Columbian Newspaper

Senate District 6 candidates Beyer, Schwartz running a cordial race
Author: Jack Moran, The Register-Guard

The state Senate District 6 race appears to be a cordial contest between the incumbent and his challenger, both of whom live in Springfield.

Sen. Lee Beyer, a Democrat, has represented the district — which includes Springfield, parts of southeast Eugene and more-rural areas of Lane and Linn counties — since being elected in 2010.

Running against him in this year’s general election is local ballroom dance instructor Robert Schwartz. He calls himself a “progressive Republican” who agrees with most of Beyer’s positions on statewide issues.

Schwartz said he and Beyer get along — much in the same way he forged a friendship with state Rep. John Lively, D-Springfield, after unsuccessfully running against him in 2016.

Beyer, meanwhile, has a 40-year history of government involvement. He served during the 1990s in the state House of Representatives, and previously was a Springfield city councilor.

Here’s what the two candidates have to say about several issues of concern.

• Why are you running for office?

Beyer: I enjoy working for the people of Lane and Linn counties, helping resolve issues they bring to me. I think I have been effective in representing them and there are a few outstanding things that I would like to accomplish in the next term.

Schwartz: I believe Oregon must stay true to its pioneer spirit in this time of political and social upheaval, to love our neighbor regardless of political affiliation and to vote for forward-looking thinking that appeals to rational people.

I believe Oregon can work together to become an example of leadership. One example would be housing; helping homelessness is only half the job. Let’s house people and provide an environment where work, family and self-reliance are attainable.

• What is the single most important issue the state Legislature faces at this time, and how would you propose to address it?

Beyer: The issue that concerns people the most is health care. Oregon has done a good job of making health insurance available to about 95 percent of all citizens. But what concerns me is the average working family tends to have expensive insurance that they feel they can’t use because of high deductibles and high cost caps.

I have worked to make insurance and drug companies justify rate or price increases. I’m currently working to create an overall cost cap for all health providers. That’s legislation I will be pushing in 2019.

Long-term we need to move toward a Medicare-for-all type of program. I am working with the Governor’s office on a pilot to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach.

Schwartz: The most important issue the state Legislature faces is the budget. The social services and public employee retirement packages are expensive. I support reduced spending on wasteful programs and new ways to raise revenue.

Oregon gets most of its tax base from income taxes, therefore industries with well-paying jobs must be encouraged to thrive here. As an example, Oregon has the infrastructure and ability to be a world leader in CBD (a compound found in marijuana that has potential medical benefits but does not produce a “high”) production.

I wouldn’t mind taxing soda pop because it is nothing more than a gateway drug to diabetes.

• Can you talk about the state of Oregon’s public schools, and what the Legislature might consider to make improvements?

Beyer: We need to start by understanding that (each Oregon school district sets its own budget). We call this local control.

The role of the Legislature is to provide school districts with general educational guidelines and adequate funding to achieve these goals. We haven’t done that.

We need to provide districts with the money to reduce class sizes, provide students opportunities for career and technical training that will keep them in school to graduate, and promote their success.

Schwartz: Much has been said of Oregon’s poor graduation rate. I have been told by public school employees that the farther away from the classroom an administrator is, the more out of touch they are.

The state needs to stop with unfunded mandates and ridiculous tests such as the Smarter Balance Testing.

I am supportive of local control and trusting our amazing teachers by eliminating burdensome mandates that stifle schools’ creativity.

Farmworkers reach settlement with fruit grower
Author: Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times

Mexican farmworkers who allege blacklisting after protesting labor conditions can get those jobs back and will receive up to $275,800, under a lawsuit settlement made public this month.

In September 2017, the 18 workers walked off their harvest jobs with Larson Fruit in Grant County after they made complaints ranging from unsafe working conditions to a lack of medical attention to a scarcity of toilet paper.

Their action represented a rare flexing of bargaining muscle by foreign guest workers who come to the U.S. under temporary H-2A visas, and Familias Unidas Por La Justicia, a Northwest farmworkers union, assisted the Mexican workers in negotiating a settlement.

The number of H-2A workers in Washington has increased dramatically during the past decade amid a farm- and orchard-labor shortage.

The lawsuit was filed this year in state Superior Court by Columbia Legal Services. It alleged a breach of the settlement agreement when workers were not offered jobs for the 2018 season at Larson Fruit.

Under the lawsuit settlement reached with the farmworkers union, Larson will offer the workers jobs for the 2019 season as well as financial compensation for not getting jobs at the orchard in 2018, according to a copy of the settlement agreement.

But Larson denies any wrongdoing or liability, and does not recognize Familias as a union, or any legal authority that may claim to act as a bargaining agent for the grower’s employees. The company, despite agreeing to the compensation, does not concede that any wages are owed for 2018.

Joe Morrison, a Columbia Legal Services attorney, praised Larson for reaching the settlement.

Kathy Barnard, an attorney representing the union, said the settlement “sends a strong message that even vulnerable H-2A workers can use the court system to protect their rights.” She called the union a “powerful voice for farmworkers across Washington.”

Pope makes El Salvador’s Oscar Romero, Pope Paul VI saints
Author: Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday praised two towering figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church as prophets who shunned wealth and looked out for the poor as he made saints of Pope Paul VI and martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Francis canonized two men at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square before some 70,000 faithful, a handful of presidents and 5,000 Salvadoran pilgrims who traveled to Rome to honor a man considered a hero to many Latin Americans.

Tens of thousands more Salvadorans stayed up all night at home to watch the Mass on giant TV screens outside the San Salvador cathedral where Romero’s remains are entombed.

In a sign of the strong influence that Paul and Romero had on the first Latin American pope, Francis wore the blood-stained rope belt that Romero wore when he was gunned down by right-wing death squads in 1980, and also used Paul’s staff, chalice and pallium vestment.

Paul, who was pope from 1963-1978, presided over the modernizing yet polarizing church reforms of the 1960s. He was the pope of Francis’ formative years as a young priest in Argentina and was instrumental in giving rise to the Latin American church’s “preferential option for the poor” that Francis has made his own.

Francis also has a close personal connection to Romero, and like him lived through the terror of right-wing military dictatorships when Francis was in Argentina. Francis was responsible for eventually declaring Romero a martyr for his fearless denunciations of the military oppression at the start of El Salvador’s 1980-1992 civil war.

In his homily, Francis called Paul a “prophet of a church turned outwards” to care for the faraway poor. He said Romero gave up his security and life to “be close to the poor and his people.”

And he warned that those who don’t follow their example to leave behind everything, including their wealth, risk never truly finding God.

“Wealth is dangerous and — says Jesus — even makes one’s salvation difficult,” Francis said.

“The love of money is the root of all evils,” he said. “Where money is at the center, there is no room for God or for man.”

For many Salvadorans, it was the culmination of a fraught, politicized campaign to have the church formally honor a man who spoke out for the rights of landless peasants and the poor at a time when the U.S.-backed right-wing government was seeking to quash a leftist rebellion.

“We couldn’t stay home on this historic day,” said Jose Martinez, who with his wife and two children joined the crowds outside the San Salvador cathedral. “I want my children to know Monsignor, our saint, that he was a great man who raised his voice to defend his pueblo, and for that they killed him.”

Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was murdered as he celebrated Mass on March 24, 1980, in a hospital chapel. A day before he was killed, he had delivered the latest in a series of sermons demanding an end to the army’s repression — sermons that had enraged El Salvador’s leaders.

Almost immediately after his death, Romero became an icon of the South American left and is frequently listed along with Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi as one of the world’s most influential human rights campaigners. The United Nations commemorates the anniversary of his death each year.

But his popularity with the left led to a decadeslong delay in his saint-making cause at the Vatican, where right-wing cardinals led by Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo warned that his elevation would embolden Marxist revolutionaries.

Eventually Pope Benedict XVI unblocked the cause and Francis saw it through to its conclusion Sunday.

Romero’s influence continues to resonate with El Salvador’s youth as the country endures brutal gang violence that has made the Central American nation one of the world’s most violent.

“He is my guide, and from what I have read about his life, I want to follow in his steps,” said Oscar Orellana, a 15-year-old who joined the San Salvador procession wearing a white tunic like the one Romero wore.

Paul VI, for his part, is best known for having presided over the final sessions of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 church meetings that opened up the church to the world. Under his auspices, the church agreed to allow liturgy to be celebrated in the vernacular rather than in Latin and called for greater roles for the laity and improved relations with people of other faiths.

Paul is also remembered for his two most important encyclicals, or teaching documents, which have had a profound effect on the church: One denounced the mounting inequality between rich and poor, and the other reaffirmed the Catholic church’s opposition to artificial contraception.

The stark prohibition against contraception like birth control pills or condoms empowered conservatives but drove progressives away. Even today, studies show that most Catholics ignore that teaching and use contraception anyway.

Francis has also adopted the “church of the poor” ethos that Paul embodied.

Man killed after he was struck by Amtrak train
Author: Associated Press

STEILACOOM — A man was killed after being struck by a train in Steilacoom.

The News Tribune reports the man was walking along the tracks south of Chambers Creek at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday when he jumped off one track to avoid a northbound freight train.

BNSF Railways spokesman Gus Melonas says the man went to the other track and was hit by an Amtrak train traveling south to Portland.

Steilacoom Public Safety Chief TJ Rodriguez says the man was in his late 20s and from South Carolina. He died at the scene.

Rodriguez says the man was a transient but it does not appear to be a suicide.

Melonas say this was the 17th death on railroad tracks in Washington state this year.

The investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Florida Panhandle building codes lagged behind rest of state
Author: Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It was once argued that the trees would help save Florida’s Panhandle from a hurricane, as the acres of forests in the region would provide a natural barrier to savage winds that accompany the deadly storms.

It’s part of the reason that tighter building codes — mandatory in places such as South Florida — were not put in place for most of this region until just 11 years ago.

And it may be a painful lesson for residents now that Hurricane Michael has ravaged the region, leaving sustained damage from the coast inland all the way to the Georgia border.

“We’re learning painfully that we shouldn’t be doing those kinds of exemptions,” said Don Brown, a former legislator from the Panhandle who now sits on the Florida Building Commission. “We are vulnerable as any other part of the state. There was this whole notion that the trees were going to help us, take the wind out of the storm. Those trees become projectiles and flying objects.”

Gov. Rick Scott said it may be time for Florida to boost its standards — considered the toughest in the nation– even further.

“After every event, you always go back and look what you can do better,” Scott said. “After Andrew, the codes changed dramatically in our state …”

Oregon wildfire costs hit high of $514M million in 2018
Author: Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. — New data shows the cost of fighting wildfires in Oregon reached an all-time high $514.6 million in 2018.

According to data from Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, Oregon’s costs skyrocketed past last year’s record-setting total of $447 million.

The Statesman Journal reports that all totaled, Oregon had 1,880 fires that burned 846,411 acres or 1,322 square miles — an area larger than Rhode Island.

The number of acres burned isn’t a record, but it’s well above historic averages and continues a trend of more extreme fire seasons.

The most expensive wildfires were in southwest Oregon, where a mid-July lightning storm ignited 160 wildfires during a historically hot and dry summer.

The biggest conflagration was the combination Klondike and Taylor Creek fires, which burned together west of Grants Pass. Combined, they torched 220,000 acres and cost $128 million.

New strategy: Democrats go all-in on health care in midterms
Author: Associated Press

PHOENIX — In a windowless conference room, Republican Senate candidate Martha McSally was asking executives at a small crane manufacturing company how the GOP tax cut has helped their business when one woman said: “I want to ask you a question about health care.”

Marylea Evans recounted how, decades ago, her husband had been unable to get health insurance after developing cancer, forcing the couple to sell some of their Texas ranch to pay for his treatment. Now she was worried about Democratic ads saying McSally, currently a congresswoman, supported legislation removing the requirement that insurers cover people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“It’s a lie,” McSally said quickly, accustomed to having to interrupt a discussion of the tax cut to parry attacks on health care. But she had voted for a wide-ranging bill that would have, among other things, undermined protections for people with pre-existing conditions and drastically changed and shrunk Medicaid.

The exchange demonstrated how Democratic arguments about health care are resonating with voters in the final weeks before the midterm elections. While Democratic enthusiasm this year has largely been fueled by anger toward President Donald Trump, candidates have targeted their messaging to focus more on health care.

It’s the subject of the greatest share of political ads on television now, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, and a top issue in campaigns from Virginia to Arkansas to California — and especially in Arizona, where Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has made it the foundation of her Senate campaign against McSally.

“Democrats believe that health care is the issue that’s going to deliver them the majority,” said Nathan Gonzalez, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan Inside Elections. “In 2016, Democrats learned that going all-in against Trump was not the right strategy, so they’re trying to be more specific.”

The Democratic furor around health care comes from Trump’s push to repeal the President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. House Republicans voted for a bill that would have rolled back parts of “Obamacare.” But the Senate never took up the bill, and its own attempt to reverse the health care law failed by one vote.

This year, the Trump administration supported a group of GOP attorneys general who filed a lawsuit arguing “Obamacare” is unconstitutional. The administration singled out protection for pre-existing conditions as unsustainable.

Democrats are effectively performing political judo on the GOP, who accused them over four election cycles of messing up voters’ health care with “Obamacare” and vowed a hasty repeal once they were back in power. Now that the GOP tried and failed to change health care, Democrats are pouncing.

“You see in every survey, whether it’s a Senate race in a red state or a House race in a purple district, health care is the No. 1 issue,” said Patrick McHugh of Priorities USA, a major Democratic campaign group. “One party wants to actually expand health care coverage and reduce costs, and the other party campaigned claiming they did, but when they got into power, they did not.”

4 days after storm, large swath of Panhandle suffering
Author: Associated Press

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — Crews with backhoes and other heavy equipment scooped up splintered boards, broken glass, chunks of asphalt and other debris in hurricane-flattened Mexico Beach on Sunday as the mayor held out hope for the 250 or so residents who may have tried to ride out the storm.

The death toll from Michael’s destructive march from Florida to Virginia stood at 17, with just one confirmed death so far in this Florida Panhandle town of about 1,000 people that took a direct hit from the hurricane and its 155 mph winds last week.

Crews worked to clear building debris along with the rubble from a collapsed section of the beachfront highway.

Mayor Al Cathey estimated 250 residents stayed behind when the hurricane struck, and he said he remained hopeful about their fate. He said search-and-rescue teams in the beach town had already combed areas with the worst damage.

“If we lose only one life, to me that’s going to be a miracle,” Cathey said.

He said enough food and water had been brought in for the residents who remain. Even some cellphone service had returned to the devastated community.

A framed portrait of Jesus was propped Sunday facing out of the window of Diana Hughes’ home in Mexico Beach. She rode out the hurricane on the couch huddled with her dog and her ex-husband.

The storm peeled off a small section of the roof and a few inches of water got in the single-story house. But the pickup truck wouldn’t start after getting swamped with water. Hughes still had her home, but no way to leave it.

“We need a generator, but we just lack transportation,” Hughes said on her front porch. “We’ve got food and we’ve got water. But we’ve got to keep ice in the refrigerator so the food won’t spoil. You can only eat so many crackers.”

President Donald Trump plans to visit Florida and Georgia on Monday to see the damage.

Four days after the storm struck, a large swath of the Panhandle was suffering, from little beach towns to the larger Panama City to rural communities miles from where the hurricane came ashore. More than 190,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without electricity, along with about 120,000 in Georgia.

“There are a lot of inland areas, some of these poor rural counties to the north of there. These counties took a devastating hit,” Sen. Marco Rubio said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“And we are talking about poor people, many of them are older, miles from each other, isolated in many cases from roads, including some dirt roads that are cut off right now. We haven’t been able to reach those people in a number of days.”

In hard-hit Panama City, pastor John Blount held Sunday services at St. Andrew United Methodist Church outdoors, in front of a wall demolished by the storm. Afterward, the church held a large cookout for the storm-weary.

More roads were becoming passable as crews cleared trees and power lines, but traffic lights remained out and there were long lines at the few open gas stations.

Florida officials evacuated nearly 3,000 inmates from two hurricane-damaged prisons — the Gulf Correctional Institution and Annex and Calhoun Correctional Institution. They had damage to the roof and the infrastructure critical for security, authorities said. No inmates or staff members were injured.

Police probe brawl in Portland protest
Author: The Columbian

PORTLAND  — Authorities in Oregon have launched an investigation on assaults that stemmed from a Portland street brawl that erupted this weekend between demonstrators with a right-wing group and left-wing counter-protesters, media outlets reported Sunday.

There were no immediate arrests following the clash Saturday, according to the reports. But Portland police said they were investigating and seeking help from witnesses, as well as reviewing video and photos.

Four people received medical attention, but authorities did not know if anyone was taken to local hospitals, KGW-TV reported.

Officers saw people at the demonstration with hard-knuckled gloves, guns, knives and batons, police said.

The right-wing Patriot Prayer group was holding a “Flash March for Law and Order” when the counter-demonstrators, some of whom identified themselves as members of the militant group Antifa, confronted them and scuffles broke out.

Police in riot gear used foam and polystyrene bullets to break up the brawl, KGW-TV and the Portland Tribune reported.

Oregon Local News

Motorcyclist suffers life-threatening injuries in Gresham crash
The driver of the sedan didn't sustain any injuries and is cooperating with the investigation. Fedor Zarkhin | The Oregonian/OregonLive