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Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in Oregon Politics: Kate Brown, Minimum Wage, and More

Friday, September 18, 2015


Governor Brown

Every Friday, GoLocalPDX breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Oregon politics. Check out who made the lists this week.


Portland Community Equality Act. City Hall doesn’t give two sh**s about the citizens of this city that live east of 82nd Avenue. At least, that is the way it feels to a group of residents and they have decided to do something about it. Introducing the "Portland Community Equality Act", an “Act” that would change the way we are governed here in the city of Portland.

Currently our City Commissioners serve in an at-large basis. That means they are elected in citywide elections and represent the city as a whole. This proposal would change that. Under the new charter the City Council would increase to nine members with seven elected by district. The Mayor would still be elected citywide.

Supporters scored a major victory last week when the City Auditor approved the ballot title for their petition. They now have until July 2016 to get about 31k signatures to put the proposed charter reform on the November 2016 ballot.

To find out more, I called one of the organizers, Collene Swenson, to ask why she thought this new system of government was necessary. She spoke of the vacant houses commandeered by squatters, the roads needing repairs and the promised sidewalks that never materialized. She is neither a politician nor a civic activist, she is just one resident of the Hazelwood Neighborhood who grew tired of the unresponsiveness of City Hall.

She said they will be gathering signatures from all over the city because this isn’t just an East Portland issue. Many neighborhoods aren’t getting what they need from the City. She has heard similar stories from North Portland and even from Mount Tabor (you know things are bad when people in Mount Tabor start complaining).

One reason these neighborhoods may feel neglected is that they are not represented in City Hall. Four of the five members of the City Council live on the west side. Commissioner Nick Fish is the only outlier and he lives in Inner NE (not judging!). The last member of the City Council to live east of 82nd was Randy Leonard.

Ms. Swenson acknowledged that this endeavor would not be easy, but she was optimistic that Portlanders, weary from the status quo, would be receptive to her group’s proposal.

If you would like to add your name to the petition, volunteers will be outside the Bipartisan Cafe located at 7901 SE Stark Street this Sunday from 10-2 collecting signatures.

Rockwood Rising Redevelopment Project. The Rockwood neighborhood lies between Portland and downtown Gresham and is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Multnomah County. It is understandable if you have never been there or even heard of it. Even though it is home to about one-third of the residents of Gresham, it doesn’t get much press. Unless it is the bad kind. Other than a MAX light rail stop, there is not much going on there. Rockwood Rising is going to change that.

With the goal of bringing living-wage jobs to the area and to help build the community, the Gresham Redevelopment Commission announced this week its plans to develop the site of the old Fred Meyer in the heart of the neighborhood. The goal is to have place for local businesses, a job training site and a public plaza. Their goal is to have a developer in place by November and to break ground in about a year.

Governor Kate Brown. As soon as Kate Brown moved into Mahonia Hall, the chatter about the next governor’s race began. There was a time when the name of a potential well-funded, experienced challenger popped up each week. That time has passed.

State Representative Knute Buehler thought about it and then realized he actually enjoyed spending time with his family and his patients and didn’t want to be on the road for the next year. That, coupled with the fact he still has stuff he wants to accomplish in the House and the blue wave engulfing this state that has yet to crest, made his decision easy.

Democratic State Senator Betsy Johnson thought about leaving the Democratic Party and running as an Independent. And then she thought again. Maybe it is Governor Brown’s soaring approval ratings? Maybe it was her access to deep pockets as demonstrated by the nearly 40k she raised in August alone? Who knows? One thing is certain though, Sen. Johnson will return to Salem and continue to be a p̶a̶i̶n̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶a̶s̶s̶  thorn  in the side of the Senate Dems.

And lastly there is State Treasurer Ted Wheeler. Rumor had him eying both the Governor’s office and the Portland Mayor’s office. He announced his (first) choice last week. If I had to pick an incumbent to run against, I would have picked Hales too

Currently, all that is standing between Governor Brown and her first official term in office is Republican Bud Pierce, a retired doctor from Salem who kicked off his campaign last week. Well, at least we have an exciting mayoral race to look forward to.


Eastmoreland Sequoias. This week three 150 year-old Sequoias located on a vacant lot in the Eastmoreland neighborhood were scheduled to be removed by developers from Everett Custom Homes. That is, until the public caught wind of it. Protesters converged, tree-sitters sat and outraged residents from the neighborhood and across the city took to the Facebooks and Twitters to voice their outrage. As of the deadline for this column, the stand-off continues.

This is the part where the bad guy emerges. The one worthy of the Not Column. The one who shoulders the blame for this injustice. But who is really the culprit here? Is it the developers? When they buy property, they develop it. Often times clearing the trees or tearing down the existing home. Do you blame bees for stinging? Do you blame Adam Sandler for making sh***y movies? No, because that is what they do.

Do you blame the family that sold the property? When their family member died, they neither wanted to nor could repair the house and maintain the property and found the 900k offer too good to pass up. I don’t blame them.

Is the Urban Forestry Commission and ultimately the Portland Parks Director to blame for establishing a paltry $1200 fee per felled tree? This surely doesn’t incentivize the developers to find alternatives. Or do you blame the original owners that decided it was a good idea to plant massive trees on their property or the other residents of the neighborhood for building their homes around the trees and not dealing with this sooner?

Where the blame lies depends on who you ask, but we all can agree on the victims.

This is a zero sum situation. Houses are to be built and the trees need to be hewed in order to do this. The neighbors are pooling their money in an attempt to purchase the property, but if that doesn’t work...well, there are still the protesters. However, even they will go eventually. Voluntarily or otherwise. And the outcry of the community will be viewed as merely prolonging the inevitable.

Minimum Wage. If you were looking forward to a little bump in your paycheck next year, you are SOL. State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian announced this week that the Consumer Price Index for Portland only went up a little bit for the year ending in August and that was not enough to trigger an increase in the minimum wage. It is currently $9.25 and it will stay that way. He acknowledged that this kind of sucked (his language was more official) considering the price of everything is going up including rents and child care and food. But all may not be lost. Groups like Rage the Wage and Oregon Now are working on measures for the 2016 ballot that would increase the minimum wage $15/hour if the legislature doesn’t act before then.

Gresham City Council. If you plan to get your recreational weed from the medical marijuana dispensaries in Gresham, time for Plan B. On Tuesday, the Gresham City Council voted 4-3 to ban early pot sales that begin October 1st everywhere else in Multnomah County. They said they wanted to see what rules the OLCC comes up with before they allow recreational weed to be purchased and those rules aren’t expected until the end of 2016. So, even though Ballot Measure 91 allowing recreation weed passed in Gresham, the residents will have to drive somewhere else to get it. Council President Jerry Hinton, who proposed the ban said, "Trying to set (recreational sales) up early right now is like putting a square peg in a round hole.

What the hell does this even mean? It sounds like he may have been smoking a little something before the council session. In any event, Gresham’s loss is Portland’s gain. You guys didn’t need that tax revenue anyway.


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