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 free–lance basis. He's filed stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda. He lives in Salem with his wife and child.

Read Chris's blog, "Capitol Currents: Dispatches From Salem."


Oregon Pot
6:14 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Oregon Hires Top Marijuana Regulator

Credit Katherine Hitt Flickr



Oregon is gearing up for a year-long process of crafting regulations for recreational marijuana.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission Tuesday hired Tom Burns to lead the agency's implementation of Measure 91, which allows adults in Oregon to grow, possess, and sell marijuana under state regulation.

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Oregon Third Party
6:25 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Oregon Could Soon Have Third Major Political Party

The Independent Party is less than 300 voters away from reaching the threshold that would make them a major political party in Oregon.
Credit Chris Phan / Flickr

  The Independent Party is on the cusp of becoming Oregon’s third major political party.

Under state law a major party must have at least 5 percent of the number of voters who were registered at the last general election. The Independent Party is less than 300 voters away from reaching that threshold.

If they reach that status by next summer, it would mean that taxpayers would fund Independent Party primaries in 2016, just like they already do for Democrats and Republicans.

The Independent Party was founded just eight years ago.

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Measure 92
4:31 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Supporters Of Food Labeling Measure Throw In The Towel

More than one month after the election supporters of Measure 92, which would have required food manufacturers and retailers to label genetically engineered foods, have conceded defeat.
Credit Stephen D. Melkisethian / Flickr

Supporters of a food labeling measure in Oregon have conceded defeat, more than one month after the election. Measure 92 would have required food manufacturers and retailers to label genetically engineered foods. It produced the most expensive initiative campaign in Oregon history. The difference between the "no" and "yes" votes was so close, it triggered the first statewide recount in more than six years. That recount is largely confirming the initial totals.

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Police Shootings Protest
7:30 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Amid State Capitol Holiday Festivities, Demonstrators Protest Police Shootings

Protesters hold a 'die-in' in the rotunda of the Oregon capitol building.
Credit Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Political protest mixed with holiday festivities in Salem Wednesday. A group demonstrating against recent police shootings brought their message to the state capitol building.

Their shouts of "hands up, don't shoot" echoed through the marble corridors and in the rotunda.

"Hands up, don't shoot," they chanted. 

The group tried to meet with the governor but heard from spokeswoman Amy Wojcicki instead.

"All parents, regardless of race, class, culture or origin should feel," Wojcicki said. 

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Elliott State Forest Sale
4:44 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Oregon Land Board Ponders Future Of Elliott Forest

Protesters demonstrated in front of the capitol prior to the meeting of the State Land Board.
Credit Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

A large state owned forest in Oregon might end up in new hands.

The State Land Board endorsed a proposal Tuesday to transfer ownership of the Elliott State Forest. But it's not clear who the new owners would be.

The Elliott State Forest in southwest Oregon is supposed to be managed to bring in as much money as possible. And that money is supposed to go to public schools. But the forest is actually losing money in the wake of restrictions on logging.

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Measure 92
5:51 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Amid Recount, Measure 92 Supporters File Suit To Halt Certification Of Vote

Yes on 92 campaign manager Paige Richardson spoke at a Portland press conference announcing the Measure 92 lawsuit.
Credit KATU

Supporters of a food labeling measure in Oregon sought a court order to block the certification of the election results. The group filed a request for a temporary injunction Monday.

Measure 92 would require food manufacturers and retailers to label genetically engineered foods. It fell just 800 votes short in the November election.

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Oregon Capitol Renovation
7:27 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Oregon Capitol Renovation Would Include Seismic Upgrades

Base isolators like this one would be used to stabilize the capitol building in the event of an earthquake.
Credit Oregon Legislature

Oregon's state capitol building could soon undergo a massive renovation. It's a project so big, lawmakers would have to use a temporary capitol for more than three years.
Senior project manager Tary Carlson says the idea is to help the Depression-era capitol building withstand a major earthquake.

"When this was built 76 years ago, they did not design for lateral forces of a seismic event such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone," Carlson says.

And so what would be left if the Big One hits?

"A pile of rubble," Carlson says.

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Oregon Marijuana Funding
4:10 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Oregon Marijuana Regulators Request Funding To Develop Rules

A state agency in Oregon could get a more than a half million dollar injection of emergency funds to help oversee the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Credit Cannabis Training University / Wikimedia

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission could get a more than $500,000 injection of emergency funds to help oversee the legalization of recreational marijuana.

That’s because starting next year, the OLCC won't be controlling just liquor anymore. Voters gave it the job of regulating pot, too.

Legal marijuana sales likely won't begin until early 2016. But the OLCC is about to embark on a lengthy rulemaking process for how marijuana can be grown and sold in the state. The agency wants to hire four new people right off the bat with more to come next year.

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Small Business Crowdfunding
8:29 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Oregon Rule Change Would Allow Small Businesses To Use Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is the practice of gathering funds from a large number of people for a project or venture.
Credit Rocio Lara / Flickr

Businesses in Oregon could soon take advantage of the crowdfunding phenomenon. State regulators Wednesday heard from the public on proposed rules to let smaller companies raise cash from Oregon investors.

Think Kickstarter except instead of making a donation you'd be making an actual investment in a small business. It’s a workaround of federal rules--with a quarter-million dollar limit per company. Small business advocate Jarvez Hall says he thinks the new policy could open doors to people of color who can have a harder time accessing traditional sources of capital.

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GMO Labeling
5:35 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Recount Of Food Labeling Measure Underway

Elections workers in Salem hand-count Marion County ballots.
Credit Chris Lehman

The first statewide recount in more than six years is underway in Oregon. Elections workers Tuesday started hand-counting the more than 1.5 million votes cast for and against Measure 92.

The initiative would require food manufacturers and retailers to label genetically engineered foods. It failed in the initial tally by just 812 votes. That triggered a state-funded recount. In Salem, Marion County clerk Bill Burgess has a team of about 50 temporary workers combing through ballots. He says the counters found just one correction to make during the first three hours on the job.

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