Willamette Valley News, Friday 6/24 – Shortage of Ride Share and Taxi Drivers in Eugene Before World Athletics Championships; Eugene Police Arrest Armed Man Barricaded in Apartment

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

Friday, June 23, 2022

Willamette Valley Weather

Shortage of Ride Share and Taxi Drivers in Eugene Before World Athletics Championships

The World Athletics Championships are just a couple of weeks away and the city of Eugene is seeing a shortage of ride-share and taxi drivers.

“The number of Uber and Lyft drivers has gone down quite a bit from pre-pandemic levels,” said Andy Vobora, Travel Lane County’s vice president of stakeholder relations. “We had 2,000 drivers in town before the pandemic hit and we’re under 400 now.”

Vobora said Travel Lane County has even been contacting corporate executives to try and get old drivers back on board. “One of the things we’ve been talking about is reaching back out to some of those drivers before and see if they’re willing and able to drive here again,” said Vobora.

At Eugene Elite Taxi, drivers said call volumes have increased recently with people asking about the World Athletics Championships.

“With the Worlds coming up, things are really starting to heat up,” said driver and company partner Melissa Turenne. “We are actively training new drivers and actively trying to prepare ourselves.”

Turenne said it’s been challenging to find drivers and she’s encouraging riders to make their travel accommodations in advance. “Eugene is a transportation-challenged city,” said Turenne. “There’s fewer taxis on the road and fewer ride-share drivers [because of the pandemic].”

There are several alternative options for those wanting to get around Eugene if ride-share or rental car options are difficult to get. One option is Eugene-based electric vehicle company Arcimoto. 

“Our fun utility vehicles have a speed of up to 75 miles an hour and a range of 102 city miles,” said director of communications Jonathan Miller. “It’s an awesome way to explore Eugene.” With the weather getting warmer, Miller said more people have been inquiring about renting the vehicles.

“We’ve been getting calls heavy this week because it’s the first true week of summer,” said Miller. “It’s a great opportunity for visitors to try a totally different vehicle experience.” Rental rates for Arcimoto’s vehicles are $55 per 2 hours. Miller said right now the company offers up to three day overnight options, but can accommodate those wanting to extend their rentals.

Another option for those not wanting to drive is PeaceHealth Rides, a bike sharing system operated by the nonprofit Cascadia Mobility. According to officials, PeaceHealth Rides will be adding 300 bikes to their fleet and staff will be working around the clock to stock bikes at hubs near Hayward Field and the Eugene Riverfront Festival. Those interested in this option are encouraged to download the PeaceHealth Rides app.

“We just had UO graduation with students from previous year. Also, you think about 60,000 people for a football game at Autzen Stadium,” said Vobora. “The difference with this is this stretches out over ten days. So the volume of people is less than a football game, less than some of these big events, it’s just the duration is longer.”

Officials are also encouraging travelers to look into park and ride shuttle options. Vobora said Valley River Center will have an area for this.

An Uber spokesperson said:

“It’s hard to predict what will happen in July because we don’t know how many drivers will be on the road in the area and how many rider requests there will be. Once we know what supply looks like, incentives can be used to draw drivers in from nearby areas.”

A Lyft spokesperson said:

“With more people starting to move again, we are seeing the demand for rides outpace the number of available drivers and are continuing to add drivers to the platform. As with any major event, the common sense rule of allowing for plenty of time to get to/from your destination should apply. It may also be helpful to remind riders that our Wait & Save mode is available and ensures the best price for riders who aren’t in a hurry.”

While officials expect congestion near the University of Oregon campus during the World Athletics Championships, they said travel should not be a problem.

Eugene Police Arrest Armed Man Who Barricaded Himself in Apartment

According to Eugene Police, a man is in custody after he barricaded himself inside an apartment complex for hours.

The initial call came in around noon that an armed man barricaded himself inside a unit and would not come out. For hours police tried to get him out and even talked to him over the loudspeaker saying they would gas him.

The situation was resolved and the man was taken into custody before 8 p.m.

Neighbors were shocked by the situation, and many were watching it unfold from outside. Police were out there for hours, along with SWAT and K9 units. 

The Eugene YMCA Held Groundbreaking Ceremony For Their New Facility

Hundreds of supporters gathered at 24th and Hilyard on Thursday evening to celebrate. There were stories of the YMCA’s impact on families, and jokes about how long it’s taken to break ground. YMCA CEO Brian Steffen told the crowd, “I’ve had people today who say, ‘I think it started 15 years ago, or 20 years ago.’ The reality is, it officially kicked off in 2014 and it has been a labor of love, as has been mentioned, for a long time.”

Steffen thanked the many volunteers and donors, who, in addition to $15 million dollars in Oregon lottery bond funds, helped the $47.6 million dollar facility get started. The new Y, with an expanded aquatics center, activity spaces, and teaching kitchen is expected to be complete in December 2023.

Steffen said there’s still $650 thousand to raise in the $5 million community campaign phase. He called the new Y a “flagship” facility and said it will be the second most expensive YMCA in the U.S.

We want to keep you informed about COVID-19 in Oregon. Data are provisional and change frequently. For more information, including COVID-19 data by county, visit our dashboard: http://ow.ly/ul4R50JG4RL

Screen shot of linked dashboard shows an increase trend in cases and hospitalizations. Test positivity has decreased, and vaccinations have plateaued. Please visit healthoregon.org/coronavirus for more.
Heat exhaustion: Faint/dizzy, excessive sweating, rapid/weak pulse, nausea/vomiting, cool pale clammy skin, muscle cramps. Help person to a cooler, air conditioned place. Encourage them to drink water if they're fully conscious. Heat stroke: throbbing headache, confusion, may lose consciousness, rapid/strong pulse, nausea/vomiting, body temp above 103F, red hot skin. Call 911, cool off person quickly with cool water.

It’s going to be hot this weekend! The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) is forecasting temperatures in the 90s across many parts of the state and around 100 in parts of southern Oregon. Keep your community safe by learning the signs of heat-related illness and what to do if you see someone with these symptoms: http://ow.ly/u86450JGhb7

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State Treasurer Encourages Support For Student Aid Grants

A joint message from:  the Oregon Student Association; the Oregon Community College Association representing Oregon’s 17 community colleges; the Oregon Council of Presidents representing Oregon’s eight public universities; and the Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges and Universitiesrepresenting 13 Oregon independent non-profit colleges and universities.

June 23, 2022, Marks the 50th Anniversary of the Federal Pell Grant. The Oregon Opportunity Grant enjoyed its 50th Anniversary in 2021.  

A campaign to #DoublePell is underway. It has bipartisan public support and will help more students earn a degree, get good-paying jobs, and graduate with less debt. At a press conference held today to commemorate the event, Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read said, “Funding financial aid for students creates opportunities and is really important for the Oregon economy. Pell Grants are the federal government’s main tool for helping lower-income students and families access high education. Unfortunately, the funding levels have not kept up with costs. If I’ve learned anything in my work as Treasurer, it’s that there is no better investment than in the potential of rising young people.

With the help of a Pell Grant and other student aid, Nicole Paredes-Cisneros recently graduated debt-free from the University of Oregon with two undergraduate degrees. Paredes-Cisneros is a first-generation student and stated that the Pell grant for her provided a sense of relief, sending her the message that “we’ve got it covered, just go and make us proud.” She urged Congress to double the amount of Pell Grants that are transformational and create opportunity for all students. She described the grants  as “a light, a light that’s motivated students to reach for the sky, day-by-day”.  

Chemeketa Community College student McKinzie McBride said, “The Pell Grant and scholarships that I have received widened the door of possibilities for me and my family. As a full-time mother, employee, and now student, completing college will be one of my greatest accomplishments in life and I am so thankful for having some of the financial burden relieved. The Pell Grant has helped make my dreams come true.”

“The Pell Grant has made college more affordable and will help me graduate without the burden of significant student loan debt,” said Ian Curtis, a senior at Willamette University. “As the costs associated with attending college increase, the Pell Grant must increase as well. The Pell Grant program is a strategic investment in the future of our nation. It is time to double the Pell Grant and invest in a program that will yield strong returns in the years to come.” 

A video of today’s press conference can be seen here.

Increased emergency SNAP benefits continue in July

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Wikipedia

(Salem) – Most Oregonians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will receive emergency allotments in July.

  • Most Oregonians who receive SNAP benefits will continue to receive temporarily increased emergency food benefits in July
  • Approximately 422,000 SNAP households will receive approximately $68 million in extra food benefits in addition to their regular SNAP benefits
  • These emergency benefits are a temporary support that Oregon can provide because of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency
  • Find resources to meet your basic needs: Dial 2-1-1, or text your zip code to 898-211, www.211info.org 
  • Oregon Department of Human Services COVID-19 help center 

The federal government has approved emergency allotments every month since March 2020. This gives SNAP recipients additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic. These emergency benefits are a temporary support that Oregon can provide because of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency.

Because the federal government approved these emergency benefits for July, Oregon will also be able to issue them in August. However, the emergency benefits are expected to end when the federal public health emergency ends.

In July, approximately 422,000 SNAP households will receive approximately $68 million in extra food benefits in addition to their regular SNAP benefits.

“We know that many rely on these additional emergency food benefits to get enough healthy food for themselves and their families,” said Claire Seguin, deputy director of the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Self-Sufficiency Programs. “We also know that many Oregonians are still struggling to meet their basic needs and we encourage them to contact our partners at 211 and the Oregon Food Bank for support during this difficult time.”

Current SNAP households will receive emergency allotments on July 12. Emergency allotments will be issued July 29 or Aug. 2 for households who did not receive benefits in the first monthly issuance.

SNAP recipients do not have to take any action to receive these supplemental benefits as they will be issued directly on their EBT cards. 

More information about emergency allotments is available at https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/ASSISTANCE/FOOD-BENEFITS/Pages/Emergency-Allotments.aspx.

Questions about your SNAP benefits should be directed to the ONE Customer Service Center at 1-800-699-9075.

If your household receives SNAP and your income or the number of people in your household has changed, it could impact your benefits. It is important to make sure ODHS has the most up-to-date information. 

You can report any changes to your income or household in many ways: 

  • Online at: ONE.Oregon.gov
  • By mail at: ONE Customer Service Center, PO Box 14015, Salem, OR 97309
  • By fax at: 503-378-5628
  • By phone at: 1-800-699-9075 or TTY 711

Resources to help meet basic needs

Administered by ODHS, SNAP is a federal program that provides food assistance to approximately 1 million eligible, low-income families and individuals in Oregon, including many older adults and people with disabilities. Oregonians in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP, child care, cash assistance and Medicaid. Learn more at https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/benefits/Pages/index.aspx . For local resources in your area, such as food or shelter, please call 2-1-1 or reach out to the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) at 1-855-ORE-ADRC or 1-855-673-2372.

Plans To Increase Federal  Wildland Firefighter Pay

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced plans to increase federal  wildland firefighter pay  as required by the bipartisan infrastructure law. This move is part of a series of steps that also includes the establishment of a new wildland fire management job series.

Last week, senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden sent a letter to the office of personnel management for the immediate implementation of these changes. And while Senator Jeff Merkley welcomes this announcement, he says he would like to see more.

The administration also announced the creation of a program to support the health and wellbeing of firefighters.
Senator Merkley added it’s important to support the firefighters as we enter into the peak of Oregon’s wildfire season

Record High Prices Not Discouraging Travel

Record-high gasoline prices are not discouraging car travel, according to Independence Day projections from AAA of Oregon.

The auto club expects a record 42 million Americans to travel for the July 4th holiday by car. That includes 441,000 Oregonian who will hit the roads for the upcoming holiday.

Overall, AAA expects 47.9 million Americans to travel via air or car for the 2022 holiday. That approaching pre-pandemic levels of travel, In 2019, AAA reported 49 million Americans traveled for the Fourth of July holiday.

Airlines have been challenged by canceled flights and higher fares due to higher fuel prices. Only 7.4% of travelers will do so by air, according to AAA. That is lowest level since 2011.

The average price of gasoline nationally was $4.97 per gallon nationally in Tuesday, July 21. The average price is $5.53 per gallon in Oregon and $6.38 per gallon in California, according to AAA.

In the Pacific region, which includes California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, AAA expects 6.8 million people to travel for the July holiday.

Life-Changing Electric All-Terrain Trackchairs available for free trial in Seaside July 4th weekend

Providing a new way to get out on the beach and into nature for people with mobility challenges, on July 4th weekend David’s Chair Outdoor Mobility Systems is bringing seven electric all-terrain wheelchairs to Seaside’s promenade (between Broadway and Avenue A) for mobility challenged guests to try for free.

From 9am to 5pm on Saturday July 2 and Sunday July 3, people who register at https://davidschair.org can have a chance to buckle in and experience the freedom to travel along the beach without having to be concerned about the sand or water.

Anyone with mobility impairment, requiring the assistance of wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes or crutches, will be able to use these chairs at no charge.

David’s Chair Outdoor Mobility Systems and Oregon Parks Forever are collaborating to add 10 additional locations where mobility challenged visitors can pick up and use an electric all-terrain wheelchair at no charge.

These chairs will provide a new freedom for a mobility challenged park visitor – to get off the pavement and out into nature.

With increased accessibility to trails, lakes, rivers and beaches, through demanding conditions like sand, snow and mud, mobility-impaired visitors will be able to participate in activities never-before possible.

From birdwatching and fishing, to riding along the beach, to simply enjoying the fresh air and solitude of nature, these all-terrain chairs will invite many new people to share the wonders of the great outdoors in our parks.

See these chairs in action at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4KIrqu47WY

Over the next couple of years, the partners are working to locate hosts at American Legion, VFW and Tourism related entities along the Oregon Coast and the I-5 corridor where a chair and trailer can be stored and made available for free use by visitors with mobility challenges. 

We are doing this to provide easier access to these chairs to a wider number of people.  Under the current operating model for David’s Chair, anyone wishing to borrow one of their seven current chairs (for free) must bring a trailer hitch-enabled vehicle to Medford and pick up a chair and trailer to take where they would like to use it.  This severely limits access to other parts of the state.  One of the most popular uses for these chairs is to get out on the beach, hence our desire for host locations along the Oregon Coast.  Also, there are many parks in areas such as Springfield, Eugene, Salem and Portland along the I-5 corridor that visitors would like to access.

Reservations for free use can be made at: https://davidschair.org

Oregon Man Breaks World Record For Fastest Time Alphabetizing Alphabet Soup

Jacob Chandler, an Oregon resident, has broken the record for the fastest time to find and alphabetize the letters in a can of alphabet soup, with a time of 2 mins 8.6 sec.

This record entails fishing out the letters A-Z from a can of alphabet soup and placing them in alphabetical order in the quickest time possible. The 26 letters were laid out on a piece of card on top of that same printed letter.

“I was intrigued by the idea of alphabetizing a canned soup. I’ve eaten plenty of alphabet soup in my life but never stopped to think someone would make a challenge out of organizing the letters.” – Jacob Chandler

“I’ve always had a knack for taking on new challenges. At a young age my father taught me to try new things just to see what I liked or disliked.”

He decided to attempt a Guinness World Records title to prove that, with proper preparation and dedication, he could achieve any goal he set for myself.

Before his attempt, Jacob reviewed about a half dozen records before settling on this alphabet soup record.  

“I needed to know about that soups specifics like (M vs W) or (O vs Q) and what each individual letter looked like. Many of the letters had similar features and I needed to know that before the attempt.”

Jacob also did multiple practice runs, varying his bowl, spoon and can of soup placement to find the optimal layout and ease of accessibility for his attempt.

“By conducting this mental and physical walkthrough of the attempt, it would give me the best possible chance so I was not losing any precious seconds on nonsense movements.”

However, there were some things Jacob couldn’t prepare for, namely how many of each letter would appear. 

Jacob was inspired to attempt this record to show his 11-year-old son, Brycen, that anything is possible if you work hard enough at it. 

However, Jacob doesn’t intend to stop at just the one record. He has his sights set on a few more, including the most tea bags thrown into mugs in 30 seconds and the distance-based record using a Mentos and soda bottle vehicle. (https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2022/6/man-alphabetizes-letters-from-alphabet-soup-in-record-breaking-time-708368)

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