An at times emotional John Kitzhaber announced this afternoon he is resigning as Governor of Oregon, effective on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Kitzhaber is stepping aside amid a criminal investigation involving himself and his fiancée Cylvia Hayes, who is alleged to have used her relationship with Kitzhaber to land contracts for her business as a clean-energy consultant. Kitzhaber says he is confident he has not broken any laws or taken any actions or been dishonorable in his actions, and will cooperate with all investigations. He added “I am equally confident that once they have been concluded Oregonians will see that I have never put anything before my love for and commitment to Oregon and faithfully fulfilling the responsibilities of the public offices I have held.” Kitzhaber also expressed his disdain for what has transpired in the press over the last few months, saying ”it is deeply troubling to me to realize that we have come to a place in the history of this great state of ours where a person can be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the media with no due process and no independent verification of the allegations involved.” He said he was more troubled many of his former allies accepted the allegations at face value, but understood why he was asked by Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek to resign. Kitzhaber said it was not in his nature to step away from a job he has undertaken, apologizing to those who had supported him in his re-election bid last year, adding he would continue to pursue shared goals in another venue. He also said “One thing I hope people know about me is that I love this state and its people, its rivers, its mountains and its landscapes with every fiber of my being.” Kitzhaber served just over 12 years as Oregon’s governor, from 1995 to 2003 and from 2009 up to now. Secretary of State Kate Brown will take over as Governor when Kitzhaber steps aside on Wednesday.
Read the Governor’s announcement that he will resign: http://1.usa.gov/19fHFrP
The firestorm around Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is getting hotter. Willamette Week and KINK and KXL in Portland are all reporting Kitzhaber’s staff wanted to destroy thousands of the governor’s e-mails from his personal account that had been sought by reporters under public records law…but state employees refused to carry out the request. Destruction or concealment of public records is a criminal misdemeanor. The Oregonian is reporting Kitzhaber has retained a Portland criminal defense attorney, Janet Hoffman. Democratic legislative leaders told Kitzhaber this morning that he should resign. Senate President Peter Courtney and House Majority Leader Tina Kotek delivered the message, and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler has issued a statement saying he thinks Kitzhaber should step down. In addition, Senate Democrats held a meeting this morning, and Senator Rod Monroe is quoted by The Oregonian as saying he thought Kitzhaber would resign today. However, at a press conference Courtney termed Kitzhaber as “defiant” during their meeting this morning. Earlier today, Secretary Of State Kate Brown said she had a private conversation with embattled Gov. John Kitzhaber that was “strange” and contradictory. Brown says the governor had asked her to fly back to Oregon from a conference in Washington, D.C., but when she arrived, he asked why she had returned. Brown said she found question “strange” and it’s “clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.” She said Kitzhaber told her he’s not resigning, but then began a discussion about a transition. Brown would become governor if Kitzhaber steps aside in the wake of influence-peddling allegations involving his fiancee, a green-energy consultant.
Klickitat County Commissioners and the Columbia River Gorge Commission have signed off on a deal that will see a member of the County planning staff work in the Gorge Commission office in White Salmon once a week to assist County residents with their permit requests. It’s all part of an effort to reduce a backlog of land use applications by Klickitat County property owners in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The County has never passed a Scenic Area ordinance, and has no plans to, but Commissioner David Sauter says they needed to find some way to help their constituents get their applications processed. The agreement does not have an end date, with either party able to terminate it with 30 days notice. Sauter hopes to see significant progress on the permit backlog within a year.
Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Idaho Republican counterpart Mike Crapo introduced a bill to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools program, which supports schools, law-enforcement and roads in more than 700 rural counties with federal forestland across the country. The bill would extend the program for three years at 2011 funding levels, rolling back years of declining payments. It would provide a total of roughly $360 million annually for more than 700 counties across the U.S. It would also restore mandatory funding of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program, which compensates counties that contain federal lands. Wyden called county payments a lifeline for cash-strapped rural communities.
Oregon Second District Congressman Greg Walden and Washington Third District Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler joined more than a dozen other representatives at a press conference calling for a swift resolution to the labor slowdown affecting ports up and down the West Coast. Walden outlined the disastrous consequences the crisis has caused for farmers and manufacturers in Oregon, like tree fruit growers in the Columbia Gorge and potato and onion growers in Eastern Oregon. Walden also announced that he has cosponsored a Congressional resolution expressing the sense of the U.S. House that the port operators and longshoreman union should swiftly conclude their contract negotiations and that, if they do not, the President should use all tools at his authority to intervene in the matter and end the dispute.
As the drama surrounding Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber continues to unfold, legislators in Salem are trying to carry on with the business of government. 57th District Representative Greg Smith says he is optimistic the Legislature will continue moving forward, but he adds the Kitzhaber situation is a distraction. The Heppner Republican adds there are a number of issues that need Kitzhaber’s attention. Senate President Peter Courtney has told reporters since a meeting with Kitzhaber on Tuesday that legislative work has not slowed during the gubernatorial turmoil.
A new craft beer alliance combining the breweries located in the Columbia River Gorge has been formed. Ten breweries from Cascade Locks to White Salmon will debut a map and passport program Saturday coinciding with Zwickelmania, a free Oregon Craft Beer event that offers visitors a chance to tour breweries, meet the brewers and sample beers. Christine Ellenberger of Everybody’s Brewing is the group’s first president. The group plans to promote the region’s award winning breweries, host joint events, and highlight the Gorge region as a top beer destination.
Washington 14th District State Representative Norm Johnson is pushing a bill to expand the state’s “College in the High School” program. The program allows 11th and 12th graders to earn college credit in high school, and House Bill 1031 would allow 10th graders to do it as well. Johnson says it’s an important program for high school students and their parents, helping to get college credits accumulated before they enroll and start paying tuition. The bill recently went through the House Education Committee, and is awaiting action in that chamber’s Rules Committee.
Columbia River Gorge Commissioners heard an overview of the Oregon Population Forecast Program, which they believe can be a key tool to help regional planning efforts. Portland State University’s Population Research Center will be in charge of the program that begins in September to provide a comprehensive statewide population and demographic forecasting program. Gorge Commission Executive Director Darren Nichols believes the data will be important to the area’s planning needs. PSU has provided population estimate service for communities for years, but this program will provide a coordinated statewide forecast to be renewed every four years without local governments having to expend large amounts of resources.
Washington 14th District State Representative Gina McCabe is working on a bill to help increase employment for veterans. McCabe’s House Bill 2040 would create a program she envisions being called “One Business, One Vet” to encourage every business to hire one veteran. She would like to start in the Goldendale area, keeping statistics showing the numbers of businesses who have a hired a veteran to encourage others to get on board. McCabe says tax credits would not be a part of it, saying the point is to do the right thing and provide jobs to those who have served their country.