Opinion, Analysis, Discussion
The latest installment of “Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center can’t have an intensive care unit and here are the reasons why” was the same old rhetoric that the veterans of Douglas County and Southwest Oregon have heard for the past five years.
Booz Allen Hamilton’s expert Dr. Ken Kizer and former undersecretary of the Veterans Health Administration was asked by Rep. Timothy Hutchinson, R-AR, at a congressional hearing proposing the 1996 Veterans Health and Eligibility Reform Act, “What guarantees there might be to ensure that hospital and VISN directors would not arbitrarily eliminate specialized services because of the high cost involved.” Dr. Kizer answered the committee and told them that oversight by stakeholders in the form of management assistance councils would be set up as oversight so this would never happen.Learn more »
On the last day of February, the Oregon Legislature unanimously passed House Bill 4126 on to Gov. John Kitzhaber for his signature. This relatively small bill could potentially mean big opportunities for Oregon, and represents an all too rare win for rural communities in the state.
Pacific Power, along with every other Oregon public and private electric utility, supports this legislation as a “grand bargain” on energy policy this year.Learn more »
Last week I attended a special meeting of the Roseburg City Council as they discussed the issue of marijuana dispensaries. My purpose in being there (at their request) was to explain what had happened during the Legislative Session on the subject.
Since that time I have been under attack on Facebook by people who “know more than I do” on the subject. Let me say I acknowledge there are some medical benefits to marijuana, but it should also be acknowledged that smoking it has higher carcinogen levels than tobacco.Learn more »
I’ve gone from pulling green chain to owning and operating a small logging business. I’ve been a realtor, small ranch owner, carpenter, property developer and businessman. I’ve been a jobs creator and business starter and owner for 39 of the 40 years I’ve been proud to call this county my home.
In several recent News Review issues a political ad accused me of having placed a small (nonpartisan) campaign sign on another candidate’s billboard and then putting it on private property without consent. The property owner was understandably upset, thinking I had willfully committed this inappropriate act. I immediately phoned Bill Woods after learning of this accusation. I explained that neither I, nor any of my volunteers had any knowledge of this event; and I offered an apology for any inconvenience he had experienced.Learn more »
Wave energy may someday benefit Americans, but don’t expect ocean-generated electricity to flow to a plug near you.
For eight years, Ocean Power Technologies floated the notion of installing buoys off the coast of Reedsport to generate electricity for onshore customers.Learn more »
A tiny problem in our county
I think I can put to rest the question of whether or not ticks are out in full force in Douglas County.Learn more »
Why disarm Americans?
It is heartening to see the high degree of non-compliance by gun owners in Connecticut and New York with their states’ most recent “gun control” effort. These law-abiding Americans are now branded as felons for their defiance of the recent mandatory registration of semi-automatic rifles and standard capacity magazines. Many New York sheriffs have publicly stated that they will not enforce Cuomo’s so-called SAFE Act. As you know, many sheriffs, including our own, have taken similar stands.Learn more »
In 1749, a young Virginian used his family connections to secure the position of official surveyor for Culpeper County. The 17-year-old was paid well enough to purchase land in the Shenandoah Valley and launch himself on his way to greatness.
No other surveyor is likely to chart a resumé like George Washington’s. Still, it’s a good field to enter, and a handful of Umpqua Community College engineering students seeking related experience got the lay of the land last week at Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park near Oakland.Learn more »
Re-elect Acree for assessor
Qualities a person should bring to the position of Douglas County assessor include a good knowledge of statistics, finance and analytical skills. Because there are more than 20 employees currently working in the assessor’s office, it is also important to have good administrative and management skills.Learn more »
Do we trust God or Man?
In the first chapter of his book, The Man in the Mirror, Patrick Morley writes: “America was founded by men who sought spiritual freedom to worship God. Where are the descendants of these men? Was their courage not hereditary?“Learn more »
Acree qualified on all counts
Experience, integrity and dedication are the hallmarks of a good public servant. Susan Acree, incumbent candidate for the office of Douglas County assessor, qualifies on all counts. She has worked her way through the ranks of that county office, was elected to the post and has served honorably. She has earned the confidence of her constituents, deserves to be re-elected and will have my vote.Learn more »
Fix assessor’s office issues
After reading The News Review’s April 4 article and Susan Acree’s Appraisal Plan published in 2012, it’s clear that Acree is in over her head and should not be re-elected to the position of Douglas County assessor.Learn more »
I’m trying my best to believe this Blade Runner guy in South Africa who is on trial accused of shooting his girlfriend to death.
As a guy who keeps a gun near his bed, I’m aware of the consequences and responsibilities that come with that and, I gotta say, the Blade Runner leaves me scratching my head.Learn more »
The Glendale School Board would be wise to move its students and teachers back to a five-day school week. It’s a move other county districts should consider as well.
The decision to switch to a four-day week was never for academic reasons, but to save money for budget-strapped school districts. In some districts, changing to a four-day week delayed temporarily the closing of an entire elementary school.Learn more »
Gun safety, not zero tolerance
”Zero tolerance” means the people passing laws and ordinances have zero common sense and logic. They assume those required to enforce their misguided laws are similarly deficient.Learn more »
Recent letters right on target
I’d like to first start off by complimenting two letter writers who have a good grasp of what common sense and leadership is all about. They are the Jan. 28 writer for her excellent letter on the latest back-in parking idea and wasteful spending plans. On March 26, another writer sent an excellent letter concerning the LNG bullying and land-grabbing without compensation plan.Learn more »
You want crime with that?
Every town in Douglas County large enough to not be able to throw a stone across already has at least one legal drug dispensary. That would be the liquor store, plus grocery and other stores selling beer, wine and tobacco products. The social and medical problems caused by alcohol and tobacco make marijuana a non-starter by comparison, but they are legal.Learn more »
Letter: Assessing situations and resolving problems; valuable skills for a Douglas County CommissionerApril 10, 2014 —
Freeman brings common sense
As a small business owner for more than 40 years, I understand the challenges and rewards. Sometimes it feels like the government is out to make your life even more difficult. That is why I have supported State Rep. Tim Freeman over the years, from his tenure on the Roseburg City Council to his years in Salem and now as he runs for Douglas County commissioner.Learn more »
Freeman ready to work for us
I am a fourth-generation Douglas County resident, having been raised in Days Creek and graduated from South Umpqua High School. Over the years, I have watched Tim Freeman work hard operating his business, at the Roseburg City Council and as a state representative, and I’ve been very impressed with his knowledge of local issues. Tim not only has a wide range of experience, but also has built relationships over the years and has a wide range of contacts at all levels of government.Learn more »
Guest column: O&C solution should assure jobs, volume and certainty for SW OregonApril 9, 2014 —
Congress this year has an opportunity to pass a solution for Oregon & California lands and Western Oregon’s rural communities. We are reminded, virtually on a daily basis, why legislation is urgently needed.
Rural unemployment and poverty remain at high levels. Public safety services in a growing number of counties are decimated. Wildfires last year burned thousands of acres of federal land, and without active management, threaten to burn thousands more this summer.
Despite the urgency, the window for passing O&C reform legislation may soon close. Oregon’s delegation shouldn’t let that happen.
The U.S. House has already approved a bipartisan O&C reform bill. The legislation introduced by Congressmen Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader and Greg Walden places a portion of O&C forest lands into a trust to be actively managed by Oregonians, while setting aside over half of the lands for permanent conservation.
It offers balance, legal certainty for harvests and sufficient revenues to our timber-dependent counties. Sen. Ron Wyden doesn’t support the House bill and has developed an alternative plan that has raised more questions than answers.
Despite the stark differences between the O&C proposals, Oregonians should encourage our delegation to work together on a compromise that can be signed into law. All sides agree that legislation should increase federal timber harvests while protecting environmentally sensitive lands, but a compromise should include several key elements to ensure it’s an effective and permanent solution for our communities.
First, compromise legislation should provide sufficient timber volume throughout Western Oregon. Though O&C forests naturally grow more than 1.2 billion board feet per year, the House proposal would generate 560 million board feet on an annual basis in perpetuity.
Most agree this is a sufficient level to create thousands of jobs in our communities. The volume generated by Wyden’s plan is unknown because it hasn’t been independently analyzed. The Senator says his bill would generate 300 million board feet annually.
Yet an initial analysis suggests the new regulations in his bill would only provide a supply of timber for 10 to 20 years. Southwest Oregon, in particular, would see dramatically lower timber harvests, which would threaten existing jobs and mills that are already in danger. This includes Josephine County’s Rough & Ready operation that is scheduled to reopen and rehire workers.
Compromise legislation must provide legal certainty that sustainable timber harvests and forest management activities won’t be hamstrung by excessive litigation. Though both House and Senate proposals identify lands for timber production and permanent conservation, it’s essential that we provide the same level of legal certainty for timber production as we do for new wilderness designations and other set-asides.
With tree-sitters and activist lawyers already attacking the kind of “ecological forestry” projects promoted by Wyden’s bill, a compromise must offer serious reforms to the conflicting federal laws that created the economic and social crisis in our rural communities.
The O&C lands were established for the economic benefit of counties, where the federal government controls as much as 70 percent of the land base. Congress must honor the mandate of the O&C Act by finding a solution that restores sustainable timber production and generates adequate revenues for county services.
Until it does, the timber industry will likely continue its legal efforts to require compliance with the O&C Act. It’s unacceptable for federal forest policies to cause chronic unemployment, as it’s unacceptable for Oregonians to lack access to 24-hour law enforcement protection.
The bipartisan House bill would generate more than $100 million annually for counties to sustain services, while rebuilding the economic base in their communities. It’s unclear how much the Senate plan would generate, although it is likely much less. Any O&C solution must enable our counties to become self-supporting again.
Our communities have been waiting more than 20 years for an O&C solution, and we’ve never been closer to passing major reform legislation through Congress.
We shouldn’t have to wait for another election and a new Congress to act. Oregon’s congressional leaders understand a solution is critical to the survival of rural Oregon, but we must be sure that anything they advance permanently and effectively fixes the problems — not just short term partial fixes.
Legislation that fails to provide volume, certainty and adequate revenues would only make the situation worse. Our representatives and senators need our support and encouragement to address these issues before the window of opportunity closes.
State Rep. Bruce Hanna of Winchester represents House District 7, which includes portions of Douglas and Lane counties. He can be reached at Rep.BruceHanna@state.or.us. Bob Ragon is executive director of the Roseburg-based Douglas Timber Operators. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Editorial: A timber company strikes back in the ElliottApril 9, 2014 —
Here’s hoping that anti-logging activists goaded Seneca Jones into making a shrewd business move.
We don’t know what the Eugene-based timber company bid for a 735-acre parcel in the Elliott State Forest. Neither the company nor the Department of State Lands will say.
We do know the state set a minimum bid of $1.82 million. We also know the timber was appraised at $5.84 million. Not a bad deal if the trees can be cut. It’s a big if. Conservation groups promise to sue to stop logging, while the Cascadia Forest Defenders vow to physically block logging.
Seneca Jones co-owner Kathy Jones says she’s OK with lawsuits. She’s not OK with lawless threats.
Even if her company never cuts a tree on East Hakki Ridge, she will have made her point. Her bid was motivated by pique, not profit.
Seneca owns timberlands, including some in Douglas County, and Jones said the company doesn’t need to buy state timberlands.
But the paucity of bids for the Elliott parcels bothered Jones.
It’s not clear whether any other company even bid on Hakki Ridge, which is in Douglas County. The state received only five bids, including Seneca’s, for three parcels.
Jones said she heard that few timber companies were bidding, so she submitted one at the last moment to spite the activists.
Then she let the world know that she and her sisters, Becky Jones and Jody Jones, were not going to be kowtowing.
“We refuse to be bullied by eco-radical groups like Cascadia Forest Defenders, who have tried to intimidate everyone in our business,” they said in a statement.
The Jones sisters are second-generation owners and have been pushed forward to soften the timber industry’s image. Their statement referred to themselves as “three women and mothers who care deeply ...”
But Kathy Jones’ reaction to threats by activists was as tender as a falling fir tree. She poleaxed the Cascadia Forest Defenders.
She reminded everyone why the state became desperate enough to sell the timberlands — to make up a shortfall in the Common School Fund caused by anti-logging lawsuits and the state attorney general’s anemic response to the litigation.
Jones noted the environmental consequences of overgrown forests — disease, insect attacks and massive fires.
The alternative is a steady stream of income for schools by sustainable harvesting of renewable second-growth timber.
Jones took tree-sitting activists to task for their “cowardly threat” and said her company’s bid was a matter of principle.
“Seneca will go to the mat on this one,” she promised.
It would be good if Seneca went to the bank, too.
Letter: Oregon residents decide whether to use alcohol, so why not cannabis?April 8, 2014 —
Give adults the right to choose
I’m writing about a not-so-thoughtful March 23 letter titled ”Marijuana vs. cigarette use.”
First off, cannabis contains no nicotine. Why is this important? It’s because nicotine is the main ingredient that spreads cancer. Most men, if we live long enough, will die with but not from prostate cancer. As long as the cancer does not spread to other parts of our bodies, most will have no symptoms.
I’d like to add that the cannabis legalization issue is not whether cannabis is completely safe for everybody, including children and adolescents. It is not. The issue is freedom of choice for adults. Children have died from eating peanuts and peanut butter but we don’t cage peanut growers, sellers or consumers. One in 13 children suffer from food allergies, yet we have no foods that are outlawed. And the voters of Colorado and Washington state have decided that we should not cage cannabis growers, sellers or consumers.
Oregon adults have the freedom to choose whether or not to consume legal alcohol. Shouldn’t they have the same freedom of choice regarding legal cannabis?
Guest Column: Don’t curse the darkness, seek better health for Douglas CountyApril 8, 2014 —
I was disappointed to see the sour April 1 editorial about the recent release of the county health rankings, especially when The News-Review’s New Year’s wish for good health was so hopeful.
While the results of the county health rankings are disappointing and individual responsibility will be critical to making changes, this editorial seems to curse the darkness rather than trying to seek a source of light. Perhaps the writer was sour because of a lack of exercise during the recent rainy spring break.
Let me try to answer some of the questions, explain some of the good things that are happening in Douglas County, and challenge all of us to do better.
As the editorial correctly noted, poverty plays mightily into some of the poor health measures, from poor eating habits to high rates of smoking. The terrible health consequences of smoking and the financial cost of cigarettes don’t do enough to deter smoking. Understanding the culture of poverty and addiction will help us to understand how to craft measures that work.
Umpqua Health Alliance will be joining others in the community to sponsor a full-day seminar on the culture of poverty on May 21 at UCC’s Jacoby Auditorium. The seminar is open to all Douglas County community members, and we would encourage members of The News-Review’s editorial team to attend. Contact Kathy Frazer at 541-440-4655, after April 16, for more details.
Recruitment of providers has indeed gone well in the last year. We have recruited 25 new providers in the last year from all over the country and yes, most are primary care doctors. Medicare access remains a problem.
However, if you are a senior eligible for Medicare, consider joining ATRIO, our local Medicare Advantage plan and they will be sure that you get a primary care provider.
An additional 7,000 Douglas County residents now have health insurance, due to expansion of Medicaid and Cover Oregon.
Smoking, inactivity and obesity are big problems and community partners are ready to help. ATRIO, Umpqua Health Alliance, the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club have teamed up to sponsor “Kick Start Douglas County,” a series of more than a hundred wellness events held over a three-monthlong period this summer.
These events will be free or very low cost, will take place all across the county and will include healthy eating events, walking groups, fitness events and smoking cessation classes. Look for details in The News-Review on May 28.
The editorial called for personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is important, but if I’ve learned anything in 30 years of practice, it is that blaming the patient rarely works and that providing motivation and targeted programs are much more likely to work. Let me challenge all of us to improve with the following steps:
If you are a smoker, set a quit date and quit smoking this summer! The Oregon Tobacco Quit Line can help, 1-800-784-8669 or www.quitnow.net/oregon/.
If you don’t smoke, but know someone who does, offer your help and encouragement for them to quit. We know that encouragement from friends and family can really help smokers to quit.
Set a positive example for youth. Kids are especially vulnerable to their environment — what they see and hear. Let them see you making healthy choices and hear your ideas for positive solutions to improving the health of our community. Ask their opinion too!
Attend the culture of poverty training on May 21.
Get more fit this summer. We know that moving up one level of fitness (from sedentary to mildly active, mildly active to moderately active, or moderately active to very active) takes only an additional 20 minutes a day and can have a big impact on your health.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. If you are eating less than five servings of fruits or vegetables a day, try to hit five per day. If you’re already at five a day, double it. Start a garden; go to a farmers market or a local fruit stand. Bring in healthy foods, like delicious local strawberries, to share with co-workers.
If you have a question about health care, just ask. The Healthy Wednesday section of The News-Review has a question and answer section on the fourth Wednesday of each month. In addition, there is a local health program on KQEN every Monday at 4 p.m. Please send your health questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pledge to attend at least 10 of our Kick Start wellness events this summer. There will be events that should appeal to everyone.
Stop cursing the darkness. I invite The News-Review’s editorial team and everyone else to join us for the first Kick Start Douglas County event on June 4. The first event will be a “Zumba on the Half Shell” at 6 p.m. at Stewart Park, followed by a kick-off event at 7 p.m. Candles will be provided.
Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer is a Roseburg pediatrician, past president of the Oregon Medical Association and chief executive officer of the Architrave Family of Companies. He can be reached at email@example.com or 541-672-3585.
Guest column: ODOT announces work proposed for Douglas CountyApril 8, 2014 —
The Oregon Department of Transportation is a forward planning operation. The maintenance and improvement of Oregon’s transportation system requires lining up projects and fitting them into anticipated funding. The Statewide Transportation Improvement Program is the planning vehicle.
Work on the 2015-18 STIP is firming up. There are many projects proposed for Douglas County.
For our coastal region, residents will see pedestrian safety improvements in the area near the Highway 101 and 38 junction, including curb extensions and sidewalks in the Old Town section of Reedsport. The Scottsburg Bridge will undergo an extensive renovation.
Additionally, if funding can be identified from savings in other projects, the east approach could be modified for safety. Two culverts will be replaced east of Dean Creek, and Highway 38 will be repaved from the 101 junction to Dean Creek.
Finally, though located in Coos Bay, a proposed bus transfer station will aid coastal residents who use dial-a-ride to link with bus services in the Coos Bay/North Bend area.
In the central part of Douglas County, the southbound Vets Bridge that takes Interstate 5 over the South Umpqua River in Roseburg will be refurbished. In addition, bike and pedestrian improvements to Highway 138 East from I-5 across the river will enhance safety and the visual appearance of that entrance to Roseburg.
Umpqua Transit will add seating and bike racks to transit stops to make their system more user friendly. Culverts will be repaired on I-5 near the landfill, and potentially in South County near Boomer Hill if funding can be realized from cost savings in other projects.
A climbing lane will be added to the southbound side of Roberts Mountain, along with about five miles of paving from Booth Ranch Bridge to Roberts Creek on I-5.
The Lower Lookingglass Bridge on the west side of Winston on Highway 42 will be refurbished. Finally, the city of Riddle will receive funding assistance to enhance Fourth Avenue by constructing sidewalks, bike lanes, Americans with Disabilities Act access and drainage improvements near Riddle Elementary School.
The combined value of these projects is just shy of $48 million and will be spread through the 2015-18 construction seasons. These transportation projects will translate into jobs and paychecks for our citizens, and will benefit our local businesses.
More information at www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TD/STIP/STIP/DRAFT_STIP_15-18.pdf
Susan Morgan is a Douglas County commissioner. She welcomes your questions or comments. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at Douglas County Courthouse, Room 217, 1036 S.E. Douglas Ave., Roseburg, OR 97470; or by phone at 541-440-4201.
Editorial: Douglas County Fair’s array of acts, attractions still worth price of admissionApril 8, 2014 —
Even when people complain about the cost of attending the Douglas County Fair, as they will upon reading this, we’re still enthusiastic about fair time. This is despite the fact that 54 is the average age of a News-Review editorial board member.
So last week’s announcement of the 2014 fair headline acts generated attention here, even though more than one of us were hazy on some of the acts named.
Once again, Fairgrounds Director Harold Phillips sought to mix it up as best he could on musical genres.
The fair therefore opens Aug. 6 with Jonny Lange, a 33-year-old blues, gospel and rock guitarist who was said, at the age of 13, to have the voice of a 40-year-old blues crooner. How a North Dakota-born teen could achieve that distinction is fodder for speculation, but he’s toured with enough of the greats (B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Sting) to have earned his spurs and a hearty welcome to the fair’s main stage.
Up-and-coming country entertainer Thomas Rhett will be next up in the headline spot. The day on which he appears happens to be a red-letter fair date — celebration of the $1.3 million remodel for the Pavilion Building. Funded through private donations and a matching grant from county government, the project will be marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It’s possible that Rhett, whose debut album, “It Goes Like This,” charted four singles, will wield the scissors.
The fair’s third night will find Seether on the main stage. This South African post-grunge/alternative metal band presents a kaleidoscope of variety just by turning on its mic and amps.
Lastly, Deep Purple returns from the recesses of every baby boomer’s past with at least a couple of veterans from the band’s most commercially successful lineup. We think Phillips sold the fair a little short by referring to an “A band being (wedged) into a B or C venue,” but maybe that’s because we’re hard pressed to remember any song besides “Smoke On the Water” from Purple’s playlist. Doesn’t matter. The lads from across the pond will make huge waves in the grassy amphitheater on the fair’s closing night.
The fair, however, is about much more than its main stage performers. Phillips said fair representatives this year are seeking to highlight the fair’s agricultural base. They should. We go to the fair to suss out the largest sow with the most piglets, our neighbor’s blueberry cobbler, the spendiest steer at auction, the most elegant orchid arrangement and that rutabaga that looks like Barney the dinosaur. Spending our dollars at the fair helps ensure there will be a place for all of these traditional county fair elements in coming generations.
And that’s not all. We don’t want to hear a peep out of anybody who isn’t intrigued by the prospect of being greeted at the gate by a robotic chicken.
Letter: Stimulate the economy in Douglas CountyApril 7, 2014 —
Boost growth, reduce fees
Unlike the federal government, Douglas County can’t issue stimulus dollars to pump money into the local economy. But there is another way to stimulate the local economy: Cut building permit fees by 50 percent for one year.
Douglas County’s unemployment rate is still more than 10 percent. Local building permit fees have increased significantly recently. Think of all the jobs that would be created for one year. Plumbers, painters, carpenters, electricians, landscapers, sheet rock installers and others would see an uptick in work.
If enough new projects were initiated, it would offset any lost revenue from reducing the county’s fees. Even if the county’s fees were not entirely replaced, the temporary one-year reduction on building permit fees would generate enough new projects to reduce our unemployment and funnel more dollars into local businesses.
It’s not government’s role to create new jobs. But it is the government’s role to give businesses the ability to create jobs without unnecessary red tape and fees that impede job growth.
Letter: Freeman can bring key insight on how government impacts Douglas CountyApril 7, 2014 —
He understands govt. process
Please join me in voting for Tim Freeman for Douglas County Commissioner. I’ve worked with Tim over many years in community projects, non-profit activities, small business challenges, and in sessions with the youth of our community who are trying to understand the political process.
Tim brings a wealth of experience as a small business owner and from serving in many nonprofit roles. He understands the challenges we face, but also recognizes the tremendous future we have when we work together.
I’ve watched Tim take the time to explain the complex situations we face in state government to many of our young citizens. He demonstrates a strong knowledge for the government process, a clear view that we expect integrity and solutions for our elected representatives, but also a key insight into how each piece of the government puzzle impacts the citizens of Douglas County.
Tim Freeman has the background, integrity and compassion to be our next Douglas County commissioner.
Editorial: Douglas County DA’s office shouldn’t have to cut prosecutorsApril 6, 2014 —
If public safety is truly the top priority of Douglas County commissioners, they need to find a way to increase the budget for the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office in the next fiscal year.
If they don’t, one of the 10 attorneys who prosecute criminals on behalf of Douglas County victims will be laid off. With one fewer attorney to take on cases, fewer criminals will be held accountable for their actions.
Douglas County already has enough factors that lead to a higher crime rate: drug abuse, poverty, high unemployment. If the county is unable to prosecute those who commit low-level crimes because of a lack of staffing, the crime rate could rise even higher. That will put more county residents at risk while doing nothing to discourage offenders.
We understand that the county has been reluctant to increase any department’s budget because its general fund has been steadily declining as federal timber safety net payments decreased. The general fund provides the money to operate the district attorney’s office.
Douglas County commissioners have been frugal with the timber safety net payments, knowing they wouldn’t last forever. At the end of this fiscal year, it’s estimated that an extra $53.5 million will remain in the general fund budget.
While that savings could be quickly depleted if the safety net goes away, we haven’t reached that point yet. It seems prudent to cover the cost of 10 attorneys for at least another year and, ideally, for three years.
This issue is surfacing now — more than three months before the county must adopt a budget covering July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015 — because county commissioners just ratified a three-year contract for deputy district attorneys. The contract is the first one negotiated after the deputy district attorneys joined a union last fall.
The contract calls for an 8 percent raise in May with 2 percent increases as the fiscal year begins in 2015 and 2016. It would cost the county an extra $93,503 in 2014-15 to cover the raises and keep the office fully staffed. Over three years, it would amount to $355,555. The prosecutors haven’t had their pay scale raised since 2007 — one reason that prompted them to form a union.
While we know some in the private sector may have gone without raises for just as long, these attorneys handle multiple cases at a time and put in long hours to put criminals behind bars. Their base salaries range from about $52,000 to $91,000 annually. If they left for private practice, they’d likely make considerably more.
The number of prosecutors has also been decreased from 12 to 10 since timber payments began declining.
Despite their conservative budgeting, the commissioners have made exceptions before for worthy expenditures.
This is the time to assure the district attorney’s office that its staff will remain intact.
Otherwise, it might appear the commissioners value having a free garbage dump more than prosecuting criminals.
Publisher’s Notebook: Seneca Jones owners won’t be intimidated by tree sittersApril 6, 2014 —
Kathy Jones is quickly rising to the top of my Favorite Oregon People list. I’ve met a lot of great people since I pulled into town almost two years ago, so my list is becoming kind of exclusive.
I wrote about Kathy Jones a few months ago, following a visit she made to discuss timber. She’s a self-described “timber woman” who speaks eloquently and firmly about the industry that she and so many Oregonians grew up in.
She and her sisters, Becky and Jody, own Seneca Jones Family of Companies, which has timberland in Douglas County.
Last time I spoke with Kathy she said she and her sisters planned to be a little more vocal about an industry that had been slapped around too long.
“The people of Oregon, multi-generational, are people of the land,” she told me last November. “They know how to live off the land and people who know how to live off the land revere it. They absolutely revere it, protect it and feel a spiritual bond with it. To be suddenly accused of destroying and killing the forests that sustains them steamrolled many and silenced them to shame.”
She vowed to end that silence and this week provided a little demonstration.
As you may have heard, the state has decided to sell a small slice of the Elliott State Forest in order to help boost the struggling Common School Fund that relies on timber receipts. It had hoped to harvest the timber itself, but got tired of fighting the tree sitters and lawyers and politicians who stand in the way of any public land harvesting.
In theory, it’s easier to harvest timber on private land because there are fewer hoops to jump through.
The roughly 3,000 acres of Elliott Forest up for sale (around 2 percent of the total Elliott forest) are split into three smaller parcels valued at around $3 million.
A group calling itself Cascadia Forest Defenders — known for its ability to occupy trees for weeks on end — warned anyone who buys that land to expect trouble, up to and including criminal activity.
“We will not respect new property lines, signs or gates,” read a press release from that group a couple of weeks ago. “Do not bid on these sales. If you become an owner of the Elliott, you will have activists up your trees and lawsuits on your desk. We will be at your office and in your mills.”
Kathy Jones’ reaction was exactly what I would have expected.
“On behalf of my sisters Becky and Jody, I am announcing that Seneca Jones has submitted a bid to the Oregon Department of State Lands on the East Hakki Ridge land sale from the Elliott State Forest,” her company press release stated.
Kathy Jones said her company hadn’t planned on bidding, but decided to after learning of the threats.
“We refuse to be bullied by eco-radical groups like Cascadia Forest Defenders, who have tried to intimidate everyone in our business,” Seneca’s press release continued. “Seneca will go to the mat on this one … standing up to bullies who would prevent responsible use of the Elliott. We are taking a stand for all Oregonians, our state and our children’s well-being. We take this action as three women and mothers who care deeply, and we will continue to advocate for more aggressive defense of lands and practices dedicated to enhancing the Common School Fund.”
Cascadia Forest Defenders would have us believe that the 3,000 or so acres up for sale represent some of the most pristine forest in the world, filled with endangered wildlife and trees that are hundreds of years old and that stand buffer between evil humans and the Pacific Ocean.
Then there is reality.
“What is the result of state forests being mismanaged through litigation?” the Seneca release asks. “Unhealthy forests that are prone to insect attacks, disease, blow-downs and massive forest fires.”
The endangered marbled murrelet — which joins the spotted owl as the Cascadia Forest Defenders’ poster child — apparently has been spotted nesting in old growth trees in the Pacific Northwest. When there are no old growth trees, the little seabirds will nest on the ground. They prefer to be within 2 miles of the ocean.
There is no evidence that the state is selling “old growth” timber where murrelets are nesting.
In discussing timber harvesting, it’s important to provide a little context. Oregon still has lots and lots of trees. In fact, about half of Oregon’s 61 million acre land base is forest and the government (in theory you and I) owns nearly 60 percent of that land.
The 3,000 acres being sold still leaves more than enough room for murrelets, owls and people who want to occupy trees.
Kathy Jones and people who make their living in the forest really don’t want to “rape the forest” as the Cascadia Forest Defenders suggest. In fact, they are more than a little offended that tree sitters from Portland have assigned themselves guardians of the forests, suggesting that they are more qualified and compassionate.
Citizens of Douglas and Coos counties should be just as offended, since the Cascadia Forest Defenders are using us as pawns. “It is clear that the State Land Board doesn’t care about Coos and Douglas county Oregonians who are sick of seeing the hills above their homes yarded away to timber mills while their counties grow poorer,” reads the Defenders’ press release.
The people I speak with are sick, all right. They’re sick of a handful of people with too much time on their hands determining public policy that has crippled this economy.
And they are happy to see someone with the guts to fight back.
Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or email@example.com.