After months of hearings around the state and several weeks of tense negotiations, Oregon legislators agreed on a redistricting plan that will reapportion the state's 60 House seats and 30 Senate seats. The compromise agreement, which was signed into law on Monday by Gov. John Kitzhaber marks the first time in more than 30 years that the lawmakers have been able to forge a deal on the redistricting map. Redrawing the state's political lines is a task that legislators take up every decade following the release of the latest census numbers. The job, however, usually falls to the secretary of state's office, which is responsible for drawing up the map when legislators cannot, or when the courts find flaws with the plan developed by legislators.This year, legislators, including Bend's Sen. Chris Telfer, pledged to work across party lines to come up with a plan that would pass.
Thanks to Central Oregon's rapid growth over the past decade, local legislators were among those most profoundly affected by the process. Both Telfer and Rep. Jason Conger, Bend's Republican House representative, were obligated to shed thousands of constituents, effectively shrinking their districts. After announcing the compromise last week, legislator's touted the fact that both sides had to give something to get an agreement and cited the fact that members of both parties found something to complain about as evidence that they had a done a fair job. Interestingly, Conger was among those complaining most loudly, saying that the new map tilted the balance of power to Dems in his district. Conger's comments on the House floor underscored how the politics of redistricting can transcend party lines and forced his senate colleague Telfer, who sat on the four-person redistricting committee, to defend the integrity of the process and her work.
She told The Bulletin that she "wholeheartedly" disagress with Conger's characterization of the new Bend district as gerrymandering. Even so, Telfer told the paper that she wouldn't mind seeing an independent, non-partisan commission take over the job of redistricting - an idea that has gained momentum in recent years thanks to the legislature's struggles with the process.
Drones Idea Grounded - For Now
A bill that would have made it easier for Bend and Central Oregon to recruit a piece of the growing unmanned aerial vehicle market, i.e. drones, has apparently stalled in Congress. Central Oregon economic development officials have been pushing to make Bend one of six new FAA designated drone testing sites. The drones, which have been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the "war on terror(ism)," represent one of the fastest growing areas of aviation for both military and civilian purposes. However, the bill that would have put Bend in line as a potential hotbed of drone research and testing by designating several hundred miles of nearby airspace in southeast Deschutes, Lake and Harney counties, has stalled over budget concerns. Economic Development of Central Oregon's aviation recruitment committee chair Collins Hemingway told The Bulletin that, despite passing both the House and Senate, a pair of bills addressing the drone issue has stalled amid the partisan budget wrangling in Washington. In the meantime, drone supporters have downplayed the connection between Bend's recruitment efforts and the questions surrounding the military's use of drones in combat, a strategy that has been greatly expanded in the past several years. During that time, drones have been credited with helping the U.S. and its allies identify and take out a number of high-level terrorist suspects, including just last week, the leader of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, Ilyas Kashmiri. However, the strikes have also killed dozens of civilians and been condemned by human rights organizations.
City ID's Five Finalists for Bend's Top Cop Job
Bend released the names of its five police chief finalists to succeed Chief Sandi Baxter. According to city spokesman Justin Finestone, the city conducted a nationwide search to identify Baxter's replacement and all five of the candidates are from outside of the state, though several have Oregon and Washington ties. Two of the candidates, Garr Nielsen and John Foster, are currently heading up departments in California. Nielsen, a former Multnomah County Sheriff's deputy, works in Eureka while Foster serves as the chief of police in Grass Valley. Another candidate, Michael Davis, is the retired chief of the Brentwood, Calif., police department. The other two candidates, Jeffrey Sale and George Delgado, are working in law enforcement in Washington. Sale is the Cheney, Wash., chief of police. Delgado is a commander in the Vancouver, Wash., PD.
All of the candidates will be in Bend on Monday for interviews and a meet and greet at McMenamins at 6:30 p.m. The event is intended for city staff, but the public may attend, given that a majority of councilors will be present.
Just a few weeks after reporting that a clueless vandal (or vandals) had defaced a cave along China Hat Road that contained invaluable artifacts, including Native American pictographs, the Forest Service announced that it has apprehended the suspects.
The Deschutes National Forest press office said that Forest Service Law Enforcement had interviewed and identified five suspects in the case and has now referred the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The release provided few other details, but thanked a local caving group, The High Desert Grotto, which raised money for a reward.
Bend Teachers Take Pay Cut, Redmond Educators Dig In
Bend Teachers voted last week to accept the district's austere contract offer rather than string out negotiations with the cash-strapped district. Overall, teachers agreed to roughly $4 million in cuts to salaries and benefits, including forgoing a cost-of-living increase and so-called step and lane increases, which are handed out for experience and training. This is the fourth consecutive year that Bend teachers have foregone or deferred their cost of living increase. The district is also planning to leave roughly 50 teaching positions unfilled, a move that is expected to save the district $3 million. Thanks in part to the concessions agreed to by the Bend Education Association, the district will add one day to next year's calendar, though it is still planning to shave more than a week off of the school year to balance the budget.Not all Central Oregon teachers were as willing to stomach the cuts sought by administrators. In Redmond, teachers and school officials remain deadlocked over next year's contract. If administrators and teachers are unable to come up with a new deal, the district would go forward with the same contract terms as last year that include cost-of-living raises and salaries increases for experience and education - something the district says it doesn't have the means to fund.