Oregon In Brief

Eugene voters reject gasoline tax hike


Eugene voters on Tuesday easily defeated a 5-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax increase approved by the City Council for street maintenance.

The nickel would have been in addition to — cents already imposed, making a total of 8 cents and Oregon's highest municipal gasoline tax.

The vote was 27,256 to 21,645 against the measure.

About a dozen Oregon cities have municipal gasoline taxes, most of them at — cents a gallon.

Gasoline station operators led the petition drive against the increase.

More join search for missing professor


An airplane and more searchers were joining the search today for a University of Oregon professor missing after telling friends he was going on a day hike in the Willamette National Forest east of Eugene.

A relative said Daming Xu may be lost without water or a cell phone. He was due back Sunday for classes the next day.

The discovery of his car at a trailhead on Tuesday gave hope to the daughter of the 63-year-old mathematics and statistics professor.

"He is pretty physically fit for 63. I mean he hikes every week, but I don't think he's that savvy when it comes to survival skills because he never has to stay out overnight or anything like that," Xin Xu said.

She said she knew Xu did not have a cell phone or a compass, and she did not think he had brought water with him.

"We believe he tried to go on a longer hike just because he's out on his own without somebody slowing him down," she said.

The Lane County sheriff's office is leading the search, aided by Explorer Scout units. A helicopter flew over the area on Tuesday.

Deputies from neighboring Benton County were to join the effort Wednesday. The Oregon wing of the Civil Air Patrol said it would send up a search plane.

The area is described as rugged but crisscrossed with trails.

It is near Cougar Reservoir in the Cascade foothills near McKenzie Bridge on the edge of the Three Sisters Wilderness area, the Lane County sheriff"s office said in a release.

He has been at the university since 1990.

Josephine County to delay rehirings


Josephine County commissioners have asked the state to delay an order to rehire and pay back wages to more than 100 mental health workers whose jobs were privatized following a 2006 strike while it files an appeal.

Last week the state Employment Relations Board found the county violated labor law by privatizing mental health services and laying off workers in apparent retribution for union members going on strike in January 2006.

Commissioners Jim Riddle, Dwight Ellis and Jim Raffenburg were on the board at the time of the strike by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Union representative Daniel Burdis said they were willing to consider a settlement over the state board's order, which could cost the county from $300,000 to more than $1 million.

The state board gave the union and the county 30 days to negotiate a settlement. If they can't reach a compromise, the order will be enforced.

Josephine County Chief Executive Officer Marie Hill said a meeting with AFSCME representatives is scheduled.

Although county commissioners publicly said the decision to privatize mental health services was motivated by the loss of federal timber funds, the state board concluded the move was prompted by the strike.

Evidence included statements by county managers, the timing of the county's decision-making process, and the speed with which the transfer was implemented.

Besides requiring the county to rehire mental health workers, the state board ruled the county must pay back wages, insurance benefits and retirement benefits, plus 9 percent interest. The county also must pay the union for lost dues, plus a $1,000 civil penalty.

"" The Associated Press

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