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Rep. Kurt Schrader beats back efforts to derail NOAA move to Newport.

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Feb 182011

In the story just below this one, Congressman Kurt Schrader argued on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives today that NOAA should be allowed to make its long-planned move to Newport, unimpeded by Washington politics. Earlier in the day, Washington State Congressman Jim McDermott argued that in light of federal budget problems, NOAA’s move has become too expensive and that backing out of the deal would not be that big of a problem.

But Schrader shot back with a long list of facts connected with the project, one especially, that said NOAA would still be on the hook for the full $50 million, even if they were forced to withdraw because of funding withheld in the House budget bill. McDermott and Washington U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell worked furiously last year to scuttle the project before construction could begin. But the U.S. Inspector General gave the project the green light and it won the backing of the Obama White House.

After the Schrader/McDermott debate, the House of Representatives voted 333-91 to uphold support for the NOAA move to Newport and to provide funds to begin the move May 1st. Rep. Schrader said, “The facts have been clear since day one. Newport is the superior choice for the taxpayers and the best choice to fulfill NOAA’s mission. And, most importantly, the relocation of NOAA’s Pacific Fleet represents a huge boost for our coastal communities that will bring much needed jobs and translate into significant economic benefits for the wider region. The Port of Newport and the community made a compelling case to NOAA to make this decision possible, and I was proud to stand with them today to defeat this budget amendment.

Oregon Congressman Schrader argues on House floor to stop efforts to cancel NOAA relocation to Newport.

 Daily News  Comments Off on Oregon Congressman Schrader argues on House floor to stop efforts to cancel NOAA relocation to Newport.
Feb 182011

New NOAA HQ, Newport, OR

In yet another effort to stop NOAA from moving their Pacific Headquarters from Seattle to Newport, Washington Congressman Jim McDermott today proposed a budget amendment to stop funding the move. The withholding of NOAA funding is part of an overall cutting of the federal budget by conservatives in the House. Although a Democrat, Congressman McDermott appeared to be willing to try one more time to keep NOAA in Seattle, despite the fact that NOAA has a binding relocation contract with Newport and that the new headquarters are nearly complete.

In response, Oregon Coast Congressman Kurt Schrader rose to floor of the House to object to McDermott’s proposed amendment with the following statement which says, basically, that the selection of Newport was based on the law and the best use of U.S. taxpayer funds. Schrader maintains that if the move is halted, it would force NOAA to pay for the headquarters anyway, and they would have no base to operate out of, either in Newport or Seattle.

Video of Congressman Kurt Schrader’s comments on the floor of the House: Click here

When this story broke earlier in the week, Port of Newport Manager Don Mann said they have an iron clad contract with NOAA that they will re-locate to Newport. If they don’t, Mann said the contract provisions require they pay the costs of the project, regardless. Mann said he’s optimistic that what we’re witnessing is more politics than anything else. He said he fully expects to give NOAA the keys to their new Pacific Marine Headquarters on May 1st.

Schrader’s comments (written) in full:

Mr. Speaker,

I rise in opposition to the amendment offered by my friend from Washington.

Let me be clear up-front; if this amendment were to be enacted, NOAA would face termination liabilities in excess of $50 million and their ability to conduct mission critical activities in the Pacific would be in jeopardy.

NOAA would have neither they authority or resources to contract for alternate arrangements putting in jeopardy the support of this fleet of ships which gather data to produce navigational charts of U.S. waters, survey fishery stocks, and maintain instruments which support tsunami warnings, weather forecasts, and climate research.

Let me say again, after NOAA’s current lease is up in June. If this amendment were to pass, NOAA would have NO authority, legal or otherwise, to mobilize its Pacific fleet. It would be dead in the water.

There has been a lot of talk about process, but frankly this process has been comprehensive, transparent, and legitimate. After a rigorous competitive lease acquisition process that followed GAO guidelines, in August 2009 NOAA awarded a 20-year lease to Newport for the relocation of its Pacific fleet.

The facts are clear; NOAA made this decision based on the merits, not politics. Newport was the superior choice for the taxpayers and the agency’s mission in the Pacific.

Newport was the number one choice in COST and number one choice in technical merit.

In fact, the annual lease of the Newport facilities will cost the federal government 50% LESS than the 3 competing sites located in Washington state.

For my colleagues that are unfamiliar with the process, let me provide you with some background on the issue.

In 2006, the pier at NOAA’s Lake Union Seattle facility was destroyed by fire and was never reconstructed by the landlord.

Since then, NOAA ships have been berthed at various locations in the Greater Puget Sound and NOAA has not had the benefit of collocated ship berthing and shore side support.

Collocation of vessels produces logistical efficiencies during maintenance and training periods, eliminates the need to lease temporary berthing at other facilities and eliminates loss of production from travel between different facilities.

With the problems associated with their current location and the lease expiring at Lake Union in mid-2011, NOAA began a competitive bidding process for the relocation of their Pacific fleet.

Four proposals were submitted — 3 in Washington and 1 in Newport, Oregon.

The Newport proposal was the highest technically-rated and lowest priced of all proposals, including the offer from the current location at Lake Union.

Newport has nearly completed the newly constructed state of the art LEED rated facilities which include: a two-story administration building, warehouse, workshop, boat shed, pier with berths for six ships, and a small boat dock.

It’s important to note that all the work to date has been done with local and state dollars with no cost to the federal government.

Newport is ahead of schedule and will be ready to hand over the keys to NOAA on May 1st when NOAA’s 20-year lease is set to commence.

NOAA will then be obligated to commence the 20-year lease in May of this year.

The new facility in Newport brings cost offsets and advantages to the NOAA Pacific fleet:

A closer proximity to the open ocean reduces transit costs and traffic interference with other vessels, increasing safety and efficiency. Typically a transit by NOAA ships from the current Lake Union site to open ocean is eight hours and could be longer based on traffic and availability of the Lake Union lock. Transit from Newport to open ocean is 20 to 30 minutes.

The new facility in Newport will be located next door to the Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC), enabling additional partnerships between federal government and academia.

The relocation will strengthen a 27 year OSU/NOAA Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies (CIMRS) program, which offers opportunities for joint research and outreach to a growing community of University and NOAA scientists dedicated to marine science, graduate education and learning partnerships with regional industries and communities that are dependent on marine resources.

Relocation to the newly constructed facilities in Newport, Oregon, represents the most cost effective way to maintain and operate the valuable resource of NOAA’s entire Pacific Fleet and the best value to the Government.

And importantly, the relocation of NOAA’s pacific fleet represents a huge boost to a small rural Oregon coastal community that will bring much needed jobs and translate into significant economic benefits

Over the past 4 days we’ve engaged in a rigorous debate regarding the fiscal health of our country.
For my colleagues that are serious about saving the taxpayers money and reducing our deficit, you should join me in opposing the McDermott amendment.

President Obama visits Intel, “Carrying out the vision of America’s future”

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Feb 182011

President Barack Obama visited the Intel Campus in Hillsboro in suburban Portland today and extolled the company’s American smarts and ingenuity that keeps the company at the leading edge of high tech productivity in an emerging world economy. Here’s the President’s full address to the crowds at Intel as carried by the Oregonian’s website. The quality of the sound starts out crappy, but it improves quickly. Stay with it. President Obama’s address is clear. Click Here

Lincoln County sexual predator gets 30 years in prison

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Feb 182011

John Larsen sentenced to 30 years in prison

John Sorn Larsen, 40, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for chronically sexually assaulting meth-addicted women who bought drugs from him.

Larsen’s trial before Circuit Court Judge Sheryl Bachart revealed an even darker danger methamphetamine poses to our community. While some sexual abusers and rapists drug their victims so they can’t resist, Larson used his victims’ addiction to meth, and their fear that they would be found out by authorities, as a way to keep them quiet and never report his attacks. District Attorney Rob Bovett says it is a whole new category of victims. He said “Because some of Larsen’s victims have young children, they feared that if they reported Larsen’s sexual attacks, authorities would discover their addiction and take their children away from them.”

Bovett said “All predators hunt the vulnerable. Meth-addicted women with children are likely to suffer long repeated victimization. They never seek help. They are the perfect target.”

“We have long recognized the horrifying risks to children in homes where meth is manufactured or used,” said Bovett. “This case garishly depicts the terrible risks to a highly vulnerable, population – women so addicted to meth that they have accepted sexual assault as a fact of their daily lives. We know that prosecutions for this kind of violence can be very difficult,” said Special Prosecutor Alice Vachss. “Perhaps this is why they are so rare.”

The prevailing myth is that meth-addicted women are a different kind of victim. Because they use drugs so much, their statements won’t hold up in court. So crimes against them often go uncharged. “That myth has created a new class of drug dealing predator who is virtually free to rape at will,” Bovett said. “It is our hope that the conviction of John Sorn Larsen shatters that myth.”

“In all my years trying rape cases and running a Special Victims Bureau in New York City,” said Special Prosecutor Alice Vachss, “I cannot think of a more ignored group of victims of ongoing sexual violence. The closest analogy I can think of is a prostitute who barely makes it onto a ‘missing persons’ list until her body is discovered or a confession comes from a serial killer.”

“As in so many of our sexual assault and domestic violence cases, it was clear that this defendant made a predatory choice in his victims,” said Deputy District Attorney Drew Moore. “He saw a particular vulnerability that he could take advantage of – in this instance, the victims’ use of methamphetamine. Equally clear was the jury’s verdict – a statement that these crimes will not be tolerated in our community.”

More from Lori: Click Here

District Attorney Rob Bovett concluded, “We hope these prosecutions prove that, in Lincoln County, ‘justice for all’ is not some hollow slogan. We are here to protect victims, all victims, without judging their lifestyles.”

The case against Larsen was prosecuted by Lincoln County District Attorneys Drew Moore and Melanie Kebler, and Lincoln County Special Prosecutor Alice Vachss.

Victims are encouraged to contact the District Attorney’s Victim Assistance Program in person or by phone at 541-265-3462.
For more information, contact Rob Bovett at, 541-265-0269 (direct office), or 541-351-1033 (cell).

Newport tames the Tigers in Taft

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Feb 172011

(Click image to play video)

The Newport Cubs were making sure Thursday night at Taft that they did not do an encore performance of the last time they played Taft. Taft actually lead the Cubs during Newport’s home game with the Tigers. It was, in fact, a sword fight back and forth until Newport finally pulled away. But that was then, and this is now, and in this specific instance, Newport jumped on a big early lead and it only got bigger as the game dragged on.

Oregon Lawmakers Dare to Dream of a State Savings Account

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Feb 172011

Oregon lawmakers, just as weary of the country’s economic ups and downs as the rest of us, are proposing to do something to take some of the sting out of the down times. They want to force the state into having a savings account, and one of the feeders to that savings account is money that would normally be refunded to the voters; the infamous “kicker provision.” The latest developments are to be found in this article in the Oregonian. Click here

Oregon AG: Medicaid fraud from the “patient” on up to her “caregivers.”

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Feb 172011

Attorney General John Kroger today announced that a Newberg woman accused of pretending she was severely disabled and three homecare workers alleged to have lied about providing her care face charges stemming from Medicaid fraud.

“Ripping off taxpayers will not be tolerated,” said Keith Dubanevich, Chief of Staff and Special Counsel to Attorney General Kroger.

The following four defendants have been charged in Yamhill County Circuit Court:

Laurie Price (DOB: 7/22/1964), a Medicaid recipient, has been charged with 24 counts of First-Degree Theft and 28 counts of Making a False Claim for Health Care Payment. Price was also charged with two counts of Unlawfully Obtaining Food Stamp Benefits and two counts of Unlawfully Obtaining Public Assistance. She was arrested February 10.

Jessica Molash (DOB: 11/15/1986), a Medicaid-paid care provider and homecare worker, has been charged with 13 counts of First-Degree Theft and 17 counts of Making a False Claim for Health Care Payment. She was arrested February 15.

Ellen West Hanson (DOB: 8/16/1954), a Medicaid-paid care provider and homecare worker, has been charged with five counts of First-Degree Theft and five counts of Making a False Claim for Health Care Payment. She was arrested February 11.

More from Lori: Click Here

Deanna Michaels (DOB: 8/21/1963), a Medicaid-paid care provider and homecare worker, has been charged with six counts of First-Degree Theft and six counts of Making a False Claim for Health Care Payment. She was arrested February 16. Continue reading »

“For if I was an Oscar Mayer weiner, then everyone would be in love with me!”

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Feb 172011

The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile was slow-cooking in the Newport winter sun Thursday afternoon in the Newport Chamber of Commerce parking lot. Photo courtesy of Joni Ott over at Dolphin Realty who saw a photo op and took it. It’s good that she did because in my nearly forty years of local news reporting, does anyone have ANY idea how many times I have had to click or video tape this Italian Avanti with a hot dog on its roof? It just further reveals the majestic genius behind this traveling billboard for a “certain hot dog” maker.

Nice framing Joni. Shudda had Lorna and the gang outside munchin’ on buns for lunch!

Then later in the afternoon, the Weinermobile attracted a polite mob of kids outside of the city recreation center. A warm welcome by the crew a quick tour inside, then a sit down for a 1+ course meal courtesy of Oscar Mayer and the recreation center. Click on pictures to enlarge!