Mayor Proposes New Taxes on Airbnb: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is proposing new taxes on Airbnb, other short-term rental companies and their hosts. His office projects the new taxes could provide between $1.2 million and $2.5 million toward the city's housing budget. The city plans to levy a $4-a-night charge on Airbnb and its competitors. The mayor's office plans to spend the money on funding homeownership as part of the North-Northeast Neighborhood Strategy to rectify displacement, the mayor's office says. "Homeownership represents an opportunity to create generational wealth," says Wheeler's spokesman Michael Cox. "So, as the city works to address housing affordability, we must also focus on creating homeownership opportunities, particularly in communities that have historically been denied that chance."
Amazon Plays Big Brother in Oregon: For months, the Washington County Sheriff's Office has been using facial recognition software developed by Amazon to identify suspects in criminal cases as many as 20 times a day, according to emails obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. The software, called Rekognition, can identify faces in a crowd and match images to help law enforcement officers identify people in videos or photographs. The new tech has critics raising concerns. "The technology has supercharged surveillance capacity," says ACLU of Oregon director David Rogers, "and it's primed for authoritarian government abuse." Sheriff's spokesman Deputy Jeff Talbot says the agency uses only mug shots it already possesses to identify suspects in video or photos using Amazon's Rekognition technology.
Foster Care Provider Headed to Trial: The case against the former operator of a troubled Portland foster care service is finally moving toward trial. Federal prosecutors and attorneys for Mary Holden met in U.S. District Court on May 21. Holden was indicted in December 2016 on felony counts of theft, money laundering and filing a false tax return related to her management of the foster care provider Give Us This Day ("Home Sweet Hustle," WW, Sept. 15, 2015). While the Oregon Department of Human Services turned a blind eye, Holden allegedly diverted more than $800,000 to personal use. Holden now has until Aug. 13 to accept a plea offer, or she goes to trial Jan. 22. Her attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Conservative Professor Bound for Portland: Portland will once again play host to a controversial right-wing speaker. Jordan Peterson, one of the most prominent proponents of the conservative dogma that people's gender is assigned by birth, speaks at Keller Auditorium on June 25. Peterson is a Canadian psychology professor turned YouTube phenomenon. Last week, The New York Times published an incendiary profile of him in which he suggested society should enforce marriage to solve the problem of lonely, disaffected young men.