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Thursday
Mar032016

Burglar Picks the Wrong House

Roseburg, Or- An Oakland family was the victim of a burglary on Monday, February 29, at their home located at the 5700 block of Goodrich Highway just outside of the Rice Hill area. Kayla Wehe, a Real Estate broker with Cutting Edge Real Estate got a ride to work that morning because she was unable to drive due to surgery on her ankle the week prior. She left the home about 8:30 am about an hour after her husband Tommy had taken their daughter to pre-school and their son to work with him. 

Tommy arrived home from his morning’s work earlier than usual, at about 10:15 am. That’s when things started happening pretty fast. Then first thing he noticed was his dogs were making a ruckus over something. He then noticed a strange car parked in their driveway. As he approached the late model Toyota Matrix he asked the stranger getting out of the car, “can I help you?” 

The young man, who looked to be in his twenties, responded that he was looking for “Melanie”, to which Wehe said there’s nobody here by that name, nor did the previous owners have anyone by that name.  What was really strange Wehe said was that the guy initially just stared at him blankly, with no expression, when informed nobody was here by that name.  Then he said “the guy was acting really nervous” and said “he was shaking quite a bit”.

Wehe said his car was blocking the man’s retreat through the second of their two gates, so he told him to use the turn around to back to the main road. He then watched as the car went around the corner but never re-emerged, so he went to investigate and the man had got out of the car and was heading back from the Wehe’s front porch, where he apparently had stashed some more “loot” which he was preparing to steal. When Wehe asked him what he was doing now, the stranger asked “could I trouble you for some water?” Wehe told him no, and that he needed to get going. That’s when he noticed the guy was wearing his wife’s Cutting Edge jacket.

Wehe then retrieved his gun from his car and ordered the man to sit down on the floorboard of the car he came in and that he wasn’t to move until the cops get there, having called 911 dispatch. He told 911 that he caught the man stealing and that he was holding him at gunpoint until they get someone out there.

Dispatch called Wehe back immediately and asked if she had heard a child in the background, to which Wehe said yes, it was his young son. Dispatch told him “you need to get away from him immediately!”

Within 3-4 minutes Wehe said there were three marked Douglas County patrol units in his driveway. When he saw them pull up, he put his own gun away and explained to the first deputy that he had held the man at gunpoint until they arrived. The deputy ordered the suspect out of the car and cuffed him and read him his rights before placing him in the back of the patrol unit.

It turns out that Kevin Mark Blair, age 30, was driving a stolen vehicle, the 2015 Toyota, and that he was also wanted in connection with at least two other burglaries in Linn County. The D.C. deputies asked Wehe to identify some of the items in the car that belonged to them, including some pain meds his wife had been given for her surgery the week before.

Blair admitted to scouting out their place for several weeks before his burglary. He has been lodged at the Douglas County jail on charges of; First Degree Burglary, Theft in the 3rd Degree, Possession of a stolen vehicle, Unauthorized use of a stolen vehicle, Unauthorized Possession of a controlled substance, and Criminal Trespass 2nd Degree. These are in addition to outstanding warrants from Linn and Lane counties, according to information provided by Douglas County law enforcement to Wehe.

When asked if he was rattled by the intruder, Wehe, a  Navy veteran, who was a firearms instructor, just smiled and said “not really” and that he was all times comfortable with the situation. He said “this guy picked the wrong redneck”. 

Wednesday
Feb242016

Predicted: Oregon Will Lose 62,700 Jobs Due to Minimum Wage Hike

Photo: Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA/Newscom
by Leah Jessen

Oregon state legislators, acting despite the concerns of business groups, have passed a geographically based increase in the minimum wage. Two of the state’s business leaders, speaking to The Daily Signal, say they’re worried about what comes next.

Jason Brandt, president and CEO of the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, said he expects “significant, unintended consequences,” adding:

We are deeply concerned about the impact it will have over the next seven years on the cost of food, child care, and other staples that are important to working families.

Brandt said he expects Oregon will lose about 62,700 jobs as a result.

The legislation will hike wages based on geographic location: inside Portland’s urban growth boundary to $14.75 an hour by 2022, $13.50 an hour for urban counties, and $12.50 for rural counties. The minimum wage will rise from the current statewide $9.25 an hour.

“There are very real consequences for these types of huge policy changes, so we’re very concerned,” Anthony K. Smith, Oregon state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, told The Daily Signal.

The state’s House of Representatives passed the bill Thursday with a vote of 32-26, following a five-hour debate, The Oregonian reported. The previous week, the state Senate debated six hours before passing the bill, known as Senate Bill 1532.

Much of the discussion was about “real versus hypothetical,” Smith said.

“When we’re talking to our members that are small businesses here in Oregon, these are not hypothetical,” he said. “These are things that they have to adjust to immediately in order to stay in business. Unfortunately, the reality of a bill like this is that everyone goes into crisis and survival mode.”

Small businesses, Smith said, have “real considerations” to take into account as they move forward:

They’re not going to be talking about ‘What do we do to expand? What do we do to hire more people?’ They’re going to be making some very difficult decisions, none of which are going to help them grow. They have to decide whether to reduce hours for employees, raise prices on customers, make a reduction in their workforce, relocate their business, or maybe even close their doors.

Brandt observed: “It’s really a combination of three things: raising prices, reducing hours, and looking at what layoffs may be necessary given the increase in labor costs.” 

Democrats in the state legislature argued that the minimum wage wasn’t enough to allow someone to be self-sufficient, the Statesman Journal reported.  

“Minimum wage increases aren’t really a political problem; they’re a math problem,” Brandt counters, noting that the typical restaurant owner has a 4-percent profit margin.

“When labor costs shoot up double digits, something absolutely has to give,” he said.

Brandt points to research and examples to Oregon’s north, in Seattle, where restaurants have had to close doors. Seattle’s minimum wage is set to rise to $15 an hour.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, came out in support of the bill, endorsing the measure before it passed and saying she would sign it.

“I started this conversation last fall, bringing stakeholders together to craft a workable proposal; one that gives working families the much-needed wage boost they need, and addresses challenges for businesses and rural economies presented by the two impending ballot measures,” Brown said in a prepared statement Thursday. 

Moving forward, based on the economic study that we had conducted and based on where Oregon currently is … what we’ve done in the legislative process is signed up to really be on the bleeding edge of the minimum wage debate, where we don’t have a lot of information that really is relevant about what is going to happen in Oregon. We don’t think that Oregon should be a state where we experiment and gamble with the state of small businesses.

With higher minimum wages, unintended consequences may include workers losing perks and benefits and problems arising in workplace cultures, Brandt said.

He said workers may have to deal with wage compression issues—where the employee has worked hard for years to get to where he is, then finds himself back making close to minimum wage.

Smith, the spokesman for independent businesses, said the change is shortsighted:

When we’re looking at these types of huge pieces of legislation that impact so many people, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and not look back at where we’ve already been. I think we have enough evidence here, just by looking back at what’s happened here in Oregon over the last 14 years, to say that arbitrarily moving numbers and increasing numbers doesn’t actually solve problems.

Any kind of gain that a worker gets in their salary is a temporary gain, because the labor market and the cost of living will adjust—because that’s how market forces work.

In 2002, Oregon voters passed Measure 25, which required the minimum wage to be adjusted for inflation each year based on the Consumer Price Index.

At the time, Smith recalled, proponents made bold statements that it would take politics out of the issue and that Oregonians who worked full-time wouldn’t have to live in poverty.

“Here we are 14 years later, and this is a highly political, contentious issue, and it didn’t solve our poverty problem,” Smith said. “Now here we are again debating this, and people are saying the exact same things and making the exact same arguments.”

Two ballot initiatives, proposed by 15 Now and the Raise the Wage coalition, also seek to raise Oregon’s minimum wage. The proposals call for increases to $15 an hour and $13.50 an hour, respectively.

“The biggest takeaway is that it’s more important than ever to have a bipartisan plan to make sure that we are opposing the measures that are still slated for the ballot in November,” Brandt said, adding:

Republicans and Democrats really need to stand together in saying, we have made our decision about minimum wage and it’s time to start unifying the state as opposed to dividing it with ballot measures that frankly are very extreme.

© 2016 The Daily Signal/ Heritage Foundation

Thursday
Feb182016

Police-FBI Shooting of LaVoy Finicum —Other Videos?

by William F. Jasper

When Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum was shot to death by law enforcement officers in Oregon on January 26, the initial joint statement by the FBI and Oregon State Police was very vague, not even mentioning Finicum by name.

“At approximately 4:25 p.m. (PST) on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Oregon State Police (OSP) began an enforcement action to bring into custody a number of individuals associated with the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” the statement reads. “During that arrest, there were shots fired,” it continues. “One individual who was a subject of a federal probable cause arrest is deceased.”

Two days later, on January 28, Greg Bretzing, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, held another press conference to release an aerial video of the shooting taken from an FBI plane [drone]. The video, according to Bretzing, confirms the FBI/OSP version of the incident, which claims that Finicum, who had his hands up in the air, was shot because he was reaching toward his pocket, where, according to the FBI, he was carrying a loaded 9mm handgun.

While most of the “mainstream” media reports uncritically accepted the FBI claim, the video does not unequivocally support that interpretation of the event. As we reported, the FBI video is a grainy and often out-of-focus video, and since it was taken from considerable altitude, it only provides an overhead perspective. Moreover, there is no audio, so there is no way to ascertain how many shots were fired, or when they were fired.

The movement of Mr. Finicum’s right hand, may just as well have been — as critics point out — that he was trying to balance himself in the slippery, deep snow, or was grabbing his side in an involuntary reaction to having already been shot.

In our earlier article on the FBI video, we asked:

• In an operation of this size, with all of the local, state, and federal resources and manpower deployed, were there no other video or audio recordings?

• Were there no dash-cams on the vehicles or body-cams/body-mics on the troopers and FBI agents?

• Where is Finicum’s truck and has there been any independent verification of the number of bullet holes in it?

And we added: "It is highly unlikely that there are not additional video and audio recordings."

Apparently, there were additional cameras, as we suspected. First of all, Shawna Cox, one of the two female passengers in Finicum’s pickup truck, says she was videotaping the event with her smart phone, which was confiscated when she was arrested along with the remaining passengers, after the shooting. 

Additionally, at least a portion of one video has surfaced in news accounts, purportedly showing the arrest of Ryan Payne, one of the passengers in Finicum’s pickup. The images (shown) have been making the rounds on many websites sympathetic to Finicum, the Bundys, and the Hammonds. The New American has queried the FBI and OSP by telephone and e-mail concerning these images but had not received a response by the time this story was posted. We have not been able to verify that the object circled in the photo is indeed an “FBI Helmet Camera” (or that the individual shown is an FBI agent), but, obviously, someone at the scene shot the video/photo images, so there was at least one other camera on the ground at the FBI-OSP roadblock. Very likely, other agents and troopers also were fitted with cameras.

In releasing the initial aerial video, agent Bretzing said “we want to do what we can to lay out an honest and unfiltered view of what happened and how it happened.” He also said that in spite of the graphic details included in the video, “we feel that it is necessary to show the whole thing unedited in the interest of transparency.”

If the Obama Justice Department and FBI are truly interested in “transparency” and laying out “an honest and unfiltered view of what happened and how it happened,” they will release Shawna Cox’s video, as well as all other police/FBI video and audio recordings of the shooting.

© 2016 The New American  Link to full story

Wednesday
Feb172016

Solidarity gathering held for Lavoy Finicum and Ranchers

Roseburg, Ore-A gathering of about fifty people assembled on Garden Valley Blvd. in front of the BLM offices Tuesday February 16,  from about 4:00 to 5:00 pm in support of the Burns occupiers and in opposition to the killing of LaVoy Finicum by FBI and Oregon State Police.

Rally organizer, Loma Wharton, Co-Chair of Liberators 2004, said a group met about a week ago and decided they needed to “show support for these people who are standing up for the Constitution and demanding that the fed return our lands”.  She said the turnout was much larger than expected and even drew supporters form Coos Bay, Oregon.

The overwhelming response from the public was favorable according to Wharton. There were only two cars that passed that were at all negative, the rest honked and gave thumbs up in support of the protesters.

Wharton said “We wanted people to know that we are protesting the mismanagement of our land as well as the ambush and execution of LaVoy Finicum” who was killed on January 26, 2016. She said there were even cars leaving the BLM grounds that gave them thumbs up and they escorted two BLM officers across the street to get their coffee from Dutch Bros. and then back again.

Wednesday
Feb102016

County Public Works property theft Criminal Investigation goes to OSP

By  David Jaques

Roseburg, Or- According to a press release by Michael Kurtz, Human Resources Director for Douglas County, the investigation into missing equipment in the Operations and Maintenance Division of Public Works has now been handed over to the Oregon State Police.

Beacon sources have revealed that the investigation of fraud or theft first came to light when a member of the public came in to the county to report a purchase they had made from a county employee, which they thought was ‘too good to be true’ and became suspicious. This report has not been confirmed by investigators who are releasing very few details due to the nature of the ongoing investigation. County Commissioner Chris Boice said he was not aware of that information.

What Boice would say is that “the county became aware of some inventory missing from the Public Works Department” last week, and that triggered an internal investigation by the HR department.  Due to “inconsistencies” discovered in this preliminary investigation, Boice said Kurtz turned the investigation over to the Douglas County Sheriff’s office. Sheriff John Hanlin was not available for comment.

As of Monday February 8, the investigation was forwarded to the Oregon State Police, where Sgt. Andy Kenyon, of the Major Crimes Section is leading the investigation. 

In addition to the criminal investigation now being conducted by OSP, according to HR director Michael Kurtz, the county is continuing their own internal investigation. They have retained the services of RGL Forensics to conduct a thorough internal audit.

Although there is currently no information available as to the extent of the losses due to unaccounted for inventory, Kurtz said the “county takes property loss very seriously and therefore we are conducting a thorough and detailed investigation.”

Commissioner Boice said that while the scope of losses or dollar amounts involved are not yet known, this has been going on for some time, “at least a couple years”.

As to the progress of the independent forensic audit, the paper side of the audit was completed on Tuesday February 9, and the physical side is expected to be completed on Wednesday February 10.

In the meantime, in accordance with county policy there are fifteen individuals, of the approximately fifty employees in the Operations and Management Division, who are on paid administrative leave. Though no names have been released, Kurtz said the fact they are on leave is not an indication of guilt or innocence. It is not known until law enforcement completes their investigation, which or how many employees may face charges. The charges may go before a Grand Jury. The Douglas County D.A.’s office did not respond to information requests.

From the County Website:

Douglas County Public Works Operations and Maintenance Division is responsible for operating and maintaining the County road system, the County landfill, and 11 solid waste transfer stations. Specific responsibilities include road and bridge maintenance, roadway signing and striping, roadside vegetation control, solid waste operations, recycling, and the Adopt-A-Highway program.

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