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Ballot initiative would put $750 in every Oregonian's pocket

The Oregon People’s Rebate would put about $750 in the pocket of every person — adult or child — in the state each year. For a family of four, that would be $3,000.

That’s the goal behind Initiative Petition 6, which would increase the minimum tax on corporations earning more than $25 million a year and divide up the revenue into a tax rebate for every Oregonian.

Supporters are currently gathering signatures in hopes of putting IP 6 on the November 2022 ballot.

Chief Petitioner Antonio Gisbert, a former cognitive neuroscientist and union organizer from Philomath, said Wednesday the rebate would boost local economies, giving customers more money to spend at local small businesses. At the same time, he said, it would make corporations who earn income in Oregon pay their “fair share.”

Douglas County residents would receive a little over $82 million in rebates, with Roseburg residents receiving $16.7 million of that, Gisbert said.

“What we want is for our neighbors in our community to have an extra $750 and then hopefully — if they can afford it, it’s up to them how to use that money — to go to their local store, their local coffee shop, their local restaurant and spend some of that money locally,” Gisbert said.

“We think that’s going to be a big boon for the local economy,” he said.

Gisbert also said the rebate would reduce poverty in Oregon by about 15% and child poverty by about 26%.

Gisbert said Oregon People’s Rebate is a nonpartisan, people-powered campaign made up of volunteers who are not political professionals.

Measure 97 — an earlier effort to boost the corporate minimum tax — was defeated by a margin of 59% to 41% in 2016. But a group of supporters of that measure still felt Wall Street Corporations weren’t paying their fair share.

It occurred to them that if those corporations paid more in taxes, the money could be given to state residents as a rebate. (Measure 97, by contrast, would have given the corporate tax revenue to the state government.)

So on Saturdays over coffee, they drafted an initiative, Gisbert said. They first aimed to get it on the ballot in 2020, but weren’t able to gather enough signatures because they got a late start and had difficulty obtaining signatures during the pandemic.

They rebooted the effort for the 2022 election, and during the winter months are collecting signatures by mail through a form on their website at opr2022.org.

Gisbert said the current minimum tax rate for corporations earning more than $25 million a year is less than one-eighth of 1% — a much lower percentage than the average individual pays. IP 6 would increase that corporate minimum to 3% on every dollar the corporations earn above $25 million.

That $25 million amounts to sales of about $68,493 in the state every day.

“We are really talking about large, Wall Street corporations,” he said.

Only the income earned in Oregon would be subject to the 3% minimum tax.

But the tax would apply regardless where the company is based, so Gisbert believes it would not give companies that are based in Oregon any reason to leave the state.

Big companies like Nike might get some of the money right back from consumers, if rebate recipients choose to spend some of that money buying products like a pair of Nike shoes, he said.

If IP 6 gets on the ballot, it’s likely that big corporations could sponsor ad campaigns against the measure much like they did for Measure 97.

“We’re not concerned about that. We know that they will, and that’s fine,” Gisbert said. “Our path to success does not involve outspending the biggest corporations in the nation.”

He said normal, everyday people are being asked to sign the petition and, if it makes it on the ballot, to vote on it.

“People will decide if they could use 750 bucks or if they could not use 750 bucks and that’s it, and we fully embrace that process because that’s what we’re all about. We’re a ballot initiative, we’re not politicians. The wisdom resides in our neighbors,” Gisbert said.

Kruse family talks sale of Kruse Farms

After decades of growing fruits, vegetables and hay crops in its fields and making pies, turnovers and cinnamon rolls in its bakery for sale to the local community, Kruse Farms will soon be downsizing.

The change is coming because co-owners, brother Jeff Kruse, 70, and sister Karen Corpron, 64, want to retire. Jeff Kruse has been farming since he was a youth. Corpron, who left a corporate position with Hilton Grand Vacations to join the family business in 2008, has managed the produce market and bakery for the past 13 years.

Co-owner Evan Kruse, 42, a nephew and the family’s fourth generation on the farm, plans to continue to be a farmer.

The three owners have decided to put the farm market, greenhouses, cold storage building, office and 93 acres of farm ground southwest of the Melrose Junction and Melrose Road up for sale. The listed price is $2.49 million. A sale sign was planted in front of the market Thursday evening.

The Kruse family plans to continue operation of the market and bakery to early January when it has annually closed for the next four months. Even if the property has not sold, the market will not reopen later in 2022.

“We’re going to be open to the end of the season, typically that’s early in the new year,” Corpron said. “We hope that could be a condition if there’s a potential sale before then.”

A couple miles to the north off Quail Lane that is across from the Roseburg Country Club golf course, Evan Kruse plans to continue to farm 200 acres. That acreage includes the original 15 acres that his great-grandfather, Bert Kruse, first farmed in 1923. The younger Kruse, who returned to the farm in 2009 after working in technology, will concentrate on growing hay and some fruit crops, the latter for U-pick customers.

Evan Kruse and his wife, Andrea, have three young children who are the family’s fifth generation on the farm.

“We want to give them (kids) the opportunity to be involved on the farm,” Evan Kruse said. “I feel real lucky to be able to give them that.

“It’s been a real healthy conversation,” he added of the decision to sell the Melrose Road property. “There’s been no arguing about taking this step. We’re on the same page. It was not unexpected that my partners (Jeff Kruse and Karen Corpron) would eventually want to retire.”

Corpron said the time is right for a sale, but she admitted she is worried in her dreams, her father, Don Kruse, will question the decision to sell. Don Kruse farmed the ground for about 70 years before health issues limited his mobility. He died in 2018 at age 87.

“There’s a feeling of disappointing our customers as well as my dad,” said Corpron, adding that she’s ready for a break after nine years of working at the market seven days a week and then five days a week for the past two years after the partners decided to close the market on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“I want more time to spend with my husband Tedd and with extended family members,” she said.

“After our decision to sell was announced, there were many people who expressed an understanding, but a sadness at the same time,” she added.

Jeff Kruse said he’s spent the majority of his life farming and is ready to have the time to travel and see different landmarks.

“At some point you have to cut the cord,” he said. “It’s hard to figure out the best time and the best way to do it, but eventually you have to.

“Kruse Farms has been such a big part of this community, but there was a community before the Kruse Farm market and there’ll be a community after it,” he added.

Evan Kruse said it’s important to him that whoever buys the property works to use the land in the best possible agricultural way.

“My biggest hope is that somebody comes in and has the potential to improve on what has been done here in the past decades,” he said.

Bert Kruse started farming at the south end of Garden Valley in 1923, turning logged over land into a produce farm.

“It was a real shoestring operation,” Jeff Kruse said of his grandfather’s start on 15 acres.

Bert Kruse’s son, Don, became a partner in the farm in 1949, a year after his Roseburg High School graduation. The two gradually increased their farm to 600 acres. They added a couple more crops and got into hay and grain production.

The farm didn’t have its own produce stand in those decades of production. The produce was marketed to Southwest Oregon and Portland area wholesale houses that then distributed products to their local grocery stores. A shift in the wholesale market in the 1980s to contracts with large California corporate farms forced the Kruse family to make a change.

In 1987, the family purchased the present site of the market. A pole structure was renovated into the market. Greenhouses were built and a cold storage building was upgraded. The farming operation was expanded from about six crops to 60 crops in order to fill the market with a variety of fruits and vegetables. The bakery and gift shop were built onto the back of the produce market in 1992.

“We have a lot of pride in growing good products for the market,” Jeff Kruse said. “We are very good at what we do. We take pride in having done that over a long period of time and in dealing with some of the conditions we’ve had to deal with.”

Evan Kruse said he’ll miss the connections with consumers such as a woman who stopped him this past summer to tell him, “Your peaches are the best I’ve ever had.”

“I’d love to see this farmland continue to feed the public,” he said. “The property, with it being zoned exclusive farm use and its location, has a lot of potential. I’m sure there are creative minds out there that can come up with ideas for its use that I’d never come up with.”

“We’ve been an essential business and never had to close,” Corpron explained of the farm and the market dealing with conditions brought on by the Covid pandemic. “People have appreciated that.

“I hope whoever buys it can in some fashion continue what we’ve been all about here,” she added.

Tyrone Powell a no show, arrest warrant issued

Tyrone Powell missed a court hearing Monday, prompting the judge in the case to issue a warrant for his arrest and casting doubt on whether Powell’s trial, scheduled to begin Dec. 7, will actually take place.

Powell, 41, is charged with five felonies, including aggravated theft, identity theft and perjury, in connection with the purported theft of land from an Elkton woman. He also faces one misdemeanor charge of initiating a false report.

In a brief court hearing Monday, Powell’s court-appointed attorney, Gina Marie Stewart, said she did now know where her client was. Douglas County Circuit Court Judge William Marshall then issued an arrest warrant for Powell.

Powell was arrested on Feb. 26, and bail was initially set at $300,000. He was released from the Douglas County Jail on March 31 without having to post any bail, despite the fact that authorities said Powell is a longtime con artist who repeatedly created fake identities.

Powell told jail authorities he was ill, and signed a one-page conditional release agreement in which he agreed to “seek immediate medical treatment.” Powell also agreed to appear in court when directed.

When Powell was arrested, he listed a Cottage Grove address as his residence. In May, Powell was cited by Roseburg police after he allegedly defrauded a Roseburg hotel by using a known alias. Powell reportedly checked into the Quality Inn Central as John Hope, and explained to hotel staff that an insurance company would be covering his bills. Powell was cited for second-degree theft by deception and released.

Powell has reportedly been homeless since then. At least two letters sent to Powell’s last known address, in conjunction with a civil complaint filed against him, were returned as undeliverable.

Authorities say Powell stole 30 acres of land in Elkton from Janet Grosz, 67.

Grosz said when she met Powell in 2019, he went by the name John Paul Hope. He told her about his plans to create a place where disabled veterans could live in dignity. Grosz agreed to give him 3 acres of her 55-acre ranch in Elkton for his plan to build housing for those veterans.

But authorities now say that nothing Powell said was truthful. The veterans housing project he proposed was fiction and instead of using 3 acres of Grosz’s ranch he forged documents and took possession of 30 acres, authorities said.

They also said Powell has been swindling individuals and corporations for years, often through phony nonprofit organizations he claimed to run. He operated at least a half dozen fraudulent nonprofit organizations under such names as “The Missing Piece Foundation,” “True Story World,” and “Love,” authorities said. Those fake nonprofits accepted donations from individuals and corporations, but Powell either kept, discarded or sold them, police said.

Powell was initially scheduled to stand trial in July, but his attorney said she needed more time to prepare for the case, including time to bring to the trial a key witness who lives in Alaska. Marshall agreed with the request for a continuance and set a new trial date for Dec. 7.

In October 2020, Grosz filed a civil complaint against Powell to get her land back. That case was resolved in June when Douglas County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Johnson approved a motion from Grosz’s attorney in which he argued that the civil complaint Grosz filed against Powell should be upheld because the facts overwhelmingly support it.

But Grosz said she has not received any money from him despite winning the case.

The criminal trial, which had been scheduled to begin Dec. 7, is now in limbo. The trial was canceled late Monday afternoon, and it is unclear when a new trial date will be set.