Results for Think Out Loud (Other Results)
When they entered their third Major League Soccer season, the Portland Timbers sought a better result than 2012. Last year was bitterly disappointing, as the Timbers finished 8-16-10 and and fired coach John Spencer midway through the season. This year has been nothing short of a rejuvenation. Heading into All-Star game tonight, the Timbers are 8-3-10, looking for their first ever playoff berth. Outside of regular MLS play, the Timbers play perennial powerhouse Real Salt Lake in the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal next Wednesday, their best ever showing in the tournament. Portland has never had to worry about fairweather fans. The Timbers have sold out every game since their MLS debut in 2011 and boast the infamous Timbers Army, a section of die hard fans that cheer, drum and taunt during every minute of the game. With so much success two-thirds of a way through the season, they're only getting louder.
The financial distress of former logging counties is a familiar issue for many Oregonians — one which we've covered many times before. But with Josephine and Curry counties once more rejecting public safety levies, the conversation in Salem has taken on an even more urgent tone. Since the levies were voted down last month, Governor Kitzhaber has floated the possibility of imposing an income tax on the cash-strapped counties, and even mobilizing the National Guard as a last resort. Legislators are talking with commissioners and sheriffs from Josephine and Curry counties and are hoping to work out a plan by the end of the legislative session.
Today, Senator Ron Wyden released his long-awaited plan for Oregon's O&C counties.
For more than ten years now, services and programs in rural counties have depended on payments made by the federal government to make up for the money they used to receive from logging on federal lands. On past shows, we've talked about how rural counties depend on this money and how they might manage without it. The climate in Congress now, however, couldn't be worse for securing any kind of replacement, with the ticking August 2nd deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling and no deal in sight.
Update: March 8, 2:30 pm The U.S. Senate just passed a temporary one-year extension of the timber payment program. Oregon's Curry County is among the state's poorest counties and one of the hardest hit by the anticipated end of timber payments by the federal government. There is some good news: President Obama's budget plan contains money to extend the payments and before they adjourned, the Oregon legislature passed a law to allow strapped counties to fund sheriff patrols with money ordinarily reserved for roads. Nevertheless, some counties are bracing for the worst. Counties like Curry say temporary fixes are not enough, and they may have to cede some of their essential services to the state. Commissioners there are thinking of putting a sales tax on the local ballot to help create a stable funding source.
Weyerhaeuser made headlines recently when the timber company sold 140,000 acres of forest land in Clatsop County to The Campbell Group, a timber investment management organization (TIMO) based in Portland. The Daily Astorian editorial board has raised concerns about how the land will be managed now that it's in the hands of an investment company, which may have different goals and therefore a different effect on the community than the land's previous owner:
The well being of neighboring communities isn't a major consideration. The land is just a trading card. Public access isn't guaranteed. Key management decisions are made far away.
For most of the last century, U.S. counties with federal timber land (read: much of Oregon) got a share of the proceeds of sales. Originally used to fund schools and roads, these payments now go to a wide range of other county services — everything from libraries to mental health clinics, bridges to jails. The money allowed timber-full counties to keep their taxes low (and they didn't have very large tax bases to begin with). But when logging on federal lands plunged in the 1990s — remember the spotted owl? — the revenue dropped, too. Congress fixed it for a while, making up the difference from other funds. But that fix expired, and a stop-gap one year extension is now due to go away this June.
Results for OPB
Gov. John Kitzhaber says he's glad Congress is moving forward with a long-term solution for Oregon's cash-strapped timber-dependent counties.
The Senate Natural Resources Committee approved a one-year extension of timber payments Tuesday.
The Senate Natural Resources Committee has approved a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act.
Cash-poor Southern Oregon's counties are hopeful the recently-passed package of public safety reforms will provide budget relief.