NORTH BEND — Louie the giant inflatable crab was on the lawn of the North Bend Community Center on Saturday to greet people as they came to enjoy the 34th annual Charleston Crab Feed fundraiser.
“It’s just a fun event to bring people out of their winter doldrums. It’s a beautiful day and we’re celebrating the local fishery of crab that we have here,” volunteer Margery Whitmer said.
Over 1,500 pounds of locally caught Dungeness crab was brought to the crab feed for attendees to enjoy. Whole crab dinners were $20 and half dinners were $16. The proceeds from the event all go toward running the Charleston Visitors Center.
“The Charleston Merchants Association cooperates to put this on. Then we also have sponsors. The Mill Casino is a major sponsor and then we have our volunteers. We couldn’t pull it off without our volunteers,” Whitmer said.
Around 30 people volunteered this year to help organize and run the event. Volunteers like Whitmer and Mel Campbell have been volunteering at the crab feed for the past 25 years.
“This is the fundraiser we have to welcome people to Charleston. To let them know that we are a lively community…It’s a chance to eat wonderful crab at a great price,” Campbell said.
According to Whitmer, people come from all over the country to the Charleston Crab Feed.
“We draw people from Medford, Roseburg, and Eugene. We also get out of state people from Wyoming, and Nebraska. They come from all over the country,” Whitmer said.
The inflatable crab Louie was donated by the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.
Coos County Commissioner John Sweet, another volunteer, said, “This is just a fantastic community event. I love the turn out and I’m having a wonderful day.”
Overall, the crab feed is about promoting the Charleston area, and hopefully draws in tourism.
“The event keeps the visitors center in Charleston operating, as well as being advertising for the area. It also helps businesses whenever things come up. This keeps us going through the year,” Tim Hyatt of the Charleston Merchants Association said.
Charleston’s fishing community has taken a hit with crabbing season starting more than a month and a half later than it usually does.
“We had a little bit of a tough start, but we’ve got a good season and the crab has been excellent,” Hyatt said.
No one was given an exact number as to how many people might show up to the crab feed this year, but Hyatt said he hopes roughly enough to eat 1,500 pounds of crab.
COOS COUNTY — Five years ago, the Coquille School District realized it had a problem with class sizes. In fact, it was home to the largest classes in the state with up to 33 students.
According to Superintendent Tim Sweeney, the district school board decided to do something about it. In order to afford hiring more teachers to accommodate large student populations, the district got rid of school counselors.
Though it has recently hired those counselors back, when asked how the district would be impacted by proposed House Bill 4113 that advocates for smaller class sizes, Sweeney said, “I don’t see a direct impact. Not today because we’re working to address the problem already. We try not to play catch-up because it’s hard to do.”
The Oregon Education Association issued a press release last week on the new House bill, stating that the Oregon Legislature’s House Business and Labor Committee began work on it by hearing from bill advocates. Those advocates included prominent school leaders from educators and school board members alike.
“HB 4113 would ensure educators can advocate for students by including class size as a mandatory subject of collective bargaining negotiations,” the release stated.
Right now Oregon has the fifth largest class sizes in the nation.
“After seeing how big my daughter Kohana’s classes have been in school, I knew we desperately needed to do something in Oregon to help manage class size,” said Representative Brian Clem, one of the bill’s sponsors. “HB 4113 isn’t a silver bullet, but it is a step in the right direction. We need to put class size front and center in district negotiations. This is a flexible approach that emphasizes local, district-level conversations where educators and district leadership work side by side to find a path to smaller, more manageable class sizes to facilitate student success.”
The release cited the Oregon Department of Education’s 2016-17 Class Size Report showing nearly 20 percent of all kindergarten classes having over 26 students. Of those 444 math classes had over 36 students and 53 science classes held over 56 students.
Locally, the North Bend School District has an average of 21 students in kindergarten and between 23 and 26 students in its elementary grade levels.
“Regardless of the outcome of HB 4113, North Bend School District will continue to work with our staff as a team to meet the needs of all students, every day, every way,” wrote Brad Bixler in an email to The World, the district’s communication’s specialist.
At the Coos Bay School District, according to school board chairman Adrian DeLeon, Blossom Gulch Elementary has around 23 students per teacher and Madison Elementary holds around 19.
“Obviously it’s more difficult to manage larger classes, especially in the grade school levels,” DeLeon said. “You have children not used to a regimented schedule and trying to manage 25 kids in a classroom is a challenge. A lot of new teachers don’t receive training in classroom management and how to handle those situations, so it’s been a goal of our board to keep those classes as small as possible.”
However, every building in the Coos Bay School District is at capacity. The school board has been forced to be creative, alongside administrators and teachers, to make room for the growing amount of students versus outdated buildings. One of the things that had to be done was eliminate computer labs at the elementary level and replace the need for computers with a mobile cart holding laptop computers.
That way, students still learn needed computer skills without having a computer room.
Instead, that room can be converted into a regular classroom.
“If the House bill passes, our district would have to discuss class sizes as part of our regular bargaining process when negotiating teacher salaries and benefits,” DeLeon said. “We’re in a tight spot right now as far as class sizes go until we have new facilities with our newly passed bond measure. Even if the bill passes and we bargained lower class sizes into our teacher contracts, we have no places to put new classes right now.”
From what DeLeon has heard about the situation so far, making class sizes a mandatory subject in the bargaining process just means it has to be discussed but there is so far no specification as to what districts need to do.
“If class sizes are above bargained maximum size, teachers may get paid bonuses if that happens,” he said. “It doesn’t lower class sizes, but does cost the district.”
At the Coquille School District, the elementary grade levels hold anywhere from 21 to 24 students per class. In kindergarten, there are 18 students per class.
“The issue is if the economy hits a downturn and state funding for schools get slashed again, it is problematic if we’re tied into a class size language we can’t afford,” Sweeney said.
He pointed back to 2013 when the district had to get rid of school counselors in order to hire new teachers to make class sizes smaller. Though that was a hard but needed decision, he said there was an impact.
“We had students that really struggled,” he said. “Last year we had a young lady go to the state legislature and say she can’t keep doing this without emotional support.”
Sweeney explained that the Coquille Jr. and Senior High School was this student’s 8th high school she had attended due to bouncing around the foster system.
“She told the legislature they are not funding schools,” Sweeney recalled. “Now, the state has a lot of demands from doing Career Technical Education, counseling, to having small classes, all these wonderful programs they don’t fund so you pick and choose what you will get the most benefit from. The board decided on small classes five years ago.”
In response to the unnamed student’s plea, the legislature increased general funds for schools which allowed the Coquille School District to bring back counseling this year.
“In our current situation, we’re not afraid of the measure,” he said. “If we’re locked into the measure, people will lose their jobs when the economy turns. It doesn’t behoove us to lock us into something when we can only afford it during good times and not during the hard times.”
LAKESIDE — Around 30 Lakeside residents met at the Lakeside Lions Club on Saturday for a town hall meeting, where they offered opinions to city council over what should be done about law enforcement, planning, and upgrading of storm drains.
The meeting was scheduled in response to a tax levy that was voted down last November. The levy was supposed to be presented as a law enforcement tax levy. However, voters felt surprised and uninformed when they went to vote on the levy and read that the tax would be funding not only law enforcement, but also planning and development, and upgrading storm drains.
“There is a variety of things the city needs besides just law enforcement, obviously it was all grouped together on the tax levy that went out on the ballot,” Lakeside City Council member Shauleen Higgins said.
Currently the city has no law enforcement agency, and do to their location see extremely long response times from the Coos County Sheriff’s Office. Some residents at the meeting reported they’ve experienced response times that took well over an hour.
Rewriting planning codes and following through with code enforcement as well as replacing failing storm drains are things that need to be done according to the city’s government. Though the major concern of the people is getting some form of law enforcement in the area.
Getting a deputy or officer in Lakeside is not going to be cheap. Most of Lakeside’s plans for law enforcement involve contracting out with another local agency. According to city council members, Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni quoted them a cost of $165,000 to hire, train, and equip a deputy that would actively patrol the Lakeside area.
“I personally thought it was too high of a cost for somebody who’s not here all of the time,” Higgins said.
Other ideas are contracting with the city of Reedsport or North Bend for an officer. Lakeside starting its own law enforcement agency has been discussed, but is unlikely because of the cost involved.
Citizens who spoke up at the meeting made it clear that their primary focuses is getting law enforcement in Lakeside. They also asked council to in the future categorize its tax levies instead of grouping them together like it did on the last ballot.
“If you’re going to put something out there for us to vote on like law enforcement, make it is one thing at a time. Then once you get that going you can take another step, but don’t try to take three or four at a time,” Lakeside resident Gary Wilson said.
Before the levy was decided the city council was thinking about putting a flat rate franchise fee of $15 on each citizen’s sewage bill to begin funding law enforcement. They decided to go with a tax levy because they wanted to give the public a chance to vote considering either way that citizens will have to pay more and should get a say.
The sewer fee was brought up at Saturday’s meeting with a lot of support from the community members in attendance. So much so that council will likely be voting on a sewer franchise fee very soon.
There were some at the meeting who questioned the idea of adding a sewer fee.
Lakeside local Marjorie Kellison said, “A lot of the people that can’t afford the $15 sewer fee. So are we going to have to pay double to take care of the ones that won’t pay it?”
Council members responded to Kellison's questions simply saying no. Council member James Edwards agreed that there may be some problems with people not paying the fee.
“I think what we’ll be reporting to the rest of the city council is that we got two things from this meeting. One is that from what I hear, people would rather have law enforcement be attached to the sewer bill. Or we put one item on the ballot if we want to do a tax levy,” Edwards said.
The sewer fee would set aside money for law enforcement much quicker than a tax levy. The city would not begin to see the profits from a tax levy until a year after it passes.
One resident Dave Hudson said, “I would recommend that you do the sewer bill first and work on a new levy, as it takes a year to happen, and then the sewer fee goes away after the levy passes. Use the sewer to get it started and get the ball rolling, and if it’s proving results then people are going to pass a levy.”
Mayor of Lakeside Dean Warner was unable to attend the meeting because of health issues. Council member Edwards is serving as interim mayor while Warner is away.
WASHINGTON — The Senate begins a rare, open-ended debate on immigration and the fate of the "Dreamer" immigrants today, and Republican senators say they'll introduce President Donald Trump's plan. Though his proposal has no chance of passage, Trump may be the most influential voice in the conversation.
If the aim is to pass a legislative solution, Trump will be a crucial and, at times, complicating player. His day-to-day turnabouts on the issues have confounded Democrats and Republicans and led some to urge the White House to minimize his role in the debate for fear he'll say something that undermines the effort.
Yet his ultimate support will be vital if Congress is to overcome election-year pressures against compromise. No Senate deal is likely to see the light of day in the more conservative House without the president's blessing and promise to sell compromise to his hard-line base.
Trump, thus far, has balked on that front.
"The Tuesday Trump versus the Thursday Trump, after the base gets to him," is how Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a proponent of compromise, describes the president and the impact conservative voters and his hard-right advisers have on him. "I don't know how far he'll go, but I do think he'd like to fix it."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scheduled an initial procedural vote for this evening to commence debate. It is expected to succeed easily, and then the Senate will sort through proposals, perhaps for weeks.
Democrats and some Republicans say they want to help the "Dreamers," young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally since they were children and have only temporarily been protected from deportation by an Obama-era program. Trump has said he wants to aid them and has even proposed a path to citizenship for 1.8 million, but in exchange wants $25 billion for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall plus significant curbs to legal immigration.
McConnell agreed to the open-ended debate, a Senate rarity in recent years, after Democrats agreed to vote to end a three-day government shutdown they'd forced over the issue. They'd initially demanded a deal toward helping Dreamers, not a simple promise of votes.
To prevail, any plan will need 60 votes, meaning substantial support from both parties is mandatory. Republicans control the chamber 51-49 but GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona has been home for weeks battling brain cancer.
Seven GOP senators said late Sunday that they will introduce Trump's framework, which they called a reasonable compromise that has White House backing. The group includes Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, John Cornyn of Texas and Iowa's Charles Grassley.
Democrats adamantly oppose Trump's plan, particularly its barring of legal immigrants from sponsoring their parents or siblings to live in the U.S. It has no chance of getting the 60 votes needed to survive. The plan will give GOP lawmakers a chance to stake out a position, but it could prove an embarrassment to the White House if some Republicans join Democrats and it's rejected by a substantial margin.
Another proposal likely to surface, backed by some Republicans and many Democrats, would give Dreamers a chance at citizenship but provide no border security money or legal immigration restrictions. It too would be certain to fail.
Votes are also possible on a compromise by a small bipartisan group led by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. It would provide possible citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, $2.7 billion for border security and some changes in legal immigration rules. McCain and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., would offer legal status but not necessarily citizenship, and require tougher border security without promising wall money.
Trump has rejected both proposals.
Some senators have discussed a bare-bones plan to protect Dreamers for a year in exchange for a year's worth of security money. Flake has said he's working on a three-year version of that.
"I still think that if we put a good bill to the president, that has the support of 65, 70 members of the Senate, that the president will accept it and the House will like it as well," Flake told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Underscoring how hard it's been for lawmakers to find an immigration compromise, around two dozen moderates from both parties have met for weeks to seek common ground. So have the No. 2 Democratic and GOP House and Senate leaders. Neither group has come forward with a deal.
In January, Trump invited two dozen lawmakers from both parties to the White House in what became a nearly hour-long immigration negotiating session. He asked them to craft a "bill of love" and said he'd sign a solution they'd send him.
At another White House session days later, he told Durbin and Graham he was rejecting their bipartisan offer. He used a profanity to describe African nations and said he'd prefer immigrants from Norway, comments that have soured many Democrats about Trump's intentions.
Trump made a clamp-down on immigration a staple of his 2016 presidential campaign. As president he has mixed expressions of sympathy for Dreamers with rhetoric that equate immigration with crime and drugs.
Last September he said he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which lets Dreamers temporarily live and work in the U.S. Trump said President Barack Obama had lacked the legal power to create DACA.
Trump gave Congress until March 5 to somehow replace it, though a federal court has forced him to continue its protections.
The court's blunting of the deadline has made congressional action even less likely. Lawmakers rarely take difficult votes without a forcing mechanism — particularly in an election year. That has raised the prospect that the Senate debate launching Monday will largely serve to frame a larger fight over the issue on the campaign trail.