|A FITTING SUIT: More fallout from this student protest.|
• The popular Madison High counselor whose “involuntary transfer” to another school triggered a student walkout June 3 plans to sue Portland Public Schools and a Madison administrator, David Hamilton. Counselor David Colton’s tort claim notice alleges Hamilton told about 200 students and 20 teachers in a meeting two days after the walkout that “I can’t tell you what Mr. Colton has done, but you need to know that there are things you don’t know about Mr. Colton’s actions.” Colton’s student supporters say their counselor was unfairly punished for helping them get around school policies that limit their course choices. PPS spokesman Matt Shelby said he could not comment on ongoing litigation.
• Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen has nearly sealed a deal to create the biggest solar-energy project in Oregon. The county Board of Commissioners is set to vote June 26 on a 20-year agreement with Maryland-based energy provider SunEdison LLC for a one-megawatt project that would put solar panels on the Multnomah Building, Juvenile Justice Center and the John B. Yeon building in outer East Portland. In exchange for the rooftop real estate, SunEdison would give the county discounted electricity, and the project would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 700 tons a year. Cogen says if the deal is jeopardized by the current halt in Oregon solar projects (see “Blocking Out the Sun,” WW, June 11, 2008), the county will fight for it at the state Public Utility Commission.
• Travel-increase projections being used to justify the need for a new Columbia River crossing (see “A Bridge Over the River Why?,” WW, May 21, 2008) may be moot, thanks to soaring fuel prices. Metro’s transportation demand model forecasting a 40 percent travel increase across the I-5 bridge between now and 2030 relies on AAA auto operating cost data that includes gas, tires and maintenance. That data has ranged between 11 and 13 cents per mile for years, and Metro’s Dick Walker says, “We assume vehicle operating costs to be stable over time.” Yet with gas at over $4 per gallon, the average vehicle operating cost doubles to about 25.3 cents per mile. Walker’s response? Two historical factors smooth operating cost spikes: New technology increases efficiency and gas demand drops. Time to get in line for a Prius?
• The estimated 260 visitors who use TriMet to get around this week’s Towards Carfree Cities conference beat the transit agency’s proposed 25-cent fare hike taking effect in September. Here’s another fun fact for our carfree guests: TriMet aims to raise about $8.5 million from its fare increase. That will cover higher fuel costs if diesel stays at $4 a gallon. Lane Transit District in the Eugene area is also raising fares, but with a 15 percent service cut. Lane Transit spokesman Andy Vobora says, “You can raise fares, but that’s not going to solve the problem.” So is TriMet planning cuts, too? “That’s not what we want to do,” says TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch. In other words, if gas keeps going up, save your bus fare—and buy some good sneakers.
• WEB-ONLY TRIMET SCUTTLEBUTT: At least somebody might get a free transit ride outside Fareless Square (besides streetcar riders who giggle each day over the absence of fare inspectors): Portland City Council last week endorsed a proposal from the Multnomah Youth Commission to provide free transit passes to students in grade 6 through 12. The kids' fares would be covered by state Business Energy Tax Credits, which contribute $2.3 million a year to a similar program in Eugene. But Portland's youth pass program is far from a done deal, especially with TriMet scrambling to cover high fuel prices. "We probably have more questions than answers [about the youth pass] right now," says TriMet's Fetsch.