The Blue Mountain eagle. (John Day, Or.) 1972-current, March 10, 2021, Page 3, Image 3

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Chief Durr reflects on importance of school resource officers
Senate bill to ban SROs
seems likely to die in
By Rudy Diaz
Blue Mountain Eagle
A bill in the Oregon Senate would
prohibit school resource officers.
Although it appears unlikely to
move forward, John Day Police Chief
Mike Durr, who serves as a resource
officer at Grant Union Junior-Senior
High School, said the proposal gave
him time to reflect on the importance
of the program for himself and the
Senate Bill 238, which would ban
school districts from approving con-
tracts to have law enforcement in
schools, currently sits in the Educa-
tion Committee, but committee chair
Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland,
Eagle file photo
From left, Kohlten Jones, Nikki Jones and Clara Carr stand in the hallway at
lunchtime with John Day Police Chief Mike Durr, the school resource officer,
in 2018.
said Feb. 25 that he would not allow
such a bill to move forward.
Durr is glad the proposal seems
doomed. He said the bill is a bad idea.
Although his job as a school
resource officer is primarily ensur-
ing the safety of the students, his role
goes far beyond that.
Durr said he is also a resource to
the staff and the position gives him a
chance to meet as many students as
Election reform, COVID-19 relief discussed
during Sen. Merkley’s virtual town hall
Oregon senators
pushing for renewal
of PILT and SRS
Debt-free college
vs. free college
By Steven Mitchell
Blue Mountain Eagle
During a Grant County
virtual town hall, U.S. Sen.
Jeff Merkley answered ques-
tions Wednesday about a wide
range of topics.
Payment in Lieu of
Taxes and Secure Rural
Schools Act
Merkley said he and U.S.
Sen. Ron Wyden have been
doing everything they can to
keep both Payment in Lieu of
Taxes and the Secure Rural
Schools Act alive.
PILT, which funds states
to offset property taxes losses
in areas with high concen-
trations of federal public
lands, brought Grant County
upwards of $700,000, accord-
ing to Merkley.
He said the rural schools
act, a 2000 law that funnels
federal funds to communities
hit by declining timber rev-
enue, put $3 million in the
county’s coffers.
Merkley said he and
Wyden have had to take
“extraordinary means” to keep
SRS alive because Oregon is
one of the few states that ben-
efit from the program.
He said Oregon gets the
lion’s share of the money. He
said it has been hard to get per-
manent status for the program,
which expired in September.
Merkley, along with
Wyden and U.S. Sen. Mike
Crapo, R-Idaho, introduced a
bill that would reauthorize the
SRS program through Sep-
tember 2022, according to a
Feb. 25 press release.
For the People Act,
H.R. 1
Merkley touted a bill House
Democrats passed Wednes-
day. The For the People
Act, H.R. 1, would provide
sweeping reforms to protect
voter rights, increase elec-
tion security and mandate
independent redistricting.
Merkley said the legis-
lation would require states
to establish a bipartisan,
independent commission to
redraw their congressional
districts and prevent gerry-
mandering, or the manipu-
lation of district boundaries
Eagle file photo
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley during a
2019 town hall in Mt. Vernon.
to create an unfair elec-
toral advantage favoring one
An independent commis-
sion, Merkley said, would
prevent one party from try-
ing to “squelch” the voice of
Currently, he said, most
states rely on their state leg-
islatures to draw congressio-
nal lines following the Cen-
sus, which leads to districts
disproportionately drawn and
protective of either party.
Merkley said the legisla-
tion would restrict states from
purging their non-active vot-
ers from their voting rolls.
He said, in certain instances,
some states purged voters
that did not vote in two out of
four election cycles without
notifying them.
According to the bill’s
text, other provisions include
that state’s restore a felon’s
voting rights, offer 15 days
of early voting and allow for
“no-excuse” absentee ballots.
Merkley said another sec-
tion of the bill would force
the disclosure of donors
to “dark money” political
groups, which, he said, are
reputed to be associated with
overseas corporations look-
ing to influence the politi-
cal process while remaining
He said citizens should
know where that money
comes from and decide for
themselves if it’s a credible
He said the bill lays out
that elected officials, partic-
ularly the president, would be
mandated to reduce or elimi-
nate conflicts of interest and
would be required to sell off
assets, or place them in a blind
trust. He said the legislation
also calls for a a code of ethics
for among judges.
Adrian Kautzi, who is
in her third year of classes
online, asked Merkley about
his thoughts on the notion of
free college.
Merkley said he supports
debt-free college.
Merkley said “debt-free”
college would essentially
work on a sliding-scale basis.
He said, instead of an incom-
ing student having $20,000
in tuition fees waived, they
would pay the portion of it,
based on the student’s income.
He said most developed
countries have the goal of
making college debt-free for
students and their families.
Merkley said he is from a blue
collar area, and parents from
the community have told him
they are not sure if they want
to encourage their kids to
attend college because of the
debt they might rack up.
“That’s not just bad for
the individual student,” he
said, “that’s bad for our whole
Merkley said there was a
time when that was not the
case. He said when he gradu-
ated high school in 1974 it was
possible to work a minimum
wage job during the summer
and pay for college on those
“Debt just wasn’t an issue
that we had anxiety over,” he
said. “So how is it now that
college is more important for
lines of employment opportu-
nities that we’ve got this enor-
mous burden?”
He said countries that have
addressed eliminating long-
term college debt are doing
better by their youth and their
respective futures.
“painted a really good portrait”
of what people are facing.
He said he is fighting for
a vision for a debt-free pub-
lic university system in Ore-
gon. Merkley said those who
are headed to Ivy League
schools are likely going to pay
a lot more, and that may not
be something the government
can cover.
“It helps me get right with them,
and they feel way more comfort-
able,” Durr said. “It shows them
that we’re not the monster that
we are sometimes portrayed to be
recently in the media.”
Durr said getting to know stu-
dents and teaching them what his
job entails helps build trust and
shows students an officer does
more than just law enforcement.
“We go far beyond just enforc-
ing the rules,” Durr said. “I don’t
think everybody understands fully
what we do.”
In the last couple of years, Durr
said the police department has
identified four elderly people who
needed assistance and were unable
to live on their own. He said he
helped get the ball rolling with the
proper authorities to provide the
help they needed.
Mental health is another area
where law enforcement officials
can assist people in their moment of
need and direct them or transport
them to the proper care.
“We’re just the first respond-
ers for a multitude of things, and
it’s not just enforcing criminal
law,” Durr said. “It can be as sim-
ple as helping a lady getting her tire
Along with making trips through
the hallways, Durr said he also tries
to attend many school sporting
events to show his support to the
school and students while making
sure everything goes smoothly at
campus activities.
“I tell my wife that I love going
to that school and interacting with
the kids because I hear or see some-
thing pretty amazing everyday,”
Durr said. “Those kids are fun to
be around, and it’s me being able to
develop a relationship with them.”
Grant County invasive
grass bill gets first hearing
SB 21 would
develop a pilot
program in Phillip
W. Schneider
Wildlife Area
By Rudy Diaz
Blue Mountain Eagle
A bill specific to Grant
County had its first hearing.
The first public hearing
for Senate Bill 21 was March
1 as local representatives
and Grant County residents
spoke on the importance of
addressing what they called a
disaster in Murderers Creek
caused by invasive grass.
SB 21 directs the state
Fish and Wildlife Commis-
sion to develop and adopt an
invasive grass pilot program
in the Phillip W. Schneider
Wildlife Area.
The program will be
designed to increase habitat
quality and forage for mule
deer and livestock, site resis-
tance to grass invasion and
understanding the roles that
soil microbes, organic matter
and nutrients play in affect-
ing resistance to annual grass
State Sen. Lynn Findley,
R-Vale, presented the bill to
the Senate Committee On
Natural Resources and Wild-
fire Recovery and said the
bill is important to the resi-
dents of Grant County.
“Annual invasive grass
species have altered the land-
scape in the South Fork of
the John Day Watershed
and reduced the ecosystem,
including forage and habitat
for wildlife and livestock,”
Findley said.
Findley said the pas-
sage of the bill will con-
tinue to prioritize a reduc-
tion in annual invasive grass
species and hopefully bring
more skills and knowledge
on eradicating invasive grass
across Oregon in the future.
R-Crane, testified in support
The Eagle/Steven Mitchell
Prairie City resident Frances Preston speaks to the Grant
County Court Sept. 23.
State Sen.
Lynn Findley
Rep. Mark
of the bill and said the nox-
ious weeds impact Oregon
economically and through
the fire regime. He said,
when a fire goes through
an area and restoration pro-
grams are not enacted, nox-
ious weeds can develop.
Owens said he was able
to view the impact of inva-
sive grass that came from the
Canyon Creek fire with Grant
County resident Loren Stout.
Owens saw miles of vente-
nata, an invasive grass, and
said the area has the potential
for another historical fire.
“This (invasive annual
grass) came from the Canyon
Creek fire, and we’re here to
repeat that process again,”
Owens said.
Grant County Commis-
sioner Sam Palmer testified
about firefighters and the det-
riment to their health when
inhaling burning invasive
“These three weeds
Head, ven-
tenata and
Grant County w e e d s
Commissioner that, when
they burn,
Sam Palmer
small glass particles in
the air that our firefight-
ers and citizens breath”
that affects the lungs on a
microscopic level, Palmer
Grant County resident
Frances Preston said the
Murderers Creek Wildlife
Area is no longer viable
due to the impacts from the
invasive grass. She said the
silica base makes invasive
grass inconsumable by
“I pray that you move
Senate Bill 21 forward and
provide the future sup-
port needed for ODFW
to do what is now criti-
cally necessary to meet
the goal to improve hab-
itat, site resistance and
The committee will
vote on the bill on a date
not yet scheduled.
Starting March 3rd
Classified Liners must be in on
Monday before 9:00 a.m.
Display & Class Display Ads must be
in on Friday before 4:30 p.m.
Shawna Clark, DNP, FNP
Legal Notices must be in on
Friday before 5:00 p.m.
Accepting new Patients! Go to:
235 S. Canyon Blvd. John Day, Oregon 97845
195 N. Canyon Blvd., John Day, OR 97845
541-575-0710 •