Motels Will Replace Family Homeless Shelter: Since the Portland area's largest shelter for homeless families closed Feb. 8 because of a leaking roof and unsafe conditions, Multnomah County officials have been spending about $80 a night per family to put them up in motels. Now the county's Joint Office of Homeless Services plans to formalize that arrangement within the next 18 months and lease rooms for a five-year period, housing up to 50 families. A formal request for proposals was issued May 1. Six motels and hotels submitted offers. "One goal is to provide a better shelter experience—more privacy and stability—for families who, more and more, face longer stays because of our housing crisis," says joint office spokesman Denis Theriault. "If the cost per night turns out to be less, that will be good outcome. But if it's the same or even slightly higher, [leasing motels] would still make sense, because of what it means for the families living in rooms of their own, relying on services, as they work to get back into housing."
Betsy Johnson Fails Purity Test: The Democratic Party of Oregon's state central committee voted last week to kick state Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and state Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) off the party's executive committee. Their offense? In 2016, Johnson and Witt endorsed Republican Dennis Richardson in his race against Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian for secretary of state, citing Richardson's help when he co-chaired the Legislature's budget-writing committee and provided funding to rebuild Vernonia after 2007 floods. Richardson won, becoming the first Republican elected statewide since 2002. The vote to punish the two Democratic lawmakers by excluding them from their largely ceremonial positions comes 19 months after the election. Johnson declined comment. Witt could not be reached.
Grocery Tax Ban Makes Ballot: The first big-money ballot measure to qualify for the 2018 ballot was certified by the secretary of state's Elections Division this week. What will soon be known as Measure 103 is backed by large grocery chains and would amend the Oregon Constitution to permanently prohibit the imposition of a tax "upon the sale or distribution of groceries." The prohibition would be the first of its kind nationally but would not include taxes on alcohol, tobacco or marijuana. It would include sodas and other sugary drinks that are now being taxed in Seattle, Oakland and many other cities and have been the subject of a long-planned but never-executed Multnomah County tax. The measure would also freeze in place the state's corporate minimum tax, a provision that adds to progressives' hostility to it. Mary King, a retired Portland State University economics professor who's looked at the measure, said it's "a massive, unprecedented carve-out for some of the biggest retailers in the world that will apply to far more than just the food they sell."
Business Lobby Focused on Potholes: The Portland Business Alliance has been a vocal critic of a protected-bike-lane project known as Better Naito, but when the city announced plans for roughly 15 miles of possible protected bike lanes across the central city, the business group went mum—at least not raising any direct objections. Instead, on June 5, the group launched a social media contest called #Potholelandia to name the "most annoying pothole." The contest began the day after the Central City in Motion bike lane proposals were announced, but PBA denies the two events are related. "We are still reviewing the Central City in Motion recommendations and will submit a comment to council when appropriate," says PBA spokeswoman Rachael Arnold. "The #Potholelandia campaign had no direct relation to Central City in Motion."