Governor Brown talks eco development and taxes in Florence; Mapleton schools roll out remodel plans; gas prices surge; Lane County increases legal age for tobacco; High School student seeks blood donors

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Governor talked economic development

Governor Kate Brown toured Old Town Florence and the Pacific View Business park yesterday.  Along the way she visited with local business and government leaders about economic development.  A walking tour of Old Town ended up at Jayne Smoley Design; a local art studio that has grown out of the efforts of Jayne Smoley with the assistance of the local economic development group known as RAIN to promote art-related businesses.  Brown was impressed with the local atmosphere surrounding economic development efforts.

          Governor Kate Brown – “It’s clear that this community is collaborating around building a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.  Small businesses are truly the backbone of Oregon’s economy and will help create jobs in communities like this Florence region.”

Brown also toured the Pacific View Business Park, including the new facility for Top Hydraulics, a locally owned business that manufactures hardware for high-line convertibles and ships product around the world.  In the afternoon, she hosted a community forum and exchanged thoughts with about 200 people at the main fire station.

Residents exchange thoughts with Oregon governor

After the governor’s tour of Old Town and economic development discussion she hosted a community forum at Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue where about 200 people packed into the meeting room to “share” thoughts with her.  Many in the room were supporters, others were not and that came out in a couple of the questions she fielded.

One of those questions had to do with undocumented immigrants and why Brown signed an executive order earlier this year confirming Oregon’s status as a “sanctuary state”.

Governor Kate Brown – “and I believe… let me finish… (illegal aliens!  Illegal aliens, not undocumented immigrants!).  With all due respect, I allowed the gentleman to ask the question, I would ask that you give me the respect of responding.  As I said, this is an issue that people can disagree over.”

The governor and residents also talked about education, taxes, Veterans and homeless issues, and health and mental health.

One question she fielded was from Siuslaw School Board member Suzanne Mann-Heintz who told the governor the current proposal considered by the legislature would reduce funding for K-through-12 schools in Oregon to 2010 levels…. From $9-billion last year… to $7-billion this year.  Mann-Heintz wanted to hear from the Governor about what she was doing to make sure there was adequate revenue to fund schools.

Brown responded by saying they needed to continue to find efficiencies in spending, but noted the biggest challenge comes in the main revenue source.

Governor Kate Brown – “I agree very strongly that we need adequate and stable revenue on the table and that would enable us to fund schools at the level that you would like to see.”

Local property taxes make up less than half of the operating funds for schools, the rest comes from the State General Fund through income taxes.  Brown said about half of all income taxes collected goes to education.  Despite the fact the economy is going strong and tax collections are up… there is still not enough money.  It’s time, she says, to consider another method of paying for education.

Brown spent an hour on the formal exchange, then spent at least another 30-minutes visiting one-on-one with people following the town hall.

Retail gas prices across the country have been relatively stable in the past month, but locally and in Oregon there have been some pretty steep increases.

The average cash price for regular increased by six cents a gallon this week, and that was on top of a four cent increase the week before.

Drivers are paying on average, $2.58 in Florence, that’s 22-cents a gallon more than this time last month.

The statewide average price in Oregon increased by ten cents a gallon this week, it’s at $2.68.

The increases are being felt mainly on the west coast where gas prices remain much higher than the rest of the nation.  Matthew Conde with Triple-A of Oregon says the national average price actually dropped two cents this week… it’s at $2.29.  The lowest price for gas in the U.S. is in South Carolina where drivers pay on average $2.03 a gallon.

High school blood drive

A local high school senior contributed to a blood drive last year and in doing so, discovered that for every pint donated, as many as three lives could be saved.  That gave Destinie Tatum an idea.

Destinie Tatum – “Instead of just donating, I could have everybody donate and save more.”

She organized a blood drive at Siuslaw High School last fall and put together another one for this month.  Her goal is to have all 120 available appointments filled.  Most of that was accomplished by signing up students and staff.

Destinie Tatum – “We have about 35 spots open between three and 4:30 and that’s our goal.  Like we need those 35 spots to be filled.”

The Lane County Bloodmobile will be at the high school gymnasium Friday from 11:30 to 4:30.  Tatum said it’s that last 90-minutes that she’s trying to fill up right now.  If you want to make an appointment, visit the high school today or tomorrow… or, Tatum says, you can just show up after three o’clock Friday afternoon.

County boost legal age for tobacco

Lane County will become the first county in Oregon to raise the legal age to purchase or possess tobacco products from 18 to 21.  The Lane County Board of Commissioners voted yesterday to approve the increase effective April 13th.

All five commissioners agreed that raising the age can be an effective way to reduce youth smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Where they differed however was in how to treat those who had already reached the age of 18 and could therefore legally buy and possess cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and vaping supplies.  Two commissioners, Jay Bozievich and Sid Leiken, wanted to phase in the increase, allowing those who were already ‘of age’ to continue to consume tobacco.  But the majority of the board, Pat Farr, Peter Sorenson and Faye Stewart all wanted to make it a blanket and immediate increase in the age.

Mapleton schools to display remodel plans

The next step in an $8-million upgrade of facilities at Mapleton schools will be laid out for residents this evening.  That’s when Superintendent Jodi O’Mara will host an open house in the high school library.

Jodi O’Mara – “People can come in anytime between six and 7:30 to view the plans, talk to staff and committee members that are there to answer questions and share what projects we’re undertaking.”

Voters approved a $4-million capital levy last spring for capital upgrades.  It’s being matched by an equal amount from the Oregon Department of Education.  O’Mara said a few projects have already been completed… such as the replacement of the high school septic system… but many more are set to begin in June.

Jodi O’Mara – “So they’re actually going to see the drawings of all of the improvements.  Some of the improvements you can’t visually see, for instance replacing the plumbing so there are going to be additional lists on each of the boards.”

Many of the upgrades are structural, others are security related.  O’Mara said work will begin after classes end in June, but will continue through the first few months of the school year.