Tag Archives: Oregon

A New Report Says Oregon Woefully Underfunds Public Defense Services And Fails To Monitor Its Contractors

Source: Katie Shepherd, Willamette Week, December 13 2018

In a presentation at the state capitol this morning, experts on the right to legal counsel told lawmakers and criminal justice stakeholders that Oregon is failing to comply with the U.S. Constitution because it has significantly underfunded public defense services.

In U.S. courts, defendants are guaranteed the right to an adequate defense under the Sixth Amendment, but a study authored by the nonpartisan nonprofit found several shortcomings in Oregon’s public defense system.

David Carroll, the executive director of the Sixth Amendment Center, presented the report’s findings Thursday morning. Carroll said his team heard a repeated message from the public defenders they talked to: “We are being asked to do more and more with less and less.”

High case loads, low pay rates and a complex, bureaucratic method for assigning cases led the Sixth Amendment Center to conclude that Oregon’s public defense system is not passing constitutional muster.

The report, which was first obtained Wednesday by OPB, highlights a lack of oversight over contracts that outsource public defense services to private attorneys and nonprofit public defenders offices across Oregon. ….

Related:
Oregon’s Public Defense System ‘Is Not Constitutional’ Report Finds
Source: Conrad Wilson, OPB, December 12, 2018

State public defense systems are supposed to provide effective counsel for indigent clients — a requirement of the U.S. Constitution. But a draft report obtained by OPB concludes that Oregon’s system is so bureaucratic and structurally flawed that it can’t guarantee clients are getting the defense they’re owed. …. The Legislature authorized the money for the report, which cost $193,990. Carroll’s group got to work in March, studying nine counties in depth that ranged from Harney to Multnomah. The findings are bleak. The state lacks oversight of attorneys with whom it contracts to provide public defense services. And the way it pays attorneys encourages them to deal with cases as quickly as possible…..

Multnomah County launches investigation into mental health complaints

Source: Keaton Thomas, KATU News, August 16th, 2018

Thanks to a whistleblower and report from the Oregon Health Authority, Multnomah County officials are launching an investigation into how they review mental health complaints from the Unity Center for Behavioral Health. … Multnomah County is the local mental health authority. All complaints of abuse or neglect in the mental health system are directed to it. Last week, county leaders ordered an audit of the complaints reported to the Mental Health and Addiction Services Division. … Issues surrounding Unity Health go back to its beginning, according to Greg Monaco. … “When I started going [to Unity] I was just hearing horror stories from staff,” he said. Monaco says he heard about patients who didn’t know they were kept against their will. He heard about injuries to staff. He heard about employees at Unity who were worried about their safety because of understaffing. … Reports from earlier in the year by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Oregon Health Authority back up Monaco’s claims. In March OSHA cited Unity Health for four violations. It found Unity had not properly handled and investigated injuries to staff members on the job. Last month, a report from the Oregon Health Authority looked into patient safety. It “uncovered several issues that jeopardized patient safety.” …

PERS task force recommends privatizing state universities

Source: AP and KTVZ.COM, November 1, 2017

A task force has recommended how to shrink the state’s pension-fund deficit by $5 billion, and two of the suggestions – including privatizing the state’s public universities – got a cold reception from Gov. Kate Brown. Brown thanked the seven members of her task force for their research and commitment to identify ways for Oregon to keep its promise to retirees. She had convened the task force to identify opportunities to pay up to a quarter of the Public Employee Retirement System, or PERS, unfunded liability. That deficit has ballooned to at least $25.3 billion. … Governor Brown has also expressed to staff serious concerns about the task force’s proposals to privatize public universities and sell SAIF.

Congress must continue to block Trump plan to sell BPA

Source: Union-Bulletin Editorial Board, August 8, 2017

Late last month the U.S. House Budget Committee approved a budget resolution that rejects privatizing the transmission assets of the Bonneville Power Administration proposed by the Trump administration. A great move. The sooner this lousy proposal is dead the better it will be for Pacific Northwest residents who pay power bills — pretty much all of us. … President Donald Trump is calling for turning over the transmission network of power lines and substations owned by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency that distributes most of hydropower from the Columbia and Snake rivers’ dams, to private companies. As Trump sees it, this would lower costs to taxpayers and improve efficiency. But in reality it would result in far higher rates for consumers. And putting the high-voltage grid in the hands of private investors — perhaps foreign investors — would create national security concerns. …

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Down the Mighty Columbia River, Where a Power Struggle Looms
Source: Kirk Johnson, New York Times, July 28, 2017

To ride down the Columbia River as the John Day Dam’s wall of concrete slowly fills the view from a tugboat is to see what the country’s largest network of energy-producing dams created through five decades of 20th-century ambition, investment and hubris. … Now, the Trump administration has proposed rethinking the entire system, with a plan to sell the transmission network of wires and substations owned by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency that distributes most of the Columbia basin’s output, to private buyers. The idea is part of a package of proposals that would transform much of the infrastructure in the United States to a mixture of public and private partnerships, lowering costs to taxpayers and improving efficiency, administration officials said. Assets of two other big public power operators, based in Colorado and Oklahoma, would be sold, too, if Congress approves the measure.

Debates about government and its role in land and environmental policy are always highly charged. But perhaps nowhere could the proposed changes have a more significant impact than along the great river of the West — fourth largest by volume in North America, more than 10 times that of the Hudson. Privatization would transform a government service that requires equal standards across a vast territory — from large cities to tiny hamlets — into a private operation seeking maximum returns to investors. …

Oregon hired a company to paint the Ross Island Bridge without knowing its safety record. Then a worker fell.

Source: Gordon R. Friedman, The Oregonian, July 6, 2017
 
The Oregon Department of Transportation’s method for vetting contractors leaves the state open to hiring companies with troubling safety records, a review by The Oregonian/OregonLive has found. That’s exactly what happened when the department hired Abhe & Svoboda Inc. to repaint the Ross Island Bridge this year. Officials at the agency said when they chose the firm, they knew nothing of its safety history. The company’s track record includes accidents that killed and injured workers who were not wearing fall protection gear. Also on its record are repeated failures, as recently as 2011, to outfit bridge painters with adequate safety harnesses, safety records show. … Before awarding contracts, department officials don’t check publicly available online Occupational Safety & Health Administration records showing safety violations, workplace injuries and deaths from every state. Running such a check on Abhe & Svoboda takes minutes and shows violations from around the country spanning decades. …

15 Lawmakers Plotting to Privatize America’s Public Lands

Source: EcoWatch, March 17, 2017

…Despite the irreplaceable value these places hold, in recent years, a concerted effort has been driven forward by certain senators and U.S. representatives to seize, dismantle, destroy and privatize our public lands. These lawmakers are backed by fossil fuel corporations and other extractive industries that already squeeze massive profits out of America’s public lands and only want more. In order to realize this goal, every year these corporations push millions of dollars toward federal lawmakers to motivate them to introduce and pass legislation that would have the effect of either fully privatizing public lands or opening them up to unfettered extraction and development. The Center for Biological Diversity issued a report that analyzed 132 bills that were introduced in the past three congressional sessions, between 2011 and 2016, and identified the lawmakers who authored and cosponsored the greatest number of these bills. The list of “Public Lands Enemies” that emerged includes nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives and six U.S. senators from eight western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

These 15 Public Lands Enemies are:
1. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
2. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah, 1st District)
3. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
4. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz., 4th District)
5. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
6. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah, 2nd District)
7. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska, At Large)
8. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
9. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho, 1st District)
10. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah, 3rd District)
11. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev., 2nd District)
12. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
13. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M., 2nd District)
14. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif., 4th District)
15. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)

Read full report.

Related:

How Politicians Are Using Taxpayer Money To Fund Their Campaign To Sell Off America’s Public Lands
Source: Matt Lee-Ashley, ThinkProgress, June 18, 2014

…According to a ThinkProgress analysis, the American Lands Council (ALC) — an organization created to help states to claim ownership of federal lands — has collected contributions of taxpayer money from government officials in 18 counties in Utah, 10 counties in Nevada, four counties in Washington, three counties in Arizona, two counties in Oregon, two counties in New Mexico, and one county in Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming. In total, county-level elected officials have already paid the ALC more than $200,000 in taxpayer money. A list of these counties and their “membership levels” can be seen on the ALC website. Since its inception in 2012, the ALC has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative front group backed by the oil and gas industry and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, to pass state-level legislation demanding that the federal government turn over federally owned national forests and public lands to Western states. So far, Utah is the only state to have signed a law calling for the seizure of federal lands, but Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana have passed bills to study the idea and further action is expected in statehouses during 2015 legislative sessions….

Proposed bill could merge colleges and universities

Source: Natalie Pate, Statesman Journal, February 18, 2017

… Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, wants a stronger connection between community colleges and universities to improve student performance. Senate Bill 8 would allow community colleges and public universities to merge into one institution. … Courtney said the bill would provide more options for students at a lower cost. … Should the bill pass, community colleges and public universities interested in merging would submit a proposal to Higher Education Coordinating Commission for approval. If the commission approves the merger, the commission would submit a report on the merger to the Legislature. The institutions submitting a proposal for the merger would have to explain how the combined institution would address things such as financial and legal procedures, the transfer of employees, combining a budget, and what academic programs would be offered. … Similar mergers have happened across the country, such as the merger between Georgia State University, one of the state’s four research institutions, and Georgia Perimeter College, a two-year institution. However, Cannon said, to his knowledge, this would be unprecedented in Oregon. …

Army Corps of Engineers weighs privatizing Oregon hatcheries

Source: Associated Press, February 6, 2017

A change in how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers interprets its acquisition regulations could mean operations at the Cole Rivers Hatchery on the Rogue River and six other Oregon hatcheries become privatized. The agency is considering contracting the Cole Rivers Hatchery out to the lowest bidder on a one-year contract as early as this spring, reported the Mail Tribune. The Cole Rivers Hatchery grows nearly 2.8 million fish for release in the Rogue River Basin. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has operated the hatchery under a cooperative agreement with the Corps since it opened in 1974. The Oregon agency also runs six other hatcheries associated with Corps dams. Corps spokeswoman Michelle Helms said a recent review of the Federal Acquisitions Regulations has led officials to believe a contract approach would be more appropriate than the current cooperative agreement. …

Coos Bay City Council punts on wastewater privatization

Source: Spencer Cole, The World, November 2, 2016

The decision to privatize Coos Bay’s new wastewater treatment plant will be left to the next city council. The final meeting of the current Coos Bay City Council Tuesday evening lasted less than one hour, but wasn’t without a few final moments of drama. As its last act as a governing body, the current council again found itself divided over the proposal for wastewater treatment plant no. 2, submitted by the chemical firm DB Western Texas (DBWT). Councilors Fred Brick and Mike Vaughan stated their belief that more time was needed to consider DBWT’s bid to take over ownership of both of the city’s wastewater treatment plants. Brick and Vaughan, along with Councilor Mark Daily, are members of the wastewater subcommittee that forwarded DBWT’s bid for the council’s consideration. …

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Wastewater committee sends privatization bid to council
Source: Spencer Cole and Andrew Sheeler, The World, November 1, 2016

The Coos Bay City Council wastewater committee met Monday to evaluate chemical firm DB Western Texas’ (DBWT) bid to fully privatize the city’s wastewater treatment plants. Councilors Fred Brick, Mark Daily and Mike Vaughan, all of whom will leave the council this month, recommended the bid submitted by DBWT be sent to the full council for a vote on Tuesday. If passed, the proposal would set into motion the privatization of Coos Bay’s wastewater treatment plant no. 2, which would be built, owned and operated by DBWT. … All three members of the committee were part of the four-member majority vote on June 21 that froze all work on the previous, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality-approved, and publicly-funded, plan. After recommending the RFP should go to the council for vote, Daily speculated that no decision would be reached until after the Nov. 8 election. … Despite sending a proposal to the council that would be a multi-year, multi-million-dollar project, all three members of the committee admitted to having limited time to study the documents. …

Law firm recommends against private wastewater plant ownership
Source: Andrew Sheeler, The World, August 11, 2016

The San Francisco law firm hired by the city to advise on privatizing wastewater treatment says that private ownership is the “least attractive” privatization option that the city could consider. … The report, which City Manager Rodger Craddock said was provided to the Coos Bay City Council as well as to candidates for a seat on that body, explore three privatization models: Design, Build, Own, Operate (DBOO); Design, Build, Finance, Operate (DBFO) and Design, Build, Operate (DBO). Attorneys Paul “Skip” Spaulding III and John Gregory, working for the city at a combined hourly rate of $1,225, reported that while DBO and DBFO both offered a number of benefits to the city, DBOO — the private ownership model favored by Councilors Mark Daily, Mike Vaughan, Fred Brick and Tom Leahy — offered few benefits and many potential drawbacks. … Spaulding and Gregory cited many concerns previously voiced by City Manager Rodger Craddock, Mayor Crystal Shoji and Councilors Stephanie Kramer and Jennifer Groth, such as the potential exposure of the City of Coos Bay to $1,600 daily fines from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality if the city does not meet its deadlines to begin work on the publicly funded, DEQ-approved plant replacement. … The report also found that a privately owned plant could face federal permitting issues, would not have access to low-cost loans through the State Revolving Funds program and could leave the city financially and legally liable in the event that the private owner were to go out of business or file for bankruptcy. The report also concluded that “it is important to keep in mind that the private party is in the business of generating profits and it will recoup its investment in some manner from the city or the ratepayers.” …

Oregon contractor receives lifetime ban for underpaying workers

Source: Whitney M. Woodworth, Statesman Journal, September 29, 2016

A Hillsboro-based contractor was ordered to pay $144,000 to 46 underpaid workers and received a lifetime ban from working on public works contracts in Oregon, state officials said. The Bureau of Labor and Industries previously collected nearly $200,000 from Cornerstone Janitorial Services and directed the money to underpaid employees who worked on a series of 16 taxpayer-funded education and health care projects in Salem, Eugene, Stayton, Keizer, Monmouth, Junction City, Corvallis, Wilsonville, Portland, Vernonia and Philomath. … A complaint in a separate civil rights investigation said a Cornerstone employee was fired for participating in BOLI’s wage investigation. The employee, according to the complaint, was offered a bribe by Cornerstone owner Nam Sang not to speak with investigators. Cornerstone underpaid employees while they worked on several projects including the Oregon State Hospital in Salem and Junction City, athletic facilities at the University of Oregon, Stayton High School and three Salem-Keizer School District elementary schools. The investigation began after the agency’s Prevailing Wage Rate Unit received a tip from an employee at Hoffman Construction. …