Hot-button issues spark House candidates’ debate double-header

The Legislature’s cup of accomplishments is either pretty darn full or running on empty, depending on whether you agree with the viewpoint of Central Oregon’s two Republican incumbent House members or the pair of Democrats seeking to unseat them in the Nov. 7 election.

District 54 Rep. Tim Knopp and his challenger, Ken Cooper, differed on issues ranging from education funding to health care costs and term limits to benefits for same-sex partners, as did District 55’s Ben Westlund and Democratic foe Doug Dunlap.

Knopp said he lived up to his campaign promises in his first term in office, boosting school funding while insisting on more accountability. Cooper, a longtime local teacher, said lawmakers failed to provide local schools with equitable funding and hadn’t done enough to help curb health care costs.

Dunlap, the mayor of Metolius, said many asked him why he decided to give up his spare time and time with his family to take on a powerful incumbent like Westlund. He said it’s probably the same reason he enlisted at the height of the Vietnam War or sought the mayor’s job or took time from his campaign to work at fire camps this summer: “I have a commitment to our community, our country and our land.” He also claimed spending on education has not kept up with inflation nor been equitable around the state.

Westlund said he wants a third term because as a father, he cares about the future of our community and our state. He also took exception to Dunlap’s claim of inequitable school funding, at least in kindergarten through 12th grade. (There are outstanding issues and legal challenges when it comes to education service districts, known as ESDs).

Asked their top priorities, Knopp said balancing the state’s budget within existing reserves is key, as is working with Westlund to bring a four-year branch campus to Bend. He also said he would work on health care issues and noted he had tried without success last session to raise the 30-day supply limits on drug purchases, thus saving co-payment and other costs.

Democrat said lawmakers haven’t done enough

Cooper said his priorities are “similar but drastically different” in viewpoint. He said the Bend-La Pine School District lost $330,000 due to the Legislature’s decisions and that he would have backed the school funding plan put forth by former House Speaker Lynn Lundquist of Powell Butte. “I believe we don’t have affordable health care plans, both for our seniors and children,” he said.

Dunlap agreed that balancing the budget will be the top issue, especially if any of three “devastating” ballot measures win voter approval in November. He agreed with Cooper that schools need more funding, noting how he attended a two-room school and how smaller class sizes help students greatly.

Westlund first said “the most important issue is your issue, since citizens are passionate and committed to programs they proposal. But he gave a different top priority: to reform the initiative process, which if not restrained in some fashion “one of these days will absolutely bankrupt our state.” Locally, he agreed with Knopp that a higher education branch campus will be a top Salem priority: “The window of opportunity is here. We have to seize that opportunity.”

The next question was a familiar one on an unpopular subject: funding road or other needs with a sales tax. All noted Oregonians’ decided distaste for the idea. Cooper said the state needs to rethink its priorities and provide fewer tax breaks to big out-of-state corporations. Knopp said he was the only lawmaker to speak on the House floor and oppose referring the May gas tax to voters, “and 85 percent of the electorate agreed with me.” He said more transportation solutions will have to come locally, rather than through state dollars.

Westlund said, “You can’t talk about the tax system in a vacuum. Do I consider a sales tax? Every day.” He said the state relies much too heavily on income taxes that are susceptible to economic swings and that Oregon has only two unbalanced legs of the traditional three-legged stool of taxes. While he sees “two chances, slim and less than none,” Westlund added, “If we could get a sales tax to alleviate the cruelest tax – the property tax – I would.” Dunlap said he’d consider a sales tax but isn’t sure he’d support it, noting that “we’re already paying a sales tax. We just don’t see it” when businesses pass on higher government costs to consumers.

Knopp backs contribution caps; Westlund wants PAC givers listed

Campaign finance reform also brought a variety of opinions. Knopp said he would like to see limits on campaign contributions that would meet the courts’ definition of “reasonableness,” since previous efforts have been tossed out by the courts. He said his largest single donations have been about $3,000 but that some candidates get up to $80,000 from a single donor. Cooper said he supports Measure 6, which would provide public funding of campaigns for candidates that voluntarily agree to limit their spending.

Dunlap said he spent several days this summer walking door to door in Redmond and talking to residents but realized that it didn’t garner him any money. Westlund agreed with Knopp that “reasonable limits” on contributions are a good idea, if they can pass First Amendment muster as not infringing on free speech. He also said he’d like to see contributors reported by name to the state and “not hidden through” political action committee donations.

Although term limits can help newcomers, Cooper said he’s “a bit dismayed” by them: “I’m still of the old fashioned school that if you want someone out of office, you vote ’em out of office.” Knopp noted that voters enacted term limits eight years ago by a 3-to-1 ratio and that he opposed as “self-serving” an effort to revise the limit to a flat 12 years, rather than six in the House and eight in the Senate. If there’s to be any changes, he said, they should come through a citizen-sparked initiative, not from lawmakers.

Westlund said one-third of House members turned over before any term limits were in place and called it an “insidious” step that hurts legislators’ ability to govern. “We get plenty of new blood in here without term limits, and what we lose is our grizzled old veterans who … know how to get things done.” Still, he said, he supports term limits because the voters have spoken. Dunlap said he, too, doesn’t believe in term limits, noting that he lost the Metolius mayor’s job by three votes in 1997, only to return to office two years later.

Knopp said Cooper had mischaracterized his support of one bill as an effort to kill the Oregon Health Plan, when he just wanted the state to negotiate a better federal waiver. “I want to help the governor keep his Oregon Health Plan, so he will have his legacy. It’s done a lot of good,” Knopp said. But Cooper claimed the “sunset law” was the “wrong way to go” to make needed improvements in the plan.

Dunlap said his own grandchildren couldn’t get medical coverage because their parents make slightly too much money for the Oregon Health Plan, but not enough to afford coverage on their own. Westlund said the need to help the working poor is a top priority but added, “For all its shortfalls, the Oregon Health Plan, by any measure, is a smashing success.” He said federal limits have resulted in the program’s funding not keeping up with the costs.

Same-sex benefits gain party-line split

On a controversial issue – providing benefits to same-sex partners of employees – Democrats and Republicans split as one might expect.

Cooper said, “I really don’t like government coming into our house and telling us what to do and what lifestyle we should live. … I have no problem with long-term partnerships (getting) some of the same benefits as opposite-sex partners.” Knopp noted that a court ruling mandated such coverage for public entities but added, “I would never vote to force a private company to provide any type of benefits they choose not to provide. Business costs are high enough to me, providing benefits they already have.”

Westlund applauded “the court’s enlightened decision” but agreed with Knopp about not forcing businesses to provide such benefits. But Dunlap said he supports providing such benefits. “I think sexual preference is akin to our race,” he said, calling denial of benefits an “open door to prejudices” that could lead to more restrictions. “I think all people should be treated equally,” Dunlap added.

Asked about the daunting list of 26 ballot measures and the initiative system, Knopp called it “the people’s process” but added, “To some degree, I think it’s being taken to the extreme,” especially with allowing paid signature gatherers. Cooper called it “a daunting problem” and said he is opposed to the paid signature process.

Dunlap noted that seven of the measures were referred by lawmakers and that lawmakers are chosen “to go to Salem and make decisions,” not pass them back to the public. Westlund said several of the legislative referrals are constitutional amendments that “we would prefer to have the people vote on.” But he said there’s a need to limit initiatives, noting the founding principles of the country involve a representative democracy, not a direct democracy.”

When candidates got to ask each other questions, some questions were longer than the answers. Knopp said Cooper was “wrong, wrong, wrong” about supposed cuts in the local school budget, noting the Bend-La Pine district’s budget was up 10 percent this year. “If you’re going to say not getting all that you wanted is a cut, I guess it’s a cut,” he said. Knopp then asked Cooper if he supported Measure 6, the public campaign funding measure, which the Republican called “a $24 million welfare program for politicians.” Cooper called it a good idea: “I’m for it.”

Westlund disarmed Dunlap by complimenting his Democratic challenger for stepping forward to run and asking, “How are you liking it?” Dunlap said he enjoys going door to door and talking to people but was frustrated to learn how many are not registered voters. “It’s depressing,” he said. He also noted Westlund has raised 100 times more money and dove into a criticism for the incumbent’s support of out-of-state corporations’ tax breaks. Westlund didn’t remember the particulars of the bill, but Knopp said it was an “intangibles tax.” Westlund guaranteed he only backs such efforts if Oregon gets something in return – but Knopp ended the forum by noting that Gov. John Kitzhaber had vetoed the measure anyway.

The debate, cosponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Bend Chamber of Commerce, will be aired at various times on COTV (Bend Cable channel 11) and also on KBND radio on Sunday at noon. Next up, next Thursday at noon at City Hall: Sheriff Greg Brown vs. challenger Les Stiles.

Experts speak of child sex abuse, boys’ character needs at Bend talk

A Boston husband-and-wife pediatrician team recognized as leaders in the study of child development offered both concern for the present and hope for the future in a Bend appearance Wednesday night, sponsored by the High Desert Forum (http://www.hdforum.org).

Dr. Eli Newberger (http://www.elinewberger.com) told an audience of about 60 at the St. Francis of Assisi meeting hall some of the insights outlined in his book on developing character in boys and men, “The Men They Will Become,” which is due out in paperback soon. His wife, Dr. Carolyn Newberger, spoke of the studies she’s done into one of the most devastating of all topics: child sexual abuse.

Eli Newberger told of starting the first child protection team at Children’s Hospital, three decades ago, and how the women’s movement led in 1977 to an explosion of attention on the long-hidden issues of battered women and child abuse. “It was the women’s movement that brought attention to rape as a social problem,” thus expanding the discussion to other previously taboo topics, said Newberger (pictured above at right, with his wife and Bruce Bishop, the forum’s executive director).

He spoke of his original book idea – “Bad Men and How to Avoid Them” – and the negative reaction from publishers. “They all didn’t feel the women who needed this book would actually buy it,” since their spouses had control in the relationship and the women had a measure of denial. Instead, one suggested a book about raising boys to avoid becoming “bad men” in the first place.

The author explained that a male phenomenon “woven into our genes” comes into play when they enter a room, see other men and ask themselves, “Can I take these other guys?”

Male behavior becomes clear with the TV clicker

“It has to do with males’ needs to position themselves in a pecking order,” he said. “All behavior is a mix of nature and nurture.” Studies have even found that women’s brains are continually active as people approach them, while “males’ brains tended to turn on and off,” Newberger explained. “It has to do with always being alert to danger” and a need for dominance.

A grand example is the male’s attachment to a TV remote control, he said: “A, he wants to have it, and B, he wants to know all the options and probably watch more than one at once.”

“Character,” Newberger said, “is all about choice – how we, in the face of moral challenge, choose to drive … our behavior.”

Interviews with boys and their families drove that point home, he said, especially a 15-year-old boy living with his mother, from Southeast Asia, his U.S.-born stepfather and two younger siblings. The boy’s biological father, born in the Balkans, abducted him at the age of 9 months and took him back to his native country – not out of love for the child, but to hurt his mother, Newberger said. She got him back thanks to the “Mafia connections” of her father, a military officer. The boy’s stepfather, whom he calls “dad,” physically prevented a second abduction when the boy was 5. “From that day on, I knew my dad would protect me,” he quoted the teen as saying.

“This is a kid who probably has the capacity to make fine, even courageous choices” in life, Newberger said.

Looking at the needs of all children, Newberger pointed to a key: “An adult who is crazy about him or her, always being there for them.” And it doesn’t have to be a parent or family member, he said.

Boys also “need words with which to feel and express a full range of emotions,” he said. That could combat the unfortunate aspect of our society, where we criticize boys for crying and praise them for suppressing emotions. Newberger spoke highly of “inductive discipline,” done out of love and respect and with a priority on communication while working toward agreement, not conflict.

TV violence decried; need to help others seen

Newberger then touched on a recent theme from Capitol Hill: protecting youth from overexposure to violence. He noted that the average American child between ages 5 and 15 witnesses the killing of 13,000 people on television.

Boys also need more opportunities to give back to and serve others, which he said “transforms young people’s lives.”

Carolyn Newberger then took the discussion on a darker turn, noting that studies have found one in every four or five girls and one of every eight or nine boys have been sexually abused. And most children don’t tell anyone, at least not right away, she said, for the fear – quite understandable and real — of the further destructive impact on their lives.

“Some don’t tell because they don’t know what’s happened,” she said. “Some don’t tell because they are afraid something bad will happen.” Others think they won’t be believed.

“How do you help your child to tell?” Newberger asked. One key is that “we need to give all children words about what’s public and what’s private on their bodies,” she said. “We need to talk to children about all kinds of safety,” being explicit about what to do if something is uncomfortable. Since adults who molest children often confuse them as well, “we need to let our children know that they don’t have to know for sure about what’s happening,” but can turn to a parent to help figure it out, Carolyn Newberger said. “Let them know there is no secret they can’t tell you,” even though admittedly, once the secret is out, “all hell breaks out.”

Sometimes, the signs are clear, in terms of overly sexualized actions that are not age-appropriate. But quite often, the symptoms are far less clear: stomachaches, nightmares, withdrawing from friends, anger, acting out.

Moms traumatized by news of abuse; dads just ‘want to kill’

The discovery of abuse also is devastating to the mother, in cases when a father figure is the abuser. “Mothers are as psychologically traumatized by abuse as their children are,” she said. Then there are the many cases of mothers who were sexually abused themselves as youngsters and for whom the new revelation is “confirmation of a world gone bad,” she explained – and yet while they need support, they have fewer resources of their own to draw on than women who were not abused as kids.

While mothers feel they have failed to protect their children, the reaction from fathers to word that their child was molested is far more visceral: “The fathers want to kill,” Newberger said.

As for the children themselves, most “did get much better within a year,” returning to seemingly normal childhoods, while for others it devastates them for years. A key is the message that it wasn’t their fault in any way. Therapy is a key for support, Carolyn Newberger said: “an outside, independent person who won’t be hurt” by whatever is said.

Carolyn Newberger said she doesn’t believe abuse numbers has skyrocketed in recent years, as it might appear, only that it’s no longer a hidden problem, as it was in the past. “There’s no question it’s better that abuse is known, so it can be stopped,” she said.

From hemp shirts to teen rights: Mtn. View HS candidate forum covers wide field

It had all the earmarks of a pep rally at Mountain View High School’s auditorium on Wednesday morning, but there wasn’t a football or basketball team in sight. Instead, the applause and even sporadic cheers were for six men running for Deschutes County sheriff and commissioner – one of whom sported a $45 shirt that not only depicted green leaves but was made of 55 percent “industrial hemp” (and the rest cotton).

“If I can get the gun owners and the pot smokers voting for me, I’ve got it made,” unabashed Libertarian (http://www.lpdc.org) commission candidate Curt Wagner said as he left the school after an hour-long debate double-header that featured tough questions on a variety of issues, from student rights to sheriff’s vehicles to views about gun control and abortion.

There were contrasts in other fashion styles, from Sheriff Greg Brown’s (http://www.sheriffgregbrown.com) suit and tie to challenger Les Stiles’ (http://www.lesstiles.org) casual tieless sport coat – a much lighter shade than his daily uniform attire as a Bend police lieutenant.

Several students kicked off the sheriff’s candidate questioning with their criticism of a new state law that requires teen drivers to not carry any young passengers for the first six months with their learner’s permit. “Is that age discrimination?” asked Christine, the first questioner.

Both candidates said they back the new law – but Stiles, then Brown also said they want everyone to watch closely to see if it reduces teen driving tragedies, as intended. “I can’t tell you how many times I had to go to the house of a family I knew and tell them their son or daughter is dead,” Brown said. “It’s statistically proven that younger people are learning their skills and at higher risk.” But Stiles said, “If it doesn’t have the impact, we should eliminate” the requirement.

Another student, Emily, pressed harder on the issue: “It’s almost as if they ask you to break the law. When you have a boyfriend or girlfriend and you have a date, you don’t want your parents driving with you,” she said, adding that many students are paying a lot for gas because they can no longer carpool.

“Look at it this way,” Stiles said. “You’ve waited a number of years to get this, what’s six more months?” Both candidates urged teens not to break the law, with Brown noting that passengers can distract new drivers – as well as new pilots, who also cannot fly with passengers at first. Still, he said lawmakers must be sure it works and not pass “feel-good, reactionary laws” that don’t solve problems.

Brown, Stiles spar again on jail safety, car numbers

Miranda, next to the microphone, asked why traffic safety classes are not required in Oregon. Brown said he hopes they will be and made a pitch for the new “Drive 2 Survive” classes the sheriff’s office puts on with its “skid car.” As he had told Sisters High students last week (photo above), Brown said his agency is seeking insurance company grant funds so every high school student can take the driving class.

Asked about jail safety, Stiles claimed the county jail has inadequate staffing and noted last week’s escape of three work release center inmates. He said he would boost staffing by 25 percent through scheduling changes. Brown noted that the 210-bed adult jail has only had one escape and none since added security measures were taken, while most minimum-security work center “walkaways” are from their jobs.

The incumbent defended his spending habits, noting that he’s under-spent his budget each year. Asked about the number of patrol vehicles, Brown said taxpayers pay only $2 a year for the cars, a lower amount than for other police agencies. He also said the shift away from 12-hour shifts occurred due to a lawsuit by deputies against the agency. “My No. 1 priority is preventing you, the taxpayers, from paying additional liability,” he said. Stiles said the county has spent $1.6 million over the past three years on vehicles, adding, “I think we can do it a lot better and a lot cheaper.”

A student’s question about Stiles’ many local endorsements asked if it meant he is “too closely associated with employee unions.” Stiles said, “You’re going to hear this is nothing more than a labor-management dispute. That’s not true.” Instead, he called it a question of leadership and interagency cooperation. Brown, on the other hand, said that while “Les has been endorsed by his peers – the officers who work out on the street – I have been endorsed by my peers, the people I work with,” from two county commissioners to Gov. John Kitzhaber, “because of the leadership they have seen me provide.”

The next youthful questioner hit a nerve many taxpayers feel pinched about – the seemingly never-ending growth in budgets. Brown said property tax increases are capped at 3 percent a year and that “we are bringing in outside money,” such as a half-million dollars in grant money he oversees that is spent across seven counties for drug enforcement. Stiles said the sheriff’s office budget has grown substantially over Brown’s tenure and that he doesn’t think that’s fully justified. In fact, Stiles said, “I think we can hold the line the next three years without raising your taxes one penny.”

Brown insists ‘idiot’ remark wasn’t aimed at deputies

A student wearing a “Hemp Lobby” T-shirt asked for the sheriff candidates’ views on the time and resources spent on he “victimless crime” of drug abuse, compared to serious crimes like murder — bringing some applause from the youthful crowd. But Brown insisted, “It’s not a victimless crime,” noting that many serious crimes are committed by those who sell stolen goods for drugs. Stiles agreed, noting that a majority of jail arrivals have been using drugs, alcohol or a combination.

The last question also brought unanimity, as both men expressed their opposition to Ballot Measure 9, aimed at preventing what its supporters call the “promotion of homosexuality” in the schools.

Brown also told bend.com after Wednesday’s debate that his now-infamous remark: “idiots, idiots, idiots” – upon learning that his deputies had endorsed Stiles was not a personal attack on the deputies. Pressed on the matter, the sheriff stood by his remarks at a Bend debate that he had meant the endorsement “was an idiot thing to do,” and that he was incorrect in an earlier comment to bend.com that he had “made the statement they were idiots.” He said he was disturbed that a “personal phone conversation” with the union official had become a campaign issue.

As in his last appearance in Sunriver, Wagoner happened to get the first and last word in a four-way commission debate with Republican Mike Daly, Democrat Larry Kimmel and independent Randy Gordon (http://www.randygordon.com). And two issues of the past week – Daly’s call for Swearingen to resign, and Kimmel’s loss of Democratic Central Committee support – didn’t come up at all. Still, it got lively at times.

Wagoner said he doesn’t approve of illegal drug use by students but that drug “prohibition” doesn’t work. He drew a big cheer when he noted that his shirt was made of “industrial hemp. It is not marijuana.” (Wagoner has taken his pro-decriminalization stance to the airwaves with a local radio ad featuring country singer Willie Nelson and produced by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.)

Kimmel couldn’t help but note that his three children are Mountain View graduates before laying out his background on the county’s budget committee and telling the students how the county can affect their lives, from services for pregnant women to deputies pulling over speeders.

Gordon labels foes as ‘pro-growth’

Gordon also went over his resume, from years spent as a California police officer to his current stint on the Bend-La Pine School Board. But he quickly returned to a topic big in Sisters last week: the area’s rapid growth.

“Two of my opponents are pro-growth,” he said, with a glance at Daly (a Redmond excavation contractor) and Kimmel (a local investor who formerly ran Traughber Oil Co.) Gordon told the students – among 1,900 at jam-packed Mountain View, “You see overcrowding. That is an outcome of unplanned growth, unrestrained growth.” If not checked, he said, the county will double in population a decade from now and the number of schools will double as well.

“We have to develop a plan so we won’t have school overcrowding,” Gordon said. There are other impacts, too, he added, noting that two Mountain View students attended Tuesday night’s school board meeting to express concern about having to leave and graduate from the new Summit High School, due to open next year.

Daly introduced himself as a “purebred Central Oregonian” and listed a variety of past jobs, from pilot to contractor to legal investigator and OSP trooper. “I think I’ve been training for this job as county commissioner my whole life,” he said.

Growth and the priorities to deal with it also was the topic of the first question. Kimmel noted that Mountain View, despite its crowding, has one of the region’s lowest dropout rates. “Growth in the county, I think, has been positive,” he said, preferring the word “development” for not just a community but the body, spirit and mind.

Daly told a new crowd how he had to leave town for a job in Alaska during the ’80s recession. “We have to have some growth,” he said. “You don’t want to have to leave Bend to find a job.

Views on Bend Airport diverge sharply

Soon, Wagoner found another opportunity to give his different view on drug use: “I’ve seen what drugs can do to people, but I’ve also seen what the law can do to people, and it’s far worse.”

A split emerged on a question about the Bend Airport’s proposed runway extension. Daly said the safety for pilots now is “marginal” and that a fully loaded plane leaving on a hot day could run into problems. Wagoner, toeing the Libertarian line, said “the city has no business operating an airport” and that users should fund whatever the facility needs. Kimmel – like Daly, a pilot – said the runway is safe and that the city merely wants larger aircraft to do more commerce. Gordon, ever the proponent of plans, said the county needs to look at all its airports and what that resource needs.

Next up: Gun control. Wagoner said the issue “goes right back to the war on drugs,” while Kimmel noted that the U.S. leads the world in handgun-related deaths. Gordon said he owns guns but that “there is a responsibility that goes along with everything.” Daly – who has acknowledged accidentally shooting his little finger when he was 18 – said there are too many guns for regulation to do any good but that he’d “like to see stronger sanctions against people who use guns to commit crimes.”

Abortion is not a topic at many county commission meetings, if ever. But when asked, Kimmel called it a “very personal” matter that “has no part in county politics.” Gordon said he’d never fund abortions as a government official, while Daly pointed to his Catholic upbringing and Wagoner also called it a personal issue.

Given the last word, Wagoner admitted that he didn’t vote until he was almost 34, 10 years ago, and urged teens over 18 to register and vote. He said he doesn’t have “great qualifications” for office but added, “I see you losing your freedom (and) your liberties. Please, do not vote away your rights.”

Update: Bend man, 25, killed by train as he sat on tracks drinking beer

A Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway freight train heading south into Bend Tuesday night struck and killed a 25-year-old Bend man who was sitting on the tracks and drinking a beer, police said.

Authorities identified the victim Wednesday as Michael Lore Lehman of 205 NW Riverside Ave., No. 8. Police Lt. Les Stiles said alcohol indeed was a factor in the incident — but “to what extent it was a factor, we can’t say.” Toxicology tests are under way to determine if Lehman’s blood alcohol level at the time of death.

Police were called to the tracks along the Bend Parkway south of the Empire Avenue overpass around 8:40 p.m. Tuesday on a report of a train-pedestrian accident. No witnesses to the accident have been found, other than the train’s crew, Stiles said.

The train’s engineers saw the man and immediately braked but were unable to stop before hitting him. Lehman was pronounced dead at the scene.

The victim ws alone when the incident occurred and foul play isn’t suspected, Lt. Matt Fine said Thursday.

Police ID Redmond man killed in single-car rollover south of town

Authorities have identified a 48-year-old Redmond man who died Tuesday night in a single-vehicle rollover on Canal Boulevard south of Redmond.

Mark Lee Dekker was pronounced dead on arrival at Cenral Oregon District Hospital. A passenger, identified as Debra Jo Baer, 34, of Redmond, was treated for minor injuries at the Redmond hospital, said Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies. Neither occupant was wearing safety restraints at the time of the crash, said sheriff’s spokesman Rick Meyers

Lee’s 1970 Jeep was traveling north on South Canal near 61st Street, about four miles south of Redmond, around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday when it apparently went out of control, deputies said. The vehicle left the roadway on the east shoulder and rolled twice, coming to a rest on the driver’s side.

The accident is still under investigation, but Meyers said it’s believed alcohol may have been a factor in the crash.

Local Democrats deny yanking Kimmel support over Clarno backing

In something of a political stunner, the Deschutes County Democratic Central Committee announced Tuesday that it had voted unanimously to withdraw its earlier endorsement of Larry Kimmel, picked by voters as the Democratic nominee for county commissioner.

Kimmel, informed of the party committee’s decision by bend.com, said he was “flabbergasted” by the news and claimed the party had not interviewed him about his positions or offered any financial support.

But he also said it’s clear to him that while he may have philosophical differences with some top Democrats, on issues such as growth, a big reason for the committee’s decision was his support and $75 contribution to Republican state Senate candidate Bev Clarno.

He acknowledged that he did not attend last Thursday’s central committee meeting, where the decision was made, but claimed he was never invited to it and was busy campaigning instead.

The announcement came from Anne Philiben, acting chairman of the Democratic Central Committee. She’s also the Democrats’ nominee to take on Clarno, a former GOP legislator and House speaker, for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Neil Bryant due to term limits.

Party panel cites Kimmel’s ‘questionable practices’

“Members of the committee requested discussion on the topic of Mr. Kimmel’s ethics after some questionable practices was brought to light,” the committee’s news release stated. “After much discussion, a vote was taken and support was revoked.”

Philiben said, “In light of the fact that we (Democrats) don’t win as many races as we would like over here (in Central Oregon), this was a tough decision, but one we felt strongly about.”

“Many people feel so disenfranchised and turned off to what they perceive to be an unresponsive system, we feel it is essential to the long-term well being of the party to stand up for what is right, not just expedient,” added Philiben, a nurse who is making her first bid for elective office.

Philiben said Wednesday that while she personally was upset that Kimmel had backed her GOP competitor, it did not play a role in the committee’s vote to withdraw support.

“It has become obvious that Larry Kimmel is not supportive of the Democratic Party,” she told bend.com. “He is supported by the Republicans on the county board. Most of his campaign contributions come from Realtors and developers.” Indeed, Commissioner Linda Swearingen said Wednesday she was taping TV and radio spots urging voters to elect Kimmel, whom she endorsed on primary election night.

Kimmel, a Bend businessman and investor, is one of four candidates seeking to succeed departing commissioner Swearingen in a race where no candidate has a clear advantage. Republican Mike Daly of Redmond (pictured above, at left, with Kimmel on the night of the May primary) made waves of his own last week when he “spanked” the current three commission members for public criticism of fairgrounds officials and called on Swearingen to resign (something she refused to do).

The two other commission candidates are independent (and Bend-La Pine School Board member) Randy Gordon, who made the Nov. 7 ballot after a spring write-in campaign, and Libertarian Curt Wagner (http://www.lpdc.org).

Democrat leaders say they would back Gordon ‘if they could’

Asked by bend.com whether the Democrats instead would endorse Gordon (http://www.randygordon.com), Philiben said, “We can’t. We would if we could.”

Kimmel told bend.com late Tuesday that he had talked with Philiben and she claimed he had been “supportive of big business” that “is causing small businesses in this community to fold.”

Kimmel (who, like Daly, has no Web site but is reachable at kimmel@bendnet.com) has said he agrees with the current three commission members that the post should be elected on a nonpartisan basis. “You are hiring the manager and administrator of a $150 million business with 800 employees,” said Kimmel, who stresses his six years on the county budget committee as a reason he’s the most qualified candidate: “I’ve been on the budget committee for as long as Randy Gordon has lived in this community.”

“I am actually flabbergasted” by the Democrats’ decision, Kimmel told bend.com Tuesday. “I would think that if the Democratic Party had some issue with me, they would at least have the courtesy to (ask me). … I still honestly believe that I am the best candidate, and I’m going to go about it that way.”

Kimmel surmised that he might have displeased some Democrats by taking what they consider a “pro-development stance.”

“There are certainly some very staunch Democrats opposed to development,” he said. “I am certainly not for rampant growth without any management. But I consider development of the body, soul, spirit and community as very positive.”

Kimmel: Growth brings competition, helps consumer

Kimmel said he, too, is a small business owner, who in his case had to compete with ARCO, which had a much lower cost for its gas because it has no “middlemen” in the equation. But he said the consumers have benefited in the long run.

“It forced me to do things ARCO doesn’t do — wash windows, let you pay without having to go inside,” Kimmel said.

Philiben said Wednesday that “all his responses are indicative of what the problem is. He’s not a Democrat, and he should not be running as one.” She said the decision also had “nothing to do with Randy Gordon.”

Philiben also noted that no local Democratic candidates hadgotten any money from the party but said Kimmel was given space at the Democrats’ booth at the county fair, without seeking any repayment. She said Kimmel was sent a post card about last week’s party meeting but has never been to one, although they are held the same time and day each month.

Kimmel said Katy Gullette, an active local Democrat, had gone to him with a fund-raising proposal after the primary and that he told her, “I really appreciate you guys having an interest, but I think the most effective way for me to campaign is to contact my supporters on a personal basis.” And now, he noted, Gullette is working on behalf of Gordon’s campaign.

As for the Democrats’ withdrawal of support, Kimmel said, “I want to know where their support has been. I’ve had no financial support from any Democratic organization. Several Republicans and independents have given to my campaign.”

Philiben claimed Kimmel had “pulled all kinds of stunts,” among them telling Gullette at one point that Gordon had dropped out of the campaign.

“He (Kimmel) doesn’t do me any favors when he put in the paper (remarks at a Sisters debate) about how getting Costco and Wal-Mart here was good for the community,” said Philiben, who owns Play it Again Sports. “We’ve barely been able to hang on ever since they came in here.”

Kimmel defends support for Clarno

But Kimmel said Philiben made clear to him that the one “black and white” issue was that he contributed to the campaign of Clarno, a Republican candidate who he’s also turned to for advice in the past.

“Bev Clarno, in my estimation, is best suited to serve her district, due to her experience,” Kimmel said. “She’s been a friend of mine for 20 years and I have confidence in her abilities. It didn’t make any difference to me what party she was affiliated with.”

Kimmel also said he doesn’t believe the Democratic Central Committee “has a very strong representation of Democrats in this county.”

Regarding the withdrawal of support, he said, “If it hurts me, then that’s something I’ll have to deal with. I will continue to act as I believe and do the things I believe in.”

Gordon said he agrees that the commission post should not be a partisan one but said his major-party opponents “play both sides of the fence,” urging party unity in order to win votes. “It’s been pretty heartening to see both Republicans and Democrats come and support me.”

Secretary of state candidates trade charges at Bend debate

The office of secretary of state may be a relative snoozer with many Oregonians, but current officeholder Bill Bradbury and his Republican challenger, House Speaker Lynn Snodgrass, did their best to liven things up with a flurry of charges and countercharges Tuesday at a Rotary Club of Greater Bend lunchtime debate.

Bradbury, appointed to succeed fellow Democrat Phil Keisling last November by Gov. John Kitzhaber, may have surprised the audience the most by mentioning that he limped to the podium and tripped a bit because he’s had multiple sclerosis for 20 years. “The last time I checked, this is not a foot race with Ms. Snodgrass – if it was, I’m sure she’d win,” Bradbury said. Snodgrass is best known in Central Oregon for her bruising, successful fight to unseat former Speaker Lynn Lundquist before the 1999 legislative session, followed by her defeat of Lundquist in May’s primary race for secretary of state.

Tuesday’s real fun began when each candidate got to ask the other a question. Bradbury asked Snodgrass why she hadn’t posted her contributor list on her Web site (http://www.lynnsnodgrass.com) as he has on his (http://www.bradbury2000.com), where he lists over $412,000 in contributions so far. Snodgrass noted a bit of unease about posting donor information on the Web, “where anybody in the world could get into it,” but said she plans to go beyond the law’s requirements and also note her $50 and below donors, as soon as she gains their permission. “We’ll do it as soon as we can,” she said.

Snodgrass asked Bradbury how he could support Ballot Measure 6, providing public campaign funds to candidates who limit their spending and private contributions. She said it would take about $24 million out of the general fund that could be spent on schools or other needs and instead “pay for political campaigns involving someone like Lon Mabon,” former head of the Oregon Citizens Alliance.

Bradbury called Measure 6 a significant piece of campaign reform supported by every living former secretary of state, from Mark Hatfield and Norma Paulus to Barbara Roberts. “It’s not a silver bullet. It won’t solve the entire problem,” Bradbury said, but he called it “a critical way to get the special interests out of politics.”

Bradbury then went on the offensive, repeating a recent claim that Snodgrass helped send to committee and kill a bill going after predatory high-interest lenders, who then made a $10,000 contribution to her campaign. “That’s the kind of thing that leads to real concern about special interests in politics,” he said.

Snodgrass later defended the contribution from a corporation: “Does that mean that every donation from business is a payoff? For crying out loud,” she said. “It’s no different than me accusing Bill of getting $80,000 from the teachers’ union and expecting he will do something special for them – and I won’t do that.”

Snodgrass attacks Bradbury for leaving McCain off ballot

While answering a question about improving Oregon’s diminished role in the primary election season, Snodgrass criticized Bradbury for failing to include Republican John McCain on the Republican primary ballot. “Your vote was silenced, in that regard,” she claimed. “You were denied a choice. You should be able to have that choice.”

Bradbury called it “a very difficult decision” but said state law dictates that candidates be listed on the ballot only if they are “recognized by the media as running. Right before I made the decision, John McCain suspended his campaign, and by the time of the vote in May, he was back in the Senate, working with other senators. I wish we could have voted for him, too, but I had to follow the law.”

Snodgrass also claimed Bradbury’s office had dragged its heels on legislatively mandated performance audits of county juvenile justice programs. Bradbury, who was in the Legislature for 14 years, said one part of his office – the Corporations Division – actually has been getting too much money, and it’s fees of up to $400 will all be dropped to $200 next July, eliminating a “cash cow” lawmakers used for other programs.

Snodgrass said, “I know how to pinch pennies,” noting her fight in Salem to be sure the excess income was refunded as a “kicker.” She also said her first audit (one of the office’s responsibilities) would be of the secretary of state’s office itself, to make sure it is running efficiently and to be a “role model for other agencies.”

Drug investigation leads to three arrests in Deschutes River Woods

Three people have been arrested on drug and related charges at a home in Deschutes River Woods and more arrests are expected in an undercover narcotics investigation, the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team reported.

For several months, drug team investigators have received information about alleged methamphetamine sales by a 23-year-old transient, Roderick Robert Erikson. Undercover detectives collected information about his movements and patterns, leading to surveillance at a home in the 60300 block of Cheyenne Road, at the south end of Deschutes River Woods, said Bend police Lt. Kevin Sawyer.

The residence was one Erickson was known to frequent and arrange for meth sales, Sawyer said. Detectives watched the residence until Erickson returned, then made contact shortly before 4 p.m. Monday with Erickson and two women identified as Ambrosia Claudia Johnson, 19, also a transient, and Cynthia Ella Burness, 39, who lived at the address.

During the contact, detectives discovered about an ounce of methamphetamine, several doses of LSD, drug records, packaging materials and drug paraphernalia, Sawyer said. Erikson also had a concealed weapon that is a restricted weapon for a convicted felon, the officer said.

All three suspects were taken into custody and lodged at the Deschutes County Jail. Erikson faces charges of delivery and possession of a controlled substance, carrying a concealed weapon and a felony warrant for parole violation. Johnson is accused of possession of a controlled substance, while Burness was held on a probation violation.

Prineville wedding reception turns wild and violent, leads to arrest

PRINEVILLE – An alcohol-fueled wedding reception turned raucous and even violent at the Crook County Fairgrounds early Sunday morning, leading to an attack on a sheriff’s deputy and the arrest of a 22-year-old Prineville man.

Jose Osvaldo Ruiz-Toledo faces numerous charges including two counts of assault, one count of criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, assault on an officer, interfering with a police officer and riot, sheriff’s deputies said. City police officers and an Oregon State Police trooper helped sheriff’s deputies break up the altercation.

Ruiz-Toledo was arraigned on the various charges Monday afternoon and released pending further proceedings due to crowding at the county’s 24-bed jail, officials said.

One victim initially was assaulted with a chair and two brothers also were attacked after police were called to Cary Foster Hall around 1:45 a.m. Sunday, deputies said. Deputy Craig Riley was thrown to the ground, suffering cuts on his arm, and the suspect is accused of kicking him in the stomach. It took three deputies to restrain Ruiz-Toledo and an OSP trooper stood on a table, drew his weapon and told everyone to get back, according to sheriff’s deputies.

Police reports indicate most of the people at the reception were drinking beer and intoxicated, and many did not speak English. About 10 people were involved in the initial fight and more charges are possible, deputies said.

Fall’s arrival brings record cold — but doesn’t stop new wildfires

Autumn’s official arrival brought record cold temperatures to Central Oregon over the weekend – but despite that, new wildfires continue to erupt in the region’s tinder-dry forests and rangeland.

The Fly Creek Fire burned almost 100 acres on the Deschutes National Forest 20 miles north of Sisters Sunday before fire crews got it contained late in the day, said Phil Rapp of the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center in Prineville (http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/fire/index.htm).

No structures were threatened by the blaze, which burned mostly in grass and brush near a forest road and small Fly Lake, Rapp said. More than 50 firefighters remained on the scene Monday working for control of the blaze, the largest in the region since the 18,500-acre Hash Rock Fire east of Prineville earlier this month.

Three investigators will be working to determine the specific cause of the fire, but it is believed to be human-caused, Rapp said. Two other small blazes were reported Monday, one on Forest Service land in northern Klamath County and another near a campground south of Bend.

Redmond dipped to 19 degrees Monday morning, snapping the old Sept. 25 record low of 21, set in 1970. Saturday’s low at Redmond of 18 degrees smashed by six degrees the old Sept. 23 record low, set back in 1993. Several other Oregon cities had record minimum temperatures over the weekend, including Burns and Eugene. Freeze warnings were issued for the area, warning folks to protect tender vegetation. Fall officially arrived around 10:30 Friday morning. Lows are expected to dip close to freezing for much of the week, but highs will climb back to the 70s. A chance of rain is expected by Friday.