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Drinking Civilly gives locals a platform to be heard
Community members invited to weigh in on big issues

COOS COUNTY — Drinking and discussing weighty political problems often go hand-in-hand, usually in a crowded bar.

Jillian Ward / JILLIAN WARD The World 

Co-Founder Shannon Souza hopes that these monthly meetings will give locals a platform where city and county governments will listen.

Taking advantage of this age-old trend is Shannon Souza, co-founder of Drinking Civilly. To push together the voices of community members onto a platform that local politicians may hear more, she has begun the once-a-month meeting at 7 Devils Brewing Co.

“It all started with the national movement called ‘Drinking Liberally,'” Souza told The World. “It was where people got together with liberals, but when I started launching a chapter here I realized that wouldn’t do us any good. We need all sides of the story and to get everyone here together because no meaningful solutions to any challenge will come from one side or the other.”

Drinking Civilly calls for people to pick a topic of discussion each month, then bring ideas and insight to the problem. Not only does it give people a platform to be heard, but offers education on local programs already in place dealing with many of these issues.

The meetings are moderated by a Confederated Tribe judge, who keeps things calm and makes sure everyone has a chance to speak at least once if they wish.

“All of these topics have local impacts and we invite all viewpoints to speak up,” Souza said. “So far we’ve talked about everything from gun safety to homelessness.”

The meetings are held every second Sunday of the month at 7 Devils from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The most recent meeting, which took place over the weekend, included a crowded room with people eating and drinking and talking first about their frustrations with the homeless issue and then possible solutions.

“This is our seventh month, so our seventh meeting, and so far we’ve had successful conversations that led to document statements and facts on each side of these topics,” Souza said. “We have time for discussion while people mingle afterward while I articulate on paper what participants said. I put each point or solution on the walls while people are given three dots to stick on which ones they think is the highest priority or of greatest concern.”

Jillian Ward / JILLIAN WARD The World 

Co-Founder Shannon Souza introduced Sunday's topic for the monthly Drinking Civilly meeting at 7 Devils.

When all is said and done, Souza tabulates the votes and then posts it online. People can get the information by visiting their Facebook page “Drinking Civilly” or by signing up at the meetings for email follow-ups.

“We post it for our elected leaders to see it online, to see what people are saying about these issues and what they think,” Souza said. “We’ve been knocking at the door to get local politicians to notice this.”

At the recent Sunday meeting, Coos Bay City Councilman Drew Farmer was in attendance.

“My concept is something like the League of Women Voters, to get people talking,” Souza said. “When we do this at libraries there’s a self-selecting group but when we are here drinking and standing around the fire pit, these topics come up anyway like at the pubs in old England. Might as well do these meetings where people are, where people can buy a pint of cider and have dinner while taking part in important discussions.”

The next meeting is March 11 at 7 Devils starting at 4 p.m.

Trump says 'OK with me' if plan to rebuild roads flounders

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump sent Congress a sweeping plan Monday to rebuild the nation's depleted roads and bridges — then immediately raised doubts about how committed he was to delivering on that campaign promise.

"If you want it badly, you're going to get it," Trump told state and local officials during a meeting at the White House. "And if you don't want it, that's OK with me too."

Trump suggested that his proposal — aimed at spurring $1.5 trillion in spending over a decade — was not as important to him as other recent administration efforts to cut taxes and boost military spending.

"If for any reason, they don't want to support to it, hey, that's going to be up to them," Trump said of the Republican-controlled Congress. "What was very important to me was the military, what was very important to me was the tax cuts, and what was very important to me was regulation."

Speaking of infrastructure, Trump added: "This is of great importance, but it's not nearly in that category. Because the states will have to do it themselves if we don't do it. But I would like to help the states out."

The administration's plan is centered on using $200 billion in federal money to leverage more than $1 trillion in local and state tax dollars to fix America's infrastructure, such as roads, highways, ports and airports. The administration released a 55-page "legislative outline" for lawmakers who will write the legislation.

With the plan heavily dependent on state and local dollars, Democrats warned it would raise tolls on commuters, sell off government-owned infrastructure to Wall Street and eliminate critical environmental protections.

The proposal lists Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport as examples of assets that could be sold. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., warned that the proposal included studying whether the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public utility, should sell its transmission assets. He called it "a looney idea" with "zero chance of becoming law."

"After a full year of empty boasts, the president has finally unveiled a puny infrastructure scam that fully fails to meet the need in America's communities," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Convening a roomful of state and local leaders, Trump listened as governors and mayors pitched individual projects in their states and described the challenges involved with gaining federal permits.

"It seems to me that the pyramids in Egypt were built faster than some of the projects that we're contemplating," said Esteban Bovo, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission in Florida.

Trump vowed repeatedly that the federal permitting process would be streamlined but said it would be up to state and local leaders to ensure that local permits don't hold up worthy projects.

"Washington will no longer be a roadblock to progress. Washington will now be your partner," Trump said.

During the meeting, the former real estate developer reveled in his past life as a builder, pointing to his 1980s completion of a troubled renovation of Wollman Rink in New York City's Central Park.

When a local official from Pennsylvania noted plans to add connections for an interstate highway — estimated to cost more than $500 million — Trump was blunt. "Get the price down a little bit," he said to laughter.

"To me this is a very, very sexy subject," Trump said. "The media doesn't find it sexy. I find it sexy because I was always a builder, I always knew how to build on time, on budget."

The proposal features two key components: an injection of funding for new investments and to speed up repairs of crumbling roads and airports, as well as a streamlined permitting process that would reduce the wait time to get projects under way. Officials said the $200 billion in federal support would come from cuts to existing programs.

Half the money would go to grants for transportation, water, flood control, cleanup at some of the country's most polluted sites and other projects.

States, local governments and other project sponsors could use the grants — which administration officials cast as incentives — to cover no more than 20 percent of the costs. Transit agencies generally count on the federal government for half the cost of major construction projects, and federal dollars can make up as much as 80 percent of some highway projects.

About $50 billion would go toward rural projects — transportation, broadband, water, waste, power, flood management and ports. That is intended to address criticism from some Republican senators that the administration's initial emphasis on public-private partnerships would do little to help rural, GOP-leaning states.

The remaining federal dollars include: $20 billion for expanded loan programs and private bonds, $20 billion for "transformative projects" that seen as visionary and $10 billion for a capital financing fund and office-building by the federal government.

"This plan recognizes what everyone in America knows firsthand: America's infrastructure is in disrepair, and it's long past time we start building again," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Oregon raises protection for marbled murrelet

PORTLAND — Oregon environmental officials, Feb. 9, increased protections for the marbled murrelet, a rare diving seabird known as the "enigma of the Pacific" because it lives and hunts in the ocean but nests far inland in the high canopy of mossy, old-growth forests.

The 4-2 vote by the Oregon Commission on Fish and Wildlife to boost the relative of the puffin from threatened to endangered status under state law was the latest development in a long-running debate about how to manage a secretive species that breeds in dense Pacific rainforests that are also prime logging grounds.

State environmental officials must now draft guidelines for ways to maintain bird population numbers, including possibly limiting logging in nesting areas owned, managed or leased by the state.

Logging interests reacted with dismay, calling the move premature and a further blow to their industry. Timber harvests, once a powerful economic engine in the rural Pacific Northwest, have declined dramatically since the 1990s because of protections for the marbled murrelet and the spotted owl.

The murrelet lives along the Pacific Coast from Alaska's Aleutian Islands to central California and was listed as threatened under federal law in Oregon, Washington and California in 1992. It is considered endangered by Washington state and California and is protected in Canada.

It was listed as threatened in Oregon in 1995. It is not protected in Alaska.

In 2015, there were believed to be about 11,000 marbled murrelets in Oregon, but survey numbers are uncertain because the birds have only been counted at sea and are extremely elusive in the forest, said Christina Donehower, strategy species coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Their short wings, perfect for diving, mean they must fly up to 40 mph (64 kph) to stay airborne, she said.

State and federal protections for the marbled murrelet have meant less logging in the Northwest, but environmentalists say timber harvests on state lands have nonetheless damaged prime nesting habitat in Oregon. The unusual brown-and-white flecked seabird forages in the ocean but flies up to 55 miles  inland to breed, laying a single egg in a mossy depression high in the forest canopy.

The species uses trees that are more than 80 years old as nest sites and has a 36 percent nest success rate in Oregon, Donehower said.

Nearly 80,000 acres of this prime nesting habitat was lost in Oregon between 1993 and 2012 — about 9 percent, said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Twenty-one percent of that lost forest was on state or private land.

One demographic model showed there is an 80 percent likelihood the marbled murrelet will be extinct in Oregon by the year 2100, Donehower said in a presentation to the commission before the vote.

A coalition of environmental groups petitioned the commission two years ago to revisit the bird's protected status after growing concerned about population numbers.

“While federal laws have stabilized habitat loss on federal lands, the state of Oregon has continued to allow logging of older forests at an alarming rate and failed to adequately address new threats to the species,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland. “Changing the murrelet’s status to endangered will help ensure that Oregon takes the steps necessary to do its part to save this species.”

Jim Geisinger, executive vice president of Associated Oregon Loggers, called the debate premature and said not enough is known about the species to determine whether it's truly in jeopardy.

A major study of the marbled murrelet is currently underway at Oregon State University that could tell biologists more, he said.

"Most of the focus has been on the forest habitat where it nests. As more research is done, we believe the bigger issue is in the ocean where it feeds," Geisinger said.

Rising water temperatures, low oxygen and ocean dead zones could be harming the species as much as deforestation, Geisinger said.

"These birds spend 80 percent of their time in the ocean," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

House fire in Englewood area of Coos Bay kills two

COOS BAY — Two people were killed in a house fire early this morning in Englewood, according to Coos Bay Fire Chief Mark Anderson.

Just after 1:30 a.m., the Coos Bay Fire Department was dispatched to the report of a possible fire near South 19th Street and Idaho Avenue in the Englewood neighborhood.

Upon arrival, firefighters discovered a house fire at 1840 South 19th Street. Fire was coming from a window on the south side of the residence and the fire was beginning to spread to other areas of the house. During the suppression activities, the fire department was informed by neighbors that the residents of the home were unaccounted for and may be in the house. Firefighters confirmed that the couple had died in the blaze. While the fire was contained primarily to one room of the house, the whole building was exposed to thick, black smoke. The home did not have any smoke alarms.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Because this was a fatal fire, fire department protocol requires the notification of the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office. A Deputy Fire Marshal and the Regional Fire Investigation Team are assisting the Coos Bay Fire Department with the investigation. The Coos County Medical Examiner has not yet released the names of the victims. The Coos Bay Fire Department was assisted on scene by the Coos Bay Police Department.

The fire department would like to remind everyone that working smoke alarms are critical in alerting occupants of a fire.

If you would like any additional information about the fire or Coos Bay Fire Department, contact Fire Chief Mark Anderson at 541-269-1191.