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Govt-and-politics
Bay Area municipalities consider lodging tax increase

COOS COUNTY — The Coos Bay-North Bend Visitor Conventions Bureau is working to raise the lodging taxes for the Bay Area from 7 percent to 9.5.

According to VCB Director Janice Langlinais, the Bay Area has one of lowest hotel and motel lodging taxes on the Oregon Coast. Asking the Bay Area municipalities to raise the lodging taxes is an effort of the VCB to put Coos Bay and North Bend on track with its competitors along the coast and put more funding into tourism.

“I have done a competitive analysis. One of the things we wanted to prove or show is how far below our competitors along the coast we currently are,” Langlinais said.

Currently the VCB receives $440,000 annual in funding from the Coos Bay and North Bend lodging tax. According to Langlinais, competitors along the coast spend significantly more. Her competitive analysis showing Lincoln City spending $2.2 million and Newport spending $630,000 on tourism. Both of those examples have a 9.5 percent lodging tax.

Seventy percent of revenue gained by the potential tax increase would go toward funding the VCB and tourism promotion. If North Bend and Coos Bay were to pass the 2.5 percent tax increase it would increase the budget of the VCB by approximately $208,000 per year. If the Coquille Tribe also approved the tax, it would then raise the VCB’s budget by close to $300,000, which is close to double its current budget.

The VCB has the support of almost all the local hotels and motels, and in turn the support of Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association is supportive of it largely because the lodging industry here is supportive of it,” Lanlinais said.

It is important to note that lodging taxes are not a tax on the citizens of the area, but a tax placed on the price of renting a hotel or motel room.

North Bend has tabled the decision on raising its lodging tax until its next council meeting. Coos Bay is also scheduled to vote on the increase at its next council meeting. Preliminary talks with the Coquille Tribe suggest that it would be potentially interested in joining in on the 2.5 percent increase as long as Coos Bay and North Bend both agree to it.


AP
3 dead after commercial crabbing vessel capsizes off Oregon

NEWPORT (AP) — A commercial crabbing boat capsized in rough waters off the Oregon coast, killing the three men aboard and sending a shock wave through a seafaring community already struggling from a monthlong delay to the annual crabbing season.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the vessel, the Mary B. II, overturned about 10 p.m. Tuesday as it crossed Yaquina Bay bar in Newport. The bar is one of the most notorious off the Oregon coast, and authorities said crews faced 12- to 14-foot waves as they tried to rescue the fishermen.

The men had called for an escort across the bar and a responding Coast Guard boat was nearby when the crabbing boat capsized "without warning," the Coast Guard said Wednesday evening in a news release. The Coast Guard is investigating the incident.

James Lacey, 48, of South Toms River, New Jersey, was pulled from the ocean by helicopter and flown to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The body of Joshua Porter, 50, of Toledo washed up on a beach early Wednesday.

The body of the boat's skipper, Stephen Biernacki, 50, of Barnegat Township, New Jersey, was found on the hull of the boat after it, too, washed up on a jetty.

The tragedy was nothing new for Newport. The town hosts a granite memorial at Yaquina Bay etched with more than 100 names of local fishermen lost at sea over the past century and shared tragedies are woven into the fabric of the community.

"It happens frequently enough that we actually have funds that help families during this time. We fundraise all year long, and we try to help them as much as we can," said Taunette Dixon, president of the nonprofit Newport Fishermen's Wives, which supports families who have lost a breadwinner to the waves.

But those in the industry said the loss hit particularly hard this year, when crabbers were rushing to sea to try to catch up after the annual Oregon Dungeness crab season was delayed more than a month. The season usually begins Dec. 1, but this year it only began last week because the crab were too small and didn't have enough meat to harvest.

Then, a series of bad storms in the first week of the season prevented many crabbers from recovering their pots on Jan. 4, the first day they could do so, said Tim Novotny, spokesman for Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.

"When they did get out, some of them had to stay out a little longer because of the weather. The difficulty is once you're out at sea, they can handle a lot of conditions. But the trouble is trying to get back across those bars," Novotny said.

A bar is an area near the coast where a river — in this case the Yaquina River — meets the sea. The force of the river water colliding with the ocean can create hazardous currents and swells, particularly during a storm. The Yaquina Bay bar is considered one of the more dangerous ones along the Oregon coast. On Wednesday, reports showed waves 16 feet tall there.

It's so treacherous that the dangers of crossing it with a fully loaded crab boat were the premise of a spin-off of the "The Deadliest Catch," a reality TV show about commercial fishermen that aired on the Discovery channel.

"The fishermen and their families know all too well, unfortunately, that that danger is real. They accept the challenge because they love what they do," Novotny said. "It's part of who they are and what they do."

The appeal also lies in the money that the succulent Dungeness crab can bring.

Live Oregon Dungeness crab are currently selling for anywhere between $5.99 a pound and $11.99 a pound, depending on location, and they are a staple of the holidays for many on the West Coast. The crab are also fished in California and Washington.

Crabbing permits are capped at 424 vessels spread over six major ports running the length of the Oregon coast, from Astoria in the north to Brookings near the California border. Three-quarters of the harvest is brought in in the first eight weeks of the season, which usually runs from December to August.

The 10-year average haul for Dungeness crab in Oregon is 16 million pounds, but last year crabbers brought in 23 million pounds. That haul was worth more than $74 million at the docks and pumped $150 million into the state and local economy, Novotny said.


Local
Bar conditions: restricted
U.S. Coast Guard: cause of Tuesday's capsizing due to heavy surf conditions

SOUTH COAST — Most bars on the southern Oregon coast are closed Thursday to recreational vessels.

The Coos Bay bar was closed, but has been updated to "restricted" this morning. It is seeing 10-foot steep swells in the main channel right now, with the occasional 14-foot steep swells. Winds are coming from the southwest at 15 to 20 knots with visibility at four nautical miles, as posted on the NOAA website.

According to LTJG Wade Myers from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in North Bend, the public is urged to check www.wrh.noaa.gov/pqr/marine/BarObs.php for bar conditions.

“As far as safety, captains should understand the dangers of crossing the bar with heavy surf conditions,” Myers wrote to The World.

On Tuesday, Jan. 8 near Newport in Yaquina Bay, three commercial fishermen lost their lives when the Mary B II capsized. Myers said that all three were recovered unresponsive.

“The accident occurred due to surf conditions at the bar with breaking waves at 20 feet,” he said.

The Newport Fishermen’s Wives are collecting donations to help the families of the three fishermen who died. For more information on how to donate, visit www.oregonlive.com//news/2019/01/donations-sought-for-families-of-3-fishermen-killed-near-newport.html.


Lee-wire
AP
Trump stalks out of shutdown session with Dems

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump walked out of his negotiating meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday — "I said bye-bye," he tweeted — as efforts to end the 19-day partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a negotiating session that was over almost as soon as it began, Democrats went to the White House asking Trump to reopen the government. Trump renewed his call for money for his signature campaign promise and was rebuffed. Republicans and Democrats had differing accounts of the brief exchange, but the result was clear: The partial shutdown continued with no end in sight.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers will miss paychecks on Friday; a little more than half of them are still working without pay. Other key federal services are suspended, including some food inspections. And as some lawmakers expressed discomfort with the growing toll of the standoff, it was clear Wednesday that the wall was at the center.

Trump revived his threat to attempt to override Congress by declaring a national emergency to unleash Defense Department funding for the wall. He's due to visit the border today to highlight what he declared in an Oval Office speech Tuesday night as a "crisis." Democrats say Trump is manufacturing the emergency to justify a political ploy.

That debate set the tone for Wednesday's sit-down at the White House.

Republicans said Trump posed a direct question to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: If he opened the government, would she fund the wall? She said no. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump slammed his hand on the table, said "then we have nothing to discuss" and walked out.

Republicans said Trump, who passed out candy at the start of the meeting, did not raise his voice and there was no table pounding. Pelosi said Trump "stomped" out of the room and was "petulant." Republicans said he was merely firm.

"The president made clear today that he is going to stand firm to achieve his priorities to build a wall — a steel barrier — at the southern border," Vice President Mike Pence told reporters afterward.

Trump had just returned from Capitol Hill, where he urged jittery congressional Republicans to hold firm with him. He suggested a deal for his border wall might be getting closer, but he also said the shutdown would last "whatever it takes."

He discussed the possibility of a sweeping immigration compromise with Democrats to protect some immigrants from deportation but provided no clear strategy or timeline for resolving the standoff, according to senators in the private session. He left the Republican lunch boasting of "a very, very unified party," but GOP senators are publicly uneasy as the standoff ripples across the lives of Americans and interrupts the economy.

Trump insisted at the White House: "I didn't want this fight." But it was his sudden rejection of a bipartisan spending bill late last month that blindsided leaders in Congress now seeking a resolution to the shutdown.

The effects are growing. The Food and Drug Administration says it isn't doing routine food inspections because of the partial federal shutdown, but checks of the riskiest foods are expected to resume next week.

The agency said it's working to bring back about 150 employees to inspect more potentially hazardous foods such as cheese, infant formula and produce. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency can't make the case that "a routine inspection of a Nabisco cracker facility" is necessary during the shutdown, however. He said inspections would have ramped up this week for the first time since the holidays, so the lapse in inspections of high-risk foods will not be significant if they resume soon.

Republicans are mindful of the growing toll on ordinary Americans, including disruptions in payments to farmers and trouble for homebuyers who are seeking government-backed mortgage loans.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was among several senators who questioned Trump at the Capitol.

"I addressed the things that are very local to us — it's not just those who don't receive a federal paycheck perhaps on Friday, but there are other consequences," she said, mentioning the inability to certify weight scales for selling fish. The president's response? "He urged unity."

The Democratic-controlled House on Wednesday approved a bill 240-188 to fund the Treasury Department, the IRS and other agencies for the next year as part of a Democratic strategy to reopen the government on a piecemeal basis. Eight Republicans joined 232 Democrats to support the bill.

The bill is unlikely to move forward in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dismissed it as political theater.

Democrats said before the White House meeting that they would ask Trump to accept an earlier bipartisan bill to reopen the government with money for border security but not the wall. Pelosi warned that the effects of hundreds of thousands of lost paychecks would begin to ripple across the economy.

Ahead of his visit to Capitol Hill, Trump renewed his notice that he might declare a national emergency and try to authorize the wall on his own if Congress won't approve the money he's asking.


Ed Glazar, The World 

Southwestern Oregon Community College's Aaron Sanchez drives to the basket Wednesday against Lane's Daniel Hill at SWOCC.


Govt-and-politics
Coos County Area Transit in talks to undergo possible structure change

COOS COUNTY — Coos County Board of Commissioners OK’d county staff last week to begin its process in creating a new non-taxing transportation district for Coos County Area Transit.

The new formation, if passed, would transfer authority over CCAT’s operations from Coos County Commissioners to a newly elected board of directors.

County Counsel Nathanial Johnson told commissioners last week the next steps in initialing the new structure would be to reach out to the seven municipalities within the county on whether or not they would be interested in joining the new district.

Ed Glazar, The World 

Driver in training David Hanna pulls a Coos County Area Transit bus Wednesday into the company's yard in Coos Bay. New funding aimed to improve and expand public transportation throughout the state has allowed CCAT to improve and expand services in the near future.

Each city that chooses to enter will have until Jan. 22 to pass and submit a copy of its resolution declaring its participation. Once received, the county will hold two public hearings on the matter and then follow up with a formal order adopting its formation.

Currently, CCAT operates as a county service district with the county commissioners governing its affairs. No new taxes will be collected from residents in regards to the new formation and its funding sources will remain the same.

At the board meeting, Johnson spoke of a few of the upsides to forming the new district which would include increasing its efficiency and its directors being directly plugged in on its happenings. On the other end, he said with it being a new board there might possibly be a bit of a learning curve for its directors in operating its own district.

The board of directors will be elected on the next available election date either in May or November. The current CCAT county service district will remain operational until the county deems the new board ready to take full control.