Local News: Voters Could See Lane County Levy; Handy Facing More Allegations; Feds Have Faith in Oregon Reforms; I Dream a World

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Possible County Tax Levy Considered

Lane County Commissioners are considering asking voters to raise taxes to help offset a revenue shortfall estimated at $100-million for the coming year.  Officials admit public sentiment is against a tax increase that would be large enough to restore all of the planned cuts that would cost 200 government jobs and reduce services like public safety, road maintenance, public health and animal services.

County Administrator Liane (LEE-ann) Richardson reported to the board of commissioners this week that the informal task force made up of officials from around the county, and including the Sheriff and District Attorney, has explored the possibility of placing a levy before voters that would at least partially back-fill some of the shortfall.

Commissioners would have the ultimate say on whether or not a ballot measure would be forwarded to voters.  In order to make it on the November ballot they would have to make that decision by early September.  Richardson said her group would continue to gauge public support and try to determine an amount that might win passage.

Lane Commissioner Under Fire Again

A Eugene attorney is alleging that Lane County Commissioner Rob Handy improperly solicited money to help pay legal fees.  The North-Eugene commissioner, in the midst of a reelection campaign, called the move a political smear.

Alan Thayer says his client, Eugene Realtor John H. Brown, received a hand-written letter from Handy earlier this year asking him to repay $3,000 to Lane County on Handy’s behalf.  Thayer says the request violated ethics and campaign regulations and added that he also uncovered additional possible violations.

Handy, along with fellow commissioner Peter Sorenson, were ordered to repay Lane County$20-thousand each for legal fees in a finding that they violated open meetings laws two years ago.  The matter has been turned over to the Oregon Department of Justice and the Oregon Ethics Commission.

More information on the allegations, including a copy of Handy’s letter to Brown, can be found here.

Feds Have Faith in Oregon Medicare Reforms

The Obama administration is buying into an ambitious health care initiative in Oregon, to the tune of $1.9 billion over five years.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday it has tentatively agreed to help Oregon pay the startup costs of a plan that would improve coordination among care providers and better manage chronic conditions for 600,000 patients in the state’s Medicaid program.  The move shows that the federal government believes the concept has potential to save money. State officials estimate the plan will save $11 billion over the next decade through a reduction in duplicated treatments and unnecessary hospitalizations.  Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber hopes to prove that states can save billions of dollars on Medicaid without sacrificing the quality of health care.

I Dream a World…

In his poem I Dream A World, noted American Jazz Poet Langston Hughes wrote of a different world where everyone was free.   Laura Merz says this Sunday afternoon’s presentation by the Community Chorus of Florence will highlight a piece that sets Hughes’ poem to music.

Laura Merz – “The music was written by Rosephanie Powell and she’s taken this poem and it really sounds like the words, like the message.”

That work will set the stage for the afternoon.

Laura Merz – “Although I Dream A World is the theme of our concert, we’re also doing many other pieces.”

Merz says the concert will cover a lot of territory and will also present a talent relatively new to the community.

Laura Merz – “The Florence vocal debut of Jacob Steinberger who is our new choral director at the middle and high school.  He will be singing a piece called Rainbows which was written by Shirley Packard, our local musician.”

Steinberger was a member of the University of Oregon a capella group “On the Rocks” which competed in the second season of NBC’s Sing Off.  The Spring Concert is set for two pm Sunday afternoon at the Florence Events Center.