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April 16, 2010

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Tax rallies break out

While several rallies broke out in Oregon on national tax day, the largest in Salem drew about 1,000 demonstrators.

The Salem rally was focused on taxes but attracted other protestors as well who criticized every level of government for a wide variety of reasons.

The speakers emphasized familiar themes of faith and family along with hot buttons about climate change science and the new health insurance policies adopted by Congress.

"This is about taxes, but that's just part of it," said Russ Walker, director of FreedomWorks Oregon, which organized the event. "The agenda of less freedom is what this is all about."

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.

Medical marijuana takes a hit

In a 5-2 decision, the Oregon Supreme Court rules that workers who test positive for marijuana can be fired, even if they have a medical marijuana card.

While voters approved a state law in 1998 that provides some protections for medical marijuana use, the court said it does not override a federal law that says marijuana is a drug with no medicinal uses.

"Because employee did not take marijuana under supervision of a licensed health care professional and because the authorization to use marijuana found (in state law) is unenforceable, it follows that employee was currently engaged in the illegal use of drugs," said the majority opinion written by Justice Rives Kistler.

The opinion did not strike down the 1998 law, which shields the possession, growing and distribution of specified amounts of medical marijuana from state criminal liability. Lawmakers have revised it a couple of times.

Read the full story at the Statesman Journal.

Chinook fishing returns to coast

Oregon's coast will see commercial and sport fishing for chinook salmon for the first time in three years.

While the Pacific Fishery Management Council's decision allows only a "modest" fishery this season, it's still good news for the fleets and coastal communities that rely on fishing business.

Newport Mayor Bill Bain said it’s not just fishermen who track the decisions by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the body that counsels the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about how much fishing to allow on the West Coast. It’s marine supply shops such as Fleck’s, restaurants, car dealerships and hotels, up and down the Oregon Coast.

“It affects the whole community,” Bain said. “This is a major economic activity while the season is going on. They figure each dollar (earned by the fleet) is multiplied 3.5 times. It’s important for all the coastal communities in the state. It’s just a really big deal.”

Read the full story at The Register-Guard.

Medford home prices plunge

More than 90 homes in Medford are on the market for less than $90,000 — a price that would have been unheard of several years ago.

And while many of the cheaper homes need remodeling work, an $8,000 tax break and other incentives are making them even more affordable for bargain seekers and investors.

Home prices in Medford have dropped to prices not seen in nearly two decades, deflated by a sluggish economy and a high rate of foreclosures.

"We haven't seen this in years," said Jan Esquivel, a broker with Esquivel and Associates LLC. She said she is working with two clients who are looking for something only in the sub-$90,000 range.

Read the full story at the Mail Tribune.

Sheep find work at wineries

Green Grazers reintroduces a traditional mowing tactic to Oregon wineries: using sheep to get rid of the cover crops and weeds that grow between vineyard rows.

Oregonians have begun using goats to graze on invasive English ivy and Himalayan blackberries in recent years. Sheep fill a void since goats tend to favor shrublike plants. Neither animal requires fossil fuels.

The contemporary term for the practice is "targeted grazing," says Claudia Ingham, an Oregon State University ethics instructor who owns Ecological & Agricultural Consulting and studied targeted grazing for her doctorate. Among the different kinds are stockmen who, like Wood, aim to fatten an animal before slaughter, and herdsmen who raise goats with the singular purpose of improving a plant community.

Both require the livestock manager to know the plants present and to choose the right animal to target the plant the landowner wants to eliminate. In California's dry areas, where shrubs are a fire hazard, grazing goats keep them in check. In some vineyards, the enemy is weeds. In others, it's a cover crop meant to enrich the soil.

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.

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