Landlords Propose Renter Aid Program

Under pressure to respond to the rising cost of housing, the state's landlord lobby is circulating a proposal to create a $25 million annual Oregon renter assistance program. Like Section 8-style vouchers, the program would pay a portion of the rent for low-income tenants, funded by auctioning tax credits to businesses. It could help 20,000 renters a year if on average the fund awards $100 a month to each renter, says John DiLorenzo, a lobbyist for landlord group Equitable Housing PAC. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, who is championing legislation to allow rent control and end no-cause evictions, is skeptical. "A new, complicated, taxpayer-funded giveaway to landlords would simply allow them to keep raising rents," she says. "This proposal is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public and make it appear as if certain property owners are trying to do something about the crisis." DiLorenzo says his group is looking for solutions that will help "households in need," and that Kotek's plan won't work.

Psychiatric Hospital Operator Seeks Larger Oregon Footprint

An embattled hospital chain is seeking to expand in Oregon during a time of flux in acute mental health services. In her state budget, Gov. Kate Brown proposed closing the 173-bed, $130 million state hospital in Junction City that opened less than two years ago. Officials in Lane County are lobbying to keep the facility open. At the same time, Universal Health Services, which operates more than 200 private psychiatric hospitals across the country, including one in Cedar Hills, is seeking state permission to build a new 100-bed facility in Wilsonville. A yearlong investigation by BuzzFeed found significant problems at UHS facilities, including alleged overbilling and holding patients longer than necessary. UHS denied any wrongdoing. The Oregon Health Authority will issue a decision on UHS's proposed Wilsonville facility "no later than Jan. 18, 2017."

PPS Puts on Leave Director Convicted of Prostitution

Portland Public Schools placed its director of school and family partnerships on paid leave last week, immediately after WW published a story that revealed the director, Richard Gilliam, had a 1998 conviction for engaging with a prostitute. Oregon law bars people with prostitution convictions from teaching, and PPS officials said they hold administrators to the same standard. It's still not clear how PPS hired Gilliam in 2013 with the 1998 no-contest plea on his record. The school district says it's investigating. Gilliam, now on unpaid leave, says he's innocent of the crime, claiming he disclosed it to PPS when he sought employment. "I am confident any unbiased investigation will clear me of any wrongdoing," he wrote in a statement.

Give!Guide Nears the Finish Line

WW's annual Give!Guide is live and accepting donations at giveguide.org until midnight Dec. 31. Give today and help us reach our goal of 10,000 donors.