Voters can choose their ballots for May 17th Primary

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Unaffiliated voters have options

Mail in ballots for the May 17th election in Oregon are expected to be mailed out the last week in April.  Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins says registered voters who are affiliated with one of the three recognized political parties in Oregon… Republican, Democrat, Independent… will get ballots with partisan candidates.

Jeanne Atkins – “Those who are not a member of a major party will have some options for how they can participate in partisan races for the May 17th Primary.”

Atkins said unaffiliated voters can actually change their voter registration by April 26th in order to have a say in one of the contested primaries.

Jeanne Atkins – “If they do nothing, they will still get a primary ballot but it will only contain non-partisan races and perhaps local issues if they’re on the ballot.”

She added that voters always have the option to change their registration once again to unaffiliated if they so choose.

Lane County considers joining wage and pay suit

The Lane County Board of Commissioners are considering joining with their counterparts in Linn County in a possible lawsuit against the state of Oregon over a recently approved increase to the state’s minimum wage.

The lawsuit would seek to establish that the minimum wage law, and another passed in 2015 requiring mandatory sick leave, constitute so-called “unfunded mandates” by the state.

Under Oregon’s constitution, if the Legislature requires a city or a county to “establish a new program or provide an increased level of service”, the state must pay for it.

It’s not clear, however, if the language applies to labor policies.

Aquarium extends hour for spring break

Visitors to the Oregon Coast Aquarium during spring break can get a “whiskery kiss” from a harbor seal or “shake suckers” with a giant Pacific octopus.

The Aquarium, in Newport, is gearing up for an expected crush of visitors during Spring Break. To accommodate that crush, they’ll be open extended hours between March 19th and 27th.  Instead of closing at five each day, they’ll be open until six p.m.

IRS scam strikes another Florence resident

Police in Florence say another resident has fallen victim to a scam in which a caller identifies themselves as an IRS agent and demands immediate payment from their victim… or face arrest.

John Pitcher – “No.  The IRS will never do that.  You know they will contact people through the mail… they may call people but they will have you call them and they’ll have confirmation information that you can follow up with.  They will never call and demand payment immediately.”

Police Commander John Pitcher said the perpetrators of this type of scam prey on the elderly.

John Pitcher – “These people that are doing these scams they’re very convincing.  Remember to never ever do anything immediately.  Take the time to confirm, who you’re talking to and what you’re going to do.”

One clear tipoff that it is a scam is the demand for immediate payment over the phone, often using Western Union or a prepaid debit card.  Pitcher says, unfortunately, once the money is gone… it’s gone for good.

John Pitcher – “It’s very very difficult.  These people use a lot of methods to hide where they are and their identity.  There’s not a lot that we can do to try and get that money back.”

 Take your time, confirm who you are dealing with he said, and don’t be afraid to just hang up.

101 gets war memorial designation

The Oregon Department of Transportation has established Highway 101 as a war memorial highway honoring veterans of recent wars.

Ralph Martin is the Adjutant for the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans.

Ralph Martin – “Highway 101 has been designated as the Afghanistan, Gulf War Memorial, and Iraq.”

To commemorate the designation, Martin said ODOT will be erecting 11 signs along the highway in the coming months.  One of those will be in the Florence area.  The D-A-V and ODOT will hold a joint dedication ceremony for the local sign Tuesday, April 5th at the D-A-V hall in Florence.

Facebook postings prompt surrender of suspects

Police in Florence are crediting social media with helping them apprehend two suspects in an arson fire that destroyed a 112-year old home two weeks ago.  Police commander John Pitcher said investigators looked at surveillance video from a nearby convenience store that contained images of the two suspects.  They first circulated it to other nearby police agencies with no luck.  Last Friday evening they released it to the public and it hit Facebook.

John Pitcher – “They reposted and reposted and reposted those pictures and the individuals themselves saw those posts and got scared and they actually came to the police department.”

The two, an unnamed 17 year old male juvenile and 37 year old James Luis Main, both of Florence, turned themselves in Saturday afternoon.  Both face charges of Burglary and Arson.