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Murmurs: Portland Mayor Stands by Spending After Plans for Wooden Tower Collapse

In other news: Wyden takes aim at NRA, Russians

Plans for Wooden Tower Collapse: Portland officials won't spend $6 million in affordable housing funds on building the tallest timber high-rise in the nation—because the developer is halting the project. The Portland Housing Bureau had broken its own guidelines to invest in the 12-story building where 660-square-foot, two-bedroom apartments were going to cost $567,389 each to build. WW discovered the high per-unit costs of the Framework building ("Wooden Nickels," WW, Jan. 3, 2018), and first reported this week that the developer was backing away. Mayor Ted Wheeler continues to defend his support of the building. "We're disappointed to miss out on an opportunity to create 60 units of affordable housing for only $6 million in city resources," says Wheeler in a statement. "The Housing Bureau will repurpose the funds to other projects."

Wyden Takes Aim at NRA, Russians: Back in March, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) started pressuring the National Rifle Association for information about foreign contributions to NRA-affiliated programs. The group told Wyden that it accepted donations from companies owned or managed by foreign nationals but denied accepting any money from Russian sources or using foreign contributions for electoral purposes. That denial looks pretty shaky after federal prosecutors indicted a Russian woman named Maria Butina on July 16, accusing her of trying to build a relationship with the NRA "to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation" in the 2016 election. "The Republican leadership should join my investigation & force the NRA to answer questions about the 2016 election," Wyden tweeted after the indictment was announced.

Oregon Housing Leader Heads South: Jerome Brooks, head of the affordable housing industry group Housing Oregon, is leaving for a nonprofit job in Atlanta next month. Brooks has long been an insider in Portland politics, working for the Portland Housing Bureau and Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith. He'll be replaced at Housing Oregon by Brian Hoop, who starts full time as association director next week. The transition coincides with a change at the organization, away from advocacy and toward becoming an affordable housing developer trade association. Hoop's city job was eliminated last year in a reorganization at the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, now called the Office of Community and Civic Life.

Oregon Gets Cannabis Accelerator: A Portland lawyer has founded Oregon's first cannabis accelerator program and co-working and events space—and she is dedicating it to boosting women entrepreneurs and their weed businesses. Amy Margolis has opened the Commune, a 4,000-square-foot "gathering space," on the third floor of an Old Town office building. (It launched last week with a fundraising dinner for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.) Starting next month, she'll use it as headquarters for the Initiative, a cannabis accelerator that aims to help women-owned marijuana businesses obtain venture-capital funding and grow quickly. "The driving force was, I found this industry to be highly self-congratulatory about the positioning of women," Margolis says. "I saw fewer and fewer women in leadership positions. If somebody didn't do something, we really were going to become a cautionary tale."