire.

More than 430 personnel are assigned to this incident, including 18 20-person crews, six engines, five tree fallers, four bulldozers and numerous overhead. Four helicopters of various sizes are assigned to the fire again today, with additional helicopters and air tankers available when needed. Resources remain focused on bolstering the line, especially on the eastern side of the fire, which has been difficult to work.

Level 2 – BE SET evacuation notices remain in effect by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management for Zones JAC-434 and JAC-436. More information about zones and locations is available here:

This fire is affecting private, BLM and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. It was first reported in the late afternoon of Thursday, June 20. The cause of this fire is currently under investigation.

The fire danger level on the ODF Southwest Oregon District is moderate (blue) and regulations are in place. Please be aware of and follow all current restrictions to help reduce the risk of fires in our communities. Fire season information is also available online at our Facebook page: @ODFSouthwest and our website:

Illegal Drone Shuts Down Air Operations for Upper Applegate Fire

RURAL JACKSONVILLE, Ore. – Fire personnel spotted an illegal drone flying in the area of the Upper Applegate Fire this evening. Firefighting aircraft are unable to fly if a drone is in their operating area so flights were grounded for the night.

Firefighters and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies are currently searching for the drone operator. The investigation is ongoing. If you have any information about the illegal drone, call the JCSO Tip Line at (541) 774-8333.


Care Facility Employee Arrested in Grants Pass for Sexual Abuse of Elderly Patients

Grants Pass, Oregon – On June 16, 2024, the Grants Pass Police Department received a report of sex abuse involving a patient and employee at a local nursing home.

A subsequent investigation by Grants Pass Police Major Crimes Unit detectives, conducted with the assistance of the nursing home management, determined the suspect to be Michael Anthony Lee, a 28-year-old male resident of Medford, Oregon. Lee is 6’0” tall and weighs approximately 220 pounds, with red hair and green eyes. Detectives determined that Lee had worked as a care home Certified Nursing Assistant in Grants Pass and Medford over the past three years. Lee allegedly targeted both female and male elderly victims for sexual assault, and it is anticipated additional victims have not yet been identified.

On June 20, 2024, Grants Pass Police detectives arrested Michael Lee at his recent place of employment in Grants Pass and lodged him at the Josephine County Jail for Sex Abuse in the 1st Degree (x2) and Attempted Sex Abuse in the 1st Degree (x2).

The Grants Pass Police Department is requesting assistance in identifying additional victims. Anyone with information on the criminal acts or identity of additional victims is asked to call the Grants Pass Police Department at 541-450-6260 and reference case #24-22321.  The Grants Pass Police Department is committed to investigating all reports of sexual abuse.


Former Asante Nurse Accused Of Diverting Fentanyl From Hospital Patients In Medford Posts Bail And Is Out Of Jail

A former Asante nurse charged with 44 counts of second-degree assault on accusations she allegedly harmed patients by swapping prescription pain medication IVs with non-sterile tap water has posted bail a little over one week after her arrest by Medford police.

Dani Marie Schofield, 36, was seen entering the lobby from a restricted area of the Jackson County Jail just after 10:40 a.m. Friday. Schofield was wearing dark sunglasses, a sweatsuit and slippers, carrying a plastic bag of personal belongings as she greeted two men who had been waiting for at least an hour prior to her appearance.

Former Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center nurse Dani Marie Schofield, middle, leaves the Jackson County Jail Friday, June 21, 2024, after posting $400,000 bond. Schofield was arrested Thursday, June 20, 2024, after an investigation into alleged drug diversion that harmed patients at the Medford, Oregon, hospital. (Rogue Valley Times / Jamie Lusch)Jamie Rusch, Rogue Valley Times

After embracing both for several long moments, Schofield was led out between the two men and quietly walked to a pickup truck parked along West 8th Street. Asked if she wanted to offer comment, Schofield and the two men only stared ahead, the younger of the two men rubbing her back as they walked away.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Aaron Lewis confirmed Friday morning that a wire transfer for $400,000 — 10% of her $4 million bail — had been processed through the Jackson County Circuit Court.

Following Schofield’s release Friday morning, an update to circuit court records included a notice of representation, timestamped Thursday afternoon. Schofield is being represented in her criminal case by Kristen Winemiller and Lisa Maxfield of Pacific Northwest Law of Portland.

Schofield’s arrest last Thursday at a residence outside Eagle Point marked a major development in the high-profile drug-diversion case that began in December 2023. Asante officials reached out to the Medford Police Department after conducting its own internal investigation into a spike in central line infections at Rogue Regional Medical Center. Medford police handed the results of its investigation over to the DA’s office in late April.

Last Friday, Schofield pleaded not guilty during her arraignment before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Cromwell.

During Schofield’s first court appearance, Cromwell set bail at $4 million and advised Schofield that, if she posted bail, her release would come with stipulations: She cannot consume intoxicants; have contact with surviving Asante victims, or Asante or its property except for emergency services; or provide care to anyone 65 or older, or who has a disability.

On Tuesday, family members of three alleged victims — former patients of Schofield’s who all died after developing life-threatening infections — contacted the Rogue Valley Times saying they had been notified by victim advocates for the Jackson County Circuit Court just after 3 p.m. that Schofield was expected to post bail and be released Tuesday evening.

Courts were closed on Wednesday for Juneteenth with Schofield still being held in solitary confinement, which she explained to Cromwell during her arraignment was for her safety from other inmates, and because Medford police had publicly identified her following her arrest. Finalization of the bond money took three days from Tuesday’s wire transfer initialization.

Victims and attorneys representing alleged victims or families of victims expressed a range of emotions, from disappointment to anger, at being told that Schofield was being released. (SOURCE)

On Sunday morning, more than 3,000 unionized nurses across six hospitals returned to work after walking off the job on Tuesday.

Nurses went on strike because, according to the Oregon Nurses Association, they’re fighting for better wages and working conditions.

Contract negotiations stalled between the ONA and Providence. As of Sunday afternoon, no bargaining sessions are scheduled.

(Medford, Ore.) – Providence Medford Medical Center has canceled the bargaining session with the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) scheduled for June 24, 2024. The bargaining session was intended to include a federal mediator but, when no mediator was available, ONA nurses offered to meet with Providence Medford executives anyway, seeking to make progress on a fair contract as soon as possible.

According to an email sent to ONA representatives on June 21, Providence decided not to participate in the bargaining session without the mediator and instead wants to reschedule for mid to late July.

“Providence has consistently accused ONA of canceling bargaining dates in the press, but here we see Providence doing the same thing they accuse nurses of doing,” said ONA Chief of Staff Scott Palmer. “Our nurses engaged in a good faith effort to continue working towards a resolution and a fair contract, but Providence said no.”

Hundreds of nurses and supporters have been gathered outside Providence Medford for the past 5 days, rallying for fair treatment and better working conditions. Despite the hardships imposed by both the three-day strike and the illegal two-day lockout, nurses have stood ready to return to the negotiating table in good faith.

ONA remains committed to seeking a fair contract and we will respond to Providence’s request to push bargaining back to July once we have determined our bargaining team’s availability.


Butte Creek Falls state forests recreation area to reopen after the 2020 wildfires 
The Oregon Department of Forestry is reopening one of the true gems of the state forests' recreations areas, Butte Creek Falls, on June 21. Pictured is the upper falls, there is also a lower falls

The Oregon Department of Forestry is reopening one of the true gems of the state forests’ recreations areas, Butte Creek Falls, on June 21. Pictured is the upper falls, there is also a lower falls

SANTIAM STATE FOREST, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) is reopening one of the true gems of the state forests’ recreations areas, Butte Creek Falls, on June 21.

The drive into the recreation area goes though ridges and valleys of burned and blacken trees from the 2020 fires.  The deadly Beachie Creek fires killed several people, destroyed homes and scorched more than 400,000 acres.  However, near the recreation area the trees turn green and the area around the upper and lower waterfalls are lush and untouched by fire.

“We were really fortunate the fires skipped over this area,” said Joe Offer, ODF’s Recreation Program Manager.  “The trailhead and the paths to the two sets of falls are open, so is the camping area and the 100-yard shooting range.”

ODF recreation staff and work crews from the South Fork Forest Camp (A jointly run facility by ODF and the Department of Corrections) and the DOC’s Santiam Correctional Institute have been working hard to get the area open after being closed for nearly four years.

“There was a lot of vegetation and debris on the trails,” said Offer.  “But thanks in large part to the adults in custody crews they are cleared and just last week they repaired one of the foot bridges.  The crew had to transport the lumber, tools, and a generator down the trails to get the job done.”

Another major improvement was made after the 2020 fires but is just now opening.

“The 100-yard shooting range was a joint project with Trash No-Land,” said Offer.  The non-profit dedicated to responsible target shoot works to improve safety and reduce fire risks at dispersed ranges across the state.  Funding for the improvements came from the NRA’s Public Range Fund. The range is located on Butte Creek 615 Road just off the Butte Creek Mainline Road. A new gravel backdrop, concrete barriers at approximately 100-yards, parking and new informational signs were all part of the improvements at the former gravel pit.

Most people head straight to the trailhead that has parking for five or six vehicles while there are three campsites for tents at the campground. There is also additional parking at the campground with a connector trail to the main trail that goes to the falls.

“Our future plan is to expand both parking areas, the campground and offer additional camping opportunities within this northern block of the Santiam,” said Offer.  “But right now we just wanted to get everything open then start working on new improvements.”

The area was closed mainly for safety reasons while ODF did post-fire timber harvesting and removed roadside hazardous burned and dead trees.

“This operation was the largest and most challenging of all ODF’s post-fire restoration timber sales as it was within one of the highest severity portions of the fires’ footprint,” said Kyle Kaupp, Santiam Unit Forester. “It included more than 20 miles of roadside hazard tree mitigation across multiple road systems, all which were accessible by the same travel route to this recreation area.”

The work in the area was difficult, but careful consideration of high elevation weather, extensive safety measures, technical harvesting systems, and contractor availability were among the long list of factors that allowed the operation to be successful.

“ODF has also begun to replant trees for the future of the forested areas, said Kaupp.  “So far, nearly 200,000 seedlings have been planted in this specific area alone.”

And the ODF’s work in the area continues so there are still some restrictions.

“There are salvage harvest operations on-going, so one place that remains closed is the High Lakes Recreation Area,” said Offer.  “We are asking folks to not go into that area until all operations are complete and we determine the best way to manage recreation in such a heavily burned landscape.”

For updates, more information and maps to the area see the Santiam State Forests recreation site status webpage.  For information on all Oregon State Forests recreation sites visit the ODF Recreation website.  For more information on Trash No Land visit their webpage.




Community members are invited to enjoy Mount Ashland’s summer season

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According to the ski area, the restaurant and retail shop inside the lodge will be open every Friday through Sunday from now until Labor Day. Events including movie nights, tie-dye events, and a disc golf tournament will be offered throughout the summer. Mount Ashland is also kicking off a summer program for kids.

Opening this Friday!
Lodge summer hours:
Fridays | 11AM – 5PM
Saturdays – Sundays | 11AM – 7PM
Disc golf, hiking, events, the list goes on. There are tons of things to do at your local mountain playground this summer.☀️ Plus, it’s pretty much always 10-30 degrees cooler up here. 😉

To find out more, visit the Mount Ashland Summer webpage:

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  —

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

Help Find Fauna Frey #FindFaunaFrey FACEBOOK GROUP


U.S. Olympic Track And Field Team Trials

Snoop Dog at the trials- He is part of broadcast team for the Olympics in Paris
Start of the Women’s 400m

It’s been amazing to watch the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials over the weekend.

The trials began June 21, and conclude June 30 at Hayward Field in Eugene. At least one final race will be held during each evening session.


The eight-day competition ends June 30 and will determine who will qualify to be inside the State de France in northern Paris when the track and field portion of the Summer Games begins Aug. 2.

With an increase in tourism and traffic expected to hit the Eugene and Springfield area, here’s all you need to know about the street closures, transportation services, and parking plans available for attendees.

Road closures planned around Hayward Field

Hayward Field is located at the University of Oregon at 1530 Agate Street in Eugene. To accommodate the event, parking lots and streets around the stadium will be closed.

On Monday night, East 18th Ave. and Agate Street closed to the public. Portions of East 15th Ave. and East 17th Ave. near Hayward Field were also blocked off from traffic.

Starting Friday, access to East 13th Ave. and University Street will be limited to use for University of Oregon business. The following parking lots on campus will be closed to permit holders:


While the track and field trials are a long event, held over eight days, there’s no better place to see Olympic athletes compete than Hayward Field.

Here’s how to get tickets for the competition: — MORE INFO:


ODF sends 19 firefighters to New Mexico

– This week the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) filled an order to send 19 firefighters to New Mexico to assist in fighting numerous, out of control wildfires. Many of the firefighters arrived in the state today and the rest will arrive within the next day. The two-week rotation with our New Mexico partners will allow our firefighters to brush up on their skills before Oregon’s fire season hits its peak later this summer.

The firefighters went to New Mexico under mutual assistance agreements between the states. When wildfire activity is low in Oregon, firefighters can be spared to help in places experiencing high levels of wildfire. So far in 2024, Oregon has deployed:

  • 48 firefighters to Texas
  • 14 firefighters to Alaska
  • Five firefighters to California
  • Two firefighters to Tennessee
  • One firefighter to Washington
  • One firefighter to Florida
  • One firefighter to New Mexico (this deployment is separate from the current one)

Oregon can and has called on those same states to send firefighters and equipment when wildfires here exceed local capacity.

“These agreements help bolster the complete and coordinated fire protection system across the continent and create a cache of reciprocal resources for all of us to call on when needed.” Chris Cline, ODF’s Fire Protection Division Chief, explained.

So why does Oregon send resources to help other states? Through these mutual assistance agreements with other states, including Alaska, Hawaii and NW Canadian territories, we can share resources with one another, creating a larger, faster comprehensive fire management system.

“We do our best to answer the call when it comes in from any of our wildland partners as we’ve been on the other side of the equation and we understand how difficult it can be to need help so desperately,” said Cline. “But know that we don’t share these resources without appropriate vetting. Before committing to any out-of-state deployment, we make sure that our own fire management system is still adequately staffed and ready to respond to fires here in Oregon. Serving Oregonians is our first and primary priority.”

Oregon’s Nonfarm Payroll Employment Rises by 4,000 in May

Salem, OR  In May, Oregon’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment rose by 4,000 jobs, following a revised gain of 2,400 jobs in April. Health care and social assistance gained 1,900 jobs in May, while leisure and hospitality added 1,000. Monthly declines were largest in retail trade (-800) and construction (-400).

Private-sector job growth has been very slow over the year, gaining 3,500 jobs (+0.2%). Health care and social assistance was the primary source of growth with a solid gain of 16,200 jobs (+5.7%). All four component industries have been adding jobs at a rapid clip. Elsewhere in the private sector, manufacturing dropped 3,700 jobs over the year, retail trade lost 3,400, and construction dropped 2,200 jobs in the past year.

The public sector added 9,100 jobs over the past 12 months. Local, state, and federal government are all at least 2% above their job counts a year ago. Local education gained 3,400 jobs over the year to reach 142,600 in May. This is the first spring that local schools reached the employment level in spring 2019, prior to the pandemic.

Oregon’s unemployment rate was 4.2% in May for the fourth straight month. Looking back at the past few years, Oregon’s monthly unemployment rate has been 4.2% or lower every month since October 2021. The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.0% in May.

Next Press Releases – The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the May county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Tuesday, June 25, and the next statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for June on Wednesday, July 17.

——— Notes: All numbers in the above narrative are seasonally adjusted except for the local government education job figures.

The Oregon Employment Department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) work cooperatively to develop and publish monthly Oregon payroll employment and labor force data. The estimates of monthly job gains and losses are based on a survey of businesses. The estimates of unemployment are based on a survey of households and other sources.

The Oregon Employment Department publishes payroll employment estimates that are revised quarterly by using employment counts from employer unemployment insurance tax records. All department publications use this Official Oregon Series data unless noted otherwise. The department continues to make the original nonfarm payroll employment series available; these data are produced by the BLS.

The PDF version of this news release can be found at To get the data in other formats such as in Excel, visit, select Tools, then choose LAUS or CES under the Economy header. To request the press release as a Word document, contact the person shown at the top of this press release.

To file a claim for unemployment benefits or get more information about unemployment programs, visit

The Oregon Employment Department (OED) is an equal opportunity agency. OED provides free help so you can use our services. Some examples are sign language and spoken-language interpreters, written materials in other languages, large print, audio, and other formats. To get help, please call 503-947-1444. TTY users call 711. You can also send an email to

El Departamento de Empleo de Oregon (OED) es una agencia de igualdad de oportunidades. El OED proporciona ayuda gratuita para que usted pueda utilizarnuestros servicios. Algunos ejemplos son intérpretes de lengua de señas e idiomas hablados, materiales escritos en otros idiomas, letra grande, audio y otros formatos. Para obtener ayuda, por favorllame al 503-947-1444. Usuarios de TTY pueden llamar al 711. También puede enviar un correo electrónico a

Proposed ballot measure to raise corporate taxes, give every Oregonian $750 a year likely to make November ballot

Oregon voters will likely decide in November whether to establish a historic universal basic income program that would give every state resident roughly $750 annually from increased corporate taxes.

Proponents of the concept say they likely have enough signatures to place it on the ballot this fall, and opponents are taking them seriously.

State business advocacy groups are preparing to launch a campaign against the proposed measure, arguing that it would harm Oregon’s business landscape and economy.

The proposal, Initiative Petition 17, would establish a 3% tax on corporations’ sales in Oregon above $25 million and distribute that money equally among Oregonians of all ages. As of Friday, its backers had turned in more than 135,000 signatures, which is higher than the 117,173 required to land on the ballot. The validity of those signatures must still be certified by the Secretary of State’s Office.

“It’s looking really good. It’s really exciting,” said Anna Martinez, a Portland hairstylist who helped form the group behind the campaign, Oregon People’s Rebate, in 2020. If approved by voters, the program would go into effect in January 2025.

Martinez and other supporters say the financial boost would help Oregon families buy groceries, afford rent and pay for basic necessities. “This will put money back in the local economy. It will help small businesses,” she said. “Some people say, ‘Well it’s only $750.’ But that’s huge if you really need it.”

The state Department of Revenue would be responsible for distributing the money. Every Oregon resident would be able to claim the money either in cash or as a refundable tax credit, regardless of whether they have filed personal incomes taxes, according to the ballot initiative draft.

The initiative proposal draft states that any leftover funding from the rebate would “be used to provide additional funding for services for senior citizens, health care, public early childhood education and public kindergarten through grade 12 education.”

The ballot measure campaign has received significant financial support from out-of-state supporters of universal basic income.

Oregon People’s Rebate has received about $740,000 in contributions and spent all but about $10,000. The highest contributor by far is Jones Holding LLC, a corporation based in Los Angeles and controlled by investor and universal basic income fan Josh Jones that has given $425,000. The second largest contributor is a related L.A.-based corporation, Jones Parking Inc., which contributed nearly $95,000. The third largest source of contributions are the foundation and mother of Gerald Huff, a software engineer and advocate of universal basic income from California who died in 2018. Huff’s foundation and mother have contributed $90,000 combined.

“Yes, the funders are from California, but these are not like nefarious outside interests here,” Martinez said. “These are people who are committed to basic income.”

Oregon business groups are preparing to fight the measure. State business lobby Oregon Business and Industry and tax policy research nonprofit Tax Foundation say raising corporate taxes would harm companies and lead to higher costs of goods and services.

“(The proposed measure) would impose a massive tax increase in Oregon,” Oregon Business and Industry said in a statement. “If it qualifies for the ballot, our organization will be involved in a campaign against it, and we are confident that when voters look at the facts, they will vote to reject it.”

Oregon currently brings in billions of dollars of corporate taxes every year. The state’s excise and income tax on corporations brought in 10.3% of the state’s general fund in the 2021-2023 biennium, enough to make it the second highest revenue source after personal income tax, according to the Legislative Revenue Office.

C corporations, the default type of corporation for tax status, that do business in Oregon currently pay a state excise tax of 6.6% on income under $1 million and a 7.6% tax on income above that. If a corporation doesn’t earn a net income, they must pay a minimum state tax of $150 to $100,000 based on their total sales, according to the Legislative Revenue Office. Other types of corporations pay a minimum $150 excise tax.

Oregon corporations also pay a 0.57% corporate activity tax, which is calculated from companies’ commercial activity in the state valued above $1 million.

The proposed ballot measure would increase the minimum excise tax to 3% on all corporations’ reported gross sales above $25 million. Under the proposed measure, all of that money would then be distributed by the state Department of Revenue to all Oregon residents who live in the state for more than 200 days of the year.

Business groups fear that the increased taxes would drive corporations away from Oregon. “In practice, affected businesses would likely move more of their operations out-of-state to avoid” paying such high taxes, according to a report from the Tax Foundation.

The report states that corporations with high gross sales but low or no profit would be taxed unreasonably high amounts. A corporation with a low 3% profit margin would have to pay all its profits from sales above $25 million in Oregon taxes.

Martinez said the opposition from business groups does not surprise her. “It’s a tale as old as time,” she said. “Corporations don’t want to pay their fair share. They pay so little compared to everyday Oregonians. We all have really thin margins and we manage to do it.” (SOURCE)

Oregon Sen. Wyden proposes legislation to preserve rural maternal care

The federal bill follows last year’s closure of the only hospital birth center in Baker City that served large swath of rural eastern Oregon

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is pushing for a pathway for rural hospitals to continue to provide maternal care in small communities.

Wyden, D-Oregon, on Monday released a draft bill that outlines a series of financial incentives to encourage hospitals to continue to offer birth services. The bill includes higher Medicaid rates and additional payments to cover the cost of on-call staff for expectant mothers in small communities with low numbers of births.

Wyden’s bill is backed by 15 other Senate Democrats – one-third of the Democrats in the chamber. It comes in response to last year’s closure of the birthing center at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Baker City. The only maternity ward in the rural eastern Oregon county with nearly 17,000 people had served the area for a century. The move has forced expectant mothers to travel to Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande.

“In Baker County, you have to drive at least 45 miles further to the next hospital to give birth on roads that can sometimes be impassable because of winter weather or summer wildfires,” Wyden said in a Monday press call. “We believe that Oregonians and Americans deserve better.”

The fallout in Baker City is part of a trend that’s unfolding across rural America as hospitals decide what  services to offer based on cost, demand and profitability. That’s translated into reduced birth services in rural communities, especially those with dwindling birthrates and aging populations. Between 2011 and 2021, one out of every four rural hospitals nationwide stopped providing obstetrics services, or more than 260 hospitals, according to a national report. Today, only about 45% of rural hospitals deliver babies, and in some communities, only 33% do, according to the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. In Oregon, one-quarter of its 32 rural hospitals offer obstetrics care.

The bill would provide more funding for hospitals with a low number of births – called low-volume payment adjustments – so they continue to stay in their communities. It also would require each state to study and report the costs of providing labor and delivery services in rural areas to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The legislation would improve overall maternal services for women by offering incentives for states to expand depression and anxiety screening for mothers before, during and after birth and requiring states to provide coverage for women on Medicaid after delivery for 12 months, Wyden said.

Hospitals would be required to provide a timely notification of when they plan to close birthing centers so communities and families have adequate time to plan.

“What we want to do is find a way to create smart, cost-effective choices for the future in these communities,” Wyden said. “We recognize that these are changing times.”

The Hospital Association of Oregon, which represents 61 hospitals, said it supports the legislation.

“The proposal acknowledges the need for emergency staffing options to help rural providers temporarily fill obstetrical positions as needed, the importance of Medicaid coverage for midwives and doulas and the critical need for a simplified Medicaid enrollment process for out-of-state obstetrical providers,” the association said in a statement. “The proposal recognizes the costs involved in maintaining and staffing obstetrical units 24/7.”

Daniel Grigg, CEO of Wallowa Memorial Hospital, located in rural northeastern Oregon, said the bill is an important step in protecting access to maternity care in rural areas.

“This bill will support rural families and communities by boosting reimbursement for labor and delivery services and providing payments to hospitals with low-birth volumes,” Grigg said in a statement.

Wyden said this issue is bipartisan and he hopes to see support from both sides of the aisle.

The other lawmakers to sign on so far are Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Maria Cantwell of Washington Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Tom Carper of Delaware, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Michael Bennet of, Colorado, Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Mark Warner of Virginia, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire,  Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Corey Booker of New Jersey. (SOURCE)

Portland Pickles To Be First Team To Sell Thc-Based Seltzers At Events

(Portland, OR)  —  An Oregon summer-league baseball team is now the first sports team in the U.S. to sell cannabis-based refreshments at games. The seltzer drinks will be available in passion fruit and lemon flavors. They’ll be available for fans 21 and over.  The Pickles say the Portland Parks and Recreation department gave them the thumbs up.


The Oregon Health Athority is rasising awareness for one of the most common forms of financial fraud: Medicare fraud. 

OHA says Medicare loses $60 billion a year to fraud, errors and abuse.

Raising awareness on 6/5 and the week after signifies the 65-yr-old and older population since most people become eligable for Medicare at 65-yrs-old.  To learn more, read the OHA blog here:


Oregonians Targeted By Text Tolling Scam

A new nationwide texting scam is targeting Oregon drivers now. Ellen Klem, with the Oregon Attorney General’s Office says the phishing scheme started in the midwest earlier in the spring. “I’m honestly not surprised it’s happening now, because now is the time where everyone is gearing up to drive.”

The text claims to be from “Oregon Toll Service” and says the recipient owes an $11.69 outstanding balance; they face a $50 late fee if they don’t click on a link and pay up. Klem says some people may identify the fraud right away, because Oregon doesn’t have tolling, “But, we live next to all these other states that have tolls.” And she worries some will fall for it.

“They are not interested in the $11,” says Klem, “They are interested in much, much more.” She believes the scammers want your personal information, and clicking on the link could allow them to access other data on your phone.

The text has all the markers of a scam, like contact out of the blue from an unknown agency. “There’s a lot of really cheap or free technology out there that allows the scammers to pretend to be somebody they’re not. So, in this case, they’re pretending to be associated with an agency that administers tolls in the state of Oregon. But that doesn’t exist,” says Klem, “Second sign: There’s some sort of emergency. In this case, you have an unpaid bill; that’s frightening to a lot of people.”

She suggests not being in such a rush to respond to every text or email, “These phones, they’re everywhere and we have this sort of automatic response to click on a link or to pick up every phone call. And, I want to remind people just to slow down and think before you click on anything.” Klem adds, “Really, at the end of the day, this is a text message that you can and you should ignore.”

If you get a text, email or phone call you’re not sure is legit, call the Oregon Department of Justice Consumer hotline at 877-877-9392. Volunteer experts are available weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Come to the World Beat Festival to Experience Global Cultures: Ukraine is the 2024 Featured Country

Salem Multicultural Institute is excited to celebrate Ukraine as the 27th annual World Beat Festival’s featured country. World Beat is one of Salem’s premier community traditions, offering a vibrant two-day program of international music, dance, song, theater, food, crafts, customs, rituals, and folklore. This year’s festival will begin Friday evening, June 28, and run through Sunday, June 30, at Salem’s Riverfront Park.

Kathleen Fish, Executive Director, emphasizes that this is the only festival of its kind honoring the Salem/Keizer community’s rich tapestry of cultures. “There are 107 languages spoken in our school district. The festival recognizes and explores the cultures of many of these families.”

The festivities kick off Friday, June 28, from 5 to 10 p.m. with “Friday Night at the Beat,” featuring vocal performances and fire dancing on the Main Stage.

The festival opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 29, with the Children’s Parade. Kids who want to participate in the parade will assemble at the Pavilion at the North End of the park.

Each child who attends will receive a passport at the entrance gate to collect stamps from each World Village. Village tents will feature kid-friendly cultural games and activities. This year’s activities include making cherry blossoms in the Asian Pacific Village, Pysanky (traditional egg decorating) in the European Village, Arpilleras (traditional Chilean textile art) in the Americas Village, and crafting Nguni Shields in the Africa & Middle East Village.

Adults can enjoy beverages in the beer garden while listening to live music. Boating enthusiasts can cheer on their favorite teams during the World Beat Dragon Boat Races.

“We had over 25,000 guests attend last year, enjoying performances on seven stages representing more than 50 different countries and cultures. Our visitors come from all over the Northwest and even Canada,” added Fish.

Organized by the volunteer-driven Salem Multicultural Institute, the festival requires 400 volunteers annually to manage setup, stage operations, and cleanup. Volunteers contributing at least four hours receive an event T-shirt and free entry to the festival.

Admission to the festival is $10/1-day pass/adult or $15 for the weekend. Children 0-14, SNAP card holders, and Veterans are free.

You can view a complete schedule and vendor list or sign up to volunteer or call (503) 581-2004.

About the World Beat Festival: The World Beat Festival originated in the late 1990s and was conceived by two young mothers, Mona Hayes and Kathleen Fish, who wanted a space to celebrate cultural heritage. Starting with a small gathering in 1998, the festival has grown into Oregon’s largest multicultural event of its kind., 503-581-2004.

About the Salem Multicultural Institute (SMI): The vision of the Salem Multicultural Institute and the purpose of the World Beat Festival and World Beat Gallery are to create an environment of openness for all people. In all our activities, SMI aims to be family-friendly, economically inclusive, and culturally authentic. Visit the gallery located at 390 Liberty ST SE, Salem.

Call us at 541-690-8806.  Or email us at

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