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Local News – Holiday Lights, Cover Oregon, Safe Holiday Roads, Minimum Wage Increase

26-Years of Holiday Lights

It all started in 1987 when the fledgling “Friends of Shore Acres State Park” decided to string a few lights and decorate the garden house at the park’s botanical gardens.
There were about 6-thousand lights, one Christmas Tree and about 9-thousand visitors that first year.

This year more than 300-thousand lights will greet nearly 50-thousand visitors to the gardens by the time the display closes New Years Eve.
After years of stringing troublesome mini-lights, the group began switching over to brighter and more energy efficient LEDs.

Co-chair David Bridgham said that move also saves a considerable amount of energy.
There is no charge for the lights, but because the display is in Shore Acres there is a day-use access fee of $5 per vehicle.  Oregon State Parks annual passes, as well as the Oregon Coast Passport will also provide access.

To get there, take Cape Arago Highway from Coos Bay, through Charleston to the park.  The light display will run daily through December 31st for 4:00 to 9:30 pm.

With its troubled health insurance exchange portal still not working, Cover Oregon says it has suspended its optimistic, feel-good advertising campaign after spending more than $8 million on it this year.   Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox said Thursday that television, radio and newspapers ads should no longer be running, while the “Long Live Oregonians” billboards will come down as payment expires.   The exchange has had to rely exclusively on paper applications and had to hire more than 400 workers to process them.    An estimated 36,000 Oregonians have thus far enrolled through Cover Oregon, including about 12,000 in private health insurance and about 24,000 in the Oregon Health Plan.   Cox said Cover Oregon will revise its ad strategy next year “to meet our needs through the open enrollment period”


The State Police say preliminary information shows no traffic fatalities in Oregon over the Christmas holiday period.   The police said Thursday that would make it the second holiday period since 1970 free of fatalities. The other was in 1996.   As many as 10 people have died in Christmas holiday crashes. That happened in 1983. This year’s 30-hour period began at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve, a few hours after a fatality in Multnomah County. The period ended at midnight Wednesday.

Oregon’s lowest paid workers will get a raise next Wednesday.   That’s when the state minimum wage will go up from $8.95 to $9.10?  Oregon’s Labor Commissioner, Brad Avakian says the raise will mean about 98-thousand Oregon workers will have a little more take home pay.   But not much.  For the typical minimum wage-earner working 30-hours per week the added 14-cents per hour will mean less than $20 per month.
Voters approved a ballot measure in 2002 that requires increases in the minimum wage be tied to the inflation rate. Since then the rate has increased each year, except in 2010.