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February 27th, 2013 12:01 am WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs

Murmurs: Wasting time on the public payroll? Blame Canada.

murmurs_3917LOO - IMAGE: Sellwoodstreet / CC
  • City officials were flushed with pride last November over news that the Portland Loo open-air public restroom they sold to Victoria, B.C., had been voted “Canada’s Best Toilet” in a national poll. But documents obtained in a lawsuit against the city show analysts for the Portland Water Bureau used city email to drum up a social-media campaign soliciting votes in the contest. “Consider strategy to get 5-10 people or groups to nominate Portland Loo in this contest,” wrote one Water Bureau employee in a May 2012 email. “Will you three be able to tell us how many folks actually nominated the Loo?? Many thanks.” The plaintiffs—whose lawsuit over the Water Bureau’s use of utility funds turned up the emails—aren’t grateful. “We are disappointed that Portland water ratepayers’ hard-earned dollars were spent on staff time to artificially impact a contest,” says John DiLorenzo Jr., the ratepayers’ lawyer. Water Bureau director David Shaff says the employee was doing her job. “The idea was to market the Loo,” Shaff says. “That would be one way to do it.” 
  • State Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn) is taking some heat for her comments during the Feb. 22 Oregon House debate over a tuition-equity bill to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition. Parrish bucked her caucus with a “yes” vote on the bill, which passed 39-17. But she also used the occasion to distribute copies of a flier from a constituent to the 59 other House members highlighting the sexual assault of the constituent’s daughter by a scary-looking Latino man. Many thought Parrish’s timing was inappropriate and distasteful, given that the tuition debate focused on Latino immigrants. Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson (D-Portland) took offense, accusing Parrish of “scare tactics” and being “incredibly hypocritical.” Parrish says no constituent had ever asked her to distribute such a flier before—and that she’d do it again, even if it conflicted with her position. “I don’t have to agree with everyone to represent them well,” Parrish says.
  • A pollster who worked on last fall’s failed pot legalization initiative says the measure’s primary backer, Paul Stanford, still owes him money—but the money and Stanford have gone up in smoke. Mike Riley, owner of Portland’s Riley Research Associates, tells WW he did polling last summer for  Stanford, chief proponent of Measure 80, who owns a chain of medical-marijuana clinics. Riley says Stanford never paid him his $2,500 fee. “He thought the poll would show a lot more support for the measure than it did,” Riley tells WW. “He’s become invisible since the poll.” Measure 80 failed with 45 percent of the vote. Stanford—who personally paid much of the $400,000 spent to get the initiative on the ballot—didn’t return WW’s phone calls.
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