Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Ferry tolls to increase in Marion County

February 25, 2021 at 5:36pm

Legislative deja vu: Oregon GOP senators stage walkout

The Oregon State Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Oregon Senate Republicans walked off the Senate floor on Thursday, denying the chamber of the quorum needed to do businesses. 

This is the fourth time in the last three sessions the minority Senate Republicans have used the tactic. Notably, GOP lawmakers walked out in 2020 and 2019 to effectively kill a climate change bill. They’ve also used it as leverage to convince Democrats to give up on bills tightening the state’s gun control laws and vaccination requirements. 

But this time it was a gesture of protest, according to a tweet by the Oregon Senate Republicans. 

Specifically, the walkout was meant to show solidarity with students who want to go back into the classroom, seniors left out by the state’s rollout of the Covid vaccination and “working Oregonians who are struggling to make ends meet." 

Democrats were not pleased. Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, issued a statement blasting the move. 

“Senate Republicans continue to sabotage Oregon’s democracy and undermine the will of voters,” he said. “They have abdicated the oaths of office many of them took just weeks ago. They continue to accept pay, benefits and daily expenses from Oregon taxpayers all while completely obstructing the business before the Legislature – the people’s work.”

An exasperated Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said on the floor that he did not know the Republicans would stage the walkout. He said the chamber was scheduled to have second readings of five bills so votes could be held next week. 

“They need to be here and do what they need to do to show their opposition on the floor and allow us to move forward,” he said. 

-Jake Thomas 

February 25, 2021 at 5:08pm

Chemeketa board approves tuition increase for 2021-22

Chemeketa Community College on Thursday, April 16. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Chemeketa Community College’s board unanimously approved a tuition increase that would result in a full-time student paying between $180 and $270 more for a year of classes starting this fall.

It’s the sixth year in a row tuition has increased as Salem’s community college has struggled to balance rising personnel costs and falling enrollment. The increase will bring the college’s cost more in line with the average price of other Oregon community colleges.

This year’s increase will depend on state funding levels set by the Oregon Legislature later this spring.

If Oregon funds community colleges at less than $700 million for the 2021-23 biennium, Chemeketa's tuition and fees will increase by $6 per credit to $132.

If state funding is higher, the increase will be $4 per credit, to $130.

The larger increase would result in a full-time student taking 45 credits paying $5,940 for a year of classes, up from $5,670 this year.

Out-of-state and international students would see an increase of either $1 or $2 per credit, to $260 or $261.

Chemeketa’s board approved the increase at a meeting Wednesday evening. More information about the increase is available in the board packet starting on pg. 39.

-Rachel Alexander

February 25, 2021 at 1:05pm

NAACP to host March 2 discussion on proposal to zone Salem-Keizer School Board elections

The Salem-Keizer School Board in 2019 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

The Salem-Keizer NAACP is hosting a discussion Tuesday, March 2, about a proposal to make school board elections more local.

The plan, proposed by board Director Jesse Lippold, would have voters in each of the district's seven zones elect their own representative to the board.

Currently, board directors must live in the zone they represent. But they are elected by voters across the school district, an area the size of several state legislative districts.

Lippold's proposal, first raised at a January school board meeting, cited the rising cost of a board race. The most recent election in 2019 saw an average campaign cost of $25,000 as six candidates competed for three seats. School board directors are unpaid volunteers.

Lippold's proposal also raises the issue of representation, noting that people of color in Salem are concentrated in several districts and may be reluctant to run for office knowing elections span the entire district.

The Salem-Keizer NAACP supports the plan. But it said on its website it wants members of the public to be informed ahead of an expected vote at a March 9 school board meeting.

Four of the seven seats on the school board are up for election in May, including Lippold's.

To participate: The discussion will be held Tuesday, March 2 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom. Anyone may attend and ask questions, and no preregistration is required. The Zoom link is here, and more information is available on the Salem-Keizer NAACP website.

-Rachel Alexander

February 25, 2021 at 12:28pm

Ferry tolls to increase in Marion County

The Wheatland ferry crosses the Willamette River on a sunny day. (Courtesy/Marion County)

It’ll get a little more expensive for some vehicles in Marion County to cross the Willamette River using a ferry next month. 

Beginning March 15, the toll to use the Wheatland ferry for vehicles less than 22 feet in length will increase by a dollar to $3. 

The toll for vehicles between 22 feet and 42 feet long will rise from $4 to $6 at the Wheatland ferry. At the Buena Vista ferry, it'll increase by a dollar to $6.

The fee for vehicles longer than 42 feet will rise from $6 to $9 at the Wheatland ferry. It'll remain $9 at the Buena Vista ferry. 

Tolls for bicycles will remain at $1 for each ferry and pedestrians will continue to ride for free. At the Buena Vista ferry, tolls for motorcycles will remain at $2 and vehicles under 22 feet will remain at $3. 

The Wheatland Ferry crosses the river north of Keizer, and the new rates will mostly match fees in place at the Buena Vista ferry.

According to a county press release, the toll increases won't make the ferry program profitable but are instead intended to keep losses manageable and the cost for commuters low. This will be the first rate increase for the Wheatland ferry in 12 years. 

-Jake Thomas