Charles McGee, Aubré Dickson Trial Begins: The sexual assault trial of Charles McGee and Aubré Dickson is scheduled to begin in Multnomah County Circuit Court on March 13. McGee, founder of the Black Parent Initiative and one-time candidate for the Multnomah County Commission, and Dickson, a banker and former chairman of the state Housing Stability Council, allegedly assaulted Erica Naito-Campbell in May 2012 ("No Way Out," WW, Feb. 7, 2018). The men, who are being tried together, say they are innocent. Both waived a jury and put their fate in the hands of Judge David Rees. Their defense may be challenging, however, because of a pretrial statement McGee gave to police. Court records show McGee told detectives he "did not have sexual contact with the victim" but watched as Dickson did.
Car Theft Bill Considered Again: A bill to modify Oregon's motor vehicle theft laws, which has been proposed in two previous legislative sessions, had its first public hearing March 12. Motor vehicle theft skyrocketed to a 20-year high in 2017 and stayed just below that total last year. Twenty-five mayors, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, have submitted testimony in favor of House Bill 2328. The Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs and the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office support the change, which they say will restore prosecutors' ability to bring cases against repeat car thieves. Decisions by the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2014 and 2015 made it more difficult to convict suspects arrested in stolen vehicles. Lawmakers scuttled previous versions of the bill because of the costs of prosecuting and incarcerating thieves. The current bill does not yet have a fiscal impact statement.
Housing-Related Ethics Compliant Proceeds: Last year, Portland housing advocate Alan Kessler filed a complaint against Wendy Chung, a commissioner on the city's Historic Landmarks Commission. The commission was weighing approval of an affordable housing project across from Chung's house in Northwest Portland. Chung participated in the hearings, but ultimately did not vote on the issue. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission immediately dismissed the complaint when filed last year. Kessler then filed suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court last May, and the ethics commission agreed in February to investigate and pay Kessler $10,000 in legal fees.
Snowpack? Snow Problem: During the shortest month of the year, record amounts of snow and rain fell on Oregon. The stormy weather—while destructive—caused snowpack levels to soar to above-average levels throughout the state. In every region, except for the Hood basin along the Columbia River Gorge, snow water equivalents are now above 100 percent of normal. In the Willamette Valley, snow water equivalents rose from 51 percent of average at the start of February to 110 percent of average now. Julie Koeberle, a snow hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, told WW at the start of winter that increased snowpack doesn't mean decreased fire risk. "Once that new growth dries out," Koeberle said, "it can become fuel for fire."