As the State Turns

By Johnny Beaver

stateturnssymbolFed to Cover Oregon, But Woes to Continue
Nobody saw that coming, right? The upside is that Oregonians will soon be able to enroll using a system that actually works. The downside is that it will be slightly more expensive ($4 a month more on average) because the federal exchange charges more for enrollment, 5 of the 16 insurance companies working with Cover Oregon’s exchange don’t have the capability to interface with the federal exchange, and… (yes, there’s an and)… 460 full- and part-time staff will likely be laid off because the feds will be handling a lot of the work. Did I mention that those who have gotten private insurance through the current site could be forced to reapply when everything switches over?

Although it’s too early to say that this massive fail has been brought to an end, the brown light at the end of the tunnel seems clear.

Geocachers to Be Uprooted
Geocaching, the popular Oregonian pastime that involves seeking out GPS coordinates from a website where one will find some sort of collectable item and a logbook left by the last visitor, is about to see some new regulations. Because the geocache sites have gotten so widespread, some problems have been encountered with dozens of them placed in environmentally sensitive sites.

A new policy enacted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is going to be removing about 50 of these geocaches from the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. Other bits of the new policy will restrict access to certain sites containing geocaches during specific times of the year.

The BLM is not looking to be a buzzkill, however, suggesting that practitioners take up “virtual geocaching” in more sensitive areas that involve mapping coordinates for interesting things to see… rather than burying a logbook and a G.I. Joe action figure inside of a box.

The Battle of Endor… I mean, Elliot Forest
The fight between environmentalists and clearcut-happy timber companies that wish to purchase a 788-acre chunk of Elliot State Forest land is heating up. In an attempt to stop Oregon from selling, three environmental groups have filed a lawsuit citing a law from 1957 which states that any land within said forest that used to be national forestland cannot be sold.

On one end, some people don’t want to see the state start selling off public resources to the highest bidder – especially if they’re going to engage in practices such as clearcutting, which have environmental downsides. On the other end, Oregon has seen a painful reduction in timber sales, which has created a budget problem for the state. Selling off large areas of forestland to antsy bidders seems like a good solution to the problem.

And then, of course, there’s the protected marbled murrelet – a seabird that has already led to logging restrictions in the area. I sense a sinister motive with that bird. Wanting to like live and stuff. Very sneaky. Pending this particular decision, I suggest everyone grab a Snickers.

More D’Arcy Fallout
In the continuing saga of one of our state’s loudest hissy fits in years, yet another member of the Oregon Cultural Trust (OCT) has jumped ship in response to Chris D’Arcy’s dubious firing from her position as executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission (OAC). This brings the grand total to six resignations in support of D’Arcy – a show of solidarity that undoubtedly has some of us in the Oregon arts community high fiving and whatnot.

Last year when Business Oregon (a group that oversees the OAC and OCT) Executive Director Tim McCabe ousted D’Arcy, he did so without the approval of either of the associated boards. Most that have either resigned or voiced concerns did so whilst criticizing poor board governance, non-disclosure of information to members, and so on. While D’Arcy’s firing was the biggest nail in the fence, it certainly wasn’t the only one.

Meanwhile, McCabe was replaced by Sean Robbins last month (he’ll begin his duties in June), it remains to be seen whether or not the shakeup in leadership will result in a more stable situation for the arts organizations under the wing of Business Oregon.

Baby Power?
Those of you with a keen eye for the sickening may have heard about allegations that Canadian aborted fetuses were being incinerated along with trash to generate electricity in Marion County, Oregon. While it is true that biomedical waste is burnt in these incinerators, human fetuses or bodies have never been on the menu. Those who first broke the story, the Canadian newspaper, Catholic Herald, are certainly getting their money’s worth, as the ensuing dust storm has made things even more unclear than the validity of the original claim.

Pending investigations, operations at the Covanta Energy Corp burner have been halted. One spokesperson for the group has adamantly stated that no fetuses were delivered or burnt and Marion County commissioners have claimed no knowledge of any such thing. On the contrary, a temp worker for Covanta claims that they have been transporting fetuses from British Columba to Oregon for years, but has offered no evidence.

However fantastic the story may seem, it’s safe to say that most people would be upset to find out that they’ve been powering their juicers and Fox News with fetuses. If proven true, the repercussions will be felt far and wide. Currently there is no law on the books saying you can’t burn a fetus for power, but county officials will be pushing one through immediately.