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

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.

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.

Pages