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America: It’s broke, FIX IT!

 Sen. Ron Wyden, Taxes  Comments Off on America: It’s broke, FIX IT!
Apr 052011
 

The headline reflects a lot of people’s view of the country’s economy. They look around what has been called the biggest miracle in human development short of the Garden of Eden. But our post-World War II “City on a Hill” has been brought to its knees by what many have called the biggest heist by Wall Street since Jesse James was in bank robbery school.

Rep. Kurt Schrader was in Newport the other day talking about reform to the country’s tax code which he claims is so infested with tax breaks and loop holes that our economic recovery remains dead on arrival. He said he and other conservative leaning democrats in the U.S. House are trying to get a tax code reform movement going, but they can’t get it out of the legislative starting gate.

Enter Senator Ron Wyden.

Wyden has similarly teamed up with those with conservative views in the U.S. Senate who emphacize “conserving” the country. Wyden and Republican Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana have offered a tax code renovation package of their own that actually proposes a heavier investment by the country’s wealthy in America’s recovery. The following is a long read, but well worth the effort.

Provided by Sen. Ron Wyden:
Wyden, Coats Team Up to Make the Tax Code Work for Businesses and Families

Comprehensive Tax Reform Will Grow the Economy, Create Jobs and Make It Possible for Most Americans to Do Their Taxes in Under an Hour

Washington, D.C. – While a partisan battle over cuts to government spending threatens to shut down the federal government, a bipartisan pair of senators took a page from President Reagan’s book today and offered legislation that experts say will reduce the federal budget deficit by growing the economy. The “Bipartisan Tax Fairness and Simplification Act of 2011” – being offered by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) – would simplify the tax system, hold down rates for individuals and families, provide tax relief to the middle class and create incentives for businesses to grow and invest in the United States. Wyden-Coats updates the tax reform that Reagan signed into law 25 years ago by streamlining the tangled web of nearly 10,000 exemptions, deductions, credits and other preferences currently cluttering the U.S. tax code to create a simpler and fairer system for American workers and businesses.

“Cutting spending isn’t the way out of the budgetary hole. Congress can grow its way out and right now, the federal tax code is doing anything but promoting economic growth,” said Wyden. “Senator Coats and I want a tax code that encourages businesses to devote less time to tax avoidance and more time to growing their companies. That means eliminating incentives for shifting jobs and capital overseas and creating incentives for investing in the United States. It means creating an understandable and predictable tax environment for small businesses and it means eliminating loopholes and special breaks that allow one group to pay less than another. It also means simplifying the individual tax code so that Americans can find better things to do with their time than fill out tax forms. Because unlike health reform, I think you would be hard-pressed to find any American who loves the tax code they have.” Continue reading »

Newport Senior Center renovation officially complete

 Senior Centers  Comments Off on Newport Senior Center renovation officially complete
Apr 052011
 

A very proud Newport Parks and Recreation Department Director Jim Protiva showed off a slide show of the city’s new Senior Center additions to the city council Monday night. The $600,000+ project began last Summer and was officially complete April 1st (no foolin’).

Seniors now have a facility that will offer more fun doing what they’re used to doing, and even more fun with activities they never had, like a huge new aerobics and dance floor, suitable for keeping fit and for parties. There is a room devoted just for pool players. No more moving heavy pool tables around and trying to figure out “level” is moment to moment. More room for ping-pong.

There will also be a lot more space for computers and computer classes and for general education. A Wellness Center is added and it’s all ADA compliant. The facility, we’re told, will also be able to rent meeting and exhibit space for special events and meetings.

The only twist in the story is that the city is expected to raise fees for senior center users by the CPI or three percent. That will be announced a little later, according to the Newport City Council.

Popularity of Newport’s Bayfront over-stressing available parking

 Parking  Comments Off on Popularity of Newport’s Bayfront over-stressing available parking
Apr 052011
 

Ever since Newport unveiled it’s new and improved Bayfront look, it’s grown in popularity as well as stressed its parking supply. Following in the footsteps of Nye Beach and City Center merchants, the Bayfront Merchants Association have asked the city to assess Bayfront merchants to pay a $100 annual surcharge on their business licenses to help provide more parking. Some businesses may pay as much as $150 a year more depending on their circumstances.

Under a proposed Bayfront Economic Improvement District, the city would apply the business license surcharge revenues for better organizing of parking options along the ENTIRE Bayfront, to include leasing private parking lots for public use, improving signage, better striping, enhancing street scapes and sidewalks east of the recent Bayfront upgrade area, seasonal “pay for parking” areas, and time limitations in select areas.

A public hearing on all this is set before the city council, 6pm, on May 16th. If the council is convinced that the plan ought to move forward they will tentatively establish the parking area boundaries and schedule another public hearing. If there is sufficient support for the plan, the council can launch the business license surcharge and parking improvement project. However, if 33% of the businesses affected by the plan oppose it, it’s dead.

Newport tries to move ahead on storm drain improvements

 Storm Water  Comments Off on Newport tries to move ahead on storm drain improvements
Apr 052011
 

Newport City Councilors got a report from Special Projects Engineer Tim Gross that if every parcel owner in Newport paid a monthly storm drainage fee of $4.33 a month, the city could finally get moving on solving its storm drainage problems. Big rains flood streets, causes further coastal bluff erosion and creates small lakes around town that are troublesome, like Nye and Agate Beach areas.

Gross said a $4.33 a month stormwater fee added to local water bills, would raise $360,000 a year. He said the money would immediately allow some temporary fixes to the Nye Beach problem, but cautioned that any big rain event will still cause problems in Nye Beach because only a city-wide comprehensive storm drainage plan will provide the “Big Fix.”

Mayor Mark McConnell opened a public hearing on the “fixed rate” fee for fixing the city’s stormwater problem. Embarcadero Resort attorney Dennis Bartoldis questioned the thoroughness of the funding scheme saying there may be a problem with how the $4.33 is assessed customers. He said Embarcadero residents point out that they recently spent over $70,000 to improve stormwater flows from the hills above the resort, as they pass under the resort and into the bay. He said some consideration should be given for that. He also said there may be a snag in the way the fees are assessed since having large numbers of condominiums on a single parcel would strain the per-parcel system of the assessment. Gross said he thinks they’ve got most of that figured out but admitted that there is more work to be done to make it fair.

Mayor Mark McConnell announced that the public hearing for the proposed stormwater fee schedule will remain open through the next city council meeting and perhaps even beyond that.

Newport City Council seeks to prevent the running up its legal bill

 Daily News  Comments Off on Newport City Council seeks to prevent the running up its legal bill
Apr 042011
 

Newport City Councilors, seeking to keep their city attorney costs as low as possible, have agreed that there will be two people primarily authorized to do most of the talking with the Eugene law firm that replaced former city attorney Penelope McCarthy. They are, City Manager Jim Voetberg, and Mayor Mark McConnell. The council all agreed that Newport can’t afford to have everybody picking up the phone and talking with the city’s lawyer on the other end whose fee clock is ticking away at $175 an hour. However, councilor David Allen, himself a lawyer, asked for council approval to reserve “rarely occurring” access for himself or any other councilor who might justify direct access, if only through e-mails. Mayor McConnell reminded Allen that e-mails make the fee clock tick too. Allen said he understood but reiterated that flexibility is a good thing. In the end the council agreed to allow individual councilors to contact the city attorney on issues of conflict of interest or other “individual issues.” Such contacts with the city attorney should be authorized in advance by either the Mayor or the full council.

Newport City Council fixes a big financial dysfunction and forges ahead to appoint an audit committee to prevent them in the future.

 Daily News  Comments Off on Newport City Council fixes a big financial dysfunction and forges ahead to appoint an audit committee to prevent them in the future.
Apr 042011
 

The Newport City Council Monday night fixed some serious bookkeeping problems that had been festering for the past three years. They were caught by the last audit done on city finances. And as reported earlier at NewsLincolnCounty.com, they amounted to some $1.33 million in, shall we say, overdrawn accounts within the city budget: Airport, Streets, Parks and Recreation and Bonded Indebtedness. Monday night the council transferred money from other city accounts to zero out the deficit fund balances, except for streets. Streets’ $650,000 pool of red ink will have to be “paid down” over a period of five years, according to City Finance Director David Marshall. Marshall said the source of the “transfer funds” was primarily, the water, wastewater and line underground funds. Marshall told the council that the transfers won’t cripple any water or wastewater projects since, in the long run, water and sewer rates will have to be re-examined anyway if future projects are to be properly funded. But he emphacize, as he has before, that city finances are again that much more strained that strain will predictably show up at the labor bargaining table when negotiations with city employees resume.

Marshall blamed the account “overspending” on a lack of oversight that should have been caught by a city audit committee. Trouble is, the city doesn’t have an audit committee. But it soon will. The council informally adopted an audit policy that was provided by the Oregon League of Cities which basically says audit committees are very important to keep any government organization up to snuff which includes that nobody quietly steals money as was the case in a valley city not long ago.

Marshall reiterated to NewsLincolnCounty.com that there was no missing money, only overspending without replenishing the fund accounts that were tapped for the spending. Marshall says the soon-to-be-formed Newport Audit Committee will be appointed by the city council and will likely be made up of two city councilors, an accounting professional, and a few others that have related expertise to offer.

Newport Police needs a little help according to a public safety task force

 Daily News  Comments Off on Newport Police needs a little help according to a public safety task force
Apr 042011
 

A public safety task force made up of business people, educators, and some law enforcement examined Newport Police staffing levels and found them to be adequate. However the task force said there is an urgent need for a “Police Resource Officer” to circulate through Newport schools. The task force recommended that this not be a fully sworn “regular” police officer, but something “almost,” someone who knows the law and would be a constant presence in our schools to promote lawful behavior and to be someone that students can go to if they have a problem that might need attention.

The task force also recommended more police training as well as a deeper commitment to getting the city’s fleet of police cars and other emergency vehicles properly maintained. The task force reminded the council that deferred maintenance can cost more in the long run because little problems can grow to expensive ones if they’re not attended to.

And the task force touched on the long simmering issue of consolidating all law enforcement (except OSP) in Lincoln County. But the task force admitted that the general public, from Lincoln City to Yachats is probably not ready to give up what they’ve come to rely on for several decades, despite easily proven savings that would come from combining all the departments with a more streamlined administration.

Meanwhile fire departments up and down the county are exploring just such a consolidation among fire departments and fire districts. Various fire chiefs and top city officials admit there are large savings that would be enjoyed with a centralized county fire and rescue operation. However, as with all such complicated innovations, the devil is in the details and the fire chiefs and city officials continue to work on them. More meetings are planned for the year ahead.

Newport area trash pickup may eventually have a surcharge for yard waste.

 Recycling  Comments Off on Newport area trash pickup may eventually have a surcharge for yard waste.
Apr 042011
 

Newport area trash pick-up service Thompson’s Sanitary Monday night pitched the City Council on expanding their services to include hauling off yard waste. Thompson’s said recycling is a major goal of the council as it is among community’s around Oregon. A company spokesman said that rather than having yard waste pointlessly stack up in land fills, it should be funneled to yard waste processing operations that make compost and ground cover. Right now those operations in Corvallis chronically run out of material.

The spokesman said a proposed rate for picking up yard waste would be around $6.15 a month. The council re-affirmed the idea of expanding Newport’s recycling efforts but said such discussions will have to wait while they mull it all over and see what city residents think about it. The said some residents may want it on an optional basis. But Thompson’s said unless everyone pays the $6.15 a month, the rate for those who would likely sign up could rise to as high as $25 a month.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has set a statewide goal of 50% for waste recycling. Currently, the state as a whole is said to be at the 38% mark. Newport is reported to be at 48%.

Dog attacks, mauls 2 year old girl in Otter Rock

 Daily News  Comments Off on Dog attacks, mauls 2 year old girl in Otter Rock
Apr 042011
 


(Click image to play video)

A large American Bull Dog attacked a 2 year old girl at a home at 520 First Street in Otter Rock this morning. Authorities say the attack, which occurred shortly before 11am, was by a large American Bull Dog involving a little girl who was living at the home with her mother. Authorities say when the dog attacked the girl, the mother began pulling on the dog to get it off her daughter. It’s not yet known whether the dog quit the attack on its own or whether the mother managed to pull the dog away. The mother was also badly bitten.

Injuries to the girl, which were described as life threatening, were said to be to her neck and scalp. She was rushed to Pacific Coummunities Hospital in Newport. There she was stabilized and then taken to Newport Airport where she was loaded aboard a waiting medical helicopter. She was transported to OHSU in Portland.

Authorities said the mother and daughter were temporarily living at the owner’s home who also owns the dog.

Authorities say the name of the little girl is Eden Bailey. The mother was identified as Kari Wallace. Authorities say little Eden was in another room, away from the mother, when the attack started. Kari Wallace rushed in to see the dog on top of her daughter and began pulling the dog off. The dog backed away. Kari picked up her daughter, wrapped her daughter in a blanket, and left the house through the front door, locking it behind her.

The owner, who was at work at the time, was contacted and returned home. Animal Control deputies, a patrol deputy and an investigator converged on the home and interviewed the owner. The owner assisted in getting swab samples from the dog which had been temporarily placed in the owner’s car. The owner was told to drive the dog to the Lincoln County Animal Shelter where it will be quarantined and tested for rabies. Authorities say the dog was current on all it’s vaccinations. Authorities said it does not appear any criminal charges will be filed against the owner since the child was not left alone, unsupervised. The owner turned over ownership of the dog to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and authorized the dog to be euthanized.

Car careens off Highway 20, down into Sam’s Creek.

 Daily News  Comments Off on Car careens off Highway 20, down into Sam’s Creek.
Apr 042011
 

Highway 20, MP 15
Click picture to enlarge

A young Seal Rock man driving home from work westbound toward Newport Sunday night lost control of his vehicle on a straightaway, went over a 20 foot embankment, rolled down hill and landed upside down in Sam’s Creek, about 8 miles east of Toledo.

When officers and paramedics arrived, the young man was already out of the car with his dog on a leash. The young man suffered cuts to his hand. The dog was not even scratched. Officers said there didn’t appear to be any alcohol involved or aboard the vehicle.

When asked what happened, the driver said “one minute everything was fine, the next minute I was upside down in a very cold creek.” He told NewsLincolnCounty.com that he has driven Highway 20 for years on end, and never had an accident.

The car was probably a total loss. OSP is investigating the cause of the crash.