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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A new lawsuit alleges sexual abuse by workers at Oregon's only prison for women. It's the latest in a series of lawsuits brought by female inmates at the institution in Wilsonville.

One of the surprise winners of a slot on the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team isn’t a household name, even in the town where his track career took off. Now, Ryan Bailey is headed to London to compete in the 100-meter race.

Franz Jantzen / supremecourt.gov

The U.S. Supreme Court could rule any day now on the Constitutionality of President Obama's health care overhaul. The decision could have broad implications for state health care policies in the Northwest.

Oregon State Parks

The days are numbered for the massive Japanese dock that washed up on an Oregon beach earlier this month. The Oregon State Parks Department announced Tuesday that it's accepted a bid from a Vancouver, Wash., salvage company to break apart the dock and remove it.

M.O. Stevens / Wikimedia Commons

An embattled Oregon state Representative Matt Wingard says he won't seek re-election. Two-term Republican lawmaker Matt Wingard admitted to having a sexual relationship with a college-age employee who worked at his state capitol office.

Photo by Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Oregon's Governor and First Lady are not married. It’s something that’s attracted little attention since Democrat John Kitzhaber took office about 18 months ago. But as his partner, Cylvia Hayes, rolls out her anti-poverty agenda, some people question whether she should have the title First Lady. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

The White House / Northwest News Network

President Obama's announcement Friday that some young adults who came to this country illegally as children will get a reprieve from deportation has sparked strong reactions here in the Northwest.

Oregon and Washington groups opposed to illegal immigration strongly criticized the President's announcement. They said it was politically motivated. But those in the region who support an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws cheered.

Oregon Legislature / Northwest News Network

An Oregon state representative is suddenly stepping down from a leadership post. It follows allegations of an inappropriate sexual relationship between Republican Matt Wingard and a subordinate.

Wingard is quitting as Deputy Republican Leader of the Oregon House. He's fending off allegations that he used his position of power to pressure a young woman who worked in his office at the capitol into a sexual relationship. The woman also says Wingard gave her alcohol when she was still 20 years old.

Wikimedia user M.O. Stevens / Wikimedia Commons

Signature gatherers will be out in force in Oregon in the next few weeks. Groups are racing to beat a deadline early next month to submit enough names to get initiatives on the ballot this fall.

The man with a clipboard gathering names on this downtown Salem street corner offers passersby a preview of what could be on their ballot this fall:

"Do you think marijuana should be legalized, ma'am?" he asks.

In fact, pro-pot groups are on track to get not one, but two marijuana legalization measures on the Oregon ballot.

Photo by Virginia Alvino / Northwest News Network

One small-town movie theater is looking for a happy ending to what could have been a horror story earlier this year. The historic Palace Theatre in Silverton, Oregon closed its doors after an April fire. But repairs are underway at the Depression-era movie palace. Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

Northwest News Network

Ellen Rosenblum says she's "honored" to be selected as Oregon's first female Attorney General. That was the announcement Wednesday from Governor John Kitzhaber. The news comes just as she picks up a Republican challenger in the November election.

Rosenblum is a retired state judge who had the inside track to replace Kroger by virtue of winning the Democratic nomination last month. She'll take the oath of office June 29th, the same day Kroger officially steps down to become president of Reed College in Portland. The appointment assures that she'll be Attorney General for at least six months. She could tack on another four years if she wins the general election in November. Rosenblum says she's already spoken with Kroger about making the transition as smooth as possible.

Starting Monday, Oregon voters have another party to choose from when they sign up to vote. But as Salem correspondent Chris Lehman reports, the group that formed the Americans Elect party is no longer trying to field a candidate.

Photo courtesy of OPB

Oregon's elected state schools superintendent is leaving her job. Susan Castillo announced Monday that she'll step down by the end of this month to work for an education non-profit.

Castillo is a former Democratic state lawmaker who's in her third term as Superintendent of Public Instruction. Her current term doesn't end until 2015, but she had no chance of winning re-election.

Oregon lawmakers decided last year to do away with the office of state school superintendent. They chose instead to give the governor more direct authority over schools.

Photo credit: Wonderlane/ Flickr / Northwest News Network

Elected officials in Oregon are not violating ethics rules if they shop for discounted shoes and apparel at a store meant for Nike employees. That’s the ruling Friday from Oregon Government Ethics Commission.

Nike runs a store just for employees at its Beaverton headquarters. The shop features popular Nike products at wholesale prices. Last month a lobbyist for Nike wrote the Ethics Commission to ask whether government officials would run afoul of state ethics laws if they accepted passes to visit the store.

OLCC / Oregon Liquor Control Commission

The embattled head of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is downplaying an unusually public display of tension at the state agency he runs. Steve Pharo says the spat isn't affecting the OLCC's ability to do its job.

Governor John Kitzhaber has been pressuring Steve Pharo for months to step down as head of the agency that regulates alcohol sales in Oregon. Pharo has refused, saying he works at the pleasure of not the governor, but the five member board that oversees the OLCC.

A state panel will vote Thursday on Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s choice to oversee a dramatic shift in the way the state runs public education. The governor selected Rudy Crew after a nationwide search. Crew is the former head of public school districts in New York, Miami, Tacoma and elsewhere. The head of Oregon's largest teacher's union thinks it's a good choice.

Photo courtesy Oregon governor's office

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber's pick for the state’s new education chief is so far winning praise from school leaders. But Rudy Crew’s lengthy career includes many clashes with local school officials. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports:

Kitzhaber wants Crew to be in charge of re-shaping the state's education system from pre-school through college. Crew has worked in some of the nation's largest school districts, such as New York, Miami and Tacoma. Crew says he knows he has a challenge ahead of him in Oregon.

Photo credit: Wikimedia user O'Dea / Wikimedia Commons

The state of Washington is preparing for a seismic shift this week in the way people buy liquor. A similar transition from state-controlled alcohol sales is not yet on the horizon in Oregon. But some in the industry hope that will change.

Washington voters initially rejected the idea of turning control of hard liquor sales over to the private sector. But last fall, an initiative to do just that passed by a wide margin after an expensive advertising campaign by Costco.

The retail giant isn't planning a similar ballot run in Oregon this year. Instead, grocery industry lobbyist Joe Gilliam says retailers will try their hand at convincing the Oregon legislature first. And he says the industry will simply point north for an example of what happens when lawmakers don't compromise.

HHS.gov / Northwest News Network

Oregon needs to do a better job at making sure that low-income children are getting the mental health services they’re eligible for. That's the finding of a new audit by the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

The report applauds the Oregon Health Authority for bringing tens of thousands of additional children into the Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan over the past three years.

But auditors found that some groups of children were using mental health services at a disproportionately low rate. They include girls under age 13, and Hispanic youth of all ages.

Photo courtesy of Oregon State Library.

A man who nearly became Oregon's State Librarian will now spend the next two years on probation for forgery. He pled guilty Thursday to going beyond just padding his resume. He forged documents showing that he had a degree from the University of Washington.

Last winter, Robert Hulshof-Schmidt was just weeks away from an internal promotion to the top spot at Oregon's State Library in Salem. Then, he suddenly withdrew his application and stopped showing up for work at the agency where he'd been employed for nearly seven years.

Library officials were mum on the about-face. Eventually someone else was named to the job.

Photo credit: Chris Lehman / The Oregon Department of Corrections

Oregon lawmakers have been pressing state agencies to cut back the ranks of middle managers. A legislative panel voted Wednesday to do that. But they scaled back a proposed round of layoffs at prisons because of safety concerns.

The Department of Corrections had submitted a budget-cutting plan to eliminate 81 positions, including more than 50 prison lieutenants. Lawmakers instead told the agency to scrap just 21 jobs by this summer. House Democratic leader Tina Kotek said the original proposal was too much, too soon.

Tina Kotek: "I am concerned about the safety issues within the system by reducing the number of supervisors. It's a challenge of safety for the staff, safety for the inmates."

Photo by Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

A new bus service in the Northwest makes some eye-catching promises: Extra legroom, non-stop service between major cities, and fares starting at just a dollar. Boltbus could change the way people travel between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Correspondent Chris Lehman wanted to see which is better: Boltbus or an Amtrak train.

Photo credit: Wikimedia user M.O. Stevens / Wikimedia Commons

Oregon's economy is recovering slowly but steadily according to the latest forecast from state economists. But not all parts of the state are along for the ride.

Some economic indicators are looking up in Oregon. That's according to state economist Mark McMullen. But he told state lawmakers that even though the pace has been slow statewide, it's even worse once you get away from the Willamette Valley and the Columbia Gorge.

Graph by Oregon Office of Economic Analysis

Oregon lawmakers got so-so news from the state's economist Tuesday. Revenues are predicted to remain mostly steady over the rest of the budget cycle.

The latest projection of state income tax collections is down slightly since the last forecast. But the drop was offset by a series of budget actions that lawmakers took earlier this year.

State economist Mark McMullen told a legislative panel that Oregon's economic recovery is still on track. It's just slow.

Photo credit Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has been busy signing a series of bills dealing with everything from marine reserves to tax incentives. But the deadline to sign bills from this year's legislative session was actually more than a month ago.

With a bipartisan group of lawmakers gathered behind him, the governor extolled the virtues of House Bill 4068.

John Kitzhaber: "The people here deserve a lot of credit for bringing a bill to my desk with broad, bipartisan majorities."

Oregon is poised to have its first woman Attorney General. In Tuesday's Democratic primary election, former Oregon state judge Ellen Rosenblum cruised to victory over former federal prosecutor Dwight Holton.

It's not clear yet whether Rosenblum will face any opposition in November. No Republican filed for the office. But the GOP launched a last minute write-in campaign. Results of that effort won't be known for a few weeks. For now, Rosenblum is basking in her primary victory, which puts her one step closer to becoming Oregon's first female attorney general. She spoke to supporters at an election night party in Portland.

Photo by Michael Kilman. / Northwest News Network

Oregon Democrats have chosen former state judge Ellen Rosenblum as their nominee for Attorney General. She defeated form federal prosecutor Dwight Holton in Tuesday's primary election by a wide margin. But it's still not clear if Rosenblum will face any opposition in the general election this fall. As correspondent Chris Lehman reports, marijuana became a key issue in the race.

Tomorrow’s Tuesday’s primary election in Oregon could include some write-in candidates for two statewide offices. The state GOP is encouraging its members to fill in names for state Treasurer and Attorney General. As Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports, it doesn't take much to win a write-in nomination.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber hopes a newly revived public safety commission will lead to big changes in the state's criminal justice system. The Democrat issued an executive order Monday that brings back to life a blue ribbon panel created by his predecessor, Ted Kulongoski.

Oregon's prison population is expected to grow by another 2,000 by the end of the decade. Kitzhaber's public safety adviser, Steven Powers, says the governor thinks Oregon needs to take a close look at everything from mandatory sentences to drug rehabilitation programs.

Photo credit: OPB News / Northwest News Network

The two Democrats running for Oregon Attorney General are making a final push as Tuesday's election nears. Both of the candidates have raised about $600,000 each, according to the latest figures.

Current Oregon Attorney General John Kroger says he'll step down this summer to take a job at Reed College in Portland. That means whoever wins the Democratic primary could have an inside shot at taking over the job in a matter of months, if they're appointed by Democratic governor John Kitzhaber.

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