Founder Resigns From Portland Tenants United
Portland Tenants United founder Margot Black resigned her leadership post Jan. 9 after an activist accused the group of "white supremacy." Cameron Whitten, a local social justice activist, last week accused Black of racist slights and insults. Black said she needed to step aside for the good of the group because the charges of racism had become a distraction. "I have always come to the work with positive intentions," she said, "but in reality, the impacts of some of my actions have had very negative impacts on valued members of our community and created harm." In two years, Black transformed the city's renters' rights movement into a powerful and polarizing force in city politics.
Unions Scuttle New 911 System
Multnomah County's attempt to restructure its ambulance contract to improve service and reduce the number of first-responders dispatched to non-emergency calls fell victim to union objections last week. The county announced Jan. 4, as first reported by the Portland Tribune, that it was dropping the requirement that a private-sector contractor build a new 911 system to handle medical calls. The fire departments in Portland and Gresham had long protested the proposed change, but the deal-breaker was the objection of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents Bureau of Emergency Communications workers. AFSCME raised concerns the new 911 center would violate an existing labor contract. Now the plan is to build the medical triage capacity within BOEC. "I would have preferred to have a private-sector contractor," Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement.
Democratic Socialists Sponsor Portland Debates
Last November, the Portland chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America reported record membership: 600, up from 15 the year before. Now they're getting a seat at the debate table. The DSA will join the Multnomah County Democrats, the Oregon Working Families Party, and the activist group Portland's Resistance to co-sponsor weekly Tuesday candidate forums in February in key local races.
Fired Google Employee Gets Portland Platform
A former Google employee fired for a 10-page anti-diversity treatise that claimed women were poorly suited for jobs in technology and engineering will speak at Portland State University next month. James Damore will go back and forth with psychology professor Peter Boghossian on Feb. 17 in a "no-holds-barred conversation" at a campus event titled "We Need to Talk About Diversity." Damore infamously blamed biological differences between men and women for the gender gap in the tech industry. He sued Google for discrimination Jan. 8. University spokesman Christopher Broderick said in a statement the event was organized by a student group, Freethinkers of PSU. The university does not endorse the views of speakers invited to campus, he added, though it encourages free speech.