8/27/2023 News Roundup


<<What started out as a request to remove or reshelve 11 books for children and young adults, which some residents deem pornographic and obscene, has now morphed into the potential dissolution of the county’s only library. If this happens, current librarians said everything that’s not nailed down goes to the State Library, from books to computers to furniture. The building would return to the city of Dayton.

Librarians say this would be the first library in the country to dissolve following a book challenge, although many other libraries and school districts across the country and the Northwest have faced similar challenges.>>

<<About a year ago, Murdock said his wife checked out about 15 books that he said were inundated with sexual content and marketed to children. Murdock said he had to do something.

He stood in front of the library Board of Trustees, holding the books, and read excerpts to the audience. He asked the board to use “discretion in their purchase and shelving of books.”

“Libraries have become almost sacred institutions, which allows somebody to get things into them and use them as a vehicle for displaying this kind of stuff and remaining beyond reproach in the minds of a lot of people,” Murdock said in an interview. “It would take a lot for most people to criticize a library. But they’ve reached that point for me.”

At the library, any requests to remove books have to go through a formal process. People must submit a “request for reconsideration of materials.” Then, the library director makes a decision. If someone disagrees with that decision, they can appeal to the library board of trustees.

Almost exactly a year ago, people requested 11 books be removed or reshelved from the library. The books featured themes of gender, sexuality, consent and race, said Vandenbark.

At the time, Vandenbark said he turned down most of the requests.

“The simple reason that they were not, is that that would be a violation of the First Amendment rights of patrons who would want to see those titles and read those titles,” he said.

He said “Yes! No!: A first book about consent” was moved from the “toddler board books shelf” to the “parent and toddler read together books.”

Court cases dating back 100 years have upheld libraries’ duties to support freedom of expression and the right to read freely. Murdock argued this is not a First Amendment discussion, which he said is a negative, not a positive right.

Last month, Vandenbark quit his position at the library, after what he called a difficult year. It’s something that librarians in Bonners Ferry, and various school districts in the Northwest, and all across the country have faced, he said.

“After six or so months it was tiring and draining. I knew that somebody else needed to take a turn to step up. When you’re battling fear you have to take turns,” he said. “Being a librarian shouldn’t be controversial. Books shouldn’t be controversial.”

However, Murdock said he felt like he wasn’t listened to. By refusing to remove the books, Murdock said the discussion felt like part of a “broader assault on society that’s infiltrating children with that type of material.” Material like the LGBTQ+ book “What’s the T?” by Juno Dawson.

“It felt like I was paying for something that I found completely wrong,” he said.

A library, he said, should just be books — and it should reflect the community’s values, especially if it is taxpayer-funded.

That’s a fundamental disagreement in the community. Patton said she also doesn’t agree politically with every book on the library’s shelves but said that is the difference between a personal and public library.

“My library at home reflects my values,” she said. “All the books that I have on my bookshelf, reflect my values and my ideals: what works for my family and my faith, but a public library, it’s so important that the collection represents the community.”

Patton teaches at the local high school and said she knows kids need books that reflect their lives and deal with their anxieties and concerns.

“A good library has something in it to offend everyone,” Vandenbark said. “We had Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf.’ We had ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank. We had books by and about Donald Trump; books by and about Bernie Sanders.”

Not all agreed. After the book ban failed, people took an even closer look at books on the library’s shelves. On them, they said they noted more than 100 books in the young adult section featuring sexual content.

They requested to move the entire young adult section upstairs, merging it with the adult section. (There are currently around 800 books in the YA section, interim library director Ellen Brigham said.)

Brigham, who said working in a library was her “dream job,” called these concerns a “huge misunderstanding” and a “misuse of the terms grooming and pornography.”>.

<<In an attempt to appease people, Brigham recently incorporated the young adult non-fiction section into the adult non-fiction section. This week, she also announced parents can put restrictions on their minor children’s library accounts.

“If you’re like, ‘my kid can only check out books that are on the school reading list. No more this, that, the other thing. Only those.’ Then, we’ll make a note. If they try to check out anything else, we’ll be like, ‘You need to ask your parent,’” Brigham said at the Aug. 21 library board meeting.

But, those upset with the library have other ideas. Murdock said he’s not sure moving books is the answer. Instead, he proposed a new type of library that would rise from the ashes of the old one.

It would be donor-funded. People could vote with their wallets — don’t like books there? Don’t donate, he said.

“You can approach them and say, ‘Look, we don’t like the direction you’re going. And if you continue, then count us out of it.’ You wouldn’t have any full time employees, just volunteer-grown with a much more modest selection of books,” he said.

Former librarian and Dayton resident Amy Rosenberg said that just won’t work. If the vote goes through, all of the library’s materials, “millions of dollars’ worth of stuff,” would be given to the State Library. The building would go back to the City of Dayton, which she said couldn’t maintain it all those years ago.>>

<<The library in Dayton also serves as a cooling shelter, which could become more important for Northwest residents as climate change continues to cause hotter, longer summers.>>

<<The American Library Association, founded in 1876, has noted a drastic uptick in requests to censor books in public and school libraries since 2020, said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the association’s director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

“This organized movement to remove books from libraries is active in every state, every community,” she said.

In 2022, the association documented 1,269 requests to censor library books and resources, almost double the number of requests in 2021.

According to the association, it’s the highest number of “attempted book bans” since the association began tracking book challenges more than 20 years ago.

However, the first person to organize Dayton’s current book removal efforts, Jessica Ruffcorn, told Northwest News Network this issue is specific to Dayton and not affiliated with any other larger national efforts.>>

<<In neighboring Idaho, a 2022 petition to dissolve the Meridian Library District did not proceed to the ballot after the Ada County Board of Commissioners voted it down.>>

<<In Dayton, local café owners have said they’re planning on closing down if the library is dissolved in November. Other business owners said they’re worried about tourism, having never experienced what they called “this level of vitriol” in any town where they have lived.>>

<<Lifelong resident Elise Severe, 36, said the animosity keeps growing.

That’s why she founded Neighbors United for Progress, a “multi-partisan” political action committee that supports candidates and issues in the county. She said they plan to door knock and phone bank in support of the library. So, too, do others who would like to see the institution dissolved.

But, only active voters who live in unincorporated areas of Columbia County will decide Nov. 7 on the ballot measure. According to the Columbia County Auditor’s Office, right now, that’s 1,076 people. In the city of Dayton, there are 1,707 active voters.

“It’s going to take a lot of face-to-face conversations with people that you know,” Severe said.>>


<<An election will be held in Grants Pass on Sept. 12 for residents to decide whether to recall their mayor, Sara Bristol.

The recall petition said Bristol does not represent her constituents’ conservative values and has failed to protect the rights of citizens.

Recall campaigners disagree with her actions, including her past vote to create an urban campground in the city.>>

<<“I think that this is kind of an outgrowth of some far-right people who are wanting to make sure that those local leaders are representative of them and their ideals. And then they kind of took advantage of community concern about the situation here in our parks with homeless people in Grants Pass,” she said.

In 2020, a court in Medford ruled that Grants Pass’s ordinances regulating homelessness were unconstitutional. That’s led to ongoing challenges for the city to create policies regulating outdoor camping.

Bristol said the number of tents in city parks has grown significantly in recent years. She said her goal is to create a low barrier shelter for people who are living outside.>>

<<Bristol was elected in 2020. The mayor is an unpaid, volunteer position. She said she will not resign from her position, so the issue is now up to the city’s voters.>>

<<The recall effort began in April and gathered the required number of signatures to get the issue on the ballot. The mayoral recall will be the only matter on the ballot for this election. The question will be posed to all active registered voters in Grants Pass. The ballots were sent out on Wednesday. There will not be a voters pamphlet for this election. Only ballot boxes within the city of Grants Pass will be open.

Unofficial results will be posted at 8 p.m. on election night and updated accordingly.

The city will pay for the election, which is estimated to cost between $30,000 and $32,000.

But Karen Frerk, the city’s recorder, said the budget that has been set aside for elections is only $20,000.>>


<<An Oregon judge ruled in favor of conservative journalist Andy Ngo’s claims that he was brutally assaulted by members of Rose City Antifa during a June 2019 protest in downtown Portland.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Chanpone Sinlapasai directed three defendants to individually compensate Ngo with $100,000, culminating in a total of $300,000 in damages, announced Monday.

The Aug. 8 ruling is some “vindication” for Ngo, as a Portland jury found two other defendants listed in the same civil suit not liable for the assault.>>

<<In the virtual court session Monday, Judge Sinlapasai found Corbyn (Katherine) Belyea, Madison “Denny” Lee Allen, and Joseph Evans (currently legally named Sammich Overkill Schott-Deputy) responsible for assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The three defendants reportedly did not show up to the hearing despite several summonses, giving Ngo the victory by default.

However, Ngo — the editor for Canadian news outlet The Post Millennial — predicted that collecting the funds “will pose serious challenges.”

“While it will continue to be a steep uphill battle to collect today’s awarded damages given the default defendants’ history of evasion, I remain determined to hold Antifa and its members accountable for their violent attacks,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Ngo said there are many more legal hurdles before he may see any money.

According to Ngo’s lawsuit, filed by the Center for American Liberty, Ngo’s “unfavorable” reporting on members of Rose City Antifa led to violent retaliation.

“Defendants have targeted Ngo, including by assaulting and threatening Ngo to the point of causing lasting and significant physical injuries; publicizing private and personal information about the whereabouts of Ngo and his family; and even attempting to break into his family’s home, among a multitude of other threats and acts of violence,” the lawsuit states.

On June 19, 2019, the suit alleges that Ngo was attacked on two separate occasions. In the first incident, defendant Katherine Belyea threw containers of unknown liquids, reportedly referred to as “milkshakes,” that contained a concrete-drying substance.

In the second incident, defendant Joseph Christian Evans was among a group of Antifa members who “threw projectiles, including milkshakes, eggs, and containers; punched; and kicked him.”

“Members also hit him in the head with plywood hard-edged sign placards, and carbon-hardened tactical gloves,” the lawsuit alleges.>>

<<During the hearing, Cliff Davidson, the defense attorney representing defendant Schott-Deputy, submitted a motion to invalidate the default order, seeking a trial by jury for Schott-Deputy due to his client’s inability to comply with the court appearance.

The defendant was also charged for attacking another person on the same day of Ngo’s attack, according to public records. He was convicted of attempting to commit a Class B felony, and received a probation term of 36 months beginning May 10, 2022.

Following his continued reporting on Antifa, Ngo fled Portland earlier this year citing concerns for his personal safety. He now resides in London, the New York Post reported.>>


[KW NOTE:  First, interesting to see that the “concrete milkshake” story lives on, despite having been almost instantaneously debunked. Second, Ngo is really taking a risk residing in the UK, where libel laws are much more strict.]


<<The Oregon Health Authority, which runs the state’s psychiatric hospital, tells WW it believes it’s once again in compliance with the 2002 “Mink Order.” That order, made by a federal judge more than two decades ago, requires the hospital to admit people deemed too mentally ill to defend themselves in court within one week.

For years, the hospital complied. But an increase in the number of those “aid and assist” patients caused wait times to creep up to nearly a month by 2019. So advocates took the state back to court, resulting in a subsequent order by U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman last year requiring the hospital to solve the problem by releasing patients early.

The decision, which was crafted by an outside expert and supported by the state, has been highly controversial. Local officials say they don’t have the facilities or resources to treat or otherwise accommodate the discharged patients, some of whom end up right back in jail.

And for months, the order didn’t even appear to be having the desired effect. The waitlist stayed stubbornly long as the number of referrals rose.

No longer. “Since July 20, 2023, Oregon State Hospital has been able to admit people waiting in jail under aid-and-assist orders within 6.5 days,” OHA communications director Robb Cowie told WW on Friday. “This puts the hospital and Oregon Health Authority in compliance with the 2002 Mink Order.”

The milestone is a step toward ending this latest round of legal scrutiny of the hospital. Mosman’s order requiring the hospital to discharge patients early ends if an external expert determines the hospital has been in compliance for three months—and that eliminating the new release policy wouldn’t jeopardize continued compliance.

Regardless, this milestone is a hard-fought victory for Disability Rights Oregon, which brought the original lawsuit against the hospital two decades ago.>>

<<Still, there’s concern whether the progress is sustainable and not simply a seasonal swing. Jesse Merrithew, who represents another plaintiff, the Portland nonprofit Metropolitan Public Defenders, says the number of referrals to the hospital has declined in recent months.

And Cooper struck another note of concern. “Early compliance with a federal court order isn’t the same as a sustained, legislative fix.” Advocates had hoped the state would enshrine the court-ordered early release policy into law. But lawmakers are uninterested, and efforts to do so during the last legislative session went nowhere.

“I don’t support an arbitrary end to somebody’s treatment,” says state Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland). “I don’t know many legislators that do.”

He says he’d prefer to solve the underlying problem: Oregon’s lack of mental health treatment beds. Legislators tasked OHA with producing a report on the issue, he says. It’s expected to be released later this year.>>



The O has an op-ed from the Washington County DA:

<<Earlier this month, a federal judge reminded Oregon leaders what virtually anyone with access to a TV already knows ­– the state must provide attorneys for criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire their own. How is it that one of the most widely known constitutional rights in our nation was so easily forgotten in our state?

Over the last two years, thousands of Oregonians who were entitled to a court-appointed defense attorney were denied that right for days, weeks and even months. Many were held in jail for public safety concerns, but still the state failed to provide a lawyer. In a blistering ruling, a federal judge rightly noted that Oregon jails are not Russian gulags and that the state should be embarrassed.

Now, despite months of workgroups, taskforces and crisis plans that have failed to generate meaningful results, a public shaming appears to have had an impact. In Washington County, the number of unrepresented defendants in jail dramatically dropped in the days following the federal court ruling, from 37 to six. State officials miraculously accomplished by the end of the week what they were unable to do in the preceding two years – they “found” attorneys for almost every unrepresented defendant in jail. If that sounds suspicious, that’s because it most certainly is.

The reality is that defendants, victims and the public are suffering from the consequences of a flawed system undermined by acute mismanagement. Consider this: for months the “statewide” public defense crisis was concentrated in a handful of locations. As the defense system broke down in counties like Multnomah and Washington, it continued to work in Clackamas, Deschutes and more than a dozen other counties.

Additionally, while this crisis plagues many state circuit courts across Oregon, it is practically nonexistent in city municipal courts, like those in Eugene and Beaverton. Municipal courts process thousands of misdemeanor criminal cases and are subject to the same legal mandate requiring court-appointed attorneys. In 2022, municipal courts in Oregon’s four largest counties handled more misdemeanor cases collectively than state circuit courts in those same counties (11,889 cases compared to 10,348), according to data from the Oregon Judicial Department and municipal courts. Yet, the public defense systems in municipal courts have been able to do what the state public defense system has not—comply with the U.S. Constitution. How is this possible?

The public defense systems in municipal courts are managed by cities who are accountable to the communities they serve, whereas the system in state courts is managed by a state agency called the Office of Public Defense Services that is seemingly accountable to no one.

This has all occurred while criminal case filings have dramatically declined over the last two decades for both misdemeanor and felony cases alike. According to the most recent Oregon Judicial Department data, there are 25% fewer cases filed today compared to 2019 and a whopping 40% fewer cases today compared to 2001. Additionally, while the pandemic caused temporary court backlogs, a comparison of pre and post pandemic numbers shows that the number of active criminal cases is about 12% lower today compared to 2019. While issues such as digital evidence, body cameras and changing laws make modern cases more complicated, the total volume has markedly decreased.

This information is both sobering and instructive. As many have warned for years, Oregon’s public defense system is structurally flawed. Like a building foundation with critical defects, what once appeared sturdy has proven unsteady with time. In metropolitan areas like Washington County, the defense bar needs more resources and defense attorneys need increased pay. Statewide, the defense system needs better management and oversight. Yet simply budgeting more money to the current system will not solve the problem any more than putting a new roof on a building will fix a crumbling foundation. Until structural issues are addressed, including the failures of the state’s Office of Public Defense Services, this crisis will continue.

A well-managed public defense system that operates efficiently and provides high quality representation is within reach. To achieve this, we must pursue responsible reforms while rejecting those who are content to allow the system to collapse. An important step toward that goal is for the Oregon secretary of state to conduct an emergency performance audit of the Office of Public Defense Services. We owe this not only to the hundreds of dedicated public defenders throughout Oregon working in the trenches, but also to the defendants who deserve representation and the victims who deserve a day in court. State leaders must act without delay to end Oregon’s national embarrassment.>>



<<A Portland man is suing the companies that own the Moda Center and whom provide its security guards after he said a security guard targeted him with racist comments.

On Feb. 19, ticket broker Byron Brown said he was standing outside the Moda Center before The Eagles concert, selling tickets when the incident happened.

“I asked a guy did he need tickets, or was he selling tickets,” recalled Brown. “And the security guard barked at me, ‘hey! You can’t do that here, get across the street!’”

Brown said he tried to tell the security guard that he was allowed to be there and suggested the guard call his supervisor, which he did.

“He gets off the radio and says, ‘you don’t deserve to be here, get back to the cotton field!’ I say ‘What?’ And he said it again.”

A few minutes later, Brown said the supervisor showed up in person. Brown told her what happened but said the supervisor told him that the security guard denied it. Brown insisted she ask him again.

“By the third or fourth time, she says he admitted it,” recalled Brown.

“And she says since he did, I need to file a report.”

Brown took video of the report. He also recorded the supervisor confirming the security guard’s confession.

“They removed the guy, almost immediately,” said Brown. “Never seen him again.”

Brown said he never got an apology, just silence, from a place that feels different to him now.

“It used to feel almost like home,” said Brown. “It’s hurtful. It’s hurtful.”

Brown is now suing Vulcan LLC which owns the Moda Center and Landmark Event Staffing Services Inc. which provides security. He’s claiming discrimination and negligence and seeking $750,000 in damages. KGW reached out to both companies for comment but so far neither has responded.

“Have I ever experienced racism? The answer’s yes,” said Brown. “But it’s never been so outrageous, so disgusting, so vile, and right in your face.”

Brown hired Kafoury & McDougal, a law firm that specializes in cases dealing with racial discrimination.

“There’s no one case that’s going to change everything,” said attorney Adam Kiel. “But as more and more people like Mr. Brown call a lawyer, talk about their legal rights and take a stand the more likely it is to effect change over time.”

At the very least, Brown said he hopes his case serves as a reminder that racism is still a big problem.>>



<<Metro released the data from year two of its supportive housing services effort in the greater Portland area on Thursday.

According to the report, the program placed more than 3,000 people into housing in its second year.

That’s almost double the people helped in the program’s first year.

The supportive housing services fund was launched in 2021, and distributes money to Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties to help get people off the streets and into housing.

The program also provided eviction protection for more than 7,000 people in the second year.>>