▶️ Bend City Council seeks nonprofit to run future Rainbow Motel shelter

The Rainbow Motel near Downtown Bend might not look like much from the outside, but for Bend City Councilors, it’s a window to endless possibilities. 

Council has had their eye on the motel at 154 NE Franklin Ave. for nearly a year, initially eyeing it as a potential subject for Project Turnkey funds. 

Wednesday night, they voted to purchase the motel and its 1.03-acre property for $4.55 million. 

For the next two to three years, its future is mapped out. 

“The city anticipates using the property as a low-barrier shelter beginning in late spring or early summer 2022,” Councilor Megan Perkins announced over the City of Bend YouTube channel Thursday morning. 

They hope the property purchase will be complete in March or April, but before then, they plan to enlist a nonprofit to run the shelter. 

“We need to engage a service provider who will actually run this to serve people who are experiencing homelessness,” Councilor Anthony Broadman told Central Oregon Daily News on Thursday.

“The city doesn’t operate shelters for people experiencing homelessness. It’s an important partnership that we share with people who are really experts at that…service providers, public health folks, behavioral health folks, who are going to make sure that once people can use this as a shelter, that they succeed and we’re ensuring that we’re a good neighbor to everybody in the area.”

Council anticipates the low-barrier shelter will accommodate 40 to 60 beds. 

The process to find the right nonprofit will involve requests for proposals and qualifications, in order to determine who is most capable of running a facility of that size. 

“It’s not something that any service provider can simply take on,” Broadman said. 

The costs of turning the motel into a shelter are still unknown. 

“My hope is that there’s not too much work to get done before it’s able to be operated as a shelter,” Broadman said. “But all of that really remains to be seen as we go through the due diligence process.” 

The two to three-year period for the shelter hinges on high hopes for the future of Bend’s houseless situation. 

“The hope and the expectation is that in two to three years, we’ll have a clearer path to success, getting the numbers down of folks experiencing homelessness, putting them in a more sustainable path to a safer and more secure housing situation,” Broadman added. 

After that, the site is one of several being considered by Council for either a new City Hall, more housing, or a public space. 

They say that decision is still far away. 

“This council has made very clear in its goals that the Bend central district is a key area for investment, both publicly and privately,” Broadman said. “In combination with the tax increment financing associated with this area, this is a really great potential area for civic investment.” 

▶️ St. Charles: Central Oregon has not yet seen brunt of latest COVID surge

Researchers at the University of Washington last week predicted COVID cases in the United States would peak at 1.2 million on Jan. 19

That day has arrived, but the story isn’t playing out for everyone, including Central Oregon. 

Local experts debriefed Deschutes County Commissioners on Wednesday about the state of COVID in the area. 

“The peak for Oregon…if you go to the OHA website, they’re going to show that to occur during the last couple days of January. Maybe that’s been moved to the first couple of days of February, I’m not certain,” said St. Charles Senior Data Scientist Dr. Michael Johnson. “Here in Central Oregon, I’m not seeing that peak occur until mid-February.” 

Cases are still steadily increasing, with Central Oregon seeing a 30% increase over the past two weeks. 

“Last week we had about 3,500 cases diagnosed and added to our system, and this week we had 4,500,” she said. Emily Freeland, the Deschutes County COVID-19 Response and Recovery Supervisor, spoke about the numbers in the county alone.

Hospitalizations have not hit a point of relief just yet, with St. Charles reportedly caring for 58 COVID patients on Wednesday. 

That number is up 35% from last Wednesday, Jan. 12, when there were 43 COVID patients in the hospital. 

It is also up 100% from two weeks ago on Jan. 5, when there were 29 COVID patients in the hospital. 

Johnson said the situation could still be far worse. 

“We are seeing considerably more breakthrough cases from those who have been vaccinated or even boosted who are being infected,” he said. “But thankfully it is still having a very positive effect on reducing the number of hospitalizations.” 

Until the mid-February peak supposedly hits, things will likely get more difficult before any relief comes. 

“Whatever we’ve been experiencing here in January, we have not yet seen the full brunt of this surge,” Johnson said. 

Around the country, other areas have been seeing a plateau or a drop in cases this week. 

New York and other northeast states, along with other areas throughout the country, have reported stark drops in COVID cases over the past week. 

▶️ OSU-Cascades students, community members give back on MLK Day of Service

Books…furniture…clothes. 

It was all sorted by hand on Monday at the Humane Society of Central Oregon Thrift Store. 

Eighteen volunteers, made up of students from OSU-Cascades and other central Oregon community members, decided to use this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service to give back. 

“We reached out to several different places, some of them didn’t get back to me,” said OSU Events Coordinator and sophomore Isabella Crews, “But the Humane Society was super welcoming and friendly, and they got back to me very quickly.”

The holiday was passed by Congress in 1994 to honor the late figure, known for his contribution to the civil rights movement, and to continue his legacy of public service. 

“I think one of the best ways to help a community or help the world is to start small and help your own community, and I wanted to share that with my fellow students and encourage them and provide a place for them to volunteer as well,” Crews added. 

Volunteers were divided into two-hour shifts at both the thrift store and the animal shelter. 

Elena Strahm from Portland took the day to volunteer at the thrift store while visiting her mom, who lives in Sisters. 

“I’ve wanted to bring my son volunteering for a really long time but we just get caught up in life, you know? So the fact that we don’t work today or have school was a really good opportunity to give back,” she said. 

Her 8-year-old son, James, said his favorite part about volunteering was “chucking the bags in the cardboard bin.” 

“I love to volunteer…I just like to help people,” he said. 

For some volunteers, it wasn’t a first. 

“I had a professional career my whole life, and now I’m very fortunate to be retired in Bend, and we love to do any volunteer jobs that we can,” said volunteer Liz Rachum. “We’re big animal lovers here, so that’s why we support the Humane Society.” 

Everything they sorted will end up downstairs in the thrift store, where it will be sold to benefit some of central Oregon’s smallest and fluffiest community members. 

“People don’t realize that when people donate gently used items to our thrift store, they get sorted and they get sold, and about a third of our revenue is generated by the sales from our thrift store,” said Lynne Ouchida, Community Outreach Manager for the Humane Society of Central Oregon. 

“So donating and shopping at the thrift store has an immediate impact on helping us to save lives.” 

Four students also volunteered at the shelter itself, where they helped organize the storage room. 

“OSU-Cascades students have come out for a few years in a row so…it’s nice to have a relationship with an organization. They know the types of jobs here at the shelter as well as at the thrift store, and they’re usually animal lovers, and they want to give back to help those animals in need,” Ouchida added. 

Sorting clothes, saving lives, and spreading positivity were the main objectives of the day. 

Ouchida said that donations had also been pouring in online and in person in honor of Betty White’s 100th birthday, which would have been the 17th. 

For more information on volunteering with the Humane Society, visit hsco.org

▶️ ‘Vigil for Democracy’ draws groups to Peace Corner on Jan. 6 anniversary

One year ago, thousands of people participated in an attack on the United States Capitol in an effort to stop the approval of the 2020 election. 

On Thursday at noon, a much smaller crowd gathered at Peace Corner in Bend to commemorate the event’s anniversary in what they called a Vigil for Democracy. 

“What happened a year ago was very bad, I can’t even put it in words,” said Tom Iraci from Crooked River Ranch. 

“We think democracy’s at risk a little bit today, and so we’re here to express our support for it,” said Chris Gardner, a member of the host group Vocal Seniority. 

They, along with the group Indivisible Bend, felt it was necessary to mark the day locally to take a stand for what they called the cornerstone of democracy. 

“We feel very strongly that every citizen’s vote should count equally, and their access to voting should be equal, because that’s the essence of democracy,” Gardner added.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a candidate for Oregon’s 5th congressional district, came to speak at the event and show her support.

“I have lived and worked in former war zones, and I have seen what it looks like when democracy fails,” McLeod-Skinner said. “Last year was a terrifying reminder of how vulnerable our democracy is, how precious it is, and the fact that people have stood up and are still standing up and demanding that we protect it is critically important to me.”

A couple of counter-protesters waved an American flag and a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag nearby. Both declined to comment on the event. 

Some attendees said the two had shown up at past events, but had not caused any issues. 

“I’m looking across the way here and I see these guys with sidearms, and flying the yellow flag with ‘Don’t Tread on Me.’ That’s one example of what’s going wrong with this country,” Iraci said.

In her speech, McLeod-Skinner said the presence of counter-protesters was a testament to the importance of democracy. 

“The fact that we have folks here who have dramatically different perspectives and ideas is a really powerful statement about our democracy, and I really want to acknowledge that because that’s the power of what was at risk last year,” she said. 

One year later, 738 people have been charged in the attacks at the U.S. Capitol. 

“The ones that perpetrated the event, from planning it to being there, including the ex-president, they have to be held responsible,” said Ramona Steinberg from Crooked River Ranch. 

Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone, Bend Sen. Tim Knopp – both Republicans – and Deschutes County Republicans Chairman Phil Henderson did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Prineville Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson and Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair – also both Republicans – declined to comment.

▶️ St. Charles prepares for new COVID wave amid omicron variant, holidays

On Tuesday, St. Charles Health System saw a pandemic milestone as they reported they were caring for 19 COVID-19 patients, which is the fewest they’ve seen since the end of July. 

Still, conditions are far from normal. 

“Our hospitalizations are still very high, we’re running over 100% capacity for our hospital system and that’s really a marker for all the delayed care that’s been happening throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Cynthia Maree Medical Director of Infection Prevention.

On average, St. Charles had 10 fewer patients per day last week, Dec. 13-17, than they had between Dec. 14-18 in 2020. 

Across the state, there were 155 fewer patients in the hospital on average each day during those same time frames. 

“Even though we see this downward trend of COVID numbers, we still see a very full hospital system, and we’re not alone here in Central Oregon, the rest of the state is really seeing that too,” Maree said. 

The omicron variant inspired swift action from the government on Tuesday, with Gov. Kate Brown extending Oregon’s state of emergency until the end of June 2022. 

There were only four known omicron cases in the state as of Tuesday afternoon. 

President Biden announced an increase in COVID testing efforts on that same day and urged Americans to get their boosters.

“If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned,” the president said. 

The omicron variant, paired with the holiday season, means a new wave of cases. 

By now, St. Charles knows the drill by heart, and they have a head start. 

“We’ve been through this, we know how to step up our capacity when needed,” Maree said. “We’re able to watch what’s happening overseas and in New York and other places where they’re starting to see a lot more cases and adapt our response to that in a more thoughtful and meaningful way.” 

In the United States last week, 73% of new COVID cases were of the omicron variant. 

The Oregon Health Authority told Central Oregon Daily News on Monday that the state is still recovering from the recent delta variant surge. 

“Oregon is still experiencing the end of our largest surge to date, which has stressed our state’s health care systems statewide,” said Public Affairs Specialist Rudy Owens.

“After the arrival of the delta variant in mid-summer 2021,  we saw our highest count of COVID-19 positive patients at 1,178 on September 1, 2021.

“Compare this to the winter surge of 2020, where the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 positive patients was 584 on Nov. 30, 2020.” 

On Tuesday, there were 338 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across Oregon. 

Maree said she feels hopeful that the hospital will successfully overcome this next wave, with the help of new therapies and extended contracts for traveling nurses who have helped boost their staff. 

“They’ve been the critical front line for us at the Monoclonal antibody clinic, which has allowed us to serve so many people. I think we have now done close to 3,000 administrations there,” she said. 

She said she was also encouraged to hear that the omicron variant has resulted in fewer hospital stays than other variants. 

“Those indicators are really encouraging, in that we may be able to provide more at-home care services, to help people stay in their homes and not require hospitalization,” Maree said. 

▶️ Oregon volunteers share stories from Kentucky tornado relief front lines

December 10, 2021. 

A historic day, changing many lives and taking others.

Multiple tornadoes swept across Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee that Friday night, and the death toll is currently sitting at 76.

Kentucky saw the most loss in both life and property, and passionate helpers from across Oregon weren’t about to sit on the sidelines.

“The pictures and the videos just don’t do justice, it’s 10 times worse than what you see,” said Marc Brooks, Executive Director of the Salem-based Cascade Relief Team. 

His team of six arrived in Kentucky last Sunday to volunteer at a Dawson Springs shelter in a Baptist church. 

Brooks described the shocking scene they encountered. 

“Roofs that were on the other side of the street…projectiles going through siding…wood projectiles, debris, literally being thrown through the walls of a home.” he said. 

The National Weather Service estimated this week that 15,000 buildings were destroyed during the weather event at a cost of more than $3.5 billion.

Volunteer Troy Harman was a truck driver for 12 years, and saw many natural disasters across the country. 

“I don’t think I’ve seen one personally that was so terrible,” he said. “To me, it looked like someone took the houses, picked them up in the air, crumbled them, and then dropped them back where they were at.” 

The Red Cross sent more than 450 volunteers from around the country, including 14 from Oregon (one Bend woman), to aid the survivors. 

Volunteer Alan Underkofler from Corvallis spoke with Central Oregon Daily News on Monday from their relief center in Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park. 

“I’m in charge of finding supplies that we can’t get, unusual supplies that we need to run a disaster response…any random things, from tables, to heaters, to kitchen utensils to food, whatever it might be that for whatever reason we need now…that’s what we’re here for.”

The relief center is located near the town of Mayfield, in a county where 22 were killed, which includes nine people who perished in the destruction of a candle factory. 

“There’s nothing like coming over that hill and dropping into Mayfield, and it looks like a bomb just went off in the middle of town,” Underkofler said. “There’s so many buildings that are flattened, there’s brick buildings that are completely collapsed and caved in…buildings, houses, street after street just completely wiped out.”

He compared it to damage from wildfires in Oregon. 

“We had these huge devastating fires a few years ago, followed by more devastating fires this past year, it’s very similar,” he said. “You have people that had all of their belongings, everything they’ve ever owned, everything they’ve collected, and it was all in this one house and now that entire house with all of those things are gone.”

Both teams bear chilling stories from survivors. 

“You’re hearing about parents that were going through this tornado, and the only thing they could do was hunch over their kids and protect them while their entire house caves in on top of them. It’s just unreal to think about going through something like that,” Underkofler said. 

Brooks talked about a teenage waitress they spoke with, who said she hid her bathtub with her dog as a sound like “a cross between a freight train and a growl” surrounded them. 

“She said at one point she saw a horse flying in the air, her neighbor’s horse, literally like the movie,” he said. “She came out after it was over, and she noticed their barns were gone, and she was looking for their tractor. A couple days later they found it eight miles away.”

Amid the destruction has been an outpouring of goodwill. 

Harman was in charge of receiving donations at the church shelter in Dawson Springs. 

“The most impactful thing for me was actually, it sounds terrible, but having to talk to someone and turn them away, because there was so much help that we didn’t have any more space,” he said. 

The Cascade Relief Team flew back to Oregon on Monday, but they plan to return to help for another two weeks in January. 

“I’m worried about in the three weeks to six months…when CNN and ABC and the cameras are gone, and it’s just whoever wants to help on the ground,” Brooks said. “So we’re going to put a place out here, and we’re looking for a warehouse to make sure that we have the stuff, the resources and the people for the long-term.”

To find out more about assisting the Cascade Relief Team in their efforts, you can visit cascaderelief.org

Volunteers from The Red Cross will stay long-term as well, with many of them giving up holidays with loved ones to help those in need. 

“If you talk to volunteers about why are they here when they could be spending time with family and enjoy Christmas and the holidays, their response is always going to be ‘because these people can’t.'” Underkofler said. 

He said 95% of the people in the tent with him were volunteers, and asked that people visit redcross.org to donate to their efforts, or to find out more about helping through giving blood or volunteering themselves. 

▶️ OSU-Cascades students reflect on COVID experiences in published book

Reflecting…learning…growing. 

A group of first-year students at Oregon State University-Cascades practiced all three during the fall term of 2020. 

Former writing instructor Jenna Goldsmith was teaching a class for incoming students hoping to assimilate into college life, but the pandemic and distance learning meant “college life” was turned upside down. 

“They probably weren’t in that moment thinking ‘I should be journaling about this so I can read about it from my point of view down the road’, so I thought, let me assign something,” Goldsmith said. 

She assigned a series of journal entries for her 28 students to reflect on the strange new pandemic world. 

“I think looking back and reading through my journal, probably feeling a little lost during my first term at college, not being able to do some of the exciting and fun things that a lot of freshmen got to do in previous years,” OSU-Cascades student Anya Rozek said. 

“I would say that the biggest thing about COVID that made it really difficult to be a first-year is that if you were an introvert and had a hard time connecting with others, maybe the only way you could really find people to connect with in areas of your interest was with the very brief opportunities you would have,” OSU Cascades student Wyatt Didway said. 

After receiving a grant from Women’s Giving Circle at OSU, Goldsmith was able to compile more than 80 student entries for publication in a book called “There is No College in COVID.” 

A year after the assignment, it’s been published through Belt Publishing and is available for sale, with proceeds going towards scholarships at the university. 

“I think they understand that what they went through was unique and an experience that not many people can say that they’ve gone through,” Goldsmith said. “I think it provides a really nice window into the world of what those students were going through.”

“My hope is that…people take away that yes, we are young adults, and yes, we’re at college, but it’s still a challenge, and we went through a global pandemic,” Rozek said. “And that mental health needs to be more of a priority in the education field.” 

“I feel like I learned a lot about what it means to really cherish the few connections that you have and the few similarities you have with people,” Didway said. 

“I think there’s a lot to be learned from a lot of the students that were there during the fall term of 2020 and really all around the world with all the things that happened, we have a lot of reflecting to do.”

Goldsmith and her students will meet in February on campus for a public reading of the journal entries and a face-to-face meeting for the first time. 

“It’s one thing for me to be able to talk about the book, but it’s another thing entirely to imagine students being able to read those entries and talk about how their lives have changed since writing,” Goldsmith said.

You can purchase “There is No College in COVID” through the Belt Publishing website here or by ordering through your local bookstore. 

▶️ Oregon lawmakers pass rental assistance in special session

On Monday, a special session in Salem decided the future of rental assistance in the state.

The $215 million package includes $100 million for additional emergency rental assistance for tenants, and another $10 million to pay back landlords with tenants who can’t afford to pay rent.

“The only option we have here today in this emergency session is to provide those funds and to provide that certainty for those tenants,” Republican Senator Tim Knopp of Bend said.

In Central Oregon, the nonprofit NeighborImpact saw massive success after the last round of assistance was released in June.

“We put out right around $11 million since June, and so that $11 million went out to 1,791 households in Central Oregon, which gives you an average payment of $6,125,” Executive Director Scott Cooper said.

This time around, they believe they will receive around $1.5 million from the state.

“That won’t be in for a little while because we have to wait for the funding to be approved, but I would guess in the next couple months we’ll start funding again,” Cooper said.

He said the funding was passed largely due to potential evictions elsewhere in the state, but he hasn’t observed that issue in Central Oregon.

“Across all four rounds of rental assistance, we’ve done something like $20 million worth of assistance,” Cooper said. “It’s been amazing, I’ve never seen anything like this in my career…people have been taken care of, we’ve not had anybody that we’re aware of in our database who was evicted for failure to pay rent.”

The last round of funding generated nearly $29 million in requests from 3,532 households in Central Oregon, leaving roughly $18 million left to be processed.

“The unpaid applications will now be transferred to Oregon Housing and Community Services for processing by a third-party contractor using a call center in Washington,” Cooper noted.

“Our office will be available to help people navigate the system, but we will not be involved in processing or paying the next round of applications, due to Oregon Housing’s decision to centralize the program. We’re kind of disappointed about that.”

The next round of rental assistance will last until June 30, 2022, when tenants will no longer be protected if they haven’t applied for rental assistance.

“Most of us here have been fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the urgency, the panic and the desperation that so many in our communities are now experiencing,” said Rep. WInsvey Campos of Aloha during the special session.

Having done everything in their power and everything they were told they needed to do to remain housed, they still remain in danger of losing their shelter and safety.”

More than 67,000 Oregon households recently reported they feel “not at all confident” they can cover next month’s bills, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau survey.

Despite an overwhelming need, this month the statewide rental assistance program stopped taking new applications after all $289 million of federal funds have been requested and committed to renters.

However, due to a backlog $119 million has yet to reach renters.

Margaret Salazar, the director of the state’s Housing and Community Services, said Monday she expects the remaining federal assistance will be administered to Oregon tenants by March 2022.

In addition, she estimates the proposed additional state funded rental assistance would be administered by June 2022.

Funding passed in the special session Monday also included a $100 million drought relief package, $25 million for preventing illegal cannabis production across the state, $18.2 million to assist Afghan refugees in Oregon, $2 million for gun violence prevention in Multnomah County, and $14 million for affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs in Oregon’s 14 largest cities.

▶️ Local schools explain plans for delays, closures amid winter weather

When the snow sticks and the ice forms, like it did this weekend in many parts of Central Oregon, it’s up to local school districts to decide when enough is enough.

They keep an eye on weather forecasts throughout the winter months, and if snow or ice is expected on a certain day, the review process starts early.

“We would start checking roads about three or four in the morning, and then we make a decision by 5 a.m.,” Bend-La Pine Schools Director of Transportation Kim Crabtree said. “There’s a team of us that drive clear to La Pine, as far south as our district goes and as far north as our district goes.”

The Redmond and Crook County school districts have similar procedures.

“We try to make that decision by 5 a.m…the reason we would do a late start is if we had a lot of snow and ice overnight but conditions are expected to improve,” Redmond Schools Public Information Officer Sheila Miller said. “We would do a cancellation if the roads were really bad and we didn’t expect that it was going to warm up enough for them to improve.”

“If some of our bus drivers go out and they determine the roads are too slick, there’s areas that are unsafe, especially further out of town around higher elevations such as Juniper Canyon for example, the decision may be made to cancel school,” Crook County School District Communications Director Jason Carr said.

Each district gets the word out a little differently.

“Parents can sign up for BLConnect, the link to sign up for that is on our website,” Crabtree said. “They can check the Bend-La Pine website itself, the Bend-La Pine Facebook page, and if you have a My Stop app downloaded if you’re a bus rider, we can send information out there if the bus is going to be delayed.”

Parents can check the “Inclement Weather” section of the school district’s website for a full list of resources and steps to take if they are concerned there may be a delay or a closure.

This year, they have a new map of altered snow routes available for parents.

“It doesn’t affect a lot of routes in our district, but we have a handful of areas where we have reduced stops and we ask kids to walk out because it’s not safe for our bus to go down,” Crabtree said.

The Redmond School District gets the word out through a variety of mediums.

“We call all of the local media, so TV, radio, newspaper…we post it to our social media, and we also do a text, email and auto-dial phone call to all of our families,” Miller said. “So we really ask that all of our families make sure that they have all of their most updated contact information with the district so they actually get that message.”

Miller said she gets a lot of questions every year when there is snow on the ground, but no word from the district.

“If you don’t hear anything, there’s definitely school,” she said.

You can find out more on the “Emergency Communications” page on the Redmond School District’s website.

The Crook County School District uses a similar method.

“We will notify parents by 5:30 in the morning, and we will do that via text message, phone call and email to all parents in the district,” Carr said.

“We will also post the information on the district social media sites, and then we’ll also contact local media.”

There are no online classes planned for snow days, but the Crook County School District is launching a program this week called the Parent Toolkit, which is an online resource for students to do schoolwork while at home.

They explain their plan on the “Weather Delay and Closure Information” page of their website.

Since Central Oregon has no shortage of winter weather, local schools try to use delays and cancellations as a last resort.

“We try really hard not to cancel school for weather,” Miller said. “We know that people are pretty well-equipped here and are used to snow and ice.”

“There’s winters where we have snow on the ground for months, so it’s important for us to be ready and able to get those kids to school,” Crabtree said.

▶️ Klamath Co. voters submit signatures for Greater Idaho ballot measure

Sherman, Jefferson, Grant, Union, Baker, Malheur, Harney, Lake.

Those are the eight Oregon counties which have already voted in favor of the Greater Idaho movement, requiring their county governments to consider the possibility of joining the state next door.

On Thursday, some voters in Klamath County were determined to become next on that list as they submitted signatures to the county clerk in hopes of landing the measure on the ballot in May 2022.

A small group gathered outside the Klamath County Government Center in support.

“Klamath County was one of the first ones that approved our petition request,” President of Move Oregon’s Border and Citizens for Greater Idaho Mike McCarter said. “It’s taken almost two years now to get enough signatures in because of COVID conditions.”

Leaders in the Greater Idaho movement gathered 2,897 signatures across Klamath Co., which is just over 1,200 more than the number required to make it on the ballot.

“A lot of the signatures are rejected because they’re not registered voters or they’re registered in some other county, or the county clerk cannot take and read their signature or their name,” McCarter said. “We figure about 20% more signatures is a good number to have in; in this particular case we’re almost double the signatures.”

“It’s a process of the people speaking out,” he added. “They want to be able to vote on this issue. And that’s good, because if they’re against it, they should be able to vote that way; if they’re for it, they should be able to vote, and that’s the way a representative government works.”

Some attendees had personally helped gather signatures. 

“As I became more involved, I found out how credible it was, and how important it was to the people of Klamath County, including my family,” attendee Allen Headley said. “We weren’t represented, and we still aren’t, in the southern part of this district in Salem.”

The ballot measure would require the county to hold meetings about the proposal, but moving the border would still require approval in both the state and U.S. legislatures.

Still, other counties are slowly joining the fight. 

“We have another county that is coming on board next week with a petition,” McCarter said. “We’ve got petitions [applications] out in three more counties, and we’ve got four counties that have petitions going.

“So the total is about 19 counties that we’re working with, trying to get this passed.” 

Their reasons are many. 

“I hear that all the time, ‘why don’t you just pick up and go to Idaho?’ Well, we love where we live,” McCarter said. “Our families are close, many people have generations of land ownership. They don’t want to lose that. But they need to have the opportunity to change who governs us, and that’s what we’re after.” 

“This is a moment in history that six months ago I was hoping for, and it is here,” Headley said. “And hopefully the rest of Southern Oregon will join upon this venture and try to make this happen, and this is what democracy is all about.”

McCarter said they have received many questions about the complexities of counties joining another state, and whether it is legitimately conceivable.

“Yes, there are a lot of steps involved in it,” he said. “But that’s why it needs to go to the Oregon legislature, and work with the Idaho legislature in figuring out all those details.”

For more information about the Greater Idaho movement, visit their website at greateridaho.org.