Today's Oregon News: January 25, 2012


It's Wednesday! New numbers show the heavy toll that budget cuts have taken on educators, who've faced massive layoffs. PolitiFact Oregon had to reverse a ruling from True to False on a claim made by the Oregon GOP about Rob Cornilles, which is featured in a Blue Oregon post by Our Oregon's Scott Moore.

Legislators and advocates are preparing for the upcoming legislative session, which begins next week. Willamette Week has a rundown of marijuana-related initiative petitions aiming for the November ballot.

And in case you missed it, President Obama used last night's State of the Union speech to call for steps to be made to shrink the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

BLOG: Trivial Pursuit: That's some Har-ible reporting
"If I was the editor of the national PolitiFact enterprise, I’d be alarmed at the amount of damage its Oregon branch has been doing to the brand for many months, even violating PolitiFact’s own stated principles. The recent output from PolitiFact Oregon and its chief Oregonian reporter, Janie Har, should make it clear that they’ve ditched the fact-checking mission in favor of an embarrassing obsession with selectively focusing on political items that amplify Har's apparent personal bias. Late yesterday, that obsession blew up in their face, when Har had to reverse a 'ruling' on a claim that was meaningless to begin with."

POLITIFACT RULING CHANGE: Has Rob Cornilles locked up endorsements from Independent, Democratic and Republican mayors?
"Rated FALSE: PolitiFact Oregon has the great dishonor of reversing a ruling today. We freely admit we have egg on our face. If we were a cat, our ears would be lowered and our head down. If we were a dog, we’d be looking up at you with sad dog eyes. You get the picture. Last week we ruled True a statement by the Oregon Republican Party that Republican Rob Cornilles had the endorsements of a variety of local mayors, including Democrat, Republican and Independent. The upper case 'I' means he had the backing of a registered member of the Independent Party of Oregon, which is a third party group."

Obama challenges: Shrink gap between rich, poor
Associated Press via Register Guard
"Declaring the American dream under siege, President Barack Obama delivered a populist challenge Tuesday night to shrink the gap between rich and poor, promising to tax the wealthy more and help jobless Americans get work and hang onto their homes. Seeking re-election and needing results, the president invited Republicans to join him but warned, 'I intend to fight.' In an emphatic State of the Union address, Obama said ensuring a fair shot for all Americans is 'the defining issue of our time.' He said the economy is finally recovering from a deep and painful recession and he will fight any effort to return to policies that brought it low."

Budget and economy

Budget debate looms in Salem
Register Guard
"Gov. John Kitz­haber and legislative leaders expect the upcoming four-week session in February to center on balancing Oregon’s budget, despite myriad controversial policy questions — including the next steps in the governor’s proposed sweeping reforms in health care and education — that also will be raised. Projected state revenues have shrunk by more than $300 million since last summer, and the upcoming revenue forecast is expected to show another loss, perhaps in the range of $50 million to $80 million, lawmakers said Tuesday at a series of press meetings."

'Dear Bank of America...' Defiant daughter's letter saves family from foreclosure (maybe)
Huffington Post
"The last two years have presented a perfect storm of unfortunate events for San Francisco couple Noel and Maureen Schmidt. Both lifelong teachers, they met as Peace Corps volunteers in Sierra Leone, where they were married, 42 years ago. Maureen is a renowned quilter, and Noel started his own non-profit working with disadvantaged youth in Sonoma County. But in November 2010, Noel suffered a stroke and became unable to run his non-profit. Maureen's school district had cut her benefits and hours in 2009, and medical costs piled up. They tried to prolong foreclosure until Noel's health improved and they could find a more affordable place to live. But on Thursday, January 19, the house that had been the Schmidt family home for 23 years was set to go up for auction."

Oregon educators feel brunt of government layoffs
"In Oregon, the downsizing of the public sector does not mean there are fewer state employees. In fact, if you include the university system, there are more state employees now than ever before. However, that's not the case in public schools. Idaho doesn't track teacher layoffs, but Oregon does. According to the Oregon Employment Department, there are nearly 10,000 fewer school district employees than there were just three years ago. One teacher who got a pink slip was Ehren Schneider. He was laid off from his language arts position at Centennial High School in Gresham."

Other headlines

Governor to propose consequence-free 'achievement compacts' to focus schools and community colleges on results
"Gov. John Kitzhaber and his education team are seeking the most specific step so far to change education in Oregon: They want the Legislature to require every school district and community college to sign a yearly "achievement compact" spelling out key results it will try to deliver. The governor has said that the compacts, by focusing attention on dropout rates and other vital outcomes as school and college budgets are written each spring, will accelerate student learning, shift money to proven techniques and boost high school graduation and college-attendance rates."

New Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice named

"Oregon will have a new Supreme Court Chief Justice earlier than expected. The justices announced Friday that they have chosen their colleague Thomas Balmer to assume the role. Balmer will become the 42nd Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court in May. That's when current Chief Paul de Muniz steps down from the role. De Muniz announced last fall he would not seek re-election to the high court. He says he'll serve the remainder of his term but he wanted to turn over the gavel early in order to facilitate a smooth transition."

Oregon Health Plan measure ready for lawmakers
Portland Business Journal
"A new approach to coordinating health care for Oregonians covered under the state health plan is headed to law makers for final approval. The Oregon Health Policy Board voted Tuesday to send a plan to implement 'coordinated care organizations' to lawmakers. The Legislature authorized coordinated care in 2011 as House Bill 3650."

Weed all about it

Willamette Week
"Oregonians love marijuana. Take a walk along Southeast Clinton Street some summer evening and you’ll get contact confirmation. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, from 2009, estimated that between 7.7 and 11.3 percent of adult Oregonians had blazed in the previous 30 days. That’s the seventh-highest rate in the nation, behind a bunch of states like Alaska and New Hampshire whose citizens are essentially snowed into their grow houses half the year. We harvest it by the bale, too. Oregon’s marijuana crop was valued at more than $210 million in a 2006 paper by activist Jon Gettman. That makes it the state’s fourth-largest cash crop behind hay, wheat and onions."


In downtown Portland, protesters laugh at rain to chant Wells Fargo
"In Tuesday's steady rain, about 40 people held the sidewalk in front of the Standard Insurance Center to protest Wells Fargo's investment in private companies that build prisons and the institution's lending and foreclosure practices. Unlike the massive Occupy Portland demonstration at the same site Nov. 17, when riot-geared police officers ringed the building and later pepper-sprayed protesters, Tuesday's event was peaceful and mace-free with no arrests. As the rain picked up, the protest ended 12 minutes early."

Nelson won't run again in District 29
Blue Mountain Eagle
"Long-time state Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton, announced Monday he won't seek a fifth term representing District 29. 'Serving my constituents has been an honor, a unique privilege," Nelson said in a written statement. 'I am grateful to the good folks in my Senate District for their support over the years and for their interest in state government. Their suggestions and concerns have been important to me and my decision making process.'"

Young activists sue governor
Register Guard
"In a world run by politicians who are middle-aged or older, youth often struggle to make their messages for change loud enough to get noticed. But in Oregon, two girls seem to have discovered a loophole by sending a message to state officials that they don’t really have the option to ignore — they are suing their governor. In May, Eugene residents Olivia Chernaik, 11, and Kelsey Juliana, 15, with the help of their mothers, Lisa Chernaik and Catia Juliana, filed a lawsuit against the state of Oregon and Gov. John Kitzhaber, accusing them of violating their duties to uphold the public trust and to protect the state’s atmosphere, water, land, fishery and wildlife resources from the impacts of climate change."

Ballot returns indicate decent turnout for Oregon congressional special election

"So far, the five counties in Oregon's 1st Congressional District are reporting a turnout of about 25 percent, with a week to go before the Jan. 31 special election. Based on the rate of ballot returns in other recent special elections, that puts the congressional race on track for a turnout of somewhere in the high 50s.  That would come close to the turnout in the last two statewide special elections -- both of which had hotly contested measures that attracted widespread public interest. In 2010, voters passed two controversial ballot measures to increase taxes on corporations and wealthier individuals.  The final turnout: 62 percent."

Voters gripe about negative ads in Oregon congressional race, but signs are that they work
"Asked whether she had seen any of the hard-hitting TV commercials in Oregon's special congressional race, Barbara begins to quiver with anger. 'I'm sick and tired of the lies and them trying to hurt someone and run them down,' she says. If those ads come on the air, she says, she mutes the TV set or changes the channel. And with that, she strode off, unwilling to give her full name or talk any more about the subject. Barbara may be particularly visceral in her anger. Still, her distaste for negative ads is a common complaint expressed by voters in the 1st Congressional District now that the major candidates and their allies are churning out a flurry of TV ads and fliers filled with pointed accusations and unflattering images."

Democrats Kotek and Roblan kick off pre-session fundraising binge
"Oregon House Co-speaker Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, and House Democratic Leader Tina Kotek of Portland held a joint fundraiser Monday at Hayden's Lakefront Grill in Tualatin that brought in about $22,000 for each of their campaign committees. You can call it the beginning of the pre-February session round of fundraisers.  With lawmakers essentially barred from fundraising during the upcoming session -- technically, it's prohibited by House rules and senators typically don't fund-raise then either -- the weeks just before are a prime opportunity for lawmakers to hit donors up for funds. That's particularly true now, with the campaign year looming in front of everybody."

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