Wheeler Criticized for Singling out Hardesty: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called for civility last week at a City Council hearing—but this time his remarks were aimed at a colleague, not at unruly protesters. "When people come here and testify, they deserve to be treated with respect," Wheeler said April 4. "I don't care if people are for this or they are against it." Though he did not mention Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, she had just finished challenging a real estate management company representative testifying on proposed tenant protections. The woman later left the council chambers in tears, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. On April 8, the Urban League of Portland issued a statement questioning why the mayor had singled out Hardesty: "Mayor Wheeler acted out the age-old custom of powerful men making an example of black people who are deemed to have stepped out of line, particularly when white female sensibilities are the perceived victim." The mayor's office says Wheeler "will continue to consider race and gender dynamics," but he did not apologize.
Cogen Could Run for City Council: As Portland politicians jockey for Commissioner Amanda Fritz's seat, a familiar name has surfaced: former Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen. Cogen resigned from the county in 2013 after a sexual relationship with a health department official, but is said to be mulling a return to public life. He couldn't be reached for comment. Fritz announced April 5 she won't seek a fourth term next year. Other possible contenders include Carmen Rubio, executive director of the nonprofit Latino Network; state Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-East Portland); and former mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone. Hernandez has said he hopes Rubio will run and would support her if she does. Rubio and Iannarone have told WW they're considering their options.
Dems Dial Up Pressure on Courtney: Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) came under fire earlier this session after the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries criticized his handling of sexual harassment in the Capitol, which led to a $1.3 million settlement. Other women said he'd earlier failed to respond to sexual harassment complaints at Western Oregon University, where he worked ("Looking Away," WW, Feb. 27, 2019). Now one group of Democrats is seeking his resignation. At their meeting April 11, the Multnomah County Democrats will debate a resolution calling on Courtney to step down as the Senate's presiding officer, a position he's held since 2003. Courtney's spokeswoman didn't respond to a request for comment.
Governor Asks for Conflict Check: On April 3, Gov. Kate Brown and the five-member Oregon Transportation Commission made an unusual request of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. Brown and the commissioners asked the agency to identify potential conflicts of interest surrounding two separate $26 million rail projects. The OTC is preparing to fund the projects in Eastern Oregon and the central Willamette Valley as part of an unprecedented $5 billion transportation package passed in 2017. One lawmaker who helped pass the legislation and may work on both projects as a contractor, state Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner), previously sought and received a green light from the OGEC. "The governor wanted to ensure there was transparency around roles and that as the projects move forward, no potential conflicts of interest would impede progress," says Kate Kondayen, Brown's spokeswoman.