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June 18th, 2013 WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs
 

Murmurs: So What’s a Few Million Here and There?

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  • Officials pushing the Columbia River Crossing are concealing the true costs of multimillion-dollar deals they have reached to win support of manufacturing firms affected by the proposed freeway bridge. CRC planners goofed by designing the bridge too low for three companies that barge giant steel structures  downriver. The CRC has signed mitigation deals with Oregon Iron Works and Greenberry Industrial. But the CRC, a joint Oregon-Washington venture, is refusing to disclose the agreements in response to public-record requests from WW. Also in the dark: Washington state legislators debating the $3.4 billion project. CRC officials say they will release the agreements in September. That’s when the U.S. Coast Guard will decide whether to grant a permit for the bridge design—but after Olympia lawmakers are supposed to approve the project. “I bet they’re willing to give away the farm,” says Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima), Senate Transportation Committee chairman and CRC foe, “as long they don’t have to report it until the decision’s been made.”
  • The report card is in on how well Oregon school districts provide protection against bullying—especially aimed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. Portland Public Schools and the Beaverton School District earned top marks in a report from the Oregon Safe Schools & Communities Coalition. But the report says three local school districts—Lake Oswego, David Douglas and Riverdale—are among one-third of districts whose policies against harassment, intimidation, bullying and cyberbullying don’t yet comply with state law. Not all the districts agree with the report’s findings. “If the report is suggesting that we’re not paying attention to these issues,” says Lake Oswego schools spokeswoman Nancy Duin, “I have an issue with that because I think we are.” 
  • Mayor Charlie Hales made a big deal in his World Environment Day speech June 5 about having the city of Portland lobby the Oregon State Treasurer to stop investing in oil and natural gas companies, which Hales said are environmentally bad and long-term investment risks. “We must act before the carbon bubble bursts,” Hales said. “We can send a message to the world that investment in fossil fuels is a losing proposition.” Hales’ idea didn’t get much mileage from State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who wrote back a week later to say forget it. Wheeler said the state by law must seek the largest possible returns for its $80 billion in investments (mostly pension funds), not use them to send a political message. “Selling off our energy holdings...would potentially expose the state to lawsuits,” Wheeler wrote. Hales spokesman Dana Haynes says the mayor is not deterred and believes his idea is “aspirational.”
 
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