Willamette Valley News, Wednesday 10/13 – Wyden Makes Stop in Eugene, Missing Junction City Teen, Oregon Kicker Details Confirmed

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Willamette Valley Weather

Today– A 30 percent chance of showers after 11am. Patchy fog before 11am. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 55. West wind around 6 mph becoming calm in the morning.

Thursday– Partly sunny, with a high near 61. Light and variable wind becoming south southeast around 5 mph in the morning.

Friday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 66. Calm wind.

Saturday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 69.

Sunday– A chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 59.

Wyden Makes Stop in Eugene

Wyden met with Eugene-area press in the Market District Commons, one of the newest affordable housing developments in the city. Wyden said he’s aiming to make gains with the “Build Back Better” legislation in Congress.

“I’d like to have more housing vouchers, so that folks who are houseless would be in a position to take those vouchers,” he said.

Wyden was joined by Jacob Fox, of the Homes for Good housing agency. He said pre-pandemic, they had over 7,000 applicants a week for their housing choice voucher program, and they’ve distributed a lot in rent assistance since then. “Homes for Good’s distributed over $10 million to the community,” Fox said.

“So those just give you a sense of what the need is, and how we need leadership from our national elected officials to deliver for our communities.”

A recent Eugene Chamber of Commerce report shows more than 3,100 people in Lane County lack shelter.

The Build Back Better plan has a number of items advocates say is important to help working families.

Nichi Linder of Family Forward Oregon said previous legislation has helped them through COVID-19 and the pandemic economy.

“Expansion of the Child Tax Credit through the American Rescue Plan is already proving to be a huge deal for families, lifting millions to incomes above our country’s poverty threshold in just its first month,” said Linder.

“But in order to fix the systemic issues that have made us so vulnerable to this crisis in the first place, we have to expand and extend cash assistance benefits like child tax credits and the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) permanently.”

Climate change and prescription drug prices were also discussed as legislative issues Wyden plans to address after he gets back to the Senate. 

Congress is working through many provisions in the Build Back Better plan. Differences are expected both along political lines with Democrats and Republicans, and between moderate and progressive Democrats.

Missing Junction City Teen

13-year-old McKenzie Helena Xiarhos ran away from her Junction City home around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 11, the Junction City Police Department said.

McKenzie is described as 5’06”, 140 lbs, brown and green hair, blue eyes, and last seen wearing a black 1/2-cut Nirvana t-shirt, black colored hooded sweat shirt, grey sweatpants, and white shoes.

Anyone with information about McKenzie is asked to contact Junction City Police at (541) 998-1245.

Missing Man’s Phone indicates He Was in the Glendale-Wolf Creek Area

Sheriff officials are asking… Have you seen Brian Moore?

The 38-year-old man’s family last had contact with him on August 24, 2021, the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon said.

“A broad phone ping at the time of the report showed him to be in the Glendale/Wolf Creek area,” according to the sheriff’s office. “There are no bank or phone records since the date of the report.”

Please contact the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office at 541-474-5123 with any information.

Crater Lake National Park Public Meeting on Trail Management Plan Today!

The development of future trails at Crater Lake National Park will be discussed and open for public comment during a virtual meeting Wednesday. Park officials will outline the proposed trail management plan that will help guide trail management over the next 25 years.

Specifically, the park proposes to construct new trails and change designated uses on some existing trails. The plan is intended to guide trail management and investment in trail infrastructure over the next 25 years. 

Crater Lake National Park will be having a virtual public meeting regarding the trail management plan on Wednesday, October 13, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM PDT. This virtual public meeting can be accessed using this link on October 13. 

An online “StoryMap” is available to provide an overview of the draft plan and the corresponding maps at https://go.usa.gov/xM9wS, and the complete draft plan can be found at https://go.usa.gov/xMX2W

Two of the plan’s alternatives include proposals for the possible addition of more than 20 miles of new trails. Wednesday’s virtual meeting will run from 6-7:30 p.m. Following an overview of the draft plan and information on how to comment — the comment deadline is Oct. 21 — there will be question-answer period.

The draft plan includes three alternatives. The “no action” alternative would make no changes in the park’s existing trail network, which covers 95 miles of summer and winter trails, including nearly 35 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Oregon reports 1,413 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 82 new deaths

There are 82 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 4,084. The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,413 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 345,344.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Benton (34), Clackamas (83), Clatsop (4), Columbia (14), Coos (34), Crook (63), Curry (3), Deschutes (92), Douglas (39), Gilliam (2), Grant (17), Harney (21), Hood River (9), Jackson (63), Jefferson (13), Josephine (24), Klamath (84), Lake (14), Lane (119), Lincoln (8), Linn (48), Malheur (45), Marion (112), Morrow (10), Multnomah (118), Polk (64), Sherman (2), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (96), Union (8), Wallowa (5), Wasco (28), Washington (83) and Yamhill (51).

Note: Today’s total marks the highest number of COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon reported in a single day. This is in part due to a death data reconciliation. 

Oregon Breaks Single-Day Record For COVID-19 Deaths

The Oregon Health Authority reported a record-breaking 82 COVID-19 related deaths in Tuesday’s report. This is the highest number reported in a single day. In a news release, OHA cited a “death data reconciliation” as part of the reason for the new high. According to OHA, death is a lagging indicator and usually follows a rise in cases. Additionally, there is usually a lag in reporting as state epidemiologists review death certificates.

Death is a lagging indicator and generally follows a surge in cases. In addition, there is often a lag in reporting as our epidemiologists review death certificates. OHA expects that reported deaths may continue to be high even as daily case counts decrease. This is due to the time lag between when a person tests positive for a case of COVID-19 and when they die with COVID-19.

The best way to reduce COVID-19 related deaths is by getting vaccinated. Safe, free and highly effective vaccines are widely available throughout Oregon.

Third doses and booster doses are also recommended for those who are eligible. Getting vaccinated is helping to bring the surge due to the Delta variant under control and can also reduce the likelihood of other variants emerging.

Arrows show that cases have increased and hospitalizations have decreased over the previous day. Graph shows the 7 Day Moving Average at a decrease.
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With sustained lower temperatures and rising moisture across southern Oregon, US Forest Service officials at the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest announced Tuesday that fire restrictions will be lowered effective Wednesday morning.

Within the RRSNF, fire danger ratings drop from “Moderate” to “Low” on all ranger districts. The Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) is also being changed to “Open Season,” which means no restrictions.

“With the consistently cooler weather and precipitation received, we are now comfortable lifting all public use restrictions and IFPL’s that have been in place,” said RRSNF assistant fire staff officer Mike McCann.

All campfire restrictions will also be lifted, including those within the boundaries of the Wild section of the Rogue National Wild and Scenic River from Grave Creek to the mouth of Watson Creek.

The federal Bureau of Land Management administers the stretch of the Rogue River from Grave Creek to Marial, with fire protection from the Oregon Department of Forestry. The Forest Service manages areas from Marial downriver to the mouth of Watson Creek.

Fire danger levels on ODF-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties dropped to “Low” last Wednesday.

Wildfire season winding down now, however, if you’ve noticed there has been a rash of structure fires now that the weather has cooled down.

October Is Fire Prevention Month in Oregon 

Nationally and in Oregon, firefighters respond each year to structure fires that injure or kill people where the smoke alarm is not functioning or is missing altogether. Residents understanding the sounds their smoke alarms make and what actions they can take to protect themselves can make all the difference. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms make different beeps and chirping noises to let us know that maintenance is needed. Everyone needs to know what each noise means and what actions you should take to keep your alarms in safe working order.  

According to the ten-year data collected from the Oregon Fire Service for the National Fire Reporting System, 250 people have died, and more than 1,400 have been injured in structure fires. In addition, out of the structure fires reported since 2011, over 1,400 incidents reported smoke alarms missing, without adequate power, or disabled. Statistics from the past year show a working smoke alarm in 42% of the structures fires across the state, and 14% of the incidents report no smoke alarm at all. 

Fire and Carbon Monoxide Alarms are good at telling us what they need. We just have to listen.

  • One chirp or beep means there is an issue with the alarm getting power.
  • Recurring beeps or three beeps in a row is the smoke alarm telling you it needs to be replaced.
  • If you noticed your smoke alarm is only activated when you’re cooking or using your shower, it might need to be moved to a better location.
  • If your smoke alarm is beeping continuously, get low, use your family escape route, and call 911 from a safe place outside.

“This year to mark Fire Prevention Month, the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal asks Oregonians to learn the sounds of their alarms,” says State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple. “Knowing the different sounds of your smoke alarm and what to do when it makes a certain sound is the key to saving lives; working smoke alarms save lives.”

On Monday, October 3rd, 2021, the OSFM and its fire service partners will be launching a four-week social media campaign #KnowYourBeepingAlarm to illustrate the importance of knowing what your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are saying. Each week takes an in-depth look at the sound and what actions people can take.

The OSFM has also put together a smoke and carbon monoxide installation guide, which is available in six different languages and can be found on OSFM’s website.

For more information on the sounds smoke and carbon monoxide alarms make and proper installation, please visit the OSFM’s website. To get help installing a smoke alarm, contact OSFM at egonsfm@osp.oregon.gov“>oregonsfm@osp.oregon.gov

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Oregon Kicker Details Confirmed

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis (OEA) confirmed earlier this month a nearly $1.9 billion tax surplus, triggering a tax surplus credit, or “kicker,” for the 2021 tax year.

Instead of kicker checks, the surplus will be returned to taxpayers through a credit on their 2021 state personal income tax returns filed in 2022.

To calculate the amount of your credit, multiply your 2020 tax liability before any credits—line 22 on the 2020 Form OR-40—by 17.341 percent. This percentage is determined and certified by OEA. Taxpayers who claimed a credit for tax paid to another state would need to subtract the credit amount from their liability before calculating the credit.

A What’s My Kicker? calculator is active on Revenue’s website for personal income tax filers now. You can access the calculator from Revenue Online. To calculate your kicker, you’ll enter your name, Social Security Number, and filing status for 2020 and 2021.

You’re eligible to claim the kicker if you filed a 2020 tax return and had tax due before credits. Even if you don’t have a filing obligation for 2021, you still must file a 2021 tax return to claim your credit. There will be detailed information on how to claim your credit in the 2021 Oregon personal income tax return instructions: Form OR-40 for full-year Oregon residents, Form OR-40-P for part-year residents, and Form OR-40-N for nonresidents. Composite and fiduciary-income tax return filers are also eligible.

Keep in mind that the state may use all or part of your kicker to pay any state debt you owe, such as tax due for other years, child support, court fines, or school loans.

Free tax preparation services are available for low- to moderate-income taxpayers through AARP and CASH Oregon. United Way also offers free tax help through their MyFreeTaxes program.

There are free or low-cost preparation options available for both federal and Oregon tax returns. Some software companies offer free software use and e-filing for eligible taxpayers. Visit the Department of Revenue website to take advantage of the software and free offers and get more information about free tax preparation services.

Visit www.oregon.gov/dor to get tax forms, check the status of your refund, or make tax payments; call 800-356-4222 toll-free from an Oregon prefix (English or Spanish); 503-378-4988 in Salem and outside Oregon; or email questions.dor@oregon.gov.  — Oregon Dept. of Revenue

Oregon Changing Substitute Teacher License Rules Due To Staffing Shortages

Officials are calling it an “extraordinary shortage” of substitute teachers across the state, and the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission announced a new rule temporarily dropping the bachelor’s degree requirement to become licensed in some cases.

The temporary rule, which is set to expire March 31, allows substitute teacher applicants without a bachelor’s degree to be sponsored by a school district, which would also provide them with enhanced support and administrative supervision, according to a joint statement from Dr. Anthony Rosilez, the commission’s executive director, and Erika Bare, the commission chair.

The license would only allow individuals to work for the district that sponsored them and would only be valid for the remainder of the school year, or six months, whichever is later.

“This rule maintains the responsibility of districts to ensure that the adults caring for the students in the classroom have the skills and dispositions necessary to be a temporary substitute teacher who can keep students safe and learning,” Rosilez and Bare said in their statement.

The state has seen a massive decline in substitute teachers in less than two years: In December 2019, there were 8,290 licensed substitute teachers across Oregon. By September 18, 2021, the number was nearly slashed in half, down to 4,738 licensed substitutes. Without more teachers, classes will be “combined to unacceptable levels or not offered at all, inflicting irreparable harm on schoolchildren,” the temporary administrative order says.

“While the data we have at this point is primarily anecdotal, the COVID pandemic has been a primary factor in the reduced supply,” Rosilez and Bare said.

Elizabeth Thiel, president of the Portland Association of Teachers, which also represents substitute educators, said what Oregon is experiencing is a “staffing crisis” exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic for several reasons.

Some long-time substitute teachers, with little work for them last year due to distance learning, moved to different fields and found other jobs.

“At the same time there was a huge need to hire teachers. Many teachers resigned or left the profession last year so there were a lot of openings and many of our substitute educators have been hired into full-time jobs and so the pool that we have left of substitute educators is significantly smaller than it typically is,” Thiel added.

Thirdly, while some substitute teachers prior to the pandemic had recently finished their teaching programs, last year those programs likely didn’t see the same amount of people going into teaching, Thiel said, thinning the pool of substitutes who would typically be available even further.

And it comes as more teachers are now having to call out sick. Some, for symptoms with which, before Covid-19, they could usually go to work, like a cough or a runny nose. Others, to take care of their own children, who may have been exposed to the virus or are required to quarantine.

“Those factors have increased the number of absences but at the same time, we have fewer substitutes to fill those absences,” Thiel said.

In their statement, Rosilez and Bare called the temporarily new rule a “short-term solution” which will allow districts to keep functioning “in the face of unprecedented staffing shortages while we tackle the continuing problem of teacher shortage across the state and country.”

“The Commission will more fully review this temporary rule and feedback from school districts at its November meeting,” their statement added.

Thiel also highlighted the rule is only a short-term fix, and added much larger system-level changes are needed to support schools and their staff.

“It’s not just substitutes that we don’t have enough of. It’s classroom teachers, it’s administrators and custodians and bus drivers and education assistants and nutrition workers and paraprofessionals,” Thiel said. “Every job type we have in our schools, we’re short.”

Thousands Of Kaiser Health Care Workers In Oregon and California Authorize Strike

More than 24,000 nurses and other health care workers at Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and California have overwhelmingly authorized a strike, threatening to walk out over pay and working conditions strained by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kaiser, one of the nation’s largest health care providers, has proposed a two-tiered wage and benefits system that would give newer employees lower pay and fewer health protections. The unions want Kaiser to abandon that plan. They also want 4% raises for each of the next three years and a commitment to hire more nurses to relieve staffing shortages. Kaiser has offered 1% a year, with additional lump sums, and says it must reduce labor costs to remain competitive.

The regional strike vote comes amid national contract negotiations between Kaiser and the Alliance of Health Care Unions, which represents more than 20 unions covering more than 50,000 Kaiser workers nationwide. More strike authorizations could come in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, Washington state and the District of Columbia, the unions said.

This weekend’s votes don’t automatically trigger work stoppages. The union must give Kaiser Permanente 10 days’ notice before workers walk off the job, and both sides continue bargaining after their last contract expired on Sept. 30.

The strike authorization covers nurses, pharmacists, midwives, physical therapists and others represented by United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals. About 7,000 United Steelworkers union members, including housekeeping attendants, customer service representatives and pharmacy technicians, also voted to strike if necessary.

“We ask that our employees reject a call to walk away from the patients who need them. Our priority is to continue to provide our members with high-quality, safe care. In the event of any kind of work stoppage, our facilities will be staffed by our physicians along with trained and experienced managers and contingency staff,” Kaiser Permanente responded.

It is reported that turnout among the workers was 86%, with 96% approving a strike. “It shows they don’t take this lightly,” said UNAC/UHCP President Denise Duncan, a registered nurse. “They want to see a change.”

Kaiser is committed to working quickly to agree on a new contract, said Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president of human resources.

“We ask that our employees reject a call to walk away from the patients who need them,” Peasnall’s statement said. “In the event of any kind of work stoppage, our facilities will be staffed by our physicians along with trained and experienced managers and contingency staff.”

Reports state that Kaiser’s proposal would lower the wage scale for almost every job classification represented by the alliance of unions by 26% to 39% for new hires beginning in January 2023, according to Jane Carter, a labor economist and UNAC/UHCP’s director of research, regulatory affairs and public policy. If implemented, this “two-tiered” system could breed resentment among workers paid at different rates for the same work, cause higher turnover and impair efforts to attract and retain skilled workers, Carter said.

“They have not explained their reasoning for these draconian cuts they’re proposing while they’re so profitable,” Carter said.

The union said Kaiser Permanente has $44 billion in cash reserves and a healthier outlook than many health care systems.

Kaiser Permanente spokesperson Terry Kanakri said an independent analysis on behalf of the company found union-represented employee wages to be at least 26% over market in nearly all the markets where the company operates.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof after months of public exploration has taken a step toward running for Oregon governor by forming a political action committee.

Kristof, 62, officially filled the committee paperwork Tuesday, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. That allows him to raise money and hire staff ahead of an official announcement of his candidacy.

Carol Butler, a political consultant who has been working with Kristof as a volunteer, somewhat downplayed the significance of the filing, calling it “another step toward a potential run for governor.” Kristof in recent years has
moved back to the Yamhill, Oregon, farm where he grew up, and he’s been working to turn it into a vineyard and cider orchard. Kristof is viewed by political consultants and potential candidates as a possible contender for the Democratic nomination.

Umpqua Bank Sells to Columbia Banking System

The parent company of Portland-based Umpqua Bank is selling to Columbia Banking System in a $5.1 billion deal that will keep the Umpqua brand and split the business’ headquarters between Tacoma and Portland’s suburbs.

The combined bank will put its corporate office in Tacoma. Umpqua said it will move its Portland office out of the
downtown plaza named for the bank into new offices on Kruse Way in Lake Oswego sometime next year.

The bank’s move out of downtown is another blow to the city’s core, which has been buffeted by protests, vandalism, homelessness, violent crime and prolonged, pandemic-related office closures. Kurt Heath, Umpqua’s vice president of corporate communications, said in a written statement that the pandemic fundamentally changed the bank’s operations as more of its employees began working remotely.

Bend Oregon Murder Scheme Gets Attention on PEOPLE Magazine

Authorities in Bend, Oregon believe a 34-year-old man and his fiancée were killed more than a year ago in a murder-for-hire scheme concocted by his brother.

During a press conference last week, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel alleged Kenneth Atkinson, 54, and his 31-year-old nephew, Nathan Shane Detroit, murdered Ray Atkinson, Jr., and Natasha Newby, 29, on Aug. 15, 2020.

The couple died from blunt force trauma injuries, according to Hummel, and their bodies were found by concerned friends in the basement of a Bend home previously owned by Ray Atkinson, Sr., who died in 2019.

Citing the criminal affidavits, the Bend Bulletin reports that Ray Atkinson, Sr., had left behind a $400,000 estate, but no will.

For the next year, Ray and Kenneth were embroiled in a legal dispute over their father’s estate, according to the indictment.

Ken Atkinson and Nathan Detroit

Ken Atkinson and Nathan Detroit | CREDIT: DESCHUTES COUNTY JAIL

Investigators had long suspected that Kenneth was involved in the double homicide, Hummel said, but only recently developed enough evidence for the filing of charges.

The district attorney did not discuss what specific evidence led to the Oct. 1 arrests.

Hummel alleges that Kenneth convinced Detroit to help him carry out the killings, promising him an unspecified amount of money for his assistance.

“I am hopeful that this arrest will bring a small measure of closure and peace to the family and friends of Ray and Natasha,” reads a statement from Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz.

The two suspects are being held without bail — each on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree conspiracy to commit murder.

Neither has entered pleas to the charges, and their attorneys could not be reached for comment Tuesday. https://people.com/crime/oregon-man-allegedly-hired-nephew-to-kill-family-members-amid-dispute-over-late-fathers-estate/?utm=newsbreak

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