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Points of the Day

March 9, 2010

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Oregon leaders defend the state's nurseries and its new NOAA site, while Ted Wheeler takes the helm at the treasury.

Wheeler named state treasurer

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has named Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler as the new state treasurer following the death of Ben Westlund last weekend.

Kulongoski touted Wheeler's "perfect balance of expertise" for the position, citing his experience as the head of Multnomah County and a former financial executive.

Wheeler, whose appointment lasts until early January, said he will also run in this year's election to serve out the remaining two years of Westlund's term.

Wheeler's decision to take the treasury post will set off a scramble to replace him as the county chairman. He is up for reelection this year and candidates will have only until 5 p.m. Tuesday to file for his office.

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.

ODOT changes minority rules

New rules from the Oregon Department of Transportation make it harder for contractors to meet goals for minority and women participation in state projects.

The new rules more tightly specify what work can be credited for disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) contractors.

Under the change, those contractors earn credit only for work they do under the specific codes in which they are certified. If a DBE contractor performs work classified under another code, the work doesn’t count toward the project’s DBE

“It happens fairly regularly,” said Jill Miller, program manager with ODOT’s DBE program. Subcontractors often broaden their expertise on job.

Read the full story at the Daily Journal of Commerce.

Wyden defends NOAA move

Sen. Ron Wyden is defending the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's decision to move to Newport, following criticism from Washington state regarding the environmental issues with the Newport site.

Wyden says any hazards the Newport site may pose pale in comparison to those at Washington's proposed site at the Port of Bellingham.

In a letter (noaa.pdf) sent today to U.S. Commerce Sec. Gary Locke, Wyden says that the Port of Bellingham “has an extraordinary amount of hazards to deal with” near the site where it proposed housing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's marine operations center.

Wyden noted 12 ecological cleanup sites on Bellingham Bay, two industrial properties contaminated with toxic chemicals and a SuperFund parcel in the area around Bellingham's proposed site. Clean-up is yet to begin in some cases, and the environmental problems would “compromise the health and safety” of NOAA employees, Wyden wrote.

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.

Eugene moves on redevelopment

The Eugene City Council voted 6-2 to devote $21.7 million to a downtown redevelopment plan. The council will have a public hearing on the plan in April before a final council vote in May.

The vote is a move toward changing the city's urban renewal district plan to accommodate projects like Lane Community College's downtown campus, improvements for the Lane County Farmers' Market and increased public safety.

But the plan relies on tax increment financing, a funding method that can be controversial. The method diverts property taxes from local governments, including schools, and allows the city to use the money downtown. Schools, however, are compensated for nearly all the losses by state funding.

The new plan would raise $8 million to help LCC construct an 80,000-square-foot building on the excavated pit and parking lot on West 10th Avenue, near the public library; $4.8 million to pay off debt on the Broadway Place parking garages, which would free funds that the city could use to hire police officers for downtown; $2.5 million for the city to help lure a VA medical clinic to what is now the PeaceHealth medical clinic south of 11th Avenue and Willamette Street; and $500,000 in Park Blocks improvements for the benefit of the Farmers’ Market.

Read the full story at The Register-Guard.

OR, CA sue over nursery regs

Oregon and California nurseries have teamed up for a lawsuit against South Carolina, claiming the state imposes regulations that impede shipment of plants from the two western states.

Oregon and California already comply with federal regulations limiting the spread of interstate plant diseases. But South Carolina added additional requirements last year that affect the two states' nursery operators.

Potentially millions of dollars are riding on the lawsuit since most of the plant material grown in the two states is exported to markets in the south, east and Midwest.

"For us, the problem is much bigger than just South Carolina,'' said John Aguirre, executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries. "If other states think this will go unchallenged, there's every likelihood that they will start doing just what South Carolina has done and begin barring large amounts of Oregon-grown plant materials from entering their state."

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.

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