Morning Roundup

Photo credit: OPB

Cascade Siskiyou Monument expanded, Obama blocks new mining in southwest Oregon and OHSU puts hiring on hold.

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Portland’s historic snowstorm has completely upended the work week for many Rose City denizens. The big news today is that ice has derailed much of the MAX system. Since I get to work on the Yellow line, yours truly is writing today’s news roundup from home.

1. Obama stays silent on Owyhee Canyonlands Monument; expands Cascade Siskiyou Monument

We’ve reported at length on efforts to designate the Owyhee Canyonlands a National Monument.  Well, that didn’t happen. Here’s what did happen. Yesterday President Obama announced an expansion of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument near the California-Oregon border, OPB reports. The area was first given monument status by President Bill Clinton in 2000. Thanks to Obama’s largesse, the 65,000-acre monument will nearly double in size.

2. The President also blocked new mining projects near Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains

Environmentalists did score a win this morning as their decades-long efforts to prevent mining in southwest Oregon paid off. Obama approved a 20-year ban on mining across 100,000 acres in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the Statesman Journal reports. The ban doesn’t eliminate existing mining projects, however.

3. Clatsop County exits timber lawsuit

Fifteen Oregon counties filed a $1.4 billion class action lawsuit last year against the state for failing to maximize timber revenue. On Wednesday, Clatsop commissioners voted to opt-out of that lawsuit, the Daily Astorian reports. The most commonly cited reason for the decision was the fear of increased taxes for county residents should the state lose the lawsuit. Commissioners and county residents said the burden of funding the lawsuit’s payout would ultimately fall on their shoulders.

4. OHSU says hiring on hold 

The year 2016 was a year of turmoil for hospitals and insurance markets. The year 2017 promises more of the same. The president of Oregon Health & Science University said the research institution will freeze hiring in light of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Portland Business Journal reports. OHSU hired 800 new workers last year and has averaged 500 new hires annually since the recession. The hiring freeze will save the hospital tens of millions of dollars, president Joe Robertson said.

5. Oregon senator takes on Trump Secretary of State nominee

Oregon leaders have said repeatedly that the state will continue to forge ahead with climate change leadership, despite the president-elect’s stated denial of global warming.  Sen. Jeff Merkley led the charge yesterday, as he pressed former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson for his opinion on climate change, Willamette Week reports. Tillerson eventually acknowledged carbon emissions are having a warming effect, but also said the U.S. can adapt to any climate change effects. Merkley announced his opposition to Tillerson’s nomination this morning.

6. Geico sues Tigard’s Leif’s Auto Collision 

Leif’s has been a thorn in the side of insurance industry for a long, long time. Now insurance giant Geico wants a federal judge to stop requiring the company to use Leif’s for auto body work, the Oregonian reports. Geico alleges Leif’s uses intimidation and abusive tactics to prevent insurance adjusters from inspecting vehicles. State law doesn’t allow insurers to prohibit its clients from using a specific auto body shop, but Geico is asking the judge to allow an exemption based on the allegations that their employees experience unsafe working conditions when working with Leif’s. This isn’t Leif’s first brush with the law. Just last year owner Leif Hansen sued the Better Business Bureau after his company received an “F” rating. Dozens of customer complaints have also been filed over the years with the Oregon Department of Justice for delays and unsatisfactory work.

7. OB Original Blog: Where should the Port of Portland go from here?

I asked five business and environmental leaders to opine on the post-Bill Wyatt era.