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October 12th, 2011 WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs
 

Murmurs: Contracts, Appointments and no Friend of Oregon

News sharper than Rick Perry’s punchlines.

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  • Powell’s Books and its union employees have a new 18-month contract, the shortest term the beloved bookseller has ever signed with the decade-old International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 5. The previous one ran four years—and the brevity suggests Powell’s and the union are feeling unsteady about the economy and the book-selling business. Eight non-union managers were laid off last month, following 31 other layoffs this year. Union President Ryan Takas says Powell’s employees agreed to a 2 percent pay increase, down from the 2.5 percent hike four years ago. Takas says union members grabbed the deal even though the contract is relatively short. “When you get status quo on health care and even a few improvements on dental, you sign it,” Takas says. “You sign it very quickly.”
  • Gov. John Kitzhaber has a crucial appointment to make: the chairmanship of the powerful Oregon Transportation Commission, following the August health-related resignation of Gail Achterman, who joined the commission in 2000. The commission exerts influence on highway projects such as the controversial $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing Project. Kitzhaber wants to appoint Pat Egan, a former aide who’s now a vice president at PacifiCorp. But the Oregon Trucking Association wants former transportation director and Portland Development Commission chief Bruce Warner. Kitzhaber spokesman Tim Raphael says the job should be filled by next month.
  • Medical costs in the Portland metro area have risen dramatically faster than the U.S. average in recent years, and Portland ranked No. 1 out of the 26 cities the Census studied in a recent analysis. Medical costs rose 32 percent here in 2004-10, compared to 20 percent nationwide. The analysis also ranked Portland third when it came to growing transportation costs (the top cities: Denver and Detroit). Portland-area transportation costs rose 41 percent, 11 percentage points higher than the U.S. average. In other key areas of consumer spending, however—including food and housing—Portland’s prices grew more slowly. That meant, overall, the cost of living in Portland last year was roughly equal to the U.S. average.
  • In January, WW reported that Lori Ann Meadows, 53, was a suspect in an embezzlement from the environmental group 1000 Friends of Oregon, where she was development director. (The amount allegedly stolen hasn’t been made public.) Last week, a Multnomah County grand jury indicted Meadows, who has two previous theft convictions, on charges of aggravated theft and identity theft in connection with the 1000 Friends case. 
 
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