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Nonprofits
Downtown Roseburg Association gets new website after failing to renew domain

The new website for the Downtown Roseburg Association is live at downtownroseburgassociation.org.

But the nonprofit association didn’t have a website for nearly three months after the original domain, downtownroseburg.org, expired and was purchased by onamae.com, a Japanese-based company. The company is offering to sell the domain for $499.

Max Egener / MAX EGENER The News-Review 

This image shows the homepage of onamae.com, the company based in Japan that now owns the previous web domain of the Downtown Roseburg Association, downtownroseburg.org.

Susie Johnston-Forte was hired as the executive director of the association this summer after the former director, Alyssa McConnel, was fired for being critical of city government.

Johnston-Forte said the DRA has failed to deliver on some of its objectives, which are mandated by the city’s contract with the association, such as maintaining a functioning website with the domain downtownroseburg.org. Since she became the director, Johnston-Forte said she and the board of directors have focused on creating a financial sustainability plan and developing new membership incentives.

The association was created by the city in 2010 to promote businesses and nonprofits in Roseburg through promotional advertising, events, social media and online networking, according to the nonprofit’s contract with the city. It is part of the national Main Street Program, which seeks to revitalize the economies of historic neighborhoods. The DRA receives $22,500 — a third of its annual income — from the city’s hotel/motel tax.

“It was just a total accidental thing,” Johnston-Forte said about not renewing the original web domain. “It was one of the things, of a handful of things, that fell through the cracks when this changeover happened.”

During the public comment portion of city council meeting Monday, McConnel, the former DRA director, voiced her frustration with the association’s failure to deliver on some of its mandates since she was fired.

McConnell said the DRA hasn’t maintained an adequate online presence, produced a monthly newsletter, helped decorate storefronts or organize events that have happened in the past, such as wine walks and Small Business Saturday. Last weekend, Roseburg businesses participated in Small Business Saturday — the national event to encourage shopping at small businesses — by providing discounts to customers, but the DRA didn’t publicize the event.

“These things not only help businesses, but they also fulfill the contract of why the city pays $22,500 from the economic development fund from the hotel/motel tax for tourism,” McConnel said. “Events bring tourism.”

Johnston-Forte said there have been challenges with continuity and delivering on their contractual obligations since she became the director. But she said she’s happy will the progress the association is making to ensure a thriving downtown.

“We’re building,” Johnston-Forte said. “It’s been four months, and I wish with all my might that we could be further along than we are.”

She points to the new business sustainability plan she put together as an example of how the board is working toward to longterm stability of the DRA. In the past, all businesses paid a flat rate to be a member of the association. The DRA received $8,400 in membership dues last year. The new plan includes levels of membership, in which business pay based on the number of benefits they want.

Johnston-Forte said the new website is a work in progress being developed by Justin Deedon, who is on the DRA board and runs Umpqua Technology Nexus.

Deedon said that he’s currently working on an interactive map to highlight member businesses.

“The website will be a lot more user-friendly,” Deedon said. “It’s going to be a work in progress, I mean all of this is going to be a work in progress.”


Ucc
UCC $8 million grant included in preliminary state budget

UCC is expected to receive $8 million from the state for an Industrial Arts and Technology building, according to a proposed budget published by Gov. Kate Brown’s office.

How long the money remains on the budget will depend on what happens over the next several months in the Oregon Legislature.

This is not the first time money for the building was included in the governor’s budget. The same amount survived the governor’s budget from the last biennium, only to go unused when UCC failed to secure matching funding.

In a similar scenario for this biennium, UCC must secure a matching amount, which won’t tentatively happen until January 2021.

UCC Board Member Steve Loosley said the college has a few more years to raise the funds and will begin doing that once it narrows the scope of how the college can meet the community needs with the proposed building.

“It’s aimed toward expanding the college’s use of career and technical education,” Loosley said. “Our welding program is just bursting at the seams. We’re excited about this and there are real possibilities it could benefit our students and the local businesses and our community as a whole by aligning the use of the building with our ever-changing needs.”

UCC placed the proposed Industrial Arts and Technology building on its 10-year UCC Master Plan in 2008. Other buildings in UCC’s plan include the Allied Health and Science center, an addition to the administration building, the Southern Oregon Wine Institute and the Woolley Workforce Training Center in downtown Roseburg.

The proposed building would be 46,000 square feet and bring automotive, diesel, welding and fabrication, and construction technology programs together. According to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, it is expected to cost $20 million.

The UCC Master Plan was developed in light of the recession in 2008 and “operated as the overarching goal of the planning process.” According to the updated plan, the recession made it more difficult for the college to raise funds for the project and increased the college’s enrollment numbers.

“This meant that UCC had to do more with less, and use its resources as efficiently as possible,” the plan read.

Enrollment peaked in the 2010-2011 school year and the school was still pursuing funding, according to the 2016-2017 financial report.

UCC President Debra Thatcher was unavailable for comment.

State Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, said the grant money could be rolled over from previous years but not necessarily dispersed, because UCC has to raise matching funds in order to receive the money.

“A lot of our problem in Douglas County is we’re about granted out,” Leif said. “You can only go back so many times.”

He plans to meet with Brown in two weeks to discuss higher education in the budget, which will be approved before the next biennium begins July 1.


Governor focuses on education, campaign finance reform

SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown unveiled a $23.6 billion budget proposal for the next biennium on Wednesday, saying she wants to boost education funding, push campaign finance reform, ensure continued access to health insurance coverage and fund legal counseling for immigrants facing deportation.

Besides $2 million for that legal counseling, Brown is dedicating another $2 million in funding for legal action against the Trump administration and prevent retaliation for the state’s more liberal policies. Brown told a news conference Wednesday that Oregon is involved in 15 lawsuits against the current administration.

“Oregon must work independently and with other states to navigate our relationship with the federal government when protecting the values Oregonians hold,” Brown said.

Brown added a $2 billion education investment package that’s in addition to her base budget. Property tax limitations adopted in the early 1990s have resulted in decreased funding per student, her proposal noted, adding that the governor expects the Legislature “to reform Oregon’s revenue system to adequately fund our education system.”

That means taxes.

In the Nov. 6 elections, Democrats gained greater power to impose taxes without Republican support when they won a three-fifths supermajority in the Legislature. Democrats say they aim to pass a multibillion-dollar revenue measure in the 2019 legislative session, which starts in January and runs to early July, to fund public education.

Senate President Peter Courtney said in a recent interview that it could be a value added tax or a gross receipts tax, but not a sales tax.

House Republican Leader Representative Carl Wilson called Brown’s budget proposal “a call to drastically increase taxes on everyday Oregonians.”

“Oregonians should be worried that this year, the governor proposes and the Legislature imposes massive tax increases on them,” said Wilson, who’s from Grants Pass and was selected Monday to be the House Republican leader.

The governor also proposed the creation of a new agency to align Oregon’s climate and energy policies while ending operations of the Carbon Policy Office and the Oregon Department of Energy. The new Oregon Climate Authority would be responsible for implementing the state’s climate strategies and tracking progress toward climate goals, including a new carbon marketplace and greenhouse gas emissions reporting.

With wildfires getting more severe, Brown said in her budget proposal and policy agenda that she will sign an executive order to establish the Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response with the task of evaluating Oregon’s current system for responding to large fires, and whether it should be changed. The council must make recommendations next September.

Senate Republican Leader Jackie Winters said she was pleased to see the creation of the wildfire council, but criticized a proposed 22 percent decrease to the fire protection budget.

“But, most concerning of all are the increased taxes peppered throughout the budget,” Winters said.

And with scientists saying a huge earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone will happen sooner or later, the budget dedicates $12 million to implement a statewide earthquake early warning system by 2023. It also funds a study of vertical evacuation options for schools and hospitals in the tsunami inundation zones. A Cascadia quake is expected to cause a tsunami that will hit low-lying coastal areas, many of them populated.

On the heels of a gubernatorial race that generated the biggest war chests for Brown and her Republican rival Knute Buehler, Brown said she’ll refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot to impose campaign finance limitations in Oregon elections. She also wants lawmakers to pass legislation to allow Oregonians to follow the money in real time for candidates and ballot measures, saying the technology already allows reporting of campaign transactions almost immediately

She also aims to expand Oregon’s pioneering motor voter program, in which those doing business at the motor vehicles department are automatically registered to vote.

“Any state agency interaction should allow eligible voters to easily register,” Brown said in her proposal, whether it is signing up for classes or getting a fishing license.

The Democratic governor also wants to make it easier for Oregonians to vote by mail, by not requiring a postage stamp.

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, a Republican who is the state’s top elections official, said on Twitter that he has already recommended the move.

“This will help our military members, people experiencing disabilities, and those who live far from ballot dropboxes,” Richardson tweeted.