Local News That Matters

UPDATES: New lawsuit challenges Oregon's Covid restrictions

5 months ago

Police report: Storage unit fire caused by stolen flare gun

Smoke billows from the Airport Self Storage facility in Salem on May 3, 2021 (Courtesy/Marion Polk Traffic, Crime and Severe Weather Alerts)

A Salem man charged with setting fire to a storage facility on Turner Road that caused $1 million in damage started the blaze with a flare gun he stole from Walmart, according to a police affidavit used to justify his arrest. 

Police have identified 189 victims from the Monday night blaze. Tristin Sillman, 22, was charged in Marion County Wednesday with second-degree arson and first-degree criminal mischief.

On Tuesday, Salem police detective Jeffry Gordon spoke with Joshua Hillburn who said he witnessed Sillman fire a flare gun into the air near the storage unit on 2142 Turner Rd S.E. 

Hillburn told police he confronted Sillman about the dangers of shooting a flare gun. But Sillman pointed the flare at the storage units and fired, Hillburn told police.

Hillburn said he saw the flare go into a storage unit through a void near the roof.

Police found Sillman, who is homeless, at Cascades Gateway Park where he initially denied any involvement, according to the affidavit.

On the path leading to Sillman’s camp, a detective found packaging for a flare gun.

While being interviewed by police at the station, Sillman offered the explanation that he fired the flare at the car of someone whose dog had been in a dog fight.

Sillman told police he bought the flare gun at Walmart. But Sillman was captured on video footage stealing the flare gun and ammunition on May 1, the affidavit said.

Sillman, who police said provided inconsistent statements throughout the interview, told police he was initially untruthful so he could avoid responsibility.

Later, police said Sillman admitted to firing the flare gun toward the storage facility. 

-Saphara Harrell

5 months ago

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Bill making it easier for unemployed workers to return to work passes Legislature

A ‘Now Hiring’ sign in front of the Boon’s Treasury McMenamin’s location on Monday, April 26. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A bill cleared the Oregon Legislature on Thursday that's been touted as a win-win for unemployed workers and understaffed businesses

THE ISSUE: There are signs the economy is improving, but thousands of workers in Oregon remain on the sidelines collecting unemployment benefits, which have had an extra $300 weekly payment tacked on through September. 

THE BILL: House Bill 3178

WHAT IT DOES: Allows someone to earn up to $300 per week while also still collecting unemployment. 

WHY IT WAS PROPOSED: Some workers are at a tipping point where their unemployment benefits are higher than low-wage, part-time work available to them. That’s made it difficult for businesses to hire part-time help to reopen. Unemployed workers also face challenges paying bills and finding childcare. 

The bill has the support of both the AFL-CIO and the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. 

HOW THE MARION/POLK DELEGATION VOTED: 

The Oregon Senate passed bill 21-4 on May 6.

Sen. Brian Boquist, I-Dallas: No 

Sen. Peter Courtney, D-Salem: Yes

Sen. Fred Girod, R-Lyons: Excused

Sen. Deb Patterson, D-Salem: Yes

Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer: Yes

The bill passed the House on April 4 on a 58-0 vote. 

State Rep. Teresa Alonso León, D-Woodburn: Yes

State Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem: Excused

State Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth: Yes 

State Rep. Rick Lewis, R-Silverton: Yes

State Rep. Raquel Moore-Green, R-Salem: Yes

State Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence: Yes

Sate Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer: Yes

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: The bill heads to the House speaker and president for their signatures, then to the governor. 

-Jake Thomas

5 months ago

New lawsuit challenges Oregon's Covid restrictions

(Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Two advocacy groups and a Gresham restaurant are the latest to take Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to court over her Covid restrictions. 

Since the pandemic began in March last year, Brown has enacted sweeping restrictions that reshaped school, work and other aspects of daily life. Those restrictions have brought multiple legal challenges in state and federal court arguing that the governor had jumped constitutional guardrails. 

So far, none of them have succeeded. But on Tuesday, groups representing parents and restaurants tried again. 

Filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, the complaint was brought on behalf of Melissa Adams, the owner of Gresham-based Spud Monkey’s; Oregon Moms Union, a group that court filings described as a political action committee advocating for children and students; and the Heart of Main Street, another political action committee representing restaurants in Oregon.

The lawsuit was filed by Christopher Dolan and Edward Trompke of the Lake Oswego-based Jordan Ramis PC law firm. It argues that Brown’s order violates the U.S. constitution’s equal protection clause while depriving businesses of their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment protections without due process. 

It further argues that the school closures “have no rational basis in fact,” and violate the rights of parents to control their children's education. With vaccinations against Covid ramping up, the lawsuit argues that restaurants are now subject to “irrational restrictions.”

The Governor's Office has not yet filed a response to the suit.

-Jake Thomas

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