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Say What?: A Snapshot of Last Week's Top Local and Regional Stories 

A few need-to-know stories that occurred in the area and in the U.S.

Ida Tech Announces Layoffs

The Bulletin reported that fuel cell maker Ida Tech was laying off a chunk of its global research department in response to dwindling development dollars. CEO Hal Koyama told the paper that his company was in no danger of going under, but was instead focusing on areas that are already profitable. Koyama declined to say how many of the layoffs would happen in Bend. The paper noted that the front doors of the Bend facility were “locked Wednesday and opening for employees entering or leaving.”

According to KTVZ, about 30 of the positions cut will be in Bend. One of the former employees told the station that employees knew cuts were in the offing before they were gathered on Tuesday to hear the news.

Forest Service Bulks Up on Tankers

President Obama answered a long-standing plea from Western lawmakers to bolster the nation’s fleet of wildfire suppression tankers. The move came as several large wildfires raged in Colorado and parts of Arizona. A Spokeswoman for Sen. Ron Wyden told The Bulletin that the move was the first step in a total overhaul of the fleet.

Wyden, who has been pushing for the agency to step up its air support, had criticized the Forest Service during a May stop in Madras. Wyden told a crowd at Butler Aircraft that the Forest Service had allowed the fleet to “atrophy.”

“It has known for a long time that the fleet needed to be updated, yet it has been unable to come up with anything other than a short-term strategy and recommendations for unaffordable options,” Wyden said at the time, according to KTVZ.

Enterprise Zones

The Bulletin reported that state officials gave the OK for Bend to more than triple the amount of land eligible for a business tax break program. City and local economic development officials had sought to broaden the so-called Enterprise Zone to include the city’s Juniper Ridge high tech and industrial park as well as broad swaths along Highway 97 and Highway 20, and a large chunk of land on the eastside. The zones have been cited as essential economic development tools and credited for helping to land company’s like Facebook and Apple, which all but require such incentives, including a three to five-year property tax break in exchange for hiring and investment pledges. The paper’s editorial board jumped on the bandwagon Friday, noting that, “When a new business comes in or expands in an enterprise zone, there are also increases in personal taxes and other economic activity.”

What the paper does not say is that new businesses also increase the need for the same services for which they do not want to pay. That includes roads, schools and public safety. But, hey, never look a gift horse in the mouth, right?

Explosives Scare at Airport

Redmond police and local FBI agents arrested and detained a local man suspected of trying to board a plane at the Redmond airport with an explosive device. According to KTVZ, Joseph Seeley, 24, had a live blasting cap in his carry-on luggage when he was arrested. Police and FBI investigators ultimately determined that he didn’t intend to pose a threat and released him after citing him with a misdemeanor.

Pertussis and Plague

Deschutes County registered its first case of pertussis, AKA whooping cough, this week and Prineville, which has already reported several cases this year, reported an altogether different outbreak when a local man was hospitalized with bubonic plague. The man, whose name was not released, reportedly contracted the disease after contact with a sick cat. The cat is believed to have contracted the disease, which is more readily associated with Medieval Europe than rural Oregon, from fleas. The man was initially listed in critical condition, according to a report in The Bulletin.

Knopp Pushing Death Tax Vote

Bend’s presumptive next state senator, Tim Knopp, is among the supporters of a ballot initiative sponsored by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix, that would roll back the estate tax, according to The Bulletin. Knopp has made no secret of his disdain for the estate tax. The measure is one of several vying for a position on the November ballot. Other hot button issues include a plan to allow non-tribal gaming, a ban on Columbia River gill nets and a marijuana legalization effort. According to The Oregonian, the estate tax faces the steepest challenge ahead, with backers needing to collect at least 12,000 more valid signatures before a July 6 deadline.

OSU-Cascades Graduates Record Class

More than 300 students earned degrees from OSU-Cascades over the weekend, a record for the Bend campus, which is currently undertaking a major fundraising campaign to jumpstart its plans for a full four-year university campus in Bend. According to The Bulletin, OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson told the amassed students that they were witnessing a remarkable time for the university. She reiterated the colleges plan to have between 3,000 to 5,000 students on campus by 2025.

 

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