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The Statesman Journal has been reporting on the case of the girls basketball coach who plead guilty to charges of sexual abuse of two students, and following up on the fallout from the case.
Representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were in West Salem this week to meet with residents who are concerned about a possible "cancer cluster" in their community. There have been five documented cases of a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer — osteosarcoma — in young people within a two mile area. State and federal officials are not ready to classify this as a cancer cluster, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as a "greater-than-expected number of cases." But the parents who signed the petition asking the EPA to investigate possible causes aren't concerned about numbers. They're thinking about the children who have already died from this disease and the teenager who is still struggling to recover from it.
We'll talk with a missionary doctor who's been in West Africa for the last 16 months about the outbreak and what she sees as the most urgent needs in the region.
Emergency preparedness is one thing many people are thinking about this week — in Salem and around the state. Scientists warn that Oregon is at risk for seismic activity as severe or worse than the 9.0 quake that shook Japan because of the Cascadia Subduction zone that runs along the west coast. Senate president Peter Courtney says Oregon is not prepared for an earthquake, or an ensuing tsunami, like the one that hit Japan last Friday. According to Courtney, his fellow lawmakers need to make funding earthquake preparedness a top priority instead of hoping a big quake won't happen. Another hot topic in the legislature right now is an issue that comes up again and again: the kicker. The Constitution of Oregon mandates that when there's a budget surplus, the state "kicks" money back to taxpayers — individuals as well as corporations. Oregon is the only state with this kind of law. Some say it's time for us to give it up. Others advocate for tweaking it. There are quite a few "kicker reform" bills in the works right now. Because revisions to the kicker would involve altering the state constitution, voters would need to approve any changes that manage to pass in the legislature.
The co-chairs of the Ways and Means committee released their budget Tuesday. This marks an important turning point for the 2011 legislative session. The budget still has to be passed by the House and Senate and approved by Governor Kitzhaber, but its release means many other bills that hang on budget issues can begin to move forward. The $14.6 billion spending plan would provide more money to schools than the one proposed by the governor earlier this year. However, the co-chairs say their budget would require cuts to all state programs. Speaking of budget-related legislation, there's been a lot of talk this session about reducing Oregon's capital gains taxes. You may recall that this was a big issue in the race for governor last year. And it's certainly come up in previous sessions. This year, there seems to be at least some agreement about cutting taxes on capital gains, though legislators differ on exactly how much should be cut. Too steep a cut, some say, is not an option in an already tight budget. Cutting too little, it's argued, would not offer enough incentives for businesses to expand or start up here.
Both Walmart and Target are setting their sights on new locations in and around Portland for new stores. Walmart has applied for permits to open a small grocery store in a spot that once housed a QFC grocery store in Gresham. It is also remodeling properties in Lake Oswego and West Linn for future stores. Target is eying a CityTarget in the downtown Galleria location. But these stores likely won't look like the ones you'd find in the suburbs. Both Walmart and Target have their own version of a neighborhood store. They stock a carefully curated collection of items that meet the needs of urban consumers. Their signage is often subtle or even impossible to connect with the big box retailer. Industry analysts suggest that box stores are opting toward "fragmented" models to meet a changing demographic as cities swell and an urban growth boundary inhibits sprawl. But Portlanders have been less than welcoming to Walmart in the past. Would a neighborhood version of a big box store appeal to city dwellers?
Today Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a reversal of a major Bush-era logging plan (the much-discussed Western Oregon Plan Revisions or WOPR). It intended to triple the amount of logging on 2.6 million of acres of federal land in western Oregon, specifically in Salem, Eugene, Roseburg, Medford, Coos Bay Districts, and the Klamath Falls Resource Area.