While speaking to about 200 people at the Medford Rogue Rotary club Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown touched on Southern Oregon programs, education and her plans to grow industry in rural communities.
Brown highlighted the Manufacturing Certificate Program at Eagle Point High School as part of her commitment to what she called "cradle to career education," meaning every Oregon high school student would have a plan for what he or she will be doing after high school.
Brown said her 2016 efforts with legislators to nearly double funding in career technical education was personal. Her stepson struggled in school, Brown said, but together as a family they were able to help him earn his General Educational Development certificate before he found work that suits him with the U.S. Forest Service.
"The lesson for me is not every family has the resources or the tools," Brown said.
Frank Mania of Ticor Title asked Brown for her thoughts on education, particularly in economics and mathematics, and why they veer so far into the theoretical without touching on basic finances. Mania said that when he's spoken to students about economics, students are engaged in the practical application.
"How did we get so far away from the basics?" Mania said.
Brown said hands-on learning "opens students' eyes" about the direction they're taking their education. Studies show students' core class test scores increase when they have an idea how they can apply their education.
"It makes their education relevant," Brown said.
On health care, Brown mentioned the on-site health center at Phoenix Elementary School, which she toured Tuesday. Brown heard from La Clinica representatives about how much they value giving children preventive care, and Brown said she hopes to empower them during the legislative session. Brown said health care "enables our people, our families, to thrive."
Others in the audience at the Inn at the Commons touched on local business and the environment.
Jerry Evans, owner of the Jacksonville Inn, spoke about hardships employers would face from a proposed "predictive scheduling mandate" being discussed in the Legislature.
Predictive scheduling would require employers to solidify staff hours more than two weeks ahead, a length of time Evans described as "almost impossible from my point of view." Evans said his business has sometimes had to accommodate unexpected business-conference travelers by drawing from a pool of temporary workers.
Brown said she knows "this issue goes both ways," mentioning a woman she knows who works a part-time job and is unable to take on another because of unpredictable schedule changes. She said she's working toward "good-paying jobs from every corner of the state."
The governor said the state has the fastest-growing gross domestic product, and that state unemployment has dropped to 3.8 percent, but she knows rural areas are not recovering as fast as the Portland area.
To strengthen the state's rural areas, she said, she has plans to improve infrastructure, including seismic upgrades to Medford's Interstate 5 viaduct. Improvements in affordable housing could make areas more attractive to large employers, she said, citing a recent 70-home project in Pendleton as an example.
A Habitat for Humanity representative thanked Brown for touching on affordable housing.
Midway through her speech, about 10 opponents of the proposed Pacific Connector LNG pipeline project entered the conference room with a large banner saying, "Protect Our Home," and signs saying, "Don't pass (fracked) gas in Oregon."
Before they were escorted out, one demonstrator asked audience members to stand if they opposed the pipeline. Only two people stood.
Brown has declined to take a position on the pipeline, which has twice been rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but is still being pursued by Jordan Cove LNG, Pacific Connector and their parent company, Veresen. The pipeline would stretch from Malin to Coos Bay and run through Jackson County, including underneath the Rogue River.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.