Wheeler Hints at Funding Cuts for City-County Homelessness Agency
In a meeting earlier this month, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler laid the groundwork for cutting funding for the agency responsible for homeless shelters and other services, despite a campaign pledge to provide every Portland homeless person a shelter bed by the end of 2018. Wheeler indicated in a Sept. 5 City Council work session that he was looking for ways to reduce city funding for the Joint Office of Homeless Services, a combined city-county agency. "I don't think the current service level is sacrosanct," Wheeler said. "We stretched really, really hard during the last budget process to get to where we thought we were in a good, honorable partnership with the county. But now the target is very, very high for us to be able to continue to maintain it." Mayoral spokesman Michael Cox says any determinations about a city budget are premature. "There is a process to arrive at the mayor's proposed budget," he says, "and we're not even at the beginning."
Vancouver Cops Release Man Who Sped Truck Toward Protesters
Police in Vancouver, Wash., say they didn't arrest a man who sped his truck toward antifascist protesters Sept. 10 because he told them he was frightened and trying to escape the crowd. The man drove his truck, which had Oregon plates and was bedecked with several American flags and a Confederate flag sticker, toward a group of masked demonstrators marching after protesting a far-right rally organized by Vancouver-based right-wing Patriot Prayer. Police let him drive away from the scene. The man, whom Vancouver police declined to identify, told officers "he was in fear for his life," says Vancouver police Lt. Kathy McNicholas. "If you were in that truck and being attacked, wouldn't you want to get out of there?"
Sirens Wail on County Ambulance Contract
The chase for Multnomah County's ambulance contract, which covers 90,000 calls a year, just hit a speed bump. On Sept. 8, the unions that represent Portland and Gresham firefighters, who are first responders on medical calls, filed a formal protest with the county. It alleges the Aug. 4 request for bids on the five-year contract is marred by a consultant's potential conflicts of interest and requirements that bidders use a specific dispatch system and create a new, independent dispatch center. The unions ask the county to start from scratch. "We will be working to respond to these concerns as quickly as possible," says county spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti.
Saltzman Out, Smith In for 2018 Council Race
Hours after Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced Sept. 12 he will retire, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith announced her plans to seek his seat in 2018. Jo Ann Hardesty, a former state legislator who heads the NAACP of Portland, had already filed to run for Saltzman's spot. That means two black women will face off in the contest to replace Saltzman. He says he's satisfied with five terms. "With respect to things I am passionate about, the items on my to-do list largely have check marks next to them," says Saltzman, who has served on the City Council since 1999.