In the Source Weekly's 52 editions in 2022, we covered a lot of news, profiled a lot of musicians, reviewed a lot of films, previewed a lot of events, highlighted a lot of local restaurants and explored a lot of the outdoors of Central Oregon. As the year comes to a close, we looked back at some of our most impactful stories of 2022.
Danger on the MountainAny outdoor sport carries some amount of risk, and this year three people tragically passed on Mt. Bachelor. The first was Turkish Cyprus native Birkan Uzun, who suffocated in a tree well on New Year's Eve. Uzun was a mountaineer who weeks prior scaled the highest peak in Antarctica on a mission to climb the tallest mountains on all seven continents — he had two to go. The president of Turkish Cyprus mourned Uzun after his death in a statement to the press. He's the fifth person to die in a tree well on Mt. Bachelor in the past 20 years, and the ski resort's parent company is facing a $30 million lawsuit over two of those deaths.
The next month two skiers passed away in the span a day. The first reportedly sustained injuries to the head and was flown to St. Charles via a medical helicopter on Feb. 11. The next day a skier ran into a tree around noon and was taken to the First Aid Room. A helicopter flew in to transfer the man, but he was pronounced dead before he could be moved.
Masking up AgainThe Oregon Health Authority lifted all public mask mandates on March 31, after enforcing some of the strictest and longest-lasting public health measures in the nation. Oregon's first mask mandate began in July 2020, and expired on June 30, 2021, after the state reached a 70% vaccination rate among adults.
However, just two months later, on Aug. 13, 2021, a new mask mandate was established to combat the Delta variant of COVID-19 that was causing an increase in hospitalizations across the state. The ending of the last mask mandate came after hospitalizations from the Omicron variant dropped to manageable levels. While Gov. Kate Brown has been vilified by some for her COVID closures and precautions, Oregon has since been ranked fifth-best in the nation in terms of COVID response, according to a piece in this week's Oregonian, "thanks to relatively low hospital system stress, an effective vaccine rollout and consistently low mortality rates."
The Trial of Ian CranstonThe shooting death of Barry Washington by Ian Cranston in September 2021 shook Bend over perceived racial bias of a white shooter and Black victim, the short amount of time Cranston stayed in jail before being initially bailed out and the violence happening in the relatively safe small city. At Cranston's bail hearing in February, the public got its first look at video of what happened on that night in September.
The trial ran throughout November, with Cranston's attorneys arguing that he feared for his life during an attack by Washington and prosecutors arguing Cranston retaliated without being in danger and motivated by a bruised sense of pride. Cranston avoided the most serious charge of second-degree murder but was convicted on all other counts — including first-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to 10 years in an emotional hearing during which Washington's family spoke about the loss of a beloved family member.
Defenders in DistressOregon's public defense crisis has only gotten worse since we reported on it in February. At the time there were about 100 defendants for whom the state couldn't provide an attorney, but that number swelled as high as 900 this year. The understaffing of public defenders is a well-known problem for people working in law, but a study by the American Bar Association put a number to the problem. It found Oregon only had 31% of the full-time attorneys needed to adequately handle cases.
The study's author argued that the model of public defense in Oregon incensed attorneys to do as little work as possible on a case. Deschutes County's largest public defense firm reported that there's triage at the office, and that a brief couple of months in 2020 where there were fewer cases illuminated what could be done by public defenders given adequate time.
Fight Against LightAs the sky gets brighter throughout Deschutes County, stargazers are worried they will no longer be able to observe the universe at nearby observatories. The Sunriver Observatory is the largest publicly accessible observatory in the world and light pollution could limit what they see. Other observatories are working hard to become designated "dark sky places" to protect the view of the cosmos.
Flying Under the RadarA Bend-based aircraft manufacturer is owned and operated by Russian billionaire Vladislav Filev, dubbed the "Russian Elon Musk" by Western media over his interest in space travel. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States sanctioned businesses in Russia's financial sector, defense companies, lawmakers and individuals close to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Filev purchased Bend-based Epic Aircraft in 2011, and the company has progressed from a kit plane that buyers had to assemble themselves to their first fully certified plane in 2020. The company said it wouldn't be impacted by sanctions, but later reporting from Bloomberg showed Filev eventually was targeted by sanctions.
Firefighters FeudingThe La Pine Firefighters Union voted unanimously to submit a letter of no-confidence to Fire Chief Michael Supkis. The letter called out Supkis' communication skills, drawn out negotiations with the union, unnecessarily fighting a lawsuit with St. Charles Medical Center and allowing a staff shortage to become worse. Supkis didn't resign at the time, but did promise to vacate the position in 2023.
UFOregonIn 1959 something pinged radars in Redmond, Oregon, and people reported a mushroom-shaped object glowing in bright colors hovering across the sky. The Air Force flew jets to the town, but decades later there aren't answers for what happened on that day. The incident became legend to the UFO community.
Now, a group of UFO enthusiasts investigate over 100 sightings a year — using imaging data to determine if an object in the sky is a known celestial feature, satellite or an unexplainable phenomenon. As more information on UFOs is being released by the federal government, belief in UFOs is becoming more widespread across the country.
Shakeup at the City CouncilFormer Bend Mayor Sally Russell announced that she wouldn't seek reelection at an April 14 press conference, but in a surprise announcement on May 11 she stepped down from the role entirely seven months before her term ended. Russell cited exhaustion after several difficult years of governance. The council appointed Mayor Gena Goodman-Campbell to the role, and in November voters elected City Councilor Melanie Kebler to office — which she'll assume in January.
A week after Russell's announcement, City Councilor Rita Schenkelberg also announced they'd be leaving office after their election in 2020. They said it'd become too difficult to balance the responsibilities of their full time job and as a public official and over the harassment they've received over their nonbinary identity. The City Council appointed Mo Mitchell and Stephen Sehgal to the two vacated seats, and neither ran for election in 2022.
The Kids are Not All RightMore children than ever reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness in 2021, with the most severe groups being LGBT youths and young women. Locally organizations are attempting to address the crisis in schools, through therapy and through peer support.
With almost half of high schoolers reporting hopelessness, there's a long way to go to address the crisis — and a lot of causes that can lead to it.
Unlucky HorseShoeODOT claimed a storage facility in Bend under eminent domain as part of the Highway 97 reconstruction project, but after the purchase the former owner didn't hand over contact information for the property's tenants for months. Tenants had to learn of the facility's closure through word of mouth, a handful of news stories or notices in The Bulletin. ODOT offered to buy the property years ago, before the owner built the facility, therefore raising the value from $1.5 million to $4.8 million.
Water Woes in Central OregonCentral Oregon faced the most severe drought in recorded history this year, and people relying on well water, farmers relying on agricultural water and municipalities focused on water allocation strategies all had to adapt. Some well users had to dig deeper to continue getting water. Some farmers had to reduce the size of their herds or plant more water-resilient crops to survive. Some homeowners in Bend continued without a care, while others adopted more water-saving systems.
Part of our three-part series on water woes eventually resulted in a lawsuit filed against the Source Weekly by Avion Water — the private water company now owned by Northwest Natural — which claims it's not subject to public records law and doesn't have to hand over the water usage data the Source is seeking in order to more adequately cover water usage in Central Oregon. District Attorney John Hummel agreed that Avion is the functional equivalent of a public body and needed to hand over the records we sought. Avion sued us instead.
Throughout our reporting, we discovered that even the City of Bend — which gave Avion a contract to provide water to much of the east side and the new developments that will someday exist there — doesn't have regular access to water usage data from Avion. Our editorial board maintains it is the public's right to know how much water is being used by customers in the region. The story continues as the lawsuit unfolds.
Safeway ShootingOn Aug. 28 a gunman entered the Safeway on Highway 20 with an AR-style rifle and a shotgun. The gunman killed two, Glenn Bennett and Donald Surrett Jr., in the attempted rampage killing, and left behind a twisted manifesto describing his plan. The shooter was confronted by Surrett, who heroically attempted to disarm the shooter before he was shot and killed.
The gunman fired over 100 rounds at The Forum shopping center and took his own life shortly after being confronted by Surrett. The attack left psychological wounds for some survivors and members of the general public whose image of Bend was shaken by the senseless act of violence.
District Removes Murals from Bend SchoolThe Miller Elementary Parent Teacher Organization commissioned artist Teafly Peterson to paint murals to inspire kids who had been distance learning over the prior year. The response from staff and students was overwhelmingly positive, but nine months later, the murals were painted over without warning to the PTO and staff.
The coverups were done under a school policy about paintings that restricts things like "faux finishes, extravagant paint patterns, wallpapers, student handprints, excessive color contrasts, stenciling and borders." The district has since said there will be a new project that will reproduce the murals on canvas.
Ending Addiction as Overdoes Deaths Soar/Measure 100Oregon became the first state to decriminalize possession of all drugs and mandate a treatment-based approach to addiction rather than incarcerating users. Since voters approved the measure decriminalizing drugs, overdose deaths rose to unprecedented heights, fueled by the increased supply of fentanyl on the street and the steady rise in methamphetamine deaths.
Measure 110 didn't just decriminalize drugs, it also funded addiction treatment specialists across Oregon. Funding just started trickling down in the summer of 2022, and addiction specialists are expanding their practices outreach and treatment options. For Ideal Option's Shawnda Jennings, that means going into communities affected by addiction and letting people know they have options available.
Culver Pulls Kids from Camp Over Nonbinary ConselorIn October, Culver students were turned around and walked back to their buses just hours after arriving at Camp Tamarack's Outdoor School program, a days-long camping experience for Central Oregon students. Tamarack's leaders said many students were upset to leave so soon, and they didn't know why they were pulled until the Culver School District superintendent told parents some students reported being uncomfortable with a nonbinary camp counselor.