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July 4th, 2007 WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs
 

Bush to Libby jury: I'll respect you in the morning.

     
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Labor Ready, the temp agency that started supplying workers to Del Monte Fresh Produce after the June 12 immigration raid at the St. Johns plant, has been replaced. The new agency is Remedy Intelligent Staffing, which has an office on Hayden Island. Del Monte didn't respond by press time to questions about the change to Remedy, which is now offering hourly wages slightly above Oregon's $7.80-an-hour minimum wage. But sources say the agency is charging workers $5 for mandatory Kevlar gloves to wear while chopping produce in the near-freezing warehouse. Before the raid, American Staffing Resources had offered Del Monte workers starting salaries of $7.80 an hour and charged them 75 cents for protective gloves. The firm that Labor Ready had replaced—American Staffing Resources—is accused by the feds of assisting immigrant workers in securing phony Social Security numbers.

One small visible outward change in The Oregonian and one bigger one coming inside the newsroom. The small change on the paper's front page is the daily celebration above the fold of its 2007 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. The more substantive news comes Friday. That's when all reporters learn which beats they'll get in a reshuffle that had them list their top three choices, including spots on something called the "How We Live" team.

Here's more proof that computers run our lives, and not for the better: This fall, Portland Public Schools will have a one-day window to juggle students who want to change schools under the federal No Child Left Behind law because of, you guessed it, computer glitches. The law requires school districts to give students in so-called failing schools new choices. But widespread problems surfaced this year with the state computerized tests given to students in elementary, middle and high schools. The result: state ed officials won't be able to tell districts what schools are under sanction until right before Labor Day Weekend, right before school begins Sept. 5. In anticipation of the shortened deadline, the Portland district plans to inform families who may be affected by the news in early August of the changes in order to prepare them to transfer their children if they wish.

State Sen. Avel Gordly's announcement that she won't seek re-election next year has set off a chain-reaction fire alarm in the independent's Northeast Portland district. Although nothing is official yet, Democratic Rep. Jackie Dingfelder is expected to run for Gordly's Senate seat. And that would open a House seat for several wannabes. Included in that mix of possibles are the Bus Project's Jefferson Smith; Chris Garrett, a lawyer at Perkins Coie and former aide to Senate President Peter Courtney; Portland Community College English instructor Michael Dembrow; and Cyreena Boston, who's worked as the constituency director for the Democratic Party of Oregon.

One of the landmark laws produced by the 2007 Legislature is running into market realities. Senate Bill 838 requires Oregon utilities to get 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Currently, wind power is the best option. But windmills are scarce, as indicated by a PGE filing last month. "The market for wind turbines is very tight, with some manufacturing capacity sold out two years in advance," a PGE official wrote the Public Utility Commission in requesting the right for PGE to earn interest on the deposits they must put down for the devices. Normally, utilities only get compensated for assets actually in use, which leaves the PUC staff grappling with an unusual question. Says PUC spokesman Bob Valdez: "Should the utility be allowed to earn a return on assets that do not yet exist?"

The battle escalates over efforts by Joe DiNicola, president of Oregon's second-largest union, to get $110,000 in compensation for two-plus years of OT work (see "Rogue of the Week," WW, June 27, 2007). DiNicola had planned to speak at a rally last Friday, June 29, of Service Employees International Union Local 503. That prompted some members to promise they would publicly denounce his actions at the rally at Oregon State University. But local member Deborra Low says no one showed up to protest after Maggie Neel, the local's district director for Linn and Benton counties, "threatened and intimidated" members with unspecified disciplinary action. Neel was unavailable for comment.

In the final hour of its final day June 28, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 111, which gives counties money and a blueprint to deal with cases in which police use deadly force. But in a study in political compromise, the bill's chief backer, Rep. Chip Shields (D-Southeast Portland), had to drop a key provision that would have made public the grand jury testimony in killings by police. To gain prosecutors' support, Shields had already watered down the bill to make such testimony public only when district attorneys agreed. But to gain the support of police necessary to pass the bill, Shields says he was forced to drop the provision altogether and keep grand jury testimony secret.

 
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