Chris Lehman

Salem Correspondent

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.

Chris is a native of rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He was born in the upstairs bedroom of his grandmother's house, and grew up in a 230-year-old log cabin in the woods. Chris traces his interest in journalism to his childhood, when his parents threatened to take away his newspaper if he didn’t do his chores.

In addition to working full time in public radio for the past decade, Chris has also reported from overseas on a freelance basis. He's filed stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda. He lives in Salem with his wife and children.

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SALEM, Ore. – The state of Oregon is at odds with the federal government over how to use money from Japan meant for cleaning up tsunami debris. It can’t be used to reimburse the state for money it’s already spent.

The Japanese government donated $5 million to the US this fall to help pay for the cost of cleaning up debris from last year’s deadly tsunami. But Oregon hasn't seen a penny of that money so far.

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon lawmakers will convene in Special Session this Friday.  Governor John Kitzhaber announced Monday that the session is urgently needed to facilitate a major expansion of Oregon-based Nike.  Nike says it is on the verge of an expansion of its Oregon operations that could affect the Northwest economy.

PORTLAND – Two people, plus the suspected shooter, are dead after police say a gunman opened fire at a crowded shopping mall in suburban Portland Tuesday. An ambulance took one survivor of the attack to OHSU Medical Center in Portland. The young woman is expected to survive.

Feds silent so far on marijuana ballot measures

Oct 15, 2012
Virginia Alvino / N3

Two years ago, US Attorney General Eric Holder opposed a California initiative to legalize marijuana. But this year, the Justice Department has been silent on similar measures before voters in Washington, Oregon and Colorado. Monday, a group of former federal drug officials urged the Obama administration to weigh in.

Former Drug Enforcement Administration chief Peter Bensinger says if voters approve the marijuana legalization measures, they’ll put their residents at odds with federal drug laws.

The mural in downtown Corvallis, Ore., is big: 10 feet high and 100 feet long. One side shows a peaceful countryside setting in rural Taiwan. The other shows police beating protesters in Tibet and a Buddhist monk setting himself ablaze in protest.

SALEM, Ore. - A candidate for Oregon state Attorney General faces an unusual new opposition campaign. Democrat Dwight Holton has become the target of medical marijuana activists. Holton faces retired judge Ellen Rosenblum in the May Democratic primary.

Medical marijuana groups say Holton cracked down on marijuana growers and distributors during his time as a federal prosecutor. He served Oregon’s U.S. attorney for two years.

The Associated Press

A group that opposes same-sex marriage is taking its boycott of Starbucks to the other side of the world.

Cliff Mass

Spring arrives next week, but this week still looks like winter in Washington.

The National Weather Service says a front moving through the state Monday is bringing strong winds and rain to Western Washington, heavy snow to the Cascades and snow in much of north central and northeast Washington.

High winds knocked out power for tens of thousands of people in northwest Oregon and western Washington on Monday.

Tuesday's ruling overturning California’s ban on same-sex marriage is not expected to affect similar laws in other states. Oregon and Idaho also have voter-approved amendments against gay marriage.

But Washington lawmakers are poised to send Governor Chris Gregoire a measure allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

TIGARD, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers will consider a plan next month to consolidate the ways the state distributes its economic development dollars. Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler outlined Monday what he’s calling the "Oregon Investment Act."

The problem, says Ted Wheeler, isn't a lack of money.

Ted Wheeler: "There are in fact significant dollars allocated by the legislature towards economic development. But they're highly fragmented across different agencies. Not only are they fragmented and siloed, but they're inflexible."

Oregon's timber dependent counties are still hoping for a federal rescue. But they're creating contingency plans in case Congress doesn't come through with a replacement for historic timber revenue.

Officials from eight counties met with Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber Monday to discuss their options. Some counties say they could become insolvent in the next year without additional funding.

SALEM, Ore. - Local governments in Oregon's Willamette Valley have made various attempts at regional collaboration in the past few decades. Now, a group is trying to create a more formal relationship. City and county officials meet in Salem Monday to discuss a possible compact to band together on key issues.

The Willamette Valley stretches from Portland south to Eugene. It includes the state capitol and is known for its diverse agriculture. Some two-thirds of Oregon's population lives in the valley.

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon vote-by-mail system will be affected by plans to cut next-day delivery of first class mail. The US Postal Service announced that change in service Monday.

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown says once the new delivery standard takes effect, voters should mail their ballots by the Thursday prior to a Tuesday election, just to be safe.

But Brown says she still wants voters to have enough time to make up their minds. So she says she'll ask lawmakers to approve an earlier date for county elections offices to mail out ballots.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. – The first inmate to be executed in Oregon since 1997 will have his hands wrapped in gauze to prevent any final obscene gestures. That's one detail that emerged Friday during a media tour of the state's execution chamber.

Michael Clapp / Northwest News Network

The research is clear that the key to keeping a mentally ill teen in treatment and out of trouble is early intervention. Yet, most counties in the Northwest do not offer comprehensive treatment to kids in the initial stages of a mental breakdown.

Keep an eye out for trick-or-treaters as you head out on the roads this evening Despite the down economy, retailers expect Halloween spending will rise this year.

The National Retail Federation's annual Halloween spending survey found that the average person plans to spend about $72 on costumes, candy and decorations. That's a jump of more than $15 over the past two years.

Chris Lehman / KPLU

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Land Board gave the go-ahead Tuesday to a plan that will dramatically ramp up logging in a state forest in the Oregon Coast Range. The action came amid protests.

Environmental groups bused in protesters from Portland and Eugene. Long-time activist Tre Arrow led the group in a sing-along outside the Land Board headquarters.

Tre Arrow: "The time is now for the people to rise up."

Soon, trains will once again roll down the rail line to the Oregon coast port of Coos Bay. A key rail link that was abandoned four years ago is set to re-open this month.

The previous private owners of the 110-mile rail link abruptly shut it down in September of 2007 citing deteriorating tunnels and track conditions. The Port of Coos Bay bought the tracks and used about $25 million in state and federal money to rehab the line. The Port's Martin Callery says it means sawmills and other shippers in the region won't be dependant on trucks alone to get their products to market.

EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber assured a gathering of blue-collar union workers Wednesday that he is still on their side, despite anti-union sentiment in states like Ohio and Wisconsin.

The Democrat spoke at the annual convention of the AFL-CIO in Eugene. He told the crowd unions helped him get elected to an unprecedented third term. The labor coalition endorsed Kitzhaber in last year’s elections.

The governor pledged to work with unions to create so-called “family-wage jobs.”

SALEM, Ore. – When you renew a professional license or pay a government fee, you’re more likely these days to do it online. Now, the state of Oregon is banking on your willingness to pay extra for that convenience.

The state is getting ready to shift to a new model of funding many of its online services. But it's not clear yet who will pay the new fees, or how much they'll cost.

Oregon pays a high-tech company more than $2.5 million a year to run the state's website. But Oregon is switching to a different company, and the state won't pay it one dime.

SALEM, Ore. - A car wreck that involves an electric vehicle or a hybrid can pose grave risks to emergency personnel. A group of first responders in Oregon got a training session Thursday on how to handle a high wattage accident.

It's no surprise that an electric car might have more electricity pulsating through it than a regular car. So, how much power does it take?

Matt Paiss of the National Fire Protection Association says an electric car can pack quite the punch.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

The effort to remove four dams along the Klamath River has come one step closer to reality.

The U.S. Department of the Interior released a series of long-awaited environmental impact studies today which conclude that removing the dams would boost salmon runs and improve water quality.

SALEM, Ore. - Customers of one of Oregon's largest health insurance companies may see a large rate increase soon. State insurance regulators held a rare public hearing Wednesday on the request by ODS Health Plan to hike its rates an average of 10 percent. A decision on the requested rate hike could come next month.

MONMOUTH, Ore. - Public university employees in Oregon say they're glad they won't be going on strike. But that doesn't mean they're all happy with the tentative contract deal. Negotiators reached that settlement early Thursday morning after an all-night bargaining session.

SALEM, Ore. – Negotiators have averted a potential strike at Oregon's seven public universities, at least for now. The Oregon University System and the union representing nearly 4,000 front-line employees agreed on a tentative two-year settlement early Thursday morning.

As the clock ticked past midnight, SEIU lead negotiator Marc Nisenfeld says it was clear the momentum was there for an agreement. So the bargaining team did everything they could to stay awake.

SALEM, Ore. - Workers at Oregon’s seven state universities are nearing a possible strike authorization vote on Thursday. The union representing nearly four thousand higher ed workers issued a report Monday blasting the state's university system.

The SEIU accuses the Oregon University System of being top-heavy with administrators. The union also says the schools have gone on a building spree that means money that could fund services is now going to pay off construction debt.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. - An old proverb goes like this: "Each one, teach one." It means that everyone is responsible for passing along knowledge to the next generation. That's true in many professions. A senior surgeon will demonstrate a high-stakes operation to a young medical student. A veteran fire-fighter will show the ropes to a fresh-faced rookie.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Reflections of a Muslim leader in Portland:

"As-Salamu Alaykum. That's 'Peace be unto you.' I'm Imam Mikal Shabazz, the director of the Oregon Islamic Chaplains Organization.

JEFFERSON, Ore. - Two Oregon police officers killed along Interstate 5 by a drowsy driver ten years ago were honored with a memorial sign along the highway where they died. But in an ironic twist, people attending the ceremony got a vivid demonstration of the dangers of distracted driving.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. – Members of Congress are getting an earful from their constituents during their summer recess. This week, a coalition of left-leaning groups is holding a series of rallies across Oregon.

The demonstrations are targeting members of Congress from both parties.

In Salem, a group marched toward the office of Democrat Kurt Schrader. The march was sponsored by an alliance of public employee unions and liberal activist groups.

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