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March 12th, 2014 12:01 am WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs

Murmurs: Why Bother Voters When You Don’t Have To?

murmurs_4019ILLUSTRATION: WW Staff
  • Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick have been shopping a plan to increase transportation taxes and fees, asking residents for their top priorities in polls and forums. But the public input may not include a vote. In comments first reported by The Oregonian, Hales has begun backing away from asking voters to approve new Portland Bureau of Transportation funding on the November ballot—and instead might have the City Council pass higher taxes or fees on its own, perhaps as soon as June. “[Hales] has not determined at this point that it needs a referendum,” PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera tells WW. Novick, who oversees the Transportation Bureau, says city officials will hold a second round of town-hall meetings to discuss what kind of fee to push. “They will probably help to inform us on the ‘ballot or not to ballot’ question,” Novick says.
  • Gov. John Kitzhaber has not said what he will do to address congestion on Interstate 5 near the Washington state line now that he has once more declared the Columbia River Crossing dead. Oregon Department of Transportation director Matt Garrett announced March 7 his agency will shut down the project after lawmakers refused to endorse Kitzhaber’s Oregon-only plan to build it. ODOT spokesman Dave Thompson says expenditures to date for the project total $195 million.
  • One of the most feared lobbyists in Salem, Mark Nelson, is selling his firm, Public Affairs Council. Nelson has long been one of the savviest, most effective advocates in Salem, advising clients such as Anheuser-Busch, R.J. Reynolds, General Motors and scores of others. One example: When lawmakers passed a cigarette tax increase in 2007, Nelson’s tobacco-industry clients spent $12 million to defeat it at the ballot. Nelson is selling his firm to J.L. Wilson, a lobbyist for Associated Oregon Industries. Terms of the sale are confidential. Wilson says Nelson plans to stick around for at least a year. Nelson was unavailable for comment.
  • The quest to build a permanent tribute to the late John Callahan moved forward this month with the receipt of an anonymous $100,000 challenge grant toward the design and construction of a memorial honoring the provocative Portland quadriplegic cartoonist, who died in 2010. Last year, supporters of the memorial announced Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital’s donation of a slice of land at Northwest 21st Avenue and Marshall Street in the Northwest Portland neighborhood Callahan called home. Now, thanks to the anonymous donor, every time someone gives $25, another $25 will be donated toward the memorial’s $200,000 goal. Portland artist Tad Savinar and landscape architect Jesse Stemmler have come up with a design—complete with a wall featuring Callahan’s work. Find out how to donate at ffojohncallahan.tumblr.com.
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