Saltzman May Ask Voters to Fix Publicly Funded Elections: At a budget hearing last week, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman raised the possibility of asking voters to move the city's program for publicly funded election campaigns to the Auditor's Office. He's pushing the idea over the objections of Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who championed the program and wants to get it running, as well as Auditor Mary Hull Caballero. The Auditor's Office was responsible for a previous incarnation of publicly financed campaigns. Abuse of the system helped end the program and has contributed to Hull Caballero's reluctance to take it on. A charter amendment approved by voters may be the only means Saltzman has to compel the auditor to take on the new program.
Former State Senator Keeps Campaigning: Former Sen. Chip Shields (D-Portland) retired from the Legislature in 2017 after a dozen years, but he's remaining active in two of his longtime interests. Earlier this month, Shields, who has been a foster parent, issued a request for proposals from lobbyists for a new group called the Foster Homes of Healing Fund. Shields is prepared to spend $130,000 on lobbyists to improve the state's troubled foster care system. Shields' second cause? Criminal justice reform. Shields founded and ran a nonprofit called Better People, which helped prison inmates re-enter society. Elections filings show that he recently wrote a $2,500 check to Max Wall, a defense lawyer who is running for Washington County district attorney as part of a national criminal justice reform movement. Shields did not return a call seeking comment.
Wheeler Dangles a Tax Break for Developers: Mayor Ted Wheeler is hoping to make up for a shortage of affordable housing by offering developers a tax break. When Portland City Hall passed its inclusionary housing program in 2016, developers rushed to beat the permitting deadlines and avoid the new requirement to include affordable housing. Now Wheeler hopes to entice those developers by offering them tax breaks if they're willing to rent 20 percent of their units for less than market value. "We are in a housing crisis," he says. "The need is now." One possible obstacle: Multnomah County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury, who remains skeptical.
Campus Protests Draw National Scrutiny: Portland's reputation as a hotbed for explosive campus politics is under the national magnifying glass once again, following a series of controversial speakers and reactive protests at Portland State University and Lewis & Clark College. New York Times columnists Bari Weiss and David Brooks highlighted the student outrage over these local events as chilling examples of PC culture run amok on college campuses. But in the past week, commentators at other major media outlets have pushed back on that narrative, tying the organizers of these events to a right-wing outrage machine. The Guardian writes that the provocateurs inviting controversial figures to Portland campuses deny political affiliations with the far right, yet "take such trouble over antagonizing the left, and drawing right-wing attention."