Willamette Valley News, Thursday 1/19 – Eugene Negotiating Former EWEB Headquarters For New City Hall, Eugene Police Department Gets New Speeding Detection Devices

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

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Willamette Valley Weather

Eugene Negotiating Former EWEB Headquarters For New City Hall

Eugene city officials are negotiating a deal with the Eugene Water and Electric Board to purchase the utility’s former headquarters on Fourth Avenue for a new city hall.

EWEB made the announcement Wednesday after the utility’s board of commissioners and Eugene’s city council held separate executive sessions to discuss property transactions. The exact terms and details of the deal, including a purchase price, will be negotiated during the next few weeks.

Frank Lawson, the utility’s general manager, said having the city as a potential buyer with the goal of turning the headquarters into a city hall provides the opportunity to “consolidate city services with significant savings to the community.”

The city’s plans as submitted in a proposal to the utility require “only minor changes,” Lawson said, and will allow EWEB to maintain a shared customer-facing space for paying utility bills and similar needs.

Any move to sell the building to the city will go through several steps as part of a public process, including a council vote on key deal points before more negotiation. The city has been looking for a new city hall for years and currently rents space at Lane Community College and several other locations.

The utility has been looking for a buyer for the 4.44-acre property for years. It declared the property as surplus in 2018 after moving most employees to the Roosevelt Operations Center.

The property at 500 E. Fourth Ave. includes three developable parcels and parking lots and two buildings totaling about 100,000 square feet, with a sky bridge connecting them. It is adjacent to the river’s bicycle paths, the DeFazio Bridge and Downtown Riverfront Park, across from Alton Baker Park.

The building is nestled in the northern end of more than a dozen acres the city bought from EWEB. The city is working to redevelop it into a new neighborhood that will reconnect downtown to the river.

Several agencies and organizations have expressed interest in the building, including the Eugene Science Center and Eugene School District 4J .

The Downtown Riverfront Park, which opened last summer, runs along the eastern edge of the property, and a Portland developer is building housing to the west and south of the former utility headquarters.

Further south will be more housing and a park plaza. At the south end, the city is working with a development team to revamp the former EWEB steam plant to round out the redevelopment of the utility’s former operations yard.

Eugene Police Department Gets New Speeding Detection Devices

The Eugene Police Department says with dry weather comes drivers emboldened to blow past the speed limit on major roads. Fortunately, the police have new gear to help them catch speeders.

According to EPD, in the week of January 16, they issued numerous citations to drivers going more than 80 miles per hour. EPD said some of those citations included drivers going in excess of 100 miles per hour on Beltline Road. EPD officials said a car traveling 100 miles per hour will travel the length of half a football field in the time it takes for a person to take a single step, and that speed does not allow for a driver to react to a hazard.

Eugene police say that thanks to an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant issued by the U.S Department of justice, they were able to purchase brand-new Lidar (light detection and ranging) speed-measuring devices. The police department says the new gear will be used to upgrade their current 20-year-old devices. Eugene police say the new gear is waterproof, and dustproof, and has a host of new features, and has already caught several speeders.

EPD says speeding tickets are unnecessary expenditures that can cost a driver more than $1,000. However, that’s nothing compared to the ultimate price paid by more than 300 Oregonians each year who lose their lives in traffic collisions. EPD encourages drivers to slow down, buckle up, avoid distractions, and not drive under the influence of intoxicants.

Police Seek Tips and Muslim Civil Rights Organization Speaks On Antisemitic Fliers Found In Thurston Area

The largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country is speaking out after dozens of antisemitic flyers showed up in the Thurston area of Springfield.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy executive director of The Council on American Islamic Relations, says that they’ve been receiving a lot of similar reports across the country.

“People are leaving these anonymous, hateful anti-Jewish fliers to intimidate the Jewish community. It happens far too often across the county, so I was disturbed but not surprised,” Ahmed Mitchell said.

He said they receive reports of this happening more than once a week. 

According to some of the residents, the Ziploc bags were found Monday morning. Some of them negatively associate Jewish people with political policies. There was also offensive language directed at Jews, suggesting they engage in certain illegal sexual activities.

“Hate against any community is unacceptable, and it often impacts various other communities. People just feel free to say whatever hateful thing that’s on their mind. They used to leave it in the dark corners of the internet and now they’re actually putting their words into action. I can’t tell you why they are doing this, but I think the goal is intimidation and to normalize this sort of hate, and we can’t let that happen,” Ahmed Mitchell said.

Ahmed Mitchell said when things like this happen, communities must come together, not ignoring the act — but instead standing up against it and taking positive action.

“If a mosque is targeted, visit a local mosque, for example. Build ties with them and show whoever is doing this that the only consequence of this is to bring people together,” Ahmed Mitchell said.

He said it’s also important to get the police involved. “I think if those two things happen, a strong law enforcement response and a strong community response, then what is a very unpleasant situation can turn into something that ultimately is a positive something overall,” Ahmed Mitchell said.

Springfield police are investigating, and they’re asking anyone who received one of the flyers to call it in and for neighbors to check their cameras. Residents are encouraged to email police@springfield-or.gov or call 541-726-3714 with any information, pictures, videos or other visual evidence they may have.

Study Ranks Oregon In Top 10 States Spending The Most On Rent

Oregonians are spending more of their income on rent than most other renters in the U.S., a study conducted by moving experts with Forbes Home shows.

Oregon is one of the many states across the United States where residents spend an increasingly large portion of their income on rent. According to a study conducted by moving experts with Forbes Home, Oregon ranks 9th in states where residents spend the largest percentage of their income on rent. 

Forbes Home’s complete top 10 list:

The states that spend the highest percentage of income on rent. (courtesy of Forbes Home)

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Forbes Home determined that Oregon ranked 9th in the U.S. for states where residents spend the largest percentage of their income on rent.

On average, Oregonians spend about $1,284 per month on rent, which is equal to more than 25% of their monthly income. This amount is higher than many other states in the U.S., and it has only been rising over time as rents continue to increase while incomes remain stagnant.

What makes this situation even worse is that high rental costs are not just a problem in Oregon; they are pervasive throughout the entire country. In fact, according to the same study, Hawaii had the highest disparity between rent and income, with 42% of monthly earnings going toward rent. California and New Jersey were not far behind at 28.47% and 27.50%, respectively. Clearly, this is a problem transcending state lines, but why does Oregon have it worse than most?

The answer lies in a combination of factors: rising housing costs and increasing demand for rental properties due to population growth and economical migration from other parts of the country. 

According to data from Zillow, median rents for single-family homes have steadily increased since 2011—from about $1,200 per month to nearly $1,400 today—while wages have remained largely stagnant over that same period (after adjusting for inflation). This means that despite earning more money over time, renters are paying a larger portion of their income toward rent year after year.

At the same time that housing prices are skyrocketing and wages remain stagnant, Oregon’s population is proliferating due to people migrating from other parts of the country seeking better job opportunities or a lower cost of living (which can sometimes be offset by higher rental costs). 

As more people move into the state looking for affordable housing options, competition increases significantly—driving up prices even further as landlords take advantage of increased demand—and leaving those who already live here fighting for limited space in an ever-shrinking market.

TSA Breaks Another Record Nationally In Oregon For Guns Found At Checkpoints In 2022

Transportation Security Administration officers in Oregon detected 108 firearms in travelers’ carry-on luggage in 2022, with the majority of the firearms discovered at Portland International Airport’s security checkpoints.

Every one of these firearms was discovered during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on property. Nationwide last year, TSA officers found 6,542 firearms at 262 different airports.

Below is a summary of TSA firearm discoveries at Oregon airports and nationally for the past five years:

Oregon totals:76874981108*
National totals:4,2394,4323,2575,9726,542*

Note: no firearms have been discovered since 2018 at Southwest Oregon Regional Airport
* Record number of firearm discoveries.

The five U.S. airports with the most TSA firearm discoveries are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which topped the list with 448 firearm finds. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport came in second with 385 followed by Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport with 298; Nashville International Airport with 213 and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with 196. Orlando International Airport; Denver International Airport; Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Tampa International Airport round out the Top 10.

In 2022, TSA screened approximately 761 million passengers and crew at airports nationwide. TSA officers across the country discovered firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate of 8.6 firearms per million passengers screened. Stated another way, TSA detected one firearm for every 116,394 travelers screened.

The busiest airport in Oregon is PDX, where TSA officers screened approximately 7.7 million departing passengers and crew. Statistics show that travelers flying out of PDX brought firearms in carry-on luggage at a rate of around 10 firearms per million travelers screened, exceeding the national average. That equates to a firearm discovered for 99,219 travelers screened.

Here is a table summarizing number of travelers screened for every firearm discovery at the security checkpoint last year.

 Number of travelers screened in 2022Number of travelers screened per TSA firearm find
Portland International Airport7,700,00099,219
Eugene Airport864,00086,400
Rogue Valley International – Medford Airport570,00071,225
Redmond International Airport603,00075,440

“It is my hope that these statistics serve as a wake-up call for those who choose to travel with a firearm. This is not a new problem, but it is one that must be addressed since we have reached an unacceptable level firearms coming through our security checkpoints.” said TSA Federal Security Director for Oregon Kathleen McDonald.

“We are pleading with the traveling public to double-check the contents of your carry-on luggage and follow the proper procedures for traveling with firearms. Fortunately, we have a dedicated corps of TSA officers across the country who will continue to screen for weapons and other potential security threats to ensure these items do not make it into the cabin of an aircraft – for your security when you travel by air.”

When a TSA officers sees the image of a firearm on the X-ray screen, TSA immediately notifies the local airport law enforcement agency, which responds to the security checkpoint. A law enforcement officer removes the firearm from the X-ray tunnel and makes contact with the traveler. What happens to the firearm and the traveler is up to the discretion of the airport law enforcement agency.

In addition to potential criminal citations for bringing a firearm in carry-on luggage, TSA can levy a civil penalty again the traveler. Among the factors TSA considers when determining the civil penalty amount include whether the firearm was loaded and whether there was accessible ammunition. Even if a traveler has a concealed weapons permit, firearms are not permitted in carry-on luggage.

Individuals who violate rules regarding traveling with firearms will have Trusted Traveler status and TSA PreCheck® expedited screening benefits revoked for a period of time. The duration of the disqualification will depend upon the seriousness of the offense and if there is a repeated history of violations.

Firearms can be transported on a commercial aircraft only if they are unloaded, packed in a locked, hard-sided case and placed in checked baggage. Any type of replica firearm is also prohibited in carry-on baggage and must be transported in checked luggage.

At the airport during the check-in process, a passenger needs to go to the airline ticket counter to declare the firearm, ammunition and any firearm parts. Prior to traveling, passengers are encouraged to check gun laws and regulations at their destination to ensure they are in compliance with local and state laws. TSA also recommends travelers check with their airline prior to their flight to ensure they comply with any airline-specific requirements.

TSA has additional traveler information specifically related to the transportation of firearms and ammunition. A full summary of TSA’s civil penalties for prohibited items is also available.

TSA reminds passengers to be aware of the contents of their carry-on bag prior to coming to the security checkpoint. TSA has multiple resources available to passengers to help them determine whether an item is permitted in carry-on baggage, checked baggage or not at all.

Travelers can use the “Can I Bring” feature on the TSA website or on the TSA mobile app, myTSA. Travelers can also Tweet or Message “@AskTSA” if they have a travel question or are unsure if an item is allowed through security in a carry-on bag. Just snap a picture or send a question and get real-time assistance daily from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST.

Oregon Agencies Fail To Complete Internal Audits

Oregon’s state agencies that handle a lot of money are required to do internal audits. The audits look for problems and risks within the agency.

Every year the state puts out a report tracking which agencies did it and did not. And again this year, some did not perform audits as required.

Maybe we have missed it, but nobody in the Legislature or in the governor’s office ever seems to get terribly excited that agencies don’t meet the requirement. If agencies did the audits as required, perhaps more problems with state government would be found sooner, rather than later.

Internal audits look at complying with laws and regulations and delivering efficient service. For instance, last year the Department of Environmental Quality looked at its labs. The Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority looked at their IT security. ODOT looked at how it evaluates pavement. Agencies are supposed to look at risks and do one risk-based audit a year.

We would hope the state would take that very seriously. But look at all the agencies that didn’t live up to the requirement of completing a risk-based audit in the past year:

• Business Oregon.

• The Department of Justice.

• The Oregon Department of Energy.

• The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

• The Oregon Military Department.

• The Oregon State Police.

• The Oregon State Treasury.

• The Oregon Youth Authority.

Those aren’t tiny agencies with insignificant responsibility, small budgets and just a few staff members. Agencies that have to meet the requirement are the ones that hit two or more of four characteristics. Three of those have to do with money, such as having more than $200 million in expenditures over two years. The fourth is having more than 400 full-time equivalent employees.

Governor Tina Kotek and so many legislators who ran for office this past year talked about how they want Oregon government to deliver and not flounder. Internal audits are another way in which Oregon fails to deliver. The internal auditing requirement exists as a check to ensure Oregon agencies do deliver and some Oregon agencies don’t deliver on internal audits. Kotek has told the Department of Administrative Services she wants progress reports every quarter starting in June.

ODOT Begins Work On New EV Fast Charging Stations – Seeks Public Opinion

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced that they’re partnering up with private companies to begin work on new EV fast charging stations along Interstate 5, U.S. Highway 97, and Interstate 205.

The new charging stations are funded thanks to the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program.  $7.5-billion in funds has been secured for EV charging infrastructure across the U.S., with more than $7-billion going towards ‘critical minerals supply chains that are necessary for batteries, components, materials, and recycling.  

NEVI will provide $5-billion in funding to states in order to build charging stations along highway corridors.

ODOT says that the stations will be no farther than 50 miles apart from each other, and, if possible, within one mile of an exit.  

ODOT is asking residents who live along those corridors to check out their online open house and take a survey so they can gather data on local factors to consider. 


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