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April 9th, 2014 WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs
 

Murmurs: Doubling Down On Lents; Keeping The CRC Alive.

murmurs_4023MANHAS - IMAGE: Multnomah County
     
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  • The city of Portland has spent $96 million since 1998 trying—and failing—to rebuild the East Portland neighborhood of Lents, as WW reported earlier this year (“Razed & Confused,” WW, Jan. 22, 2014). Following that story, Mayor Charlie Hales and the Portland Development Commission are preparing to spend even more to rescue the work already done in the Lents Town Center Urban Renewal Area, according to a draft plan obtained by WW. “We’re doubling down,” writes PDC officials in the upcoming “Lents 5-Year Action Plan.” It proposes that the city spend another $54 million. The city has issued six such plans before. What’s different this time? Deadlines: PDC wants to see five major projects under construction by 2019 near or along Southeast 92nd Avenue and Foster Road. Some residents are pleased to see the benchmarks. “It’s time to start acting,” former Lents Neighborhood Association chairman Nick Christensen says. “I’m optimistic that the PDC gets that.”
  • Multnomah County is erasing all traces of Sonia Manhas, the health department employee who had an affair with then-County Chairman Jeff Cogen. (They both quit last year, under duress, after Cogen admitted to the affair.) In its proposed 2014-15 budget, the county wants to eliminate Manhas’ old job and fold the health department’s office of policy and planning into another division. Manhas—who pushed such public health efforts as discouraging people from drinking too much sugary soda—helped create the office before applying to run it. The move saves the budget about $200,000. County spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti says much of the office’s work will continue: “Really, it’s up to the next health department director and the next [county] chair to decide the county’s priorities and policies around community health.”
  • We’ve seen this one before: State officials declare the Columbia River Crossing project dead, then find a way to keep it alive. Gov. John Kitzhaber labeled the CRC a goner after the Legislature in February refused to go along with an Oregon-only plan to build the $2.8 billion Interstate Bridge and light-rail project. But lawyers for the feds and the state recently told a federal judge they still hope the project can get funded. They made that surprising claim in a federal lawsuit brought by the Coalition for a Livable Future, a Portland advocacy group seeking to block the CRC on environmental grounds. If the project truly were dead, the coalition’s lawsuit would be moot. But on March 18, project lawyers sought and received a stay that keeps the CRC alive for another year. Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Dave Thompson says ODOT will not seek CRC funding. Critics are skeptical. “I’m very concerned,” says Mara Gross, the coalition’s executive director. “The governor indicated this project was shutting down, but what’s happening in the litigation tells a different story.”
 
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