Saving Theft Victims Money May Cost City

The Portland Police Bureau plans to change its current policy that passes on to victims the cost of towing recovered stolen vehicles. That change follows a WW investigation ("Held for Ransom," WW, Dec. 20, 2017). But a deputy ombudsman in the City Auditor's Office advised the bureau that changing the policy could cost the city up to $600,000 annually in lost surcharges that are used to fund city programs. "The unfairness of forcing crime victims to pay for the return of their own stolen property is apparent," deputy ombudsman Tony Green said in a letter sent to PPB and the Portland Bureau of Transportation on Jan. 23. "One way to mitigate the fiscal impact would be to increase the existing $9 surcharge that funds the city's 'zombie RV' disposal program." PBOT negotiates the contracts with local tow companies and sets the city's fees, and the agency may need to alter its contracts to compensate for the lost revenue.

Zombie Bridge Rises Again

On Feb. 2, the Oregon Department of Transportation submitted its new list of priority projects to Metro—a list the regional government updates only every four years. On the list: $3.2 billion to "replace I-5/Columbia River bridges and improve interchanges on I-5." That sounds a lot like the Columbia River Crossing project, which died in 2014 after about $200 million in planning and design work. ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton notes the timeframe is 2028-2040 and cautions against reading too much into the list. "At this point, it's just a placeholder," he says. Metro will take comment on the list of transportation priorities through Feb. 17.

Portland Rolls Forward With Autonomous Vehicles

Last June, the City Council adopted a policy supporting pilot programs for autonomous vehicles in Portland. On Feb. 1, Mayor Ted Wheeler and Transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman suggested next steps. So far, 19 companies have proposed various ideas, including one for testing autonomous vehicles. The city now plans to establish a permitting system for such testing. Officials have proposed putting the cars through their paces at Portland International Raceway. "We know that emerging technologies have the potential to disrupt markets and challenge policymakers," Wheeler tells WW. "By getting out ahead of autonomous vehicle technology, we can make our streets safer and attract innovators and investors to our local economy."

Impossible Burger (Impossible Foods)
Impossible Burger (Impossible Foods)

TechfestNW Returns

TechfestNW will be back in Portland April 5-6. The event, sponsored by WW, will gather startups, established companies and leaders at the forefront of tech trends in food, health, smart cities and inclusivity. Speakers will include Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario, Impossible Foods COO and CFO David Lee, and Moovel CEO Nat Parker. The event will expand again this year to fill the new Viking Pavilion at Portland State University—with a demo floor filled with gadgets, breakout workshops and PitchfestNW, which connects entrepreneurs with potential investors. Tickets for TechfestNW 2018 are available at techfestnw.com.