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Roseburg City Council approves ordinance on Uber, Lyft services

The Roseburg City Council Monday unanimously approved an ordinance regulating ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

There was briefly an Uber service in town back in February, but the business stopped offering rides after the city threatened it with fines of up to $1,500 a day for failing to follow the city’s then-existing ordinances.

The city then began working on an ordinance that would allow Uber and Lyft to operate in town, along with traditional taxi operators.

The ordinance approved Monday gives the city recorder authority to determine whether a driver is fit, taking into consideration the driver’s prior criminal history and driving safety record. It also mandates the driver provide proof the vehicle is no more than 15 years old and that it has passed a safety inspection. A $1 million liability insurance policy is also required.

City officials consulted with an Uber representative about the changes to the city’s rules. City Recorder Amy Sowa said after Monday’s meeting it’s her understanding that while Uber isn’t happy about the safety inspection, that won’t be a “deal breaker” for the company bringing its service to town. She said Eugene has a similar regulation.

Also Monday, the council approved fees that would charge ride-hailing companies like Uber or Lyft $480 for an operator’s license, with driver’s permits being additional. The fees are comparable to the fees the city charges taxi companies.

The vote Monday followed the second reading of the ordinance, and the city councilors made no comments about the decision. The issue had been discussed at several previous meetings.


Local
Two years later, people continue to play Pokemon Go

The streets are empty in Downtown Roseburg on Saturday morning. It’s 10 a.m., and Lela DeHerrera, 28, and her husband Robert DeHerrera, 28, of Roseburg, can be seen sitting on a bench on Jackson Street with their phones out. As they’re tapping away on their touch screens, the duo are interacting within a digital world.

No, they aren’t browsing the web or texting a friend. Rather, the two are a part of a resurgence of interest in the video game Pokemon Go. For the past two years, the couple has been playing the game almost every day.

“(It’s) something to do while you’re out for a walk,” Lela DeHerrera said. “So it gets me active, it gets me motivated to actually come out and do something other than just sit at home. And you actually get to meet a few people along the way.”

The free-to-download app for smartphones and tablet computers allows players to catch and train virtual monsters who appear on a Google Maps-like interface. The Pokemon most commonly pop up at designated “Pokestops,” which are located in city parks, near statues, or other landmarks that also allow for players to obtain in-game items.

The surge of players that poured into the game at its launch in the summer of 2016 has since died down. But the addition of what developers call a “raid system,” implemented in the summer of 2017, has slowly drawn people back in.

Alex Martinez, 34, of Medford was not originally interested in Pokemon Go at launch.

“There was just nothing that really made me want to do it, but then when I heard about the raids, it sounded more interesting all of a sudden,” she said. “Before the raiding system, there was nothing actually challenging about the game.”

These “raids” are where players can team up together to fight powerful Pokemon. Raids appear at various special Pokestops called “gyms” all throughout the day. Players who defeat the raid boss, a super-powerful Pokemon, will be rewarded with special items and the chance to catch a weaker version of the creature.

Since raids require multiple people to participate in a particular mission, and because there is no direct way to communicate with other nearby players within the app, many have turned to Facebook.

Kay Marie, 29, of Roseburg, is one of the admins for Roseburg Pokemon Go Raids, a local Facebook group that helps organize players in the Douglas County area. The group currently has almost 300 members.

“At first, I didn’t realize the dynamics of the game. It was fun catching Pokemon, but we didn’t have raids,” she said. “They started the raid system and the (legendary Pokemon) came out and I got right back into to it. And ever since, it’s been non-stop.”

The Facebook groups created for the raids have helped to expand the social aspect of the game. This attracted many people, like Erin Wilds, to give Pokemon Go a second chance.

“It made it a lot more fun to see the social aspects of it, because that’s how the game was designed to be,” Wilds said. “But it was really kind of falling short in that for a while.”

Members of the same Facebook group as Marie and Wilds organize carpools, so members can visit multiple raid locations, something Marie calls a “raid train.” She said the raid trains can consist of up to 50 people, visiting up to 17 locations in a single day.

Marybeth Gresham, 26, of Medford, is an admin on the Southern Oregon Pokemon GO! Facebook group. The group has over 1,500 members and includes people from Douglas, Josephine and Jackson County. Because they have so many members, she said they have to map out which groups hit which raids so they don’t overlap each other. Raids are only available for an hour before disappearing and popping up somewhere else. The game only allows for 20 people to participate in one of these many raids at a time.

The app developers recently added the ability to friend people on the Pokemon Go app, but Gresham said people have been making friends in real life ever since the game launched.

“We do BBQs and swimming and things that aren’t even related to Pokemon,” Gresham said. “(I’ve) actually made like really good friends through this game that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise, and a lot of people probably feel that way.”

Marie said the that the game has helped bring together people who normally wouldn’t have had the means or ability to socialize otherwise.

“We’ve got people who have extreme social anxiety. We have people who literally would not probably come out into a community if it wasn’t for the game,” Marie said. “So it’s really exciting getting to see that.”

“My son has autism,” Martinez said, “and for a lot of kids, going outside and doing stuff is not, like, their favorite thing to do. They’d rather be at home. Pokemon Go got him interested in going outside and walking around. It’s something he seems to actually have motivation and patience for.”

While some would assume the majority of players are children, many players in these Facebook groups are in their late 20s or early 30s. This is the generation who grew up with Pokemon when the franchise first came to America from Japan in the 1990’s in the form of games, trading cards and cartoons.

“About my age is about the normal age range,” Wilds, 27, said. “I think when it first started a lot of younger kids were into it, and that doesn’t really seem to be the case anymore. I never see kids walking around playing it, which is kind of funny.”

“I think it’s nostalgia. That age group, we grew up with Pokemon,” Marie said. “I was in fourth grade when I got my first Pokemon card. So I think what draws a lot of people to Pokemon, especially in our age group, is our childhood.”


Fires
Oakland man loses home in trailer fire

An Oakland man lost his home after a fire destroyed his trailer Sunday night.

Crews from North Douglas County Fire and EMS and the Douglas Forest Protective Association responded to the blaze on Langdon Lane in Oakland near Rice Hill around 6:30 p.m.

Firefighters were initially responding to a report of smoke but learned en route that the smoke was from a RV trailer that was fully engulfed in flames.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, the blaze had spread to nearby vegetation, and a spot fire was burning several hundred feet up a hillside.

North Douglas County Fire and EMS firefighters worked on cooling the RV, while DFPA firefighters suppressed the wildland fire.

Justin Cobb, a spokesman for North Douglas County Fire and EMS, said it took firefighters around 45 minutes to get the trailer fire under control.

Firefighters used a helicopter and bulldozer to stop the spread of the wildland fire, which burned up brush, grass and trees.

The RV was a complete loss. Firefighters remained on scene until 10 p.m., mopping up hot spots and securing control lines.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.


Elections
Ashley Hicks to make another run at county commissioner seat

Roseburg City Councilor Ashley Hicks has filed to run for Douglas County commissioner.

Hicks is the seventh candidate to file for the seat. It will be her second run for a seat on the commission. She was one of four candidates to run unsuccessfully against incumbent Tim Freeman in the May primary, where she garnered 6.67 percent of the vote in that election.

This time, there’s no incumbent in the race. Gary Leif vacated the seat after being appointed interim representative for state House District 2.

Hicks said her experience on the city council sets her apart from the other candidates, none of whom has held elected office. She doesn’t plan to mount a large fundraising campaign, unlike Waldron’s Outdoor Sports owner Tom Kress and Army veteran Alek Skarlatos, both of whom have amassed substantial contributions.

Instead, she plans to make phone calls and knock on doors, and stand outside of the post office and local stores in an effort to communicate with voters. She said she has experience attending a lot of meetings and communicating complex information to “regular Joes and Janes” in the community.

“It’s meeting people where they are and kind of trying to listen to them and let them tell you what their concerns are about their county, and what they’d like to see changed. And then just really representing that when you have a chance at the mic,” she said. “I think that’s a big thing.”

Hicks was elected to the Roseburg City Council in 2016 and represents Southeast Roseburg, including downtown. She was an organizer of the South Umpqua River Cleanup project.

She’s also owned two successful Roseburg businesses — Superior Drywall, which has been in operation since 2001, and a downtown coffee shop that she created and then sold.

Hicks said the issues she’s campaigning for this time are the same as the ones she supported last time around. Those included increasing multi-family housing, providing transitional housing and work for people leaving jail, and obtaining data about the health of the South Umpqua River.

She sees a seat on the board of commissioners as an extension of the work she’s already been doing as a city councilor and a volunteer.

“I want to be part of an effective team that’s working for the best interests of the citizens,” she said.

Hicks said she’s excited about the possibility of serving with Freeman because of the experience he has to share. Hicks has been positive about the job the current commissioners are doing, but also said she would be willing to speak up if she disagrees with them.

Hicks is the only woman to file for the commissioner seat so far, but she said gender doesn’t have that much to do with the job. However, she did say that she’d offer diversity in style because she’d provide a strong voice for the citizens because she’d be “brave enough to speak up when the time comes and the opportunity presents itself.”

Hicks is not discouraged by the results of the May election.

“Who wins a marathon their first go around the track? It takes a few warm-ups,” she said.

Whether she wins in November or not, she said she will continue moving forward on her efforts to improve Roseburg and Douglas County.

“I just want to see good things happen in our county,” Hicks said.


Wildfires
Firefighters look to "herd" Miles, Columbus fires east

As fire activity calmed on the southern portion of the Miles Fire Monday, firefighters are hoping to complete a control line around the entire southern portion of the blaze Tuesday and work on “herding” both the Miles and Columbus fires to the east.

Mike Granger, an operations section chief, said work went well on Monday and there wasn’t a lot of growth on the southern perimeter of the Miles Fire.

“When we did have fire activity we were able to get our helicopters up in the air and calm it down,” Granger said.

Firefighters are continuing to create control lines on the southwestern edge of the blaze and will have the southern part of the fire completely lined if the Alco Rock portion is completed today.

“And that makes for a fantastic day,” Granger said.

Fire officials are anticipating that the Miles and Columbus fires will grow together and continue burning east to an area that has more moisture.

“We’re actually herding the fire to an area we think it’s just going to go out or run into a fire scar from last year,” Granger said.

The operations chief said the “fire snake” — an area on the northeastern tip of the Miles Fire — is continuing to move around.

“Yesterday afternoon the air cleared up enough we were able to go in there with a helicopter and drop ignition spheres from the air,” Granger said.

Another goal for firefighters is to deepen lines on the eastern portion of the fire.

The Miles Fire is now more than 30,000 acres and 10 percent contained. The Columbus Fire is nearly 10,000 acres and 14 percent contained.

Over the weekend, the most significant area of heat and growth on the Columbus Fire was on the southeastern portion.

It’s been more than two months since the last meaningful rainfall, which has left fuels dry as a bone and ignition rates at more than 80 percent.

Temperatures are expected to trend progressively lower throughout the week, reaching the high 80s by the weekend.