Car Thefts Hit 20-Year High

In 2017, thieves set a 20-year record by nicking more cars from Portland streets than in any year since 1997. More than 6,500 vehicles were stolen from driveways, parking spots and curbsides last year. Prosecutors say two Oregon Court of Appeals rulings have made it extremely difficult to convict car thieves. But they hold out hope that a change in the law that failed in the 2017 Legislature could come back either in the short session or in 2019. "We're trying to get that done," says Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin. "We're going to be trying every year."

Colleague Questions Smith's Campaign Fundraising

Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann says the county may need to seek the advice of an outside attorney on whether Commissioner Loretta Smith violated the county charter by campaigning for the Portland City Council this fall. Smith, who filed Jan. 2 to run to succeed City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, faces a fine from the state, but it's not clear whether her campaign-related activity this fall was a technical violation of the charter, which requires commissioners to resign their seat if they run for another elected office more than a year before the end of their term. "I don't have enough clarification of what the charter says," says Stegmann. "As an elected [official], the most important thing is that we hold one another accountable." Smith's three other colleagues avoided questioning Smith's actions.

Fight for Devlin's Seat Heats Up

The battle to succeed longtime state Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) has reached a fever pitch. On Jan. 6, precinct committee persons from Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties will meet to narrow the field of seven candidates to replace Devlin, who left the Legislature at year end for an appointment to the Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Council. Most interest groups have dual-endorsed some combination of candidates that includes Lake Oswego School Board member Rob Wagner or former Multnomah County lobbyist Claudia Black or both. But supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are emerging as a potential counterbalance to traditional interest groups such as labor unions. The "Berners" held a public candidate forum Dec. 29 and endorsed Black and Lake Oswego environmentalist Daphne Wysham. The three county commissions will select a new senator at the end of the month.

Nelson Named to State Supreme Court

Remarkably, no African-American has ever served on either the Oregon Court of Appeals or the state's Supreme Court. Gov. Kate Brown changed that Jan. 2, naming Multnomah County Circuit Judge Adrienne C. Nelson to fill a vacancy on the Oregon Supreme Court. "Judge Nelson is a widely respected civil rights champion," Brown said, "whose perspective on the bench moves us closer to our shared vision of justice for all."