- Two big developments on the city’s $30 million SmartPark garage contract this week (see “Lots of Discontent,” WW, May 12, 2010): The Alliance of Minority Chambers, led by the African American Chamber of Commerce’s Roy Jay, agreed to join forces with Central Parking System, the Nashville firm to whom the city plans to award the three-year contract. That’s big because Jay had been working with StarPark, the company that currently has the contract. Secondly, city officials rejected a protestof the new contract decision lodged by the city’s dominant parking company, City Center. City officials wrote that the appeal by the Goodman family company, which held the SmartPark contract from 1985 to 2003, failed to provide “any of the required content.” (For more and to read the city’s letter, go here.)
- Portland Public Schools’ high-school redesign took an unexpected turn Saturday after school-board member Martín González introduced a new proposal to move Benson Polytechnic High to the Jefferson High School campus. Then, at a community meeting Monday night at Self Enhancement Inc., Jefferson supporters loudly decried that option, even though equal numbers of Jefferson neighborhood students currently attend Benson and Jeff. Tony Hopson, SEI’s president, accused past and present PPS leaders of systematically creating “the failure we see” at Jeff and urged Superintendent Carole Smith and school board members to rebuild Jeff.
- Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen sees a possible future for the white-elephant Wapato Jail—as a film set. The TV show Leverage filmed for a second time at the moribund North Portland jail earlier this year. And Cogen says he hopes more film crews could be lured to the 513-bed facility, which has stood empty since it was built in 2004 because there’s no money to run it. “Anything that makes money, we’re interested in,” Cogen says, adding that the county made $25,000 on this year’s Leverage shoot. “We certainly offer it up as something for [film crews] to consider,” says Vince Porter, head of the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film Television. “If you have the right project, it is desirable.”
- Three frontrunners have emerged to head the Portland Police Association after Sgt. Scott Westerman’s resignation last month as president of the 900-member union. Central Precinct Officer Daryl Turner is lately positioning himself as a moderate who can reconcile strained relations with the chief’s office and City Hall. Central Precinct Officer John Grable is known for his confrontational attitude toward bureau management. And Drug and Vice Division Sgt. Doug Justus is running on his long experience in the union. Ballots are due June 17.
- Portland City Council will hear an ordinance May 26 that would send the city’s publicly financed elections to the ballot in November. That’s by design. When City Council approved public financing for city campaigns in 2005, commissioners promised to put it to Portlanders for a vote after a five-year test period. Janice Thompson, executive director of Common Cause Oregon, says “voter-owned elections” have “significantly reduced spending and special interest influence in Portland campaigns.”
- Westboro Baptist Church, a Topeka, Kan.-based hate group that evangelizes against homosexuals, Jews, Catholics, and U.S. soldiers, will return to Oregon later this month. The group’s nationally notorious pickets have included the funerals of soldiers because, according to founder Fred Phelps, “Military funerals are pagan orgies of idolatrous blasphemy where they pray to the dunghill gods of Sodom and play taps to a fallen fool.” Westboro’s crazies were last here in November 2008 when a few came to protest Silverton’s transgender mayor. Among the targets at the end of May and start of June are congregations Ahavath Achim, Havurah Shalom, Neveh Shalom, Beth Israel, and the Jewish Community Center. Also targeted is City Bible Church, the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, and New Hope Community Church as well as Heritage and Grant high schools. “We’re trying not to have it blow up into a confrontation,” says Grant Principal Joseph Malone.