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April 24th, 2013 WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs
 

Murmurs: Don’t Look Now, But They’re Drinking in Old Town.

murmurs_3925FRITZ - IMAGE: Kenton Waltz
     
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  • At least 315 cars have been towed from the Old Town Entertainment District since December, when the city started closing down six blocks in Northwest on weekends (and certain drinking holidays) after 10 pm. And the cash it’s bringing in—at least $46,620 in towing fees and up to $25,200 in citations—is enough to buy several thousand shots. The towing fees are split between the 11 private towing companies that contract with the city. The city has imposed the rules to make the streets safer for Old Town revelers. Statistics show the tow numbers are declining as drivers learn the rules, and the city and clubs put up warning signs. “Even with the best efforts,” Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson tells WW, “people sometimes don’t pay attention or think the sign doesn’t mean anything.”
  • Here’s another impound: City Commissioner Amanda Fritz’s hopes to establish alcohol-impact areas in Portland—primarily aimed at chronic Old Town drunks—died a quiet death last week in the House Business and Labor Committee. Under the plan, the city could ban the sale of fortified wines or beverages with more than 14 percent alcohol. But  proponents of House Bill 2702 failed to satisfy objections from the state’s wine industry, which asserted the bill was overly broad when the real problem is  fortified wines like Mad Dog 20/20. Fritz vows to keep searching for solutions. “The death of the bill is not the result of a bad policy,” Fritz says. “It’s the result of bad politics.”
  • Last July, Murmurs reported some companies on the hook for cleaning up the Portland Harbor Superfund site were racking up fines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at a rate of $5,000 a day for providing “incorrect or misleading information” about contaminated Willamette River fish. The EPA has since levied a $125,500 fine against the Lower Willamette Group, a coalition of harbor businesses. Others are now making nice on environmental issues, contributing to a ballot-measure campaign backing a $50 million Metro levy for restoring wetlands and improving water quality in Willamette tributaries. The Greenbrier Cos. (owner of railcar- and barge-maker Gunderson) and the Zidell Cos. each gave $2,500; Pacific Power, $2,000; and Siltronic Corp., $1,000.
  • Portlanders who can’t get a credit card can stop fretting: The city is now accepting debit-card payments on the new arts tax, the $35-a-head tax passed by voters in November. If you use your debit card or credit card, expect to pay a “convenience” fee of 99 cents. Meanwhile, the city has mailed out more bills to Portland homes, reminding citizens there’s a $15 penalty for late payments. The letters contain this puzzling reminder: “Like federal and state taxes, the due date for the 2012 tax year is May 15, 2013.”
 
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