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."

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Oregon Petitions
5:50 pm
Mon June 11, 2012

Oregon Signature Collectors Near Deadline

Some Oregon petitions have gained enough signatures but others still need more to be put on the ballot this fall.
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.

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Theater Fire
6:46 am
Fri June 8, 2012

Small-Town Theater Looks To Happy Ending After Fire

Palace Theatre co-owner Stu Rasmussen stands in front of the boarded-up front entrance to his Silverton, Oregon movie house.
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.

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Rosenblum Oregon AG
5:47 pm
Wed June 6, 2012

Rosenblum 'Honored' At Attorney General Appointment

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has picked Ellen Rosenblum to be the state's next Attorney General.
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.

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Americans Elect
6:20 am
Tue June 5, 2012

Oregon Voters Can Choose Americans Elect Despite Abandoned Presidential Bid

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.

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Oregon's Superintendent Resigns
6:19 pm
Mon June 4, 2012

Oregon Schools Superintendent To Step Down, Join Non-Profit

Oregon State Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo announced she will step down by the end of June. Photo courtesy of OPB
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.

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Nike Store Passes Okay'ed
4:55 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

Oregon Ethics Panel Okays Nike Discounts For Public Officials

Entrance of the Nike Employee Store at the company's headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
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.

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Oregon Liquor Control Commission
4:42 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Embattled OLCC Head Says Business As Usual At Agency

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.

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Oregon Education Chief
7:07 am
Thu May 31, 2012

Educators Praise Kitzhaber's Selection For Ed Role

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.

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Oregon's New Education Chief
5:05 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Oregon Governor's Pick For Education Chief Comes With Long Resume

Rudy Crew headshot.
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.

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Oregon Liquor Privatization?
4:39 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Oregon Watches Washington Liquor Transition

As Washington moves to private sales of hard liquor, Oregon is not yet set for the same transition.
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.

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