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Coos Bay Urban Renewal Agency releases annual report

COOS BAY — Coos Bay City Council accepted the Urban Renewal Agency’s report for the 2017 fiscal year at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The Coos Bay Urban Renewal Agency consists of two urban renewal districts, the Downtown District, and the Empire District.

Urban renewal utilizes property taxes to fix identified problems within the area that the taxes are collected. It often focuses on improving an area’s transportation and utility infrastructure. Urban Renewal also tries to attract and retain small businesses and develop public spaces like parks, plazas, and trail.

During its 2016-2017 fiscal year, the Downtown District was able to start and complete a number of projects, including the Steve Prefontaine mural, and the creating new funding for the Coos Bay Downtown Association.

The Empire District finished the South Empire Boulevard project this fiscal year, which began back in 2010. Façade grant funds were also used to update the Dolphin Playhouse.

“There’s a number of different projects some get in the planning stages within a year, other can go from planning to completion, and some are ongoing and take multiple years,” Coos Bay city manager Rodger Craddock said.

“At the time and Urban Renewal District is formed they look at the assessed value of the properties within the district. Based on the assessed value by the county assessor, that area is determined to be the base value of the property,” Craddock said.

When the downtown Urban Renewal District was formed in 1988, the value was assessed at $50 million currently the property is worth $110 million. The Empire District’s initial basement in 1995 was $23 million, and currently the assessed value is $74 million.

Two gateway projects were started during the 2016-2017 fiscal year and will be finishing up this month. The project established two areas at the north and South ends of Coos Bay where 8 foot by 10 foot signs with the city’s seal will be placed. The city will receive the signs sometime next week, and expects to have them placed by the end of the month.

The downtown district’s total revenue for the 2016-2017 fiscal year was $886,067 and its total expenditures were 1.4 million. The Urban Renewal Agency estimates the next fiscal year to bring in $819,181 in tax increment revenue.

Last fiscal year the Empire District saw a total revenue of $675,577 with expenditures totaling $649,398. Tax increment revenue for the Empire district in the current fiscal year is estimated to be $663,070.

Plans for this year’s Urban Renewal projects will be discussed at the city council's upcoming work session at 7 p.m. on March 13.

“Next week at the work session we’re going to be talking about what’s next for Urban renewal. There is a street scape plan for downtown that is 10 phases. The council chose the two gateway projects that we’re doing right now at the entrances, but there are others on the list that can be done,” Craddock said.

Officers partner with Coos Health and Wellness for crisis training

COOS BAY — This week, officers from local enforcement agencies have been attending crisis intervention training classes at the Coos Health and Wellness building to better prepare them for situations in the field where an individual might be in a personal crisis.

This is the second year Coos Health and Wellness is offering its crisis intervention training to local law enforcement. The week-long training was the result of Coos Health and Wellness Counselor Ross Acker riding along with Capt. Kelley Andrews of the Coos County Sheriff’s Office.

Acker assisted Andrews in the field by talking down individuals in crisis. Andrews saw the value in those skills, and within a couple of years the CIT training was being offered to local police agencies.

This year around 30 officers from the Oregon State Police, Coos Bay Police, North Bend Police, Parole and Probation, and the Coos County Sheriff’s Office attended the CIT training.

Throughout the week officers receive training from local organizations like the Nancy Deveroux Center, Oregon Coast Community Action, Kairos, Bay Area First Step, and of course Coos Health and Wellness.

Aside from this now annual training, these local mental health organizations and law enforcement don’t really have much of a chance to talk about mental health.

“It’s been a good experience. No. 1, you learn more about the different types of mental illnesses that are out there, and it gives us a better idea of how to properly deal with those things and address them out in the field,” Deputy Sean Sanborn with the Coos County Sheriff’s office said.

Mental health has increasingly become an issue that law enforcement has taken a more active role because so many state run mental facilities have closed due to lack of available funding.

Off and on during the training, presentations were given by people who had overcome issues with mental health, and faced struggles like homelessness because their mental illness.

According to Coos Bay Police Department Officer Hugo Hatzel, hearing the perspectives of people who have come into contact with law enforcement because of their mental health was a valuable experience.

As police officers we’re learning ow to deal with how to deal with people in the population that have different mental health illnesses. It’s becoming more of a thing that we’re getting these mental health calls. So it is important to know how to potentially address issues,” Hatzel said.

Many of the people who shared their stories of interactions with police during a lapse in their mental state offered officers similar advice. Folks who had experienced homelessness as a result of their mental health told police it’s important to try and humanize people in that situation.

Simple tips like saying the person’s name in a calming voice and making the individual feel heard were given. Multiple people who had beaten addiction and depression said that when they were living on the streets they felt like feral cats saying that it might be helpful for law enforcement to make them feel like a person.

“A lot of the stuff is just a matter of being empathetic and knowing how to talk with people. I’m coming out learning a few things and that is the goal whenever we go to training. The first thing they said when we entered this class was that they were not looking for officers to throw out all their safety skills, but maybe we can add a couple more tools when you’re out there in the field with these folks,” Hatzel said.

The week’s training culminates on Friday when officers will be placed into scenario based training, where officers will use the skills they’ve learned throughout the week to talk down a staged scenario.

Trump administration escalates California immigration feud

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions brought the Trump administration's feud with California to the doorstep of the state Capitol on Wednesday, suing over its so-called sanctuary state law and dramatically escalating a war with the liberal powerhouse in a sharp exchange of words with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Sessions was defiant as he spoke to local law enforcement officials about the lawsuit, citing a series of California laws that he says are unconstitutional and violate common sense.

"I can't sit by idly while the lawful authority of federal officers are being blocked by legislative acts and politicians," he said, straying from his prepared remarks.

Brown didn't hold back in his response, calling Sessions a liar and saying it was unprecedented for the attorney general to "act more like Fox News than a law enforcement officer." He accused Sessions of "going to war" with California to appease President Donald Trump.

"What Jeff Sessions said is simply not true and I call upon him to apologize to the people of California for bringing the mendacity of Washington to California," the governor told reporters.

The lawsuit is the latest salvo in an escalating feud between the Trump administration and California, which has resisted the president on issues from marijuana policy to climate change and defiantly refuses to help federal agents detain and deport immigrants. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said it will increase its presence in California, and Sessions wants to cut off funding to jurisdictions that won't cooperate.

The governor and state Attorney General Javier Becerra, who has sued the Trump administration numerous times, held a news conference just blocks from where Sessions spoke at a hotel, but they never interacted.

Sessions also used his speech to sharply criticize Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for warning the public about an unannounced raid by federal deportation officers recently in California. Sessions said it allowed hundreds of "wanted criminals" to avoid arrest.

"How dare you?" Sessions said of Schaaf at a California Peace Officers Association meeting in Sacramento. "How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement just to promote your radical open borders agenda?"

Schaaf later echoed the refrain to slam Sessions for tearing apart families and distorting the reality of declining violent crime in a "sanctuary city" like Oakland.

"How dare you vilify members of our community by trying to frighten the American public into believing that all undocumented residents are dangerous criminals?" she told reporters.

Sessions received a polite if not warm reception from law enforcement officials, even when he told them his goal was to make their jobs safer. They applauded politely as he was introduced and after his speech, and more than a dozen gave a standing ovation at the end in a room of about 200 officials.

But many sat expressionless, some listening with arms crossed or chins on their folded hands, and his 25-minute speech was never interrupted by applause or protest.

Outside, dozens of demonstrators chanted "stand up, fight back" and "no justice, no peace" and some blocked traffic on a major thoroughfare. There was a heavy police presence but no arrests.

"This is a reminder that California does not see his federal policies," said Steven Lynn, 33, a Sacramento graduate student. "We are a state of immigrants."

Brown speculated that Sessions' dig on California may be an attempt to ease an openly rocky relationship with the president, saying, "Maybe he's trying to keep his job because the president is not too happy with him."

Trump is set to visit California next week for the first time since his election to see models of his proposed wall along the Mexican border.

California passed sanctuary laws in response to Trump's promises to sharply ramp up the deportation of people in the U.S. illegally. Sessions said several of them prevent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from making deportation arrests.

State officials say the policies increase public safety by promoting trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement, while allowing police resources to be used to fight other crimes.

One law prohibits employers from letting immigration agents enter work sites or view employee files without a subpoena or warrant, an effort to prevent workplace raids. Another stops local governments from contracting with for-profit companies and ICE to hold immigrants. Justice Department officials said that violates the Constitution's supremacy clause, which renders state laws invalid if they conflict with federal ones.

The U.S. Supreme Court reinforced the federal government's primacy in enforcing immigration law when it blocked much of Arizona's tough 2010 immigration law on similar grounds. The high court found several key provisions undermined federal immigration law, though it upheld a provision requiring officers, while enforcing other laws, to question the immigration status of people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Mexico, Canada and others may be exempted from US tariffs

WASHINGTON — The White House said Wednesday that Mexico, Canada and other countries may be spared from President Donald Trump's planned steel and aluminum tariffs under national security "carve-outs," a move that could soften the blow amid threats of retaliation by trading partners and dire economic warnings from lawmakers and business groups.

Peter Navarro, Trump's trade and manufacturing adviser, said in an interview on Fox Business that the tariffs would go into effect within about 15 to 30 days and the proclamation the president intends to sign would include a clause that would not immediately impose tariffs on Canada and Mexico.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the exemptions would be made on a "case by case" and "country by country" basis, a reversal from the policy articulated by the White House just days ago that there would be no exemptions from Trump's plan.

The update came as congressional Republicans and business groups braced for the impact of expected tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, appearing resigned to additional protectionist trade actions as Trump signaled upcoming economic battles with China. Trump was expected to announce the tariffs by the end of the week.

The looming departure of White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive who has opposed the promised tariffs, set off anxiety among business leaders and investors worried about a potential trade war.

"We urge you to reconsider the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences to the U.S. economy and its workers," 107 House Republicans wrote in a letter to Trump.

At the White House, officials were working to include language in the tariffs that would give Trump the flexibility to approve exemptions for certain countries.

"He's already indicated a degree of flexibility, I think a very sensible, very balanced degree of flexibility," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC. "We're not trying to blow up the world."

Trump signaled other trade actions could be in the works. In a tweet, he said the "U.S. is acting swiftly on Intellectual Property theft." A White House official said Trump was referencing an ongoing investigation of China in which the U.S. trade representative is studying whether Chinese intellectual property rules are "unreasonable or discriminatory" to American business.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said an announcement on the findings of the report — and possible retaliatory actions — was expected within the next three weeks.

Business leaders, meanwhile, continued to sound the alarm about the potential economic fallout from tariffs, with the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce raising the specter of a global trade war. That scenario, Tom Donohue said, would endanger the economic momentum from the GOP tax cuts and Trump's rollback of regulations.

"We urge the administration to take this risk seriously," Donohue said.

The president has said the tariffs are needed to reinforce lagging American steel and aluminum industries and protect national security. He has tried to use the tariffs as leverage in ongoing talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, suggesting Canada and Mexico might be exempted from tariffs if they offer more favorable terms under NAFTA.

Lawmakers opposed to the tariffs, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have suggested more narrowly focused approaches to target Chinese imports. But members of Congress have few tools at their disposal to counter the president, who has vowed to fulfill his campaign pledge.

"I don't think the president is going to be easily deterred," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has suggested hearings on the tariffs.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Trump had listened to him and others who disagree with the direction of the trade policies. "I thank him for that and he's been a good listener. The difficulty is so far I haven't persuaded him," Alexander said.

Republicans in Congress have lobbied administration officials to reconsider the plan and focus the trade actions on China, warning that allies such as Canada and members of the European Union would retaliate.

The EU said it was prepared to respond to any tariffs with counter-measures against U.S. products such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Levi's jeans and bourbon. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said the EU was circulating among member states a list of U.S. goods to target with tariffs so it could respond quickly.