Oregon’s unemployment rate for December was six-point-seven percent, representing a six-year low. Oregon Employment Department Economist Nick Belecicks says the rate was accompanied by strong job gains in the final quarter of 2014. The department statistics indicate December hiring was unusually widespread in the various sectors of the economy. The jobless rate remained at about seven percent for months as people rejoined the labor force as the state gained jobs, but in December the labor force grew only slightly.
Veteran Washington 14th District State Representative Norm Johnson thinks a balanced budget that increases funding for education without hurting other important programs can be achieved. The Republican legislator says the state is estimated to have nearly three billion dollars in additional revenue this biennium, and he agrees with Senate budget writer Andy Hill’s desire to look at what the state already has before turning to new taxes. Johnson adds if there are cuts, they need to occur across the board rather than being concentrated in one area.
Northwest lawmakers reacted to President Obama’s State of the Union address down predictably partisan lines. Democrat Oregon Senator Ron Wyden thinks the speech set out how the Republican majorities in the Senate and House will be judged. Republican Oregon Congressman Greg Walden countered the President’s rosy economic outlook by saying while the economy may be improving, it isn’t where it needs to be. Fellow Republican and Washington Congressman Dan Newhouse echoed Walden’s thoughts while calling for a flatter and simpler tax code. Oregon Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley said he was encouraged by Obama’s focus on infrastructure and college affordability.
When the Northwest Cherry Festival takes place on the final weekend in April, the event will encompass the entire weekend, rather that the majority of activity taking place on Saturday. The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Lisa Farquharson says while there were Friday and Sunday events, the Festival itself in downtown The Dalles will now be open on those two days. Farquharson adds they are still developing events for Sunday. She also says the heart of the festival is being moved to First Street between Federal and Union for better visibility from the freeway, and that also blocks fewer businesses while it is in operation.
The City of White Salmon is embarking on a study of its aging swimming pool. Mayor David Poucher says they received a donation to pay for the study to determine the pool’s current condition, what has to be done to maintain it in good condition, and establish a realistic lifespan for the 74-year-old facility. An engineering firm has been studying the pool. Poucher says they want to have a report in hand by the middle of March so they can report to the community what the current condition of the pool is.
The Hood River County School District is starting to take steps toward preparing a budget for the 2015-16 school year. Both the Governor and majority Democrats in the Legislature have unveiled their proposed statewide budgets for the upcoming biennium. District Superintendent Dan Goldman says he’s planning to hold community meetings in February to discuss the budget and get feedback. Goldman says their best estimate for state funding won’t come until May, which will take into account district enrollment numbers that have been up by about 50 students this year. Enrollment has been flat the past few years, and Goldman adds it is difficult to project if the increase is a one-time occurrence or the beginning of a trend.
With the Waterfront Refinement Plan approved by the Hood River City Council, the Port of Hood River can now move on to do the subdivision plan for Lot 1. Port Commissioner Jon Davies says they will be determining lot positions and where utilities and roads will be placed. Davies notes the refinement plan limits building footprints to a maximum of 25,000 square feet. He also believes the Port has plenty of time to get the lots properly designed and get the funding to pay for infrastructure, especially with redevelopment of the Expo Center property about to take place.
This year’s Northwest Cherry Festival artwork has been unveiled. A design from Rage Graphix and Design was selected, and it is in the style of a cattle brand, which The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Lisa Farquharson says reflects their intent to honor this year’s 50th anniversary of the Fort Dalles Rodeo. Farquharson noted they had a number of great entries. The winning design was picked by a committee. The Northwest Cherry Festival is set for April 24th to the 26th in The Dalles, and this year’s event has been expanded to have a festival setting downtown for three days rather than just on Saturday as in previous years.