IT'S ELECTION DAY, PORTLAND! Vote, if you haven't, damn your eyes.
Emergency workers are searching this morning through the rubble that was once an Oklahoma City suburb, after a powerful tornado struck the area Monday afternoon. The damage is vast, and the toll is unclear, but dozens are dead and many more injured.
And, yikes. More rough weather looks likely.
A new Xbox is being revealed today, which at my current rate of adopting video game consoles means I can look forward to owning one in nine years or so. Exciting!
Still almost 12 hours left to VOTE! Why not?
I know very little about golf, but I do know that—to the extent the playing of the sport itself can be said to look normal—those very-long putters some players use are ridiculous. And now they're outlawed.
Former Internal Revenue Service heads are appearing before a Senate committee this morning. It's continued fallout over recent revelations the agency improperly targeted conservative groups.
And look who else is in a Senate committee hot seat!. Apple CEO Tim Cook is testifying today, following revelations the enormous company employed elaborate schemes to shield international earnings from the US' greedy and nebbish tax collectors. One thing: According to the Washington Post "using foreign operations to avoid U.S. taxes is legal and common among multinationals."
The sun, long a provider and sustainer of life for those of us here on Earth, is considering taking out our electric grids.
Instead of grumbling about the tepid, gray drizzle the Weather Widget has in store this week, let's be thankful Portland never gets anything more serious than a light snow, weather-wise. Some thunder would be nice once in a while, though.
Portland's fluoride fight, presumably settled tomorrow, is drawing bemused headshaking from all around the country—even up north in Seattle, where I spent a few minutes this morning talking about fluoride on KIRO-AM (710).
But let's be honest here. The polling is looking terrible for fluoride. And despite our own personal best attempts to fire people up about why fluoridation makes sense, the "anti" side has always been able to draw on a far deeper reserve of passion and vigor. (And if your mind isn't made up by now, it's probably too late. So don't worry.) So what's left to discuss? At this point, pretty much the two camps' respective ELECTION NIGHT parties.
For those who enjoy crashing such things:
CLEAN WATER PORTLAND
On Deck Sports Bar (trivia: where mayoral candidate Max Brumm once toasted his friends and loved ones)
910 NW 14th
Doors open at 7:30
HEALTHY KIDS HEALTHY PORTLAND
Curious Comedy Theater (because of the past nine months?)
5225 NE MLK
Doors open at 7
The Portland Business Alliance's request for a loosening of sidewalk rules, in hopes of reviving something like Portland's old (and unconstitutional) "sit-lie" law, is still alive. Today, on the last day this session for bills stuck in committee to be scheduled for a vote lest they die, HB 2963 was placed on the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee's May 30 agenda. It lives another day.
That hearing now looms as the next make-or-break point for the legislation. A vote of assent by the committee would send the bill to the Senate floor. And state senators would then seem likely to approve it, just as their counterparts in the House did late last month.
It'll be interesting to hear what Judiciary Chairman Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, has to say about the bill's chances. I've left a message with his office seeking comment. As I wrote in Hall Monitor this week, it was by his urging early this month that the bill was even placed in limbo in the first place. He offered some tart words for the PBA and demanded court files related to the sit-lie constitutional fight—a request that would days to fulfill, even as today's deadline for action loomed.
Prozanski, from famously tolerant Eugene, sounded a lot like the advocates battling the bill when he made the point that if all the PBA wants is a conversation about sidewalk rules that aren't working, then nothing is stopping them.
"It doesn't seem like the bill addressed [the desire for] a discussion," he said at the hearing. "It's giving a sanction based on whatever might come out of those discussions."
Critics of the bill have liked what they've heard, so far, from Prozanski. Will that continue?
GOOD MORNING, BLOGTOWN! You could plan a pretty picnic (you could plan a pretty picnic), but you can't predict the weather, Ms. Jackson. LET'S GO TO PRESS.
Three months after we caught 'em hacking, the Chinese hackers have resumed attacking American targets—this time employing different tactics. Sounds like someone is challenging us to a... hack war!!
The Washington Post is reporting that the Obama administration spied on Fox reporter James Rosen, collecting phone records, tracking his movement in and out of the state department, and seizing two days worth of emails. Gaaaaaaaaaahhh.
Britain is experiencing a measles epidemic, reportedly because of the millions of parents who refused to give their babies vaccines, due to fears of autism. Thanks again, Jenny McCarthy!
Tornadoes creamed Oklahoma and the midwest yesterday, and more trouble is on the way.
Yahoo buys Tumblr, but promises "not to screw it up." Why does that make me more nervous than ever?
According to news sources there, two CIA agents allegedly working for us and Israel were hanged in Iran on Sunday.
A hero cop—who sat next to Michelle Obama four years ago during a presidential speech—has now been accused of rape.
A masked assailant uses a girl as a human shield, then points his gun at the cop. What happens next is incredibly sad.
Pastor E.W. Johnson, a candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia, compared Planned Parenthood to the KKK. You know... I'm sorry, I just don't see the connection!
Here's more info on.... MOON BLAST 2013!
The honeymoon's over... Justin Bieber is BOOOOOOOED at the Billboard Music Awards.
Now here's what's going on in your neck of the woods: Mostly sunny today with a high of 74, but tomorrow? Wear your galoshes!
And finally, would you like to be "Reg Rolled" by Reggie Watts? The answer to this question, is yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
We don't have a lot of time with each other in this life, everybody. Let's keep it brief today.
Powerball. You're not going to win, but it will be thrilling for a minute (if you win, e-mail me!).
Sometimes trains collide head-on. It happened in Connecticut yesterday. It makes no sense.
North Korea's firing missiles again. But it's not a big deal.
France is cool with gay marriage. Oregon still is not.
Uh oh. Crazy ants trump fire ants every time.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has yet to address allegations he smoked crack on camera.
The Weather Widget tells is like it is. No two ways about it.
Also, you'd think astronauts would be dismissive of Bowie's "Space Oddity," detailing, as it does, astronaut death. Not the case.
Portland's voter owned elections died a convincing death at the hands of the people in 2010, when Portlanders roundly rejected the system. But there are tenuous signs of life in the old girl yet.
This sign was posted on the ground floor of the Board of Trade Building (310 SW 4th) this afternoon.
The meeting was closed off to the public, but revolved around how supporters might revive publicly financed elections, an attendee said. As killed by voters, the system allowed candidates for city council and mayor to gather 1,000-1,500 $5 contributions to receive $150,000 in public funding from the city.
The process was enacted in 2005, and has a bit of a spotty past. Former council candidate Emilie Boyles ran off with the public money in 2006, for example. But City Commissioner Amanda Fritz won election to council her first time around using public funds. It's been a pet issue of hers ever since.
Fritz' office confirmed she attended today's meeting, calling it a "brainstorming session." The meeting was arranged by Common Cause Oregon.
Reviving voter owned elections, by the way, has been oft-discussed since its demise. Whether this nascent push has legs remains to be seen.
Slate writer Jake Blumgart's piece takes a long look at the fight over fluoride here in town. If you've spent the last several months debating this issue (or vandalizing your neighbors' yards for their stand on the issue), not much will come as a surprise. If you've been meaning to learn about the fluoride debate but haven't gotten around to it, first read our story. Then read Slate's.
Oh, and if you haven't voted, VOTE! Ballots are due next Tuesday.
From the piece:
America is a fluoride nation. Beginning in 1945, when Grand Rapids, Mich., became the first city in the world to add the stuff to its water supply, the practice has spread across the United States. In most areas it is simply understood that ingesting minuscule levels of fluoride is good for dental health. As of 2010, almost three-quarters of Americans drink fluoridated water from community water systems, and the nation’s 30 most populous cities consume it.
With one weird exception: Portland, Ore., whose water system, sourced from the Bull Run River, serves 900,000 people.
There is an apparently amazing video for sale—says Gawker, which has seen the video and broke the news—showing the conservative mayor of Toronto smoking crack-cocaine within the past six months. While in office. And his dealers, says Gawker, service a wide swath of the cognoscenti in Canada's New York. Ford's lawyer addressed the claim rather curiously in the Toronto Sun: “I think unless one has expertise in crack cocaine smoking, it is very difficult to gauge what a person is actually doing in an alleged video.”
You remember Kai, the "hatchet-wielding hitchhiker," right? He's been charged with murdering an elderly lawyer who met Kai in Times Square took him back to his home in New Jersey. The rest of the story gets really weird, though. Maybe they had sex or maybe Kai was drugged and raped and then decided to kill the attorney?
Republicans lathered up about a supposed Benghazi coverup are now accused of doctoring the White House emails they leaked out to make their case.
Russia is beefing up the fleet it has stationed at a base on Syria's Mediterranean coast, maybe a sign to NATO types to think twice before staging an intervention in a country that's coming apart at the seams, with warring factions carving it up into autonomous fiefdoms after months upon months of civil war.
A million bucks in jewels meant for the red carpet at Cannes vanished suspiciously during the screening of a Sofia Coppola movie all about teenagers stealing jewelry. "Ironic twist?" Or how about "guerrilla marketing?"
The Pakistani doctor who helped with the vaccine scam used to suss out Osama Bin Laden's compound, landing in jail for his troubles, had previously been denied asylum in the United States.
The IRS' deposed acting boss answers Congress over claims Tea Party groups were targeted for extra investigation. "We provided horrible service here. I will admit that. Whether it was politically motivated is a very different question."
Years before Arizona targeted people with darker skin by demanding they carry their immigration papers all the time, the state went after the businesses that hire undocumented immigrants. How's that 2007 law working? Hundreds of workers have been prosecuted. But only three of the state's 147,000 businesses have had a day in court.
Justin Bieber has until midnight German time—which is only hours away—to pick up the pet monkey he toured with and then left behind (and pay thousands of dollars in boarding fees) before the government transfers the sad animal to a zoo or somewhere else.
Here's a good reminder that the Pearl District, with its buildings reserved for low-income Portlanders, is not solely a playground for the wealthy.
PREVIOUSLY ON BLOGTOWN, ICYMI: Another poll on fluoridation shows a widening lead for opponents. And, in big political news, Mayor Charlie Hales and Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen struck a budget deal last night that picks up funding for about a $1 million bucks in safety net programs the city wanted to stop funding.
AFTER THE ELECTION, WE SHALL PUT ASIDE OUR FEELINGS AND WE SHALL DANCE! ALL OF US!
In a move that bodes well for future working ties between the leaders of the region's two most important governing bodies, Mayor Charlie Hales and Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen this afternoon set aside differences that had flared in recent weeks and unveiled a budget agreement meant to preserve a handful of endangered social services programs.
The deal reportedly came together quite rapidly—and after a great deal of pushing by city and county commissioners who had been concerned by what loomed as an awkward standoff. Some staffers hadn't even heard all the details when reached by the Mercury. It was also something of a surprise to commissioners.
"I went out for Thai food and when I came back, they had an agreement," Commissioner Steve Novick says. "I should go out for Thai food more often."
In a year that saw the two governments trade places, with the city making deep cuts (to solve a $21.5 million deficit) and the county holding its own (thanks to last fall's library district vote), the two leaders had been attempting to take tough stands in the name of principle.
"Both of us appreciate the collaborative spirit of our discussions to help the city deal with the budget shortfall it faces this year," Hales and Cogen said in a joint statement first revealed by Cogen's office on Twitter. "We are optimistic this spirit will be a model for our future discussions. The good news today is that we have reached an agreement that will benefit our entire community."
According to data provided by Hales' office, both governments agreed to split the cost of three county SUN schools the city had been paying for, but wanted to stop funding. The county is picking up a needle exchange program, senior recreation services, and helping to pay for the regions' one-stop domestic violence shelter. It's also paying the city for the city's efforts collecting business income taxes.
The city, in turn, will continue to pay $634,000 for the next year to fund its share of operating costs for the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center—something that emerged as a lightning rod in the burgeoning budget debate, especially after Cogen fired some harsh barbs at Hales over his decision to pull funding.
The city appears to be agreeing to spend a bit more than Hales had initially proposed when he unveiled his budget last month. The two governments aren't trading money so much as they're picking up programs both prized but that had been zeroed out. Advocates for many of those programs were expected to crowd a budget forum tonight at city hall.
· Funds CATC one-time ($634,107 cost)
· Funds half of the SUN Schools pass-through (adding back 1.5 schools for $136,000 cost)
· Further reduces senior center pass-through ($141,454 savings)
· Gets County agreement for additional BIT collection ($200,000 savings)
· Funds the remaining SUN pass-through ($135,000)
· Funds the domestic violence cuts ($64,300 plus $77,000 for victim’s advocate position that was previously one-time funded, total of $141,300)
· Funds needle exchange ($65,000)
· Funds some of the senior center pass-through that was cut, but not all (about $282k
City and county relations have been hot and cold in recent years, but mostly cold. Cogen and former Mayor Sam Adams were known to have a contentious relationship, even as individual commissioners and bureaucrats got along well. The county has long kvetched about Portland's penchant for passing urban renewal districts, which wall off property tax dollars that otherwise would fill the county coffers in the short term, under the promise that improved neighborhoods will one day pay dividends.
A KATU/SurveyUSA poll of some 600 likely voters—coming out just days before Tuesday's election—has fluoridation down 53 percent to 40 percent, with only eight percent over respondents listing themselves as undecided.
That's pretty much a worst-case scenario for fluoridation supporters, including the Mercury (our endorsement is here) and every other major newspaper in Portland. The same poll last week showed 14 percent of voters undecided, with 48 percent opposed and 39 percent in favor—implying that as people figure out how they want to vote, most are breaking toward the opposition.
The phrasing of a poll question is always interesting. A bad question led a lot of people to write off the arts tax when polls showed it lagging—only to win with 62 percent of the vote. But in this case, it's impossible to blame the phrasing—which is pretty straight-up:
On the ballot measure concerning the fluoridation of Portland's drinking water supply, are you ... Certain to vote yes? Certain to vote no? Or not certain?
The crosstabs are filled with good tidbits. Fluoride is up big among "affluent" voters, but doing awfully among people who aren't and people who still have land lines. But here's an even more interesting detail, especially in a low-turnout election where every ballot actually in hand counts: Among respondents who said they already turned in ballots, fluoridation is losing BIG.
Earlier today, we told you about lingering problems with city's overloaded arts tax website (the $35 tax was supposed to be due yesterday) and the still-uncertain deadline for procrastinators who have yet to square up.
The city just sent out another update confirming that payment will now be accepted into next week, in person or online, but that the website won't be ready for another couple of days. Read it here:
Wednesday night, the City’s website experienced a problem related to the overwhelming response of Portlanders paying their Arts Tax. As a result, people were not able to pay their tax that afternoon and evening. Wednesday was the original deadline for payment.
The City has extended the Arts Tax deadline.
The online payment option will be brought back next week, as will an announcement of the new deadline. Currently, the Arts Tax cannot be paid over the Internet, but can be paid in person or by mailing in a check or money order. Forms can be found here.
The City has also extended the deadline to pay in person or by mail, simply to keep the deadlines together and to create simplicity for taxpayers.
The online payment option will remain offline for the next few days as city technical personnel implement measures to limit the number of concurrent filers on the site at any one time. This will ensure that usage does not exceed the system capacity and allow people to pay their Arts Tax online. Once implemented, when the site reaches capacity, the user will receive notification that the site is currently unavailable and to try back later. Technical staff will also be working on increasing the overall capacity of the payment site.
I've also asked, under admonishing from commenters, how this latest snafu affects collection and administrative costs that are supposed to be kept under 5 percent of collections. I'll update if and when I hear back.
Last night, you'll recall, enough people tried to pay Portland's $35-an-income-earner arts tax just before the midnight deadline that the city's payment website apparently collapsed under the strain.
The Office of Management and Finance and Mayor Charlie Hales' office both sent out statements last night saying the deadline would be extended indefinitely while the problem with the website was fixed.
Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes (probably tired of writing releases and statements about the arts tax), has sent word this morning that the problem with the website has not yet been fixed.
Wednesday night, the city’s website experienced a problem related to the overwhelming response of Portlanders paying their Arts Tax. The computer problem is being addressed this morning. The city has extended the Arts Tax deadline, and will maintain that extension until this problem is resolved. We appreciate everyone’s patience and hope to have further details later today.
Keep your debit cards handy. And we'll holler when we hear something.
OUR TOP STORY: Topless Bea Arthur painting sells for nearly $2 million! (Worth it!)
Along with Seth Meyers and Bill Hader, now Fred Armisen is probably leaving Saturday Night Live to possibly pursue a career portraying lesbian book store owners?
According to BBC News, police were called to a sci-fi convention to break up a fight between Star Wars and Doctor Who fans. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! WHERE'S THE VIDEO???
Rob Thomas tweets that the Veronica Mars movie will start shooting on June 17—indicating that, at least so far, he hasn't skipped the country with the money stolen from all you Kickstarter suckers. (I would!)
And finally, CBS has released six trailers for their new fall shows, including this behind-the-scenes peek of a show called The Crazy Ones starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Geller. While it kinda sounds like a good idea, it also kinda makes me want to kill myself. Your opinions, please.
“It was pretty much a proctology exam through your earlobe." Conservative groups talk about being targeted by the pain-in-the-ass IRS and detail the flaming hoops that inspectors and investigators forced them to leap through—in violation of the law.
Confronting a bizarro reality where Tea Party acolytes look legitimately aggrieved and sympathetic, President Obama has fired the acting head of the IRS. Never mind that the deposed director, who blamed rogue employees in Cincinnati, wasn't in charge when the targeting took place. He replaced a longtime Bush appointee in November.
While we wring our hands over the IRS and the AP and Benghazi, congressional Republicans are doing what they do best: Plotting to hold the national economy hostage with brinksmanship over trophies like a trans-American oil pipeline and an erosion of abortion rights.
A bleeding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Boston Marathon bombing suspect, reportedly scrawled a confession on the walls of the drydocked boat where cops eventually found him. The note, according to reports, called victims of the blast "collateral damage" for Muslim victims of America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The savagery in Syria's civil war has hardly been dim, but videos emerging in recent days—celebrated executions and purported cannibalism—show sectarian violence and cruelty flaring with a previously unseen intensity.
May remains the deadliest month this year for NATO forces in Afghanistan. A suicide car bomber in Kabul plowed into a convoy, killing 15 people. Two were American.
Wow! More blood on our clothing and shoes—this time after the collapse of a sweatshop in Cambodia where, so far, six people working in lousy conditions so we can put smaller purchases on our credit cards are dead.
Iran's ruling cleric has decreed what everyone already knew, just in case anyone thought they might not be serious about that whole brutality and intolerance thing: Only men can serve as president.
Twenty counts of attempted murder have been filed against a 19-year-old New Orleans man arrested in connection with a shooting during a Mother's Day parade that left 19 people injured.
The mayor of Detroit decides to shout "NEXT!"
Climate change deniers, among scientists, are distinctly in the minority. How do we know this? Because 97 percent of all academic papers written on the subject over the past 20 years definitively agree that humans are to blame.
Sports news! The NBA continues to torment Seattle (birthplace of the Oklahoma City Thunder!) by denying the Sacramento Kings' relocation bid.
More sports news! The English husband of Posh Spice doesn't want to play soccer anymore.
Thieves are thieving the fee money Oregonians place inside unmonitored tubes at federal parks up and down the coast.
You can be kicked off TriMet, a judge says, if you argue with or criticize an employee and that employee decides to say you were making "excessive noise."
PREVIOUSLY ON BLOGTOWN, ICYMI: An adorable Carson Ellis mural in St. Johns. A brewing fight over a no-parking apartment in Kerns. And one more debacle for Portland's arts tax.
REMEMBER TO FILL OUT YOUR BALLOTS BEFORE NEXT TUESDAY NIGHT. READ UP AND REMEMBER, WE ENDORSED WATER FLUORIDATION ALONGSIDE EVERY OTHER NEWS OUTLET IN TOWN.
The Kerns Neighborhood Association appears to be seriously considering a formal fight against the proposed construction of a building at NE Couch and 20th. That building will contain four floors and 50 units and, like a bunch of apartments that have popped up over Portland lately, has no planned on-site parking.
That, unurprisingly, isn't sitting well with neighbors of the proposed development, which was first reported by the Mercury. Like folks in Richmond and Beaumont-Wilshire, neighbors worry on-street parking will become non-existent and say the building is out of step with the rest of the neighborhood.
Beaverton Developer Dennis Sackhoff applied for a building permit for the project last month. It is the last proposed project in the city to take advantage of laws that allowed even large developments within certain zoning designations to forego on-site parking. The policies went out of effect May 9, after a city council vote last month.
"I'm gonna look out my window and see balconies out there," Kerns resident Marti Heard said at a neighborhood association meeting this evening. "This is going to destroy the livability of this hub."
More-colorful were comments by area resident Jeremy Ginzberg, whose hat—black, emblazoned with the words "Good guys wear white hats"—I admired. Ginzberg described a large parking-free development near the Hollywood Theater as a "Stalinist monstrosity"
He called Sackhoff—who's behind similar buildings all over town—a "repulsive human being," and said the proposed project is "nauseating."
As is often the case in these debates, many folks in the room championed the idea of urban density, but argued the building coming to the neighborhood would only hurt the city.
It was not a particularly kind room to be in if you were David Mullens, a representative for Sackhoff's company invited to the meeting to explain the project. After a half hour or so, he seemed to grow tired of the epithets being hurled his way.
Regardless of neighbor's opinions, Mullens' company can move forward as it pleases. Portland zoning laws allow the project to proceed without public scrutiny, and this realization led the neighborhood association to discuss their options.
Looming large is a LUBA appeal, a last-ditch protestation which earlier this year stalled a large Sackhoff project in Richmond, but ultimately caused little change. Neighbors also considered lodging an objection with Portland's Bureau of Development Services, which will vet the permit application in coming weeks.
"Sounds like we have to work fast," said Angela Kirkman, the neighborhood association's chair.
The arts tax originally due April 15 was supposed to due by 7 pm tonight, if you were paying in person, or midnight if you went online to the city's website. That deadline has been now been extended. Again. Because the city's website wasn't equipped to handle the onslaught of last-minute payers.
Says the city's Office of Management Finance, which oversees the Bureau of Revenue, which oversees the arts tax:
Due to the overwhelming response of Portlanders paying their Arts Tax, the City's website is experiencing a capacity issue.
We are working on the situation. At this point the deadline to pay the Arts Tax will be extended until the problem is resolved. We appreciate everyone's patience with this situation.
On a high usage day the website will see about 230 concurrent users. Throughout the day we have been experiencing approximately double that number just on the Arts Tax website alone.
It's a fitting turn on the would-be last day for legal payment of the tax.
Previously, city officials announced the arts tax, as of noon today, had only collected $6 million out of the $8.6 million expected by the end of the fiscal year. Then there was the problem with the public pension and Social Security collections. And the new $1,000 income minimum, which forced the initial deadline extension. Oh, and besides all of that, the $35-per-income-earner tax is the subject of lawsuits claiming it's really an unconstitutional head tax, forcing an awkward workaround with schools counting on their share of proceeds.
Two other points are worth noting. The arts tax passed with 62 percent support from voters (and, yes, we endorsed it; it's still a worthy idea in principle). And Commissioner Dan Saltzman has made the Revenue staff promise not to send bill collectors after scofflaws until they miss at least two years of payments. (But pay anyway, because it's the law.)
Budget negotiations are well underway in Portland City Hall—although, by most accounts, with less intrigue and cloak-and-dagger than in previous years. That's because Mayor Charlie Hales made a lot of people happy with his budget plan, announced April 30—cutting public safety bureaus to pay for safety net programs and front-end services like parks (except for Buckman Pool). That reveal came after he involved city commissioners in his work to an unprecedented degree. Thusly, for a lot of observers, there's not much to fundamentally quibble with.
But not much is not the same as nothing. Hales thought he'd deliver on campaign rhetoric—and please activists and business interests—by lowering planned increases in the city's water, sewers, and stormwater rates. The mayor did that partly by cutting money for needs like watershed management and then shifting the work from the Bureau of Environmental Services back to bureaus by the city's general fund.
That gesture, it turns out, has pleased few people. Water rate activists wonder why Hales didn't cut rates instead of reducing increases. And today, in city council, environmentalists accused the mayor of stripping away environmental work that brought United Nations' laurels to Portland earlier this year. (They echoed some of the concerns Commissioner Amanda Fritz raised when I spoke to her just hours after Hales unveiled his budget.)
"We believe this budget takes us back 25 years—both in substance and in philosophy," said Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland, "back to the time when the city had a sewer agency and the the city didn't have an environmental agency."
GOOD MORNING, BLOGTOWN! I'm the trouble starter, fuckin' instigator. I'm the fear addicted, danger illustrated. I'm a firestarter, terrific firestarter. LET'S GO TO PRESS.
It's been a grisly, horrific month in Syria in which government forces have murdered entire families and forced survivors to proclaim President Bashar al-Assad as "God."
For the second time in a month, a U.S. military member working in a sexual assault prevention program is accused of... you guessed it! SEXUALLY ASSAULTING SOMEONE.
The Justice Department is opening up an investigation of the IRS for their role in holding up tax exempt status for certain conservative groups, which of course is wrong—even if it was the Tea Party. (Man, that's tough to say. BUT STILL WRONG!)
House Speaker John Boehner is demanding that the guilty IRS members accused of malfeasance be sent to prison. Oh, and he may cry about it, too.
Religious bamboozler Billy Graham's son screams, "The IRS targeted me, too! (Though I have no real proof of what I'm screaming about!)"
Republicans are voting for THE 37TH TIME to repeal the health care law. Unfortunately wasting everyone's time instead of doing their job to get the economy back in shape isn't a crime.
The adoptive parents of an eight-year-old who was born with both male and female organs are suing the state of South Carolina for operating on and assigning the child a gender—and whoopsy! They guessed wrong.
Ariel Castro—the man accused of kidnapping and raping those three Cleveland women—is pleading not guilty. Good luck with that!
Detroit Mayor David Bing—after valiantly fighting to stop corruption, blight, and crime in his town—says "Fuck it. I quit."
Locally, the "TriMet Barber"—who used to go around snipping the hair of female passengers—should now be called the "TriMet Ejaculator" for reasons that might be obvious. PROTIP: Ladies on the bus? Wear a hat.
Now here's what's going on in your neck of the woods: Cloudy with on-and-off sprinkles and temps in the '60s through Saturday.
And finally, here's your daily reminder to read our must-read feature about FLUORIDE, vote "yes" for FLUORIDE, and know in your heart you've made "An Excellent Choice, Old Chap!"
What gives, you might ask? Then maybe you've forgotten Charlie Hales and his wife, Nancy, were supposed to be entrants in a local charity version of Dancing With the Stars. Nancy Hales is particularly on point—loose enough to twirl while also getting into character. The mayor has a natty outfit and isn't so awful himself.
Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, says his boss took a lot of tango lessons. He hadn't seen the video either.
"Dude, he’s good. I just watched it for the first time and have aspirated coffee all over my keyboard."
After 8 years, SNL regular Bill Hader—best known perhaps as the heeeeeelarious Stefon—is leaving the show. Fine, but don't take Stefon with you!
Adult Swim is returning with another Greatest Event in Television History (last year's was an exact recreation of the opening credits of Simon & Simon, starring Adam Scott and Jon Hamm), this time Scott and Parks & Rec co-star Amy Poehler will recreate the classic romantic detective series Hart to Hart! (This "greatest event" will surely be the "greatest event" ever!)
In Parks & Rec related news... here's "Tron Swanson."
R.I.P. famed TV psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers—dead at age 85.
Ordinarily annoyingly nice comedian Wayne Brady threatens to "beat Bill Maher's ass in public." Not so nice now!
And finally, Fox releases a whopping SEVEN new trailers for their fall shows, most notably Sleepy Hollow, J.J. Abrams robot cop show Almost Human, and Andy Samberg's police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine—which I wish was funnier! BE MORE FUNNIER.
President Obama's sort of mucking things up, lately, everybody. A rundown:
-Obama's Justice Department, it turns out, surveilled the phone records of more than 100 Associated Press reporters last year, an attempt to identify a leak.
-We're pretty conservative here at GMN, and it boils the blood to learn guys like us have been disproportionately scrutinized by the IRS. States' rights!
-To say nothing of this Benghazi business. Small government!
-And look! An accused American spy stationed in the US Embassy in Moscow has been detained by Russian authorities. Russia says Ryan C. Fogle was carrying a letter aimed at recruiting a Russian agent.
The international media is in what feels like a frenzied, frothy mourning for Angelina Jolie's biological breasts, which she recently rid herself of to avoid possible breast cancer. To be fair, many outlets are also highly supportive of Jolie's transparency. She revealed the procedure today in a New York Times Op-Ed.
New Orleans police are searching for the man they believe opened fire on a Mother's Day parade, wounding 19.
The sun was angry that day, my friends.
The destruction of one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids at the hands of soulless capitalism would be SUCH a good Captain Planet episode, right? I always liked Manny. HEART!
In case you missed it, authorities lost their shit yesterday, when a ballot "filled with suspicious white powder" was found at the Multnomah County Election Office. We've all lost our minds over this fluoride thing. Is it May 22 yet?
You all know I'm the Weather Widget's staunchest supporter and would never gainsay her, but I admit I am frustrated. She gave me so much hope this month, and is snatching it away one drizzly day at a time. I realize this is not rational, but that doesn't make it any less real. HEART!
And SERIOUSLY, guys. Make the right choice on fluoride.
Legal challenges and other problems besieging the arts tax enthusiastically approved by voters last fall have cast a cloud over the program's signature promise: millions to help local school districts staff up with arts teachers.
Treading lightly in the face of lawsuits calling the $35 tax an unconstitutional head tax, Mayor Charlie Hales announced this year he wouldn't be handing out any of the money promised to schools or arts organizations. Hales fretted over the nightmare of having to refund taxpayers in case the city loses—even though some districts, like Portland Public Schools, had already built the expected revenue into their upcoming budgets.
But today, Hales responded to that pushback and announced a major compromise. Hales offered to distribute up to half of the estimated $6 million scheduled to be distributed this November—$3 million—"pending favorable rulings or settlements" on the two lawsuits challenging the tax.
To make that pencil out, if the city loses and has to hand back the money it's collected, he's putting the risk on three pots of money, grabbing $1 million each from (1) the $3 million contingency fund he's proposed for his next budget, (2) the city's future appropriations to the Regional Arts & Culture Council, and (3) a pot of reserve money put up by the six districts benefiting from the tax: PPS, Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Reynolds, and Riverdale.
“The superintendents and I have been working to find a way to be true to the taxpayers, whose money this is, and to the voters, who approved the arts tax,” Hales said in a statement. “We think this does it.”
Hales' office notes that though districts like PPS had been planning to spend the money, others were banking it to see how the grappling over the tax shakes out.
“We are not in the business of telling superintendents how to run their districts,” Hales also said in a statement. “These decisions have been tough to reach, but it’s been a combined effort all along, and we’re grateful to the arts community and our school districts for working with us to find a practical solution. In the end, getting teachers in our classrooms will pay dividends for generations to come.”
Last week, Hales announced a change in the arts tax after the city attorney's office decided it wasn't allowed, after all, to tax Social Security and state pension income. That wasn't clear when the tax was proposed and approved. Previously, Hales asked council to approve a $1,000 income minimum. A review of changes, also commissioned by Hales, is due by July.
Anyone who makes $1,000 in private income a year, so long as their household is above the federal poverty line, is obligated to pay. The deadline is Wednesday—after it was extended from April 15.
Read the full release after the jump.
Two years after the city enacted policy restricting its employees from wearing perfumes, colognes and other scented products to work, it's facing a lawsuit alleging it has refused to enforce the rule.
On Friday, Bureau of Transportation employee Julee Reynolds filed suit [PDF] in US District Court under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Reynolds alleges she's complained for years about the lotions and perfumes borne by her coworkers, but that superiors have refused to remedy the situation.
The city received notice of the suit today, and would not comment on pending litigation, according to PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera.
Reynolds, a utility locator in PBOT's Maintenance Bureau, says she suffers from a condition known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and that exposure to scented products has sent her to the hospital in recent years.
"The condition causes her to experience symptoms ranging from respiratory distress, dizziness, headaches and nausea to anaphylaxis," the suit says. "This condition has been recognized by Ms. Reynolds' physician as potentially 'life threatening' and, on at least one occasion, has resulted in Ms. Reynolds' hospitalization after a work-place exposure."
The suit seeks damages "estimated at $50,000."
Reynolds' alleged difficulties in the bureau began in 2010, when a coworker's lotion gave her system offense. She says she complained to a supervisor, and provided a doctor's note, but the situation continued. Most seriously, Reynolds allegedly landed in intensive care when a June 2011 "exposure" gave her a serious allergic reaction.
The suit details a litany of efforts Reynolds made to correct the problem— from meeting safety and human resources officials to securing a letter of support from Disabilities Rights Oregon.
"In response on April 4,2012 city representatives met with Ms. Reynolds and told her that she was suffering from nothing more than allergic symptoms and that, in the City's view, she did not have a disability," the suit says. Still, a supervisor offered to move Reynolds' desk to another area, the suit says. It didn't help.
"Ms. Reynolds has continued to report the chemical exposures, but all of her reports have fallen on deaf ears."
But city leaders have been willing to listen to similar claims in the past. In 2011, city council unanimously supported a policy change prohibiting scented products like perfumes in the workplace.
According to the policy revision: "Employees who have asthma and those who experience sensitivity to perfumes, colognes and other chemicals may suffer potentially serious health consequences due to exposure to airborne irritants."
While he almost certainly doesn't want to pay out $50,000 in city funds, Reynolds' claims may strike a chord with City Commissioner Nick Fish. During the 2011 fragrance hearing, he described how certain types of perfumes and make-up cause him to break out.
By the way: The condition Reynolds claims, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, is highly controversial. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "chemical sensitivity is generally accepted as a reaction to chemicals but debate continues as to whether MCS is classifiable as an illness."
A call to Reynolds' attorney was not returned this afternoon.
A Multnomah County judge managed to rain down bad news on both CenturyLink and the Oregonian editorial board today—upholding an incremental land-line phone tax proposed by former Mayor Sam Adams (and loathed by the O) to help pay for police reforms put forward by the US Department of Justice.
CenturyLink had been hoping the courts would shut down the tax—approved unanimously by the Portland City Council last fall despite lobbyists' concern for senior citizens (who don't use cell phones), furtive threats of legal action, and a creepy robocall campaign by the Taxpayer Association of Oregon.
Under Adams' plan, Frontier and CenturyLink are now subject to the same tax revenue formula as every other landline provider in town. Frontier and CenturyLink had been paying taxes only on their basic voice plans, at 7 percent of revenues. They'll now pay 5 percent on all revenues—a smaller rate, but on a broader base of income—an increase that could bring Portland $3 million to $5 million a year.
CenturyLink, filing under the name Qwest and represented by high-powered law firm Stoel Rives, argued the tax was unfair because of other fees it already pays the city. It's also argued the city should similarly target wireless companies, which dominate the phone market and don't pay the same taxes land-line operators do.
Judge Henry Breithaupt had other ideas in his ruling (pdf), siding with the city and its argument that a 1997 case in Eugene on a similar dispute gave it legal cover. It's not clear yet whether CenturyLink will appeal Breithaupt's ruling.
"CenturyLink is disappointed with the court’s decision today and continues to believe that the city’s proposed fees on local telephone companies are in conflict with applicable state and federal restrictions," Chris Denzin, CenturyLink's vice president and general manager for Oregon and Southwest Washington, said in a statement. "CenturyLink continues to be committed to protecting our customers’ interests, and is considering its options, but has no further comment pending a review of the court’s decision."
The uncertainty surrounding this tax revenue probably played some role in Mayor Charlie Hales' decision to seek a $3 million council contingency fund next year. I'll update when I hear back from Hales' office with their reaction to the ruling. Even if the tax isn't further appealed, I don't expect Hales will back down from his decision to keep the piggy bank densely packed.
Update 4:46 PM: Hales' office is obviously pleased with the ruling. But Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, has confirmed my suspicions about the contingency plan. At least, related to this issue.
"The mayor plans no change in his recommended contingency, which, if approved, still would be less than 1 percent of the general fund."
Mayor Charlie Hales is on the way to delivering on what had been a stalled and somewhat troubled police accountability promise under his predecessor: a dramatic reorientation of the psychological vetting the Portland Police Bureau relies on for screening applicants, and current cops, who might be prone to violence or racial bias or are otherwise unfit for duty.
At Hales' prompting, the police bureau this morning announced it was seeking résumés for two separate psychological contracts—one to work with recruits and another to work with current cops. Further, the bureau will be conducting a national search to fill the positions and working hand-in-hand with community groups in hopes of reaching a diverse pool of applicants who either are deeply familiar with "cultural competency" or have a plan to address how they'll get there.
"They're a little bit closer to doing this the right way at this point," says Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch. Handelman sits on the steering committee of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, the group that led the push for changes. "We'll see when the applications come through, and the interviews are done, how many people actually applied we whether have a growing sense of diversity."
The bureau's psychological vetting has been handled, for the past 13 years, by a lone white Lake Oswego psychologist named David Corey. Groups like the AMA and Copwatch have long raised questions about Corey and his work in light of police shootings and lingering concerns about racial bias in the bureau.
The AMA was especially rueful when, last year—despite promises its leadership would be closely consulted on recruitment the next time Corey's contract was up for renewal—the police bureau pushed ahead without the group's input. The bureau ultimately chose Corey again, after only one other applicant submitted.
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