Oregon’s low jobless rate holds….

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Oct 162018

Oregon’s Unemployment Rate Remained at a Record Low of 3.8 Percent in September
(See important disclaimer at end of story)

Oregon’s unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in September, the same as in August. These were Oregon’s lowest unemployment rates since comparable records began in 1976. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 3.9 percent in August to 3.7 percent in September.

Oregon’s labor market was unusually tight in September, as indicated not only by the low unemployment rate, but also by the low number of Oregonians who are considered “short-term unemployed.” In September, 80,000 Oregonians were unemployed. Of those, 16,000 had been unemployed for 27 weeks or more (“long-term unemployed”), and 64,000 had been unemployed for less than 27 weeks (“short-term unemployed”). The number of short-term unemployed was quite low historically and was well below levels seen at the end of the prior expansion in 2006 and 2007, when an average of 86,000 people were categorized as short-term unemployed.

More than one-quarter of Oregon’s payroll employment growth over the past 12 months was in the construction industry, which added 11,100 jobs, expanding by 11.2 percent. Over the year, no other industry has grown nearly as fast as construction. Next in line are three major industries that each grew by close to 3 percent: leisure and hospitality (+6,600 jobs, or 3.2%); other services (+2,000 jobs, or 3.1%); and professional and business services (+7,400 jobs, or 3.0%). Several industries remained close to their year-ago job totals, including information (+100 jobs, or 0.3%); government (-200 jobs, or -0.1%); retail trade (-700 jobs, or -0.3%); and wholesale trade (-300 jobs, or -0.4%).

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As has been widely noted by critics, unemployment figures don’t reflect the ACTUAL unemployment rate. Especially the “under” employment rate among those who work part time but can’t find full time work. Another category – those who couldn’t find work, went home and gave up. Another category, someone one who is forced to take occasional odd-jobs – they’re not counted as unemployed either. So when you see the low unemployment figures, there’s a great deal of debate as to their accuracy.

Yachats: A “spill” at 5960 Pacific Coast Highway

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Oct 162018

Two vehicle crash in Yachats at 5960 SW Pacific Coast Highway (101). No injuries but the road is blocked. Emergency responders are enroute. There are fluids on the roadway.

Weather or Not: Dry for a Week Yet

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Oct 162018

10/16/18 Sunny today, light to moderate E winds, high 70F, increasing clouds tonight, low 55F, partly sunny tomorrow, high 65-70F. Outlook: mixed skies/dry, slow cooling Wed-Mon w/ highs dropping to 60F by Sun, lows near 50F. Chance of extended rainy period starting Tue.

Precipitation: Today will be the 6th consecutive day of no rain with another 6 or 7 dry days possible before this streak ends. Sometimes October has as many dry days as a summer month. At Salem in 2006, there were 26 days without measurable rain. That’s not the record though — both Salem and Eugene had 31 dry days in October 1895.

Temperatures: Yesterday’s high on the Central Coast was 78F, just below the record of 81F set in 1960. On the other end of the thermometer, Eugene recorded 29F yesterday morning, breaking their old low temperature record of 30F set in 1992.

Newport City Council: Panhandling, apartments for fish plant workers, water/sewer rates rising

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Oct 162018

Newport City Council
Archive photo

The Newport City Council made it official Monday night – no panhandling on Newport city streets involving cars and people in the road or from the sidewalk. If somebody wants to give a pandhandler some money, they have to pull off into a parking lot or park nearby. Those who violate this new law could be subject to a $50 fine. Motorists have long complained about panhandlers hanging around signal lights and holding up traffic while asking for food money. At North 21st and 101 and 101 at Highway 20, especially.

The council also agreed to let Pacific Seafood processing buy a few motels in Newport and turn them in to long term rentals for their workers. Those workers have been having a devil of a time finding a place to live for the 6 to 8 months they work in the fish plants down on the Bayfront.

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Water and sewer rates are going up in Newport. Higher rates will kick in December and climb a bit over the next five years in order for the city to keep up with maintenance requirements on the town’s sewer and water systems. The higher rates vary depending on how much water is used and whether you’re living in a house or you own a business. It’s a lot higher if you own a business. Residential rates will rise between 20 to 50 dollars a month over the next four years. Lots higher for businesses.

Water and sewer residential customers who are low income – no more than 60% of local median income – can get a 30% reduction in their bills but they have to fill out paperwork down at City Hall to get the discount.

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And finally, the city council applied for a grant from the state to help design a new dam on Big Creek, the source of Newport and vicinity’s water supply. The four million dollar grant would help pay for the design of a new dam that would be a lot more earthquake resistant. Both dams on Big Creek have been determined to not be strong enough to weather a strong shaker like Cascadia Subduction Zone quakes.

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Lincoln City comes up with possible emergency warming shelter for the homeless

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Oct 162018

Old fire station on W 4th
Lincoln City
Google Maps photo

Lincoln City Councilors, staring down the throat of another rainy, windy and very cold winter, have all but decided to use the old fire hall at W. 4th and SW Ebb to get the homeless out of the weather and inside where they can safely spend the night.

City Councilors were told that the old fire hall would need some fixing up – installing a bathroom for one thing – along with other improvements. This and other ideas should get some of Lincoln City’s homeless off the streets and inside where it’s dry.

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City Manager Ron Chandler also explored ways to change the city’s zoning code in some areas of town to allow shelters, if not “homeless centers,” in one of the city’s commercial zoned areas. A public-private partnership might be required to pull that off, wherein homeless men, women and children could get the hand-up they need to get back on their feet. Chandler listed a long series of names of groups that are trying to help the homeless in the Lincoln City area that the city can partner with.

No action was taken on a potential shelter during the city council workshop. But it certainly appears that something is finally starting to happen to get a warming shelter established legally in Lincoln City. The old Taft Fire Hall has become a resource center for the homeless run by a group that has been struggling to find a place in town to set up a homeless drop-in center that might double as a warming shelter. But the old Taft Fire Hall, at the south end of town, sits on land that is not zoned for such use. And some of the neighbors are not happy about it.

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The Lincoln City City Council also got an update on the city’s plans to build a new police station just north of the Outlet Mall off East Devils Lake Road. The council had a construction firm lay out the architecture and interior design of the the $10 million facility. Here are a few photos of what it should look like when built:

Lincoln City’s new police building.
Courtesy graphics

Public entry to new police department.

Officer meeting area, report writing, training.

Police locker rooms and evidence storage.

Below ground drive-up prisoner delivery area.

The City Council stumbled a bit on the topic of placing art work around the new police station. The city’s Arts Commission recommended to the council that artwork should not be placed inside the new police station because the public-at-large would seldom, if ever, see it. The council wants to think it over.

The police building project is in its final phase of design, after which the city will break ground and get busy building the new Lincoln City Police headquarters.

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League of Women Voters – Lincoln County Candidates

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Oct 152018

The League of Women Voters of Lincoln County will present three candidate forums in October. Each event is free and open to the public. Attendees at each event are invited to arrive at 6:30 pm for a half hour “meet and greet” session with the participating candidates. The formal program for each event will begin at 7 PM.

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Dates and locations for the October Candidates Forums are as follows:
October 17, 2018, Wednesday Yachats Candidate Forum
Yachats Common

October 18, 2018, Thursday Toledo Candidates Forum
AWPPW Union Hall 138 NW 1st

October 23, 2018, Tuesday Newport Candidate Forum
Atonement Lutheran community room 2315 N. Coast Hwy.

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Governor Kate Brown Invokes the Emergency Conflagration Act – Curry Co. Klondike Fire

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Oct 152018

Klondike Fire from 20 miles away in Curry County near the coast.
KGW photo

Winds are driving the fire hard toward the west. Oregonian photo

(Salem, OR) — At 9:16 p.m. Sunday, Governor Kate Brown approved an emergency conflagration declaration for the Klondike Fire in Curry County. At the time of the declaration, 100 homes in Agness were threatened and some were under level 3 mandatory evacuation orders. Easterly winds blowing up to 35 mph are fanning the flames. Residents are urged to not do any outdoor burning, debris, or otherwise because embers can be carried a long ways and cause spot fires to the west.

“To ensure the safety of those in harms way and their homes, I am invoking an emergency conflagration declaration for the Klondike Fire, ” said Governor Brown. “This declaration will send additional resources to the front lines of the fire. Please keep the families displaced by this fire and the firefighters on the scene in your thoughts as we continue to experience an active wildfire season.”

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In accordance with state law Governor Brown determined that a threat to a life, safety, and property exists due to fire, and the threat exceeds the firefighting capabilities of local firefighting personnel and equipment. The Governor’s declaration authorizes the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal to mobilize resources to assist local resources battling the fire.

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Medicare enrollment and counseling now available through December 7th

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Oct 152018


(Salem) – Annual open enrollment for Medicare starts today, and Oregon’s Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) Program is available to help.

Medicare is health insurance for people 65 years or older or younger than 65 with Social Security Disability Income. People living in Oregon who are 65 years or older may be eligible to sign up and find health insurance that best meets their needs. Medicare covers many medical costs, including visits to the doctor, prescription medications, and preventive care, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, diabetes treatment, and blood pressure screenings.

Medicare annual enrollment runs Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2018. Any Medicare Advantage (MA) or prescription drug plan (Part D) changes must be made between these dates so that coverage begins without interruption on Jan. 1, 2019. Those who are late to enroll may face a lifetime of premium penalties.

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“It is important to compare Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans every year,” SHIBA Program Manager Lisa Emerson said. “Plans change year to year, as do people’s individual health care needs. People could potentially save money by shopping for a new plan.”

SHIBA provides free health insurance counseling to explain how the Medicare program works, additional insurance options that work with Medicare, and help with reducing out-of-pocket costs. SHIBA staff members, along with more than 200 certified counselors, serve many of Oregon’s more than 860,000 Medicare beneficiaries to help them understand their Medicare benefits and enrollment options. Free information and help is available by calling 1-800-722-4134 (toll-free) or visiting shiba.oregon.gov.

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SHIBA counselors help beneficiaries compare plans and enroll by using the plan finder tool found online at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan. Beneficiaries and their families can also choose to use this tool to compare plans and enroll on their own.

SHIBA also publishes an annual Medicare guide, which will be available online in early October and in print in mid-November.

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Tips from SHIBA to prepare for Medicare open enrollment:

Review your plan notice. Be sure to read any notices from your Medicare plan about changes for next year, especially your Annual Notice of Change letter.

Think about what matters most to you. Medicare health and drug plans change each year and so can your health needs. Do you need a new primary care doctor? Does your network include the specialist you want for an upcoming surgery? Is your new medication covered by your current plan? Does another plan offer the same value at a lower cost? Take stock of your health status and determine if you need to make a change.

Find out if you qualify for help paying for your Medicare. SHIBA can help you learn about a state program that helps with the costs of Medicare premiums, your Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments, and Medicare prescription drug coverage costs.

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Apply for help with drug costs. If you have limited income and assets, you may qualify for extra help with prescription drug costs. SHIBA counselors can help you apply for this benefit through Social Security.

Contact your doctor, hospital, and pharmacy before making changes. Not all health and drug plans contract or work with the same providers. If you switch plans, make sure you understand which providers you can see for the best price.

SHIBA is also advising people to protect their identity by guarding their Medicare card like they would their credit card or Social Security number. Identity theft from stolen Medicare numbers is becoming more common. To protect against identity theft, don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by telephone or email, or approaches you in person, unless you have given that person permission in advance. Medicare will never contact you (unless you ask them to) for your Medicare number or other personal information. Also, don’t let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.

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More information

SHIBA: To meet with a counselor, contact the toll-free SHIBA Helpline at 1-800-722-4134. You will be asked to enter your ZIP code to be connected to a program in your area. Visit https://healthcare.oregon.gov/shiba to find local help in your county, obtain a copy of the 2018 Oregon Guide to Medicare Health plans, and find Medicare education and enrollment events in your area.

Follow SHIBA on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OregonSHIBA.

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SHIBA is part of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS), Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov. Follow DCBS on Twitter: http://twitter.com/OregonDCBS. Receive consumer help and information on topics such as insurance, mortgages, investments, and workplace safety.

Wyden, Merkley Seek Answers on Railway Safety Standards

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Oct 152018

Senator’s Wyden (L) and Merkley (R)
Archive photo

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today requested an update from Union Pacific and BNSF on the railway companies’ plans to ensure trains carrying hazardous material have updated braking systems.

“Too often our constituents in the Pacific Northwest have seen trains carrying crude oil crashing within and around their communities,” the lawmakers wrote. “We have seen these trains crash near school buildings, small businesses, and homes, causing extensive damage to communities and putting our environment at risk, including sources of drinking water as well as river habitats that house endangered fish species.”

The lawmakers continued, “Our constituents, many of whom live, work, or go to school in the vicinity of rail lines that carry hazardous materials, need to know that their safety is being protected.”

The lawmakers’ letters to Union Pacific and BNSF follow the Trump administration’s recent announcement to roll back an Obama-era rule that required the installation of electronically controlled pneumatic braking systems by 2021—rules put into place after several destructive oil train crashes across the United States, including one in the Columbia River Gorge.

A full copy of the letter to Union Pacific can be found here.

A full copy of the letter to BNSF can be found here.

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