Year of the big storms and big campaigns


Oregon's year 2007 wound down with some of the worst weather and most fevered campaigning over ballot measures in recent memory.

Hurricane-force winds and heavy flooding slammed into the northwest corner in December.

And in the run-up to the Nov. 6 election, the tobacco industry and advocates for uninsured children battled over a proposed cigarette hike to cover them.

Tobacco won in a walk after contributing nearly $12 million to defeat Measure 50, outspending supporters by a 4-1 margin.

In an equally contentious land-use election, voters modified Measure 37, a 2004 voter-passed law requiring payment to landowners whose property lost value because of land-use regulations, or waiver of those regulations if the city, town or county couldn't afford the compensation &

which most can't.

Many Oregonians had come to regret voting for Measure 37, which has resulted in scores of lawsuits and chaos in the state's attempts to regulate development.

So voters easily passed Measure 49, which clarifies and tightens land-use regulations by allowing rural landowners to build a few homes &

three in most cases &

but curb larger developments.

However, this may not be the last word in a long-running feud over protecting Oregon's rural charms from large-scale developments.

There were some upbeat stories in 2007, like that of 76-year-old Doris Anderson of Sandy, found alive 13 days after vanishing in the Wallowa Mountains.

And we won't soon forget Velvet, the friendly black dog who kept climbers warm overnight after they fell off of a ridge on Mount Hood.

Some of Oregon's business was finished, some was not.

Environmental extremists from a Eugene-based group called "The Family" got long prison terms for a long string of arsons across the West they carried out in the name of the Earth Liberation Front. Their arrests put a considerable damper on the actions of the ELF, who have been a thorn in the FBI's side for years.

Lawmakers were unable to agree on employment rights of medical marijuana users, whether to raise the beer tax or on an earlier presidential primary, which means that when Oregon becomes one of the last states to vote in May, major-party candidates likely already will be locked in.

Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith introduced a proposal to extend wilderness protection to about 125,000 acres around Mount Hood in February and it cleared a committee in July but the Senate hadn't acted as the year closed, and the House said it wouldn't until the Senate did.

Even some business that seemed settled might not be. Gay and lesbian couples won most benefits of marriage through a domestic partnership bill and got a law protecting them from workplace and housing discrimination.

But anti-gay activists, noting Oregon voters' earlier rejection of a proposal legalizing gay marriage, were threatening to try to overturn both laws at the polls.

Consumers won with caps on "payday lender" interest rates, new state powers to enforce the federal do-not-call list and protection for mobile home park residents displaced by landlords who sell their property.

The Bush administration was appealing a court victory by Brandon Mayfield, the Portland attorney and Muslim convert wrongly jailed based on the FBI's misreading of a fingerprint after a terrorist attack on a Spanish train. Mayfield, who got $2 million and an apology, claims the USA Patriot Act cannot be used for secret searches to gather evidence in criminal matters. He won at the trial court level.

"Green" advocates did well with a deposit on plastic water bottles beginning Jan. 1, incentives for farmers to grow crops that produce biofuels and a mandate for more renewable energy. They came up short on efforts to ban what remains of smoky field-burning in ryegrass fields, a practice farmers say is necessary to keep the Willamette Valley the world's top producer of lawn seed.

After years of cuts that gutted state police ranks, Oregon will have 100 more state troopers, but still not enough for 24-hour coverage on major highways.

The animal kingdom, too, had its moments.

Things looked grim for California sea lions fond of eating migrating salmon at Bonneville Dam. Whether some can be killed under an amendment to the Marine Mammals Protection Act remained in the hands of federal fisheries officials. A task force recommendation centered not on if, but how many, could be "lethally removed."

Cougars also took a hit when wildlife officials got legislative permission to appoint hunters with dogs to go after them if they threaten people or livestock, rolling back a ban passed by voters in 1994.

In the Willamettte Valley farm town of Scio, the late rooster and town mascot Big Red lived on after he was stuffed, mounted and treated to a February welcome home party at the feed store where he had lived since 1998.

Big Red jumped, fell or was pushed from a pickup driving through town, was quickly adopted and had the run of Scio. He rode in a gilded cage in town parades and had his own Web site.

Then in July of last year a dog got him. The vet did what he could, but.....

Tears were shed at the party, where cookies and punch were served. Chicken was not.

And in Hillsboro, Miriam Sakewitz was put on probation in April for animal neglect after about 250 rabbits were found in her house, 88 of them in the freezer. She was sentenced to three days in jail last summer for violating a court order not to possess more animals. Neighbors said they photographed banned bunnies through her window.

When a probation officer finally gained entrance she reported finding no rabbits.

But she did find a half-empty 10-pound bag of carrots.

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