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.

Ways to Connect / 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.

Northwest News Network

A new political group will appear on the Oregon presidential ballot this fall. The Oregon Secretary of State's office announced Thursday that Americans Elect has submitted enough valid signatures to qualify. But voters will have to wait a little longer to find out who the party's candidate will be.

"Americans Elect" calls itself a non-partisan organization that's trying to give Americans a third option for president. The group says it will hold an internet primary to select a candidate next month.

Photo credit: Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

A group that's against logging on state owned forest lands drew a crowd of onlookers at the Oregon State Capitol Thursday morning. A member of Cascadia Forest Defenders climbed a flagpole and draped a large banner that read "Schools versus Trees? We want both!”

Photo by Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

There’s a lot of news lately about conservative challengers to Republican “establishment” candidates. This week, Indiana Senator Dick Lugar lost to a Tea Party backed opponent.

But it’s not just a Republican phenomenon. In next week’s Oregon primary election, a Democratic state representative is facing a serious challenge after frequently riling members of his own party. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

Photo credit: Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

More people are dying from overdoses of prescription painkillers. Some Northwest hospitals say they're combating the problem by drastically reducing the amount of prescriptions they write for the medications. Salem Hospital is the latest.

Experts say many users become addicted after initially taking painkillers for legitimate medical reasons. That's what happened to Matt Harp. He hurt his back playing college baseball. His doctor realized Harp was becoming addicted, but the Oregon man told a Salem news conference he simply visited different doctors and hospitals.

Oregon, Washington and Idaho are among the 44 states splitting a $100 million settlement with pharmaceutical giant Abbott Labs. The agreement announced Monday resolves a dispute over the company's marketing of a drug called Depakote .

Photo by Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Fifteen Oregon schools may have to change their sports imagery soon. A state panel could vote later this month [May 17] on whether to ban Native American-themed mascots. The proposal faces resistance, as Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman found on a visit to the Willamette Valley town of Molalla.

This fall, Denise Everhart's son will become the fifth generation in his family to attend Molalla High School. He plans to play football.

Everhart: "He will be on the field as an Indian."

The federal government has agreed to pump nearly $2 billion into Oregon's experiment at changing the way it delivers health care to low income people. The news Thursday came after Governor John Kitzhaber and three other state officials flew to Washington to personally lobby for the cash.

Photo by Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber says he'll convene a workgroup to study possible changes to the state's driver's license laws for undocumented immigrants. That news prompted cheers at a May Day rally in front of the state capitol Tuesday evening. Thousands of people marked the day with demonstrations in Salem, along with other cities across the Northwest. Correspondent Chris Lehman has this report from the march in Salem.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is weighing his options for what comes next, now that Attorney General John Kroger has announced he'll step down from the job. It's the first time in 20 years that a sitting Attorney General has left the job early.

Photo courtesy of CRITFC

A coalition of tribal groups says sea lions are eating far more salmon along the Columbia River than previously thought. The claim comes in a legal fight over whether wildlife officials should be killing some of the hungry sea lions.

Photo by Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Oregon Democrats will once again be virtually assured of choosing the next state Attorney General during their primary next month. That's because for the second election cycle in a row, no Republicans entered the race.

Photo Credit: O'Dea / Wikimedia Commons

A candidate for Oregon state Attorney General faces an unusual new opposition campaign. Democrat Dwight Holton has become the target of medical marijuana activists. Holton faces retired judge Ellen Rosenblum in the May Democratic primary.

Photo credit: Oregon DOC / Oregon Department of Corrections

An Oregon death row inmate will make an unusual argument in court Wednesday. Gary Haugen says Governor John Kitzhaber overstepped his authority by halting all executions in the state.

Two time convicted murderer Gary Haugen was set to die by lethal injection last December. But two weeks before the scheduled execution, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber put Oregon's death penalty on hold. The governor wants lawmakers and the public to reexamine the state's capital punishment system.

Photo credit: Postdlf / Wikimedia commons

SEATTLE, Wash. -- A group that opposes same-sex marriage is taking its boycott of Starbucks to the other side of the world. The National Organization For Marriage is upset that the Seattle-based coffee chain has come out in favor of legalizing gay marriage in Washington state as well as nationally.

Photo courtesy of Lebanon High School

An Oregon School District is digging in its heels against a proposed state ban on Native American mascots. The School Board in the Willamette Valley farm town of Lebanon will consider a resolution Thursday to reject the ban.

Photo by Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

PORTLAND - The Northwest has long been a draw for people moving here from other parts of the United States. That continues to be a key driver of the region’s economy. Despite high unemployment rates, Oregon and Washington still lure folks from the Midwest and elsewhere. And they bring in new money and job skills. In a collaboration with public radio's Changing Gears, Chris Lehman introduces us to some rust belt transplants to the Northwest.

Photo Credit: Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. – Environmental groups are mobilizing against proposals to export coal through Northwest terminals. Protesters rallied outside a land use meeting in Salem Monday. They're asking Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to block permits for several coal terminals.

Photo Credit: M.O. Stevens / Wikimedia commons

The state of Oregon is getting a robust response from health care providers to re-shape the way Oregon provides medical services to low income people. Before a deadline this week, state health administrators received more than 50 proposals to create regional collaborations. The strategy is part of Governor John Kitzhaber’s so-called health-care transformation. Salem correspondent Chris Lehman reports.