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February 22nd, 2012 12:01 am WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs

Murmurs: ODOT Backlash and Schaufler Unbowed

Fixing a city charter right out of Dickens.

murmurs.up_3816IMAGE: Marion Doss
  • WW reported recently about the Oregon Department of Transportation program that has given Union Pacific—with billions in profits—state subsidies of $24.7 million to fix its own track under the lottery-funded ConnectOregon program (“Gravy Train,” WW, Feb. 8, 2012). Turns out it was news to legislators, many of whom were angered to learn that scarce state dollars were cushioning the rail giant. A half dozen House Democrats are now pushing for reforms: limited loans, not handouts, to for-profit rail companies. No word yet if the changes will come to a vote in the February session.
  • In May, Portland voters will decide on nine ballot measures designed to delete archaic, offensive, unconstitutional or unenforceable language from the city charter. The deletions—proposed by a 19-member Charter Review Commission—include revoking the City Council’s power to prohibit the sales of “obscene matter, including books…pictures, films and other material”; ban the exploitation of “deformed or crippled persons”; and regulate “begging upon the streets.” Another passage targeted for deletion: empowering the city to find jobs for “vagrants and paupers.” Left untouched by the proposed changes: the city’s power to ban “gambling houses” and “bawdy houses or places where fornication is practiced.”
  • Despite plenty of reasons to do so, Rep. Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley) has not retreated. Last fall, legislative leaders jerked his House Business and Labor Committee chairmanship because of his boorishness toward a woman at an AFL-CIO convention. Last week he tangled with Gov. John Kitzhaber at a hearing, then held Democratic priorities hostage over water-use and timber-cutting bills. Many Democrats want the five-term incumbent gone and seek a May primary opponent. Among those looking to run: former Labor Commissioner Mary Wendy Roberts, 67, who served in the House and Senate in the 1970s. Roberts says of Schaufler, “I think his behavior is embarrassing.” Schaufler says he is working to create jobs and isn’t concerned about critics. “One cannot legislate out of fear,” he says. “And I don’t.”
  • Occupy Portland is gearing up for F29: Shut Down the Corporations, a national day of protest to “challenge our society’s obsession with profit and greed.” Meanwhile, the movement is going hyperlocal: Offshoots have formed in Vancouver and Gresham. One prominent faction is Occupy St. Johns. The group meets Wednesdays, and its Facebook page says its Feb. 22 gathering will host a town hall with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which wants to gather public input for the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Portland Police Bureau’s use of force. It’s at Anna Bannanas, 8716 N Lombard St., at 7:30 pm.
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